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There's a game Gwen likes to play. I tell her "You don't like X", where X is something she obviously likes, and she bursts into gales of laughter and replies, "I DO like X" or some such contradiction.

On the way home, she played it with me -- she told me things _I_ didn't like -- and I turned the tables by agreeing with her instead of contradicting her. She thought this was HILARIOUS.

I thought it fascinating the list of things she came up with that I don't like. They include:

- Books
- Ice cream
- Birthday cake
- Wine
- Beer
- Scotch
- My glasses
- Teaching
- Doing my hair
- Myself

And then she tried to trick me by throwing in "You don't like potatoes", and she laughed and laughed when I contradicted her.

But then she thought of something that was SO preposterous and SO far from the truth that she could hardly bring herself to even say it, she was laughing too hard at the idea that this could be something I didn't like. Finally she managed to get it out:

"You don't like me."

(Of course I agreed with her completely and said she was the worst human being that I knew.)

I love that this concept is so far from the truth that she could barely even conceive of it being true.
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One of the most surprisingly delightful things about parenting is being able to anticipate your child in the little things.

Sainsbury's is have a promotion whereby every 5GBP you spend, you can get a two-pack of Lego character cards. Gwen was blissfully unaware of this until we got one one day, and now she thinks they are the best thing ever, especially since some of her school mates, both in her class and the two classes above, are collecting them. By the time the end of the weekend had rolled around, she'd managed to collect 14 of them, two being duplicates. She brought them to school today and on the way home was all delighted to tell me how she'd given her duplicates away to friends and received a duplicate in turn from a third.

These are just little flimsy cards. They are going to get scattered about the floor. She also has a couple packages of Trolls cards, and two cards from some yogurt fruit snacks thing. All these cards. So I decided what she really needed was some of those plastic sleeves you can put in a three ring binder, to put her cards in.

Bizarrely enough, I couldn't find any sleeves with slots of the right size either at Ryman's or WH Smith's when I stopped in this morning after dropping hr off at school, so I ended up having to order the sleeves online. They'll arrive probably by the weekend, and I figured I'd take her out shopping to pick out a fancy binder, maybe one she could decorate or something, or maybe one already decorated.

On the way home, she told me that F. had a binder for HIS Lego cards, with pockets for all the cards! And maybe someday SHE could get a binder TOO. A Lego binder like HIS! (This is when I realize, oh, yeah, that makes sense -- I bet Sainsbury's supplies a binder where you can see which ones you're missing and see which you've collected, etc., and probably they could be ordered online, or perhaps even purchased at the store, that makes a lot of sense). I had intended to keep my plan a surprise for her until the pocket sleeves arrived, but I didn't have the heart not to indulge her. And she was THRILLED. At first she wanted a Lego one just like F.'s, but I explained to her that I'd already bought the sleeves and that I thought she'd enjoy more getting to pick out a special one all on her own that would be different from everyone else's, and she decided that we should go look and see what the options were, and if she found one she loved, we'd get it, and if we didn't, we'd see about getting a Lego one online.

~3GBP later, we headed home, one proud owner over a very cute pink binder with an owl in a tree on the front.

These things. They're so little. I find it strange that I sometimes feel like my parents were too good at it, because they were good parents effortlessly. So I never saw them work at it, I never had insight into all the machinations that go into making a happy childhood. So I'm always afraid that I'm missing it, that there's something I should be doing that I'm not. (And then I look at Gwen and how delighted she appears to be with her life, and the fears quiet down again. But eventually their voices grow louder and louder.) But sometimes, I get it right. Sometimes, I can do effortless. I can buy the Dalmation puppy purse as a Christmas present. I can get an even better Pikachu than what she'd actually asked Santa for.

I hope someday she looks back on a childhood that was as effortlessly happy as mine.
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When I found out that G.'s school class had 11 boys and 3 girls, I was a bit worried at the gender disparity, and wondered how it would play out. (I am also still not entirely happy with the "girls must wear skirts" uniform policy, but I am willing to shut up about it so long as SHE seems happy with it.)

Friday was the last day of Lent term, and since it's already my Easter break and there was no after school club, I picked her up at 3:15 with the rest of the kids. It was a glorious day and when we got to the cathedral she wanted to run around on the grass for awhile, so I figured why not. Then M1 came along with his mom, and she convinced him to come and run around for awhile too. Then M2 came along with his parents and little brother, and joined in. And then JK came along with HIS mom, and we all shrugged our shoulders and said "Well, I guess it means we don't need to take them to a playground!" The four of them spent about half an hour running around, running races and rolling down the hill, and at one point, G. shouted, "Boys, come!", gestured, and ran off. And every single one of them followed her.

I guess I don't really need to worry about Gwen feeling cowed, or learning problematic gender norms, or anything like that. (Though I'll admit I heard an echo of myself in her, that peremptory "G., come!" that I use when we're, e.g., traveling and I need her with me, NOW. So, I guess my sometimes-strict parenting style is actually a good thing, because it gives her a clear model of female leadership. :) )


Mar. 5th, 2017 01:29 pm
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This morning, Gwen got up some time before us (as usually happens on Sundays), and I vaguely heard her busily occupying herself. When I finally woke up around 9:30, I beckoned her to come in and cuddle, and she did, announcing, "I deserve a new cuddly toy! I tidied my room and I tidied the bathroom!" (Note: Tidying the bathroom was entirely her own idea, I had never even suggested it as a possible option.)

We've decided that a sticker chart reward system for big chores like tidying a bathroom should be instituted. Because that does deserve a cuddly toy...but not just for doing it once.


Yesterday there was a birthday party at Adventure Valley, a big petting zoo/playground/soft play/animal farm/etc. place. Most of the activities are free once you've paid entrance (and if you're there for a birthday party, the host has paid your entry!), but a few cost an extra pound or two, primarily the motorized things. While we were waiting for the party to get started, Gwen and some others discovered the motorized diggers, and she came over and asked for a pound. I told her we weren't going to be doing the things that cost money because there would be plenty to do with the birthday party. So a few minutes later, she marches up to T.'s mom, Lucy, and asks Lucy for a pound! And Lucy gave her one!

I don't know whether to be mortified, amused, or proud.
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....except not quite.

One thing I love about teaching is getting to revisit old favorites from my own undergrad days. When my 2nd years last year indicated they wanted to do some philosophy of math this year, I knew exactly what book to go to -- Stewart Shapiro's Thinking About Mathematics, which I had as a textbook in Mike Byrd's grad-level philosophy of math course. (This will not be the first time that I'm teaching undergrads things I either got in a grad course or have previously taught in a grad course. I'm working under the assumption that if I don't tell them this is hard, they won't know. So far, it's working beautifully.)

We're starting this topic next week in seminar, so today I spent the day curled up reading a book and taking notes. It feels like being an undergrad again, the entire process is one that I don't often have to do any more (particularly this year, I have rarely had to do any teach prep earlier than about 1-1.5 hours in advance of when I teach. Reading something almost a week in advance and taking notes is uber-preparation for me!)

One thing I love about teaching from books I used as an undergrad is seeing all my notes from that era. The name/date in this book is from almost exactly 15 years ago -- January 2002. It's not as heavily annotated as some, but there is one page where the entire margin is covered in a rant against intuitionism:


And in another place you can tell from the non-verbal notes alone the strength of 20-year-old me's realism:


Sometimes I still agree with 20-year-old me's comments, sometimes my views have tempered a bit over time.

It does feel very much like being an undergrad again, except not in one very specific way. Poor Gwen had a cough yesterday that developed into an awful chesty phlegmy thing overnight, and then woke up crying "my ear hurts!" and a bit later "my heart hurts!" so we took a trip down to the doctor in the morning. The diagnosis was viral, so plenty of rest prescribed. Since I'm still feeling under the weather myself, we've both spent most of the day in bed watching movies (and look over, I think she's now on to her second nap).

I think 20-year-old me would've been pretty pleased to find out that 15 years later, I not only get to read the same things that enthused and inspired me then, but they still enthuse and inspire me now, and not only that, I get to touch them as they were taught to me, and not only that, I get to do it while cuddled up in bed, sick kid in one arm, cat in the other. Okay, she probably would've preferred the kid to not be sick, but if the choice is between sick kid and no kid, I'll take the sick kid any day of the week.
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Gwen is a remarkably guileless creature -- thank goodness, for if she were naturally sly, we'd all be in BIG trouble -- but there are a few times where something small deep down in me has wondered if in fact she is actually incredibly full of guile, and is just very good at concealing it. Is she actually really manipulating us by the straightforwardness of her innocence?

About a month ago, she managed to scam me. Context: Gwen has enough blankets on her bed that if she gets up to the use the toilet, she needs help getting tucked back in. I do so grudgingly, because I really really really want her to learn how to get out of bed without dumping the blankets on the floor, so that she can get back in and pull them up herself. But she's not in general allowed to ask for random cuddles. She gets a cuddle 5 minutes after I put her to bed (or, if Neffie or Goldie is on my lap in five minutes, she'll get the cuddle when I am next free to come upstairs), and if I am already in bed myself but my light is still on, she's allowed to come and lie in bed with me for a few minutes. Otherwise, I am not at home to the stalling technique known as "mummy, can I have another cuddle?" With that background, this exchange happened:

G., whispering loudly: "Mummy, can you come tuck me back in?"
Me, sitting on the couch downstairs: "All right, I'll be up in a moment."
*goes upstairs a few minutes later*
G., whispering: "I don't exactly want you to tuck me in, I just want a cuddle."

Bait and switch! She knew if she asked for a cuddle, I'd tell her she should be asleep and therefore I'm not coming up. So instead she lured me up with a request for something she knew I would come for...


Today is Joel's birthday, so yesterday we went out shopping for a gift for him. I told her to think about things he likes, and try to get something that he would like. Her first suggestion was beer and books, but then we passed the toy stall at the market where we usually buy birthday presents for her classmates, and she said "I could get daddy A TOY!" And not just any toy, she could get him a soft, cuddly toy! I probed a bit, asking if she really thought this was what daddy would like, and what would he do with it? "He can cuddle with it! He can cuddle it any time that he wants! He'll love it." So we got it, and she then refused to let it be put in a bag, and instead cuddled it close and carried it home, and occasionally referred to it as "my lambie" even though she most often caught and corrected herself to "daddy's lambie" before I could.

We wrapped it up in prep for giving it to him at supper tonight, and last night I warned Joel that she had primary choice in the present, and that she had picked something out specially for him specifically, something that she put a lot of thought into and that she was sure would be the present he'd want best, just so that he would be properly primed to give the correct response upon opening it. (Which he managed to do without laughing.) Gwen was full of all sorts of helpful ideas about what he could do with it, though she never quite came out and suggested that he give the lamb into her keeping and care. Lambie is now tucked up in our bed, awaiting Joel to come home so he can cuddle with her at night.

Even now, we are still uncertain if Gwen got Joel a birthday gift, or if she was incredibly, deviously, enormously clever and got herself a birthday gift. (Joel says to test this theory, he wants to get her a complex mitre saw for her 6th birthday).

growing up

Feb. 5th, 2017 05:01 pm
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Yesterday, Gwen casually asked, "Mum, can you text Lauren [D.'s mom] and ask if I can come over today or tomorrow to play with play-doh?" Despite prompting, she hasn't yet gotten the concept of waiting for invitations. But Lauren and I had talked a few weeks previously about getting the girls together this weekend, and D. has been to our place more often than vice versa lately, so I didn't feel too bad putting the proposal to her, and Lauren promptly replied with an invite for this afternoon.

When it was time to go, Gwen suggested that perhaps this was a time in which she was grown up enough that I could walk her down to the end of our street and help her cross the street, and then she could walk the rest of the way herself. D.'s house is across the main road and then one block away; from the end of our street I can see D.'s house. And once before, before Christmas, Gwen had made a quick run over there to make a delivery and then came right back, while I stood at the end of our street and watched. Gilesgate is just too busy for me to let her try to cross it unsupervised; but if I'm there to judge when it's safe to go, then she's allowed to cross it without me accompanying her.

I love that with so many independence things like this, she's the one who takes the initiative. She was the one who suggested one day that she was old enough to be left at home alone while I ran to the store (a trip which takes about 10 minutes). She's the one who suggests that I walk up the stairs from the river to the bridge while she takes the ramp route, and that we meet at the top of the bridge. She's the one who has come up with the idea of me walking on the other side of the street from her.

It means I'm doing a good job raising a strong, confident child.
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Over lunch, today.

G: What's this song called?

Me: 'Ocean Soul'.

G: What's a soul?

Me: It is the part of you that makes you you and not someone else.

G: I don't want to be me.

Me: Why not? What would you like to change?

G: My face. My face looks funny.

Me: How would you like to change your face? Would you like it to be green?

G: No. I want it to look like yours. I want to look like you.

Me: Do you know, the older you get, the more you look like me? Or rather, the more you like like I did at your age. You know what that means?

G: When I grow up, my face won't look funny. It'll look like yours.


Very interesting.


There's a stomach bug (or two) going around school right now (in addition to chicken pox), and I was silly enough to think that having vomited last Saturday morning and then being fine since that she was safe. Alas, we went out to eat last night for Joel's birthday, and our dinner was shortly curtailed by the arrival of more puke -- after which she was immediately better, spritely and sparkly and skipping all the way home. Still, she woke up once in the middle of the night to use the toilet, and when I went in to see if she was okay, she told me, "I don't want to be me any more". Poor kid, at that point, I think she was just trying to say "I don't want to be sick any more", and thus that this conversation and the one above are disjoint. But still interesting.
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What, you say, no? Because I have barely written here at all in the last month and a half? Pish. Surely I must have. But if you insist...


So the thing about going to school in uniform is that the few uniform free days they get are Big Things. There were two, last term. One, Christmas Jumper Charity Fundraising Day, they were allowed to swap school cardigans for Christmas sweaters in exchange for a few pounds, which went to charity. The other was the class Christmas party.

The class Christmas party happened to be on the same day as the Purple Class Mums were going to go out for their Christmas Do (yes, the capitals are all necessary). (And those of you on FB know all about the angst of the Christmas Do). T.'s mom invited Gwen to spend the night at their place so that I wouldn't have to worry about childcare, which meant she'd go home from school with them.

Gwen, when confronted with the fact that (a) she needed to pack her overnight bag, including sleeping clothes and (b) she was free to wear WHATEVER SHE WANTED to the class Christmas party, promptly decided that the appropriate solution was to wear her purple cow footed (and hooded!) PJs to the party. "Then I won't have to change for bed!" she told me pragmatically. I explained to her that other children might be wearing pretty party dresses and things like that, and that this was a fancy dress party, not a Fancy Dress party (yes, capitals still required). Nevertheless, since wearing the cow PJs to her own birthday party, and later on to another child's birthday party (which was Fancy Dress. Amongst the little girls present, there were three Elsas, two Annas, one Sleeping Beauty, and one purple cow butterfly. I adore my daughter), she has become convinced that purple cow PJs are the height in party fashion.

T.'s mom, when we met up that evening at the Do, looked at me bemusedly and told me "Gwen is out of this world."
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Like many people, I grew up in the suburbs in a neighborhood with plenty of other children my age nearby, relative freedom as to where and with whom I went, and given that my mom did home day-care for a number of years, our house was general the place where the kids hung out anyway.

One thing I'd always vaguely worried about having kids and NOT living in the suburbs AND not having a car was whether that ubiquity of play would even be possible, or if I'd forever find myself scheduling play dates weeks in advance and giving up all or part of a day to ferry my child across town by bus, etc.

And, yeah, that still happens. We make a point of ensuring that there are fixed days when friends come over or when she goes to friend's -- even if it means that we spend an hour on public transport to get there and another hour to get back. (We didn't realize H. lived so far away when we invited her to come over and play; it wasn't a problem for her parents, since they have a car, but then when they reciprocated the invitation, it was a bit of a trek for Joel to get her out there.) And with D. living across the street we can make plans somewhat more flexibly -- we can knock on her door en route to the forest, for example, or I can text her parents on Friday to make plans for Sunday. But this morning Gwen asked if D. could come over or if she could go over to D.'s in the afternoon, way less notice than we usually have and with the ubiquity of birthday parties I knew the chance was high she might not be available but I texted Lauren anyway to see if she would be free after Gwen and I got back from the new house (I'd promised her we'd go over there so she could play at the park there for awhile. Especially as it was turning out to be one of those gloriously sunny fall days!). No answer, but I had told Gwen not to get her hopes up, so we were okay with this -- and she was still excited about going to the playground.

And then whom did we meet coming across Framwellgate Bridge? D. and her parents and little brother! They were on their way home after a family morning out, and Gwen was begging for D. to come to the playground with her. Within two minutes I'd relieved Lauren and Oliver of one of their children for the rest of the afternoon and the girls were skipping off hand in hand. Gwen got to show D. her new bedroom, they played at the park for 45 min., and then we came back to the old house where they had hot chocolate and spent at least half an hour upstairs pretending to take naps, and then colored until Oliver came by around 4:30 to bring her home for supper.

I very much like that things like this can happen WITHOUT buckets full of advanced planning. I love living in a small enough city where you can run into a friend downtown, head off in one direction to a park, then walk back the other direction home, and still have plenty of time to play at both places.
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...and it's amazing.

Yesterday morning, a schoolfriend's mom picked Gwen up and took her and N. to T.'s house, where both Gwen and N. had been invited to spend the night. Gwen has been asking to go on or to have someone come over for a sleep over for six months or so, so she was SO EXCITED. Monday night involved packing an overnight bag (I got to decide whether I should send her to the sleepover with a "Computability in Europe" bag from the Azores or a "Indian Conference on Logic and Applications" bag from Delhi. We opted for the former; it was a better size.)

Mid afternoon yesterday T.'s mom texted us a few pictures of the girls playing outside (an amazingly sunny day whereas it's been mostly rainy for the last week or so), and it was so weird when 5pm rolled around and I didn't have to rush off to get her from wherever. Instead, I hung out at my office until Joel was done working, and then he met me there and we went out for supper. There's a pub/hotel on North Road that has been recommended to us for its food, so we decided to try it. We split a partridge and pear starter, and then I had venison with gin-soaked blackberries and girolles, and he had a sort of "exploded fish pie" (as he described it) -- all very good. We didn't stay for dessert because they needed our table for a reservation, so instead we went over to the Elm Tree because we know they have good sticky toffee pudding. I was too full for dessert, so I just had a G&T instead. We had a lovely time lingering over it, and then walked home.

We were home before 9pm. We are such losers. :)

Joel then showed me a whole bunch of websites selling skirting boards, and finished up his taxes. As he commented "we are old and boring". But as I replied, "we are old and boring TOGETHER." I would rather be old and boring with him than young and exciting on my own.

This morning, I didn't have to set my alarm. I slept until nearly 9am and was still out at the office by 9:20.

Late in the afternoon T.'s mom texted that the girls were covered in mud and picking conkers, and that she'd feed them and then bring them home. When it's just me, if I leave the office at 16:55, I'm home by 17:05. It's amazing.

I could get used to this.
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The worst part about school? School holidays...which OF COURSE do not match up with academic holidays. When Gwen was at nursery, nursery was open every day that the university was open, with the exception of the first May bank holiday (I never understood why, of the two May bank holidays, academic staff, including nursery staff, got both of them, off, but faculty ONLY GOT ONE OF THEM. Plz explain to me how is fair?), so we didn't have to worry about whether it was term time or out of term time.

School, however, has this dreaded week called half-term. Or in the case of the Choristers, a dreaded week and a half.

I failed at adulting when it came to advanced plans, and about two weeks in advance of it found me texting the rest of the moms in Gwen's class going "so....what exactly do you guys do for child care during half term?" Of course, most of them either have at least one stay-at-home parent or don't live in Durham so their options don't apply. But one of them is AMAZING, and said "I could take Gwen Tuesday or Wednesday for the day, if you want. Or, I could do both days and she could spend the night." And then invited the third girl in the class over, so for about two weeks now Gwen has been SO EXCITED about the prospect of having a "girl's night out" with T. and N. It'll be her first sleep-over, despite the fact she's been asking for one for six months or so now.

But that still left five days.

Gwen's passport expires in December, which means we need to get it renewed before we go to the US for Christmas, which means a trip to London, which means taking her out of school for a day -- unless we could do it during half-term. But given MY teaching schedule, we couldn't find any day that I was free from teaching or could reliably be sure I'd be back in time for an afternoon class. So in the end, Joel picked Gwen up when school let out on Wednesday, and the two of them went down that evening for a Thursday morning appointment. That took up all day, and also meant I didn't have to figure out how to get her from school at 15:15 when it was the day of the first Board of Studies meeting of term, which generally lasts from 14:00-17:00.

Another mother texted me that St. Oswald's (another school in town) runs a holiday club that her two children go to, one in Gwen's class and one in an older class whom Gwen has made friends with. I sent them an email, with no response, and finally called them about a week in advance. They could take her Monday, Thursday, and Friday.

So that left today, when I had Latin reading group in the morning, a tutorial in the afternoon, and then a meeting with a student. Normally, for one tutorial, I'd bite the bullet and bring her with, but this one was the first of term, which has a somewhat different dynamic. So I sent out an email to three of my colleagues -- one who is a mother, one who shares the office next to mine, and one who is the aunt of one of Gwen's best friends whom I happened to be scheduled to babysit Wednesday night... -- and thankfully "Auntie Liz" said Gwen could spend the hour in her office.

So today, Gwen played in my office for about an hour, and then watched CBeebies with the headphones on for 1.5 hours while I skyped into reading group; then we had lunch at the pub together (chips and beans, mushy peas, and blackcurrant cordial); then I settled her in Liz's office chair with headphones and my laptop and 101 Dalmations on youtube. Apparently she was good company, and she then happily colored on my whiteboard for another hour until my student came, at which time I set her up with the remainder of the movie.

By the time my student left, it was about 15:30 and the most appropriate thing to do was go and meet Thomas and Gemma at the pub. Because if there is one thing I have won at in terms of parenting, it is having trained my child to entertain herself while I drink beer. She adores Thomas, and loves seeing Gemma when she can, and while I had a pint and a half she drank another glass of blackcurrant (with a bendy straw!) and didn't even tease for more when she was done with it. Instead, she sat nicely with us for awhile, and then ended up taking my phone over to another table and sat by herself, quietly, playing games. When she grew bored with that, she took her stuffed animals to a couch and lay down to "rest", and for a moment I almost thought she'd actually fallen asleep. (And indeed she was tired enough that I promised to carry her part of the way home.)

You do what you gotta do...
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I present you with this, which was in Gwen's school bag when I rifled through it last night.


I would bet good money that this came about because she was asked to write her name.


There is a lovely story about Joel when he was in grade school, regarding the week's spelling words. They were asked to write sentences containing all of the spelling words. He asked if it were acceptable to have more than one word in the same sentence, and the teacher said Yes.

His sentence? "These are our spelling words for this week: [list]."

His teacher was not amused.
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So, Gwen's been at school a week, and I'm still happy with our choice. She races off every morning, and almost every evening I've been met with a tantrum about going home (part of it is she doesn't want to leave; part of it is that school is a lot more tiring than nursery and she is often SO tired by the time I get her. So there are tears.) Monday night we had our first parent-teacher (group) meeting, and we got to hear a bit more about what school is like there. That day, the reception class (kindergarten; Gwen's) and the pre-school (nursery) class had picked apples from the school apple tries; they counted them, and compared numbers and amounts, and combined buckets and counted again, and cut them open, and baked with them, and generally had what seems to be a very awesome and very hands on learning experience. Yesterday they had French class. (Or maybe they didn't: It was on the schedule, but when I asked her about it, the story I got involved the teacher not being able to teach because he didn't know anyone's names? I'm not sure...) This morning on our walk over, we saw ahead of us a matching uniform and it turned out to be one of her classmates; she yelled his name and ran to catch up with him so we could walk the rest of the way together.

I get a detailed recitation of what was offered for lunch, as well as who ate what, every day. She often has received a sticker for some good behavior or other -- and for Gwen, there is no higher praise than a sticker on her shirt. (I know I've either done a good job or am clearly in need of something to perk me up when she gives me a sticker "for working hard"). Tuesday, she was sent home with a book, and before we could even leave school, she insisted on sitting down and reading it to me. I have no idea if it was memory or reading or a combination, but this is the first time she's ever done that -- and she point to each word as she said it and read every single thing perfectly.

They get homework every day -- phonics two days a week, reading two days a week, and math one day. Most of the time, she's already done the work during after care; for example, coming up with rhyming pairs, or a letter sheet with a specific letter that she should copy (and usually a picture of something starting with that letter, which I encourage her to color, because, hey, who doesn't like coloring!)

I can already tell that my biggest issue with homework is learning to treat it as a means to an end rather than an end in itself. See, I never had homework as a kid -- or rather, EVERYTHING I had was homework. The idea of getting assignments that you then worked on in your own time, outside of class, was SUCH a novelty to me when I went off to university; I felt exactly like Gwen did when she told me last Wednesday "I have homework! I've never had homework before!" It's easy to treat homework as an end: To ask her what she got, and to ensure she has it done before bed, so that it can be taken dutifully back the next day.

Except then we get a "pick and mix" math homework, with six different activities that we are encouraged to do with our child, and I find myself stymied. On the one hand, I feel a strong desire to work through them systematically and ensure that some evidence of our doing so gets back to the teacher. On the other hand, I look at the types of things they're asking, and realize either we're already doing them or we've done them in the past, but awhile ago and she's moved beyond that or we're doing much more interesting things already. For example, we've been doing a lot of addition lately: First, it was different combinations of two numbers that equal the same number. Next it was addition of zero -- which was a hoot because at first she simply didn't believe me when I told her you could add zero to eight and get eight. For awhile she refused to believe that you could add zero to anything; then she thought that adding zero to anything made it eight; and THEN it clicked and she realized that n+0=n for any n (up to and including omega). After she figured that out, I started asking about 0+n, and when she immediately gave me back n, we started doing m+n and n+m, until she was satisfied that addition is commutative. During waffle making Sunday morning, I heard Joel going over fractions with her, and on our way home today, she picked four blackberries and correctly divined that split evenly between the two of us, we'd each get two, so we talked a little bit about division and its relations to fractions.

So, I look at some of the activities and I have to remind myself that these are a means, not an end. The end is what counts, and if we achieve that end by our own devices, that's ok.

(I also have to say: For a nursery that does not consider itself a preschool at all -- unlike the chorister school's nursery which they've this year started calling preschool instead -- even though they do sort of follow the early years curriculum, the university nursery did a FANTASTIC job of providing the kids with an educational foundation. Gwen's numeracy and literacy seem to be way above where they're starting out at here.)
aryanhwy: (Default)
...and the other parent will understand.

Gwen has been in school for a week and already received two birthday party invitations (leading me to post an anguished screed on FB about WHY OH WHY DO PEOPLE PUT PHONE NUMBERS INSTEAD OF EMAILS FOR RSVP SO THAT I AM FORCED TO CALL STRANGERS ON THE PHONE JUST SO MY DAUGHTER CAN GO TO A PARTY and then found out that most people put their phone numbers down expecting people to text them. Huh. When did this become the convention? How was I supposed to know this convention?), so today we went out party shopping. One invitation was a dinosaur and the other Star Wars, so that gave us a pretty good guide. Gwen found a squishable rubber triceratops which roars when you press a button, which seems cruel to give to the child of someone I don't know, but she thinks it's the perfect choice. We then found a "Star Patroller" kit, with a mask and a few other things, which seemed suitably Star Wars ish.

In the afternoon, D. came over to play, and Gwen showed her the gifts (and allowed her to press the button on the dinosaur once, and then told her rather snottily that they shouldn't press it any more as it had "batt'ries" and we didn't want to wear them out). I was in the kitchen painting when Gwen ran in with a handle of chips and asked "what are these for?" I had never seen them before, so I asked where they came from, and that's when it transpired that she had opened up the package, cut all the plastic ties, and gotten the toys out. She did get a bit of a horrified scolding at that, but I'm sure I can find a way to put the pieces back in, maybe tie them down with yarn, and I'm sure the other kid won't mind and his mom will understand...
aryanhwy: (Default)
The process of experiencing primary school is fascinating, especially when I've never done it myself first-hand. You can expect a lot of chronicles of it...

Today, I learned that Gwen's favoritest part of the day was...P.E. Wait. WHOSE kid is she? She was desolate to find out she needs to wait until Monday to have P.E. again. (This is good. The shoes I ordered are too large. This will give me time to order her a new pair before she needs them again!)

Also, she had homework. "I've never had homework before. I LOVE homework". (Long may that last). One nice part about the in-school after-care is that usually she will do her homework there. Today, she had to think of words that rhymed with "cat" and "bat", and "fish" and "dish". She got six for the first and four for the second before we came home but insisted on sitting with me to do more. She also volunteered the rhyming pair "cake" and "bake", so she wrote them on the sheet too.

School still seems to be the bestest thing ever. Long may that be true.
aryanhwy: (widget)
I think I was more nervous than her; I woke up around 6:20 and had trouble falling back asleep. It's just...such a big step and even though I know we chose the right school, I still wonder about the consequences of it. I guess that's parenting in a nutshell.

I was weirdly excited to join in that cliched tradition of the "first day of school" on the doorstep:


Just as I was taking the picture, a jogger ran across the street; she saw us, stopped, came back and offered to take a picture of both of us. "I know what a special moment this is," she said. She snapped a few, and then continued with her run. I thought that was really sweet.

Gwen basically bounced all the way to school, and when I picked her up, I was greeted with a very loud, from the other room, "I don't WANT to go home!" It took quite a bit of convincing.


On the way home, she said over and over, "I LOVE school". I only got little snippets and vignettes, but she outlined what everyone had for lunch, and let me tell you, having a little uniformed, pig-tailed girl tell you in a strong British accent that "I had cake and custard for pudding" -- it just slays me. The entire experience is SO BRITISH.

I was surprised at how little information we got in advance of her starting. I knew the term dates from having looked them up on the school website, but I sort of thought at some point I'd get an email along the lines of "School starts on [date]. It starts at [time] and ends at [time]. Your child should bring with you [supplies]." Uh, nope. We did get a term card (a 16 page schedule for the first term) with a generic school-day schedule in it, Monday night -- and suddenly looking at the schedule which said "8:30-9:00 Form Period", I was second guessing myself as to when school started. When she went for her visit in June, we were supposed to bring her in around 8:45, and I assumed that was normal starting time. Eventually, I decided, eh. If I bring her in late for her first day of school, the world won't end and it'll be an amusing story! Nevertheless, this morning I was glad that as we were walking down the final sidewalk, a car passed us with a purple-cardiganed child in it, so I knew we couldn't be too late. :)

There are 14 children in her class, of which three of them are girls (!) and three of them are named James (!!). Sadly, one of the little girls who was at the sample day in June, and whom Gwen rather fell in love with, and had been looking forward so much to seeing again, appears to have gone to a different school. :( Gwen seems rather resistant to the idea of making friends with any of her other classmates, but did tell me about a friend she made in Silver Class (the next age up). I'm glad that they have enough interaction between classes that friendships like this are possible!

On the way home, we lucked out and were walking by nursery just as D. was walking home with her dad and little brother (who still goes there), so they got to compare uniforms and school notes, and walk home together. I'm glad. D. is going to the school that a whole bunch of other kids from nursery are going to, and I do worry a bit that friendships amongst the kids at St. Margaret's will eclipse the ones made at nursery. I just need to make a point of regularly inviting them over for play dates.

Leveling up

Sep. 4th, 2016 09:12 pm
aryanhwy: (Default)
In the UK, there is no lower age limit below which it is illegal to leave a child at home alone (unlike in some other countries); the only condition is that it be safe for them to be so.

Today, after a 2 mile bike ride (to B&Q and back) and a 2.5 hour walk (where we got about 1.8kg of blackberries), at the prospect of going to the grocery store with me, Gwen asked me, "When can we try that thing where I stay at home all by myself?" and I figured this was probably as good a time as any. I was gone for 10 minutes and she was just fine.

But before I left, I reminded her that she should not do anything of the things that she's not supposed to do when I am around. "Like eating blackberries", she volunteered. "And telling lies." And now you know exactly what she did yesterday afternoon to net her a 5 minute time out in her room before we could make the popsicles.
aryanhwy: (Default)
Growing up, we didn't have bought popsicles in the house (except one glorious summer when dad got a box of Mr. Freezies cheaply and we feasted all summer long). Instead, we had popsicle forms that we used to make our own. Usually they were Kool-Aid based, but sometimes they'd be just apple juice or orange juice. Occasionally we were really lucky and got to stick containers of yogurt in the freezer and have frozen yogurt!

Gwen is the beneficiary of similar tendencies, except that yogurt is the usual choice rather than the exception. This weekend and two weekends ago we went blackberrying, and I figured we could put some of the berries on ordinary yogurt. Instead, we ended up making some gourmet popsicles!
Ingredients: Plain Greek yogurt, honey, and blackberries. Method: Layer the yogurt, honey, and blackberries. Freeze.

I sort of feel like these make me seem way more crunchy than I actually am.
aryanhwy: (Default)


This pretty much sums up all that is Gwen. It says everything about her that I cannot put into words. She is growing into being an awesome person, and I love her so much.


aryanhwy: (Default)

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