Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Gunggari Native Title .wmv



As a descendant of convict stock (first and second fleet) I am very proud to see my cousins' people finally celebrate native title in their land. The land where my sisters (non indigenous) were born and where my family stories come from - circa 1950s and the changing times of white/black rural Australia....ah progress, you are wonderful!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

school. numeracy. Literacy and parties.

Well things are going swimmingly in the Dock. Kit has had a MEGAWEEK and the pressure is on for him to get 100% in tomorrow's spelling and tables test. I admit I had one of those gray, moody days yesterday - grumpy as - and I was pretty unbearable (just ask my husband!) but today I pepped up and got a bucketload of cleaning done and so felt a lot less frustrated and a heap more organised.

Last weekend Hannah went to a tea party - of one of the girls in her class This little girl has been a good friend to the twins since kindy. She explained to Kit (and so did I) that he wasn't invited because it was a girls event. He was fine with that and helped me with gift ideas for her although in the end Hannah chose the actual present. Then on Tuesday - Hannah gets another invite - an Over the rainbow Party - another all girls do - and another little girl that Kit really likes and plays with - I thought I was meant to be feeling bad for Hannah not ever getting party invites rather than her brother missing out cos of the 'girls only' dos. Anyway I explained once again and said that no doubt he would go over ot the girls house after the party and after a jump by himself on the trampoline he came back inside and was fine with t - even helping me out with present ideas again. So that is the party scene - very active for Hannah and a bit quiet for Kit and nonexistent for Phil and I!

On Monday Hannah told me that she had done reading with her teacher. They read a story about Our Garden - a reader I presume - which included a playhouse in the garden. I still love it when a) Hannah tells me that sort of thing and I understand her and b) her class teacher listens to her read. then tonight at the dinner table when Phil was chatting with them about the weekly spelling test that is on tomorrow - she suddenly tells me that she knows her 2 times table and proceeds to count by twos - she gets to 12 before fumbling and losing her way. So even though she didn't get a spectacular music report I think this counts as a MEGAWEEK for her too.

I have tried going over similar spelling words with her - to try and gauge which method works best - and while I don't know that she'll be able to spell them in the test tomorrow she has certainly found it easier to spell the words with her blocks and to unjumble them on her ipad - it helps that I can prompt her early by simply saying that we will study her spelling - her 'kn' words... She is very motivated by her spelling success with 'cry' and if you ask her what words she can spell it is top of the list.
Last night when the kids and I got home Phil was out doing some exercise ont eh back deck - Hannah thought it was hysterical and quickly lined up her bike and joined in. Speaking of which she really really needs a new bike - one that fits her - she LOVES going bikeriding. Our dilemma is that she doesn't understand about brakes and the ones that are bigger tend not to come with the 'stick' that her present one has. Her favourite places to ride are at the park but I also taker her down to the local shops and the library for a ride - any ideas? Kit's K bike is awesome so I was hoping for one like that (but less gears) for her - I think we'll need to consider modifying it - not sure how? I might need to give NADS a call....

Monday, June 18, 2012

Piano

Once upon a time, when the twins were 2 I signed them up for a music class. It came with a cd - lots of rhythm activities, a bit of craft and listening to 'high' and 'low' sounds, some percussion...it was 45 minutes of playing and having fun. the songs were short and simple and often had actions to go with them. I used to push them up in the big double pram. If there was an activity that was done in pairs (parent and child) then usually the teacher would take Kit, sometimes Hannah.
I remember when I first approached her. I felt nervous. I had the twins in their cumbersome pram and we were at the local shopping centre. The music school owner/teacher had a table set up with a banner and some flyers. I asked her about it. In those early days I was still learning about how and when to 'reveal' the diagnosis....it was getting easier but this was another milestone. I can't remember what I said...but when I said Down Syndrome...the teacher simply asked "what's that?" and when I said that it meant low tone etc (I tried to just mention the things that I thought would impact on music lessons)..her response was very pragmatic "I think it'll be fine. I haven't had anyone with DS before but I have had a couple fo students with autism. Let's give it a go. I'm sure she'll be fine" or words to that effect...anyway - if you go back through the history of this blog I bet you'll find a post that brags that not only did Hannah LOVE the music class - but seriously - she was the best student in the class! The smile never left her face and she was a natural at the actions to the songs.
But then time as time went on the course moved from being a singing, dancing listening and rhythm class to... a piano lesson. We stuck with it. They stuck with it too... and Hannah did do fine at the first book and improved when she repeated it but it was just getting too hard... she'd started school and I had lots to do to help her with her reading and her counting...it didn't feel right to start discipling her to practise piano... and so we moved her to a dance class - a mainstream class that she loves and still attends today.
Kit on the other hand kept up the music lessons. I bought an old keyboard from a woman at work. It was not the full complement of keys and it wasn't weighted but it was fine for the first few years. Then the piano lessons started to get harder more quickly and so this year we gave the old keyboard to my sister for her son and we spent more than we could really afford on a full keyboard with weighted keys for Kit. (Hey at least it wasn't the beautiful upright piano that I really had my eye on...)
And so we come to the purpose of this post...Kit got his semester report today. It is the best yet (and they have all been good). I am so very proud of him. The comment makes me positively beam with pride.
"I would like to congratulate Kit on reaching the Intermediate course! Kit always brings great enthusiasm to class and is currently enjoying the new elements of Book1. Kit plays with a beautiful hand technique and listens well to teacher instruction. He has excellent aural and rhythmic skills which allow him to learn quickly, and Kit alway practices hard and performs confident solos. Kit might like to start composing some of his own songs as an extra challenge! ...Thank you for working so hard.."
How cool is that - and of course the most impressive part is the A for effort.
Now I wonder when it will be time to get Hannah back into playing a music instrument? I don't think that this course is right for her but I love how the teacher loves to see Hannah in class watching and is always keen to hear how she is going.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Semester 1

It is hard to believe that we are nearly half way through the year already. I have just finished marking final examinations and will start writing reports next week and preparing to do it all over again next semester. The twins have settled into year 2 really well. I am glad that I asked for them to be put in the same class as each other as I feel that has worked very well for all concerned.
They have 2 teachers (job share). Both have been able to establish a firm but fair relationship with Hannah. They 'own' her education and while I know it isn't always easy for them I am sure that they do their best within the mainstream environment to provide Hannah with equal access to learning opportunities. She has only 1 aid this year who is a wonderful woman.
As these things go the teacher they have 3 days a week is going on maternity leave next term. (selfishly I wish she wasn't but I can't begrudge her the joy of her first baby - it is very exciting) and so we got their class reports a little early this year.
I am absolutely thrilled with their reports. As I pointed out to them - they both got 1 for effort for everything - and I don't think I can ask for more. They both love school and their classroom has a open and caring feel to it. Kit wasn't well on the afternoon of our P/T interview so Phil went on his own - something that I think was really valuable because too often I find that I have to explain the report to him - because I am a teacher - but I am not a primary school teacher and I am not the twin's teacher so it was great for him to get specific feedback from them.
Most of the interview was spent talking about Kit - no surprises to me in what they said but I think it helped mobilise Phil to pay closer attention to Kit's homework which is fantastic. Kit is a great kid and achieving good grades - but he likes to see a job done. He loves to tick the box to say the work is done - and the work is usually correct - but it isn't 'perfect'. he rushes through things...so we are encouraging him to take more care in his presentation of homework. Also he does the basics (very quickly and easily) but does not do more - for example they have extra homework tasks each week that earn them points. The minimum points is meant to be 10 - so Kit was always making sure he got his 10 points and then he'd stop - whereas he could easily be doing all the additional activities and getting MORE than the minimum points...also he and a few others are doing some extension spelling words and for these it isn't enough to just write them out 3 times - he was getting the odd one incorrect - so I have set him up on Spellboard (which is a fantastic app I use with Hannah) and just going over them a few times more has meant he usually gets them all correct.
Hannah is very proud of herself - she can read by herself books like Where is the Green Sheep and her sight words are increasing steadily. She loves Emma Quay's Rudie Nudie and is very motivated by the fact that there are whole pages in it that she can read independently. It is so exciting - I remember how proud Kit was when it happened for him - with The Deep Blue Sea.
This year is the first year where Hannah has also had a chance to attempt some of the spelling words too. Now because she didn't really do them in kindy or year 1 she is a bit behind but I choose  of the clearest ones I can and she practices them with me. I use letter blocks (for manipulative practice) and Spellboard for motivated practice as well as simply writing out he words in her homework book like everyone else. This week one of the words was 'cry' and I swear - I nearly cried - but Hannah got that one. She could spell it orally and in writing - and boy did she know she'd just cracked a bit of a milestone - she is very happy to spell aloud 'cry' whenever asked to show how clever she is.
This year was also the first time that her report was in exactly the same format as Kit's but incorporating her IEP goals - and that was such big improvement - it meant the report actually told us things that we needed to know about her education.
So in summary Kit has 'made excellent progress' is  'bright and enthusaistic' and when challenged shows an ability to 'think extensively and provide intelligent responses'...is 'self motivated'. Hannah has made 'steady progress' is capable of following 'simple instructions' and when 'compliant can produce quality work'. She is 'engaging and communicating more with her peers and teachers' and 'participates very well in Creative and Practical Art activities'.
So all in all it has been an excellent semester.
I finally started to get my head around maths for Hannah - this arrived just today for me to start to play and see if it helps Hannah as much as some of the research suggests it will:
Kit has also been getting even better at helping out - he often helps Hannah with her homework without being asked and he is keen to help out around the house too - setting the table, carrying bags inside for me, putting away the shopping etc. Hannah loves it when he works with her...
 Practising their solo dance...

And enjoying afternoon tea of homemade cream buns

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Change of Seasons

I love the rhythm of the seasons. We are now well into winter here...here is how I know:
Hannah created this one on her ipad...it tells the story of what she has been up to lately...and the games she likes to play :)
Let's start with the downside of this season
Yep, the worst thing about winter is the illnesses. One after another or so it seems. Little brat finally got over her ear dramas to succumb to temperatures and runny nose. She is looking good at the moment while I have a scratchy throat...We get the flu shot for her each year but she still gets a bit knocked about..lucky she doesn't stay down for long ...and makes a good patient most of the time.
As autumn waned we found ourselves at the beach. We stayed in Apex accommodation - for families of chronically ill children or children with a disability. A friend had booked it for us so there were 4 families there all with kids with DS. It was lovely to get away and watch the kids run together. Hannah came back talking about one of the girls as her 'friend'. Now this little girl is already an absolute favourite of Phil's but holidays like this one built ties between the kids which is one of the reasons I love them.

There is something very primal about the sea. It is soothing and wild all at once. In our ordinary life I am often guilty of being a 'too busy' Mum...so it was wonderful to be away from all the mundane chores and just play with the kids...of course I have trained them to be rather self sufficient so there was still time for a glass of wine and a glossy magazine back at our room later on while Hannah and Kit were busy with things like:


Kit is almost past his lego passion although I can revive it with a new kit from time to time. Hannah just LOVES it...and I am so proud of her ability to construct them - there are so many skills required. It is a fun activity that she gets to do with either Phil or I and then later once she has played with them to her heart's content she and Kit will invariably reconstruct and make up different games to play with them. In fact the bouff in our lounge at the moment cannot be used for feet because Hannah has her Friends Lego on it - so I am loving the girlie Lego that is available at the moment.
We also wandered over to the Gerringong markets which were a hoot...Hannah bought a new 'outfit' (eyeroll!!!!!!!!) and Kit an opalite gem which he just loves.



In the evening we had a communal BBQ with the other families and Kit was part of the crowd that put on a 'concert' for us..Hannah preferred to stay inside on the ipad with the other girl. She did however enjoy the meal.

On the way home we all stopped in Berry for some brunch. It had been a lovely weekend. A definite recharge of the batteries ...
And now not long after, as winter has arrived..I still think back on that weekend and it gives me energy to push through the winter chills...so the cooking and the playing and the feeling like we are 'achieving' all continue....like noticing the beautiful flowers that are still sticking their blooms out in the chill,

And from my garden...
Winter tries to lure me into 'bulking up' and lazing about. It is too cold or wet or windy to head out for a walk. The washing is mostly finished in the clothes dryer rather than out on the line. Our windows and doors are shut giving the house a thirst for fresh air that means I let the cleaning fall a bit behind as well...seafood on the menu declines and stodge takes the front seat. As I sniffle my way through the dusty rooms it is easier in winter to let things slide...except that winter started with a wonderful family weekend away and at the moment it is almost the end of our first semester... so my work is winding down and the twins both got their school reports last week (which were great btw) and the sun is still shining and the gardens still have colour and life is too short and too wonderful to ignore the need to renew, even in this cold patch when all goes dark at 5pm and the temptation is to hide away...