Wednesday, 14 December 2011

I've been MIA... Life got in the way! But Merry Christmas All from all of us!

‘Twas the night before Christmas - Our version for this year

‘Twas the night before Christmas, the children were high
Waiting for Santa way up in the sky.
Fueled by excitement, sugar and hope
They bounced and they shouted, I barely could cope

The cookies were ready, there had to be four-
Poor Santa would likely not fit through the door!
His reindeer had carrots, all neatly set out
The brandy glass empty - we must have run out!

The stockings were thrown at the fireplace with flair
One child informed me he just didn’t care,
Because “Santa will sort them, not leave them about,
He’ll not make a mess so there’s no need to shout.”

Then long conversations ensued with the cat
Minding his business sitting quiet on the mat
Concern running deep on what he might share,
With the wonderful gift-giver soon to be there.

For animals speak on this magical night
And inform Father Christmas whom he should see right
You might convince Mum and you may convince Dad
But the cat is impartial on who has been bad.

Satisfied Timmy would not spill the beans
My children now hoped by whatever means
To stay up much longer than most of them should
But a visit from Santa was a prospect too good.

They hoped to snap Santa on CCTV,
Watching him hover above our chimney
For Daddy had promised them no one is missed
Not even Santa, checking his list.

Eventually all of them began to grow tired,
With only one hyper, distractible child.
But all went to bed without much of a fight
As sleeping would bring on the morning delight.

I thought as a kissed them, each sleepy head
How lucky I was to have four tucked up in bed.
I counted my blessings and counted them twice
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night!

Monday, 5 September 2011

Climbing Everest #1

Today it all really got to me.

Several times this summer we have tried to see friends and be sociable. Not just for the children - for me too, this parenting lark can (as a close friend astutely pointed out last week) be a lonely business. Particularly when you have a child with additional needs. Or two. Or three. But after today I think I will be focussing on the positives and staying home.

It's not that I'm "fed up" with all the issues, (well, I am a bit!!) or that I'm having a self-pitying moment, it goes deeper to be honest. It's hard to describe... which is precisely the problem. HOW do you describe to others the difficulties daily life presents, how normal activities are nigh on impossible some days - so challenging you just want to curl up and not try? That might sound defeatist, but it's this growing chasm of experience which is having such a profound impact, in many ways I feel so far distanced from the majority of parents on a daily basis.

Take yesterday.

A lovely picnic with school friends of K and A before term starts. To start with it seemed straightforward.

  • It was a weekend, so H (who is currently in non-stop meltdown as the new term approaches) could be left with Richard at home.
  • Since it was a picnic the twins should not feel "different" with their food as everyone would be taking their own sandwiches, right?

But kids inevitably share so we had to read sweet labels and draw at least some attention to ourselves. (quietly!) Then the new Mum in the class wanted to know why my two couldn't eat certain things... and didn't understand why intolerances didn't mean small amounts were OK and how their "gut allergies" differ from immediate ones. I mean, why would she? It's not like I'm an expert on anything my kids don't have, if it's outside your world experience you can be forgiven for not knowing.

But that just makes the gap wider. And deeper.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

The Brown Bottom

I have to say the title of this post made me chuckle given the association with toilet humour and the gastro conditions suffered by some in this house! But it is a serious post, on a subject frustratingly pertinent given the current volatility on the stock markets and constant discussion on "Debt" and the "Cuts". I am constantly challenged by friends, Blog readers and online acquaintances how I could continue to lay the blame for the recession firmly at the feet of Labour. The banks clearly had their role and were perhaps the short term catalysts but the (then) government's foreknowledge of what was coming and their collective political fear of acting on such information is enough for me. When coupled with the traditional "tax and spend" of Labour past and present you have a toxic combination of a government hurtling into the abyss with their hands over their ears and their eyes tightly shut. It goes with my comment below, that benefits, payouts and support without a mutual contract of responsibility create the very social unrest Social Security attempts to avoid. So this information arrived today in my inbox and I decided to post it!

With the gold price hitting new nominal highs it seems a good moment to remind ourselves about the consequences of Gordon Brown’s sale of much of the country’s gold reserves.

In 1999-2002 he sold 395 metric tons of gold at an average price of $275 an ounce. Today the price stands at $1749 an ounce. No wonder Brown’s sale on the gold price charts is known as "The Brown Bottom". He also gave notice to the market that the sales would take place, thereby giving market participants every opportunity to drive the price down in advance.

Here are the approximate calculations of the value (in millions)which would have accrued if we still held the gold today:

Sold then
Value now

99 - 02
Quantity sold tons
Average price $/oz
Sum realised US$m
Exchange rate avge.
Sum realised £m

The 2012 Olympics are estimated to cost some £9billion, so we could have paid for the Olympics with the amount of value he surrendered and had £2billion left in change. As of December 2010 estimated gold reserves were as follows:-
8,133 tons
3,401 tons
2,452 tons
2,435 tons
315 tons

The impact of the man’s stupidity is breathtaking.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

My thoughts on the Rioters.. for anyone interested!!

Like everyone else, we are watching the television aghast  at the scenes spreading across the country.  With Twitter promoting the "Hug a Hoodie" tag and others referring to these youths as "looting scum" and a tiny minority, feelings are running high and given the apparent lack of police protection my biggest concern was the call for vigilante type protection of private property, and a call for communities to "go out and stand up to these scum".

What sickened me most was the youths helping up an injured man whilst simultaneously emptying his rucksack. These people clearly have lost all sense of respect for others, all sense of respect and identity for themselves. But what they also are is a product of our society. Everything from immigration policy, taxation, cheap imports, easy credit, education policy, unemployment, housing - they have all contributed to the scenes we are currently witnessing. Minority or not, these people are currently a force to be reckoned with on our streets and we are struggling to contain this criminal behaviour. That is, after all, what it is - as the government are keen to stress. Any "message" they want to send the government or country was drowned with the indiscriminate aggression, petrol bomb and brick attacks on police and the complete ignorance of those wishing to say something who chose to speak through violence against those they should identify with, share a community spirit with and feel some sense of respect for.

But despite the message being drowned, we should start listening. Paying attention to those the majority of us never notice or acknowledge. I do NOT condone the violence, I do certainly think this rioting needs crushing fast and by whatever appropriate means required but to ignore the underlying causes would be a terrible mistake. I'm not talking about recent "cuts" which is a convenient scapegoat, this goes much much deeper.

I believe there is little sense of community in most towns and cities now. Families are so dispersed, everyone working long hours... ridiculous levels of political correctness in a society walking a tightrope in an attempt to enforce law and order in fear of the media's savage condemnation. And whilst national pride can be a terrible thing it is also necessary to a degree - or community pride. "Rights" (which I am SICK of hearing about) should be tempered with a sense of responsibility and the expectation that the government should always pick up the pieces. We have allowed social, racial and political hatred to blossom for fear of condemnation and positive discrimination thrives.

Let's get this straight, I do support the cuts, (most of them) and some of the attempts to get the current deficit down. We cannot afford to go the way of Greece and Spain, and the recent market volatility demonstrates the danger of downgrading of our credit-rating by any threat of defaulting on that debt. It is essential to see the "bigger picture" for the benefit of the many. But it is a heartless person who fails to acknowledge the individual struggling to be part of that "bigger picture". Yes "Big Society" *should* be more supportive, it is a commendable ideal - but at present that is honestly all it is. And without some serious grass roots change that is all it is likely to be. Short-termist opportunism on the part of far too many politicians so far removed from the world of those on the streets this week has placed a deep divide in society.

You might say there has always been a divide but it has changed in nature. The less well-off were always proud to be British, usually active in their communities and shared a sense of responsibility for each other and everyone else.
This seems to have been replaced in the hearts of many by a crazy, naiive hatred of those who have by some who don't which has largely happened due to the "ghettoisation" of these sink estates. They are so blinkered... someone who is working hard and making good (often from very deprived backgrounds too) is seen as a target for jealousy, even if it were someone from the same locality. Regulated wealth creation can only benefit everyone to a degree, but what is a long term "bigger picture" to someone so disenfranchised from the rest of society.

Instead of handing out benefits to the young, we should have them coupled with community tasks, payment for helping out. No - change the entire system so those unable to get a job independently can receive a minimum wage for a community-based task. It's the thin end of the wedge - but it's a start. Put some pride back in our communities, tag "responsibility" onto the "rights" people keep talking about. These riots should be dealt with swiftly and firmly. There is never an excuse for that kind of behaviour.... but maybe there is a reason and that reason needs someone to take notice, before what is left of our society disintegrates even further.

Friday, 15 July 2011

The fight continues...

This won't be a long post. I'm too tired, too cross, too frustrated.

You will have possibly have read my last post, "What 30th July *really* means to my son's teachers" . I had several comments, some of which I published. Some were deeply hurtful,  from those uncomfortable with the obvious challenge to a minority of their profession, or ideals and dogma they held dear. That's fine, they're my "Musings", my comments, and I quite like writing hard hitting pieces and being controversial. If I don't make you think, I've failed.

But this post is more an opportunity to vent my spleen, on my own behalf, my son's behalf and on behalf of so many others I know who are struggling in a similar situation.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

What does Thursday 30th June *really* mean to some of my son's teachers?

It is unlikely to have escaped the notice of anyone reading this in the UK that this Thursday, 30th June, there is a mass-walk out over pensions by teaching unions, the national discussion of which smacks of the "old days" of left v right as words like "Armageddon" and "bringing the country to its knees" are bandied about. I have never supported striking action, but then I have never been in a position when I felt desperate enough. Neither would I criticise or condemn a profession I am so out of touch with as a member, although I hold views as a parent on the education system. Certainly in the current economic and educational climate I am surprised the Government is further challenging teachers, who have by and large coped amazingly with the legislation of the past two decades. Also concerning is the potential far-reaching implications for future recruitment into the profession when morale is already low.

It is a comment on the vocational nature of teaching that after over a decade out of the job I still feel very much one of the profession. For me, teaching was my dream, the only job for me despite my father's very best efforts to tempt me with something more financially appealing. Just as my daughter does now, I would line the teddies and dolls up and play "school" writing out endless tasks for them, drawing elaborate pictures and plans and creating pretend schemes of work. Even around the age of five I was aware that a certain amount of planning had to be involved and Sindy and Strawberry Shortcake needed different support and imput if they were to realise their potential and keep pace with the bears.... so you can imagine my shock to learn that the parallel classes at my son's school do almost no cross-year planning, there are no agreed schemes of work and one child's experience in a single class is not guaranteed - or even likely -to be similar to his or her peers in parallel classes. This was straight from the new head, sheepishly admitting this was a point she wished to tackle - almost apologetically claiming she needed to "convince" the teachers to work together. Similarly, her staff were "legally entitled" to an hour's lunch break and she could not force them to offer clubs. Whatever happened to contractual responsibilities? Lunch supervision is no longer the responsibility of teachers, who also get planning time within the usual timetable. one lunch break a week running a club? Hardly a sacrifice and something I know many friends, former colleagues and teachers elsewhere offer without a second thought.

H's school has a reputation for apathy - but I believed this to be parental apathy. The turnout to the Year 4 "Meet the new Headteacher" meeting was indicative of that - with approximately ninety families in Year four, our school managed a turnout of seven parents. Seven. And two of us are former teachers. Even if two thirds of parents work..... that's just pathetic. Other school events are similar, and there are outstanding parent-governor vacancies from a year ago. This apathy it seems is endemic throughout the school however, and is as much caused by as a product of the lack of professionalism from the school. I commented that it has taken nearly a year for us to START feeling part of the school, since there is no "New parent Handbook", no newsletter, no parent/class reps, nothing. No way to contact parents of new friends to facilitate your child's settling into a new school and no information on how the school runs. I have no knowledge of the topics he is learning (you can be sure he won't tell me) and no concern with getting anyone to achieve anything over the average. Small wonder Ofsted down-rated them. If it were not for the sterling special needs support it would have little to offer us and many other families.

It IS unprofessional. Teaching is not a turning up to class five minutes before school starts, delivering mediocre lessons, hiding out in the staff room at break times in case you might get asked to do something and scuttling home the minute the children have left the premises. That is NOT what teaching is about for the vast majority of dedicated professional teachers in this country.

Is it an illusion that the majority of teachers teach because they want to, because something inside of them yearns to share in the educational journey of children who hopefully want to learn? I actually think it is the case for the vast majority of dedicated teachers in our schools. The long holidays enjoyed by teachers are always the butt of jokes but there was a trade off. As with any vocation, during term time you gave your heart and soul to the job. No one relished the extra lunchtime break duty having just sat down with a still-warm cup of coffee, the loss of any planning time when covering for a sick colleague - but everyone wanted the best for the pupils. I have some experience in both state and private sectors and job satisfaction and commitment to the profession was evident in both. But this professional pride has gradually been eroded by government initiatives, targets and second-guessing. Too many teachers leave the profession disillusioned, despairing at pupil behaviour, lack of respect from above and below.

As far as I can see the only way of steering the ship through such choppy seas is with a strong, charismatic leader. A Captain who has vision, energy and commitment. Who KNOWS who is in charge and is willing to make unpopular decisions. Someone who has enough belief in themselves, their staff and the school to carve a way forward through uncertain times. I couldn't do it, and I'm not sure I would want to in a sea of apathy and low morale. But what concerns me as my son moves into Year five with a new Captain at the helm is that I'm not sure she can either. His is the largest primary school in Suffolk and only the most dynamic, committed and positive Headteacher is going to have a hope of making a big enough difference. That's probably not someone who quotes their employees legal rights over lunchtime to a parent enquiring after school clubs.

Thursday 30th June may well be a landmark strike, certainly it is huge headache for the coalition. But for many teachers at my son's school it is a good excuse for a day off and little more. Which is incredibly depressing.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011


Prejudice."An adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts. A preconceived preference or idea."

Not something any of us would strive for, whether psychological, social, political or religious and yet we are all, every last one of us guilty of prejudice in many ways. OK, not extreme "racism", "sexism" etc that we all associate with the definition, but who doesn't make a premature judgement, hold a positive or negative attitude based on beliefs not facts at some point?

And where do you draw the line? Are you prejudiced for refusing to listen to a band's new album because you disliked the last an the lead singer has had recent bad press? Or swapping seats on the tube because the person next to you is drunk? We all make assumptions based on experience all the time. About pretty much everything.

"Prejudice is the glass through which most things are seen and judged."
Edward Counsel

Usually though, prejudice is harmless, expected and actually useful as we seek to make sense of our environment and protect ourselves from potentially unpleasant or even dangerous circumstances. What I am weary of is prejudice with a capital "P".

I have recently had a discussion online, once again, about medicating children with mental health issues - be it ADHD, anxiety etc. It is a challenging topic to discuss, not least because the vast majority choosing to discuss it are rarely well informed or experienced, and mostly because by supporting occasional, regulated medicating of under eighteens you are immediately seen as some pill pushing liberal who would try and medicate her kids for any little thing.

The Daily Mail has had a busy week already. I'll leave the discussion of Carly Cole and the "baby whisperer" in the Daily Mail to this excellent Blog reply although I could happily oblige. What really caught my eye, and not directly, was the tragic story someone linked to on an "Autism Support Forum" of a ten year old boy who killed himself. not a DM reader, such articles only come to my attention if they wind someone else up, usually via Facebook, but this time someone was actually citing the article for seemingly pointing out how wrong it is to medicate young children for disorders of the brain.

As I wrote at length here ADHD is not merely "boisterous behaviour" and medicating it is not merely sedation but Daily Mail readers do prefer simplified explanations. There ensued below the offending post a long discussion on parents "boasting" that they collected benefits for medicating their children, that there were "always alternatives" and poor parenting was to blame. The prejudice was almost palpable...

Oh the irony - and apparent hypocrisy - since only a couple of threads further down everyone had posted very supportive replies to the mother whose child had been prevented from playing with another because of prejudice. The child in question had Autism and their behaviour was seen as unpleasant. HOW can people not see the double standard? Any challenge from me was rebutted with "you obviously have a bee in your bonnet", to "not all parents are as comfortable about medicating their children". As those who have never had to go through what we and so many other parents have struggled with on a daily basis gave their opinions, I was reminded we were "all in this together" as if online togetherness legitimises Prejudice.

But it's not so much seeing "both sides", those who may "brag" about benefits etc are a tiny minority I would assume, but understanding the condition. If there were a pill to medicate for Autism, remove 90% of the behaviours who here wouldn't be tempted to try it? I would. When you have lived with severe ADHD on TOP of ASD and several other conditions AND have two others with complicated medical needs I think you do see the "bigger picture" - you live it every day. And how is medicating an issue with the brain using unlicensed medication any different from using medication licensed only for adults on children to treat asthma, or gastro conditions like our children? Can you really see much interest in an article based on those?

So next time you see a person with a child who appears fully mobile using a Blue Badge, the older child having a toddler tantrum in the supermarket, the child with a feeding tube who is eating enthusiastically... pause for thought before making assumptions. Likewise, as guilty as the next person of prejudice I am going to challenge myself before leaping to conclusions in areas in which I lack knowledge. My biggest problem as my friends will know is jumping in when in a hurry rather than taking the time (I don't have) to ponder!

We are all familiar with publicised and widely acknowledged prejudice but the popular, unchallenged assumptions we make all too frequently should always be challenged. The only way you can understand someone else's situation is to be them - without that inside knowledge we can only offer subjective opinion, which is still valid and useful, but should be acknowledged as such.

"It is natural to develop prejudices. It is noble to rise above them."
Or my favourite quote from a Winston advertisement:-

"You can judge me all you want, just keep your opinions to yourself" .

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

A hamster called "Pudding"

I've never been one for hamsters.. cats and dogs yes, even guinea pigs and rabbits and I did threaten to wish for a gerbil if I couldn't have  kitten as a child, but hamsters have always frightened me a little. This feeling didn't benefit from being forced to have a "class hamster" as an NQT - my parallel got the fish tank as pet interest in her class, I pulled the short straw which turned out to be a psychotic syrian hamster.

Our second son decided a few years back that hamsters - Russian Dwarf hamsters to be precise - were his alter ego. There wasn't much mileage in coveting a polar bear, and despite several years collecting the fake cuddly kind he moved on to hamsters. With some trepidation we gave in three years ago and bought him a hamster, and it has been one of the best decisions we have ever made.

Each little furry friend has brought out the best in H, helped him more in terms of emotional and social development than any person has. I even started writing a book "Even hamsters do PE" for children on the Autism Spectrum (and yes, that is copyrighted lol) after being totally amazed at the success our little furry friend has in persuading H to join in PE lessons. After all, hamsters climb and swing all day long, don't they?

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Dear Libby, re The Times "Opinion" 21st March 2011

I may call you Libby, may I? Only you seem to know my family so well from your comments in Monday's (21st March) "Opinion" piece you wrote for The Times that we surely must be on first name terms. I do apologise for my delayed reply, as it is now a full two days since you wrote. Unfortunately my parenting inadequacies prevent me from taking a break from my 9 year old son to read newspapers most days, let alone successfully get him into bed before 11pm and find time to respond on an average night.

Your "insightful" comments on ADHD diagnoses and Ritalin prescription undoubtedly touched a raw public nerve but just how familiar are you with ADHD?

Thursday, 10 March 2011

All "Wow-ed Out".

There is an interesting phenomenon I have recently (and belatedly) become acutely aware of. It's not new, but is certainly becoming more prevalent. It's a pretty shocking in its apparent stupidity and appears to deviate from past dichotomies in society, which have long been profoundly entrenched.

I'm referring to the apparent need of some (mostly upper middle class) parents to appear to forget all reason and scale and indulge their children to obscene degrees almost as if they are forgetting that they are in fact children, and (unless visiting from some parallel universe where money does indeed grow on trees) children who will one day have to make at least some attempt at forging their own path in life. The children with every adult techno gadget available, with the adult designer labels I personally would covet if there were any likelihood of me obtaining them who are hurtling towards a kind of pre-pubescent immature adult status faster than their parents can offer the latest iPad.

The irony is that these children are usually the very ones who were spoilt toddlers and pre-schoolers, indulged with everything from the Great Little Trading Co. catalogue, the entire Mini Boden range at full price (rather than second hand via eBay or in their sale) and encouraged to stay young and pampered for so much longer than many of their peers. The thirteen year olds with the iPhone 4, iPad 2 and £1000 Jack Wills birthday spending voucher who have skipped so many years and hurtled into late teens/early adulthood from a delayed early childhood. At some point their parents appear to have decided that they no longer fit the "child" category and accept them as peers, negotiating allowances, bonuses and a social life most of us would be rather enviable of.

I do think Facebook, MySpace and all other social networking sites have a lot to answer for. Far too many youngsters are on Facebook long before thirteen, and even at that young age they are exposed to adult conversation and social interaction which in the past would they would not have been privy to. My son is a "friend" on Facebook, mainly so I can keep an eye on him but I think carefully before posting as HIS friends will obviously see some of what I post via his Wall. Why have we in the West been so eager to let our children rush the growing up process? It's a hard world out there... and some things are best left until later.

What on earth is the point of spoiling your children to the "n"th degree with no regard for childhood needs? Apart from anything else, how can you maintain the pace? A makeover party at six, a smart phone at eleven (on the internet, which you pay for and have virtually no control over) and a wardrobe to die for at thirteen. Not much left, is there? Oh, and the chauffeured car to a London show and the day trip to Spain - both PRIMARY age parties I have learned of too. What on *earth* is left? What value can these children possibly attach to life's rewards? They are, indeed, all "Wow-ed out". No excitement left, no opportunities to earn rewards, learn job satisfaction or experience that fabulous feeling only working really hard for a long time for something special can bring.

We are in grave danger of leaving our children with no aspirations, no excitement, no treats for the future. It is a sharp deviation from the clear child/adult distinction of the past, with the exception of the modern super rich celebs who are perhaps the leaders of this trend. There have always been economic variations and a spectrum of what children enjoy but families of different means on the whole agreed that children were children and treated as such.

We've just returned from the children's swimming lessons where two girls about age 12 were wearing Jack Wills/Joules/Uggs/insert trendy casual designer of your choice, and were carrying handbags I would be chuffed to bits to own. They both had iPhone 4s AND Pandora bracelets whilst their Mum was dressed almost identically. Pandora? At a SWIMMING lesson? Seriously. And then there's the child whose mother bought him an iPhone to keep him busy on the school bus - at age 10. He lost it a week later (unsurprisingly) having run up a considerable bill for internet usage.

These are not meant to be the trappings of childhood.... surely a subscription to the local Pony Club or karting lessons would be more appropriate if parents have more money than they know what to do with? We are very fortunate,and our children don't do badly but they are children, and I am thankful their wants (so far!) have not escalated to such heights. It is incredibly tough being a parent today, there are so many temptations to navigate both ourselves and our children safely through but if we drop our guard and give in we do them a tremendous disservice. After all, very few of us are likely to be able to keep our children in the manner to which too many are becoming accustomed once they have left home and at some point the hard lessons of life will have to be learnt. The chances of them all landing such affluent lifestyles are slim, and we would be setting them up for a very steep fall.

A study out this week suggested British children are amongst the unhappiest in the Western World, and small wonder. Their simple pleasures are being destroyed or removed by Health and Safety concerns, media exaggerated scares and too many well-off kids are being completely deprived of being just that - kids. We are confusing our children and setting them a largely impossible challenge in life, that of finding happiness and satisfaction when everything they could ever aim for has been handed them on a plate.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Why I support Free Schools

As a past teacher and current parent of four (whose ages span 4-13) with considerable involvement over many years in a variety of schools I deplore the narrow restrictions of the National Curriculum. The neglect of the individual, the abandonment of meeting the needs of the spectrum of ability in favour of focussing on bringing the bottom up to meet the mean. Our schools fail too many children. Watch this and tell me you don't know a Bee or a Fish or a Squirrel in that video. I intensely dislike putting children in boxes and expecting an average outcome.

I have seen too many bright children classed as disruptive because they should be in a different environment, Special Needs kids deprived of an SEN place because our County pioneered inclusion and closed the moderate special needs places and no longer *really* recognises Gifted and Talented kids. Schools focussed on PR missions, social need and community status, banging on about funding when some of the best schools have far, far lower per capita funding and achieve phenomenal results.

The Free School campaign does not need to condemn or criticise any other school, yet so many people feel incredibly vulnerable in the face of it. The focus of this campaign is choice.

I have four children at three different schools and am considering Home Educating one, because "one size" does NOT fit all. Communities and individuals have unique and wonderfully different requirements. And before you slam the "snob" criticism at me one of my children is at a large primary in a deprived area - because it is on the whole a good school with a truly fantastic and inspirational SEN department. I look at my children as individuals, not a group and that was how I taught my classes. An individual school may well be a wonderful for some, and if it is it will continue to attract many pupils and maintain its funding - why the insecurity? But it cannot be - as no school can - a wonderful place for all children. I love the opportunities Free Schools bring - meeting local need for local people for the children who might otherwise NOT have their needs fully met.  I deplore "Big government", the red tape which restricts so many of us meeting the needs of our children.

Education is a legal requirement - how it is delivered is not. Free Schools will have to meet certain criteria to qualify for funding and local groups will have the freedom to determine the rest. What a fantastic opportunity - personally I am hoping for an increase in variety to meet the needs of our young people in the 21st Century.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Sibling Rivalry

There is Rivalry, there is Sibling Rivalry, and then there is TWIN Sibling Rivalry.

Despite being a fairly old (and feeling it now!) hand at this parenting business, the strength, depth and emotional energy invested in the rivalry between my twins never ceases to stun me. Don't get me wrong, they love each other to bits, and in fact are probably closer than many sets of fraternal twins but born of that closeness and intimacy is this effervescent, almost explosive competitive urge that exists between them.

In September, we asked a great deal from them. They moved house, moved from Nursery School to Big School (and a new big school at that) and gained their own bedroom each for the first time. The house move was fine, incredibly positive and enthusiastic about most things they took that in their stride. The separate room issue wasn't in fact an issue after all. Separate classes at school has proved a little more problematic though, and curiously not for the obvious reason! Yes, they do indeed miss each other - for the first few weeks they would peer through the glass of the door linking both Reception classes and occasionally burst through for a cuddle. They play together most of the time at playtime, although our daughter is making a few tentative friendships much to her twin brother's disgust! What surprised me was the nature of the BIG issue about being separated at school!
They are both incredibly concerned that they might be missing out on something the other is doing!

Obvious really, and I should have twigged that one I guess, but I was thinking more needy, cosy emotional thoughts rather than harsh, bare faced competitive "my day was better than your day" stuff and "our story was absolutely the best too!" Even after over a term they compare notes first thing after school and God help the innocent teacher who has deviated from the identical parallel class lesson plan - be sure you will be found out and reported! They are currently learning about Space, an exciting topic which has totally grabbed K and A. They have raced to learn the planets in order, both pointed out that Pluto is NOT a planet and fought (hard) over who takes which book in to show....

The arguments are wearing, frustrating and continue over everything possible ("My soap has nearly runned out, your's hasn't so you can't have washed properly!"  until bedtime when I don't even ATTEMPT to attain consensus on a story. I just read two, whatever. Separately. With one page turner at a time. Thank you.

But I guess what I find most interesting about their competitiveness is that it is ONLY about the trivial, the mundane, the almost meaningless at times. When it comes to the REAL differences they never, ever comment. I wonder sometimes whether this is because it really doesn't bother them - that A reads well whilst K has barely started, that K used to swim fantastically well whilst A wallowed and splashed - but now he's overtaking her in the physical stakes too - or whether it is because those things are non-negotioable. You cannot argue black is white on something there is little room for opinion on. Subjective topics lend themselves far better to competitive rivalry and useful blame culture opportunities.

But it does interest me a little that there is never any mention of the *real* issues when striving for twin supremacy.

I would think it would be really, really annoying and not a little frustrating to have a twin sibling excel at pretty much everything and we have always made a HUGE effort to praise across the board, for all achievements in all areas with our four, very different children. What I would really, really like to believe is that the reason there has never been any verbal competition on such issues between the children, not even the twins is that we've succeeded. At least a little bit. That the kids are pretty self confident on the whole, and sure of themselves and what they can do and where they are going without endless comparisons between themselves. I would love to believe that, because sometimes this parenting lark is pretty tough and it would really help, quite a lot actually if I thought I was doing something like that well.

I'll hang on to that thought... it's been a tough month.

Linking with-


Monday, 17 January 2011

Thought provoking.....

As we struggle again with Harry and school a friend sent me the link to this... it's very very very thought provoking, a "must watch" .

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Happy New Year!

The new school term began today, a week too early for our liking! I always find it so bizarre that the one holiday when there is plenty going on, with brand new entertainment for the children is always the shortest break of the school year. Our four are exhausted, and need a week post-festivities to sleep and recover, and they are not the only ones since I am stuck yet again in a cycle of insomnia partially fuelled by K's current inability to sleep more than two hours in one go. You would really think by now, after 13+ years of motherhood (yes, I really AM that old!) that broken nights would be a piece of cake, something so second nature I would be able to sleep anywhere. The irony is that Richard CAN and DOES fall asleep like that whilst it is me who is woken countless times each night!

Admittedly we have had some variety over the years... reflux being the biggest sleep stealer of course. Tube feeds, venting tubes and medication-giving took its turn and hysterical screaming from H who would insist every night "I'm not tired and I'm NOT going to bed" until 1am. Or at least at 1am I eventually gave in and he crawled into our bed and asleep or not he was still enough for me to grab a few hours myself before the screaming started again. The award for most original reason for not needing to go to bed has to go to A who recently informed us he wasn't tired at all, and that his eyelids were "just resting"! Chronic sleep deprivation doesn't get easier though, the cotton wooly feeling in my head on the bad days makes me long for my once-sharp mind. I have forgotten or somehow lost the ability to fall asleep and remain asleep all night - even when the children surprise me by doing so! When recently signing up for an ADHD parenting course I wryly asked the  administrator if there was a module on coping with Extreme Sleep Deprivation. It isn't a form of torture for nothing.

So today all four returned to school and the mental olympics required for the past two and a half weeks are once again confined to mornings and evenings only- and I can give in to the cotton wool mush in my head until the coffee kicks in without constantly wondering what son number two will get up to next. His latest trick is running off - I say latest but in fact this is not new, just revisited but this time with a little more determination on his part. It scares me silly, but when I have the younger two with me also all I can do is stand still and hope he will return. he usually does however and thankfully so far agrees to wear the ID tag I bought him when out and about.

So it was with some trepidation that I went to collect him from school at 3.15pm today. Would he have run off at school or managed to stay the course with no meltdown? His one-to-one support brought him out to me and informed me he had, on the whole had a good day. "Good" allowed for a lesson refusal, classroom outburst and general bolshy pre-teen behaviour, but that is as "good" as it gets right now. I had to laugh though... her parting comment (and I know her well now, and took no offence) was "I don't know how you manage!". As I watched him crawling on his tummy under the metal fencing around the restricted area currently in his playground, below the KEEP OUT sign I had to smile. I didn't know there was a choice!!

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