Saturday, 9 July 2016

A university challenge

With college finished for the academic year and the A-level results awaited for eldest son's university place to be confirmed, we have started the choosing process over again with our youngest son.

In discussions at work people have been asking how I found out what to do with the boys, so I thought it might be good to share with you how we have gone about choosing a university.  This has worked for us and you may find all or some of it useful.  Through this post, when I talk about "you" I am referring to both you and your child as this does need to be their decision but they will thank you for your support and guidance (and in the case of our youngest - my focus and organisation skills!!)

Firstly it is never too early to be thinking about university.  If you want to save to help your children through the cost, then start when they are young, but if you read the articles on don't let the cost put you off encouraging your children to attend university.  It is their debt, not yours, and the current government scheme means that they will pay very little each month AFTER graduation, and only once they start earning over £21,000.

I have always encouraged the boys in their career dreams to think what training and education it will require and although their ambitions are now different to when they were 5! going to university has always been part of our discussions for what they want to in the future.

It CAN be important to understand what they think they would like to study when they are taking their GCSE options at school. Our eldest son wanted to be an architect and it wasn't until we looked at what A-levels he would need we realized he really needed to have taken art at GCSE to follow that one through.  It didn't prevent him from following that dream but it did close a few doors to which universities he could choose from.  As it is that dream has changed anyway during his A-level studies!

Now if you want to study something really specialized at university, choosing where to study may be quite easy as it will be wherever they are offering  international Spa management (or whatever your dream might be - but yes that is a degree on offer in the UK).  Fortunately (or not depending on how you look at it) both boys have wanted to do very academic courses offered everywhere.

So the boys decided where in country they would like to study, checked the Guardian university guide for their chosen courses and applied for prospectuses.  They also attended UCAS university day, like a craft fair but with lots of universities selling themselves.  Ours was arranged by college but they can book in directly if not offered.  We read through the course details in all the prospectuses as they arrived and checked the entry requirements.

Then we booked in to lots of Open days.  The one thing to remember is that the UCAS form requires a short list of 5 university choices.  You don't have to have 5 but if you don't give five and then unfortunately don't get any offers you don't get access to the second chance application process.   SO we decided filling in all 5 was the best approach.

Details of when open days are being held can be found on the individual university website but can also be viewed on the UCAS website or  For those of you who know me well you will not be surprised when I say the next thing you need is a spreadsheet!! You need to track when the open days are, if you have pre-registered, registered, received your invite email or need to revisit the website at a later date.  I'll share our spreadsheet in a later post as it covers our whole process.

Applying to Oxford is a bit different and I'll cover that in a separate post, having just completed that one with youngest son.

Once you receive details confirming you are booked on the Open day watch for details about talks you can attend while there.  Some universities just have drop in sessions at set times, some you need to book in advance or when you arrive and some just have information stands.  Do your research and make a plan.  You will only need to attend one finance talk at one university as they will all tell you the same thing but do make sure you pick up information about bursary schemes!  Make time to visit the accommodation, this is where your child is going to live for possible three or four years.  Find out how many years the university offers halls accommodation for.

When we got home we made a note of three good points and three bad points to help with the decision process.  Do this as soon as possible as they do all blend into one after a while (we visited three universities in four days two weeks ago!)

Hopefully you will get an idea as to whether campus university life or a city one is a preference or that it doesn't matter.  However if it does then you made need to cancel some trips and make new plans if your original choice doesn't match you found preference (sorry Coventry Uni but city life just didn't cut it for one son once we started looking so we didn't do that open day!).

The vest piece of advice we were given, while eldest son was still in secondary school was to start the Open Day visits early on and we actually meet a mum and daughter on trip before she had started 6th-form.  That way if you need to visit more you have given yourself plenty of time.

If travelling is not an option for you, due to cost (and it does rack up a cost!) or the chosen university is too far away, try the university website for a virtual tour and look to see if the students produce an alternative prospectus so you get an insight into life as a student.

Then you just need to whittle that lot down to your final 5.  We joked that the whole process feels like the judging process on x-factor, and so at this point we are taking these 5 through to judges houses!!

Fill in the UCAS form - lots of helpful information for parents and students on the UCAS website and support should be abundant through school or college for this bit - and wait for the replies and hopefully the offers to come in.

Eldest son got his form in before they broke up for Christmas (well ahead of the January closing date) and started to see offers coming in quite soon after.

So what's my next post I'll cover choosing the firm and insurance choice (or universities that make the live finals!!)

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Seasons of life - where are you?

It's half term again and we are well into exam season in our house.  Which means that the summer is just beginning and it's time to change our schedule.

Word of the month - May - Cheneycraft blog
Summer is a much more relaxed affair around here.  As I only work term time, I am home with boys so we can get things done in more time.

This year though is somewhat different, which I'll explain in a bit.

I haven't updated the blog since February and in the meantime I have been looking at where I am in life and what is important to me.  I purchased the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle  which although is American based, is a great set of resources, offered for a limited amount of time at a great price.

Ultimate homemaking bundle 2016
Several of the eBooks on offer focused on organisation and making life simple, so I have working through these.  When I started he blog I wanted to share my crafting activities but also how I manage to fit everything in around a busy family life inspired by my faith. What I have realized is our family life has changed and the season we were in when I started is not where we are now.

I used to write the blog while the boys took their bath on a Sunday evening as we prepared for the week ahead.  Well they are grown teenagers now (and they will both be men by the end of the year!) and so that time I had carved out no longer exists.  What I have realized, however, is that I fit everything because I work term-time.  So some things slide during school time and then I tackle them, head on, when I get the luxury (and I fully appreciate how fortunate I am to work this way!) of long days at home to get things done.

My dawning realization has been that I need to embrace this and blog during my down time and not add to the pressures of my working weeks.  The boys are both off to university soon, one this year and one next year, so I only have the pleasure of their company for another 16 months (not thinking about this too much!!).  I want to make the most of that time and not be too busy filling up the day that I can't play Call of Duty (and I am under tuition for this!) when my youngest son wants to share his time with me or to be able to discuss what culinary needs the eldest will have at university later this year and work through his recipe repertoire.

Chocolate Meringue
My intention, therefore, is I might blog two or three times a week when I am home and then just occasionally during term time.  You are never far from my thoughts dear blog readers but I want to be present in my boys lives while I can and create memories and then as a by-product of this I will have more to write about.  Win-win I think.  I want to share more with you about I how achieve what I achieve, which is how I am wired (I took the Myers-Briggs personality test and I am a defender and the enneagram (pronounced any gram) test which showed I'm a helper (most mums are) and loyalist).

I'm off to plan the summer, high level plans only we ant room to be spontaneous, but this year is slightly different.  As I said I work term time but as the boys have officially finished college this week and just have exams and year 2 preparation classes to attend, we can go away on holiday before the schools break up.  SO, I'm splitting my summer break up and taking three weeks in July, then going to back to work (we have a project that benefits from me being in the office) and having the end of August and beginning of summer off.

Summer Planner - Cheneycraft blog
The Bible passage that has come up for today really ties in well with my personality test findings:

Rejoice with those who rejoice; 
mourn with those who mourn.
Romans 12:15 NIV

Our prayer as a family this week is for those who find the break from school routine hard, may they find peace in the time off.  We pray that those who are still studying will have the concentration they need and God's presence with them in their exams.

Take time to smell the flowers, hug the children, splash in puddles and play games (even if that's Call of Duty on the playstation).  The time with children passes oh so quickly.

Flowers in the garden - cheneycraft blog
With God's blessings, from my family to yours,

Jo x

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

For the love of crafting!

February whizzed past and I kept thinking I'll just finish these few jobs and write my blog post tomorrow and as you can tell tomorrow never came.  However February has been full of crafting opportunities for me so I have lots to share with you.

Word of the month - March = Spring
Our monthly family drop in session on the first Saturday in the month at church goes from strength to strength.  February we used God's love for us as the theme and the crafts on offer were:
  • A Love print made from finger painting spots over the page, masking off the word LOVE to leave a white space.
  • A heart arrow, using the glue gun, which caused great excitement, to stick a heart abnd a feather to each end of a straw.
  • A sun-catcher heart with words from Romans 5:8 written around the outside.
  • A paper aeroplane to colour in.
  • A hanging heart decoration made from 3 double sided (or 6 single sided) hearts stapled together.

Valentines day was during half term, so made small gifts for the boys and included Jacob's in his packing for his skiing trip to Switzerland.  The mouse shape was created from a heart folded in two and tail is a lolly pop.

A mouse for Valentine's day
During half term we had our film and craft morning at church and had over 100 people attend.  We made note holders with pompoms stuck on a peg and trees from hand prints and hand plants growing out of a plant pot (not shown).

Half term crafting
I also kept up with my Christmas card making and added some more to my stash, ready for writing later in the year. I loved the vintage images I picked up in a sale pack form The Range.

Christmas Cards -Rudolph Day jobs
First Saturday in March fell as the day before Mothering Sunday, so the them for Craft at drop in was Mother's.  The crafts included the handprint tree for those who hadn't made one in half term, a teapot gift bag containing two teabags (so Mum could have tea for two!) and two gorgeous animal pictures showing mummies and babies, put together using paper piecing from templates.

Mothering Sunday crafts
For a Mothering Sunday gift I had a quiet house all to myself while the family were elsewhere.  Josh went to Norway for the weekend with friends and to meet up with the family and scout he spent the summer with.  Andy and Jacob managed to get themselves on tele while watching Andy Murray in the Davis Cup (well I saw them as I knew where they were sitting!).  So I took the time to make some cards for my Mum, one for Mothering Sunday (as wasn't seeing her until the Monday) and her birthday card, which is later this month.  Safe in the knowledge that she doesn't use the computer I've included them below (normally I wait until an event so as not to spoil the surprise!).  Don't tell her but these came from another pack I found on sale in The Range.

Mothering Sunday cards

I'll update you on choose a university for Josh and how the Spring Cleaning challenge is going in upcoming posts.

The Bible verse for this week is reminder that through Christ, who died for us, that healing comes.  For us as Church this is quite timely as we are finding out about the Healing on the Streets movement.  It also reminds me of the healing I received at last year's Spring Harvest event for my painful shoulder, which although very occasionally still hurts, it not nearly as painful or frequent as it was.  Actually when the pain returns it often reminds me that I am trying to rely on my own strength and not God's, who has provided my healing. 

then know this, you and all the people of Israel: 
It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, 
whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, 
that this man stands before you healed. 
Salvation is found in no one else, 
for there is no other name under heaven 
given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Our prayer as a family this week continues to be for all those displaced by war or famine, who find themselves in a foreign country just trying to survive.  We pray that our country and other around us will reach out in love and accept these people, while working to make their homelands a safe place for them to return to in the future.  

We have only just celebrated Christmas, when we remember that Christ was not born at home but in a town far from his parent's home and in a stable, who then fled to a foreign land as a refugee.  Our faith is based on this history, can we so easily forget this when the inconvenience to our lives comes knocking on the door.

With God's blessings from my family to yours,

Jo x