Flexi-Schooling · Home Education · Uncategorized

Bring on the Flexibility in Education – Flexi-Schooling

I never had any intention of sending my son to school at the age of 4. In my eyes that is plain madness – sorry to offend if you are one of those parents or guardians who did or will. I want my children to have a childhood and not a ‘tablehood’ or ‘cramhood’ or ‘assessmenthood’ of D of E rhetoric at such a tender age. I know that many children in countries around Europe don’t start formal education until the age of 6 or 7. We also have a substantial body of evidence in the UK, which demonstrates that formal education at an early age, and also sending summer born children to school too early, is profoundly damaging. Full-time home education was not an option for us, however much we’d love to engage. But the halfway house of flexi-school was an option.

So here we are, flexi-schooling our adorable and curious 5 year old son! We are the in-betweeners; the one’s rejecting full-time muddled up, and seriously fucked up, state education, with its never ending assessment for our nation’s children under the crushing burden of funding cuts. Our educational system is not child-centered.

Our fab journey into flexi-schooling started 8 months ago. Our five year old simply loves home education whilst attending a fabulous small village primary school part-time. As parents, we love being in-betweeners too! It’s not that we just get to dispense with the hell of the school run 3 days each week – and believe me it is bloody hell – we spend over 2 hours on a school day stuck in the car. Instead, it is the full package, which flexi-schooling can bestow upon the child and their family life, that we embrace.

Home education is amazingly efficient. In our case my son has one-to-one tuition with mummy. Literacy and numeracy can be covered much quicker and we can also spend more time on projects that fuel his interests and passions. What is there not to like really!

The spontaneity of home education is an education in itself, which demonstrates that learning is an organic process and it does not need to be highly structured, planned or quantified for a child to benefit. On a rainy home ed day we usually stay home and do stuff indoors, yet on those beautiful sunny days we are free and unencumbered to take learning under the sun to spend time gardening, walking, or visits to the seaside or to activity centres.

I am always amazed at the sheer misconceptions or educational Gove-esk propaganda surrounding flexi-schooling. NO my child is not isolated and nor does he miss out on those days he does not attend school. In fact, he happily and confidentially returns to school to see his friends and teachers and to engage in the activities of that school day. He then skips out of class to engage in the wonders of home ed and extra time with his baby sister. I’d even go so far to say that my son’s flexi-schooling enhances the school environment.

Why? Well, other kids are interacting with and embracing a child who is passionately learning in a different way – learning different topics and engaging in different subjects, experiencing different activities – all of which my little boy enthusiastically shares with his classmates. Due to the one-to-one home tuition, my little one is also ‘up there’ with his numeracy and general knowledge – surely that can only be a good thing for any school. The amount of time we dedicate to child-centered activities and days out also ensures that his language and social skills are advanced.  But of course these building blocks of life aren’t new to us; we’ve been doing them since the second he was born. Education doesn’t only happen in schools.

 

Letting agency fees · Rental Sector · UK Housing Crisis

Mummy in Renta-Land

As  a mummy in her 4th decade of life, yes I know I’m not defined as “young” anymore, in fact, right now I am beyond exhausted with raising a nine month old bundle of exuberance and a five year old whirlwind, whilst working full time. But I suspect much of that feeling of “being knackered” stems from the daily stress flowing from being stuck in renta-land in a crap house for which we pay a fortune in rent…each and every penny in the landlord’s pocket is one less penny in our saving jar for a deposit to purchase a house. Plotting a way out of this housing crisis seems something even Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible would struggle to achieve.

Some of the ongoing stress comes from cooking meals – which is quite frankly a grinding ongoing nightmare! It’d be just fab if we could pop along to the local bespoke kitchen centre and design our own functional kitchen. But alas, we can’t, we are stuck with a broken relic from the 1980s. Last night during my daily meltdown whilst trying to cook a proper nutritious meal for 2 adults and 2 small kids, I told my DP that it was far easier to prepare, cook and serve food in the caravan awning whilst we were homeless. Of course that statement is nonsense. But the fact is, all the kitchen cupboards are broken, we have nowhere to store food, we only have a small pissy fridge, we do not have a freezer, the oven is from the early 1980s and is unsafe to use, the bare floorboards are broken in parts, we purchased a halogen oven to compensate for the landlord’s refusal to fix the oven and well…what can I say, the halogen oven excels at branding one’s arms when lifting in or out trays of food! The bottom line is that property law in the UK is pretty damn useless when one is a tenant. We could complain to the landlord about the state of the house, but past experience tells us that he will simply start what is called a retaliatory eviction…by issuing a Section 21 Notice.

My darling five year old knows we have a “shit” kitchen and indeed a “shit” house. He is not stupid. He can analyse and he can compare. He also remembers our last 3 rental homes…the ones were we received Section 21 Notices in retaliatory fashion by bullish, unscrupulous landlords. A few nights ago, a mother at the school gate invited us over so our kids could have a play date. It was one of those ‘let’s get to know one another coffee things’ for the grown ups in the uber-modern kitchen whilst the kids run wild and cause havoc in the stylish front room. The Mum is indeed lovely and so too her son. It was good to chat over proper coffee with hazelnut milk…it went down a treat with the hot cross buns we gifted. They are also renting…they are paying top bucks for a wondrous detached cottage surrounded by rolling fields. They rent due to relocation for work, but are also well and truly up the property ownership ladder and are currently landlords themselves leasing out their property to tenants. After we bid our farewells and stepped into the chilly northern climes, my five year old baba announced in his squeaky little voice that he loved their home and then he compared it to ours. I in turn, experienced one of those “I’m a shit mother” moments…a prolonged moment, in fact, I am still feeling it now 2 days later! Why? Well, it isn’t a great feeling when one’s child is also unhappy being stuck in the rented sector and understands the positives of being a property owner.

 

 

Letting agency fees · Rental Sector · UK Housing Crisis

Please, please, please, ban letting agency fees

Please, please, please, BAN LETTING AGENCY FEES,  before our family life and the future of our kids is permanently fucked up. My partner has been offered a better job – a job at management level, a job where his hours will not be cut whenever his current manager deems it appropriate…every week during the winter months. The new job would allow us to save for a mortgage – not much more – but a little bit more each month – and it would stop us living hand-to-mouth most weeks. That job would allow us to purchase some things for the kids, nothing extravagant you understand, just normal everyday things, like a splash suit for my 5 yr DS or a new pair of jeans for him.

BUT there is a serious problem. We need to relocate to Cheltenham for the job. That is not a problem in itself….we would love to move there. The problem lies with estate agencies and their letting fees. Today, for instance, I contacted Charterhouse Estate Agency and I was informed in a very matter of fact way that their ‘administrative fees for tenants are £270 for a single applicant and £330 for a joint application.’ WTF!! This is normal and above board, of course, in the UK, a land where screwing those in the rented sector is considered perfectly legitimate and morally acceptable. Charterhouse is not alone in Cheltenham, for Morgan Associates, charges the following, according to their website.

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You might think that “renters’ have tons of options to avoid such immoral fees, but we do not. Private lettings are darn hard to find; as a family we are tired of optimistically searching through local newspapers and online social media to find landlords. It would appear that most opt to use estate agencies to lease and/or manage their properties.  With fees like those above, it is highly unlikely that we can move and my partner can accept the fab job offer on the table. Oh and for anybody who thinks it is merely a case of saving up or taking out a small loan to pay the fees, this is perhaps the time to state that paying letting agency fees doesn’t guarantee that one will get a property…that’s right, in renta-land, one can pay letting agency fees, and walk away with nothing except a substantial hole in one’s purse. I know…because it has already happened to us several times previously!!

 

 

 

 

Home owners · Rental Sector · UK Housing Crisis

You Try Saving For A Housing Deposit In 2017!

I stare initially and then look away from the smug home owner who spits out the rhetorical question as though I am a feckless cretin, ‘I don’t understand why you are renting when you could own your own house and save thousands, it’s a long term investment you know.’ By this point, I have a voice screaming inside my head. It’s as though all the home owners I have ever met just don’t comprehend the severe housing crisis engulfing the UK…or that families – such as mine – are caught up in it. So here are a few pointers – AN IDIOTS GUIDE – for home owners on the rental sector.

  1. The typical person who rents is not a cretin. We get that home ownership is the way not to flush money down the drain each month, but low and behold,  most renters – ME included – simply can’t afford to buy.
  2. Smug home owner, listen up please! Us renters understand that you probably snatched the hand off the mortgage broker who sourced you a 125% mortgage back in the day…but guess what? Those don’t exist any more and nor do 100% ,mortgages. So whilst you effectively enjoyed one big fucking push onto and up the property ladder, others, like ME are forced to save £30,000 plus to purchase a poxy damp ridden shoe box in Barrow-in-Furness.
  3. ‘Can’t you ask ma’ and pa’ for an advance on your inheritance?’ Well as pa’ died a pauper and ma’s got nowt except arthritis and dementia, that doesn’t look likely.
  4. ‘Can’t you just save a little each month?’ Oddly, the average home owner in my experience just doesn’t understand the correlation between forking out over half of one’s salary on rent and the inability to save each month. Nor do they understand the “hidden” extras renters are stung with, which drains our resources. For instance, we are faced with letting agency fees – we have lost thousands of pounds over the years. Then we have removal costs; we are forced to dig into our pockets every 6-12 months to move house.
  5. ‘You’re really lucky you rent, you don’t have to worry about funding repairs.’ This statement is usually thrown my way when I dare to say I am tired of being stuck in renta-land. Smug home owner, let me tell you, one final time, that I should love to rip out the kitchen and bathroom of my own home and knock down walls. I – we – should love to ring round builders for quotes to have the structural damage repaired. We would love to do those things, not because we are hammer and chisel happy. On the contrary, we have lived with all manner of other people’s shit over the years – shit, which consecutive landlords have failed to repair despite being legally obliged to do so. It would be kinda nice to repair, modernize, and to add value to, an abode that we actually own and know we can raise our family in until we decide to sell.
  6. Smug home owner, don’t look down upon my family and I – or any other renter – just because you are on the property ladder. Throw water on your face and wake up please! We are in the throes of a housing crisis and you are no better than us just because you have purchased a property. The average person(s) renting will be paying more to lease their home than you pay in mortgage repayments each month – so perhaps have some sympathy.

 

 

Rental Sector · UK Housing Crisis

The Dumping Ground

A I sit here with a coffee and blog, there are no fewer than 5 cats and 1 dog that regularly venture into our garden to poop! This is a garden where I should love my small children to play and for us big people to look on in wonder at the beauty of childhood before us. Instead, the kids are kept indoors – no playing for my five year old out there, and no crawling for my baby out there either.

You see, our landlord – that’s right, the feckless one who has his own young family, deems it appropriate that we have inadequate fencing round the garden. We have a hole too where the gate ought to be. That means Top Cat and his pals walk across the garden and crap whenever the need arises. So too does the dog from next door. Our own dog in her twilight years with dementia thinks WTF. She darts out and darts right back in…in case she is ambushed  by one of these little blighters.