Thursday, February 4, 2010

School Holidays in Australia

After my last post, I thought it might be a good idea to write a little about school holidays in Australia.

The school year begins on either the last week of January or the first week of February. The school year consists of four terms, each of which is between eight and eleven weeks long. There is a two-week holiday between each term. Term four ends in mid-December at the start of the summer holiday, which is about six weeks long.

The exact dates of the terms vary slightly from state to state in Australia. The timing of the first two-week holiday usually coincides with Easter, so it may begin in either March or April. The winter holiday is usually in early July and there is a spring holiday in October. Bear in mind that the seasons are reversed in Australia, so April is in the autumn, July is in the middle of winter, October is in Spring and December is the height of summer! I still find it quite strange after living here for more than two years!

Unlike in the UK, there are no half-term holidays, so the children attend school for between eight and eleven weeks without a break. I've found that this can be quite exhausting for the children (and for the teachers and parents, too!), especially if the term is a long one!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

January Shutdown?

First of all, I hope that you all had a very merry Christmas and will have a wonderful new year!

It seems as if the Christmas/New Year holiday is lingering into January in the small town where I live. I've been surprised to find that many of the small businesses are closed for the first, second, and even the third week of January, in some cases. It's also very quiet around town. I think many people go away for a few weeks at this time of year. Some go to the coast to escape the heat, which is a good idea!

We've stayed at home, however, and the good thing is that we've found plenty to do in the school holidays without spending much money. I guess the fact that so many shops are closed is a good thing, as it reduces the temptation to spend money. I usually find it much harder to save money during the school holidays, as I seem to end up spending money on amusements for the children, but this time it hasn't been too difficult.

Instead of shopping, we have:

  • been to the park. I have never lived in a town where there are so many parks! It's great for the kids!! There are at least six parks within easy walking distance of our house. I rotate our visits to each park, so that the children don't get bored with any one park! At two of the parks, there is outdoor fitness equipment, so that the adults can have a workout too!
  • gone for walks. There is a beautiful walking trail around the edge of town. I've been for short walks with the children during the day and for longer walks with my husband and the children at the weekend. On a few occasions, we've taken a picnic and stopped and eaten on the way.
  • visited friends and had friends over. It's great for the children as they can all play together in the garden and the adults get to have some adult conversation without being interrupted too much!!
  • gone to the library. We have a great local library with a wonderful children's section. They also have a summer reading programme for school-age children, who receive a reward each time they have read 3 books. Once they have read 10 books, they go into a draw for more prizes. This has given my daughter a great incentive to borrow books and read them by herself! I've also seen her reading improve over the holidays, which is great too!
  • gone to an indoor play area. This one was a bit more expensive but worth it! It was a very hot day, so the children wouldn't have been able to play outside. The indoor play area was air-conditioned, so the children were able to have a fun time for a few hours. There was also a nice cafe where we had lunch.
  • gone to the cinema. Again, this cost a bit of money, but it was nice to do as a treat. Once again, it was a hot day, so the air conditioning in the cinema was a welcome relief from the heat!
  • gone to the McDonald's play area. We don't eat much at McDonald's but sometimes it's great just to go there and buy drinks and ice creams and let the children play for a while in the play area, which they love. A McCafe has recently opened and I enjoy grabbing a coffee from there while the children play...and sometimes I even get chance to read the newspaper!!
So, as you can see, there are many cost-effective things to do during the school holidays, even if you live in a small town which is partly closed down in January!