Be careful, it’s catching!

When Indi arrived home from school yesterday she wanted to, ‘do some learning like the big kids’. So while they logged on to access their work, she logged in to her Reading Eggs and spent the next hour quietly working too.

I love how, given the right environment, a desire to learn becomes contagious. I love how we are able to build the self esteem of learners who were previously embarrassed about their work and ability so they are able to feel truly successful, and I love how our students are proud of each other, of themselves and become role models for others.

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School Readiness Discussion

School Readiness = cognitive development + social skills + emotional skills + physical skills

We are going to share this week, some extracts around school readiness and what it means. We are happy to have some (respectful) discussion around this and your examples of how you have/will/are preparing you child for school.

Monday’s School Readiness Discussion
Starting school involves a complex interplay between a range of developmental domains. A child must have cognitive (academic) competencies, in addition to social, emotional and physical skills. Too often we focus on a child’s cognitive development when considering is a child is ready for school. However, it is more important to consider the child’s overall development before determining if they are ready to start school.
‘A Parent’s Guide to School Readiness by Dr Kristy Goodwin’

In preparing our own Indi for school, our main objective was to ensure that she was ready emotionally and socially. Yes, we have the skills and resources to ‘teacher’ her, and were even told at our pre-enrollment interview that we could focus more on helping her hold her pencil and form letters…but our decision was to focus on helping her develop as a human We now have a little girl who is excited and ready to go to school. She follows her morning routine, and there are only smiles when we drop her off and pick her up! She holds her pencil just fine without being first taught at home, and she loves practicing her ‘writing’ as she sees it around her all the time…as for the specifics of academic learning, they will come through her wonderful teacher and with support at home. But because she is emotionally and socially READY to be at school, her learning will happen far more naturally.

Thoughts from Tam (reader and teacher): As a teacher (still feels weird saying that! :p) I watched two mothers quickly try to get their children into prep this year just after the prep birthdate change. I was asked to write a letter of recommendation for one child (totally ready for school) and wasn’t even consulted at all for the other (totally not ready, socially emotionally or academically). Consult the professionals that work with your children! They know them almost as well as you do.

Thoughts from Lyn (reader and teacher): In the French curriculum children don’t learn to read until 7. The two years leading up to that are heavily focused on oral language development and social skills.

Tuesday’s School Readiness Discussion
Children need to develop confidence and resilience to be successful learners. Some things parents can do to develop emotional skills are: model and praise confidence, discuss how you can bounce back from adversities, support your child when they experience disappointment or setbacks (do not shield them from them), encourage children’s efforts (process not results based), use praise honestly, encourage calculated risk taking (eg on play equipment), develop their emotional vocabulary, model how to put things on a ‘catastrophe scale’.
‘A Parent’s Guide to School Readiness by Dr Kristy Goodwin’

Some phrases you will regularly hear in our home are:
“Well done, that’s awesome”, “what a pity, such a shame, now move on”, “I understand you fell that way now what can we do about it?”, “nice effort, I’m proud of you!”, “too bad so sad”, “have a look around you and see if you can give it a try”, “how does that make you feel?”, along with plenty of “I love you” and “and love you very much but your behaviour right now is unacceptable”.

What phrases do you use to help develop your children’s emotional skills?

Your Child’s Self-Worth Depends on You

Guest post by Fiona Russo

Michael and I were paid the most unexpected compliment last week. Charlie’s ECDP (‘special’ pre-school) teacher told me that she’s impressed by our positivity when we talk about Charlie.

Now, we get quite a few comments along the lines of ‘you’re handling things so well’; ‘you’re doing a wonderful job’; ‘you take everything in your stride’; ‘I so admire the way you just get on with it’ and so on, and we appreciate every one of them, truly.

In this case, though, I was wrong in assuming that’s what she meant.

Gayle is a lady with years of experience in special education. She loves her job, and really cares deeply about her students (or does a brilliant job of faking it, haha). She’s always interested in little breakthroughs or setbacks, changes in routine and diet, likes and dislikes – all the things a good teacher cares about and more, because her little charges each come with some extra challenges.

I hear her every time I go to the school, patiently listening to parents talk about lunchboxes and drink bottles, clothes and toileting, splints, wheelchairs, calming techniques and medical issues.

The compliment Gayle was giving me was about the way we talk about those seemingly mundane things. 

She said that she had never heard us say ‘Charlie doesn’t like that’, or ‘Charlie won’t eat that’, or ‘Charlie can’t do that’.

Instead, she told me that we would say things like, ‘It’s not her favourite thing but give it a go’, or ‘I’m sure she’ll enjoy it but she may need a little extra help’, or ‘we’re working on that’.

In fact, she went on, the most negative thing she can remember hearing us say was that Charlie is allergic to something so she can’t have it, but she maintains that even then I said ‘We need to avoid those because of allergies, but Charlie loves these ones instead!’.

Makes me sound like some sort of deranged Stepford Mum, doesn’t it?After receiving this compliment somewhat awkwardly in the doorway of the school, I started to pay attention to the chitchat with some of the other parents.

I was surprised I’d never noticed it before – there was a lot of unintended negativity in their conversations. 

Here are some of the choice ones I remember (names changed of course):

“Noah has Vegemite sandwiches today, but he probably won’t eat them.”

“Sarah has juice in her drink bottle because I can’t get her to drink water.”

“Jamie doesn’t do slides.  His legs aren’t strong enough to stop him at the bottom.”

And some were even worse…

“Good luck getting her to go to the toilet.  I’ve given up at home.”

“Joe won’t stop sucking his thumb, so it’s a waste of time to try to get him to clap.”

I should point out that each of these parents seems to me a loving, caring, involved caregiver. I’m sure they’d be horrified to think that they were being so negative.

However, their children were right there.  Within earshot. 

It’s not something I’ve ever given any thought to, but now that I am thinking about it, it seems so obvious. Self-esteem is as important for children as it is for adults, but their world is small.

Your children set their own expectations by yours. They base their self-worth on your opinion.

That goes for all children, not just the ‘special needs’ kids, and it’s a huge responsibility. My Mum and Dad always told me I was clever, that I could do anything I set my mind to. It’s this foundation that gives me confidence as an adult and I’m so grateful that I have it.

Michael and I are lucky to have had this example set so well for us by our own parents that it comes naturally to do the same.

So… I’m going to do something I don’t often do with this blog. I’m going to offer advice, to those who perhaps aren’t as lucky as we are.

I believe it, I stand by it, and I’m going to try to be more conscious of it myself:

Think before you speak.  Show your children that you have confidence in their abilities.  Tell everyone, and do it loudly where they can see and hear you.

It is the greatest gift you will ever give them.

It matters.


Thank you, Fiona for allowing me to share this with our readers. It is such an important message. This is one of the ways in which we write our children’s Life Script. We have a poster on our Learning Studio Wall which says:

“If you want your children to improve, let them overhear the nice things you say about them to others.”

I’ve learnt not to apologize for my daughter in many situations (ie when she wants to scan the grocery items at the checkout and the person behind has to wait a little longer). I’ve learnt that the way I speak about her to others is what she will grow to believe of herself. We are hopefully helping her to understand her strengths and her weaknesses, but to know that her weaknesses are not something to be ashamed of and that these too will develop and change over time.

You can find more from Fiona here

 

Their Life Script

If you were to run an audio track of a day in your house, what would we hear? What are the words you use and how are they delivered?

The old saying ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me’, a child’s chant, with very little truth to it. Yes we need to raise our children to be resilient and stand up against the occasional harsh word but this is done through installing in them a strong sense of self. Something that requires thought. Something that requires your thought, and some reflection on the messages you are both intentionally and unintentionally delivering to them on a daily basis. Something that requires thought around the words you use every day.

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What names do you call your child? Pet names, nick names, names that build them or names that bring them down? It’s not just the words though; it’s the tone they are delivered in. 

In our home even though she is only in the first stages of acquiring language, we are very aware that our little one is observing everything, and this includes how we address her, and each other. It’s not uncommon to hear both her Father and I telling her how clever she is, how funny she is, how loved she is and how beautiful she is. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m a FIRM believer in raising our children to be strong and independent but this comes from a strong, secure foundation of unconditional love and acceptance. We also tell her when necessary that her behaviour is frustrating and “I don’t like it when you are yelling at me” (she’s 8 months old but it’s yelling at me all the same!). The thing here is when we come across negative behaviours we remove the behaviour from her. This means we tell her we don’t like what she is doing but we still love her. Never do I want to hear myself tell her ‘you naughty girl’. This will not be her life script.

I understand completely that her life script will be developed from the messages her Father and I send her and each other. We do not fight in our house. It’s not that we always agree with each other but her Father is my best friend, why would I want to yell at him? We discuss things; love, life and business, and we discuss them in front of her because she is just as much a part of this family as we are, and as she grows so will her contribution, thoughts, ideas, feelings, and her love. A daughter learns what to expect in her adult relationships by watching how her Mother allows herself to be treated by her partner/husband. What her Mother accepts, how she allows herself to be treated and how she treats herself will become her daughter’s life script. A son learns how to treat his future partner/wife by watching how his Father treats his mother. If there is something that I wish I was not passing onto my daughter then it is up to me to change it in myself first.

parents fighting

So how are your children developing their sense of self worth, their sense of how they fit into your family and the world around them? What words are you giving them to express themselves? How are they seeing you play out your life script?

Have you even thought about your life script? – What are the records (or tapes and CD’s if you’re not old enough to remember actual records!) that play over in your head? Not the music ones from our past but the things you subconsciously tell yourself about yourself. Have you stopped and listened? Are they the negative “I don’t deserve any better”, “It’s too hard”, “I can’t cope”. Because like it or not, these are the messages you are passing on to your children. It takes time and effort to turn them around but isn’t it worth it? Let me ask you again: What life script do you want your children to have? “I can”, “I deserve it”, “I am good enough as me”, “I am proud of myself”, “I know how to love”.

Of all the things we say to our daughter this one thing is the most important:

Our Indi (6 days old) photography by Carly Webber Photography

Our Indi (6 days old) photography by Carly Webber Photography

“I love you every day (even when you’re asleep)”

And yes, we tell her every day.

So tell me, how has your life script affected you? Have you made the effort to change it in anyway? And of course, what do you say to your children?

Emotional Safety in Learning

When I watched Laurie Lawrence’s video (link at bottom), a particular part resonated with me:

“Watch as Harper’s body language indicates she really doesn’t want to do this activity. Good teachers should recognise this and change the activity slightly to get the desired results.”

This is the same for teaching and learning in any environment; whether at school or tuition, good teachers and tutors should recognise the body language of their students and provide support as required.

 

stressed-child

Emotional safety is such an important thing to understand when teaching and learning. In fact, safety is the second level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and is a basic human need. It is something we are always monitoring at Back to Basics Tuition and we make changes when we see a student needs a little more ‘care’ than they usually do.

Grimm’s chart about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, 2011)

Grimm’s chart about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, 2011)

Some days we need to just suck it up and get on with the task, and some days we need a gentle heart and steady hand to guide us.

credit Image courtesy of stockphotos / FreeDigitalPhotos.net​

credit Image courtesy of stockphotos / FreeDigitalPhotos.net​

Laurie Lawrence Swim School – Harper Swimming Video