Parlez Vous Français?

We’re just back from France, but this post isn’t really a travel blog, it’s more about teaching languages to children.

We stayed at Camping St Gilles, near Bénodet in Brittany. We booked through Eurocamp and I’d definitely recommend it. I might write a review and/or travel blog post at some stage but I’m not much of a reviewer. I’m still traumatised after receiving hate mail from an elderly guest house owner, after leaving a mediocre review on Trip Advisor. Apparently, I ruined her summer! This was six years ago, and I think I deleted my account in the end – not before reporting her for abuse of Trip Advisor.

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Munchkin is fortunate enough to start learning French in Year 1 at school. So she’ll start at age five, as opposed to age ten or whenever it was I started. I have an ‘A’-Level in French but my vocabulary is terrible. My husband has a GCSE, and his is even worse!

We want to help her learn and are pleased that she’s showing an interest and asking how to say things in French. Here is our plan to help her learn.

  1. We’ve bought some French flash cards.
  2. She wants to start going to a Saturday French group.
  3. My husband is going to start French lessons. Unbelievably, the main adult education provider in Worthing doesn’t run French courses so he’s still looking for a suitable class.
  4. I’m going to read bilingual story books to her. Hopefully this will improve my French. The idea is that I’ll read the story in English, then repeat it in French.

I’ll let you know how we get on. What ideas do you have for helping children learn a foreign language? Please let me know in the comments below.

French flag photo credit: wisegie via Foter.com / CC BY

Writing Update – Secret Agents

I haven’t done a great deal of writing in the last week or so, but I have a cunning plan. I’ve got a few blog posts in the pipeline, some for here and one or two for Worthing Mums. I still need to write the time slip story, and Harry’s Homes – the cat story, hopefully I can find time for both over the summer holidays.

I’ve been looking into competitions for picture books but have decided against the only three I’ve seen for the moment. The most promising of them requires a text of less than eight hundred words. The two I’ve written so far exceed that and don’t really lend themselves to editing. If Harry’s Homes comes out shorter, I might enter it. I’ve ruled out the other two competitions as one is only open to members of a society with a relatively high joining fee and the other is for ethnic minority writers. My grandfather was Indian, but I think that’s probably stretching it a bit!

Therefore it’s back to Plan A, of finding a literary agent, for me. I’ve started to do some research. I’ve concluded that I need someone who is well respected in the industry but doesn’t represent too many big names. I suspect that the more big names someone represents, the more exclusive they’re likely to be. I think I’ve found someone. Her portfolio includes a writer and illustrator who is fairly local to me, and I like the way she presents herself on her website. I don’t want to name any names in case I change my mind. My next steps will be to look up some of her other authors and search for feedback on her. If all goes well, I’ll be making a submission quite soon. I’ll let you know how I get on!

Featured image credit: foter.com

Reverse Bucket List

This is a bucket list with a twist, instead of listing what I’d like to achieve, it celebrates what I’ve already achieved. I pinched the idea from Holly of Golly Miss Holly. As I said in a previous post, I’m not very good at singing my own praises, but here goes:

  • I’ve swum on the Great Barrier Reef: I spent my last year at uni saying that I wanted to go to Australia when I graduated. It took me a year to save up the money, but I did indeed go to Australia, where I met my lovely – now departed  – cousin Lisa for the first and only time, as well as catching up with other friends and relatives. I visited some beautiful places, the ultimate being the Great Barrier Reef.
  • I’m proud to call myself a writer: I’ve been writing for a long time, but it’s only been in the last year or two that I’ve been confident enough to consider myself a writer, rather than someone who dabbles with words. As Joanne Harris – of Chocolat fame – recently said on Twitter, in a post dispelling myths about writing, “If you write, you’re a writer.”

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  • I’ve visited the Pyramids at Giza: It was a long journey from where I was staying in Egypt, but I knew it wasn’t a country I’d be rushing back to, so I made the most of it, and ensured I saw as many tourist sites as possible.
  • I’ve been to Niagara Falls… twice: The first time was because it was on my bucket list, the second time was because my husband wanted to go there.

niagara falls, canada, horse shoe falls, usa

  • I’ve been to New Zealand: It’s as far away from the UK as you can possibly get, and includes fantastic places like Rotorua. My husband and I got engaged in NZ so it’ll always be somewhere that brings back fond memories. It’s the only country that I’ve ever visited, and thought, “I could live here”. I hope we can take Munchkin there at some point.

agrodome, rotorua, new zealand

 

Writing Update – School’s Out For Summer…

When I’m not writing my own blog, I sometimes write for Worthing Mums. I used to write for them regularly, and am hoping I’ll be able to carry on with this now I’ve started blogging again. It was through Worthing Mums, that Claire from Harmony at Home got in contact about opening a children’s shoe shop/department in Worthing. Our survey attracted 114 responses from parents and grandparents who wanted to see a specialist children’s shoe shop in Worthing. The results are now safely with Claire and I know she’s already spoken to several footwear suppliers.

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Photo credit: Foter.com

My most recent post on Worthing Mums was about why I’ve sent Munchkin to a private school. I meant to write this post over a year ago, but I stopped blogging. It suddenly seemed a very timely thing to be writing. Firstly, Munchkin’s school has just launched a parent-led marketing campaign. Secondly, funding issues in my Local Education Authority mean that more people are looking for alternative ways to educate their children. For some, this will be private education. Others are considering home schooling. I also know of families who have moved to local authorities with better funding for the sake of their children’s education.

In other writing news, my Creative Writing course has finished for this term, and I’d like to thank Sarah from Brainfluff for her excellent support and teaching over the last academic year. I talked about my creative writing aims over the summer holidays in a previous post. I also want to try to promote this blog over the holidays.

I set up a Twitter account to promote myself as a writer, and I seem to have attracted a number of new followers over the past week or two. I’m convinced two are spam accounts, even though Twitter hasn’t filtered them out, but the rest are genuine followers. The majority are bloggers or connected to children’s literature in some way.

I will soon be writing a reverse bucket list post – an idea I pinched (with permission) from Golly Miss Holly. Instead of saying what I want to achieve, I’ll celebrating what I’ve already achieved. Munchkin is about to start eight weeks of school summer holidays, so I’ll probably be posting about what we’ve been up to, alongside writing updates. I bought myself some ink pencils and water colour pencils a couple of weeks ago and haven’t taken them out of their packets. Hopefully I can remedy this over the holidays and make a start on some illustrations. The flippin’ fairies might even make a comeback!

Alan’s Aliases 

Not so long ago, I wrote a children’s story about Alan and Munchkin, but I didn’t use their real names. Neither did I call Alan, “Stan” – sorry Aunty Claire! They are the basis for the characters Davey and Lucie in a story called Lost and Found.

The premise for Lost and Found was a post I’d seen on Lost and Found Teddy Bear where someone had left a soft toy in a charity shop.

Alan has been taking selfies… Or is it Davey?


Grandma takes Lucie to a charity shop, where she sees a basket of soft toys. Lucie drops Davey on the floor as she looks at the toys in the basket. Grandma buys her a new toy and Davey is left behind.

Davey gets put in the basket with the other toys. He is bought by Nanna, who wants to give him to her grandsons. Davey soon discovers that they’re horrible. Nanna sees a post on social media about a missing toy dog. Davey is returned to Lucie, along with a toy that Nanna has confiscated from her badly behaved grandsons.

My number one critic [Munchkin] and my writing class like this one. My writing teacher and one of the students are former primary teachers so I always feel that they’re giving me valuable feedback. I just hope the cuddly toy that was left in a charity shop in the Home Counties fared as well as Davey.

Sky Man and Other Stories

I have finally written the story that I referred to in A Gap in the Market. It’s the story of Lily and Sky Man. Lily is friends with Sky Man, an elderly alien who settled in her village many years ago after crashing to Earth. When Sky Man finds a way to return to his own planet, Lily has to come to terms with his departure.

I took the story to my creative writing class, to get some feedback. It was well received. One lady asked to take a copy home with her. My teacher suggested that I submit it to a publisher. Therefore, at her suggestion, my task for the summer holidays is to find a suitable literary agent.

I’m not sure if I’ll illustrate this story myself. I bought some water colour pencils and ink pencils at the weekend, as I think they’d be good media for me to use. I definitely want to draw Sky Man, to give people an idea what he looks like but I might leave the illustration of this one to a professional.

I haven’t yet read the story to my most vocal critics – Munchkin and my husband. They liked the other children’s story that I wrote so hopefully they’ll like this one. I think I’m having another idea for a story about a cat. Munchkin wouldn’t be a helpful critic for this one. She works on the principle that if a book has a cat in it, it must be good.

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Obligatory Cat Picture

I need to get my act together and write a story for my village writing competition. The theme is “time” and I think I’m going to write a story for grown-ups. I sometimes read and write science fiction and I’m fascinated by time travel so hopefully I can come up with something. Entry is limited to people who live in certain postcodes so fingers crossed there aren’t too many good writers in my area!

Featured image photo credit: Foter.com

Voting With Your Feet #kidsshoesinworthing

I have always had a thing about correctly fitting shoes so when my local branch of Jones the Bootmaker announced that they were closing their children’s department, I wasn’t happy. It wouldn’t have been so bad if we hadn’t already lost national footwear chain Brantano and an independent shoe shop. I felt this left a gap in the local market.

I decided to look for ways that  parents could influence shoe retailers to open a children’s shoe shop or department in the Worthing area and have ended up compiling a questionnaire. My worlds have collided: I’m doing business analysis to address a concern that I have as a parent, and I’m writing about it on my blog. It’s not even the first time I’ve written about a gap in the market!

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School Shoes

My family have bought children’s shoes from Jones for at least two generations. I can remember going there as a child and riding on “Dapple” the rocking horse. I had exceptionally narrow feet and had to have Start-rite shoes because they came up narrow at the heel. “Dapple” is long gone and his department is about to join him.

Unlike me, Munchkin has really wide feet and a high instep. This also makes her a prime candidate for Start-rite shoes, though she can get away with wearing other brands including Clarks.

The only remaining shoe fitter in town will be the Clarks shop, which is fine if they have what you’re looking for, your child’s feet are the right shape for Clarks shoes, and you’re able to do stairs. My husband has limited mobility and avoids stairs when possible so this doesn’t suit him. Believe or not, this isn’t an excuse, he quite likes going shopping with Munchkin.

I decided to post on my local parents’ Facebook group. I wanted to find ways to lobby shoe retailers to open a children’s shoe shop or department in Worthing and I was looking for ways to take this forward. The post got so many likes and comments, that I decided to share it to Worthing Mums Facebook page to see if I could generate more opinions.

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My Facebook Post

Claire, who owns Worthing children’s store, Harmony at Home, commented to say that she was considering expanding her range to include fitted children’s shoes but had been nervous about doing anything in case there wasn’t a market for it.

We agreed that I would put together a market research questionnaire that she could make use of. If she decided not to take the idea forward, I would send survey results to existing independent shoe retailers to see if they could be persuaded to open a Worthing store. So far there have been over 100 responses, all from people saying that they would make use of a local children’s shoe shop.

We came to the conclusion that in order to succeed, a children’s shoe shop/department needed to:

  • Advertise lots  – apparently there used to be a children’s shoe shop in Worthing but most people have never heard of it.
  • Not be in the vicinity of another shop with similar stock.
  • Not try to compete with Clarks – much as I would like to buy Clarks shoes in the same shop as Start-rite and other brands, the majority of successful children’s shoe shops don’t stock this brand.
  • It can help to have another aspect to your business since there is a view that children’s shoes don’t make much money. In Claire’s case, that other aspect would be her core business of children’s clothing and toys. Many shoe retailers feel that it’s adults’ shoes that make them money, though it can’t be that cut and dried since there are retailers that only sell children’s shoes.

That’s enough about shoes for one blog, but it won’t be the last you hear from me about gaps in markets, since I’ve written the children’s story that I alluded to in A Gap in the Market.

Ten Reasons Why I Rock at Being a Mum – #RockingMotherhood Tag

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When Kat from Frau Naish tagged me to take on the #RockingMotherhood challenge, I thought that “challenge” was the operative word. I’m not accustomed to singing my own praises. Despite my initial reservations, I actually thought of eleven or twelve things and had to narrow them down to ten!

The challenge was started by Pat from White Camellias because she felt that sometimes with all the ups and downs of being a mother it was easy to forget what made us great mothers and concentrate on where we fall short or would like to improve. She wanted to focus on the small but great things mothers do right day after day and celebrate them.

So here are ten reasons why I rock at being a mum:

  1. I trust my instincts. I gave up breast feeding at five weeks because I knew it was best for my mental health and my relationship with my daughter. Similarly, I knew something wasn’t right with my baby’s feeding and didn’t rest until I knew what it was – it turned out she had silent reflux.
  2. If something’s not working on the parenting front, I’ll keep trying different solutions until I find something that works. Baby rice and purée made weaning a nightmare, so I switched to finger food.
  3. I ensure my daughter has plenty of opportunities to socialise, since I don’t want her to miss out due to having no siblings.
  4. I might read a book or two, but I don’t parent according to any particular book. I learned some valuable lessons on Baby Led Weaning and Toddler Calming, but I do what’s right for my child rather than following a rigid regime.
  5. I have a whole list of aids that I don’t believe in because I consider them to delay the very thing they’re meant to help. This includes baby walkers, stabilisers on bikes and arm bands. Given that Munchkin walked at eleven months and rode a bike aged five, I think I’m onto something. The arm band thing is based on my own childhood – I became dependent on them and couldn’t swim until I was about ten.
  6. I have chosen to invest in my daughter’s education and give her opportunities to build confidence and reach her full potential rather than taking a chance with state schools.
  7. I don’t believe in wrapping children in cotton wool. Obviously I’m not going to allow Munchkin to go rock climbing unsupervised or mix sugar with weedkiller, but I encourage her to be adventurous and we both accept that she might get a few scrapes and bruises along the way.
  8. I’m determined that my daughter won’t gain the “typical only child” label. She’s so good at sharing that she regularly runs out of sweets because she’s given them all to her friends.
  9. I have the most resilient five year old I have ever met, and I’d like to think that is partly down to me. When all the other children have got bored of the treasure hunt or had enough of the obstacle course, she’ll choose to be there until the very end.
  10. I must be doing something right since I’m Munchkin’s favourite person! It’s official, she had to draw a picture of her favourite person in class, and she picked me.

The most challenging part of this is going to be finding some bloggers to tag to continue the challenge. It has been going for six months so a lot of people have already done it. I’m mainly going to tag people who follow my blog or have kindly commented on previous posts. If I haven’t tagged you, and you want to join in, just do it anyway.

Thanks Kat for nominating me, I nominate Naomi from Tattooed Mummy’s Randoms, Jules from My Family Home Blog, Mamma’z Baby and Vicki from This Brighton Mum.

Rules

  1. Thank the blogger that tagged you and link to their blog.
  2. List 10 things you believe make you a good mother. (This is just a guideline. It can be more or less than 10. I really don’t mind.)
  3. Tag 3 – 5 bloggers to join in the #RockingMotherhood Tag.
  4. Grab the #RockingMotherhood badge and add it to your post or sidebar.

Going… Going…

Just a short post whilst I’m watching Munchkin do gymnastics to let you know how this creative writing thing is going. I know pretty much what I want to write in the story about the alien, but have decided that what I’ve written so far doesn’t have enough action in it. 

My other children’s story is already written, and has received positive feedback from those who have read it so far. More about that in another post, but it revolves around Alan.

I’m trying, and sometimes succeeding, to write two blog posts a week. My post reach on Facebook is good, but very few people are clicking through to WordPress. Perhaps these things take time?

I’m also planning to return to my other blogging role of writing for Worthing Mums. Basically, all the building blocks are in place for writing more often, the tricky bit is actually doing it!

All About Alan

Alan is the centre of everything in Munchkin’s life. He went to nursery with her – some of the other children would tell their parents whether Alan had attended that day. One mother asked the nursery manager who Alan was, because she thought he was a child! Alan has been to school, though he’s less welcome there. Toys are only allowed on a Friday, and they have to fit in your drawer. Munchkin swears that if she pushes really hard, Alan fits in her drawer. Alan isn’t so sure… All of the coaches at the gymnastics club are on first name terms with Alan. However, one of Munchkin’s aunties keeps getting confused and calling him ‘Stan’.

What worries Munchkin about Alan, is that someone else might be missing him. We found him at the holiday cottage where her nanny is housekeeper. Nanny said that Munchkin could keep him, but what if some other girl or boy needs him? Alan has been so well loved, I’m not sure his original owner would recognise him. He has had many rides in the washing machine – on one memorable occasion, this was because he’d been dropped down the toilet! Some people have suggested that we open up a seam and re-stuff him. We won’t be doing this. Alan wouldn’t be Alan any more if he wasn’t a bit saggy.

Alan is a ‘Gosig Golden’ toy from Ikea. He is called Alan because everything from Ikea is put together with an Allen key. He has been with Munchkin since she was a baby. Munchkin is now five. Alan is perpetually four years old.

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