Saturday, 26 September 2015

Senior School. Serious drama. For me not him!

Inexplicably I find myself as the mother of a 10 year old. Even more inexplicably I find myself looking at senior schools where apparently I am meant to send him next September. Surely he isn't old enough for this! He's barely eating solids... walking... talking... oh wait... Time marched on and this is happening despite me.

It transpired I can no longer ignore the fact that he is growing up at an alarming rate. We received leaflets from school informing us of the open days coming up and that we not only need to visit them but also make a decision about which school he will attend by the 30th October. My head is currently a swirling hotpot of a million questions and worries about making the wrong decision and I hope you're not expecting a moment of clarity at the end of this blog post because you'll be disappointed!

I had fairly romantic ideas about the decision making process. I would look at the Department of Education website and Ofsted reports and it world then of course present me with an easy decision to make. My son would naturally be bowled over by the facilities etc and it would be job done. 

So I looked up the 3 schools which are the reasonable options given logistics etc. The first date was probably from my point of view the middle one in the desirable stakes. VERY poor GSCE results though they're ditching their headteacher. Poor history of dealing with bullying. Great sports facilities, close enough to walk or cycle. Good SEN results. His best mate is definitely going there.

He walked in and loved it immediately. Doh.

We still have two schools to visit. Top choice  (for me I might add) has excellent GSCE results and by all accounts good facilities etc. Smart uniform and really excellent reports of student attitude etc. It is 2 towns away so he'd need to get a school bus to get there. That would be a major pain with after school clubs. 

Bottom choice (again for me) is a school in the next town. No idea if there is a school bus or public bus. It is placed at the top of a very deprived area with lots of social issues. Last year results were terrible but they also have a new teacher who took her last school to 'Outstanding'. It's am academy and has had plenty of money chucked at it to develop its facilities. Some parents I know who had similar concerns about it to me, visited the other night and fell in love with it, as did their kids.

My son is, to his credit God love him, saying he wants to see all of them before making his decision and he is being so grown up about it. Apparently not agonising and waking up in the night thinking about it (what just me?) so it's just me having vaguely childish tantrums about results and options and opportunities. At the end of course the final decision is with him... slightly tactical of course - if I tell him where he's going and he hates it then it's my fault. Let him go where he judges best and if he loves it then he's happy, I'm happy, the universe is happy... and if he hates it then Mum can save him. I hope.

And it IS frustrating that not all schools offer the same... why can't it just be that it's just the 'feel' of the school is the only factor because all kids will have the same opportunities to reach their potential wherever they go? The education lottery is now open and at the moment it very much feels like my son's future is going to be influenced by the roll of the dice. I can do all I can at home but I'm not a teacher and certainly can't get him through his GCSEs if his school appears unable.

So here we have it, my angst filled blog post with no moment of clarity or pithy conclusion. You'll have to wait until we've visited the next two... or for his results in 6 years to discover whether he wins the lottery or not.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

"Electrifying" ~ That's my boy!

Those of you who have been walking with me for a while know a little about my lovely, special boy-child. We received his yearly school report this week and I wanted to share with you what a joy it was to read because as much as we love him and know him, and know what an amazing treasure he is, there is something wonderful about hearing it from others. 

He doesn't make the academic progress in line with his peers but we have been fortunate to have a teacher who agrees with us that these are not the important measures of progress in our son. She recognises his ear for music, his leadership skills and his creativity in dance and movement. She called one of his recent performances "electrifying" and has sought out opportunities to enable him to shine, thus increasing his confidence. 

We have watched our boy-child grow this year  into a thoughtful, funny, charismatic, creative 7 year old and it has been a delight to see. He seems unfettered by our worries about his future and he sees little in life that can't be conquered by a cheeky smile and quirky hand gesture. 

His physical, sensory, speech and developmental difficulties continue to be a challenge, particularly as the gap between his (excellent) progress and his physical age increases, and we have lots of questions and decisions to make as we go on, no doubt but right now he is supported and we are filled with confidence again that he will meet HIS potential. 

Things have changed for us as a little family; we accept that we aren't the easiest family to accommodate and we've subsequently chosen to surround ourselves with people who 'get it' and accommodate us anyway, who don't make decisions for us about whether the activity or day out is okay for him - not asking us to things because you think he won't like it is not cool (just for the record). He might surprise you... He surprises us every day. I can't say in complete honesty that I'm untouched by these things, because I'm only human (and I'm allowed to have a whinge on my own blog ;) ). Disappointment in people is heartbreaking.

Inevitably my update about boy-child covers a spectrum (slight pun intended) of rough and smooth. This week though I feel like his report carries a considerable amount of mileage  and I'm so proud of him. 

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Dissertation... the end and the beginning.

I recently finished the bulk of my dissertation and while it would be true to say a great sigh of relief was heaved as realisation set in that it was over, it would also be true to say that more has happened here than a document being completed.

The dissertation has loomed large as third year approached, and I do mean large. The essays up to now have been 1500, 2000, 3000 words and they have seemed long enough, so 8000 words seemed like a mountain. While it has been quite a climb and the going has been pretty rocky at times, the journey has been amazing and I've learnt something about myself which was surprising. I absolutely loved it.

Maybe (hopefully) my mark will be decent but honestly even if it is terrible (gulp) I'll be grateful because the process has opened my eyes to research and how to start looking at it in a new way. I'll admit to previously including references in my work without taking some responsibility for ensuring what I was quoting was, to my limited and novice eye, credible and useful. Learning how to critically analyse has been... wait for it... pretty cool. And now I honestly can't get enough of it. I read as much as I can and everything I read brings up more questions and I wonder what it would be like to carry out research of my own, to contribute in some way.

So right now I feel like I am on the verge of something, like I might even know where I am going. Like the dissertation I am prepared for this to be a process but the relief now is in knowing that this is just the start.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Aspiring to hair nirvana

On the 24th December 2014, after a month of dithering I washed my hair with shampoo and conditioner for the last time. For the love of hair why????? I hear you say.... well I struggled with an irritable scalp for years and went through more brands of shampoo than you could shake a leg at, each brand getting progressively more expensive in my quest for scalp and hair nirvana. Finally I took to the t'internet and found that a hair revolution has been quietly taking place without me noticing it. 

People were throwing out their chemical shampoos and conditioners with wild and, dare I say it, joyful abandon. They were swishing their thick, manageable and shiny hair around in the manner of a proud arabian horse. 

Now I had heard what I thought was a myth about hair starting to spontaneously clean itself if it's left long enough and truth be told I was not convinced. Images of dreadlocks and greasy locks sprang to my (now apparently ignorant) mind and if I was really honest with myself I really liked that lovely clean smell after my hair was washed. But something had to change and perhaps desperate times called for desperate measures. 

So I started to read. It turns out that hair is quite capable of maintaining it's own micro ecosystem so to speak. While shampoo does clean your hair it does also shear away the good protective oils in your hair. This makes your scalp react by producing extra oil which in turn makes you feel like you have sufficient grease on your noggin for an all day breakfast. So you wash your hair and the cycle continues. There are also far loftier reasons for trying the no shampoo method which include less chemicals on your body and in the environment, less waste and less cost to mention a few.

I discovered that by allowing your hair to self regulate the amount of oil produced it does eventually reach a balance and although that waiting period does vary between people, you will eventually have hair that stays looking good for longer, with longer between washes which is always a bonus. 

My Nan as I was growing up used to tell me that Apple cider vinegar (ACV) essentially a cure-all and if you knew my Nan you'd understand this was completely standard. She also is a great believer in the power of bicarbonate of soda for.... well pretty much anything.  It seemed the majority of people who'd gone shampoo - free (or "no-poo") were using these things to 'wash' their hair. And we do wash our hair... you do realise that right? 

It took a month for me to work myself up to it and when I finally took the plunge this is what I did.
Mixed 1 heaped teaspoon bicarb of soda in with a cup of warm water. Wet my hair through then poured it over my hair and scrubbed it in for slightly longer than I would massage in shampoo. Rinsed it thoroughly. Then poured 2 tablespoons of ACV over the lengths of my  (very long, very thick) hair. Left for a minute or so and rinsed. Always balance your bicarb with an acidic rinse such as ACV, lemon or distilled white vinegar to avoid damage.

I won't lie, the smell in the shower initially was not great but it faded and when I came to dry my hair it went completely. I then used a little coconut oil on the ends and for a little shine over the lengths.  My scalp was still in a state of bliss 3 days later which was usually the time I want to shave it all off. 

I had heard worrying accounts of 'transition' but I think I got off fairly lightly with little grease however this might be because I regularly went 4 days without washing my hair (because the shampoo would irritate my poor head) so perhaps it had less to do. I did get a bit of a waxy residue and I'm reading that I need to adjust the amount of bicarb of soda so I'm in the midst of that currently. In the meantime to banish the waxy feel I've been doing an egg and lemon mask and honestly it's a miracle worker! Mix an egg yolk with the juice of a lemon, put it on your hair after you've wet it with as cold water as you can tolerate, leave it on for 10 mins then rinse throughly with cold water.

Don't use this mask warm or you'll end up with an omelette on your head. I'm not kidding.

I alternate ACV with a honey and lemon rinse which is lovely. Smells nice too. I've got some essential oils on order to make a spray to give my hair a nice smell because it doesn't smell of anything!

So I'm 60 days in and my hair looks healthy and strong, my scalp looks great (even allowing for the day I made an omelette on my head) and I find I look at food in a different way now. For example there is an avocado in the kitchen and I've heard it does wonders as a conditioner...