Thursday, 24 April 2008

Choosing a school: questions to ask

after school special, originally uploaded by iboy_daniel. Picture: Courtesy Flickr.

Choosing a school for the first time is exciting and unnerving and in some ways overwhelming. After all, it's impossible to know just what a school is really like - and how your child will fit in - until they actually start going there.

But one important part of the research is the school tour - and in Melbourne at least, many of these are just about to start for parents considering schools for next year.

I've spoken to a lot of people lately about what questions you need to ask when comparing schools, and thought I would put together my list so far. Please feel free to add to it in the comments section - it is by no means all-encompassing:

School checklist:

Class sizes: What are average class sizes, does the school set its own caps on numbers?

Are there extra support people in bigger classes?

Does the school do composite grades?

How many classes at each year level and how big is the school?

What assistance is there for children with particular needs? Is there extra help? Are there enrichment programs?

What sort of art, music, drama, sport and other extra curricular classes are there. How often do children get to do these activities each week?

Parental involvement - what opportunities are there, especially at younger levels?

What is the school's policy on bullying and other social and behavioural issues?

Is the retention rate good in older grades or do a lot of students leave?

If it's a primary (elementary school for American readers) which secondary schools do children go to from this school?

Languages - what's offered and importantly, how often do students get access to a language teacher?

What's the library like and what sort of access is there to computers?

Is there a school nurse on site?

Is there before and after school care?

Is there good security on the grounds?

Is there a good ratio to male and female teachers?

Please feel free to add any more suggestions in the comments section. And by the way, how great is the light in this photo of an old American school bus courtesy of Daniel from Flickr.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

New winter range at Townmouse

I have long loved the childrenswear range at Townmouse.
I find the clothes are really beautiful classic cuts and what's more - longlasting. And on top of that, it is a Melbourne-based business.
Highlights of the Townmouse range include great skirts for girls and I also love her classic boys' shirts.
Anyway, head on over and have a look at the new winter range she's just put online this week:

Monday, 21 April 2008

What's with the teen attitude?

My son is only a toddler and yet over the last few weeks has been giving us a rather curious - and very amusing - display of what I would normally associate with hormonal teens.
No I'm not talking tantrums or screaming matches.
I'm talking about his newfound habit of racing into his room, declaring 'this is mine' and closing the door to shut everyone else out.
I have no idea where he saw this and at first I thought it was a one-off. When I carefully open his bedroom door again I find him grinning rather sheepishly, but sitting happily playing with his cars and trains.
Perhaps he's just a kid who's going to need lots of personal space!

Meeting tomorrow night to decide fate of Black Rock's historic site

For those interested in the looming battle over the future of the historic Black Rock Maternal and Child Health centre site, there is a Council meeting tomorrow night - which is open to the public.

Judging by the meeting's agenda, it is clear the Council plans to go ahead with a sell-off of this site (see below for Baysidemama's previous article on this topic).

For those keen to come along, the meeting is at 7pm tomorrow night (Tuesday April 22) at the Brighton Town Hall.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

My new column in the Herald Sun

For those Baysidemama readers who live in Melbourne and happen to read the Herald Sun, my new column launched today.
It's in the paper's Home magazine and is called Greenhouse - all about green living ideas for our homes.
The idea is to take a very domestic approach to green issues - all the things we can do in our own backyard. Today's piece was on fellow blogger Nichola Prested ( and the amazing things she does at home - from recycling to sewing to gardening.

Anyway, the column runs fortnightly and the next one will look at how we can turn our parched patches of grass we call nature strips into wildlife corridors and beautiful gardens.

Unfortunately Home magazine is not online yet, but I'm told that's not too far away. So you'll just have to buy the paper!

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Save Black Rock's historic site

Under the Kennett Government the Black Rock Maternal and Child Health Centre, next to Black Rock Kindergarten on Bluff Road, was closed down, a sign at the time that the area's population was ageing. Mums in the area had to go to Sandringham or Beaumaris.

Now, with a booming population of young families in the area, what does the Council decide it will do? No, not re-open it or use the site to further develop much needed early childhood services. No, it is seriously looking at selling off the site, because according to councillor Derek Wilson, the Council believes it is now "surplus to requirements.''

Not only that, but the Council is talking about selling off part of the neighboring kindergarten's land as well!!

Hardly a reflection of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's focus on early childhood services and a push to improve access to three-year old kindergarten.

This area already has a major problem with access to three-year-old kindergarten places, not to mention a need to expand its Maternal and Child Health Services.

So here's a radical idea - why doesn't the council RE-OPEN a Black Rock branch of the maternal health centre. Or, even more radical, expand the kindergarten to give more families access to places - after all study after study shows just how important pre-school is for children in terms of their long-term educational prospects.

Baysidemama contacted Cr Derek Wilson who says he is "keeping an open mind and I know a lot of people are really unhappy with the idea.''

Well the Council is going ahead this Monday night with a vote on whether to formally advertise the proposal and seek public comment.

He also says the Council prefers a hub model of childhood services based in central locations. That is however , bad luck for the every expanding number of families who live around the Black Rock and Beaumaris area who need these services nearby.

There are petitions circulating around the Black Rock shops and the kinder and Sandringham Maternal Health Centre - please sign them. And make your thoughts heard by voting in our poll (see column to the right).

We'll have more on this over the next few days, so stay tuned.

And remember Kevin '07 is saying yes to more early childhood services - not less!

Sunday, 6 April 2008

The best ever holiday house?

How's this for a holiday house. It's on Victoria's coastline with views across Bass Strait. I imagine it would be eternally interesting to watch the changes in the ocean from all those windows - and Bass Strait is certainly a patch of water with lots of excitement (read storms). I like the aqua too.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Beware the compost door

These signs caught my eye on recent ramblings......