5 Tips for Choosing the Right School for Your Child

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*this is a sponsored post.

So, nearly halfway through popping my cherry in the school system (as a parent), and it’s been a real eye opener. I realised the other day that this time last year I was madly in the throes of comparing schools, going to interviews, praying to whoever would listen that Miss DP would respond to the questions asked with some form of a response that remotely matched the idea being asked of her. She has a knack of responding to questions with random facts that have nothing to do with anything.  See previous post here explaining said phenomena. #kidlife

You might be in the same position this year. Or choosing the right school could be upon you before you know it. Not to alarm you, but somehow you blink your eyes and your kid is five and heading to school and talking about boyfriends and girlfriends and you just want to bury your head in the sand. Or into a large glass of vino. How does it happen so fast? Is it the vast amounts of vino consumed to cope in those early years? Or is it that kids have this way of setting time to warp speed? I’m thinking a little of column A, a little of column B.

Anyways, if you’re wondering how the heck to select the school that you feel is going to be the right fit for your cherub, here’s a couple of ideas:

The School Vibe

I know, sounds a bit wanky right? But each school has a vibe. And a reputation to go with that vibe. You know your child better than anyone else, and it’s all about fitting your child to that school. How does the school feel when you walk in? Inviting? Busy? Is it a big school, or a smaller one? That’s something to consider against your child’s personality. They may thrive better in a smaller environment.  How does your child respond when you go to the school interview? Does the staff seem cohesive and happy? This is a biggie. Happy staff= happy kids. Do the students seem friendly as you wander around? It has to feel right for you, and for your child. You’re both going to be spending a lot of time in that place!

 

Health and Safety

How’s it looking to you? The amenities up to scratch? Safety and wellbeing are of course a no brainer, but some schools might focus on it a bit more than others. Check out playgrounds and their policies on health and safety. Are the classrooms and school grounds clean and tidy? Particularly in this day and age when allergies are so huge, it’s important to make sure that there are clear plans in place and that things are tidy and clean. Check to see if the school utilises a commercial cleaner, like AMC Cleaning (http://www.amcclean.com.au/  their website has some good info on just what goes on in maintaining classrooms ), and how they maintain their procedures. Because, if your cherubs are anything like mine, chewing on manky shit is their forte, and if floors aren’t clean, they’ll find grubby crap on it and make a beeline for their mouths like a heat-seeking germ missile. I gave up after they started sharing food with our dog.

 

School Priorities

What does the school stand for? Do they have a focus on social and emotional wellbeing? Now, I might be a bit bias here, but really, social emotional wellbeing is so integral to successful learning. Research has shown time and time again that you can have all the academics in the world, but if you don’t have social emotional wellbeing intact, then the academics go out the window. Check at your interview- what do they do for social emotional learning? Do they run programs in the school? What does the school consider to be an important focus for them? Are they an academic super house? Do they have a large arts culture? You need to look at what is going to work best for you and your cherub, and see where the best fit is.

Curriculum

All schools now have to operate from the National Curriculum, or ACARA- we love a good acronym, right? But there’s different ways to get that curriculum across. Look at the way your child learns- and consider what is going to work out best for you. Some kids are more visual learners, some more verbal. Some require a little more repetition, some can handle a faster pace. While every school needs to differentiate, some might be a better fit for your child than others. Ask around- talk to other parents from different school communities, to see how the curriculum is run there. Is there access to technology? Is there a learning support team if your child struggles? And social emotional learning is now part of the curriculum- it’s known as a general capability.

Extra-Curricular

What is on offer for the children at that particular school? Do they run other activities, like music, dance, drama? Is that even important to you? Extra-curriculars are a big part of a lot of schools nowadays. Some parents think it’s the best, others don’t want any extra pressure on their kids. It’s really about whatever is going to work best for you and your child.

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 And a final word. I really truly believe that a child will thrive anywhere provided they have the right supports and care around them. Sometimes even the ‘worst’ schools can actually turn out to be the best. However, there is no harm in doing a bit of hunting around and giving our kids a leg up where we can. It’s got to be the right fit for you, and for your child. For us, we had a school down the road that would have been super convenient, but it just didn’t feel right for Miss DP. So we do travel a little further at the moment, but it’s been worth it. It will all work out, and your cherub will be refusing to tuck their school shirt in before you can reach for the glass of vino. Good luck!

 

How were your school years? Did you feel you were in the right place for you?

Monster Series: Learning Monster

We’re getting to the end of our Monster Series. We’ve seen enough of these suckers to last us a while now I think, yes? This one critter today though is a particularly tough one, and tends to recruit all the other monsters we’ve discussed previously. That’s how sneaky this bastard is. Please meet the Learning Monster.

learning monster meme via tumblr
It’s true, no? Image source

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Monster Series: Silly Monster

Ahhhh the old Silly Monster. A crowd favourite with kids, an arch nemesis of parents and adults alike. What is the silly monster? Is it what happens to Mummy when she’s had one too many wines and thinks that singing karaoke and staying out partying until 5am is a good idea? Not quite. That’s a monster of a different kind I think (hello alco monster, I hope to meet you again in a matter of months….).

For kids, the Silly Monster represents that little part of us that can get a little too active sometimes. At the wrong time. Not understanding personal boundaries, not picking up those subtle cues that people might be getting a bit put out. Getting so excited our little brains get a bit scrambled and we can’t really put our impulse control or regulation skills into place. It’s not that we don’t know what to do, but the act of putting it into practice can get short-circuited by this Silly Monster. Sometimes the Silly Monster is just a by-product of excitement, or over-tiredness, or sometimes it can be a symptom of something bigger. Anxiety, ASD, ADHD can all feature the Silly Monster.

Silly monster faces
There are many faces to a Silly Monster. Image Source

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Sometimes it’s ok to quit…..

quitting via sxc.hu
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You know how we often feel like we have to don our superhero capes, totally do everything for everyone, even at the expense of ourselves? Or maybe I’m just one of those ridiculous over-achievers. Actually, good chance of that. Well I’ve learned a very important lesson these past couple of weeks- it’s ok to quit sometimes.

Have you ever quit anything? How did it make you feel? For me, I’ve never quit out of anything before. EVAH. Even when it sucks balls, I still see things through to the end. Because. Stubborn biatch. I think we’re often raised to think that we don’t quit, and if we do quit- or switch out of something, then we’re weak, indecisive, we can’t follow through. And that reflects badly on us.

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Monster Series: Angry Monster

There are so many monsters lurking around, isn’t there? We’ve looked at the worry monster, we’ve looked at the sad monster and we’ve seen what little bastards they can be. But what about the angry monster? What’s the deal there?

The angry monster is a little different to it’s previously mentioned cousins. The angry monster can pop into any kind of difficulty a child is having. It’s not necessarily a ‘disorder’, but the angry monster is a main player on the kidlet scene. The angry monster can mean bigger things, like anxiety, depression, oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), or it may just be a function of testing boundaries and learning their place. It’s a tricky minx, the old angry monster.

So what does an angry monster look like? Prickly, loud, breathing fire maybe? Possibly. Seething, quiet and contained? Could be. Our angry monsters can look different depending on the situation we’re in, and depending on our personalities.

angry monster meme via pinterest
Or maybe our angry monster could look cute, like this? Source

The angry monster can be hard for parents to negotiate. And even harder for kids to manage. It’s tough.  But it’s not impossible! It’s really about helping kids to understand what’s going on for them, what the angry monster is, and why it might be popping up at this time.

The biggest message to share with our kids about the angry monster is that anger is normal! Anger is common and we all feel it. What’s not ok though is when we let our anger get the better of us and it takes over. Normally the angry monster is at the surface, while another monster bubbles below. So when we explain the angry monster to kids we need to be able to let them know they are allowed to feel angry, but letting the angry monster make them aggressive is something else entirely.

angry monster lemon via sxc.hu
The angry monster can lurk anywhere, anytime. Source

How do we explain the angry monster? Try a little something like this:

Let’s have a look at what’s been going on for you lately. Seems like things have been pretty tough. Maybe you’ve had a visit from the angry monster, do you know much about the angry monster? Well, it’s a monster who can get really annoying and LOUD. And when an angry monster gets loud, it can make us loud. Yelling, screaming, stamping and stomping. So much noise! That’s the work of the angry monster. They hit our bodies, our minds and our actions. They do things like make our fists clench, grind our teeth, get all our muscles tight. They can make our cheeks feel hot, our eyebrows frown. The angry monster is tricky like that. And then when our bodies are all tight, they start telling us all sorts of things, like “it’s not fair”, or “I want that toy!” or “they can’t do that to me”. If you think things like that, how do you think you’ll be feeling? Pretty darn angry! Aha- the angry monster is working! So when we think angry, we feel angry. And when we feel angry, sometimes it can come out in not-so-nice behaviours. We can get aggressive- hitting, throwing, yelling, breaking things. Sometimes we can get so aggressive we can hurt others. And that never feels good, for anyone. Before we know it, our angry monster has us all twisted up, and we don’t know how to get out of it! Why does the angry monster visit? Well there can be many reasons. We can find something unfair, we can feel like we’ve been hurt by others, we can actually be scared or sad about something, and it feels so yuck the only way we feel like we can get it out is by letting the angry monster take over. So we need to be detectives, get to the bottom of why the angry monster is visiting us, and learn ways to shrink the monster down so we can shine again.

Sadly with anger, we inadvertently paint it out to be a bad thing, and something we need to hide away and not express. Anger is a valid emotion, and both ourselves and our kids are allowed to feel it. It’s all about how we deal with it that’s the issue though, and what we want to upskill our kids on. With kids, particularly younger ones, anger is the go-to emotion when they’re struggling to understand or express what’s going on for them. So it’s always helpful to try and educate them on anger, and get them to understand what is happening, and why they might be acting in such a way. A lot of the time, once we can see what’s going on, our anger tends to simmer down.

Angry monster via sxc.hu
There could be other reasons why the angry monster is popping up. Gotta get to the bottom of it. Source

Got concerns your cherub’s anger is over and above what is appropriate for their age? Chat to your GP. More complex issues like Oppositional Defiant Disorder do exist, but the prevalence rates range from 2% to 10% (Maughan et al., 2004; Costello et al., 2003. Source). Some sessions with a psych might help give you some tricks, and enable further support for your child.

One resource that is great for explaining anger is the book “Mad isn’t Bad” . And all the cute series of “When I’m feeling…” are really useful too. You can often pick them up from Kmart. For children with Aspergers, a fantastic book to help them understand is “The Red Beast”. And if you’re stuck on how to deal with misbehaviour (because we’re all about the anger being ok, the aggressive behaviour is not though) here’s some strategies on disciplining kids that we’ve looked at before. But truly it’s about helping your child uncover what is driving the anger. And not having them beat themselves up for it. That’s what we have monsters for!

 

How’s your anger monster travelling? Are you all over it, or does your angry monster get the better of you sometimes? I tell you, without my wine, my angry monster has a little too much spunk. Must remedy that. In a few months.

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Monster Series: The Sad Monster

Next up in our monster series is the very good friend of our little (or not so little) worry monster, the sad monster.

sad monster via top that
Awww even sad monsters need love. Except for when they’re affecting our kids. Then they can kiss my ass. This is a neat little book for sale from here

Sad monsters are pretty common, although while it’s easy to spot in adults, it can be really tricky to spot in kids. And for poor cherubs, an attack of the sad monster can be the absolute worst. It’s a serious issue that we need to address sooner rather than later. In the past we thought that children couldn’t get depressed. I mean, really, what’s there to be sad about when the biggest decision you need to make in a day is whether to eat from the blue plate or the yellow plate, right? Sadly not quite. Although it is less common in younger children than it is in adolescents, there are some studies that propose that 4% of preschool children show symptoms of depression and 10% of children aged 6-12 years deal with persistent feelings of depression, and 2% of those children go on to develop serious depression. Once you hit the age of 12, the stats rise, until you get to 16 and depression is now one of the leading causes of death in young people. Horrific to think, isn’t it? (See info here and here). It can even impact babies if they’re not given enough nurturing contact and develop a positive attachment. Babies can become apathetic, unresponsive, suffer from failure to thrive. All through depression. Not cool.

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Why Can’t We Put Ourselves First?

So I was trying to work from home (read: getting distracted by ALL the things and simultaneously wrangling kids), struggling to keep all the balls juggling in the air and wanting to hide under the dining room table, and I was reminded of this ‘controversial’ concept raised by Gisele Bundchen late last year where she advocates that Mother’s need to put themselves first. Haven’t read the article? Check it out here.

And apparently she’s been met with a some backlash over it? My first thought was “damn straight, Skippy”. And not just for Mothers- for EVERYONE! My number one thing I say to almost every client I have (big and little) is you can’t be there for anyone else unless you’re there for yourself.  Fact. Now, I’m no fan of Gisele, some of the stuff she’s said in the past has been a bit naff to be honest, but this point is something to take on board.

put yourself first mom cartoon
Ain’t that the truth….

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