Tuesday, 20 September 2011

No Christmas stuff before remembrance day please

My twitter followers will probably recognise my annual Christmas related rant but it really does annoy me.

I know this is a much said thing but Christmas gets earlier and earlier every year. Now I love Christmas More and more each year as I now have children to share it with which makes it extra special but really, as soon as the 'back to school' stuff was out of the shops, in went the Christmas stuff this year.

My birthday is in October and I remember being annoyed if Christmas stuff was around then but being in the shops now is stupid. Where will the Halloween stuff go? but there is an issue more important than that.

As someone who used to play in a marching band in a military area of the country, remembrance day was and still is important. Marching the veterans through the town under Christmas lights was wrong and disrespectful to the memory of those who died fighting for the safety and values of this country.

We have plenty of time to get ready for Christmas after November the eleventh. There's nothing to stop us quietly preparing for Christmas without all the tat in the shops (I have to admit that I have started my Christmas preparations as I'll have very little time closest to Christmas). But I don't need the endless round of commercialism or Christmas Muzak in every public space I enter to make sure I'm ready for the big day.

So ladies and gentlemen, I implore you to join me in my campaign to get Christmas stuff out of the shops until after November 11th. As one person on twitter pointed out; who needs an advent calendar at the beginning of September anyway?

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Tests, tests and yet more tests

The uk government have just announced the roll out of tests for 5-6 yr olds to check that they can do phonics properly. The test takes the form of the children being taken out of a class for ten minutes to read a series of real and made up words.

I object to this on a number of levels. Firstly, as a parent I don't want my daughters having to go through tests at five. No matter how you dress it up, if theres a test sooner or later schools will be judged on it and if school are judged on it they will change how they present it to the kids. I trust the teachers I give my daughters to and I know they will tell me if they're doing well or need a bit of a boost.

Secondly, I don't believe this test will help reading standards in the slightest. All this test will do is suggest whether kids and put letter sound together. Being able to read in a functional way is much more than that and so really all this test is doing is forcing schools to teach reading in one particular style. Phonics is good but it's not the god of all reading techniques. My three year old is already learning to read and it's got bog all to do with phonics coz we haven't been 'teaching' her. Phonics is massively flawed in some respects particularly if you have a regional accent.

So what is this really about? Is it about making sure all kids can read (which this test won't do)? is it about a government who fundamentally doesn't trust teachers? Is it a London centric educational establishment trying to undermine regional variations? I don't know but I bet it's got a hell of a lot more to do with political whim than what's best for kids. For goodness sake, the counties with the best educational outcomes don't even start formal education until seven but we're going to be testing our kids two years earlier!

Well, one thing this has done is given me a question to ask the primary schools I'm going to be visiting in the run up to applying for my three year olds place for next year: Dear schools, I don't want my daughter taking that test, or SATs for that matter, do I have the option to opt them out?

Friday, 9 September 2011

How typical!

2 days ago I invested in an iPad app to help me blog. Today I discover the blogger app has been released for free!

So in honour of very randomness, this is a blog with a picture of a steam train. Nice.

Normal blogs will resume shortly ;)

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

A few lovely iPad Apps

I'm still getting to know my beautiful iPad. If you're wondering whether to get one I would say yes, as soon as you can. I fought the urge for a year but in the end I caved and it was well worth it. I can't compare my iPad 2 to the original but this one is lovely.

I got some good advice app wise from a friend which got me up and going but part of the joy of the whole idevise thing is just browsing the app store. The kind of apps that appeal to you will differ from me but here are a few that I have found joyful.

A quick disclaimer; I'm still getting to grips with the iPad so I've worked out how to attach photos but not how to embed them in the blog nicely, hence all the screen shots are at the bottom of this post. Secondly, these are purely apps that have made me feel happy, calm or just nice. I am not claiming that they are useful in anyway (although if they are, that's a nice bonus).

Living earth HD
Fundamentally this is a global weather app. It tells you current weather, weather forecast for the coming week, sunrise and set times and the time at the location you have searched for, but this app is presented beautifully. It shows the real time cloud cover across the earth and for the areas of the earth that are at night, it shows the inhabited areas as they are lit up with street lights etc. The screen shot below is of the third hurricane in the atlanic that I've seen since having the app for less than a week. Oh, you can also set it as an alarm which is very cool in my opinion.

Music ball
This really is the most gentle little app. Basically the premise is that when you touch the screen a coloured ball appears and starts to fall. When it hits the side, it makes a little sound and then bounces up until it hits the top etc. With each bounce it gets fainter and quieter. This creates the kind of gentle tingly music you'd expect to hear in a health spa. but the best thing about this app is if you own a baby. There are many apps for toddlers but, I suppose understandably, there is not much out there for babies to interact with. This app is perfect. Noises that attract, little coloured balls to try and grab, it really is like nectar to a baby. The only thing I need to do now, is convince my 8 month old to use her hands on the screen instead of her face.

Google earth
Now, as a geographer I got over google earth about 4 or 5 years ago. I can be so precise because the last time I looked at it was to check out a resort we were going to on holiday. At the time, google earth only had a very long range view and it didn't impress me at all. However, I downloaded this app last night and promptly wasted a good three hours scooting round the earth. The usability on iPad is fab and it's so much better than years past. The links to photographs and wiki logs have been particularly absorbing. The satellite images have also been updated although I would say they are still a good few years out, depending on which part of the earth you wish to view. It's just a brilliant way to explore the earth if you can't afford or be bothered to travel.

There are many many more cool and interesting apps with specific uses but these are the ones (so far) that I have found to be truly good for my mental health!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

It's been a while!

I've not blogged for a while because I got the feeling that I just didn't have very much to say. It's not that my life has been boring, in fact we've been really busy, it's just that I didn't think it was hugely interesting to the outside world for a while.

We've been busy doing the rounds of baby activities and the over the summer holiday we had a nice holiday in the Isle of Man, which I will chat about at some point. But the biggest news in my world is that I got an iPad last Tuesday. It's lovely and so I shall do a blog about that soon too.

I'm still on maternity leave until October 31st so I'm going to enjoy it as much as I can before I have to face up to having to work through until retirement now.