Category Archives: It’s Educational

Farewell White Polo Shirts

goodbye white shirts

Farewell white polo shirts
Bleached so much it really hurts
Turning yellow in the sun
a memory of school which is over and done

White polo shirts on the line
Reminds us of school all the time
Now they’re packed away, never coming back
Why am I washing them, can someone tell me that?

White polo shirts with an unexplained stain
Tomato, whiteboard pen, removing them involves pain
Bleach away, bleach again
And again…. and again…. and again…

It isn’t just the polo shirts which make me really mad
There are also all the socks which kind of make me feel quite sad
Every night they come home with the blackest of soles
Add to that a token number of awkwardly positioned holes

So polo shirts, socks, the lot
Beyond human use, you’ll be left to rot
But actually, I’ve had a thought
And this one is one which would get support

In reception they need some things
For crafts and stuff, which people bring
To help the children find learning fun
A sock puppet – that’ll be the one.

So I packaged up socks, felt like there were forty
yellowing, fading, really stiff and cardboardy,
And I hope in the next year I’ll see those new folks
Who hide the kids crafts, and tell all those jokes

Who’ll curse all us parents
Like we did before
Who dump all their old things
For the newbies and more

So sorry, Reception mums, you’ll get there too
More white polo shirts and patience about through

Anyway, just to finish, one final say.
Farewell white socks, I’m switching to grey.

Farewell white polo shirts, it’s proper shirts today
I won’t miss you at all, not ever, no way.

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World Book Day – Why Make it Easy?

World Book Day is on Thursday, and already I’m dreading it with a large sense of additional giggle.

See, it was easy at the start of the year when H had her Harry Potter costume all sorted out. Really easy. I mean, she could even wear her uniform it was so completely easy peasy lemon squeezy.

But then she read ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’ and because I’m a soft touch I bought her an evacuees costume. She’d make a great Lucy Pevensie. Obviously, because she’s just walking around with a costume on and nothing else, she needs accessories. Like, say, a dagger made out of an old Amazon box, right? Done. But that still doesn’t really say who she is. No, she needs one more thing to make it completely obvious who she is being.

She needs a wardrobe!

Obviously the least practical thing you can take into school, especially when you’re at the childminders that morning. But we have a box, one which is just the right size. Shaun is completely anti this box, and making it into a wardrobe. I think it will be a stroke of genius if they do a parade and she walks around holding a small wardrobe. Shaun is really not buying it.

H thinks it’s the best thing ever!

So it looks like it’s up to me to make this box good. Except I don’t have any brown paper… that’s on my shopping list for tomorrow in the hope I’ll find somewhere that sells it (we have a Post Office near home).

Oh, and we won’t mention the new blue dress that has arrived as she has a Superheroes dressing up party this weekend and has decided she’s going as Bubbles from The Powerpuff Girls. (Shaun suggested she have a badge saying who she is as nobody will have a clue apart from possibly some parents). (I thought she’d make a better Buttercup personally). That’s going to be fun, I want to cut out a pair of enormous eyes to stick around her glasses so she looks like a proper Powerpuff Superhero. Obviously Shaun thinks this is also ridiculous…

H thinks it’s brilliant!

Think we might win this one too.

Then again she might just change her mind on the day and go as Harry Potter with Lucy’s wardrobe, saving the world before bedtime.


Post Half-Term Blues

So H is back to school tomorrow, over half way through her last year of Infant School, and heading into the Easter break. I like half term, even if it means we don’t get to spend any more time together – I worked through it all, though Shaun took both Fridays off (one was an Inset Day).

They weren’t given any homework which is a relief. Although some parents received a badly-worded letter to announce this term’s topic is Pirates – but couldn’t work out if we were actually meant to send the child in dressed as a pirate. We’re sending H in dressed like that anyway after cobbling together a hastily made Pirate costume.

Half term was Holiday Club for H. She’s booked in for Easter too, with the odd day off around the holidays. See, the fun has to be provided by someone else when the holidays come as we both work five days a week (and additional extras at home when we absolutely have to). Fortunately she’s really happy there and gets on with whatever is being done so I don’t worry how she’s getting on.

So I work straight through from 8.30 to 2.30 every day (without a lunchbreak), getting the train which goes closest to Holiday Club, picking her up and going on to whichever activity or playdate we have planned. Repeat to fade…

She’s tired, I’m tired and we’re back to school in the morning for another five weeks of tired. After school activities start again and we’ll be TIRED.

I’m not complaining, mind. Just tired.

Tired of logging everything H does to show she reads a lot (her teacher knows this, this bit is parental guilt), tired of fighting (verbally) with everything H doesn’t want to do because – guess what – she’s TIRED. Tired of tidying up, H is tired of tidying up too. Bribery isn’t cutting it any more. Can we just order a giant bin for her bedroom and put everything in there?


End of Term

Year 1 finishes for H tomorrow, and it has been a funny old year. One I wasn’t going to blog about, but then this is about everything, and I think it should be. Plus it’s only a problem if you make it a problem, right?

The Reception year was great. Year 1, academically was great too – the children all had a big switch with the Government wanting them at Year 2 standard before they’d even started, so a few of us were worried how they’d get on. We didn’t need to be, as I’m more than happy with H’s learning and how she’s progressing, getting a few ‘exceeding’ on her reports, which is all I ever want. In your face everyone who immediately assumes a summer baby can’t keep up. (nobody ever mentions the September babies who can’t keep up, I think they get a raw deal)

Right now I have a little girl who knows who her friends are, and has fall-outs from time to time (usually resolved within the same lunch break, the classic “you’re not my friend any more” type of lines), seems to mention friends I’ve never heard of, and had a smile most of the time. She lost more teeth, grew a couple more, grew several inches taller too.

Then there’s us parents. We started well at the start of term, though by the end of term I overheard some parents talking about me. One parent confirmed this to my face. The whole thing is silly, and it’s due to this, which I wrote on Facebook:

“I’m going to start the ball rolling with this meal out we’ve all been talking about on and off for the last goodness knows how long. What days are good for anyone? I generally have zero social life, but loads going on, if that makes any sense? Fridays are good for me! Feel free to add anyone as I’m having a complete memory fail this morning!”

Which obviously seems to have got some people’s backs up. Which is sad, as it’s there in black and white “feel free to add anyone” – I don’t care who goes, I’m no organiser, I was just fed up that we’d all talked about it and nothing had been done. It kind of cast a cloud over the very end of the year for me. I’d rather just hide in the background. (and ask questions on Facebook when I’m left baffled by school)

We did have our night out, anyway. It was lots of fun, lots of laughs and we want to do more and shall.

Dramas don’t transfer onto our children, thank goodness. They’re all still friends and in happy places, though starting to learn about the darker side of life. When I bought a copy of the kids’ newspaper First News for H, she let it be known she knew about the 10 year anniversary of the London bombings, and knew bits of what it was about – they watch Newsround in their class, but I wasn’t prepared for that (I don’t mind that she knows).

On a more superficial level, she is showing a lot more interest in the Harry Potter films. We’ve watched the first one together, and bits of the ones on tv, including the first hour of Deathly Hallows Part 2 which didn’t have any scary bits in it for her (relief!). We had a good talk about the story and I answered questions – I suspect we’ll get through the first book which we’d kind of stalled on a bit of late. I’m trying to encourage her to talk about things which are bothering her which seems to work at the moment.

So what do the summer holidays bring? A bit of stress about Year 2, some Home Learning for over the holidays (make a Knight’s costume), work and holiday clubs for the forseeable future, a holiday (hurrah), then back to school.

Which makes me realise this is it now for the next ten years. We’re two years in, one sixth of the way through her time in education. She’s doing fine. We’re all doing fine. Her two most hated subjects are Literacy and Maths – yet those are her strongest subjects. She loves history (like both her grandads), so we’ll be making the most of going to some English Heritage places as we get this with Shaun’s CSSC membership at work now. She wants to learn languages now which is good (french and german), and is enjoying her football and swimming lessons outside of school.

So yeah, we’re doing fine. We just don’t have the time.


We’re reaching the last few weeks of Year 1. While Reception felt like the longest school year ever, Year 1 has flown by. I’m actually really surprised how quickly it has passed. This time next year brings a new challenge – exactly where will our lives be?

There are so many decisions to make, ones that don’t need making just yet but will do at some point.

From September we have to apply for H’s Junior school. It isn’t an automatic transfer there any more since it became an Academy – and so we go through all the stress again. It’s almost certain she’ll get in, and she’ll be kept with her classmates so I’m not too worried – but having to go through the stress of applying then waiting again is something I could do without because you never know, something might go wrong.

What has Year 1 brought? It’s kind of funny – in our first year our class felt like we were all a group of mums together, whereas Year 1, we’ve kind of broken into groups; a bit like our children have! It’s kind of strange, and I’m not the only one to see it – there has been quite a shift. I know a few mums outside of school and have made some good friends too – the kind of mums you can rely on for emergency childcare and playdates after school, and our kids all get on well too – and that’s all that really matters.

H is doing well – she actually hit a lot of her Year 1 end of year targets by the end of the first term, in maths and english, which we’re delighted about. At our last parents evening (in February) she only had one more subject to get to the required level, so I knew she was keeping up fine. I have to say, I hate that you have these levels to achieve, but she isn’t stressed about it and enjoys learning, so it has been a handy guide for us to help her get there too.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Reading-wise, she still isn’t a free reader, though has been at home for over a year. Every week she reads her Annie paperback – it averages about three complete reads in that time. She’s still on Lime, though I’m encouraging her to talk to her teacher and ask what she needs to do, as I can see she’s ready, and I’m thinking that if she asks her teacher then we’ll know what needs working on. She isn’t frustrated by it, though I know we’ll eventually run out of books!

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

She claims she can’t do maths, then will solve a random more complicated sum than they’ve been working on, which always surprises me.

Sports-wise, she’s definitely coming on really well. We’re back doing football every weekend, and she’s enjoying running around for an hour and a quarter which helps with her fitness. School are doing more balance related things and I’ve noticed she seems less clumsy, though I’m wondering how much will be to do with her glasses. Swimming, she just got her Stage 3 after two terms in her new class – and in less than a year of getting her Stage 2. Everything seems completely on track, and she’s happy and confident.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

I’ve noticed she colours things in better using pencils than crayons or felt tips. She really takes her time about it. We were sent a colouring book a while back which we need to have a sit down and colour on as it was nice and relaxing.

At Rainbows she’s really loving being around a different circle of girls – and I find them all funny too. Five and six year olds are weird though. I say that having once been one myself.

I can see her confidence really coming out on a daily basis, from cycling, balancing, speaking out loud in front of people (like her assembly), and so many other things. She’s still a couple of months off turning six, but as the youngest in her year at school she’s done us really proud.

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I was having a conversation with a friend last week, we were talking about bullying at school. It has happened to H a few times, and now my anger has gone and it has been dealt with, I have a different perspective.

See, I was bullied at school. I don’t remember what happened exactly, it was a long time ago. I’m pretty sure my parents didn’t get involved and left me to sort it out. It might have worked, who can say? There are no Sliding Doors in real life, it is what it is. My sister was bullied too and my parents got involved. Again, I’ve no idea if it helped. I don’t remember being bullied until I hit big school at 11. In fact, it didn’t happen for a few years. I had no idea what to do. So I just learned to talk quickly and run faster and keep my head down which seemed to help.

But it’s happened a few times to H at the tender age of 5. It seems like it’s something which is more ‘normal’ these days. But in some ways, I think it’s a good thing it’s happening now, as long as it isn’t affecting her time at school. If it gets to the ‘I don’t want to go to school’ phase, then I’ve missed the signs. But it hasn’t.

Instead we’ve made sure she knows she isn’t in the wrong (once she has explained the whole situation and how it happened). We’ve made sure she knows what the correct thing to do is (tell a teacher or someone in charge). We’ve also made sure she knows to not be upset by it – easier said than done, but she can be quite tough when she wants to be.

Don’t get me wrong. I hate that she’s learning about these things at such a young age, but at the same time I’m glad she’s learning to deal with them, if that makes any sense? If it ever gets worse she’ll be better equipped to deal with it. People can be evil. Children can be evil.

Nobody has hurt her though she has been spat on more than once. She knows what to do. It’s disgusting, and it’s dealt with. She has been shoved by other kids in the playground into areas she isn’t meant to play in, and was upset by it, but “didn’t let them see” – just had a little cry and cuddle with me at home. Is it fair? No – but we can’t change other people. You can only make sure those in charge are aware.

Has anything been done? Probably. They can’t talk about the other children to you, but they can reassure you things have been changed. You have to trust them. We’ve had nothing reported back to us lately by H.

I do wonder if the bullying at school made me into who I am today. It didn’t define me, but I was too scared to stand up to them. I hid. So it has definitely shaped me. I don’t want bullying to shape H. I want her to grow up with the confidence to tell them to bog off and leave her alone, and keep out of trouble. I want it to be something she forgets about when she gets older. After all, we only ever bring up our children and change it if we didn’t like how our parents did it, right?



H sat with me, and looked sad. “Mummy, school is getting so difficult at the moment” she told me. She burst into tears. “I’m finding it really hard. We’re being taught some really difficult things”.

I gave her a big hug. She’d unknowingly hit a lot of her end of year targets by the first term this year, so it doesn’t surprise me she’s getting pushed a bit, but in doing so, is it all too much? I don’t know. I just reassured her, told her not to be sad, and that it’s okay not to get it straight away, as it would make sense at some point. That it’s okay. That she mustn’t feel bad if she thinks she’s the only person who doesn’t understand.

She works hard. She keeps up with the work, but this is the first time I’ve seen the pressure from school being brought home, where she thought she couldn’t cope.

(this was then followed with her testing me on maths, as I said I knew everything in the world as I’m a mum, this is a known fact you know)

“so what’s three times twelve then mummy?” she asked. I answered “thirty six” which as we all know is correct. “WOW! How did you know that mummy?” she said “you got it RIGHT! TA DAAAA!” which also makes me wonder what it is she finds so hard at school, she was too tired out to remember.

They learn so much more in Year 1 than I ever did – I know this year they have to jump to Year 2 standard to keep up with all the curriculum changes implemented by our previous government. I know I was reading and writing at her age, but all this maths too? Times tables? That didn’t happen until the second year of junior school. It’s no wonder she feels pressured and no wonder I can relate to the pressure. But she can do it, she’s probably just a bit overloaded, right? She loves school, she loves learning.

So then the Tories come up with this fabulous idea. Keep children in school from 8.30am to 6pm. Awesome! This is great for so many reasons.

1. I will never see my child but can spend my entire day at work earning loads of money to pay for our vastly overinflated rent as we’re a) too old to buy under any dodgy Tory scheme and b) slaves to our rent and the area we live in, despite our rent being double what most people pay for their mortgage.
2. I won’t have time to cook a meal at night, so we’ll have to rely on ready meals and things like that, thus putting money into the chain supermarkets which I’m sure probably help fund the Tories too.
3. I won’t need a childminder any more – so she’ll effectively be out of work and earning less!
4. H will be exhausted, so will sleep well every night. I can only hope we’ll get homework too to really get those eyes a closing.

This is a great idea because….

1. My five year old daughter will see what it is like when she starts working in fifteen or twenty years time. Brilliant.
2. Her school holidays will be shortened from 13 to 7 weeks, so the teachers will be exhausted too, the Holiday Clubs will have to move somewhere else to accommodate the extra children, but at least they won’t go bust like our childminder will.
3. Holidays will still be expensive, but that’s okay as we’ll all be working as there are SO MANY JOBS (apart from the people who’ve all lost theirs thanks to all these changes)!! Hallelujah!
4. Youth Crime will be reduced. What a relief. I still remember the day when someone at my junior school set fire to it. It took us ages to hear the alarm as we were in a little prefab outside the main building.

What bloody awful ideas. This country really scares me at the moment. I can be sarcastic about it all I want, but my daughter’s education isn’t going to suffer.


That Was The Week

We’ve had achievements this week. H said her Rainbows promise on Monday, which she was really nervous about, but did marvellously well with.


On Wednesday she got her Stage 2 in swimming and can move into the yellow hat group – except our local centre has no space in those classes. Our pool is currently shared with Cheam, and they do have space, so I’m wondering if we should switch for now and move back to ours when they’re set to move back. It’s the same pool, after all.

Then we had parents evening tonight. I think I suffer from the same self-esteem issues with my child’s abilities as I do with myself. This is not a good thing. H is doing SO well. She’s already hit two targets as far as to the end of Year 1 goes which is amazing – I keep thinking maybe they’ve got the wrong child! But she does enjoy learning, and that’s half of the battle. I couldn’t quite believe my girl was doing so well, yet I was so proud of her at the same time. She’s going to be assessed next term to see whether she’s ready to be a free reader – which to me is huge – she’s the youngest in the year and I had no idea how much she would enjoy reading.  Then it’s about answering questions and expressing an opinion on the characters which will be good – to see how much she is taking in from the story.

Given she loves her ‘Shrinking Violet Absolutely Loves Ancient Egypt’ book and has already read it three times cover to cover (it’s a paperback suitable for 8+) and tells me things that happen in the story, I can’t see that being a major issue.

It does make me feel like we need an overhaul of her bookshelves though, the younger reader books bagged up and dished out to friends who would use them more than we do now.

Tomorrow I’m taking her to the new Smiggle store near work to buy something nice to celebrate a good week. She’s pretty excited about it too – we went to one of their stores in Australia over the summer.

I’ve booked Christmas at Kew tickets for us all, which looks wonderful – I’m really looking forward to it. Now to get some Disney on Ice tickets for next April which are proving really difficult to get. Uuuh.

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“It’s just the way we are”

H came home from school today. “I was convinced I was getting the class frog to bring home today, I really was. I’m so sad” she announced.

I breathed a sigh of relief, as nobody really looks forward to it when you’re a parent. Do they?

“I really did think I was getting it this week, but A did instead. But I have to get it before M does!” she blurted out.

and this worries me. She’s not a competitive child in any way, and yet this year she’s definitely wanting to do ‘better’ than her friend – her best friend. I told her it doesn’t matter, and that doing your best is the most important, and if you really have to be competitive, then just make sure you get the class frog before the naughty children do.

But I’ve seen it a few times now. They play together wonderfully, but every now and then H will point out that her friend did something before she did, and my heart sinks. It shouldn’t be about doing something first, it should be about doing it – it doesn’t matter when. I’m sure all children do it, and I know what has caused it – being at school. You’re always competing against someone for something at school aren’t you, at this age?

I’ve heard her say many times how she wants to be on a higher book band than her best friend, and it’s silly. She should want to be on a higher book band because she enjoys reading. It’s all still so black and white. We were moved up to gold level a week ago, and so far we’ve had two books, rather than a new book every two days which is great. The books she has are now ones we can google to find out more facts, which she’s finding interesting too.

Quite frankly, she’s challenged by these books in a really good way – it’s the perfect level for her. I think we’ll stay on these ones for a while now, and that’s a good thing.

I asked her why she gets so competitive with her best friend when it actually doesn’t matter. “because it’s just the way we are” she replied. Yep, I bet there’s a class full of competitive 5 year olds… I could never be a teacher!!