If I could give you one gift it would be to see yourself through my eyes and then you would see how special you really are.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Number 4 build a den

What is it about the outdoors?

All our children love the outdoors but child 4 in particular is in his element. It doesn't matter the weather, wind, rain, snow or sun he just wants to be outside. Outside he can run about, spin around arms out stretched, he can climb trees, jump in muddy puddles and shout and scream, he can be free of all constraints.

Being outside means that I am not distracted by the ironing, cooking dinner or the phone, my focus is all on him, we often have our best conversations on our way to the farm or doing the school run. We spend time just being together, heads close as we watch a caterpillar slowly inch its way across the path, following bees and butterflies from flower to flower and heads lifted to the sky watching the peregrines swoop and dive.

We play together building dens in the garden, jumping on the trampoline, we blow bubbles, play with water and sand, we dig and plant seeds and we feed the chickens and collect their eggs.

When we are indoors we expect different behaviour from our children, we want them to have indoor voices, climbing up a bookcase or jumping from sofa to chair is dangerous, playing with water means flooding the bathroom. Even painting, playdough and glueing and sticking are usually constrained to one room often a kitchen table and the activity is followed by as much time cleaning up as playing together. I often find life is tougher indoors than out, we are quicker to stop our children from exploring when they are climbing on the windowsills. We silent their excited screams and thumping footsteps. We call a halt to those noisy active chasing games, sometimes mistaking the noise for arguing and fighting. They themselves are more likely to irritate each other if we spend too much time together within the four walls of our home.

This half term, we took advantage of the few decent days of weather. We have built a den in an unused area of the vegetable patch and we have travelled to the Wild Place a huge acreage full of woodland walks, meadows with towers awaiting wild flowers to show their faces. Barefoot trails, woods full of wolves, lemurs enjoying the sun. Zebra, okapi and eland wander through their enclosures and hogs wallow in their mud pits digging for vegetables.

 Now the weather shows signs of getting better I at least can consider being outdoors more, I am planning a forest school area where the den has been built and with child 1 needing to build her cardio vascular strength for her Borneo trip we will be walking more, climbing hills and strolling through woods. We can climb trees, fish in the streams nearby, run through fields and explore the nearby woods. We can build fire pits to cook marshmallows over, grow beans over the den, we can make a mud kitchen and fill the sandpit. The farmer behind us has said we can feed the lambs in a few weeks when he is over run with new ones being born. Everyone of these activities are learning opportunities. Not just counting and speaking, but also cause and effect, building, learning responsibility and most importantly bonding.



Saturday, 7 February 2015

Interview with a school

Sometimes being a governor isn't good when you are also a parent! You see and know things that perhaps you would prefer not to, life isn't fair, straightforward or black and white. There are budgets many, many children each of whom matter, targets, standardised tests and so on. The constraints are huge, so when it comes to one set of parents asking for a whole school change for what on the face of it is for one child there really should be no surprise that those requests are met with caution or sometimes complete dismissal. After all in many cases the person sat in front of us has years of experience in teaching and school process'. Yet none of whom have any understanding of the issues regarding children in care. Not intentionally, I am sure but our education system does not seem to take into consideration children who do not fit the norm emotionally or academically.

 The YIPPEE Project  aims to 'increase knowledge of the post-compulsory education of young people who have been in public care as children'
A research project funded by the Framework 7 Research Programme of the European Union, this research brings together and studies five EU countries – Denmark, Hungary, Spain, Sweden and the UK. 
When children in care were asked if they felt that schools offered them a safe and secure environment the responses were a resounding yes in every country EXCEPT the UK!

It hadn't occurred to me that the primary school that has served for our 3 older children may not be the place for child 4, until I read Sally Donovans " Unofficial Guide To Adoption" and when it did I was filled with concern almost bordering on despair, what if the school I had been such an advocate for wasn't able to take on child 4 and his potential needs. I knew deep in my heart if the school couldn't or wouldn't ready itself for supporting children with difficulties with attachment I would have to consider an alternative. So using Sally Donovan's chapter on advocacy I planned our interview with care, I dressed professionally, packed up all my adoption books, set up a folder with all the research I have on attachment. I wrote out everything I wanted to talk about and revisited my knowledge, finding old and  new research supporting our request for staff training. It was imperative that the head actually believed that children whom have been adopted have been traumatised, they are not just magically fine because they have a new family who can take care of them. Their trauma can exhibit itself in what could be viewed as naughty behaviour or symptoms of ADHD. If the staff didn't recognise or believe in the research then there would be no hope for us building a relationship with them.

On Tuesday Mr L and I met with the head and the SENco. I was nervous, what if they showed no understanding or willingness to listen? what if the head suggested that I looked at other schools to ensure the best possible outcome for our son, what if I was just unhappy with the reactions. But   Phew , all worked out. The SENco had just been to a county meeting where attachment was the headline topic. The school were sending four staff for KS1 to an inservice training day about attachment and if that was successful and useful then the school would ask for the trainer to come into school to explain the neurology and impact of attachment and how staff can deal with the behaviours that spiral from it.

I left the meeting relieved, I couldn't have asked for a better start to what will be a new  relationship with our school. The SENco is definitely in our corner, she is learning everything she can about attachment and is very open minded to the research and its suggestions in how to deal with the behaviours our children exhibit. With her championing my son and with the head at least willing to learn about attachment our son is in with a fighting chance to an education with all the emotional support he may need.  And it's not just him who will benefit, with the school looking at how to get the best from their children by using therapeutic methods mean that many other children will benefit too.