Thursday, February 10, 2011

High School, New School and a Laundry Tip

First Day
The switch to a new school seems to be more of a culture shock to his parents than to our son. After four weeks of school, he seems to be taking it all in his stride, despite the change from Waldorf to conventional teaching and the jump from primary to high school.  We’re the ones still reeling at the demands. This stack of text books – does he really have to carry that heavy weight to school and around classes every day? Homework every single afternoon, which combined with the longer journey sometimes means that he’s only done by supper time. A six o’clock get up so that he can be ready to leave with my sister-in-law before seven. And uniform.

Our kids have never had uniform before; at the Waldorf school they wear their own clothes within reasonable bounds. He has no problem wearing the same thing every day, in fact he probably prefers it for making his life simple. I used to have to steal his clothes away from him after a few days of continuous wear as it was. I’m the one struggling with the new problem of white poly-cotton school uniform shirts, whose collars instantly acquire a dirty stained stripe on contact with sun-screen.

My super-woman status definitely does not extend to laundry. I tend to separate it out into whites and darks, chuck it in the machine and consider it clean. But those bright white shirts, with the grimy collars even after washing, threw out a challenge. The stain remover spray didn’t work, nor did the bicarb (baking soda). The final solution after much Googling was dish washing detergent. In the US it’s Dawn, but here in South Africa I tried our emerald green Sunlight. And it worked! For a nasty moment I thought I’d only succeeded in dying the collars green, but luckily the colour washed out, leaving the collars almost looking like new. Phew!

I may be the last mum in the universe to have newly discovered this laundry rescue remedy for removing sunscreen grime, but in case you are struggling with the same problem – here is the recipe.

Recipe for Sparkling White Shirt Collars

Take one white shirt collar, engrained with a tide line of dirt and sunscreen

Soak it with a generous dash of ordinary dish detergent

Scrub it in and leave to marinate for twenty minutes. * see edited note below

Add to the rest of the ingredients in your washing machine and wash as normal.

Hang out to dry and sparkle in the sunshine.

Repeat daily in term time.

As for the homework, I’ve always reckoned that our children were supposed to be doing it by themselves. I’ve helped a bit when necessary but tried not to interfere too much. But how do I resist an appeal to help with a book review, which has to be 150-200 words to include a summary of the plot and an assessment of its strengths and weaknesses. He’s never had to do anything like it before.

My professional pride is tickled and I give various insightful and useful tips, restraining myself from jumping in to try my own hand at it. But it still turned out to be a collaborative effort, as our opinion was sought at every stage, especially in the editing it down to within the word count. It then had to be set out as a Word document with a picture and printed off, so I was able to advise on formatting and sub-headings.... but after so much involvement, now I want to know what marks we got... really it’s no fun helping with homework if we don’t at least get a Very good or a gold star or whatever carrots are doled out in high school these days.

Repeat to myself three times daily:  “I must resist becoming a helicopter parent at this late stage in the game.”

Edited to add: This recipe worked well for a while and then on some occasions I found it hadn't worked. I amended it thus and now it works perfectly every time:  
After soaking the collars, scrub them a little under running water before adding to the wash. It doesn't need to be entirely scrubbed out; this just loosens it enough that the wash will do the rest.


  1. Thanks for the stain advice, you were not the last person onearth to know that, maybe I was.
    My 7th grader just turned in a big science report. She wouldn't even let me "help". I get curious about what grades she's going to get, too.

  2. The gift of your interest in his schoolwork far outweighs all the white collars in the world.... but it's good you got that sorted, too.

    Some of my best childhood memories about my mom and dad are how interested and connected they were to me. It made all the difference.

  3. Great post! I needed the laundry advice. Grass stains have become the bane of my existence.

    My husband and I both had Waldorf educations (different schools) but our children's education is a bit different. I too was at first taken a back by uniforms; however, my daughter seems to like them and dresses them up with different colored tights and hair ribbons.
    The amount of homework is.... ridiculous! My daughter is doing pre-algebra in 6th grade. I find it completely unnecessary; however, like you I've had to step back and let her do her own thing. She is flourishing and having a wonderful experience. She just came in second in the county science fair for a project called "rotting wine" I too wasn't able to assist other than purchasing the required necessities.
    There is a great book by Wendy Mogel called: THE BLESSING OF A B MINUS. It is the antithesis of the Tiger Mama. It suggests that we let our children experience their childhood and they will flourish as adults. Written with great humor, it has been a life saver as I embark on the middle school years.

  4. Hello Kit!
    I'm Manya from Greece. My husband is from S. Africa and today, being Valentine's I decided to bake him a milk tart. As I was searching I found yours! That's how I found your blog, too! Being his favorite dessert I have already popped it in the over, and I can't wait for him to try it!

  5. P.S. Are there any baobab trees where you live? I'm completely fascinated by them, and am looking for the perfect one to get a tattoo of. If you can take any pics of good gnarly ones near you and post them, I'd do a happy dance.

  6. Marcheline - I hope he'll remember that as fondly as you do! We did get a good mark in his book review, so I'm encouraged to keep going!

    No baobabs where we are I'm afraid. They grow further north in the Limpopo province of SA and then the African countries north of here. We've got a dry Mediterranean climate, with carpets of spring flowers, lots of fynbos/bush scrub and not a lot of big trees at all.

  7. Lael - great to hear your thoughts coming from a Waldorf background and with a child in the conventional system. I'm doing it the other way about but even having gone through the whole conventional system myself it still feels a bit sad leaving the nurturing Waldorf environemnt for the bustle of a conventional high school. I'll look out for the book - sounds just right. I hadn't heard the Tiger Mama expression till today and now it's come up twice, so I must be meant to take note!

    Manya - Thanks for visitng my blog - it's nice to know that my recipes are being useful - hope he enjoyed it!

    Meredith - so glad I wasn't the last to know! Sounds like she has a good dose of independence here. I'm sure she'll do well.

  8. The milk tart is AMAZING! He loved it! Thank you! (And thanks for visiting my blog, too. Everyone laughed with the cookies!!!)

  9. I must ask my daughter (it's bed time over here) if the laundry stain soap (Sard i reckon is the brand name) she took with her to Sierra Leone is available over there. She took it with her as she is allergic to a lot of washing powders and liquids, the housekeeper where she was staying was quite happy to do her washing and their clothes ended up filthy each day (she was teaching at a primary school for a month) and it was always cleaned to perfection (this includes short white socks and white shirts)
    I have a friend who swears by dish washing liquid for most things)

  10. Kit

    please visit my blog and tell me if you're interested. Kisses!

  11. It has to be something that reminds you of her. It could be a drink that she made you after school, a snack, something that says "my mom". It doesn't have to be fancy.


Thanks for your comments - I appreciate every one!