10 signs it is the almost the end of the school year

It’s the end of another school year and everything is rush, rush, rush!

You know it’s the end of the school year when:

  1. If someone asks you for anything, you lose the plot…literally. Do NOT ask me for one more thing! Triple this for teaching parents…..
  2. The kids look like they have been dragged through a hedge backwards. Their shoes don’t fit, trousers up to their ankles and hair needs a cut. If your child is in Year 6 or 11, times this by 10. Then they want your child to look “smart” for the end of term assembly. Hmmmmm
  3. The school send home “stuff.” It seems that every picture and book has been hiding in some drawer has been released and brought home in the customary plastic bag (so that’s what that huge plastic bag was for!)
  4. Talking of drawers….your child tidies their school drawer and finds several pound coins (oops that was the charity hair day money), 20 hair slides, 4 erasers, 16 chewed pencils and a party invitation from Sam dated 4 months previously.
  5. You keep getting emails from Mrs Organised for money for Mrs Teacher, Mr Head and Mrs Lovely the TA. In the end, you forget to give money to Mrs Organised and end up getting chocolates from the garage.
  6. Pack lunches get really, really boring as you haven’t had time to go supermarket shopping for 3 weeks.
  7. Your child’s teacher looks like she/he may pass out with tiredness or has the “I’ve only got Johnny in my class for 10 more days” look of glee on their face.
  8. Even the Headteacher looks like they need a stiff drink or a hair brush.
  9. You have overslept every morning for the last week.
  10. You realise that in less than 2 weeks, you have the children at home for 6 weeks…..and you’ve spent all your extra money on those gorgeous shoes….

So there we have it!

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Happy Summer everyone! I will be taking a blogging break at some point in the next few weeks so have a safe and relaxing break!

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Waiting in the dark for you to come home.

When you were a baby, I would feed you in the dark so that you could learn the difference between night and day. I didn’t want to wake your dad either so would tiptoe across the carpet to get a clean nappy. You would dreamfeed, all snuggled up against my skin, safe and secure in my arms.

When you were a toddler, I would tiptoe across the landing to your baby brothers room in the night to feed him. I would always check in on you. You would often sleep upside down with your bottom in the air! Or you would be smuggled down with your Dutch dolly called “Lovey La-La,” thumb in your mouth. You looked so small in your new “Big Girl” bed. You would often be surrounded by books. I would move a blond curl from your little face.

As a little girl, you would often tiptoe into my room, press your face up to mine and ask me if there were robbers at the door. I would take you back to bed and tuck you in reassuring you that no one could get in. Your little imagination would run riot. You didn’t like the dark and would insist on a night light. Your teddies and soft toys were positioned carefully on your bed so that they could keep an eye on you. Little soldiers guarding you from nightmares and frights.

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Now, I’m waiting in the dark. I’m awake you see as you are not yet home. I know you will always text me to let me know that you are safe. You are a good girl like that. But you are not in bed. You are not home. You are where you should be, out with your friends. But I’m awake waiting in the dark. I offered to pick you up but it’s easier, you said to stay with a friend. It’s all planned. That’s ok. I love that you are organised like that. It’s just that, I will always be your mum you see and I will lie in the dark thinking of you, even when you are not here. Have fun. Stay safe. My little girl.

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Questions for my teenagers. June 2017

My children are 17 and 15. One is in the sixth form studying for A’ Levels and the other is just finishing Year 10 and the first year of GCSE’s. I have a daughter and a son and they are both really great people.

They have agreed to help me with this blog post! I thought it would be a fun idea to get their views on certain things. I can be quite opinionated with some saying I have a “strong” character but I’d like to think that my children have their own voice and we encourage discussion and differing views in the Old House. I would also like to think that they can talk to me about anything as that is really important.

I asked the children separately to see what their opinions apart from each other.

Teen Tag (1)

1.  What is your greatest fear at the moment?

Daughter: Getting my mock English Literature result back! Terrorism could be something but honestly, if it’s my time it’s my time.I don’t want to stop doing the things I like because of stupid terrorists. It doesn’t worry me and nothing scares me except those scary mazes in you get in horror movies!

Son: Being alone. I don’t worry about anything really.

Me: I fear for my children in this ever turbulent and unsettled world. It’s interesting that they do not worry about that really. Then I think back and remember that when I was a child there was unrest and acts of terrorism in Northern Ireland. I didn’t even consider what this meant to me until I was an adult. Perhaps youth protects us from the harsh realities of the world around us or perhaps age opens our eyes to it? I don’t know.

2. What do you see yourself doing in 5 years?

Daughter: Having a job, living alone with a cat. (My son thinks she will become a crazy cat woman from The Simpsons!! My daughter just really loves animals and thought she would grow up to be a cat until she was 3. She’s a very caring person.)

Son: Travelling.

Me: I hope to be travelling too but with Uni fees looming I expect I won’t be!

3. If you could meet anyone from history, who would it be and why?

Daughter: Socrates. He had such developed ideas about the world; he talked about such amazing ideas such as particles. He was killed because people were frightened of him. (My daughter is studying Classics A Level and is really enjoying it. I wonder if she will study this at University?)

Son: Joseph Goebbels because he was an interesting character. He was obviously crazy but he would be interesting to talk too I think and see how his mind works.

(My son is studying history GCSE and loves it. It will be interesting to see what he chooses for A Levels.)

Me: I’ve often pondered this question. I think it would have to be someone like Elizabeth the first who got me interested in history in the first place or Shakespeare. I would like to meet Elizabeth as she comes over as such a strong woman in a man’s world. Shakespeare, there is some thought that he didn’t write all of his plays, that perhaps a woman did, I would like to see and meet him.

4. What makes you angry and why?

Daughter: People who think they are better than others. Cruelty to animals.

Son: People who think that they know everything.

(They were very similar in their answers here)

Me: I have to agree with my children! Especially cruelty to animals. I would add environmental issues too but, as an adult, I’m more able to see that just “don’t cut down trees to save the orangutans” is too simplistic. It is a much wider and complex issue. That’s why I champion local environmental projects and ways of living. Help your local wildlife first.

5. Do you believe in having a soul mate and true love?

Daughter: Because of my parents! (Ahhhhhh…..x)

Son: No, I don’t think I do. (He didn’t know why….)

Me: yes I do. x

6. What is the best and worst part of being a teenager?

Daughter: The best bit is not having to pay any bills. The worst is having bad skin when I was about 14. I hated it but it cleared up with antibiotics.

Son: The best bit is having no worries. The worst but is some other teenagers who are annoying. (My son is quite mature for his age and gets cross with others that are “like little kids.”)

Me: When I was a teenager, the best bit was the freedom I had, especially with money. What I earned went straight into my pocket! The worst was friendships or boy issues although I can’t remember a specific issue interestingly.

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7. What would be your perfect day?

Daughter: Going to a festival or concert.

Son: Playing sport all day and then being with my friends in the evening.

(This sums both up pretty well! My daughter was upset at not going to Glastonbury this year but may go to Reading.)

Me: time with my family or in the garden.

8. If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?

Daughter: I would put it in the bank so that it can earn interest. I would pay for my university fees and then buy a house. I would go on a brilliant holiday. I would give some to charity and share it with other family members.

Son: Spend it and not tell anyone!

(I can tell that my daughter is sooo like her dad when it comes to money and my son is very, very like me! I laughed so much at his response here!)

Me: Pay off the mortgage, put it in the bank. Pay off loved ones mortgages and spend some on Uni fees, holidays and lives pleasures! I wouldn’t go and spend loads on houses and cars. I would set up an Educational Foundation to support Special Needs in schools. I would also like to give money to various environmental charities such as Wiltshire Wildlife.

My son is very mature for his age but interestingly, he found answering some of the questions tricky and wanted to find out what his sister had said.

You may want to ask your teenagers questions too. It’s really interesting to record their answers. I wonder what they would think of these answers in a few years time!

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After the Playground

10 things nursery rhymes teach babies and young children.

Do you know traditional nursery rhymes? Do you sing them with your baby or young child?

If you do then that is awesome! If you don’t then you really should! Why? Here are the main reasons.

  1. They teach children about language structure, rhyme and alliteration.
  2. They are your child’s first stories.
  3. Nursery rhymes develop your child’s vocabulary.
  4. They instill a love of books in your child.
  5. Your child will be a better reader as nursery rhymes introduce phonetic patterns.
  6. They are traditional and should be shared as a link to the past.
  7. Nursery rhymes often have finger plays too and connect the sides of the brain enabling your child to develop.
  8. They are great at improving your child’s memory.
  9. Nursery rhymes are social. We can all join in together.
  10. They are fun; they introduce fun and interesting words that can be manipulated.
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A baby enjoying books.

Some interesting Nursery rhyme facts:

Did you know now Humpty Dumpty was a cannon?

Did you know Ring O’Roses is about The Plague?

Baa Baa Black Sheep is from a tax system in 1275 and yes, the black sheep was the master (We sing Baa, Baa pink sheep at school!)

Jack and Jill were possibly Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette

Baa Baa Pink Sheep

Baa Baa pink sheep,

Have you any spots?

Yes sir, yes sir,

Lots and lots!

Some on my fingers,

and someone my toes…

and some on the end of my little pink nose!

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How can I provide stimulating play opportunities for my young child?

Since I wrote my post on Helping my child learn to read here
I am aware that I should also write a post about developing other skills through play.

I remember when a Health Visitor told me that because my son wasn’t crawling and went straight to standing and walking, he would not be good at Maths. What?? I then spent months trying to get my son to crawl! Well that didn’t work! He was so heavy that it was just easier for him to stand up and walk. All he wanted to do was run! I have read about the benefits of crawling and how it is a vital stage. see more here but I’m not sure about it just being good for Maths! I understand what my Health Visitor was trying to say but I did worry for a while which was not needed.

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A child crawling.

When my children were young, I noticed a difference in the way my daughter and son played during the toddler years (aged 18 months to 3 years old). My daughter enjoyed putting things in bags, my son would line things up whilst they both loved to push wheeled toys and prams. These differences were clear to me as I am a teacher with a specialism in the Early Years but many parents think of these differences are just part of their child exploring or of their child’s gender. However, there is more to these behaviours that you may think! They are called Schemas and it’s useful to understand them so you can understand your child better. In this post, I will give you lots of play ideas to link to each schema which you could try with your toddler at home.

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Little children love playing in the sand.

What is a Schema?

Schemas are described as patterns of repeated behaviour which allow children to explore and express developing ideas and thoughts through their play and exploration. The repetitive actions of schematic play allow children to construct meaning in what they are doing. Knowing about schemas can really help educators and parents discover what a child loves to do and challenge them using what they love. By understanding schemas, parents can recognise and support these urges and developments. It is also helpful to know that your child is not necessarily being naughty when they throw their food all over the floor!

Lining things up or taking lids on and off things.

This is known as a Connecting or Containment Schema.

Give your child lots of different sized pans, pots with lids, spoons and spades in the sand or water. With supervision, try a tray of lentils, pasta or dried peas for variation. They may also like shape sorter toys, handbags of different sizes, boxes of different sizes to put themselves or toys in, painting boxes around shapes and drawing around objects, their hands or stencils. They may enjoy threading ribbon in the fence or using thread to connect things together.

Wrapping things up, getting into small spaces (this is the one where you find things in your dishwasher or CD player!)

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Some children love small spaces.

This is called an Enveloping or Enclosement Schema.

Try den making, providing different sized boxes and blankets to play with. Add soft toys of different sizes so that your child can add these in their beds etc. Dressing up clothes for themselves or for their dolls/teddies. In my experience, the dressing up clothes that are adult sized are the best (oh! and shoes!). Being able to paint themselves (use coloured water!) or try hand/feet painting. Children may also like to cover their paintings in one colour after they have painted it! This is typical behaviour and they are not “ruining” their picture! They may also like to bury heir hands and feet or hide their faces.

Throwing things, jumping off things or pouring and filling objects.

This is called a Trajectory Schema.

This can be a hard one as the child likes to throw things whilst they investigate forces! Take them outside and let them throw pine cones and balls. They would love a slide or hill to run down. Set up targets or play skittles. Invest in a trampoline (with a net guard) and let them bounce! Play in the bath or with a garden hose pouring water and letting it dribble between fingers and toes. Play with water or sand wheels in a tray of water or sand. Dribble paint all over a page. Play with guttering and old pipes outside in the rain or mud.

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A child playing in the sand.

Pushing prams, buggies and wheeled toys. Taking toys from one place to another.

This is called a Transporting Schema.

This is a very common one. Let children push prams around (boys too! This is nothing to do with gender) or wheeled toys. Toddlers love to transport things from one place to another. It could be anything, so keep jigsaw pieces or more precious toys packed away! Let them have a box of “bits and pieces” like soft toys, blocks, real spoons, natural materials like stones (not too small for fear of choking), pegs, plastic cups, plastic fruit and vegetables. Let them transport these from place to place. Make it imaginative by adding places such as the supermarket, a car wash…whatever your child likes. Let them play with diggers, buckets, spades in the sand tray.

Rolling down hills, spinning, winding things up.

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Children love to spin.

This is called a Rotational Schema and again, can be a tricky one.

This is a little more unusual. Your child will like to spin on the spot or continually wind things up. Invest in some cheap wind up toys and have a basket of them. When I led a Nursery, I would find old watches or real items and have a box of those! Again, best to get them outside and ride bicycles or wheeled toys. A wheel barrow is another good toy for this schema. Take them to the park and they would love the swings or roundabout. Try roller painting with giant DIY rollers (again, you can use coloured water if you can’t stand to have paint in your house!). The painting rollers are also great fun with water on a dry wall and this action is fabulous for developing arm and hand muscles!

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Some children love the sensation of swinging.

Mixing sand and water, playing with food and making mud pies

This is called a Transformation Schema.

Transformation schemas can be messy! They are when a child likes to mix things together to see what happens. This may be paint, mud, food, water, sand….poo. It’s our job to help a child find the things that are more acceptable! Let them experience cooking, the elements (like rain on their skin), make mud pies, petal potion, mix sand and paint, glue and glitter. Plant seeds. Dig holes. Make paint messes and let them use their fingers to feel the paint.

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Toddler playing in the sand box.

I hope you have found this post useful.
This site is amazing….click Here for more ideas.

I have lots of other ideas on my Pinterest pages which you can found at Sophie (oldhouseintheshires)

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How can I help my child learn to read?

Why is my child struggling to learn to read? What can I do to help them?

Every child is different and learn to do things at different rates. We all know this don’t we? Some may walk at 12 months whilst others may walk at 16 months. They may speak their first words at 9 months or they may not utter anything until they are 14 months. With this in mind, why do parents worry so much about what reading level their child is on? Why do many parents put such importance on learning to read at a very early age? Why do some parents focus on this one aspect of their child’s learning?

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Read outside!

When it comes to a child’s first few years of school, it is easy to think that each child will learn everything they are taught. That each year, the teacher teaches the curriculum and every child retains it, ready to learn new things the following year. However, this is not the nature of learning and many parents forget this. In reality, each child will take on different aspects of what they are taught and at different rates. This will mean that some children will need more input of varying concepts at different times than others. There can also be a huge difference between a child born in September (so they have a birthday at the beginning if the school year) than in August in both their maturation and ability to learn the same concepts.

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Encourage reading by making it “Comfy.”

I know that parents focus on reading as it is obviously a hugely important skill but I think because it is very visible to parents, as they practise reading with their child at home, some can tend to worry more than perhaps they should.

But what can you do if you are worried about your child’s reading?

  • Firstly, don’t panic! Some children just take a little longer than others. If your child is making progress each term then that is great. Some children will suddenly make leaps with their learning whilst others move more steadily.
  • Make an appointment to see your child’s teacher. Teachers really don’t mind you going in to talk to them! That’s part of their job. Try to explain exactly what is worrying you without blame or getting upset/cross. Remember teachers want to work with parents to ensure that each child makes the progression they should.
  • Please do not compare your child to their friends.  Please do not compare your child to their friends. Please do NOT compare your child to their friends.
  • It is not a race! Each child will progress at their own pace. Do support them but don’t push them on too quickly.
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Child laughing whilst looking at a book (that looks too tricky for him!)
  • Encourage reading at home. Set good habits by making it part of your routine. The best time I think is after tea or a bath. In that way, your child is not hungry and is relaxed. It may be that this is when you have always read them a story. This is a perfect time to add in their reading too (as long as they are not too tired). I know other parents who have 5 minutes in the morning before school (not this household!). Whatever works for you.
  • Don’t make your child read a text that is beyond their understanding. No, 6 year olds should not be reading Harry Potter! (Ok, the very, very exceptional may). I love Harry Potter but these books were written with 9/10 year old children in mind (I mean the first book). Technically your child could probably plough through Harry Potter but they also have to retain and UNDERSTAND the language used. These are two different skills. The best books are the ones they pick and this may mean “The Guinness Book of Records!”
  • Encourage the reading of everything, not just books.
  • Reading scheme books can be a bore BUT they are graded accordingly and are written with your child in mind so don’t show your child that you are bored! They probably love them!
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Choose age appropriate books for your child.c
  • And finally, if your child is still struggling here are some strategies that have worked for some of the hundreds of children I have taught. These are my opinions and they may not be those of other educators:
  1. Most children learn by using the letter sounds e.g phonics. ALL children learn this method in the UK and that is good. As a parent, I would advise you learn these too. Many of us are from the “Peter and Jane” or “Roger Red Hat” era and didn’t learn in this way. Early readers are asked to “sound out” unknown words; this means using their letter sounds. Please do not teach them the letter names e.g a is ay.
  2. Some children learn differently and phonics occasionally don’t work (I will be criticised here!). In my 20 years experience I HAVE met children where phonics have been like wading through mud for them. As soon as I have made them words in a tin to rote learn, they have excelled. I “shape” words. This means that I draw an outline around the whole word which shows the child its shape. Some children (especially those that find maths easy) have this kind of brain. Phonics purists don’t like this but I don’t care!
  3. Try a coloured overlay. I am a trained Irlens screener. Here is the link for more information: http://www.irlenuk.com/  This is the site for my lovely friend Marie Smith. The white background on a page for some children, can make text seem to move, wobble or spiral. Just think how awful that must be! Your child may not realise that this is not what should be happening! It can make learning to read very tricky. Do look at my friends site if you want to find out more.
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When did you last get your child’s eyes tested?

4. Have you ever had your child’s eyes tested or hearing checked? Both need checking regularly. You take them to the dentist, why not the optician? My daughter had hearing difficulties when she was very young and I didn’t notice. It’s very easy to miss this! The tubes in a child’s ears are tiny and often get blocked, especially when they have a cold. This means their hearing can come and go. If you are worried, take them to see your Health visitor or doctor.

5. If you are still worried and your child’s teacher is also concerned, it may mean your child has a barrier to learning such as dyslexia. Your child will need to see an Educational Psychologist who will help with a diagnosis if that is what you want. Just remember, this can’t really be done before the age of 7 as children are still developing the skills they need. Also, a diagnosis doesn’t change your child; they are still the little one that you love. We know a lot more about dyslexia now so there is lots of help available.

Good luck. Please feel free to comment or contact me if you would like more information. I’m a trained teacher and although cannot diagnose things such as dyslexia, I may be able to help with tips and strategies.

 

I also have lots of ideas for play based educational activities and crafts to develop your child’s skills on my Pinterest account. Follow me on Sophie (oldhouseintheshires)

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My ovaries are hurting…..

I was chatting to my good friend, Marie. She is lovely and has children of a similar age to mine and she was asking if I was going to have any more children.

What!??! Urrrr noooooooo!!??

You get the picture!

She always thought that I would have more children you see -I have 2. In fact, I always thought I would have more children. It was just that there was never the right time. I even saved names for those children.

Hubbie didn’t want another when I did (when son was about 4). Then when I definitely could not see myself with another, he started to consider the thought! By then, the gap would have been 8 years between 2 and 3 and I just couldn’t imagine starting again. Anyway, I was working full time and I couldn’t imagine working, having 2 school aged children and a baby! I was only just managing with the routine I had. I remember a family member telling me that I didn’t want to get to 40 and regret it or that every baby was a blessing.

I reached 40 and decided that I did not want another baby. I was so happy and lucky to have the family I have.

But then my ovaries started hurting…..

I think it’s my bodies way of telling me this is my last chance. I mean, I’m 45 now so there is such a slim chance! This blogging malarky doesn’t help either as so many of you lovely people have such cute babies! And dont get me started on Instagram! OMG the cuteness!

BUT

I think my ovaries are hurting because I just miss my children being babies? Does that make sense? I miss me being a mummy of younger children I guess. I think that’s just part of my make-up; I’m a primary school teacher so enjoy this age group. That’s not to say I don’t love my teenagers….I just miss them as babies. Or, may be my ovaries are hurting because I’m perimenopausal?? Yeah, that’ll be it!

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