Take that, snow! We're going to school..

In case you hadn't noticed, it's snowing in Ireland. It didn't for about ten years, and now it's snowing in November! I see snow as a challenge...after all I live just a few hundred yards from a gritted main road, I do not live down a snow-covered country lane, so I feel under an obligation to get my kids to school, and in the confusion on the first snowy day I drove them all to school, a two-hour round trip. Normally I just wave them off from the front door: Angel walks to school, and buses are provided for the other two as they have special needs.

Why don't I just let the children have a play day? Well Angel has her final school exams this year and is keen to go in unless it is actualy closed - today it is, so she is celebrating with a lie-in. What about the other two? Realistically Smiley is not going to be taking any exams, and CD is only in primary school. But both of them get so much out of school, entertainment, education and expertise that I cannot give them at home. I'm now thinking that the right school and the right teachers are critical to how my kids turn out. And I fought so hard to find the right school for two of my kids, that I feel I have to get them there....

When Angel was born I did what most Brits do and dragged her in her pram round all the local primary schools to get her name on the waiting list. There were no 'league' tables or 'whole school evaluations' in the early '90s, you found out about schools from other parents, and made totally biased decisions based on whether the pupils look well behaved and nicely turned out.

In the end, it was events that decided where she went to school: Smiley's birth and complex care needs meant that Angel went to the school across the road.  It was pretty good and she was sad to leave, and made a great bunch of friends who all moved smoothly together as a group to secondary school.  Again I looked at lots of secondary schools and decided on this one because:

1.  It has good academic results, is inclusive and 'free'  (in Ireland free means you still pay for books, uniforms, photocopying and other charges, a 'voluntary' contribution, school trips and a few things I've probably forgotten).

2. There are no boys.

3. The girls are not allowed out at lunch time (to meet boys for example...).

4.  It's run by nuns, well kind of.  So it's fairly strict.

She complains of course, but how many 18 year olds really love school?  She should do well in her exams - including Maths - and I can't really ask for more than that :)

Smiley off to school in the snow
It all got a bit more complicated when I started looking for a school for Smiley.  At first she attended a pre-school for kids with physical disabilities, but it was clear from the start that she was behind the other children - though much more expressive and curious than some.  After two years it was suggested that we find a more appropriate school for her and about the same time we found out (yes, I worded that very carefully) that she had been assessed as severely handicapped.  I was not at all happy with the service that she was referred to as I mentioned here, but I was told over and over that there was no alternative.  I rang other schools that catered for children like Smiley, but she was outside their catchment area, and they already had long waiting lists.  I pestered the Department of Education.  I was told there were no schools in my area.  I was told that there were no 'schools' without teachers.  We thought about moving house ... again.  We went to court, which I may write about, very carefully, one day.  In those pre-Facebook days I was endlessly on the phone, and finally someone mentioned a school attached to a home for children with disabilities that was just starting to accept day pupils.  When I rang, the principal said he would love to see Smiley.  I was very nervous on that first visit, I so wanted it to be perfect.  And while perfection is probably impossible, this school is everything I would have hoped for, except it's ten miles away!  The wonderful teachers ensure that the children are educated at a level appropriate to them, and they have access to all the equipment and therapy that they need. It's true that Smiley hasn't made the progress that I would have liked, but at least she had the best opportunities that I could give her.

I've written about the big decision to move CD from mainstream school to an outreach unit here, and once again, I think it was the best thing I ever did. He is a different child and I feel so hopeful about his future now. So snow or no snow, he's going to school.


  1. It is great that each of your children has an educational setting that meets their needs (had a good giggle at your numerous mentions of boys with Angel!!). I have read about both Smiley and CD and their schooling in previous posts and yes, thanks to you, they both seem to be getting exactly what they need:) Jen

  2. Seems to me that you've got it all under control and that you've made a sound decision for the children, especially CD. Sending them to school in the snow is what I would do if I could here but the bus doesn't run so they close them.

  3. @jencull - clearly I am getting too repetitive, note taken!

    @Lora - schools are closing now here, Smiley's bus was turned back and her school closed earlier, so I have two at home now.

    BTW Angel just told me that she loves her Maths teacher who walked an hour each day to get to school on Monday and Tuesday this week. That's dedication for you :)

  4. As a teacher I always loved teaching kids having parents like you, your determination to give them the best shines through.

    Good girl yourself

    Much love from your auntie (ps it's snowing here too)

  5. You've worked tirelessly for your kids, so it's so great to see it paying off. Wish you were running the country XXX

  6. Most of the people I know who have kids have them at home today because the schools are closed - hope it doesn't snow for too long or too often or else they will never go in!!

    Missing all the snow action here although there is a sprinkling on the mountains in the distance.

    Glad that you have all their education needs covered - know it was a battle for you but must be worth it now that they are all doing so well.

    Stay safe and warm.xxx

  7. @auntiegwen - I have huge admiration for good teachers :) Hope the snow is pretty where you are and not a nuisance x

    @Jean - I'm too tactless to run almost anything, my family forgive me luckily xxx

    @Helen - I'm a bit behind on your news, but sorry about the rain, hope you are all keeping dry and warm in Bessie xxx

    @all readers, again very sorry if I have repeated myself here, some lovely people said a few nice things about my blog and now I have writer's block, typical!

  8. Getting the right school makes all the difference:)