Starting Again

As you already know, I’ve started teaching full-time again. And… I love it!

One of the things that I was looking forward to, was the fact that I’d be too busy to eat everything I could get my hands on!

Seriously – I’ve exercised five times in the last YEAR! Four times in August and once in September. And that’s it.

Every day I eat two boiled eggs for breakfast and I take food to school with me – a small box of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, a small box of carrot sticks, an apple and some chicken salad. It’s enough to see me through the day, right? Apparently not.

So I need the Crunchy Nut and the carrot sticks for while I’ve got my prep periods – you know, something to munch on while I’m grading or planning, or whatever. But that usually means that it’s all gone by 8.30 am.

Anyway, so just my luck – the cafeteria is right next door to my classroom. RIGHT NEXT DOOR.

Bistro 7 caters for the school. This is great for them. But not for me. Have you ever had their chocolate brownies? TO DIE FOR!

Anyway, so at 9.30 every morning, in to the cafeteria I go – whether I’m hungry or not and I have a chocolate brownie. It’s reached a point where the staff don’t even ask me what I want anymore – they just hand me the brownie and I hand them a N500 note. It’s also reached a point where my colleagues take the piss out of me!

But that’s not all. So I have the brownie. And then two hours later – during my lunch period, I have my chicken salad (it’s good – but it’s become boring). And then I’ll go back to the cafeteria and get French fries (they are SO good). JESUS CHRIST – WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? Again, the staff just know what I want!

Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad if I had to walk down three floors to get there and then three more floors to go back to my classroom – but no. NEXT DOOR!

Needless to say, although I know I’m not doing myself any favours, I keep on eating. A couple of weeks ago I decided enough was enough and I didn’t want to keep eating the brownies and the fries. So I decided to go back on Cambridge Weight Plan. I did so well on it last year… But stuff kept getting in the way – dinners with friends at the weekend, drinks with colleagues on a Friday afternoon, brownies in the cafeteria next door…

I decided half-term was a perfect time to start. I wanted to go to the CWP centre on Friday to get all my shakes and soups sorted so I could start on Monday. But Friday was a half-day at school and a large glass of red wine with colleagues put a stop to that plan. So I decided to go on Saturday – but they close early on Saturdays and I couldn’t make it on time. So I went yesterday (Monday).

I walked into the centre and the lady there had to weigh me. And I’m ashamed to say that I’ve put on four (FOUR) kilos since April. WTAF? To be fair, I did go in the middle of the day – so maybe I’ve only put on 3?

Anyway, so I’ve started Cambridge Weight Plan again today. It should be relatively painless (yeah right) this week – but once I start back at school…

Oh well – let’s see!

I’m Still Here!

I know, I know.

For those of you who missed me – I’m so sorry!

I don’t even know where to begin…

So, we spent the summer in Dubai with my parents. My kids were so happy – we swam every morning (it was too hot in the afternoons) and spent most of the day in various play areas.

The kids hadn’t met my parents or sister for over a year, and my brother, sister and I hadn’t been together for four years – so it was lovely to all spend time together.

School started at the beginning of August.

I’m loving being back at work. But I’m also feeling a bit like a headless chicken. I’m trying to balance time with the children and time at work, as well as time with LagosDad and fitting in other stuff. I’m not managing too well, actually. School seems to be winning!

I feel guilty that I’m not always home when my kids might need me. I feel guilty that they might not be getting enough attention from me. And I feel guilty that I’m not spending much time with them. On the other hand, it’s great to be able to be doing something for me.

Anyway… More soon.

🙂

A Catch Up

I have neglected you all, haven’t I?

It’s ok – don’t feel bad.

I’ve neglected everyone over the last few weeks.

My home, my friends, my dog, LagosDad and yes, even my kids.

Why?

Because I’m back at school!

Since last September, I’ve been feeling a bit restless and discontent. As though there had to be more to life than playgroup, school runs and managing my home. Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with my children (mostly), but there’s more. Right?

Then I realised that I wanted to go back to school. I missed being in the classroom (And being surrounded by other people’s children!).

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be back full-time, so I applied for a job as a substitute teacher. I had an interview. And I didn’t hear anything for weeks.

Suddenly I got an email asking if I’d be interested in covering someone’s maternity leave in January for twelve weeks. EH? Really? Me? Which grade? Full-time?

I got in touch with the school immediately to say yes, I was interested. But I still didn’t get any more information. I had to come in the following week to meet with the middle school principal. Middle school? That sounded like quite big kids. And didn’t they have different teachers for each subject? Which subject would I have to teach? What if it was science? What if it was *gulp* math?

I Googled ‘middle school’ and found out the age of the students – yes, they were a bit older than the five to seven year olds I was used to. It was only the following week, when I had the meeting that all was revealed.

7th grade. Geography. Errr. Not my age range and not my subject. But I could do it.

So since November, I’ve been in and out of school. Sometimes they ring me in advance to cover for someone. But mostly they ring me at 6 am and ask me if I can come in that day. Since my aim is to get a full-time job, I’ve had to accept more often than I wanted to. I mean… SIX AM!

And since January 11th, I’ve been in full-time teaching geography to 7th graders. The hours are long – 7 am to 3.15 pm (but usually I get home at about 4 pm). I don’t see my children much (is it a terrible thing that although I feel guilty about it, I don’t mind that much?). It’s taken a lot of preparation and a lot of reading up and researching stuff – but I LOVE IT!

Christmas Camp

I’d heard that there was going to be a Christmas Camp running over the holidays and thought it might be a good idea to send Vins. You know – keep him busy, maintain some routine, etc. Especially as I wasn’t going to be here for a couple of days of his holiday.
I suggested it to him and the conversation went like this…
Me: Vins would you like to go to Christmas camp?
Vins: What’s Christmas camp?
Me: It’s like the summer camp you went to – but over Christmas.
Vins: But Mama I like my school!
Me: This is when you have holiday from school.
Vins: Oh. Then… No, thank you.
Me: It will be so much fun, Vins!
Vins: I think I spend enough days in the year at school. Don’t you?

Errr. No.

Leaps and Bounds

I know one of my last posts was about Vins and how he’s making so much progress socially – but this one is too. I’m just so proud of him.
Firstly, his teacher said he’s doing really well in school. He’s getting more involved and participating more in whole class activities – especially the singing and dancing 🙂
We still have meltdowns at home. But they’re less frequent than before. And he’s become more independent.
He’s always been happier in smaller groups. But if he spent a whole day with a friend and then I turned up or if his friend’s parent turned up, he’d become quiet. I cannot begin to count the number of times a friend has spoken to him after school and has been ignored. Or the amount of times someone has said goodbye to him after school and Vins has pretended he can’t see him/her.
Yesterday was soooo different! Two school mums and myself took some of the kids out for lunch. There were six children in all. They had a ball. They ran around screaming and playing Hide and Seek. Luckily the restaurant was empty! They ran outside in the garden and they played with a bunch of Hot Wheels cars that Vin took with him.
I didn’t think Vins would join in as much as he did – and he was so happy! It was almost as though I wasn’t there!
The best part was when we were leaving. He put the car window down and started shouting, “Bye X! Bye! See you tomorrow!”
I’m so proud of him.

Growing Up

Yesterday…

V: Mama! Soon I’m going to be in pre-k (pre-kindergarten)!

Me: Yes! That’s right! Not long to go now!

V: And then I’ll be in kindergarten. Then first grade. Then second grade. Then third grade. Then fourth grade. And then fifth grade! And then no more school!

Me: Umm. Yes more school. You forgot sixth grade. And seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth grades.

V: Oh. And then no more school?

Me: Well… then you’ll go to university.

V: What’s that?

Me: That’s where you go to learn how to be something. Like a doctor or a teacher or a vet.

V: Oh wow! I’m going to learn how to be a transformer! Or a rescue vehicle!

Me: V – people don’t learn how to be vehicles. But you could be a policeman or a paramedic.

V: I know. How long will I be there for?

Me: Mmm. You’ll probably be about 23 when you finish.

V: Twenty – three? Gosh that’s old!

Today…

V: Mama you know that universary you said yesterday? After that no more school?

Me: University? No more school after that. Then you have to get a job.

V: A job?!

Me: Yes. And go to work every day. Like papa.

V: But I don’t want a job.

Me: But how will you get money?

V: From the bank of course!

Me: But you’ll have to get your own home. You can’t stay with mama and papa forever!

V: I don’t want my own home! I will stay with you! Why can’t I stay with you? I don’t want to grow older!

Me: It’s ok. Calm down. There’s still many years before we have to think about this!

V: How can I stay a small boy?

Yuck!

I took a really good look at V this afternoon as we walked out the school gates.

Me: V, didn’t you have PE today?
V: Yes.
Me: But why aren’t you wearing your PE clothes? You wore them to school this morning.
V: I had to change.
Me: Oh. Why?
V: Because you know XXX? He did a poo and it came on me.
Me: Huh? HOW?
V: He did a poo when he went down the slide and I didn’t know and then I went down and poo came onto my shorts and my T-shirt and one of my shoes. So my teacher changed my clothes and the new teacher cleaned my shoe.
Me: Oh no!
V: But it’s ok Mama. The lights on my shoes still work! See? *stamps foot on the ground*

Pre-School Assessment

Before I even had V, LagosDad and I talked about which school we’d send our children to.  The choices aren’t vast, but there are certainly more than when we were growing up.

I went to the American International School (AIS) from kindergarten until I was 11.  At 11 I went to boarding school in the UK.

LagosDad went to the Indian Language School (ILS) until he was 13.  At 13 he went to boarding school in the UK also.

So, it makes sense that I wanted my children to go to the same school as me (not boarding).  And he wanted his children to go to the same school as him (including boarding).

Let me just say that one of the main reasons that we were sent to boarding schools is that there weren’t many (any?) high school options here at that time.

Anyway – so LagosDad was quite adamant that our children would need a solid foundation and that ILS was the place for them to be.  There was no way in hell I was allowing that.  I know about the Indian school system.  And while they do provide a good foundation, I think there are more important things that children should be learning at the age of three, rather than their times tables (I jest – I don’t know if they learn them at three!)  They are very strict and I don’t want my child(ren) rote learning.  Shouldn’t a three-year-old be learning how to share?  How to use scissors?  How to colour in the lines?

Anyway, after V actually arrived, I started thinking the British system might be better.  Not for any reason.  It was just a thought.

Of course there was lots of talk between all the mums.  The mums that already had their kids in school were like cheerleaders for the educational choices they’d made for their children.  And those that had babies (yes, this talk started from when our kids were about a year old) got more and more confused.

I ended up registering V at both schools – NOT ILS, but AIS and another British one.  LagosDad knew ILS wasn’t going to happen and (finally) accepted it!

I registered V at AIS when he was two and at the British one on the “first working Monday of September after the child turned two” (those are their rules).  He wouldn’t start at the British school until September 2015, but I thought I’d register him anyway because of waiting lists.

After the AIS registration, I received an email from the school saying I had to email them every 90 days to keep the application active.  So I did that – every 90 days without fail.

I started to understand (eventually) that it didn’t really matter what any of the others (mums) were doing with their children and where or when they were going to school.  What mattered was MY child and what suited him.

Yes, the British curriculum is more advanced than the American one.  But in the end, the children all learn the same things – it’s just a different process of getting there.

During this light bulb moment, I began to see (and so did LagosDad) that the American school environment is just what V needs.  He’s a smart kid – I know everyone says that about their children – but I really think he is!  He wouldn’t struggle in a British school.  But because he’s an introvert and a little shy and nervous in large groups of people, AIS is just what he needs.  They focus on the whole child.  They’ll help with his self confidence and maybe even bring him out of his shell a little.

So now we were decided – it was going to be AIS.

I’d heard stories from other mums about how difficult it was to get their kids in and how some kids were on the waiting list for a year and still hadn’t been offered a place.  Apparently, also, the later you apply, the harder it is to get in.

So you can imagine my joy when I received an email from them last month, inviting V to come in for his pre-school assessment.  I called them immediately and made an appointment for 12th May.  They gave me a time of 8.20am, which wasn’t ideal – but I wasn’t going to complain!

I do wonder why you need assessments for a three-year-old.  And I think it’s a little silly – but if that’s how they do things, then that’s how they do them!

So friends told me, ‘If you get the email, you’re basically in.’  And that the assessment is just ‘formality’.  And what they’re looking for is learning difficulties.  One friend told me they asked her son when his birthday was during his assessment.

So I knew, V would have to play with blocks or do a puzzle or something and that the teacher might ask him when his birthday is.  And I also knew that I’d have to wait in the office for him to come back.

I started getting anxious about him going with a stranger to another room.  Would he actually go?  Would he make a fuss?  Have a tantrum?  Then I started worrying that he wouldn’t speak to the teacher.  And if he did speak to her, would he give her the answers she wanted to hear?

I started ‘preparing’ him about two weeks ago.  I explained we were going to AIS and he was going to meet a teacher who would take him to play, etc. etc.  I told him almost every day.  He’s one of those that needs to know what’s coming!

I also asked him when his birthday was (just in case)…

Me: V, when’s your birthday?

V: I’m going to have a Batman party and everyone has to wear black.

Me: Ok, that’s fine.  But when is your birthday?

V: July.

Me: Mmmmm… No it’s not.  It’s in September.

V: No mama.  It’s in July.

Me: No Vins, it’s in September!

V: IT’S IN JULY.  I SAID IT IS IN JULY!

I dropped it for a few days!

Each time I (very randomly) asked him about his birthday he always had the same answer.  I didn’t even know he KNEW the month July!

Last week we had a breakthrough.  I told him I knew his birthday was in September because he shares his birthday month with Rolo (the dog).  After that he was very happy to say his birthday was in September *face palm*

Anyway, so the morning of the assessment dawned and off we went to AIS.  We had to wait in the office for a bit as we were slightly early.  But this was good, because he saw the teacher come in and he saw two other little boys go with her.

Then it was his turn.  She came in and asked for him by name.  I said, ‘Here he is.’  She approached him and said, ‘Hi V!’

And what did V do?

He growled at her.

Yes.  He GROWLED.

I apologised and told her he was being a cheetah that morning.  She tried again, ‘Oh!  Are you a cheetah?’

He growled.  AGAIN!

Luckily she got distracted with the secretary for a moment and I was able to tell him to ‘stop that nonsense’!

I’m actually relieved he didn’t hide behind my legs!

He was reluctant to go with her, but he went.  And he wouldn’t hold her hand, but that’s ok.  She was a stranger, after all!

I waited for him – laughing in my head about him growling, but hoping she wouldn’t think he was nuts and that it wouldn’t affect his chances of getting in!

Finally he was back!  She said he was very quiet and only spoke with a lot of prompting.  Hmmm…  I guess that’s to be expected?

She gave me a list of ‘skills’ that he needs to be able to perform by August and I had to sign the paper and return it when he started.  They were things like being able to go to the bathroom by himself, asking for water or to go to the bathroom, etc. Being able to sit still/concentrate for short periods of time, being able to share toys, eat by himself, etc. etc.

He is quite proficient in most of them, so I’m not worried.  Plus he won’t start in August as we won’t be here, he’ll start in October.  So we have more time to work on things!

What I’m wondering is, does this mean we’re in?  Why would she give me a paper to sign and tell me to bring it back if he wasn’t in?

(Once we left, he told me he did a puzzle in the classroom, but he wouldn’t tell me anything else.  He won’t tell me what the teacher asked him or anything and it’s driving me crazy!)

Anyway, this is one more thing to cross off my list of things to do/worry about!

*Just for your information – I’ve had many people ask me why I don’t want to put V in the school where I taught for six years.  I left four years ago and I don’t know what it’s like there any more.  But you know when you know the inner-workings of a place?  And what the management, etc is like?  Well…  That.  It put me off.

 

What Should A Four-Year-Old Know?

I was at a lunch last week.  There were about ten or twelve of us.  Most of the talk centred around our children (as usual), schools and school admissions.

Since V was about a year old (maybe even before), there was talk between the mums as to where we would send our children to school.  Which nursery?  Where after?  British?  American?  Which area?  Who else was sending their children to that school?  Or this school?  But why?  Which is better in the long run?  Children at X school are not as well behaved as those in Y school.  And on and on and on and on.

And of course, now that all the children are closer to school age (or in some cases, already in school) the talk has just increased.

I’ve often questioned whether we are making the right educational decisions for V – but in the end I have to remind myself that I know my child and I know what’s best for him – regardless of what other people may think.

Some of the aforementioned talk has been about the British standard of teaching being higher than that of the American.  And how the children at the American school don’t learn to read until they’re five.

There are only so many times I can tell people that it doesn’t really matter – the children all learn the same thing in the end and that the schools just have different teaching methods.

A couple of days after that, I saw something on Facebook which I shared.  I know V is only (just) three, but I think this applies to all children and parents!

It’s kind of long, but definitely worth a read.


What Should A Four-Year-Old Know?
I was on a parenting bulletin board recently and read a post by a mother who was worried that her 4 1/2 year old did not know enough. “What should a 4 year old know?” she asked.

Most of the answers left me not only saddened but pretty soundly annoyed. One mom posted a laundry list of all of the things her son knew. Counting to 100, planets, how to write his first and last name, and on and on. Others chimed in with how much more their children already knew, some who were only three. A few posted URL’s to lists of what each age should know. The fewest yet said that each child develops at his own pace and not to worry.

It bothered me greatly to see these mothers responding to a worried mom by adding to her concern, with lists of all the things their children could do that hers couldn’t. We are such a competitive culture that even our preschoolers have become trophies and bragging rights. Childhood shouldn’t be a race.

So here, I offer my list of what a 4 year old should know.

She should know that she is loved wholly and unconditionally, all of the time.
He should know that he is safe and he should know how to keep himself safe in public, with others, and in varied situations. He should know that he can trust his instincts about people and that he never has to do something that doesn’t feel right, no matter who is asking. He should know his personal rights and that his family will back them up.
She should know how to laugh, act silly, be goofy and use her imagination. She should know that it is always okay to paint the sky orange and give cats 6 legs.
He should know his own interests and be encouraged to follow them. If he could care less about learning his numbers, his parents should realize he’ll learn them accidentally soon enough and let him immerse himself instead in rocket ships, drawing, dinosaurs or playing in the mud.
She should know that the world is magical and that so is she. She should know that she’s wonderful, brilliant, creative, compassionate and marvelous. She should know that it’s just as worthy to spend the day outside making daisy chains, mud pies and fairy houses as it is to practice phonics. Scratch that– way more worthy.
But more important, here’s what parents need to know.

That every child learns to walk, talk, read and do algebra at his own pace and that it will have no bearing on how well he walks, talks, reads or does algebra.
That the single biggest predictor of high academic achievement and high ACT scores is reading to children. Not flash cards, not workbooks, not fancy preschools, not blinking toys or computers, but mom or dad taking the time every day or night (or both!) to sit and read them wonderful books.
That being the smartest or most accomplished kid in class has never had any bearing on being the happiest. We are so caught up in trying to give our children “advantages” that we’re giving them lives as multi-tasked and stressful as ours. One of the biggest advantages we can give our children is a simple, carefree childhood.
That our children deserve to be surrounded by books, nature, art supplies and the freedom to explore them. Most of us could get rid of 90% of our children’s toys and they wouldn’t be missed, but some things are important– building toys like legos and blocks, creative toys like all types of art materials (good stuff), musical instruments (real ones and multicultural ones), dress up clothes and books, books, books. (Incidentally, much of this can be picked up quite cheaply at thrift shops.) They need to have the freedom to explore with these things too– to play with scoops of dried beans in the high chair (supervised, of course), to knead bread and make messes, to use paint and play dough and glitter at the kitchen table while we make supper even though it gets everywhere, to have a spot in the yard where it’s absolutely fine to dig up all the grass and make a mud pit.
That our children need more of us. We have become so good at saying that we need to take care of ourselves that some of us have used it as an excuse to have the rest of the world take care of our kids. Yes, we all need undisturbed baths, time with friends, sanity breaks and an occasional life outside of parenthood. But we live in a time when parenting magazines recommend trying to commit to 10 minutes a day with each child and scheduling one Saturday a month as family day. That’s not okay! Our children don’t need Nintendos, computers, after school activities, ballet lessons, play groups and soccer practice nearly as much as they need US. They need fathers who sit and listen to their days, mothers who join in and make crafts with them, parents who take the time to read them stories and act like idiots with them. They need us to take walks with them and not mind the .1 MPH pace of a toddler on a spring night. They deserve to help us make supper even though it takes twice as long and makes it twice as much work. They deserve to know that they’re a priority for us and that we truly love to be with them.

Breakdown

Yesterday morning V got ready for nursery without any fuss.  He put his backpack on and got his lunchbox and called for me.  Smiling and laughing.

Wow!  This was amazing!  I’d woken up with a nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach – and all for nothing!  

Just the night before he got all cranky and whiney when the ‘s’ word (school) was mentioned.  He got upset when I opened his cupboard to take out his clothes for the morning.  He screwed up his face and threw himself onto various bits of furniture.  It was actually quite funny.

LagosDad said, ‘Wow!  Are you ready for school already?’  

And V replied, ‘No! Birthday party!  Mama!  Birthday party!’

Uh-oh.  He thought we were going to a birthday party.

I explained that we *were* going to a birthday party, but not until the afternoon.  He had to go to school first.  He ignored me.

In the car, he became more anxious, repeating ‘Birthday party! Birthday party!’

In hindsight, I’m sure he knew he wasn’t going to a party.  He’s a clever one, that one.  Not much gets past him – and I know he doesn’t associate his backpack or lunchbox with birthday parties!

I tried to distract him with buses, tankers and trucks.  It didn’t work.  He just kept repeating it over and over!

We pulled up to the gate and he started wailing.

I took him out of his car seat and carried him into the school.  I felt terrible.  He was clinging to me, arms around my neck.

His teacher came, took him from me and went inside.  

I was standing with the two owners of the schools – they were telling me not to worry, and that he’d be fine in a few days.

And I burst into tears.  

They consoled me for a few moments and I left.

I could hear Vinay crying inside.

Fingers and toes crossed for a good Friday morning.