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Since the conflict broke out in 2015, life for children in Yemen, has been a living hell. Around 2 million children under the age of 5 are suffering from acute malnutrition. To put these numbers into perspective, that is the entirety of Perth’s population.

10.3 million brittle boys and girls don’t have enough food to eat, and half of Yemeni children under the age of 5 are chronically malnourished. Chronic malnutrition has an incredibly important impact on a child’s development. So, the 50 per cent of Yemeni children who are chronically malnourished, will never develop their full intellectual potential.

Whilst these statistics are disturbing to us readers, you can only imagine how frightful, how soul-crushing, how helpless, it must feel to be the mother of a Yemeni child.

These kids have been deprived of their childhoods and a hopeful future. And, the dark reality is, this has worsened due to COVID-19 as they are confined to remnants of their war-torn homes.

The damage and closure of schools has disrupted the children’s access to education. Before COVID-19, 2 million children were out of school. Now, because of the pandemic, the latest statistics from UNICEF have found an additional 5 million children are out of school.

Sadly, the education of these children is the smallest of their problems. Five years of war has exhausted the country’s health system. Many of Yemen’s medical facilities have been destroyed and the country is inadequate to cope with a pandemic.

Alongside a lack of medicine, equipment, and medics, coronavirus has essentially caused Yemen’s health system to collapse.

As the pandemic ravages through the country, the Yemeni people have reached breaking point.

Poverty levels are deepening and putting financial strain on families. The United Nations (U.N) have reported that parents of these fragile children are now resorting to “harmful coping mechanisms,” like begging, child labor, and marrying off their young daughters to survive.

Young Yemeni girls, if weren’t already, are now the most vulnerable, frail, and helpless they’ve ever been.

Worldwide, around 12 million girls under the age of 18 are estimated to be married off every year. That works out to be nearly one girl every three seconds.

Already seen to be happening in Yemen, a recent U.N report predicts the pandemic has put an additional 4 million girls at risk of child marriage.

And, when you think the horrendous conditions for these innocent girls couldn’t get any worse, they do.

86% of mothers in Yemen believe that female gentile mutilation is a purifying and cleansing practice and is closely tied with their religious and cultural beliefs. With almost every health care facility closing and the ones that are still open being overpopulated by coronavirus and war-stricken victims, the infection rate, as a direct result of this practice, on these baby girls, is expected to sky-rocket.

The U.N appealed to the international community $2.4 billion to help the suffering of the Yemen people who are being hit harder than any other civilians in the world by the pandemic. On June 2, manly Arab and Western countries pledged $1.35 billion toward aid. This is far less than what is needed to give these people a chance at survival.

Yemen is in the middle of a war, suffering the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and the coronavirus is sucking the breath and freedom out of the life of malnourished children who don’t have the choice or immune system to fight it.

These conditions are gut-wrenching.

The suffering of these girls and boys is nothing short of devastating.

And, it is worsening with every minute that passes.

If you would like to donate directly to help save the lives of these kids, please do so here https://support.savethechildren.org/site/Donation2?df_id=2521&2521.donation=form1

Children who struggle with literacy can improve through parental help and a different approach to their learning, as explored by Emma Saurus.

My memory of Year 1 is learning the alphabet, writing a lot of wavy shapes (“You mean you wanted them between the lines? Geez.”), and using scissors with my tongue out.

Today, by the end of pre-primary, the Australian Curriculum expects children to write three-letter words and “experiment with capital letters and full stops”.

My peak pre-primary experiment was, “How long can I get away with speaking only in neighs and eating without using my hooves?”

From Pre-Primary to Post-Doctorate, your child will be assessed through their writing. In almost every subject, they will be required to demonstrate their knowledge on paper.

There has been a global early-education panic as studies show that children who lag in language skills in the early years tend to fall further and further behind their peers.

At the same time that literacy requirements are being shunted into earlier grades, the new overstuffed, micro-managed Australian Curriculum requires teachers to cover more topics than can fit into a school year (according to the Australian Primary Principals Association, “The overcrowded primary curriculum: A way forward”, and the Australian Government’s own Review of the Australian Curriculum by Donnelly and Wiltshire, both 2014).

The outcome is that if your child is not developmentally ready to gain those crucial foundational skills of reading and writing in Pre-Primary — and my son was not — teachers in later years are unlikely to have enough time available to help your child catch up.

It will be up to you to recognise that your young’un is struggling and provide the targeted help they need to get up to speed.

Any improvements you make
to children’s literacy skills will
have positive flow-on effects
throughout their academic
and professional lives.

Helping your child is completely doable. If you’re skilful, it can be a fun, bonding activity.

If your child has struggled to the point that they have become despondent about writing, or flat-out hate it as much as mine did, it can become a bribing activity. Whatever works! It’s worth it.

But the keyword for gaining cooperation is “let’s”, as in “Let’s do a writing game together.”

Here’s an exercise that can be used from toddlerhood. (I have even used it with children preparing for the Gifted and Talented exam.) If your child cannot yet write (or hates it), you can do the writing for them.

Some children prefer to be absolutely clear about what is expected of them before they begin. You can demonstrate it for them. Before long, they will will be taking the pencil out of your hand.

Curious Captions

 

You can’t become a great writer without knowing how to compose a strong sentence. This activity teaches planning, descriptive vocabulary, and even introduces the idea of revising and editing.

Choose a picture — a photograph of family, a picture from a magazine or the internet — and say, “Let’s write a caption to describe what’s in the picture. What do we see?”

The child might say, “Birds.”

In a list off to the side, write down ‘birds’, and prompt for more information.

“How many?” “What colour?” “What could they be doing?” You might end up with a list of words including: two, pink, dancing.

Say, “Let’s put these words into a sentence.” Read the list out, and try speaking a few variations.

Write out the child’s preferred phrasing. Talk about what was good about the sentence. Praise any powerful words.

If the child wrote it, praise them if they remembered capitals and full stops, or if they spelled words correctly.

Don’t worry about fixing any errors (though you could secretly note spelling mistakes for later teaching); this exercise is about encouraging expression.

If your child is still interested, you can say, “Shall we make it even fancier?”

You can add relevant vocabulary. (“These birds are called flamingos.”)

You can add description and invite your child’s contribution. (“They’re dancing elegantly.”)

You can add imagination. (“What could they be thinking or feeling? Maybe this one is a daddy flamingo and he just got home from work. Or maybe this one is saying, ‘Get out of my way!’”)

Write the new sentence under the first one. The more over-the-top you make it, the more enjoyable it will be.

If you want more suggestions from your child, find something good and useful in whatever they offer.

Older children are often asked to analyse images in English exams; this activity can prepare them.

If you use advertisements, it can also help your children begin to understand how some images attempt to manipulate the viewer.

Any improvements you make to children’s literacy skills will have positive flow-on effects throughout their academic and professional lives.

Powerful writing helps teens sound smarter in essays and exams. It allows young adults to write compelling job applications. It lets employees make client presentations more impressive.

Enrich your child’s writing. The investment will pay off their whole life long.

Letters of Complaint

 

If your child has difficulty remembering the letters of the alphabet, has trouble physically writing the letters, cannot holding the pencil with even pressure (giving faint, wiggly letters), or simply cannot recall spelling patterns after lengthy study, this requires a different kind of intervention.

American special educator Dianne Craft (diannecraft. org) has developed a program that can be undertaken at home to address these issues.

I used them successfully with my son, who was diagnosed with Dysgraphia in PrePrimary.

His writing was like giving birth: slow, painful, and messy.

When the occupational therapist gave her pronouncement, I thought, “Great, a diagnosis! That reassuringly fancy Latin label must mean that experts understand his condition and how to treat it. What does dysgraphia mean? ‘Difficulty writing’? I told you that when we walked in!”

Months of occupational therapy exercises did not make a difference.

One month of Dianne Craft’s method led to significant improvement.

My son no longer meets the technical criteria for dysgraphia.

If you are experiencing similar issues, please feel free to contact me if you’d like to discuss your situation: emma@emmasaurus.com.au

Emma Saurus helps students of all levels sound smarter.  She is based in Perth. Look her up at emmasaurus.com.au

“If I can’t find my perfect job, then I need to create it.”

This was the catalyst that encouraged 33-year-old Perth mother of two, Chevon Semmens, to launch Little Land, an interactive role-play centre for young children to play and learn.

 

From a young age, Chevon had a passion for play, she aspired to work with children and own a childcare centre. Despite these dreams, Chevon opted for a career in marketing and advertising.

 However, her interest in play and learning persisted. Chevon volunteered for over 10 years with Radio Lollipop, providing entertainment to children during their stay at Perth’s Princess Margaret Hospital. Chevon recalls always finding a way to integrate play and learning, even if they were “just playing Uno.”

While on maternity leave with her first child, Chevon stumbled across a photo of a little girl with a child size shopping trolley at a role play centre in the UK. Chevon was excited by the idea of a role-play centre, “I knew this concept would come to Perth eventually and was looking forward to being able to take my own children.”

 

Prompted by a desire to transition into a different career, Chevon used the opportunity of maternity leave to consider her options and compile a list of priorities, “I wanted it to be a business that involved working with children and it had to be something creative”.

Photo credit: Lanie Sims

“I knew my ideal job probably didn’t exist, so I had to invent it.”

Inspired by the image of the little girl with the shopping trolley, Chevon announced to her husband Kayne, “I am going to open up a role play centre. He thought I was mad.”

With unyielding determination, Chevon took on the challenge of convincing her husband she could make this dream a reality.

Chevon’s family and friends became sounding boards for her new venture. “Many thought it was a good idea but probably never assumed I would go through with it, while others felt the idea was too gimmicky.” Undeterred, Chevon used their constructive feedback as encouragement to eradicate potential flaws.

“I knew the concept could work and I knew I would enjoy taking my kids there, but would others?” Chevon put together an advisory group, consisting of Paediatric Occupational Therapists, Paediatric Speech Pathologists, Early Childhood Educators, Primary Teachers and professionals who worked with children with autism. Chevon used their expert knowledge in conjunction with her marketing expertise to educate parents about the benefits the role play centre would bring.

Despite Chevon’s confidence and robust business plan, the process from conceptualisation to delivery was anything but quick. Two years of extensive planning included a painstaking search for the right premises.

“I did not want to settle for a half option. The location needed to be central, close to families, with plenty of parking and onsite facilities.”

In the midst of the search, falling pregnant with her second child threw another “amazing spanner into the works.” Financially, Chevon also needed enough money to launch the business. Rather serendipitously, she was offered voluntary redundancy from her existing day job. “It happened to be the exact amount of money needed to get the idea of the ground.”

The dream was about to become a reality.

Chevon opened the doors of Little Land in May 2019. “We were fully booked for the first three months” and the success has continued, with some ebbs and flows in the mix, as they approach their one-year anniversary.*

What can someone expect from a trip to Little Land?

Little Land offers a welcome break from the usual loud colours and noises you expect of a childcare centre. “Many parents comment on how surprised they are at how calm the environment feels.” The welcome area is filled with calming pastel colours, while the sound system plays modern songs in the form of lullabies.

Beyond the welcome area, you will find Little Land’s ‘little town’, complete with a shopping centre, school; home; doctor’s surgery; café; hairdressing salon; construction zone and veterinary practice.

Role-play is at the forefront of play between the ages of 18 months and 8 years and so each area is uniquely designed to meet the needs of children within this age range. The numbers are kept to a maximum of 30 children per session with a total of four sessions per day to avoid overwhelm for the children.

Children are given the opportunity to explore formal settings in an informal way, enabling them to take control of the experience. Many children were recently role-playing evacuations and ‘safety first’ procedures following recent bush fires. Parents who visit the centre express how valuable it is for children to be able to visit these locations on a small scale and at their own pace.

What does the future hold for Little Land?

Chevon is proud to announce Little Land have worked with the Autism Association in Western Australia to launch weekly ‘Sensory Sessions’. “We reduce the number of people who attend, change the format and provide a story book for children to read beforehand of what to expect, we also use a timer instead of a bell to mark the end of the sessions.”

Chevon’s dream is for play and learning to be accessible to all Australians. “We currently have people travelling over an hour to see us, so I would like to possibly open a second location to make it more accessible. We have also launched several pop ups, including four stalls at local events and shopping centres to help spread awareness of the benefits of our centre.”

How to balance motherhood and business

As a mum to three a half year old Zack and 16 month old Archer, Chevon admits life can get busy.

“Someone said to me recently, maybe it’s not so much as trying to find a balance between being a mother and business owner, perhaps it’s finding a blend of the two.”

“I am fortunate that I have a great husband who helps pick up the slack, whether that’s with our children or the business. We try to eat well and get as much sleep as you can with a 16 month old.”

Chevon and her husband make time for themselves separately to re-energise, “I try to get up earlier a couple of days a week to go for an hour long walk, this gives me the energy I need for the next couple of days.”

Chevon also has a day that is non-negotiable, “I always have Mondays with my boys, to play and just spend time with them, it revitalises me and reminds me how we never stop learning.”

Photo credit: Lanie Sims

Despite the huge success of the business, Chevon has realised it’s the small wins she celebrates, “I found in the initial stages of Little Land, we were so busy ‘doing’ that we didn’t stop to appreciate what we had achieved, so now we make an effort to regularly pause and express gratitude for what we have accomplished.”

Keep up to date with the latest Little Land news, @littleland_perth

Thank you to Photographer, Lanie Sims for all images supplied in this article.

 *Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Little Land has closed for the unforeseeable future. During this time, we’re determined to continue inspiring play and learning for the community and we hope it isn’t too long before we see the return of big smiles on little faces as they run through our big and little doors to wander and explore the magic.

 

As parents, it can be challenging to find ways to support children experiencing fears about the future of the planet while managing our own worries about an uncertain future. Psychologist, author and broadcaster Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, a specialist in parenting and child/adolescent mental health, in conjunction with SchoolTV, guides parents on how to best respond to a child experiencing eco-anxiety, irrespective of varying personal views on the climate change debate.

The Australian Curriculum on Sustainability addresses the ongoing capacity of Earth to maintain all life.

Primary schools are immersed in school gardens and recycling initiatives. Teenagers across the globe are striking from school in protest to leader inaction on mitigating the effects of climate change.

Extreme weather events such as drought, fire and flood regularly dominate news reports and popular media revels in polarising debate.

Our children are more environmentally aware than ever and with this awareness can come fear and anxiety as children grapple with notions of disaster, with some experiencing it directly amid bushfires and drought stricken rural areas.

The World Health Organisation regard climate change as the greatest threat to global health in the 21st Century, due to results of extreme weather events and a recent survey by YouGovGalaxy for UNICEF Australia reveals that children are most worried, on a world level, about the environment.

What is Eco-Anxiety?

Eco-Anxiety refers to the fear felt about the threat of ecological disaster, leading to feelings of disempowerment, helplessness and apathy.

A brief report by Millennium Kids through the University of Western Australia, found 60 per cent of children surveyed believed the Australian Government does not adequately acknowledge climate change as a serious problem and is not committed to tackling the issue.

They also felt their personal actions to mitigate climate change were inadequate.

How to Respond

Finding ways as a parent to allay a child’s fear on the issue without being disingenuous can be confusing, particularly when a child is very young.

However, Dr Carr-Gregg believes early intervention is critical when addressing the mental, physical and emotional wellbeing issues which are now impacting our children at a much younger age.

In a recent special report with SchoolTV, a resource used to support schools and parents in addressing the modern day issues affecting today’s children, Dr Carr-Gregg outlines ways to best respond to a child’s eco-anxiety.

Building Hope

Dr Carr-Gregg believes, as adults, we have a responsibility to give hope and must be careful not to terrify children into a state of hopelessness, fear and panic.

He encourages instilling faith that our society has the capacity to solve big problems, and by working together, taking positive action and maintaining honesty, positive change can happen.

Parents are then best positioned to respond to the fear experienced by our children about climate change and the sustainability of the planet. How to

Protecting Innocence

 

Under 5’s

This is a tender developmental stage and children need to believe the world is a safe and secure place.

However, Dr Carr-Gregg recommends answering questions, if they are raised, in honest, yet gentle terms such as, “The earth does face some challenges but many people, our schools and leaders are working to solve them.”

Dr Carr-Gregg explains, cocooning Pre-Schoolers from catastrophic thinking about the fate of the planet is very important and if they seek further reassurance, it can be helpful to focus on the environmentally friendly practices of the family.

He says, “Help them learn to appreciate and care for their environment.”

Positive Action

 

Primary school aged

Dr Carr-Gregg suggests being guided by your child’s curiosity at this age, to answer questions honestly, in accordance to your beliefs, being mindful to not focus solely on problems.

Instead, emphasise positive initiatives being implemented worldwide. He says, “Talk about renewables, emission reduction and that human beings do have a history of being able to solve, what has often been seen in the past, as intractable problems.”

He encourages involving your primary aged children in Community Gardens, Recycling Programs and other initiatives which can give them agency over their future.

Deep Fears

For children experiencing extreme anxiety, Dr Carr-Gregg explains this can be diffused by encouraging them to talk.

He says, “Gradually introduce them to known facts. Then ask them how they feel, before acknowledging that the ultimate outcome is uncertain.

Finally, parents should agree to practical steps to make a difference such as cutting down on non-recyclable waste and by choosing food with a better climate footprint.

Working Together

 

Adolescents

Older children are perhaps, more well-versed on the effects of climate change than their parents and views may vary, however, Dr Carr-Gregg recommends dissuading narratives of doom.

He encourages parents to welcome conversations around the issue but to keep reminding teenagers that many people are working together to help solve the problem.

He says, “Big problems have been solved in the past by people working together.”

Solution Based Thinking

Dr Carr-Gregg says, “The most important thing a parent can do to allay eco-anxiety, while still encouraging realism is to tell children that solutions do exist and if we implement changes now. In the future, more people will be living in cleaner cities, eating healthier diets and working in resilient, buoyant economies. When a child sees a parent acting to make things better it shines an entirely different light on the problem. Young people see their parents as Superheroes and our actions speak louder than words.”

“We can work to find solutions to serious problems without giving way to despair and impotence.”

Keeping the Faith

Dr Carr-Gregg’s special report on SchoolTV asks parents to look to practical and positive responses to their children’s fears about climate change and to implement positive action whilst acknowledging the positive actions of others.

Hope is an essential component to not only assuaging anxiety but also in overcoming the problems faced by the world.

Albert Wiggan, a Bardi-Kija-Nyul Nyual man from the Kimberley and Conservationist of the Year at the 2019 Australian Geographic Society said, in his acceptance speech in November, it was time Australia and the world looked to Indigenous cultures for the answers on how to sustain the earth.

He said, “I still have a lot of belief that we can turn things around in this great country. And we will turn things around. And we are going to instil the strength in our children who are out there fighting for their future and every single one of us, who are accepting these awards, are doing it for you. And we are doing it for you so you can maintain your vigorous conviction. And you maintain your faith in your future. And you maintain the faith of who we are as human beings.”

Role-play is an important part of child development and a way for children to make sense of the world around them. Children start to engage in role-play from around 18 months of age. Understanding why and how children role-play can provide parents with knowledge to best support role-play fun and learning

There are three key role-play categories;

  • Family; Mum, Dad, siblings or pets – allows children to explore different dynamics
  • Character or fantasy; princesses or Spiderman – helps children identify good from bad and encourages bravery
  • Functional or occupational; such as a firefighter, police or doctor, defined by specific actions and not the identity of the character – allows children to learn about their real environment

 

Role-play encourages creativity and imagination. It can provide a safe space for problem solving and support children in developing social skills (how they get along with their peers) and emotional skills (how they react to situations) including empathy, conflict resolution and teamwork. These are all important skills that will serve them in the school setting and other aspects of life.

 

Role-play can assist physical development, engaging children’s motor skills and hand to eye coordination – whether it be dressing or feeding baby or building at the construction site.

Role-play can also have a positive effect on speech and language acquisition – enhancing communication skills with the use of eye contact, turn-taking and listening skills. New words and new characters can combine to build new vocabulary for different events and experiences.

Perth Speech Pathologist and mum of three, Alex Trichilo explains, ‘Role-play is an essential part of a child’s journey to becoming an adult. It gives them the opportunity to practice language that they wouldn’t usually use on a day-to-day basis.

Little land has created a play space that integrates fun and learning, specifically designed for children up to approximately 8 years of age. The play space’s little town has been designed by a team of early childhood educators, paediatric occupational therapists and speech pathologists to offer a creative and educational play experience.Just like visiting the real shops, Little Land’s Little Growers Market is a great place to explore language. The groceries may be ‘big’ or ‘small’, or you can search for items starting with a certain letter. Visiting Little Land’s construction site can promote language in lots of ways too by modelling verbs – stack, dig, build, bang.

A little tipdon’t be afraid to use something to imitate something else. Blocks can be used as pet food and cardboard boxes are only limited by your little one’s imagination! Using items to represent other items is known as Symbolic Play and is a critical aspect of play development.

Alex says, ‘Role-play is an ongoing skill throughout childhood and is a fantastic activity for developing play at all developmental stages.’

 

‘It is important to see the progression from children playing by themselves, to playing next to other children, and then to playing in an organised way with each other in groups.’

Little Land also offers Sensory Sessions, developed in consultation with the Autism Association of Western Australia – a low stimulus environment to support the needs of children with Autism and specific sensory needs. Limited to 15 Wanderers, the Sensory Sessions incorporate additional materials including the ‘Going to Little Land’ storybook to help prepare your child before your visit, and play sequence guides to further support play and learning.

Play sessions are 90 minutes and run at 9am, 11am, 1pm and 3pm Tuesday through to Saturday.

Book your play session at www.littleland.fun

 

 

 

What’s wrong with a father concerned about his daughter’s virginity? 

Rapper T.I has been in the news recently for comments involving his 18-year-old daughter, Deyjah Harris.

T.I, aged 39 and born Clifford Joseph Harris, has been a rapper and actor for decades, cementing his position as a R&B superstar in the early 2000’s.

The scandal gained traction in early November after T.I was a guest on the podcast  Ladies Like Us with Nazanin and Nadia for their episode titled ‘Life Hacks’.

In the episode, T.I discusses his daughter and how every birthday he takes her to the gynaecologist to check if her hymen is intact. Throughout the podcast hosts Nazanin Mandi and Nadia Moham laugh as T.I describes his obsession with Deyjah’s virginity.

The hymen is a thin membrane that covers the opening of the vagina, with the tearing of the hymen typically associated with the loss of virginity. In reality there are many ways a hymen can break that has nothing to do with sex (such as horse riding and tampon use).

“Look, doc, she don’t ride no horses, she don’t ride no bike, she don’t play no sports, man. Just check the hymen please and give me back my results, expeditiously” said T.I. in the now infamous interview.

Since the worldwide discussion of her virginity, Deyjah Harris has deleted all her social media, including her Instagram @princess_of_da_south that boasts a following of 1.5 million.

T.I’s daughter rose to fame through his family’s long time running reality television program T.I & Tiny: Family Hustle that followed the rapper and his family’s life after T.I’s prison sentence ended.

T.I’s comments sparked worldwide discussion over the construct of virginity, which is the idea that virginity is a construct created by society and the patriarchy, with patriarchal ideals as the foundation. The construct placing a large focus on commoditising women’s bodies and women losing their purity after sex.

T.I’s comments are problematic for multiple reasons, one of the most unsettling being how the rapper seems to believe he owns his daughter’s virginity.

This is still a common practice, with the concept of virginity stemmed in the idea that women’s bodies are not their own, they belong to their fathers and then are passed to their husbands.

The loss of virginity has also always been associated with heterosexual sex, with the loss of virginity for members of the LGBTI community having always been blurry.

As a society, sex, sexuality and virginity need to be discussed openly and regularly with young people. It is a pivotal part of a child’s growth and teaching children how to respect sexual partners and how to understand consent from an early age is crucial.

In Australia our sex education is heterosexual orientated and starts when children are aged 11 or 12 (depending on the state). The Victorian Government’s health advice and services focused website, Better Channel health offers advice for parents of young children for discussing sex and sexuality.

Parents should aim to be approachable to their children so they don’t seek sex education from other sources, such as their peers or the internet, states Better Channel Health.

In the Netherlands children as young as four are taught about sexuality, a sexual education program that is recognised worldwide.

The Netherlands has some of the best results of sex education, low teen pregnancy rates, high rates of contraception use and high rates of young people losing their virginity in a safe, fun and wanted way.

The T.I scandal raises many issues that in society we seem scared to raise and discuss, is it that over- protective fathers are a symptom of the patriarchy, or some would argue is this just feminism gone too far.

Deciding on a school for your little ones can be daunting! With so many options, all with their own pros and cons, it can be overwhelming. So how can you weigh up which is the best option for your child?

Choosing the most suitable school for your child can be a big decision. In addition to finding an education style that fits our child, as parents, we also want to ensure our kids’ learning environment is safe, fun, stimulating and nurturing.
Offspring explores some of the benefits of the education options available in Australia.

GOVERNMENT/PUBLIC:

For many parents, the local public school is their go-to, close to public transport, in their local community and often where past family members have attended. Government/public schools are a popular option in Australia.
Government schools have a guaranteed place for a child if the school is in their local catchment.
However, if you would like to send your child to a public school outside of your area, there is not a guaranteed spot. For your child to attend a Government school they must attend an interview with the principal and there is a voluntary small fee.
Most public school’s fees cost between $50-300 and payment plans are sometimes available for low-socioeconomic areas and families.

INDEPENDENT/PRIVATE:

Independent and private schooling is an umbrella term that covers all independent and private schools, such as Catholic, Steiner and Montessori schools.
For many parents, private education is a great way to find a school that can tailor to your child’s spiritual and learning needs.
If parents decide to choose a private school for their child, they must allow considerable time to apply for various schools as no places are guaranteed, also extra fees and tuition prices must be considered also.

RELIGIOUS:

Religious schooling is a popular option in Australia, with Catholic schooling being the second most popular choice by Australian parents after Government and public schooling.
Religious schools require a meeting with the principal, with all students accepted at the discretion of the school.
In religious schooling, it is most likely families of the church that are accepted first, however many schools do not require your family to be a part of their religion.

There are many different religious schools in Australia, such as Catholic, Jewish and Baptist, providing more options for parents who want their child to be schooled in a religious environment.

STEINER:

Steiner schooling or Waldorf schooling follows a curriculum based upon the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher and social reformer. Steiner schools have been operating in Australia for 60 years and are growing in popularity, with statistics from Steiner Education Australia showing that 87 per cent of parents are happy they chose to send their children to a Steiner school.
Steiner schooling is a holistic approach to learning where the children are discouraged from using modern technology whilst at school.
At Steiner schools the teachers stay with the same class not just for one year, but for the student’s entire time in primary school.
Steiner schools base their learning largely on communication and forming strong bonds between child, family and teacher.
Steiner education focuses on moral growth and aims to let their students learn artistically, spiritually and practically, cherishing childhood. As with many private schools your child’s entry is dependent on the school itself and fees apply.
For more information about Steiner schooling go to: www.steinereducation.edu.au

TIP: Have a budget for your child’s schooling fees, uniform and other related costs and try to stick to it!

MONTESSORI:

Montessori is an education program that focuses on developing the ‘full human being’ and providing education that is an aid to life, based on the teachings of Dr Maria Montessori, a physician, anthropologist and teacher.
The Montessori schooling program focuses on children taking their time to complete their schoolwork and having their own independence to work at their own pace.
The Montessori schooling program is growing in Australia, with over 300 schools and centres nationwide.
There are many programs available, starting from as young as 18 months old to adulthood, with the aim of providing a whole life of support for their students.
As with most independent schools your child’s entry is dependent on the school itself and extra fees apply.
For more information about Montessori schooling go to:

COMMUNITY/ALTERNATIVE/OPEN LEARNING:

Community/Open learning education programs and schooling is often referred to as alternative schooling, where the school commonly creates its own curriculum.
These schools are very small, independent and often hold a close- knit community, sometimes running out of community houses.
These learning facilities are targeted at all ages but are especially valuable for children who have different interests or a learning style that doesn’t fit into mainstream curriculums.

HOME SCHOOLING:

Home Schooling is now a viable schooling option used by many, not just families living in remote areas. Home Schooling allows parents to spend more time with their kids and tailor their learning to suit their child’s needs.
Lots of families choose to home school for various reasons such as bullying, disabilities or even their child being gifted.
Each state has its own registration processes, with Home Schooling open to any child aged 6-17 years Australia wide. To register, one must have their child’s birth certificate and have made a learning plan or rough lesson plans to include.
Home education is different to distance education, which follows the national curriculum and is supplied to parents, primarily used by families in remote locations who can’t access their nearest school easily.
For more information about home education go to your state’s registration and qualifications authority.

The Resilience Project holds speaking events and is a curriculum that is aimed at using gratitude, empathy and mindfulness to fight mental illness, with the program implemented in hundreds of schools Australia wide.

“If this book wasn’t written, my sister and I would have never actually sat down and had a conversation about our relationship,” says Hugh Van Cuylenburg, creator of The Resilience Project.

At three years of age, Georgia Van Cuylenburg had been playing alongside her brother, Hugh, when a man picked her up, took her out of sight, and sexually assaulted her.
Her innocence of childhood taken in one fell swoop, and a wound that bleed into many facets of her life for decades, was brought to life. This trauma explaining why the darkness of anorexia had chosen her as it’s host, stripping her down to skin and bones.
“I remembered it happening and when my sister told us as a family I went ‘oh right really’ I didn’t even say I remembered it, she continued to feel alone through that trauma, we never talked about it,” says her brother, Hugh.
Hugh was inspired to create The Resilience Project and write The Resilience Project: Finding happiness through gratitude empathy & mindfulness.   
During his time researching his book, Hugh read a lot about vulnerability and shame. “Shame is what locks us up, and really makes it hard for us to be happy and feel well.”
“My shame lied in my relationship with my sister,” said Hugh.
As Hugh showed his family the first copies of his book, he eagerly awaited their opinions and critiques. Georgia was devastated at what her brother had written about her. “She said, ‘when am I going to get that vulnerable side of you?.'”

For Hugh, his book became much more than helping millions of Australians who struggle with mental illness, it became a tool for healing his broken relationship with his sister, a shame he had carried for many years.

Hugh changed his book last minute and worked on his relationship with his sister, deciding that his novel was to focus on human connection and the people that have moved him.
Today mental illness has become an epidemic, taking our youth one by one – an insidious disease that has crept into our society and been given the freedom to flourish, due to stigma, lack of resources and communication. Even today mental illness is not treated the same way that other life threatening illnesses are.
Mental illness is very common in Australia, with one in five Australians experiencing mental illness in a year, meaning that 20 per cent of the population is battling a disease that their family, partner and employer cannot see and might not even believe.

Further statistics show indicates that 45 per cent of Australians will experience a mental illness at some stage in their life.

In 2008, educator Hugh had been teaching young teens in Melbourne when his then girlfriend asked him to accompany her on a trip to India. In India, Hugh taught at an under-privileged school in the Himalayan desert area and with approximately 150 children enrolled, his job was to teach English.
As he began to know his students better, many of whom were living in extreme poverty, Hugh became inspired by his student’s happiness, gratitude and lack of mental health issues that had become so prevalent in the Australian schools where Hugh taught. Returning to Australia, Hugh took with him the local children’s insights, practices and wisdom, and he slowly created The Resilience Project.
The Resilience Project began as a talk that outlined Hugh’s research and experiences with mental illness. Today, it is a school program and curriculum that reaches schools, sporting clubs and workplaces all over Australia and now New Zealand.
In The Resilience Project curriculum and speaking events, Hugh explains how incorporating gratitude, empathy and mindfulness (shortened to GEM in his book) can prevent mental illness and provide happiness.
As many parents know, the most influential years of a person’s life is their childhood,with studies showing that 50 per cent of all mental health conditions a person experiences in their life will have started by age 14.

During his time in India, Hugh noticed how the children were very grateful to be at school and practiced mindfulness every morning before their classes began, incorporating all this into his program for schools and youth, with the feedback having been phenomenally positive so far.
After years of implementing this program, Hugh wrote The Resilience Project: Finding happiness through gratitude empathy & mindfulness,releasing the book in November 2019.
Since the book’s release Hugh has had an influx of positive feedback, and is still as humble as ever; with a warm energy and healing nature, it is easy to see why thousands flock to hear him speak and line up afterwards, telling Hugh their troubles and how his words have helped them to heal.
“We have had incredible feedback, I just saw this morning that it is Number One on audio books, which I can’t believe.”
“I’ve had a few really beautiful personal messages from people.”
Hugh recalls one recent message he’d received from a reader who had been feeling suicidal and after reading the book felt so grateful and positive about his life, telling Hugh how his words had saved his life.

“Honestly if he is the only person that reads this book and that’s the only feedback I get, that’s a worthwhile six months writing,” Hugh says.

On a mission to promote gratitude, empathy and mindfulness, Hugh tackles the tricky topic of social media and parenting in his book, describing the rise of social media as only showing ‘the greatest hits’ of life, and how damaging this can be for young minds.
The Resilience Project: Finding happiness through gratitude empathy & mindfulness includes a lot of tips and ideas for parents, who have found themselves with children inundated with technology and social media that teaches them validation is found through a screen.

“The best way to help your kids is to start modelling better behaviour, you can’t say to your kids ‘stop being on your phone all the time’ then turn around and check your emails,” he says.

The book is full of strategies to help parents put their phone down with one of the easiest to grasp, yet hardest to implement, simply being to leave their phone at home.
Hugh states that this simple task can leave us more focused on others around us, increasing feelings of connection and togetherness, which are two big ways to fight loneliness and mental illness in this increasingly busy and digital world.
Hugh believes that the less a child is on a device the more aware they are to their surroundings and community, leaving more time to be grateful for the society we are lucky enough to have in Australia.
As for fostering GEM into daily life, Hugh says it’s all down to practice and implementing these small practises into your families every day.
For mindfulness, Hugh suggests going for a walk around the block and focusing on what you can hear, an exercise parents can easily make into family time. Hugh also suggests at the dinner table to reflect on the good in each family member’s day and to share what they are grateful for and looking forward to.
“Look out for opportunities to be kind to people, you watch how happy that makes you and if you do it in front of your kids, that’s the most powerful thing of all,” says Hugh.
“You will have an enormous impact on them because they’ll start to copy you, they will start to be someone who is kind to other people.”

Castelmaine Steiner School is located in Muckleford, VIC and offers education from kindergarten to class 8 and is growing fast.

Commencing as a Kindergarten in 1988 in the home of one of its students, The Castlemaine Steiner School & Kindergarten is now a thriving school of approximately 230 students. In 1995, the school moved to its current location, which at the time was 18 acres of flattened sheep grazing land. Today the site is a stunning sanctuary of indigenous flora and fauna, featuring a bush tucker island, beautiful walking tracks and is home to diverse birdlife. Situated approximately 7 mins drive from Castlemaine, the school has transformed itself with biodynamic practices and permaculture design.

“Steiner education is recognised internationally as a valuable approach to helping young people develop flexible, agile thinking, alongside an ability to collaborate and thrive in a 21st Century world,” said Principal, Brian Dodd.

The school offers programs from Playgroup to Class 8, following which, students can then transfer to the local Steiner Stream at Castlemaine Secondary College for Years 9 & 10. Many families begin learning about Steiner education and philosophy by joining the Playgroup program. It is a much-loved weekly 2-hour session for children aged birth to 4 years. It includes activities such as scone baking, outdoor & indoor play, crafts, and circle time for singing & storytelling.

The Early Childhood program continues into Kindergarten & Prep, where foundations are laid for later learning and healthy development, including life-long physical, social, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual growth. They believe an atmosphere of loving warmth and guidance provides the optimal environment for healthy development, and that educators have a vital role in modelling and scaffolding a child’s natural urge to explore and experiment. Young children are given time to play, enjoy childhood and build strong foundations skills before formal academic learning begins.

Acknowledging the Traditional Owners of this country, the school has strong connections to the local Dja Dja Wurrung people. Their culture and story is meaningfully woven throughout the curriculum and Outdoor Education program. The Outdoor Education program is designed to develop the student’s understanding of their place in the natural world, through immersion in it. As children develop their sense of adventure confidence develops, connectedness with the environment and a sense of stewardship toward the natural world.

Music is incorporated through all levels of the school, with formal tuition commencing with a stringed instrument in Class 3. Music tuition is compulsory and continues through to Class 8, with students encouraged by opportunities to play in ensemble groups and learn multiple instruments. The benefits of music are well documented and the school utilises music as further way to develop social learning, fine and gross motor skills, and build on maths concepts.

A new Scholarships program provides a limited number of partly or fully subsidised places for students who meet eligibility criteria, and is open to entry at any year level.  The school is committed to creating a socially inclusive and diverse community and via this new Scholarship program, is pleased to continue promoting and encouraging the benefits of Steiner Education across the region. Principal Brian Dodd says “We want to ensure that that the benefits of this schooling option are more broadly available to children in our regional community. This year we also introduced a 25% fee discount for families with a Health Care Card, and have for many years offered sibling discounts, fee assistance and bursaries to reduce financial barriers to enrolling in the school.”

The school welcomes visitors each week for tours with the Principal and offers free trial sessions within its Playgroup program to anyone interested in witnessing the benefits of Steiner education. Contact the Enrolments Officer, Tracey Robertson on 5479 2000 or Traceyr@cssk.vic.edu.au for further information.

“Those that teach Reading for Sure are rewarded everyday with smiles from students as these students learn that reading and writing well is possible for them.”

Literacy is a fundamental skill that everyone needs in order to access education, work and the community. With modern digital devices being able to read and write is now even more vital, not less as was once thought when computers first arrived.

Literacy is not an intuitive action, unlike walking and talking; it is a human construct that requires the building of new connections in the brain.

There are a variety of reasons why someone does not develop good literacy skills. The most commonly recognised cause of delayed or poor literacy skills is Dyslexia. Other learning difficulties also impact, and these include dysgraphia, dyspraxia, hearing issues, ADHD, Autism, Global Learning delay, short, and long term, memory problems etc.

A lack of good early play and language experiences impact on a child’s ability to cope with literacy, concentrate, sit at a desk and to write.

How a person is taught to read is slowly being recognised as significantly impacting on a person’s literacy development or lack thereof. Like all learning one size does not fit all.

Scientific studies tell us that the best literacy programs will develop a student’s ability to sound out and sound blend a word, ensure the student understands the meaning of all the individual words and derive meaning and information from the sentences formed from these words.

Learning to spell, read and understand words allows us all to communicate with others and to enjoy the wonderful stories and information available in books and other forms of text.

Learning to read and write English does not come easily for everybody as it involves many complex interactions in the brain. When foundation skills are missed it can cause significant difficulties later.

Students struggling with reading become anxious and can turn away from literacy and education as a result.  A student who struggles with literacy often begins to feel that they are dumb because they can’t read. Nothing is further from the truth. Many people with exceptional IQs have struggled with literacy. Unfortunately, without correct instruction to help their brain develop the pathways needed to work with the written word these individuals may not develop their true potential.

With an understanding of how the brain develops and learns to decipher the written word the Reading For Sure program was developed to quickly help the learner build the foundation skills and brain pathways needed for literacy. The Reading for Sure program uses unique teaching tools to continue to develop these skills so that the learner can achieve in all areas of English Literacy.

Our recent study of 180 students, with a broad range of difficulties impacting their literacy acquisition, showed excellent improvement for every hour of tuition. The 180 students included students that were not learning via standard teaching methods, dyslexia, English as a second language etc. and started tuition at ages ranging from 5 to 20 years old. The students were taught by one of four Reading For Sure teachers.

The data showed that not only did every child improve their literacy, but that on average for every hour spent with one of our teachers, the students improved 1.6 months in their reading age. The data for the spelling was not complete for all the 180 students but, using the data available, the average gain in spelling was 0.4 of a month improvement for each hour of tuition.

Within just a few lessons parents and students see the difference. The student’s confidence blossoms, and they begin to enjoy the reading and learning process once more. This reading gain also quickly equates to better outcomes in their education environment. Literacy is the core skill needed for all subjects and students enjoy school so much more when they are not struggling with their literacy.

“Finding the Reading for sure method was a relief. To discover a method that works and makes sense to my dyslexic daughter, has not only greatly improved her reading, it has given her confidence and a sense achievement” says Mrs. Clements.

With the correct program and teaching methods no person young or old needs to struggle with literacy.

Those that teach Reading for Sure are rewarded everyday with smiles from students as these students learn that reading and writing well is possible for them.

Visit the Reading for Sure website and see our new blog series about how parents can help their young children develop the pre literacy skills they need to be able to learn all the literacy skills when they go to school. This free blog series will give parents hints and ideas about the activities that help the brain and body develop ready for literacy and learning and what to look out for if things may not be developing as they should.

Reading For Sure is an Australian program with its office in Perth. www.readingforsure.com.au