Tag Archives: #school

Planning, Being Human and Revision

Good news! We have finally been granted Planning Permission. So all we need to do now is choose a builder (we’ve whittled it down to two – it’s difficult because they are both really nice, both have quoted around the same price and both are available when we want to get started) and get booked into their diary ready to start in the New Year. Exciting times ahead. Also ones full of dust and noise and horrendous disruption but…..it will all be worth it. I see this fast becoming my new mantra. (I don’t have a current mantra but it may catch on.)

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Last week A was asked to write an essay on What Makes Us Human by her PRE (Philosophy, Religion and Ethics for those, like me, who aren’t familiar) teacher. She asked me to read it over and give her feedback. I’m always a bit on edge when anyone asks me to do this. I am more likely to pick up on spelling errors (I’m not so hot on grammar) and typos so I’m better suited to proof-reading than critiquing. I was pretty impressed; I went a bit misty. She’s 12 years old. She never fails to surprise me – some of the points she made were pretty mature. I quote: “Being human means we mess up from time to time. How can you be human if you don’t make some mistakes? Nobody is perfect. ALL of us have flaws.” (I’m a bit disappointed that she doesn’t think I’m perfect but she’s wrong). She’s not great at taking constructive criticism (one of her flaws, but she get’s it from her mother – OK, I admit, I’m not perfect) so I had to be careful with my wording: she needed to work on some of her ideas a bit more but other than that I told her how mature a lot of her thoughts are and that she should be proud of her work, as she had clearly spent some time thinking about it. Oh, and that it made me a bit misty eyed. She liked that bit.

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Last night, K, T and I attended an info evening at school ahead of the mock GCSE exams starting in November. I thought the intention was to give us ideas on how to help our child through this process and the proper exams in the Summer. I thought we would be talked through strategies, given useful websites, suggested revision guides to buy, etc. We were to some extent but it was really just the core subject heads telling us how difficult the exams were going to be, how much pressure was going to be on the students and (in the case of one teacher) way too much detail on what the exam was going to cover. If I was finding it all a bit daunting, I can’t imagine what the students were thinking. The only positive note came from the head of Maths, and coincidentally T’s teacher, who said that, after hearing his colleagues speak, he felt quite relieved that he taught maths as it was pretty easy to revise for! Top man. He was upbeat and honest – if you want to revise, you need to do some maths. Just do some maths: pick the topics you struggle with and practice – twenty minutes a day. Great.

The funny thing for me was K. He hated school; he gets a bit antsy when we have to attend anything like this – he can’t sit still; he just can’t wait to get away. Last night I felt like I was sitting next to two 15 year old boys. T’s leg was jiggling away and he was looking at his feet for most of the talks. K was “busy” looking at the handout and whispering silly comments to me, when one of the speakers said anything daft. I nearly choked on my Polo when one of the teachers said that the students “need to get on the game”. I think he meant get their heads in the game but it came out wrong, I met another mum’s eye and we both nearly had to gag ourselves to stop from laughing. There’s always a highlight to these evenings.

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Stress, Social and Smooth

Stress. The kids went back to school nearly two weeks ago. Last Monday, T had a mini-meltdown. When I say meltdown, he was mildly stressed out. T doesn’t do meltdowns. He does calm and laid back so when he gets stressed it is unusual but not insurmountable. He doesn’t have to tell me when something is worrying him, it is obvious – he goes quiet and in turn becomes argumentative. And anyway, I just know. Before I had kids, I didn’t really believe the whole “mum spidey senses” thing but it is actually a Thing. Anyway, we had a chat after the argument and he admitted he was feeling a bit pressured by the whole GCSE thing and the pressure to do well. We had spoken at length during the summer about how much effort he has been giving so far and how it is not enough to just do the bare minimum. The failed RE GCSE seemed to spur him on, but have I created a monster? Have I made too much of it and now he is stressing out? Anyway, we talked a bit more and it transpired that the homework app wasn’t working (see, technology is NOT always a good thing – what was wrong with writing things down into a homework diary?) and he didn’t want to get behind with his homework………….because he wanted to watch the Apple Conference live the following evening. I don’t need to worry, he clearly still has his priorities in a different place.

Social. On Saturday night, A went to a friend’s birthday party. I am finding it increasingly hard to keep up with her social life and the way it is organised. There’s no invites any more. Parents don’t contact parents any more. Your child gets a text (or Whatsapp message, or Instagram DM, or Snapchat PM….etc) invite from their friend and they ask you if they can go. You say yes or no and if in the affirmative the details get passed to you as and when your child gets them. You don’t have to text a parent or call a parent to say that your child can attend and “hi” I’m J, A’s mum”. None of that. On this particular occasion I had not met the girl whose party it was, or her parents. I just knew she lived in “the big house on the corner of the road that goes down to the school”. She was being dropped off by another friend’s step-dad (again all organised child-to-child but at least we know the friend in question and have met the mum and step-dad) and we were picking them up later. I had an address and a time and the knowledge that they were going to watch a movie at the house and then dinner out at a local pizza place. That was all. Now, I don’t know how you feel reading this, but I felt a little lacking in my parental duties. However, knowing that I could see her whereabouts on my lovely app, I felt slightly less nervous than I could have done. And I knew two of the other girls she was going to be with who are both pretty sensible. She was being dropped off and picked up. Nothing to worry about. And there wasn’t, it was all fine, she had a lovely time; they were even left unsupervised in the restaurant while the birthday girl’s parents went to the chip shop (it’s classier than it sounds) and so she felt very grown up (which I suppose she is becoming). I went to pick her up at the designated time with K as chauffeur. The idea of the “big house on the corner” made me slightly nervous. Meeting a new person made me slightly nervous. Meeting a new person who lives in a VERY big house…you get the idea. I was nervous. Especially having had ZERO contact with her previously. She was perfectly nice, they had all “been fine” and so after collecting all their belongings (why do girls have so much stuff?) we left. I have no idea what the mum’s name was. We made small talk while they were getting their stuff but other than that she has 2 older children and one younger one and that her house is MASSIVE I know nothing more than that. It’s not a problem, it just feels weird. Up til now, I have pretty much known the parents of A’s friends, because I have seen them at school and probably chatted to them in the playground. I haven’t had to worry about this stuff with T, he still hangs around with the same mates he had in nursery. He has other friends, new friends from secondary school, but boys don’t really do the whole “tea” at each others houses thing. Or parties really. Well, T doesn’t anyway. It’s a whole new world and one I am finding hard to adjust to. We have a “new friend” coming for “tea” tomorrow and another one for a sleepover on Saturday night (I have met her before so it will be fine) – I might need therapy by Sunday.

So, that just leaves Smooth. I have not been sleeping brilliantly for a few weeks. When I say not brilliantly, I mean I can get to sleep no problem (in fact probably too easily, i.e. in front of the TV most evenings) but I have started waking up around 4am again. I don’t know why but it is annoying. What is even more annoying is that when I am lying there awake all I can think of is a bloody song that I can’t get out of my head. Not always the same song, but normally one that I don’t even like. I have realised that it is probably down to listening to Radio 2 all day.  It’s not their fault but they do play the same records over and over again – their playlist is pretty limited – and it can get a bit repetitive, and one of the songs will get stuck in my noddle and at 4am it decides to start blasting out. So, I have decided on a change of station. I started out this morning with Classic FM – no lyrics, no catchy tunes, was my thinking. After ten minutes I couldn’t take any more. I need lyrics. I need a catchy tune. I scrolled through the list and Smooth caught my eye – billed as “your relaxing music mix” I though it worth a go. Ooh I like it. So far not one repeat of a song. Nothing current, I grant you – I’m not in danger of being Down With The Kids – but nothing repetitive that could get stuck in my head, not so far anyway. Some old classics, actually only old classics; DJ’s whose voices are not too annoying, so far; a few adverts, could get annoying; but mainly just easy listening background noise with a few “oh I LOVE this one”s thrown in. Let’s see what happens tonight.

 

 

Pure Joy

When A went to her induction day at secondary school last July she met another girl, O, who was going to be in her new form. She hit it off with her at the time and although she didn’t get to see her over last year’s summer holidays she was in touch with her by text and the usual social media ways that (pre)teens use to keep in touch these days and they became firm friends when they started school in September. The friendship is brilliant. O is bubbly, fun, kind, lovely. A has made lots of other friends in the last year, she’s been invited to tea after school, parties, days out. One of the best things about her friendship with O is that they are not jealous girls. They have no qualms about each other having other friends. O doesn’t bat an eyelid if A is busy doing something with someone else and vice versa. Almost like the way that boys conduct their friendships, but with prettier hair and nicer clothes and a bit more squealing.

This summer they have seen a lot of each other, but they haven’t been in each others pockets the whole time. A has seen other friends and she has had days when she hasn’t wanted to do anything other than slob around in PJ’s and re-arrange her room for the hundredth time; bake cakes; we’ve been on holiday; we’ve had family time. She has finally seemed to find her place. She has slotted in and she is happy. She refers to other girls as “populars” but has no designs to be one; she is happy with her place in her world.

O has just arrived at our house to spend the day here. I beat A to the door and O announced “I’m here” as A came squealing down the stairs “is it O?!!!” They hugged and squealed a bit more. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the squealing, but they were so happy to see each other (it must be, at most, 36 hours since they were last in each others company) it made me smile and was a proper moment of pure joy.

I’m trying to throw off my old habit of expecting the worst. I’m not going to say “touch wood it will continue”. I’m not going to say any of my usual ‘fear the worst and if it doesn’t happen then that’s good’ mantras. I am going to enjoy seeing her happy with her friends and try and ensure that she can go to things she gets invited to – she has a good few years of making up to do on this front and if it means I have to taxi her all over the place then it’s a small price to pay to see her happy.

I know from my own experience that friendships change: people make new friends, fall out, move groups, move away, and she may well not be friends with O in six months, a year, two years time. But for now she is having a great time with a great friend and I love it.

 

 

 

One third of a lifetime

It’s a funny old thing hitting 45 (as I did a month ago). As I said to K at the time, it’s proper middle age now, on the basis that 90 would be more than long enough, thank you very much. We went to see my brother, P, and his family at the weekend and we were reminiscing about a U2 concert we went to in our twenties. He has recently been to see them on their latest tour and it got us wondering about the year we went. We speculated for a few minutes, trying to work out where we were both working at the time, who we went with, etc, until he resorted to good old Google and discovered it was 1993 – the Zooropa tour. We were only out by a year or so but we were both shocked by how long ago it was. 1993 doesn’t sound that long ago to my ears, but 24 years ago sounds like a lifetime. In fact, it is exactly half of my brothers lifetime, being as he turns 48 tomorrow.

Someone else with a birthday tomorrow is my lovely boy. I like that he was born on my brother’s birthday – they are very alike in many ways and not all good ones – although at the time I was just desperate for him to finally be born after a couple of excruciating days and nights in the hospital. That was 15 years ago. One-third of my lifetime. I have held and loved this boy for 15 years; for a third of my life. Sometimes I can’t imagine or remember time before him. Although, the first few hours/days/months/years were hard going my life has been so much fuller, happier and just downright better with him in it than the years that went before (they were still very happy years, by the way, just to make that clear). Even if I sometimes feel as if I have my teenage brother as my son – sounds weird, believe me it’s even weirder living it – with his unwavering ability to wind me up and irritate me in the EXACT same way that P used to; although he may be smelly and grumpy at times; and even thought he has horrible feet; he makes me very proud.

With the two peas-in-a-pods birthdays imminent, so comes the end of the school year. My “on this day” app yesterday gave me a memory from 4 years ago – at T’s junior school leavers assembly. It seems incredible that this time next year he can leave school. And that A has almost finished her first year at secondary. Sometimes, I would like time to slow down, just a little bit.

 

 

YOU, plans and popularity

I was recommended an app recently by a blogger I follow. I’ve been trying hard since the beginning of the year to think more positively (#SavouringJanuary was a great start) but I’ve struggled to find something to help me focus on it – I toyed with another #HundredHappyDays but I’ve been there and done that a couple of times now – so this app seemed interesting. It’s called YOU and each day the YOU team set a challenge and the idea is to upload an image or photo that you feel answers the challenge for you. You can see other people’s uploads in the ‘community’ and heart them or comment on them if you wish; if something inspires you, you can save it to your own pin board. You can be completely anonymous (bonus) and you don’t have to interact with other members if you prefer not to; you can even keep all or some of your uploads completely private if you choose to. The challenges are designed to make you think and some days they are easy and other days are not. For instance, one day the challenge was “two-minute hydration”. Easy – I drink gallons of water and so I took a snap of my water bottle – eh voila. Conversely, today is “Accept the present”. Hmm, how to capture that one? I’m still thinking.

I like the idea of thinking about something specific each day and being challenged to look at things differently. I mainly like that it is essentially a happy app. Everyone in the online community seems to be there for the same reason – to look at things in a better, more positive way. But, even better is that I don’t know these people from Adam. There is no judgement, no agenda, other than meeting the challenge for that day. No-one is trying to outdo anyone else. No-one gets offended if they don’t get any hearts on their post. And so far all I have seen are lovely, supportive, encouraging comments. It’s not about how many followers you have or who you are following. There are very few selfies (and definitely no pouting girls, thank god) and if there’s a pic of someone’s dinner, it’s because it’s relevant to the challenge that day. What there is lots of is beautiful views, stunning scenery, flowers, plants, sunsets, babies, funny quotes and generally people trying to be happier. The community is full of people from all over the world, of all ages and from all walks of life and we all interpret the challenge differently. I guess that’s why it’s called YOU.

We’ve finally got the plans for the proposed extension. We’ve had them for a week or so but had a couple of queries for the architect before approving them ready to be submitted to the planning department. We now have to pay a few hefty fees and hope, with everything crossed, that they are approved quickly and with no objections. Watch this space.

Since A started at secondary school there has been a word bandied around that I detest. No, not a swear word, not even the word ‘homework. It’s the word ‘Popular’. I bloody hate this word. If I hear another story involving “a popular” I will scream. I read an article over the weekend about the rise of “the popular” and how some kids are somehow under the illusion that being “popular” is far more credible than being kind, likeable, decent. The fact that popular (I’m not using speech marks any more as it’s giving it too much kudos) is often synonymous with unkind, controlling, egotistical, and downright unpleasant doesn’t seem to matter. Who decides who is popular? Do the kids just sense it about someone? Does the popular kid have to have a popular parent for them to be popular too? Why are some kids so desperate to be one of them? Surely, if a person has a nice group of friends that they get along with then that makes them popular – just popular with other nice people? I would much rather be liked by people I like than people who bitch, bully and intimidate others. Sadly, A has a couple of friends who are desperate for attention from the populars and will drop A and her other friends like hot potatoes if a better offer comes along. We’ve had many discussions about good friends, true friends, and transitional friends. We’ve talked about pedestals and how if you are that high up in the popular stakes you have a long way to fall. Far better to be on solid ground with solid, kind people around you. I think being a popular must be a pretty insecure, scary place to be.

 

 

 

Wondering if I have what it takes

I’ve never made any secret of the fact that when it comes to being a parent, I have been winging it. I had no clue about anything when T was a baby, I had no clue what to do when A was a tantrum–fuelled toddler, I had no clue what to do when T was choosing his options. I just winged it and I will continue to wing it and hope that it works out OK. It’s been a bit touch and go over the years but on the whole (touch wood and all that) it’s not been too bad a job and they seem pretty happy.

I had a letter today regarding sets for English for A for next school year. She is going into a Higher Ability set and over the holidays she needs to read some “challenging literature” (I notice they use words like literature and not books when they are in a Higher Ability set) and that she needs to return to school “ready to share her geographical, historical and spiritual experiences from over the summer”.

OK.

I’m so proud of my girl for doing so well and getting herself into this set. I am proud that she is seen as an able student and that she is hopefully going to respond well to the new challenges that this will bring.

But, as a parent, I am already wondering how I am going to be able to support her. I was OK at English at school. I mean, I love to read. I have read some classics, for pleasure, but don’t remember doing so well at dissecting/critiquing/interpreting texts when I was at school. I just liked to read.

“Share her geographical, historical and spiritual experiences”. What? We’re off to Dorset for a week. Will that do?

I don’t want to let her down. I’m not educated past A’Level and I don’t have an academic mindset. Will I be of any use whatsoever? Will she need me to be? Will I have what it takes to help her through this?

* While I am writing this the postman has been with a letter from school. I thought it might be a paper version of the email about the sets. No, it’s a letter telling me A has been nominated to take part in the Scholar programme for English and D&T. She will be encouraged to “develop a growth mindset”, to “maximise her potential”, to “develop her perseverance skills”. *

The older my kids get, the more difficult it feels to be just winging it. It’s not so easy to answer questions any more. I can’t dumb stuff down because the stuff they need answers to isn’t “which is your favourite Lego mini-figure” any more. Sometimes it’s about terrorism, it’s about politics and this s**t is real. It needs more than a quick off the cuff answer. I have to REALLY listen to them now and not just with half an ear. This may be the time that they tell me something REALLY important and I need to be listening. Leading by example seems more crucial now than ever before – this is about more than just good table manners and being polite to their friends’ parents. I can’t be seen to be a slacker, or a giver -upper (BUT I AM!) because how can I then ask them to try harder, to give a bit more? It’s getting to the stage where they know more than me. The answers I give are questioned, negotiated with and, often, ignored. Do they know that I don’t know?

I know that I worry more than I should. I know that I probably over think stuff. But I’ve only got one shot at this, and I don’t want to get it wrong.

 

 

 

 

 

Parents Evening, Parade, Pasta and Panic

It’s been a busy few weeks.

We had A’s first parents evening at her new school the week before last. You know, the really hot week with the hottest day since the year 1802 or something ridiculous (I know it wasn’t 1802 but I’m allowed to be silly, it’s my blog). Yes, well that was the day of parents evening. It’s not the most fun hour of anyone’s lives, I don’t imagine, but it was not only not fun – it was also VERY hot. OK so we’ve established the weather conditions, let’s get on to the actual content. Well, it was all very good indeed. As we have been told many times before by many teachers, A is well behaved, polite, conscientious and produces very neat work. She also appears to have a personality which is a relief. She does like to chat in class from time to time and she doesn’t always listen but other than that words like “superstar” and “pleasure” were bandied around quite a lot. The meeting that made me most proud was with her PE teacher, Miss W, who praised her to the point of nearly making us both cry (me and Miss W, not me and K) for being determined and pushing herself to do stuff that makes her scared. Bravo that girl. And bravo Miss W for making the very valid point that she does not need to compare herself to ANYONE else, only herself. I bloody love that woman and wish she had been MY PE teacher twenty years ago (ha ha!).

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Last weekend (not this one just gone, the one before) was Armed Forces day in our local town. T was taking part with his Police Cadet group, alongside Army Cadets from a local school, Marine cadets and Sea Cadets from the local area. They had a parade to begin with which made my eyes a bit misty. There’s something about a military band and people in uniform that makes me feel very emotional, so to see my son involved was pretty special. The rest of the day comprised of the cadets competing against each other in drills/uniform inspections; a climbing wall challenge; and, my favourite, a tug of war!

T’s group did very well in all events but particularly smashed the tug of war. They have a secret weapon in one of the lads who is built like the proverbial brick s**t house and was, needless to say, a very useful anchor man. The other lads and girl got really stuck in and thrashed the other teams, losing just one round out of nine.

The final part of the day was the announcement of the winners, and we were thrilled that T’s group won the overall competition. With only 7 of them attending it seemed like they were a bit thin on the ground but they didn’t let that stop them and, for the first time in the groups’ history, they came home with the trophy.

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Last week was enrichment week at the children’s school. T was not taking part as he went off to Wales for his geography field trip, but A was able to choose from a number of activities that school had arranged that they could do, supposedly to “enrich” their lives. Being as most of the trips were circa £20 plus a go, I politely suggested to A that she maybe chose one trip (pointing out that she had already been on the London Eye, she had been to the local zoo more times that she can remember, etc) and that she look at the activities going on in school for the other option. They have a year group sports day one day and geography field trip on another so she only had to decide on 2 days activities. She opted for the National Portrait Gallery and the in-school Masterchef day. She enjoyed the gallery trip but was slightly freaked out by the Run, Hide, Tell leaflet she was given in case of a terrorist attack, and slightly disconcerted by the boy in her group that insisted on holding her hand whilst on the underground! He was scared apparently. But the highlight of the week has to have been Masterchef – for her and us! – she made such amazing food. They were given a list of ingredients to take and a recipe sheet when they got to the food tech room, but then were left to their pwn devices to follow it and make their meals. We had dough balls with garlic and herb butter (much better than Pizza Express), followed by ricotta and pancetta ravioli, followed by white chocolate eclairs for dessert. It was all outstanding. (The pasta was so great it spurred me on to use the machine I bought on a whim a few months ago – A and I produced some pretty good tagliatelle together on Saturday evening). She was pipped at the post to the prize for her dessert but she was up against some year 8 and 9 students so she deserves to feel very proud.

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This morning I got to work quite early and got cracking on the weekend’s emails from the miserable buggers who buy our stuff our lovely customers. I was on the phone when a text pinged up from K asking me to call him urgently. As soon as I finished my call I rang him back as this is highly unusual! A had called him in a panic – she couldn’t get through to me (as I was on the phone) and she needed me to drop her PE kit off at school as she had forgotten it. Um. Er. Sorry, I am at work. For some reason, although I have been doing this job for just over 6 years, and I have been going into the office one the same days for the last 12 months, somehow everyone forgets and expects me to be able to drop everything and rescue them from their forgetfulness. I texted her to this effect, but slightly less aggressively, but basically saying tough, you will have to suffer the consequences. Literally, their punishments are called “consequences”, ranging from a C1 for minor misdemeanours (forgetting a book, or a pen, or their name) to a C5 – Saturday morning detention, and the same for homework misdemeanours but prefixed with a H. I sat waiting for the explosion of a text that I was expecting to get back at break time. Luckily, for both of us, the lovely Miss W said that she would “let her off” on this occasion as she had such an unblemished record (she hasn’t received a single C1 since the start of the school year – thank god she has that chatty personality as she could be on the way to being a bit of a swot) but on the understanding that she DID NOT TELL A SOUL. I bloody love Miss W, did I mention that earlier?

We spoke in length in the car on the way home – well, I spoke and she said “I Know!!!” a lot – about how I HAVE A JOB, and I GO TO THE OFFICE on certain days and if we could perhaps just go with a blanket rule of “if you forget your stuff, you take the punishment” we will all be a lot happier. Well, I will as it will mean that I don’t spend hours feeling like a complete and utter tool for refusing to drive a 10+ mile round trip to drop something off.

Remember the proud moments and the pasta. And breathe.