IMG_6159Babykins had his first trip to Playgroup this week. So far he has toddled in happily, played contentedly and been all smiles when I’ve picked him up. In fact the first day he was there, he barely looked up when I arrived, he was too engrossed in playing with a dinosaur (Raaargh). All three of my children have settled in easily at the same playgroup and I am very grateful to have it on my doorstep. I’d like to think that it’s because they are happy, secure children and I have done a superb job preparing them for their time away from home. In reality, I’m probably just lucky to have had children who like to be independent. I have plenty to say ¬†about settling children into nursery/school/playgroup, however, I’m afraid that committing my thoughts to (digital) paper might just backfire on me. If you want to hear my pearls of wisdom, ask me again in September 2015 when I am waving him off to ‘big’ school.

Spelling Test Trials….


Friday mornings: Breakfast, Playdoh Letters and a Spelling Test

The new school term always brings its fair share of trials. Son number one is facing trial by literacy. He really, really, really dislikes this aspect of the curriculum, despite the best efforts of his teachers. There are several reasons for this. Number one: it has taken a long time for his fine motor skills to develop so he isn’t the fastest writer. I think keeping up with some of his peers (especially the girls) is tricky. Number two: his speech isn’t as clear as it could be so learning with phonics isn’t straightforward. Number three: He is an August baby so almost a year younger than some of his classmates. Number four: he missed quite a bit of his early years education due to his leukaemia. Number five: there is definitely some sort of family trait involved. He is the fourth generation of my side of the family to struggle with literacy, though all three previous generations got by pretty well in the end.

I feel ready to attack this problem now. Not because I want him to be a literary genius but because I want him to be able to cope with school and more importantly enjoy it! So much of school life is based around being able to write and spell. I sometimes wonder if you can really demonstrate your true intelligence in school if your literacy skills aren’t top notch. I’d hate for him to get to secondary school and be stuck in classes that weren’t challenging him intellectually, just because he isn’t good at expressing himself in writing.

The last few weeks have seen me attempting a range of strategies to help him with his spelling tests. The ‘look, say, cover, write, check’ method of learning just does not seem to work for him. So I’ve been re-writing the spelling list in colours, adding pictures and shapes, creating mnemonics, looking for patterns and finally, making the words out of playdoh. It seems to be helping, he got 10 out of 10 the first week we worked on it this way.

Apart from new ways to learn, we’ve had to find new spaces in family life to sit down and actually do the learning. I never find that after school is very productive. I think children need a rest when they come out of the classroom, especially at the age of seven! Having a toddler around is also not conducive to quality one-to-one time with older children. Our solution is to grab 15 minutes in the morning. We are all up at seven a.m. and don’t have to leave the house until quarter-to-nine at the very latest. That is the benefit of living on the street next to the school. Fortunately The Husband is often at home until at least eight-thirty so he can keep an eye on the younger two. I have removed the TV so that is not a distraction and at eight o’clock, we head upstairs to his bedroom for a quick look at the letters.

Having this short amount of time seems to work for us. Son Number One has been thriving on the individual attention. It’s been quite an eye-opener for me to get an insight into how his mind works. It’s quite fun and creative and I hope that a bit of success with his spelling tests might give him confidence. I think he’s going to be a late developer when it comes to literacy, something that our education system can’t quite fully cope with. I wonder how many other boys have brains ‘wired’ like his? No wonder they get fed up with school and fail to achieve.



Teacher’s Pet

Being a teacher in a primary school at Christmas is a Good Gig. They get a gift from pretty much every child. I have a friend who timed her maternity leave based around this fact. I bet it kept her in chocolate for the rest of the year. Well, at least until Easter.

I think I have always given a home made gift, usually because I haven’t been organised enough to go to the shop and buy something. This year has been no different. Last week consisted mainly of nursing sick children. Any time I had left over was frantically devoted to (online) Christmas shopping and card writing. Thursday night rolled around and I had only just started to think about the obligatory gifts for teachers. Fortunately, I had a few things to hand….

I raided my preserves store (that sounds so grand doesn’t it – what I mean is a couple of shelves in the garage) and decided on jars of home spiced pickled onions and pumpkin and ginger jam. They needed a bit of perking up and fortunately I had a few checked paper jam pot covers hanging around. A bit of ribbon finished everything off quite nicely, though clearly, I forgot to take a photo of that!

Do you remember the stars I was blocking out the other week? I decided to turn them into tree decorations by adding a few bells, beads and buttons.

What do you think? Not bad for last minute? I seem to be using that expression quite a bit lately.

I always worry that the teaching assistants might get missed out but I also don’t really know which ones work with my children. I did what I usually do and decided to make a cake. At least then cake can be shared out with the right people. By this time it was so late at night that I decided to make my No Fail Muffin recipe and customise it as ‘Spiced Cranberry and Orange’ so that it seemed a bit more festive. No Fail Muffins are great: quick and easy. I’ll share the recipe soon.

This is how they looked when I packaged them up at about 6am the next morning. What was I thinking getting so obsessed with this stuff? I think I had about 4 hours sleep. StUpID! It would have been far more sensible to go to a 24 hour Tesco. I must really not like shopping.

I could only console myself by thinking that somewhere, somebody’s teacher had probably been up for a similar number of hours working on lesson plans and marking. Who knows how long my children’s teachers have worked this term. They deserve a little love.