Our Green Gurus

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Farmhouse childcare


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By guest blogger Michelle Syme, who sends her kids to a very special childcare facility, The Farmhouse.

I am a mother of three beautiful children. All my children attend the most amazing childcare facility; The Farmhouse in Mansfield, Victoria, as seen in the June/July issue of Green Lifestyle magazine.

It began as a dream of one very dedicated, hardworking, inspiring, ‘one of a kind’ local farming mother of four, Kim Stoney. She made her dream come true; that was to provide the local families with a much needed childcare facility, but not just any childcare facility, it was to be one that gave the wonders of ‘farm life’ to all the children and their families of the area. In the Spring of 2011, The Farmhouse opened their doors for the first time to the families of the district.

The Farmhouse provide Long Day Care, Occasional Care, 3yr & 4yr old Kinder programs and Outside School Hours Care, and School Holiday Programs. As a mother I couldn’t ask for anything more from the centre. I know when I drop my children off in the morning that they are going to have the most fulfilling day, being inspired by the wonderful environment that is The Farmhouse. There is nothing more satisfying then coming through the front doors and being greeted in the open courtyard, by the sounds of happy children, and the smiles of the wonderful staff.

There is something very unique about The Farmhouse. For a start, it is set on 12 ½ acres on the edge of town. The building resembling a 'farmhouse', is made up of a series of indoor and outdoor rooms. The indoor rooms all surround a large communal courtyard, and each one opens onto a couple of acre playground. The kinder room opens onto it’s own play area also. All areas have been well catered to suit all aged children from six months to primary school age. Indoor rooms are stocked with the most plentiful array of toys. Outside there is a trampoline, zip lines, small sand pits, large sand pits, a mud pit, swings, climbing frames, and the list goes on! There are farm animals, and not just one sheep or horse, but a herd of goats, alpacas, a sty of pigs, a hen house of chooks, vegetable gardens, space and more space! It makes me wish I was still a child!

The facility, service, and staff at The Farmhouse, have gone above and beyond the expectations one might have of such a facility. Where else can a child roam the paddocks, feel the mud between their toes, splash in the puddles, have a swing, fly a kite, skip a rope, hold a rabbit, see a baby goat being born, build a cubby, push a truck, make a batch of cookies, sew some seeds, do a painting, build a sandcastle, collect sticks, build a dam, skip through the autumn leaves, play hopscotch, draw on the concrete, feed the chooks, collect the eggs, grow a zucchini, pick the zucchini, make zucchini slice, have a picnic lunch and eat home-made zucchini slice, read a book, lounge in a bean bag, have a sleep, and be fed the most nutritious of meals - all in one day?

From it’s opening as purely a childcare facility in 2011, to operating two kinder programs by 2012, running free playgroups, continuing to upgrade its programs and practices, exceeding the National Quality Standards for Early Childhood Development, it will be exciting to see where The Farmhouse is in a few years time! As a parent of children who attend The Farmhouse, their journey is very much an important part of our family as it is with all the Farmhouse families.

I only hope I have been able successfully convey what makes The Farmhouse stand out from the crowd. While I find it difficult to list certain examples of the outstanding service of The Farmhouse, probably my best example is my 5yr old son, who has now just started primary school. When he was three, he was diagnosed with severe verbal dyspraxia. It is a condition which makes speech very difficult, and unclear, thus greatly affecting his confidence. My child Blair has gone from a very shy quiet boy, struggling to say a few words at the beginning of The Farmhouse, Bush Kinder program in 2012, to being a happy confident Prep student, who is talking in long sentences, almost clearly. He suffered badly from separation anxiety early on in kinder, but through their nurturing, and the ‘just let kids be’ attitude, he has grown up into a very independent and resilient 5yr old boy. From what was an ordeal to drop him of, went to being a ½ hour struggle of me trying to get him to leave kinder each time, he just loved it so much. From his fifth day of school he even started catching the bus!

I am very grateful that I have two more children that will continue on at The Farmhouse, so I can enjoy their wonderful journey, from catching butterflies to painting rainbows, to the ‘building of the Eco Cubby’ project (pictured right). With each and every stage captured, a beautifully bound handbook is given to the family at the end of the year, so they can share in their child’s journey too.

I think The Farmhouse really is a magical place where kids, can be, just that... kids.