So it became, that yesterday was H’s last day at the school with classmates she has been with since nursery. Things are moving quickly, much quicker than I thought they would and we’re having to deal with changing schools.
Changing schools isn’t a quick process overall. We’re changing boroughs, so once we knew we were going to move, got the paperwork in place. Croydon borough have an in-year transfer which was straightforward to fill out. We got H’s old head teacher to approve our application, emailed it over and that was that.
Nothing could be done in the meantime as schools went on holiday – which meant lots of waiting and wondering what would happen. As it was, Croydon did some general waiting list tidying and we were told where our position on the list would be a few weeks later.
At that point she was third on the list for our preferred school. Once we sent over confirmation of our new address she moved to first in the list.
So we knew a place was imminent, but that would depend on someone leaving the school and that’s impossible to gauge.
I settled into a routine with a 25 minute a day drive home from her old school, hoping for change. Shaun lost two and a half hours of his day driving her into school on days when he worked from home. Not ideal.
On Wednesday the call came. There’s a space. I may have jumped around excitedly, asked a billion questions and made viewing appointments; we couldn’t go during the holidays for obvious reasons – there was nobody there!
That was that. We decided to switch quickly though this gives very little time for goodbyes. A new start, a new school. New school uniform too, though most of her old uniform is fine.
So now we have a weekend buying new school uniform. Our new school uses the Tesco embroidery service so I’ve ordered. We’ll get other bits so we can get through the next couple of weeks until our order arrives.
My trusty Stamptastic pad is ready for more labelling too – my review is five years old and we’re still going strong.
Emotionally, H was shocked. I had brought up changing schools several times in conversation to get her used to talking about it. This is the reality now – she has left her old friends behind, but thanks to mobile phones and emails they can stay in touch.
The new school looks amazing too – we finally have a school with a playing field, rather than an inner-London playground. We’ll all miss the old school a lot, while looking forward to new adventures as we move forwards.
Reading Eggs is a website that endeavours to help children to read quickly, in a fun and engaging way.
I’m sure that most parents, of a primary school aged child, will appreciate the pressure that is on children to learn to read. My son, J, started reception in September, unable to read and barely able to write. However, by July, he will be expected to read well and be able to write a sentence or two. Frankly, to me anyway, this is scary stuff.
Now I am a complete bookworm and very keen for my boys to discover how fantastic reading can be. As a result, I had been curious about Reading Eggs but had never gone as far as to try it. I was excited to be given a years free access to the site and the Mega Book Pack to really explore and see what it was all about.
I will be completely honest. J is knackered, and still getting to grips with his full days at school. I will admit to being a little hesitant at giving him more school type things to do in the evening. However, in the name of research, I was willing to give it a go, as long as he wasn’t too tired or resistant.
On browsing the Reading Eggs site, I was very keen to get J on there to see his first impressions. The site itself is very engaging, bright and friendly. As his computer skills are just emerging, it was nice to see that everything is very user friendly and self explanatory. He only needed a little adult guidance in the beginning. Each of the initial levels concentrate on one letter at a time. These letters, and the sounds they make, are studied thoroughly, but not to the point of tedium, before moving onto the next level.
J really enjoyed his time on the Reading Eggs site. He was giggling when the marshmallow mouse came out, at the end of the first level, and at various other things. In the end, we spent a lot longer than we had planned to spend on there. J was very put out when I insisted it was very much time for bed!
After bed time, I came down to find an email from Reading Eggs with suggested homework. The homework focuses on the most recent lessons learnt, and easy ways that this can be supplemented at home.
Two weeks on and he is still hooked. I love the fact that J also has his own personal Avatar for the site. This is something that he really enjoyed making, and he gets excited to see, every time he switches on. J loves Reading Eggs, most days asking ‘can I do my eggs Mummy’ whilst his little brother goes to bed. It’s really nice to spend this time together, knowing that he is learning in a way that is fun to him.
Reading eggs are currently offering a four week free trial to the online subscription. Please click here if you would like to register. Offer is available until the 31st March 2017.
H is well into Year 2 at school now, it’s like she had no worries at all about moving up a year, moving into her last year of Infants School. School work is getting a bit harder now and things are becoming more serious. When you do your serious work, you need some serious pens to do it – and luckily for us we were sent a fine selection of Bic pens to try out!
Bic pens need no introduction – no doubt you’ll have come across them with their blue, black or red biros, and some other pens, so we were happy to try out some other pens from the range. I stole some to use at work, as more often than not I need to colour code things to keep on top of them. We received a pack of four colours (green, pink, blue, purple) in the Bic Cristale Fun range which look like the regular biro’s, but are in these colours. I’ve found them great to write with, and while they are ball point pens, they’re a little bit thicker so I’ve liked the amount of ink on the paper – I don’t like my ball point pens too thin!
H’s biggest pet hate with school is Home Learning. Understandable really, as nobody enjoys homework. So to get her own special Bic Mechanical Pencil which even looks like it’s designed for her made her want to do her work that little bit faster. (phew!) I was pleased with that. The pencil is a bit shorter than you’d expect, but a good size for little hands, with a good grip on it. There’s also a handy guideline on the pencil to help the fingers be positioned correctly – and it’s suitable for left or right handers too. You get plenty of refills included with the pencil too.
We received some felt tips for colouring in. I really like the Bic Kids Mini Colour and Create pens – you use the pens marked with a 1 to colour in, but can change the colour of the pens by using the number 2 pen – and they work! It made colouring in quite fun, not that colouring in isn’t already fun, but you see what I mean? Look at this. We had a scribble around with the pens to see how they worked. These are definitely H’s favourite of the lot, and ones she keeps going back to. We’re just hoping for some home learning now that will involve colouring in using different colours! There’s an extra added bonus in that the ink can be cleaned from clothes. Now if only Bic could design a whiteboard marker pen that would do that I’m sure there’d be many happy mums out there!
Finally, we were sent some Bic Tropicolour pencils, a set of twelve. They come in bright colours, with a fine pencil tip, ideal for general colouring in. The pencils are made from resin rather than wood and are very easy to sharpen. The colours are good too – I stole them while we were on holiday to do some of my colouring in!
We were sent a selection of Big pens and pencils for the purpose of review. All opinions are our own.
Half term is only two weeks away, and H has been wearing her Matalan school uniform daily – I think it’s time we did a quick mid-term report!
There is a wide variety of Matalan school uniform options online – I ordered H’s when we were in Australia back in August, where I only had use of my iPad. The whole experience was simple enough (although if I navigated away I lost the order, so needed to make a note of what I wanted and order it at once) – delivery was speedy too, despatched within a day of me placing the order which impressed me. The Matalan website has a School Shop section where you can view the whole range – our local store doesn’t keep everything available online in stock.
I love that Matalan stock longer-length skirts – H is a tall girl (she grew over 2cm this summer!), has only just turned 5 and is quite skinny – she’s already wearing a lot of size 6 clothes. Alas, they don’t seem to have longer length trousers, which I would definitely have bought.
So here’s what was in the order :
Two Empire line pinafore dresses £6 each, age 6. I love these – the style makes us think ‘Wizard of Oz’ with a little cross across the back – which can be a bit tricky on PE days so we tend to wear them on the days she doesn’t have it. I went for age 6 which fits her perfectly.
Two Gingham Dresses with tie belt at £6 each. These look identical to the ones on H’s school uniform website and cost £6 each. They wash well too – with the warm weather and the fact they can wear summer dresses up to half term I bought age 7 so hopefully they’ll last for the summer as well – though who can tell with the speed she’s growing.
Two Girls Scallop Edge Cardigans, age 6-7 at £6 each. I like plain cardigans with summer dresses – the school ones come in a sweatshirt type material which is often too warm for hot weather. So far the cardigan is washing well as well.
Two Girls Longer Length Box Pleat Skirt, age 6 at £5.50 each. As said before, I love there’s a longer length available. There is an adjustable waistband too – ideal as H is tall and skinny! Matalan, please consider doing longer length girls trousers too!
Finally, I bought two packs of Polo Shirts, which come in packs of 3 at £5 each. Her older polo shirts are getting small, so these are ready and will probably be in daily use after half term.
The total cost of the Matalan School Uniform came to £59. I had a £50 voucher which took it down to £12.95 including shipping. Everything was in stock, despatched quickly and well packed – and has washed and ironed well over the last six weeks. We’ve had a few tumbles in the playground and so far no holes which is a very good thing.
I would highly recommend Matalan School Uniform – it is priced well – I need to look at their shoes next, as H has moved up a size (sighhh, stop growing..!!) and is learning to tie laces – they have some lovely looking brogue-style shoes – plus she’ll probably need some new plimsolls soon, and at £2.50 you can’t complain!
I was provided with a £50 voucher for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own. Photos were taken when the uniform originally arrived and are just a guide.
Phew, the Summer Holidays just flew by, and all of a sudden I find myself getting H’s uniform ready again – Year 1 beckons tomorrow, when she’s back to school!
I did an End of Year report on the various bits of uniform we bought over the year at the end of term, but as anyone who has a child at school knows, it isn’t just about uniform – there’s a few other bits too.
Take for example, H’s water cup. We started the year with a Poppet Moshi Monsters one from Sainsburys which lasted for a while, although the cap broke, so it had a sharp part where you open it. Fortunately they were reduced so I bought another. That lasted a while again, until I spotted a Minions cup, which I bought. On the last day of term she came home with someone else’s Minions cup! I was gutted, as ours was a few days old – the one she came home with was dented and leaky, and most importantly of all, didn’t have a Bandino Cup Band on it! The Bandino Cup Band has been one of the best things all year, as far as missing cups go.
It has happened a couple of times, and her cup has turned up back in her class the following day – there was no need to put it in Lost Property. I can highly recommend Bandino – so much so I bought more as with losing ours on the last day we needed one for Holiday Club. They’re a bargain, really hard wearing and make identical cups easily identifiable.
We have just had a big delivery of School Uniform from Matalan, as we’re Matalan bloggers. I chose uniform in a size 6 or 7, as she’s grown a good couple of centimetres over the holidays without me realising – so she’s going straight back into bigger clothes already.
All the uniform pieces were very reasonably priced – and we’ll be testing them out over the coming weeks – her new summer dress is ready for tomorrow. I’ll go into more detail once we’ve had a proper chance to test them out – H is set to fall over several times this week I’m sure, so we’ll see how they fare. The summer dress we bought last term from Matalan is going strong, although getting a bit short (sigh, more growing..).
That’ll be ready thanks to me stamping her name on them – living my inner librarian with my Stamptastic Stamp Pad, still going strong and still really impressed with them. The ink is still doing well – although I would like to find a method of removing the ink once a piece of uniform is too small, as I donated loads to our local Children’s Centre for them to sell, but they’re all still named! Stamptastic do PTA deals as well, so check them out.
We don’t need anything else right now, I don’t think. Can we really put our feet up, knowing we’re all set to go back to school?
We were sent all the above items for the purpose of review – all opinions are our own.
We’re coming to the end of H’s first year of school, so I thought it was the right time to go through our School Uniform experiences, and what we’ve found has lasted through the year – and what hasn’t.
I remember last year in a month or so’s time hitting the stores, trying to find somewhere that stocked school uniform – most shops stopped for the summer. The good thing is that right now a lot of places will be having sales – M&S often do a good one, and it’s where I picked up a lot of H’s school uniform.
My biggest mistake was to buy school uniform in her actual size as she tends to go up a size after Christmas, so I ended up buying two sets in her first year – I should have just gone bigger initially.
M&S’s quality was great – I bought two packs of polo shirts (two in a pack – why don’t they do five packs?) and they washed well and didn’t lose their shape. Actually, my biggest initial concern was that H didn’t know how to do up buttons, but that didn’t take long to master.
As well as that I got one summer dress as we were heading into the colder months but could wear them up to the end of Autumn half term. The dress has been worn a few times in Summer term this year, although it’s quite short now – so buy big for summer clothes! We’ve since bought another dress in Matalan in a size 6 which should last a year. Matalan have a great selection of school uniform at a good price too.
I bought two pairs of trousers and two skirts from M&S in size 4, which lasted until H grew but lasted well – many tumbles in the playground and no holes in the trousers are always a good sign. When she grew I kept with M&S for the trousers but switched to Sainsburys for the skirts which were cheaper and are good quality too.
I also bought a Next school skirt in size 4 which is still being worn – we’ve often found H grows out of Next clothes first but this one has lasted and isn’t too short.
Shoes were the next concern, as you want to buy a pair that lasts. Our Clarks pair lasted until this Summer half term when H’s feet had grown a size and she really needed a new pair. Unfortunately they didn’t have the same kind in, so we got a similar pair with a patent leather toecap on it, which is wearing away a little a month or two in which is disappointing. If they get her old shoes back in we’ll definitely go back to them (and I might buy another pair a size up). PE shoes were £2.50 in Sainsburys, and have lasted well.
Jumpers and cardigans were official school uniform ones, however we did have some plain in case I didn’t wash them in time, which were kindly passed on to us by Sharon at I Heart Motherhood – they are from Aldi and are going strong, wash well and haven’t faded.
Legwear is the final thing to mention – I bought loads of pairs of ankle socks, but when the weather got warmer H wasn’t used to exposing her legs, so ended up buying some knee length socks from Next – £4.50 for three pairs and they’ve stayed white too! Tights were an interesting purchase. I bought some nice H&M ones that cost a fair bit, but when she fell over the holes made them unrepairable (even with my poor needlework skills). Eventually I bought a seven pack in Sainsburys which stayed intact for her worst fall (blood and everything) so I’m pleased with that – five pairs are still in the packaging too, and I bought age 6 for the length (H is 120cm).
We’ve had tumbles and falls, climbing and playing, tripping and skipping, scootering and possibly Didicars (don’t quote me on that, it’s some kind of car I don’t get to see) and overall everything we’ve bought has survived. But there’s one thing which nothing seems to fix at all. We have tried so many ways to make it stop, but it doesn’t – the dreaded white board marker pen marks on everything. The day someone designs school uniform which doesn’t hold those blasted pen marks on them will be the day I spend all my money and stop cursing the pens!
So the final grade for school uniform? Let’s base them on the Early Years Foundation Scores, shall we?
M&S. I’d say is easily a Exceeding 3. They’re slightly more expensive but so far have lasted. I’ve had no repairs to make to anything.
Next. Ends the year an Exceeding 3 due to not being too small despite me ordering a 4. The skirt was around £6 and has lasted which is all I ever ask of anything.
Aldi. Started the year as an Emerging 1 and ending as an Exceeding 3 – due to the lasting quality and the price (had we bought it).
Clarks. Tricky one this one – for the first pair of shoes I’d say an Exceeding 3, but for the second pair an Emerging 1, going down a little. I can only hope they bring back the original shoes.
Sainsburys. For the skirts and tights we’ve bought, I’d say an Exceeding 3 – good quality, no repairs and surprisingly good. My local Sainsburys didn’t have much for clothes and the Wandsworth branch was being refitted so I couldn’t buy there initially, but the tights impressed me the most for being so hardy. I was impressed that our local one had a list of the colours for all the local schools so you know what to buy.
Matalan. Because the dress is so new I feel we can’t grade it over the year, so it’s an Expected 2, and it’s just time which will lead to a conclusion.
H is starting school next week. There, I’ve said it. Actually, I’ve said it everywhere.
Starting school is such a big thing – mainly for the parents I think! It doesn’t matter how many times I repeat it, it still hasn’t quite sunk in. We’ve all been there, we all remember the good and bad times and now it’s becoming a reality for our little ones. Slowly one by one Facebook friends are posting photos of their children in their new, oversized uniform as they all start their journey.
We have uniform – lots of. Some might say too much. I’ve kept Marks & Spencer, H&M, Aldi, the school uniform supplier and the school going with my money, as well as a last-minute fitting for shoes in Clarks. Friends have passed on old bits of uniform, a book bag and a PE bag too. I know the Children’s Centre attached to the school sells a lot of second-hand uniform for around 50p a time.
Somehow everything we’ve bought has cost over £100. Fortunately we’ve had help from family to meet all the costs so it wasn’t too hard on our bank balance, so now we’ve got to hope everything lasts! We have so much but my thinking is if I can have five full days of uniform before washing then that’s good. There’s another thing which changes, see. I no longer have my day off in the week – I’m going back to five days in the office.
Label-wise I’ve got the Stamptastic stamp pad which has marked all the clothes, as well as the Bandino cup band which will have her new cup labelled and ready. I bought some Clarks shoe labellers (at £3.50) as the insides of her shoes are black and I couldn’t use the Stamptastic pad, which is the last thing we need to do.
She’s having school dinners to start with, but we do have a fabulous Bento Lunchbox that we’re reviewing which I’m really impressed with so far and is very child-friendly.
I have various iPad apps ready to complement her learning – the Biff, Chip and Kipper one, quite a few numeracy ones and loads of phonics ones as well, she’s going to be overloaded with learning. I know the first thing they’re working on is syllables.
I guess all I have to do now is pack her book bag and we’re ready. Gulp.
Stamptastic are a simple stamp and ink pad which are long-lasting. They are also the answer to my prayers – they stop the boredom when it comes to labelling H’s clothes!
Stamptastic is a simple clear resin stamp with an accompanying ink pad. You can stamp on several surfaces, including School Uniform. This appealed to me a lot – oh, the tedium that came with handwriting H’s name on every single piece of clothing at nursery. I got so bored I forgot what I was writing, and put something else in there instead. Some people call it baby brain – I call it labelling boredom brain!
After having written out twenty or more party invites recently, the next thing on the list of most boring things you have to do as a parent is labelling clothes. I have a pen I can use but after I’ve done five sets I’m bored, my pen is bored, the clothes are bored waiting for me, and I lose the will to continue.
Step forward Stamptastic. Now I can cover the pad with ink, get it into the right place and I’m able to see where I’m stamping too thanks to it being clear. Never has such a tedious job been so much fun – I LOVE it. I am living my inner librarian when I stamp, stamp, stamp – it dries quickly and even better, it stays.
You can also use the stamp on lunchboxes and water bottles. I’ve found the ink doesn’t stay on as long this way, but you can always re-stamp! I prefer the Bandino bands for water bottles, as these tend to mean the bottles are easier to find (as you can guarantee there will be a minimum of five other children In Your Class with the same bottle!
I needed something to make labelling life easier and this does. I’m impressed and may have stamped lots of H’s things.
Even her shoes (top tip, the soles don’t hold the ink well, the sides do. I realise this is common sense but I just wanted to stamp and didn’t think). Now all her possessions have her name on them – and it took me a fraction of the time.
We got H’s name put onto the stamp – generally Stamptastic can fit most things on there. We kept her class group off there so we can use it throughout school. At £8 for a stamp and £10 for a pad I think this is really reasonable price to pay. The convenience factor is a huge plus. (edited to add, after two five (!) years it’s still going strong too)
Each stamp is 38mm x 15mm in size, the fonts used are Arial, Arial Narrow or Abadi MT Condensed Light.
We were sent a stamp pad and stamp for the purpose of review, all opinions are mine, and that of my patience.
We have had a chance to review Bandino Cup Bands, and I think they’re brilliant – read on to find out why.
Bandino Cup Bands are an excellent idea – they’re personalised bands which fit most brands of cups that your child is likely to use. Each band has the name you require stamped into it – so it can’t be rubbed out or picked off, and is in a nice clear font. We got a blue one with H’s name on – ideal as we’ve been told we have to provide a cup when she starts school in September. If it’s anything like nursery, several children will have the same cup, and they’ll often get mixed up – with Bandino cup bands this isn’t going to happen.
So far the only cup which it doesn’t fit on is her H&M Smurfette one – but that’s only because it’s narrow. We’ve tried it on all her other cups and it fits perfectly, stays on, doesn’t slip and her name is really clearly identifiable. She likes it too as it’s blue – her favourite colour.
When we first reviewed these Bandino bands, I didn’t know what to expect. Since then we’ve bought more, as they’re handy for lost cups (H has lost several, which we’ve found thanks to the bands), holiday club cups, and just having spares. We have only lost one cup which was never returned to us since using these.
I put the Bandino Cup Bands in the dishwasher to see how it fared, and it came out perfect – they’re also microwave safe. They also comply with the General Product Safety Directive 2001/95/EC, are BPA free, and free from Cadmium and Phthalates.
(H’s name has been blanked out on the above picture)
One thing Bandino point out is how it can alert others to allergies – as you can have anything stamped onto the band – what a brilliant idea!
A pack of three Bandino Cup bands comes in at £8.95 which isn’t expensive – and the available colours are red, pink and blue. I know this is something that will get a lot of use once H starts school, and I suspect we’ll have a few other parents asking us where we got them from…
Bandino Cup Bands can be bought online here they’re on Facebook here, Twitter here and Pinterest here. The business was started by two mums who know what a pain it is – and I think it’s brilliant!
We were sent one band for the purpose of review – all opinions are our own.
Read With Biff, Chip and Kipper is a new app from Gazoob to complement early learning at school.
I jumped at the chance to review the Read With Biff, Chip and Kipper app – H is starting in reception this September and I know they’ll be reading their books, I’d been looking at buying the books or picking some up at Car Boot Sales. Shaun regularly points out we have too many books (I know, that sounds bad but once she’s reading we can box away a lot – I bought lots of ‘That’s Not My…’ books when she was a baby and they take up space) so having all of them within an iPad app is possibly the perfect solution. Plus H enjoys reading books on there – we’ve had the Mog app for a while now and she often reads it without me, doing it in her own time.
I was keen to see the books as things have changed since I was little, I learnt using ITA – these days it’s far more sensible and uses phonics. Read With Biff, Chip and Kipper comes in six levels –
Level 1: Getting ready to read. Age 4-5 years
Level 2: Starting to read. Age 4-5 years
Level 3: Becoming a reader. Age 4-5 years
Level 4: Developing as a reader. Age 5-6 years
Level 5: Building confidence as a reader. Age 5-6 years
Level 6: Reading with confidence. Age 5-6 years
There are 48 books in total. I spotted on the Gazoob website that the books go to a higher level – their response to the question is as follows : There are two parallel Biff, Chip & Kipper series from Oxford University Press. Ours is a home reading series and is designed to complement the 9 level Classic series which is used in schools. The classic series is not currently available as apps.
Each book has some Tips for Reading Together – which has helpful hints of things to do when reading. I know I rush when I read books and it’s teaching me to slow down a bit, and spend more time talking about the pictures as well as pointing out each word. Most of this is about repetition and encouraging your child to join in – as well as having an activity to do on each picture – the first book you need to find a shell in each picture, and so on.
The phonics option is brilliant – so far we’ve barely gone into any depth, but having an I-spy game so the child has to work out which object starts (or ends!) with a letter is genius – and one H puzzled over for a good twenty minutes today – and tracing over the letters is always fun and good practice – I’m looking forward to more on the phonics side of things and how we’ll progress as you can almost feel it clicking somewhere with it being done properly.
Within the story side you have three options – Read by myself, Read to me and Auto play. Right now we’re doing the second stage quite a lot, though H does read it herself – you can press each word and it tells you what it is. At the end of each book are questions about the story and a puzzle.
Read With Biff, Chip and Kipper comes from a new company called Gazoob who aim to develop, publish and recommend educational materials, be it Apps, Games, Videos or Teaching materials. They already have a few titles under their belt, and will be adding a lot more as the year goes on.
How have we found it? I’ve been impressed. H’s word recognition has definitely improved and she’s much more confident – they don’t use these books at her nursery preschool but will in her school from September. Phonics-wise I think this is where she’s made the biggest jump and can now spell words and work them out much easier than two or three months ago.
I think Read With Biff, Chip and Kipper is an excellent app – it’s free to download with the 48 books being an additional purchase at £149.99 – which is a lot of money, although you can buy individual books at £3.99 each (so it works out cheaper overall to buy the books in one lot – a lot would depend on the stage your child is at). I love how H asks to play apps on the iPad and sees these books as fun, to me that’s half the battle with learning. It’s also something we’ll get a lot of use from, and isn’t going to be something that’s ignored in six months time – potentially taking H up to her sixth birthday which is still two and a half years away. The design of Read With Biff, Chip and Kipper is nice and clean, the fonts are good (and yes, comic sans is present, grrrrr!) and instructions are clear.
It is Mac and Windows compatible – for more information head to their website. There’s a giveaway on their site to win the full app – you need to head to their Facebook page, and quick – the giveaway ends on the 31st May 2013!
We were sent a code to review the full app with all books – all opinions are our own.