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Into the swing of things

It’s been a while but some things never change. Despite getting up earlier and calling in the scooters to give us a quicker journey to school, making it out of the door is still hampered by last minute dashes to the loo, outfit changes, lost gloves and keys.

As the experience of the twin’s Reception year accumulated under our belts school became less of a novelty for me to blog about. Then along came Year 1. We were moved from our quiet enclosure at the side of the school to the big playground alive with children who look like they’ve outgrown primary school. The kids seemed fine with the change but the parents took a bit longer to adjust. Eventually we were emailed and asked to stop holding their hands while they stood in line and instead wait with the other parents at the gates. ‘But how will my poor baby cope?’ we weeped and wailed. Just fine it turned out.

Shortly after I received the email, Pickle forgot to take his packed lunch from me after the bell. I franctically called him but he didn’t hear. I had no choice. There I was a lone mother, dashing onto no-mans land certain that somewhere from her bunker the head had her sniper trained on me.

Another adjustment this year has been the increase in lost things. In two days so far this week Ladybird has come out of school holding only her reading book, insisting someone had taken her school bag from her feet, when it was actually still in the cloakroom. When we got home I discovered the bag only contained one school shoe and yesterday she left her cardigan behind. Pickle meanwhile forgets to bring home his water bottle most days and yesterday as well as his snow boots he left his lunchbox behind. It’s all too much for a mother who already has to spend an hour a day looking for her door keys.

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Fun things to do for World Book Day

World Book Day on 1st March is a great excuse for some bookish behaviour.

Chatting to a mum on her way to make a story sack I got just the inspiration I was after. I did switch off when she mentioned sewing I must admit. Sewing on buttons is my limit. But I really liked the idea of using a story as a springboard for other activities.

We started off making a map of Oz. Ladybird declared herself ‘Wizard of Oz mad’ after we read the story in her Usbourne Classics for Girls and she watched the film for the first time at Christmas. She drew a yellow brick road, stretching from Dorothy’s house to the Emerald City and Pickle cut up and glued on straws for the cornfield and made a tin man. Then Ladybird finished off by sticking on some pictures of trees and drawing some poppies.

I made a poppy out of tissue paper I was pretty pleased with. But no-one tells children they should praise their parents’ achievements to boost their self-esteem. OK, the black pom-pom in the middle was Ladybird’s idea. But I did a good job of scrunching up the tissue paper. I thought it was good, even if they were underwhelmed.

So a quick and easy activity and Pickle enjoyed it so much he wants to make an Island of Sodor next.

Our Map of Oz

If you prefer someone to do the creating for you, I discovered from the same mum that the library has a collection of story sacks. I borrowed Peace at Last today, a story we were given last World Book Day. The title containing words I sigh most evenings before parking my bum on the sofa. The sack is packed with cute bears, an owl, a cuckoo whistle, a board game and ideas for word games for parents. All available for free to take home for three weeks. What a great resource. Yet I’m only the third person to take the Peace at Last sack out in two years. It has to be down to a lack of awareness.

I wish I’d recorded them opening the sack, because as soon as Ladybird saw the bears she grabbed her girls’ world head and acted out Goldilocks and the Three Bears with them. Apparently the porridge was too oily – I’m not sure if this was imaginative play or directed at me, because this morning she didn’t finish the stodge I tried to pass off as porridge.

Goldilocks & The Three Bears - Produced by Ladybird

I also read a book about the concept of ‘peace’ to Ladybird, ironic that she should ask me to read it to her when Pickle was at the height of a paddy, he at least provided some contrast. There are loads more to do and I think it will take three weeks to get through it all. OK, I’ll stop enthusing now, as you can probably tell I was pleased with the discovery.

We had a little survey at home and these are our favourite fictional characters:

1. Thomas the Tank Engine (Pickle)

2. Where’s Wally (Wenda, Woof & Wizard Whitebeard) (Pickle)

3. Angelina Ballerina (Ladybird)

4. The Bad Tempered Ladybird (Ladybird, of course)

5. Lola (as in Charlie and)

6. Alfie by Shirley Hughes (All)

7. Slinky Malinki (Mummy)

And don’t forget World Book Day is for parents too – so get yourself off to bed early for a good read (you’re a parent, why else would you be having an early night?)

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Early Friendships

This term the twinlings have been getting into whole ‘play date’ thing. We’d kept things quiet in the first term, but I was noticing some wistful glances at other classmates off to friends’ houses after school – while the twins faced another long winter’s evening at home with me.

Pickle’s pretty gregarious. At pre-school he had a couple of playmates he stuck with, but at school he seems to play with all the boys in his class. Ladybird is very discerning, swathes of girls are dismissed for crimes like ‘talking too fast’. It’s very black and white, they’re either a great friend or they just don’t exist – there’s no middle ground.

Ladybird is also drawn towards the older girls. The juniors are clearly goddesses to be worshipped and they in turn seem to like mothering the Reception girls. And all this love can be intense. After school we get to the end of our road, Pickle and his friend kiss each other good night while the friend’s 8 year old sister hugs Ladybird, telling her she misses her already. It’s hard for me and the other mum to know where to look.

When we’ve had friends over we’ve invited a girl and a boy so no-one feels left out. And sorry to fall into gender stereotypes here, but they do play differently. While Ladybird takes friends off to her room for secretive games of doctors and nurses, Pickle quite often clears off to his room by himself, leaving his guest on his own downstairs.

And then there’s the gooseberry, me, lingering by the girl’s door, desperate for an invite that never comes. But hospitals are notoriously short-staffed, I think, surely their game could do with an extra nurse with experience in administering Calpol. When I do open the door, on some pretence about what they want for tea, they become silent, waiting for me to leave.

Barbie & Spiderman

Barbie & Spidie - could they ever be friends?

The whole friendship thing is confusing enough now and I’m sure it’s only going to get more complicated. They’re so young but already forming their own independent relationships and make their own mistakes. It’s hard to explain why a friend who tells you to go away is still your friend.

I know I only get the edited highlights, what they remember, usually missing out what they’ve said that led to the ‘go away’. I’ve surrendered ever really knowing and understanding what’s going on now. Take the Christmas party – in the first term I’d been surprised when Ladybird told me she’d stopped playing with a friend she’d really loved before starting school, but when I was a fly on the wall at the party the two girls were holding hands, running and dancing together the whole time. I said afterwards ‘oh, so you had fun with x today’ and she looked at me blankly, did I mum, I don’t remember that?

Either I’m going to have to invest in some spy equipment or just leave them to it.

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Is life really as rewarding as a smiley face chart?

On Friday, Ladybird proudly came down the steps waving a ‘star of the week’ certificate, wearing  a shiny sticker and a huge grin. She’s been waiting for her second appointment with the headteacher, rather like Sir Bruce waited for his moment with the queen, for some time.

Pickle came out the same day pulling Jasper, the class bear behind him. This was a reward too, for also trying really hard with his writing.

‘But my star of the week is better isn’t it?’ Ladybird asked, flapping the certificate wildly in the air and accidentally whacking a passing dad in the stomach.

Ladybird really loves the whole rewards thing. There seem to be a few different schemes at school, the mechanics are all unclear , but Ladybird seems to have it sussed. So far she’s filled her smiley face chart and brought the bear home. There was also an unfortunate incident when Pickle was ‘star of the week’ and the headteacher accidentally called Ladybird up in assembly too. Granny managed to dent the disappointment by making her a ‘star of the weekend’ certificate instead.

Ladybird’s always responded well to bribes, let’s call them incentives, at home, with smiley face or sticker charts. At school the stickers seem to be handed out at the teachers’ discretion, which I’m guessing gives them the flexibility to use them as they need them, but as a friend told me this can lead to inconsistencies. Her twins are in different classes, both did the same cooking project at home – one teacher gave one of the twins points, the other teacher didn’t. So my friend had to ask for the points, otherwise how could she explain this one away at home?

I ran into similar problems with my own discretionary ‘beads in a pot’ system, yes it’s  as sophisticated as it sounds. Pickle wasn’t the least bit interested by my revolutionary ideas so I quickly downgraded their target of 20 beads to 10 – getting him beyond negative bead equity seemed impossible at one point. But Ladybird quickly starting working the system, or lack of it. A bead offered for putting their yoghurt pots in the bin, would see Ladybird then putting her lid in the bin, and Pickle’s, and then a random bit of rubbish on the floor. ‘That’s an extra 3 beads isn’t it mummy?’

As another friend pointed out, rewarding children for everything means we’re not bringing children up to do things simply because they need to be done, which leads me on to Pickle. Pickle finally managed to make it up to ten beads, while Ladybird had totted up two sets a while ago, so off we popped to the 99p store where they were let loose to buy any, highly breakable, toy they wanted. But I instantly felt guilty that Pickle was only buying one piece of tat and so let him get two things. Ladybird wasn’t at all happy, she’d earned that extra present and there I was changing the rules.

But for Pickle, a little boy who really doesn’t like carrots, the stick seems to be a stronger motivator. If I promise him a smiley face for tidying up, he politely declines, ‘I’m alright thanks, I’d rather play’, but if I tell him he’ll get a sad face if he doesn’t help, he leaps into action. His teacher tells me he tidies away at school without even having to be asked, so I’m going wrong somewhere, but that’s another story. With Pickle I’m constantly giving him the slow 1-2-3, though I’ve often got no idea what the consequence will be if I reach ‘3’ – usually I don’t need to worry, the threat of the stick works with him.

Although my friend is right, sometimes we do have to do things in life without a reward at the end of it, these carrot and stick systems we have at school and home do reflect life. I mean, a meal out on your boss is a nice way of knowing your hardwork’s been noticed – but there’s no greater motivator than the threat of getting the boot.

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Our first term done and dusted

It was relief all round when we reached the end of our first term. The last week or so was hard work, with Ladybird’s energy levels deserting her, leaving her in tears at the classroom door most mornings. So it’s been great to see the tiredness thaw and more buoyant and energetic children re-emerge over the holidays.

The end of term and the Christmas celebrations brought a selection of highs and lows. On the downside, we had a spate of illnesses and then our evenings were marred with getting the twinlings to write out their Christmas cards. On the first night Pickle sat diligently writing his, but after a while told me:

‘That feels like I’ve finished. Have I done 15?’

He’d written two. We worked at a pace of two a night, Ladybird normally destroying at least one for every card that made it into an envelope. Ladybird has made quite a few friends in the older years, and she got quite a few cards from these girls – but I hoped they’d understand that my patience didn’t extend beyond getting cards out to their class.

On the plus side I loved their first nativity play. The twinlings were innkeepers dressed in well, peasant costumes really. On stage they shielded their eyes from the dazzling lighting, as they peered out trying to spot us in the audience. It was a big step forward from their sing-song at pre-school last year, where they stood at the front, Pickle hands in pockets, yawning and looking at the ceiling. He remained tight-lipped this year but he was actually doing the actions, with just a few seconds time delay. Progress, though, definitely progress.

Thank you to everyone who’s been following our first term and for all the positive feedback on the blog. I started this blog with the aim of keeping family and friends up to date with our progress at school, I’ve seen my viewing figures grow and grow and have picked up some readers who don’t know us too, which is lovely. So happy new year to all of you and I hope you continue to enjoy the blog in 2012.

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