Questions I would ask if Miss NHM was starting YR now

I’ve learnt a few things during the last three years, since Miss NHM started school.

We’ve changed school in that time and we’ve experienced two very different schools as a result.

These are the questions or the things I would be thinking about if Miss NHM were to start school all over again.

As I’ve said here before, I’m very aware that I only have experience of two schools so please take this with a pinch of salt.

You don’t have to agree with me and that’s fine. These are just my ramblings, as a parent, on what I would be asking or considering if Miss NHM was to go back and start school again.

Oh and apologies to any teachers or teaching assistants who read NHM and take offence to any of this. I think that the majority of you do a PHENOMENAL job under very difficult conditions and I’m very thankful for all of your efforts.

Visiting Schools/Questions to Ask

“What are your objectives for the school?”

“What do you want the children to get out of their time from school?”

If you are visiting lots of schools I would recommend seeing if you can get some time with the head. They are top of the food chain at the school and as everything flows down from them it would be important for me to understand what their “ethos” is for the school.

I would ask them about what their objectives are for the school and what they expect the children to get out of school. If they don’t mention the word “fun” at least twice during that conversation I wouldn’t even be considering that school.

If all the head or the teachers talk about is education and maths and english that would be a red light. For me, infants school (in fact all school) needs to be not just about education but also about the welfare ofeach child and how the school would support that.

I believe that there needs to be a fun element in school. Children should not be expected to sit at their desk all day long, especially not in YR.

I would also be VERY reticent if that head teacher came across as very cold and didn’t share anything about their thoughts or feelings. This will reflect throughout the school.

Length of service of the teaching staff

“How long has the head teacher been at the school?”

At Miss NHM’s first school the head teacher changed during the summer holidays just before she started YR. Parents were not informed and I only found out about this by accident. It was handled appallingly by the school and things changed dramatically from when we originally saw the school to when Miss NHM started school. To the point that we didn’t even know when Miss NHM would be starting school until a month before. This should have been an early warning sign to me.

Also, it was clear that the head teacher had no idea what they were doing and this reflected in Miss NHM’s experience of YR.

“How long have the teachers in YR been at that school? ”

This is really important. It’s very interesting to note that often when a new head starts, a lot of the existing staff leave within 6 months, so you will essentially be starting with a brand new staff team.

School Visits

We were given a tour of one school by a parent governor. I wouldn’t attend this tour again. They did not give us a clear picture of the school and we only found this out once Miss NHM started at that school.

I also attended another school visit that was led by children who attended that school. This was a DREADFUL way of seeing a school because it wasn’t possible to ask questions as we went round because the children were unable to answer them. Or maybe that was the idea…

Visit during the school day

As I’ve said before I would also ensure that my visits were during the day time whilst the existing children were in the school. This is VERY enlightening. If the children are all sitting well behaved behind desks, that wouldn’t sit well with me after everything we have experienced.

In YR children should be free to roam. Their focus should be on play activities. I would stand in the YR rooms and turn around slowly and take in the environment. Are the rooms free flowing? Are there mostly toys and sensory items available for the children to play with? Are several of these outside? These are the kinds of things I would be considering as a parent.

School Uniform

“What’s the policy on school uniform?”

Are the school really, really strict on school uniform? This speaks volumes to me if they are strict about uniform in infants school.

Particularly if they demand that the children wear logo’d T-shirts. The stress that we went through because Miss NHM wouldn’t wear logo’d T-shirts because they scratched, is still firmly etched in my mind.

“Extra” classes

“Does the school allow for any other “classes” during the school day?”

I know of some schools that have extra classes during the school day that parents can pay for. Things like sports, music and art, the stuff that the government doesn’t deem important enough to be included in the school curriculum on a regular basis.

If the school doesn’t allow external providers into the school, to me, this indicates the philosophy of the school.

Forest School

“Does the school have any provision for forest school.”

I know of several local schools that have forest school and I’m GUTTED that Miss NHM missed out on this at her school as they mainly do it for the YR and Y1’s in her current school and her old school didn’t have forest school at all.

The children turn up in casual clothes and spend the day outside. The fact that some schools recognise how important it is for young children to be outside would be important to me.

Holidays during term time

“What’s the school policy on taking a child out of school during term time?”

This was my “killer” question when we were going round to view schools before Miss NHM started YR.

All the schools will say the same. It’s illegal, the children will miss out on their education and become illiterate, stupid and will fail at life, you’ll get fined, blah, blah, blah. However, it’s not WHAT they say it’s the WAY that they say it. One head teacher of a school we visited literally tried to rip my head off after I’d asked her that question.

Her response made me think very long and hard about whether I would want my child in a school where the head felt it was appropriate to behave like that with a very reasonable question from a parent who was new to the schooling system.

Failing YR

“How does a child fail YR at this school?”

If a teacher or head teacher balks at the word “fail” then that’s what I would be looking for. If I got a long spiel about how children fail YR for whatever reasons, I would NOT be sending my child to that school.

Time outside

“How often are the children allowed to play on the school field?”

Does the school even have a school field and if they do are the children allowed to play on it or is it “just for show”. I would also want to know about break times and the times that children are allowed outside.

For example, if it’s a heatwave are children still allowed outside to play in the shade during their break times or do they need to remain in the sweltering heat in the classroom?

Additional Needs Children

“How are children with additional needs treated at this school?”

Even if I didn’t have a child with additional needs this would now be a key question for me.

Having seen the IMMORAL and inhumane way that Miss NHM was treated at her old school and having heard that several other children with additional needs have now been removed by their parents from that school, I would want to know exactly what the school was doing to support children with additional needs.

Even if my child didn’t have additional needs I would want to meet the SENCO and the ELSA of the school so I knew who these people were and I got to see how sympathetic and understanding they were.

You never know if your child is suddenly going to need extra support, like we did, and knowing these people in advance and what their “ethos” is would be important to me.

Reception Staff

Having experienced two school receptions I know EXACTLY what I would be looking for.

If the receptionist on the front desk is rude, dismissive or patronising, this speaks volumes about the school.

They will potentially be the first person that you speak too or meet. If they can’t be civil or understanding of a new parent who has no idea what is going on, I wouldn’t want my child at that school.

If the reception staff are bubbly and happy and very willing to give you advice if you are a new parent then this is what I would be looking for.

Sports Day

“What happens on Sports Day?”

This is a bit of a random one but having experienced two very different Sports days at two different schools I would want someone to explain to me what happens on sports day.

If there is no mention of Mum’s races, Dad’s races, toddler races or teacher races this would raise a red flag for me.

For me, Sports days should be a really lovely family affair and if parents and families aren’t invited to take part and it’s just about rigidly following the “structure” of the schools Sports Day, I would be concerned.

Primary Schools vs. Infants Schools

“Is the school a Primary or an Infants school?”

In my naivety before Miss NHM started school I was adamant that she went to an Infants school because I thought it would be better for her to be with children roughly the same age as her and that she would be with lots of her peers.

However, now that we’ve been through two schools I would ALWAYS opt for a Primary school, for many reasons.

Primary schools are normally smaller schools with smaller years, so instead of 3 or 4 classes of 30 children in YR you have 1 or 2 classes of 30 children for each year in a Primary school.

Younger children are also mixing with other children a lot older than them and I have only seen good things come from this. Miss NHM is in awe of the children in Y6 and is always trying to emulate her favourites.

Also, if your child is in Infants school you then have all of the anxiety and stress when they move from Infants to Juniors. I have several friends at Miss NHM’s old school who are living this reality and it looks like it’s quite stressful. Not knowing what the new junior school will be like can be very worrying (they often operate independently of the infants school), as well as stressful wondering about how things “step up” in Y3.

Go with your gut

Most importantly, I would trust my instincts. I wouldn’t let Mr NHM do some of the school visits on his own because I was busy working and trying to look after Miss NHM whilst she was still an un-diagnosed Coeliac. I would want both of us to go and see ALL of our local schools either together or independently during school time.

I wouldn’t just follow the system and think that the school that’s closest to us has got to be a “good” school because aren’t all schools “good”? (No, they aren’t).

I would trust my parenting instincts and if a school didn’t feel right for whatever reason, even if I couldn’t verbalise it, I wouldn’t send Miss NHM there.

When you go into a school and you speak to the staff and the children you will just “know” which school is right for your child.

I hope this hasn’t been too stressful to read for new parents who are due to join the schooling system soon.

Hopefully it’s given you some things to think about that I had never considered when Miss NHM started school. (I wish I had had the benefit of reading this post when she was 3 years old!)

What would you add to these questions?

Good luck!

Feedback from NHM Readers on this post:

Alison: “Some interesting points although I was rather shocked to find out that the school closest to you might be the only one you got even if you didn’t chose it.” 

Leanne: “Lots to think about although your bit about infant/junior schools I would say is unnecessarily worrying for parents who live where there is only a choice of separate schools and no primaries. There are also some enormous primaries! I’ve taught in both and I don’t think the type of school has been a significant factor in children’s happiness.

Also-no teacher or parent races at sports day would not raise a red flag. For every parent that enjoys that sort of thing, there is one that dreads it and hates the thought of letting their child down. Also, the more races there are, the longer the children are sat doing nothing which is especially not great during this hot weather!

I totally agree with listening to see if the HT talks about more than just English and Maths.”

Lucy: I’d add that your child isn’t legally required to be in school at all. It’s your choice how and where your child is educated.”

Leanne: “Oh and it is worth knowing that you can take your child out of school legally until the term after they turn 5 (when they then have to be in education). So if your child is 5 in May, for example, you can take them on holiday any time during their Reception Year but if they are 5 in November you only can for that first term.”

Lizzie: “Couple of things I would like to add. Firstly, your child is not compulsory school age until the term after they turn 5 so it is your right to choose how much they attend until then. Also, if your child is born 1st April – 31st August you can apply to decelerate them and start them at school a year later at age 5. You can ask for them to start in reception.”

Lizzie: “In regard to forest School – I am a forest School and outdoor learning teacher. If you really want forest school make sure it isn’t just one class that get the opportunity, look for a school that continues the provision throughout the school every year to get the most from it. Also, don’t get hung up on forest school itself. There’s schools out there that don’t have actual forest school sessions but outdoor learning and is embedded across the curriculum throughout the school. If a school values outdoor learning they will be telling you about it before you ask.”

Other questions to ask suggested by NHM Readers

Good Afternoon Everyone! I’m putting together a post with questions to ask and things to look out for when visiting Infants/Primary schools. I’ve had some great suggestions in the YR 2018 group but thought I’d ask the whole of the NHM Community if they have any suggestions? TIA 

Charlotte: “Ofsted report, exam results, behaviour management, teaching method as in topic based etc, class sizes, mixed year classes or years on own”

Mary: “Ask about toilets and the dignity of children when using them.”

Lisa: “Mainly go with gut feeling but also look at how happy/polite/well presented the kids are, how much homework do they get in each year, after-school clubs, staff turnover, parent involvement (trips etc), friendliness of staff particularly office staff, how often parents get feedback (i.e reports/parents eve)….”

Victoria: “You can ask all the questions in the world but you will ‘just know’ when you’ve found the right one for your child. When forming questions think about your child’s needs, current ‘academic’ interest, emotional maturity and then base your questions on that. In some way generic questions about OFSTED, sat results are not really going to give you the answers you need!”

Hannah: “Look for how the staff interact & engage with the children. I’d want to know more than anything else that staff would be able to build a positive relationship with my child (no matter how difficult they were being) so they would feel safe and happy… only then will the learning etc take place.”

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My Experience: Body shaming 7 year olds

On Saturdays, after Miss NHM’s swimming lesson, her and Mr NHM go out for a “Daddy Daughter” date, so they can have some quality time together and have a chat.

It was during their “Daddy daughter” date on the morning of the Royal Wedding when Miss NHM suddenly said to my husband: “Daddy, I need to be skinnier”. Just matter of fact, in the way that my daughter is.

It was so out of the blue and not related to what they were discussing and he was so shocked that he just asked her why she thought that.

She said “Because ***** says I’m too fat and I need to be skinnier”.

He continued to be so shocked that he just changed the subject. When he got home he asked to talk to me in private and told me what had happened. I was just as shocked. I had NOT anticipated dealing with things like this when our daughter has just turned 7 years old.

We agreed that we wouldn’t make a big thing about it but would try to re-iterate a positive body image.

However at dinner the next evening I made a flippant comment about it being really healthy and Miss NHM piped up with: “good, I’m glad it’s really healthy as I’m too fat and I need to be skinnier”.  I was so shocked again, but slightly more prepared, so I told her that she is definitely not fat and her body is just perfect as it is.

(Miss NHM already has challenges with food because of her coeliac disease and she is anything but fat.)

I emailed the head teacher on Monday who had asked me to keep them informed previously, as it’s not the first time that Miss NHM has had things like this happen to her.

The head teacher confirmed that body shaming at 7 years old isn’t as rare as you would think.

A few days later I spoke briefly to some trusted parents in the playground and a couple of the Mum’s of girls said that their 6 or 7 year old daughters had also said, at one time or another, that they were “fat”.

WOW. Just WOW. What is our society coming too?

I was very naive in thinking that because we don’t have a TV Miss NHM would be avoiding this type of thing. I hadn’t expected some of her peers to be projecting it instead!

Miss NHM hasn’t mentioned it again since that weekend but she’s being kept away from the other child in school because of their negative impact on Miss NHM anyway.

I’m sharing this not because I have any answers. I don’t have any, but in case any other Mum’s and Dad’s are freaking out about their young children saying things like this, you are not alone.

If anyone has any specific professional advice about what to do with this, then please do let me know.

I don’t know whether it’s right to not make a big thing about this with Miss NHM or whether we should be talking to her more about these things.

Why is parenting so hard at times?

Louise: I wrote this a few weeks ago and I’m not as worried about it anymore as Miss NHM hasn’t mentioned it since but it does make me a little concerned about the future and what that might bring. 

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I’m taking Summer 2018 OFF from NorthHantsMum!

It’s less than a month until the end of term so I thought I better give you the heads-up that I’m taking the summer off from NorthHantsMum like I have for the past 4 years.

As you know NorthHantsMum is my hobby and I fit it in around all of the other things going on in my life. My family is my priority and it’s really important to me that I spend the six weeks summer holiday with Miss NHM, so that we can have some fun and a proper break.

After the last few harrowing years of Miss NHM’s health, this will be our first summer where she is healthy and well and we won’t be struggling with the complications of her Coeliac Disease.

Although I will still be working for most of it, we will be squeezing in lots of fun stuff in between and catching up with lots of friends that we haven’t seen during term time.

I’m also NOT going to get involved in any bloody bench auctions or anything similar. Last year’s fundraising exercise (I know I only have myself to blame for that one! Facepalm! lol) for the Jane Austen benches nearly KILLED me and although it was an amazing experience I am DEFINITELY not doing anything similar again this summer.

(If you suddenly see me doing something like that again, please, please, PLEASE send me lots of abusive messages about talking crap and slap me if you see me!!!)

I will probably post every few days over the summer as I can’t seem to help myself. But it will be more the stuff that I WANT to post than posting for everyone else.

Or I may just decide to take the summer off completely from posting on NorthHantsMum.co.uk. I haven’t quite decided yet.

We will still be working in the background on NorthHantsMum.co.uk though, cleaning things up and making it easier for you to find the posts that you are looking for.

I’m hoping that myself and the “Awesome NHM Support Team” will be putting together our annual posts of “The Ultimate NHM Summer Holiday Posts!” and “Classes still running over the Summer Holidays” so look out for those in the next few weeks.

I will still be around on “Louise nhm Smith” on FB so if you want to ask any anonymous questions please PM me and I will get to them when I can.

BUT I will be totally offline from August 17th until Tuesday 4th September because we are having a “once in a lifetime” holiday (WHOOOOOPPPPPP!!!!!), so if you would like any posts to be published in early September please email them to me now as I will be doing NOTHING from 17th Aug to 4th Sept on NorthHantsMum.

As always thank you for your amazingly fantastic support and I hope you have LOADS of exciting things planned for the summer too!

Louisex

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I started NorthHantsMum 7 years ago today!

Seven years on.

I’m still here.

So are you.

I wish I had something insightful and witty to write about 7 years of my life leading the NorthHantsMum Community but I’m too exhausted today! lol.

I STILL can’t get my head around how I’m considered to be NorthHantsMum. I think it’s because it’s not just me. There’s a whole team of us who work in the background.

Thank you especially to Juliet and Shona who have helped me so much in the past 3 years, putting posts together. Thank you also to Tina for her expert wordpress help. And the many others who have helped me during the past 7 years: Wendy, Andy, Jo, Abi, Sophie, Peta, Claire and many others (apologies if I’ve missed your name off!).

I also can’t believe it’s ONLY been 7 years. It feels like it’s been part of my life for much, much longer!!!! In a good way, of course :-D.

Anyway, Happy 7th Birthday to the NorthHantsMum Community!

Roll on summer, when I’m taking my annual 6 weeks off!!! 😀 😀 :-D.

As always, thank you for being part of the NorthHantsMum Community and for all of your support!

Louisex

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My Experience: Let’s talk about sex…

Yeah, I thought that might get your attention! Hahaha.

It certainly got my attention when Miss NHM came home from school a few weeks ago, talking about “hairy bhajina’s”. It took me about 5 seconds before I twigged what she was going on about!!?!?!?!?!

Then there was a “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, I’m not READY, I’m not READY, I’m not READY!!!!” in my head for about another 5 seconds whilst I did some very quick thinking.

Then I realised that I’m never going to be ready for this one, so I corrected Miss NHM with the right wording and said I would see if I could find a book that could help her understand some things.

Now, I’m the first to admit that I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing when it comes to parenting. I’m making the whole thing up as I go along. We all are and anyone who says they aren’t is a great, big, hairy fibber.

But I do know that it’s important to Mr NHM and I that Miss NHM doesn’t learn about sex from playground gossip.

I know this isn’t strictly about sex but when I was 8 years old one of my best friends, Rachel P, her Mum had a miscarriage. Rachel’s parents obviously tried to explain this awful situation in a way that Rachel would understand. What Rachel took away from this conversation was that the baby had died and that it had been flushed down the toilet. She then told everyone in the playground that this is what had happened. For YEARS I had nightmares about small babies dying and being flushed down toilets, like goldfish.

So I was adamant that Miss NHM doesn’t find out about the birds and the bees or anything like this from playground gossip.

I don’t ever remember having the “sex talk” with my parents. I still have a book that was given to me when I was 6 years old, which explained how things worked.

I discreetly asked a few of the Mum’s on the school run about whether they had come across this yet, and one of my lovely friends (Hi H!) suggested the following book: “Let’s talk about the birds and the bees”.

I got our copy from The Book People, because it was a third of the price of what it was on Amazon or at Waterstones.

It’s a hard back book and really good quality.

The following weekend, Miss NHM and I sat on the bed and read the first few pages of the book.

I can’t say it was an easy read for me. I was cringing  a lot of the way through those pages, which says quite a lot about me I’m sure. Hopefully this didn’t come across as I was doing my very best to read it naturally.

Miss NHM was quite fascinated by it all and she clearly took it all on board because a few nights later she asked about it over the dinner table, which wasn’t quite was I wanted to discuss whilst eating spag bol, but I’d rather she feels safe to discuss these things with us than not.

I have tried to explain to her that we only talk about these things at home. I’d like to apologise to the other school parents if she hasn’t taken this bit on board (face palm).

I have no idea if I’ve done the right thing or not. “Just turned 7 years old” seems FAR too early to me to be discussing things like sex, but then I remember being that age and being quite fascinated by it all.

There is a section at the back of the book for parents, which says that if you talk to your children about sex they are less likely to be hung up about it.

They better be right!!!!

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My Experience: Being Authentic

One of my objectives for NorthHantsMum is to share some of my experience of being a Mum.

The past three years of Motherhood have been really tough for me.

I haven’t talked about it on NorthHantsMum because it’s been a very, very difficult turn of events that we’ve dealt with privately as a family. Not knowing what was “wrong” with Miss NHM for nearly 3 years was indescribably draining and stressful.

However, I’ve realised I can’t be authentic on NorthHantsMum without talking about my experience of Miss NHM’s Coeliac Disease.

We’ve had many discussions as a family about whether it’s the right or wrong thing to share this with NHM Readers as it’s a very private thing.

I’ve talked to Miss NHM (6 years old) about it and she was very wise and told me that it’s ok to tell other people about it because it might help them too. That, right there, is one of the reasons why my daughter is so awesome.

Coeliac Disease

Miss NHM was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease in May 2017.

Coeliac Org say this about Coeliac Disease:

” Coeliac disease is a well defined, serious illness where the body’s immune system attacks itself when gluten is eaten. This causes damage to the lining of the gut and means that the body cannot properly absorb nutrients from food. Coeliac disease is not a food allergy or intolerance, it is an autoimmune disease.” (Coeliac.org).

1 in 100 people have been diagnosed with Coeliac Disease but the belief is that it is actually 1 in 25 people who have it.

There are over 200 possible symptoms of Coeliac Disease and it takes the average sufferer 13 years to be diagnosed. Medical advances are moving forward so quickly that it’s easier to be diagnosed these days, but Miss NHM is still incredibly lucky that we established what the issue was in just 2.5 years, particularly as there is no history of Coeliac Disease in either of our families, that we know of. (Coeliac disease does run in families but not in a predictable way)

The journey

I’ve alluded to it on the blog before but the 2.5 years leading up to her diagnosis were harrowing. I’ve written a post which explains the impact that Coeliac Disease has had on our lives but I’m no where near ready to publish it. It’s still too raw.

When your child is sick and you don’t know why and it takes years to find out why…yeah, it’s been really tough.

I was a bit naive about coeliac disease. I’d heard of it and knew people with it but I thought it was just a case of someone avoiding gluten in their diet and then everything would be fine.

It isn’t.

It’s far more serious than that.

We have to monitor EVERYTHING that Miss NHM eats, to ensure that it doesn’t contain gluten. She has regular blood tests and we have to monitor her energy levels very carefully as gluten free (GF) carbs don’t have the same energy density as “normal” carbs.

However, I am so, so, SO very grateful that Miss NHM was diagnosed so early in her life.

The impact of Coeliac Disease

Coeliac Disease has had a huge impact on my role as a Mum.

Every time we do something or go somewhere I am continuously thinking ahead. Do we have enough food? Will there be any alternatives that she can eat if we don’t have enough? Can we take our own food? Do they have any understanding of Coeliac Disease? Will someone offer her something and I will have to leap in and whip it away from her before she eats it? Do we have a subsitute to hand? Have they even heard of cross contamination?

There are the things that you would expect to look out for, like anything containing wheat, e.g. bread and pasta.

But it’s the things that you wouldn’t expect like barley squash, chocolate, chips, marshmallows, soy sauce, most ketchups, some fromage frais, and even playdough which is made with gluten. There are many, many, many more products which contain gluten which we have had to remove from Miss NHM’s diet.

On the rare occasion that we eat out or at someone else’s house, I’m checking to see whether they understand about cross contamination which is really important for people with coeliac disease. For example, you cannot put a knife in butter that has been used on “normal” bread, because even one crumb can cause Miss NHM weeks of pain and discomfort which affects her wellbeing, her health and her education.

I feel like I spend a lot of my time educating our friends and family, who have in the most part been amazingly supportive, about what cross contamination is and what Miss NHM can and can’t eat.

Using the coeliac.org phone app is second nature now. It’s fantastic!! There are over 100,000 food items listed and you can search by product name or bar code. This little app has been a life saver on many occasions.

Attending events and going anywhere new is now a BIG thing. Birthday parties are a nightmare, with birthday cake and sandwiches. We have been incredibly lucky that parents who we don’t know who have hosted birthday parties, have gone out of their way to ensure that Miss NHM doesn’t get singled out and isn’t treated any differently. We are very, very thankful for that. I try to make it as easy for other parents and friends by offering to provide food as it’s already a part of our reality.

Holidays abroad just aren’t an option at the moment although Coeliac.org has lots and lots of awesome advice for this.

I frequently get invited to review restaurants on NHM but we have to be so careful these days that I just ask one of the NHM Writers to go instead as it’s not worth the drama of having that discussion about the food not just being gluten free but also being free from cross contamination.

It’s such a HUGE part of our lives that I can’t write about being a Mum without talking about it.

Coeliac Disease and NorthHantsMum

As a result of the experiences that we have had with the NHS (unfortunately pretty dreadful in this instance) and The Prison for two years, most of my energy has been spent dealing with all of this and more. I’ve been fairly quiet on the blog over the past few years because of this.

However, now that Miss NHM has been on a Gluten Free (GF) diet for nearly a year and we’ve moved her to a far more sympathetic and understanding school, and as my energy is returning because I’m no longer battling with the institutions in Miss NHM’s life, I’m finding the urge to write more about our lives and more about my experience of being a Mum.

I don’t want NorthHantsMum to turn into a blog which is all about our experience of Coeliac Disease. I don’t want to bang on and on about it (well, I will try not too!) but I do feel that one of the reasons that we’ve been through this experience is so that I can share what we have learnt and also use this as an opportunity to educate people a bit more about what Coeliac Disease is, what it’s like being the parent of a child with an autoimmune disease and how it impacts our lives.

I never, ever, EVER wanted to be that Mum who has to make a big deal about what their child eats ALL the chuffing time.

I never wanted to be the Mum who has to check every…single…item that passes my child’s lips.

But I am and I’m dealing with it.

We’ve been incredibly lucky so far with the support that we have received from our wonderful friends and family and I hope this post goes a little way to explain what it’s like being the Mum of a child with a serious autoimmune disease.

Coeliac.org

If you would like to help Miss NHM with managing her disease, one of the best ways you can do this is to help raise funds for Coeliac.org. They have been invaluable for us.

For example, last month Miss NHM presented to the whole of Y1 and Y2 about Coeliac Disease as part of “Inclusion week” and we used one of the “Young Champions” packs from Coeliac.org to help with this. I won’t dwell on the fact that she told the Y1’s that she got Coeliac Disease from when a tarantula bit her as a baby (facepalm!) but I’m so proud of her for doing this because less than 6 months before she wouldn’t have physically been able too.

One of the ways you can help to fundraise is to join Coeliac’org’s weekly lottery where you can win up to £10,000 every week. It costs just £1 a week to enter, or £2 to double your chances of winning.

https://www.coeliac.org.uk/get-involved/support-us/weekly-lottery/

The money raised will not just help Miss NHM but anyone impacted by Coeliac Disease.

As always, thank you for your support and thank you for reading NorthHantsMum!

Louisex

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Miss NHM is 7 years old today!!!!!!

I am now the Mum of a seven year old! I have NO idea how that happened because, as cliched as it sounds, it seems like only yesterday she was born!

This also means that the NorthHantsMum blog is nearly seven years old. Wow, that makes me feel old!!! lol

I started NorthHantsMum when Miss NHM was 3 months old in 2011 and it was originally for pregnant Mum’s and parents of babies and children aged six and under. Now that she’s 7. that kind of puts a spin on things! lol.

I decided about a year ago that I would carry on running the blog anyway. It’s such a huge part of my life now, I cannot NOT run it!

I’m incredibly proud of the person that my daughter is becoming. Yes, she is very often frustratingly determined and opinionated (No idea where she gets that from…). Yes, she very rarely listens to what I have to say. (Right now, for example, she’s reading what I’m writing at the same time as telling me knock knock jokes. Which isn’t annoying at ALL whilst I’m trying to concentrate! Face Palm!)

But when I think of the things that she’s had to endure during her short life and that this hasn’t affected the caring and generous nature that she has, her wicked sense of humour and her love of history, books and fashion, I am filled with awe that I have the privilege of being her Mum. (Ok, so I’m not ALWAYS filled with awe because a lot of the time she’s really bloody difficult to parent, but you know what I mean!! lol)

Without her my life would literally have no meaning and despite the really crappy bits of the past few years, I wouldn’t be the person that I am now if I wasn’t her Mum. I’m so very, very, very grateful for her and the light that she brings with her everywhere she goes.

Happy 7th Birthday to my amazing, smart, courageous, beautiful, sparky, fantastic little girl who is the inspiration and drive for everything I do!

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New Year Resolutions: My word for 2018…

Happy New Year!!

A bit late, I know, but Mr NHM and I suffered from a particularly nasty bout of food poisoning from last Friday until yesterday, so I was feeling very sorry for myself and didn’t have the energy to do ANYTHING! We completely missed NYE’s this year!! Although I think we always have since Miss NHM was born in 2011! lol.

New Years Resolutions 2018

As I’ve mentioned before on NorthHantsMum, New Years Resolutions don’t really work for me, so I set myself a word for the year and try to refer back to this as much as possible throughout the year.

My words for the last few years have been:

  • 2010 – contradiction
  • 2011 – motherhood
  • 2012 – adjustment
  • 2013 – exceptional (not always positive!!)
  • 2014 – Me

My word for 2015 was “Inspiring” and the year really lived up to this!

My word for 2016 was “health”. Oh the irony of choosing this word. I have learnt my lesson and try to choose VEEERRRYYY carefully now!!!!

My word for 2017 was “joy” and it was filled with much joy but also incredibly tough at the same time.

My word for 2018

I have really wrangled with choosing a word for 2018. I’ve learnt that you have to be veeeerrrryyyyy careful with the word that you choose. (So if I stop breathing this year, I only have myself to blame! Hahahaha).

I was going to choose “calm” or “peaceful” but they felt a bit too static for how I would like 2018 to be. I want to be both but I need something to keep me moving at the same time.

So, my word for this year is going to be “breathe”.

Breathe

If I’ve learnt anything over the last few years, it’s to breathe.

To breathe deeply.

To know when to breathe and when not too.

In 2016 I started doing what i said I would and started looking at meditation to help me relax and find my focus. I spent some time in 2017 meditating and it really helped.

I also want to be better at “being in the moment”. Being an organiser and a planner means that a lot of the time I’m looking forward, working out what happens next, but this year I want to also learn to switch it all off and just “be”.

In the past few days, whilst we’ve been on enforced house arrest due to illness, I’ve spent a lot of time with Miss NHM, just “be”-ing with her. I’ve looked into her eyes a lot more than I normally would and realised she’s growing up so fast. I don’t want to miss anymore of those times.

She’s going to be 7 years old this year.

I will be the Mum of a 7 year old. NO idea how that happened!

Not so far away now, she’s going to want to spend more time with her friends than her “boring” parents (her words, not mine!).

So I want to be able to remember to breathe when she’s either a) telling me I’m boring and b) when she still wants to spend time with me!

Starting 2018

I wasn’t that excited about 2018 starting. I mean, 2018!!!!!!!! 2018!!!! I remember when it was the year 2000!!!! Now it’s 18 years LATER!!!!

But I’ve woken up today feeling a million times more positive than I have for the past few months.

I don’t believe in all that “new year/new you” crap, but I do believe that the beginning of a new year is a chance to re-assess and decide what’s working and what’s not.

I don’t know what 2018 is going to bring for me, NorthHantsMum and the NorthHantsMum Community, but I’m going to spend some time during January to work out a sort of business plan for the rest of the year. If there is anything you think I should be including, please don’t hesitate to let me know at NorthHantsMum@gmail.com.

As always, thank you for all of your support. I know that we are very, very, very lucky to have such an amazing community of readers supporting myself and the team on NorthHantsMum. Thank you also to the AWESOME team of volunteers who now help out on NHM.

I’m excited about what 2018 is going to bring for this little website that I started in 2011, and is still going strong 7 years, 7 YEARS, later!!!!

I wish you and your loved ones a wonderful 2018 where you have lots and lots of moments to “breath” :-D.

Happy New Year!

Louise

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Looking back at 2017 on NHM

2017 has been a tough year. This year has challenged me more than I ever expected. I’ve learnt many, many lessons during this year.

I’d love to be doing a positive post about how awesome 2017 was, and it was in many, many ways but it was also one of the toughest years that I’ve been through since I started NHM. I thought 2016 was really tough but it was NOTHING compared to this year.

There is so much that I want to say about 2017 but it’s too personal to share. I’m still processing a lot of things that have happened this year and it feels like this is going to take a while longer.

But, I’m still here, so are you and so is NorthHantsMum and I’m very, very grateful for that.

2017 on NHM

January

“Joyful January”.  I’d love to try this again in January, so if you are interested, please let me know!

I was asked to be a sponsor again for Basingstoke Track Party, I finally got around to putting together an FAQ for the site, and this heartbreaking post was sent to me by a local Mum.

February

Miss NHM and I were verbally attacked by another parent on school property. It wasn’t a very nice experience but I’m very proud of myself for not swearing at her. Miss NHM was very shaken up after this for a long while after. I wanted to blog about this but we had too much going on at home.

March

With everything going on in my personal life it was a struggle to publish every week day. I am incredibly grateful to the AWESOME NHM Support Ladies who have really come into their own this year and helped me out immensely on NorthHantsMum.

April

I dealt with a Domestic Abuse situation via NorthHantsMum. This was waaaay beyond what I ever expected to be covering on NHM and I found it a very stressful situation, even when it wasn’t happening to me.

May

Miss NHM was diagnosed with a lifelong autoimmune disease. The floor fell out from under our family.

June

NorthHantsMum turned 6 years old.

Mr NHM was the best man at his best friends wedding and we had an awesome day!

July

We discovered that Miss NHM was being subject to abuse by one of her Teaching Assistants. The schools behaviour in response to this, particularly the Head teachers, was despicable.

My friend Sue took Miss NHM and I to see our first #SittingwithJane bench.

The school holidays started. NEVER have I needed the school holidays to start than I did this year.

August

Miss NHM started to heal and wasn’t quite as anxious or stressed as she had been, mainly because she wasn’t at school.

I came up with the inspired idea of keeping a #SittingwithJane bench in Basingstoke. The irony is, this was one of my goals at the start of 2016, to have a bench in a public place that Mum’s and their children could use to meet at.

Unfortunately, with everything going on in my personal life, I dropped the ball in 2016, so when it fell into my lap in August 2017 it just seemed so perfect.

The whole bloody project nearly broke me.

Next time I decide to take on a project of this size, with a seriously sick child, a full time job in part time hours and the summer holidays – will someone slap me please?

September

In the first week of September. we removed Miss NHM from her school as it was clear they weren’t going to listen to us or the medical profession, my Mother had what they now think was a mini-stroke, we moved Miss NHM to another local school, the washing machine, boiler and my car all broke and on the Friday I had the #SittingwithJane auction, which the Teaching Assistant who had been subjecting my daughter to abuse was also at.

It was a very, very, very stressful week.

But we got the bench. YAY! Congrats again to those winners of the competition.

Huge thanks again to everyone who donated. I’m still waiting for the Basingstoke Discovery Centre to put up the plaque…

October

I sent out the first NHM Survey in over a year and had some AMAZING feedback from you all. Thank you!

It meant even more after everything that’s happened in the past two years, to know that my time isn’t being wasted.

I started the “Inspirational Mum’s” programme.

November

Myself and a couple of the NHM Awesome Support Team were very kindly invited to review Absolutely Karting. Which reminds me, I really need to write that post up! Opps!

December

I FINALLY sorted out the “subscribe” option on the NorthHantsMum.co.uk website. I’m not technical so this was a huge step forward, to work it all out and get it all sorted. So you can now receive all of the posts published in your emails. Double YAY!

I published a post about Y2 Autumn Term.

Final Thoughts

Normally I’m so upbeat and positive on NHM but I’m not very well today which isn’t helping and it has been a really, really, really tough year.

But I’m very grateful and thankful that as a family we are coming out of it and that you are all still here supporting NorthHantsMum.

I have no idea what 2018 will bring for any of us, but I do wish you all an AWESOME 2018.

For those of you celebrating tonight, have a great one! For those of us who will be in bed long before midnight, sweet dreams :-D.

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My Experience: Y2 Autumn Term

I am absolutely delighted to say that Miss NHM’s Y2 Autumn term has been…AMAZING!!!!! She is THRIVING at her new school.

Finally, finally, finally she’s had a positive experience of school. WHOOOHOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

Moving Schools

At the beginning of this term (September 2017), 4 days into the new school year, we removed Miss NHM from The Prison.

It became blindingly obvious that The Prison weren’t going to listen to anything that we, and the medical profession, were saying needed to happen for Miss NHM.

In May 2017 Miss NHM was diagnosed with a lifelong autoimmune disease. I’ve not discussed it on NorthHantsMum because it’s not something that should be discussed in a public forum and Mr NHM and I are still processing what this means. It was a massive shock and it’s been incredibly difficult to deal with.

In the final months of Miss NHM’s Y1 at The Prison, she was subject to bullying and abuse (I don’t use those two words lightly) at the hands of one of the members of staff (again, not going to discuss details in a public forum) and the school made things as difficult as they possibly could.

So, we made the incredibly tough and difficult decision to remove Miss NHM 4 days into the new term. I wanted to give The Prison one last opportunity to rectify things and they screwed it up massively.

Finding a new school

I spent a morning phoning round all of the local schools asking if they had any places left. Based on The Prison’s history I’d already gone to look at two local schools in June 2017. I was extremely disappointed to find that two other local schools that I phoned that Monday morning in September were quite rude to me when I mentioned Miss NHM’s disease and implied that they would not be able to support her effectively.

I was EXTREMELY delighted to find that there was one place left at a local school that I’d visited earlier this year. I was really, really impressed when I went to see the school which only a few years ago was under special measures. It was very obvious that the team  in place were extremely passionate about what they were doing and their main objective was to ensure that children had fun at school, that they enjoyed school and that they learnt lots, not just educationally but emotionally and spiritually – the whole package.

I did a little dance when they told me that Miss NHM could start the following day. Actually, I did a REALLY LONG dance because I was sooooo relieved!!!!

They advised that Miss NHM could start the following day but I didn’t have time during the work day to get to the shops to get her the new school cardigan so she started on the Wednesday.

Starting a new school

Both of us were obviously quite nervous but the new school bent over backwards to ensure that both of us felt very welcome. The complete opposite of what we’d experienced before!

Within a week Miss NHM had made lots of new friends, including a best friend that she is “thick as thieves” with, as the teacher said at the first parents evening in October! lol.

Miss NHM settled in far better than I ever imagined she could. The difference in her behaviour after the first week was astounding. I had no idea what a negative effect The Prison was having on her.

Things just got better and better. The school have been soooo understanding and soooo supportive and everyone is so lovely and welcoming and HUMAN! Empathy and compassion is normalised (even with the reception staff!), which has been a massive shock as that’s definitely NOT the experience that we’ve had before.

HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY!!!!!

Miss NHM’s reading has gone off the charts, she’s improving with her maths, her mental health has improved dramatically and although she is still showing signs of trauma and anxiety the new school have bent over backwards to support her.

I have been wracking my brains for the past term to try to find something that I don’t like about the new school and I just can’t! I love it ALL! I cannot praise the new school enough. This may be because of the dreadful experience that we had at The Prison so my expectations were very low already but I’ve spoken to several other parents at the new school and they love it too.

I’m so delighted, after an incredibly tough year, to say that we’ve ended on a real high. I no longer have to battle for an hour every morning to get Miss NHM to school, she happily skips in. No more dragging her through the door with the teacher’s help, she skips straight in without even looking back to say bye!

To see her happy to go to school every day has been a real revelation and to see her receive the support that she has needed since she first started school in 2015 has been such a relief.

So, FINALLY, I can report that we’ve had a very happy experience of Y2 so far. YAY!!!!!

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