Teaching Kids We Should Lie and Cheat?

Some of you will know I’ve been battling and stressing over my son’s school, also the lack of any other decent schools nearby. Those new to my blog then basically the school is a Nursery to Sixth Form Academy, one of the first of it’s kind in the United Kingdom, currently in special measures and failing. There’s so much wrong there and having to tell a 4 year old the difference between bullying and accidentally bumping in to someone was not an easy discussion, nor were the days of finding new bruises that a bully had left on my son’s body.

Yesterday my son came home with a letter. This one was interesting as it had a staple, meaning it was a pretty long letter so probably very important. It was windy, cold and starting to snow so I put it away, he held the pushchair and we walked home as usual. We had the normal chat of what he ate in his lunch box, did he play outside today and the usual curious questions a 4 year old asks like “why is the snow falling on me?” and asking when we get home if he can share crisps with Petit Girl.  The first not so easy to explain to a child his age but I did my best for an on-the-spot rather science-y question and of course he shared crisps with his sister.

I warmed my hands up and started to read the letter. New sponsor? Why is that? Who is this sponsor? Whose this Dame woman? She must be important to have the title Dame but why haven’t I heard of her before?

I rung my mother and we chatted the usual stuff about how the kids are doing, how the rest of the family are and what we’ve been up to and I slipped in about this new sponsor thing. It just so happened she was at her laptop and so did a quick Google. Her response was a bit concerning so I gave the kids a biscuit each to keep them quiet for a bit longer (dinner was still in the oven) and rushed to get the iPad out. I Googled this woman’s name. Dame Mo Brennan and Google suggested “Dame Maureen Brennan news” to me.  Okay that’s odd but I figured Mo was short for something. Anyway she has a Wikipedia page and yes she is head of one of the other schools the trust is part of, she also happens to be the Director of this trust. But then there’s a large section on the page titled “Attendance manipulation charges”. Words I wasn’t expecting to see from someone who was given an honour started to stand out like the biggest sore thumbs I’ve seen in a long time. It talked about GCSE results, attendance records, stuff to basically make the school look good by lying and cheating the system.

cheatlie-dontdoit

I was stunned to say the least. Angered that we consider this okay. Why should children think it’s okay to cheat and lie and be rewarded for it? The line that she did it “for the children” gets used over and over. Really? That’s the sap story we all going to accept? No she didn’t, this was done to make her look like a good person, sod the kids. I dislike how schools are marked down for things often out of their control but cheating the system isn’t the way forward and we shouldn’t accept this nor allow it. If there’s a problem and schools feel the constant need to lie just to get a better report then the system is flawed.

I often saw this trick at my secondary school. Telling kids who should have been excluded to “study at home” and be marked in that fashion. But all those kids did was come to the school gate and bully other kids, throw things over the gate, they didn’t care and the school sure didn’t either. If they cared they would have helped those kids learn, not let them stand at the gate, smoking cigarettes and throwing empty cans at anyone who walked by. And if they got bored of that then they’ll go elsewhere and be a menace elsewhere. “For the children” my arse.

Currently  I’m in contact with the school as best as I can be, the letter had an email although addressed to someone of the old sponsor but they replied and shall forward my concerns to the school. I’ll also be contacting our local MP to see what his thoughts are. He’s been in power here since the late 70’s and proud of many choices he’s made, including voting to allow gays to marry.

Setting Up Twitch

I'm mostly a computer gamer these days. World of Warcraft and Minecraft are my two currently playing games and both are on the PC. I had considered for some time running Twitch but was shy at first so kind of sat back for a moment, hoping I may slap myself around to doing it.

So now I've installed what I need the only issue I noticed during my test run was sound was bad. So before I go totally out there I will need to fix that first, probably just a setting I've messed up. But in the mean time my twitch channel does exist and hopefully I will get some stuff running.

You will find me on Twitter for any announcements of going on air so please follow me over there to keep in touch. See you soon… Hopefully!

 

 

I’m An Influential Gamer Girl!

I’ve played games for years. My first console was a Master System II which has Alex Kidd built in to it (and a game I never beat because oh my god it was HARD!) and over the years I gained other consoles and even handhelds. Mega Drive, Mega CD, SNES, Dreamcast (yes some people actually owned one of those), Gameboy (and pretty much every version since then). In fact about the only consoles I’ve yet to own are Sega Saturn (never going to happen because Santa didn’t bring me one *sob*), Play Station 4 (also unlikely) and the Wii U (Nintendo do keep trying to make me want one though). Whilst I loved Sonic and Mortal Kombat (yes this was way before age restrictions on video games) I still had my My Little Pony collection and Barbie dolls. To me video games were for kids, just as much as I thought Barbies could be played with by boys too.

topukinflu-gamergirls

So I’m super excited and totally over the moon to be in an article about the most Influential Gamer Girls in the UK. I actually secretly pop over to Charleyy’s Tumblr every so often so was great to see her there as well. Also lovely to see Keza MacDonald who is Kotaku UK’s editor which is a big awesome thumbs up from me. Though my gosh some great ladies aside of me on this list.

So I thought I’d talk a bit more about me as a gamer of the modern day. I’ve been playing World of Warcraft for a VERY long time (it just celebrated it’s 10th Anniversary so I’d say been a player for about 8 or 9 years) and more recently been playing Minecraft to the point we even have our own server. I’ve been messing with Twitch and live streaming but haven’t completely got it to work fully so when I do I’ll be sure to let everyone know so you can enjoy some block-tastic fun and some god awful DPS (I play a Hunter).

So here’s the article that I’m overly excited about. Do have a read and follow some amazing female gamers on Twitter.

Teaching With Twinkl – Gruffalo

Many of you will know the troubles with my son’s school. Recently Ofsted posted a report earlier this month that was deeply depressing for me so I had begun to look in to Home Education. The amazing folks of Twinkl asked me if I would try out their premium package and over the new few months I will be posting Teaching With Twinkl And showing a little bit of what we have been doing.

My son was very unwell on Sunday, boiling hot (38.7C is the highest I got with our cheap thermometer), floppy and complaining about his ears hurting. So Monday we saw the doctor and collected antibiotics and Calpol for an ear infection and to keep the fever down. So recently he has been off school but I didn’t want him to miss out on any learning and thought how could I make it fun?

Currently he’s a big fan of The Gruffalo so printed a few Twinkl resources to do with the book. We read the book several times, watched the animated version and talked about each of the animals. He knew the owl was a kind of bird that flies and remembered where each animal lived and the order the mouse met them. So how else could I use his new found love for this story to continue teaching him?

First I wanted to work on his writing. He is left handed and often he leaves a very faint line. Here he wrote inside the letters as he sounded them out and actually put pressure on to the pencil and I could actually see what he was writing! Still trying to help find ways to make it easier to write left handed as we are all right handed so very odd to teach with my right when he uses his left.

Up next was a simple counting. He was still not very well so decided a simple counting would be good but also help him write his numbers. He did this so fast, this is early learning which is his level at school right now. Thought perhaps next time shall try something a little different.

Addition was on the list the next day. Normally I use toy cars or Lego to help with addition and subtraction so this was a little different. But again he blew through this. He only recounted the owls as he wasn’t sure he was right but he was correct with 8 and wrote it down.

Finally we reviewed the book itself. This was probably the hardest as he was still learning spelling and phonic sounds but he did pretty well. A few spelling errors but at this point. I’m just impressed he kept it up. He found the last part hard so we cut the story up in to three parts. First is the mouse meets the fox, owl and snake, second part he meets the Gruffalo and shows the Gruffalo to the other animals. Finally he ends by scaring the Gruffalo and then enjoying a nut. He said “at the end he eated the nut” but then just wanted to write “nut”.

My thoughts so far? Impressed! I was able to teach him addition, work on his pencil control and help with his literacy all through a story he is currently enjoying. I would never have thought of it myself!

You can follow Twinkl on Facebook and Twitter, keep an eye open for offers and exciting new resources! You can join for free and use any free resources or consider their Gold or Platinum options.

 

Twinkl Primary School Resources

Disclaimer: I was given access to Platinum resources to review Twinkl. My opinions are my own and unbiased. Some of the Twinkl resources are free, but some may require a gold or premium account to access.

 

 

 

 

 

Je Suis Breasts

This kept me up all night on how to best write this and a lot of what I say will be me biting my own arm off. This is about Page 3 being removed from The Sun. If you're not willing to read any more in to this then best look away now.

Firstly I'm more anti-The Sun then I am Page 3. To me The Sun isn't a newspaper and people do not buy it for news, it's at best a young adult (mostly male) magazine made to look like a newspaper. Half the coloumnists I would rather they fell in to the pit of Hell and others I just pray they can one day get a journalist job somewhere better. Also might I add my hatred for anything Murdoch related? So yes this is painful for me to write and honestly last night I felt sick mulling over what I wanted to say. So yes just remember I am not pro-The Sun or Murdoch News Corps. For goodness sake look back to Hillsbourgh, what The Sun did there offends me more then a pair of tits.

Now Page 3 use to bother me when I was younger, but then I started to follow some models who happen to also be Page 3 models. I've images of nude women in parts of our household, my kids can be naked and we can be naked, we don't have an issue with nudity one bit. To me Page 3 models are just saying “embrace your body” and god I wish I had the confidence to pose nude. I have spoken to a few models in the past and they are so lovely and full of confidence. Many of them endure Internet trolls and called awful names but they brush it off. Wish I could do that!

So to me when women are out on social media praising the end of Page 3 I think oh great thank you for telling women they cannot enjoy their figure, thank you for censoring the media, thank you for putting some models out of the job. And yet few weeks ago these are the same people who were all “Je Suis Charlie”. Are you really? Because to be Charlie you're admitting that censoring the media is wrong. But wait, you just censored the media. Hypocritical? Yes.

And don't give me the “think of the children”. If a child is reading The Sun that's the parents choice, not yours or mine to slander. And no the internet isn't always the best place for “smut”. Have any of you watched a porno? They are funny as hell, no one has sex like they do in porn and that's not what I want my kids to think is normal.

What we should be worried about is forced marriages, domestic abuse and female genital mutilation. These are problems women should be helping end in a First World Country. Because guess what? I have tits too, not like yours but who the hell cares? We should be proud of them not offended by them.

Je Suis Breasts. Because I'm proud to be a woman.

Have I Lied About My Dyslexia?

There are boring moments in our lives where we adults have to fill in forms. I hate forms and exams? Ugh they were a nightmare, my version of Hell would be sitting at a desk trying to understand one of those stupidly long English or Science questions you get in GSCE papers and by the time I finally understand what it means the time is up. But there is a question that comes up in some forms that I never really know what to say. In comes in various forms so let me answer all of them in the way my head tells me to put down.

Do you have a learning difficulty?

Well, Helen, that's a tricky one. I mean you get on with life just fine. There are some people out there with severe learning difficulties compared to dyslexia so should you really say yes? Seems selfish to do that when others need more help then you do.

Do you have any form of disability?

Does this mean physical only? Is dyslexia a disability (note: it took me 4 tries to spell disability right and only got it because autocorrect finally understood what I was trying to write) of any kind? No it probably just means physical and yeah you do have a back problem but surely they want to know about people who are actually disabled, like in a wheelchair or deaf or something like that, no you're fine just say no.

Do you suffer from any of the following? (Various answers include learning and physical issues, dyslexia isn't there but Other is)

Well Dyslexia is well known so surely if they meant it to be on the list they'd put it there. Nah just leave it blank. I mean look at the choices, Helen. These are pretty serious things compared to you unable to get numbers in the right place or being able to read a book. Nah you're way down the scale.

Now firstly let me tell you a bit about my dyslexia because often I get odd looks or questioned on how can I be dyslexic and yet also write a blog. Firstly autocorrect, whilst it can be a bitch at times, is the Holy Grail (note: Grail took me several tries and because I failed I got words like trial and gale autocorrected in place of Grail for me) to my Dyslexia and I. But actually my biggest problem is with numbers and reading rather than actually writing. Hand me a novel like any book of the Game of Thrones series or Harry Potter. I can probably get halfway through a chapter before I give up and usually wallow in self pity for the rest of the day. As for numbers, I can't read large numbers. For example if you handed me the houses for sales page of a newspaper and asked me to say the prices out loud what will happen is whilst I see the numbers that are there I jumble them up. Okay so say a car is for sale for £23,995. I will then say £32,599. See the numbers are there but not in the right order, get what I'm trying to explain? Also sometimes with double numbers like £32,995 I may see it has £32,555 or something along those lines. I don't realise what I've said until someone says “that's not right, Helen” to which ends with me feeling pretty stupid and wanting the world to eat me up.

So have I lied about my dyslexia? Is it something I should be shouting about and telling people “yes I do have a problem!” Y'know maybe less like a crazy person. I mean not in the middle of a busy market place or at the checkout. For I want to defeat my dyslexia, I want to be able to pick up a book and read the whole thing without the desire to burn it and send it to Hell. If I had a Room 101 it would be filled with books, car trader/sales magazines and estate agents if I keep this up. I want to read like everyone else can. So the question is… Where do I begin?

Thanks for reading. Do you have a learning difficulty or have someone in the family with one? Do you have any advice for me? Please feel free to comment below!

Playing the Waiting Game with Education

This feels so weird and wrong to me but I'm going for the ride, it feels I'm here to say “told you so” and the outcome will be a child left with a screwed up education which isn't a win. Infact neither ways feel like. Wins to me right now.

So our son is in a school that I believe is bad for him, others don't seem to agree and some think perhaps I'm overreacting. Large part of me wants to believe I am making this up and that what happens and what I see if just from an episode of East Enders, Y'know if they ever made a Black Country version where Noddy Holder makes random guest appearances. Before Christmas I was stressed because I felt no one believed me and I couldn't do what I wanted to do to stop everything going completely tits up for my son. Then the two weeks off came and I started to calm down. Back to school I was happy to send him back and almost forgot all the troubles we had. Right up until my son told us he was being bullied and showed us the bruises

The school has said they have caught the bully but that means very little to me as no bully just stops, specially as this was the same child who stole my son's lunch few months ago. He will probably pick on another child for a bit then come back round to the littlest kid which happens to be my son.

People say “oh but he is bound to have this happen as he's so small” so we are going to give bullies an excuse to punch and inflict harm to smaller children? He wears glasses too for his squint is that also an okay reason for bullies and that we should expect it?

I was bullied at a similar age and my parents took me out of that school and in to another, but that isn't an option for us due to the lack of other schools in our area. So instead we are sitting on this rollarcoaster of a ride and waiting to see how it plays out. I'm expecting loads of loops, a corkscrew or two and for it to end with them forgetting to place the last of the track and derail.

But I shall wipe my tears, slap on a smiley face, drink my 10th cup of tea of the day and do what I must. How far is the next half term?

 

Much Ado About Summer Born

My eldest son is currently in what we call a school, though Ofsted seem to question it and so do I but it acts like and school and there’s (some) teachers who go there so it’s a school nonetheless. He was born in the Easter holidays which did mean he missed out on nursery entries at Easter (the year he turned three was when Easter was in March instead of April) and now in school he’s one of the youngest and smallest in his schools Reception classrooms. I never considered April born as Summer born and still feels weird to think that way.

But my son isn’t who I am going to talk about today. It’s actually Petit Girl, my daughter and my youngest child. She’s not even two years old yet but I’m already thinking about the fact she is a Summer born baby. She was due in July but arrived a little early at the end of June. I remember the windows being open on the maternity unit as it was so hot and the summer breeze was gentle but a relief to pregnant and post-pregnant women on the ward. Most of her newborn pictures she’s in a very light dress or just a cloth nappy. It was just on warm to wrap a little baby up and if I could have I would have wandered around in just my underpants too.

So what will happen with my daughter and her education? Well with the only school near us looking like a no-go zone even if I did take her in to the “normal” education system we have all grown accustomed to I would fear for her being behind those who turned five close to the start of school year. She would be four for 10 months in school, meaning she turns five closer to the end of her last day of Reception. How is this okay? What the hell?

Right now my thoughts are she would not go in to primary school, only thing that would change my mind is allowing her to start when she’s ready and if the school here sorts itself out.

 

When Is a School Failing?

Some of you may have seen past blog posts about my concerns for my son and his education. Firstly the school is an academy and what makes it different to most places is they have a nursery, primary, secondary AND sixth form. So children can go to this place aged 3 years old and stay there until they are 18 years old pretty much. It does make understanding reports, league tables and whatnot a little tricky as often not sure if they talk about the whole school, the secondary or infact hard to find anything at all because it opened not long ago. Long story there, maybe for another post. Anyway after 2 weeks off school I was feeling a bit chipper and my anxiety for the place had gone down, taking my son to school was normal and no fears were cast upon me like I have had for the last few months.

The second day of school Petit Boy was getting ready and just said “a big boy punched me in the stomach” followed by asking for a drink of orange juice. He said it as if this was total normal conversation with no concerns involved. I asked a bit more about it and he showed me what the boy did but could not remember the name of the child. I put this in my head as a side note but also thought maybe it was just rough play, boys can be boys after all.

Today it is Friday and since then he has told us more tales of this “big boy” and shown us several bruises. This morning I spoke to his teacher and she wrote down what both my son and I had to say about the matter and are hoping this will be resolved. So at the moment I’m just waiting for him to come home and praying no more talks of being pushed, punched or hit. But how did these go unnoticed on so many days in a row?

I got home, stuck the news on (as I write this a lot is happening in France of deep concerns) and made a cup of tea for myself. My eyes were drawn to our freezer which is about 6ft tall and where we often put notes, magnets and bits of information on but also there’s a few bits of art that are very important to us from our son. One of which is a self-portrait where he made a picture of himself with eyes, nose and hair. The only missing bit was a mouth but this was great from a boy who had started nursery so shy and barely did any art. I also have a painting in a folder from nursery where he painted his face with pale pink paint and added facial features, it was a joyful day to see these when I got them but then something hit me.

In December I cried at school for a number of reasons. One thing I didn’t write about because I brushed it off as perhaps nothing to be worried about but in the classroom was a wall filled with self-portraits the kids had done using paint. Every child had painted a face, eyes, mouth, hair, the usual with some being bit off but you got the idea of what they all were and could tell it was a face. My son’s portrait of himself? A big black blob. No features, no hair, no other colours used. Just black. Looking back at the work he did in nursery that made me so happy and remembering what I saw in school last month I began wondering… is this okay? Should I be worried? Perhaps he was having a bad day. Perhaps he was busy talking to other children. Or perhaps it’s something else.

Finally, to end the first week of 2015 in school yesterday was just… I cannot think of a word but you know when so much is happening you just find yourself laughing as more things pop up because if you can’t laugh at it then you’re probably going to go insane? Yeah that’s basically what I mean. Well he came home and handed me not one but  TWO “bumped head” notes. He explained he bumped his head and then bumped it again but what was the moment that made me feel I had to laugh or scream (I chose to laugh because I’ve done enough screaming and sobbing about this school as it is) was the spelling of his name. They wrote his first name as the female spelling of his full name and on one note they completely misspelled his surname. I joked to my fiancé (whose surname both our children have as we’re not married so I don’t have the same surname as my kids yet) saying “well at least they got the surname right the second time!”.

My biggest concerns are the bruises and the conversations of a “big boy” hurting him physically. But the other stuff worries me to and I’m wondering… when is a school failing a child? What would you do if you child kept coming home with bruises from another child?

Thanks for reading and please feel free to comment below with advice, information or just some nice words of reassurance.

Kill Bill Vol 1 – Why I Fell in Love with Media Studies

I often look at the down sides of my media studies, we spent days and weeks ripping apart films and scenes apart. I remember watching the scene from Alien when the baby alien pops out of that guy’s chest and rushes along the floor and out of the room. Now the first time we saw that (bare in mind we were all 16/17 years old) the whole class jumped. Then the teacher paused it just as the alien rushed off.

“See that? It’s a dog dressed up”

She rewound back to the start of the scene and this time we all laughed. I mean a dog dressed up in an alien costume? It isn’t scary it is just daft now. Sadly I cannot watch that scene without giggling now and this often is the case when taking scenes apart we kind of forget the actual story the film is telling and begin to look at small details and some times mocking them for it. But there was one film that didn’t lose it’s charm.

My first time watching Kill Bill in full was when I was 18 years old and studied large amounts of it. I am not a huge Tarantino fan but this film caught my interest. The scene we mostly worked on is fairly famous, the long tracking shot of the Japanese restaurant with live music being played and O-Ren upstairs. Now there’s a lot of scenes that a like during this movie and many are Tarantino’s signature shots (he has done many shots from the inside of a car boot and the “God’s Perspective” shot is always a good one of his) but this blew me away.

The room the camera man has to work with is not to be sniffed at. He is using a Steadicam to make it smooth as it flows around the rooms naturally. Then there’s the fact every actor would have to move at the right pace as several characters we see twice so go from one place to another without delay or without rushing too much. And the music, it is what starts the shot and ends it. We even have the camera going high up and looking down on actors as they walk, following them perfectly. You get the idea of what is going on, where important characters are in the building and in the end you would not have known it took 17 takes, 6 hours in 1 day and that the camera man bumped and bashed into all sorts of stuff and yet never fell.

If you are thinking of working behind the scenes as a cameraman then I recommend watching this shot, infact there’s several good long shots that are more than 2 minutes long and really this one is fairly short, but the work and detail put into this to me makes it worth while as a media student, a film lover and for anyone who wishes to work in film or television. Go on, if you haven’t already seen it then hire it, buy it, borrow from a friend! The whole film is great (warning if you don’t like blood you may want to watch with friends or a sick bag!) so worth your time.

Oh and the black and white scene where The Bride fights everyone in the restaurant? That was because it was too gruesome to be in colour and to get around that Tarantino did this. The saturation to make her yellow outfit look almost white makes her stand out and almost as if he did this on purpose, you’d not realise it was not originally planned that way. Oh and you can watch it in full colour if you find a version from a country that allowed it but I have not dare to do that, I know it is a movie but I have a rather angelic stomach to say the least.

So thank you Kill Bill and Tarantino for helping me enjoy my media studies and also reminding me why I loved it too.

Helen is out, PEACE!