Knowing What You Want To Be

We are in the middle of GCSE-choice hell here.

DD1 is 14 and in year 9, and it seems so young to be having to choose subjects to specialise in.  It seems like such a big thing right now and a lot of the advice is along the lines of keeping your A level choices in mind!

This hasn’t helped. My daughter has only a vague idea of what she’d like to do ‘when she grows up’.  She tells me a lot of her friends are quite sure and I can tell she is getting anxious about not knowing, but surely it’s not unusual?

I can’t help because I always knew what I wanted to be. When I was four, I asked my mother if animals had doctors. It’s probably indicative of my family’s life style choices that I didn’t already know that vets existed , as we always had plenty of animals. But once I knew they were a thing, that’s what I decided I’d be. I never wavered from the idea, despite less than encouraging adults in my life, and eventually I did become a vet. Whether or not it’s a career choice compatible with family life is another debate for another day.

The point is that it’s hard to be closing doors on subjects if you don’t know if they will ever be useful to you.  DD’s school is very good at making sure all the girls get a well rounded education no matter what choices they make, so I’m sure it’ll all work out in the end but if you have a child who is 14 +, do they know what they want to do for a job?

How old were you when you decided? Or do you still not know?

career choices

Choosing GCSEs. Can You Help?

DD1 is 14 and in Y9 of school and it’s time for her to make some choices.

Those of you who have children in Y9 or above will know exactly what I’m talking about; she has to choose what subjects to do for her GCSEs.

And this year it’s especially difficult as the curriculum is changing and she will be doing the ‘new’ GCSEs. No seems to know exactly how these are going to work, or what they will entail yet. Just that they will require more exams and less internal assessment, and they will be much harder. This knowledge is not doing anything for DD’s anxiety.

One of the confusing things ( for me, at least) about GCSEs, is that different schools require their pupils to do different subjects. At our school, the kids have to do the core subjects- maths, English, science-but aren’t required to do the exam component of PE and RS. They do have to choose a humanity ( RS, classics, history or geography) and a language ( French, German, Spanish or Latin), and then they get two ‘free’ choices.

DD has decided to do RS as her humanity as she enjoys the philosophy component, and is pretty sure she will take Spanish as her language but is struggling with her two free choices. Our secondary school is academically inclined so the list of other subjects is possibly not as comprehensive as it is at other schools.

DD feels that part of her problem is that she doesn’t yet know what she wants to do ‘when she grows up’. She’s a bright girl with good work habits and could pretty much do anything she wanted to. She’s not especially drawn to maths or languages but gets good marks for all her subjects.

She likes kids and animals, and likes helping people. She’s good at science, but doesn’t want to do a science for an A level and is good at music, but doesn’t want to do it for GCSE. She thinks she could possibly teach, or become a therapist of some sort but she doesn’t know.  And I can’t help as I wanted to be a vet from the age 4, and had my sights set on that throughout my school career.

A lot of her friends know what they want to do already, and this adds to her sense of unease. But surely at 14, it’s not that unusual to not know what direction you are going to go in as an adult?

Do you have older children who were in the same situation? Maybe you didn’t know either? Has anyone got any advice for my worried daughter?

choose subjects for GCSE


The Curse Of The Three Week Long Easter Holiday

We have two children in primary school and two in secondary school at the moment. The two schools are in different counties but usually this doesn’t cause a problem when it comes to holidays.

However this year, and next, our schools’ Easter holidays overlap. So DD3 and DS finished school a week ago and the older two finished school on this Thursday just gone.

This means that this year ( and next) I have three weeks of school holidays to contend with.

At first, this may sound like a good thing. It’s tricky trying to find activities that will suit a teen, a tween and a couple of under tens. So surely it’s a positive thing to only have one week to take all the different ages into account. And surely  fewer children means less squabbling?

Hmm, not in this house, no. I find the house is calmest with all four children around, as they can go and bother someone else if things get fraught between two individuals. If there are only two at home, there is no chance of a change of sibling to quieten things down.

We’ve also found that the children off school still get up at the same time as the ones that need to go to school. This has made for some very long days, and because the school run to both schools requires some input from me, I only get a week where I’m not having to drive/escort kids too/from school.

In the two weeks either end of our three week Easter break, I can’t even take the kids out for a long day anywhere as I have to be back in time to do the school pick up.

I’ll concede that there is a small advantage in only having two children to wrangle though, and it’s cheaper if I want to take them anywhere that charges a fee.

But despite this, I prefer it when the school holidays are in sync. Thank goodness it’s only the Easter holidays that overlap.



The Gallery: School

It’s back-to-school week and I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted. My kids have been back 2/3 days and are getting into the swing of it. New teachers, new friends and in DD2’s case, a new school. It’s going to take me a few more weeks of running around like a blue-arsed fly before it becomes my new normal again. I’m still on holiday time.

The big excitement this year is that DD2 has started secondary school this week. So far it’s been okay. She’s not as naturally organised as her big sister and has some sensory issues, so I had my concerns about how she would cope.  But she’s managed to find her way around the school, get to two days worth of lessons on time and already has a little gang of friends. That’s a good start , isn’t it?

So, now I have two in primary and two in secondary and I feel a bit divided.

The primary school is just up the road; I can hear them playing at lunchtime from our garden. But the secondary school our eldest two go to  is 7 miles away and although it’s only 20 minutes in the car, I do think of my two big girls often and wonder what they are doing. Secondary school is such a different world to primary; you have to start really letting your children go. Go to school on their own, let them organise their own homework and make their own mistakes.

One of the easiest ways to help them stay on top of their workload when they start high school  is to get a couple of copies of their timetables, as soon as they are given one. Before they have mutilated it too much. You’ll see I was too last in DD2’s case, this year.

Stick one copy near where they keep their books they aren’t lugging into school that day, and stick one somewhere that you have easy access to it too. I stick them above my computer desk.

high school time tables

This will help you keep an eye on what homework your little darling might have each day, and what they might need for school tomorrow. And it’s also useful to have a copy at home for when they leave their copy at school, or even lose their entire bag on public transport.

In that case, having a spare time table doesn’t mean much, but it’s something to cling to.

This post is written for this week’s Gallery over at Sticky Fingers.



The Instagram Update


About six weeks ago I posted about our eldest DD wanting to join Instagram before the age of 13. DD turned 12 a week before Christmas.

I had a few comments on that post, plus a few IRL and on Facebook and Twitter, and in the end my husband and I decided to go ahead and let her install Instagram on her phone. We realise that by doing so we are encouraging/allowing her to lie about her age, but we felt that because all her friends had some sort of social media already, she really was missing out if we didn’t.

She’s now had instagram for a month, and we haven’t regretted the decision. We think she is learning some valuable lessons about social media and the use of mobile phones in general.

She spends a lot of time on Instagram. We are keeping a close eye on what she’s posting and we’ve had to have a few conversations with her about various posts. She’s on a learning curve, as are we, and everyone makes mistakes. That’s how people learn, isn’t it?

She has learnt not to post photos of other people, especially other kids, on instagram without getting permission. She did this without asking and was asked to remove the photos.

She posted some daft ‘Make Your Own Sentence’ thing that was going to lead to her making a very inappropriate statement. She wasn’t happy when I asked her take that down, but now knows that she mustn’t make jokes about having sex on social media. She’s 12 FGS and I think she should have known better, but she seems unable to see past it just being ‘a joke’. This is typical of this age group and a perfect illustration of why they need supervision.

I’ve talked to her about the chain letters she sometimes reposts. They are of the ‘ If you don’t post this , you/ your mother will die’ variety and they scare her, so she does tend to share them. I don’t like this and have told her so, but have to respect her fears.Then I told her that by reposting, she is also scaring other people and she does seem to have posted less of these as a result.

She also posts, and takes part in, a lot of popularity competitions where the winner gets a ‘shoutout’, ie  the OP says’ everyone follow this person’. I’m not that keen on this as I think it can be hurtful if you are voted out first, but DD assures me that she tries to make sure people take turns ‘winning’. I’m not convinced but everyone seems to do it, so I’m picking my battles.

DD has also been reprimanded for swearing in posts but we’ve had no inappropriate pictures so far.

We’ve had to talk about not going on her phone while in the company of others. People IRL come first, we remind her.

There is a lot to learn for both parents and children when your child starts using social media. You can not just leave them to it. My DD is a bright, sensible girl  but she’s done some stupid things already. And that’s just on one platform. I dread to think what it would be like if I had let her go on everything at once. Keeping up would be a full time job!

The sad thing is parental involvement seems to be very, very rare with this age group. DD has 70 odd followers on her private account but I only know of two other parents who take an interest in what their children are up to. My DD’s friends know that I’m on instagram too, and apparently think it’s cool at the moment. I think I am one of the few parents who is. However, they may not know I am watching them quite as closely as I am. I don’t know what i’d do if I spotted another child posting something bad though.

Apart from the odd hiccup, as far as my DD and her friends are concerned, Instagram seems to be relatively harmless at the moment. It’s a big part of their socialising outside of school and seems to be a way of keeping connected with their friends while they are at home. DD also uses it to keep in touch with friends from her primary school. I haven’t seen any nastiness yet.

If you have a 12 year old who wants to dip their toe into underage social media, then I would say that Instagram is not a bad place to start. But you will need to supervise them; it’s not something you want to just let them have the run of as there are mistakes to be made.

And you need to be there to pick your child up when they make them.


Who Chooses The School?

which school

When choosing a primary school, it’s usually the parents who choose the school for their children.  Maybe you dragged them to look around a few schools, and took any preferences into account but as a rule , 4 year olds are likely to choose their school based on how pretty the teachers are or what colour the uniform is. Most parents will make the ultimate choice themselves and when it comes down to it, as long as the building is welcoming and the faces are friendly, young children usually settle at the school chosen for them in the end.

Choosing a secondary school is a completely different ball game.

When it comes time to choose a secondary school, your children are likely to have an opinion of their own about where they’d like to go. And it’s possible that that opinion might not match your own.

We were lucky when it came to make that choice for DD1 last year. She wanted to sit the exam for a localish partially selective school and so we arranged a tutor, helped her go through papers and let her get on with it. She was pretty focussed on getting a mark that would get her a place, but we did have the odd hiccup. If she had been totally against the idea of this school we would not have had a chance of a place, no matter how much we believed this was the right school for her.

As it was, when push came to shove, she said she ‘wasn’t sure’ and that she might want to go to the nearby very good comprehensive instead. But we took the initiative; she’d done the work and got a good mark and we felt she should at least give the more academic option a try. Two months later, she loves it and we feel we all made the right choice.

This year it was DD2’s turn. She will get a sibling place but we made her sit the exam anyhow; mean parents that we are. She was not so keen on the exam but likes the sound of the school. Again, this is lucky for us. We’ve only had to visit one school when some of my friends have spent the last month visiting a different school every week.

Who knows what the younger two will do? How will we react if they don’t want to go where we want them to? The truth is, I don’t know.

I suspect we might feel that we have the right to override them; after all, we are the adults and as such are far more likely to look at the important things when choosing wisely for our children’s education. But then, I don’t know if I could send them somewhere that they really didn’t want to go. Hopefully we’ll never have to make the choice.

How do other parents choose what secondary school to send their children to? Would you send them to a school you really weren’t keen on because your child wanted to go? Or would you rather they went somewhere you approved of, even if they didn’t like it?

Secondary School Homework

Homework was a big concern when my eldest started secondary school.

How much would she get? Would she have any free time at all? Would we spend all our time nagging her to do her homework?

I know we are not even halfway through DD’s first term , but so far the homework hasn’t been too bad. We were told she would have 60-90 minutes a day but she has around an hour’s worth most days. She seems to do quite a bit in school if she can.

We are lucky with DD1. She is the type of person who usually just gets on with things , unless she’s suffering from a dose of tweenage contrariness.  So mostly she doesn’t make a big deal about the homework she does have.

Which is lucky. Because so, far her secondary school homework has been decidedly ‘creative’. read more

Nothing Stays The Same When They Start Secondary School.

I knew life would be different when my firstborn started secondary school. But I didn’t know how  it would be different.

Yes, I knew she’d have to leave the house an hour earlier and get home an hour later. I knew she’d have to be more independent and I’d have to let her get on with things. And I knew she’d come home full of stories about teachers I didn’t know and girls I’d never met.

Sure enough, DD1 has changed in the two short weeks since she’s been at secondary school. Some of the change is good; some, well we’ll see.

She’s become au fait with public transport and quite often stops off to meet friends after school ‘for a drink’. I’m assuming  this involves milkshakes and soft drinks, not a reccy to the local pub but I should probably check where she goes, shouldn’t I?

She’s enjoying her lessons and managing her homework without too much drama but she’s signed up for what I think are too many clubs. She’s trying out new sports like badminton and hockey but coming home with requests for even more new equipment/clothing. And she’s upped her campaign for a better phone ( We are holding out until her birthday in December) but she’s managed to persuade me to allow her to get her ears pierced.

newly pierced ears

You have to pick your battles, don’t you?

But what I didn’t realise is how much DD1’s starting secondary school would affect the rest of the family.

Life is quieter in the morning with just three kids to get ready. And DD2 has negotiated for a longer lie in in the mornings in lieu of watching TV, so I find myself with only two to supervise before breakfast.

DD2 has grown up suddenly now she’s now longer under the shadow of her big sister. She gets herself ready for school on her own, packs her bag and makes her own breakfast. She even tidies up after herself without being reminded. She’s in Y6, so is one of the Big Kids now and insists on walking herself to and from school for part of the way. I don’t feel right with only two to walk to school at the moment, but I know I’ll get used to it.

Life goes on but I do miss the chaos of last year when I had four on the school run. I don’t think I made the most of it.


The Gallery: Back To School

My youngest three don’t go back to school until tomorrow.  The girls are making the most of this and are still tucked up in bed. DS is downstairs with me, playing with his lego.

But my eldest is on an overland train somewhere in Hertfordshire; she started at her new school yesterday.

First day Secondary school photo

Secondary school is a very different kettle of fish from Primary school. The kids make their own way to school, there is no chatty school gate crowd of parents and your child suddenly spends a lot more time out of the house. But yesterday seemed to go well; DD came home with a locker number and a timetable, and it’s straight into it today.

Her timetable tells me she has English, PE, Science, Technology Practicals, Science and ‘Personal And Citizen Education’. No prizes for guessing some of the content of that!

She won’t be home until almost 5pm, there will be homework and she’s going to be knackered.

Those of you who only have preschoolers or school starters probably won’t believe me when I try and tell you that the years have just sped by. It honestly doesn’t seem seven years since I took this photo when DD started Primary school.

First Day Primary school

My advice, if you are after some, is take photos, take videos, write down your feelings and the funny little things they do.

Because  everything goes so fast, and once these moments are gone, they are gone.

A bit like your children, really.

For more Back To School Sentimentality, check out this week’s Gallery over at Sticky Fingers.



And She’s Off

After all that, I almost missed it.

It was 7:15am and I was standing on the pavement outside our house, watching my oldest baby set off on her first day of Secondary School.

We’d been up since 6:15, checking and double checking she had everything. I watched her eat breakfast and check her phone for last minute texts from her friends.

DD1 had been fine. She reported feeling a little sick before breakfast, but I knew it was just nerves and once she’d been swept up into the maelstrom of the school run, she’d be fine. She was travelling with a small herd of girls, no doubt all experiencing the same strain of butterflies.

On the outside, I appeared fine too. My upper lip stayed stiff, and my eyes remained resolutely dry but inside I felt decidedly wobbly.

How could that tiny, spiky-haired, stork-marked bundle they handed me, after 42 weeks of pregnancy and an induced labour, be old enough to use public transport on her own? Surely she had just started Primary School last week? Last month? Okay then, last year?

Where had the last 11 1/2 years gone? Did she *have* to go to Big Big School. Couldn’t I just keep her safe at home?

As much as I’d like to, I know I can’t. She’s growing up, she’s moving on. The fact that she had the drive and confidence to get her school place, and even contemplate such a commute means I’m doing the job I’m supposed to , right? I keep reminding myself that independence is the ultimate aim.

DD2, wrapped in an over-sized pink dressing gown on the pavement with me, and not caring who saw her, was crying. She has always had her big sister to show her the way at Primary School. Now she’s in Year 6, she’ll have to go it alone for a year. I think it will do her good.

As we watch DD1 get smaller and smaller as she approaches, then reaches the corner, I can feel myself tearing up a little. I can’t remember if I kissed her goodbye. I don’t think I did. I breathe deeply and DD2 hugs me tighter. I look down at her and smile reassuringly, and tell her it’ll all be okay.

But when I look up, DD1 is nowhere to be seen. All there is is a blur of blue uniform and a swish of blond hair as DD1’s friend breezes past and catches up with her.

She’s gone. She’s off.

I hope she has a brilliant day.

First day at secondary school

First day at secondary school

First day at secondary school