How to teach a child to ride a bike

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Kids have been learning to ride bikes for years, but like many milestones, teaching them to do it can drive you crazy.

Going straight from balance bike to pedal bike is the easiest way, but life isn’t always like that. We stupidly let a child who was amazing with a balance bike have stabilisers and ‘failed’ to use a balance bike on our first child, so here instead is the benefit of the long road of hindsight. Continue reading

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Knowing your breed: creating a diet that is suitable for your dog

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It took a while to find the right food for our dog!

Comissioned guest post

Dogs come in all shapes and sizes. They can be giant or tiny, long or short-haired, squat or tall, with all sorts of other variances between breeds. Furthermore, the differences are more than just aesthetic. Different breeds of dog have different lifespans, health concerns and demeanours, and require owners to take a variety of approaches to look after them. Continue reading

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Why Parents Should Support the Teacher’s Strike #standupedu

stand up for educationI think this post has been brewing for seven years now. Since I left teaching. I want to talk about why I left.

Firstly, the strike isn’t just about pensions, it is about pay, conditions and the affect of ‘teacher churn’ on classes and children. Teacher are leaving in droves and it has a huge impact on children. It is also about the structure of education which is in chaos, councils can’t open new schools and hastily opened free schools and academies are operating without qualified teachers. Today’s strike is about encouraging the government to:

•    Ensure all teachers are qualified
•    Make sure every child has a school place
•    Stop attacking teachers and ensure there is no teacher shortage
•    Work with professionals and experts to develop an exciting modern curriculum
•    Fund education properly

Not wanting to blow my own trumpet, but I was an excellent teacher. I built a new department from scratch, my department achieved results with huge dollops of value added. Kids didn’t just meet their potential, they exceeded it in their time with me. But after a few years I became utterly fed up with it. It was a never ending cycle of paperwork, observations, box ticking.

Five years after qualifying, 2 in every 5 teachers are no longer teaching. National Union of Teachers

I get that you need to be accountable, that we can always improve. But I hated that feeling that I was constantly failing when my results were anything but. I would sit in my line manager’s office, she would be telling me what a great job I was doing, I would be in tears about how totally out of control everything felt.

Michael Gove keeps criticising teachers. Morale is plummeting. NUT

I’d always been known as an incredibly organised person, but my desk constantly resembled an avalanche. I rarely had time to eat or go to the toilet, I got to school at 7.30, I left at 6pm, taking work home with me.

I was under too much pressure to enjoy time with my students. They were amazing kids, but trying to juggle constant new initiatives, manage all those personalities, issues and trying to shove your beloved subject through the framework of the latest Ofsted approved lesson plan completely sucked all the joy out of it for me.

Rushed changes are stressful for children as well as their teachers.   NUT

I won’t skip over pay completely here. Being a Head of Department was simultaneously a privilege and the biggest joke. I once worked out I was paid the equivalent of £25 a week extra to line manage 3 other people, look after two classrooms, to be responsible for huge amounts of expensive equipment and be responsible for the progress of hundreds of students’ exam results, not to mention the painful process of chasing and moderating hundreds of pieces of coursework, oh and the extra weekly meetings, weekly bulletins and ‘Ofsted friendly’ handbooks, you know just in case they dropped in at a moment’s notice.

I would be up at 5am some mornings marking, because I had fallen asleep on it the night before. ‘Holidays’ were spent in a kind of shell shocked daze trying to reconnect with interests, friends, family and a partner I had ignored for the whole term. Trying to mark, and prepare, to fight the never ending battle to get ahead. There was no work life balance.

Basically teaching stopped being fun.

One day a friend and I joked about getting pregnant so we could get out of there. In reality that was my exit strategy.

I’ve looked back lots since then, but I won’t teach again. That makes me feel guilty. Having the power to change lives, all that training, energy and creativity I invested, all those lives I could change. I’ve found other ways to change the world, but I miss working with young people.

Since then I have watched so many of the highly qualified and committed group I trained with leave teaching completely or move into private education. This made me realise it wasn’t me that failed at teaching, but teaching that failed us. We made huge sacrifices to train to teach and we gave it our everything that PGCE year. I’m going to blow their trumpets too here, they were all seriously amazing teachers, A huge loss to mainstream education.

Academies and free schools are now allowed to employ unqualified teachers. This is a big threat to standards of education.        NUT

I taught creative subjects. I taught some of the actors, film makers, journalists, advertisers of the future, The UK’s creative industries drive growth and attract tourism, outperforming all other sectors of UK industry. They accounted for 1.68 million jobs in 2012, 5.6 per cent of UK jobs. Michael Gove doesn’t see that, he’s driving a draconian return to traditionalist education that just isn’t working.

The Government should start listening to what teachers and education experts say. It should work with them to develop an exciting and inspiring curriculum that equips children for the modern world. NUT

I’m watching it now in my own children’s primary education. Amazing creative teachers. Exhausted, grumpy, over worked kids who are switching off learning. It doesn’t add up.

Parent’s evenings where we talk through levels in numeracy and literacy, where I have to ask what my 5 and 7 year old kids painted, sang, danced played with or created. The teachers know of course, because they’re great teachers, but it feels so far off the educational agenda it is as if we have to be given permission to talk about it.

All this isn’t good enough, for our teachers or for our children. Which is why I urge parents to support the strike. There is more information on how parents can help here. The NUT Twitter is @NUTOnline, the hashtag is #standupedu

 

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Caring for the eldery – Meals for One

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One of Grandma’s favourite easy meals for one, courgette from the garden on toast

When it came to food, my paternal Grandma was amazing, even into her late 80s. After Grandad died she always cooked proper meals for herself. She ran the colliery canteen, so she knew how important a good meal was. I don’t think my Grandad, who grew all the veg but was used to being catered for, would have managed quite the same.

My other Gran, who had lived alone since her late fifties when my maternal Grandad died, would have lived off tomato soup, white bread and toasted tea cakes if my Mum had let her. Continue reading

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Rate the date – Ms A’s take on the Direct Line Icy Roads challenge.

A few weeks ago I was invited to take on a skid pan in Kettering with Direct Line. As it was a night away from the kids and the sort of challenge Mr A would enjoy, I asked if I could bring him too, Direct Line kindly said yes and that he could probably get a quick lap of the skid pan. On the day another blogger dropped out so Mr A was lucky enough to get the full experience.

I love the end of the video clip, it says it all! Mr A’s account is over on Alexander Residence. Here is what I thought: Continue reading

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My first Expresso

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I had my first expresso aged 36 in Italy with my Dad. The kids were tiring of sighseeing, no one knew any Italian and we needed a pick me up, so I decided to keep in simple and order whatever Dad had. It did the trick and there was something really enticing about a short, sugary shot of coffee. Not a whole cup, which I can find too much, but just a taste. A kickstart. A burst of flavour. Continue reading

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Sensory play ‘builds cognitive, social, and linguistic skills’

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I really enjoyed reading this guest post on messy play by Djeco crafts- I always knew it was a real winner with my two and that the joy and utter absorption it brings outweighs the cleaning up afterwards.  Now I really see why! If you are less convinced, the post has some great tips for keeping it manageable.

Spend time in any nursery or play group and you will see children dipping their fingers in paints, drawing on pieces of paper, or squeezing play dough through their hands.

As a parent you can’t help but notice how much children love this type of play, but it can be tempting to leave it to organised groups. It’s fun partly because it is messy, but while that’s great for kids, it may not be so brilliant for your cream carpet. Continue reading

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The London Pass – your passport to family fun in London

732063921_ThamesRiverCruise1We’ve been asked to review the London Pass.

London Pass gives you free entry to most key London attractions on a day or two or three consecutive days of your choice.

A London pass is your key to the city – you can dodge the queues for attractions of which there are 60, add train travel, and the best bit, dip in and out of attractions without feeling you’ve wasted your money. Continue reading

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Your ideal travel destination this year, by Chinese New Year horoscope

I’m a snake, and should be slithering off to Antigua or Kavos with an Ox or a Rooster. Funnily enough I have been looking at a week in Greece and I would be exceedingly happy with Antigua.

Happy Chinese New Year. Do you know your sign? I love a little bit of dalliance with a horoscope. Find out what the Chinese New Year holds for you, your ideal travel destination and travel companion.

The Thomas Cook Chinese New Year Horoscope Finder

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8 ways to make the most of online auction sites

It is that time of year, when everyone is a bit skint, and thinking about quick ways to make up for the Christmas deficit. Chances are you have some unwanted gifts from Christmas lying around, or, now you have new things, some old things you no longer need. Time to get on top of the clutter and make it work for you!

Online auction sites seem like a great way to make money fast, but they can be time consuming. Here are some simple tips… Continue reading

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