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My Journey Pre-Schooler (4yo-5yo)

Our ninja ballerina gymnast – a Charly Roses update

Can you guys even believe that Charly is heading towards 5 years old?? Ok, I might be jumping ahead, but time seems to be on fast forward this year… So it isn’t too much of a stretch for me to imagine blinking and finding ourselves in February 2019. Living in the future is somewhat necessary right now as we face applying for schools for Grade R in 2020. Can anybody say overwhelm? But, again, I am jumping ahead… We are long overdue a Charly Roses update and there is so much to tell about our ninja ballerina gymnast!

Before heading into schools and educational assessments and all that jazz, let’s talk Charly right now. Those of you who follow us on Instagram or Facebook have been watching right alongside me as this girl just grows in leaps and bounds. You have heard her chatting in #CharlySays, seen her being a ballerina and giggling and giving me grey hairs.

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She is such a powerful little force of nature; fierce, stubborn, brave and full of sass. But she is also gentle, deeply empathic and has an endless capacity for cuddles and love. She still devours puzzles and colouring books. Her current passions veer between exceptionally detailed imaginative drawings, “working” in workbooks and practicing her writing. She still wants to be a doctor (GP she insists), who’s a prima ballerina on the side… That’s almost 3 years of determination.

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Extra-murals came in full force this year. Following her “dream” to be a prima ballerina, she does ballet with her school. Her ballet kits from The Fairy Shop are of her favourite things to wear. Some days she is a ballerina detective, others a ballerina princess pride, others still a ballerina ninja.

Once she mastered breast-stroke at swimming, she became extremely resistant in lessons – because she now “knows how to swim”. This was the beginning of winter and all-the-germs season, so I paused swimming lessons. Around the same time, she came across gymnastics and was crazy excited to find there were more bars out there than just monkey bars.

The first time I spoke to Anne, the owner of Flairs Gymnastics, I knew we had found the perfect place for Charly. The instructors are magical, I swear it! They get a jumping, bouncing, group of kids to stand perfectly still and wait in a line happily. Charly loves every minute of her classes… And the pride she felt after her first apparatus testing was just incredible to witness.

I can with absolute confidence say that there is no way on earth I have ever in my life been fit enough to do the class they do. They are in endless motion, building strength and discipline on the mat, pushing and lifting and somersaulting over bars, flying through the air from trampolines and walking backwards, forwards and sideways on beams. The few classes I have seen leave me exhausted. And I believe this is the reason my child sleeps through the night most nights now.

Apparently, gymnastics is a lot less intense than her NinjaZone class. Held by Flairs Gymnastics, but also leased to other gymnastics schools, NinjaZone combines gymnastics, martial arts and parkour. From learning Ninja creeds such as respect and self-discipline, with homework being practicing these things at home and at school; there is more than physical education happening in these classes. And let’s be honest… Who doesn’t want to be a Ninja?! (Enough grown-ups have looked into it that Anne is looking at adding an adult class, so if you are keen to learn to run up walls, do backflips or just improve your overall fitness and coolness levels, contact them to find out more.)

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So that’s all after-school things. Now school… Or schools. You guys, I cannot think of pretty much anything that is as stressful as choosing a school for Charly. We all think our kids are snowflakes, right? While we have always seen C as “ahead of the curve”, I began wondering how much of that was just #momgoggles. I began freaking out about school options… It isn’t just which school to apply to (and if you’ll be accepted), but what KIND of school best suits your child. Main stream CAPS, Waldorf, Montessori, IEB, Generations… Surely there weren’t this many options back in the day?!

And then co-ed or single sex? My instinct is that, particularly at prep and primary school level, co-ed is important. More so than ever in today’s world… I feel boys and girls need to grow up as peers and know how to have regular interactions with each other. I went to an all-girls high school and I am glad I did. The distractions of boys at that stage are another level, and our self-awareness takes on different dimensions in our teens. I feel like there was a visible difference between those of us that had been at co-ed junior schools and those that hadn’t. Boys were a “big deal” to those who hadn’t socialised with them every day.

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But then, I also look at the few schools I have been to so far… I’m not sure that taking C from a co-ed school that offers education from pre-prep to matric for high school would be good either. I need to keep reminding myself, that she will be her own person by the time we get there. She will know what she wants, we will know her real strengths and passions and we can decide from there. But choosing where she goes now feels like the biggest decision we will make for her.

Because I didn’t want to be “that mom” who thinks their child is gifted only to discover they are anything but… Charly has also had some struggles with the loss of my gran and everything that happened a few months ago. (On a separate note, as vocal as I was at the time, I haven’t found a way to refer to it all as yet.) She was showing some signs of anxiety which scared me…

But then, the mommy spiral begins – is it just normal age appropriate behaviour? Or is it because we didn’t handle the death of my gran properly with her? Maybe it is because she is smarter than average and she can’t handle that emotionally? I should never have told her I was pregnant… Maybe she didn’t believe us when we told her that I hadn’t really been pregnant! The list was growing daily. So I made the decision to take her to an educational psychologist.

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I found an amazing lady who does educational and emotional assessments, who also does play therapy. The educational assessment was a process, due partly to poor timing with me travelling to Joburg and holidays. Essentially it breaks down into a parents’ meeting with the therapist for context and background, 2 emotional assessment sessions and a 2 hour educational assessment. After that, the therapist puts together a full report, with constructive suggestions on the way forward, and a report back session.

The feedback was somewhat what I was expecting. She is developmentally ahead on all fronts and is sensitive and empathic. And she can be anxious and worries about her own and others’ safety… (The mom guilt when you have anxiety directly related to safety is huge.) She tries to control what she can, often us. And choosing the right school for her is even more important than I was worrying about. No pressure, right? But seriously, it really eased my mind on a lot of things. She also gave me a list of schools she believes Charly would thrive in, advice on where Charly wouldn’t fit in and why. Narrowing the list down, even slightly, helps.

Can she actually be a ballerina doctor?

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I’ve been to see two schools so far and have one more booked and 3 more I want to see. I’ve fallen in love with one, but I need to see if it is viable. It is the one school I can absolutely see Charly growing up to be a doctor and a ballerina in, which is a powerful motivation. Although I do mean that literally, it is also representative… I believe if I can make it a reality to send her there, she will have every opportunity to thrive. To grow into her potential in a safe space that embraces the exceptional. Nothing scares me more than having her in a school that doesn’t have capacity to support her growth.

I don’t consider schools who can’t, to be bad schools. I am a realist. Most schools don’t have the staff or the funding to give outliers (on either end of the scale) the attention they need to be the best they can be. Charly doesn’t just need a school that has good academics, she needs a school that has programs to enrich even great academics when she is ahead. She can do 90% of what a child in Grade R can do already and it is still 15 months until she starts it. And I don’t want her skipping grades if we can avoid it, because I want her to be secure and confident emotionally as well. That said, if this school said she was ready to move up, I would believe them.

It isn’t only academics though… She is great at any sport with a ball, her co-ordination is amazing.

 

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She loves art; drawing, painting, play-doh, colouring, cutting and pasting. Charly is a natural performer and is showing interest in instruments now. (Our ed-psych suggests musical instruments for kids like Charly, as it is another “language”… So her wish for a guitar and lessons for Christmas will be granted.) And then of course, they have to have dance… A ballerina needs lots of practice and support 😉

One thing I am loving with both schools I’ve seen so far is that drama is a requirement from little. The value of feeling confident when standing up in front of others can’t be emphasised enough. I don’t know many people who were comfortable speaking in front of others growing up. It also teaches them how to express themselves and their emotions healthily.

There are some amazing schools in SA, but most of them specialise in some way… This is perfect for most children. Most kids have amazing gifts in one area or another… An academic whizzkid, an athlete beyond all athletes, a musical genius… And schools cater for this beautifully. Because Charly is still an all rounder and shows amazing aptitudes for most things, I am afraid that if I send her to a school that focuses on 2 aspects, I am shutting down the opportunity for her thriving in another.

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I have gotten a fair amount of eye-rolling for this, which I’m not sure I understand. If you, as a parent, have the ability to offer your child every opportunity, why wouldn’t you? Why would you put your child in a school that doesn’t give them the option to explore all aspects of who they are? I can’t grasp the reasoning for this. I am genuinely not sure we can afford to send Charly to the school I want to send her to; but isn’t it literally my job as a parent to make sure of that before settling for another?

There is another school, so different to the ones I have been exploring, that is resonating with me. I dreamed of it last night, and woke feeling happy in my dream “decision”. So now I have to look at that one more closely, because why not? Something in my subconscious is leading me there. I have tried to contact them with no response, but being the kind of school it is, maybe I will actually have to pick up a phone.

Anyway, I think that is a nice comprehensive catch up, don’t you? I have a ton of things I want to write about, including the incredible ScruffALuvs pet I was teasing about on Instagram last night!

Sending you all the love xxx

 

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