Thursday, December 20, 2012

Homeschool preschool

This year, I had hoped Peanut could to go to a preschool for three or four days a week. I wanted her to have some structure in her days and the experience of being outside the home and in a learning environment with her peers so the transition to "big school" would not come as such a shock.

Unfortunately, given our move, this was not going to happen. I did find her a school, and she will be attending, but it is only two days a week, and the classroom set up is so fluid they don't even have a designated time for lunch. It isn't what I had intended at all!

So I have an alternate plan.

Peanut will attend two days of school a week. She will associate with her peers, learn the realities if a hierarchical playground pecking order, and gain further confidence in being away from her family for hours at a stretch.

But the remaining three "school" days a week, we'll be homeschooling, complete with a schedule that involves set times for snacks! It's the best I can do in the position we are in, and hopefully it will be sufficient to set Peanut up for success.

We'll do literacy and numeracy every day (even preschool days, they don't seem to do much at school...) then on non-school days, we'll have PT and science one day, geography and art the next, then finally history and music. I know that sounds very scheduled, and it's meant to, but it's a schedule for me only. The actual lessons will be play based, last around half an hour (or more... or less... depending on interest level!) and start with provocations. I not a fan of piles of busy-work worksheets, I don't think they actually help much with retention. If I have my way, Peanut will barely realise she's "doing school".

I'm excited to start early in the new year, and no doubt I'll write about it here, so feel free to follow along!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Preparing kids for the move

I have a two year old and a three year old.

Thus far, they have been unfailing excited about the upcoming move, even though it has involved giving away their trampoline, throwing out three tricycles (who needs five bikes for two kids? After all, they can only ride one at once. It was getting crazy.) and leaving the schools they love and their first real self-chosen friends.

So how did we do it? How have we kept the whole thing positive? Here are my tips and tricks:

Start early. Many guides advise keeping the information about the move to from the children until just a few weeks before. I wholeheartedly disagree -- this is not the kind of thing to spring on your family. We began talking about the move about six months ago. There is a lot of administrative work to be done to move a whole family to a different state, especially when that move is being arranged through work, and all their additional layers of bureaucracy. This meant plenty of discussion between my husband and I, and if we hadn't introduced the idea to the children early on, they would have figured something was up and possibly worried unnecessarily.

Use props and play. When we first started talking about the move, I made the girls a book. It was just paper stapled together, and drawn with markers and crayons, and was very quick and simple to put together.  It used the girls names, and outlined what would happen during the move in story format. You know, the usual:
"Once upon a time there where two little girls called Peanut and Bug, who lived in a big house with their Mummy and Daddy and dogs and fish. One day, Daddy's job moved to Sydney, and so the whole family decided to move too. 
Removalists came to the house and packed everything that Peanut and Bug and Mummy and Daddy owned into boxes, then put them in a big truck. Then Mummy and Daddy and Peanut and Bug and the dogs and fish got into their cars, and followed the big truck on a long drive to Sydney. They were lucky and stayed the night in a fancy hotel. 
Then the next day the removalists unpacked all their things in the new house. Because Peanut and Bug were such a big help during the move, they were allowed to sleep in the same bedroom at their lovely new house!"
Then we brought out the Tonka trucks, and the girls spent the morning packing the dolls house into the truck and moving it around the playroom.

The story, written with their names in, and then the concrete modelling of the move really helped their understanding, and allowed me to identify and clear up any misconceptions they may have had about the move.

Show them the new house. This is easy if you are moving locally, but we're moving interstate. So when Dad went to the open house he took plenty of photos. We added these to the real estate agent photos, and regularly scroll through these on the computer. We have shown the girls their new room, their bathroom and the courtyard. They know the new house has stairs, and that we won't be able to play on the grass-out-the-front anymore, as there isn't any - it's a road. All these things help to manage expectations, and they feel familiar with the property before they have even set foot in the place. I also talk up the positives: "Look, this garden bed is empty, will you help me to choose the flowers for it? We can plant them together." and "Wow, that looks like a great corner for your art table! What do you think?"

We've also been cruising the neighbourhood on Google Street View finding the best route to the library, pointing out the new sushi shop and looking at the supermarket where we've ordered the Christmas ham. The girls are excited to arrive and see it all in person! (I don't know how I'm going to explain the shop-with-the-pole-dancing-ladies-painted on though - small steps. I keep having reminders that we're moving to the middle of a proper big city.)

Find them matching activities. Peanut currently does playschool and swimming lessons, so I have placed a great deal of importance on finding her matching activities in our new location. She will still be attending a preschool two days a week, and she will swim too. But we are adding dancing lessons as a reaction to living in a small house, much further from our local park - there will be limited space to groove in the house, and she does love an exuberant, flinging boogie. (Different to flinging boogers, thank goodness. That's the two year old's domain.)

Introduce the new school early. To ease nerves (hers and mine) I dragged the whole family on a six hour round trip to attend Peanut's new school's open day. This allowed her to meet her new teachers, find her way around the playground and classrooms, find and use the toilet (more important that you might imagine - that can be a real source of concern to young kids!) and feel happy and confident about the new school situation. Then, and I think this is vital, she could go back to her old school and tell her current teachers all about it. This allowed them to make all the usual positive mumbles (from trusted adults that aren't a parental unit, and are seen as school experts) about how good it sounds, and how much fun she will have, and how excited they are for her, which really reinforced the message.

Talk talk talk. Every evening I ask the girls if they have any questions. These have ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous (no, we aren't taking the toilet... yes, we have to take the dog.) but it keeps the communication channels open. I must have run through the timeline for the move a thousand times if I have done it once. (Tuesday pack, Wednesday put-it-in-the-truck, Thursday drive, Friday unpack... then Christmas! Yay!) I figure the more we talk, the more they know... and knowledge, in this case, is reassuring.

So that, for what it's worth, are my tips on a happy move with young children. I have two very excited  girls just waiting for the big truck here, happy to discard their trampoline to make it happen, so it's working well for us. I'm off to clean the blinds before we move... until next time!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Great Clutter Clear of 2012

We're onto our second skip bin of pre-move dumpage.

It's very confronting moving from a large house into a tiny cottage. You suddenly have the requirement to assess every item you own for functionality. We've culled considerably.

I've made some questionable choices. Do we need six smallish-but-unstackable plastic cauldrons for Halloween? Undoubtedly! But an exercise bike? Naaaaaahhh...

It's a very virtuous feeling to have a house free of clutter. I've scoured out all the "man-drawers". (Well, except two, a boy does need a dumping-ground, and one upstairs and one downstairs is actually a preventative measure. It gives defined limits to the spread of used batteries, old library cards from other states, locks without keys and keys without locks, and a web of ipod earphones.

Here, Michael McIntyre knows what I mean:

Meanwhile, the mass clear out has been confronting for the children, too.

We had to give away the trampoline. It would have taken up more than half the outside space of the cottage, and it wasn't even particularly large. Luckily we could offload it to a good friend who just moved into the neighbourhood. The gaining and losing daddies made quite the spectacle carrying it off down the middle of the road, and as the three year old watched it go, a little sob or two escaped...

I thought "here we go" (she hadn't reacted negatively to the move at all yet) and knelt down to comfort her. Her bottom lip was quivering, but she was trying to hold it all together. She looked at me searchingly: "Mama, but... I don't WANT to give Daddy away!" Poor kid! Once she realised Daddy would be home again in five minutes, she was totally fine, happily waved goodbye to the trampoline and headed inside to play.

So our house feels empty. We're rattling around inside it, and we're ready to move. Roll on Tuesday!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Refocus. Refresh. Renew.

I've spent the last two years trying to live the life of a country housewife.

As a massive over-reaction to leaving my job to be a full time stay-at-home-mother and homemaker, I threw myself into the role. 

I learnt to bake bread, kept two delightful chickens, and taught myself to sew. I cloth nappied, sang the praises of cleaning with bicarb and vinegar, and making my own laundry detergent. And the whole time, I blogged. I suspect I was trying to justify myself. 

But the "Accidental Housewife" blog grew stale, and became more of a persona that authentically me. So it's time for a refocus - I'm starting fresh.

The blog is getting a slight facelift and a rename. I'll still be "The Accidental Housewife" but the blog will be CityCottage. 

It's a good time to do it - we're moving house in a week. Moving from our Canberra sprawl to a tiny inner city cottage in Sydney. Moving from three bedrooms to two. Moving from the house that welcomed home our littlest baby and our newest puppy. Moving from the friends that the children and I have made at playgroup and playschool. 

But I am excited. So excited! From all reports, the cottage looks lovely. (I haven't even seen it yet - just some slightly blurry photos taken by my husband, from at least a foot higher than my normal perspective. He's tall!) 

The area is the kind of trendy suburb that caused professions of undying jealously from the heavily tattooed, dedicated hipster gentleman behind the postal counter, when processing my change of address application. (Is that good? I'm still deciding.) And it really is incredibly central, in one of the most exciting cities in Australia. The zoos, the museums, the aquarium, the parks... all beyond compare. And the beaches! Woo!

So this iteration of the blog, unlike my last solely housewifely focussed ramblings, will be about our CityCottage. The move, our settling in and the subsequent insane shuffling of belongings trying to fit them all in, and then on to raising my girls and life in the big city. I hope you choose to follow along!