Sunday, 19 October 2014

Time for Diwali

It is Sunday so it must be Anstey and home... I have returned home for a week and will be enjoying part of my annual leave, even if I cannot escape work altogether. An important presentation requires attention in the evenings and the car is on its last leg, so part of the week will be devoted to visiting second-hand car dealers, browsing Autotrader and taking the old car to its last resting place. It is scary to notice that it is not September any more but we are approaching Halloween - that I will bypass in Stockholm - and this week Diwali.

Number One Son's schoolwork project deals with Diwali and we are supposed to create and execute a poster on the subject with our child. Thus, I was googling 'Diwali' and choosing BBC Schools' web site as my primary source of information together with some websites targetted to the local people in Britain with Indian origin. This suddenly made me realise that Houston, we have a problem. We are one of the over 40 procent of British households that are non-religious and we do not do God, so explaining Lakshmi and Ganesh, the main Hindu gods involved, is slightly pushing it. Santa Claus seems to be easy, since Number One Son happily plays with his toy one. We just have to hope that they have done God(s) in the nursery and school.

We are supposed to include informative content, for example tell why people celebrate Diwali, name important objects and tell the stories related to the celebration. The first two are easy, since ultimately, Diwali is the Indian Christmas bringing light to the darkness and similarly involving candles, food and present, but the last suggestion seems slightly too complicated considering the late developmental stage of Number One Son. The return of Rama after 14 years relating to a circle of mythology I do not know, seems too complicated, when you are entering to the story totally randomly as a total outsider. I assume we will stick to the light winning the darkness and Lakshmi and Ganesh representing the beauty, wealth and good luck.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

When I am away...

The sunny culprit

Nothing is more worrying than when you are Skyping home and you suddenly see a fresh bruise on your son's cheek. Due to Number One Son's speech difficulties, Archaeologist Husband has not really got out from him what happened, if he fell on the grass or if the constant playful bickering and egging up that goes on between Number One Son and one of the other little boys who went with him to nursery has taken turn to the worse. Number One Son is on a green card, so he has been misbehaving and headbutting has occurred. Not a nice thing to hear and see over an echoing net connection.

Nevertheless, Number One Son seems to be developing both socially and emotionally. His last school homework got an 'outstanding' remark and apparently the homework for the coming Friday has already been done. It was on numbers, something he is comfortable with. The outstanding homework was something I also contributed, but Number One Son had drawn more animals to go with animal names starting with certain letters. His emotional development does not come with very pleasant consequences to me. He has started to say that he loves me (among his favourite toys and things, different food stuff and his friends), and verbally communicate that he misses me. Yesterday he had asked when doorbell rang, if Mummy will be there.

The misbehaviour at school happened unnervingly during the afternoons of the same week that I travelled back to Stockholm. When Number One Son's understanding of time will become better, I have to start explaining to him what, where and when. Luckily, now it is only one week to half-term and I can make my presence and ascertain him that I will always come back. The half-term will be fine, since the job interview was postponed to the following week (a positive sign from a potential new employer!). However, the car has now definitely broken down for the last time, so instead of seeing the industrial legacy of the Saltaire World Heritage Site and cruising the Yorkshire Dales, we will see as a family the second-hand car dealers of Leicester. It just does not sound as fancy - or fun!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Payback time

This week I have been working at home during the time I call 'payback time' or 'return to the mummy duties'. Archaeologist Husband held a day school near Liverpool and went to Birmingham to work with his old boss, a current collaborator, so I was doing the school run, returning any forms to the school - this week saw parent-teacher meeting schedule and parental permission for a child to take part into Diwali celebrations outside the school - and take care of so-called 'payback duties'. These are the ones Archaeologist Husband refuses to do, since he is doing his share already.

It was time for class photograph, so our 'troll' had to go to the barber's. This is a source of mutual agony, since Number One Son hates any cutting objects nearing his growing nails or hair. He tried to convince me that brushing his hair will help the situation, but the fringe had already gone south and the trip to barbers that had been avoided on the previous visit when he still looked almost decent had to be done. I managed to find excuses to postpone the visit with a day, but the evening before the photographer's visit was the last chance to pop to the barber's shop. The trip did not start well, because the wailing started as soon we hit the queue on the chairs and this changed to full crying when Number One Son was placed to the barber's chair. After several minutes of shedding tears I could convince him that Number One Girl will expect to see him with a decent hair in her birthday party on Saturday and the barber could start his task. Luckily, the cries waned and Number One Son was quite intrigued of the small cutters barber used in one point. In the future, I will ask them to use those exclusively, since Number One Son did not decline them once. Now it is only the dentist to go on Monday!

Saturday saw Archaeologist Husband's day off that was brought about by my and Number One Son's trip to Number One Girl's birthday party and Finnish Saturday School straight afterwards. The birthday party was lovely and this time the little boys did not start a fight or anything, since there was a balanced gender mix and the age range was wider than normally. Not just a lot of little five-year-old boys on sugar high. Finnish Saturday School was true to its name only parts. The children in the nursery group where happily playing with each other in English, while the adults chatted away in Finnish. Well, at least there was a language bath available, if the children paid any attention to the discussions about Coventry's ice rink or specifics of Sixth Form and Advanced Maths.

Sunday has seen Number One Son's reluctant participation in an attempt to do school homework (find as many mammals starting with S, A, T, P, N and I) and insistence of baking a honey cake. Another sign I am NOT a domestic goddess is that the came was burnt outside but doughy inside. At least it tasted honey and ginger! In contrast, Archaeologist Husband had baked a lovely chilli loaf for breakfast. Domesticated husband 1 - domestic slob 0.

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.