school

Prose for Thought | The anxiety of separation

Her face was just like all the rest,
on pick up time at three.
The adrenaline that had twisted thick,
buried for a spell.

The anguish of the morning,
the torment of the night.
The constant torture of anxiety,
that steals family time.

It even creeps upon us at weekends,
when we’re trying to forget.
She tosses and turns every bedtime,
needing a parent’s close presence.

Her body sending messages,
of chemical potency.
Turning her stomach into iron knots,
her mind into a throbbing ball of pain.

There is no magic book of answers,
even the professionals are surprised.
The magnitude of her anguish,
the irrationality of her mind.

Her body in full fight or flight,
yet the predator is not what it seems.
There is no need to do either,
but her mind is plagued with doubt.

© Sarah Lee, 8 September, 2013

Goleta coast, Santa Barbara

Anxiety BC | Separation Anxiety Disorder

Prose for Thought

First impressions | School life in America

School commenced for two of our three children yesterday. Our ten year old has been attending school in New Zealand for five years and, apart from a somewhat dissatisfying, unchallenging experience in her first three years, she has pretty much excelled. She thrived at a private girls school she attended for the past two years and performed well above average in all subject areas, even as the youngest in her class.

Our seven year old had a terrible experience in her second term of schooling in a public school and we were all dissatisfied, as a family. As she was under the age of six at the time – and school is only compulsory at the age of six in New Zealand – we withdrew her. Then we heard about the possible move to America and decided it was better to home educate up until the move – little did we then know that the whole deal would take a year and a half to get to a point when we could actually move countries (we were initially given the impression it would be a few months!).

Anyway, here we are now in America.

Our unschooler – as we were enjoying child-led learning in our home with a wonderful group of natural learners – thrived in a home environment, socialising with other home learners. Her reading is well above the average for her age, as is her mathematics. She enjoyed various science experiments, played creatively and freely, without time constraints, along with her natural learner friends, came up with stories, plays and poems under her own drive, and read books with a lot more interest than her traditionally schooled older sister. Also, as she wasn’t confined by ‘time’, if she was avidly into a particular book she would read till midnight, knowing there was no rush for a bell the next day. She thrived.

On her first day at a proper school, here in America, she was naturally nervous – but her natural personality is outgoing, chatty, confident with strangers in shops, cafes, museums, enquiring, unafraid to try new tastes, physical pursuits and so on. She has hit gold with a wonderful, experienced Grade 2 teacher. Further more her teacher is one of those special ones that has always continued with her own learning and is very up to date with modern times, technology and teaching methods. Win, win! It looks like this school experience will be perfect for her, at this stage in her education, and of great benefit to her social nature.

Now, our other daughter, the high achiever, from a traditional, private, girls school, walked into a very different scenario. A mixed class of 10 and 11 year olds, non-uniformed, who all knew one another. There was no prior warning about standing up and pledging allegiance to the flag… (whereas Miss 7 was given prior warning and provided with an explanation as to why students in America did this). Miss 10, in contrast, was surrounded by students that suddenly stood up like robots and hand on heart started singing – she was left thinking, ‘What the f*ck?!’.

She also found herself with a teacher who was aghast at Miss 10 loving snakes and spiders (turns out – none of us knew this – her teacher has a spider phobia – oops!). Then there was the health and safety notices – which Miss 10 found totally over the top – coming from adventurous New Zealand, where calculated risks are a normal part of life – they even have fully equipped carpentry benches in pre-schools for three and four year olds – yes, hammers, saws, nails… (and I never heard of an accident). Children in New Zealand run barefoot, climb trees, jump in water holes, and are encouraged to test their own physical boundaries. The only people that blink an eye when a young child runs on the beach in their ‘Birthday suit’ are the foreign tourists.

Love this video ‘Frosty Man and the BMX Kid’ – sums it up nicely 😉

Plus the teacher was doing the ‘strict’ thing – which is understandable given it was the first day and there were probably a few personalities in the class that needed the ‘don’t mess with me’ message – unfortunately Miss 10 found her style abrupt and loud (and Miss 10 dislikes conflict, loud noises etc.).

Furthermore, Miss 10’s avid interest of watching film documentaries and passion for ‘Minecraft’ was met with disdain and a comment of, ‘Books are best’. Miss 10’s reaction was to maturely bottle in the tears, frustration and annoyance for the entire morning and then, only in the comfort of a private environment, let it out. She was devastated. The whole experience hit her with a sledge hammer of what she’d given up in New Zealand and the amazing friends she has there.

We are going to enjoy our time here (Dan and I would be really loving it, but happy children make happy parents… and until they are all settled, we shan’t feel top notch).

We shall meet with the school, the school counsellor, try and make it work for Miss 10 – but we don’t wish for her amazing education in New Zealand to be undermined and if the wrong teacher for her doesn’t work out, then we will stand by our daughter and ensure she retains her love of learning – even if we have to do online learning (which I am very pro-doing – hubbie a lot less so – as are the grandparents – that live in the UK; it’s not as though they really know what we are going through as we’ve been raising our children entirely single-handedly for the past decade in New Zealand). The biggest concern for hubbie and the grandparents is that ‘Sarah won’t cope’ – because I’m on antidepressants (and have been for over a decade). The truth is, I can cope. With exercise, medication and a happy family I am fine. It’s when I feel, in my heart and gut, that one of my children is genuinely not happy that the mother bear instincts in me cry out – not out of ‘protecting’ and ‘wrapping in cotton wool’, but of being my child’s advocate in an adult world and setting an example that the system isn’t always right and not to be accepted blindly – but, at times, worked around – even if many people see it as ‘radical’.

Of course she will be persuaded to give the school another chance and we will ask her to give us a full ‘pros and cons’ write-up of schooling in America for a year versus online learning – and then we shall discuss further.

We are not dictators of our children’s future – but here to guide them, let them feel confident to express themselves and know that their voices are listened to and respected.

The days before routines return

Tomorrow school starts for the year. Two of our three children will start at a new school, in a new country, in a completely different hemisphere. Our Miss 10 is coming from a private girls school in Wellington, New Zealand. Our Miss 7 is coming from a couple of years of free-spirited ‘natural learning’ (home schooling, but without the feel of school). The transition to the well respected local school, they will be going to whilst we’re living in the USA, will be interesting.

The school itself is fantastic, with a teacher to child ration of 1:17, specialist music, art, science and computing teachers. A great library, awesome technology available, wonderful open grounds and a strong community supporting the school. As parents, we couldn’t ask for more – but do expect a few bumps in the road as the girls adjust from over six weeks of travelling, being at home, hanging out with their beloved three year old sister and enjoying late nights with us and leisurely lie ins way past 9am every day.

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The past week has been so relaxed, going with the flow, eating and drinking when individuals feel like it, that it’s really going to be quite hard to get used to the routines initially…. but, we will hopefully get there without too long a transition (who am I kidding – it’s going to be an emotional, psychological nightmare!).

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I’m just so relieved we have beautiful beaches to escape to and restore our sanity in the evenings. I shall be driving off into the sunset for a stress busting run on the beach several times in the next few weeks (or giving my arm a workout opening bottles of wine with a corkscrew… so out of practice since New Zealand turned to screw tops eons ago!), or simply hanging with my man and enjoying the laughter of our cute Miss 3 in the balmy evenings. No need to check the weather forecast here in Santa Barbara – it’s all sunshine, blue sky, heat and repeat (and if it does ever rain I shan’t be running for cover – far from it!).

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A Week of Firsts in Santa Barbara: The Good & The Bad…

It’s been a week of firsts here in Santa Barbara.

First time for driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road; first purchase of a brand new car (a very nice 2014 Acura MDX) in America (serious paper work!), with the driver’s seat on the left hand side; first time dinging a rental vehicle three times in one day (well, it was called a ‘DODGE’ – so I figured I’d test its ‘dodge’ ability… unfortunately it didn’t dodge the school secretaries car very well, when I parked up for our first school visit!); and first visit to Santa Barbara Zoo (where Miss 7 saw a snake for the first time, and is feeling a lot less freaked now she understands a bit more about them, besides – she has other things to worry about… her new class, at a new school, has a pet tarantula named ‘Harry’!). Santa Barbara Zoo By the end of the week (I am still miffed at me writing this on a Thursday evening in California, whilst my good friends in New Zealand are well into their Friday ‘avo and my folks in the UK are fast asleep, in the early hours of Friday morning) I will be the owner of my first American bank card and have visited a doctor for the first time in the USA .

Unfortunately, I will not have discovered my first proper Latte since leaving the shores of New Zealand a few weeks ago (it feels like we’ve been away for months!), but my first tastes of local beer and wine have been favourable.

My children have sampled their first fish and chips Santa Barbara style (the chips get a thumbs up – but we’re yet to find fish that compare to our favourite Island Bay, Wellington, takeaway) and had their first close encounter with some of the native wildlife – namely pelicans, storks and cute little geckos. Santa Barbara Beach We’ve enjoyed our first social gathering of new friends (still waiting till 4th September to move into our house of residence for the year, but we did have a lovely spot for socialising, up until Tuesday this week.. now we’re in a little place on a housing complex – but it’s free – so not complaining… just thinking how to spend the money we’ve saved – have my eye on a little Californian sunshine convertible that would suit my hippie style nature!).

Enjoyed my first delicious smoothie and relieved to be discovering refreshing places to cool down and take a rest (especially when Miss 3 decides to conk out for an impromptu nap!)… gives me a chance to day dream on my dream car (ha, ha!)… really don’t think I am skilled enough to be trusted with a brand new, sparkling motor! Smoothie and daydreaming.And we took our first steps, as a family, on ‘Miramar Beach’ (kind of nice to have a local beach with the same name as one of our favourite Wellington peninsulas!). Miramar Beach, Montecito, Santa Barbara

Friday evening will be spent at the new schools ‘pre-term’ gathering – which will be another first – a ‘Mustang Roundup and Family Picnic’, complete with a band and country dancing… Yee Ha!!

Next week will be one of even more firsts… as Miss 10 starts a new school, in a new country, in a new hemisphere… and Miss 7 gives school a go – after a couple of years ‘natural learning’! I am going to find it so strange, as I’ve had all three of my daughters at home with me for at least six weeks now. Little steps…!