So the last couple of days I have been talking about schools versus home ed in general terms. Today I will tell you PanKwake’s story…
Being American, where children don’t start school until they are five and then for only half a day usually, I was shocked…gobsmacked…to watch tiny little people walking to school before 8 a.m. In UNIFORMS no less.
At first, it did not bother me because the plan was for us to return to America well before PanKwake was old enough to go to school. But then the economy tanked…and PanKwake began having seizures. We were stuck. We could not go back home…not without a job and health insurance. Even then this was before Obamacare…her epilepsy would be a pre-existing condition.
So I did a bit of research and learned that home education was legal in the UK. Except of course, I was working full-time back then. That did not continue though…her seizures, a hiccup with my visa and a miscarriage made certain of that. I brought up home education again but her father was dead set against it. Same old argument/misconception…socialization.
When she turned three, he pushed for me to take advantage of the fifteen hours per week of free day care offered by the government. I thought my baby was much too young…and much too attached to me for such long separations. But I agreed to look around. I put in a couple of applications at ‘good’ nurseries.
Then we went to check out the small community nursery at the back of the estate on which we lived. The manager, a large Jamaican woman, came to greet us. I explained that my British husband insisted that I look for a place for our three year old, but that she was too young, not ready to be separated from me. The words were not even out of my mouth when…
PanKwake pulled her little hand out of mine and ran off to play with the other children.
But seriously, that place was a goddess-send. I don’t know what I would have done over the next two years if not for that woman and nursery. You see it really was a COMMUNITY nursery. It was not just PanKwake that they cared for but me too…especially during the depression after my miscarriage.
If I ever found a school like it…I might rethink my views on them. What made it so special?
First of all, the staff to child ratio was kept low. Usually, it was one-to-four, but in special cases such as PanKwake they found creative ways to provide one-to-one.
That meant the staff and especially the manager came to know each and every child. In fact, they knew some of those kids better than the parents themselves. Like the little African boy, who went straight to the dress up box and became a Disney princess each and every day. Of course, the staff made certain to take his dress off before his parents came to pick him up…because sadly they knew the parents would never accept such behavior.
They recognized that PanKwake was not developing ‘normally’ too. And they did ALL they could to raise the alarm and get her the extra support that she needed. But their concerns as well as my own were dismissed by the SENCo (Special Educational Needs Coordinator).
They truly did have a Zero Tolerance for bullying and not just a policy. So I knew that they kept my child safe physically and emotionally. And that they kept the other children safe from her during meltdowns too.
And communication! Oh what communication. We worked as partners for the good of my child. Not only was there a book that went back and forth between home and nursery that told us what she had done, if there were any problems and what she had eaten…but the staff took the time to talk with you when you picked her up each day. Sometimes for half an hour…
Which provided PanKwake with a wonderful opportunity to TRANSITION from nursery to home.
It was not just at the beginning or end of the day either. They allowed me to come and go…to check on PanKwake. Which given my fragile mental condition was important.
That manager was and still is a FRIEND.
When we made this move to Swansea to be with Cookie Monster, I gave way some stuff (mostly sewing stuff…I knew better than to give much of PanKwake’s away). I called and she came to pick it up. Like an aunt or sister, she gave Cookie a real once over. She told me that she could not remember me looking so happy…ever. And she WARNED him that he had better look after her special girls.
I am about to cry…I love Marcia so…and miss her too.
IF schools were like that one (as one room schoolhouses once were) then…
But I think I have said enough for today…tomorrow I will tell you what schools are really like.