This is Ally's first ever Blog post! Ally is a speech pathologist who now works at home as a busy full-time mother to her three beautiful girls. We are very grateful that she has written for us about Joy School :) With Ally's permission I have added some photos of her and the girls that were recently taken by Jessima.
This is my first EVER blog entry. 20 minutes at the keyboard, and I've lost count of the number of times I've hit the Backspace button just writing my first line. That's because I have that annoying problem of wanting everything I do to be just right. Thankfully, I get to write about Joy School. When it comes to this ingenious program, everything feels just right.
What I want to share is the little gems of joy that I have experienced in becoming a teacher-mum alongside my friend Jessima. She and I take turns teaching the lesson. We hold it every Thursday morning. The curriculum suggests doing 2 lessons a week, but life is too busy for Jessima and I to manage that. That is one of the wonderful things about Joy School - it gives the parents the freedom to decide what works best for them. We started almost 2 months ago and have done 7 lessons which have been predominantly about the Joy of the Body. The concepts we've covered are amazingly simple, so simple in fact, that you wouldn't think you could get a 2 and a half hour lesson out of it. And yet, I almost always run out of time when I'm teaching, because the lesson content is so diverse and rich. To give you an idea, when we covered the 5 senses, we made a smelling collage with different aromatic herbs and spices and we listened to pre-recorded sounds that the kids had to try to identify.
When we talked about body parts, we compared our joints to hinges on different doors around the house. Eating and living healthy was our topic last week, and we had an enormous amount of fun discussing different vegetables and how they grow, before cutting them up and turning them into vegetable soup. But every week, no matter what we cover, the underlying message has always been that we are so lucky to have our bodies, and we are lucky that they do all that they do. If I was to just blurt that message out to my kids in the car or at the dinner table, my kids would politely smile and nod and then look at each other bemused with a look that said "that was pretty random...". Thanks to Joy School, my kids don't think I'm as kooky as I would otherwise seem AND they are actually learning what it means to enjoy their bodies.
One of the things that leave me most satisfied is when my 3 year olds comes out with something like, "Hey mum, I'm using my sense of smell!" as they sniff a flower, or they tell me what month we're in (it's sooo cute watching a toddler try to get their mouth around the word "November"). Inside, I victoriously claim: "There you go ABC 4 Kids - you don't teach my kids everything they know!!!"
Jessima's and my older children are charismatic, but strong-willed little girls. It has been amazing watching their friendship develop during Joy School. This is especially rewarding for us as their mums, because on the first day that they properly met, Jessima and I could hardly hold a conversation due to having to referee their constant arguments. lol
Thankfully, to help with the moments when a child decides to misbehave during the lesson (the older children are, not surprisingly, the usual perpetrators hehe), we have the Joy School House. It is this quaint little cardboard cut-out that works magic! When the kids arrive at Joy School, they each open up their window to reveal a photo of their smiling faces. Later on, if someone decides to be disruptive we simply say "oh, it doesn't sound like you're ready to be in Joy School today. We'd better close your window". Whenever I've had to say that to my munchkin, within 20 seconds she has this cheesy forced smile on her face and she's opening her window back open. She then manages to sit quietly for about ooooohhhhh 30 seconds before she's wriggling again, but she's at least a lot less disruptive right throughout the rest of the lesson.
I could go on an on about what I love about Joy School. It IS hard work, and requires more committment than I had initially realised, but it is incredibly rewarding because it's not just a source of joy for my kids, but for me too. It's nice to know that 20 years from now, I can look past the fighting, the whinging, the scrambled egg dinners, and the excessive amount of time my kids spent in front of the TV, and I'll be able to reassure myself that I definitely did some things right... Joy School being one of them.