Am I going to Em’s house today?
There is rarely a morning that goes by that my three-year-old son Leo doesn’t eagerly ask, “Am I going to Em’s house today?” There are often tears on the days he is told no and I can’t blame really him.
Leo has been attending Emily Thompson’s Magnolia Tree Family Day Care for the past 18 months, and my wife and I can’t believe how lucky we are to have found her.
So it came as no surprise to us when we heard Emily had been named the regional winner of the Family Day Australia 2019 Excellence in Family Day Care Awards.
I see first-hand the work Emily puts in looking after Leo and the happy little tribe of kids in her care. Em makes each day full of adventure; whether it’s being superheroes or pirates, playing in the garden, excursions to the post office or park, cooking or running make-believe ice cream stores.
But more than just playing, Em structures each day around themes, taking cues from the kids’ interests and infusing their play with science, geography, literacy and always a focus on Indigenous perspectives.
One day Leo came home with a lasagne they had made using vegetables picked in Em’s Garden, because they were learning about Italy. Last week it was ‘Letter Q Week’ where they learnt about queens, quokkas, did a quiz and cooked quiche! (She somehow gets him to eat things he just won’t touch at home)
Early childhood education seems such a natural fit for Emily, but it has been a relatively new career change. Before moving to Orange from Wollongong, she was actually a nurse and then forensic pathologist working in and histopathology lab.
Emily and her husband Michael, an industrial electrician, moved here ten years ago to take up a mining job.
It was only when her daughter Charlotte was diagnosed with autism five years ago that she turned to teaching.
“When Charlotte was in kindergarten her beautiful teacher called us in and said we need to talk about Charlotte… and that was the first time I'd ever heard about autism and we had no idea what to do,” said Emily.
“I eventually said to Michael that I think I want to go do a teaching degree, not necessarily to teach but to understand Charlotte and to work out what we can do from our end to help her.
“I went and enrolled in a teaching degree and once I started doing it I realised that teaching may or may not be for me but I loved the early childhood education part of it and that's how I ended up in family day care.”
Emily is currently studying a Diploma of Early Childhood around the three days a week she operates her family day care.
The job’s hours suit Emily, whose younger daughter Matilda is also part of the group and enjoys the extra company at home.
“I love it, every single day I'm happy and excited for work,” said Em, who was overwhelmed to have been nominated for this award, let alone names regional winner.
“Being nominated was beautiful! A couple of the parents chose to share their nomination form with me and it was just absolutely beautiful! I sat there and cried while I read them!”
Emily is among 68 regional winners across Australia. Four finalists will be chosen for a shot at being named national winner at an awards ceremony in Hobart later this year.
“It is an unlikely thing to happen, but I'm so happy with what I've achieved so far,” said Emily.