A perspective on the world of disability from a mother and an educator. Follow my blog!

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Goodbye 2014!

Such an incredible 12 months. From low lows to high highs. A year ago I could not have imagined being where we are now,  but we had the technology, we could rebuild, a better, stronger, faster family - and we did.

Better than we were before, we are the 6 million dollar family.

After what feels like 7 years of famine we have had a year of plenty this year. The blessings have poured down on us, our careers, our house and our children. Our One Little Word - Together - has done us wonders as there has been nothing that we have undertaken this year that didn't begin from that mantra. Our garden is unrecognisable compared to 12 months ago and soon our house will be unrecognisable as building renovations get underway. We have strengthened friendships with incredible friends and forged new friendships with incredible and inspiring people in our town. 2015 is looking even better. Next year is another year of learning how to manage this journey.

I did not place any expectations on my two big girls and their school year and despite one or two hiccups, they have both excelled. They are both turning into book worms just like their parents. This year I have reveled in the opportunity to take my Viking to work with me and watch her blossom in a play based learning environment. I can't wait to spend next year with her again! How many mums are lucky enough to get to go to work AND spend valuable time with their little one? And still do the school run with the older kids? I count my blessings.

We were at time exhausted by the long line of specialists we had to see, some helpful, most were not. However, on the other side of it my Bear and I now feel so much more empowered to make decisions about the health and particularly and their diet. We have found that dairy and gluten free are really making a huge impact on making their lives easier, even if it has been insanely stressful for us at times. The upside to this is that Thor our Thermomix is making life so much easier and we missed out on none of the family food traditions this Christmas just because of our dietary restrictions.  What has truly surprised us is how responsible our girls have been about making food choices on their own. We've had plenty of feedback that when we are not their, they are asking other adults if the food is GF & DF before eating it! Even our Viking who is only 3 years old. How amazing are these girls!

My One Little Word for 2015 will be refinement.

Refining my parenting.
Refining my marriage.
Refining my leadership and management in my career.
Refining my GF & DF cooking skills.
Refining my friendships. 

Now bring on the celebrating!

Friday, 26 December 2014

What love, actually is.

Our Christmas Day has been amazing with the beautiful traditions we are establishing with our family. Stella's eyes were as big as saucers when she saw Santa's footprints and Imogen couldn't believe how many carrots the reindeer ate. Adele was a little trepidacious, concerned that reindeer might still be in the house. Though our day started outrageously early, watching our girls jumping on the trampoline that Grandpa bought and 'Santa' built was all the Christmas joy I needed.

Building a trampoline in the dark like a champion dad!
Watching the sun rise and children jumping!

Every Christmas Gavin and I watch Love Actually. Most years we get to the end before we fall asleep! Each year I am reminded about the different types of love- Colin's lust, Mark's unrequited love, Karen's faithfulness. It is always Sarah's love for her brother that strikes me as the most unconditional, the most tested, the most selfless. Anyone who loves a person with an intellectual impairment, chronic illness or mental health condition will understand how this feels. It is exhausting and trying, and often unrecognised, but it can be the most rewarding love.

It's funny how a movie that came out three years before Imogen even entered our lives, was already teaching me about what love, actually is. 

Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

What does your report card report?

I had a blog entry on report cards half written and ready to publish when the Sydney siege happened. I now feel my thoughts are so trivial in comparison. Life is precious. We should stop complaining. We should embrace gratitude. My heart goes out to all those affected by the actions of one person.

What I had wanted to write about was that end of school year ritual - the report card. I'll still post my thoughts as it is meaningful to me, but I respect that you may be reading this with others concerns/anxieties at the forefront of your minds.

Choosing the school we send our girls to was made so much easier when we were told of their reporting system. Rather than the traditional five point A-E scale used by so many schools, our school goes against the grain to not sum up a child's whole year of learning into single letters. No 'grades' are given from Prep through to Year 9. Instead, we get a comprehensive report sometimes 10 pages or more, one that details in the teacher's words how our child has developed through the year in the areas of:
Character Development
Sense of Responsibility
Self Discipline
Social & Emotional Development
Approach to Learning
Health & Physical Well-being
and of course all the academic subjects

At the last school I worked at I initiated changes to the reporting model so that the level of support a student received would be reflected on the report card. If they were working to a different year level outcome than their class peers that would also be reflected.  I am still so personally and professionally proud of this because I really feel that a 5 point scale that marks against age based criteria doesn't reflect that each child works towards his or her own potential. This is such an important aspect of any special education or learning support/enrichment program.

We chose our daughter's school for many reasons, but we knew straight away that this type of 'report' would tell us so much more about how Imogen is doing at school. It gives us a better idea of her strengths and weaknesses than a single letter on a five point scale can tell. It would be a better marker of Imogen achieving to the best of HER potential. Not a comparison of how she is doing against a set of criteria.

One of the things we have learnt from Imogen is to remove expectations. She will achieve what she will achieve in her own time. She works ridiculously hard to do as well as she does and we are endlessly proud of her efforts. This year it was more difficult than before to read Imogen's end of year report card. This year our middle girl Stella started Prep, so she received her first report card. Though our girls are two very different people with different personalities, interests, likes and dislikes, comparisons are inevitable. Especially when the report card of a younger sibling shows that they are starting to pass their older sibling.

We have known that this would be the case and I don't think we ever put a date on it in our minds of when we thought it would happen. Imogen will sit down and read to Stella and Adele...... and anyone who sits still long enough to listen to her! And I'm so glad that Imogen will always have that, she will always be able to say she helped to teach her sisters to read.

In writing this I think I'm talking myself out of the initial heartache I felt when I first read the report cards.

We have good family friends whose son has just graduated, with honours, from medicine. Our girls adore him and have always been excited about the prospect of his becoming a practicing doctor and were thrilled when he sent them real life scrubs! He has undoubtedly worked hard to achieve what he has - with honours no less! But not for one second do I think that Imogen has not worked as hard as anyone else, just because her report card reads differently to that of her sister's or her class mate's.  Both Stella and Imogen put their very best into whatever it is that they do, though the outcome may be vastly different.

Inspiring our girls to dream big!

Special education, mainstreaming, inclusion - whatever you want to call it - is NOT about the equality of outcome. It IS about he equality of opportunity.

I don't know the origins on the image as there are many versions, but I was blown away by the simplicity of the explanation.

For the time being I am going to enjoy the school holidays and wrap myself up in my three girls. The renovations continue with plans for the new rooms finally coming together. The garden in looking amazing now that summer has brought some rain. Our little town is, as always, the most spectacular and friendly place to live. There is so much to acknowledge and be grateful for in these times of great sadness.