(note to self: must find my sewing pattern for this blouse, to make another)
I used to travel a lot with one of my early jobs. It meant days of living out of a suitcase and turning up at the railway stations. Checking myself that I didn’t go into automatic and head off to London instead of Birmingham. Checking connections to Edinburgh, so I had a good chance of getting there in time. Making sure I had all my teaching notes, info on disk (memory sticks and the Cloud were yet to be invented) and a good book, before I put miles between me and home. Organization was the key.
Roll on twenty years and my commute only takes five steps to my home office. Phew. The difference now is that I have a household of people to organize. Make sure they have the right kit and can get to the right place at the right time. Logistics.
For instance this week, we had a year 7 parent’s evening. I booked the slots in the school on-line system, in good time, to see each teacher, and booked a two hour meeting in my Husband’s calendar, weeks ahead, to ensure he was free.
So far so good.Wondering if I can start another crochet blanket like this one.
Next, I still have two other children not directly involved in the parent’s evening.
The Teen was at an after school club, so she would miss her taxi home. Solution: fortunately she is at the same school, so I could take refreshments and her mobile. She’d have to wait it out until I finished.
Youngest had cricket which clashed. Solution: take him with me, in his cricket outfit (subs in pocket), along with refreshments and a new book. The Teen could look after him once she finished her club. In the meantime, he could experience secondary school parent’s evening for a while. (It would be good for him. He only has just over a year before he joins his sisters.) Then Husband would leave the evening early and take Youngest to cricket. I’d cook when I got home.
Our cricketer in younger years
Job done. I issued the timetable for parent’s evenings to the Teen and Husband, so they knew how to find us. Teachers are dotted around the school in classrooms that are not their usual ones, so its a bit like a scavenger/treasure hunt finding them. Even with the map supplied, clues of their whereabouts are gleaned from passing friends. (Labelling six rooms as “Head of Year” without a year group number, is not helpful)
That is just one evening. I could list other evenings/days this week that have required a thinking cap to be placed firmly on my head, but I’m sure you’ve got the idea. Trying to juggle it all so that everyone can achieve what they want to do, or have to do, without leaving anyone out. Some days I win.
Somehow working out a train connection, all those years ago, seems a walk in the park.
Secondary v Primary school
Seeing as I’ve survived a fair few parent’s evenings at various schools now, I thought I’d share eight differences between primary and secondary parent’s evenings.
1. Gooseberry. The teachers talk more to the pupil than the parents. At least us parents get top billing in the evening’s name, I suppose.
2. Obviously this means the pupils come along to the meetings, unlike primary school.
3. Speed dating. You have less time to talk to each of the teachers before you move to the next. We have 5 minutes for each meeting, in comparison to the primary school’s 10 minutes. Takes on the air of how I imagine speed dating must feel.
4. It’s long. You have more teachers to talk to. There are 5 minutes to get from one meeting to another. Sometimes all the appointments don’t fit in perfectly, so you end up with 10 minutes to kill inbetween teachers. The whole evening can take over 2 hours. Not for the faint hearted after a full-on day at work.
5. Blast from the past. As you navigate school corridors and different buildings to find the right room, you will spot people that you haven’t seen since toddler groups. Try remembering names that you struggled with even back then, due to sleepless nights and pregnancy hormones.
6. Blast from the past 2. As you wait outside classrooms, leaning against the walls, trying to avoid eye contact with people you recognize but can’t remember how, you will be suddenly plummeted back to your own school days.
7. Time flies. All the teachers will be younger than you. Ok. Not all, but enough. There will be teachers that are nearer to your children’s age than yours.
8. Over the top. Your child will have prepared you before meeting certain teachers, explaining that you are about to meet an unreasonable ogre that makes the Vogons from Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy sound like a fabulous alternative. It’s not true. They are usually perfectly nice people, that despite being at work for far too many hours that day, can still hold a very pleasant and useful conversation.
Only three more weeks until half term. I know the weeks after that are even busier, as school, etc fits in all the other events and outings that are still to happen. Sigh. It’s best not to look too far ahead. Fill in the forms at the time, put it in the calendar and check the kit. Take one week at a time.
As you may have guessed all the logistics have meant that I’ve not been organized enough to take many photos this week. They are all old ones.
In January, I imposed a no-spend month. Quietly. I didn’t really announce it as a thing to the family. I tried to lead by example and reason. “Do we need it?” was my rallying call.
It worked. We cut back on food treats. If we wanted cakes or biscuits, we made them from scratch. I bought no craft supplies. Using what I already had.
Backs of wardrobes and drawers were checked for clothes, instead of buying more. We made our own entertainment. There again, reaching into the back of cupboards and book shelves. So much more I could add, but I don’t want to turn this post into a list.
Do you know what? I feel lighter. I don’t mean in the weight sense, although less food treats and more walking has done that. I mean having less stuff, kind of lighter.
In effect, I have de-cluttered. If we are talking reduce/re-use/recycle, I achieved all three. I have not increased our stuff. I’ve decreased it. Steadily.
Ironically, we are throwing less away. Our weekly black bag and recycling bin has been smaller and lighter. Less stuff in, less stuff out too.
I’ve also enjoyed turning up the power of my creativity, to solve the problems. Taking a moment to think about what we’ve got rather than what we’ve not got. Not choosing to buy my way out of the issue.
I’ve also discovered something else. I think this has been the most enlightening. Want to know? Well between you and me, I’m not as busy as I thought I was. It’s true. I’ve found pockets of time to make and bake, that I didn’t know I had. I just needed to look.
It all went so well, I let the no-spend drift on into February. It’s become a habit. Ok, I did start to buy doughnuts (and crisps) for Mondays, as an after school treat. It was our way of coping with back to school. Mondays become something to look forward to.
So why am I writing it now? Ah, yes. Well, you see this week, I compromised. I allowed myself a free pass. The exception that proves the rule. I bought two things into the house. Not big spends, but stuff all the same.
Fabric and a book. I’m not going to justify the book. I can’t really. I have so many books waiting to be read. My only defence was that I had time to kill and it was cheaper than a magazine. Charity shop purchase of £1.50.
The fabric was a creative compromise. Design wise, I needed something plain and uniformed for my star quilt. I didn’t have any suitable candidates skulking in my craft stash. Fabric does tend to skulk, but not red, because I can always use red.
I went to the fabric shop. I resisted the sock yarn and the ribbon racks. It was hard. I bought the fabric I needed and left.
I’m now back to restrained. No impulse buys. No rescuing plants from the supermarket. Only what we genuinely need. There will be a few bags of stuff going down to the charity shops this half term, because I am liking the lighter feeling.
Word of the week, and possibly year, is restrained.