The end of (this year’s school) days.

We made it. Only just and not without some pain, but we made it.

Maddy in a major Greek tragedy.

It’s the end of our first full year of schooling all of them. I’m pretty disgruntled about it, as I said before, but there are positives too. None of them want to leave so I suppose that is a positive. They all have positive relationships occurring in their schools, which is good. They’ve had some great teachers and they’ve had some dreadful ones.

As things stand, this is how we are. Maddy will remain at the school that all three big ones started the year at next year and probably for the next two years, till her GCSEs end. I can’t access her report but since it will be meaningless sentences and numbers, I won’t pay it much attention. Amelie moved mid year and came home with a report of sparkling, blinding intensity, that spoke of a talented but quiet (!) girl with a bright future. In 10 weeks they found out a lot about her (if not ALL, clearly!) Fran has left her current school and intends to join Amelie’s school for 6th form in September. Josie is going back, though she is adamant that she won’t be going to senior school until it is exam time, if then. Personally, I’d happily have her back at that point and I’d happily have Maddy back for the A Level years; it would make decisions of what to do with Bene far easier since I wobble between wanting to home educate and no. The school system for kids of that ages seems terribly pointless and sending him to school if all his sisters are in because he’s busy and boisterous and sociable and I think I might now be too lazy to home ed.

We’ve had a child in school for 3 years but it was this year that was my wake up call really. I learned some good things and some bad things.

This was the year I learned that metrics and league tables mean that a teacher might just choose not to prepare a child for an exam at all because Literature is not measured and accountable the way Language is. I learned that my big mistake was trusting that all people doing the job of a teacher are doing a good job and coping with the situation they are in. I learned that education truly is still my job because it was only spotting the crashing gaping hole in the middle of her knowledge that saved her at all.

I also learned there are are other teachers who will step in and try to help when they see how wrong something has gone, even when they, like I, know it is too little too late. But at least they tried.

I learned that, while it was too late to do enough this time, I would be really good at coaching English and that I will not make the same mistake with Maddy.

I learned that sometimes a kid will go into an exam having never done a single practise paper for it, because a teacher is too lazy, or too ostriched, or too inept to do what was needed and that when the results come out and the country only sees kids with D or E in exams about famous books, they will conclude it was the kids who are inept or lazy, they will think we might as well strike literature from the curriculum and those same kids, totally failed, will leave school believing that they are rubbish at literature and hate reading.

And that’s a tragedy.

I also learned that in a different school fabulous written work gets rewarded and the teachers are savvy enough not only to push that kid further but also to check their mum didn’t do the homework for them.

I also learned that a good junior school will listen to a parent who feels they might have made a mistake, will work in partnership with a parent and will correct the error because they happen to still think a parent opinion is important.

And I learned there are some amazing, passionate, fabulous teachers who will step outside the constructions of school etiquette to do what is right for a child, no matter what.

They get nice presents.

Unbelievably I warped the frame... So, it was supposed to be rustic, okay?

I learned that Fran had an amazing form teacher who is brilliant at spotting kids with talent. Maddy is part of a great gang of actors now who put on an amazing and very, very funny show.

I learned that Josie is developing just as I imagined she would, with slow but self driven language skills and a knack for maths. She got an amazing report but wrote on it that next year she wants harder work.

I learned that I have not paid close enough attention to helping Maddy organise herself and I need to support her more in that next year. She often quietly slips through the gaps, which isn’t fair.

More than anything else, this year I learned what a privileged schooling I had and how little harm I did the girls by keeping them out of the state system. I learned that I support teachers who strike because they are worn out with interference from the government and being asked to treat children like numbers. I cheered for them as Gove went down.

I also learned not to be afraid to bang the curtain down on a kid who can’t cope with the complexities of school and online life clashing. I took a Facebook account away, not without some personal angst and not without many warnings. I might have got outrage and fury but in fact I got relief and a happier girl.

There is a lesson in there.

I miss home ed terribly, I still do. I’m more disillusioned with the education system than I ever was even though I have more respect for teachers than I ever did. It is so broken though, so very broken and so very ineffective. We’re staying with it because the positives are there and you can’t go back really but six weeks of summer will not be enough.

The boy and his bike.

Over the last few months we’ve been reviewing a Little Tikes 4-in-1 Trike for Bene. I decided to put it through it’s paces first before reviewing as to start with he was inexplicably bothered by pedals and it took him a while to cope with it at all. He’s not quite at the point of pedalling for himself and he’s still too young to propel a fairly solid bike on grass himself, so we gently carved out a way of using it that he’d be happy with.

We consoled Daddy, who had spent the requisite amount of time putting it together (nice and easy with clear instructions, a minimum of fuss and faff and a solid bike emerges at the end of the flat pack procedure) and waited for the right moment.

Finally enjoying a nice garden day on his #littletikes #review bike. Making the most of the last couple of days before pox descends; such a relief to have the happy version of this boy back.

As sun finally began to grace the garden, the boy realised that his bike was in fact quite a lot of fun. Shortly after discovering it was fun, he discovered that the little trailer was the perfect size for Max, his Rubens Barn doll, who then spent a lot of time being driven around the garden, variously with or without sister power grudgingly applied to push him along.

Getting some big sister muscle behind his #littletikes #review bike.

It’s a multi function bike and I was quite surprised to find that we didn’t in fact make the best use of it in the most grown up form. It CAN be used as a very first bike, with footrests, sun shade and seat positions of all types and heights. For Bene, the set up that suits him best is pedals that turn but that aren’t required to power the bike and the handle to push the bike along from behind. I love that it is so versatile; you can easily disconnect the front element from the back so the parent/sister can be in full control of powering the bike and the direction it goes but the child can ‘steer’ and have the sensation of resting feet on moving pedals. And the discovery that he would tolerate the handle came at the perfect moment for us too, as it was round about this time that he decided pushchairs were for wimps. What had been fun in the garden…

He says 'pretty Bene bike!'

…suddenly became essential for going to the shops!

Shopping in his bike. #littletikes #review

And he LOVES parking up and putting the shopping in his trailer too :) The bike has saved this element of life for us really; no one like wrestling a screaming toddler into a pushchair but I am not emotionally suited to slow dawdling walks to the shops. This is the perfect way to get him there happily but at some speed and because it has a harness, like his Daddy-bike seat which he approves of and wears happily, we don’t have to worry about him suddenly lurching off and running into the road.

It also means that trips to the playground are fun…

Happy happy. @dizzydoe

…especially if sisters take you there…

Such a big boy now.

… but coming home afterwards is not the end of the world.

Overall, we’ve been hugely approving of this Little Tikes 4 in 1 Trike despite our slow start with it. It’s rugged, easy to put together, has lots of safety features, has flexible uses and will last him well beyond being 3. Thanks, Little Tikes :)

Disclosure: we were sent the bike to review and there is an Amazon affiliate link in there too.