General

choosing state school

Choosing State School over Private, Why Would You Do it?

We all face the dilemma whether to send our kids to private or state school.  However, for most people it’s not a dilemma. Paying out on average £6-8k a term- perhaps triple that if you have more than one child- is simply a privilege reserved for the better off.

And yet, there are people surprisingly, for whom funds are not an issue and yet they still choose state school over private. This surprised me, I have to admit.

When most independent schools boast better facilities, smaller class sizes, extensive extra-curricular activities…  Who would really risk their children’s success knowing all of that? Whereas less than ten per cent of our population actually attends private school, the stats show a disproportionate percentage represented in top positions. 71 per cent of senior judges attended private school, 50 per cent of the House of Lords and 44 per cent of The Sunday Times Rich List. I always thought if the funds were there, it would hardly be a question.

And yet, here are five successful families who can arguably afford the fees, the lifestyle and whose social network perhaps has more in common with most private school parents than at our school which has a high proportion of Free School Meals pupils. I’d never heard of this phenomenon before but it got me thinking…

If money was not an issue and setting an individual’s politics aside, why would you choose state school over private?

Their answers surprised me.

  1. “Because it gives our children a false sense of reality”. Number one on parents’ list. One set of parents I spoke to (both of whom went to private school themselves) claimed "ps offers a mind-numbing environment and a false sense of security that children are ‘entitled’ and ‘deserving’ of all their privilege". It fails to equip their children for the realities of the world, which they subsequently will have to learn at University. I don't want my children to be surrounded by people who are only like them and have lots of money”, said one parent. “Not sure it makes them a nicer person.”
  2. Ethnic diversity. A no brainer I suppose. Most people know private schools are not as ethnically diverse as state schools though some are better than others. Outside London it is possible to have a diverse intake - in London it seems more polarised. For children who come from non-white backgrounds, this can be an important factor that is overlooked for the sake of achievement but confidence and identity can suffer. On the other hand, even children who are not from an ethnically diverse background, surrounding them with children and families who are ethnically similar gives a false sense of reality for when they enter the working world. The world is a melting pot and (think Made in Chelsea), having friends of different backgrounds can show children different ways of working and compromise.
  3. It can give kids a false sense of entitlement and achievement. Knowing that your parents paid for your education and that you got to where you are because of help can also affect confidence. Many parents don’t want their children to feel that they’re entitled to a ‘leg up’ and feel that they should work hard to get to where they want to be.
  4. “I can think of better ways to spend £350k (a lifetime of school fees)”. Well, so could I when you put it that way. Parents I spoke to said it's important for them to give their children experiences outside of school which will enrich their learning. For example, they took them on holiday to Kenya where they got to see animals in the wild and visited a local village and an orphanage. Still a privileged lifestyle but they argued they may not have been able to afford those trips if the children were in private school.
  5. Higher expectations. It never occurred to me that there was more pressure from universities if your child attended private school. Some universities will ask for higher exam results from certain private schools than from some state secondary schools.
  6. Private schools in the area only offer single sex education. Many private schools are single sex but state primaries and secondary’s are co-ed. Depending on the child, this can be a big factor for parents making that decision.
  7. No need. Many parents look for private schools to fill in the gaps of parenting,  But if you are hands on and  supportive of your children's schooling, it is possible to make up the difference. It can be expensive but less so than private school if you enrol your children in music/sport/drama/languages and tutoring in areas of weakness. And still have plenty left over to help them through university and setting up a home or career.
  8. Life is not purely about academic achievement. Yes, private schools can guarantee better results and they will challenge your children to do their very best but for some parents, it’s about providing a happy home, making sure they get jobs they enjoy and are good at but which they can leave behind at the end of the working day. Achievement and results are part and parcel of most academic private schools. And that’s not a bad thing but perhaps not what’s right for all children or all parents. “I want to support my children in their ambitions”, said one parent. “That’s more important than an Oxbridge degree or friends in high places.”
  9. Depends on the child. Some children need that extra push that a private school can give- they’re much more hands on. Some children will get lost in the academic pressure that governs many independent schools. So it really can be about what would suit your child best.
  10. The state school down the road is simply better than the private ones. Like state schools, there are good independent schools and poor ones. Given how much is at stake, choosing your local state school is not necessarily about choosing the lesser school. Both can vary and it’s important to do your research about whether your local state school can do just as good a job if not better.
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birthday party invite

When is it okay to turn down a birthday party invite?

 

It’s birthday party season again. That time when kids (and their parents) are invited to countless parties eating into every weekend and spare minute of family time you have.

I shouldn’t say that. Parties are wonderful for the kids. A time to get together with their friends outside of school, where they can play, eat and generally be on a two hour sugar high. Great, huh?

It’s just that the beginning of September somehow warrants those born in both August and September to schedule their parties just at the point where life is beginning its frenzied scheduled chaos. So, for some reason, it feels like a lot after a summer that was relatively party-free.

But seeing as the kids look forward to it and many of the kids are my daughters’ good friends, when is it okay to turn down a party invitation?

  1. First, ask yourself how close are they really? If dd1 was invited because the whole class was invited and you know your kids don’t really hang out, take that as a free pass to turn it down.
  1. How busy are you? If it means you’ll have to go from dance class to picking up dd2 from football to your hair appointment and then to the party, I think it’s safe to say that you’re busy. Don’t stress yourself to the point that you’ll resent being there the whole time.
  1. Check if you can share the pick up/drop off with another Mum/parent. Even better, if your kids are at the age when you can just drop them off, this is definitely the best option. It gets more complicated when you’re expected to stay and help supervise but still worth a shot to take it in turns.
  1. Family time always trumps birthday parties. If weekends are your only days to spend as a family and this is at a premium, it’s okay to turn it down. Spending time as a family is important and children crave that time (more than time with their friends-despite what they might say). Otherwise the weekend can just fly by. Alternatively, make it a family event. Enquire whether siblings are welcome and come with your whole brood!
  1. What’s the activity and is it difficult to get there? Again, check how convenient it is for you and whether your child will actually enjoy it. If your child hates heights and they’re headed to GoApe!, it’s probably a miss for her.
  1. Make it enjoyable for you! Yes it’s a party for the kids but heck, you’ve given up your afternoon as well so if beer or alcohol is on offer, take it! You deserve it!

Hopefully this list helps to reassure you there are legit excuses to turning down a party invitation… Send me your ideas and what's worked for you! Good luck!

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asking questions about school

Asking the Right Questions When Your Kids Are Back at School

It’s been a long summer and I’ve been out of action for much of it. But rest assured I’ll be writing more regularly now that school is back in session.

For millions of kids around the world, it’s the start of the school year.

And for just as many mums used to knowing every detail of our children’s lives, we are now left standing at the entrance of the school gate wondering just what the heck they get up to for those 8 hours away from us.

It’s a new year, a new class and for some, even a new school so it’s normal for parents to worry about how their child is faring and what the teacher is like?

The transition from reception to Year 1 for us has been especially challenging as the kids have reported feeling like there are more rules and definitely less playtime.

It’s been hard knowing we’re entrusting our kids with teachers whom we know very little about and how they interact with our children. Hence the end of the day debrief is so important.

If your kids are anything like mine, getting them to tell you about their day is exhausting. I’ve tried everything- from bribery to punishment (yes, consider me a bad mum!) just to get some answers!

But I’ve found that if you ask the right questions, you can get something… Just don’t make the rookie mistake and ask them about their day. Even I can answer that one. “Fine, Mum. Can I go play now?”

So I thought I’d share a few of my favourite questions which have gotten somewhere with my daughters.

What was your favourite part of your day?

What didn’t you like about today?

Did you get into any trouble? What did the teacher do?

Was anybody mean? What did you do?

Did you do anything extra nice today?

Was anybody else extra nice to you today?

Who did you play with at lunchtime? And what did you play?

Did anybody else get in trouble today? What did the teacher say?

What was the funniest thing that happened today?

What did you have for lunch? And who did you sit beside?

For me, I love to hear about the social dynamics at school as well as what they learned. I want to know that my child didn’t feel bullied, what the teacher’s approach to bad behaviour might be, who she plays with and how she relates to others…

If there is something you want to know about such as how the phonics lesson was taught, think of a way to ask it that isn’t, “what was your phonics lesson like?”

Just remember, keep it short because your kids will lose interest pretty fast so get the key questions in there fast and save the rest for later. Vary it up each day if you can and add your own!

I’m trusting you, my faithful readers to come up with much more ingenious ways to ask your kids about their day. Please share them here in the comments and I might even write a follow up later in the year!

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Life after Brexit: Mum's Prespective

Life after Brexit: Let's do this for our Children

Since the Brexit referendum, I’ve not written much, choosing instead to sit back and understand how the results will play out.

It’s been a whirlwind of activity. Almost comical at times watching politicians one after the other, most of whom supported leave, back out of the deal they so vehemently supported. Unfortunately, however, the results have not been so funny.

I voted remain. I made no secret of this fact.

And for the first time, my 5 year old was watching.

I explained to her, in the simplest of terms what we were voting for, making sure I played it as neutrally as possible knowing full well there were people she knew and loved who sided with the leave campaign.

I explained to her that our country was deciding whether it was better to be in a team or to play on our own. That some people thought the team made decisions that may not always be best for our country but that we were united in our end goal to fight for what’s best for all of us.

She understood. And she came with me to the polling station, as did my two younger girls. I showed her the ballot paper. I made her read the question. (I didn’t go so far as to let her do the X fearing perhaps she’d ruin my ballot paper=). And she carefully folded the paper and inserted it into the ballot box. With me all the while, explaining that although it seems simple, this is an important decision that many people around the country will be deciding on.

We woke up the next morning and heard the news. The same news that shocked a Nation. I knew very few people who had voted leave. And so, living within my bubble, I had thought it was in the bag. How I react from this point onward is exactly what my children are now watching.

Never before (at least in my lifetime) has a nation been so deeply divided. Never before, have so many people been so politically engaged. Never before has politics drawn so much discussion, heartache and emotion.

And yet, the divisions run deep- perpetuated perhaps by the relative ease at which we all have access to a keyboard and the internet to jot down random thoughts and dig at others without any thought to consequence. It’s highlighted the deep divides between class, London vs. the rest, England and Wales vs Scotland and Northern Ireland, young and old and immigrant vs native.

I didn’t like the outcome, I still don’t. But this was and is the ultimate show of democracy. A result where there are winners and losers and where division of opinion exists in its extreme.

So isn’t this exactly how we show our children that there will be setbacks? That we may not like the outcome of certain things that happen?

We have a choice here. We can choose to be one of the sore losers who are still angry and calling for a second referendum despite the millions- 52% of the country- who clearly said they wanted change. We can direct our anger toward the racists that choose to lash out at hardworking migrants and immigrants and we can live in denial, supporting politicians who are looking for a sneaky way out.

Or, we can choose to get on with it. This is a lesson in life. An opportunity to show how we can take lemons and make lemonade. Particularly where difference of opinion divides families, couples and friends right down the middle. I was raised to understand that healthy debate and difference of opinion challenges you. I want that for my daughters as well. I choose to react differently. I choose to move on. I choose to abandon my hope for another referendum and understand the protest that the have-nots have stood for.

Our nation will be great. And it’s those who called on all of us, just hours after the results came in, with tears in their eyes to work together and make this work for all of us- that’s what I have admiration for.
With all that is happening across the globe, our world is divided like never before. With a new PM about to take charge and a woman at that, we have an opportunity to start over.

So let’s do this Britain. For our children.

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when kids are ill

When Kids are Ill... How to Maintain your Sanity

Our whole house has been hit with sickness and flu these past two weeks. First it was my youngest two and now, me.

I don't normally get sick. In fact, I usually manage to avoid it. And yet, even with me being able to stay healthy for most of it, the past two weeks have nearly driven me insane.

I'm pleased to say, though, I think we're coming out the end of it and I've learned some things that I think I can pass on to make sure other Mums don't make the same mistakes as me.

Here are 6 tips for maintaining your sanity when your little ones are sick.

  1. Get out of the house! It's tempting to stay at home all day everyday until the kids get better for fear they'll get worse if you expose them to the cold outside. But honestly, my only saving grace was being forced to get out to do the school run for my oldest. The girls liked getting out of the house and though I didn't keep them out too long, I think their sinuses appreciated the fresh air.
  2. Don't feel guilty about putting on the tele... When you don't know how long your kids are going to be sick, you may start out all gung-ho with arts and crafts at the ready, play doh, baking and games. But, it will take its toll. In between the whining and clinginess, you'll just need a break from it all and putting on the tele is the easiest way to catch a break. Do what you need to do get through this and don't feel guilty!
  3. Leave the cleaning and laundry. Trust me you'll need every last ounce of energy and patience to deal with two whiny babies so don't waste it all on cleaning. There's nobody around to see it anyway.
  4. Arrange playdates at yours. Once the kids aren't contagious anymore, it's important that you (and your kids) don't go insane being around each other all day everyday. Arrange a playdate at yours with one of your child's friends and their mum. You'll need the adult conversation just as much as they'll need the playtime and seeing other children. Just make sure you remember number 3 above! Otherwise, it's counter intuitive.
  5. Take advantage of weekends when your partner is home. Let your spouse take over when they're home. They can help in so many ways and help save your sanity. Even if it's just to take over the cuddling.
  6. Don't skip your morning coffee! Coming from experience, you're going to need this so make sure you get it in early so you can face the rest of the day.
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A mama blog for all things parenting and mixed heritage kids