Thursday, June 21, 2012
Small Poppies and us.
I wish state school were like Small Poppies. I confess that I would not have sought it out, but it found us. My son had a long conversation with a Plunket nurse at our playgroup, who came to seek me out and suggest i look into Small Poppies sessions for him. That same day a close friend suggested the same. I had never heard of Small Poppies or the Gifted Education Centre before. I was leery of labels and was reticent to find out more to begin with or to talk about the session until now. Because i believe all children deserve to be seen and valued for all of who they are and their gifts, whatever they may be. But labels can be useful, and here i am, the mama with the Steiner leanings, coming out of the closet.
What do i do with the sensitive child that struggles in classes larger than 10 children? Who needs a more diverse learning class based experience? Who is not ready to be on his own (without mama) at age four? What do i do with the child who wakes at 5am asking questions like ‘mama, what does ignominiously mean?’ To date, none of the words my son asks the meaning of are in his children’s dictionary. We do alot of fun learning stuff and ‘sessions’ of our own at home and for the last year we can be found once a week at Small Poppies, a session run for children up until the age of 6 years by the Gifted Education Centre in Auckland. We also drive an hour and a half in rush hour traffic to get there. Yup, we like it that much. (Those of you who know how i feel about cars will really get the impact of that statement!)
Each session has a theme. We walk in and the classroom is transformed into that theme...puzzles, equipment, toys and books all on that theme on tables and on the floor. I love how Small Poppies sessions are structured in a way the children can best learn...alternating free play with structured group time and hands on experiments and activities and work on individual projects assisted where necessary by parents. Each child feels heard in the classroom, each child gives what he or she can, with no pressure and no judgement on whatever quirks they may bring. Some of the themes in our year of attending: Logic games, building (bridges, large structures), the solar system, gravity, shopping (money, role playing shop keepers), spiders, dinosaurs, earthquakes/volcanoes/tsunamis, chemistry, time, unusual animals. It is always, always, a mighty fine time.
Yes, we pay for the privilege of being there. And, yes that is a challenge for us. We sacrifice other things because Jed and I get so much from our Small Poppies sessions and the people that work hard to run it. I almost didn’t enrol Jed, even though it was the first thing he was keen on going to and quite frankly, the only place we’ fitted’. Before the first assessment session was finished, my three year old was asking repeatedly if he could come back. I couldn’t believe it.
The clincher for me, was seeing my son’s response to Sue, the teacher who runs his sessions, and his enthusiasm. That, and Sue said, ‘look, if your child was struggling, you’d seek help right? This is at the other end of the spectrum.’ She was so right. I have always looked to my son to lead his learning journey...he has this beautiful thirst to learn, to explore, and know and through Small Poppies i find support on our journey, new tools and ideas, our horizons being opened and a community of like-minds.
For me, there is the solidarity of meeting other sleep challenged parents. So many of these kids are no friends of sleep. And of being kept on our toes fielding questions about how the world works. There are some funny stories out there. The kid who refuses to write or read, but can tell you all about our solar system. Down to the smallest details. It’s his thing. Or the children that teach themselves to read at tender ages. Or the sadder stories of children not fitting into state schools...of getting bored and causing trouble or their teachers just not knowing what to do with them.
If someone told me three years ago that my child would be involved with the Gifted Education Centre, i would have laughed them out of the room. Those were my misconceptions and rigidity speaking. Today i am not so quick to judge parenting choices. We each know our child best. To be honest i am not sure what all else is out there under the GEC's umbrella, or where my son's learning journey will take us next but i do know that stumbling into Small Poppies was exactly what we needed. Attending those sessions has been one of those defining, enriching stumbles that has changed our lives. So very much for the better.
An especial thanks to Sue Breen, for being the very special person she is, and the rest of the GEC crew, for doing what you do.
If you are visiting from the GEC Awareness week’s blog tour, be welcome,wander awhile. And be sure to check out the other posts on the GEC Blog tour in honour of Gifted Awareness Week.
What struck me first about Small Poppies is that the kids are treated like people, with respect. My son commented on this too. At the beginning of each term the teacher, Sue, will email and ask the children what they’d like to learn about in their sessions in the coming term.I have a child who was born smiling and holding his head up, who looked three months old at birth. He was crawling by by 6 mo, walking by 9, talking in sentences not long after that. He has always seemed wise. I spent the first two years trying to catch up with him. He blew every expectation of parenting i had out the window. He may decide to play with lego for the next five years and leave off with the philosophy and science questions , and that is fine but until then...