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How to holiday better – TV company wants to hear from you!

21 Sep

Are you a family who holidays on a budget? Would you like to learn how to holiday better?

We have been asked to spread the word about a new TV show which can help you to get the most for your holiday money. To apply to take part in this programme, or for more information please email:  holidaybetter@7wonder.co.uk

 

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My letter to David Cameron

5 Feb

Dear Mr Cameron

Can we have a new Secretary of State for Education please? Can we have one that actually knows something about children and education?  I understand Mr Gove went to a private school which is all very well and lovely but he doesn’t know the first thing about state schools. Yes, he allegedly ‘consults’ with teachers before he comes up with his fanciful ideas but I’d love to know just which schools these teachers are from. You can bet your bottom dollar they are not from struggling state schools.

Improving education in schools will not happen by making the days longer. It will come about by investing in excellent teachers, listening to and respecting their views and by providing them with adequate support and resources to do their job. They are the experts when it comes to Education, not Mr Gove. Asking already over-stretched teachers to work longer hours will have them running for the door. That should bring an interesting end to his education reforms.

I always try to keep an open mind about change. I look at suggestions from both sides and  have always been very good at seeing things from other people’s point of view BUT, what planet is Mr Gove living on?? In a recent interview he said that if our children are in school for 10 hours per day, this still gives them plenty of ‘family time’. How does he come to this conclusion I wonder? If my children finish school at 6, we will be home at 6.15pm and they go to bed soon after 7pm. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for a family meal, let alone anything else. So, weekdays are written off, that means children will only get to spend time with their parents on a Saturday and Sunday. What about parents who have to work weekends? What about all the chores that working parents have to fit in at the weekend, like shopping, housework etc? Does Mr Gove really think that this is an acceptable amount of ‘family time’? If he does, then I pity his children.

If Mr Gove had an educational background then he would know that children learn through play and through exploring ideas themselves. They do not learn best when sat in a classroom for 10 hours having his regimented curriculum spouted at them. Children need time to play what THEY WANT TO PLAY, to use their imagination, to be free to come up with their own ideas and most of all they need time to rest and relax.  My children are exhausted at the end of the school day as it is.

Your Education Secretary has already done his best to destroy our quality family time. He has taken away our parental right to decide when we want to holiday as a family. Don’t get me wrong, I agree that parents who push the limits should be punished but to say that we cannot take our child out of school for even a couple of days in a year is harsh. For most families this means the end of any foreign holidays where children can learn new cultures and languages.

What Mr Gove  doesn’t seem to realise is that we have children because we want them. NOT because we want to pack them off to school for 10 hours a day. We actually want to see them grow and develop and we want to be the biggest factor in that. Otherwise we would just drop them off at the school gates at age 4 and collect them again at age 18.

Mr Gove bases a lot of his theories on the PISA results. Considering the number of different countries participating in this study varies from year to year, it is hardly an accurate comparison. One thing I did find interesting though is that one of the top performing countries, Korea, also reports having the unhappiest students. But hey, does it really matter if our children are unhappy? Mr Gove seems to think not.

Oh and I have to mention the idea of getting children to ‘mop floors and pick up litter’ as way of punishment for bad behaviour. I assume this is some kind of joke! If a child is disruptive in class and refuses to do what they have been told then what makes you think they will pick up a mop and set to work with it? They are more likely to use it as a weapon.

My perfect day at Center Parcs

25 Jan

This month Center Parcs are challenging bloggers to describe their perfect day at Center Parcs.

For my family, this would most definitely involve a lot of time in the sub-tropical pool. We LOVE the pool at Center Parcs, especially the outdoor area, the lazy river and the wave machine. My children would happily spend the whole day in the pool but we do tend to leave before we turn into a family of prunes.

Whilst watching the family videos on the Center Parcs website I heard one family refer to a ‘Baby Owl Handling experience’ Twit… Twoooo.. yes please! I would love to do this as I am crazy about owls. My husband would probably be very happy to have a go at the Aerial Adventure and my daughter may even give this a go too, depending how brave she was feeling. The thing we really love to do is to explore the park, either on foot or on our bikes. We love being at one with nature and making our own fun (although admittedly we do have to stop at EVERY playground that we come across!)

To complete the perfect day I would like a lovely meal at the Hucks Restaurant or The Pancake House. Both serve amazing food and are excellent at catering for coeliacs like myself. Just thinking about it is making my mouth water!

Back to the villa for hot chocolate and stories. On a perfect day the children would go to bed with no trouble at all and hubby and myself can sit back and enjoy a glass of wine or two….

‘I’m a Center Parcs Family Blogger and will be visiting Longleat village with my family. If you want to enter to win a place as a wildcard winner just go to the challenge page to find out how http://bit.ly/1gvBHBB

Exciting news!

28 Oct

CenterParcs Family Blog Club

Eeek…. I am very excited! I have been chosen to be a Center Parcs Family Blogger! The Family Blogger Club was set up by Center Parcs to bring the excitement of Center Parcs into Bloggers homes. Following a video competition, I was chosen, alongside 11 other bloggers to experience the wonder of Center Parcs during  a FREE short break at their Longleat park. As you can imagine, I am thrilled! We had to come up with a short video, describing our favourite family activity. You can watch our video here. You can find out about all the other chosen bloggers on the Center Parcs blog

I have not been able to tell the children yet as we may not take the break until next spring. They would probably self-combust in all the excitement waiting to go! We will tell them nearer the time and I can’t wait to see their little faces.

Being a Center Parcs Family blogger also involves taking part in regular monthly challenges. Anyone can enter these which means that you too could be in with a chance of also winning a short break at Center Parcs. Just keep an eye on their blog for more details.

We have had two visits to Center Parcs in the past. Both visits have been during their Winter Wonderland in December. This is a truly magical experience, especially if you have young children that are still ‘firm believers!’ Here is our review of our Winter Wonderland visit.

I look forward to bringing you news on our family ‘challenges’ and of course reviewing our visit to Center Parcs!

Madeleine McCann – 6 years on

16 Oct

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Watching Crimewatch on Monday night my blood ran cold, just as it did six years ago when the tragedy first unfolded. I often wonder how the McCann family manage to cope day after day, not knowing what has happened to Madeleine? How do you carry on, not knowing where you child is or what has happened to them?  I guess the answer must be that you just HAVE to carry on, for your other children and for the rest of your family. I admire Gerry and Kate for not giving up in the fight to find their daughter, they must have been feeling broken and bereft for six agonising years, finding the strength to go on must be incredibly hard.

The programme last night seems positive in so many ways, lots of new leads and lots of calls from people who recognised the new e-fit photos. Why though has it taken so long to get to this point?  Why are the Metropolitan Police finding out that leads followed by the Portuguese authorities were not useful and that new leads were left without being followed up?  I can’t help feeling angry for this family, years have been allowed to pass by before our own country really steps in and helps. In my mind this should have happened in the beginning.

My thoughts go out to the McCann family and I really hope that this time they will get some answers.

For anyone that missed the reconstruction on Crimewatch last night, you can view it here. You can also view all of the latest e-fit photographs on the official  Find Madeleine website. If you were in Praia da Luz on or around 3rd May 2007 do please take the time to have a look.

If you see a girl resembling Madeleine as she may look now (see above image) you should IMMEDIATELY contact your local police station AND contact Operation Grange


0207 321 9251 (in the UK)
+44 207 321 9251 (non-UK)

OR Crimestoppers in confidence on 0800 555111 orwww.crimestoppers-uk.org

Please share this post in any way you can, lets keep everyone looking for Madeleine. If you are a fellow blogger you can use your blog to help spread the word by writing your own post about Madeleine.  Please include a link with the recent e-fit photos and use the hashtag #blogging4madeleine

Is there really such a thing as a free lunch?

18 Sep

I had to turn up the radio yesterday as I heard the news.  For a minute I thought I was hearing things? Free school meals, for all children? Really?

I am quite oblivious to what is going on in the news, half the time I’m asleep before the ten o’clock news so I really wasn’t expecting this big piece of news. Like many parents across the UK, this means my son will be entitled to a free hot lunch at school, and he will enjoy this benefit for his final two years at infant school. Of course I am happy that my son will get a free hot meal but if the government thinks I cannot afford to send my son to school with a healthy lunch then I wish they would concentrate their efforts on bringing down our household bills instead.

What really bugs me about this decision is how the government can justify spending £600m on a plan that is to benefit the more affluent of families. The children who are living in poverty are already entitled to a free school meal so it is not going to benefit those that need it most. It also won’t benefit those children over 7 years old. Why not roll this out to all school children if they think the benefits are worth this amount of money? Do children stop needing a good nutritional meal when they are 7?

The other problem I have with this decision is where is the money going to come from?  We are still in the depths of recession, no matter what the government likes to tell us. Couldn’t this money be put to better use? Plans to slash school’s budgets have already been proposed by Michael Gove which could mean some staff such as Teaching Assistant’s losing their jobs, this will have a detrimental effect on our children’s education. Teachers will be under more pressure, children that need one-to-one support will not get it. I work in a school on a voluntary basis and I have seen just how valuable Teaching Assistants are and just how much work they do. It’s not just about listening to children read anymore, they are a vital part of the education system. They provide one-to-one support for children with special educational needs and they assist the teachers who have to manage large classes of up to 30 children. I’d like to see Michael Gove manage a class of that size without any support!

So, is there such a thing as a free lunch or will our education system pay for it in the long run? What do you think?

My new role as an Approved Family Friendly Assessor!

20 Aug

Approved Family Friendly

Have you heard of Approved Family Friendly? It’s a new scheme which assesses holiday parks, restaurants, soft play areas, hotels and party providers to make sure they really are ‘family friendly’. Once they have been thoroughly checked out by one of the Family Friendly assessors – me included now! – they will be awarded the AFF mark, seen above. It means that these organisations and service providers really will have to live up to their claims, giving parents and families peace of mind.

You can search their website for specific services in your area and discover exactly what makes a provider family friendly. All members of AFF are independently assessed by parents/bloggers. so you know that you are getting an honest and impartial view of the provider you would like to use. Each provider has a full listing on the AFF website which includes a detailed review from the assessor plus a full list of family friendly facilities offered by each provider.

I am really passionate about this new scheme and am proud to be a part of it. I think it is going to be invaluable for parents. In order to receive accreditation, providers must prove that they provide facilities such as baby changing, equipment must be accessible and safe for children, accommodation must be appropriate and comfortable, they must be breastfeeding friendly (something I am a particular supporter of), they must meet certain health and safety standards and lots more….

I shall be doing my first assessment tomorrow and am really looking forward to it.

Have you any good recommendations for family friendly providers? Do please leave a comment below to let me know about them.