Fed up of paying double to travel in the school holidays?

Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching, my school, the children and the staff, HOWEVER, one of my huge frustrations with being a teacher is travelling in the school holidays!  We love to travel but the costs of family holidays are sometimes double in the school holidays and just not affordable, despite working full time!  Not only that, but it seems so unfair to have to pay double for the same thing!

I know I’m not alone here, whether you are a teacher or a parent, we all have the same dilemma.  I have signed numerous petitions to try and support the case to reduce the costs of travelling in the school holidays, but it doesn’t seem like it is something the government are willing to support.  Instead they think fining parents will be the answer!  Anyway, this isn’t meant to be a rant, I’m hoping to find a way to start to overcome this barrier, so that we can continue to create lots of new memories and provide different experiences for our little boy!

So, a slight change of direction for my blog.  It is now my mission to find a way to travel as a family, more often, in the UK and abroad, without getting ripped off!  I aim to find bargain deals, for quality, family holidays that don’t break the bank and that are not ridiculously overpriced compared to term time holidays.

Stay tuned and follow my blog to keep up to date with deals and ideas!

Happy holidays!

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The KS1 teacher – a play based approach to teaching and learning

Are you like me, a real lover of learning through play? If so, please follow me on this journey, transforming the teaching and learning in KS1 to a play based approach.  I would love to hear all about your ideas too!

I think my love of play probably comes from my EYFS background, I specialised in ages 3 to 7 and then taught in FS2 for seven years, however, I am now teaching in Year 2.  I have seen the significant impact quality provision can have on progress and I really want to develop play based provision from FS2 into Year 1 and through to Year 2.  I have wanted to do this for such a long time, but we have never been in the right place as a school. However, now we are and it is all starting to come together for us, I’m so excited!

To help us on our journey, we have been working with Early Excellence, as part of a cluster project. Through this project, we get CPD to support our understanding of quality play, focusing on skill development. We get support from a consultant in school to develop our provision and we get ideas for resources too.

We have just had our first consultant visit and it was a huge success.  She listened to our vision and how we wanted it to work for our children and she helped us develop our ideas.  She offered fresh eyes and helped us identify next steps.  It was so inspiring and nice to have time to just sit and talk things through, as a team.  Everyone is buzzing and inspired now too! I’m not alone, we all have the same vision!

Now, in an ideal world, I’m sure we would all love to pick up the Early Excellence catalogue and buy the complete classroom sets, right?  But in reality budgets don’t stretch that far unfortunately.  I feel extremely lucky that we have been able to be part of a project in the first place!  Our consultant understood this and although she showed us lots of Early Excellence products and resources, she also gave us lots of practical tips, using what we already have.

Like;

– taking cupboard doors off to create open shelving instead of buying in new furniture from the beginning.  She talked about how this will give us more time to think about what we actually want anyway and what will work in our classrooms too.

– creating areas and having tables that are linked to that area yet not in that area as we still need to be able to teach whole class.

– prioritising the areas we need, like small world and construction to ensure all curriculum areas are taught effectively.  A must for our Year 2’s has to be small world and imaginative play as this will help them be more creative in their writing and develop understanding in their reading.  Also, an enquiry area, to get that really high quality Science teaching and learning in a more purposeful and enjoyable way.  Our construction area is also going to be a focus, all linked to structures and mechanisms.  Having this in provision will allow our children lots of time over the year to play and refine ideas rather than one or two weeks here and there!

Keep tuned to follow our journey and to see what quality KS1 provision looks like in practice and how we can make it work!

silhouette of person holding glass mason jar
Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on Pexels.com

Stratford-upon-Avon – Things to do – top tips and recommendations

We absolutely love Stratford Upon Avon and it is our ‘go to’ place for a short escape from reality! This must be our 6th or 7th visit now and every trip brings something new and it always allows us to ‘recharge our batteries’ before we head back to the real world.

There is so much to see and do in Stratford, whether you are looking for a family break, romantic weekend away or just a day out! Famous for the great William Shakespeare and the stunning historical buildings, Stratford has so much to offer for all.

Must sees;

  • The Shakespeare buildings – Mary Arden’s Farm, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Shakespeare’s Birthplace, New Place and Halls Croft are all a must see and if you buy the full story ticket you not only get a discount by booking online and upfront, but your ticket is also valid for a whole year and you can visit as many times as you wish in that year! We have only ever been to these houses as a couple, however, it is perfect for little ones, especially Mary Arden’s Farm. We intend to go back as a family this summer. To find out more, click here.
  • Why not travel around Stratford, to all of Shakespeare’s houses, on an open top bus! City Sightseeing offers a hop on, hop off service with 11 stops around the city, including all the main sights and attractions. You also get an audio commentary as you are travelling around which is available in 7 different languages. A great way to see Stratford without the hassle of driving and parking! The bus only runs in the summer but I would definitely recommend it, especially the audio commentary that offers an element of humour too.
  • River boat rides and cruises – Another great experience, especially on a sunny day. Take a scentic trip along the river Avon and view Stratford from the water. You can also dine on a river boat if that takes your fancy! Just stroll through Bancroft gardens to the river and hop straight onto a boat. Choose from Canal and River tours, River cruises and rowing boats, Sightseeing river cruises or a restaurant cruiser.
  • Stratford Racecourse – This is one of my absolute favourites! Top tip – for a relaxed day, book tickets in the centre enclosure and take your own picnic or barbecue! Add this together with friends and family and you have a fantastic day out! All for the bargain price of £10 per person. My husband and I had an amazing experience, camped out at the edge of the race course, right by the finish line, prosecco in hand! I just love the thud of the horses and the vibration through the ground as they get closer! There is always such a buzz of excitement and happiness in the atmosphere as the horses drawn in. I even won a few cheeky bets which covered my ticket entry, free day out! Bonus!! Another top tip, especially if you don’t like walking – book a taxi in advance as you won’t get one afterwards. However, if you don’t mind a stroll, the walk back into Stratford is actually quite nice! It is just over a mile and it took us about 40 minutes (after a few!).
  • Finally, you have the theatres. My husband and I both have an appreciation for Shakespeare and enjoyed studying his plays during our younger days at school. We decided that as we were in Stratford, it would only be right to go to the theatre and experience it first hand, in his home town! Hamlet was on at the time. So we booked tickets, which you can get at really good price if you don’t mind where you sit, which again we didn’t as it was all about the experience of something new for us. It is definitely an acquired taste, but ‘when in Rome!’

Like I say, we have been to Stratford about 6 or 7 times now, but we still haven’t managed to see everything. There is so much more to explore, like the butterfly farm, MAD museum and Tudor World amongst a few. I will be sure to update you after our next visit! Also, check out my blogs on accommodation and eating out in Stratford!

x

Top Tips and Recommendations – Devon Cliffs Holiday Park with a 22 month year old

It has been such a glorious summer that we wanted to see the sea again! So we booked a holiday to South Devon, Exmouth to be precise, with my parents. We stayed at Devon Cliffs Holiday Park, which is a Haven site. Prices through Haven were pretty steep as all holidays are in the school holidays, we were looking at over £1000 for a standard caravan and that would only have one bathroom which isn’t ideal for four adults. So I looked around for deals and I found two companies that rented out privately owned caravans on the same Haven site. We went with Beachside Caravans as the deals were incredible. We stayed in Willows 18, an A rated extra wide caravan, on the sea front with two bathrooms and a veranda for £695! You do have to buy Haven passes on top of this if you want to use the entertainment facilities, but it still came in for around £800 for all of us which is a bargain. You can’t grumble at £400 per couple for seven nights in Devon during the August school holidays!

Willows 18

I couldn’t recommend this caravan and location enough, it was spotless and spacious with extraordinary views of the beach and sea. It was situated close by to all the main areas of the site and only very short walk to the main complex or the beach. It is worth noting though that the park is very hilly and steep, however, Max was fine with it most of the time and even made it up the very steep path back from the beach.

The park

The park is amazing and huge! It must be the biggest holiday park I have visited and it is very well kept and looked after. Obviously it was school holidays so it was very busy (the down side to holidays as a teacher) however it wasn’t too crowded, we could find places to sit in the bars and restaurants.

The indoor pool was brilliant, Max loved it and cried when he had to get out. The pool has slides galore, for all ages! It also has outdoor pools if you get the weather for it. There are all the usual day time and evening entertainment activities that you would expect, if not more, as well as soft plays and amusements.

There are also a huge number of restaurants and takeaways to choose from on site, from; Burger King, Starbucks, Papa John’s Pizza, Fish and Chip shop, Millie’s Cookies, Bugsy’s, Mash and Barrel Pub to the South Beach Cafe. There is an very well stocked shop which is reasonably priced too. We were relatively happy with every where we ate and drank, large range of drinks in the bars and the food and prices were good too, what you would expect from a standard chain pub. The only let down we had was at the South Beach Cafe. The cafe is perched on the top of the cliff overlooking the beach and sea, it has breathtaking views, I would have eaten in there every night even though it was dearer than the main complex, however, the customer service in there wasn’t great, we didn’t go back due to this. I have to say that this is the only place on the site that we had problems though, the staff elsewhere were great!

The beach

Although down a very steep hill, there is a lovely, private, sandy beach with a little cafe shack at the bottom that serves drinks including beer and Pimms as well as ice cream. There is lots of seaweed on the beach which may put some people off. Max wasn’t keen. However if you do want pure sand and clear waters, head down the coast, about a 10 minute drive at the most, to Exmouth. To find out more about Exmouth and the surrounding area please see my top tips blog, coming soon.

Thank you for reading my blog and I’m happy to answer any questions that you may have about this park. Happy holidays!

Top Tips and Recommendations – North Devon with a 10 month old baby!

Last year, we visited the Woolacombe area in North Devon, a totally stunning area of the country with beautiful, clean, sandy beaches.  We stayed at the Woolacombe Bay Holiday Parks resorts.  There are four parks in total, all within the Woolacombe area and linked closely by a complimentary bus service.  We were based at the Golden Coast park, however you can use the facilities at all of the parks if you wish.

I have to say, I’m not usually a huge fan of the entertainment they have at these parks or as my husband calls it, the “organised fun”.  It’s not really up our street but I can see the appeal it has for children and families, which is of course why we went there in the first place.  There’s lots to do, very affordable and children do not get bored!  As it was our first ‘proper’ seaside holiday as a family, we thought that having lots of family activities onsite would be helpful, especially if the weather was poor.  Max was only about 10 months old so we didn’t want to be limited or isolated, after all this was our first holiday and we didn’t know how he would be.  This park really did have it all; a high ropes course, pools, ten pin bowling and wave-surfing amongst a few.

My husband will tell you that I worry about everything, I like to think of it more as being well prepared and organised, however, it would be fair to say that THIS time, I had a few ‘worries’ around this holiday.  My main ‘worry’ being the car journey!

It was going to take 4 hours, not including the stops!  And…

What if there was traffic?  What if Max wanted to get out his seat or if he cried the whole time? (He wasn’t a massive fan of the car seat anyway)  If I’m honest, I was a little worried about many aspects of the trip, the only thing I wasn’t worried about was whether it affected his sleep routine as he doesn’t sleep anyway!

We decided to travel at around 3am so that the roads were quiet, it was still dark and Max would still be tired.  It was a huge success!  The only down side is that the first day was tiring and long, especially with a baby.  (Well for my husband anyway, I slept most of the way! Only kidding!)

Top places to visits in North Devon:

  • Woolacombe beach was stunning and I would definitely recommend it.  We also went for an idyllic stroll along the warm, golden sands.  At least it would have been idyllic if the heavens had not opened just as we got half way down the beach, we had to shelter under a chip van canopy!  However it all adds to the memories and it is funny, was funny, even at the time!   Also, pop into The Beachcomer Cafe which allows you to sit, relax, eat, drink and admire the extraordinary view.
  • Clovelly.  Wow is all I can say!  We stumbled across it really and nearly didn’t bother, but it is truly stunning.  A beautiful, pristine village on a very steep, cobbled street.  No cars are allowed so you do have to walk which is hard going, especially with a baby and a pushchair but I would do it again in a heartbeat.
  • Ilfracombe is a short drive along the coast from Woolacombe and is more of a built up town.  There is a harbour, coastal walk, lovely cafes and restaurants, plenty of ice cream shops where the list of Mr Whippy flavours is endless!  There are also lovely little bays like Hele Bay to explore, that on a sunny day make you feel like you are in the Mediterranean.  Click here to see all the attractions in the area.
  • Explore the coast – We drove from Clovelly back to Woolacoombe, passing through Westward Ho!, Saunton Sands and Croyde which are all beautiful places to stop and visit.  If you keep driving past Woolacombe and Ilfracombe, you will get to Combe Martin which is another picturesque village which is definitely worth a look, very pretty.  Continue your drive along the coast and you will get to Lynton and Lynmouth and you must stop!  They are unique sister villages, Lynton stands above Lynmouth on the cliff top while Lynmouth is nestled by the sea.  Both are linked by the cliff railway.

I hope you found this mini guide useful, have a great trip!

x

Top tips and Recommendations – Chester city break with a baby and toddler!

So we have just got back from our second family trip to Chester.  I really do love this city!  We went with family this time, staying in Hoole which was about a 10 minute drive to the centre of Chester and about 3 miles from the Zoo, Aquarium and Cheshire Oaks.  The trip was booked through airbnb, staying in a beautiful 3 bedroom house which I would definitely recommend to anyone, especially if you have young children.  Not only was the house immaculate and in a great location, but the neighbour, who also looks after the rentals for this house was lovely, very approachable and helpful.  A real bonus to the property.

We first went to Chester last year when Max was about six months old.  We went with friends who also have a little boy around a similar age and stayed just outside Chester centre in a lovely caravan on a private site called Fir Trees.  We booked through Hoseasons and got a great price (which is rare being a teacher as I can only book in school holidays!).  This was also a great location if you drive, not too far from local amenities and the main attractions.

Top tips and Recommendations;

  • Chester Zoo is a must for all children and adults of any ages.  This zoo is by far the best I have ever been too.  It is so clean and tidy, the animals all seem to be well looked after and cared for, having amazing enclosures.  There is a monorail, numerous areas to explore and fantastic facilities such as restaurants and toilets including many baby changing areas that are all clean and tidy.  They now also have a pub which we didn’t realise until we had already eaten.  Prices for food are quite pricey as you would expect, you are looking at about £7 for fish and chips or a burger and chips but it looked nice.  We took a picnic though and there are plenty of picnic areas.  Try and go on a dry day (if possible), as you spend most of your time outside!
  • The Blue Planet Aquarium is another must see in my eyes.  It is second to the zoo but another great day out, especially on a rainy day.  Max being a little older the second time round got much more out of it and really enjoyed exploring the different sea-life animals, especially in the tunnel.  Again the facilities here for little ones are great and it really makes it a stress free day out.
  • Chester its self is a truly beautiful city to stroll around on a dry day.  The history is fascinating and the architecture and city walls are breathtaking.  It is a big place and even though we have been twice now, we still haven’t seen it all.  You can walk around the city walls or stroll through the cobbled streets looking at the designer shops.  There is a racecourse which is always fun for the whole family, I recommend the centre course which is the cheapest option but it means you can take your own food and drink, some even allow bbqs.  Much more relaxed with the little ones.  There is also a roman amphitheatre you can visit as well as the many delicious cafes, restaurants and bars.
  • Cheshire Oaks is part of the McArtherGlen outlet group and is by far the best one I have visited.  Click on the link to see the shops at this outlet but I would go for the day it is that good.
  • The Coliseum Leisure Park is next door to Cheshire Oaks and comprises of bowling, a cinema, adventure golf and many dining options.  I recommend the tenpin bowling, Max loved it and you can get some great deals and wear your own shoes which is always a bonus.  Prezzo was also delicious and we had great service!

So as you can see Chester offers a wide range of attractions and activities and is a great family city break for all ages.  I can’t wait to go back!

x

 

It’s positive!

What do we do?

Firstly, remember to breathe!

“I’m pregnant” These are the most exciting, overwhelming, emotional and terrifying words I think I have ever muttered!

Max was planned, yet it still felt like an enormous surprise to both of us when that test came back positive!  I couldn’t believe it, the reality of becoming parents and actually being pregnant was overwhelming, I still struggle to describe the feeling, the emotion I felt, but I’ll try!  Imagine you have chosen to ride the steepest, highest roller coaster in the world (even though you are scared stiff of heights) after over indulging in Willy Wonka’s chocolate heaven.  That feeling of excitement, nervousness, blind panic and sickness all rolled into one!  It was a bit like that.

I had so many questions like, What happens next?  What is happening/going to happen to my body?  What do I need?  When do I tell everyone? When do I tell everyone? How do I tell everyone?  Do I need to change my diet?  Where do I start?

My biggest top tip, take one thing at a time and go with the flow.  Enjoy it!

I knew that starting a family would be a huge learning curve and I like to think that before I had Max, I had done my homework, I read as many books and blogs on how to be the ‘perfect’ Mum (I know that there is no such thing but I still wanted to be one!).  I’m sure I also drove my husband and family mad, relaying all this theoretical research on what we should do, what we should buy and so on.  However, this ‘homework’ does definitely not prepare you for the real thing or make you any kind of ‘perfect’ Mother.  It does however put your mind at rest during the pregnancy and it breaks the process down into smaller steps that make the journey more relaxed.  Parenting is definitely a ‘learn on the job’ kind of thing.

One thing I have learnt is that everyone (and I mean everyone, including strangers you meet in Tesco) have their own advice, own ideas and own opinions.  Everyone knows best!  I am guilty for it now, everyone gets so excited and carried away when someone is having a baby that they want to share everything they found helpful and not so helpful.  You can’t follow them all.  It is important to find your way.  Listen to others, read books, blogs, websites of course, but don’t compare yourself to others, don’t try and do everything.  Don’t let others advice confuse you, annoy you, stress you out or go against what you believe in!  This is your journey, everyone does it differently, things change, advice changes and only you know what is best for your baby and your family.  Trust yourself and enjoy every step.

 

Books we found helpful;

However by far the most helpful for me was to talk to others;  friends, family, even strangers!  I know that sounds a bit odd but bare with me, I signed up to the Babycentre website.  Not only does this website give you lots of information about pregnancy but you can also sign in to their community and join the birth club for your due date.  This will link you up with other Mum’s who are going through the same things as you, at exactly the same time.  I found this group a huge support, I could ask them anything and the majority of the people on there were supportive, friendly and non-judgement.  In fact, they are still a huge support to me now.  After we all had our babies, a few members of the group set up a closed Facebook group for the ‘majority’ of our group.  We still use this now, two years down the track!  Many of the Mum’s are on their second little one now!

If you have a few spare pennies, you can also join NCT groups or Daisy Birthing groups.  I have heard lots of good things about these groups too.  I personally can’t comment as I didn’t join them, but I have many friends that did, look out for their guest blogs soon.

Hopefully there are a few things in this blog to help you get your head around being pregnant.  Stay tuned to find out more about deals and websites you can use to make that cash go a little bit further.

x

 

The Journey Begins

Hello and welcome to my blog!

I’m a full time Mummy, wife, teacher, friend and I’m (very) newly acquainted to blogging.  I’m looking to share experiences, reviews and light-hearted, humorous stories about my journey through life and motherhood whilst holding down a high pressured, full time career!

Join me to find out how I manage to juggle the balancing act between family and teaching, creating a good work-life balance.  I hope to bring all the research, advice and interesting deals/websites I found during my ‘baby journey’ to one place, to be helpful to Mum’s, Dad’s and Grandparents alike who have already got enough to think about!

I really hope you enjoy reading this blog.  I would love to hear from you and answer any questions you may have.  Please get in touch via my contact page.

x

 

 

Maximum Life, Minimum Sleep

So here I go, my first blog post…

Questions and answers

What inspired my name? 

I am a mother to my two year old little boy, Max, who is a real cheeky chap with bundles of energy and enthusiasm for life (hence the MAXimum in the blog title).  However, although I am a teacher, an Early Years teacher, and told by everyone that I should know what to do given my job, I actually only know what to do when a child reaches 3 to 4 years old!  I was/am completely new to looking after a baby and at first, felt overwhelmingly unprepared for a baby, especially one that does not like to sleep, not at all, not even now at 2 years old!

In fact, at times I still feel this way, I’m told it’s normal!  Therefore, the name describes me and my life.  A blog of a very sleep deprived new(ish) mother trying to live life to the full!

Why blog?

I have started this blog for many reasons really, but mainly because I get so many questions from friends and family about motherhood/family life; what to buy, what not to buy, how to do this, that and the other.  So I thought a blog would answer all of that and hopefully help other Mum’s and Dad’s, maybe even Grandparents with some of those important questions playing on their minds, as well as save them a few pennies when it comes to the huge list of so called ‘essentials’ needed.

I am also doing this for me.  I love my life, my family and my career but sometimes working full time, with a young family can be intense and full on, this is my ‘switch off’ zone.

Finally, I hope this blog will provide my beautiful boy with many recorded (probably embarrassing) memories for him to look back on in the future.

What’s the blog all about?

It’s an honest, supportive, light-hearted blog  from one mother to another, sharing our family stories, photos and experiences on our journey through life.  Hopefully answering all those buzzing questions around babies, family and work-life balance.  Including helpful reviews of baby/toddler products that we have bought and used so far.  Top ten lists on products, places we have been, clothing, you name it!

I really hope my readers will find this blog helpful and enjoyable and I would love to hear from you and try to answer any questions that you might have.