For Alice on Your 5th Birthday

Last But Not Least

Dear Alice on Saturday you will FINALLY be 5!

It feels like it’s taken an absolute age for you to get to this point. We’ve seen so many of your friends reach this milestone, often as some of them are now about to turn 6,  and it felt like you’d never get here. You are the last but by no means the least to turn 5 out of your school friends, the last in your class (and indeed your year at school), the last of your NCT friends and the last of your old playgroup friends.

And I whilst I know that there has got to be some sort of cut off; that someone has got to be the youngest in the class, at times I have noticed just how big a gap being a late summer born child can be.

Big School

What a year it’s been. Other than perhaps your very first year when babies change practically daily, I don’t think I’ve ever noticed a year where you’ve changed so much.

518A0B16-0D72-4CF6-AE92-F1C6D60F5507

First day of school just 2 weeks after turning 4

Just 2 weeks after your 4th birthday – almost a year ago, you started at “Big School.” It was a bumpy ride. We’d had a lot of family and emotional upset over that summer and looking back I can see that you had really picked up on the tension in the house. When the novelty of school wore off after a couple of weeks, there were serious issues; you were absolutely exhausted and emotionally stressed. I look back to last October and November with absolute horror. You were waking up every night screaming. You had to be physically carried out to the car every morning crying and fighting trying to remove your school uniform. You would come out of school every afternoon kicking me and your sister. On a daily basis we were pretty much all in tears.

I frequently talked to the teachers and SENCO support at the school for advice, begging and pleading for help, to be told in astonishment that you were an angel at school. They couldn’t believe the problems I was telling them. It seemed you were taking all your frustration and anger out on us at home.

I remember the school nativity last December where you nervously stood at the back of the stage and had to be comforted by a teacher half way through because you became upset and my heart ached for you. I seemed to spend so much of my time worrying about you!

IMG_5616

Looking nervous at the Christmas nativity

You’ve always had a cautious personality. You become upset about any change in routine and whenever you’ve had to start something new. Starting nursery, pre-school, even swimming lessons, has always been a big deal for you and I’ve often wondered if this is just part of who you are or if it’s something to do with being the eldest child because unlike your sister, there is no one to pave the way for you.

Christmas and Summer

Things changed after Christmas. I was dreading the “Back to School” week in January but you’d completely turned a corner and seemed to suddenly enjoy school. I still couldn’t get much information out of you about what you were getting up to, but you were happier. You weren’t waking up in the night, you seemed to have completely settled down. You enjoyed writing and reading and even maths!

IMG_1209

Last day of Reception class

In June I came to see you in a summer dance show at school and could not believe the complete difference from the nativity just 6 months before. You were dressed up in a superhero costume at the front of the class, dancing  to your (now favourite) One Direction song whilst singing loudly along. I couldn’t have been more shocked or surprised.

It was about this time that we noticed your growing interest in music. Your teacher had an influence on your love for One Direction (specifically Drag Me Down and History) and Justin Bieber (especially Sorry), but we’ve watched in amusement as you’ve enjoyed singing and dancing along to Uptown Funk, Happy by Pharrell Williams and Ready for The Good Life by Paloma Faith.

Just like this birthday, you were born on a Saturday when the local V Festival weekend was happening and your birthday is now forever linked to this. So when I made the mistake of mentioning that Justin Bieber was headlining this year, it seemed hilarious that you were most insistent about going.

IMG_1685

Superhero at the summer dance show

Your love of colouring and arts and crafts has grown this year, you can spend hours carefully perfecting your pictures and get really frustrated if you make a mistake or “ruin” a drawing, often demanding to start all over again. You’ve also learnt to ride a bike without stabilisers and seem to enjoy this!

IMG_1686

A colouring masterpiece!

Your relationship with your sister Eva has changed too. As the eldest you have taken to winding her up more and there have been a lot of arguments. But I love the fact that you’re still incredibly protective over her and whenever we go somewhere new, you will look out for her and make sure that she is OK.

IMG_0299

Protective big sister

Your summer school report just made me want to weep, because despite all the emotional problems from almost a year ago and despite being the youngest, it seems to have had no impact on your ability. We’re all so proud of how you’re doing, but more than this, I couldn’t be more grateful for how hugely improved your confidence has grown.

So happy birthday my sweet, sensitive, cautious Alice. I hope you enjoy it for as long as you can before all your friends rapidly start turning 6. I’ve loved seeing your personality develop and how your confidence has grown so much this past year and only hope that this continues now that you’re finally 5! xx

 

 

 

5 Ways Kids Ruin Your Holiday

We’ve just come back from a fabulous week in Devon. The weather was great, we got out and about quite a bit and the kids were mostly good. BUT here’s 5 ways that they (OK that’s mostly the toddler) wrecked the holiday:

IMG_1577

The Toddler looking pensive moments before she threw a huge tantrum about walking up the hill.

1. Waking Up Time. The toddler woke up between 5.30am and 6.30am EVERY SINGLE day on our holiday. I mean come on, it’s a holiday, couldn’t we possibly get a 7am lie in just once? Typically, the first Monday after we got home, she slept in until 7.30am. How do they know how to do that?  Yeah… thanks for that.

2. Wanting to Go Home. How bizarre that despite having a daily countdown for months on end about when we were going on holiday, the toddler after 2 days of finally arriving, asked -“When are we going home?” This line of questioning happened all week. Every day we’d go to a beach or out somewhere and she’d be asking “When are we going back to the holiday house?”

IMG_1387

Having a tantrum & wanting to go home after a complaint about too much sand.

3. Food. Meals out had to be catered for the very limited palettes of the kids. No fancy seafood restaurants for us. No browsing the range of eateries and bistros perhaps taking in a pre-dinner cocktail. Now choice is instead restricted to – Which restaurant is most likely to do sausages or pasta? Which burger joints might be open at 5pm? Which would be fairly child friendly? And which would best tolerate the noise of a tantruming toddler?

4. Going to Bed. Just when we thought we could properly relax with a bottle of wine and enjoy some grown up time alone. The toddler refused to go to bed. Up – down, up – down – I felt like a bloomin yo-yo putting her back in to her bed for hours on end. Eventually we had just enough time to drink a glass of wine before going to bed, exhausted.

5. Not Walking. We have ditched the pushchair a while ago. The toddler has mostly coped well with not wanting the buggy. But on one particular day, decided to throw the most God awful tantrum at the foot of an enormous hill with the car at the top. Husband had already gone on ahead with cool bag and older child leaving me to carry bags, blankets, towels and other gumpf along with the screaming toddler under my arm in full view of the beach up the steepest hill in history.

As you can guess, we’re going through a particularly “difficult” stage with the youngest. But despite her many grumps and grumbles, we still did manage to have a marvellous holiday!

Any other ways that kids spoil your holiday? Let me know.

 

And here’s some of the nicer moments!IMG_1593

IMG_1590

 

 

Cuddle Fairy
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
Pink Pear Bear

How to Get Started as A Freelance Copywriter

Freelance copywriting is perhaps the best job I’ve ever had. I love being my own boss, choosing my own hours and deciding which projects to work on. Perhaps the biggest advantage for me is that I get to work around my children. During the normal working week  (school holidays are a bit more problematic!) I can work around the school run and pre-school run and I’ve been known to work late into the night to get things done.

How to Start Freelance Copywriting

But freelancing does have it’s downsides too. As recently as a couple of months ago, I was stuck in a rut with no sign of work and I accepted that I’d be a stay at home mum for a bit longer. I also wrote another post about the downsides of freelancing when I had the horrible task of amongst other things, chasing a client down for payment. I’m extremely lucky in that my husband is the main breadwinner in our family and so we can get by if I don’t get any work for months on end.

Content Writing Vs Copywriting

A few people have asked me recently how I got started and so I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts. One thing that really stands out is that copywriting is different to content writing. Content is writing to provide information. Your blog is content. Copywriting on the other hand is writing to sell. It does take a bit of a different skill, you need to get inside the head of the person who you are targeting to buy the product or service. Copywriting forms the bulk of my work, but I’ve still had several clients looking to write content as well, so if you’re a blogger trying to break into this market, then you’re in luck!

How to Get into Freelance Copywriting

How I got Started

My background is in marketing. I’ve been in the business of essentially trying to sell or market stuff (clothing, DVDs, music) to other people for years. Marketing is all about really knowing your target audience, so this combined with my passion for writing has helped me with copywriting. I gave up working full time after the birth of my first daughter 5 years ago. My company was completely inflexible in flexible working and wanted me to commute into London 5 days a week which I wasn’t prepared to do and so I left. I started Googling freelance copywriting and marketing projects, and struck lucky when I found another local freelance copywriter who was looking to take someone on as an assistant. I sent her an email and ended up working on loads of different projects and clients which she handed me.

After 2 years, she decided she could manage on her own without me and so I decided to go it alone. It was scary at first, but here’s a few pointers for how I went about it.

Experience = a Portfolio

So my initial experience really cut my teeth in the copywriting business and helped me to start and shape a portfolio of my own to show on to new prospective clients. For newbies trying to get in on the action, I get that it can often seem like a never ending circle of how to get work without any experience. But here’s a few ways to build up that essential portfolio:

portfolio-602504_640

Friends and Family

I boosted my portfolio by doing some copywriting work for free for friends and family. Don’t be afraid to tap up your friends – especially those who own their own businesses and ask if they need any help with their copywriting – website pages, emails even help with writing their social media. One of my husband’s best friends had just started up his own finance business and so I helped him to write his web pages and in return got him to write a testimonial. My sister-in-law has her own business so I wrote some blogs for her and got a testimonial in return.

Testimonial

Every time you do some work, whether paid or for free, be sure to get your client to write you a testimonial. I usually ask for this to be done on LinkedIn, so that other people can see it and then copy and paste it to be used on your website.

Your Website

If you’re serious, you need to get a website set up which shows your services and what you do. It doesn’t need to be anything expensive or fancy, just so that clients can find you and can see the work that you’ve done previously. This is mine –  I used Wix – a fairly inexpensive web hosting site with email hosting thrown in. You can keep adding to this as you gain more testimonials and more experience. If you’re a blogger, you probably know the whole spiel about using keywords to boost your SEO. Do it, work your magic, I’ve recently had a few clients who have found me just by Googling keywords and phrases.

website for freelance copywriting

Your Blog

Your blog is completely different to your copywriting services. It’s more personal, it’s more about you and what you’re thinking as opposed to selling anything. BUT it shows clients that you’re a writer and a committed writer at that. It shows that you have thoughts and opinions and it shows your passion for writing. I use my copywriting website to link back to my blog so that potential clients can see my style. N.B Don’t do this if your blog is overly sweary!!  It can send the wrong message! Your blog also keeps you in the practise of writing. When I was going through my copywriting drought, I kept blogging just to keep me  in the habit of writing.

blog-970722_640

LinkedIn

I’ve recently won a big contract on LinkedIn because I posted about one of my blogs that I’d written for the Huffington Post. An old work acquaintance of mine got in touch to ask if I could write some content for one of their clients and I’m now (hopefully) set up for doing more work with them in the future. Update your LinkedIn profile to say you’re now taking on freelance copywriting projects. If you write for other sources like the Huffington Post or other media, then stick it all down. Exploit it and promote yourself.

linkedin-911794_640.jpg

Content Mills

There are some websites out there who will pay you to write content, normally in the form of blogs for their clients. The pay is very nominal and you will probably have to take some form of test to show that you can write and spell. I hooked up with one of these sites a while back and passed the test. But  I never ended up writing for them as I managed to land clients who would pay a much higher wage. A lot has been written in the press and online about content mills and how the low pay devalues the job of a copywriter, but I have to say that if you’ve got time on your hands and you’re looking to get a foot in the door, this could be the way to go. Sites include Copify and Text Broker.

Social

I set up my own Facebook page for my copywriting business and used Twitter to hook up with a lot of other freelance writers. As with blogging, I’m not particularly great at self promotion, but it’s another way to get yourself and your writing skills out there.

Cold Calling Creative and Design Agencies

A lot of the copywriting work that I’ve won recently has been through cold  emailing. I set about targeting design and creative agencies locally. When you think about it, a lot of people get their brand spanking new websites designed by design agencies, but then they have nothing – no text or copy to put into this new website. Design agencies are masters of art or design but not necessarily words, and so I sent off hundreds of emails asking if design agencies would consider me for their freelance copywriting requirements. Of course, I got a high percentage of zero replies, but I got the odd response saying they’d keep my details on file and a few more who gave me some work.

Email for Freelance copywriting.png

So there you have it. My top tips on how to make a start on becoming a freelance copywriter. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve started up or dreamt of becoming a copywriter. If you have any other tips, please let us all know in the comments section below! Meanwhile, good luck to all of you who do it.

 

 

Pink Pear Bear

Mummascribbles

Cuddle Fairy
You Baby Me Mummy
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

41 Things I’ve Learnt in 41 Years

This week I turn 41. It sounds old when you write it down, but I’m still a youngster at heart!  I’m no wise woman, but I thought I’d write a list of the things I’ve learnt or think I’ve learnt so far in my near on 41 years.

41 things I've learnt in 41 years

1) You need to be able to laugh at yourself. My dear old Nan will always be remembered for her many sayings and this is one of them. I completely agree. No one likes a person who can’t laugh at themselves, so it’s better to laugh along with others.

2) You care a lot less about what other people think as you get older.

3) All Mums suffer with guilt. Whether it’s working too much, not working enough, being too strict or not strict enough, I don’t know of a mum that doesn’t suffer with mum guilt. I doubt it will ever change, but we need to be kinder to ourselves.

4) Life is too short to read crap books. I recently got sent a free Kindle book from Amazon. There was a reason it was free. I continued to plough on with it even though it took me an age to finish it. I’ll never get that time back, so won’t be making that mistake again!

stack-of-books-1001655_640

5) Marriage is hard work. Enough said.

6) Be grateful for everything you DO have, and worry less about the stuff you don’t have.

7) Stay away from people who make you feel bad. Toxic, negative people only bring you down.

8) Love yourself. If you don’t like you, how can you expect anyone else to?

9) Stop comparing yourself to others. There will always be someone who has more money, a better job, a nicer house etc. But you need to concentrate on you.

10) Social media lies. OK maybe not lies, but it doesn’t give the entire picture. You only get to hear about the good stuff on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, very rarely do you get to hear about the bad side of people’s lives.

tweet-155281_640

11) Get outside every single day. Fresh air and a bit of a walk can clear your head and do wonders for your soul. (It also quietens down arguing kids).

12) Smile! Everyone is attracted to someone who is smiles, it makes you look friendly and more approachable. Failing that, it makes them wonder what you’re up to.

13) Let kids be kids. Some structure is good for children, but too many classes, groups and schedules can cause stress. Kids need some down time to just play.

Kids Playing

14) Only you can change your life. You want something? You have to be the one to make it happen.

15) Your husband will always be your other child.

16) Friendships come and go. There’s not enough time to stay in touch properly with everyone. It’s just the way it is that some people will come into your life as others move out. But some true good friends will remain forever.

17) Your initial instincts are normally right.

18) It’s best not to discuss politics or religion with most people unless you want to end up in a fairly heated debate or have a few hours in which to stick around for the ensuing discussion. I’ve found this one out with a few different groups of people recently over Brexit.

19) Never judge another person’s circumstances or lifestyle because you just don’t know what might happen to you in the future. A friend of mine recently told me how another girl was quite judgemental about her situation when her marriage broke down but then went through exactly the same thing a few months later.

20) Do what makes you happy and what you’re passionate about. If something makes you happy it shouldn’t be a chore to do it; you’ll always find time.

21) A lot of problems can be solved over a cup of tea, a biscuit and a chat with a good friend.

I love Tea

22) Failing that, there’s always wine …… or gin.

Red Wine

23) Don’t underestimate the power of sleep. Most things seem a lot better in the morning!

24) Everything in moderation. That goes for booze, exercise, work, rich food, late nights, pretty much everything!

25) Whether it’s work, parenting, social life or dating, most people are WINGING it. The most successful people are those that have an abundance of confidence. They look like they know what they’re doing (but probably don’t).

26) Make time and save for holidays. They’re not only good for re-charging your batteries and spending quality time with those you care about, but holidays are essential memory makers.

27) Your close friends are your saviours, your sounding boards, your secret keepers.

28) Put your phone down occasionally and enjoy what’s in front of you. 

iphone-410311_640

29) Children, even very young children can hear and understand what’s going on around them, far more than you care to think. I totally underestimated the negative impact last year on my eldest daughter of losing my father-in-law as well as the problem with schools. Watch what you say and when you say it.

30) Try to always see the good in people. If you only see the worst, that is what you’re likely to get.

31) The days are long but the years are short. Whoever wrote that was totally spot on. It’s very cliche, but kids grow up too fast, they might drive you mad on a daily basis, but they’ll be 18 before you know it. Cherish them.

32) A good cry is very cathartic. As is writing things down either in a notebook or blog post!

crying-1299426_640

33) A new outfit and some make up will always give you confidence to go out and knock ’em dead.

34) Mindfulness has some very good tips. I’ve just had an introductory session in mindfulness and really enjoyed it. The basic premise is that we need to spend more time in the present and less time worrying about the future or the past. Whatever is going to happen will happen anyway and worrying about it will only waste more of our energy.

35) There’s ALWAYS someone worse off than you. Another great saying from my lovely Nan, but it’s so true and often gives me a bit of a wake up call if I’m anxious about something.

36) Some truly painful things never really ever go away. But you can learn to deal with them and cope a bit better with the support of those around you.

37) Be nice to people! As well as being generally a decent thing to do, you never know who might end up being your boss or in your social circles in the future.

38) What’s the worst that can happen?! This is one my mum used to ask me a lot when I was younger and a big worrier.

39) Everyone needs to go out and let their hair down once in a while. Drink, dance and be stupid. It’s a necessity to appreciate life!

40) Don’t feel bad about saying no to people. It’s impossible to do everything. Sometimes you need to say no and to not feel bad about it.

41) Some time spent alone is good for you. If like me, you spend a lot of time with the little people and very rarely get any time for yourself, you know how heavenly half an hour can be just to spend time alone reading, listening to music or just to savour the silence! It not only does you some good, but helps to improve your relationships with others when you’ve had a break!

So there you have it my 41 things in 41 years. That took some thinking, let me tell you!  Is there anything you’d add to this list? I’d love to know.

 

 

 

Pink Pear Bear

Mummascribbles

Cuddle Fairy
Mummuddlingthrough
You Baby Me Mummy
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

International Cousins Day 24th July 2016

Apparently 24th July 2016 is International Cousins Day. Who knew?!

I was lucky to grow up with two sisters. We are close in age so despite the usual fighting and bickering when we were very young, we were good company for each other. Despite our parents having siblings, we only had a total of 2 cousins who were born in Australia. We’ve seen them a few times over the years, but we never really experienced the joy of growing up with cousins that we were close to.

Cousins for Our Children

My children have got a whole new experience of cousins that we never had. They have 6 in total. The 2 on my husband’s side live a fair distance away and so we don’t get to see them that often, but now aged 7 and 4, they are close in age to my two daughters (3 and almost 5) and so they always get on very well whenever we do meet up.

ACF40909-E3B5-4EF8-A1A2-55DAD9B6A221

The other 4 cousins belong to my 2 sisters and they are all very close in age – the eldest, (the only boy bless him) will be 7 in September. Then there’s 2 other girls just turning 5, the same age as Alice. (Yes my sisters and I were weirdly all pregnant together)! The youngest cousin is 2 and a half; 6 months younger than my youngest, Eva.

12A25899-676C-4887-BA6D-FAE9095BF0F2

Seeing as my sisters and I don’t live excessively long distances apart, we get to meet up fairly regularly and one thing I’ve noticed, especially recently, is just how BRILLIANTLY they all get on. They seem to have reached this magical age where we can now, on the whole just leave them to get on and play and amuse themselves. I’m astonished that there never seems to be any arguments or foul play (at least that I know about).

It’s so interesting to watch them and see who is playing with who, which ones are taking the lead and being bossy, which ones are happy to sit back and be told what to do, who is looking out for who. It’s also really interesting to see all their little personalities and quirks and preferences develop.

IMG_1091

 

Last Year’s Holiday

Last April, my mum and dad took my sisters and our families away on holiday for a week. What could have been utter carnage and mayhem, fuelled with arguments and fallings outs, was instead a fantastic week away where the kids just LOVED being together. It felt sad to come home and split them up from each other!

Last day 1.JPG

Who knows how they will be when they’re older,  I’m bracing myself for the day when they all start going out drinking and clubbing together, but for now,  I’m so happy that they seem to all be good friends and are there for each other.

Happy International Cousins Day! Another excuse for a get together.

Do you have cousins and if so, do you have a strong relationship with them? I’d love to know.

719A600E-A386-4AF0-AE68-3AE846DF9044   98AF3773-15B0-444F-95EC-B4C6965ED256

 

 

 

Cuddle Fairy
Mummuddlingthrough
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
Pink Pear Bear

4 Things That Have Changed in Our First Year at Primary School (And 4 Things That Haven’t)

My eldest has just over 1 week left of our first year at primary school. It’s unbelievable just how quickly time has flown. Pink Pear Bear wrote an amusing post recently about what she’s learnt in her first year at school (as a parent). Which got me thinking about our own first year at school.

IMG_1142

Penultimate last week of school 13th Jul 16

Last September when we were all starting the new routine with some disturbing levels of anxiety and trepidation, I wrote this post about 6 Things You Don’t Expect When Your Child Starts Primary School.

Now, some 10 months later, I can see just how much things have changed and yet in other ways, how some things have remained completely the same.

Changed

1) Alice is happy to go to school! I’m THRILLED to say the main change we have experienced since September is that I no longer have to carry Alice kicking and screaming out of the house and bundling her into the car every day to go to school. Back in the autumn it absolutely broke my heart that she was clearly so upset and bewildered by the change in routine. Back then I wrote about how I needed wine to cope on the school run. I think a lot of it was down to the fact that she’s the youngest in the year (born at the end of August meant she’d only just turned 4 when she started school) and was still emotionally very young. A lot of it was also down to our life at home – losing my father-in-law and not getting a primary school place at an of our chosen schools. 

2) The stuff she can do. It’s unbelievable to think that 10 months ago, Alice couldn’t write her name or read at all. Now she loves writing and will often write out a page of text at a time. She can read really well and has apparently been doing “taking away” and “dividing” too. When you stop to think, how much has changed in terms of their learning, it’s amazing.

IMG_1141

3) Physical change. I don’t know if it’s school that has made her grow up or whether there is just some magical changes that happen between the ages of 4 and 5. But Alice’s confidence for one thing has increased so much that it looks to have immensely changed her in less than a year. Just look at the difference in these photos:

 

4) Organisation. I’m having to be a lot more organised about school stuff. I can not tell you just how many bits of paper, emails and notes on the class room door we have to contend with. Blink and you’ll miss something. Next week, the final week at school there is something happening every single day that I need to remember to do. Heaven help me if I forget to send in money for a certain extra curricular activity or forget it’s some kind of dress up day or forget that certain colour of t.shirt is needed for Sports Day or if I forget that there’s a certain lunch activity going on. This is on top of the usual weekly planning of school dinner choices / packed lunch options and contending with daily notes and invitations to kids parties being discovered in the book bag.

Stayed The Same

1) Sergeant major.  I’m still a complete sergeant major in the mornings. In order to get everyone out the door somewhere near to being on time, I still find that I’m shouting out those bossy instructions like “Teeth”, “Toilet”, “Shoes”, “Car”.

Scary Mum

2) Mystery. I still have absolutely no idea most of the time what Alice gets up to all day. I always ask her on the journey home how her day was and what she got up to and I can guarantee that most of the time she will say “fine” and “not a lot.” I may get told a random couple of facts about something that happened just as she’s about to go to bed, but otherwise, her day and what she gets up to really does remain on the whole a complete mystery to me.

3) Tiredness. OK so she’s not asking to go to bed at 4.30pm anymore like she was in October, but I’ve noticed that when we’re approaching the end of any term or half term, Alice definitely starts to get crotchety and play up (more than usual).

4) Arts and Crafts. I’m still crap at arts and crafts. But where my poor attempts to “make stuff” was once confined to the privacy of our own home, it’s now having to be paraded into school. Not great when you see what some of the other kids are taking in compared to your humble offering.

 

 

 

Who knows what Year 1 will have in store for us in September and whether we’ll notice even more changes, but bring on the summer, I’m ready for a rest!

Have you noticed any major changes after your child’s first year at primary school? I’d love to know!

 

 

Cuddle Fairy
Mummuddlingthrough
You Baby Me Mummy
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
Pink Pear Bear

The Ongoing School Debacle

For the past 15 months we’ve been mulling over a problem in our family. A dilemma about what we should do. It’s something that has been gnawing away at us for so long that it’s had a fairly toxic affect on all of us.

Primary School Results

The Initial Saga

15 months ago we were completely shocked and distressed not to get any of our 4 choices of primary school for our eldest daughter. The local school, less than 10 minutes away, which we’d naively assumed we would get into was hugely oversubscribed, to the extent it has never been seen before.  Despite going through an appeal and being on the waiting list, nothing changed. Alice started at our allocated primary school in September. It took her a long time to settle in, but she now seems happy and to be enjoying school for which we are truly grateful.

You might say, well good for you that’s that then. But then came:

The Latest Saga

A few weeks ago, I found out that our local secondary school which is perhaps a 15 minute walk away from our house, has just THIS YEAR decided to change their policy to only admit children from local “feeder”primary schools. Our local primary school counts as a “feeder” school, but our allocated school where Alice now attends is not.

To add insult to injury the secondary school near to where Alice now goes to school confirmed that their policy is to only take children who live in the nearby catchment area (which we are not).

WHAT THE ?!!!  

I mean really?! How is this fair that schools all have a different set of rules?

This leaves us once again falling down the gap not fitting into any one particular set of rules or meeting any particular criteria. It means in 5 years’ time as it stands, we will be shunted to a random secondary school miles away.

Whilst it might sound a bit neurotic to be thinking 5 years ahead, I can’t help feeling upset and cross that after all the trouble we experienced last year, we are potentially going to face all again in 5 years’ time.

518A0B16-0D72-4CF6-AE92-F1C6D60F5507

Alice on her first day of school Sept 15

The Options

1) We looked at moving house. Drastic? Yes. But needing to take the control of the situation rather than let fate decide where our kids should be educated, we started exploring other areas. I’m not convinced this is the right thing to do. Why should I have to leave my friends and family and start again? And there’s no guarantees that we can move somewhere and get both our children into a school.

2) Move to another feeder school. I’ve given up phoning the local school down the road to find out where we are on the waiting list. It was literally driving me mental to find out that I had on several occasions moved DOWN the list. By chance, I discovered that one of the lovely little village schools on our original list was expanding their school and could take on an extra 10 places per year group. We applied and found out we’d got a place! Woo-Hoo! We were all set to move Alice until I read the admissions policy and found out that they (unlike most primary schools) do not give priority to siblings.

What The ?!!!! 

I mean really?! How is this fair that schools all have a different set of rules?

And so because we are out of catchment for this village school and the council have confirmed exactly how many children live in catchment for when our youngest daughter starts school next year, it looks like we are going to have to turn the place down.

We have stressed ourselves out over this for 15 months now. I have been upset and depressed about the situation as well as feeling  bitter and resentful about the neighbours and community all being able to go to the local school except for us. It particularly hurt when our next door neighbour managed to get a place for their little boy this year at the local school because the sibling and birth rate this year is much lower than last year. We’ve really felt like upsticks and leaving. But every alternative seemingly has more problems to bear.

I’ve written to the local MP, the local authority and the department of education as well as the schools themselves to complain about the situation and the lack of consistency in the admissions criteria. But no one wants to know. Everyone has passed the buck and I’m utterly exhausted and fed up with thinking about and fighting it.

IMG_0521

Alice with Eva in their matching uniform

Trying to Retain some Positivity

About a week ago, I felt a shift in my mood. I don’t know whether it was because we have been fighting and stressing about it all for so long and the fight has now gone out of me. I’ve grown tired of being negative and bitter about our situation. It’s not had a good affect on any of us and I’m particularly aware that our stress could well have been taking its toll on our children.

Or I don’t know whether my mood has changed because I’m aware of just how happy Alice seems at her current school and even better, excited to be going into Year 1 in September, her confidence seems to have come on in abundance since last year.

Whilst I’m still UPSET about the initial and latest saga. Whilst I still WISH we could walk to our local school. Whilst I’m still willing to EXPLORE other possibilities that come up, and whilst I’m still SCARED about what will happen to us in 5 years’ time – being shunted to a random secondary school, I’ve decided to focus on what is important:

That Alice is in a good school

That she is thriving both in terms of her learning and education as well as her confidence and friendships.

I’m sorry for the huge rant! I realise that this post is quite selfish in that it’s cathartic; I’ve totally offloaded but I do feel strangely better for it.

If anyone has any thought or advice, I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
Pink Pear Bear

Mummascribbles

Cuddle Fairy