I have an Elf on the shelf, I put up my tree early, I’ve spoilt my child. And what?

We have an Elf on the Shelf. Apparently, it’s a controversial topic. People are saying that it’s another gimmick that is dividing children. It’s upsetting children that don’t have one. ‘Why is there an Elf at my friends house and not mine’. It’s supposedly upsetting working parent who don’t have the energy after a full day of working, then parenting, to mess around with an Elf.

Well. Guess who works full time? This Sheila, right here. Guess who was so tired some days she fell asleep sitting up on her couch? This chump. But I love Christmas and I love, love, love the look at my daughter’s face when she wakes up and races around the house looking for him.

He even arrived early this year. Because, you know, 2020.

The same argument has occurred in the past about giving your child too many presents from Santa. It makes children that have very little upset, because Santa is playing favourites. I have been on both sides of this. When she was a baby, my daughter had years where she got very little. There was so much loss when my husband lost his job and we nearly lost our house. My mum, mother in law, aunty and grandfather all passed away. Miss 7 had no grandparents left to spoil her and we were all too broken to enjoy Christmas for several years. Even though it didn’t ‘spark joy’ anymore, we didn’t Marie Kondo it and throw it away. We worked on it. Got ourselves in a better financial position (this makes it seem easy, but boy that was a hard few years paying off debts). Found what it was about the season that we love; the people, the spirit, the laughter at simple things. Like an Elf toilet papering Barbie’s Dream House.

And spoiling my daughter with gifts. I have worked hard for my money. And as a teacher in 2020, I mean stupidly hard. I have spent all year hunting down sales, paying off laybuys and sacrificing half of my wardrobe space to hiding gifts in big boxes.

My now 7 year old never got upset or compared her gifts to others as a little girl. And on the flip side, she doesn’t boast about her gifts or rub it in to other kids. She is a well behaved girl that tries hard in school, appreciates everything she gets and treats her items and others with respect.

How do I teach her to appreciate and have respect? We show her the struggle. Every year we take treats and cards to those less fortunate. Homeless shelters, Domestic Violence Crisis centres, nursing homes and hospitals. This year we even sat and wrapped up some of our shoe boxes. She helped me choose and put away little toys, stationery and games over the months leading up to Christmas. Then she played ‘Mrs Claus’ and took them to several different families that have been destroyed by the chaos of 2020.

So yes, I spoil my daughter at Christmas now. With gifts, love and fun. But I also use the time for valuable lessons and character building. It’s exhausting, but life has come fill circle. It’s a celebration of hard work, what we have achieved. I won’t be made to feel bad about it.

If you have read all the way to the bottom here and want to argue with me about it, let me trigger you with this before I leave. I put up my Christmas tree in November…

Merry Christmas.

Mrs Mama xxoo

Bullying- let’s be real

A NOTE FOR PARENTS OF CHILDREN BEING BULLIED. (this will be a long one, but hopefully worth the read)

*** Being a High School teacher, not a single day goes by without me hearing about or witnessing the heartbreaking effects of bullying. Then I come home and find out my then 6 year old daughter had sat by herself crying at lunch time because she had the wrong colour hula hoop and wasn’t allowed to play with her so called ‘friends’. Sigh. 6 years old. This is too young.

So, let me be real.
1. Parents, you are not alone. There are more of you, sitting at home, waiting until your baby goes to sleep, so they don’t see you crying the tears of helplessness. We are in this together.

2.Be the voice for your baby. They will be stuck in a bubble of ‘I can’t dob, the bully will know and then it will get worse’. My pet hate as a teacher is the word ‘snitch’. It’s teaching your child from a young age that it is wrong to ask for help when you have a problem. This is the basis of most mental health issues. We need to lose the stigma of ‘speaking up’. Yes, my darling child, the bully probably will find out. But you will have a support network of people around you, because it is now known to be a problem.

3.Involve the school. I hear it all the time ‘my kid is being bullied and the school is doing nothing.’ As someone on the inside, 99.9% of the time, this is not the case. You may not always see the contacts sent out to all your child’s teachers to be aware of the situation. The counselling of the bully, because they have some severe trauma causing them to do it.

4.But if you truly believe nothing is happening, put your Mama Bear hat on. Don’t get angry, because that pushes people away, but be assertive. Think of schools like hospitals, having their very own type of ‘triage’. Push your baby’s case up the ‘triage’ line. The best way to do it is through evidence. Evidence of what is being said and done. But also evidence of what it is doing to your child; doctors, counsellor reports and such. Show your little one that no matter what, you are their number 1 supporter.

5.In a course I did once, I learnt that all children need 4 ‘safe adults’ in their life. Make sure you know who your child thinks these people are. And try to make one of them a teacher at school. Imagine the damage to their little mind and bodies if they feel attacked first thing in the morning and have to let it all build up before the can debrief with you at home. My classroom is well known for being a place of acceptance, safety and Mindfulness. They can come and debrief with me and I can refer them on to where/what to do next. Or they can sit on the pillows and colour in during lunch, to clear their minds in a quiet space. Where is your child’s ‘home away from home?’ Talk to them about this. My daughter’s is the library.

6.Be proactive with your child. Don’t just wait for other people to help, teach your baby to help themselves. And no, I’m not talking violence. That won’t solve anything, because violence just causes more violence. Take up a martial arts. My daughter did Karate. It gave her confidence and taught her how to remain calm. If your child is not physical, try Mindfulness. And no, it’s not just garbage ‘meditation’. I hate it when people say that. It can be the simple act of counting your chews whole you are eating. Anything to snap you out of a moment of panic, before you completely spiral into your own thoughts. If I can recommend any, use smilingminds.com.au. I use Smiling Minds for myself, my daughter and in my classes every day. They have programs for little kids, all the way up to adults. And apps your child can put on their own phones. The most important thing I push, all day is that ‘you need to take control of yourself’. It is very hard for a little mind to grasp, so they need to practice it. I tell them ‘you cannot control someone else. You can only control yourself and how much you let someone hurt you’. The fight or flight instinct in our brains kicks in when we are emotional, making us act and think irrationally. The best weapon your child can have against a bully is training on how to ‘calm themselves’ in a highly emotive system. Can I be honest here? How many times have you told your child to ‘calm down’, but not actually taught them how to actually do it? Do YOU even know how to do it? I’m not trying to attack you, I just want you to be aware, that most adults don’t even know how to calm themselves in a high pressure situation. Smilingminds.com.au – just saying (and no, I am not linked to them in any way, shape or form).

Please remember there is no simple answer to bullying. It is complex and it takes time. As a mother, my whole being hurts when my little girl does. As a teacher, I try to treat my students the way I would want someone to treat my daughter. It is a painful topic, but if you work at it, you and your child can get through this. And most likely be better people because of it.

Stay safe and look after yourselves.

Mrs Mama

Photo by Kristin De Soto on Pexels.com

Let’s talk about the children for a second.

One of the biggest lies of the whole 2020 Covid-19 spectacular is that ‘it doesn’t affect the kids’. But all around me, I’m seeing the same thing from parents ready to break down. “I don’t know what’s wrong with my kids, they just won’t listen to me”. Teachers are also at literal whit’s end, because they are living in a groundhog day of All Hallows Eve. The ghouls have come out and they haven’t gone away. The children have lost absolutely all focus and control of themselves. I tried to do a mindful meditation with a class that is well practiced in doing it. We have been doing it just about every lesson all year. But they wiggled around as much as an audience at a Wiggles concert. I couldn’t even get a group of teenagers to do nothing. Wild.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Why? Because their cups are full to the brim. Their brains are so full of thoughts, all day every day, that they are losing everyday function. I did a final lesson before an exam last week and I swear I saw it in action. I told them a fact about Macbeth, which went in one ear, but the basic function of how to open a door fell out the other ear.The evidence is shown everywhere, children are low risk of getting sick. But that that doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect them. Is mental health not a sickness? Are we priding ourselves for living in a progressive world by saying ‘we care’, but not actually doing anything about it?

The younger the child, the less ability they have to critically analyse a situation like adults. Don’t yell at them, it’s not their fault, they literally can’t do it because their brain isn’t evolved yet. So they innocently just openly believe everything they hear. They are being told to stay clean, wash your hands, or you could get Covid. Then they are seeing and hearing how many people are dying of Covid 19. Think about that with a child’s brain for a second? This is what they are hearing “if I don’t wash my hands enough, I could die”. They are being told they can talk to their friends at school, but playing with them at home could be dangerous. “Why are our homes dangerous, but schools aren’t? Mum told me I was safe at home.”

The seniors of 2020 don’t get to have their parents at graduation. For some students they may be the first in their family to graduate. Or they might have had the fight of their life to just get to school everyday. Graduating school is one of the big life moments and the disappointment of it is real. But they are told to quit complaining, ridiculed when they do. How many times to you just get over the mood you are in by someone say “it doesn’t matter, just get over it.”

The worry about physical contact has become a permanent way of thinking for our children. I watched a music video clip in class, where people were dancing in a huge group. Before I could even get them to concentrate on the symbolism and imagery of the song, we had to get past the most relevant learning blockage. “Those people are way too close Miss, they are not social distancing.” Give that a minute to sink in people. Before a child even gets to rational thinking, they must go through the momentary panic of people touching and spreading a disease that could cause death. You may think that I am simplifying it, but that’s a child’s brain. They have heard everything we have sat and whinged about with our adult friends, they have heard the news playing, they have seen the pop ups in their news feed. But they can’t just ‘shrug it off’. They don’t know how.

Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

I’m not saying any of this is anyone’s fault. We can’t change the fact we are living in a pandemic. Things are done for our own safety. But what I do want, is for people to just take a step back for a second. Don’t put so much pressure on yourselves mama and papa bears. So your child is refusing to put matched socks on. It doesn’t mean you have failed as a parent, because your once cute cub is now a vicious animal. No. It means your baby is just tired. Tired of thinking, tired of worrying, tired of being yelled at. Give them a break. And in the process give yourself a break. There’s nothing wrong with them, there’s nothing wrong with you.

Listen Up Parents

Let me put on my serious hat for a moment. Most of Australia, and in fact, around the world, parents will be facing school closures. And because I am a parent- I know the worry and panic that sets in when you want nothing but the best for your child.

Spread the word to all the other parents please. Because I personally believe the parents haven’t been told anything and are currently sending themselves into an anxious tailspin.

1. DON’T DO ANYTHING YET! Don’t buy $100 worth of resources, don’t stay up until 2am Google searching programs to print off. There is too much out there at the moment praying on your insecurities.

2. YOU CAN STILL WORK FROM HOME, YOU WON’T BE ‘TEACHING’- Homeschooling is the wrong phrase. Your school will email, send packages, whatever way needed. You will just be supervising them completing the work. If you or they don’t know what to do, contact the teacher. They will explain to the child, or provide alternatives to help them. You don’t have to be a teacher, just a supervisor.

3. BE REALISTIC- You do not have to ‘set up a classroom’. They don’t have to be working ALLLLL day. Look at the chart below. That’s what hours they need. The teacher will be checking off who is working, by gathering physical or digital evidence. It will not be all up to you.

4. GIVE YOUR CHILD’S TEACHER A MINUTE- When you ask a question, it may take 24 hours to reply. If you can’t do something until they explain it- DON’T! Just use it as an excuse to chill out. We teachers are not going to be critically analysing every piece of work. We will scan for issues and problems, as we do walking around the classroom. But we are not expecting 100 percent correct answers and a 2000 word essay from a 9 year old.

5. DON’T GET CAUGHT UP IN ‘MUM SHAMING’- There is already a lot of it. People showing perfect houses, setting up enriching and engaging activities they are doing with their children. Which leads you to feel guilty, because your kid has been eating biscuits and watching TV. ‘My child will be left behind, I am a terrible parent ruining the future of my baby’. Don’t fall trap to the ‘SOCIAL MEDIA’ lives people are portraying. They have taken a still frame image of a 10 minute section of their day, applied filters and over exaggerated their words in their status.

Do what you have to do mamas and papas. Yes, things are going to happen in the next few months that normally wouldn’t. They will probably have too much screen time. Screen time may not even be bad- look below for ABC’s educational TV that will be playing. Your house may look messier. You may have a night where you eat waffles and ice cream for dinner. Give yourself a break.

Your little ones are scared. They may not show it, but they have lost their routine. They are hearing big words that they don’t know how to comprehend. They need hugs, not being yelled at by a stressed mum or dad, who is doing things that are not really needed.

Their education will recover. Their mental health may not. I know which one I will prioritise. Look after yourselves xxoo

Be Parents. Not teachers

For many of us, it is now Easter holidays. But let’s be honest, who here actually knows what day it is? It’s Suntuemonthurwedsatfriday.

I have had many friends contact me and ask my professional advice as a teacher. They are at their wit’s end after one week. So, here is my best advice and please remember, I am one person, this is MY opinion and if you disagree, just forget it and move on. If there is one thing I have learnt in the last few weeks, there is a LOOOOOT of Karen’s stuck at home without people to yell at. DON’T TAKE IT OUT ON ME KAREN!

Firstly, parents, remember that is exactly what you are. PARENTS. You are not going to be expected to find resources to educate your child. There are an overwhelming amount of websites and companies advertising free programs and resources. They are praying on your exhaustion and over-saturated brains to draw you in. When school goes back, if your child isn’t at school, their teacher will send you home a program of work. So don’t spend a tonne of money printing out resources and activities- go buy yourself a latte and chill out instead.

When school does go back, you also need to remember school hours. Most schools days go for 6 hours (although, for teachers there are about 1254 hours between 9am and 3pm every day). Don’t push yourself and your tiny humans to keep working at all hours. Which brings up the point of pushing (see earlier blog about this, I must have a deep seated aggression issue, because it’s not the first time I have brought it up ). Your children will push back against you telling them to do work. But don’t assume that this is what they are like in the classroom (Well. Some of them. Little Johnny, let’s not tell mum where you told me to shove it last week, hey?) As a parent, you are the safe person in your child’s life and your home is their safe place. Because of the trust you have built with your babies, to forgive and love them unconditionally; they may say things to you that they would not say to their teachers. By all means, have a word to them about how they are speaking inappropriately. But don’t come down too hard on them, their brains are as messy as my 6 year old’s toy room right now. And don’t even get me started on your brain- especially if you are working from home too. You literally cannot be an employee, parent AND teacher. So, let the teacher part slip for a minute. Tell them to have a break. Go back to it later. It is OUR job as teachers to work out how we are going to work the curriculum to balance the time lost from the classroom. it’s your job to give them a hug and encourage them with love.

Photo by Kristin De Soto on Pexels.com

Speaking of ‘our’ job. Please remember that your child’s teacher is also a person as well. In this new world we are trying to move into, we are already overloaded. We have had to go through EVERY resource that we had ready for the term and make it digital friendly. But isn’t that just uploading it, you ask? It takes 2 minutes. PFFFFT. And Maggi noodles only take 2 minutes to cook as well. Over the last 20 years, we as teachers have been taught about making classrooms hands on, rather than theoretical. So every resource we have made has included group activities, cutting and pasting stations, class discussions and such. In one week, we had to change everything to make it a task your individual child can do in their home by themselves. We then set up digital classrooms, email groups with students, parents and each other. Your child will be either emailed this work, or contact your school and packages will be printed for you. There will be processes in place for us to gather evidence that your child is engaging in the work from home. This used to be just a 1 minute walk around the room. However, in a digital classroom, we will open every child’s digital folder, check what they have done, contact with any issues, reply to any questions and mark off their completion of tasks. In short, a simple one minute process will now become several hours of work.

You probably haven’t seen any of this information yet. And there is a reason for that. If we uploaded all the work before school holidays ended, an already blurred line will become invisible. You need to have the holidays, for both yours and your child’s mental well being. Please. There is a lot of anxiety around and it is being picked up unknowingly by the children. They cannot and will not get anywhere if their emotional needs have not been met.

But when school goes back, please remember, your child’s teacher is also a human. They are possibly working from home too, with their own clingy little offspring. They also don’t 100 percent know what they are doing and are trying to figure it all out. They have working hours as well. If you wouldn’t expect your doctor to email you back immediately at 10pm on a Saturday night, don’t expect the teacher to.

So, let’s sum it up.

  • As a parent, you are their safety and support. Be that before anything else.
  • School is only a few hours a day- not all day.
  • Work will be given to you. Don’t stress about having to find and provide.
  • Do your best. And know your teachers are human. We are not expecting miracles.
  • Enjoy your holidays!!!!

How to Home school. Or not.

“We are making 10 years worth of progress in 10 days”. That’s what people are saying about the education system. It’s also what I’m saying about the wrinkles on my face.

This week saw our whole routine thrown to the wind. As a teacher, I had to go off to work to spend a week throwing fourteen years of teaching resources at my computer. I mean, that’s how we make it digital, right?

But school has been cancelled for my 6 year old. She is staying home this week with her teacher Mr Stay At Home Dad. I don’t know which one I feel most sorry for. Probably our Beagle. He has to watch it all.

The Beagle himself.

The first thing I did was sit down with my daughter. We discussed what she does each day at school and wrote it all down. She had a moment being upset, when she realised she can’t do the things she loves, like library day and show and tell. It’s a devastating blow to Miss 6 to think that the world will not see the picture she coloured in this week. But seriously, talk to your kids about their feelings, because what is small to us is huge to them.  We discussed how we can keep her routine and the things she loves, except they may look a little different. For example, ‘library time’ will be going to her bookshelf, finding a book and sitting on her reading chair with a drink, to have some quiet reading time.

I then made a folder for each of the subjects she listed. I have always found that students are more willing to do work, when they have a sense of ownership. So I let her decorate the folders with her favourite stickers.

I already had a couple of “grade 1” books that I bought over the Christmas holidays. Yep, my poor kid has a teacher mum and buys textbooks and stationery on the holidays. I can’t help it, it’s an addiction. So, I went through each one and tore out the pages that she hadn’t done. That way, instead of having one book that contained worksheets for a variety of different subjects, she has them organised into folders. So now if it says ‘spelling’, she gets her English folder out and does an activity.

Now. Can I give the same professional advice that I gave Mr Stay at Home Dad to any parents out there who will be embarking on this journey? Firstly, it has been a wild term. Let them have the holidays. Give them a brain break and enjoy some quality time together.

Then, if you have to home school next term, make like a nine month old trying to chew on their own feet, and be flexible. Just know that I say IF- because we as teachers know as much as you do about whether the children will need to be home-schooled next term. And that is JACK. SQUAT.

You will have work set for your child, it will definitely not be up to you to find ALL of the learning. The teachers are working very hard to ensure that (see above). But in the classroom teachers can scour the room for the blank eyes staring back at you. There are often 5 or 6 levels of learning within each activity. While we are superheroes, it is almost impossible to do the same in virtual classroom as it is in the real deal brick and mortar. So the lessons won’t be as scaffolded. If your child is struggling, or doesn’t understand, don’t get angry at them and most of all, don’t get angry at yourself. This will end up with both you and them giving up on their education. Don’t be afraid to choose an easier activity. It is much better that they are staying confident and happy with an activity slightly below their level, than having your neighbours think that Spielberg is making a new film of screeching velociraptors in your lounge room, because you are trying to get your 9 year old to comprehend the Wall Street Journal.

I’m not saying don’t push them to learn, by all means keep pushing. Just not off the side of the mountain.

Australia. The land of Plenty. Plenty of chaos.

Remember when the clock struck midnight and we were all like ‘thank god that year is over. 2020 IS MY YEAR. A NEW DECADE’.

Regret that much?

You see, our land was dry. Australia’s drought was that bad, there was footage of farmers having get rid of their livestock because they couldn’t feed them. And by that, I don’t always mean selling them. Even in the suburbs, the ground was so cracked, I nearly lost my 6 year old one day.

By the end of the scorching hot days of January, over 180000 square kilometres had been burnt off by bushfires. Over 5000 buildings had been destroyed and 34 people had their lives taken. And don’t even get me started on the Koalas. It was so bad, we trended world wide. I mean, we made the Kardashian’s Insta stories. And nope, not just KIM- ALL OF THEM. OMG. Legit.

Then, during February, something that could only be explained as a re-enactment of a Greta Thunberg worst case scenario speech; part of Australia was being evacuated under threat of bushfires, while other parts of the country were being evacuated as their houses were being swept away by flood waters. The ‘insert technical word about something shifting’ weather became about cyclones and floods. Farmers were uploading videos of themselves dancing naked in water and firefighters were returning home exhausted.

We had shown the old mother nature that we couldn’t be taken down. And that fickle old woman retaliated with ‘here. Hold my beer’. And she sent us ‘Rona’. A virus that has swept the world faster than One Nation’s last album release.

Photo by Ine Potargent on Pexels.com

Unprecedented Times

I swear, if I had a dollar for every time I had heard ‘unprecedented times’, I would be able to pay for every single person to have the rest of the year off and go into isolation. It’s almost as good as my favourite term from the floods many years ago, ‘INUNDATED’. Gah. These buzz words by media just crush my soul.

Anyhow, during these unparalleled, unheard of, unique (see what I did there journos- not hard) times, our leadership is scrambling for what to do next. Now, I get it, making decisions at this time is difficult, it’s impossible to please everyone. I understand, try telling a class of 16 year olds that we are studying Shakespeare this term. Same diff, right?

But some of these speeches are doing my head in. Literally, a summary of one of our Prime Minister’s speeches.

The Easter holidays are coming up. But remember, they aren’t holidays. And schools will open again on the other side of the holidays, because after two weeks of you all staying sensibly inside your house, we will have flattened the curve. But these stage 1 measures that we will be putting in place are long term and there will be more stages implemented. We can’t act quickly, because it’s going to take at least 6 months to get through this.
Schools will stay open, because there is no evidence that young people will get sick from it. It is disappointing to see young people flouting the social distancing rules and not taking it seriously. Young people need to remember that they can get sick from it and be a carrier to older people.

Stay inside people. Unless you want to go for a walk. Or get a coffee, as long as you sit 2 metres away from your date. Nope. Didn’t work. Or get your haircut, as long as your appointment is less than 30 minutes. Wait. NOPE. Scrap that. Hairdressers stay open.

Look. I get it mate. You are trying not to upset people. But maybe you just need to pull out your inner ‘Karen’. Make a strong stance. Like I say in my year 10 English class, ‘I don’t care if you don’t like Romeo and Juliet. You will read it Johnny, you will most likely learn from it and who knows. YOU MIGHT EVEN BENEFIT FROM IT’

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Logic. Tales of Yesteryear.

Why do people act so stupid? Are we Idiocracy in action?

If you haven’t see the aforementioned flick, do yourself a big old favour and watch it. I mean, it’s not like you have anything better to do right now, right?

Anyhoo, the events of today lead me to question, has modern society genetically bred out ‘logic’. Why do we live in a time, where if it isn’t a law, it must be okay to do. Can anyone pinpoint an exact time in history, where humanity stopped being able to think ‘hmmm. This is not a good idea, perhaps I shouldn’t do it’. Let me know please.

Well, while sitting in my isolation box on wheels (Karen the Kia) outside the doctor’s office, I witnessed something disgraceful. In a time where we are one step away from carrying a can of Glen 20, like pepper spray, in our bags, hygiene is of most importance. The man in the car in front got out of the driver’s side and did a furtive glance around to see if anyone was watching. Clearly didn’t see me there, my big white SUV is apparently invisible. Then spat. And not a little one. A big, disgusting white string of spit.

It doesn’t end there. A car pulled up next to it. A woman with a face mask on stepped out, right on top of it. She was obviously not having the greatest day, because she turned and scowled at me before she rushed off.

Maybe if she stayed, I would have been able to tell her that her face mask won’t do a whole lot of good when she get home. Because no doubt, she will take off her mask, then her shoes, getting delicious phlegm all over her hands and thus, most likely, face.

Don’t be an idiot people. We don’t need a law to say ‘don’t spit’. Just be humans, not camels.

Photo by Ivan Siarbolin on Pexels.com