So you may have noticed it has been a bit quiet on the blog in recent weeks. I would love to say that is because I have been spending all my time studying but sadly not. Instead the call of the Christmas lights, wrapping paper, food shopping and all those tasks us mums do to ensure Christmas is magical have been the cause of my distraction. I am sure I am not the only one who has let things slide and not just in the virtual world. Here at Cooper Towers my washing pile is bigger than ever. The only pile in the house that is bigger is that of the clean washing (some folded, some not). We are now in the realms of wearing said clothes straight from the baskets. Or (as we have affectionately begun to call them) Basket on the Landing, Basket in the Spare Room and Basket over There. It comes to something when your solution to this problem is to buy more baskets….
Anyway, I digress. As I am picking the tinsel out of the rug and screw up the never ending bits of wrapping paper I realise that December has left me completely wrung out. And surely I can not be the only one who has felt completely overwhelmed by the amount of mum-min involved in the run-up to this Christmas. This year I have two small people at school. And not just at school, but at two different schools. Two different schools who do things very differently. At different places, times and in different ways. It was a blessing that none of the Christmas events clashed. However, that meant getting to two Christmas fairs, two Nativity performances and one carol service (the junior school didn’t hold one) plus ensuring the boys could partake of a Christmas jumper day, a Tag day, a Christmas party and a cinema night…each.
Looking at that now, perhaps busy is an understatement. I am also certain I am not the only mum who was sewing tinsel onto an old top until my fingers bled late into the night the evening before The Nativity dress rehearsal. I thought sewing tinsel along the outline of a black top and black joggers would have a nice star-ry effect and smugly considered it wouldn’t take too long or cost too much. So I over-bought on cheap tinsel and set to work, forgetting that with every stitch that sparkly, slippery, shiny-ness would get caught up in the fine thread. It would also be impossible to cut the tinsel free without producing a mountain of teeny tiny silver sparkle shards which look oh so appetizing to a floor-roaming and inquisitive one year old.
With my stitches getting larger and my eyelids getting heavier I reassured myself that it would all be to good effect on the day. Sadly, a wardrobe malfunction during the dress rehearsal led to my son’s teacher ‘fixing’ his costume with sticky tape. Had I known about the tinsel coming free from his inside right leg I would have had the costume home and pulled out the needle and thread. But children have a canny knack of only telling you something this useful once you have been home from school for 20 minutes and can do absolutely nothing about it. Said tape did not do its job leaving small child grumpy and unhappy and waving limp, loose tinsel about while on stage. But at least he looked happy for the photos beforehand.
Enter stage right every mother’s festive nightmare. The moment your four year old son comes home with the words ‘mummy, I’m the camel’. The Camel. Yup, let that sink in for a moment. Imagine my glee when upon asking the class teaching assistant about the costume for The Nativity I was told it was all in hand. Hoorah I thought, that saves me a job. But then I thought I should check with the class teacher the following day. In fact, just two days before the performance. Her response was quite the opposite. A sort of non-comital ‘well, we can find him something if you are struggling.’ Struggling… struggling?? Those words were like petrol to a flame. No, I’m not struggling. I just could have done with a bit more warning. Oh did I get the note in his bag? No, no I didn’t. Do I ever? His school bag is a black hole of gargantuan proportions when it comes to any message of any import placed on headed paper. No, I didn’t get the note.
So, I did what any mum would do in this situation. No, I did not place an Amazon Prime order (why? Why didn’t I do that?) Instead I trawled the local charity shops for anything I could find that looked camel-like. Three hours later and I had managed to spend £2 on a pack of four brown flannels (panic buy!), 80p on a square of brown felt, £2.50 on a reindeer Christmas hat and £2 on some really rather pretty trim. It was very pretty (bit pricey) but just right for a camel. I then came home, raided the dressing up box for last year’s reindeer outfit and somehow crafted a camel head from the bits I had bought with the obvious necessary addition of an empty plastic plum punnet pulled from the recycling bin. Struggling…. pah!.
Happy Christmas to all and to all a goodnight…
My tales of Christmas fun could go on. I could tell you how you should never take a baby to a candle-lit carol service, how much fun it is when you forget what you have wrapped and you spend half the night unwrapping and re-wrapping things just to remind and reassure yourself or how you should always check your shoes before you sneak into someone else’s home to put up their Christmas tree as a surprise for them when they return from a long trip away. But I will leave those for another time.
So you ask how the studying is going? Well, I have every intention of getting back to it. But for now I’m going to collapse in a heap and recover for a few days. Happy New Year to you all.
2018 is on the horizon and while I still haven’t completed my Learn Direct web design course I am about to embark on the next phase of study with Digital Mums. Read more about Why I can’t wait to get f******* working
Please note that thismumstudies is an Amazon affiliate which means we benefit from any purchases made using the links on this blog
Posted in Mini Coopers Tagged with: christmas, mini coopers, motherhood, mum, nativity, studying
What does going to school have in common with Leysdown seafront? The idea that points win prizes it would seem. I say this as the mum of a child with 1130 house points accumulated in just five weeks. No, I am not proud. I am angry.
Let me take you back to the 80s when I attended primary school. There were four houses; York, Balmoral, Richmond and Gloucester. I was in York. I was proud to be in York. I might get one house point every couple of weeks. Maybe I had opened a door for a teacher without being asked or had really excelled in a piece of work. There were extra opportunities for earning house points on occasions such as sports day or by being a teacher’s helper at lunchtime. Getting a house point felt like owning a piece of gold and I would colour in the square on the sheet in the classroom with pride as I watched my house points accumulate alongside others.
At the end of the term the house with the most points throughout the school was awarded four points, the third, three, the second, two and those in last place, one house point. These were added to the main chart in the hall for all to see. At the end of the year the house with the most points won the house point trophy and the house captain went up to receive it in assembly on behalf of their house. I am hoping this sounds familiar to some of you.
21st Century house points
Scoot back to 2017 and now it’s all about how many house points you need in exchange for a building set, cinema ticket or afternoon tea with the head teacher. And we are talking big numbers. Hundreds and hundreds of house points needed. But that’s ok, because just doing your homework will earn you 20 points. Putting your hand up in class, five points.
It makes me wonder where the time is to teach the children if the teachers are dishing out house points every time a pupil breathes in or out successfully.
Beyond the points, there seem to be countless other motivational incentives. In a world where we can’t have winners or losers at sports day, it is beyond me why we can dish out pupil of the week, top table, stars in their eyes, spelling star and a prize for the kid at the top of maths mountain. Don’t even get me started on 100% attendance (No don’t, I tried to include that here…it has taken on a life of its own for another post!).
Then there’s carrots on sticks. And this is where the materialistic nature of these incentives has taken an astounding turn. Currently, my son informs me, if he gets all his spellings right this term, he will be put into a prize draw with other children from local schools to win…. a digital reading device akin to a Kindle. That’s right people. A couple of hundred pounds worth of tech that to be quite honest I would rather my son didn’t own. This is wrong for several reasons…
- The odds of Mini Cooper 1 winning are slim considering how many kids will be in the ballot.
- He doesn’t understand this.
- He believes he will win.
- When he doesn’t win – he still wants a tablet.
- We aren’t going to buy him one.
If he has a tablet at the tender age of 7, the four year old is going to start on about when does he get one and slowly but surely the screen-free buffer zone becomes less. I may as well buy 10 month old Mini Cooper 3 her own iPhone now.
While I am on the subject of screens, these house points have to be banked. Not by picking up the nearest half decent yellow felt tipped pen as in my day, oh no. This is the era of online reward points. There is a website dedicated to storing the house points.
The kids log in, they tap in the 16 digit code on the house point voucher that has been screwed up in their pocket all day and it adds the points to their total. They are supposed to put in the reason why they were given the points. Mini Cooper 1 can never remember (so clearly there’s an incentive working right there yeah?!) They can check how many they have against their classmates. There are class leaderboards, year leaderboards, school leaderboards (no gold medals at sports day remember). It’s a joke.
My son sits for 20 minutes trying to remember his password, then I sit for 20 minutes reading out digits on slips of paper for points he doesn’t even remember why he was given. Meanwhile Mini Cooper 2 could do with some help with his reading book (an actual book) and Mini Cooper 3 has given up learning to clap and gone to sleep
I will admit I have been of the parenting camp against reward charts. I did not want the children to do something just because they would get a reward. I will also admit that when it came to trying to get a decent night’s sleep, we relented and created our own sleep charts complete with stickers chosen by the boys. I will also say, they worked… for a while. I say that, because after a few nights of getting stickers for staying in bed Mini Cooper 1 decided he would fill the chart with stickers for just about any reason he could think of. Suffice to say, the reward/response link didn’t really work for him there.
So, who are all these incentives really for? Let’s face it the schools are going to a lot of effort to put these systems in place, build them up and sustain them. When we boil it down it’s all about educational targets. Getting the children to achieve so the school isn’t seen to be failing by the all-seeing eye of Ofsted. The children don’t care about Ofsted. The children care about which little toy they might get if their name is called for top table on Friday. The children care about why they weren’t Star of the Week when they tried so hard with their reading. The children care about what they will be given in return for doing something. Our target-driven educational system is promoting the 21st Century materialistic lifestyle. It isn’t promoting the idea that you might want to learn something purely for the love of learning.
And while these incentive schemes are building up schools and Ofsted, are they actually building up our little ones? If this is all being done to please The Powers That Be, where are our children learning to please themselves? How do they work out their own threshold for having done well? We live in a world of people who don’t feel ‘good enough’. It’s something to do with expectations and the bar we set for ourselves. Should the system really be motivating children to reach blanket-all targets or would realistic individualised goals be more beneficial? Rewarding achievements that mean something to that one child. Shouldn’t we be focussing on the rewards of self awareness, self motivation, self confidence and self esteem? The effect of any one of which on a young person is certain to last far beyond the plastic stationery set my son can get in exchange for 600 points.
Badge of honour
So, while I am giving these rewards a hard time, I realise there is a place for them in learning. As a student myself I am guilty of chasing the reward (Read more here: “Getting the Bit of Paper“). When I first logged on to the dashboard of the web design course I am currently studying with LearnDirect, I was met with an achievement pie chart and a league table. Further investigation revealed various digital award badges for different achievements; number of days you consecutively log in, number of hours you have studied, number of assignments in on time. Logging in three times in a row before 7am gets you the cutest little early bird icon on your profile, while logging in after 11pm three days on a row wins you the night owl (squeeee!).
Who needs those?
After scoffing to DH ‘who do they think they’re kidding, we are adults, I don’t need these silly little games,’ I of course got totally and utterly sucked in and had to earn as many of these digital badges as I possibly could. I currently sit top of the leaderboard (although there’s no explanation as to what I am the leader of; students in the region, country, on my course, the last five people to log in….who knows). That’s not the point, the point is the motivational rewards here have helped me to scoot through the course at the pace I have wanted and, I will admit, have given me little confidence boosts along the way.
So what am I moaning about then? Well, the difference is, I am an adult. I know I am being persuaded and manipulated to get my work done. I understand what incentives are and I already had the self-motivation and the self-confidence needed to learn. My fear is that a child knows none of this and they are being lulled into a short-lived land of bribery and materialism that merely promotes a ‘what are going to give me for that then?’ attitude. It’s education not a seaside sideshow.
Right, I am off to check Mini Cooper 1’s pockets before popping his uniform in the wash. It is no longer the paper hankie that I fear. It is the house point. Those tatty slips of paper turn to reward confetti in the twinkle of an eye. I wonder how many I would need to get a new washing machine or tumble drier?
*Thanks to the mums I have quoted along the way here. Read more about what mums think about primary school reward schemes here.
Believe me there’s a heap of stuff out there. Here is just a selection of the stuff I have read this week while preparing this blog post…
Posted in Mini Coopers, Studying, Thoughts Tagged with: achievement, frustration, Learn Direct, learning, mini coopers, school, study, studying
Since I have been back at the books I have tried to create pockets of time for study. While Mini Cooper 3 was in the teeny newborn stage, there seemed to be several opportunities for this. Studying while feeding, studying while she naps, studying as she sits in the bouncy chair. Now she is 9 months old and that’s a game changer…
While she hasn’t quite cracked crawling, she is shuffling her way around in that lightning quick way that they do. I put her in one place and a second later she is somehow across the room. This has changed my study spots somewhat for no sooner have I popped her down with her toys and grabbed the laptop, she is pulling at the fireguard or pulling herself up to stand by the sofa, needing me to come and ‘Reset’ her.
Time for change
So study times have changed. As I knew they would. It means a change in expectations from me as I struggle to complete the next course unit. It seems that along with less time to study, motivation is also on a dip (read more here: This is the Wall). Not a great combination when I was trying to stick to such a tight schedule and complete this course by January.
I am now trying to create some extra time (wouldn’t we all like to do that!). By that I mean I am using Mummy Multi-Tasking to give me those precious extra moments. Suddenly by creating them, it seems only right I use them as they were intended, so they have a double use as they are helping to focus me on the task in hand.
Bye bye bland
Enter, my secret weapon, my slow-cooker. I have had the slow-cooker for about five years. Every Autumn I blow the dust off it and pop it on the side. I might make two or three lack-lustre dinners in it and then back in the cupboard it goes. Not this year. This year it needs to earn its place on the kitchen side.
Over the last few weeks I have tried to inject some flavour into the meals and last week I cracked it. Now this is going on the menu once a week giving me an extra hour of study time between the school run landing and dinner time. Now that is gold. The recipe is below.
Slowly does it
While I am at it I have put together this quick cheat sheet. Every time I bung ingredients in the slow cooker I find myself scouring the internet (and ultimately texting my slow cooker guru sister) to ask how long to cook it for. This time when I found the info I decided I would not lose it again . So here that is too (and it’s Pin-able! Follow me on Pinterest and I’m on Instagram too)
- Is the slow cooker your friend? If you want to share any slow-cooker secrets or recipes then please do so in the comments.
Slow Cooker Beef and Onion Stew
500g diced beef
3 small onions (red or white or a mix)
1 medium carrot
1 medium parsnip
1tbsp of tomato puree
A handful of fresh flat leaf parsley and fresh coriander
- Brown the meat (optional)
- Chop all vegetables (potatoes may need cutting in half to ensure they cook through – use as many as will fit!)
- Add tomato puree
- Add vegetable stock and bouquet garnis
- Stir to mix
- Pop on low for 8 hours
- Serve with fresh herbs to taste
- Enjoy with fresh crusty bread
*Made using a 3.5L slow cooker like this one…
(Please note I am now signed up to the Amazon Affiliates scheme which means I may benefit from anything you buy through this link)
Posted in Learn Direct, Mini Coopers, Studying Tagged with: knowledge, Learn Direct, learning, mini coopers, motivation, mum, studying, time
The silence is deafening here. We are in the middle of a power cut. The lightbulb popped as it went out. The pitch black is now only interrupted by the glow of two laptop screens as me and DH race against the battery power to get things done.
Yet, somehow it’s quite soothing sat here without the background buzz and whine of every electrical item in the house. Sometimes it takes outside forces to make you stop. It feels a bit like the world is on hold in the darkness, as though someone has pressed pause somewhere. It is a haven, a little pocket of breathing space.
The whirlwind of change is continuing at its usual pace. There is a new rhythm to our week as DH strides out each morning for a long day of learning, while I tackle the quite frankly raving mad school run, before debating whether I have the energy to do people or places while waiting for school pick-up.
Something has struck me powerfully this week and while it isn’t rocket science, it is yet an idea that has shifted my thinking. It is this…
How simple is that? I choose what to do with my time. The seconds, minutes and hours that I live, are mine. I am able to choose how I live them. I am able to decide where to put my energy in any given moment. It is a lightbulb moment for me. Particularly as I quite often do not have much energy to spare, owing to the 45 minute sleep cycle my children like to keep until they are at least 3 years old.
And if you are now sat there thinking ‘that’s all very well, but my time is not my own… I am governed by an over-demanding miniature version of me’ then I hear you. But there are still those golden moments. Maybe its 30 seconds while they are happy playing, maybe its half an hour as they nap; those moments are yours. Eat chocolate, read a book, have an uninterrupted wee. Claim that time. It is yours.
The world wakes
The doorbell is ringing, the printer has woken up and the monitors have kicked back in. The power is back. The world is awake again. Those precious darkened moments feel like stolen time. I am grateful for them and the choice I made to spend them mindfully, writing in the dark. I choose now to go into the light and inspire others as these women have inspired me.
Posted in Studying, Thoughts Tagged with: Digital Mums, empowering, learning, mini coopers, time
Today I woke up and smelt the coffee… and then remembered I don’t like coffee.
Anyway, I left my house at 8am this morning to drive my two children to school. Mini Cooper 2 attends a school that is a 7 minute walk from our house, yet he was late. Why? Because, Mini Cooper 1 attends a school that is a 20 minute drive away (in school run traffic traffic). I have a 10 minute window between dropping one child off and getting the other through the school gate.
This morning was the first time I have tried it with all three Mini Coopers. DH starts his 12-week training next week and there will no longer be the luxury of 1:1 school runs. Instead I will take on the challenge of getting two children to two different schools while juggling a baby.
And this morning I ended up a snivelling heap on the wrong side of a locked gate and here’s why. It appears that no matter how positive you are about something, once you are doing it there will be a number of things you had not considered that WILL happen.
Firstly Mini Cooper 1 lost his tuck money, brief delay over that. Then he went into the tuck queue but not through the door as I had asked, I waved like a nutter in the playground, he couldn’t see me and stood glassy-eyed, seemingly staring through where I was stood. Mini Cooper 2 then had his arm pulled from his socket as I raced against the flow of parents back to the car. ‘I’m tired mummy, you’re walking too quickly, mummy wait’, I managed a smile and one quirky ‘I got this’ comment over the shoulder to people I usually stop to say hi to, and dashed to the car.
Baby in the car seat. Mini Cooper 2 in his seat. Dropped car key down the side of the seat. Brief panic. Clambered in the back seat. Pulled the car door shut. Deep breaths ‘mummy come on you said we were in a hurry’. Retrieve car key from side of chair. Realise child lock is on both back doors. Clamber through to the front seat. On the road again. Wait for bin lorry to pass and maniac school run driver to mount the kerb and speed past. Navigate past a bus that stops for no reason, spot the bin lorry up ahead and cut through a different route to avoid it. Feeling good, I’m on this.
Drama at the school gate
8.49am and I am in the road Mini Cooper’s school is in. Swerve into car park, reverse, forwards, reverse, forwards, reverse, oh sod it (my car is massive, I can not park it). Jump out, no time for baby in sling. Mini Cooper 2 falls over PE bag string into car park with me screaming at him to mind the cars. Mini Cooper 3 has done a poo. I can feel it seeping through my new grey cardigan. A nod to a fellow soon-to-be-late parent and a dash across the car park. The outer gate is open, we have made it.
The inner gate is shut.
We have not made it.
Mini Cooper 2 is late.
I don’t really do failure. I have failed to get my child to school on time, despite being able to see my house from the top of the road. I drop to the floor. The moment I do it I realise I am being dramatic. This isn’t Eastenders. He is just 30 seconds late for school.
I gather myself enough to go and fill in The Late Form and send Mini Cooper 2 off into his day. Then peel the baby from my sleeve and make my way back to the car. At home I stamp about. Swear a bit. Tidy in anger (this may be an upside of the situation) and then sit and cry into my cup of tea. Studying is far from my thoughts. If I couldn’t concentrate before I certainly can’t now.
After all I have been lecturing myself over this situation for weeks: “It’s OK if he is late. It is just reception. You can’t change the situation. You are doing this for long-term gain. One day someone at the council might see sense. Just keep smiling and telling everyone it will be ok and… it will be ok”
So while waiting for the Rant and Rave to leave me I have written this post. It hasn’t got me anywhere in terms of my study; there are still Hama beads all over the kitchen floor and I need another cup of tea, the baby is asleep on my lap and I could have been doing those 10 other things but I do feel a bit better and I am now able to see some humour in the whole debacle. My mum’s words echo in my head:
‘You can only do your best’.
But today my best wasn’t good enough, and I didn’t like it.
Posted in Mini Coopers, Thoughts Tagged with: blog, mini coopers, mum, school, school run