Category Archives: Parenting

Learning by Rote

There has been lots of talk in the news at the moment about primary curriculum changes, two mentioned recently include children as young as five should recite poetry and children also will be expected to know their 12 times table by the age of nine in order to “restore rigour”.

According to WikipediaBy definition, rote learning eschews comprehension, so by itself it is an ineffective tool in mastering any complex subject at an advanced level.

Also according to Wikipedia: [Rigourous instruction] is instruction that requires students to construct meaning for themselves, [..] and apply what they learn in more than one context and to unpredictable situations.

Hmmm…

I’ve nothing against memorisation, but I think it needs to be done when the interest is there. It can be easier if you have number bonds and times tables in your head to call on when required but not knowing them or being unable to memorise them by a particular age has no bearing on future success. If a child has an innate need to memorise because of their interest, it will happen a lot more easily than being forced.

I also disagree with targets by a certain age, because all children are different. Average doesn’t mean that everyone should be at that point. Average means that half of children will be below that level and half will be above so by definition any targets based on averages will classify half of children as failures when they’re not… I know I’m simplifying the reality of levels and targets but I don’t believe they add anything to education so will complain about them at will!

On reciting poetry, I know I’m not from a ‘deprived’ area but most children I know could recite poetry before they could speak! Humming the rhythm of nursery rhymes, then picking up some of the words, then learning them all… My three year old can certainly ‘recite’ several poems: Twinkle Twinkle; Horsey Horsey; The Grand Old Duke of York… But only because she’s interested and has chosen to do so. Children being told to learn a specific poem that they don’t want to learn will only cause friction and tension and turn a child away from the love of learning that they’re born with.

Memorisation happens through use and re-use, through interest being grasped and held, through various methods depending on each child. The child who knows their times tables by age seven is no more advanced than the one who takes until age twelve, or the one who never memorises but has a grasp on the concepts so can quickly calculate when they need to…

Dear Government, please leave teachers to teach; parents to parent (and teach); children to learn (and teach each other!) Those who need help will ask if they’ve not been scared off by targets and labels of failure.

Please share your thoughts, I love to discuss and learn ideas that I’d not considered – because my love of learning is still alive despite my school years 😉

Name Tags

When my eldest child first started day care, I carefully sewed name labels into her clothes bit by bit for a few weeks, thinking that I was clever in doing this on unlabelled clothes the night before so that I didn’t have to do lots in one sitting. Within a couple of weeks I was scrawling her name in biro on the clothes tags…

My second child always had her name scrawled in biro, on the clothes that didn’t already have either her sister’s name or our surname scrawled! When eldest was about to start school, I dutifully bought a packet of iron-on labels to save sewing and because I don’t really like the names written on labels (especially if you want to re-sell items somewhere along the line!)

I don’t know who I thought I was kidding; the iron only comes out to set Hama beads, the chances of me ironing labels on clothes was very slim! Plus friends told me that the iron-on labels unstick in the wash and are forever getting lost.

Just before school started, in the nick of time, I was headed in the direction of Easy Tags and (gulping slightly at the price compared to other labels) I ordered a set of 30 with backs for each child, plus an applicator.

I was instantly impressed with the ease of application and labelled MG’s entire uniform in practically no time at all. She even helped with some of them. I wasn’t sure how they’d hold up to wear and tear but after eight months use, even with constant washing and re-washing, the tags look as new as the day they arrived. None have come loose or been lost. I’ve had to remove some where eldest grew out of one size in clothes and went to the next, and they were just as easy to remove and re-use. I definitely recommend these to anyone who needs to label clothes, bedding, bags etc.

Thirty tags was plenty for MG’s day-to-day school use and so far I’ve not had to order any additional backs because DG’s labels have hardly been used yet so we had plenty of spare backs. If I didn’t have those, I would have needed to order spare backs. Because I only need to relabel a few times a year (winter/summer uniform, growth spurts), the basic manual applicator is more than enough. I’m not sure how robust the applicator is in comparison to the tags, but it looks like I should only need to buy a pack of spare backs every year or two and have no other labelling outlay.

For ease, convenience and durability these are worth every penny. Thirty tags, backs and a manual applicator cost £25; Thirty tags with backs are £15; and thirty backs are £5. They also come in packs of fifty, and heavy duty applicators are available.

Three

My baby is three years old.

Three.

Where did the last three years go? It seems no time at all since she was a tiny dot!

Happy Birthday to my amazing, funny, beautiful, crazy, messy, cheeky, dinky and wonderful baby girl.

Happy Birthday, Rosamund, I love you so much.

Tea, Daddy?

MG: Daddy, would you like a cup of tea?

Daddy: I would love a cup of tea, thank-you!

MG: Mummy! Can you get Daddy a cup of tea?

Me: <laughing, makes tea…>

The 100th Post

This was going to be a Silent Sunday post, but then I remembered it wasn’t Sunday…

Next time she’s getting velcro: DG unlaces her entire shoe to get them on!

Take a picture, she said: MG makes a mess with yogurt and we have a giggle.

I want to be famous

A snippet of conversation from tonight’s bedtime chat, because it made me giggle. The opening line came totally out of the blue, we’d been talking about something completely unrelated…

MG: I want to be famous.

Me: What do you want to do that for? That’s not a good thing!

MG: What is famous?

Me: It’s when everyone knows who you are, and they go through your rubbish and you can’t walk out of your house without people taking photos of you.

MG: Oh. My. GOD. I want to do that!

Me: <does not understand five year olds>

[I honestly don’t mind what she becomes (within reason!) as long as she’s happy. I just don’t think encouraging a five year old to be ‘famous’ for famous sake is a good thing, hence my negative slant.]

Sleeping Like Babies

Neither MG or DG are particularly graceful at going to sleep. DG being younger is more likely to get so exhausted she just drops off anywhere. MG will suddenly become very hungry, thirsty, need the toilet and have to read ‘just two more books’…

On the plus side, both girls now sleep in their own beds all night long so we rarely have nights of musical beds anymore. They sleep quicker if someone stays in the room with them, this can get frustrating when there’s dinner to cook and a house to tidy and work to do and…

Tonight I took in my Kindle, I don’t know why I haven’t before. They like their bedside lamp to be so bright it was okay to read. DG muttered to herself until she snuggled up and drifted off. MG read out loud until she was gone too, still clutching her book. I got to read a few chapters of my book. Shhh… Sleep tight, small daughters of mine. I love you very much.

Note that both girls are clutching a tatty muslin. ‘Muzzies’ are the comforter of choice for the Chaos children, so no special toys to worry about losing. Phew…

Edit to add: I had an added extra treat this week when DG crawled onto my lap, snuggled into me and…

Waxing (not particularly lyrically)

This morning I waxed my legs. Apologies for this information, but it must have been the first time I’d done this in front of my daughters as they found the process extremely interesting.

MG: What are you doing? What are you using? Does it hurt? You’ve missed some. Can I help?

DG: Why you hurt yourself mummy?

So I try to explain. I like to have smooth legs. But that makes me think, why do I like this? The only reason is because having started to shave/wax/whatever you generally have to continue. The only reason is because our culture deems it preferable for females to be hairless in some areas. What do I tell my daughters?

So far, I’m sticking with I prefer smooth legs (true enough). I dye my hair because I prefer to look my age rather than the ten years older my grey streaks make me look. I occasionally wear make-up because it hides my rosacea, although as I’ve never really been a girly girl I don’t wear make-up particularly often either. But what about my daughters?

Is it better to avoid all ‘beautification’ to show them it’s unnecessary, or better to have some kind of ‘beauty routine’ so they see it day-to-day and don’t just pick things up from peers and magazines as they grow? MG has wanted to use nail varnishes and lipsticks from before she was four, it’s just a play thing but do I say no way or let her experiment in a controlled manner? DG is almost three, she’ll start to follow suit soon.

I want my daughters to have good self-esteem and not fall into gender stereotypes just because they’re stereotypes. I want them to be themselves and be happy in who they are. Reading this article on sexism from The Alpha Parent makes me so sad. Life can be hard enough, without children being segregated by gender from birth, especially from an organisation that is supposed to be about learning. What happened to the adverts I remember from years ago which promoted the fact they had no fashion dolls or war toys?

I have daughters, there are a different set of issues with boys but still the same problems of marketing and media image. I think it’s just sinking in how hard the next fifteen years of parenting are going to get, and I thought the last five years were hard 😆

Rainbow Craft Birthday Party

History
Mighty Girl decided she loved parties when she was two and a half, and spent the next six months asking when her birthday was. For her third birthday, she had a party at a soft play centre – to save me preparing the food!

For her fourth birthday, having managed Destructo Girl’s Christening party in the meantime, I thought I would do a ‘proper’ party and MG chose a pink tea party theme – the party was all about the food, no games or anything planned but I figured the kids would amuse themselves anyway – which they did! We had 17 children plus their parents.

This  year, for Mighty Girl’s fifth birthday, I decided to avoid supplying a buffet and chose a party time of 2 – 3.30pm: between lunch and tea times! She really loves drawing and arty things so I suggested that for entertainment and she chose a Rainbow theme.

As her birthday is only two months after Christmas, and my girls get spoilt rotten every year with so many presents, MG’s party is her birthday present. She has a couple of small token gifts from us but she loves parties so I probably go a teeny bit overboard…

Food
I knew I didn’t have to lay a full on buffet given the time of the party, but I still planned to have snacks and drinks available, as well as the all-important cakes. Being a rainbow party, it had to be rainbow cakes and snacks!

As there were so many cakes, I went for healthier snacks. One platter of vegetables (plus dips on the side) and one platter of fruit. I probably could have just done the fruit, as the vegetable platter was fairly untouched at the end of the party but the fruit and crisps were well decimated. The children would have got through far more crisps if they’d been available! I had a mini-obsess a couple of days before the party about finding blue and purple vegetables but it really didn’t matter and I’m glad the blue dyed celery didn’t work out because the natural colours looked so much nicer than if there’d been fake dyed ones in there.

The most time-consuming preparation for me was the cakes. Forty-eight fairy cakes and one huge birthday cake. I was aiming for 36 cakes but the mix made 48 in the end. I always find it hard to estimate (or to under-cater!) Five year old’s parties generally don’t seem to have parents staying but I wasn’t sure so over-compensated with cakes just in case!


Knowing there would be 24 children meant a birthday cake that fed at least that many, so a huge cake was also in order. I used cake mixes and ready made icing because making six colour layers meant I needed to cut corners elsewhere. Each of the 48 cupcakes were made from 6 separate spoons of colour mix = 288 spoons of mixture just for those. Plus icing and decorating… I spent the best part of six hours making the cakes!


Rainbow cakes are very easy to make, but are time consuming. I do recommend it though, because it has a fantastic end result. I got the idea for the birthday cake decoration from here. This took ages to do! I ran out of smarties just over half way through so had to run to the village shop and get some more. The icing/frosting started to dry out near the end so the smarties were falling out and needed more frosting.


The birthday cake is messy at the edges because I couldn’t cut the cakes flat so had to fill in the gaps when layering with lots of icing. We did not give the children edge pieces! I made it in three layers with two colours in each layer due to the size. It would have been better if I’d had a wider cake tin and then would have done it as two layers.

Decoration

The village hall we hired doesn’t allow anything to be stuck or pinned to the walls and I find the best kind of decoration is the sort that tidies itself up at the end of the party, so like last year the party bags were the decoration. Attaching helium filled balloons to party bags gives a great look, and the bags act as weights. The only minor downside is when the children want to play with the balloons, but this has only happened at the end of the parties when they were taking the bags anyway 🙂

Face Painting
Last summer MG was invited to a party where there was an amazing face painter, Mona from Little Precious Face and Body Painting. We offered MG choices of entertainment for her party and she chose face painting. She especially liked the fact that as the birthday girl she would get a face paint and a glitter tattoo!

Mona really is amazing. She arrived 15 minutes before the party start time to set up, and just got on with decorating all the children who wanted to. She was a huge draw from the start – the early arrivals gathered round her to watch MG having her designs and she gave each child who asked a number for their turn. MG can be shy, but she happily talked with Mona to choose her designs and colours. All the children who had face paints or glitter tattoos looked fantastic and really had works of art painted on them.

Obviously I can’t share pictures of the other children but there were fantastic designs including beautiful flowers and butterflies, an amazing spiderman design for a child dressed as spiderman, and a brother and sister who wanted to be king and queen had crowns painted on their foreheads – she even painted a stubbly beard for the king!

Mona stayed longer than she was supposed to so she could finish off two children who had arrived late and she insisted I had a glitter tattoo too! She was so friendly, kind and so obviously enjoying doing what she does. I just can’t recommend her highly enough. When I asked MG what she liked about her party, she said “everything!” so I rephrased the question to what did she think the best part was, and she said “the face painting”. I’m pretty sure this won’t be the last time we’ll be booking Little Precious!

Crafts & Games
I say ‘games’ but there was only pass the parcel really! I suppose you could count the party bag labelling as a game – I made laminated name tags for each child and put them at the entrance of the hall; the party bags were at the back of the hall. The children had to find their name, and take it to choose a colour bag where it could be attached by velcro. Then any artwork that they made could be added to the bags for them to take home at the end of the party. This also cut the party bag costs right down too! I did add a few token things – a glow stick, balloon, temporary tattoo and party blower – so it wasn’t completely empty and had some weight to keep the helium balloons in place!

Pass-the-parcel was a logistical nightmare. Due to terrible planning on my part (and my “everything has to be a rainbow” planning head) I didn’t have enough tissue paper to wrap round as each layer of the parcel got bigger so we ended up with four parcels of seven layers going round – three at the same time, then the fourth added when things were getting messy trying to give everyone a go and I realised that there were 22 children in the circle anyway… (3 x 7 = 21!) The children were all fantastic though, making sure all their friends had a turn and there were no arguments or tears. In fact, the children were amazing for the entire party, they were a brilliant bunch and should be proud of themselves.

There were four tables of crafts. These were:
Scratch art: I got several sets from Baker Ross as I thought they were great and fit in with the rainbow theme perfectly! There were crowns, masks, bracelets and badges. I thought the crowns would all go so bought a second pack as there were only 8 in a pack but one pack was enough. All the badge parts disappeared, but there were loads of the circles that should have been in them left over so I’m not sure what the children put in their badges!
Beading and Porcelain painting: I put these together on one table because there weren’t many porcelain things to paint and it was probably the most popular table! I’d got 12 mini mugs for designing but I could have got more as they were very popular (having said that, we still had three left that had been coloured and not claimed!) The beading was also popular, I could have set out much more space for this. The porcelain pens and mugs and tiles were also from Baker Ross. The beads were from all over the place, I’d got a big bag of alphabet beads from Baker Ross too but we have a huge collection of beads as it’s something my girls like to do.
Sticking: lots of bits and pieces, lots of glue and card sheets, mainly from the girls art stash.
Colouring and drawing: pages torn from colouring books plus plain paper with a variety of pens, pencils, crayons and paint dabbers. Very popular with the younger guests.

Congratulations for getting to the end of this post! I’ve missed out all sorts of things: the bunting that MG decorated before the party; the packets of Rainbow Drops I repacked into snack bags for the pass-the-parcel treat, all the help I got setting up and clearing away… It really was a fantastic party. Not for any of the preparation and rainbow theme-ing, but because all the children were fantastic and without them there wouldn’t have been a party at all 🙂

Five

When I imagined having children, when I tried to imagine having children because thinking of actually having a baby just caused my brain to go blank, I only ever imagined the under-five bit.

I have six nieces and nephews, ranging from 18 months to 21 years old so I do know that children grow up, but still I only imagined my children being under-five.

But, today, Mighty Girl is five years old.

Five.

Five whole years.

Nope, I still can’t get my head around that.

Happy Birthday to my wonderful, astute, beautiful, artistic, intelligent, articulate, fantastic and amazing first-born daughter.

Happy Birthday, Eleanor, I love you very much.