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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

The novel virus known as COVID-19 started as a collection of similar cases emerging from Wuhan, China-  a city with a population of over 11 million.  

Australia was in the process of healing from a devastating fire season when the Coronavirus (soon to be titled COVID-19) became national news, with the World Health Organization (WHO) having heard the first reports of COVID-19 on the 31st of December 2019.

In the months that have followed the pandemic has spread across the globe, encompassing Australia and leaving millions without work, or at the very least financially affected by the virus and the subsequent lockdowns it has caused.

These are uncertain times, and as many of us wait for news of government aid, job opportunities or when our old lives will get back to normal, many are left without an income.

Below are some practical ways to lessen the financial stress during the disaster movie scenario we have found ourselves in.

Monitor what comes in and out of your bank- and eliminate the non-essential items

For many of us, we have multiple cards and multiple entertainment platforms, programs and everyday expenses that are direct debited.

This is convenient usually, but if you are now left with no income, that outcome needs to be cut down. Have a look on your outgoings on your banking app and make a list of what you pay every month- do you really need to be spending $25 a month on a live sport platform when all sport is postponed? Or could you be using that $25 on food and utilities? Unfortunately, the time for luxuries is not right now, so cut your expenses accordingly.

Call and ask for extensions/account freezes/pause in payments

Do not be ashamed to ask for help, we are all in this together. Many corporations and businesses are being very understanding in this time and providing extensions and pauses for payments.

Afterpay for example can give extensions/pauses in payments if you contact them and discuss your situation, the same could go for various other payments you may have coming up, so don’t be scared to ask! The following link discusses electricity companies that will be providing extra help for their customers during this crisis. https://www.finder.com.au/financial-hardship-programs-utilities

Live that vegetarian lifestyle

Meat is expensive and perishable, and with supermarkets losing the battle against panic buying shoppers, meat and other basics are hard to find. Do not panic or bulk buy– it is unfair on everyone, especially the most vulnerable.

Buy beans, lentils, grains- these are cheap, filling and last a long time- check out this lentil dahl recipe that is perfect for meal prepping and super tasty! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4pDLh11nmA

Keep up to date with the government’s response to the pandemic and if you are eligible for Centrelink payments

There is a lot of information regarding the COVID-19 in the media that is constantly updated, and the same goes for details of government assistance and how to access Centrelink payments if you now find yourself out of work. The below article by ABC shows a step by step guide to applying for Centrelink if you’ve never used the system before and is updated regularly as the situation progresses. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-24/coronavirus-how-to-apply-for-centrelink-jobseeker-newstart/12083948

Think of others and act accordingly – stay inside! 

Stay inside and practise social distancing, this won’t last forever, but it is important we all do the right thing and act with everyone in mind. We will all get through this by acting as a community, spreading kindness and thinking of our most vulnerable.

Here are our top picks for young readers this Summer season.

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Let’s Go! Series: Let’s Go! On a Rocket

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Let’s Go! Series: Let’s Go! On a Ferry.

Age: 0-2 Years

Author: Rosalyn Albert

Illustrator: Natalia Moore

Publisher: New Frontier Publishing

Join two friends as they embark on exciting adventures in space and at sea! This fun and engaging series will help your little ones discover the pleasure of travel on board a ferry and up in a rocket, for the very first time!


I See, I See

Age: 3-6 Years

Author: Robert Henderson

Illustrator: Robert Henderson

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Spark your curiosity and challenge your view of the world with this fun and interactive story. This playful book ignites two readers in a conversation whereby each will see the page from a different perspective.

The Painted Ponies

Age: 4-7 Years

Author: Alison Lester

Illustrator: Alison Lester

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Meet Matilda, she loves spending time with her Grandma Lucky and playing with her favourite painted ponies in their carved wooden wagon. Follow Matilda as she learns how her beloved ponies long to be set free. A beautiful story of friendship and unconditional love.

The Tiny Star

Age: 5+ Years

Author: Mem Fox

Illustrator: Freya Blackwood

Publisher: Penguin

Prepare to be moved and uplifted by this heart-warming tale of the love and grief we experience throughout our lives. A useful tool for parents and a source of comfort to those young or old who have lost someone special.

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Bold Tales for Brave-Hearted Boys

Age: 6-9 Years

Author: Susannah McFarlane

Illustrators: Simon Howe, Matt Huynh, Louie Joyce and Brenton McKenna

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Challenging the typical fairytale narrative of brave and fearless boys as the courageous heroes. This ingenious collection of classic tales with alternate endings demonstrates how ‘happy ever afters’ can still happen, even when boys show their softer side.

Detention

Age: 10+ Years

Author: Tristan Banks

Publisher: Penguin

Join Sima as she makes her escape from captivity. Separated from her parents, and in a frantic attempt for freedom, Sima seeks refuge in a school. When a boy named Dan discovers Sima, their resilience is tested as they face a dilemma; will they unite for the greater good or surrender to the laws by which they are bound?

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The Mothers

Age: Adults

Author: Genevieve Gannon

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Follow the heart-wrenching journey of two separate couples on an emotionally charged quest to become parents. When an unthinkable mix-up at the IVF clinic causes their worlds to collide, it leads to a life-changing dilemma; do they pursue their child now being raised by another loving couple, or live a childless life knowing things could be so different?

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.

Take a look at the benefits ‘Learning Through Play’ could have for your child!

If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is… UNLESS you’re talking about Learning Through Play! In fact, research into quality, play based learning has shown that learning through play encourages:

Communication – play allows children to develop their speech, language and listening. A child’s language and communication skills develop by listening, reading, music, rhyming etc. so the more they play with their friends and listen to adults the more advanced these will become. 

Cognitive development – (imagination, problem solving, math and science) play encourages children to develop their natural curiosity, create all kinds of scenarios and solve any problems that they encounter all by using their imagination.

For example when a child is taking part in water play and tipping water from a measuring jug into a cup, the educator can stretch their thinking by asking questions such as how much water do you think will fit into the cup, will you have any left, what else can you tip the water into…? This stretches thinking and builds on maths, science and problem solving skills. 

 

Relationships (social skills, friendship and resilience) – play supports children as they create the bonds of friendship and build their understanding of social situations. The more children play with one another, the more they learn to communicate in a social setting and the bigger their friendship circle becomes.

Balanced with child-directed and educator supported play, a quality play based Early Learning Program will closely align with Australia’s Early Years Learning Framework. Children should be able to learn through play in a variety of activities designed to spark their curiosity, individual interests and create an open ended learning experience.

In 2018, Australian researchers advised that 15 hours a week in a quality, play-based three year old pre-kindy can greatly support a child’s learning and development. With pre-kindy attendance showing consistently positive short and long term advantages in the lead up to kindergarten and into higher education. To support these findings, the Australian Government has put their money where their research is and committed to providing universal access to Early Childhood Education. Every child now will now be supported to access a pre-kindy program in the year before they enter school for 15 hours a week.

Where to from here?

Deciding if, when and where to send your child to pre-kindy is one of the biggest decisions you will make in their early childhood. You find yourself balancing the options near you. Should I send my child to a high end early learning school with better educators, fancy facilities and higher ratings? Or should I send them to the more affordable local community pre-school with lovely welcoming staff, small group sizes and a nurturing learning environment?

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At Meerilinga, there’s no need to choose between quality and inclusivity – AND it won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Meerilinga is home to a wide range of children from diverse families and backgrounds who share a common goal of wanting the best for their child. Supported by over 100 years of experience, working with toddlers and training quality educators, Meerilinga’s skilled early educators enthusiastically teach children about the world around them.

Your child is gently introduced to the life-cycle through community led chicken hatching programs; learning about sustainable practices through environmental awareness activities, recycling programs and harvesting from their bush tucker gardens.

Meerilinga children are celebrated as capable individuals, with their interests, strengths and challenges identified and fully supported to develop their confidence, learning and development. All of which are shared throughout the day, week and year with parents through a specially designed communications app.

The entire family is supported with access to free parenting support services, community events, street & toy libraries, school holiday activities, play groups and seniors groups. At Meerilinga you’re more than just a number, your family. To join your local Meerilinga community, find a centre near you or contact your local Centre Director.

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.

Have you been hearing people ‘stress’ the benefits of meditation to you? Here’s why.

A growing amount of Australian parents are looking to meditation to alleviate stress, whilst research is praising its effects on the behaviour and educational performance of children.

Meditation helps with memory. Studies have shown that consistent meditation can slow the aging process of the brain.

For mums, multitasking is a way of life. Meditation aids focus by reducing
worrying and restless thoughts.

Many Australian mums struggle with overwhelming stress and anxiety, regular meditation decreases the volume in the area of the brain that governs fear, anxiety and stress.

It makes you happier. A study done on Buddhist monks found that while they were meditating the part of their brain that controls happiness (the prefrontal cortex) was extra active.

Heart disease is the leading killer of Australian women and having high blood pressure during pregnancy can lead to a range of complications. There is increasing research that suggests meditation assists with lowering blood pressure.

HOW CAN MEDITATION BENEFIT CHILDREN?

Pre-school Aged Children: Meditation grows the place in the brain that affects self-regulation. It helps children manage their impulses. You can try and use meditation methods in your pre-school aged children before and after Time Out.

Primary Aged Children: Schools are increasingly trialling ‘short meditation breaks’ and some are even replacing detention with meditation. Over in the US, a Baltimore school has seen an increase in attendance and a reduction of suspensions after introducing mandatory meditation rather than detention for poorly behaved students.

High School aged children: Meditation can
increase student’s performance in school, help with mental health conditions which are increasingly prevalent among high-school aged
children such as ADHD, depression and anxiety.

 

Here’s a story of a… Brady Bunch of Lies.

Mike and Carol Brady, just like the real parents of the 1960’s, essentially raised their children on a series of misconceptions:

White bread was good for you, parents never argue, Alice the maid was happy, talking like a baby is cute (think Cindy), and the tragic belief that our intelligence was fixed at birth.

Society believed that some people were born intelligent.

Some were not and pretty much just like Jan and the braces episode, you just had to learn to accept your lot.

‘Marcia, Marcia, Marcia’, was born smarter than ‘not happy Jan’, and along with those psychedelic pantsuits, Jan just had to wear it.

So too, Greg, Peter, Bobby and Cindy, and the real-life baby boomers went through life, dealing with the cards they were dealt, ignorant that all of them could (and still can) influence their level of intelligence.

Of course, the cards we are dealt still impact our IQ, as ‘the heritability of IQ is actually quite high’, but in recent years, we have discovered our intelligence is malleable, not fixed.

In fact, GET SMART or more to the point GET YOURSELF SMART is the name of the real game. Now, we know that WE control our intelligence.

Smart kids are smart, mostly, because they work hard.

Carol Dweck, a leader in this field has proven: Hard work makes connections in your brain that make you smarter.

Learning makes you smarter.

Carol Dweck and other leading psychologists have discovered that adopting this growth mindset, where we firmly believe we can control our intelligence is revolutionising learning both in and outside of the classroom.

It is now an accepted scientific fact that “you can always change how intelligent you are”.

Students who know this and accept it, get higher grades.

So, our IQ’s, previously thought to be fixed are malleable. Ponder this for a minute. We can all lift our IQ.

How does this change all of our lives?

It empowers everyone to adopt a growth mindset and to throw away any ideas that began with “I’m not smart enough”.

It puts an end to comments such as “she’s not got a maths brain, because she takes after me”.

Of course, it is still true that some people are born with a higher IQ, but this does not mean that forever and a day, that person is smarter than average.

It is an exciting time to be raising and educating children.

When you say to your children “just keep trying, you will get there”, unlike the groovy Mike and Carol swishing around in their flares, you are calling it straight.

  • Effort is Everything.
  • Perfect doesn’t live here.
  • Fast is not an option.
  • Learning means taking risks.
  • Learning changes my brain.
  • I’m in charge of my own intelligence.

(Carol Dweck)

What happened to Alice the happy housemaid?

She got smart and got out!

Choosing where to send your child to school is a big decision – so how do you make the right choice for your family? Claire Armstrong investigates the educational options.

School days make up an enormous part of a child’s life, so you want to set them on the right path with a productive and supportive learning environment.

There are many wonderful schools which can make things confusing for parents, so finding the right school for your family involves research and careful consideration.

Offspring takes a look at the schooling options to help make your planning a little easier.

Government/Public

The local primary school is the natural choice for many parents, with some choosing their residence with a school’s proximity in mind.

A school close to home can have the key advantage of having friends in the neighborhood, a guaranteed enrollment acceptance and the ability to walk or ride.

“In 2018 at a primary school level, 70 per cent of all Australian students attend government schools,” Australian Bureau of Statistics Director Michelle Ducat says.

If you wish to put your child’s name down at a government school outside of your local catchment area (for example one close to your workplace), a place is not guaranteed.

You must also consider enrolling subsequent children and hoping for a place, as well as shuttling children to and from school.

Most government schools have minimal fees, while encouraged, these are usually voluntary ranging from $50-$300.

For Amanda Taylor the decision to send her children, Chase (11), Kobe (8) and Emerson (5) to the local public school was an easy one because they live in a great school district.

“Before we went to the school, parent feedback helped us know that the school community was positive and want the kids to strive to do their best in all areas.”

“I think knowing that their academic and sporting needs are being met is important and I have confidence in the teacher’s ability to extend the kids if needed.”

“We plan to send the kids onto the local high school, which is a great school with lots of quality programs and also the same school I attended.”

Independent/Private

If you’re interested in independent or private education, which covers a range of religious and community schools including Steiner and Montessori, it is vital to start looking early as there are often waiting lists and fees to consider.

For parents, the wide range of independent schools means they have more say on the type of education they want for their child.

The Independent Schools Council of Australia (ISCA) currently has 1,123 member schools in Australia (as per 2018 ABS data). The median price of an Australian independent school per student is $5,330 per year.

ISCA Executive Director Barry Wallett says independent schools represent 14.7 per cent of all Australian school enrollments and is continuing to grow.

”Independent schools have been Australia’s fastest growing school sector over the last decade,” he says.

“In 2018 there was a net increase of independent student numbers by over 12,000. These numbers show that parents have strong confidence in independent schools.”

For information on independent schools, visit the Independent Schools Council of Australia website, www.isca.edu.au

Montessori

Montessori education is growing steadily in Australia.

Its philosophy, based around Dr Maria Montessori’s approach, emphasises independence by providing an environment for children to learn at their own pace.

Children are free to choose activities within a prepared environment.

This allows children think for themselves and help them to develop confidence, concentration, creativity and inner discipline. Classes are grouped in a three year age range.

For more information visit www.montessori.org.au

Steiner

Steiner or Waldorf education is based on the methods of Rudolf Steiner aiming to educate artistically and holistically.

A unique feature of Steiner education is the same teacher stays with the class throughout their primary years aimed at creating strong relationships between teacher, student and the student’s family.

The use of electronic media is strongly discouraged and all toys are made from natural materials.

While there are fewer Steiner schools than Montessori, they are gaining popularity.

For information on Steiner schools visit www.steinereducation.edu.au

Religious

The majority of religious schools in Australia are Catholic, with the latest ABS data showing one in five Australian students are educated in Catholic schools.

However, there are a number of other major religions represented including Anglican, Baptist, Greek Orthodox, Islamic, Jewish, Lutheran, Seventh Day Adventist, Uniting Church and Presbyterian.

If you want to enroll in a religious school, you must contact the individual school to put in an application and usually pay a small fee.

Some schools do not require you to be of the faith to attend.

However, you will be asked to attend an interview and then a preference scheme is in place with first round offers given to students of the religion within the parish.

Libby Oteri chose a two stream Catholic co-educational school to send Frank (8) and Sofia (7).

“We wanted a school that offered pastoral care and a strong sense of community. We also wanted the choice to select the school that felt right for our family.”

“After meeting with the principal we knew the school was the right ‘fit’ for us.”

“We will also make the decision for secondary school on what feels right for Frank and Sofia individually.”

Community/Alternative/Open Learning

Another option is community schools, sometimes called alternative or open learning education.

The schools act independently and form their own curriculum and ethos and are often small, co-educational, multi-cultural and non-denominational.

Home-School

Home based education is another alternative option and not just for people in remote locations.

Other factors such as disability, behavioral issues, gifted children, bullying, cultural or religious beliefs, or lack of confidence in mainstream schooling system can lead families to opt for home schooling.

Home schooling is a growing community in Australia with lots of support available for parents wanting to take the plunge.

Each state and territory in Australia has its own set of legal requirements for registering to home school, some stricter than others.

Some parents choose not to register, however this can impact government payments and benefits.

Things to think about when doing your research

Visit the school and meet the staff. If you can, speak with parents already attending the school.

Check out the special programs such as music or STEM and find out the school policies on homework, religious practices and bullying.

Think about travel and the facilities for before and after school care if required, and look at the overall costs including fees, uniform, stationary and camps and know your budget.

 

Visit the MySchool website, www.myschool.edu.au to get a profiles of schools, as well as performance indicators.

How would YOU feel about sending your three year old to pre-school?

The prospect of seeing your little one grow up and seeing them off for their first day of school can often be bittersweet. That familiar feeling that time really does fly is especially present in these moments, so many parents would be understandably hesitant about their child starting pre-school at the age of three.

But this is exactly the plan that Bill Shorten announced at the beginning of October: a $1.75 billion subsidy for parents to allow 15 hours of pre-school for three year olds. So far, the proposal has proven a contentious topic among parents.

In unveiling this plan that is set to be implemented if Labor win the next election, the opposition leader believes it will transform childcare into “early education”.

Labor also framed the proposed subsidy as an important jump start into school, and are working by the angle that children who receive high quality education in the two years leading up to the start of their formal schooling experience long lasting positive outcomes.

That is, starting our kids in pre-school at the age of three has a supposedly high impact on their educational development for many years after.

Overall, if the plan was put into place, it would mean that it would be free for us to send our three year olds to state government run pre-school, and sending them to pre-school education at private childcare centres would be subsidised.

Shorten made it clear that the main objective of his plan was to get 90% of the three year
olds in Australia in pre-school by 2023.

That can be hard to fathom considering those children haven’t even been conceived yet!

The opposition also highlighted Australian children in comparison to foreign children of the same age, stating that Australia was behind in its pre-school education because several other countries already had high attendance rates in pre-school for three year olds.

So far, the proposal has been met with mixed reactions.

The Project’s Facebook post regarding the topic has received several hundred comments in a couple of weeks. It seems there are only few fence sitters, if any…

Phrases along the lines of “let kids be kids” and “what’s the point of having children?” are frequent, with many expressing the importance of letting children learn and develop at home. There are a number of people who also believe that the money could be better spent in other areas of education of their children, such as tertiary education in the future. One comment in particular even goes so far as to say that “danger of abuse” is evident.

It seems the conversation has also expanded to consider the logistics involved, with one woman pointing out that the proposal should not go ahead simply on the basis that staff in this area are already “underpaid and undervalued”.

On the other hand, others think it’s a good idea and will help take the pressure off working families and ease the cost of living. Many parents are also focusing on the educational format and content itself, and are advocates for the benefits of education at such an early age. Several comments support the Labor government’s way of thinking, with one mum stating that “early childhood education benefits all children”.

A number of people believe that pre-school education for three year olds can be positive in terms of social, mental and cognitive outcomes, and provides an invaluable preparation for the schooling lives of children.

This leaves us to ponder; is this proposal in the best interests of three year olds? Would we be comfortable sending our children to pre-school at an earlier age? Does the education system of other countries matter?

Where do YOU sit on this topic?