Friday, July 22, 2016

Reasons 2B Cheerful - The First Day

Lazy days of summer
It's 08.45 and the apartment is quiet. Not because DD is at Summer School - that finished yesterday, but because today is the first day of the summer holidays without any framework for DD other than what we decide ourselves.

Last night I finished my work (I have 70 students doing an online summer course who send in papers to be graded and receive feedback) while DD played and watched You Tube. At 10pm I got into bed to read, gently suggesting that DD come too. "Not yet, I'm not ready," was the reply. At 10.20 she joined me in bed and went straight to sleep - not even awake enough to ask for her chapter of Harry Potter.

I read until midnight, not bothering to put on the alarm clock. At 08.00 I got up, made coffee, and graded two papers that had come in overnight. And now I'm finishing my coffee, blogging (for the first time in a fortnight) and enjoying the calm unhurriedness of it all.

We have plans of course. The charts we made a month ago have fallen out of use because DD lost interest in filling them in although she still did her pages of Maths and Hebrew every day at Summer School and at home she did English reading with me. We will be stricter now, especially as I have three days of student tutorials in college next week and DD will have to sit and do those workbooks for some of it.

The recorder playing stalled at note G, having mastered B and A and almost putting them together in one line. However, yesterday DD informed me that she must practise recorder now so that she's not behind in music next year. (She won't be behind as they all start together in 3rd grade but they were told to practise over the holiday so she thinks she'll be behind). I got to the end of the first recorder book btw, but for me it was all revision as I learned all this in 1973!

We have a monthly pass to the local pool, we have the outdoor movie once a week, we have playdates and outings, shopping, cooking, ideas for planting on the balcony.... but for now another coffee I think and then a leisurely shower.

I'm linking up to R2BC at Mummy From The Heart.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Reasons 2B Cheerful - Hogwarts And Other School Magic

We are reading Happy Potter! Well I am reading Harry Potter to DD. I put it off for ages because I didn't want to get to the end of book two and have to stop for five years while she caught up with Harry in age, school years, and maturity. And I also wasn't sure if she'd understand it yet - we are otherwise reading those silly and endless fairy/princess books that all have the same plot repeated on different days of the week in different colours.

But last week we saw a picture of HP and DD said casually: Oh look, it's Harry Potter. Mummy who is Harry Potter?

So I thought we'd try it.

A bit of background. In 1998 (or maybe early 1999) when the first two books came out, a friend bought them in London and read them to her two young children. They all loved the books so much that she lent them to me, as I was the local English teacher for that age. I read both books in one weekend. When I gave them back I said, "Caroline, these books are going to be bigger than Peter Pan." Was I right or was I right? Anyway, I bought my own copies (not first editions alas) and now have five out of the seven books.

DD is loving it. She gets a chapter a night but today did extra pages of Hebrew and Maths to earn another chapter after lunch. And I get to read Harry Potter again too. Over the years students of mine have been obsessed with HP and tried to discuss various parts of the plots but I could never remember the details of what happened in each book and why. So I'm rediscovering the excitement all over again.

DD doesn't know that there's a film of this book. I can feel a big movie night coming up....

In other school news apart from Hogwarts, a friend from DD's class who was here for the year but, sadly for us, is returning to the US this summer, came round with four t-shirts and four sweatshirts with the school logo on them (even two white shirts which they have to wear on special days). This is our school uniform which they can wear with any kind of bottoms they like, so we are set for September and the winter.

The final school in this post is the swimming school at the local pool where DD is having her annual set of summer swimming lessons. The course is 11 lessons in very small groups at whatever level you need. We've had four lessons so far but there's something going on with the secretary so we've not been able to pay yet. They don't seem to mind and they keep saying to pay next week. I'm happy to pay and I know we will eventually pay but meanwhile my credit card gets paid on Sunday so I've just got myself a whole extra month before the money goes out of my account. It's the summer, every little helps.

A flash might have been good here. 
On Tuesday evening DD suddenly came running in to tell me that outdoor movie night was starting, she could see it from her bedroom window. We first went to this three years ago when she was 4 1/2 but she found it hard to follow the movies in Hebrew. And so did I. So we stopped going.

For the past two years we've had swimming lessons on a Thursday evening, which is when the outdoor movie night usually occurs. Coming home tired and not really being interested in movies in Hebrew, we gave it a miss.

However, as it was on Tuesday and we were at home, we went down. Some of DD's school friends were there so she ran to sit with them. The movie was Inside Out and DD really enjoyed it. Next week I'm taking my folding deckchair and a bag of popcorn.

I hope you're all enjoying your summer. I'm linking up to the other R2BC posts
which are back with Mummy from the Heart for July.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Magic Of School Holiday Boredom

This was day 1
So we made this plan for the looooong summer break and because there is still summer school in the mornings and it's very hot, I cannot spend all afternoon nagging DD to get it done. But actually I don't have to nag because the consequence of not doing her tasks is no computer or other screen time.

The first day she raced through her tasks because it was a novelty and she wanted to colour in the circles on the chart. The second day she also worked her way through the tasks so that she could go watch Disney Descendants. On the third day she was more laid back about the whole thing and preferred to play in her room for a while before sitting down with the books.

By day 6, which is today, I've noticed that she's doing all sorts of other things rather than the English, Hebrew and Maths workbooks. And I don't mind because hours are spent in imaginative play, drawing, doing the sewing kits that have been sitting idle for ever, making tents and dens, or reading simple books in English by herself. She even sorted out the toy box and tidied her bedroom. And no time is being spent on the computer.

When the lure of the screen becomes overwhelming and all other options have been explored, those workbooks do get done. And screen time is shortened to the half hour left available before bedtime. (Not that we're very good at imposing bedtime ever in the holidays.)

A friend posted an article today about how you shouldn't over schedule your kids during the holidays or they will never learn how to find things to amuse themselves. They need the time to discover what they enjoy doing and to explore doing it in their own way, without an adult planning it all out.

The article wasn't talking about doing workbooks so much as taking the kids out every day, signing them up for activities and summer camps, and generally blocking in all their free time. We don't have the money or the transport for such a full schedule (and it's extremely hot) but I was expecting DD to get through her activities in a couple of hours and then I'd have to find ways to cut down screen time anyway because there would still be another 6-8 hours in the day with nothing going on. I was prepared to provide goings on for some of these hours.

However, I'm thrilled that all the tasks are being put off for other imaginative and creative pursuits. A definite case of very positive procrastination.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

We Need A Plan For The Summer

DD broke up from school on Thursday and we face 62 days of summer vacation ahead of us. Whilst she does have summer school from 8 till 1pm for three weeks, a swimming lesson and an English lesson a week planned (when a friend joins us and I'm the teacher), this is not enough structure for laid back folks like us. I could see her spending days in Cyberspace watching endless episodes of rubbish on You Tube and playing games. I'm also aware that at age seven she needs to be forming good time management habits in a way that I never did.

Anyone remember these? 
So we agreed a plan. And we made a chart of things that have to be done before she gets any screen time. And then we agreed that it wasn't fair that she had a list of of things of do every day but I didn't. So we made a chart for me too. Now we have two charts on the fridge and a plan.

DD's five daily tasks are a page of Hebrew, a page of Maths, a page of English, some Art, and Recorder. We have workbooks in Hebrew, Maths, and English that were started in school and at home and abandoned half way through. And more new workbooks that we bought or were given and never used. I couldn't bear to throw out unfinished workbooks so it makes me happy that they will be finished - and then thrown out.

DD's task chart
I have my recorder books from when I was in school in the early 1970s. DD starts recorder at school in September and they were told to practise over the holiday. I'm not sure how they can practise if they've never been taught and if they don't have someone in the house who can teach them. But luckily we do and I actually wanted to start last year but she wasn't quite ready. I'm also excited about re-learning this skill. I'm two pages ahead of DD. I reckon that's all I need to be.

Art involves anything artistic. Yesterday she drew a range of jewellery with lots of different charms for a charm bracelet. She drew intricate pictures with beads, charms, pendants, and earrings. I don't think Tiffany will be buying the collection but she worked on it for an hour and it was creative. Today we found you tube tutorials for drawing simple animals and she followed and drew dolphins and cats for over an hour.

My task chart
My five daily tasks are keeping up to date with my grading, cleaning one room, laundry (one wash and/or any sewing that needs doing), exercise and recorder. I didn't want to put exercise but DD made me. I could have put my foot down but she's doing things that I chose and she doesn't want to do so it's only fair.

Yesterday we got up late as it was the first day of the holiday. We walked to the shops and hauled back a trolley bag and three more bags of shopping which I had to bring up three flights of stairs. Exercise? Then we made the charts and DD worked through her tasks. She got more and more excited as she ticked each task off. We didn't have time for English as we were going to friends for dinner, so she read a story to me in bed when we got home. That was a whole day of no computer. And DD was happy. Even she can see that it was a day well spent.

I didn't manage to clean a room or do any exercise (I decided not to count the shopping yesterday and interpret it more as stretching and pilates style floorwork.) I made up for it today though. DD finished all her tasks at 2.30pm and has gone on the computer for a while before we go out. We are both feeling virtuous. Early days but it's looking hopeful.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Reasons 2B Cheerful - Growing Up

After sleeping in my bed for most of her life, DD finally slept in her own bed for two nights this week. It happened after a particularly restless night when I got very little sleep and ended up on the sofa because her bed was covered in lego. The next day I cleared up her room and put my foot down. There were some protests at first but we both got a great night's sleep. The next night there were no arguments.

I kind of missed her though so when she asked if she could sleep in my bed last night I said yes. I am probably my own worst enemy.

Today is the last day of school! Hooray! We have 3 weeks of summer school, till 1pm and only 5 days a week, ahead of us but at least no homework is involved. Well none that's not set by me and that I don't understand.

End of year report card. I won't know until DD comes home from school but I feel that we've made great strides this year. I can see the difference in self-confidence and independence from last September. For one thing, we've gone from me having to walk DD into the classroom every morning to just taking her across the road and waving her off as she joins the throng of children walking down the street to the school gates.

In the national tests in Hebrew and Maths she read the questions, answered them and finished the papers within the time. That could not have happened even back in January when I was called in to discuss how weak her language skills were (in Hebrew). The teacher told me then that DD wouldn't read one question or write one word without putting her hand up to check she was getting it right. And her maths which is good, was being dragged down by the word problems and not being able to read and understand the questions. It was heartbreaking.

However, with amazing help from the school, a "big sister" from the Big Brother/Sister programme, and some effort at home, we succeeded in breaking through the language barrier. I don't know yet if we caught up to end of 2nd Grade level as I've not seen the report card yet, but she's happy to go to school and she proudly shows me the ticks and smiley faces she gets in her notebooks. More and more she manages to finish her homework at school by working independently rather than wasting time so she can do it at home where I can help her. Night and day from where I'm standing, whatever the report says.

I wrote a controversial post about the EU Referendum. Huge backlash on facebook. Comments on the blog by some rather important figures in the blog world. I pulled up my big girl knickers and faced it all like a writer. Controversy is good (see, I've learned something from the Mail Online). Almost 1,000 unique views in 4 days. My Klout score went up to 51 - it's gone up by 8 points in the past 2 months. Now I'm just waiting to see if all this effort has got me back into the TOTS100 top 500. I can hardly bare the suspense.

I'm linking up with R2BC on Lakes Single Mum.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

EU Referendum - The Aftermath And Why The 52% Might Not Be So Stupid After All

Totally unrelated  photo from an Around The World event at DD's school
Whilst, as an expat, I felt that didn't have any right to persuade people (if I even have that talent) living in Britain how to vote in the EU referendum, I feel very strongly about how the results are being swallowed by those who lost.

I admit that most of my facebook friends (and my real friends, and indeed myself) are educated, elitist, snobs. We make enormous efforts not to be racist, sexist, ageist or discriminate against the disabled but when it comes to the ordinary working class citizen we are, apparently, not shy to call them ignorant (stupid even) and not deserving of a vote on important matters such as this that they can't possible have understood.

Never mind that we need people to do all the manual work that we hope our children won't be doing to earn a living. Never mind that the 52% are still people and still British citizens. Never mind that maybe, just maybe, you didn't bother to campaign in a way that relates to them at all (whereas Brexit did)?

Living in Israel I saw first hand how different sectors of the population can be voting in the same election on entirely different issues. And here the scathing aftermath and howls of depression were similar. We had the security-hardliner Netanyahu running against the social-justice reformer Herzog. Those in the centre of the country were caught up in the enormous social injustice issues that we desperately need to reform. Those in Jerusalem and near the borders (not everyone obviously) are not oblivious to social injustice or against social reform nor are they uncaring about the poor and the enormous income gaps, minimum wage, the ridiculous property prices, supermarket monopolies and other mafioso controlled industries that push prices here through the roof. But they felt they had to vote for security. You can't fight for social justice if you're dead. Same election, different concerns.

In the EU referendum the broadsheet newspapers published in-depth economic and political arguments for Remain. However more than half the country don't read those papers. Instead they were listening to the PM saying "relevant" things that they could understand like students will find it harder to go Euro-railing and property values will fall. Seriously? If I were someone working my guts off with no hope of ever buying property in this market and still holidaying in a caravan in Wales because that's all I could afford, that would speak to me. But not in the way the PM intended.

Where were the adverts on television explaining to those without university degrees why they and their children will be better off staying in Europe? I saw adverts like this for the Scottish referendum. One particularly aimed at housewives just went to cast doubt and catch the undecided, with no real reasons to stay. But at least it spoke to the housewives and mothers rather than just ignoring them. In this referendum they didn't even speak to the ordinary person in the street, let alone explain anything relevant to them.

Papers like the Daily Mail, on the other hand, were actively campaigning for Brexit. Amongst all the hysteria about the millions of immigrants marching across Europe intent on reaching Britain where we have to provide all of them them with instant financial help, housing and health care, there was not one article addressing these fears in DM language and without just dismissing people's real fears (albeit fears encouraged by the media and the DM in particular) as ignorant and racist.

With all the publicity media available today, I did not see one infomercial, one advert, one open letter to the workers of Britian. Not one You Tube video that those who know how to do these things could have made viral, not one good reason to remain if you are a lorry driver or a school secretary in Carlisle.

Some of my fb friends (all with university degrees and mostly professionals living in London) exclaimed: Who are these people who voted Out? I don't know any of them! Well precisely. We all assume that the 52% were all voting against immigration and for a fascist state. Because they couldn't possible have any other concerns. Except for those over 70 of course, who are obviously expecting us to go back to the late 1950s when we never had it so good. They're stupid too. Or maybe not - who knows?

Has anyone even considered other reasons for leaving? An academic posted on fb that she looked deeply in to the workings of the EU and found them to be corrupt and self-serving, which made her very reluctantly not put her x in the remain box. Farmers and business owners caught up in EU bureaucracy and red tape might have had their own motives too.

But let's not ignore the elephant in the room. I agree that most Brexit voters are those worried about the immigration situation. Parents who have no school place guaranteed for their 5yo at a local school, schools where the level of education is tempered by language issues, families waiting for council assisted housing who see recent immigrants jump the queue. It is a racist issue but it is an issue and you can't blame people for putting their own family first.

These people just want a job, a place to live, a decent wage, and an education for their children. They're not interested in trade treaties or the international exchange rate because they don't have stocks, shares, or investments. They don't have international business contracts and they don't travel abroad that much. What they do have is the skill and will to mend your burst pipes, drive articulated lorries to deliver your commodities, look after your children and the elderly while you're at work, keep your schools and hospitals clean, mend your roads, schlep your furniture when you want to move house, make your garden grow and build your extension.

So while you all wail about how your children will not be able to work abroad easily. How we have lost our advantage as the English speaking gateway to Europe. How your property and investment values will fall. How immigration is a positive thing, as long as they are not sending their children to your schools for the first generation at least. How England is heading towards extreme right wing fascism and dangerous isolation. Remember that you will still need plumbers, lorry drivers, cleaners, nurses, carers, movers, builders and gardeners. And that's why the 52% aren't as stupid as you think. Same referendum different issues.

Note to selves: Next time you need to speak to the people, include all the people.

And now, pick yourselves up, heads down, stiff upper lip, best foot forward, pull together, keep calm and carry on. Business as usual on Monday and for the next two years at least. All those who shouted about not being quitters - now is the time to not be a quitter.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Reasons 2B Cheerful - Midsummer Madness

IKEA is coming to Jerusalem. The Jerusalem branch will be open within two years according to the news report. Apparently they already have a site but they're not saying where it is because people like me might start queuing now to be the first one in.

This takes a whole lot of pressure off me. All my old sheets and towels, my mattress, other items big and small that I want to buy or replace, can definitely wait two more years.

And here are two stories I heard today which put everything in perspective....

A friend recently returned to live in America after 15 years in the Middle East. Her children are aged 7 to 14. One day whilst driving though lush and verdant countryside on the north-east coast, the kids started complaining. "I'm so fed up with all this green!" "Yeah, its all just green and more green!" etc...

I spend my life yearning for green but good to know that it's only a cultural thing and not an absolute.

Another American friend lives in Chicago. Someone asked her if her family are all in Chicago. "No," she replied. "but they're all close, only about 6 hours away."

LOL, my family are also 6 hours away from me in Jerusalem. I never realized London was so close. It sure feels good to be living so close to my folks again after all these years. :~)

Linking up with my friend and neighbour, Becky in the Lake District.