Owen and Finn's Story

Owen

Our Fraser experience started nearly five years ago, when one of Mardi’s colleagues mentioned a terrific daycare called Fraser School. At the time, our son, Owen, was about 8 months old and attending a nonprofit day care just a few blocks from our southwest Minneapolis home. We selected Owen’s original day care because of its infant program. Once acclimated to our role as new parents, we further reviewed the day care and decided to search for a stronger toddler and preschool program. So, we began our search for a new "school."

During our tour of Fraser School, we immediately felt the positive, nurturing environment that is a parent’s dream. The place radiated these core values. We knew that Owen would thrive in and benefit from this type of atmosphere, so we placed our name on the waiting list for full-time student enrollment. We waited for nearly two years to secure a spot. Meanwhile, we were blessed with our daughter, Finn.

Fraser’s use of the word "school" was immediately intriguing to us. We had shied away from using "day care" in referring to the overall experience ever since Owen was four months old. We believe that our children are receiving so much more than just "care during the day." They are taught meaningful social, academic, and life skills that are readying them for "big-boy" school and life in general. And nowhere else is that more apparent than at Fraser School.

Our Fraser School experience has enabled our children and us, as parents—and even their grandparents and aunts, and our close friends—to grow and learn in new ways. That was always our hope. The inclusive environment of Fraser is an enriching experience for all involved: the children, the staff, and the families and extended families. It’s the people, relationships, learning, growth, and progress, all wrapped up in a loving, supportive, nurturing way, that makes Fraser so amazing. On our first tour, we felt it, but back then we could never articulate it. Now, after two years at Fraser School, we can feel and see the benefits firsthand.

When Owen was 4 years old, he taught us our first song in sign language. It was at the dinner table when he shared "The More We Get Together" verbally and in sign, bringing tears to our eyes. Before long, our extended families, friends, and neighbors were singing and signing the song. One day, Finn taught us to sign the color yellow—in the midst of her learning to differentiate the colors themselves. Just a few months later, she could name and sign all of the primary colors. And we always enjoy the friendly "hello" hugs from nearly everyone with whom we cross paths, as well as the hugs goodbye—nearly every day—from our children’s Fraser School friends.

We appreciate the many times when we have leaned on Fraser School teachers, discussing concerns about the trials and tribulations of parenthood, philosophies on babies sleeping with parents, nursing, behavior management, potty-training, etc.

And, of course, we can’t forget our children’s friendships with friends with special needs. Owen sees all of his friends just as they are—other kids to play with. Because of Fraser’s inclusive environment, Owen is willing and able to play with kids of all abilities. He doesn’t see the special need; it’s invisible to him. Owen has a wonderful sense that all friends are part of life, even if they use special equipment to help their legs or use sign language to speak. So, if Owen wants to talk to a friend who cannot use his voice, then he talks to them, as best he can, in sign. If Owen wants to play with a friend who cannot use her own legs, then he pushes her or tells her a funny joke. If the class is doing puzzles, then he helps the children who might have difficulty concentrating.

Owen has many stories about his special friend, Chase, whom he loves dearly. In Owen’s eyes, Chase is another friend who talks using a different kind of voice: not better or worse, just different. They communicate together through sign and, of course, the plentiful hugs each day. And we know that the bond is strong for Chase as well. He was recently given the honor of naming his new baby brother. He chose "Owen."

The list goes on and on. We realize that the world is made up of differences. People look different, act differently, and think differently. We believe that the Fraser School experience has laid the foundation for our children to be open, respectful, and inclusive of differences. And, most importantly, to experience the goodness in what differences offer.

- Owen and Finn's mother