Sunday, 12 July 2009

10 top tips to survive school holidays with kids

It's July, and I see the kids are off school.

The word from Grit is, ignore the crappy kid-on-holiday advice you read in Femail.

Most of it is written by some London journalist who looked after her own kid for two hours and thinks Judgement Day has come. She will suggest weedy stuff like Get out a bead box! It is great for sorting activities! Pathetic.

If she wrote the truth, she would say When the childminder got chickenpox, which made me miss the first night gallery opening, I threw the fucking bead box at the wall. Anyway I made Tinkertop pick up all the beads. And I realised it is great for sorting activities!

You see? She thinks ten minutes with her own child is a form of torture. But she will create motherhood-martyrdom out of it, scribble down her pathetic idea, earn herself a monthly wage, then shove the kid in childcare and go buy shoes.

Listen to an expert. I have my kids 24/7.

When it comes to child exposure, I know what torture is. Home education means holiday solutions must be much more radical than getting out the bloody bead box.

Follow Grit's ten top tips for surviving the school break. If you make it to September with a smile on your face, you might even considering chucking school altogether.

Ready? This is what to do with your children.

1. Give them away.
We do this more than once a year. There are some excellent organisations* who will take them, submerge them in rivers, throw them down mountainsides, and suspend them on wires over the nettle bed.

The advantage is your offspring are out the house for an entire week. Now you can have sex on the stairs again like you used to.

The disadvantage will be that Tinkertop comes home moaning and groaning with a face like a slapped arse because your miserable parenting does not involve activities like zip wire and raft building.

You can threaten to hold her over the nettle bed, or go immediately to top tip 2.

2. Ignore them.
In the trade, we call this fostering independence. It means slapping down a cereal packet, a pot of yogurt and a jigsaw puzzle with a missing piece all on the kitchen table at 7am, then retiring to a safe distance, possibly behind a locked door. Tinkertop will very quickly starve, or sort herself out. Soon she will be utterly bored and wander off somewhere to make her own amusement.

Caution: do not adopt this technique and then complain the cereal packet is floating in the bath stuffed with tampons, the yogurt pot stuck on the dog's head, and fifteen jigsaw pieces stuffed in the DVD player. You must accept this as the price for independence.

If you do not want to pay the price for independence, go to top tip 3.

3. Throw them out of doors and ignore them.
Then tell yourself that little kids should play with hoses, soil, gravel, twigs, sticks, stones, plants, and the cat, if they can catch it.

When kids are older they should play with the washing machine you have dumped in the garden for the council to collect.

Older still? Play with someone's old sofa found down the back lane.

Let them play freely with kids of the neighbour's, even though you don't approve of the neighbour. Remember, kids teach each other. Best done not in your company but in a pack-like formation led by someone else's older brother. Of course you may just want to slyly check the pack leader is not mad, one-eyed, or carries a lighter and a knife.

But what can possibly go wrong with this one? If you are bringing kids up to be safety conscious and street wise, they will stay clear of Mr Spooky and should not set themselves on fire. They may set up a primitive society but in ten year's time my bet is, it will look like yours.

If, however, you are one of those risk averse parents who worry about wobbly pavements and dog shit, try number 4.

4. Stay at home and argue.
This is good. We do slamming doors, flouncing out of rooms, pointing fingers, throwing puffins, shouting, more shouting and saying things like That is it! I have had enough! This is your final final warning! You will be grounded if you say that once more! Just try saying that again missy!

But relax. Remember you have to do a lot of really bad stuff before you reach the point where you kill them, psychologically damage them or throw them out of a top floor window. And one poxy argument about how plaster of paris got down the sink does not bring on the end of the world.

As we say around here, the argument takes a second, the making up takes the rest of the day. And quite frankly we don't have the rest of the day, so can we avoid the argument in the first place.

However, if you find yourself arguing, be that home educating parent you really aspire to be and try top tip number 5.

5. Visit somewhere educational. Make sure it has a coffee shop.
If you creep along here 11am Monday term time, you may find a cosy group of home educators chatting about how they can source lessons in Latin and where do you find Ancient Greek tutors these days? This is just a cover, entirely for your benefit. When you are out of earshot they will go back to discussing what is the best way to access child porn when you don't have broadband.

Anyway, visiting educational sites like museums and art galleries is fantastic. You can set the kids a mission like go and find twenty things that are shades of green, and meet back here at 4pm. Then you can relax and scoff chocolate cake.

But if your child hangs on to your ankles and starts bawling when you try and abandon them in the British Museum, then you might like to try warden baiting.

Many museums and galleries employ wardens to stop you doing things you really want to do, like pick up that silver teapot and run off with it. But baiting them is excellent fun, child friendly, and gives everyone something to talk about at home.

You must first pick your warden. They will wear a blue nylon uniform, a hat slightly too large for them and a plastic badge which makes them feel important like Supervisory assistant visitor attendant. They may have a sticky label which reads here to help or something like that. We all know that is not true. They are there to keep an eye on you and look down their noses at your child like she is bodily fluid.

Next, judge your context. If you are in an art gallery, find a priceless oil and squat Tinkertop directly in front of it with a pile of paper, crayons and a pair of scissors. If you are in a museum, produce from your bag an assortment of old packaging and encourage Tinkertop to model the thing she's looking at, e.g. Stevenson's rocket, with two old baked bean cans and six empty tampon boxes.

In all cases, the nylon warden will be horrified. He will hover. Talk edubabble for his benefit. He will not know what to do. You might be a teacher. He is scared of those. But you are not breaking any rules. You are not following any either. If you edubabble in a foreign language his confused face will be a wonder to behold. Tinkertop might like to try and draw it.

But of course you are busy during the day and cannot possibly take Tinkertop to the museum. Try top tip 6.

6. Make the food your child chooses and eat it.
This is very educational, and you could find yourself winning the school gate uber parent competition if, when you arrive back there in September, you can poke Tinkertop into showing off her knowledge about the 27 varieties of wholesome apples she has eaten in various forms.

If your child makes all the wrong choices, you won't win any awards, but go with it. You may have to make and eat pies, pastry elephants, cake, more cake, several varieties of cake, biscuits, sweets, and lollipops.

The downside of top tip number 6 is that both you and Tinkertop will weigh two stone heavier.

If you can't stomach the thought of this one, try top tip 7 and you can still be uber parent.

7. Involve your child in household tasks.
Number 7 has never worked in this household, possibly because I don't do these household tasks, but I include it here because all children are different. Some, like you, may be born to be house proud.

Of course you can encourage your child to straighten cushions and vacuum the carpets for a few hours, but inevitably she will conclude this is not the exciting work she wants to do daily until she dies.

Eventually she will want to do something more exciting and make a big untidy mess. This is where you have to use your imagination.

Imagine we live in a world where we do not have appliances. Equip Tinkertop (outside) with a bucket, an old dress, a bar of carbolic and a stone. Tell her this is how your granny washed clothes at the riverside. So long as you don't want your dress back, this is a good one.

Alternatively, equip Tinkertop with a nailbrush strapped to a stick, feed her an anti-allergy tablet and ask her to sweep the entire house, collect all the fur mice from under the bed, and make a big dust ball to show daddy when he arrives home. If you have petite, charming, compliant, agreeable and biddable children they will love this one.

As I said, top tip 7 has never worked in our household. But number 8 works.

8. Switch on the TV.
Do not bother agonising. Just do it. Teach her how to plug it in without electrocuting herself, switch it on and use the remote controls. Two weeks of wall-to-wall Cbeebies won't kill her.

When she is totally bored or you have a developed a complex fantasy about stabbing and dismembering Tinky Winky, extend the repertoire to all other electronic equipment including dvd, cds, cd-roms.

Then you could try ripping The Cure onto your ipod, giving her that, and seeing if you can induce early onset teenage misery, where she locks herself in her room for the next month and you can forget about her.

Number 8 might make her dull though. You could try top tip 9.

9. Travel around on public transport.
This is a great one to do. We once travelled all the way to Bletchley by train, then transferred onto the train travelling in the opposite direction going home. We never even left the station! We did it just to say Today we travelled on a train!

I totally defend this. It is not mad, it is just a good way of being out there in society, watching the world slip by and dreaming this is not the delayed 12.44 to Watford smelling of vomit, this is the Trans-Siberian express stopping at Vladivostok.

Do it, and discover the world.

Or until the police arrive because, to the non-converted, travelling aimlessly everyday on public transport is distinctly suspicious behaviour.

If you don't want to have to justify anything at all to anyone, you could always choose top tip 10. My favourite.

10. Behave like a child.
Drop trying that control thing. Forget about authority. Let everything go. Break rules. Drop being a parent. Blow raspberries at the required reading the school wants you to do while the teachers are on holiday, in therapy, in rest homes, or in prison. There is a reason why they are there and that is the crap they do everyday. Of course they will get you to do it if they can.

But screw that. Relive your teenage rebellion. Stick up two fingers to the system.

Take your child and run around together in the park, roll on the grass, show your knickers, eat ice cream, sing badly, chase butterflies, pick your nose, scratch your bum, fart in public, lick your own noses, lose your shoes, wear a torn tee-shirt with raspberry jam down the front, scream and laugh and cry when you need to, eat chips, read the Beano, put icing sugar in the bath just to see how it feels, go somewhere together because you want to, and do something because it feels good, and makes everyone laugh and be happy, because really, what else are kids and school holidays for?

All of this applies unless you are a home educator. Then you will know that home educators never take holidays. No. We only ever have learning experiences of life.

* PGL. And if they are giving away free weeks, I deserve them. Oh yes I do.


Jax Blunt said...

Fab post Grit.

I got really annoyed with one of those emails that comes out this time of year - how to survive the school holidays and where to buy cheap uniform for back to school and wrote and complained.

He asked if I wanted to be involved in a feature on home education! :)

globeonmytable said...

Love it!!!

Elizabeth (My Reading World) said...

I love the 'pick the warden' game!! Didn't know others knew about it! ;)

I can't stand that the back-to-school stuff is already on sale--they haven't gotten out yet!!!

emma said...

random public transport trips have always been my favourite. We ended up in some reeeeaaaaaally unexpected places when we lived in London :-D

kelly said...

I would like to add one. For those with under 2s. Let them empty out the kitchen cupboards (remove glass and dangerous items beforehand.) Mine is happy as a sandboy - what ever that means....

Although if the LEA turn up right now we are in deep trouble.

mamacrow said...

kellyi - au contraire blackadder, in fact this a bonna fide manipulation and exploration activity, in fact John Holt sites a child with behavioural and learning difficulties, he visited the home and the mother wasn't allowing the younger sibling to 'even' rifle throught the kitchen cupboards, and Holt observed the 'gradual switch off process'!

Surely everyone has a 'safe' kitchen cupboard with the wooden spoons and tuperware in or is that just me and you then?!

Jax - SAY YES!

Tho I have to say, I quite like the back to school offers, especially in sainsburys cos they do loads of the type of workbooks several of my lot really like. and cheep lunch boxes, which for somereason, all todlers think are the means to salvation.

sharon said...

Just get out of the house! The UK is blessed with so much free or cheap entertainment, both educational and otherwise, along with a reasonable transport service, make the most of it! The more energy the children use the better. I never understood the 'endure the holidays' attitude.

Elizabeth (My Reading World) said...

Sharon--I agree whole heartedly with that! I consider myself a resident tourist and have a list of a zillion places I still want to see in the UK!

Mamacrow--I too like the sales, just wish they'd wait till the poor kids were actually OUT of their prison, I mean schools!

kelly said...


Your blog has become a forum


Michelle said...

" I never understood the 'endure the holidays' attitude"

I endure the holidays. Can't wait until the schools go back and life seems less crowded again.

Suzywoozy said...

Well we are managing a bit of option 1. Although the youngest is only out for two hours a day. Your post had Martin reaching for the hoover to make sure the stairs were clean though!!!

Clare said...

LOL, great post. My kids love the kitchen cupboards. I have always loved 'back to school', still get excited about new notebooks, folders, stationary, rainbow coloured pens and highlighters... [blush]

Anonymous said...

Ah - happy childhood memories!

Grit said...

thank you all for your comments!

MichelleTwinMum said...

The carnival is not even up yet but i had to come and visit! I love it. No 2 is so true and I have had the mess before to prove it, but the lie in was greta while it lasted. I said to a friend the other day you have to accept the rules that 1 hours quiet time will mean a good 1/2 clear up activity after!

Mich x

Gweipo said...

Option 3. Omg, having a garden is the most wonderful thing ever.....