Sunday, 28 September 2014

Importance of routines

Being until Wednesday a remote mum again, I can only wonder with awe how Archaeologist Husband deals with the homework of Number One Son. It is not a secret that I am quite worried about the way some of these exercises have really stretched Number One Son too far. I am not for dumbing down, but somehow the exercises have to be linked to the level the child is at. Number One Son cannot write properly long sentences or keep straight line, even if Archaeologist Husband tries to put in time every evening to do this. Last week exercise was to compose a long sentence to describe an action in an image. For a child who tries to learn to write the letters properly that was probably a step too far. However, the exercise was fine for those in the class who can already read. This week's 'exercising the use of scissors' sounds more like a task Number One Son can exercise with ease.

Number One Son likes routines - after all, he has been going to the nursery since he was about ten months old - so this has made his change to school quite easy. He seems also quite happy to please Ms Teacher. I feel that I should have tapped into this character of Number One Son's personality when I tried to introduce the word and action card games in order to improve his speech development in the past. I perhaps should have been more persistent. On the other hand, he probably was not that ready to concentrate. He was happy to join the monkey eating the bananas, but quickly wanted to play with other toys.

It will be lovely to get back to the normal daily routines - even if it will be only for a couple of days. Taking Number One Son to school, picking him up from the after school club or from the school gate after a couple of words with the other parents (mostly mums or grandparents) and a pop to the local supermarket will bring me back momentarily to the normal everyday life. We do have a daily routine with me skyping almost daily, but that was broken by the conferences in Italy, and I am playing catching up.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Transient values?

Yesterday and today I have been thinking about my values. How much does my son mean to me? How important are family holidays? How important is securing a permanent job in the light of losing a family holiday or two? These questions have gone through my mind when it has become clear that there is a fair possibility that I have to cancel our family short break during the autumn half-term and head to a job interview. The final details will be heard soon, but there is a fair chance, since I gather the potential half-term schedule of the interview panel is more important than the one of the interviewee.

I suppose most men would not bat an eye lid when faced with choices like this (I may make a gross oversimplification here), but for myself these things are important. I spend quite a lot of time away from Number One Son and I had been waiting for the break, but on the other hand, we will get the windows fixed, if I will secure a job in a nice university. Of course, this is on the back of leaving most of the summer school holiday to be covered by my Archaeologist Husband and without him I could not do what I do know. I probably should devote one blog to the good husbands behind successful female researchers. I know a few and their support is or has been paramount to us. Female scientists do not flourish with old-fashioned husbands.

With my current experience as a Skype Mum, it is clear that the best work-life balance is achieved for female researchers when you have a supportive workplace but also make sure that when you work, you are efficient and create new things and publish. The trust is mutual and work benefits both sides when planned and maintained properly. Thus, I must prioritise work sometimes, but I have to hope it will be rewarded with family time later.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Gove's legacy

Now I and Archaeologist Husband have met the Year 1 Teacher and discussed Number One Sons situation. On one hand I feel more confident that things may go Ok, even if any extra Number-One-Son-specific support comes only when all the visits and enquiries are done for the new model Special Educational Needs support case evaluation. She is tough, but that may be what our stubborn son may need in order to unlock his potential. However, some specifics stemming from the new curriculum and policy are alarming.

Year 1 Teacher explained that the new objectives are basically for the five-year-olds the same objectives that were a year ago the objectives for the six-year-olds. This means that our son who has now started to make some kind of capital letters and can scribe the short version of his own name has now his long first name and surname in proper small and big letters as a homework. I am not sure if the targets have to jump over a series of steps in a matter of week.

The good part is that we are forced to start to put into practice a homework routine and hone different bribing and encouragement tactics in order to get our son to scribe different things. He has never been the one for drawing, so this takes some coaxing. I am sure he is not alone among the boys in this.

The worrying part is the fact that even the brightest among his peers are disappointed how 'work-like' the brave new school is. I am not sure that the worried faces and moans about the lack of play were the things Gove had in mind when he started to formulate this new brave curriculum. In Finland the children play when they are five. In England they sit by a table and scribe. I hated myself school for its senseless learning without curiosity and reading capital cities or areas by heart. This new curriculum prescribes the model to the toddlers and expects that they somehow become nuclear scientists and learn the mysteries of the Universe by following unrealistic goals. How will those who do not learn to multiply and divide when five pick these things when they are ready? And how the children can keep the fun in this all? New thinking requires unconventional and curious mind.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

On the school run again

The new term has started and at least at the moment Number One Son is still happily scootering to the school. His Number One Friend had already blurted on the day two that he does not want to go again. The limited expressions Number One Son uses mean that we are not totally sure what he does and if he enjoys it at the school, but with a series of Yes/No questions we may get some incling. Any way, it will be a teachers and parents meeting the coming week, so I will hear more. I probably have to have a friendly chat with the Teacher in order to be certain how she approaches the fact that Number One Son is lagging considerably behind - even if his progress is visible and audible. Nevertheless, his reaching the level his peers are right now will take some time.

The class has Literacy and Numeracy objectives that are nicely expressed using stories, role play and Humans and Animals theme still convey an idea that five-year-olds are crammed with expectation. It is clear that Number One Son will learn - but will also take his time. He will hopelessly fail any national targets, but the paperwork suggest personalised targets. These will however be widely different in this case from average targets. We are introducing alphabets here - not reading, yet.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Different styles

Now that Number One Son has had different periods of holiday with me and Archaeologist Husband, it has become clearer how differently we handle the time with our son. Naturally, since the work has taken me to Italy and kept me in Stockholm, he has been the one who has taken Number One Son to the family visits and beach holiday in Jersey (although the weather was not the best, but the normal British summer weather). These things we would have done together - as we have before - if the schedules had allowed. Now I managed to get a glimpse of hotel room ceiling (instead of son's room ceiling) on Skype.

The real difference is in the way we are with Number One Son and what we do. When I was in Anstey, I and Number One Son headed to Bradgate Park or Abbey Park to fish, climb or feed the birds. We did a trip to Loughborough in order to see Queen's Park and we did go place with his friends, too. Archaeologist Husband on the other hand has started to teach Number One Son how to write his own name and different numbers on the blackboard. He has also been visiting the local park in order to keep him in contact with any children he knows from the school and who play in the park, too. His approach is more local and more educational. Mine is more exploring and adventurous. I think he need them both.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Skype Mom in action - again

The past two weeks have seen me out of my normal routines while teaching in the field school. During this time I have been skyping in late afternoon instead of reading a bedtime story, so Number One Son has not been hearing any Finnish at all. Instead I have been talking to Archaeologist Husband and my son at the same time and basically losing to any good children's TV programme. However, I have heard about the first ever Flying Fox ride in the park and seen that the son had got his daily portion of chocolate. I was also introduced to the Gap A that Archaeologist Husband had bought as a present after Number One Son learnt to write his name (we do not bribe, we follow 'practical parenting').

Now our flypaths are criscrossing Europe: I returned to Sweden to work early this morning while Number One Son and Archaeologist Husband flew a few hours later to Jersey for a family holiday to see Bam Bam and Great-Grandmother. I have already got texts telling that they have been building a sand castle on the beach on rainy Jersey. Now I just have to imagine how excited Number One Son was last year when the incoming tide wiped the sand castle away. It would be lovely to share those moments, but sadly first I have to build some models and provide photos of them for the students for their reports this week.

In Casablanca movie they say that we will always have Paris, but I can say that we will always have Brookside and fishing net... Not as romantic, but one of those defining moments of this summer with Mom. Now I only have to stay awake to do my skyping!

Monday, 28 July 2014

More Holiday!

Riding a fire engine

Our two and half weeks is almost over, but it has included a lot of local enjoyment in the lovely sunny and warm weather. We have visited Queen's Park in Loughborough and rode in a local bus that passed all the lovely villages in Charnwood, such as Swithland and Woodhouse Eaves. The park has an aviary with colourful parrots and the best playground I have ever seen in the area. It also has the local Charnwood museum we could visit for free. There was a carousel in the main square and an ice cream van at the park gate. A perfect short-distance summer visit.

In the Queen's Park

We also went to the City Farm and created an animal mask with some of Number One Friends. I and Number One Son revisited Abbey Park, since there is always things to see and do.

Gorse Hill City Farm

Number One Son also participated in an archaeological community dig in Anstey, but he was more interested in the tree house and the paddling pool in our friends' garden. However, he got really excited about troweling worms. Archaeologist Husband was giving a lecture on Medieval brick and tile elsewhere for a community group, but he managed to meet us afterwards in a newly opened family pub in the village. Splendid end to a splendid day!

Digging worms