Monday, 29 October 2012


I met some relations today. People that I don’t remember ever meeting before. Although that’s not to say I haven’t met them, for a start they are all older than me by at least 10 years so who is to say they didn’t visit me when I was small? They may have.

My day started by me sharing a car with my cousins (who I've known all my life- just in case you thought these were the relations I didnt know). Anyway, we had 40 miles to travel and my younger cousin had made scones for the journey but alas did not bring a thermos of tea. Tea drinking is almost an occupation with me and I must admit I was gasping for a drink by the time we had arrived at our destination. I should have thought about bringing a flask myself but I had spent the morning before I was picked up deciding what to wear. I never quite know what to wear at a funeral but I think I made the right choice today. Sometimes you get instructions 'wear bright colours' or 'so & so wanted informal wear'. But this time there were no instructions so I decided to wear black.
A childminder doesn’t often wear black. It picks up fluff and shows other unmentionable stains. But I rummaged through my wardrobe and came up with a black skirt I haven’t worn in at least 6 years, and a black cardi.
Today’s family gathering was a sad affair. However it was also a celebration, this lady had lived a long, full and worthwhile life. I have good memories of her.
The relations I met for the first time today were – I was going to say ‘like family’ but of course that’s what they were and greeted me with warmth and affection.

The reason I’m mentioning it here is that one of my interests is genealogy which is the study of ancestry, but my interest goes further than just pushing back the family tree as far as I can go in terms of years.
I am fascinated by the people who came before me, who they were, what they did, how they lived and who they married. It’s the nosy parker in me. I get ridiculously attached to these people long dead and search each census with trepidation of what I might find. A child appearing as a baby in one census but disappearing from the next too often means death at a young age. A husband with a new wife and children but missing the children from the previous marriage is also disturbingly common, it often means the first wife has died and her children may have been dispersed among other relatives, or sent to work as servants and farm labourers. They may even be found in the Workhouse. When life seems to have dealt them a raw deal I weep for them even though I never knew them.

Family is very important to me, living or dead. And I can now add faces and personal memories to the names of the people I met today because they are in my family tree, and that means so much to me.



Sunday, 28 October 2012

Bug hotel Ⅱ

We spent the morning building a new bug hotel after the first one was demolished by a cat jumping on to it from above!….I hope mark two is sturdier.
Unfortunately as I dismantled the old one into the wheelbarrow a large number of minibeasts were disturbed and they scurried around in the wheelbarrow trying to find a new hiding place.
Hopefully most of them went back as I rebuilt it. And they certainly need a warm dry hiding place with the weather we've been having recently!

Friday, 26 October 2012

the plan today...


Its been one of those dull, grey, chilly autumn days with intermittent drizzle that makes me want to stay indoors. But the EYFS says children should be outside….no what its actually says "Providers must provide access to an outdoor play area or, if that is not possible, ensure that outdoor activities are planned and taken on a daily basis"
And we all know that a good outdoor environment supports children’s learning and promotes a healthy lifestyle. Of course it doesn’t have to be ‘an outdoor environment’ as in nursery garden or back yard, it can just as well be the countryside, park or the new fangled ‘forest schools’. And who ever wrote ‘outdoor play area’ in the EYFS has a sadly limited idea of children’s play if they think children only benefit from ‘play areas’.
My plan (not written, just a vague thought) was to take the children down to the play park in the village. We would walk because if you remember I do not drive. And it would have been nice to do the circular route with the children although I have to be careful which roads I use when they are with me, some are just too dangerous. That’s the trouble with the countryside, no pavements. But to get to the village we can walk across the field or along the main road that has a pavement.
So today started like any other. Except it was very dark this morning which meant putting the playroom lights on which is not usual but I suppose it will become the norm from now on….


So I had a plan of sorts.
Written planning: there are two sides of the argument. On the one hand written planning may have ensured I had lard in stock to make bird feeders this morning. However on the other hand I would have completely wasted my time planning an outing to the park that didn’t happen because a child arrived with a cold.

Good job that 'going with the flow' is my second name. I just so happened to have an idea floating about in my head....and the children loved it. I'll work out the learning intentions later- or not. This activity was loosely linked with the activity we didn’t do because I didn’t have any lard. And loosely linked with a childs interest, in case you were wondering. The children did a great job using the bird stencil with kitchen sponges and pink paint, and glueing bird cutouts on their paper. 

One child told the other that the birds were 'polka spots'. The other child (younger too) positioned the birds using the whole space available. One identified that the red pattern was like a ladybird and said 'that’s funny (& giggled) ladybirds are not birds Sara'. (more giggling)

Then we went into the garden where they used their child sized brooms to sweep leaves. One child knew how to use a broom efficiently, the other child couldn't quite work out how to push the broom. We spent some time feeling the objects in the sensory box and using descriptive language 'soft' 'cold' ‘hard’ 'smooth' ‘tickly’.

So that was my day. I have since spent around 3 hours doing paperwork. Even without formal written planning I seem to spend far too much time doing paperwork. And I’m tired but I think my blog entry shows this, so I apologise for waffling.


This is the sensory box, the photo was not taken today because the children were in the way when I tried to get there with my camera :)

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Eating humble pie/chocolate cake

The highlight for the children today has been a Birthday celebration, although I think the chocolate birthday cake at lunch was the best bit for them. As one of the parents put it, isn’t Steve lucky to spend his birthday with a group of 2 & 3 year olds…... (Steve is not a childminder, he is my husband and bravely decided to take the day off to share his birthday with us all).

Now, I was a little harsh yesterday. Looking back over my last post has made me realise that I was being unfair on the CFC. I focused on two negatives because I was disappointed about losing the childminding book. But of course I do get a lot out of using the centre, for a start they allow us to hold a childminder drop-in there, and they are always welcoming and happy to help where they can.
My husband has commented that my previous post was full of unnecessary words. I think he means I was repeating myself, which is probably true. I do not find writing comes easily. I usually have to edit things many times before I’m finally satisfied that my writing makes sense, is spelt correctly and that I actually have something meaningful to say. Grammar is not a strong point either so I will move swiftly on.
This blog is a warts and all reflection of me. Sometimes I’m a bit grumpy, although I hope never with the children because that just wouldn’t do. But sometimes I am exasperated about what you might call the politics of my job. I did think about deleting yesterdays post. But I decided not to because I want the freedom to be honest here, and that means I will be expressing all my frustrations, triumphs and the total enjoyment of my life as a childminder- warts and all. (And no doubt I will be eating more humble pie in the future when I realise my words were written in the heat of the moment, and on reflection things are not half as bad as I paint them.)

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

zips and attachments

We went down to the Children & family centre this morning. The toddler with me was demonstrating a persistent interest in zips on the walk down there by unzipping the cosy toe cover and struggling to zip it up again, and again. I had only put the cosy toes on the pushchair this morning as a bit of protection from the foggy/mizzle that was falling. Well this little one is usually pointing to dogs or birds or anything that moves. But today was completely absorbed in working out how a zip works, so I thought we'd see if the Children & family centre’s Toy Library had something with zips. After scouring the catalogue the only item that I could find with zips turned out to be a frog and monkey dressed with in clothing with hook & eye fasteners, buttons, laces and a very short zip on the shoes. There were a few other bits in bobs in the bag with them but frog and monkey have been a total success and have spent the afternoon in the den with the toddler zipping and unzipping their shoes. We did go into the garden today too, the toddler wore the all-in-one suit with a long zip…….


When I first joined the toy library as a childminder we were allowed to have each item for up to 6 weeks, we paid slightly more as a joining fee than parents who could only borrow each item for 2 weeks. As with all things, for reasons that I can not understand, they took away the 6 week borrowing period and so now childminders must return items within 2 weeks. I really don’t understand the thinking behind this, most of our children are part-time these days, in fact if I borrow an item on a Tuesday the children have at most only 4 sessions in which to play with it before it has to be returned.

Over time some of the benefits attached to working in partnership with the Children & family centre have reduced or disappeared. For example, the notice board at this particular CFC had space for childminders to pin their business cards. Eventually that facility disappeared to be replaced by a book. Childminders were asked to write a piece about themselves and the service they offered for the book which was keep on display. Now the book was never highly visible, it sat amongst the other booklets and leaflets. But it was there. It's now been removed and parents enquiring about childcare must now phone the Family Information Service number or go online.

The beauty of the book was that it was in the very place that the local parents used, it contained information about the local registered childminders and the services they provided.
I do at times feel quite disheartened.



Monday, 22 October 2012


There are fireworks in my garden. The natural type that Mother Nature gives us every year. Wonderful.

And there are masses of fallen leaves everywhere so the display will not last long. But while it does, and while the leaves continue to fall the children can have fun sweeping them up. Child sized brooms are quite expensive but all it needs is a cheap adult size broom cut down to child size, which is what my husband did for us today.
The children will be happy.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Only just realizing how difficult it is to find a photo for the blog that doesn't show the children's faces, and that still conveys some significant meaning. The impact seems to be in the expression on the face of the child. So my next challenge will be taking photo’s that tell a story of (mainly) child initiated learning without identifying a single child. A tall order.

So back to the beginning, why The Isolated Childminder I hear you ask.

Well childminding can be quite isolating. I work alone all day. I do get out & about and of course I do have company in the form of children, primarily under the age of three. My conversations with them are for the most part wonderful, whacky and occasionally baffling.

Childminding is a complex job that is a simple as ‘playing’ and as complicated as trying to decipher Ofsted talk. The two seem worlds apart at times and that makes my job challenging, and also makes it imperative that I have support from other childminders, early years services, my family and the families using my service. If one of those elements is missing or weak then childminding can be the most isolating place to be in the world.

The truth is I also find myself isolated by where I live, but not because I am on an island in the Outer Hebrides, or half-way up a mountain. I’m sure there are childminders living in those sorts of places because every neighbourhood needs a childminder, and I’ve no doubt they don’t feel isolated at all by their location surrounded as they are by their close-knit communities.

But I live on the south coast in a village, in fact on the edge of the village. Village life is not always what it is cracked up to be. Another cause of my isolation is transport. I do not drive, and buses are not the easiest things to get on & off with a pushchair & a toddler in tow. It would be easier if they could be guaranteed to provide accessible buses, sometimes they do but you never know until the bus draws up in front of you if it’s an ‘accessible type’ and whether you are actually going to be able to get on, or not.

When I lived in a city I took the library for granted, I had half a dozen play parks to choose from and a toddler group for every day of the week if I was so inclined. My world has shrunk but the result has been my childminding practice has changed. We stroll instead of charging around from place to another (although honestly I don’t think I ever charged anywhere) we stop and look at interesting things- or stop to discuss the best way to blow ones’ nose- we stand under the same horse chestnut tree every week to observe the change, stroll down a country lane chatting about the birds we see, guess if we might see the ponies in the stable or are they already out in the field? I spend more time experiencing life instead of filling time.  

When I was thinking of a name for my blog The Isolated Childminder sort of fitted, I am isolated by circumstance, profession and location. But I’m not isolated from anything important.


Thursday, 18 October 2012

nose blowing

The other day we were out walking. Me and two little children. There was a slight chill to the air although it was sunny and as happens at this time of year for some reason my nose needed blowing. The children stood patiently waiting while I found my tissue and gently blew my nose. Then a little voice said “Sara you do it like this”, and the little one gave a good hearty demonstration of nose blowing.

I was surprised for two reasons. Firstly she didn't have a tissue in her cupped hands and I wondered if I needed to find another tissue quickly. Secondly this was the first time this child had volunteered to teach me anything- knowingly. She has taught me plenty in the months she has been here but she is completely unaware of that fact. So I looked down at this little upturned face, checked if I did indeed need to find another tissue which I didn't, and followed her instructions on how to blow a nose. I tried really hard to match the noise and actions being demonstrated and thanked her for her help. She looked back at me with all the understanding and empathy of anyone who has ever tried to teach that lesson to another person. There was no smugness, no sense of pride that she had done something helpful. Just an understanding that sometimes we all need a bit of help.


I arrived home to find a parcel on the doorstep. My ream of paper has arrived and I am ridiculously happy. Any childminder who finds themselves almost out of ink or paper will no doubt understand my feelings.

Now this is a first post of my new blog but I have a ream of paper calling me. So although I would love to write more about why I am the isolated childminder, it will have to wait. Till next time.