Tag Archives: school

The Photo Gallery | One Day in May

May in New Zealand is a month of shorter days and candle-lit nights, a month of celebrating mothers on Mother’s Day and cross-country running.

It’s a month when the colours of a summer well spent are trying desperately to cling on – but fading with every short day of light and howling storm.

I love the light and find the darker months of the year a personal challenge to keep sane. To feel mentally well I have to make myself get out the door, in the daylight, every day, no matter the weather, and exercise. This year is a lot easier to do that Рas our family now has a pet dog (and when he gives me his puppy eye look, pleading to go on a walk, even when the rain is falling from the sky like someone has turned on a giant shower in heaven to full power, I find my head nodding in submission).

There isn’t one photograph to sum up all of this, but the closest I can come to it, is the one below – of my daughter Sophie running with all her heart, in her cross-country race this week. It was one of the most memorable days of this month so far.

Y5 cross-country at Karori Park

The night before she ran the heavens opened and let down a torrential downpour (typical of this time of year). We woke to a calmer morning, but her nerves were still heightened with anticipation. Thankfully, by the time she got to school – and her teacher had reassured her (as well as at least half the rest of the class) with some words of enthusiastic words of motivation – she was pumped.

My husband and I met at the beautiful Karori Park to cheer her on. We had told her, multiple times, to just enjoy the run and give it her own personal best. She had found the weeks building up to the race hard work – having to get to school every morning, change into her PE gear, and run laps around a park adjacent to her school. There were many mornings she woke up hoping for rain (meaning fitness would be circuits in the gym instead – which she preferred).

Anyway, on race day, she didn’t have to run first thing, she had a chance to let her body wake up, digest some morning tea, and run in the late morning. The change of scenery and knowing she’d be running on a looped course, with no repetitions of laps on the same ground, gave her an added boost of excitement. When the start gun was fired she set off fast, as did her seventeen class mates.

She gave it her all, through the stream, up the grass hilly verge, through the forest, down the steps and on to the final stretch.

We were surprised to see her running in so fast and she was clearly giving it her all, as she made it around the final bend, passed a class-mate (with an apologetic glance) and crossed the finish line in 7th place!

The final stretch

It was one of those great parenting moments – to see one of our children overcome anxiety and push through to achieve a strong result. She was so thrilled with her result and proud of herself – rightly so!

A wonderfully happy moment in the week building up Mother’s Day in New Zealand – this Sunday, 10th May – which I’d already enjoyed an early celebration of at a wonderful ‘Mother’s to School Day’, where I spent a gorgeous morning in the classroom with my two junior school daughters, a delicious morning tea and wonderful entertainment – as the girls sang in their respective choirs.

Mother's to School Day 2015

May, it’s a pretty good month, despite the dark evenings, and my thoughts are frequently of my dear folks and family in the UK, enjoying the light evenings of spring after a long, dark winter.

And when I am blessed with a good day in May, like the one I’ve written about, when my daughter triumphed over her nerves & ran with all her heart, I top it off with a good run of my own! This was how I spent the afternoon, before school pick-up, running on Wellington’s beautiful south coast, delighting in the autumn sunshine and spotting a beautiful New Zealand Kingfisher at the end of my run.

A day in May 2015


Linking up with…

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

Poignant moments from my week in Black and White: The Photo Gallery

Black and white is the theme this week on ‘The Photo Gallery’ and it is especially poignant as I struggle to let my youngest child ‘go’, and settle her into school.

I feel like my wild butterfly is being closed up in a box, of sorts, and having her wings clipped. The vibrant colours of her rich and beautiful character are being tested.


I find the time after school (she’s only doing mornings this term), and weekends, so incredibly precious. I took the photograph below today, after school, at the local beach; a mere ten minutes walk from our home. The sun had lost its burn, as it was around 5pm, but the heat of a wonderful New Zealand summer was still in the air, and her innocent nature drove her to take off her clothes and splash in the waves.

playing in the waves

Whilst I witness her assimilation into school, I am nurturing her colourful personality outside of school and fighting to retain her uniqueness and natural vest for life. I have great faith in the school she is attending. I see the older students there retain so much of their unique personalities and spirit, whilst also gaining a top class education. I remind myself of this every day, when doubts creep up on me.

Settling her into school is going pretty well on the whole, but it is of course an emotional time – especially as I haven’t spent more than a few hours away from her at a time (apart from that one weekend, when she was four, that I travelled to a Uni friend’s wedding in England for a long weekend – I was living in the USA at the time, making the logistics easier than travelling from New Zealand!).

It’s especially hard as she has no prior experience of being in an educational setting. She’s having to learn, very quickly, how to ‘fit in’ within the setting of formal school – where a tie is a mandatory part of the uniform (even when the summer temperatures sizzle on), sitting with crossed legs and arms, not asking endless questions – but to hold her hand up in the hope she’ll be picked (thankfully class numbers are small, so the chance is more so), not singing when the whim takes her – but waiting till morning tea and lunch to let her lungs burst forth with song, or at formal ‘singing’ practice, keeping her shoes and socks on, even when her natural inclination is to run barefoot, not dance and move with physical freedom, but be constantly mindful of her body in respect to others in the classroom.

This is all in very stark contrast to the life she has led thus far. Less than six months ago she was living in Santa Barbara, California, in a beautiful home with a pool in the back garden. She spent most of the day without a strip of clothing and dived in and out of the swimming pool as the fancy took her. She sang her own parody to the Phantom of the Opera song ‘Sing to Me’ – singing ‘Swim to Me’ at the top of lungs in the pool, she baked alongside me, played with her older sisters (who were also home educated during the fifteen months that we lived in California), spent mornings drawing in the garden and evenings playing with her Daddy. We sat over morning tea and observed the different birds that frequented the garden, identifying them alongside a bird-chart, we marvelled at the speed of the humming bird, as it hovered to gather nectar. Our lives were without time constraints and deadlines. Our lives were blissful and in the moment.

Now, we are in a different chapter of our lives. We are learning to live with alarm clocks, deadlines and systems. We are reintegrating, whilst still trying to hold on to everything we learned throughout our time travelling and living, very much, in the moment.

Thankfully we have a special buddy to help us with this… Monsieur Cocoa, our seven month old puppy.

Monsieur Cocoa at the playground playing peek a boo

Joining in with ‘The Photo Gallery’ at Sticky Fingers on the theme, ‘Black and White’


Life is a changing!

There have been so many momentous changes in our family life this year so far. This week, by far, has been the biggest. I have experienced, for the first time in nearly twelve years, having all three of my daughters AT SCHOOL! I have soooo many feelings about this. My emotions are on a non-stop roller-coaster ride at the moment and getting out for a run is the one thing keeping me sane (and wine, of course!). So it’s just as well I got a long run in on Sunday – my second half marathon since turning forty!

#CignaRTB #raceday !! #halfmarathon #Wellington

A photo posted by Sarah (@britmuminnz) on

I was so chuffed to beat my personal best and ran the 13.1 miles in 1.48.53!

I’ve also seen my previous homeschooler (till she was 9 year’s old – with the exception of a year in ‘Kindi’ at the age of 4, and two terms in school at age 5), settle into school. Not only is she settling well, and overcoming the anxiety that has held her back in earlier years, but has also put herself out there and volunteered to make up the numbers for her school ‘Touch Rugby’ team. She played her first game this week and proudly represented her school with amazing confidence.

Our eldest daughter is straight back into her fitness love – dancing – this year. She’s now doing contemporary, jazz and tap. She has also taken on a new sport this year – golf (which delights her Dad)! She gets a shuttle bus with her fellow students after school, straight to the golf course, and we pick her up afterwards.

Our youngest is meanwhile adjusting to school life slowly, by just doing mornings for this term (which is exhausting for her!). She has unfortunately come down with a cold at the end of this week, so we will have to start next week afresh. I am absolutely savouring every moment I have with her after school.

She is such a nature lover and is often to be found in the garden with our dog and rabbit, or chasing butterflies.

After school, half day for our new entrant, spending precious time together at Shelly Bay.

A photo posted by Sarah (@britmuminnz) on

I’m just so grateful that our dear fur baby is able to help distract me from a nervous breakdown with my dear babies all now at school! I enjoyed a beautiful run/walk with him on my youngest daughters first official morning at school.

I also paused for thought on all the amazing times I have enjoyed with my dear babes in arms, whilst acknowledging the exciting, yet challenging times, ahead! So, I shall keep running, and try to keep smiling (though I admit to a few tears this week; the new entrant teacher had to ask one of her students to pass me the ‘magic fairy wand’ to help quell the tears rolling down my face! I was trying so hard to hide them too… quietly at the back of the class. With that wand in hand I gave the young students in the class a thumbs up and an Oscar winning smile of ‘I’m all good now!’).

I paused for a moment, on this hill, with my dog, & acknowledged the passing of my time with my babies. They are, as of today, all three at school, and my time at the playground, with babes in arms, is over, for now… Till I'm a *hopefully*, one day, a Grandma that is (after my daughters have lived and adventured well!!). For now, the hills are mine to roam again – with my four legged friend for company – at a pace of our choosing. We have after school and weekends to still linger at details with the youngest of our 'pack' – she who makes us stop, notice, and live in the moment. I do hope, now she's started school, she manages to hang on to that magic – & not let the awareness of time, and keeping to the clock, diminish her awareness of the present. It took me a long time to regain that which I once knew, instinctively as a child, & lost growing up. It was #motherhood that brought me back & that is one of the greatest gifts my children have bestowed upon me x

A photo posted by Sarah (@britmuminnz) on


This blog post was inspired by Tara at ‘Sticky Fingers blog’ who set a theme of ‘Health and Fitness’ on her weekly linky, ‘The Photo Gallery’.

Health and fitness, for me, is all about balance. I was a young child that was forever active; dancing, running, cycling and climbing, a teenager that started to become less so and a young lady in her late teens and twenties who lost her way on the path of balance. Those party years, of my twenties, were passed over by my ‘breeding’ years of my thirties and now, in my forties, I feel like I am finally getting the balance. Sleep deprivation is less of a problem, now my children are all past their preschool years, I have more windows of time to get a moment of exercise in and keep my mental health on balance, and my nutrition is inspired by wanting to set a good example to my children (consequently we eat our fruit and veggies, but indulge in treats too!!).

My next running event to look forward to is the Martinborough ‘Round the Vines’ in the Wairarapa of New Zealand. I’m only doing a 10k (as the 21K is a repeat of the 10k – and I couldn’t face running past all those vineyards TWICE without stopping for a wine!). I look forward to getting out there, running that course and having a wee tipple with a friend afterwards! What’s more, the proceeds of the event go towards the Martinborough School – what’s better than running for a good cause?! xx

Sunset over Lyall Bay

Celebrating sisters, over coming anxiety & starting a new school year…

Our 11 year old daughter has been awesome in supporting her 9 year old sister settling into a new school this week. Friends, family and regular readers will know that our 9 year old daughter has been homeschooled these past three years, due to school anxiety; but having made a lot of progress in overcoming anxiety (such as now being able to participate in team sports) she expressed an interest in trying school again at the end of last year.

Her older sister goes to¬†a wonderful girl’s school in Wellington – which she attended prior to our time living in California, and re-enrolled on our return to New Zealand in October last year. Our 9 year old joined her sister, at the same school, on Monday this week.

We were prepared for her start at school to be challenging, as was our daughter; in a two steps forward, one step backward, kind of way. We were also realistic in knowing that for her introduction to school to be a success it would take a huge team effort, with everyone on the same page (family and school united).

My dear hubby had deliberately delayed committing to a new job, knowing how much he would be needed (of course we feel incredibly blessed that he is in a position to be able to do this). We have a younger daughter, about to turn 5 in February, that we didn’t want to be negatively influenced by her sister’s anxiety – and so two parents would be needed to really make everything work. One parent (me) would focus on keeping our youngest child happy, whilst also acknowledging our oldest daughter’s wonderful support and maturity, and the other (hubby) would help our middle daughter settle into a new environment and overcome the physically debilitating symptoms of social anxiety.

So,hubby is taking care of the morning school drop off, liaison with school, as well as settling our middle daughter at night (he’s actually sharing a room with her to help her sleep). He is, in a word, ‘amazing’. The school are also amazing, with the most caring, solution orientated, pro-active, open-minded and attentive teaching staff. The head of the junior school is incredible (from past experience and currently). I really am in awe of her incredible skills.

Whilst hubby is doing all of the above, I am focusing on the simple tasks of keeping the washing up to date, the kitchen clean, the decks clear and the school notices actioned, as well as having the pleasure of ¬†caring for our youngest daughter (who is at home full-time at this stage; since there’s no legal requirement for her to be at school till she’s 6 in New Zealand; and she gets ample socialisation from the local neighbourhood, community and her sisters).

To be completely honest; I am not the best person to support my middle daughter directly – as I too suffer from mild anxiety and depression. I work hard to keep this under control, with regular exercise and mild medication; but find it difficult to cope when there’s extra tension (when our daughter was crying with stomach pains of nerves the other morning, I then spent the morning, after she’d managed to successfully go to school, trying to hide my tears from my youngest daughter and weeping whilst putting the washing away). Later in the day, when the summer sun had cooled a little, I headed out for a mind calming run – returning with my senses alive to every beautiful scent in the garden.

Running and the senses

Thankfully my dearest husband, and friend of 22 years, is a tower of strength, wisdom and patience (he has definitely lived life a few time over!). He’s taking some time out on his paddle board to keep those calm words of wisdom flowing too.

Paddle boarding Lyall Bay

Meanwhile, our dear oldest daughter is settling into Year 8 at the school she loves, whilst being incredibly encouraging of her 9 year old sister, starting in Year 5.

She spent some time selecting positive quote of inspiration – and then printing them off and displaying them above her sister’s bed – as a surprise; so very thoughtful, kind and caring.

Inspiring quotes from one sister to another

Our¬†youngest daughter is also being sweet, in her own little way, giving hugs and being a distraction after school (she’s also helping her Mummy set up a wonderful holiday home we’ve just bought in the wine country capital of the Wairarapa – Martinborough!).



So, big changes at the start of 2015 for this family – but all with a positive step forward too.

On a final note, I’d like to add that I’m opening up in a big way in this post; as from past experience I have learned that sharing helps other people to feel able to open up. I don’t share this for any other reason. Parenting is not easy and the more that people feel they can be open and honest, the better our community will be. It really does ‘take a village to raise a child’ – and as much as I struggle to reach out and be open to this in reality, I am learning, with every step on this journey, how very true that statement is.

Here’s to happy school days (and happy weekends in Martinborough too!) x

Prose for Thought | The anxiety of separation

Her face was just like all the rest,
on pick up time at three.
The adrenaline that had twisted thick,
buried for a spell.

The anguish of the morning,
the torment of the night.
The constant torture of anxiety,
that steals family time.

It even creeps upon us at weekends,
when we’re trying to forget.
She tosses and turns every bedtime,
needing a parent’s close presence.

Her body sending messages,
of chemical potency.
Turning her stomach into iron knots,
her mind into a throbbing ball of pain.

There is no magic book of answers,
even the professionals are surprised.
The magnitude of her anguish,
the irrationality of her mind.

Her body in full fight or flight,
yet the predator is not what it seems.
There is no need to do either,
but her mind is plagued with doubt.

© Sarah Lee, 8 September, 2013

Goleta coast, Santa Barbara

Anxiety BC | Separation Anxiety Disorder

Prose for Thought

First impressions | School life in America

School commenced for two of our three children yesterday. Our ten year old has been attending school in New Zealand for five years and, apart from a somewhat dissatisfying, unchallenging experience in her first three years, she has pretty much excelled. She thrived at a private girls school she attended for the past two years and performed well above average in all subject areas, even as the youngest in her class.

Our seven year old had a terrible experience in her second term of schooling in a public school and we were all dissatisfied, as a family. As she was under the age of six at the time – and school is only compulsory at the age of six in New Zealand – we withdrew her. Then we heard about the possible move to America and decided it was better to home educate up until the move – little did we then know that the whole deal would take a year and a half to get to a point when we could actually move countries (we were initially given the impression it would be a few months!).

Anyway, here we are now in America.

Our unschooler – as we were enjoying child-led learning in our home with a wonderful group of natural learners – thrived in a home environment, socialising with other home learners. Her reading is well above the average for her age, as is her mathematics. She enjoyed various science experiments, played creatively and freely, without time constraints, along with her natural learner friends, came up with stories, plays and poems under her own drive, and read books with a lot more interest than her traditionally schooled older sister. Also, as she wasn’t confined by ‘time’, if she was avidly into a particular book she would read till midnight, knowing there was no rush for a bell the next day. She thrived.

On her first day at a proper school, here in America, she was naturally nervous – but her natural personality is outgoing, chatty, confident with strangers in shops, cafes, museums, enquiring, unafraid to try new tastes, physical pursuits and so on. She has hit gold with a wonderful, experienced Grade 2 teacher. Further more her teacher is one of those special ones that has always continued with her own learning and is very up to date with modern times, technology and teaching methods. Win, win! It looks like this school experience will be perfect for her, at this stage in her education, and of great benefit to her social nature.

Now, our other daughter, the high achiever, from a traditional, private, girls school, walked into a very different scenario. A mixed class of 10 and 11 year olds, non-uniformed, who all knew one another. There was no prior warning about standing up and pledging allegiance to the flag… (whereas Miss 7 was given prior warning and provided with an explanation as to why students in America did this). Miss 10, in contrast, was surrounded by students that suddenly stood up like robots and hand on heart started singing – she was left thinking, ‘What the f*ck?!’.

She also found herself with a teacher who was aghast at Miss 10 loving snakes and spiders (turns out – none of us knew this – her teacher has a spider phobia – oops!). Then there was the health and safety notices – which Miss 10 found totally over the top – coming from adventurous New Zealand, where calculated risks are a normal part of life – they even have fully equipped carpentry benches in pre-schools for three and four year olds – yes, hammers, saws, nails… (and I never heard of an accident). Children in New Zealand run barefoot, climb trees, jump in water holes, and are encouraged to test their own physical boundaries. The only people that blink an eye when a young child runs on the beach in their ‘Birthday suit’ are the foreign tourists.

Love this video ‘Frosty Man and the BMX Kid’ – sums it up nicely ;)


Plus the teacher was doing the ‘strict’ thing – which is understandable given it was the first day and there were probably a few personalities in the class that needed the ‘don’t mess with me’ message – unfortunately Miss 10 found her style abrupt and loud (and Miss 10 dislikes conflict, loud noises etc.).

Furthermore, Miss 10’s avid interest of watching film documentaries and passion for ‘Minecraft’ was met with disdain and a comment of, ‘Books are best’. Miss 10’s reaction was to maturely bottle in the tears, frustration and annoyance for the entire morning and then, only in the comfort of a private environment, let it out. She was devastated. The whole experience hit her with a sledge hammer of what she’d given up in New Zealand and the amazing friends she has there.

We are going to enjoy our time here (Dan and I would be really loving it, but happy children make happy parents… and until they are all settled, we shan’t feel top notch).

We shall meet with the school, the school counsellor, try and make it work for Miss 10 – but we don’t wish for her amazing education in New Zealand to be undermined and if the wrong teacher for her doesn’t work out, then we will stand by our daughter and ensure she retains her love of learning – even if we have to do online learning (which I am very pro-doing – hubbie a lot less so – as are the grandparents – that live in the UK; it’s not as though they really know what we are going through as we’ve been raising our children entirely single-handedly for the past decade in New Zealand). The biggest concern for hubbie and the grandparents is that ‘Sarah won’t cope’ – because I’m on antidepressants (and have been for over a decade). The truth is, I can cope. With exercise, medication and a happy family I am fine. It’s when I feel, in my heart and gut, that one of my children is genuinely not happy that the mother bear instincts in me cry out – not out of ‘protecting’ and ‘wrapping in cotton wool’, but of being my child’s advocate in an adult world and setting an example that the system isn’t always right and not to be accepted blindly – but, at times, worked around – even if many people see it as ‘radical’.

Of course she will be persuaded to give the school another chance and we will ask her to give us a full ‘pros and cons’ write-up of schooling in America for a year versus online learning – and then we shall discuss further.

We are not dictators of our children’s future – but here to guide them, let them feel confident to express themselves and know that their voices are listened to and respected.