Archive for the 'Family' Category

Children as young as 7 and 8 (UK Year 3 and older) should not be getting changed for PE together in schools

If 12 and 13 year olds in secondary school were asked to strip down to their underwear together in a mixed class of girls and boys there would be be plenty of complaints. If you think that increased privacy should always be in place for pubescent children then it follows that children from the age of 8, year 3 (at the latest), should be split into single sex groups when changing for PE, games and swimming.

What age do children begin puberty?
About 12 is the average age for girls to begin their periods and boys develop later than girls. These are just generalisations and menstruation is not at the start of puberty.
About 10% of girls will have started their periods before the end of year 6 (end of junior school) and some will start in year 5. These girls are not odd, these ages are within the normal pattern of development.

Half of all girls begin puberty before the age of 10
Breast development and pubic hair signal the onset of puberty a long time before the first period.
Puberty in girls usually begins between the ages of 8 to 12 years (only a year later for boys) and large scale research in the US suggests that 6 or 7 could be considered to be “normal.”

In a year 3 Class 2 or 3 girls may begin puberty out of 15 girls.
About 1 in 6 white girls and 2 in 5 black girls had breast development by their 8th birthday according to published research

Other research concurs, around the age of 8 is a normal age for puberty to start in caucasian children

What this all means is that statistically around half of girls in school will begin puberty before the final year of junior school. It seems most schools (but not all) do split children in year 6 for changing purposes but many, many schools do not split younger children.

I suspect this may not be an issue for boys? Almost all women will recall changing for sport being an unpleasant and embarrassing experience when going through puberty (even when they are only with girls). Why make it so much worse for the youngest girls, who are the first in their class to experience these changes, by making them strip off in front of boys too.

It is significant that Steingraber says, “early puberty alters a girl’s social interactions in ways that produce trauma and erode self-esteem.”

Is there such a thing as a male or female brain?

I was interested to watch Horizon on this subject last night, I highly recommend you see it. It is repeated on TV tonight or you can see it here:

It is a subject that has always fascinated me for many reasons, here’s the shortlist:

  1. As a young child in the 1970s I was repeatedly told that as a girl I would be a wife and look after children and the home, I couldn’t be an X,Y or Z (all the things that I actually wanted to do). I never wanted to play at being mum or play with dolls.  Big disappointment to get a doll as a present.
  2. In reality having children and being a housewife didn’t appeal to me as a child, as a teenager or when I was in my 20s (doesn’t appeal much now either but don’t tell Mr TP or my 3 children).
  3. I was always good at maths, not just good but outstanding, top of the class.
  4. I could always map read and do all those sort of things…

The case Prof Alice Roberts presented was compelling both she and Prof Gina Rippon showed us that the differences between male and female brains are very small such that the difference within the two groups, male and female, are greater than the differences between the groups.  Prof Rippon said that it is not possible to determine whether a brain is male or female.   We are equally as good (or bad) at map reading, maths  and 3D problem solving.

Without doubt there are significant differences in behaviour and aptitude between men and women but are these differences a result of socialisation – i.e.our life experiences, or inherently part of our nature?  In other words, as I am the mathematical map reader and Mr TP is the tidy-up fanatic are we a family of  deviants?

Prof Roberts points to the toys children are given and the way they are encouraged to play as toddlers.   Without doubt the gender stereotyping and difference between entertainment aimed at aims and at boys is greater now than when I was a child because we simply had fewer toys, less choice, there were no electronic games. There was little children’s TV, no DVDs, so we watched whatever was on without any notion of programmes aimed at just girls or just boys.   Despite advances in equality legislation in my lifetime the pressure for girls to conform to a gender type is now greater than ever.

My experience – I have girl- boy twins, now aged 6.  Throughout their short lives they have always wanted to play together, any game, any kind of toys, just together.  All the toys hold equal entertainment for them regardless of being “girls” or “boys” toys. OTHER people have repeated bought gender specific toys, when they were younger this particularly led to tears, they both want to ride the bike or play with the baby in the pram.  As my older son is 12 I am aware that between 6 and 12 the difference in toy marketing continues. Science, science-fiction (Star Wars), construction (lots of lego) and action toys are aimed towards boys whereas the pink isles have much less lego, the emphasis is on dressing up, home making and being artistic.

In recent months my twins have got scooters, lots of girls have scooters, but when my twins go to the scooter/skatepark it is dominated by boys.  The ratio may be 20:1!  Either parents of boys are more likely to think of taking their sons to these places or is it that only boys are asking to go?

Shooting places (lazer, paint ball, soft ball) are all male dominated, again I don’t know why as I think girls are just as likely to enjoy these places (I do).   All of my child go to golf lessons, my eldest is 12.  There is no reason why there would be less girls than boys at these lessons and school holiday golf clubs but they are male dominated, again I estimate at a ratio of 20:1.  My conclusion is that most young girls have a VERY different life compared to boys.

Adult male and female brains are different and two pieces of scientific research suggest there may be a biological link.

Professor Ruben Gurr and Dr Ragini Verman have been involved in mapping the network of connections in the brain that shows dramatic differences between men and women, post puberty.  It is most interesting that in children, however, this difference does not exist.  Our boys and girls do not have different brains so why treat them differently?   Furthermore, the more important question is not answered by this research – why are do our brains develop in different ways in our teenage years? It could be biology, our adolescent hormones,  but it could just as easily be to do with the very different life experiences we have.

Simon Baron-Cohen’s  theory suggests autism is an extreme form of the “male brain” because those with autism are better at spatial problem solving and poor at empathy, i.e. the stereotypical male behaviour but taken to an extreme.  About 1% of the population has autism and of those there are more males than females at a ratio of 2:1.

There was an obvious huge flaw in this as evidence for a biological difference between male and female, perhaps that is due to how it was presented as just a short segment of a longer documentary.  Elevated levels of foetal testosterone and sex steroid hormones are linked to autism or the “male brain.”  Undoubtedly this is interesting stuff about how prenatal hormones affect our abilities in later life but there was no connection between this research and its relevance to the 99% of the population who do not have autism, those who did not have elevated prenatal sex hormones, perhaps that just wasn’t explained in the programme?

If the male brain does not exist (see  by Roberts and Rippon) then the label of autism as the extreme “Male Brain” is in itself a sexist stereotype which if anything just reinforces the myth of the male brain and men having different abilities to women.  I am aware that SB-C is an extremely eminent expert who has studied in this field for decades, I have seen him discussing his research on TV many times so it would have been good to hear more about this.

Whether there are real differences in our brains due to our biology or not I think all of those scientists who presented evidence on the programme would agree that that the differences are small, there is no biological reason to prevent girls studying maths, science and engineering in higher education.  There is no reason for women to under achieve at work and take all the responsibility for home and childcare.








The dreaded water bill and life with a Water Meter

I am interested in MY water bill and the use of water in my house, not the theoretical average house that I have read about.


It is said that only about 12% of the average household water use is within the shower and this is the sort of figure that I think is meaningless.  Some showers use 2 or 3 times as much water as others and the size of the household will also make a difference. I noted in my blogs last week that we could make considerable savings (hundreds of pounds per year) in our house by changing our shower head.

I can’t reduce the amount of water we use in the toilet so forget about that: then in our house I believe the shower is possibly our biggest single area of water use.   Our shower uses 14 litres of water per minute and there are 5 people in this house.  Many showers use 20 litres or more but around 15 is typical.  Our new one is on order it is a 9 litre per minute device, you can get lower than this.

In the future, when we are ready to invest in more than just a shower head (at less than £50) there are loads of super efficient showering options that could save more water and energy.

In my recent blogs I suggested that in my house we might shower for about 7 hours per week.  That was a guess.  Sometimes I am in and out of it in minutes but an hour a day is a nice round figure to work with.


If it flows for 30 minutes per day at a rate of about 14 litres per minute it will cost about £500 per year in water.  I don’t know how much it will cost to heat the water.

It is said that approx 30% of water is flushed down the loo.  If you have an old loo then it could be using 13 litres per go, one of those FREE water saving devices you put in the cistern will save you a fortune.  Encouraging your children to be scared of the flush is also a money saving strategy, I sincerely believe that loud noise will awaken the monster that sleeps in the loft and it might come crashing through the ceiling to eat its favourite food: young children.

HOW MUCH WATER IS USED by a modern dual flush toilet?  4 or 6 litres per flush.

I’ve got no idea how many times we flush per day but it is the sort of thing that interests me so I might just start counting!


If you are buying a new washing machine then spending an extra £100 or two to buy a more efficient model could quickly pay for itself.  I based my previous calculations on doing 20 loads per week at 40 litres per load – I like round numbers.  I have checked the details of my model, it is a more efficient larger capacity model (8kg) and about 40 litres per load is a good estimate.  I have worked out that I can’t possibly be doing anything like 20 loads per week and for the sake of easy maths lets say it is about 10 loads per week.  I don’t think I can make any savings here.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO RUN MY WASHING MACHINE? In my house the cost of water for laundry I estimate will be a little less than £90 per year.

HOW MUCH WATER DOES MY DISHWASHER USE? About 10 litres per wash – for a modern model.

I already do most washing up in the dishwasher, it is always full and I will be doing as much as possible in there in the future.


Central Teenager Character is Gay in Best Selling Percy Jackson books for Kids – Brilliant Writing!

9 books into this action/fantasy series one of the male central characters is forced to confess to his crush on another boy – should parents be warned of such a plot, it is unsuitable for young readers?  There are a few negative comments of outrage across the www.

Let’s set this in context.  These books are similar to the Harry Potter books – death, violence, pain, children growing up and facing all the stuff young people face.  Having girl/boyfriends etc…  They are full of difficulties and tragedies.  If you think children shouldn’t read about a boy having a crush on a boy, then perhaps they shouldn’t read about a boy having a girlfriend, or witnessing death, or saving the world, or any kind of fantasy books.

Some critic say this scene was crowbarred into the story and totally unnecessary. Well, we are in book 9, they are huge books, I’ve read them all and this story line fits completely with all that has gone before.

Nico is Gay!

It makes sense, the character has been developed so well over these books from a little boy, the author explains how the sexuality of the character became obvious to him, in the same way as many other mature readers predicted this too.

If there is any doubt about this teenage crush, the author, Rick Riordhan,  explains why he wrote this part of the book here:

Would You Let Your Ten Year Old Son Read A Book With a Gay Character?

Yes, why not. My son is now 11 and reading this very book.  I am also fan of the series.  Not only are they very entertaining but also educational.  I think children are really lucky to have such good books to read.

If you want to read more about this issue and debate see this website:

Some of the Good Things In the Nico Gay Crush Story 

Homosexuality was so taboo in the 1940s (when Nico was a young child (yes he is still only teenage now (70 years or so disappeared).

He wants to keep his crush a secret – perhaps because of the taboo, perhaps because he knows Percy does not feel the same way but has a girlfriend.

Jason’s reaction – it is no big deal.  Jason has greater respect for Nico because of the difficulties he realises Nico has faced.  And Jason is sure other teenagers who know Nico will feel the same.

Would you let your 10 or 11 year old watch Troy or “300” films, both certificate 15?

Mr TP and I watched both these films with our eldest son, he was just 10 when he saw Troy and almost 11 when we all watch 300.  I would not describe them as general “family” entertainment, but we discussed these films in great detail in terms of history and the mythology around the events ( more on this later).

I do not generally let him watch “old” films.  These films had these rating because of the violence but that violence was key to the story.  Young people of his age throughout history and across the word have often been exposed to great violence – we are just lucky that we are so peaceful and safe in the here and now.

We watched the films as part of a bigger educational experience.  It all started when my son and I both read the Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordon:

We were inspired to learn more about Greek mythology and the ancient world in which it flourished.

We attended talks by Nigel Spivey (expert on Ancient Olympics)

We visited the British Museum.

We watched TV documentaries by Bettany Hughes (some available to watch on line):

Troy is loosely based on the Iliad by Homer but the story is changed significantly (see: .   The war should last 10 years and people who survive in the Homer story die in this one and the ending is wrong… details!  I’ve had a copy of the Iliad on my bookshelves for 20+ years but never managed to read it.  I now have it on audiobook too and have enjoyed listening to it.

Watching the film was educational – most will never read the Iliad  so the film introduces us to characters that really did exist and events that did happen.  I’m no expert but  there are many grains of truth in the film, as well as a lot of fiction.   For example, it shows two armies lined up to fight but the kings agree to settle the battle by  just the two best warriors fighting – from what I have read this seems to have been common practice – what a good idea!

I didn’t know about Leonidas and the battle of Thermopylae  before our recent trip to Greece but there were monuments to the man everywhere – statues, street names, who is this guy?  When I told a local that I was going to see Marathon, the site of the famous battle (which took place 10 years earlier), they thought not of Marathon but Thermopylae and told me I was going the wrong way.

Personally, how can I not like the film, hundreds of scantily clad muscle-men on the screen for almost 2 hours!  I thought the film was very accurate in how it showed the Spartan and Greeks.  This battle still has major consequences today – the Persians destroyed every temple standing in Greece at that time – all that we see as tourists today on the Acropolis, at Delphi, etc.  was built by the Greeks after they subsequently defeated the Persians and rebuilt it all.  Amazingly it was all constructed at the same time in a few years.  Wow what a building, programme.

Now there are critics of the 300 film who make many valid points – you can’t just watch it as historical fact.  One point is the very inaccurate portrait of the Persians – now, much as I do agree with those critics I do think the film was from the Spartan point of view – the Spartans may have seen the invaders to be strange, exotic, monstrous, as  in the film.

Here is one of the many online pages worth reading if you are interested in the facts behind 300:

John Lawson Circus Ramsgate Manston

My 4 year olds loved their first live circus show. Stared, open mouthed for the whole 2 hours.  We got there really early and enjoyed the atmosphere before the show.

I have learnt from past experience, however, that if you go to the circus in February take extra blankets.  Even though there are heaters as it was only 2 degrees C outside, stormy and windy, of course it was cold inside too.

John Lawson is one of the cheaper circuses, making it more affordable for families but still good value for £££: entertaining, great costumes and skills that most of us mere mortals do not have.  I think not so much the result of talent as of years of hard work.

Meet you at Manston Airport this Saturday if we’re not snowed in?

The coldest weekend of the winter is on its way and Manston airport at Thanet is having a family fun day.  Well a chance to gather free balloons is always welcome but the costs could rise steeply if we have to pay for car parking.

I don’t know if it will be free on Sat or if they have changed te prices but last time I was there I thought the parking fees were a bit steep and they could have been more generous with the free parking allowance, which was only 20 minutes.



Films of Pirates & Treasure Island

I vaguely recall reading it as the class book when I was 11 years old but could really remember nothing of the story.

Then just watched the New 2 part TV film of it.  WOW it was gripping, exciting, twisty turny, unpredictable.  What a good story and what a great film of it – even if it doesn’ t sound like your sort of thing give it a go it you have the time.

In my mind I am mixing it up with Pirates of the Caribbean. Oldest son got the lego game at Christmas, which I have enjoyed playing with him. AND he also got the 4 DVDs. Now, I really didn’t get time to sit and watch all four films but I have seen the first and the last and snippets of the others.  So now all that pirate stuff is jumbled up in my head – with the rest of the rubbish!

Where Did I Hide Mr Tara Plumbing’s Xmas Pressy?

I got him a great gift – one of those things that he would never think about buying but will give him many hours of enjoyment.
It was also great cos it cost about £2!
But it is really tiny and I hid it somewhere and I can’t remember where?
I’ve been searching for a couple of weeks now…
And I think I just may never see it again.
I can get another – from ebay- but, of course, not in time for xmas.

Any one else have the same problem?
I’ll tell you what it is after I have managed to give him one….!

We’re Selling a Pile of Old Junk on Ebay if You want Some!

Dress it up in fancy terms if you like. Antique, salvaged, preloved, retro, vintage…
Do you know there is a reason they don’t still make those old 1970s-80s toys & games: because modern stuff is better.

If that old vintage/retro/ modern-antique game or toy of nostalia was all that good some company would still be making it and selling it new on Amazon & in Smyths for a nice profit.

Fortunately for me, sitting in my home surrounded by a pile of old junk, there are people out there with more money than sense! And with fond memories of childhood xmases. They are monitoring their WATCH LISTS and calculating their max bids. Fine for the over 40s but I hope they don’t expect to impress any young people with this stuff. Because it really is unimpressive by modern standards.
(I am guilty though – Later I will tell you what old games I remember)

Who wants a 1990s Nintendo Game Boy when you can have a 2011 Nintendo 3DS, infact even an old obsolite DS of 5 years ago is better than the Game Boy.
I loved tetris too but you can get it in modern formats…

My own childhood & teenage years memories are filled with the extended family sitting and playing the card game cheat. All you need are lots of people and two packs of cards (no good with a small number). Also Great Game Of Britain. A brilliant fun board game – which I believe is still in production – therefore – proves my point.

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