Category Archives: school

Summer holidays!

The summer holidays are here!  A while ago a friend asked me to suggest some activities she could do with the children she was childminding.  The activities needed to be low cost and with minimal resources needed.  I hope that these give you some new ideas to do with the kids over the next few weeks!
origami/paper aeroplanes
consequences (with a picture of a monster or a story – we do this at baby showers and it’s brilliant)
den building
acting out a book (we do we’re going on a bear hunt a lot)
paper mache
painting – potato prints
write a story
write a letter
write and put on a play
make sock puppets
make monsters out of egg cartons, toilet rolls etc
cooking (pizza, biscuits, cupcakes)
home made playdough
face painting
make a road map by drawing on a big piece of paper or fabric paints on an old sheet
make tissue paper pom poms
make cushions out of old tshirts
kite making
make bunting
make door signs (their names, “keep out”, “no girls allowed” etc)
make candles in teacups
make a robot from cardboard boxes
tie dye
grow plants – beansprouts in a jam jar
make smoothies
decorate pebbles
make superhero capes and masks – write/draw/act out a comic
make a bird feeder

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Filed under childcare, children, creative, food, school

Inverteign Family Learning Centre

The Inverteign Family Learning Centre was set up more than ten years ago, to provide training to parents of pupils at Teignmouth Community School and the wider local community.  They provide free maths, english and ICT training, and even have a free creche for parents with younger children.  It is a really friendly community centre, providing a much needed service for many parents.

We went up to the centre this Thursday to do an Easter bunting workshop with some of the Mums that use the centre, and to introduce the services that Opportunity Plus South West and Flexi-Mum can offer.

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Filed under charity, childcare, children, creative, employment, Inspirational Women, retraining, school

Hola Bebe

Emma Jones and her partner decided to leave their jobs and take some time out to travel.  After ten months travelling, they found out that they would be having a baby!  Returning home with no jobs, nowhere to live, and their savings spent on travelling was a struggle (to say the least!), but they have both stuck to their guns and not returned to their previous jobs, which they didn’t enjoy.

Emma is training to be a Personal Trainer and will finish her qualification in May.  In the meantime, she runs Mummy Active Buggy Fitness classes and Hola Bebe Spanish classes for young children and their parents.

Emma is half Columbian and was brought up bilingual.  She believes that introducing children to other languages from an early age will help them develop into a well rounded individual who has respect for other cultures.  It will also make it a lot easier for them to learn other languages fluently when they are older.  As most primary schools now teach some form of modern foreign languages, Hola Bebe could give children a real advantage at school.

We have just attended a three week trial of Emma’s Hola Bebe classes and thought they were fantastic for both my nearly 4 year old, and my 18 month old.  As well as being a fun and interesting class, it gives a great introduction to the language for both Mum and baby,  Emma will be starting a ten week course in Exeter in April, but can also run group sessions in your home.  Get in touch with her to find out more.

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Filed under employment, Inspirational Women, online business, retraining, school, self employment, work-life balance

EccoBots Reusable Nappies

We all know the environmental and economic benefits of using real nappies, and more and more Mums are choosing real nappies (full or part time) for their children.  In Devon, the Real Nappy Project provides free trial kits for Mums who want to give real nappies a go without committing to buying a kit that they might not end up using.  I did the trial when my boys were born and was instantly drawn to EccoBots nappies, partly because they are really pretty and brightly coloured, but mainly because they are made locally.  This is how Caroline started up EccoBots.

Eccobots nappies

“I have always since childhood loved making and creating, always drawing designs of clothes that I would like to one day make, and when my first daughter Alesha, was small, I embarked on many courses, from dressmaking and sewing to crystal healing and colour therapy, which spanned several years.  I was able to enjoy my time as a new mother, whilst gaining new knowledge and skills to help me progress in the direction I wanted to flow in the future.  I practised as a Crystal Healer for several years and teaching Introductory workshops for the Institute of Crystal and Gem Therapists, and also began creating unique crystal pendants (which I still create to this day, as they are also a real passion of mine).

One of Caroline's crystals

I enjoyed making an array of clothing for myself, and nothing felt more wonderful than wearing something that I had made, and receiving a compliment, it did and still does fill my heart with so much joy and gratitude.

When my second child, Eva, was born, she suffered with eczema and I found that cotton nappies rubbed and were not suitable for her sensitive skin….so a little research began into alternative fabrics.  Bamboo was the most appealing for its sustainability and anti-bacterial properties…not to mention its beautiful softness.

I decided to make Eva some nappies, which was real fun, to see her in a nappy that I had created was the best buzz ever.  I then got hooked…..and after friends trialing the nappies and receiving positive feedback, I set up EccoBots.   I also became a volunteer with the Devon Real Nappy Project, run by Devon County Council, taking re-usable nappy kits to families in and around Exeter so that they were able to try a variety of cloth nappies before they buy (and my nappies were able to be in the kits).  This was invaluable to me as my business began to establish itself, as I was able to gain even more feedback regarding my EccoBots nappies.

eccobots 077

As the business began to grow I found I had less and less time to deliver kits and collect them, and Jen Harris of Exeter Babies, and Arabella Greatorex of The Natural Nursery, were also volunteering with the DRNP, taking around trial kits and holding numerous events, and Nappachinos in and around Exeter which they are amazing at…..if you are not familiar with the DRNP do check out their site, and also Jen and Arabella’s websites for information regarding events that they are holding (they both work very hard and are so very enthusiastic when it comes to cloth and all things re-usable and baby).

Eccobots nappies

I am so grateful to the support of DRNP and both Jen and Arabella and the other nappy advisors in Devon who have supported my business and who still have EccoBots nappies and accesories in their trial kits.  It has really helped with getting them out there to new mums and dads who maybe were not aware of a cloth nappy business based here in Devon 🙂

As EccoBots evolved into a small business, new ideas and creations were added, like the blankets and re-usable cleansing pads.  Once Eva began school I was then able to really start to throw myself into my little business and make more items and play with my creativity.

I feel very blessed and inspired by both of my daughters.  It is because of them that I have kept learning and evolving and enjoy being my own boss.  I am able to work around them, whilst they are at school and then taking time out when their school holidays arrive.  I still maintain a small amount of work whilst they are off, but I try to keep it to a minimum so that we are able to enjoy the holidays together having fun times.

I am able to juggle being a Mum and running my own business…….How?……I have wonderful support from my family and friends.  My partner Rich is wonderful and helps out in many ways and is very supportive and positive.  I also have hobbies, loving yoga and tai chi to relax and calm, and gardening……I love my garden and it provides so much food throughout the year for me and my family.

If things start to get stressy, I will take time out and go and spend time planting seeds, weeding, tinkering, and my hands in the Earth makes me feel so much more grounded and centred, or  I take a walk along the beach or through the fields with our dog, Coco.

My advice to other mums……Keep working at your ideas….creativity seems to flow even more freely once our children are born, (read this post for more on that!) it ignites a special something and it allows us to get creative and who knows where it may lead 🙂  Don’t give up and when things get too much (which they do from time to time….this is EccoBots’ 5th year and I still have times where it all feels a little too full on), take some time out and allow yourself to breathe, this is a time for you to grow your little business and make it how you want it on your terms, so that it fits around you and your precious family.

I hope EccoBots continues to grow at a steady pace, helping to create less landfill and caring about our environment for our children and theirs.  There is such a positive feeling each time a nappy is made….I still hold them up and smile at their cuteness.  Every time I finish a nappy, a blanket, wrap, cleansing pads etc I can’t help but feel happy and proud…I love all of what I make so much and hope that this shines through into their fibres 🙂

Five years on, it keeps me busy and creativity continues to flow, I have recently started creating items of clothing for women and a few items for children, I love working with colours and some one off pieces, along with my very unique pendants (which I have been creating for over a decade), I love self-expression and enjoy people’s responses to all of my creations.  Check out Caroline Quartz on Facebook and my Etsy shop.

So yes, I am super busy, but it for the most part flows really nicely, with support from loved ones, family and friends.”

You may also be interested to read Arabella’s recent guest post about using different techniques to get your products out there without needing to open a shop.


Filed under childcare, children, creative, Inspirational Women, online business, retail, retraining, school, self employment, work-life balance

Return to Learn

My very own (Flexi)Mum went to university when I was 8 and trained as a teacher.  At the time she was a Mealtime Assistant at my primary school – she is now the Assistant Headteacher of the same school (which incidently is the school I’m hoping my little man will be starting this September).

Some years ago, at the grand old age of 33, I decided it was time I got a proper job!  I had worked in pubs and shops and offices but felt unfulfilled; I could be heard to say that I didn’t want to have “Here Lies Unfulfilled Potential” written on my tombstone.  I was really the only person that could ensure that that didn’t happen.

I was the single Mum of two lovely children, both of whom were now at school.  This was my time!

I embarked on a Return to Learn course, which led onto an Access course and then a teaching degree at Exeter University – in total a five year project!  Five years in which I sometimes felt out of my depth, and wondered who I was kidding to think I was capable of a degree; however, it was also five years in which I felt enlivened, excited and energised – I realised I did have a brain and that I loved delving into literature and its hidden meanings, and I also learned that I could “feel the fear but do it anyway” to paraphrase a well known saying!

I am now in my 13th year of teaching – having gone from Mealtime Assistant to Assistant Head Teacher – and I can honestly say I never feel unfulfilled!

I believe that there are often unintended consequences of our actions – I think my children saw a good role model – and so did some of my friends – 3 of them have gone onto study at university – one to PHd level, after watching me and seeing anything is possible if you put your mind to it!

If you are remotely tempted to make a change, take a leap of faith, give it a go – what have you got to lose? …..Oh, and Good Luck!

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Filed under childcare, children, employment, Inspirational Women, lone parent, retraining, school

L.A Barbers

This time last year, Liza Kane teamed up with a friend, Amanda, and realised her dream to open her own barbershop in Dawlish, Devon.  One year on, L.A Barbers is still going strong and they are celebrating their first year in the shop.  Congratulations!

Liza was a young single mother who decided that she’d had enough of boring office jobs that she didn’t care about, so she took the plunge and retrained as a hairdresser.

I decided to get qualified in something I was passionate about, would fit around my daughter’s schooling, and would ultimately pay the bills!

She took an evening hairdressing class and started working as a mobile hairdresser in the local area.  This helped her to build up a strong client base, as well as providing her with experience and opportunities for market research.  She discovered that there was a shortage of specialist men’s and children’s hairdressers in the area, so went back to college to gain further qualifications in children’s hair cutting and barbering.  Once she had the necessary skills, she decided it was time to open her own premises.

In January 2012, I teamed up with Amanda, who also has young children, and we opened L.A Barbers in Dawlish, launching a traditional barbers with a modern twist. We are a team of female barbers specialising in male and kids cuts.  We take the drama out of first hair cuts and trims by using our racing car hair cutting chair, keeping the little ones happy!

Liza continues to work on a mobile basis as well as in the shop.

For more information, check out the L.A Barbers’ and Liza Kane Hairdressing pages on Facebook.

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Filed under childcare, children, hair and beauty, Inspirational Women, lone parent, retraining, school, self employment, work-life balance

Starting School

Tomorrow is the deadline for applying for primary schools.  My little boy is due to start school this September so we have already applied for our places and are now anxiously waiting for the end of April when we will hear where he’s going.

I’m really looking forward to him starting school, I think he will absolutely love it being with his friends all day and learning about the world.  However, I just cannot get my head around the logistics of getting one child to school, another to nursery, and getting myself to work on time!  Not to mention having to pick him up again in the afternoon!  I know that Mums manage this every day, and that once we get into the swing of things it will become easy, but right now I just can’t bear to think about it!!

The other big issue with starting school is of course sorting out childcare during the school holidays.  At the moment both my boys carry on at nursery throughout the holidays, so it has only just occurred to me that I will need to arrange alternative childcare during the holidays!  Luckily my Mum is a teacher and lives down the road, so it shouldn’t be too difficult for us.  But with so many of us living away from our families, and with our Mums continuing to work full time for longer, relying on family support isn’t as easy as it used to be.

Are your children already at school?  How do you manage the school drop off and school holidays?  Please comment with your tips/experience.


Filed under childcare, children, planning, school, work-life balance