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Notes from A Year in Retrospect – 2011

1. Parenting – Year 5. Time flies when you’re having fun!

2. Primary School – Year 1. “Can I be ‘Tuck’ today?”

3. A Funeral, and then..

4. A Wedding (Just one of each and in that order)

5. Baby teeth transitions – lost two teeth and an experience with Shark Teeth (thankfully no intervention necessary! phew)

6. Berlin at Christmas time –Christmas markets , Gluhwein, curry wurst, schnitzel, sauerkraut and a whole lot of history, plus bits of the Berlin wall.

7. Xelium – Year 2 – what a ride it’s been!

If you haven’t already listed them, what have the highlights of the past year been?
If you already have a reflections post, do add your link in the comments and I’ll go have a read.

Aug 28, 2011 - Conversations, Life, Parenting, Random    2 Comments

Conversations with Georgia: Police Dogs

Travelling in the car along the motorway, Georgia remains unusually silent for quite a while, and then she asks

G: Mum, do you know what police dogs do?
Me: Hhmmm….what do they do?
G: They look for bad people, thieves and all that, by smelling them.
Me: Oh, do bad people smell different?
G: I DON’T KNOW – but dogs can smell them!

So there you are – bad people, you’d better behave – Police dogs can smell you.

Jun 17, 2011 - Family, Life, Random    2 Comments

Hair bobbles, hair bobbles everywhere, no more.

I really should have posted this amazingly simple bit of organisation that 5-year old Georgia was thoroughly taken with, on Sunday when it took place.

If your girl is anything like mine, you would undoubtedly be overflowing with hair bobbles, hair pins, hair ribbons….everything remotely hair related! We found an excellent, relatively cheap way of organising it all using craft toolkit boxes. We got ours, Craft box, that is, at The Works for £1.99, but we have also seen them in The Range.

Hair organisation

Apart from moving to a bigger house, have you any other great tips for organising kids stuff?

Jun 10, 2011 - Family, Random    2 Comments

Post-it Art

Jun 9, 2011 - Life, Random    3 Comments

In the Papers with a Monster Mask!

During half term last week, we did our obligatory library run, popping in, after our wander around the local market.

There we stumbled upon a ‘Monsters’ session where the very calm, very patient Library Manager who proceeded to read 4 monster-based story books, including the required Gruffalo.

After that, the children (all 4 of them!) moved to a craft table to make some monster themed craft (a monster mask, and some monsters to colour in).

A local press photographer had turned up and took numerous photos for the weekly local paper. It was too late for the article to make the run that half-term week, so Georgia waited very patiently for the Monmouthshire Free Press, that comes out only on Wednesdays.

She was rewarded with this ….
Monmouthshire Free Press

No Limits, Please!

In our adult roles as parents, carers, teachers and educators it is inevitable that a large part of our responsibility encompasses placing limits on our children. As responsible adults, it falls on us to limit the amount of television they watch or the number of sweets and chocolates they can have in a day. Perhaps we think about how we can limit negative behaviour and encourage positive behaviour instead. These types of limits are necessary for the good of the child. However, not all limits are positive and sometimes they seem unnecessary and may often be detrimental.

I first became aware of these potentially detrimental (often unnecessary) limits when Georgia started at nursery school. It all started when I learnt more about the phonics system that is in use here in the UK to teach reading.

Georgia spends a lot of time with books and surrounded by books (a confession here: My main weakness is shopping for neither clothes nor shoes but books!). We first started looking at alphabet books and learning letters by their letter names and their relevant phonetical sounds. So from about 2, she knew that an ‘A’ (letter name) sounded ‘ah’ (phonetical sound) and so on.

Later on when she started at nursery school, she came home referring to letters, bizzarely, only by their phonetical sounds. This was when I did a bit more digging around on the Web and found out that children here are not taught letter names for fear that they would get confused!

So 4-6 year olds are ONLY taught the phonetical sounds of each letter without being told their letter names (I don’t know why they bother to teach the ABC song then really). At some point in their primary school life, probably at about 7 or 8 years of age, these children who up until then have only referred to letters by their phonetical sounds are then taught the letter names.

What baffles me completely is why there exists the assumption that children would find it confusing to learn letter names along-side letter sounds? My personal opinion and experience tells me that such limits are very unnecessary and often only serve to tell the children that they are inferior and incapable, while the fact is, if these limits are removed they are actually very capable of much greater achievements.

How would you know something is difficult, if you didn’t know that it was hard in the first place? In my book, children do not have enough experience to know whether things are easy or hard, they may have a preference, likes and dislikes, but with no prior experience, the perception of something difficult is often a ‘borrowed’ concept.

I observed a similar ‘self-limiting’ experience recently with music instruction.

Georgia’s school participates in a fantastic scheme called The Infants’ Strings Project. Through this project, all children at Reception (4-5 year olds) are taught to play the violin and some are offered the cello.

We too have a quarter sized cello at home and Georgia and I have been ‘playing’ with it for the past year and a half now. As I found it quite difficult to get hold of cello instruction books suitable for 3.5 year olds, I decided to design a very simple set of notes based on a music staff with some visually appealing images.

So we had notes for C, G, D and A (the open strings on the cello) printed on a staff with the bass clef and the music count. I also incorporated different note values. Because it did not occur to me that it might be difficult for Georgia, and I carried on teaching her based on ‘normal’ music notes. I found that it took only a couple of tries before she actually recognised and remembered the notes. In short, she could actually read music.

We have recently started formal music lessons with a lovely teacher who also participates in the Infant Strings Project and I found out from her that the children are only taught to recognise coloured notes (a colour denotes a note) without a staff and without note values.

This seemed to be yet another case of telling the children what they cannot do without actually letting them try to reach their potential.

Would you believe then, with no limits attached – the deaf can hear and the blind can see?

Take the case of (Think and Grow Rich, 1937) Napoleon Hill’s son, Blair, born without ears and on further examination, apparently had no possibility of hearing, and yet with unmistakable belief and no limits he was eventually able to gain most if not all of his hearing (with a hearing aid).

If this is not convincing enough, hear Caroline Casey for yourself….and remember – No Limits!

An Epitaph to a Fish

Here lies little blue fishie,
In a pink polka dot box,
I didn’t know her when she lived,
But I’ll miss her now she’s gone.

Oh the tears the tears!

As we had breakfast this morning, I spotted a female guppy, floating belly-up. As we proceeded to remove the expired fish (destined for the compost collection), Georgia’s lower lip starts quivering, then her eyes start reddening and welling up, and in a blink, we have grief in full force.

Horrible as it may sound, it was rather difficult to make sense of it all, from a Parenting perspective. That one guppy was actually one of about 50, with more new babies too. Georgia had not actually formed any real attachment to that fish in particular.

In fact, in a later conversation, while she was still upset….
Me: The blue fishie is OK. She’s just gone on to a different place now.
G: It was a blue fishie?…..but I will miss that blue fishie.

But then as we know, we all deal with grief in different ways. Perhaps G was really thinking of something else, and the fish provided an ‘outlet’. Whatever the cause, it was quite an interesting lesson in the full circle of life, and because I subscribe to Buddhist-type beliefs, it was a great lesson on the impermanance of life.

Thankfully, school today provided a much needed distraction. Although it pretty much set the tone for the day.

We promised her ‘closure’, so we made a coffin (origami paper box), she founds some daisies and other bits to put in it. And because she’s been doing prayers in school, we said a little one for the fish.

Fishie go to sleep and rest now
You’ll be happy now.
Amen.

Phew! I’m glad it’s tomorrow in 5 minutes time.

May 3, 2011 - Life, Random    2 Comments

Scenes from the Weekend

I know it’s already Tuesday, and possibly even Wednesday in some parts of the world, but I thought it would be nice to share some pictures of the lovely places we visited over the weekend.

Avebury, in Wiltshire, the village is home to the lesser known of the Stone Circles, the Stonehenge being the most well-known. Unlike the Stonehenge, you can go right up and touch the stones at Avebury.

It is apparently the largest stone circle in Europe. The stones as they are arranged span across three fields, and a village sits right in the midst of all the circles. Read more about it here.

We passed some spectacular scenery along the way. The photos were taken from a moving car, so might not be as clear. The fields of Rape, not a nice name, but what pretty flowers!

Apr 22, 2011 - Family, Learning, Life, Random    2 Comments

A fan of A & E – A Stomach for Blood and Gore

Accident & EmergencyWe have spent the past four days or so in London, mixing both business and pleasure  family time. While DH and I alternately attended a work-related conference we decided that as it was the Easter holidays, we might as well have G tag along.
Among the various places we visited and this we did, who would have thought, that the most surprising revelation came in the hotel room.
If you have read some of my earlier posts, you might have guessed that we hardly if ever watch any TV at home. So every holiday, Georgia tries to catch up on what she doesn’t actually miss 😉
At the end of our first day, having visited the British Museum and catching up with TL and Ari, we relented and allowed her some wind-down time, in front of the tele, and of all the things she chooses to watch…..A&E as in Accident and Emergency!
For those of you who might not know, the A&E series here in the UK follows 2-3 real-life A&E patients through their A&E experience, so while some cases might be relatively blood-free, some are completely gore-y.
So anyway, even with the range of Freeview channels on, Georgia chooses to watch this bizarre bloody gore. Both DH and I could not bear to watch, so we distracted ourselves reading, but kept an eye on her, and it was really surprising, she was really genuinely interested and not the least bit fazed by it. I half expected her to have a fitful sleep but was pleasantly surprised.
Among the cases that were on that night, LOOK AWAY NOW if you can’t stomach blood and gore!
– A ladies ear that was almost completely detached during a fall; full-view surgery which included cleaning and disinfecting the ear’s cartilage
– An absurd somewhat bizarre gadget related injury, in which a stylus was lodged in girl’s tonsil (it was sticking out of her mouth) – how, I cannot imagine!
You may look again now.
Through it all, Georgia watched fascinated, with unflinching eyes stuck to the TV. She watched riveted.
So….I wonder is the fear or stomach for blood and gore learned behaviour, or do some people just naturally have a higher threshold? We wondered also if it’s because she does not as yet, have preconceptions of bloodiness and goriness and all of it is just fascinating?
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