Tag Archives: Year 6

“This is my one small step, this is my walk on the moon”

I’m not quite sure how this happened. Two years ago marked the end of G’s Junior school career and now we find ourselves at the cusp of a new adventure for us all as M’s time at the Juniors similarly draws to an end. The past 4 years have been a true roller-coaster ride and the staff at our wonderful village school have been there for every step of the journey. From the moment we stepped through their doors, they have embraced the challenges of having M in the school and provided the whole family with the support we’ve needed to get the children through all those ups and downs relatively unscathed.

In some ways, the last 6 months have been the toughest of his school career, even more so than the NG-tube and broken leg we’ve dealt with in that time. He wasn’t able to attend his Year 6 camp because of poor health, but he found the joy in spending the day there getting muddy with his friends instead. We survived the stresses of SATS and celebrated in style last weekend when we found out just how well he did in passing them all. We’ve enjoyed the Year 6 production of The Wizard of Oz and are finally winding down to the Leavers’ Service at the end of the week.

This comment in his end of year report from his class teacher reflects the wonderful young man he is growing up to be:

He is an inspiration to his peers that in spite of his health issues, he participates fully in everything and does not use his illness as an excuse not to try….Thank you M, for being such a valuable member of the class this year. You contribute more than perhaps you realise!”

As we wave goodbye to the end of an incredible era, there will be more than one tear shed along the way, but we are preparing to embark on the next big adventure, building on the incredible foundation that has been put in place with great care, love and consideration over the last few years:

UnSATisfactory Pressure

Since the introduction of the National Curriculum to UK education in 1989 and the creation of the Standard Attainment Tests (SATs) in 1991, everybody has had an opinion about them and few are afraid to make that opinion known. For 25 years, controversy has raged about the value of these tests and who, in fact, the tests are really testing – is it the children or the schools? The one thing that is not in any doubt is that these tests put our children under a huge amount of pressure to perform well, even when their skills perhaps lie in a different direction and little allowance is made for those who find formal testing an unbearable strain.

Even though it’s been 2 years since G was in Year 6, I can well remember the stresses and strains that the prospect of the year-end SATs put on her. Small, but telling signs of the pressure she felt were revealed through changes in her behaviour at home and her already shaky confidence in her literacy ability took a further battering as she struggled to understand what the tests were demanding of her. Her homework steadily increased to ensure that all maths and literacy elements were taught, revised and well-established by the time the tests themselves actually happened and she spent Saturday mornings working with my 29Mum, a retired Year 6 teacher, to fine-tune those skills that were proving a little elusive to my school-loving child. Her hard work and focus throughout the year stood her in good stead and we were all proud of her year-end results, most of all because they rebuilt her belief in herself. Despite that previous experience, I knew that M’s start in Year 6 would herald a very different set of experiences and that’s absolutely proved to be the case.

M has been expressing his worries about the SATs since well before he even reached Year 6. He loves reading and his imagination and vocabulary are impressive, but the ongoing struggles with his handwriting and spelling due to his dyspraxia and dyslexia have really knocked his confidence when it comes to his literacy skills. This September saw the very real manifestation of the stress and pressure he’s put himself under and pieces of homework and classwork alike have left him in tears. I realised just how bad things had got when I received an email from his class teacher expressing her concern about his wobbles in the classroom. She knows him well, having been the school SENCo since he started at this school in Year 3 and also his Year 4 teacher when he had his NG-tube, so she’s fully aware of his additional educational needs and personality quirks and felt that his response was completely unlike him.

We have been working hard with M to develop the basic knowledge that is missing due to the delay in getting a diagnosis for his learning needs and are seeing a slow, but steady improvement. He attends weekly lessons at our local Dyslexia centre and his teacher there is working on his phonic and spelling knowledge in particular. We have agreed with school that he will only learn the spellings set by the Dyslexia centre as there is a greater need to ensure he has a good base on which to build his literacy skills, than worrying about the finer nuances of prefixes and suffixes for the time being. M uses the Nessy computer program, which was developed to teach reading, writing and spelling skills through a series of fun store_icon_nessyreading-01and interactive games and challenges. He has access to this both at home and at the Dyslexia centre and will soon be able to use it during some of his intervention group sessions at school. I have also just invested in the Nessy Fingers course, which will teach him to touch-type, a skill we are all agreed will be of huge benefit to him, especially when he moves on to secondary school next September. The ability to make notes on a laptop or tablet will ease some of the angst he already feels about the workload he will face in Year 7 and we are hoping to investigate some dictation programs that will also make his life just that little bit easier.

During Year 4, M’s occupational therapist came into school and taught a series of lessons focused on improving his handwriting and teaching him how to form his letters correctly. He now has the most beautiful joined up handwriting and, whilst it may take a lot of time and effort to do, he shows great determination to produce a well-written, well-structured and well-spelled piece of work. Even better, M recently received a certificate at school recognising his hard work with the diary entries he had been asked to write and congratulating him on some great ideas and marvellous handwriting. He was so incredibly proud of being awarded that certificate and his confidence and self-belief soared as a result. All too often over the last few years, M has been praised for his courage in dealing with his EGID diagnosis, NG-tube and food allergies, so it was great to see him receive recognition for the hard work he’s been putting in to improving his handwriting over the last 12 months.

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Truth be told, at the end of the day it really doesn’t matter what M’s SATs results are. They will not be a reflection of the bright, brave, cheerful boy that he is or of the huge strides he’s already made from an educational standpoint. They won’t show his breadth of knowledge on random topics such as the Illuminati, or expound his theories on anything Star Wars or his opinions about Brexit and the American Presidential race. They will never reveal the medical and health hurdles he’s overcome since the day he was born. Rather they will be a single snapshot of the ability of my 11 year-old to perform under certain pressures on a given day in May and will have no bearing on the journey he will eventually embark on for the rest of his life. They really are an unnecessary and unsatisfactory pressure that M and his friends could do without.

When September arrives

img_11331September can really only mean one thing: the start of the new school year and all that that entails. This year it has been just that little bit more hectic than usual as some things have changed significantly, whilst others have remained strangely static. G has moved up into Year 8 and is already embracing the addition of 3 new subjects to her timetable,very much enjoying the extra lessons of French, Dance and Drama as well as the move from Food and Textiles to Product Design. With the new school year, so there is also a new school uniform and whilst G is still a little sceptical about its appeal, I am delighted with how smart she looks, though only time will tell if that will last for the full year or not. M is at the start of the final year of his Junior school career and I still can’t quite believe that my baby is  now one of the oldest in the school. We know that this year will be full of challenges from an educational point of view, but with the continued support of his teachers at school and a full year of specialist lessons at our local Dyslexia centre, we are confident that he will be able to achieve his very best.

This September has also signified some major decisions about my own career after I was made redundant out of the blue at the end of the last school year. I am incredibly fortunate that my accountancy training meant that I was offered a new job within a remarkably short time-frame and I started that position the week before the children headed back to school. I felt encouraged by my new role and yet the last 2 weeks IMG_0743[1]have been filled with unexpected angst as one of the other positions I had applied for requested an interview and then offered me the job. After hours of deliberation and discussion and numerous sleepless nights, I have decided to accept this second role as it is an incredibly exciting and challenging position that I believe I would regret turning down. I am really looking forward to starting this new job at the beginning of October, which will bring some significant changes to our household as I will be back to working full-time hours for the first time since G was born, although I am lucky that they are happy to give me flexible hours and everything I need to sometimes work at home.

img_11381September has also been the month where we enjoyed a flying visit from Grandma and Grandpa, Mike’s parents, from Canada. G and M were so excited to see their grandparents for the first time in 4 years that they created a banner to welcome them when we went to collect them from our local airport. img_11431Mike finally finished the renovation job on our 4th bedroom, a task that had been started back in April,
but was interrupted first by the whole saga of M’s broken leg and then the demands of work and our summer holiday in Portugal. The room looks great, but his parents never got to sleep there as Mike had a last-minute panic that the futon bed might be too low for them and instead they slept in G’s room, whilst our gorgeous girlie moved to the freshly painted spare room for a few days. G, M and I all had to be at school and work as normal, but Mike spent some precious time with his parents before they returned home. It was a busy few days for us all, but we managed to squeeze in some family meals and board games where we could.

In the midst of all that busyness, there is one thing that has remained relatively static and that is the current position with M’s health, a real mixed blessing. The last year has been filled with numerous food trials, including during our disastrous admission at GOSH last December, but M is still stuck at just 5 safe foods and despite our hopes to start challenging him again soon, he is not even close to being symptom-free, something we’ve been striving for since his leg came out of plaster at the start of the summer. We are surviving in limbo with minimal medical input as the plan to start some shared gastro care with our local hospital has not yet materialised and we are not due back to GOSH for another couple of months. It is very difficult to see where the next few months will take us, particularly when you add in the added stresses of his Year 6 SATs, and so Mike and I are hoping for the best, but preparing for a bumpy ride.

“Wherever you fly, you’ll be the best of the best!”

This is it.  After 7 years, and more schools than I care to think about, my beloved firstborn, the beautiful G, is finishing Year 6 and heading off into the next adventure of her school career. We’ve cheered at her last Sports Day, been entranced by the Year 6 production of The Lion King and enjoyed all aspects of the Year 6 camp. We survived the stresses and tears of SATs week (just) and this week celebrated an amazing set of results that we’re so very proud she achieved. Tomorrow is her Leavers service and I’ve no doubt emotions will be high, amongst the parents, even if not with the children themselves.  It’s hard to believe that this little munchkin is old enough to go to “big school” in September, but she is and I can’t wait to see what the next steps on her journey will bring:

 

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The quote in the title is from “Oh the places you’ll go!” by Dr Seuss.

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Year 6 camp – the final verdict

Last week was a quiet week in our household as G was away at camp and M struggled without his big sister around.  With only one child under my feet, it’s undeniable that the everyday tasks were a little…ok,  a lot easier to achieve in a reasonable time scale and there was a noticeable lack of temper-driven disagreements and raised voices, but there was no mistaking the achingly big G-shaped hole in our family that nothing else could fill.

By bedtime on Monday, we had finally tracked down and ticked off the last remaining items on the list, the bag of food and snacks had been delivered to the safe-keeping of Miss K and I was certain that clothes were named…bags were named…in fact, water bottles, plastic mugs, wash-kits, you name it, everything was named and the all-important, precious piece of her blanket was safely tucked away amongst her things. DSC_0015 G was feeling happier as she now knew she was in the same activity group as one of her best friends and was equally delighted about the teacher who’d be looking after them for the week.  We convinced them into a relatively early night as Tuesday was an early start for us all in order to get to school for 8am, and even M managed to pull himself from his pit and eat some breakfast before we headed on our way.  Those last few moments before G boarded the coach and left for her week at camp were emotionally charged as M stood beside her, with his arms wrapped tightly around her waist and just hugged her quietly, barely admitting to himself, let alone to the rest of us, what was glaringly obvious to see – that he was really going to miss her whilst she was away.  He was by my side as we waved them off and then disappeared into the school playground with his friends, ready for the day ahead.

News took a little time to trickle back to those of us waiting at home to hear what our adventurers were up to, but when the reports finally arrived, everything sounded positive. The kids were having a marvellous time and challenging themselves with lots of new experiences. From clambering over and under logs to wading through deep mud, the activity week was everything they expected it to be.  campTo my delight, G tried her hand at everything, even the dreaded caving and whilst she didn’t venture as far as some of the others, I am thrilled that she conquered her fears and made her way through 2 of the 3 caves they explored, an amazing achievement for someone who had been adamant she wasn’t stepping foot into a cave, no matter what. She enjoyed almost everything they did and was quick to regale us with tales from the week. Her favourite activity was the Woodland Scramble, which involved donning a wetsuit and rolling head-first into a Welsh river as well as dunking her head under a waterfall. Their evenings were filled with headland walks, evenings on the beach, BBQs and a disco before the obligatory mug of hot chocolate and a good night’s sleep.

The week was a resounding success from an activity point-of-view and G chattered for hours once she was home about all she’d done.  Sadly though, it didn’t quite meet my expectations on the food front.  Despite providing a bag full of safe foods to get G through the week, it was returned to me on Friday with very little missing from it.  I gently quizzed her about what she had eaten and was disappointed to learn that whilst the dairy-free aspect of her diet has been well-managed, there were some significant failings from a gluten-free point of view.  G had been assured that the Kelloggs cereal was definitely GF (it’s not), had been given crisps that were covered with “May contains” and her hot chocolate was soya milk laden with cocoa powder and very little sugar to sweeten it: a taste so bitter that she struggled to drink it and after her friends had tentatively taken a sip, they understood why she was so reluctant.  There was a definite lack of inspiration in preparing her meals as GF pasta with tomato and basil sauce appeared to be the go-to alternative for any meal that wasn’t G-friendly and her only dessert was from the snack box I had sent along with her.  11027998_10152859810801123_7685022031085613332_oFortunately for all concerned, G doesn’t suffer extreme reactions to either gluten or dairy, but she was left feeling less than 100% by the time she got home and not just because of the lack of sleep.

In contrast, the only thing of note that happened in our household last week was a complete overhaul of G’s bedroom and whilst there’s still a little more work to do, it’s a room to last her through her teenage years.  And so the week ended as it had begun:  with M and I waiting on the grass bank outside the school for the coach to appear and deliver G back into our arms.

 

Year 6 Camp, here G comes!

This weekend has been a busy one, perhaps busier than expected for me given that Mike and the kids have been away on their “Dads and kids” camping trip.  Instead of taking time to spoil myself in peace whilst they enjoyed the glorious sunshine and camp activities, I sorted, washed, shopped and ticked things off a list, all in preparation for G’s Year 6 camp next week. She’s there for 4 days of adventure: from archery to rock climbing and caving to kayaking, and it’s promising to be an adrenalin-filled time away from home.  It will be the first time she’s stayed away for any length of time, apart from during school holidays with my Mum, and I know she’s been feeling a little apprehensive about it all.  The strain of not knowing in advance who she’d be sharing a room with took a bit of the shine off her excitement and she was anxious to confirm that she could opt out of the caving, the one activity she has said she doesn’t want to do since we first heard about camp back at the start of the year.

The one part of her week away that has not been of concern for her has been the one that I’ve been able to contribute to:  her food.  I’ve met with her teacher, Miss K, and the Head throughout the year to discuss the catering arrangements at camp and had an unprecedented 3 meetings the week after half-term as well as multiple e-mail exchanges to ensure the final plans were watertight.  Miss K spoke to the camp cook to discuss G’s dietary needs and was reassured that they are well-used to catering for children with food allergies.  We had talked about the types of food that would need to be considered for G – GF bread (Genius brown), DF spread (Vitalite Dairy-free) and DF milk (Rice dream) amongst others – and armed with brand names, Miss K has been able to confirm with the camp that these will be available for G.

Mr._WorryI am confident that breakfast and lunch will be okay, but it is still the dinner arrangements that are causing me mild moments of suppressed panic.  If G was “just” gluten-free, I’d have fewer concerns; if she was “just” dairy-free, I’d be only mildly worried, but the combination of both, whilst so much easier to manage that the multitude of allergies of others in our household, requires a little more forethought.  When discussing the menu with Miss K, I realised just how much planning is needed to make G’s meals safe, something that probably seems strikingly obvious to everyone else, but is so second nature to me that I’ve had to learn how to effectively micro-manage these finer details.  It’s not as simple as ensuring that GF pasta is cooked for lasagne or GF sausages provided for sausages and mash as she can’t have cheese or white sauce, mashed potato needs to be made with both DF milk and butter and there’s the hidden use of flour to thicken sauces.  Those are the little things that sometimes slip under the radar.

So, the school and I have reached a sensible arrangement.  I am providing some safe foods for the week for G for those “just in case” moments – cartons of rice milk, safe drinking chocolate, GF breakfast cereal and a loaf of GF bread.  There will also be a packet of GF pasta and a GF/DF curry sauce tucked in that will take up little space, but will give me some invaluable peace of mind. I’m also packing a special camp “swap box” as an alternative to the lure of the vending machines that her friends will undoubtedly be pillaging at all times of the day and night.  In there will be safe biscuits, snacks and a few bars of our ever-favourite Moo-free chocolate to ensure that she has the opportunity to gorge herself at midnight alongside her room-mates.

Today I handed over that precious bag of food and, tomorrow morning, as M and I wave her off on her adventures, I know that she’ll enjoy a mostly worry-free fantastic week away with her friends and my concerns need only be small.