Fractious

I have just written out 23 Christmas cards for baby boy’s ‘tiny friends’ at pre-school, while my husband spent some of his evening ironing my daughter’s dress for her School play dress rehearsal tomorrow.

Our children help us to develop new skills and hone existing ones through the need to provide ‘support’. For me (and my husband for that matter) there is a limit to our supportive abilities – the will is there, the knowledge…..well…..it can be a little patchy.

Take fractions for example. I havent a clue, its all double dutch. So when my daughter brought it home for homework this week, I ran out of steam, I just couldnt do it. I found I was trying to ‘wing it’ with my daughter, hoping if I pointed her in the general direction od of what I thought might be the right way to work it out, she would figure the rest out herself. I googled it and no matter what page I stumbled upon it was as clear as mud. So I wrote a note to her teacher to say she needed more help but what I felt like saying was ‘Dear Teacher, sorry I didnt do the homework this week but Mum tried to help me but ended up feeding it to the dog in frustration’.

In fact the following day I was impressed to find out from my daughter that her teacher had spent break time helping her learn fractions.

I wonder if she would consider after school clubs for parents too?

This blog is for Unicef. Thanks for reading.

A typical school fundraiser?

It has been a series of busy evenings, so the two blogs in a day attempt never really happened… so £1 in the pot to Unicef.

We went on a school quiz night and I am ashamed to say that the teachers’ team won for the third year running. The questins were particularly tricky, as my friend said, ‘you either know them or you dont’ which is a pretty obvious observation to make about any question, but I could see her point – you either knew the currency for Vietnam or you didnt, capital of Pakistan? World’s largest lake with an animal in its name, the European cities crossed by the River Danube….after a while our ears started to close-up to the questions as drink and chatter with the person next to you took hold. I was pleased o know the answer to one question…..finishing off the line to a Lady Ga Ga hit – and I got lots of pats on the back for that, which felt good after a drought of looking dumb. My husband, on the other hand, was so exhausted from his first fill week in a new job that he agreed to have a few glasses of wine. This happened to quite a few others and by the end of the night there were quite a few slurred words and the odd expletive – at one point, a man I had never seen before in my life came up to me and said ‘lovely to see you again’ and kissed me on both cheeks before I even had a chance to protest so I just smiled politely.

Just your typical school fundraising event really..

This blog is for Unicef.

Thanks for reading.

Crush course in cycling

Have you seen the movie ‘What Women Want’?

Today was like a scene from that movie if my mind’s burblings were anything to go by. I have been on a four day course learning how to teach cycling safety known as ‘Bikeability’. It is very serious learning a syllabus that has been devised based on accident statistics and what evasive action cyclists need to take to stay safe on Britain’s roads. It has been a very enjoyable course, where I have learnt a lot and made new friends. But there has been a rather significant factor that has made learning difficult….

The cycling instructor is HOT! It isnt often you encounter someone that within 10 seconds sends your jaw to the floor in awe at their gorgeousness. It did happen when I met my husband but I have been looking at him for the past 20 years so its a bit samey.

So, in our classroom discussion this afternoon, when we had been learning all day and my mind started to wander, this is what was going on in my head while he was talking……

Ok, turn to page 68 setting up meeting with school what should instructor have with them on first visit……umm……he must work-out those arms are quite toned at the top…….stop it!  ……….right think, a mobile phone…..ooh he just ssshhed me, I havent seen him do that before….was it quite a playful ssh? Ooh, he has gone round the room and got everyone’s comments now he is back to me….hes nudging the phone towards me and now wants me to say it……no I will be a tease and say ‘i dont know’ ….he just lurched forward and laughed …. is he flirting? No of course he isnt and stop trying to attract his attention, you have two children and a husband for Christ’s sake what’s a matter with you. I wonder if its the no sugar diet taking effect, maybe I should give in and have a bit of chocolate. I bet his girlfriend is stick thin……..and blonde………with a small butt. Yes he mentioned his girlfroend this morning so hes not gay….my gaydar is a bit rusty and I thought his ear piercings were a bit George Michael. Oh snap out of it women, hes taken, you are old and taken move on, right when to use cycle lanes, lorry blind-spots. Oh whats that buMp under his t-shirt? aaah its a clavicle fracture….his is wOrse than mine….I bet he dd it doing something really cool like a bmx stunt or snow-boarding or bike trialling. Should I ask him? God no he might wonder why I am looking at his t-shirt and collarbone. Hes looking at me while he is talking , right try to look serious and completely uninterested in what life is like under his t-shirt…….

It is exhausting having a schoolgirl crush. On the feedback form I feel like requesting the instructor wears a mask for better concentration levels.

This blog is for Unicef.

Thanks for reading.

Women and children first? Not under this Government

Kirstie Allsopp does know what she is talking about when it comes to women’s choices. Her advice about having children in your twenties (assuming you are in the right relationship) makes sense when we live in a society where women assume the role of the primary carer of children.

I went to university, got an education, then had children. I could arguably earn more money than my husband but it is very difficult for him to work his job around childcare – so whose job has to adjust? Mine of course. I have had to decline interviews for good jobs because it is  not possible for me to balance childcare, commuting and full-time working hours.

But what job exists that makes use of an education but fits in around school hours and term-time? Not many. So I would go a step further than Kirstie and say what is the point of University for women who intend to have children when they are older? There is of course another option, where both of us work full-time hours and we enjoy our children at weekends but neither of us earn enough to make those sacrifices worthwhile.

But even though I am lucky enough to have two healthy children, why do I feel cheated out of a career? Is it really that important? Why is the onus on us all to achieve and achieve (if Gove’s new KS1and KS2 curriculum is anything to go by). Why do all children need to count to 100 by 5 years? Why do Year 6 children have to know long division using traditional methods? What is the Government really trying to achieve by all this? You dont have to be brain of Britain to get on in life and you dont have to be intelligent to be happy or to be a good global and community citizen.

I heard my daughters school headmaster use the word ‘cramming’ when describing preparation of Year 5 pupils for their end of KS2 tests – tell me Mr Gove are you pleased your legacy is a stressed out 10 year old, trying to learn an equation in order to meet objectives and improve pisa rankings?

I worry our 5 -11 year olds are being set-up to fail in this new system and the failure will be that they never got the chance to enjoy the process of learning for fear of missing attainment targets.

This blog is for Unicef.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

Too busy revising to learn

When my daughter returns back to school tomorrow she will have more tests. These follow the tests that preceded the summer holidays to measure her performance with ‘national expectation’. I hear now more benchmarks will be put in place to identify additional development milestones such as ‘must be able to count to 100 by the time they are 6. This is juxtaposed with headlines on the UK’s academic performance internationally and how low down we are in the Pisa rankings.

When my daughter finishes her SATs, she will then be tested within 2 weeks of secondary school to ‘stream her’. We want our children to be happy but we also want straight A’s – not everyone thrives on knowledge and tests so why is it so important?

If they are enjoying the journey of learning then knowledge will happen and in the most effective manner, it will be deep-seated not superficial. But Government seems hell-bent on strict parameters of enforced learning goals. With all these tests, when can they learn?

This is the blog for Unicef. Thanks for reading.

The worst type of charity?

I think private schools should only have charitable status if at least 50 per cent of their children receive significant subsidies because their parents do not have the income level to support boarding fees. These would be children who would benefit from a boarding school environment. There are a couple of schools in my area that offer this but nowhere near enough in my opinion. I mentioned to a mother that I was thinking of applying for one of the schools if my daughter proved academic enough, but she said ‘they have a lot of children from awful backgrounds though dont they’. I replied that a school where everyone can benefit is more desirable than an environment that perpetuates a bubble of privilege and upholds the segregation of social classes that continues to plague this country.

 If the vast majority of independent school parents were honest, they would admit that one of the prime reasons for sending their children to private school is so that their child mixes with the ‘right people’, it also helps them access more exclusive social circles. Most private schools have bursaries and scholarships that spare the offspring of aristocracy and upper middle ‘nice families’ of the state system. It is shocking that these schools have charitable status when they are, first and foremost, a business, taking facilities, teachers, modern curriculums and the best higher education opportunities away from the masses for a privileged minority that get a better access to the top jobs in this country…….and these institutions are ‘charities’.

I wonder if the MPs that upheld the decision on the charitable status have children in state schools?

I think not.

This blog is for Unicef. Thanks for reading.

Merry Mums enjoy Merry Wives

Apologies for my absence yesterday, another £1 in the pot to Unicef, but I was busy with a family friend and fellow mum, enjoying Shakespeare’s ‘The Merry Wives’, in the beautiful idyllic grounds of a boarding school in the heart of the British countryside. It was oozing with national charm, right down to the 1950’s setting, the cameo appearance of a vintage car and good old-fashioned fun-poking at the aristocracy, the Welsh and the French (in no particular order).

The lead role of the overweight, boozy and letchy Sir John Falstaff was played by Northern charmer, Ste Johnson, whose wicked wit, genuine 44inch waist and willingness to poke fun at the audience (and judge them on their wine from Lidl) as well as his salacious appetite for their crisps, was unlike anything I had ever seen. Knowing our hubbys were at home dealing with bath-time and bed-time while we sat in St George’s flag themed deck-chairs, eating picnic food rom M&S and drinking mojitos while guffawing at one elegant and poetic innuendo after another was different and bliss all rolled into one.

I did not know the plot of The Merry Wives before last night’s performance but the brilliant acting made it so easy to follow, freeing the audience to fully appreciate the prose and poetry that makes Shakespeare so entertaining and so admired.

In fact understanding the plot is key to really enjoying Shakespeare, thats why a book that has converted all of the key Shakespeare plays into cartoons for primary school children is genius. I bought a copy for my daughter and it puts Shakespeare’s lines next to illustrations as well as explaining, in modern-day English, the complexities of the story and the many characters and how they relate. I figure if she reads some of these in bedtime stories, by the time she has reached secondary school a basic understanding of  some of the key plays will have sunk into her psyche.

I have started to read some classic texts as part of my bedtime reading too. I have just finished ‘The Age of innocence’ by Edith Wharton and was blown away by her descriptions of characters and emotions, it is this ability to use words that effortlessly describe a feeling or an emotion, that makes enables a nook to give pleasure regardless of the century it was written in.

This blog is for Unicef.

Thanks for reading.

 

when I grow up

There are not many of us pursuing the dream careers we fantasised about as children. As a parent, i am all too aware of not letting one misguided remark influence the entire future aspirations of my children. This can actually happen, hence the burden of responsibility that is parenthood. How many autobiographies have you read where the author followed what their parents ideally wanted of them and were happy about it? The same goes for teachers, my university lecturer scoffed at my ambition. Sir Jackie Stewart’s teachers didnt rate him but look what he achieved.

So when my daughter starts talking about what she would like to do ‘when i grow up’, i listened without passing judgement but telling her what it would take to achieve particular career choices. For example she said she wanted to be an actress and that she would need to go to theatre school from age 11 or 12. I said we couldnt afford to pay for a special school so the best way to attempt to get in was via a scholarship. The best way to get a scholarship is to do LAMDA exams. “But that would be torture”, she said. I replied that if she felt that way it might be best to think of another route to acting. “But i really want to go to drama school”, i said she shouldnt put pressure on herself too early on in life as it gets tougher as you get older so enjoy being young when you can. But i soon realised you dont know how good you had it when you were young until you are grown-up so that was particularly useless advice.

She then rattled off a list of things she would like to do including: actress, racing driver, writer, midwife or maid for a rich person. She then asked which of the two ideas i liked best. I refused to answer as i said it was ‘entirely your choice’. She then begged me to answer her but i refused and said ‘the best advice i can give is do what you enjoy and the job will come and find you’.

I just hope she doesnt like watching tv and eating crisps to the extent that she waits for the job to arrive.

In the Tarantino film Jackie Brown, De Niro says to Bridget Fonda ‘you need ambition’ (or something along those lines) and she replies her ambition was to ‘get high and watch tv’.

I am blogging for Unicef. Thanks for reading.

 

A very British School Summer Fair

Things that dont normally happen at your average school summer fair:

1) you win the bid for a pair of Alexander Mcqueen Puma sneakers supposedly once worn by Miley Cyrus (they must have been worn for namoseconds as they were not remotely cheesy). My daughter is thrilled to have won them (she will have to wait a couple of years for her feet to grow) and I was semi-humiliated as it was announced how much I bid (after a glass of Pimms and mild sunstroke). I laughed it off saying it was an early Christmas present and I figured at least the money (£70) is going to the school. My daughter seemed more than happy to have them as her Christmas present, although I wonder how she will still feel about that come December. Before i bid for them I was initially disappointed as I selfishly thought i could have them for myself, but when i discovered they were size ‘4’ it then dawned on me that I have a daughter who is showing the beginnings of shoe worship like her mother. In fact she has an effortless style that i never seemed to be able to carry off when I was eight, probably because my dad was too busy enlarging my girth with frequent trips to McDonalds.

Things that normally happen:

1) Gossip and the discovery that any news from you has already raced its way through the grapevine so that you have nothing to add (except put a few facts straight)

2) Getting a bit too competitive in the Mums race – I tried not to care that i didnt get a medal for coming third (i will wear trainers next time)

3) drinking a bit too much pimms

4) Moaning about senior management decisions, in this instance changing the school logo to…..wait for it……a child’s drawing of a tree (how original) to add insult to injury it looks more like a propeller with green blades

5) Just when you successfully had a clear out of toys, books and bears for the fair donations pile, you end up walking out of there with an armful of more toys, books and bears

6) The home movie that you will watch over and over again when your son is older of his first ever race (he was too comfortable to stand up for the get set, ready, go part and came in second to last – but was one of the cutest on the track)

7) Two children with way too much sugar in their bloodstream

8) The need to lie down in a darkened room, plus lots of paracetamol afterwards

But its all good in the mummy hood.

This blog is for Unicef. Thanks for reading.

Truth or lie

My daughter came ‘boincing’ (baby boy’s term) out of school today full of talk about her new teacher for next year. Apparently she asked all the children to say 3 facts about themselves, except 2 are true and one is a lie. God knows what the teacher thought about us when my daughter replied, ‘i can sleep on a boat that we sail on, i once had 7 pets and i watched the world cup matches’. I knew the world cup was a lie but i wasnt entirely sure about the 7 pets either until she explained it was when my older dog had her puppies, which we kept until they were old enough to be sold, plus the fish. What was a bot morbid was that she counted the boy puppies, who later died sadly (it was either hypothermia or fading puppy syndrome). Ever since i have been kicking myself that i didnt have a heat lamp or hot water bottle in the whelping box when they were first born. I was then obsessed with the girl puppies’ body temperature as i didnt want o lose any more to something so trivial. The boy puppies are buried at the bottom of our garden. It was a disastrous situation. She gave birth in the middle of the night, i had not checked her before i went to bed because i had been distracted by an argument i had with hubby. He then woke me at 6am when he got up for work to say she had already had a puppy and it was dead. I was devastated. I had carefully bought all the books and equipment i needed and had helped my mum with her whelping bitches throughout my childhood but to let d day slip because i got distracted was unforgivable. She had given birth to the biggest puppy of the litter first with no help. I tried to resuscitate but rogpr mortis had already set in suggesting he had been dead a while.  I remember looking at his perfectly formed body and the entire process of gestation and thinking he had fallen at the final hurdle because of me and my negligence. I was there for the other 5 puppies, not that it made much difference because the two boys started ok and then slipped away. The girl puppy that we ended  up keeping i had to resuscitate but thankfully she pulled through – and thats dogs. I cant imagine the responsibility that rests on midwife’s shoulders.

I wanted to have another litter to put the bad experience behind me but figured that was selfish so will just put it down to a bad mistake. The worst things that happen in life are down to mistakes caused by a momentary lapse in concentration. The lucky ones are those who dont have too many of those experiences between birth and old age.

So back to the teacher’s question, it is a good one. It pears you can tell quite a lot from a person through truth and lies, but how you interpret it is a different matter entirely, she probably thinks my daughter was born  into a wealthy family with all the pets and a boat.

This blog is for Unicef. Thanks for reading.