Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The Patchwork of Childcare

The BBC article on 8 radical solutions to childcare made me smile this morning. Not because they are so lovely, but mostly because they are so utterly unworkable, that there is definitely a bit of comedy going on. Still, nothing wrong for being a bit radical when really there is a big issue around childcare.

The reality of childcare is more like a patchwork. So I thought things would get a) simpler and b) cheaper once Cubling starts school. That would have been the naive world view of the uninitiated. With less than a month to go before the big day of starting school, I'm awfully smug because I managed to get all my childcare needs met. Yes, you heard me, and I know it'll make some jealous and want to hit, kick and bite me, but the jigsaw is complete.

And this is what it looks like, verion 5.13:

For term time:

  • 8-9 am Breakfast club on 4 mornings
  • 9am-3pm school
  • 3-6pm after school care on 2 afternoons a week
  • 3-6pm childminder 1 on 2 afternoons a week.
  • late work days: child minder 1

  • 8-5pm nursery on 3 days a week
  • (will change to 2 days plus 1 day at outdoor nursery once she turns 3)
  • 8-6pm childminder 1 on 1 day a week
  • late work days: child minder 1

In service days:
  • Childminder 1 or 2

School holidays:
  • Childminder 1 and 2.

Total: 6 child care providers between two children. I've not yet figured out the total cost, but we're on the very cheap end of it all and so lucky in that respect, but one thing I have realised is that we'll be paying significantly more on childcare than we currently do with 2 under 5s. Ok, my working hours are increasing so this is probably the bulk of the additonal cost, but still, my hope that once school kicked in, childcare costs would come down was an illusion.

For the past few months, I've had headaches and near head explosions about how to get it all organised and make sure there are no pieces missing and not gaps. Thankfully, our current 2 childminders (who we fall back on for anything additional) were able to pick up the missing pieces and it all worked out just fine.

However, looking at this it becomes clear that childcare isn't the simple "just put your child into a nursery" situation. My work is not strictly 9-5pm, there are commuting times to consider. After school, school holidays and in service days.

And even if it is all looking good, I still have the conundrum that I need Snowflake to be at nursery 8.30-5.30 and the nursery will only offer me 8-5pm, leaving me half an hour short for being able to have a full working day.

One of the suggestions are taking your baby. Have you tried it? Well I have and to be honest, not a lot of work gets done and I'm not sure if the work I do manage to get done is offset by the distraction from work that my colleagues surely experience (open office). A parent co-op? All I can say that whenever I tried to organise child activities , as soon as it goes over the 2 hours threashold it has to be registered, inspected and a whole lot of regulations, paperwork sets in which includes the necessity for any workers in this scheme to be disclosed and training towards a child care qualification. Not doable for working parents.

I do like the idea of combining care for the elderly and childcare. Of course I might be naive not having experienced the ins and outs of this, but it sounds like a solution which would benefit both children and older people, so I'd like to hear more about it.

As to schools being open all day, I've been arguing for a while how it would be good to have a one stop point for childcare, i.e. a child care provider located at a school and integrating preschool and after school care. Here in Scotland at least, pre school is delivered in half day sessions, so the nurseries that are attached to schools will mostly only offer 2.5 to 3 hours a day for 4 and sometimes 3 year olds. Which is no good if you're working. There are exceptions to this but these nurseries are notoriously difficult to get your child into. After school and holiday care would be best delivered as a standard at each primary school (I've not yet even found out what holiday care there is available and how much it costs as we're lucky enough that one of the childminders can step in).

Integrated childcare. The magic word. Sounds so much better than having to stop at 6 addresses during the course of a week.
Universal childcare. The end of worries and financial strains on families, which demonstrably has led to more equal societies and happier children in the Scandinavian countries - thus actually saving money in the long run rather than costing the taxpayer (through lower rates of crime, reduced mental health costs, lower health budgets, less prison sentences, less vandalism, less substance abuse, and the list continues).

The thing is, it can be done. It's not a distant dream. It does depend on political will and public support for the idea that children are an asset for the whole of the society and not just the parents' issue; that universal and integrated childcare reaps benefit for all of us, whether we choose to have children or not. And looking at the comments on the BBC article, we are a looooong way off such public support.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Mummy according to Cubling, aged 5 and 3 months

I saw this little interview a long time ago on Kids Craft and Chaos and tried it out at the time. Alas, Cubling would now play game and didn't just not give any interesting answers, but actually walked away. So when Clair posted an update, I took the opportunity of Cubling being sat next to me and all cuddled up to try again. I think she enjoyed the game but made up a few things, as she does.

1. What is something mummy always says to you? draw
2. What makes mummy happy? When I tidy up
3. What makes mummy sad? When I don't tidy up
4. How does your mummy make you laugh? Making funny faces
5. What was your mummy like as a child? silly
6. How old is your mummy? 77
7. How tall is your mummy? super tall!
8. What is her favorite thing to do? do work
9. What does your mummy do when you're not around? She doesn't do anything
10. If your mummy becomes famous, what will it be for? pennies (???? I don't think she understood this question)
11. What is your mummy really good at? Writing
12. What is your mummy not very good at? Drawing cows
13. What does your mummy do for a job? Typing at the computer
14.What is your mummy's favorite food? Spaghetti
15.What makes your mummy proud of you? Kissing her
16. If your mummy were a cartoon character, who would she be? Princess on the pea
17. What do you and your mummy do together? Play hide and seek
18. How are you and your mummy the same? our noses
19. How are you and your mummy different? hair colour
20. How do you know your mummy loves you? Because she loves me
21. What does your mummy like most about your daddy? talking about things
22. Where is your mummy's favorite place to go?  To other countries. Germany.

I'm obviously not 77 and she knows it. I'm not that fussed about a tidy house but this girl just flings everything everywhere so I am on about trying to keep things off the floor so we don't break our necks. I definitely don't like spaghetti that much, and if anyone is silly in this house it's little miss chatterbox not me, but she is spot on, I can't for the life of me draw a cow.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Those special childhood moments - collected and captured

For the past 6 weeks, I've been part of a wonderful photography ecourse - Collect the Moments, run by Kat and Kat from Capturing Childhood. When I first heard about their new endeavour, I was instantly drawn to it, simply because I love their photography, and who can be a better teacher than those whose art you admire?

I've been taking photos as long as I can remember. I used to be even quite ambitious, and geeky about it. Yes, I did darkrooms and went totally manual when there were automatic SLRs on the market, and then I got totally into sports photography (I still struggle to bin those thousands of tennis photos that I took). Somehow though, all that I once knew, had become a bit rusty. Yes, I picked up the camera much more once I got my DSLR a couple of years ago but it was more hit and miss. Sometimes I was totally happy with my photos, other times they didn't live up to my expectations. Trouble was, I couldn't tell what had gone wrong.

It was the perfect timing for me - still on reduced hours and holiday time, which means that work, while still busy, isn't taking over my life. So I signed up.

Well, what can I say? I loved it. The course did so many things for me. It brought back my lost knowledge of how to work and be in control of aperture and shutter speed. For the first time I learned about composition and really looked into how light affects the photographic outcome. I analysed my shots, and was inspired by those taken by my fellow students. I found out about free tools out there that I didn't know about, and nailed down the problems that previously led to disappointing photos. I started using the tools of my camera, one at a time, and could even be found reading the manual!

By week 2, I was sitting at my computer waiting for new posts or waiting for people to upload their most recent assignment shots to the flickr group to admire them. It was so refreshing seeing childhood through so many eyes, so many perspectives and with so much love and tenderness.

I've taken away a theoretical knowledge that I never had, refreshed the knowledge that once upon a time I did have and lost on the way, and the motivation to dig deeper into the potential of my DSLR. The latter translates to having registered for the next course, the Manual Overdrive bootcamp which will be all about going manual on the DSLR (and registration is still open). I'm also now making more of an effort to have the camera with me all of the time, so I don't miss those special and fleeting moments of childhood. Yes I may have been the annoying papparazza on our recent holiday, but hey ho, it was worth it! Now that I know what works and how to overcome photographic challenges, all that is left is putting it into practice. And mastering the beast of the manual settings!

In case you were wondering - I do take photos of my children's faces of course. Some of the best shots are in fact the moments captured. However, these are the pictures which I'm happy to share publicly.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012


It almost feels as if we hadn't actually been on holiday. It all happened rather quickly, and I don't think I've ever stumbled into my holiday this badly organised. Sometimes though it works out anyway.

We'd been to Devon, in the hope of some warm but not hot weather, some sunshine and beach.

It rained. It poured. It rained some more.

And you know what? It was just fine. We'd stayed at a place that had an indoor swimming pool right next to it, a play park and a trampoline too, and a toy and DVD library. And I'd brought not one, no two knitting projects. We can do rain.
Still. It was nice to also have a hire car and explore Devon and Cornwall.

There was a lot of knitting in cars while manoeuvring through hedgerow lined roads. The manoeuvring was done expertly by t'hubby, the knitting similarly expertly by me (cough cough).
There were many trips to the pool and the kids loved it. Apart from Snowflake who liked to watch and throw balls instead which was fine by me, not being a pool fan myself.
There were visits to the Eden Project, Dartmoor, Clovelly, Bude, Holsworthy.
There was a lot of playing by 4 cousins without the need of adult interference.
There was a lot of TV - DVDs, tennis (Snowflake calls it Fussball which I find quite cute) mainly.
There were long train journeys and one ugly interchange station.
There were late nights for the kids.
There was a duck pond with ducks and geese ready for bread.
There were donkey rides, market days.
There was wool from a local Devon sheep. Could I resist? Rhetorical question. I still buy yarn quicker than knit it up.
There were lovely country inns, woodland walks, and about 400 pictures taken.

Cubling cried when we said goodbye. She wanted to stay in her new home, the Badger House, forever. So with one grumpy child and one under the weather with a nasty cough child we returned home, just in time for the Wimbledon final. "Fussball, Fussball, Andy, Andy!"

The challenge of the week is to dry the holiday laundry. I can do rain, but the laundry doesn't like it.

PS you can see some run downs on our outdoor adventures on my other blog, Nature Kids.



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