Saturday, 31 January 2015

Gender balance and education

I was browsing some local seminars recently, trying to better myself or something, and I spotted one regarding gender and primary education, supporting different outcomes for boys and girls and how to better encourage them to reach their early potential While I'm not sure I'll make it to the event itself, it got me thinking.  A dangerous habit, I'm sure you'll agree.

Thinking back to my own school days (in black and white, obviously) I attended two different primary schools, as we moved house when I was 9. Across these two schools, and probably somewhere around 15 primary teachers I encountered, there was only one male teacher.  Both schools had male headmasters, but only 1 actual, teaching children every day type teacher.  Squeaky's school is a little better. The head is male, there is one male teacher in the juniors department, but shock of all shocks, there is a male teaching assistant, who is actually based in Squeaky's class!  I know!  Hold the front page!

Yet when children move from primary to secondary education, there is a sudden and dramatic increase in the number of male teachers.  In my secondary school, the entire art, design & technology, science, geography and music departments were male.  Languages, RE, PE, and English were a mix of male and female teachers, and history, maths and home economics were all female.  And we had a male head teacher and deputy head.  Something of a balance shift there, I think you'd agree.  And looking in the other direction, there were no male staff at Squeaky's nursery at all, and I have seen otherwise educated and well balanced people say they would not send their child to a nursery where there were male staff!

Obviously I'm not saying my school experience was exactly the same as everyone else's.  Aside from anything else, I went to Catholic school, so there was the added bonus of nuns and the occasional priest added in to the mix, but looking at the friends I know in the teaching profession, the gender balance seems to remain in favour of female teachers at primary level, and male at secondary.

I should not be trusted with MS Paint. Fact.
On that basis, I had a quiet word with a friend of mine who works as a lecturer in a university.  She tells me that in her experience the balance is slightly different in Higher Education, where many of the people delivering the lectures are female, but the majority of senior staff are male. So, many students will see more female staff than male, but the reality is there are more male staff, who don't bother themselves with such trivial things as students.  This actually reflected my own university experience, but I had put that down to being in a small college, and studying a touchy-feely female heavy course.

What does this actually tell our children?  That women, and girls, can only learn so much? That their education levels are less important than their brothers? That they have less knowledge to share?  I hope not.  Women are, in family life, pushed into a nurturing role as a result of the whole pregnancy, giving birth type scenario. But why does that have to carry forward into education? Squeaky's teachers are not carrying her in their collective wombs, I did that bit.  They are filling her head with knowledge, ideas and ambition, and women have just as much of that as men.  Squeaky certainly has it in bucket loads, and is a veritable sponge to every piece of information that comes her way.

What am I trying to achieve here? Nothing really, I suppose, aside from venting.  The government are hardly going to sit up & take notice of this little corner of the blogosphere, and I can't change the past. But Squeaky's still quite fixed on the idea that she wants to be a teacher when she grows up, and I'm going to to my best to encourage her to be what she wants to be, and achieve all she can, no matter who or what tries to stand in her way.

What was your experience? Please do tell, I'm intrigued.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Lunchbox Woes

Nope, not a "I've run out of bento inspiration" post. I have neither the patience nor ability to make pretty shaped nonsense out of Squeaky's sandwiches, she will only ignore then in favour of yogurt, babybel and playing in the yard anyway.

Instead, I am bemoaning progress. Back in the day, a lunchbox was a solid plastic affair, with a picture of My Little Pony or Rainbow Brite on the outside, and space for a matching thermos flask. Or at least it was for a fortnight or so, before I lost it again, and it was replaced with a brown Tupperware box that was physically impossible to lose.  My Little Pony has had a makeover in recent years, and so has the lunchbox. Now, they are made from some sort of squishy thermo insulated fabric stuff. Great for keeping things cool (that said, I freeze squeezy yogurts, and fetch one out first thing in the morning & it's just as effective at cooling sandwiches), but gah, they are VILE.

School water bottle left at school. Again.
I'm sorry, but it's physically impossible to get these things clean. There's a permanent whiff of sour yogurt, fermented fruit juice and something that may once have been a Pom-bear.  I can only think of two possible solutions: 1 - a boil wash, or 2 - a flamethrower. At least with hard plastic you could get into the corners, these things have seams for goodness sake, where the ming seems to congregate.

I haven't got a dishwasher (I know, pity me), and there will be a meltdown of epic proportions if I do anything that might risk the Frozen lunchbag's appearance. But short of drawing Elsa on a Tupperware in Sharpie marker, what can I do? I'm going to throw up before the end of term at this rate.

I actually have a couple of really nice (in my opinion), bento-esque lunchboxes, made of solid plastic, easy to clean, and generally far more acceptable to my delicate sensibilities.  However, the lack of Disney branding makes them thoroughly unacceptable in the eyes of Squeaky.  I'm at my wits' end.

There's a whole separate moan about how matching flasks used to come with the solid plastic lunchbox, and were designed to fit in the flask space.  Now flasks, or sports cap bottles more often, are a separate entity, and an additional £5 plus to the coffers of whichever tv channel your child is currently obsessed with.  Not to mention the official school issued water bottle which never seems to come home with madam, and leaks all over her school bag on the very rare occasion I actually see it. (Secret admission here, I replaced it with one I had in a goodie bag from somewhere, and allowed the school one to meet with a tragic car-running-over type accident)

Does anyone still sell the Old Skool style lunchboxes? I'm getting desperate.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Five Whole Years

Five years ago, I was settling into my first (very cold) days at home with a brand new baby. Watching the snow fall through the window and wondering what on earth I was letting myself in for.
Yesterday I was helping my daughter recover from Saturday's On The Day Frozen birthday party spectacular, and trying to interest her in a light snooze after swimming and a soft play lunch.  Today, she's packed off to school as if nothing ever happened.

Five. How on earth has that happened? I've been trusted with the well-being of a small, dependent human being for 5 years, and have managed not to break her.  She's done her best to break me, mind.

The cold never bothered me anyway

We even managed snow, she's convinced that it snows for her birthday, because it's her birthday, every year. Even when experience has showed it only snows about every OTHER year, and despite her best Frozen singalong efforts, there was nowhere near enough to build a snowman, though it did look the part.

The melting Olaf biscuits went down a treat with the hoard of marauding 5 year olds who invaded my living room, and somehow the only casualties were one of my fingernails and a slight spillage of orange squash onto a mat that was down for exactly that reason.

Happy birthday little lovely.

Friday, 16 January 2015

The view from my bed (warning, contains feet)

When we moved in to our house, it was a shrine to 1991. The house had been a showhouse for the estate, and hadn't been changed since. I guess the floral blahs suited the elderly couple who were here before us, but to say it was dated is like saying the new Stars In Their Eyes is slightly rubbish.  However, with both of us working, and a Squeaky to look after, it's taken time for us to put our stamp on the place.

We are slowly getting there now. Baby steps and all.  I decorated Squeaky's room about 2 years ago now, as you know. Then we had a decorator friend help us with the lounge/dining room, and the hall, stairs & landing, because I know my limits.  Late last year we decided that our next challenge would be our bedroom.

All went fairly well, except for a minor tragedy when *someone* stood the ladder on my dalek picture that lived on the wall opposite the bed.  It wasn't expensive, but I think finding the right size frame as a replacement may well be.  It's a big wall opposite the bed, and since we finished painting, it has been staring blankly at me like a big blank thing.  Broken up by nothing more than a couple of tiny nail holes that I kind of didn't fill before I painted.

I had a late evening chat with Daddy one night about what we should do with the wall, and we (ok I) said that some wall art would look good. And nothing happened, for a while.  Until one of those quiet days between Christmas and the schools going back where I had just had enough of looking at a boring wall and had a nose on Premier Vinyls' website.  Simply because they were the only company I could name, and I knew they did lots of giveaways on Facebook.  Put all the boring stuff in to the order form, used Daddy's money as he broke the daleks, and lo & behold, less than a week later, I'm the proud owner of a lovely piece of wall art.

I even have co-ordinating bedlinen and toenails. Kind of.  Paint is B&Q Colours in Oxygen, wall art from Premier Vinyls, bedlinen from The Home Store about 15 years ago, nail polish OPI Can't Find My Czech Book.

I'm not sure if the view from my bed is more or less interesting than a random hotel window view, but it's an insight into the life of an irregular blogger and hardcore procrastinator.

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post, or a review post. I bought the wall art shown above with my own money (or rather, Daddy's money), and I have a receipt to prove it if you like that sort of thing. I have not been asked to post this, not offered any incentive to do so.  I am not a member of any affiliate scheme, links are provided for convenience, I will not receive any payment for their use.

Edited to fix auto correct.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Just when you think everything's going fine

Why don't children come with an instruction manual? One that tells you whether something is just a thing, or something to worry about?  When does an irregular occurrence become a regular thing? A habit? A cause for concern?  Are sudden changes always a sign of something deeper?

Squeaky has been dry at night for about 2 years now.  She rarely needs to get up in the night to visit the bathroom, but when she does she does so successfully.  Even away from home, she's stayed dry, and the only times she's had a problem are when she's been unwell.  Until this weekend.  We've had 2 accidents in as many nights, both at the start of the night, shortly after she's dropped off to sleep.  I always make sure she goes to the toilet before bed, even when she insists she doesn't need to, just to try.

So why now?  What's the sudden change? Are two consecutive nights enough to be a pattern?  If not, how many are?  I've asked her all the right questions, gone through the whole "no secrets from mummy" thing but she's not giving me anything, except that she tries to stay awake so that she can think about being with a boy in her class that she has a crush on.  She hasn't mentioned any pain, there's nothing obviously different about this pee to normal pee, and I'm stumped.

Over to you, wise and mighty readers.  Any suggestions?  I don't want to drag her to the doctor's just yet, when she's not saying anything, and I know they don't really have anything to offer anyway (and I'm due to be free from health visitors next week, hooray!).  I guess these are the times I should make the most of where I work and ask the advice of the many & varied other health visitors & medical bods in the office, off the record.  My washing machine has gone into overdrive, and it's not the time of year I can dry things outside, if you know what I mean.  Things are complicated.

Can you hear the spin cycle?
Coupled with another phase of nightmares, and a few nosebleeds for good measure, neither Squeaky nor I are getting the sleep we need.  Send matchsticks, coffee and chocolate.  Please?

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Take one a day...

"... and two on Sundays." Those were the instructions given to Squeaky by her Grandad when he handed her this box if chocolates. An old joke, but a pretty good one if you ask me. And one that she had taken altogether too seriously.

Still going strong
It's now just over 2 weeks since Christmas, the tree has been down for a week, and the decorations are back in the attic. All that remains is bits of tinsel in the carpet, which will be there til March, a few extra pounds around the waist (which will also still be there in March!), and half a box of Quality Street. One a day and two on Sundays. Instructions followed to the letter. If she hasn't had her "daily sweetie" before bath time, tragedy ensues. Not that she lets that happen, most days the "daily sweetie" is scoffed before breakfast. Then after school, I'm met with "Have I had my sweetie yet today mummy?" and she happily accepts that she has, and doesn't ask for another until the next day.

I told her Grandad about this on the phone last weekend and he was definitely amused, he never dreamed she would take him so seriously.  I like this though. It's a good thing. She's learning some moderation and self restraint (if only the same would apply to *my* sweets, which she thinks are fair game and wants to help me eat the lot in one sitting), and by eating them slowly, she'll still be enjoying her Christmas sweets long after the rest have run out.  Woe betide any adults who offer to help her eat them!

What instructions do your children take too seriously?

Monday, 5 January 2015

Bosch Athlet Cracker Challenge

You know me dearest reader
I can't turn down a dare
To make, create, do something daft
I'm happy to be there.

So when I was invited
To make crackers and a mess
I was really quite delighted
As if you couldn't guess

So with my Squeaky helper
We started to create
Though Christmas is now over
We're actually not late

We rolled and stuffed and twisted
Crepe paper wrapped and tied
Sticky taped and decorated
And put sweets and hats inside

Our crafting was quite tidy
As you can clearly see
Though we still need to clean a mess
The mess that's soon to be

Coz our crackers aren't for Christmas
Squeaky's birthday's coming soon
And her friends are coming over
To mess up my living room

With crackers, fun, and movies
Popcorn, pizza, cheese
My mess is in the future
Help me Bosch Athlet, please

I can't yet give a hashtag
#showUSyourmess still to come
But I promise to save a piece of cake
If you let me be the one!

This post and awesome poem
Form my blogging entry
To the #showUSyourmess challenge
The kit was complementary

Provided to me free of charge
To help me spin my tale
And stand a chance of winning
A Bosch Athlet vacuum, £239.99 for sale

The words are all my own
And I have not been paid
Links are for convenience
No affiliate scheme made.