The great man is he who does not lose his child's heart. (Mencius, Chinese philosopher 372-289 BC)

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

How To Help Your Year 7 Start Big School

The Dubmeister's first day at Big School
This time next week 11 year old children (or 13 year olds if they are starting at a very posh school) will be quaking in their squeaky clean tight new school shoes as they set off for their first day at big school.

Unless you are one of the coolest of the cool, big school is a terrifying prospect for any self respecting child. For the parent of next week's Year 7's (or Lower 4th's if you are starting at the aforesaid posh school) it is even more so! So in the interests of easing you into life as a parent of a secondary age child here is Dad Etc's guide to getting your Year 7 ready for big school.

1. Find out the name of your son/daughter's form tutor and Head of Year

One of the biggest changes for parents going through the transition from Junior to Senior School is the dramatic drop in contact time with your little darling's teaching staff. You will be lucky to see their form tutor more than twice in an academic year and are unlikely to see the Head of Year at all unless there is a specific issue that you need to discuss.
However, a friendly form tutor can be a great asset. So, I recommend that you make contact with them - nothing more than a brief note in the Homework Diary to say hello - so that you stand out as a friendly parent - it could prove helpful in the longer term.

2. Get to know the school rules

Secondary school is a minefield of rules and regulations for your young one. So, it is our duty as parents to do what we can to support the school and our child in the rules that we can affect at home. Most schools will have a list of rules in the Homework Diary/ Planner - get to know them.
Some of the basic rules that we can help our son/ daughter to keep to are:

  • Does the HW Diary need to be signed every week? If so, do it!
  • What are the uniform rules? Make sure you know them - very handy for the future!
  • What is the routine for absence from school? If they ask for a call on the first morning and a letter when they return to school - do it!

3. Keep on top of Homework

Homework is a fact of life at most schools. However, schools are not the fascist institutions that we believed them to be when we were 11 and 12. They do not expect our children to be working every hour that God sends to complete their graphs and essays. So, monitor their homework - are they getting any? If they are, how long is it taking? How long should it be taking? If it is regularly taking longer than advised then there is an issue - tell the school

4. Watch the Mobile Phone

The mobile phone has completely changed the experience for our children of adolescence. It is so easy for them now to keep in contact with their friends and research difficult homework tasks.
However, it has also come with Facebook, Messenger, Internet Porn and other nasties. 
Be very careful!
Watch what they are using it for and, 2 tips I was given by a colleague;
a) Never let them take their phones into their bedrooms at night - that way you have more of a chance of knowing what they are up to.
b) Insist that they make you one of their friends on Facebook.

5. TLC and Routines

Your little chap/chapesse is going to be absolutely knackered this term as they get into life as a little fish in an enormous and confusing pond. They will need lots of love and attention from you!
Get them to eat a big breakfast in the morning and get in their favourite food for the evenings.
Find a routine that works for your family so that they have some certainty in their lives.

Finally, on that first day, when you are sure that nobody is looking - give them a big hug and gulp back the tears until they are through the school gate.

Speak Soon

Sunday, 26 August 2012

The Weekend Picture No.16

The Signs of Spring and My Lovely Wife Kneading 
We have had a great summer holiday. We have holidayed in Cardigan, SW Wales and camped in Dorset. We have attended Olympic events, visited with friends and had family days out.

It has been a holiday full of memories.

Unfortunately, memories cost and as a result we have started a new austerity drive.

My lovely wife and the Signs of Spring are huge fans of "The Great British Bake Off" and have used their newly learned skills to bake bread - apparently you can make three loaves from 1 bag of bread flour!

We have used last week's courgettes to make cakes and risottos - delicious!

And, we have just flogged £239 worth of stuff on eBay!

More austerity updates soon.

Speak soon.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Firsts and Lasts

My lovely wife's favourite weekend read is the Guardian Saturday edition. She particularly enjoys the Family section. They recently featured an excellent article by Jonathan Sale called "The final moments".

The strapline read:

We are all aware of family firsts - baby's first steps, first tooth, first time riding a bike. But what about the lasts?

It is a really thought provoking article. My youngest (the lovely E) has just finished her final year at infants school - our connection with the school which she and her 2 siblings attended has finally been severed. So we are very aware of "lasts" at the moment - last school plays, last summer fairs etc.

However, the article talks particularly poignantly about the "lasts" that slip by unnoticed.

I was especially touched by this:

You are always aware of a "first" when it happens. There are embarrassing baby-books with blank spaces parents can fill in, labelled "My First Tooth" or perhaps "My First Projectile Vomit". You know when a child produces its first painting, or splodge. You keep the artwork in case Tate Modern wants it for a major retrospective in later years.

A "last", however, can come and go without registering on the radar. I have never come across a "Book of Lasts" with sections to be filled in on final footy knock-about or ultimate nappy. There is no record of the last time I yelled: "For the last time, will you turn that television off!" Nor is there any record of the last time, perhaps years before, when anybody did obey that particular command.
On the evening when I read the last bedtime story to the youngest child, I was not aware that this was anything more than another instalment of a Swallows and Amazons novel.
"I think I'd like to read to myself from now on," she said politely when I appeared after bathtime the following day, Arthur Ransome in hand. And that was it. She had closed another door and, indeed, book. If I'd realised in advance how significant the previous evening was going to be, I'd have hired a brass band and got Michael Morpurgo in to do the reading, with a film crew to record it for the family archives

Reading to my kids has always been really important to me. When the Dubmeister was a baby I used to read at least 3 books every night to him - and each one at least twice. Rod Campbell was our favourite author. "Dear Zoo" is a classic of post modern Britain (arguably).

I still read every night to the girls - but the Dubmeister is an avid book consuming reader and he's 13 - so I don't read to him much, if at all, any more. Have I had my last "reading to Dubmeister" session? - has that phase passed into history? If so, then that is a great sadness.

But I guess that's what being a Dad and a parent is all about - it's not just the firsts, it's the last times too and it's making both firsts and lasts count.

Speak soon.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

The Weekend Picture No.15

"Dad, please can we have courgettes for tea again"
 Since April we have been the proud, and slightly uncertain, joint tenants of an Allotment.

We share our Allotment with two other families. Each family brings it's own gifts and talents to the farming of our small piece of Arable land.

One family brings expertise. Another brings a "can-do" attitude and the third brings up the rear.

I'll let you guess which family I belong to.

As you can see from this weekend's picture our allotment has finally started to bear fruit. Last weekend we harvested beans and the largest courgettes you have ever seen.

Most of the kids in our family like courgettes.

Speak soon

Thursday, 16 August 2012

A Levels are not as easy as they say!

From Discovery Education

As well as a Dad I am also a teacher.

I teach History in a lovely school with a supportive staff and well motivated students.

But there is one thing that gets me down about teaching and that is the constant sniping at GCSE and A Level results that you hear every summer, and now throughout the year. I first published this post in April when our esteemed Education Secretary Michael Gove was bashing A Level and GCSE results and the teaching profession in general (again!)

What I hate about the whingeing about A Level results in particular is that it shows a complete lack of respect for the students who have just gained these results and their teachers who have prepared them.

There cannot be many industries where results have been improving year upon year for over a decade. You would have thought that that would be a reason to celebrate. But no, in typical British style the media (cheered on by the politicians (or is the other way round?)) pick holes in their success. The exams must be easier, the exam boards must be corrupt, the weather must be differenter etc etc.

League Tables Are the Cause not the Answer

The sad irony is that the current situation is a product of the politicians obsession with measuring attainment within schools through league tables etc.

It works like this.
Mr Politician (or Ms/ Mrs etc) says "we must have a league table to rank schools by exam results to promote parent choice in education."
Mr Headteacher (or Ms/ Mrs etc) says "we must do well in this league table - so dear teacher what are you doing to make sure your results in History are better than the school down the road"
Mr Teacher says "golly gee, I must make sure that my students do as well as possible in the exam in the summer so I will find out exactly what the exam board are looking for and make sure that my students are fully prepared for this"

Results go up. 

Students now see that it is a lot harder to get into university etc so Master Student (or Miss etc) says "I must rely more and more on what the teacher tells me about how to pass my exam because I want to be a vet and to get into that course I need 2 A* and 1 A minimum"

(One example - the course I completed in 1992 now requires BBC grades - I got CCD) - I was very lazy!)

Result - much improved results, much harder entry requirements for university, much more focused exam based teaching, less independently minded students.

So please, today, when you will no doubt hear Michael Gove leading the assault on A Level (and GCSE next week) students whose crime will be to have done better then their predecessors - please buck the trend and to steal a phrase from David Camcorder "hug an A Level student" and say "well done"

A nice person hugging an A Level student and saying "Well done" 

Speak soon

PS - Despite what I have said above, don't be surprised if you see a slight dip in results this year as I know from hearsay that examiners have been asked to be tougher than before on students - another example of politics creating an unfair system and then (no doubt) blaming the teachers for the drop in results.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Inspired by the Olympics - Be The Best

"Anything's possible ... It's just hard work and grafting." (Farah wins the 5000m)
Photo from The Sun
The Olympics is over!

For 16 days my family and I have been glued to the exploits of the athletes of the world as they have shown us just what the human spirit is capable of. We have oohed at the speed of Usain Bolt, aahed at the courage of the Boxers, Judo and Taekwondo players and welled up as the national anthem filled the stadiums over and over again.

The moment that hit home for many Team GB fans was the evening of the second Saturday as Somali refugee Mo Farah, gold medallist already in the 10,000m, pulled away from the chasing pack and raised his arms in startled jubilation to add the Gold in the 5,000 to his collection. Steve Cram, commentating on the race for the BBC summed it up in one word "Beautiful."

Mo's story is inspirational on so many levels. That a boy can come from nothing to be double Olympic champion speaks to anybody who has ever had a dream or has aspired to be better. He has always been a talented athlete but hit his peak relatively late in his career because it is only in the run up to the London Olympics that he has begun to make the sacrifices necessary to reach the top. He puts his success down to "hard work and grafting."

Inspired to be the Best

Now I am 42 I have finally admitted to myself that I may never become an Olympian after all. My days as a track cyclist are over, my dreams of sailing glory are unlikely (I suffer from sea sickness) and my loosening six pack makes the beach volleyball an unattractive proposition. However, I have been inspired by these Olympics and I wanted to log it here to remind myself - when the days get longer, the telly gets better and life gets harder (usually at the beginnning of November) - just what I wanted to be better at.

I have resolved to be the best that I can be.

The best Dad I can be.
The best Husband I can be.
The best Son I can be.
The best Brother I can be.
The best Friend I can be.

I think the key to this aim will be TIME - or rather the wise use of time.

I know that I waste time - on the internet, on TV, on displacement activities, on watching the world go by - so that will be the main area where I will need to make Farah- type sacrifices so that I can put more time into the people that matter most.

I will also need to put OTHERS FIRST - as you grow up and acquire more life roles it becomes more difficult to strike the right balance (particularly when you stir work into the mix) - and give those important people the time they deserve.

Finally, I also need to do stuff for MYSELF - which sounds contradictory I know - but when you want to give to others it is also important to give to yourself. I don't think all of us fathers do enough for ourselves because of the competing demands we face. So, I have resolved to get fit (9 mile bike ride yesterday) and get back in touch with friends I have lost contact with.

So, the Best Me starts now. I will let you know how it goes.

Have you been inspired by the Olympics? Do you face these same challenges? Do you have any advice for me?

Speak soon

PS - One of the most important legacies of the London Olympics has been for women in sport. For the first time ever, every country sent at least one female athlete to the games. It is particularly significant for Britain because of the superb performances of our female athletes. As a father of 2 girls I will be celebrating this SOON.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

The Weekend Picture No.14

On holiday - Poppit Sands, Wales
We have just had a fantastic holiday in the village of St Dogmael's near Cardigan in South West Wales.

We chose a week when the rain didn't make an appearance so we got to experience that corner of the UK in all it's glory.

We canoed on the Teifi River, went Dolphin and Seal watching from a bright orange powerboat, visited Castles and walked the hills that embrace this place.

The highlights for us were the beaches at Mwnt, Tresaith and Poppit Sands (pictured). Each of which is as beautiful as it is sandy, as unique as it is (relatively) empty, as intriguing as it is unspoilt.

This picture was taken as the sun was about to set on a barbecue evening at Poppet Sands.

Speak Soon

Sunday, 5 August 2012

The Weekend Picture No. 13

A Generation Inspired?
One of the the aims of this year's Olympics has been to "Inspire a Generation" to get out of their armchairs and try something new.

The younger generation within our household has been inspired to take on cycling. We were at the women's road race last weekend where we saw Britain's Lizzie Armitstead win Silver with a truly gutsy display. That experience has encouraged the two girls to head out on two wheels and pit themselves against the hills of Surrey.

E joined me on such a bike ride earlier this week, only in this case the hill defeated her.

Speak soon

PS - Coming soon ... more "You can tell they're growing up when ..." musings and I ask the question "Could you raise an Olympian?"

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Games for Long Car Journeys

We have just come back from a fabulous week away in a village called St Dogmaels on the coast of South West Wales. It was fabulous because it did not rain (AT ALL), we spent 4 days on beautiful local beaches - and WE SAW DOLPHINS!

Does life get any better than that?

The only thing that was not fabulous about the holiday was the journey there. 229 miles in more than 6 hours.

Now, I love my family very much BUT 6 hours in a glorified tin can on one of the hottest days of the year stretches things a little.

There are just so many rounds of Eye Spy that you can play and verses of Ten One Hundred Green Bottles that you can sing.

So, with that in mind, here is the Dad Etc Guide to Games for Long Car Journeys. This list is compiled by the Signs of Spring and the Dubmeister - and verified by me as non annoying for adults.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...