Travelling With Kids : Things To Do In Sydney For Free

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backpacksandbabygrows:

Things to do in Sydney for free when travelling with kids – courtesy of The Kid Bucket List

Originally posted on The Kid Bucket List:

Travelling With Kids : Things To Do In Sydney For Free

If you find yourself in Sydney for a day and want an adventure for free we have found a plethora of delights for you to explore. Whilst you will need to find your way to the spot, entry or exploration is free! Have fun!

The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia is a cultural marvel and houses a brilliant range of contemporary art. The venue is free to visit and children are warmly received. For a gold coin donation child visitors receive an activity book to plot their journey around the site. You can also download this for free and take it with you.

The Rocks Discovery Museum is open every day from 10.00 am – 5.00 pm and is located in a three-storey high restored 1850s sandstone warehouse in The Rocks. It is free to enter and walks you through the history of the are from pre-European occupation through to modern times. It…

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Tefl approved…. (technically)!

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approvedI have now finished my 120 hour online TEFL course! I’m of course extremely happy about this; I’m now officially qualified to teach English as a foreign language. BUT…. there’s always a but isn’t there? I say ‘technically’ in my title because doing the online course means I’ve had no actual teaching practice.

I’ve loved the course and I don’t want to make it seem like I’m criticising the TEFL qualification; however, there are some big downsides to doing the course completely online. I think I’d be incredibly nervous before teaching a lesson for starters. Also there were lots of grammar related questions/problems I had, that really needed the presence of a proper instructor to solve. Anyone who has looked even briefly at the structure of English grammar can attest to how complicated we seem to have made our system. But (yes there’s a 2nd more positive ‘but’)… I feel that I made the right choice and I will stick to my original plan. If you’ve been reading the blog for a while you will know that I planned on doing the online course to familiarise myself with the grammar and to get a feel for what’s expected of me before applying to do the more formal CELTA qualification at the university I currently study. I’m glad I did it this way round. I now have a rudimentary understanding of grammar. Although I will say that if I was only planning on doing this course then jumping straight into teaching, I would need some immense organisational skills to fully prep all my lessons in advance in order to make sure I could answer any questions my students had. 

On saying that, I think preparation and advance planning and a huge amount of lesson plans and worksheets all done in advance of the lessons will be key to being a good EFL teacher. I can see why there’s so many complaints about of terrible quality of teaching. If you’re just bumming around and do the TEFL course as a thing to make money, but it’s not something you put any effort, energy or passion into, then you will be a terrible teacher. You will also end up hating your job as much as the students hate you. Sorry, I know that sounds harsh but having done the course I know that it’s completely true… you only have to read some forum and blog posts to know the level of appalling teaching that’s out there and I think this is the reason why. They’ve gone into it thinking it’ll be a doss and it couldn’t be further from the truth.

I think you could do the online course and then build up lots of experience through voluntary work if you wanted. This could be a viable option for anyone who can’t afford the far higher price of the CELTA course. I think I’ll try and do some voluntary stuff anyway as it will help me to get over those initial jitters about standing in front of a class, and it would be nice to have experience before accepting a proper job too. The online course is pretty easy, I don’t want to belittle anyone who found it hard… by that I mean that with a bit of effort I think most people will find it manageable and would be able to complete it. The assignments start off as multiple choice quizzes on the grammar and then build up to written assignments you submit for proper marking. However, these begin as small, manageable quick pieces of work and it’s only the final 3-4 assignments that pose a challenge in any way. These last ones do require you to apply what you’ve been taught and to prepare some full lessons from start to finish. They take time and care and are worth doing well, after all this is what you’ll be doing as a teacher!

Once you’ve done the course you’ll find that along the way, you’ve had to do so much research you’ll have hopefully built up some great resource links from external websites – these will be a huge help when actually teaching. One of the best I’ve found to date is the great blog found here on WordPress called ‘tefltastic’ – http://www.tefltastic.wordpress.com there’s tons of resources, worksheets and lesson planning advice and tips along with a large amount of activity ideas. There’s also hundreds of activity worksheets available to download. Well worth a look! The tefl community is in general very helpful and inclusive – everyone has been in that starter position before, so I think that makes everyone really willing to help and create an open community of sharing when it comes to academic resources. 

Below are some good websites I’ve found during the duration of my course:

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk This is a BBC/British council site offering loads of tips and lesson plan ideas along with grammar help.

http://www.teflteachertraining.com is a great blog by Ted, offering untold amounts of advice and help on all things TEFL

http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/ A good resource if you need some grammar explained in plain english whilst completing the course. It helps to fill in some of the gaps that are there in the TEFL course book.

http://www.onestopenglish.com Again, this is a good site for filling in some of the gaps, the TEFL course is OK but I must admit I did find some explanatory gaps in their books. Although I suppose a bit of self-study is never a bad thing either!

http://www.tefl.net A general resource and advice site

http://www.businessdictionary.com This is a great resource to use for vocabulary you might need in a business english class, providing definitions and also ideas around which to plan your business english lessons.

I’m planning on continuing to post any useful information I find including useful resource sites, so keep an eye out if you find this kind of stuff useful. I’m also hoping to get a little site started up with my own worksheets and lesson plans etc once I actually start teaching. Although this will be a couple of years down the line save for some voluntary work. It is most definitely in the pipeline though – you can hold me to it! 

I just want to end by saying that the TEFL course provided by http://www.tefl.org.uk was well worth the money. Although I found some of the instructions to be a little bit ambiguous I did get through it with a grade point average well over 90%. They also marked all my assignments in the agreed timeframe and gave me advice when I asked for it. I’m very glad I did this, and I think it will be extremely valuable when I do the CELTA to have had access to the knowledge and the lesson plans. And if you are very self driven and motivated you could definitely get along into teaching without the CELTA – but I would suggest doing a substantial amount of voluntary work if you can to get the experience and to put into practice all the theory you have been taught. Also it’s worth remembering that knowledge of the subject is only one part of what it takes to be a good teacher and that will come more easily the more you do it – however what really matters are the qualities employers and students will look for :

tefl qualities

Happy TEFL-ing guys, I can’t wait to actually get going with my travels and put my knowledge into practice!

Somewhere I’ve been twice – Paris!

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The Eiffel Tower at night - a must see.

The Eiffel Tower at night – a must see.

I’ve been lucky enough to go to Paris twice now; I do think Paris is somewhere that probably gets better with experience so the more you go the better it is.

There’s a few reasons for this: firstly, it’s such a hugely popular city with tourists that every single tourist attraction is completely mobbed and it takes hours to do the thing you want to do. Queues are enormous for everything by about 10am sometimes even earlier. My recommendation is that you go for a few days and pick one thing to do each day; get to the attraction at the latest 9am and this way you will miss most of the stress (hopefully).

Secondly, the French and specifically Parisians aren’t overly helpful or that keen on tourists. I was here whilst heavily pregnant and will never forget having a large amount of people stand around and watch me struggle up 3 flights of stairs with a heavy suitcase and not one person offered to help. I ended up pulling a muscle all the way across my bump and had a night in hospital back in the UK because they were worried about the pain I was in. Now I’m possibly doing the French a bit of a disservice here, I suspect every major city in the world is the same but they do have their own brand of curtness. One way to combat this is to make sure you attempt to speak some french (this is the same wherever you are actually – an attempt at the local language is a must but more so here than anywhere else I’ve been). I find it always softens people’s attitude. Some of the best help we had was actually from a woman living in Paris who came from elsewhere in the world – so it might be an idea to ask seasoned expats for advice if you can spot them.

The Arc De Triomphe

The Arc De Triomphe

Thirdly, don’t expect anything to work quite the way it should. Don’t take timetables at face value or rely on anything being open even if it explicitly states it is open or will be open it is worth doing more research to save yourself a lot of stress and disappointment (more on this later when I chat about our adventurous trip to the Asterix Theme Park).

Eat often and take lots of leisurely breaks in coffee shops, tip well and be prepared to spend more money than you want to. Don’t do anything in a rush (hence the one trip a day rule). It’s possible to do 2 or 3 different tourist attractions in a  day but when I say do 1 at 9am, i mean do a big one so you could go and climb the Eiffel Tower at 9am then have some food and stroll along The Seine to see the exterior of the Notre Dame Cathedral. However

The Sacre Coeur - 'sacred heart'

The Sacre Coeur – ‘sacred heart’

if you’re desperate to go inside the cathedral then you will have to queue. I was happy just to see the outside although I had been into the Sacre Coeur. Not being religious in any way meant I was happy to just appreciate the magnificent architecture from afar I guess.

If you can follow these rough guidelines then you’ll probably have a great time without feeling too frazzled on your return. Also it might be worth thinking to yourself that Paris can’t really be done in one long weekend and if you relax in the knowledge that you’ll go back once or twice more the desperation to ‘see everything’ goes away. I still have to go back and

The Louvre (of course)!

The Louvre (of course)!

enter the catacombs – the queue was enormous on my 1st trip out there every time we went and the second time I was there I was heavily pregnant so it wasn’t really the best option for me!

Over the course of the two trips I’ve climbed the Eiffel Tower, been inside the Sacre Coeur, wondered round and bought artwork from Montmartre, seen the Notre Dame cathedral, been to The Asterix Theme Park and ridden the biggest wooden roller coaster in Europe, I saw the Tower lit up at night, wandered through some beautiful gardens and eaten and had coffee at Les Editeurs (frequented by Simone De Beauvoir and Satre so a must for any philosophy student) and La Rotonde

A philosophical kind of a cafe ...

A philosophical kind of a cafe …

(frequented by all the artists years ago). I’ve wandered up the Champs Elysees and seen the Arc De Triomphe and had a fabulous night out at Moulin Rouge.  The second trip was far less stressful and this was because I’d done all the big touristy things the first time round so actually spent more time just sitting down and enjoying Paris, wandering through the streets, people watching and appreciating the architecture down the residential streets.

If you’re like me and a fan of theme parks and roller coasters then the Asterix Theme Park is a must – as mentioned it’s home to the largest

Not the wooden one, but a jaw rattling proper old fashioned coaster that managed to crack my friends tooth.

Not the wooden one, but a jaw rattling proper old fashioned coaster that managed to crack my friends tooth.

wooden roller coaster in Europe, but it’s also much quieter these days as Disney World gets the biggest chunk of the revenue. It’s kind of vintage in its appeal which I like. It was a bit of a nightmare to get there; the bus didn’t show up (there should be a scheduled bus to the park each day but well, it’s France). We were very lucky that a seasoned expat turned up to take her niece there and she guided as through the subway system, train and bus system to finally get to the park and we were lucky that the scheduled bus took us home despite either not turing up on the outward journey or leaving early (we never found out which it was).

Another must is a trip to one of the big shows. We opted for Moulin Rouge as we were lucky enough to wrangle guest list. We still had to bribe the doorman to skip the ginormous queue in,

My glamorous outfit that helped us skip the queue :)

My glamorous outfit that helped us skip the queue for Moulin Rouge

but apparently he appreciated my outfit (and a big tip) so we were ushered through. The show itself is fantastic and you will be extremely entertained (if you like that sort of thing). I managed to drink a couple of bottles of champagne by myself as my friend isn’t a big bubbly drinker, however he was supremely amused at seeing me completely drunk, whilst dressed up to the nines on the streets of Paris. One of my best nights out to date :)

Really there’s not much else to add, I’d love to go back and do a cruise down the Seine at night, enter the Catacombs (finally) and maybe go inside Notre Dame. I’ve also not managed to get into the Louvre as the queues were just monumental and I’ve not got much patience for that unless it’s something I’ve set my heart on. But again, if you went and turned up at 9am to the Louvre it would probably be OK in terms of queue times. I also wouldn’t say no to a trip to Disneyland so I reckon I’ll head back with my little monkey when she’s a bit older (kids are such a great excuse to do all the really fun things :) )

 

Also as an added footnote – they serve a JD and coke in a typically fabulous and sophisticated way which I loved…..

The French way to serve Jack Daniels and Coke - enchante!

The French way to serve Jack Daniels and Coke – enchante!

The Versatile Blogger Award!

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versatile blogger 2

 

I’ve been very kindly nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by the lovely guys at http://www.borderlass.com – I’m really honoured, as a new blogger it makes a big difference knowing other bloggers like and appreciate what I’m writing. Occasionally I feel very critical of what I’m doing and really over-analyse how my writing appears to others so it’s made me extremely happy to get this award!

Anyway, I’ve nominated some extremely well established blogs but ones that I’ve really enjoyed reading and that have given me some genuinely great advice on either blogging, travelling or travelling with kids. There’s also some new ones in there and a couple by people who I think are probably really under represented in the travel blog world. It was a hard choice but I hope I can nominate other blogs I enjoy in the future (who knows!).

So firstly thanks again to border lass and thanks to all the blogs I’ve nominated as I’m loving what you’re all writing. Ever since I’ve set off on this path to achieve my dream of travelling as a single parent, I’ve found the whole travel community to be really inclusive and supportive and I’m very honoured to feel a part of it.

So my 15 nominations are (in no particular order):

1. http://www.goatsontheroad.com

2. http://www.travelingcanucks.com

3. http://www.worldtravelfamily.com who also have http://www.homeschoolgrouphug.com

4. http://www.twobadtourists.com

5. http://www.boyaroundtheworld.wordpress.com

6. http://www.3rdculturechildren.com

7. http://www.nerdnomads.com

8. http://www.babycantravel.com

9. http://www.thetravelwell.net

10. http://www.zestiest1.wordpress.com

11. http://www.curbfreewithcorylee.com

12. http://www.kiwihove.wordpress.com

13. http://www.mappingmegan.com

14. http://www.backpackingbetty.wordpress.com

15. http://www.thebarefootnomad.com

So there you have it – 15 blogs I’ve really enjoyed since starting out my own blog. And now 7 things you may not know about me!

1. I absolutely detest baked beans and cucumber

2. I’ve lived in 7 different places all round the UK but I’ve moved house over 20 times

3. I’m incredibly pedantic but my awareness of this means I try to keep it at bay around other human beings

4. Because of number 3 I go back and edit grammar and spelling mistakes on my blog and Facebook even if I don’t notice them for months. Twitter annoys me because it doesn’t let me do this.

5. I have a very very strong affinity and love for elephants – i cry if I read about or see cruelty of any kind towards them.

6. I’ve dreamt of going to the Amazon since I was 8 years old and my school incorporated the Amazon into every subject for a year.

7. As a child I felt more comfortable inside books than I did with other children. This made me into a bit of a fantasist.

How big should a safety net be?

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Casting-a-Net-IrrawaddyI’m such a lazy blogger – I know this! I’ve been putting it off and putting it off and really it’s just because things have been ticking along nicely. It’s not much to write home about I’m afraid.

I’ve finally finished the grammar section on the TEFL course so I’ve just started off on the methodology section. I’m hoping to get this done a bit quicker if I’m honest. I really need to discipline myself to at least an hour a day and more if I can. I’m about to start doing the research for my dissertation, as it’s a frightening 2 ½ months until I go back to uni. I’ve also been getting on well with driving – apparently I can do perfect manoeuvres, including a perfect 1st attempt at parallel parking. However I’m rubbish at clutch control – as always it’s the small things I struggle with so nothing new there. I’ve been known to get the most complex of stuff straight away and be flummoxed by the beginner stage of whatever it is that I’m learning. So this is the mission for next weeks lesson: get to grips with the stupid clutch!

The only thing I’ve been thinking a lot about recently is a bit of an inner dilemma I’m having about how big a back up plan a person needs. To explain that a bit better – Now I’ve decided that I want to travel I’m so focused on that, that I’m reluctant to apply for the usual graduate jobs in case I get sucked into the trap of feeling obligated to take them as it’s secure money etc etc. But it also feels quite scary to not apply for anything throughout the whole of my final year just in case the worst happens and for any reason at all I can’t go travelling and then find myself jobless, with another year to wait before I can apply for all the schemes.

How big should my safety net be? This question has been bothering me for a while.

My plan up until now has been to move back to Manchester and take an opportunity I have to live with a friend without the massive expense of rent and bills in order to save up for roughly a year or maybe 18 months so I fund a RTW trip and have some money behind me to then settle wherever life takes me without having to immediately worry if I’m not making a full time wage straight away. I guess it just feels kind of scary to let all the deadlines go by for the jobs and the graduate schemes without applying for a single one even though that if I follow my dream I’d turn them all down anyway. So what I’ve decided is that whilst in Manchester for a year or more I may as well apply for the Masters at the University – there’s an interesting one called an Ethics and Political Philosophy MA. I don’t think I’d go for the Mres as it’s so geared up towards getting you to write a PhD proposal and I feel it’d be super stressful whereas the ethics and political one is my main area of interest and actually sounds kind of fun. There is a bit of funding available at Manchester too, whereas in Glasgow there’s none for a Masters. So my back up plan if the travelling never happened would be that I could always go for the doctorate if I did well. Pretty nice sounding back up plan in a way hey?!

The bonus as well is that I know having a degree and an MA can be hugely beneficial in getting a visa to some countries especially if they operate a points based system. So I know Hong Kong gives you lots more points for every degree and MA you have, and the University teaches in English. Glasgow philosophy department is actually linked to Hong Kong University so I know I could apply there to study in the future if I decided it was a route I wanted to travel down. Also the MA would be good as a bridge between philosophy and sociology. I adore philosophy but I think deep down it’s sociology and in particular visual sociology I’m very interested in – I’d love to do a big photographic project whilst travelling with a sociological theme to it for example and then possibly take something like that further academically….

I guess what I’m saying is that I need to just take this leap, don’t apply for the jobs that will take me too far from the path I truly want to follow, but I’ve realised that if there’s something I can do whilst directly working towards my goal that can act as a back up plan – well I’d probably be daft not to do it – I should be grabbing all the opportunities I can and accepting all the help offered to me.

So that’s how big my safety net should be – big enough to make me feel secure but small enough it doesn’t ruin the view I have of mine and my daughters future.

The Glasgow Tourist Week

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3009_10151063424420064_1378110194_nI had a good friend come to stay with myself and monkey this week and she brought her 2 year old little girl with her. It’s given me a great opportunity to show them both round the city and really experience Glasgow through the eyes of a tourist. It gets a bad rep sometimes but as soon as anyone I know has visited they’ve fallen in love with it as quickly as I did. Now to be honest I do live in one of the nicest parts – the West End;  so I’m surrounded by beautiful parks and within walking distance of lots of major attractions. But I still think Glasgow is a very misunderstood and unfairly represented city. If anyone gets the chance and hasn’t been I can’t recommend it enough.

During the few days my friend and her little girl stayed with us, me (and the monkey) showed them round as many sights as we could. The days started early and finished late – the mums and toddlers were exhausted but in that good way that occurs when you’re on a packed full holiday. The weather was pretty changeable all week but that meant we got to experience a wide variety of kid friendly activities. The following is a little summary of what we did – so if you have young kids you are now hopefully armed with some info on what you can do in the city of Glasgow (rain or shine).

On the 1st day it was forecast to rain so we decided to visit a great little soft play area in the West End called Jungle In The City – it’s on a little side street at 8 Gardner Street off Dumbarton Road. Unlike the huge massive warehouse set ups it’s in a smaller building but still has all the same equipment and ball pits, and big apparatus just on a smaller scale. The bonus of this is you can view the whole room from a chair or sofa and there isn’t that horrible echoey effect either. There’s plenty of stuff available for babies (walkers, bouncy chairs, high chairs for feeding and toys etc) up to about 8-10 year olds depending on height. Also during the week it’s only £4.95 for all day play and a kids packed lunch (soup or sandwich, raisins, yogurt. crisps and a juice). The adult food is also simple and cheap but tasty. I can’t recommend this place enough to let the kids let off steam on a rainy day. A great time is always had by the kids.

After soft play fun we decided to head down Dumbarton Road and have a wander round Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. This is a real family museum with a large range of activities for everyone and it also boasts a great art collection including the Glasgow Boys collection and the Dali piece Christ of St John The Cross which is truly stunning. But for the kids there’s a lot of interactive stuff for older children and for toddlers there’s all the animals and dinosaur life size figures that both girls loved just wondering round and looking at, along with the fashion items and all the Rennie Mackintosh furniture. At around 1pm there’s an organ player that comes on each day and does a 30 minute show too. After a good run round all the exhibits the girls wanted to see we headed down for a quick look in the gift shop before heading home. It was absolutely pouring with rain when we left so we did end up getting side tracked and nipping into a great New York restaurant called Tribeca (also on Dumbarton Road) to wait for the rain to at least calm down before we headed on – this place does all the real american diner stuff and cocktails and everything in-between; it also has truly American size portions and the great service we hear comes as standard across the pond.

On our 2nd day it was a much nicer day so we headed off and walked to the Transport Museum situated on the River Clyde in a new sparkly building. I love this place – it’s filled to the rafters with every vehicle you can think of. Old fashioned trams, trains, cars, prams, bikes, motorbikes, horse and carriages. If you can name it then it’s probably in there. They also have an historical cobbled street all set up with the horse and carriages on and loads of little interactive shops. More for older kids admittedly but the girls loved running in and out of them – there’s cobblers, a bridle/saddler shop, a pawn shop all that kind of stuff with lots of interactive screens giving loads of information about the history and the time. After we’d exhausted all the stuff the girls wanted to look at and had climbed on the trains and trams we were allowed on we headed out the back door where there’s the magnificent spectacle that is the Tall Ship. It’s free to go on and like the museum has information and general activities for the kids to look at and play with. Most people would probably assume it was for older kids but the girls really did have a nice time running up and down the length of the ship, looking at the ropes and barrels and a replica mast and all the other stuff there. There was also a mini soft play area again and they had lots of fun running in and out of the tunnels and generally going mad. We had a cup of tea in the little cafe too to get some energy back. The ship is fully set up with lifts to every level – I had the monkey in her brilliant back carrier (made by the awesome Madame Googoo) but my friend had her pushchair and we were able to access all the areas and get about very easily. There was also baby change facilities on the ship and in the museum.

Once we’d done all this I decided that they couldn’t come all the way up and not experience the Willow Tea Rooms in town – a real Glasgow institution designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and serving up some great tea and traditional Scottish food, alongside everyday stuff. We went to the one on Buchanan Street as it’s a little bigger and easier with all the kids stuff like the pram etc. Now it’s not overly toddler friendly; you have to get up a big flight of stairs but we folded the pram up and got up there. They do have high chairs and also provide colouring for the kids, I think people maybe don’t expect you to take little kids in so there may have been some sideways glances from elderly people who were wanting a quiet cup of tea (I may have imagined this though!). Either way we just ignored them and enjoyed our tea, tried to stop my monkey from grabbing things off the table etc etc. The only minor complaint I would have is that despite having the high chairs and colouring they insist on serving the kids food and drink in glasses and porcelain plates so it’s a bit nerve wracking in that respect. Still, I’m glad I was able to take them there as I really love the decor and the tea is great.

The sun was still beaming down afterwards so we headed home via the gorgeous Kelvingrove Park (the number 4a bus goes from outside Central station and up Woodlands road where you can get off and access the park through one of the many entrances). We took the kids to go on the swings and slides – there’s a great playground here for kids of all ages and even a skate park. If the weather is nice then Kelvingrove Park is a must; they have also just renovated the band stand and opened it up so I expect more events will be taking place. The other weekend I took monkey to Glasgow Mela; a free event all weekend that filled the park with all kinds of multicultural music, dance, food and drink. It was a really great weekend so it’s worth keeping on eye out for what’s happening.

This pretty much concludes what we managed to fit in over a couple of days. This is just a taster too – I didn’t manage to take them to the Botanics which is another lovely spot, Glasgow Green is also nice and the People’s Palace is there which is a great thing for older kids – telling them all about the history of the working classes in Glasgow; introducing a lot of sociological concepts and themes at an early age which is great in my opinion. Glasgow is definitely a city with a complex and often fraught history.

I hope I’ve maybe convinced some people to come and visit and given an idea of just some of the child friendly activities around – I haven’t mentioned that apart from Jungle In the City and of course the Willow tea room, all these activities were free so perfect if you’re on a strict budget! I think my friend was definitely taken by the city as she was very quickly saying she could easily live here – I think people are always surprised by how much they like Glasgow if they’ve never been.

Complete enormous to do list? Tick!

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hippie-pic

I realised I’ve had such a busy week I’ve not had much chance to post for a few days; so I wanted to say a wee hello!

I feel like I’ve had an incredibly productive week. I’ve had another driving lesson (everyone is alive and well), Ive written my dissertation proposal and handed it in (I now have an enormous self-inflicted reading list to get through this summer), I’ve joined a badminton class and a boxercise class (get rid of baby belly and get fitter and healthier, phase 1), I’ve done an enormous amount of housework (not in the name of procrastination, just for its own sake), I’ve joined various new social media platforms including google+ and Facebook (check out my new pages if you have a chance although they are both huge works in progress so please cast a forgiving eye!).

So out of this big list of things I’ve managed to do there’s one glaring black hole (oxymoron? Can a black hole glare? I digress sorry…) I’ve not managed any TEFL since my last post. I’m learning another lesson; I keep thinking that if I don’t have 2 hours to sit and do a full section of the course then I can’t do it. Whereas a much better plan of action would be to just grab bite size half hour sessions whenever I can but just make sure I’ve got a block of time available when I need to actually sit down and do the tests. A handy little tip I have discovered though is that if you’re like me and a bit of a proud pedantic type of personality; the minute I blogged about not doing any TEFL the last time, I was immediately galvanised into action and spent an hour reading up on verbs. Almost as soon as I’d hit the ‘publish post’ button. So I may just try that in future if I’m not getting much done, I’ll just publicly blog about my uselessness.

I have also started what will sound like a very strange social experiment – just for my own personal gain. I’ve always wondered whether the fact that hippies (by hippies I mean floaty, smily types who seem endlessly calm, wear floaty clothes, practice meditation and yoga, eat hippie food, and carry their babies in great swathes of material until there about 3 – I know I’m generalising here but we all know one or a few; in the west end of Glasgow they’re practically an institution!). Anyway I’ve always wondered whether they are very relaxed, chilled out positive people who therefore become hippies who are identifiable by sight, or if when they’re young they kind of get into the fashion and the rest just sort of follows like a self fulfilling prophecy. As someone who is a bit uptight and pedantic and often suffers with anxiety but prescribes to a lot of the hippy ideals without ever jumping in 100% (probably because I met a bunch of heavy metallers at a key impressionable age and went a completely different route), I’ve often pondered over this chicken and the egg question. Do calm, anxiety free floaty people become hippies or do hippies evolve into calm floaty people?

This all no doubt sounds like a bit of an odd generalistic line of thought and reasoning; sorry if I offend any hippies with my shamelessly narrow description – it’s truly in jest and admiration, I really do just want to be in the club! So I’ve decided to give myself a complete hippie makeover. Whenever I feel stressed or anxious I’m forcing myself to smile and think happy thoughts. I’m off to find a meditation and yoga class next week and I’ve hunted out all my floaty comfy clothes and shoes and vacuum packed everything else. I did actually already own an awful lot of floaty, brightly patterned comfy stuff so it’s just been a wardrobe exchange if I’m honest. The bonkers plan is to see if I can make myself into one of those carefree non-pedantic types who irritates the life out of anyone even remotely uptight. I have a feeling that if I’d met different people and been influenced by those more inclined towards Buddhism (or something similar) from an early age then I would be a different person today and would have taken the paths I’m taking now at an earlier point. This is not about regret, please don’t think that – but it is about trying to take control over my life and my thoughts and my anxieties – albeit in a slightly mad way. I guess the idea is ‘dress like hippie, become a hippie’ and float around the world on a sea of positivity, taking each day one step at a time. But most importantly I want to pass some of that philosophy to my daughter. I was raised by highly anxious people and I inherited those idiosyncrasies, so more than anything I want my little monkey to inherit slightly more positive ones. I’d also like her to truly master and gain a love for yoga and meditation as the benefits of these two things are now firmly set in the social stone that is ‘science’. Brain scans of monks who regularly practice transcendental mediation have been publicised a lot recently; they’ve known this stuff for thousands of years of course but now we have brain scans as proof it’s become ‘common knowledge’. I’d really love monkey to be a calm, happy, positive floaty hippy to start with, rather than have to struggle and claw her way to the same place as I have over the course of 20 odd years.

So I’ll keep you all updated – can I reinvent myself as an anxiety free, carefree, happy, positive hippie? I really hope so although I suspect it’ll take a bit more than that such as a true commitment to serious ideals of buddhism and some serious practice of mediation and yoga. Which will serve me right for such blatant and insulting stereotyping won’t it?

 

Finding the time…

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Time1I must be honest; I’ve found it difficult to get the time to do anymore TEFL this week. Thursday and Friday were taken up doing household jobs, voluntary work and I had University meetings about writing a dissertation proposal. Today it was a rare sunny day in Glasgow so I took advantage and went out walking with my little girl and we enjoyed a bit of Asian food for lunch. By the time we got home (walking is a leisurely affair with a 19 month old toddler) she was knackered and so was I!

Anyway, I have a confession – I could have been doing things in the evening but my favourite guilty pleasure was on TV all this week… Britain’s got Talent semi-finals! I know, I know, I think people either love it or hate it but I really do love it. When you read so much negative crap in the papers about the kids of today and just people in general, I find it so heart warming to watch how hard some young kids are working towards achieving a goal. Even the ones that aren’t that great I still find it inspirational that so many people are out there working away towards achieving something they want.

So I really need to get back working towards mine I guess!

I have been doing some stuff towards my theory test this week, there are online practice revision tests and mock tests that you can do for free. I took the mock test having done no revision at all and got 41 out of 50. The pass mark is 48 I think, so I’m pretty positive that if I do plenty of revision I’ll be able to pass it in about a month…. So watch this space!

My plan is to do some TEFL tomorrow night as there’s no BGT on the telly and then I’ll really step up a gear next week and try and do at least 2 hours a day. It’s early days but I’d really like to have this done by the start of August I think. Then I need to spend August getting a proper head start on my dissertation so I can go back to Uni feeling relaxed instead of frazzled within about 2 days of going back. That’s the plan Batman…

As always, thanks for reading!!

Pedants need not apply!

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pedantic

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and musing the last few days about my plans and the things that I want for my daughter and myself. I’m one of those people who gets completely motivated and excited about something straight away. My mind starts firing off in all directions and I just run with it. I’ll start researching all the little steps I need to make and how I can make them and then I’ll start trying to solve all the little hurdles that are arising. Now this can be in the 1st hour of getting an idea, and already I’m trying to solve hypothetical problems. Then I find I can’t solve the hypothetical problems and I kind of crash psychologically and get all demotivated. COMPLETELY forgetting these are my own imagined hypothetical problems!

I guess what I’m saying is, I’m learning really fast that I’m just going to have to let this bit of my personality go somehow. I think if my friends were to describe me then the words ‘organised’ and ‘pedantic’ would come in there pretty fast. Now being organised has some huge advantages but when it comes to making these big decisions, pedants really need not apply. I mean, I’ve found myself worrying about problems I might face to do with my daughters schooling when she would be high school age (she’s 19 months old!), I’ve been worrying about whether she, as an individual will mind travelling or living a slightly location-less life. Again, these are just massive hypotheticals, I can never know the answers to these worries until I’m actually dealing with them. But I end up letting it demotivate me because that pedantic side of my personality is demanding answers and it wants them now!

I forget that if I’d thought about every tiny step I was going to have to take to achieve any of the things I’ve done then I probably would never have done anything – for that matter nobody would get out of bed! If I’d thought about all the stuff I would have to do and all the problems I would face when doing a degree or having a baby or moving to Scotland or when i moved to London I probably would have cried and then curled up into a hedgehog ball for the next week so…

I’m thinking I need to start chanting out some clichéd mantras – you know the ones… I need to take a leap of faith, cross that bridge when I come to it, yadda yadda. But these really do apply, I don’t think doing this is possible without just jumping feet/head first into the unknown, safe in the knowledge I can always come back if it doesn’t work. But worrying about whether my daughter will take GCSE’s or do the International Baccalaureate is proper crazy time! I’ve been panicking about disadvantaging her, I can home school her through the primary years or most of them I’m confident of that; but I’ve been worrying about creating someone who has no qualifications at all and how this would affect her depending on her own life choices later.

I’m not saying these aren’t valid things I should be thinking about, I’m just realising that these decisions are possibly 10 years away and I need to calm the fuck down!!! :)

 

 

A productive start….

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give way

Well today has been an exciting day! I’ve had my 1st driving lesson and I opened up TEFL online and completed the section on nouns – clearly it was those nouns that really got the adrenalin pumping :)

A bit of background might be good (again) … As may be clear by now, I’m trying to best qualify myself to live and work abroad. I think at the moment my opinion is that the best way to do this is to become a bit of a Jack of all trades so I’m going to build up a CV that will allow me to do anything and everything whilst travelling as a single parent. Of course the biggest tool in any workers box when travelling would arguably be a qualification to teach English as a foreign language so… I decided to do the TEFL this summer because I looked into CELTA (the Cambridge qualification for teaching English as a foreign language) and I’d missed the deadline to do it at the University this summer. However, as I looked at various forums and whatnot online to see what the difference is academically (CELTA is significantly more expensive that TEFL for starters); I was reading quite a few things saying that CELTA is really tough in terms of the teaching and the grammar knowledge you’re expected to learn. So I thought it might be a good idea to give myself an introduction to the grammar side of things and get a lot of lesson planning advice via TEFL first. There’s also the handy fact that on completion TEFL gives help on tailored CV’s and there’s also their jobs section that you get lifelong access to. But I can’t deny that by the sounds of it CELTA really is the more prestigious certificate to get. They give you 150 hours face to face teaching and you get actual experience everyday in the classroom teaching a group for small periods. I also figured that getting it from the University will look better on paper too; unfortunately over life you quickly realise that keeping up appearances has more weight that it should. I don’t like it, but sometimes it’s prudent just to play the game!

I’m doing the 120 hour TEFL course because there wasn’t that much difference in the price – It should be £269 but as a student you get 20% off so it’s £215 – also it’s worth noting that you get that discount up to a year after graduation. I reckon TEFL will be great for just familiarising myself with the grammar and structure of language so I don’t feel like I’m thrown in at the deep-end when I apply to CELTA. That being said it is a stand-alone qualification as well so it really can’t do any harm – that’s been my thinking anyway. It felt worthwhile to dip into the savings for.

So… on to my 1st experience of TEFL:

I’ve discovered there are a few gaps in the teaching of the noun section in comparison to what is asked on the test; so it really did require me to think outside of the box. For example it really wasn’t clear to me whether day, night, days, hours and words along these lines were abstract or concrete nouns even after going through the lesson and watching the little video tutorial (on a side note – hilariously weird voice-over on the video!). Anyway, I did some investigations online and ‘concrete’ seemed to be the view although my instinct was ‘abstract’ I put concrete and got it wrong.

Lesson 1: don’t trust Google too much.

Lesson 2: trust my instinct a little more!

Despite this I still got 91% on the test so I’m pleased with how today went.

Driving was great fun though. It was nerve racking to start off. I think I’m going to make my instructor demented by apologising for every tiny mistake. Hopefully she’ll learn that this is an unfortunate side effect of my upbringing and I may struggle to swallow the ‘sorrys’. I should also work on this though; I’m one of those people who constantly apologises for apologising!

I had about 11 driving lessons a few years ago and I thought I’d forgotten it all but quite a bit just kicked in naturally so she let me drive for the full 90 minute lesson and said I should be proud of how it went. It’ll be same time next week now and I really need to boot myself up the bum to start revising for my theory test. I’ve set myself the limit of 4 weeks to sit it; once that’s done I’ll push up to two 90 minute lessons a week to try and get the driving test done by September. I want to go back to Uni with two new qualifications under my belt (driving and TEFL) as I think it’ll be such a nice little boost to the ego before entering the final year of my degree.

Today has definitely felt productive. I always find that once the first few steps are made I find my motivation just keeps coming. I can procrastinate with the best of them sometimes (that washing up looks so damn attractive when there’s academic work to be done); but once I’ve sat down and started I hit a flow pretty quickly. Tomorrow I’m going to start the online revision tool for my theory test and maybe tonight I’ll start reading the TEFL section on verbs – it’s a lot bigger than the noun section unsurprisingly so it’ll take a couple of sessions to read through that I think.

As always, thanks for reading!