Tag Archives: children

Try The Haggis

try the haggis

When we went to Scotland a few months ago, Matt ordered a full Scottish breakfast at a restaurant our first day.

It came with haggis.

In case you don’t know what that is, haggis, a traditional Scottish dish, is: “a savory pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach”. 

That does not sound appetizing in any way.  Honestly, it does not.  I know this.  No thinking person would reasonably read that description and think, “MMMMMMMM, haggis.  That sounds good, I’ll try that!”.

But you know what?  I tried it anyway; we all did.  Even the kids.  When that plate was delivered to the table, every one of us took at least a small bite.

You know why?  Because we were in Scotland and haggis is a traditional Scottish dish, maybe the most famous traditional Scottish food of all.  And what was going to happen if we tried it?  Nothing.  The worst thing that would happen is that we’d have tried something that tasted badly.  You take a sip of your drink and you move on.  But maybe you find out that you LOVE haggis.  And you’d never have known if you hadn’t tried it.

“Well?” I asked. 

Not bad was the general consensus.  Not delicious, but not terrible. 

“And,” said Bridget, “now I can always say I’ve tried it.  Now I know.”

In that moment, with that statement, as I looked at all four of my kids chewing thoughtfully on bites of spiced sheep organs, I felt proud and I felt energized and I felt like a good mother.  Like if I do nothing else right in this life, at least I’ve taught my children not to be afraid to try something new.

So many people live in fear of trying a new thing.  People limit themselves on where they go and what they do and who they talk to and what they eat and what they wear based solely on the fact that the thing they do is the thing they’ve always done. 

What a waste.

What the hell is the point of living if you’re unwilling to ever try something new?  If you never take chances and risks, where’s the fun?  How will you ever find out what you love if you only ever stick to what you know?

So go to ScotlandTry the damn haggis.  At least you can say you did it. 


Also, this is the very purpose of our having moved to Europe, and this is another important parenting message.


 

School Differences: Classroom Time vs. Non-classroom Time

O xcountry meet

Since the beginning of the new school year last September, Matt and I have discussed many times how much the children seem to be learning — as I said before, they have quite a few more subjects in their schedules, and they are expected to work hard and really do their best.  But we’ve also noted how much happier the kids are about school here.  They are, all four of them, simply more invested and engaged and they ENJOY school more than ever before. 

Why, I wondered, are my kids so much happier about school here when they seem to have more work than ever before? 

The answer, I strongly believe, lies in the way the school day is structured: there is significantly more activity and movement built into their days and weeks here than in their average school week in America.

The current school day for Gabe and Owen lasts 7 hours — from 8:50AM to 3:50PM each day.  The school day in our American school lasted 6h 40m — from 8:40AM to 3:20PM.  (This year, though, the county where we lived extended the school day by 15 minutes and the days there now last 6h 55m, so really the school days are about the same length.)

Each day here, the children have two 10-minute homeroom periods — one at the beginning and and end of each day.  They also have a 10-minute “registration” period just after lunch to take attendance and make sure everyone is where they’re supposed to be.  Each morning after homeroom, there is a 20-minute school-wide assembly.  There is a 20-minute break after second period when the kids just go outside and play.  The lunch/recess period lasts 65 minutes.  In addition, the students change classes multiple times throughout the day, so they walk between classes across the school.  That all adds up to at least 135 minutes (2h 15m) of non-instructional hours in each seven hour school day, most of which are physically active times when the kids are walking, running, or playing. 

Through the course of the 35-hour school week, that adds up to 11.25 hours NOT spent sitting in a seat in class.  Only 4.75 hours are spent sitting in class each day, and of those hours, some of them are in PE and Games and Art and Music.

Here’s 7- year old Owen’s timetable (British Year 3, equivalent to American 2nd grade) so you can see how the day is structured (this schedule doesn’t include the 10-minutes of homeroom at the beginning and end of each day):

Owen timetable

The kids here have 60 minutes of PE every week AND 180 minutes of Games (sports practice, which I explained in my last post about schools here) every week.  They have 90 minutes of Swimming every other week. They have 60 minutes of Art and 60 minutes of Music every week.  They also have 60 minutes of Design Technology (DT) each week, which is essentially Home Ec and rotates between sewing, cooking, and shop class.  That adds up to another 7h 45m per week of physical activity, bringing the total number of hours of physically-related activities up to 19 hours out of 35 available in the school week.  (And yes, I count Art and Music and DT as physical activities — those are classes based on movement and development of gross and fine motor skills.)

In our school in the States, lunch lasted 30 minutes and recess was 20 minutes.  The kids only moved between classes a few times a day: to go to and from lunch/recess and to go to specials like PE, Art, and Music.  On average, the kids had 100 minutes of PE, 100 minutes of Music, and 60 minutes of Art each week.  There were occasional assemblies, but not daily, school-wide gatherings.  Sometimes the kids had more physical-related lessons in a classroom, but those weren’t guaranteed in any given day.  That adds up to only 310 minutes, or 5 1/3 hours of reliable non-seated, physically-related activity total in the school week.  That’s A LOT less time spent moving and a lot MORE time spent sitting.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison (for the sake of simplicity, I generalized a bit and made the 7hr British school day and the 6hr 55min American school day both add up to 35 hours per week):

Brit v Amer School chart

See the red?  That’s time generally spent sitting in a classroom.  

No wonder my kids are happier in school here — they never have to sit in a seat in a class for more than 90 minutes in a row at any point at all during the school week.  I’d also be willing to bet that because of the amount of physical activity built into each day, the kids are better able to sit still and focus when they do need to because they’re not spending their days bottling up all of the energy that is just part of being a kid. 

I often read articles — like this one — that explain why it’s so important for kids to move and be physically active.  Or articles like this that describe how difficult it is for children to sit still for long periods of time, especially for little boys.  Having now experienced a school where daily physical activity is guaranteed and built into the week, I can say with absolute certainty that it makes a huge difference in my children’s attitudes toward going to school, their level of happiness during the school day, and their ability to learn.

I do believe my children are learning more in school here than they were in their school in America.  It is NOT, however, because they’re going to a private school or because teachers here are better or because the curriculum is of a higher quality.  It is NOT because they are spending more hours in school or more school hours on instructional time. 

In fact, the opposite is true: they are learning more because the school day includes more of the physical activity that is absolutely crucial for children.  They are learning more because they are able to focus better during instructional time.  They are learning more because they’re not bored or fidgety.  They are learning more because the school day here is structured in such as way as to incorporate the play and movement that is most beneficial for children.

In short, my kids have fewer classroom hours here, but they are learning more.  And they are HAPPIER.  And that makes me happier.


Also, here are my other posts on school differences.


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How Many Kids?

My babies_May 2010

I always wanted a lot of kids.  Before I HAD children, four was, in fact, my minimum number.  I really wanted five or six.

When Quinn was born though, my fourth baby in five and half years, I had been pregnant or nursing for what felt like forever.  I had had children every other year from 2004 through 2010.  And I just felt like that was it — I didn’t want to be pregnant or nursing anymore.  I wanted my body back.  I was done.  Matt agreed; I think he was even more done than I was.  We took care of things so that we wouldn’t get pregnant anymore.

age 6

Then Quinn turned one and my baby fever kicked back in and I decided we had made a terrible, terrible mistake.  We should definitely have had ONE MORE child.  And I was sure that this time, it would definitely be another girl.  Just as sure as I had been with my previous three pregnancies, all of which resulted in boys.  Matt had anticipated this, apparently, knowing that when each of our kids had hit their first birthday, I decided it was time for another one.  He knew my change of heart was coming, and he helped me work through it.  It wasn’t a fast process, though.  To be honest, it took me about a year and half to finally accept it and no longer feel a deep sense of regret.  It was about the time that Quinn was potty-trained when I felt, at last, like I was okay with really being done.

IMG_0026

I think it was the realization that after eight years and three months of diapers, I was finished.  A weight was lifted and we moved into new parenting territory; we had no more “babies” then.  After that, I was good with no more children and I haven’t looked back. 

Nov 084

I love having four kids.  I love the noise and the chaos, the million pairs of shoes by the door, the endless laundry and the never-ending cooking, and the giant cars we have to buy so we can all fit in.  I really do, even if I complain about it.

G sledding

I always knew I wanted a big family, but once I started having kids, I changed my mind about exactly HOW big. 

How many kids do you have?  Are you happy with your family size?  Are you done having kids? Did it turn out the way you expected?  I’d love to hear.

Keeping the Peace

DSC_3969

My kids get along pretty well most of the time, but there’s nothing like a week of school vacation to bring out their bad sides with each other.

Very little ignites my temper faster than bickering, and really I think my kids should realize this by now and act accordingly.  Dammit. 

Unfortunately, there was there a lot of bickering going on here by the end of the break.  Enough that I lost my patience and just started shouting  random words at the kids from whatever room I was in when I heard them starting to fight.

B and G are in the living room arguing over who gets to use the piano? 

I am in the kitchen just randomly shouting: “Share!” ; “Be Kind!”; “Use Respectful Words!”; “Take Turns!”; “STOP FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S GOOD!”. 

Strangely enough, those helpful phrases shouted at children from two rooms away didn’t fix the problem.  Shocking, I know.  The children, as it turns out, weren’t even aware I was talking to them.  I don’t know what they thought I was doing when I was just yelling random words at the top of my lungs, but I guess I do weird stuff often enough that it wasn’t that big a deal for them.

After this many years of parenting, I should know better.  I should know that I either need to stay out of the issue and let them work it out, or I need to actually get involved by walking over and calmly helping to mediate the situation. 

But sometimes I just get sick of being patient(ish) and mature(ish) and I want to scream and stomp my feet and get my way. (This is also not good parenting, just FYI.)  And I want my kids to stop. fighting. already.

Do you ever have to deal with kids that just can’t seem to get along?  What have you done that’s helped?

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