Tag Archives: children

A little post about school funding, a man called David Gonski and Rob Lowe

You may have read about the debate to change the way all schools are funded.  It’s been in the news a bit this week – here, here and here.

You may have even heard of the man who headed up the review advising the government on how to make changes – David Gonski, a well known and successful business leader.

The Gonski Review, as it’s known, recommended major changes to the way State and Federal Governments allocate their funding to our schools.

The review recommended a $5 billion a year injection of funding into public and private schools and changes to the way money is distributed to ensure it is going where it is most needed.

On Monday, the Prime Minister announced her response to the report, and said she would commit the Australian Government to:

Ensure that by 2025 Australia is ranked as a top 5 country in the world for the performance of our students in Reading, Science, Mathematics, and for providing our children with a high-quality and high-equity education system.

What a great idea.   How will she do this?

The Prime Minister says the improvements will be achieved by:

• Lifting teacher quality, including requiring more classroom experience before graduation and higher entry requirements for the teaching profession.

• More power for principals, including over budgets and staff selection.

• More information for parents through My School.

Ok, so what’s the catch?  Actually there are two.

First, the money.   This plan will cost around $6.5 billion and it will take six years to fully implement.  My Miss Three will be well into her school years by then but she’ll still be young enough to benefit from a more ambitious, better funded schooling system. The PM says she’ll find a way to get the money and she’ll cut other things to make it work, but we’re not yet sure exactly where it comes from.

Second, not everyone is agreed.  These changes will need to be supported by State and Federal Governments.  I know!  Frustrating. So you can expect some argy bargy along the way as we debate the pros and cons of the proposals in coming months.

For what it’s worth, I agree with Sam Seaborn, the dreamy fictional character from The West Wing played by Rob Lowe, who once said about education:

Education is the silver bullet. Education is everything. We don’t need little changes, we need gigantic, monumental changes. Schools should be palaces. The competition for the best teachers should be fierce. They should be making six-figure salaries. Schools should be incredibly expensive for government and absolutely free of charge to its citizens, just like national defense.

I’d vote for a candidate who said that! And here’s a little Rob Lowe just to show you what the candidate posters would look like 🙂

Sam Seaborn

Sam Seaborn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kirsten

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Working Mums Australia’s guide to online shopping

My friend Serena is one of those friends who gives excellent presents.  Special occasions are important to her, and she thinks very carefully about gifts for many people.

When I ask her how she manages to get such great gifts, her response usually starts with ‘www’.

Like the rest of us, she’s very busy and knows that online shopping saves time on transport and parking, as well as being able to be done at odd hours.

And today, she shares some of her secrets with us.   Lucky us 🙂 .

So when is online shopping actually useful?  What can be purchased online these days?

Everything!  I use it for groceries, alcohol, presents, books, clothes, shoes, baby items, bulk nappies, toys, jewellery, computer supplies, electrical items, costumes for birthday parties, party supplies and furniture.

I will always try and buy something online before I go to a shop to find it.  And I always try and buy from an Australian website/Australian company.  Pretty much the only exception to the online rule is jeans – you need to actually SEE how bad your ar*e looks in a pair of jeans.

With supermarkets, do you go for Woolies or Coles?  Why?

I always used Woolies but they have recently changed their website which has resulted in a few functions that I am not happy with, so I have switched to Coles.

For online shopping, I have no brand loyalty to either company or even particularly pay attention to which items are on ‘extra-extra-extra special sale’ this week.  It is all about functionality of the website and ability to be able to search for items easily and place an order very quickly.

Do you use an app?

Woolies has only just started to allow online shopping via an app.  It is difficult to navigate but as it is only the first version, I am hoping that it will get better.  I suspect Coles will be following shortly.

Do you ‘trust’ it with fruit and veg? 

No, unfortunately not.  I have had a couple of bad experiences.  However, to combat this I have organised (online) for an organic fruit and veg box to be delivered from a farmers co-op, usually at the same time I organise for my shopping to be delivered so I only have to arrange for one period of time where I need to be home.

Nor do I trust it for any meat other than packaged organic chicken breasts or mince meat.  But that just means the only shop I have to actually go to regularly is the butchers.  I have found one in the back streets of a nearby suburb that always has parking out the front and often that is the only traditional shopping I do, generally on my way home from somewhere else.

Have you experienced any delivery/reliability problems?

No, never.  If anything, I am the unreliable one because I can sometimes arrive home a bit late!  I am lucky to live in an area with a high-level of regular deliveries but I have never once found the delivery times to be a problem.

Is it much more expensive than a ‘regular’ shop?

Absolutely not.  It costs the same.  Although I think it costs a lot less when I take into account the value of my time and lack of stress in trying to manage an uncooperative toddler in an uncooperative trolley.  It also takes so much less time because you don’t miss items and have to go back through aisles you’ve already gone down trying to find the item.  Just type in the word and the item appears!

How long does ‘your shop’ take each week?

It took a bit of time initially, but now that I menu plan and have all my lists of favourite items set up, I can do the entire shop, including payment, in 10 to 15 minutes every fortnight.

What do you look for in online shopping?

Free delivery is a big factor.  I know all retailers have their overhead costs but given most of the places I shop with online don’t have an actual shopfront, I think that free delivery should be standard.  Additionally, I like people to get back to me quickly when I ask a question about a product.  Customer service is incredibly important, even on the internet.

Here’s the question we all need the answer to, what are your top sites for internet shopping?

Thanks Serena!   Mums start your clicking!

Shopping for babies and children

The following six have impressive websites, fair delivery costs, lots of cool clothes and gifts and excellent customer service.

http://www.babysgotstyle.com.au

http://www.urbanbaby.com.au

http://www.kidostore.com

http://www.buttonbaby.com.au

http://www.thehipinfant.com.au

http://ittybittygreenie.com.au

This company’s website is ugly and user-unfriendly but they have some great products I haven’t been able to find elsewhere: http://www.minimee.com.au

Adult clothes

This website is changing online shopping in Australia.  They have a great range of Australian designers, lots of products on sale, and they offer free overnight delivery in metro areas.  Amazingly, they also offer three-hour delivery in Sydney for only $4.95: http://www.theiconic.com.au/

This shoe website offers free delivery: http://www.styletread.com.au/

Gifts

http://www.hampersonly.com.au/

http://www.top3.com.au/

http://www.edibleblooms.com.au

http://www.myfavourite.com.au/

Other sites

For anyone who shops for products on sale, these sites are amazing: www.brandsexclusive.com.au and www.ladybub.com.au

It goes without saying that www.ebay.com.au has changed the way we shop forever.  If you’re a Mum and you’re not shopping on ebay already, you are wasting valuable time and effort.  Once you spend some time on ebay you will become a convert to second-hand goods too.

The best reason to shop on the internet is for those little products that you can’t find in shops but change your life.  These are the sorts of products we should be sharing – the things that were never available to us previously because the big shops didn’t want to stock them.  Some of these products (particularly baby-related) are:

http://prambles.com/ These have allowed me to keep using my umbrella stroller even when my toddler continually gets in and out.  I was getting so annoyed with it falling over I didn’t want to use it anymore.

http://www.kozzzee.com.au/porta-snug.html I love the porta-snug.  It has reduced my travel-cot related packing for trips by half and I was able to have it made in the colours and patterns of my choosing.

http://www.dashbaby.com.au has really cool baby wipes cases.

www.motherknowsbest.com.au/tvstrapsgifts.html are the best gadget I’ve found to keep your plasma TV strapped to your TV cabinet

http://www.jellystonedesigns.com fantastic baby-friendly jewellery

Big retailers

I do purchase from these websites and I really want to support big Australian retailers (if for no other reason than I can stop listening to Gerry Harvey’s constant whinging) but until they spend some serious time and money on their websites, they are fighting a losing battle.  Every single one of the websites is limited in product range and is unnecessarily clunky.

http://www.bigw.com.au

http://shop.target.com.au/

http://www.myer.com.au/

http://www.kmart.com.au/

http://www.davidjones.com.au/

http://www.westfield.com.au/

Get clicking and save time!

What are your favourite shopping websites?  Do you have any favourites you like to share?

Online shopping tips for working mums from Natalie

As a single working mum of Madison (6) and Angus (4), I find online grocery shopping a lifesaver.

Wrangling a trolley around the supermarket isn’t my idea of fun at the best of times, but add tired, hungry kids at the end the day and frankly, I’d rather poke my eye out with a sharp stick.

I’ve been buying my groceries online  for about 6 years now. My provider of choice is Woolies Homeshop, because they were operating in my area when I started and a few friends had recommended them. I’ve never had any major problems and no reason to change.

COST

Online shopping is more expensive. But for me, the sheer convenience makes it a no brainer. It’s totally worth the extra money. Having said that, I don’t think it’s very much more expensive  – and in some ways online shopping saves me time and money too.

A lot of the specials you will find in-store are now available online and are often easier to find than in a regular shop. There’s a Specials section and Homeshop currently has a ‘Half Price’ and a Buy More, Save More page with multi-buy deals. You can also save money by buying things in bulk like toilet paper and washing powder without having to think twice about the logistics of lugging them home, because they will be delivered to your door.

I also think I sometimes spend more during a ‘regular’ shop because of impulse buys, whereas with an online shop, I’m much more likely to stick to a list.

TIME

Then there’s the time saved. I keep a shopping list on the fridge and add to it as we run out of things. Before going online, I have a quick think about meals and lunches for the coming week and add the things I need to the list.

When you log on, you can go to your saved lists and select all the items that you regularly buy. They keep a list of your ‘favourites’ which keeps everything you have ordered on it, or you can make and save your own lists. This is super convenient and means that you then only need to use the search or browse functions to look for new things or specials.

There’s a nifty new Reminder that suggests a few items that you regularly purchase that you may have forgotten just before you check out and whilst I would usually frown on this sort of suggestive selling, it actually has helped me to remember something that I had left off my list on more than one occasion.

The beauty of online shopping is that you can place your order anytime, anywhere. I regularly place my orders using the iPad now. I often do it in front of the tv after the kids are in bed. Once I placed an order whilst having a pedicure (that’s multi-tasking for you!).

An online shop takes me 15-20 minutes if I’m fully concentrating or half an hour if I’m multi-tasking!

DELIVERY 

Obviously one of the costs of online shopping is delivery. Homeshop has a sliding scale from $13.00 for a small shop (less than $100 value) through to free if you spend more than $300.00. For me, delivery usually costs $5-$7 but for the convenience of having the groceries delivered to my kitchen – that’s money I’m prepared to pay.Woolies has recently changed their delivery windows though to 3 hour windows which I find less flexible than the old delivery options. In the old system you could pay a slightly higher delivery fee for a shorter delivery window.  This was very convenient because the hardest thing can be trying to coordinate your availability to be home.

If I want an after work delivery window, it now means booking in a 6pm-9pm delivery window to make sure I can be home in time. Usually this works out but I have had one delivery after 8.30pm which isn’t ideal. It can also be hard to commit to be home for a 3 hour window on a Saturday with sport and parties and all the things busy families have to do on weekends.

I always include fruit and veg in my order and have generally been pretty happy with the quality. Only once was the fruit quality poor and in that case (it was mangoes which were very ripe), they didn’t charge me for them and sent me double the quantity I had ordered, so I blitzed the pulp up and froze it in portions – mango smoothie anyone?

TIPS AND WARNINGS 

One thing you do need to watch is how you set up your substitution options. As a general rule, I select no substitutes. I order the brand, size, flavour of a product I want because that’s the one I want and if it’s out of stock, it’s out of stock. My sister recently received a men’s moisturiser as a substitute for the out of stock men’s deodorant they had ordered?!? Sometimes, I will allow substitution for essentials like bread or milk, especially if it’s a night delivery and I know I need the product the next day.

My kids always eagerly await the arrival of ‘the Woolies man’ and they help me pack away the groceries and check the items off the list as we go. For me, online grocery shopping is a time and sanity saver that takes some pressure off and gives me more quality time with the kids and as such, I highly recommend it.

Things It’s Hard To Find Time For

Alarm clock Polski: Budzik

Alarm clock Polski: Budzik (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. Children’s haircuts.  I missed the note telling me when it was photo day at day care last year, so Miss 3 looked like a character from Oliver Twist in her class photo.  Oops.

2. Manicures and pedicures.  Always difficult to find a half an hour, now almost impossible.

3. Catch ups with girlfriends without children.  There’s the odd special night out, but the casual catch ups over dinner are few and far between these days.  Social events have to include a babysitter in the budget so they end up a lot more expensive.

4. Boozy Friday drinks.  Technically still possible, but everyone knows the best Friday nights are the ones that aren’t planned.  These days there’s nothing in my life that isn’t planned!

5. Clothes shopping. By the time I get the clothes I already own washed and folded and some fresh food in the house each weekend, the thought of walking into a Westfields and thinking about this season’s colours is no longer my idea of a good time.

6. Tax returns.  Ugh.  This one may not be related to having children.

7. Car servicing.  See 7 above.  Difficult and unpleasant tasks but it’s very difficult to find a day to be a little late because you’re catching the courtesy bus when you’re already *that* mum who skates out the door exactly at 5pm.

8. My own haircut.  Once upon a time sitting and having foils done, a cut and a blow dry on a lazy Saturday afternoon was a wonderful thing to do.  Now my hair appointment starts with a conversation about, “What’s absolutely neccesary this month?”

9. The dentist.  When it is ok to take a long lunch break when you can never arrive early or stay late?

10. Buying panty hose.  This one is clearly ridiculous.  But I like to buy certain brands and they are not always available in my supermarket shop.  Making an extra job out of it makes it a lunchtime task when lunchtimes don’t always happen.  I need to stock up once a year!

It’s true that you make time in life for the important things.

Although I find it hard to find time for all of these above, I wouldn’t swap any of them for the 2o minutes I spend reading stories at the end of the day.

What do you find it hard to fit into your life?

Part time work. Kellie’s story

Kellie is a teacher and mum to Kiara, nearly seven and Tia, four.  Today she’s continuing our series on part time work.

About 3 months after having Kiara, I returned to work as a teacher half time where I worked I worked 3 days one week and 2 the next. I felt out of the loop at work on two days week so increased to three days after about  a term.

I then changed schools so went back to full time- and was pregnant again by the end of that year. When Tia was born, I opted for three days a week again, having Mondays and Fridays off.

When I changed schools when Tia was two, I was asked to work four days a week and I was not ‘allowed’ to reduce my fraction of time until 1/2 way through Term 1. I worked four days a week for the next 25 school weeks. And have been working full time since.

Unfortunately my current school principal has grown children interstate and eats, sleeps, drinks, and breathes work and just doesn’t understand the way other principals I have worked with seemed to. I also get dinner time and late night or early morning calls about work. Aargh!!

My employer definitely got ‘free work out of me’ when I was being paid to work four days a week. I would take my Friday load home with me, only to return to post it notes all over my office door, computer, chair, pigeon hole and what seemed like everyone wanting to “just catch up with me for a minute”!! That usually turned out to be a minimum of 7 minutes.

My pay decreased but my load was the same. I was doing my full time job with less pay- which was partly when I made the decision to return to full-time.

In the past I changed my work time and patterns according to how I felt I was going! I think teaching is a perfect career for part-time work, especially when you can share a class with another mum. They understand and don’t mind swapping days when appointments have to be made on work days. It’s truly sharing the load. 🙂

I loved working three days a week. I loved the fact I could be a mum and a professional.

I could do my work at work, my mum and home stuff on my days off and weekends were time for all of us without the thought and stress of washing, ironing, cleaning etc.

Tia particularly loved my days off last year. She said only today, “We don’t have Fridays together anymore do we mum, cos you have to go to work now.”  She shook her head “All cos of those naughty kids!”

I often spent my Friday afternoon helping out in Kiara’s classroom. She loved that.

I am sure they will never thank me for going to work, earning money and buying them ‘things’. They have and still do, thank me for the time and things we do together. That is worth way more to me than any pay I have ever received. ❤

Luckily for us mum and dad live close by and are happy to help out with caring for our girls. This enabled me to return to work, knowing my babies were being loved and looked after.. I knew they would be cuddled if they were sad, upset, hurt, sick or just because any of them wanted to.  Now Mum and Dad drop Kiara at school and Tia at kindy. And I know the same 🙂

My day off last year did fit with Mum and Dad having a day to themselves, which they spent it volunteering for Meals on Wheels.

I understand why those that have family looking after their kids say they are not they would have gone back if I had to put my kids into childcare centre.  This is true for me but I didn’t have to think differently, so I’ll never know!

I have friends who say the same about leaving their kids with family rather than childcare!!

It’s never perfect. I beat myself up mentally for EVERY thing I think I miss- assembly, concert, sports day excursions… Or when they are sick and I can’t stay home. I do the same when Tia is having a ‘mum I just want you day’.

When work creates the pressure, I just  get to the work things when I can, prioritize! I am very organised at work, and work hard.  I leave home at 7:15am, drop the girls at mum and dad’s place, then drive 45 minutes to work. Sometimes when I get there ‘people’ want to give me a hard time about arriving at 8:30am, which is when I am officially supposed to start. I get the same sort of reaction if I leave at any time between 4:30 and 5:00pm – which is not very often! The Department of Education says we can leave from 4pm onwards except staff meeting night which is 5pm, so this is pretty unreasonable.

Three days a week with Monday and Friday off was ideal.  I loved the fact I could be a mum and a professional…. My perfect solution!

Do you think employers get lots of ‘free work’ from mums who work part time?

Have you voted in our poll on part time work yet?

Part time work. Tamara’s story

Tamara Kudiarskyj-Latham is a mum to Nikolai, 3 and Aleksandr, eight months

Tamara worked Saturdays when Nikolai was four months old to save for a holiday, but after six weeks decided it wasn’t worth it.  Her work on Saturdays was providing respite care for parents of an autistic child.  She returns to work today after the birth of her second son last year.

The real reason I started working Saturdays after Nikolai was born was that my husband Mark had been asked to be best man at one of our dearest friend’s wedding and the location was Bali.

How could we say no? But we had no money with a new baby. We had saved for being on maternity leave but not enough for a holiday. We made the decision quite selfishly.  We really wanted to go and this was the answer.  We didn’t feel that I would be losing time with Nikolai as I wasn’t working through the week and so, yes, the extra money was worth it.

The first few weeks were fine and it worked for us because each week we stayed focused on the fact that Mark was going to be spending quality time with Nikolai and developing a father son relationship with him, and I was helping families with children who had a disability and using my work brain again, but it did become hard work. Weekends were when we spent quality time as a whole family and what ended up happening was that I would work all day Saturday therefore Sunday would be  ‘chores day’ – shopping, cleaning washing.  I did start to feel extremely guilty being ‘the mum’ and it did bother us, so after about six weeks  I was able to find a replacement. Fortunately we did go to Bali and had a wonderful time as a family 🙂

We are in a trickier situation after having our second son Aleksandr. I was supposed to be returning to work three days per week (we had financially budgeted for this and it is what I worked on returning to work after Nikolai). However a month ago the Director of the Childcare Centre told me there was only a spot for two days and if I wanted it, I had to take the place four weeks before returning to work. This means a drop in pay and having to pay for the 2 boys to attend child care on only one wage. Hmmmm, the ruthlessness of child care!

So once again finances (unselfishly this time) have become an issue and the talk of working weekends has come round again. Yes, I have spent hours on the phone to Centrelink finding out what the maximum hours I can work before we start to lose benefits.  You have to, and I think it’s amazing we get what we do to support mums to return to work. Yes, we’ve talked about how difficult it would be for Mark after working all week and then having both the boys at the weekend, and yes, we’ve looked at it as a blessing in disguise as I will get to spend precious time with Aleksandr whilst Nikolai is at daycare for the extra day.

So here we are again. This time we are both unsure of how it will go with working a weekend but we may not have a choice.  Whatever we decide we will just do what we have to and make it work.

As for the perfect number of working days, I don’t think there is an answer with so many situations to take into consideration but I would love two days. With that combination, you still have the work balance of exercising your brain, talking about things other than your children and knowing after one day of work, only one more to go. The difficult situation especially in my job is can I get my work done in 2 days? Probably not.  And is it financially viable? Well we will see.

Part time work. What works?

There’s no perfect answer, but everyone has an opinion.  For most families, it depends on such a complex set of circumstances, not all within their control.  Our needs change from time to time as well.

Every family is different but it’s a challenge we all face, so we’re presenting a series of special guest posts on part time work over the next week.  We’ve got some mums with really different stories to share, so there will be something for everyone.

We’re not trying to show any ideal situation – in fact the opposite –  but by asking mums to share their stories and what worked for them we can probably all learn something.  Those with young children can think about what they might need when the school years start.  Those with one or two children can think about their plans if their family expands.  And all of us can think about what can be done to make life easier for those of us juggling it all.  I’ve written elsewhere about ideas for the childcare rebate and public transport, but there’s no single answer, so please share your ideas.

I’m certainly no expert on part time work.  I work full time.  This wasn’t a deliberate strategy, but when I got pregnant I was in a job that was simply impossible to do part time, so when my baby was nearly one, I applied for another job with more flexible hours, less travel but still full time.  I had an agreement with my new employer that I would develop a proposal to reduce my days when I could tell them I’d found a way to get the job done in fewer days.  Two years later, we’re still waiting.  This is partly because my employer is great about so many things. I work from home one day a week, and I can often take time off for the important things when it’s needed.

It’s also a bit selfish because I think I’d still get calls on my day off if I had one, and I hear too much about mums who are paid for four days but actually work five.  If I’m going to do that, I’d rather have the money and the flexibility that working full time brings, like having a cleaner to help keep things ticking along at home.

We also want mums to take part in our poll.  We know that the answers are more complex than just a number of days but please give us your answer and tell us your story in the comments.

The more stories we can share the easier it will be for others 🙂

Kirsten