High School Transition

Year 6 children were recieving their high school decisions last week and everyone of them and their nervous parents were in my thoughts.

This time last year we were in that position. Waiting desperately to find out if we had been given a place at our first choice.

When we received the email informing us both twins had been offered a place at Oxted School, the school we were hoping for, I thought that was the end of our stress.

A bottle of champagne and a nice dinner out marked the end of a stressful couple of years of reseach, opinions, school tours and Ofsted reports.

About three weeks after we found out the boys had got into Oxted, a Facebook post appeared on my thead.

Latest Ofsted Report shows school is failing its pupils’.
Our first choice school had recieved a ‘Requires Improvement ‘ grading from Ofsted.

I looked through the report and managed to rationalise most of it.
In fact, the report didn’t concern me half as much as some of the comments being made by parents and people from the community about the school on the facebook post.

Comments were being made about ‘teachers turning a blind eye to bullying, knife threats, picturing a school that worries more about uniform that its student welfare.

Pupils being assaulted and nothing being done’ it just sounded like every mums worst nightmare.

It was too late to apply for another school so I turned for a brief moment to the thought of private education….for all of 10 minutes.

I worked out it would cost about £850,000 to send all our children and that is before University costs!

Everytime I popped into town and met someone with a child at the school I spent 15 minutes quizzing them.
I spoke to ex pupils and current pupils and everyone gave me the same feedback.
It is a large school (over 3000 pupils) and there will always be bad stories, unfortunately the good stories never tend to make it to social media, but overall the feedback was positive.

I emailed the head teacher with my concerns and ten minutes later I recieved a reply inviting me to pop in and see her.

She explained exactly where she felt the school was lacking and how she planned to tackle the issues Ofsted had raised. She assured me that the door was always open if we ever had any more concerns.

Right. I was reassured. I could start looking forward to my twin sons new life adventure.

September arrived but, unexpectedly, that first week was probably the hardest of my whole ‘mum life’.

We were so excited, the boys had all their uniform, pe kit and lesson equipment ready and off they went.

I had spent the previous two days watching all my other mum friends from primary school post what a great first day their kids had and I couldn’t wait to do the same.

I spent all day with an excited knot in my stomach, waiting to pick them up and find out how their first day at high school had been.

I couldn’t wait to hear about all the friends they had made and wonderful teachers that they had met.

It was nothing like what I had expected.

They hated it.

They told me they had made no friends and they wanted to move to the school that all their old pals had gone to (they were the only ones from their primary school to go to Oxted).

They were so upset, both of them, they were crying and begging us not to send them back.
I was devestated, and even though Mike is much more laid back when it comes to schooling than me, he couldn’t hid his dissapointment too.

I completly and irrationally thought back to the Facebook comments earlier in the year and decided, despite spending two years researching secondary schools, I had screwed up.

My boys were not happy, and that was the one thing I wanted for them.

I posted my feelings on Instagram. Negative posts is not something I usually share but a friend had told me, as a parent blogger, it is important to share the sad times of parenthood aswell as the funny.

It really helped me and acted more as reach out for some support. I was shocked at how many other parents said their children were experiencing the exact same feelings.

Even though I felt like crap, I didn’t let the boys know, I adopted my usual positive manner.

‘It is your first day, you didnt have any friends on your first day at primary school, look at you now.’

‘It seems hard and strange now but give it a couple of weeks and you will feel differently’

‘I felt exactly the same on my first day at High School’

They were not convinced so I made a deal with them.

I told them if they threw everything into this half term, if they joined extra curricular activities (enrichment) as the school calls it, and If they tried their best with school and homework and by the October half term they still felt the same I would look into different options.

I had no intention of moving them unless it was really effecting them but it was important for them and our relationship that they understood I was listening to them.

After that I became a ‘pushy mum’.

I found the list of the enrichment activities and went through all the various clubs with them.

They offered everything from science, art, drama, dance, table tennis and all sorts of sports. We agreed on a few each and I insisted they try, even if it was just once.

Harrison went to Football and Rugby after school, Mikey went to drama, trampolining and hockey.

Mikey put himself forward for the Christmas play and had a great time at the school roller disco.

Harrison joined cross country and was invited to a inter-school meet within his first three weeks at school.

I honestly believe that the enrichment activities they have put thselves forward for has helped their transition in secondary school.

Needless to say, by October they had completely changed their mind about leaving Oxted.

I am hoping this might help other parents struggling with children moving into secondary school.

Extra curricular activities not only helps new pupils create friendships with people with similar interests but representing your school also embeds a sense of pride in your child and their school.

Within two weeks the boys were happy at school, within two months they were really enjoying going into school.

Now, half way through their second term, they love school. They have made incredible friends, represented the school in various sports and drama. They enjoy their lessons and learning and respect their school and teachers.
Their parents evening was fantastic and I am so complementary and over the moon with the school.

The parent – teacher communication is spot on, the oppertunities are in abundance and the standards and expectations are high.

The school is also wonderful at sharing and celebrating students achievements, whether they in school or out of school.

So here is what I have taken from my first experience as a mum moving from Primary to Secondary school.

– Don’t stress to much about other peoples opinions. What suits others may not suit your children, just go with your gut instict.

– Encourage them to embrace all the oppertunities that the school offer. If they resist, push them. It is nerve racking for them, but it is well worth it and a good life lesson for them to push outside their comfort zone.

– Keep an eye out for newsletters and emails. My boys are not always great at relaying information from school and gone are the days a letter is popped in their book bag.

– When you hear about kids fighting at a school, don’t panic straight away. The boys have witnessed a few fights in their seven months and I worried at first. Untill they explain that the ‘fights’ are basically a couple of pupils pushing eachother and getting their handbags out.

– If you have any questions or concerns go straight to the school. Headship teams understand parents concerns and should be on hand to put your mind at rest.

– Become part of the school community. I dont mean you have to join the PTA (everyone who knows me knows that is not me). However, offering to help at school events means you are helping support and becoming part of the schools community.

– Speak to your children. The boys and I have a very open relationship. I ask about their day at school, friendships, teachers, schoolwork, social media and general life. When they speak to me I try to never judge. I dont want them to ever worry about telling me something.

– Keep in touch with friends from primary school. It is important for them to still have the familiarity and safety their old friendships bring.

– Have realistic expectations of teachers and the school. Educational bodies are under a huge amount of pressure and need your support.

Oxted School has been, so far, the best decision we have ever made for our boys and I hope it continues.
I absolutly thrive on watching them grow, the friendships they are making and the experiences they are having.

I am not suggesting it is a perfect school, but after a year of analysing I have come to the conclusion that no school is.

Please share or tag any friends you have that are going through this transition.

I would love to hear what tips you have for making the transtion smoother for year seven pupils and parents.

Prehaps my other post on choosing a high school might help

Choosing the right Secondary School

I asked aome of my wonderful blogging community for their top tips on starting Secondary School and here is what they had to say.

Sarah at www.kippersandcurtains.com

If they are walking to school – do a few practise walks over the summer hols so that they get used to the time it takes and the route. Find out if the school has a club on during the hols so they can familiarise themselves with the building and won’t feel so daunted.

Debbie at www.myboysclub.co.uk

Practice the journey to school and getting ready including full uniform, packing a bag and leaving the house at a certain time – especially as if it is different. Our morning routine totally changed. Also keep giving them more responsibility for their own routine.

https://www.myboysclub.co.uk/2018/08/preparing-your-child-for-secondary-school.html

Claire at www.mymoneycottage.com

My son started high school last September. Take every opportunity you can to visit the high school with them before they start so that they know their way round as much as possible before they start.

Cherry at www.thenewbytribe.com

There are a number of things that will really help! Firstly, make sure you accept any open days/evenings/holiday dates etc that the secondary school offers your child – they’ll often put on several things for up coming Year 7’s and if you can get your child to them all then it’s a great way for them to get to know the school and other children. Also, spend some time going through the new school’s website – look at the photos, check out the newsletter and the comings and goings a the school – it’ll help your child get to know what the school is up to, and will also give them a chance to know names and faces of teachers before they start. If they are starting somewhere they will have to walk to or bus to, do that trip a good few times before they start so that’s one less thing to worry about on the first morning. Also, most Primary schools will do lots and lots of transition – they’ll learn how to read timetables, how to read maps etc which always helps!

My Mumcation

Psychologists have suggested that mothers should take holidays with friends, not family – and this includes leaving the children behind.
Experts are urging tired mothers to go on “mum-cations”, holidays without their offspring, to take a proper break.

With this in mind, me and three of my closest girlfriends booked a ‘mumcation’ to Vilamoura for a few days in October.

A few people asked me if the weather was going to be any good in Portugal that time if year, as if we were crazy not to follow the blazing sun.
These people had totally missed the point of a mumcation.
Of corse good weather would be preferable, but honestly, if i could go to the toilet on my own, sleep without someones foot digging in my boobs and sit down by a pool without worrying who is going to drown/get abducted or piss off fellow vacationers, I would be a happy girl.

This weekend was more than a girls weekend, It was therapy and It gave me a chance to really relax and unwind.
When you become a mum your life revolves around these little people (rightly so), but we all need to keep our individual identity and take time out for ourselves, it is a huge factor to how I cope as a mum.

Whether it is a night out with Mike, drinks with the girls or a shopping trip entirely on my own, it is my time out.
It is my chance to clear my head of football training, horse riding, boxing, school pick up, kids parties, laundry, dinner etc and focus on me.

The morning we left I felt a complete mixture of emotions. I have been away on my own before, but not abroad since our two youngest have been born.
Let me picture the morning I left for Portugal for you…..

‘George, Arthur, come here, give me a kiss, I am going to miss you so much’

*GEORGE EMPTIES BUCKET OF LEGO ON MY BEDROOM CARPET*

‘FFS George!!! This is why i need a break’

‘George I am sorry, come here and give me a kiss’

*ARTHUR POURS THE CONTENTS OF MY COLD COFFEE OVER MY BED*

……..’Rosie, how long are you going to be? I know the flight is in 8 hours but we dont want to risk missing it’

From the moment Rosie picked me up to when she dropped me back to my door four days later, I did not stop laughing!

We talked about everything, nothing was off the table.
We talked about our kids, our partners and our friends, we discussed designer vaginas, sex and how to make a Wood pigeon call with your tounge.
We did eachothers make up and hair and shared eachothers clothes.

We people watched and ate great food (without a high chair or childrens menu in sight!)

We shared secrets and drank, we drank lots!

We danced every night until the early hours and the one day the weather was bit ‘meh’ we found a great shopping mall and we shopped. I picked up a couple of treats for the kids snd a little something for me…. (do you like my new boots?)

I managed to read a whole book! From start to finish, in one weekend. If you don’t have kids, this may seem ridiculous, if you do you kids, well, you know.

Guess what else I did? And I haven’t done this since I was about 21….. I had an afternoon nap! A siesta if you will.
Not because I had just given birth or because I dozed off breast feeding a baby, but because I consciously chose to!

Another thing. I have never enjoyed a hangover so much.

Knowing you can eat, drink and sleep your way through it without having to make food for little ones, read stories and change nappies makes a hangover so much easier to bear.

I can only describe the weekend as Bad Moms meets The Hangover with a drizzle of bridesmaids.

It was bliss…utter bliss and I owe my girls so much for being the perfect friends.

Their laid back natures ment there were no tantrums, no arguments and by the time we were due to come home I felt so ready to see Mike and the kids and be ‘mum’ again.

I urge you to try it! Book something up! It doesnt have to expensive, it doesnt have to be abroad.

A weekend in Portugal cost us £250 each (plus spending money). Easyjet flights were £150 return from Gatwick to Faro and our apartment at The Dom Pedro Portobelo was right on the marina where all the bars and restaurants are.

It comfortably accomodated the four of us and cost £100 each for the four nights.

I asked some fellow mum blogger what their opinionon ‘Mumcations’ is, here is what they had to say:

Rebecca at www.beccablogsitout.com

I haven’t had one and I’m.not sure I could. I’d love to, in theory. I could definitely use a break. But I think I’d feel too guilty if I went away for more than a day without the twins. I think I’d miss them.

Jenna at www.thentherewerethree.uk

‘I’ve had some! I met an amazing bunch of ladies on a birth group on Facebook and we arrange a couple of weekend breaks a year. We’ve booked a farmhouse in north wales, various city stays and are going to see the Spice Girls next year. I definitely think they’re needed.’

Francessca at https://frompenniestopounds.com

‘I’ve been on hen do’s and also my honeymoon without my daughter. With the honeymoon we went to Mexico which you can’t just pop over for, but I said I would not go for longer than 10 days.
I missed her but she had a great time with her grandparents. I was never close to my grandparents so I’m happy for her to spend time with them.
I think it’s healthy for both you and the kids.
I always take my daughter away every year now though since splitting up with my ex-husband.’

Gail at www.yammymommy.co.uk

‘Still can’t do more than a night away from my 4 year old. I think we would both struggle after 24 hours!’

Victoria at www.travelvixta.com

‘I haven’t yet, but I think in a couple of years once my youngest is at school then I’d love to go on a yoga retreat by myself! They look like bliss and even now with a 6 year old and 3 year old I feel like I could really do with some time to myself and a break for a few days to a retreat!’

Life with an eleven year old ‘gamer’

I really didn’t expect to have to deal with my children being influenced from an outside source as young as eleven years old.

We haven’t even started high school. Yet, here I am, trying to tackle my son, who, up until five moths ago was a polite, calm, laid back kid who’s biggest problem was finding matching sock in the morning and throwing the odd strop bcause I hadn’t stockedthe cupboards up with enough chocolate biscuits.
Then, like an unwelcome guest who moved in and took over our lounge (and wifi)…. Fortnitearrived!
Before then he would take or leave the computer. He would play ten minutes here, half an hour there and then lose interest.
H originally ‘sold’ Fortnite to me as a free game that he can play with his school friends, I agreed that he could download it.

Since then, parenting my Fortnite obsessed son has turned me into an skilled negotiator, lowered my mental age to 11 to try to understand/sympathise with him and brought out my inner ‘Mrs Trunchball’.

I get it. I remember being obsessed with Mario Kart and Sonic the hedgehog when I was his age. My brother and I would play for hours and hours if we were allowed (which we weren’t).
The big difference is that I wasn’t accessible to anyone online and once the game was purchased, no further expenses were incurred.

Fortnite is ingenious, they have created a game with an online community which creates a constant link to friends (and strangers) as well as offering a so called ‘free’ game but that you have to constantly buy bolt ons for.

I have moaned about the game, I have had screaming matches with my son, I have tried to reason with him, it has been an exhausting few months and I know I am not alone.
H would get back from school and put his headphones straight on.
He sulked when I ask him to switch it off.
He threw tantrums if the internet was slow because it made the game ‘lag’.
His general attitude was shameful and I was not ready for this ‘Kevin’ stage, (certainly not until he is at least 13!
Apart from the change in his attitude, I was concerned about the dangers. My husband has friends that play this game! Without realising it H has been playing in online groups that adults have been in.
It was Piers Morgan of all people who I felt gave me the kick up the arse I needed.
There was a section on Good Morning Britain about Fortnite and it’s effects on children.
We heard about children who were wetting themselves rather than stopping the game (you can not pause Fortnite). They also announced that Fortnite is the first game that has resulted with a child being referred for counseling on the NHS.
So Piers, rather than just object to the game, put the blame firmly at the parents feet.
My first reaction was anger. This game has been expressly designed to hook and addict my child and I was trying my hardest to keep my preen in line.
The family counsellor who was a guest on the show said ‘Parents are trying to hard to be liked by their children, they are too scared to upset them’
That sounded so familiar and then I realised, I had become the mum I never thought I would be…..the mum that puts being her child’s friend in front of discipline, safety and respect.
I made H watch the segment. He saw for himself what the majority of parents were thinking.

All the children are telling their parents,

‘Jonnys mum lets him play when he wants’

‘Billys mum lets him play longer than you let me’
When actually, that’s all rubbish! We are trying to enforce rules and the kids are (embarrassingly) manipulating us.
I asked him what he thought was a reasonable amount of screen time each day. We agreed on 45 minutes on a week day (after chores and homework is done) and 1.5 hours at the weekends.
So far this has been working brilliantly.
We have also sat down together and watched the story of Breck Brednar, a school boy that lived near to us.
He was groomed for over a year by a lad in his gaming community. Despite his parents concerns and warnings, he was tragically murdered at 14 years old by the 17 year old boy.
Watching the documentary was a big turning point.
Listening to Brecks mum recall how she tried so hard to reason, explain, sanction Breck because she knew the dangers there could be online, was heart breaking. To then watch Breck ignore his parents concerns, just like H had been doing to us, and to seewhat tragedy has resulted was a wake up call for me, my husband, H and his brothers.

So much so that my husband ran the London Marathon this year for The Breck Foundation.

http://www.breckfoundation.org

H has a new attitude to the computer now, and I still know it is an on going battle, but for now it is one we are winning!

I would love to know about your experience with your child and gaming.

I asked a few fellow bloggers how they deal with this and limit screen time with their children:
My son has an hour per day. And if he starts shouting at the screen, it gets turned off straight away.
My son had his first Xbox for his 9th birthday in December. Honestly? We just let him monitor his own screen time and after hammering it for a few months, he’s got bored of it. He will have the odd hour here and there but as a whole it’s fizzled out.
I allow our daughter some screen time on the iPad as some down time before dinner or on long car journeys. She knows she’s limited to 30minutes and is only allowed on certain apps. We make sure she’s not shut away in her room so we are aware of what she’s doing/watching.If she’s not behaved well then she doesn’t have it at all. It’s definitely a privilege.
We use an app that blocks the children’s devices after 2 hours of use. Its brilliant as I can set bed times, school hours, outdoor time etc and can also select which apps are blocked at different times. The kids can also earn more screentime by doing extrajobs and since the app manages it all, mum cant be blamed for it running out of time!
We allow an hour after school, it must go off before dinner time and they seem happy with that, it’s letting them know that you are in charge and your rules stand, my son doesn’t play fortnite but does play mine craft with his sister occasionally and I alwaysmake sure to time them and they seem pretty happy coming off when asked.
I allow our daughter some screen time on the iPad as some down time before dinner or on long car journeys. She knows she’s limited to 30minutes and is only allowed on certain apps. We make sure she’s not shut away in her room so we are aware of what she’s doing/watching.If she’s not behaved well then she doesn’t have it at all. It’s definitely a privilege.
I’ve been talking a lot about this today after posting a news article about another 9 yr old having issues.
Despite attempts to demonise one videogame or another, this is really an issue of parents being involved and setting limits. Make an effort to understand the games your children are playing and you’ll be better informed about their suitability.
Many games are rated for content but only parents will know if a child is emotionally mature enough to remain calm whilst playing a competitive game. Parents should set clear time limits and stick to them so that children learn what those boundaries are.
If a child is getting angry or upset while playing, it’s time to turn the game off and come back with a calmer state of mind. If the child can’t stay calm, they are not yet mature enough to be playing it at all.
Use it as a reward. We have daily tasks that she can work towards and if she does well she has an extra ten minutes. Giving them a time limit helps and if she starts to cry or grumpy when I take it away she doesn’t get it the next.
Our two have screen time but I limit them to 60mins maximum a day then they must turn it off and go do a activity away from the screens/ consoles
We don’t have any set times as such for games as such but we do have break rules. After playing a game for half an hour she will come off for a snack or a drink and then go back on if she wants and more often than not she chooses to do something else. We havenever had set restrictions and it works for us. She spends more time drawing and reading than playing games. I think gaming gets really bad stick when in most cases it’s down to parents not understanding the games their children are playing. If parents lookedinto the games their children are playing and supervised them then half of the news stories wouldn’t make the papers because they wouldn’t exist.
We don’t have set screen time they are allowed on when they like but having seven children they don’t get long anyway!! They all know they are not allowed to play any game over their age limit but most of them prefer going to the beach or playing in the paddlingpool at the moment.
Until about 6 weeks ago, we had screen times at set times during the day – 12-1:30 for my eldest (when youngest naps) and then 4pm-5pm while I cook dinner. The TV/screens simply don’t go on outside those times, so my kids are used to it. The last few weeks,however, I’ve also scrapped the late afternoon session because the weathers been so lush they’ve been playing outside anyway! We have a lot of music on during the day.
I don’t give my son limits although he has to come down for all meals and I do every now and then insist he does something else. He has special needs and struggles to go out much so his social life is playing online with his friends and chatting school andstuff at the same time.

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Supporting other parents

**WARNING – I have wrote this post with a ten month old on my lap and my two year old bouncing on my legs playing horsey so please excuse any typos, bad grammar or spelling mistakes!******

I have only just started enjoying our lunch dates with the kids again.

As soon as George turned fifteen months my usual calm, civilized diners started to resemble a scene out of Jurassic Park.
The one where the T-Rex is flipping cars and tearing down fences while the humans watch on, horried, from behind a tree!

I would get flustered and embaressed while George flung himself out of the high chair (those wooden ones are beyond pointless!).
He would chew food up and then let it spill out of his mouth onto the table while telling me
‘Don’t like it’.
Instead of the pasta Arribiata infront of him, he would have his eyes on my moules mariniere (and happily eat every one!).

The floor around his seat would have a mixture of food, snapped crayons and napkins scattered everywhere. It was so messy that I would leave the servers a 40% tip out of embarrassment and guilt.

If I tried to discipline him at the table, he would scream louder and then would come the disapproving glances from around the restaurant.

Considering I took my first four children out all the time, and we would be complimented on how well behaved they were…this was new territory for me.

Add a new baby Arthur, who had a healthy set of lungs on him into the mix and eating out became nothing but an anxiety inducing stress-fest!

Since November, thankfully things have changed. For a start, George has developed a love for YouTube (yep…and I WILL give him his tablet if It means I can drink my coffee while it is hot!)
Also, now he can talk and communicate more his behaviour has taken a huge turn. I would even say eating out with him is enjoyable!
The most important thing I learnt about my number five is that ‘No one puts baby in the corner. ‘
He is happier sitting in an adults seat with the older kids rather than a high chair next to mum!

Last week we took the younger boys out to our local Italian for some lunch.
It is one of our favourites because it is no only child friendly but seriously delicious too.
It was a Friday lunchtime and the restaurant was full of mums with toddlers and older ladies and gents enjoying a retirement lunch.

We were sat between a couple in their 70’s (I am guessing) and a lady with a baby having lunch with her parents.

The baby next to us must have been about seven month and was crying…and crying…and crying.
Her mum was trying desperatly to sooth her but the baby wasnt having it and the mum looked tired and stressed.

Mike was trying to have a conversation with me but I couldn’t concentrate on what he was saying.
I was so distracted.

It wasn’t the baby that was bothering me…it was her mum.
She was flustered and panicking and I could feel every inch of her uncomfort.

I glanced around and realised the older couple had asked to be moved and the mothers with toddlers were rolling their eyes and tutting!

I felt like crying for her!

I walked over and knelt down to the mum with her baby.
‘Most the people in the room are parents and we have all been where you are. Don’t worry about anyone else, you are doing a great job.’
I offered to take the baby while she finished her lunch as ours hadnt arrived yet.

She burst into tears and gave me a big hug.

The mum felt instantly more relaxed and in turn, her little baby calmed down.

George and Arthur were a joy that day and unlike the mum next to me, we were getting nods of approval. Usually I would feel proud that out kids good behaviour is being aknowledged, but when the praise is coming from the same judgemental dicks that are rolling their eyes at a crying baby I just felt annoyed.
Rewind just a few weeks and it was me that was sitting their being talked about and feeling shamed.

George didnt let us down though. As the bill was placed on the table he kicked his shoes off and ran through the restaurant. He ran around tables, giggling and screaming as I chased him like a overweight hurdler after a bottle of prosecco.

As I passed the mums who had been rolling their eyes i laughed
‘It was all going so well! That will teach me for being smug!’ hoping they might find the hint and advice in my comment.
George ran behind the bar, hi-fiving the waiters and I finally rugby tackled him at kitchen door!

A couple of days after this I read in a paper that a lady with a crying baby was asked to leave a cafe because it was upsetting the customers.
I wonder how many of those people offered some help or advice to the mum, who may well have been struggling herself, before they complained to the owner?
Or whether the owner of the cafe thought to ask if there was anything he/she could do to help before they showed her to the pavement.

I do have sympathy for everyone who wants to have a quiet meal without ‘naughty’ children or screaming babies around them. My point is simply, before you roll your eyes, ask to be moved or tut at the parents, take a second to think.
Could this parent be struggling? Could that child throwing a tantrum have a disability that you can not see? Could this parent benifit from a gentle hand of reassurance? Or more to the point…..were your children always perfect?

Anyway, im off out for lunch with all the kids….wish me luck 😜