Thursday, January 31, 2013

Whopping Wednesday...

We survived yesterday!

Tuesday night was spent trying to decide what Erik should take with him to school on his first day in year 7. Why don't high schools send home some sort of information about this? Something like, 'On the first day, your child should bring x, y. z...' would be really helpful. I'd read on a parenting forum that a common first day of year 7 mistake is to take every book. It's hard though, because you have no idea what classes the child will be taking, if any, or if they need to stow their books in their locker most of the time and only take them home for homework...

I managed to convince Erik he only needed his laptop sleeve, and not the satchel. This took some discussion, but when he got home yesterday, he said he was very grateful he had not taken the satchel because a lot of other year 7 students looked like beasts of burden with their folio, school bag and laptop bag.

He freshened the colour of his hair, and told me yesterday he'd received some positive feedback from older students at school about his cool hair. Unfortunately, when he arrived at school this morning, he was approached by a teacher and told it's not appropriate - only natural colours are appropriate - so it looks like green hair may be a summer holiday thing only. I did check the school site for a hair policy (many schools have them), there wasn't one - I guess there may be one soon though. No harm done.

Getting ready - mid-hair-flick...
An official 'First Day of High School' photo...

Action shot - heading off!
 When he left the house he looked like the preppiest of preppy high school boys...

By the time he came home, he'd ditched the tie, and the blazer and his shirt was hanging out of his shorts and he looked... just like every high school kid ever!

As predicted, the tie will probably not go back on - no one wears them, though several year 7s wore them yesterday because, well, they didn't know...

He received his timetable. It's a fifteen day timetable; it repeats every three weeks. He had a print out in something like 2pt type that even he was having trouble reading with his glasses on. At the end of his first day, it was already looking fairly crumpled. So, I spent about three hours last night transcribing it into word, so we have a printable copy to replace the copy he has which will inevitably be lost or crumpled beyond readability. The original timetable contains information about the class teachers and the rooms the classes are taught in. It's quite complex...

I want a timetable to hang in the kitchen so he and we can see at a glance which classes he has on which days - this will help with knowing whether he needs to be in regular or sports uniform, and whether he needs to bring extra stuff for, say, his personal learning project class. It also tells him which units of which class he will be covering in particular sessions. I thought it might help him to also colour code the classes (that helps me, in any case). So, I made this abbreviated timetable for the cork board in the kitchen.

As well as Erik starting high school yesterday, we had Ari's kindergarten interview. He was very excited! While he explored his new kinder room and met some of the other kids, we sat down with a small group of parents to hear about various kinder protocols. It's going to be much more involved than it was when Bryn went there. For one thing, each child has their own journal which the teachers and parents both contribute to to create a memory book for the kinder year of events that happened at kinder and at home during the year. There is the visiting bear journal from when Bryn went there, as well. There will be homework - I kid you not, she said homework, though she said it would be very simple, like writing a love letter to your child for Valentine's Day (we don't actually do V day here, so that'll be different).

It was heartwarming to see a poster the kids from Bryn's year made still hanging on the wall!

 Here's a close up of Bryn's tiny little four year old hand print... In his favourite colour - of course!

 Ari was very happy to see the kindergarten has a good collection of trains and tracks! Here he is playing with another boy from his group.

We also got to pick up Ari's kinder uniform. It's miles too big for him, but he looks very cute in it, all the same!

He has four tops; two tees, red and teal, and two long sleeved tees in red and teal as well, and then a purple hoodie, purple sun hat and purple beanie. It was interesting to see that most parents had bought uniforms. Apparently they were being sold when Bryn went, but no one bought them (they weren't promoted at all), this year everyone seems to be buying them.

We went to our old neighbourhood park which is across the road from the kinder - I couldn't resist this photo, was sure I had another just like it somewhere on the blog but can't find it now, they look so much bigger these days! I remember when Bryn had to reach up for that steering wheel!

Lukas and Bryn are off to school tomorrow.

I'm despairing of not having a car! A year ago I was very hopeful Dave would be getting his licence soon, it took another five months. In June, when he finally did get his licence, I was overjoyed and envisaged life getting so much easier with ready transport. Yet, here we are at the beginning of a new school year and still no car. I mentioned to mum this morning that we've found out about a loan scheme for pensioners through the NAB and we could possibly borrow up to $3000, but she said that would probably only get a car with a burned out engine.

I don't know what we're supposed to do, though! With kids in all different directions and leaving the house and coming home at different times, we don't have the time for basic errands. It's ridiculous. I'm feeling very tired this week, but there is always something that needs doing. There is already a back log of errands that need running and the thought of that so early in the year makes me want to go to bed for a week.

Basically, right now, we need a miracle.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Wow! Thank you Bec!

This is not today's scheduled blog post - which was going to be about the joys of a our traditional summer holidays' end game of Monopoly - but rather a blog post dedicated to thanking one of my loyal blog readers for her unexpected generosity!!!

A few weeks ago, I made an off-hand comment about the poor quality of my photos for that post and how I didn't have a working battery for my DSLR because the batteries I'd paid a small amount for to replace the original worked-to-death rechargables had turned out to be worth all the small amount I paid for them...

A week or so later I was doing some management work on my blog's Facebook page and realised I had an email I hadn't noticed earlier. When I read it, I discovered it was from a long term blog reader who is a photographer and was sure she probably had a battery lying around if I could tell her which DSLR I had. So, I told her I had a Canon 350D and it turned out she did indeed have a compatible battery she was willing to send me!

Wow, that blew me away! I sent her my address and counted my blessings!

It turns out I counted short because today a package arrived which was far too big for a single battery...

Inside we discovered this stash!

There was also a lovely note for Erik encouraging him in his art and explaining that the art book was so he could sketch inspirations on-the-go! Erik was excited about the oils as he's never tried oils before!

All the boys were excited about the lollies - that goes without saying, doesn't it? There were whoops of joy over the Warheads in particular, but quite frankly, there wasn't anything they didn't like!

The package turned up just at the right time, too.

We were expecting contractors to come and inspect our back yard for the planned building of two townhouses there. They were supposed to arrive at 9am, and we had a full day of picking up book packs from both the schools, as well as covering books, and preparing uniforms for Erik to start high school tomorrow.

By 9.45am the contractors still weren't here and we were starting to see the rest of our day backing up. I took Lukas and Bryn up to school to pick up their packs and came back to find no less than eight suited men standing in front of our property with clipboards and cameras.

Apparently the owners are appealing the last rejection of their building plans, and are now throwing everything at pushing this build through. The contractors were here for what felt like forever (but was really only an hour).

We were all a bit tense and then this beautiful generous gift arrived at the front door!

So, thank you Bec! We all really appreciate your kindness (and I was just really happy to hear I had a long term blog reader!!!).

P.S. I've already been playing with the camera, but haven't uploaded the photos yet - I'm soooo happy to have a proper camera to take Erik's first day at high school photos with, and Ari's first day at kinder photos, too!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Hello first week of crazy...

Well, it's here, the week I've been anticipating, the week I've been dreading...

Yesterday my parents moved to Melbourne from Adelaide. They moved to Adelaide thirteen years ago, and I never imagined they'd stay there so long, but they created a great life for themselves over there. Built a house, built a life. Over the past year, they've made a lot of changes to that life, culminating in moving back to Melbourne yesterday. I'm very excited to have them here, and yet I woke up to a nightmare this morning that I wasn't going to see them often - ironic!

Life is about to get busy for all of us. Mum is taking up a new position at a local college. Step-dad will be getting a business off the ground, and as I've been saying for the past six months, our lives in this household are about to become more hectic than any year to date. Despite all of that, I know we'll see each other often enough and mostly the dream was my fevered mind running to those places it goes when I feel the greatest need for emotional support.

I feel sick at the thought of Erik starting high school on Wednesday. I don't know why. In reality this is just another step along the path to growing up. I know he is nervous about not knowing anyone, but I also know that by the end of February he will know people, and hopefully he will have started to build some friendships. He has school camp in about three weeks and that will be a great opportunity for him to get to know other students. He is far more accomplished at making friends than I ever was at his age. As well as this, he still has his friends from primary school. Despite three of them already having moved on a year ago, they caught up regularly throughout 2012, so there is no reason to think he'll suddenly lose contact with them now. His mate who lives up the street is actually moving closer and will be fives house away by the end of the month, so he should be fine.

I'm nervous about the school work, but I'm also a bit excited to see what he'll be doing. I think we have a good plan for tackling home based work, so he'll be fine.

Then there is Ari starting kindergarten. I'm worried about some of his more, um, assertive behaviours being a problem. He is much more defiant and aggressive than Bryn ever was, and we did have some minor issues with Bryn being obstinate and disruptive at kinder. I guess I'm concerned Ari will be worse. That said, he won't have the same kinder team as Bryn had either. They won't be comparing him to Bryn. He won't have the lovely Elisabeth, but he also won't have Bryn's old kinder teacher who's opinion of Bryn's behaviours would have had me in full panic mode about Ari. Hopefully, the kinder teacher and assistant this year will be a good combination of no-nonsense, compassion and fun.

The contractors are coming tomorrow to inspect the property. This could mean the owners will commence building later this year, or it might mean that - just as in previous years - they'll be knocked back yet again and nothing will happen, yet again. It's one of those 'borrowing trouble' scenarios, there is not point panicking about that lot of changes until there is some concrete evidence that something will happen regarding the build.

I was going to write to Deakin a week ago to remind them of the letter they received at the end of December and to ask if they were going to reconsider my application in light of the new information or if I should apply again. I chickened out. I suddenly felt scared they might slap my wrists for being pushy or something. Now I'm thinking I'll still write to them, but I might wait until we get through this week because this week is enough of an emotional roller coaster without adding more pressure to it. I have to have some faith that everything will work out as it should with regard to the PhD, that everything will happen in it's right time, and quite possibly this week isn't that time.

Ah, that feels better. Hopefully now that I've had that little brain dump, I can get on with today's tasks with a greater sense of peace. On the agenda today; house keys for two boys, locker combination lock for Erik, kinder forms for Ari (I thought I'd done them all but discovered a whole new pile on Saturday), Blu Tac for Ari's kinder paintings! Erik is going to a mates birthday party. Mum is coming for a coffee, and I'm determined the Grumpy Old Man, the boys and I will play a quick game of monopoly, as well, because we haven't played a single board game all summer and that is tragic!

Tomorrow is going to be very busy as well with the contractors visit, and three lots of school books to pick up at two different schools... Then it all begins with Erik starting school on Wednesday and Ari having his kinder interview and picking up his uniforms!

There will be photos - oh you know there will be!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Her name was Anna...

I was a difficult child. There really is not two ways about it. There are many reasons why I was difficult child, many reasons which went undetected or unrecognised for many years, but this doesn't change the fact that when I was a child, I was difficult.

When I was eight, I once had an argument with my teacher and threw all my school books on the floor in a tantrum.

Another time, the school was doing a teeth brushing experiment after lunch for week and I hated brushing my teeth - hated the taste of toothpaste and the feel of the brush on my gums - so I stormed out of the toilet block and out of the school yard and headed for home.

I was moved to another school.

At the next school I spent many, many lunch breaks sitting under the stairs of the portables writing out lines - 'I will not talk in class'.

It was suggested to my parents that I go to a specialist boarding school in Adelaide for children with vision impairment. Vision impairment wasn't the cause of my difficult behaviour, but it was a good reason to send me away to a different school.

After a year at the specialist school, my family moved to Iceland and I continued to be difficult. I spent 9 months learning Icelandic at a small village school. I don't remember arguing with teachers or storming out of classes or any such behaviour, but after a year and a half, I was again sent away to boarding school.

This time I lived with a family. The mother in the family was the sister of the teacher who ran the special department for vision impaired students which was semi-intergrated with the regular primary school I attended in Reykjavik.

I hated that teacher, she was mean and harsh and didn't understand what it was like to be a twelve year old living away from home with a family I'd never met before. She pinched me for not putting a double line under my maths totals.

I didn't particularly like the mother either. She had rough hands from constantly cleaning, she was obsessive about cleanliness. She ran an in-home daycare, which was the main reason she was obsessive about cleanliness.

She tried to be kind to me, but I knew I was an outsider, not part of the family. I desperately wanted to be part of a family. I asked to call her mother and she let me. I wanted her to adopt me, so I could be part of the family, but not because I liked her, just because I wanted to belong somewhere.

Her husband was nice, but absent. He seemed to be forever at work. When he was home he was polite and quiet. I always thought he felt his house was constantly invaded by strangers but there was nothing he could do about it. If it wasn't other people's babies then it was children from his sister-in-law's special school department. He didn't seem to have a voice in his house.

I wasn't the first vision impaired girl they had taken in. Before me, there had been another girl - Agusta - she had been wonderful, gentle, quiet, I could tell they missed her. I was not her, and nothing like her. I had a boyfriend at the school - he was my source of comfort and belonging. Agusta had also been his girlfriend before me, but he liked me better, I could tell. I met Agusta once, I was prettier than her. I had pretty eyes, she wore dark glasses, and I had long blonde hair, her hair was a short brown mullet. It pleased me that I was prettier and he liked me more than her, even if the family liked her better.

I had Agusta's old room. Because she had been fully blind, they had never really decorated the room. It was only for sleeping in. The used it to store the unused piano and the daycare equipment - I was sleeping in the storeroom. It had a convertible bed-sofa which was covered in a scratchy brown material that I could feel through the sheets. I never slept well on that sofa and often wondered if Agusta wasn't driven to distraction by the rough material; blind people have a heightened sense of touch.

The couple I lived with had two children. A boy named Peter who was fifteen and nasty and had red hair. I didn't like him; his room was messy and smelled musty. He did his best to avoid me.

They also had a ten year old daughter named Anna. I loved Anna. It was because of her that I wanted this family to adopt me. I wanted Anna to be my real sister. She was pretty and had long light brown hair. I thought we looked the same, though we looked completely different. She played the flute and smiled a lot. Her bedroom was decorated in all white furniture, it was the brightest room in the entire house. She still slept in her parents bed - I don't think her father liked that arrangement at all.


When Anna was home, I wanted to spent all my time with her, talk to her, be like her. She seemed perfect to me, and she seemed to live an enchanted life in a beautiful house where she'd lived since they brought her home from hospital. Her school was across the road, and all her friends she had had since kindergarten. It was obvious she was her parents precious jewel - anything she wanted they gave her. She seemed kind and happy; without a care in the world, and I wanted to be just like her. I wanted to be her.

I didn't realise it at the time - no one explained it to me - but I used to smother her. I think, in the end, that was the reason I only spent one school year at that school and in that house. I think things came to a head when one day when Anna had all her beautiful long hair cut of. For months she and I had been having a game of comparing who had the longest hair - I thought it was game, in hindsight I think everyone else thought I was obsessed with this competition, and maybe I was.

On this day, I came home from school, and Anna and her family were on the back deck sunbathing. I noticed straight away that she had cut her hair. She said, 'Now you have the longest hair.' For a moment I was pleased at that thought, but then I realised we were not longer similar. Now she had this cool new 80s hair cut and I just had boring long hair.

I asked if I could get my hair cut as well.

The mother said no.

I pleaded and was roughly ushered into my room, 'You stay there until I call you for dinner.'

I didn't understand why she was mad.

Two days later I did get to have my hair cut - much to my own parents disappointment.

A short while later I packed up to go home for the summer holidays. I had an inkling I wasn't coming back but I don't remember ever being told so specifically. I didn't really care, the only person I would miss was Anna and she hadn't really been talking to me for the last few weeks anyway. I was going home to my parents and my family.

Anna is now a dim memory in the back of my mind. The memory of her still has long light brown hair and wears jeans with a denim coat which has a lambswool fur collar. She smiles at me and is friendly.

At the age of 32 I changed my name by deed poll. My middle name is Anna.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Getting ready for the start of term on next week!

We picked up the rest of Erik's uniform yesterday and did a summer uniform full dress rehearsal...

He actually likes the uniform a lot more than the expression on his face would tell you - he's a bit of a fan of blazers and ties (in fact, the kids don't really wear the ties from what we have seen but he insisted we get one, and he'll wear it on the first day, we'll see what happens after that)...

This is him rolling his eyes at me because I wanted a photo of him in his sports uniform, as well. It's not a good idea to roll your eyes are this mum, because if she happens to snap you mid-eye-roll, she will post it on her blog and bring everyone's attention to it! Teenagers, and all that jazz. He hates the sports jacket (which I thought he's like because it's less structured).

Today we went about organising all the other school stuff. The Grumpy Old Man and I cleared out three drawers in the kitchen cabinet and hutch for notices. I thought I'd done this last year and the year before, as well, but I must have gotten distracted or something because I found notices from 2010!

Full kitchen table equals...

Empty kitchen drawers!

I decided to have a drawer for each school level; kinder, primary and secondary... I've put their names on the drawers, mostly for Ari's benefit - as he will be using his own name a fair bit this year. He already can spell it and recognise it, but it doesn't hurt to reinforce this skill.

Nothing much to see in there yet - this will certainly change...

Next was bags and lunch boxes... This is mostly the Grumpy Old Man's area of expertise as he does the morning routine (though, of course, this year I'm going to have to help him because there are kids leaving at all different times, in different directions)...

Lukas and Bryn's lunch boxes ready for a scrub down - Erik and Ari are all shiny and new...

Bryn and Ari's bags getting the once over to make sure they're clean and ready for the first day - I have yet to put Ari's name in the little window of his bag.

Last year the bags were stored in this Expedit shelf, but this year the shelves are full of books - as they should be - so this year the bags will live on top of the shelves. The above photo is how we, the parents, might like the bags to be stored, the one beneath is how I suspect they will be stored...

Still on the 'to do' list is putting labels in Erik and Ari's uniforms (Ari's labels will probably arrive tomorrow), collecting and covering the boys books (kill me now!), and beginning the term time table which I want to start doing on Thursday, so we have four weekdays and a weekend to see how it works before it starts properly next Wednesday.

I have to say, emotionally I think we're all ready to just get this year started. It was great having holidays, but now we'd like the structure of some routine...

Sunday, January 20, 2013

How the Grumpy Old Man and I view the world differently...

The other night, when the last child had finally gone to bed, the Grumpy Old Man and I were watching TV when the ad for the new Hansel and Gretal movie came on... We had the following conversation.

GOM: Typical! They take a quaint little children's story and turn it into a monstrous action movie!

Me: Quaint? Quaint??? What's quaint about two small children being abandoned by their selfish stepmother and weak father in a deep dark forest to die, twice? What's 'quaint' about them finding a cottage where they believe they might be safe and then one of them being locked in a cage while the other is turned into a house slave? What's quaint about a child having to push a woman into a lit oven to save her brother from being cannibalised by said woman?

GOM: Yeah, but the house was made of cake and lollies...


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

[Insert your own title here]...

I know any blogger worth their salt will always finds a catchy title for even their most mundane posts, but I really just don't have it in me today - and yet I want to catch everyone up on the past few days of our lives (because I know you're all hanging to know, right?). I know my readers are savvy enough to come up with their own title for this post, so I'll leave that up to you and am completely willing to take the chance it'll be 'Boringest Post EVAH!'

So, where were we?

Ah, yes, when I last left you all hanging I was about to have a family meeting with the boys about rights, responsibilities and rewards.

From that meeting we now have a time table (of sorts) for the coming school year...

We brain stormed these three lists together - and they are now hanging outside the boys' room as a bit of a reminder of what we talked about...

Then I told them I would be implementing the following timetable for weekdays here at home. I'm sure - to some of you - it will seem very strict, but keep in mind that if this timetable is adhered to diligently the boys will, in fact, have all of Saturday and all of Sunday for playing on devices and hanging out with friends and no having to do any homework (unless something is really pressing and must be completed before the following Monday. This also means Erik will meet the 10 hours of homework per week which is required as a starting point for high school.

After the family meeting, the Grumpy Old Man went to speak with his mum about her helping us get a car. She is well positioned to help us get a car, which would also be of benefit to her - but yes, mostly to us - but she has wavered on doing this for years now. He was sent to get a straight answer out of her, which he didn't get. He went back on Monday to run some errands and try again to get an answer out of her. This time he told her we were starting to look into financing for pensioners rather than relying on her to buy a car.

She didn't take that bit of news very well at all. In fact, she flew into something of a panic and started talking about harming herself if we did that. The Grumpy Old Man was very upset about this. What it tells me is that she doesn't want him to drive at all. She has decided in her own mind that if he drives he'll end up in an accident or as a victim of road rage (things she's mentioned in the past), so she was sure if she didn't get us a car, then we wouldn't get one. Once we mentioned financing, she panicked because it might mean he could get on the road anyway.

Thinking back, we've realised that she stopped paying for the GOM to have driving lessons after father-in-law passed away (so after the first six month of lessons), so it's very likely that FIL passing triggered greater anxiety in her which is completely understandable.

The thing is, we really need a car. We have four children in three different schools/kinder this year. The Grumpy Old Man could sign up with an aged care agency if he had a car, and we really need him to work, or me to at least do some voluntary work to receive Mobility Allowance; As it is dropping Ari off or picking Ari up from kinder is at the same time Luey and Bryn would be going to school or coming home from school - one of us can't be in two places at once if the other one is working etc.

So, that was fun... Not!

On Sunday I went over to my brother's so he could do some colour work on one of my tattoos...

First he painted (with water colours) over my existing lotus tattoo to establish a pattern.

Then he did what is called a 'blood line' - which,  basically as it sounds, is a line with no colour, done with water, and into which blood seeps. The point of a blood line is to outline where colour will go without doing a hard black outline.

He tattooed in the word, 'Love', which we slightly changed the design of because we both felt the L need 'something more'.

A lovely shade of heart chakra green!

After this he shaded in colour - this bit didn't hurt too much.

Waves all done!

 Next he coloured in the lotus, and then we decided the word didn't stand out quite enough for my liking, so he did a contrasting yellow background to lift it a little. There was no red or orange ink - that is blood. The yellow shadow was absolute agony because it was in such close proximity to the original word which had been done an hour or so earlier and had already started healing.

I didn't yell or cry or swear, I was very good! I didn't want to be like this guy...

Today (two days later) it looks like this!

The healing on this one has been so much better and easier on the quill on my right upper arm. I left it until it started to dry out a little then put Bepanthen on it - Mike has told me to beware of Bepanthen because he has seen some allergic reactions to it lately and was concerned that perhaps the formula had changed, but it seems to be working fine for me.

I may need more work on the quill though as the black has dropped out a fair bit during the healing process. This is possibly because I let it dry out too severely (it became far more scabby than anything Mike had seen before). Whatever the reason, I want to let all the tattoos heal completely (and my piercing as well, which has been good and bad on and off over the past few weeks) before getting it sorted. I need a break from healing!

Yesterday we took the boys out and bought school socks, shoes and pyjamas. We scored well with Erik's shoes only costing $18 a pair and because they were so inexpensive and therefore may come apart quickly (considering how hard he is on his shoes) or he might grow out of them quickly (considering how fast he's growing at the moment), we bought a second pair in the next size up. They were in sizes 9 and 10 - The Grumpy Old Man is a size 9 as well! Erik also got runners to go with his sports uniform. Bryn and Lukas' shoes weren't falling apart but we thought it prudent to buy them new shoes as well while we have the School Kids Bonus to help out. Ari got a new pair of shoes because a) they were a super cheap $7 pair and b) he wasn't getting anything else and would feel left out.

Ari shoes are little tiger faces!

Last night Erik had a mate over to beat a 'boss' on a Wii game and then they walked back to the mate's house for a sleep over...

Beating the Boss

Today I met up with a bunch of mums I've known for up to ten years now - some of us haven't caught up in person for a long time, some of us catch up regularly still. It's funny to think the older kids (now 9-13) used to be the babies in our group. There were a couple of real babies there today, and one being baked but the majority of kids are school aged now. It was really good to catch up with everyone!

I really should have gotten a photo of the older kids, but they were off having a 'technology pow-wow'. Funny consider so many people in the wider community would consider our particular parenting style very much a hippy movement phenomenon! I guess no parent is immune to the march of technology...

Yesterday we received an email from the temporary real estate agent managing our property. He said two lots of constructors need access to the property on January 25th and 29th for 'a site inspection and planning'. He said he thinks they need to tweak the plans which have been submitted to council twice already in the past two years. The tells us the owners are still intent on building in the back yard. I guess they're hoping for 'third time lucky'. It also might explain why they didn't want to give us a 12 month lease back in August. This is probably what I loathe the most about renting, that lack of certainty about where we will be living in the coming months. The Grumpy Old Man told the RE we want to stay here even if the owners start building (something the regular RE has discussed with us in the past), but honestly I don't know how we would manage that, having lost the back yard completely and as well as all the storage space of the garage.

I guess only time will tell.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Rights, Responsibilities and Rewards...

I read a really interesting thread on a parenting forum this week about implementing routines for teens who do okay in school, but who are not putting their best foot forwards.

This pretty much describes my older boys. I want to put it out here at this point that compared to me at school at their age, they're both doing exceedingly well - neither of them has ever stormed out of a classroom, or thrown a tantrum in class, and they both received their fair share of Bs at the end of last year (in Australia a B means the child is working up to a year ahead of their expected peer grouping). However, I watch my kids carefully, and Erik has always done slightly less than the bare minimum at school. Lukas has been a bit more diligent - always handing in the minimum and on time - until this last year where he floundered a little and felt a bit lost.

At Erik's new high school students do a fair bit preparatory work for each class. They have online units to complete before coming to school. The units may including some reading or watching a video or doing a few relatively simple and autonomous exercises, and then when they go to class, this work is put into practice and discussed amongst the students for more in-depth examination and reinforcement. I really like this approach, it's very much like what happens at a tertiary level and is good practice for future education.

However, it requires a degree of initiative, organisation and dedication.

Left to his own devices, I can see Erik might end up spending a lot of time in the resource centre doing catch up work while the other kids are in class doing reinforcing work. If that were to happen for any length of time, I know we would be asked if this high school is the right place for him.


Rather than wait for trouble to find us, I read the thread on the parenting forum about homework with great interest and discovered some great ideas for setting up routines for teens doing homework.

One of the issues discussed was the management of technology. Technology is something our parents didn't really have to think about much. For today's kids, however, distraction is everywhere. They have the world and all it's entertaining sparkly things at their finger tips. Lots of parents don't like to manage their children's technology, but I feel my kids need guidance in navigating their interactions with the powerfully addictive distraction of Facebook, You Tube and email (they haven't even discovered the joys of Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr yet!). Also, gaming consoles are great fun, but can consume a child especially when the alternative is homework. I think it is hard enough for adults studying at tertiary levels to negotiate the traps of media distraction, let alone children and adolescents who still find it difficult to project themselves years into their own future and see the value in prioritising school work at this stage of their lives.

Some parents on the thread ban technology - as in computer games, phones and iPods - during the week entirely. Others don't put a blanket ban on devices, but have cut off times each day, or negotiated amounts of time. One parent said that for every minute spent doing homework, their child could have a minute of gaming - so if the child spent 35 minutes diligently doing homework, they were then allowed the same amount of time on their favoured device. Obviously, this was not a child doing their VCE, but it sounds like it might work for younger children - like Bryn, who is in grade two this year.

Another parent said their children's devices were locked up after 8pm - in a perspex box so she could see at a glance that the devices were all in place. This is not dissimilar to the arrangement we have here were all the devices are charged in our bedroom at night, so we know the kids haven't taken them to bed for late night Facebooking or net surfing (I know a lot of their peers have unrestricted access to devices, because my boys often get messages at midnight from a friends on Facebook - kids do need to sleep at that age!).

This is our 'charging station'.  In years to come it's only going to get bigger, eek!
However, I am thinking perhaps, I'll set a cut-off time for devices at 5pm. We eat at 6pm, so in the hour leading up to dinner time, we'll arrange chores and get ready for the next day and for bed. Dinner will be at 6pm, and then homework. Bryn goes to bed at 7pm, so he'll have enough time to do some reading or math revision (his reading is great, his math, not so much). Lukas goes to bed at 8pm, so he'll have an hour or so to do projects and revision, reading, or maths. Erik goes to be at 9pm, so that gives him up to 2.5 hours of time to do class prep work - and at least two hours of doing that work in silence after Bryn and Ari have gone to bed.

I know this sounds quite strict, but I have been worried over the past few months that with our crazy, noisy, busy household, and no real space to study except the dining table, Erik, in particular, might find high school very challenging unless we organise space and time for him to get his work done uninterrupted.

Of course, this is going to come as a shock to the system for kids who have not been quite this organised before. So we're going to have a meeting to discuss the concepts of rights, responsibilities and rewards. We're going to get some perspective on what is a right (food, shelter, respect, love) as opposed to what is a reward (gaming time, having a mobile phone of your own, having your own laptop, going to parties and having friends over), and what their responsibilities include (being courteous and considerate to others, helping around the house, being honest).

Something else someone on the thread said about implementing new rules was that she gave her child two options; either they could start during the holidays and get used to how things would work, or they could have their holidays with the agreement that once the term started their would knuckle down without complaints and attempts to negotiate their way out of the routine. I'll give the boys the same option.