One of the reasons I write this blog is to share my experiences and hopefully normalise the many new and challenging experiences that parents go through. When I had my children I thought they were the most perfect babies in the world. Absolute angelic, perfect beings. With everything ‘right’ about them. I had no idea that they’d grow up with challenges.
Silly me, idealistic me, naive me. If there’s anything I’ve learnt since it’s that life is challenge. To think otherwise is to cripple ones growth and development. To think otherwise is to be paralysed when life throws us its inevitable curveballs. Nothing has taught me more about ‘challenge’ then sending my child to a remedial school.
Let’s first debunk the myth behind remedial.
- Remedial DOES NOT mean dumb.
Just because a child needs remedial it doesn’t mean that they’re not clever. In fact they’re often super bright, but unable to access their brightness because they can’t manage in a normal school system due to a variety of reasons, such as – anxiety, lack of personal attention or having to be taught in a different way.
- Main stream school does NOT mean better.
We think that a ‘normal’ school education is superior to remedial. Remedial education is on par with normal main stream schools. The main difference is that a main stream school is a set school system which the child has to adapt to, whilst a remedial school caters for the individual needs of the child. Which sounds better?
A child who goes to Bellavista, which is the school my son goes to, has classes of 12 children. These children are given speech and occupational therapy on an individual and group basis where needed. These children are split into math groups and reading groups according to their ability. If a child excels they’re extended beyond their age group. The individual attention is phenomenal. A child cannot fall through the cracks in such a system. There is a vested interest from the principal, Mrs Alison Scott (who not only knows every child’s name but their academic results and personal interests) downwards, in your child growing and thriving academically, emotionally and personally.
For me a Bellavista assembly (to which parents are invited when their child receives an award or certificate) exemplifies the stark difference between remedial and normative education. Mrs Scott will conduct the assembly beginning with a story or a cartoon, from which she’d derive a theme such as bullying. The last one I went to she read a story book called, ‘How to Heal a Broken Wing’ by award winning Australian children’s author, Bob Graham. It’s a story about a bird who has broken its wing and is picked up and taken care of by a little boy called Will and his parents until it could fly and be free. Using this story Mrs Scott spoke about how important it is to overcome challenges through persistence and hard work. She spoke on the children’s level (without being condescending), asking them questions and recognising them for their bright answers. It’s always a giggle, a fun experience that leaves me enriched as a parent, and somehow wishing that Mrs Alison Scott had been my principal at school.
Mrs Scott understands that children don’t learn with pressure and fear but rather through love. Not that she’s not strict. She is. She demands effort, for example praising the school’s soccer teams’ tenacity and determination rather than results. She demands good behaviour, politeness, organisation, self regulation as well as respect and kindness to others. And when you’re there, out of love and admiration you want to be that, you want to excel academically as well as be a decent human being.
That is the legacy of Bellavista for my child, and although other normative schools say that that is their legacy, I’m afraid that they don’t always manage to manifest it. Their system doesn’t allow it. (Although my other Princes are at wonderful mainstream schools with absolutely amazing teachers, I know they’re not receiving that basic foundation which creates a joyous passion for learning and a grounded self esteem that Bellavista offers.)
Normative schools work on the system of ‘survival of the fittest’. If you’re not fit you can’t perform, you won’t get marks and matric results will suffer and this reflects badly on the school. So you will learn your math, you will learn your spelling, you will excel so that you’ll succeed in life. Sadly life doesn’t work like that. Results don’t always guarantee success. A good foundation of self respect, self belief and self knowledge do.
So for me Remedial school has been first prize, it’s a step down to main stream, which we will probably be doing next year. Children need individual attention so that they don’t fall through any cracks. They need to be taught to dream so that they can become who they were meant to be. They need to be held so that they know the world is a safe and loving place, rather than a world where they’re just a number.
I would recommend that all main stream schools model themselves on remedial schools like Bellavista. Smaller class rooms, with all therapies held at school in collaboration with the class teacher, parent interviews where all therapists, math teacher, class teacher and any involved adult is present so a whole picture of the child is formed, instituting strict, strict value systems which are not negotiable, such as an anti bullying policy that is a contract signed by both child and parents. A system of accountability and responsibility rather than just marks. Not that academic achievement is not important, it is, but it’s not everything, even for a child who’s academically brilliant, they still need to be coping socially, psychologically and emotionally.
We’re complex human beings, why should our children be different? So if anyone has a child who may need remedial don’t hesitate, get them assessed. It’s the best for your child and for you. It’s growth for the whole family. We were also at Crossroads for a year (long story) and it was also a fantastic remedial school.
We all need to learn to deal with different. Accept difference, embrace difference. This is a fundamentally a Judeo/monotheistic idea. Where no one gets left behind. In ancient Roman and Greek societies, difference was shunned. The vulnerable and poor were not taken care of. Malformed children were abandoned. Monotheism (a central Christian teaching as well) teaches kindness to the widow and orphan. From here we learn about social justice, that the hierarchy of ‘more able’ doesn’t exist everyone is worthy of respect and acceptance because we’re all created in the ‘image of God’.
We’re all ‘malformed’ in some way, it may not be physically, but emotionally, psychologically or spiritually. We all have ‘broken wings’ on some level. (On a deeper level it can be argued that our ‘issues’ our perfect for us, they’re our life work, as we learn to deal with them and overcome them.) For a child at an early age to learn what it is to accept their difference and that of others, to accept that we are all challenged in some way, is a beautiful gift. ‘Normal’ is not perfect. It’s ‘normal’ to have challenges. Giving children the skills and the confidence to overcome their challenges is to grow them so that they can one day truly fly and be free.
That’s real, that’s life and what better way to be ready for life than that?
And now for something lighter, my special, healthy, homemade muesli recipe, that I’ve designed with a lot of trial and error (but persevered because it was on my bucket list). It’s crunchy, fresh and fun to make.
500 grams Raw Oats
120 grams Sunflower Seeds
120 grams Pumpking Seeds
120 grams Miracle Seed Mix (This is a mix of sesame seeds, linseeds and other healthy seeds. You can buy it from Dischem.)
120 grams Agave Nectar
1 Cup of Almonds (You can add other nuts that you like, and you can play with the amount of nuts and seeds to suit your taste.)
8 Tablespoons of Coconut Oil
- Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. If the coconut oil is congealed, melt in a pot first and add.
- Place on a tray and put in the oven at 140C. Bake for 40 – 60 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes, until golden brown. Careful not to burn (as I’ve done too often).
- Leave to cool.
Enjoy this with yoghurt, grated apple, fruit or as you wish….
Note. I don’t add dried fruit in this mix. After the muesli is cooked I sometimes add goji berries. It’s personal taste, so you can add whatever you love to this basic recipe.