A Fabulous Kindergarten…Lost!

As we focus on quality in Early Childhood Education, improving educators practice and  outcomes for children around Australia, particularly in Queensland, where there is currently a huge push to open and extend Kindergarten services around the state; I must write about a fabulous Kindergarten service that my local community is about to lose.

Narangba Station Kindy has operated in our local area for 18 years.  Held in an old Uniting Church hall that has changed hands many times in the Kindy’s lifetime, Narangba Station Kindy is a truly unique service.  A stand-alone occasional care (currently 2 days per week, with plans to extend hours and services next year), non-for-profit service, Narangba Station Kindy is the type of centre that is all about the best care and education for children, families and the community.   The Kindy always holds 2 places open for emergency care and parents have the flexibility to place and pay for only 3 hours of care, if required.  The amazing flexibility of the centre ensures that families have the care that suits them.

The hall/church, left from a time when Narangba, North of Brisbane, was a country area, is not flash in anyway.  It does not have new sparkly paint or even a colour scheme; it doesn’t have state of the art play areas.  Many of the toys are a little old, second hand or donated.  But what it does have is fantastic, caring, highly qualified staff and a loving family atmosphere and these are the things that truly count.  It has a lovely, even though small, grassy outdoor area with a HUGE sandpit, (if you have visited Rose3 before, you know my dislike for AstroTurf/rubber matted outdoor areas!) and the children get down and dirty…don’t send them in precious clothes…the clothes just won’t make it (which I just love)!

I first met Leita Turnbull, the director of NSK, when I was on the hunt for my local playgroup with Daughter No. 1.  As the playgroup was not in its normal meeting place (the day I picked to start playgroup, it went on excursion!!!) I went to the Kindy thinking they might now where playgroup was, as I thought I had got the wrong hall.  Anyway, Leita struck me as an educator who knew her stuff.  We (being Leita, myself and the very chatty friendly 1 year old Olivia) had a wonderful long chat about everything children, community etc.  Little did I know that in a bit over a year later I would need this Kindy.

When daughter no.2, Eve was born, I didn’t know what I was doing wrong…she just didn’t sleep.  I had been spoiled by my first baby (Livi slept 12 hours at night and good sleeps in the day) and to be faced with the child that didn’t sleep was difficult to say the least.  Being an early childhood professional doesn’t help either, as I kept hearing that voice in my head saying…”you know how to do this!  Why can’t you do this” Mothers and teachers are often their own worst enemy!

With an extremely active 2 and a bit year old and a baby that wouldn’t sleep at night, I found myself finding life a little difficult to say the least.  Sleep deprivation is just not my thing!  I had always planned to be a stay at home mum for the early years of my children’s lives, but it was about this time I thought of the Little Narangba Kindy.  Of course, I was very particular about where Livi would go for this 1 day a week…the people and place had to be just right for us.

All I can say is that NSK saved my life.  One day a week I got to sleep when the baby slept in the day (as nights I was up every 2 – 3 hours for the first 2 years of her life) and recoup a little, knowing that Livi was with her Kindy Family – 15 children, from 6mths to 5 years, yes, family grouped all day!  I believe this is one of the greatest down sides to long day care…children being separated due to age.  After watching my children at home, I now have a greater understanding of how much children of different ages learn from each other.  I never thought about this when I worked in long-day care years ago…it was very much all about “safety and supervision”. I am so glad that the focus is now towards “Education and Environment” with all the new guidelines, regulations and frameworks.  Yes we do want to keep our children safe, but not so much so that it is to their detriment!

At different times I have sent both the girls to Kindy, when renovating and moving house, knowing that sisters were not separated due to age and the girls were together, guided by a highly dedicated, Degree Level Early Childhood Teacher  (and really, how many services have this for children under 2?) with many years of experience and her wonderful staff.

It saddens me greatly to know that we are going to lose this service, all due to a lease termination and no help at hand.  The director had been knocking on doors for years, but to no avail, trying to secure new premises, as she new this day would come.  May be the Kindy is too small, maybe no one has time, maybe it’s all to hard for the powers at be, but when you see an 18mth old crying to stay at Kindy, you know you have something special.  Leo, near 2 now, has been suffering separation anxiety for Kindy (he has stayed all day about 3 times at Kindy and we do have a little play at drop off) for some time now, with Eve, 4yrs, going one day a week and Olivia off at Prep. I did plan to send him 1 day a week next year, but that idea has gone out the window, as nowhere in our community is there such a service left.

I know I will need to find another service next year, but frankly my heart is not it yet.  When you have experienced such flexible, high quality care and education for your children, it is hard to get enthused about shopping for a replacement.

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