Back to Basics

As my husband and I are both teachers, the school holidays are always a special time for us, and we well and truly caught the travel bug a couple of years back. We love going places  and like to have a trip booked. This half term was the first school holiday in a long while that we decided to stay at home. At first it felt like we were wasting an opportunity, but as the children seemed to get more and more tired as term went on, we realised that actually it was a sensible decision.

I have no problem whatsoever with lazy days, in fact, I get a real buzz out of knowing that I have a day ahead where I can eat breakfast at 10am in my pyjamas if I want to, but 9 days straight with no plans?

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I saw this photo on my Facebook feed the other day. It could be either of my children, I’m not going lie – they love their screens, but I think in all our business, I’d forgotten some of the basics which the children still enjoy doing. They seem so grown up compared to the little bundles I gave birth to, but they’re still children, and there’s so many things that children still love:

A trip into town…

We’ve lived just outside Bath for over 4 years now, yet we’ve never visited the Roman Baths – famous history on our doorstep! Although we ended up having a nice lunch too and it therefore wasn’t a particularly cheap day, it was something we’d never done – no need to drive for hours!

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Cooking…

The routines we live by during the week really limit the luxury of taking our time to prepare meals. Working together to create something yummy was so much fun, especially as I am now aware that they can work almost completely on their own now.

Swimming…

My husband takes the children swimming most Sundays, but this week, I got out with them and enjoyed it too – having lost a bit of weight which you can read about here, I felt a lot more confident venturing out in my swimsuit, so hopefully I might get invited along again soon!

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This was taken last year in Turkey  – the only photo I have of the four of us swimming together!

Playing independently…

My husband and I were both talking the other day about how much time we spend doing things together, going away, even watching a family film or playing a game together – something that I’m sure many families try to do more of, but actually there were times this week when the children were quite happy to play together and it was lovely to see! Those toys that they got for Christmas came out of the boxes, the Lego got built, and despite how unimpressed they were at going this morning, they got all the cuddly toys out and played schools nearly every day! That imaginative, make believe play is something I want to bottle up and keep forever!

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All ready for register and assembly!

So if people ask me what I did over the school holiday, my answer will most likely be “not a lot,” but actually we did do quite a lot, it’s just we didn’t go away and with how refreshed I feel from having a rest, I’m ok with that!

 

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Catching the Travel Bug!

It’s wrong to describe it as a regret because I wouldn’t want to change a thing about what I have now, but looking back the one thing I wish I’d done was travel. I mean properly travel. My Mum is petrified of flying so I never left the country until I was 19 when I successfully auditioned for a choir who went on a number of international tours. However, my Mum’s fear of flying transferred on to me so I turned down all the longer flights – looking back I can’t believe that I could have travelled all expenses paid to Japan, America and Mexico to name but a few and I said no!

When I met my husband, he also couldn’t stand flying so we never really went on holidays just the 2 of us, something we both now regret. We never really felt the urge to go away so just didn’t! Again, we both now can’t believe we didn’t jump at the opportunity – what were we thinking?!

When we had the children, we wanted to make sure that they had experiences they would remember and vowed that we would go on holiday at least once a year. When they were small we went camping in this country, camping in France and did little mini breaks. When money was tight we had some really cheap breaks cashing in on Tesco Clubcard points to get some nice days out too.

Eventually, when the children were 5 and 3 we took them on a plane! We braved it and went to Majorca for a week and that’s where it all started – we were hooked! Aside from my son cutting his head open on a shelf in the room (yes not even whilst having fun in the pool or anything!) and being told he couldn’t swim for a week (the duration of our stay!) we had the best time ever, and thinking with the glass half full, the medical treatment my son received was the best service ever, he was stitched up within 20 minutes of his accident. We stopped at the travel agent on the drive home from the airport and booked our next holiday!

Since then we’ve been back to Majorca and this year for the first time, the 4 of us left Europe as we went to Turkey. These holidays are proper fun in the sun types of holiday, but given that my husband and I are both teachers we try to get away for a few days in almost every school holiday. It’s amazing how your perspective can change. I used to long for the holidays to have a rest – now I feel like I’ve wasted the holidays if we don’t go away somewhere!

It doesn’t always cost us a lot of money and we try to mix things up so that sometimes the holidays help the children learn something. Last year we went on a road trip to Edinburgh staying in 6 different £29 Premier Inns and completely abusing our National Trust membership as we stopped in Birmingham, the Lake District, Liverpool, Blackpool and of course, Edinburgh. The whole week was planned with military precision but only cost us £300 for the whole week – not bad for a family of 4!

We’ve already planned holidays to Normandy, Amsterdam and Egypt over the next year as well as mini breaks. Sometimes I get down about the fact that I always have an endless list of work I need to do, and even though I’m not physically in work I still have things I have to do, but somehow the thought of having somewhere to go where I will be with my special 3 people, no iPads, chores or emails to interfere spurs me on.

We’ve well and truly caught the travel bug – if only we could now win the lottery too!

Road Trip!

Half Term seems like such a long time ago already – we’ve had Halloween and Bonfire Night since then after all, and at work I’m now in full ‘Carol Service and Nativity’ mode! Until last year, we’d never really ‘done’ holidays, mostly because my husband and I were both petrified of flying so we were pretty limited on where we could go. However as the children started growing up, we both knew that we didn’t want them to be plagued by the same fear, so we booked a holiday to Majorca, just a couple of hours on a plane. We could do that, right?!

As soon as we saw the children’s excited faces when we took off, my husband was completely cured of his fear. I took a little more persuading, but we coped enough to do it again this year. It was a special holiday. We really pushed the boat out and opted for all inclusive luxury. It was fab and we’ll definitely do it again at some point. The luxury was fab, but the best bit was the family time togetherness, without the distraction of the internet, TV, housework, just general day to day life, so we decided that we were going to go away more.

Being teachers, we are blessed with the school holidays, but not the option of cheaper holidays in term time (actually, I’m pretty relieved that I never have to enter that debate about whether it’s right or wrong!). Anyhow, I digress…

We made the decision to go away for the October holiday, but on a limited budget. With a little research (mostly on my husband’s part it’s got to be said), we managed to go away for a week on a mini road trip taking in the Midlands, Lake District, Edinburgh, Blackpool and Liverpool – five Premier Inns over six nights, each at £29 a pop – bargainous! Armed with a bag of food to avoid extortionately priced services food, our National Trust membership cards to break up the journey with gorgeous walks and fresh air and in car DVD players for the children, off we went on our adventure!

We had plenty of treats along the way too – typical touristy things in each of the cities we stopped at, a trip to a water park, the zoo, some lovely meals out, Premier Inn breakfast, oh their breakfasts were amazing and the children got theirs free but I thought at one point it might turn into that Simpson’s episode where Homer takes advantage of the all you can eat deal!

A week away for a family of four, in the school holidays for not much over £300 in total. Every night we had a clean and comfortable place to stay, we were never hungry, we had so much fun and most of all, we had that all important, undistracted family time (although nearly a week later and I still can’t shut my wash basket)!

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Review: Nick Jr. Easter Treats…

With a daughter who sings ‘We Did It!’ after the successful completion of every mission, and a son who actually believes he is Umifriend, I’m not sure I could think of a more welcome parcel to arrive in the post than a DVD of the Easter specials of both of these programmes (especially when it also contains a wonderful Green & Black’s Easter Egg for me)! We really are on Cloud 9!

That’s exactly what happened on Wednesday, and we were so excited to get to have a sneaky peak at some of the Easter fun that Nick Jr. (Sky 615, Virgin 715, Talk Talk 318) has in store for us over the holidays.

The fun starts today at 4:30pm when you can see Dora’s Easter Adventure. Tune in to watch Dora and Boots as they attempt to retrieve the Hip-Hop-Bunny’s basket filled with eggs and treats for their big Egg Hunt, after naughty Swiper swipes it and throws it far, far away into the Rainbow Garden and towards a waterfall. With catchy songs, itchy-scratchy flowers, a Petting Zoo and a giant rubber ducky, you’re certain to enjoy it as much as my little darlings did!

You can also catch The Umi City Egg Hunt in April. I know my children aren’t the only ones who stumbled across, then became huge fans of Team Umizoomi when it started last year. This Easter special sees sibling superheroes Milli and Geo, along with their robot best friend, Bot, helping their pal April find the most special egg of all – The Rainbow Egg. When the egg falls down a rabbit hole, the tiny Team discover the amazing world of rabbits which lies just below the ground. Will they get across Rabbit Town to the egg factory before the rainbow egg is scrambled?!

As if that wasn’t enough excitement, Nick Jr. are also introducing a brand new weekday morning show next month, launching on Monday 23rd April at 8:15am. Tickety Toc lets us into the secrets of what happens inside the Tickety Toc clock, which hangs on the wall of an old clock shop. Every hour, on the hour the clock chimes, and out pop the little heroes Tommy and Tallulah, but what happens when they go back inside? Each episode takes them on an action packed adventure, which challenges them to save the day, return life to normal and keep the clock ticking. Teamwork, compromise, problem-solving and interactivity help them through their action packed adventures!

While I’m incredibly excited about all this lovely weather and spending lots of family time outside, we’re also very much looking forward to following some of our favourite characters on their new adventures in some of those rare moments when the children actually give in and accept they need a little sit down!

For more information and fun activities based around these and other Nick Jr. programmes, head on over to their website www.nickjr.co.uk

For the purpose of this post, I was very kindly sent a DVD of the programmes mentioned.

Isn’t it Ironic?!

Well as the words of Alanis Morissette rhetorically ask, it’s quite ironic, that my longest blog silence this year has actually been because I’ve been having so much fun – on HOLIDAY! If you scroll up, you’ll see that my last post was written complaining that holidays are overhyped and how I can take them or leave them. I guess that’s still true (bah humbug indeed) but at the same time, our little family have probably just had the best holiday ever!

It’s not all about the going away, although we did have have a couple of days in Cardiff, I just love love loved the quality family time, which I think before my daughter started school was something I was beginning to both take for granted and also not appreciate if that’s possible. My intense working hours during the term, meant that I found myself living for holidays just so I didn’t have to go to work, rather than for the opportunities the time off opened up for the family.

People also said that when we moved away from Bournemouth, we’d miss all the fantastic things that part of the world offered us (I think most people just thought we were crazy to move away from the beach, but for someone who hates sand as much as me, that was no big deal at all!)

So why was our half term so great?

We had the in laws to stay (honestly, that was a fab start! No less because they babysat and my husband and I stayed out til 3:30am, I don’t remember the last time that happened)…

We crossed the bridge to Wales…

We did lots of really cool experiments at Techniquest (a totally brilliant family time if you ever find yourself in Cardiff!)…

I'm having an out of body experience!

We had one big sleepover in a hotel room (or should that be one big ‘howlongcanyoustayawakeover?’)…

Like Father, like son in so many ways...

We saw the Millennium Stadium…

We went to a real Castle (the best afternoon of the whole half term!)…

We went swimming, walking, to the park, and soaked each other with fairy liquid bubbles…

We went to birthday parties…

And we had a lot of lazy lie ins (bliss!)…

I hope you had a lovely half term too if you have little ones, and sorry for the slightly indulgent post, but I just wanted to share it with you, and prove that I’m not totally Bah Humbug about holidays!

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34 and Counting…

No it’s not how old I am, I’m not quite there yet! It is in fact how many more get ups until the Christmas holidays! I thought once I’d given up teaching, the school holidays would be less of an excitement to me, but having just experienced my first school holiday as a non teacher, I’ve suddenly realised that those holidays aren’t put there for the teachers!

School holidays will always be a special time in our little family, because it’s a time when we are all together. We’re very lucky in that respect, as my husband will always be off work when the children are off school. It was so much fun to be able to do things together, sometimes planned, sometimes completely spontaneously, and after seven weeks at school for the first time, it was lovely for our daughter to finally be able to catch up on the sleep she was so desperately in need of. We had a full of week of no meltdowns over the smallest things!

In fact, even though I barely left the house the whole time due to the fact I was potty training our two year old, I still feel like I had a rest!

So now, as the husband and daughter go back to school for what used to be my favourite part of the school year, in the run up to Christmas, I’m already counting down the days until the lie ins and family time can recommence!

On the downside, that 1 1/4 mile, uphill walk to school this morning was an absolute killer, the lack of my 5 mile daily walk and overindulgence of yummy ‘we’re on holiday’ treats, have not done Project Doing up my Jeans any favours, so I’ve dug out my Slimming World manuals and today begins Project Lose a Stone before Christmas – unless there happen to be any Trick or Treat goodies left over of course… 😉

This is the Last Time…

Normally at this time of year, I turn into Jack Black’s character from School of Rock. The one who watches the clock waiting for the bell to ring so he can get out of school before the students. I’m not like it for the rest of the year, just when I can see that 6 week holiday approaching and it’s within my grasp! The thing is though, this year’s different – so so different. This time, it won’t be a 6 week holiday because I won’t be going back. so tomorrow is my final ‘last day of term.’

I blogged a while ago about the difficult decision I made to give up teaching after 10 happy and rewarding years. You can read about my reasons here. The thing is, I know that everything I wrote is still true, and leaving is the right thing for me to do right now, but that was all ‘in the future’ and now it’s not, it’s tomorrow! My husband and I had our leaving do last night, I’m currently in the process of clearing my work laptop and clearing my classroom, ready for my replacement to take over. I know she’ll do a fantastic job because she has the enthusiasm and passion that every teacher should have, but it’s been really tough letting go, even though I know that both my own children and the children I teach need me to.

Being a teacher has actually made me as a person. Before I became a teacher, I was the student in the class who wouldn’t even read out in English, and who hid at the back in PE because I knew my trainers weren’t the cool ones. I knew I wanted to be a teacher, and hoped I had it in me, but deep down I wasn’t sure if I would actually ever have the confidence to be able to take on teenagers with far bigger personalities and attitudes than mine.

I guess I really have my mentor on my PGCE for giving me one of those ‘sink or swim’ moments way back in 2000. It was my first day in my placement school. My mentor told me to go up to the classroom and he would be up shortly, so I timidly went into the classroom, notebook at the ready for my observation of my first ever music lesson at this school (I had done 2 weeks observation at a different school already). After 10 minutes there was no teacher. I was the ‘adult’ in a room full of 32 14 year olds. It wasn’t my fault there was no teacher there, but I figured I should really do something, and if I couldn’t or more importantly wouldn’t, then I should definitely pack my bags and give up. So timid Miss Gibson got up, said who she was and why she was there and asked to hear all about what these students had been learning about in their music lessons. And do you know what? They listened, then told me, then showed me, and actually, I think they quite liked me too. ‘Me’ the real me. They didn’t laugh at me or pick on me, and for the first time in my life, I felt that I could do it, and that I wanted to do this as well as I possibly could. It was an amazing moment, and I’ve loved every minute since then.

I’ve only worked at one school in my 10 years of teaching. I’ve never wanted to leave, and I have so much to thank it for. Probably most importantly for introducing me to my husband. My job became available because the current Head of Music was marrying the Head of History and they were going off travelling and teaching abroad, so the students found it quite spooky when the new Head of Music got together with the new Head of History, but it was also a lovely time. For a while we were the school’s equivalent of Posh & Becks, just with less money and more flab!

On a more professional level, one of the greatest highs was the time I was selected to be the Leading Teacher for my subject over the whole County, and got to go and visit other teachers of my subject, sharing good practise. Over this time, I developed so much in confidence, it’s amazing how much difference it can make when someone else believes you can do it as well.

And while I’m obviously very sad to be leaving and am confident I will need a good many tissues tomorrow, I’m not sure that there’s a better note to go out on than all of my students in Year 11 leaving with the highest grades, and one of them heading off to the Brit School in September. I feel very privileged to have been a teacher, because that’s exactly what teaching is and should be – a privilege, but as of tomorrow, my new bosses will be 4 and 2, and my main duties will include getting to the Weetabix before it firmly fixes itself to the table, cleaning and being general slave and taxi service, but I was once told it’s far better to regret the things you have done than the things you haven’t.

Tomorrow, my husband and I will drive together for work for the last time, but to my school – thanks for the best 10 years of my life. Maybe I’ll get called ‘Miss’ again one day…

My now very empty classroom...

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