Monday, 30 January 2012

New School?

Being back at work full-time, whilst having drawbacks, does give a certain amount of financial freedom.  Enough freedom for us to consider pulling YD out of the state school system and having her privately educated.  We have given serious thought to home schooling but public school fees are far less than the financial loss we would suffer with me giving up work to teach her at home.  This is not a decision we have taken lightly, but since moving back to Essex we have been shocked by the poor standard of education in the local primary schools and watched her lack of progress with horror.  

We have spoken to her current school on numerous occasions about our concerns, yet despite their assuring us that they were improving differentiation and re-writing/adjusting the curriculum to meet her needs, we have yet to see any real change put in place.  The disparity between the schools is such that she is, in fact, losing some of the learning she had done in previous years – just because she hasn't used it – which is completely unacceptable. 

We recently received a letter from the school informing us that YD is 'gifted and talented' in all areas (like we didn't already know that) but all they offer in support of this achievement is a one-off 'workshop' for each subject later in the year.  Her last school had regular sessions for the G&T children to encourage and nurture their strengths.  There's no comparison really.  We had no idea that the standard of education between 'comparable' schools could be so different – according to Ofsted, they're both 'outstanding' schools.  Maybe Ofsted need to make sure that their 'standards' are actually standard?

Apart from that, she sticks out like a sore thumb in her current setting anyway... unlike most of her contemporaries she is polite, well behaved, well spoken, neatly dressed and articulate.  She is bright, diligent, conscientious and takes enormous pride in her achievements.  She is upset by people swearing and teachers shouting, she uses cutlery at the dinner table and sits up straight instead of slouching.  She is bubbly and confident and constantly erupting with questions and ideas. 

We spoke to YD last week about whether she was happy at school and she said yes… however when offered an alternative she jumped at it… surely not a sign of a truly happy child.

So, yesterday afternoon we took YD to view the first independent school on our list.  The fees are within the range we expected and the uniform is quite cute.  The boys wear caps and the girls wear little felt hats in the winter and straw boaters in the summer.  Parking might be an issue, but YD will catch the school bus in the morning so it'll only be afternoons I need to worry about.  

We really liked it.  The school building is quaint but the facilities are excellent.  YD however isn't sure.  She says the school wasn't what she was expecting, although she can't actually define what she was expecting.  An hour looking around wasn't long enough to give her an impression of what being there full-time would be like, so we have decided to ask for a 'taster day' so that she gets a real feel for the place before committing.  

It's so important to get it right this time, for her sake.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Growing Pains

The Nocturnal Child has just completed the first competency test in the university application process – successfully completing the UCAS form.  It took some considerable time as the website was slow, mainly because almost every other 18 year old in the country had also left it until the last minute to put their applications in.  It took three days in total to make the payment because every time I tried, the website fell over. I typed my card number in so many times that I've learned it by heart.  I wonder how many other exasperated parents there were out there this week and last?

Having got her application in before the deadline, the Nocturnal Child is now receiving electronic correspondence from the five establishments she has applied to.  Her first choice university, (which happens to be the furthest away geographically) wrote her an enormously unhelpful email telling her that their applications closed two weeks previously and that they would be considering the applicants who met their deadline before looking at hers.  Fair enough though… I should imagine that they laid their timescales out clearly in their prospectus. 

Her second choice, which coincidentally is the second furthest away, also emailed but this time told her that they require her to complete their own application process before they will consider her application.  Given the speed with which she made the initial application, I think we can fairly safely write that one off too.  The other three, which are all much closer to home and therefore commutable, seem to be OK.

I'm not really sure what the Nocturnal Child is planning though.  She frequently (and loudly) expresses the desire to get as far away from home as possible, yet in the next breath threatens us with another four years of having her living at home while she is studying.  She has spoken of making a late application through 'clearing', yet continually fails to look for/secure regular work and start saving for the autumn term while she waits for her finance to come through. 

If she stays at home and commutes, I will still have the benefit of a live-in babysitter a couple of days a week.  She might moan constantly about her misfortune but she will, at a push, get up and take YD to early morning gymnastics (7.50am start) and do school pick ups when nobody else is around.  The Nocturnal Child can also, occasionally, be bribed into doing some of the less pleasurable jobs around the house and garden for unreasonably large amounts of money.  She has moments of tidiness when she gets up at 5am and cleans the kitchen (I must stress that these are rare and short-lived) - and three weeks of the month she is almost pleasurable to be with.

But if she goes, the mess will disappear with her.  The sniping and arguing between the sisters should diminish as well.  And finally a truce will be called between her and DH, even if it is enforced by absence.  My life will become calm and conflict-free.  DH and YD will only have me to hen-peck them.  OD's OCD will be able to progress beautifully without the 'mess-stress' caused by her sister.  We will be able to reclaim the dining room table from her all encompassing art projects and not have to squeeze five of us around the tiny table in the breakfast room for six meals out of seven.

Only time will tell what will happen, but I can honestly say that if she goes I will miss her.  And if she stays, I will miss not missing her.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Exercise and a Fat Bird.

Well, I have been back on the diet wagon for three whole weeks and have lost a fairly impressive 8.5lb so far.  The trousers that were cutting me in two the first week back at work after Christmas now fit beautifully.  My boobs are no longer spilling out of my bra, I can zip up my boots again and I actually do feel thinner. 

I've realised how sedentary I've become since going back to work so I now use the furthest printer on my floor and walk up and down the stairs instead of using the lift.  Each flight is the equivalent of two flights of domestic stairs and I work on the 4th floor.  The coffee shop is on the 1st floor and the restaurant on the 2nd.  My new boss works on the 3rd, as do many of my colleagues, so on average in total, I'm scaling the dizzy heights of 15-20 flights of office stairs a day.  

The first week nearly killed me.  In fact, the on first day I tried, I gave up at the 3rd floor and took the lift up to the 4th because I was almost on my knees after climbing 86 steps.  By the time I stagger those last few steps to my desk each morning I am a sweating, puffing and panting mess.  Fortunately I'm usually the first one in so nobody sees me and I have time to compose myself before the guys start arriving.  But at least I'm doing something and every day it gets a bit easier.  The day it feels 'easy', I'll start running up them instead!

Friday, 20 January 2012

Alright Already... I'm Blogging!!!

OK, OK, OK… I’m writing.  There’s so much to say I don’t even know where to start.  Life back in Essex is ticking over.  I’m back at work full-time in the job I left five years ago, sitting at my old desk with the same extension number and mostly the same old faces.  It’s like deja-vu… everything’s the same, yet subtly different.  There’s no less red tape, no fewer hurdles to clear and still as many hoops to jump through before you can actually achieve anything.  Money’s tighter and management are slightly more obstructive than previously, but rumour has it that will be changing as of next week when someone new takes over.  If the rumours are true, I’ll be very happy as I know the new manager (I worked with him in a previous life).  He won’t tolerate bullsh1t and he’s hard but fair.  I’m looking forward to working with him again.

Life is still hectic, running around after YD with all of her clubs and activities.  She’s had two auditions this week alone.  DH is still off of work but making excellent progress.  He’s doing an adequate job as ‘house husband’, although cooking unsupervised is still risky as he tends to get distracted and wander off, leaving food under the grill.  Good job we’ve got a smoke alarm and tolerant neighbours.  Luckily we have a dear friend who comes in and checks on him during the week.  She is my saving grace – she did so much to help us get the house straight before we moved back from Hexham – now she takes OH out shopping a couple of times a week but also does all of my ironing and cleans for me on a Friday.  It’s absolutely wonderful to come home to a clean and tidy house on a Friday evening, knowing I’ve no housework to do all weekend.  I don’t know what I’d do without her.  She’s an angel.

We finally have a plan for the refurbishment of the main upstairs bathroom.  Well, actually two plans, as I can’t measure the room accurately until the two/three layers of tiles have been removed from the walls.  It’s the tiniest bathroom known to man so millimetres are critical when it comes to the design.  I think I can fit in a vanity basin unit, L-shaped shower/bath, toilet with concealed cistern and a tall cupboard for towels etc.  However, if I’m 15mm out in my calculations, the tall cupboard has to go.  We’ve asked the lovely Tony if he can start at the end of next month but the job will take 3-4 weeks as the room will need completely replastering after the tiles are off and I can’t order the suite until I have the exact measurement of the room.  It’ll be lovely when it’s done though.  I promise to post pictures.

Overall we’ve settled in well although it feels as if the house will never be straight as OD has moved home and filled every available nook, cranny and square inch of floor space with the contents of her flat.  We now have an impressive 20 (yes 20) dining room chairs.  12 of them match my dining table and 8 don’t.  The 8 odd chairs need to leave the house.  Along with the supplementary dining room table, the second sofa bed, the third couch, the extra freezer, the duplicate microwave, additional double bed and mattress, bookcases, TV unit and various miscellaneous boxes of kitchen equipment.  The slow cooker can stay though as my one is big enough to feed a small village and her one does 6 nicely.  Oh and she can stay too!