Parenthood

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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CurlyEllie review

CurlyEllie Review: New Hair Products for Curly Hair Kids

Tried a new hair product recently and I think I’ve fallen in love. This isn’t a plug, don’t worry. But knowing where CurlyEllie came from and that the woman behind this brand is a mum of curly kids too, does help.

As many of you know, I’ve got three girls- each with uniquely textured and different-length hair. It’s difficult finding a product that works for all of them without being full of chemicals.

In the past I’ve used everything from Mixed Chicks to Deva Curl, Curly Q, Argan oil, Coconut oil and even my mother in law’s homemade mixture of shea butter and olive oil. It’s not to say that these products don’t work but I’ve always been on the lookout for a brand that I can trust and that EACH of the products works for my daughters’ hair- not just one.

CurlyEllie products came on my radar through my brother-in-law who knew the founder in Uni. I got in touch and found out a little bit more.

First off, all of the products are SULFATE FREE, PARABEN FREE, NO SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCES, NO MINERAL OILS and 100% Natural Fragrance.

For me, it’s important that the products I put into my daughters’ hair are 100% natural. I can see the build-up that results when I use other products and I admit, sometimes products that do contain alchohol or some enzymes can be effective but... not in the long run.

This is about teaching my daughters as well as showing them to value their hair and what they put in it. With so many kids suffering from exzema and allergies, it made me think a little more about what we put in and on their bodies.

Retailing at around £13 per bottle, they may cost more than just buying off the shelf at your local chemist.  I have 3 girls, I’ll be honest, I know the costs add up but to me it’s important enough. If you already recognise the importance of buying curl-specific hair products, this is not much of a step further.

CurlyEllie originiated from a Mum. The familiar scenario of “seeing my 2 year old daughter (CurlyEllie herself) wincing as I pulled the comb through her forest of curls each night.”
She says, “Her curls were so beautiful but so difficult and upsetting (for us both!) to manage.  I turned to friends, family and social media to find the answer. I would routinely stop other parents of curly haired children and ask for advice on hair care. The only consistent theme in the responses I got was that nobody was that happy with the products they were using. This led me to develop the CurlyEllie Hair Collection.”

curly hair products

The products themselves are easy to use, and come in the form of detangler, shampoo, conditioner and leave-in conditioner. I would have liked some sort of moisturizer to define the curls as well so I added a little oil to keep it moisturized throughout the day. But the shampoo, conditioner and detangler have become an essential part of our morning and evening routine.

I use the leave-in at night after I wash it and it softens the curls- making a huge difference to how they feel in the morning. The picture below shows my daughter's hair after I applied the leave-in and I could run my fingers through her hair easily.

After applying CurlyEllie leave-in conditioner

Using a hair product whose only ingredients are plant products such as quinoa, broccoli seed oil and sweet almond oil is fabulous. It means I don’t have to worry about their hair drying out or being damaged by the mess that goes into most hair products nowadays.

I love where it comes from. I love the ethos behind it and I love the products themselves. Definitely a convert for CurlyEllie.

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straight envy to curly pride

A Mixed Race Daughter's Journey From Straight Envy to Curly Pride

Just over a year ago I posted about my oldest daughter's sorrow coming home from school and crying over not having straight hair like her friends.

Of course I was heartbroken and I knew that I had my work cut out for me.  As her mum, I was/ am her biggest role model and although looks shouldn't matter, the fact that we (a multiracial family and therefore more pronounced than most mother-and-daughter combos) look so different, it can be painful.

On top of my skin being a whole shade lighter,  my hair is dead straight. And with media, magazines and friends sporting this same look, sometimes the curls can just feel too much.

If only she knew, I kept saying to myself... to others. She is the object of so many admirers when we go out.  Her hair can attract comments from strangers everywhere and yet she doesn't want unique hair. She wants straight hair.

My daughter's journey doesn't end there. I made it my mission not just to subtly show her curly haired role models but I point them out everywhere we go. Beautiful white, black, brown skinned women with short, long and all types of textured curly hair. Her books, music artists and the shows she watches all sport curls. I talk to her about being unique, about having the confidence to be different, to be proud of how God made her. And to be more than just her curls. To be unique in every way because it's better to be a leader than a follower.

And then...

Today she told me in no uncertain terms she doesn't want straight hair.

Otherwise she'd be like everyone else. She said she likes her curls and can't wait to be able to grow them and twist them and try out new hairstyles. She said she likes herself the way she is.

I smiled and knew she is beginning her journey to understanding and loving herself. Curly hair and all.

There is no prouder moment for a mum than when your daughter can look in the mirror and say she loves who she is.  My daughter is ultra sensitive and, I'd like to think, mature for her age. So perhaps it was an early internal switch that just happened at the age of 5. And perhaps she was already on this journey without any intervention. But for any girl, all girls, it's so important for them to know, love and accept who they are.

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reading books with children

The Importance of Reading Books With Our Children

I was recently re-united with my children’s extensive book collection. So what, I can hear you saying.

Okay, so you should know I pretty much harassed my in-laws back in Nigeria every time someone was coming my way so that I could get these back. I’m certain everyone was a bit tired of the requests but I have too polite a family for anyone to say anything.

We disappeared from Nigeria in 2015 after living there for just under a year and half. So, without a planned exit, we left a LOT of our stuff back there. You know the feeling, when you’re looking for things and know you have it but can’t bring yourself to buy it again, it can drive you nuts. Well, it drove me nuts anyway.

So finally, almost 2 years later after we moved to London, a friend was able to bring the lot. So that’s where I am… reunited with my vast collection of books. And there you are, wondering what the…

When I got these back, it was like going through years of memories, moments and experiences my girls and I shared in reading endless stories.

You see, books are not just books to me… to us. They are a way of communicating with my children. With books, we’ve introduced the concept of bullying, sharing, loneliness, and skin colour. With books, we’ve been able to talk about difficult subjects without making it about them.

My daughter’s concept of a bully was defined in a book called “Me and My Dragon” because it featured a bully who was incidentally a chubby boy with a baseball cap on. I remember reading it once and it sparked a conversation about what is a bully. To this day, when we’ve spoken about someone doing something bullying, my daughter protests, “but he isn’t wearing a baseball cap”!

The day identity and my daughter’s skin colour came up one day after school, I swiftly went online and ordered just about 20 books that talk about being mixed, being different, featuring brown skin characters or just about being a girl and being proud of who you are. I was not about to raise a child who was confused or ashamed about who she is and with media and the majority of people she encounters featuring white skin, we knew we needed to be proactive in discussing this important topic with her.

The books were all about being positive about who you are. For my DD to see a little girl featured in the story of Little Red Riding Hood with brown skin and curly hair, she couldn’t hide her excitement. “She looks like me!”, she'd say.

Within three weeks of reading these books, I could see a change in how my daughter talked about and discussed her own identity.

You see, for us, books are instruments. They are windows into important conversations and topics that I know will come up. As our children get older, we'll inevitably encounter discussions about bodies, sexuality, death, religion, cyber bullying and jealousy, amongst other things.  Without books to turn to, these topics can become abstract. Throw in a protagonist who's going through it and you have yourself an 'in'.

Indeed books have already introduced precious memories as our children have grown. We paged through the book “Going on a Bear Hunt” and relived days gone by when our nearly 6 year old was our only child and my hubby and I used to act out the story finishing off with an undercover cave where we’d hide from the bear.

So, today, I am happy to be reunited with my collection. Thanks to my in-laws for putting up with me, I’m content.

Perhaps it was only through missing them that I realised their value. I would encourage every parent, be careful what you’re giving away. I know we can’t keep all the rubbish we collect from our children’s childhoods and by no means am I a hoarder. The day will come when I’ll have to go through their books but hopefully I’ll know these aren’t just pieces of paper we read every night but memories we'll want to cherish.

For a list of books about multicultural families or being mixed race, visit Colours of Us.

Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop

 

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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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A mama blog for all things parenting and mixed heritage kids