Thursday, 29 May 2014

reaching homework goals - the family partnership

A change of schools for Tom this year brought an unexpected challenge - learning a new language.  For the past few years he's studied Japanese at school.  He's now learning Indonesian, with a new set of vocabulary to learn each week.  Mixed in with increased demands for class homework, the language revision was falling by the wayside.

It wasn't until a friend mentioned she'd been testing her son on the latest vocabulary set that it clicked for me - I had a role to play in this as well.  I printed out copies of the worksheets for home and I've created a folder for them.  I've also given Tom a dedicated workbook where he does his nightly revision and can check his progress.

Each school night, I sit down with Tom to test his vocabulary.  We concentrate on that week's set and if time permits, we revise one from a previous week.  He writes down both the English and Indonesian words which we both feel aids his memory - helping him to continually associate both words together.

Over the past couple of months, Tom's lifted his results from low to very high.  His teacher is very happy with his improvement Tom's delighted with his progress.

The takeaway from this for me has been the role that I, as a parent, need to play in my children's learning.  Homework skills are something children need to develop - when they can see, for example, the role regular revision plays in lifting grades, they have instant feedback that what they're doing is making a difference.

Your own experiences and particular skills can help your children - sitting down with your children at night during homework time doesn't mean you're doing the homework for them - it's being a guiding hand and playing your role in their learning partnership.

How does your family approach homework?  Any tips and tricks?

Monday, 19 May 2014

choosing from the dessert cabinet of life

On the weekend, we had an early celebration for Tom’s birthday.  Lately, there’s been a slight easing of finances.  We budgeted, then, on taking the birthday boy to choose his very own bike.  This was to be followed by both morning tea and lunch in a cafe and a trip to the local car museum.  

In short, a once in a lifetime treat kind of day.

In the cafe, the choices were amazing.  There was a section with delicious looking pastries: doughnuts, turnovers, Danish treats.  Over the other side, however, was the dessert cabinet, which really upped the ante.  It caught Tom and Sophie’s eye.

I instantly remembered being their age and looking wistfully at the dessert cabinet, only to be turned back and given my choices - usually an iced or cinnamon doughnut.  Don’t get me wrong: between the cinnamon and the flavours of icing (not to mention with sprinkles or without), there was usually a great variety from which to choose.

This didn’t matter, however, as I wanted something from the dessert cabinet.

I could feel the kids’ excitement and I didn’t want to dampen their day.  The only limitation I placed was on Tom with the Black Forrest Cake - I absolutely knew he wouldn’t like the chocolatey-cherry flavour, no matter how sophisticated his taste buds have become (a Primary School boy who likes raw mushrooms is pretty impressive in my book!).  He ended up with a chocolate iced doughnut with fancy white stripes on top - a doughnut nevertheless, but it was his choice.

Sophie, however, became hooked on the chocolate mouse - it was something she just had to have.  I thought ‘mouse’ was so delightful, I couldn’t bear to correct her.  I also thought maybe she wouldn’t like it, but I wanted her to be able to make her own choice. 

I wanted her to know that sometimes we can choose from the dessert cabinet instead of the pastry section.

I wanted her to know that sometimes stuff from the dessert cabinet tastes good and sometimes it’s no better than our every day choices.

It wouldn’t be something she could have all the time, but on a day where all the usual restraints went out the window, it was her decision to make.

Even after the first mouthful, I could tell she wasn’t really keen, but I didn’t want to offer a substitute.  To sit there and eat a chocolate mousse that had looked absolutely amazing, but tasted perhaps slightly ordinary, was something I wanted her to be able to do.  I wanted her to quietly know her own choice and to be given the space to do so.

Soph ate, mouthful by mouthful, and ended up disappointed by her dessert.  To my eyes - as I didn’t interrupt her for a taste - it looked like a dry mousse, not the lightly aerated version of my own dreams.  

The small pieces of dried fruit were a further disappointment, but all part of the discovery.

I wasn’t prepared to offer a swap - my dessert for hers, or taste hers to see what it was like and how I could describe, perhaps, the other, nicer chocolate mousse that we could make at home one day.  

I just wanted her to have this experience.

I wanted Sophie - in fact, all three of my children - to know that these choices may look better than those we are usually given, but sometimes they disappoint.  By the same token, I very much want them to know these things can be just as delicious and wonderful as promised - like everything, there is good and bad no matter what the choice.

To Sophie’s credit, she didn’t ask for anything else.  She was actually very good about it all and she handled the situation with a lot of maturity. 

I don’t want her to think the dessert cabinet of life is not for her, to go through life feeling as though she’s missing out.  It’s a message I’d like her to understand on so many levels, something I’ve taken until now to consciously realise.  If Sophie can understand that at the age of seven, I think she will be ahead of the game.

What about you, my friends?

How do you approach the dessert cabinet of life?

Thursday, 15 May 2014

spider crochet

On mother's day we woke to a heavy fog.  When I finally pulled myself out of bed, I was rewarded with these delicate works gracing the almost-bare autumn branches of my purple crabapple.  There were three webs in total (see below) each dotted thickly with dew and spaced with great intent.
Perfectly crocheted, these webs showed starkly against the bare green fence - our next major area of work in the back garden.  I took countless photos, trying to get them all focussed and in the shot at the same time.  The slight angles of the branches and lack of a tripod made this more difficult than I thought.
From this aspect, the webs aren't as easy to see, but they have a far more attractive background!  I'll be keeping my eye out to see if it happens again and use a tripod next time.  It always seems much quicker to run outside without one, but then it takes longer to focus and without such crisp results...

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

the writer's edition: month 13 check-in

My new habit of writing whenever I can has paid off this month.  I've now reached a total of 65,000 words, leaving 15,000 to go before I achieve my target.  This is very much a first draft and no matter how I try to shape the text, it often wants to do its own thing.  It's the evolution of the storyline - going from something I've envisaged to developing in its own right.  This is a combination of character development and plot and is just as interesting to me as the reader as it unfolds.

It's been fantastic to realise that while I don't feel as though I've written an enormous amount, I've added over 6000 words since the start of April - amazing!  The main time I'm able to sneak in a bit of writing is between breakfast and my shower.  By then, Tom has left the house and there's quite a stretch before Sophie leaves for school.  There's usually some kind of chaos going on in the background, made easier if Jono and Soph are playing in one of the bedrooms, however I don't always have that luxury!

This next month's goal - apart from the ever-growing word count - is to keep working with my main characters and letting them take me where they want to go.  Currently they're acting as joint narrators, however  I'm not sure whether this will happen in the final draft - it's something I'll continue with for now and see how it evolves.  There's also a cast of minor characters that changes to suit the storyline - I wonder how many of them will make the final cut?!

Until next month...

(Chinese lanterns picked from the garden - looking stunning right now!)

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

knowing when your family is complete...

Last week I said a final goodbye to my remaining baby paraphernalia - the cot, high chair, Bumbo and one of the prams were donated to the local church fete.  It was a farewell that needed to be said, an acknowledgement that my baby days are over - a decision that's been firmly considered and agreed on between Joe and I for quite some time.
We're both from large families - I'm one of four and Joe is fifth out of six children.  We both thought four would be a good number and planned on that for quite some time.  When Jono (our third) was a baby, he was the most beautiful thing and we thought he definitely needed another brother or sister.
Now that the children are older - Tom is soon to be 11, Sophie is 7 1/2 and Jono is 3 - we know that our family is complete.  I can hold a baby without pangs and longing and I know with absolute certainty that we are done.  In a funny way, it's like the lead up to having your first baby, when the midwives would say that you'd just know you were in labour…  when your baby days are over, you just know.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

flowers are for picking...

Years ago I knew somebody who grew wonderful roses whose blooms were not for picking.  They grew large and blowsy on the plant and never knew the touch of the vase.  Nearly two decades later, I am in stark contrast to my old friend.  I'd prefer to have more flowers inside than out where I can't see or smell them - and I'm not the only one to have the bug...

Jono's a keen picker (yanker?) of flowers and goes about his work with pure glee.  You can't see the dirt stain where he fell on the ground, when the plant proved too strong for his efforts, but it's testament to his great enthusiasm for the harvest.
For me?!  Between Jono and I - and the rest of the family - there needs to be a good supply of flowers…  which perhaps might go some way to justify the large number of bare-rooted roses I bought yesterday, don't you think?  After all, flowers are for picking, aren't they?!