The Glorification of Busy

Read this wonderful post by Julia then stop what you are doing and hug somebody you love. Seriously…

fivefairiesandafella

I’ve been thinking a bit lately about the guts of 2013….my last bog standard year before getting diagnosed with cancer in the December.

It went a bit like this.  I’d studied a certificate 3 in Community Services Work the year before.  Two days a week, and I loved it.  After years of devoting myself to being a stay at home mum to four children, I had three at school and one at kinder and it gave me so much balance, between being a mother and being, well…me.

So, the following year, in 2013, I decided to throw myself full time into the diploma.  For the better part of the first half of the year, I rose at dawn, got four children off to school and kinder, went to classes all day, or to the library to study, did a round of pick ups at 3.30pm, got some groceries on the…

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Why Autistic Kids Make Easy Targets for School Bullies

This is valuable information for parents of vulnerable kids like mine.

Health & Family

A new study finds that children with autism spectrum disorders are bullied far more often than their typically developing peers — nearly five times as often — but parents of autistic kids think the rate is even higher than that.

In the study, about 46% of autistic children in middle and high school told their parents they were victimized at school within the previous year, compared with just over 10% of children in the general population. Calling it a “profound public health problem,” lead author Paul Sterzing of Washington University in St. Louis told the New York Times that the “rate of bullying and victimization among these adolescents is alarmingly high.”

Many people with autism have trouble recognizing social cues, which makes them awkward around others. They also often engage in repetitive behaviors and tend to be hypersensitive to environmental stimuli, all of which makes kids with the disorder ripe…

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Judith Collins Writes: Disability is a part of life

Unique Ability

Source: Sunday Star Times

Disabled-kids-toysAny parent will tell anyone who will listen that their child is special – often gifted, sometimes challenged but definitely special.

So what happens in the education system when our kids really are special, gifted or challenged, kids with disabilities or special abilities? Sadly, the answer is very dependent on the school zone and more importantly, on the school’s principal and the Board of Trustees.

There is no particular standard reaction from school principals to kids with disabilities or some other form of special needs. One family was told by a high decile state school principal that their child would only be enrolled if the parents funded a full-time teacher aide. Yet, a principal of another high decile state school refused to allow a parent to fund a teacher aide to assist her disabled child. When I questioned the principal about this, he said that allowing a…

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Back to school Mayhem!

We have had a long and varied summer! We have rested, eaten too much, stayed up way too late, watched countless movies, gone to the pool in our small town a lot, seen friends, flown in a plane, had sleepovers, remodelled the bathroom etc. Busy. Lovely. Over.

School’s back in.

My big girl has been brave all summer about her best friend leaving for an expensive city private school which leaves her facing high school “alone”. She has two other friends but they don’t get her. She broke down the day before school returned and sobbed and hugged me and didn’t think she wanted to go on. I talked for hours about how the things that scare us the most are often the thing worth doing eg. Going to university, going overseas, having a baby. She came good, organised herself completely, marched off to high school and….had  an “awesome” day!! Two days in and she hasn’t stopped talking about her great teachers, subjects and assignments! She is sooooo happy!

Yay!

Little girl (11 years) was quiet and unconcerned about going into her last year of Primary. No mention of any worries. We had a couple of get togethers with her best friend and thought that would smooth the return to school.

Wrong! They were put in separate classes so have to try to make friends with other people to survive in class. My girl has been rejected soundly by various social groups she has been in before, most of whom have had sleepovers at our house in the last year and she is feeling so alone! She keeps it bottled up and only cracks when she gets into trouble for being non cooperative around the home. She has cried two afternoons with her head in my lap so far. Not good.

Last, but certainly not least, is my lovely autistic boy who just turned nine. We went to a lot of trouble to have a big pool party for him last week so he could see all his school mates before returning to school. We talked about school, teachers, friends and watched a social story prepared by his dad anda wonderful teacher about going back to school.

He started asking with alarm last week if it was nearly a school day so we drew him a calendar to count down. When he knew it was school today he honestly couldn’t sleep last night. He lay in the dark for so long I thought he was asleep and then I heard this little voice pipe up with, “I’m sad about school, you know.”

I took a reluctant boy to school this morning and stayed helping in the library at school until I saw him again at break time. He seemed worried so I came back to cuddle him at afternoon break as I have done in the past and he seemed better. I drove off in tears, however, as I watched him wandering around with his bag of toys and snacks while everyone else were sitting with friends.

This afternoon I returned to find a very content little boy. He came home cheerfully, made his own afternoon tea of a cookie and milk and got me some too! Then sat down and did two pages of homework!

What a day! What a week! Already our schedule is overflowing with party invites, swimming carnivals, maths camps, peer support sleepovers etc! I am already EXHAUSTED!

Bring on the next holiday! I need a rest….

Moose Tracks Ice Cream

bake me away!

Moose Tracks Ice Cream

It’s been a dream of my dad’s to renovate* an old Airstream and drive across the US to see the national parks.  (*This would be one sweet ride…he is a master craftsman!)  Since this hasn’t happened yet, my parents flew up to Wyoming a few years ago to explore Yellowstone for a couple weeks.

IMG_2465
I like to tease my dad about that hat.  (photo by my mom, I’m assuming!)

While there, he found a beer that he really liked: Moose Drool Brown Ale by Big Sky Brewing Co. in Montana.  My sister and I were a bit shocked I think because he’s always been a Miller Light (eww) drinker.  I’m pretty sure he tried the Drool purely because of its name…

PB cups!

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Dear Elizabeth Farrelly: We NEED private education!

Last Friday in the Sydney Morning Herald my family and I were horrified to see yet another private school bashing article by the columnist, Elizabeth Farrelly. We would like to set the record straight in a number of areas she addressed.

In her article, titled “Why Private schools add little to education mix”, Farrelly starts by writing 7 paragraphs that do not even mention private schooling at all! Instead she compares (incomprehensibly) “the difference between education and damage”, refers obliquely to a possibility of “allowing more local students in Sydney Boys and Girls high schools”(these are well known public, selective schools) and calls for such selective schools to be seen as “Special Needs” as the children who are carefully selected and attend would otherwise “wither and die” in a normal school setting.

Farrelly then goes on to “declare an interest” (a huge one) as both her children attended Sydney Girls High and she admits “to having nightmares as to what we would do if they could not.”

She then calls for the resolution of making all schools public! This instead of letting local students who are not “orchid children” into the hallowed halls of Sydney Boys and Girls!

She would like to “Abolish private schools. Gone.”

Private schools “add little.” instead they “build enclaves of privilege for those who need it least.”

This we must protest against long and hard and with every fibre of our beings!

We are a family that moved back to my idyllic small town when my children were small from inner city Sydney. We are university graduates from families of university graduates with teachers, barristers, doctors, engineers, pathologists etc in our extended families.

I am a public school teacher. My mother has been a public school teacher since 1967. We believed (note past tense) in the public school system. We believed it would be universally accountable wherever we chose to bring up our beautiful, bright and diverse bunch of kids. We believed we would be listened to and valued as loyal public school people for decades. Or indeed just as decent taxpaying people. Or just as people.

When my beautiful mixed race daughter was bullied and excluded for achieving too highly in everything from sport to academics we protested to the teacher, deputy and Principal. We could see she had been coping until she got a teacher with questionable skills who allowed behaviour such as shouting, kicking balls indoors, leaving the classroom without warning and wandering around the room interfering. This teacher had been employed by the Principal  and he would not investigate the allegations from many parents of misconduct in that room and instead chose to cover the problems with bullying and lies.

We had no choice after our child was called a “stupid Chinese person” but to withdraw her on stress leave and investigate our options.

The only other school in our town is a small Catholic school (private) with very few children her age and she was dying for a group of friends and some acceptance. We reluctantly applied to a Grammar school in a nearby town and she was accepted immediately.

She has never looked back.

This school has shown great respect to her enthusiasm and abilities from her first day. One year after moving she was voted as a prefect at a school 6 times bigger than her previous school where terrible teaching, lack of kindness, empathy and fairness has been allowed to flourish under a Principal who is ruthless in his vindictiveness.

We have found a school better than I have ever taught in and better than we ever imagined and it is only a bus ride away.

We had no other choice of public schools. Our public school is holding a cruel monopoly over the kids in our town who attend as it has been allowed to develop a terrible culture of bullying and spin from the Principal which he is using to cover lack of teaching, lack of care and a history of laziness and ineptness which will culminate in some or lots of these kids having a lesser life than they deserve!

Our local public school kids are in a school with a toxic culture which spends far more time covering teacher mistakes and bad policy decisions than it does in teaching them how to read and write. The teachers still get their ample wages having gained one of the highest paid jobs in our small town but they are not providing these isolated kids the same chance “of performing to his or her full capacity as a human”.

City based proponents of the Public School debate are forgetting or willfully disregarding the story in the country.

We do not have another public school in the next suburb to go to. We have tiny public schools 1/2 hour – 45 mins away with no public transport and who are heavily influenced by our Principal as our local school is the largest in the area.

Elizabeth Farrelly, we tried!

We “flooded our middle class energy into the public system” and after years of teaching and volunteering for hours a week, donating time, money and our lovely kids into the public system, it has failed us and spat us out like rubbish.

Our closest selective schools are few and far away (3 hours) and the only public boarding school in this half of the state is single sex for boys!

Please don’t belittle the safe haven and hard work that private schools like the one we have found as adding “no value to what children bring home from school”. 

If I could capture the joy, acceptance, academic challenges and fairness that exudes from our daughters’ private school and bottle it, it would be worth a fortune. My girls wake up excited about school every morning and are more than willing to go that extra mile in anything they are asked because they believe in their school.

We are so lucky.

We have left behind the black hole of the public school in our town but the pain of betrayal lingers on.