Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Students: Time Management with Children

I often get emailed requests of things to write about. This is one that I have been putting off for a while because I haven't had the bloody time I'm not too sure how I manage my time. It is probably a bit unorthodox the way I do it, but it has worked for six years now through my undergrad degree with the Open University and for the first year of my post grad. I'll list some tips below as to how I do it, you might find it useful you might just think I am bonkers for doing all this.  Whichever.

If you haven't read this blog before, this is just a place where I record our family life and order my thoughts. Sometimes spill my guts. I have three children aged 13, 5 and 3 and I also work part time in the Pharmacology department at the university. So here are some studying time-management tips:

1) Be Realistic

If you have kids around your ankles for some/all of the time the chances are you can't even go to the toilet in peace. It's true. I've been there and I am still in that situation. Don't set yourself up to fail by setting unattainable revision/study goals. Take it in bite-sized chunks. If the baby sleeps, just do half an hour. When I have deadlines I will admit to fobbing off the kids with the telly. Don't feel guilty about this, you do what you have to do. Having said that I do try to keep that to the minimum because aside from it being a little bit guilt-inducing, you can never get much bloody work done anyway because they will always want a drink/snack/cuddle/sit on your knee/wipe their bum. Delete as appropriate.

2) Public Transport

Oh hello the 19 bus from Kirkby to Liverpool. Oh how I love you. You helped me get my degree.

No, I'm not kidding. Public transport is EXCELLENT for giving you some reading time. The best thing is it is guilt-free, completely free time. If you weren't reading it would just be idle time anyway. On the way to work, I read. Find yourself a comfy seat (I prefer almost at the back, just over the wheel by the heater.) I carry a big bag and always have a choice of books. A Kindle is also ideal, but I hate reading on the screen I only do it if I have to. Yes, I'm over 30.

3) Timetable

The OU was brilliant for a timetable. It was very hand-holdy in that you knew exactly what you had to read for that week and you just ticked it off online as you go. Now I'm doing my MA I have to be a bit more self-sufficient and set my own stall out. I tend to know exactly what I plan on reading that week. I would say that I average about three books a week, but don't tell anyone because they will think I am lying and then I will feel awkward or think that maybe they think that I read three books a week so that I can escape from my children. Yes, I over-think things.... Just make a list of what you have to read each week. It will help you.

This is our notice board. *tuts*
4) Time For Yourself

Now I am an absolute stickler for work work work working. I am so driven it is untrue. The other day Warren asked me if I wanted to keep a stack of papers I'd left on the side of the chair. "Oh. Yes. I'll keep them - they're just those essays I failed." Warren looked at me like I had lost my mind. I didn't fail any of them, the scores were 69 and 68 or something and I was annoyed that they weren't 70. Oddly I'm not like that with my children - I just want them to try their best, but I am a terrible critic of myself. My point is, don't be like me. Chill out, have a treat, look after yourself. It is very easy to get burned out as a student with kids. I often feel put-upon. I find that Wine Friday helps. If you have to ask what Wine Friday is then please click that little red cross in the top right hand corner of your screen.


5) Love What You Do

Do you enjoy it?

If you don't enjoy what you're doing then please ... don't do it.  Sometimes I think my only escape is my uni work - I absolutely love it . I complain I am so busy of course I do, but if I won the lottery tomorrow I would seriously be a full time student. I think it's the love of it that keeps me going.

If you are a student and you want any more posts like this just give me a shout. I know I'm a sarcastic pain but I just found a free fifteen minutes to write this (and the free time came because my eldest daughter just stole my "slot" for a shower.)  Yes, I have a shower slot - what of it? If I don't have a shower slot then I don't shower because I am too busy and well...that's never a good thing.

I do have a lot of busy-person study tips up my sleeve though, I'm not saying they're brilliant but they work for me.


Pirate Festival on The Dock 2016

We might be a bit biased, but we absolutely love Liverpool. I have written about Liverpool days out many times - there is so much to see and do that I can't shout about it enough. We are very lucky to live, study and work in such an amazing place.
This weekend we were really excited to go to the Pirate Festival on the Dock. The kids absolutely love getting out and about and seeing all kinds of different forms of entertainment, so this was absolutely perfect for them.

The Albert Dock is one of our favourite places to go in Liverpool. To us it represents to best of Liverpool as a port city - the water, the shops, the entertainment. We were taking about how there seems to be such a buzz around Liverpool lately especially around the dock.

The Pirate Festival was brilliant. We watched as pirates sailed their ship across the river and as they swashbuckled  and fought (and fell in the river!) The kids absolutely loved it. It was such a great show.

We had a lovely stroll around the Dock itself and had our lunch at a lovely place called Circo. We had never been to Circo before - it is a circus themed restaurant with performance on Saturday and Sunday evenings. As we attended in the afternoon there were no performances, but we had a good look at the circus paraphernalia around the restaurant! We both commented that this venue would be perfect for a hen do or a group night out. The food was great, and at a good price too. The kids menu was varied (they had pizza, as is pretty much the norm for them when we eat out!) It came with a drink, side and a dessert as well as a little bag of things to keep them entertained - a mask, spinning top and some colours to colour-in their menu.

Warren chose the lamb and I had pork belly. It was lovely. We had such a lovely time. Staff were friendly and helpful and offered to watch our table as the kids wanted to pop out to keep a check on the pirates!

A special mention also has to go out to our childhood telly presenter Dave Benson Phillips who was also playing the guitar and doing a show. Our kids loved and and danced to the Birdie Song. Come on, how many 80s kids remember him presenting "Get Your Own Back" ?

We loved our day out at the Albert Dock. There are always new and exciting events going on - definitely a family-friendly place with so much to do. We look forward to returning.

To keep up with events at the Albert Dock:


Visit the Albert Dock Website http://www.albertdock.com/ or follow them on Twitter @Albert Dock to keep up with the latest news and events.

Disclosure: Were we invited to enjoy our day out at Liverpool Albert Dock with a meal at Circo free of charge for the purpose of this article. All words and views are our own.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Research: Baby Steps

After briefly considering starting up a blog purely about my research, then quickly forgetting postponing that until next year, I realised that I do actually want to write about what I am doing education-wise. This blog has become something of a Frankenstein's monster. It began as somewhere to write down my thoughts about studying with the OU and quickly ended up with me writing about the kids, and well, now it is just a mix of all things and I seem to be the friendly local blogger who attends events and reviews days out with the kids. There is nothing wrong with this of course, it's just that I think maybe eventually I might need a new space on the Internet to write solely about what I am doing with my research. So anyway, if you want to read about what I am up to research-wise then continue reading and if you'd rather see my silly bad photo-shop posts or guides to lazy parenting then I'm sure they will be along soon too!


So I am in my second year of my MA in Twentieth Century History. I did it part time, hence the two years. If I had the chance, I would have loved to have done this full time, but with work and three kids, it was always going to be impossible. Part time is fine and it does mean that I get a bit more planning/reading time across the two years, which can only be a good thing. Last year I covered most of the twentieth century, so right from World War One to the end of the Cold War, 9/11 and globalisation. It was a lot of material, but I wrote a few decent essays with merits (the distinction eludes me for now by about two marks, but I hope to rectify this soon.) So I have chosen my modules and this summer I set to thinking about my dissertation and PhD application. Strangely, it is the PhD application that requires the most attention at this point - the deadline for that is months before the dissertation is due in. The PhD application is obviously to try and secure funding for the duration of the doctorate. You've got to be in it to win it. etc.


I have always enjoyed research. I am a bit of a nerd and once I get hooked on something that's it - I want to know everything about it and analyse it every which way until I am quite the expert at it. I set high standards for myself and this is no exception. Sounds like I torture myself, but I don't - I really love what I do.


So the dissertation is 15,000 words. This sounds like a lot, but I am not too frightened of this. My aim is to write a dissertation closely related to my PhD and something I can build on with future research. I am hoping to write something that is actually publishable. Maybe I am aiming a bit too high as a very "junior" researcher at the moment, but as I said, I aim high.

The Idea

At a time of high unemployment, de-industrialisation in Merseyside, inadequate social housing and general unrest a socialist feminist newspaper was published. Big Flame was sold outside factory gates and proclaimed to be "Merseyside's Rank and File Newspaper." The newspaper wrote about key issues affecting the working class people. The Big Flame newspaper eventually became a radical fringe protest group with various commissions organised as a revolutionary movement. They were involved in a number of high profile protests such as the Kirkby Rent Strike in 1972 and organised day schools and summer schools to recruit and educate members. I am interested in what the group did, how they functioned, how they fit in to the broader history of the left. By 1975 they were a national group with small pockets up and down the country, involved in many struggles and initiatives,
For my dissertation I want to examine the role of women within the group. Who were they? What impact did they have? What were the male/female dynamics within the group? What are their legacies? The paper I write will then feed in to the overall study of the whole Big Flame group.

Baby Steps

I am not a seasoned researcher, although, I know I'm blowing my own trumpet  I am actually pretty good at it. I'm not the best writer in the world, but I enjoy sitting for hours poring over old papers, trying to find the missing link, trying to delve. I read very quickly and can pick out details and I try to use them in the best context! At the same time, I am taking baby steps. I'm not the most confident person, but I know what I want.


I always knew that I would love the archives. I know I sound a bit bonkers, but I've been looking forward to searching through archives for years. I never really got the chance as an undergraduate and now I have it all here at my finger tips. As I have picked a local project (for now!) there is a lot of archival material available local to me. Here are some that I have already visited:

Salford Working Class Movement Library

This library contains many leaflets, pamphlets and minutes for me to examine.

Liverpool Records Office

This is located in Central Library in Liverpool so it is a lovely building to study in. This archive has almost all of the Big Flame newspapers, so I think I will be spending a lot of time here in the near future.

Kirkby ARK 

This is the library on my doorstep. This archive contains all of the council minutes from 1972-1974 and this covered the Kirkby Rent Strike. I loved flicking through this - I live in Kirkby so it is even more interesting to me.

I have a lot more archives on my list - just in the North for now, but I am aware that there is a lot more material up and down he country - mainly in London. I am sure I will make the trip soon enough, especially if I could get cheap train tickets - that would be ideal.

This Summer

To be honest I have not used my summer as well as I would have liked. I wanted to get a load of secondary reading done, but for whatever reason I didn't get that much done. Things have been hectic with the kids being off school and we have not stopped. I think the main thing is that I have consolidated what I know about the group, I've pin-pointed where I need to go to find the information I need and I have a skeleton draft (in my head for now!) of what I want to write about and what my funding application will look like.

New Academic Year

I start back at uni in about four weeks. The kids are back in school next week so I still have some time to get some more secondary reading in. I'm excited for the new semester and looking forward to getting stuck in.

So that's it really, research-wise. As I said, I am taking baby steps.


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