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Counting down

It’s hard to believe that in eight days both of my kids will be back at school. *counts on fingers* OK, maybe nine.

Some apparently very small and single digit number, anyway.

Otto only finished school on December 19 – that means she’ll have had five and a half weeks of break between Year 5 and Year 6.

That doesn’t seem enough to me.

I know it’s impossible for working parents who only get 4 weeks’ annual leave (I’ve been there myself), but I just don’t see that five weeks is really enough to relax and recharge for school. And I don’t think it’s enough for the teachers to really relax, either – because of course they are back before the kids, and finish after them.

My friends are saying the same. Their kids are TIRED. Still. When we were young, we got seven weeks’ break (eight if you went to private school). It seemed to stretch on forever. Sometimes we slept in, sometimes we didn’t, but we were relaxed and rested by the end of the holidays.

This year, we had a week for Christmas then a week at the beach and we’ve been back for two weeks now. Next week, she’s chosen to do a holiday program Monday to Thursday – and then, four days later, she’s back in the classroom.

And of course the real holidays should be in February-March, when we tend to have the hottest weather – she’s heading back with the promise of mid-thirties weather to come.

She does get three weeks in April and July (Bigster gets two) as well as two in September. But I’d like a couple of extra weeks RIGHT NOW – enough for her to get thoroughly sick of being at home and really looking forward to going back to see her friends.

How long are your kids’ holidays? What do you think of the length?

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Posted by on January 20, 2014 in children, education, family

 

Of Lanterns, Soup and Duck fat. In no particular order.

Three years ago, during our 5 months in Germany, we happened to be in Düsseldorf in the late afternoon of November 11th. What we saw that night scarred Fraser for life, and has since come up in ever so many dinnertime conversations.

Gangs of children – all warmly dressed in their beanies, winter coats and boots – roamed the streets of the town, carrying little paper lanterns on sticks. Every shop was entered, and staff were on hand to pass out cigarettes whisky sweets and little treats.

They didn’t even have to say anything – as soon as they entered the shops, someone came running and handed them stuff until they left. (Mental note: If in Germany in November, send Otto into a Jeweller’s shop with a paper lantern).

We got back to Wuppertal and it was the same story.

In Fraser’s world, November 11th went down as The Night Children Shake Down Shopkeepers. The lanterns were a concealed threat to come back and burn down the premises if the candy quality and quantity was not deemed adequate.

Fast forward to almost now, and we started to get notices from the school about the Lantern Walk at one of the local German churches. And about school art sessions (parents and siblings invited) to make lanterns – clearly this was a big thing.

Green lanterns, with arms and legs and eyes and ears and cute crooked smiles.

Kommt wir woll’n Laterne laufen, das ist unsere schönste Zeit;
kommt wir woll’n Laterne laufen, alle sind bereit..

The canny among you will be thinking, but it’s June not November – and you are right. But apparently a Lantern Walk would not be a Lantern Walk without bitterly cold weather (not to mention the rain) and early sunset so no-one keeps the Gangs of Children up late. Because you don’t want to keep children up past their bedtime when fire is involved.

So, on Friday night, I got together with two of the other mums to make the World’s Biggest Ever Pot of Pea & Ham soup. Our school recently bought a massive preserving pot that is also good for making soup, and we had captaincy of her maiden voyage.

What we did not have was a recipe for pea & ham soup.

But we were happy to make it up as we went along, and we think we did OK. Three hours of soup stirring and a couple of pizzas later, Otto and I headed home, leaving the pot’s hosts with at least a couple more hours to stir.

On Saturday, after a quick trip to IKEA for tea lights (that turned into … well … you know … Otto was having a great time in Smålund and I was just wandering peacefully), we picked up the Pot. After some debate, we sat it on the front seat and buckled it in for the drive to the church. With the lid firmly duct-taped on – because pea & ham soup is not a great smell at the best of times, and a car that smells of pea & ham soup might have had me praying for some budding lantern-wielding arsonists to come and torch it.

And then we heated, and stirred, and heated, and stirred.

And Otto went into the church where I think they sang some songs and talked about St Martin. And then the walk began.

And it was absolutely amazing. Because there were – I have no idea but I’d guess between 200 and 300 people. And each person – or each family – had a beautiful lantern that their child had made or that they had bought. It would have been beautiful in the daytime; at night it really was something magical. And we wended our way through the Fitzroy Gardens in the dark, following a guy dressed as Rory from Dr Who.

Lanterns in the park.

Kommt wir woll’n Laterne laufen, denn wir fürchten nicht die Nacht;
kommt wir woll’n Laterne laufen, das wär doch gelacht.

Apparently, the guy was actually dressed as St Martin. But all these Roman Centurions kind of look alike. One year they had a policewoman on a horse, with a long red cloak. Which would have been awesome. There were no police there this year so the priest and some of the adults stopped traffic instead. Because Gangs of Children with Lanterns (and priests) should always have right of way.

And eventually we got back to the church, which was amazingly busy. We sold soup, and there were Brezeln, and hot dogs, and Glühwein, and Kinderpunsch which is like Glühwein but for kids, and a bonfire (sadly lacking in marshmallows). And bread that was – I am not kidding – spread with LARD! Or Duck Fat, which is not quite lard but really there is not much difference. I bought a slice and shared it with 2 friends. Which means “I bought a slice and split it into three, and we all kind of took a little bite at once and then said OMG IT IS CRUNCHY WHY IS THIS SO? and discreetly discarded it.” Because cultural traditions are all very well, but not so much when they are spread with duck fat. In fact, I am going to go on record here and state that I would steer clear of any cultural tradition that involved duck fat in any way, shape or form.

And we stirred and we served. And the Bigster took money because she said she would collapse otherwise. And because her Mean Mother had insisted she come along for a bit of Cultural Involvement. And a dollar fell in the soup pot but we figured it would add extra flavour, and we kept stirring.

And it was a fabulous evening. And we put our heads together and wondered how we can get even half of those people to come to our German Christmas Market in November.

Maybe we should send the children round with their lanterns?

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2012 in education, family, languages, school, travel

 

Memo to self: Homework is for children, not for parents!

I helped Otto with her homework today.

By that, I mean that I sat there and encouraged her to write, and read questions out to her, and generally cheered her on.

And watched while she got the answers WRONG. Two of them, anyway.

And then I obsessed, because that is what I do, about what the correct etiquette is. I know that her answers are wrong, and I know why they are wrong, and I could explain that to her. But I am not sure that I would use the same language as her teachers … so in the end, I left it. Given that she’s new at the school, I think they are still assessing where she’s at, so that made this an easier decision.

I have heard several friends complain that they were up to 1 or 2am, finishing their child’s science assignment. I have helped the Bigster with layout and presentation on some of her assignments, and have suggested sometimes that she needed to write more, or do more research. But I do draw the line at actually doing the work for them.

I understand the impulse to just fix it up, though!

Fraser does chess homework with Otto, and they play the problems out on a chess board. He prompts her to look for her mistakes, and she generally does – but he wouldn’t give the answers to her. I guess that’s where we draw the line.

Meanwhile, we have some more assessment results in. Like I said earlier, she’s a full year behind in maths, but she’s already catching that up somewhat now that she has a workbook to work through. The bigger concern, to me, is her reading. Which is weird, because her reading level is apparently OK for Year 3. It’s just that it has barely progressed at all since we got back from Germany at the end of 2009. We’re working on that, too, though.

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2011 in children, education, parenting, school

 

One week down

Otto’s first week at her new school has gone really well. She’s been tired, but not excessively so, and has seemed happy and settled.

Things she has liked:

  • her friends, who remembered her from her “trial” days in May. She seems to have two particular friends, but the small group of children seems to be quite cohesive and welcoming/inclusive.
  • having a desk!
  • her new school bag. Also lunch box, drink bottle, etc.
  • school slippers!
  • having a fridge and microwave – well, access to them. Lunch boxes go in the fridge in the morning, and there is a microwave in each classroom which the children use during “second lunch”.
  • exercise books and textbooks. She is still waiting for a couple, as the teachers establish what level she is working at.
  • having her drink bottle on her desk all day.
  • choir/singing practice.
  • communication book – we sign this every day. And write notes and stuff.
  • parent/teacher appointments – every week, the teachers post their times in case parents want to meet with them to discuss their child’s progress (or anything else). (OK, this is something Otto couldn’t care less about, but we like it)
  • the library. She has already borrowed two books and a CD. And next week, she will start to bring home readers as well.
  • having a fountain pen!

Things that are taking a bit of time (as expected):

  • learning to write with a fountain pen (especially as she is left-handed)
  • getting to know other parents (me!) 🙂

Things she needs to catch up on:

  • maths – she’s a full year behind. We are confident that she will catch up, but she is currently working out of a Year 2 workbook – she understands that it’s the right level, though. We’ve talked about maybe bringing her book home next weekend so she can do a little homework.
  • cursive script – she’s never learnt “joined up writing”. And the other children are using a slightly different script than she is. Again, this won’t take long to remedy.

We are feeling great.

She’ll catch up with some friends from her old school tomorrow. We’re hoping it doesn’t unsettle her. I don’t think there will be any teasing – these kids are more the “I have missed you!” type. And she will skite about the extra 6 days’ holiday. And then they will just play.

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2011 in education, school

 

And three weeks zipped by ..

Last time I counted, it was 6 weeks till we left.

Ah, heaps of time.

Now, it is three-and-a-half.

Just to put that in perspective:

  • The girls and I have three weekends left in Australia. This weekend, Fraser and I will be at BorderCon in Albury – so there are really only two weekends left before we go. And we want to have a party the week before we leave – so really only one weekend to pack things up.
  • I have a project to finish for a client. It involves writing a whole battery of PRINCE2 documents. That will be achievable.
  • I have another project to finish for another client. It involves lots more writing. That will be partially achievable, but I will probably have work to do when I get to Germany. The client is not happy with some of the work that I didn’t do, and has asked for me to work on that area. While her faith in me is touching and flattering, I am nervous that it might be misplaced.
  • I have two games to translate. The urgent part of one is half-done. I’m hoping to finish the urgent bits by the middle of the week.
  • I have all sorts of things to organise for our trip. More on this elsewhere. I need to stop overthinking the small stuff.
  • Mum and dad’s house has its first Open-For-Inspection on Thursday. I have not been there for a week. I need to find time to go there.
  • I still do not have a British passport. Nor do the girls have Australian passports (long story). Lots of chasing things up to happen on Monday morning.
  • Fraser and I need to get international drivers permits. We tried to do this on Saturday, but the RACV shop closes at 12 noon (where every other shop in the centre closes at 5pm).
  • I have to go to the luggage shop and ask if they can order the new model of Trunki for Otto. Failing that, I need to order one online. This is becoming urgent.
  • We need to organise parent-teacher meetings with the girls’ teachers. These would normally happen at the end of this term but they have been delayed to early next term.
  • Fraser and I need to move back to our “2 boxes a night” packing philosophy.
  • I need to do invoicing and tax. Urgently.
 

Auf deutsch bitte?

Having spent a scary amount of my waking hours over the past week working on a game translation (25+ A4 pages – a significant effort), I am considering (as I do every couple of years) getting accredited as a German-to-English translator.

Reasons to do the exam:

  • Formal accreditation (but what is this really worth?)
  • Sense of achievement, belief that you can never have too many qualifications (is this really worth $270 or so plus another $100 in sample papers?)

Reasons not to bother:

  • Even if I go looking to do more paid game translations, publishers will care more that I understand the game and have a track record than that I have a piece of paper that says I can do it.
  • $300 or so

I still think (dream) about the possibility that we might one day manage an extended working holiday in Europe. But, again, I don’t think that an australian translation qualification will be of real interest, when I have other more relevant qualifications like a degree in German linguistics and, somewhere, the certificate that confirms I have taken the Zentrale Oberstufenpruefung.

So on balance? I think not. It’s not my career, nor do I expect that it ever will be.

I still fantasise about the Grosses deutsches Sprachdiplom. I wonder how I could explain that to Fraser 🙂

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2007 in education, grand plans

 

Cyber-safety?

I went to a session on Cyber-safety at Biggie’s school on Monday night. I found it alarmist and sensationalist, with little practical application. Fraser tells me I shouldn’t be surprised.

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Posted by on April 29, 2007 in education