Monday, 27 April 2015

11 things for parents to remember...

I followed a link to this article, written by Dr Stephen Cowan (a pediatrician for 25years) and I just had to share it - sometimes as parents (and humans) we get caught up in comparing ourselves and our children to others, or get bamboozled by the barrage of information spoon fed to us by the media. Take the time to read the article (link to original here).

 ***Images are of my own family.

11 Things I wish every parent knew:

1. Growth and development are not a race. 

These days we’re in such a rush to grow up. In our mechanized, post-industrialized world of speed and efficiency, we've forgotten that life is a process of ripening. To get good fruit, you need to nourish strong roots. Pay attention to the ground that supports your child’s life: Go for a walk with your child, eat with your child, play together, tell him a story about your experience as a child. 

2. Creating family traditions encourages strong roots and a healthy life. 

This takes time and practice. Personal traditions are sacred because they promote exchanges that strengthen bonds of love and intimacy and build the kind of confidence that will carry your child through this world. 

3. We grow in cycles. 

There is a rhythm and pulse to each child’s life – sometimes fast and intense, sometimes slow and quiet. Just as each spring brings a renewed sense of appreciation for life, each stage of a child’s life is a time of new discovery and wonder. After all, learning is not just a process of accruing information. It's the process of transforming our ideas, and sometimes this requires forgetting in order to see with fresh eyes. Some children will take a step backward before making a giant leap forward. 

Growing in cycles means that we don’t get just one chance to learn something. The same lesson will offer itself up to us again and again as we pass through the seasons of our life. There is deep forgiveness in this way of understanding childhood, which I find takes the pressure off parents to “get it right” the first time.
4. Encouragement is not the same as indulgence. 

We are not in the business of raising little kings and queens. Kings don’t do well in our society. Recent studies have shown that indulgence actually weakens your child’s powers to survive, deflating motivation and diminishing feelings of success. 

Encouragement means putting courage in your child, not doing things for him. Create a supportive context that will open up a path without pushing your child down it. Unconditional love is the scaffolding that encourages your child to take chances, to experiment, and to fail without judgment. Sometimes being an encouraging presence in your child’s life means standing a little off in the background, there to offer a compassionate hand when circumstances call for it, but trusting in his innate ingenuity. 

There is spaciousness in encouragement. Indulgence, on the other hand, limits freedom by inflating a child’s sense of entitlement and reducing the patience needed to work through obstacles when he doesn't instantly get his way. Indulgence leads to small-minded thinking.

5. Pushing your buttons is a spiritual practice, and children are our spiritual teachers. 

You don’t need an expensive spiritual retreat to become enlightened. Your little sage-teacher is right in front of you, offering you true wisdom free of charge! 

Children watch our every move when they're little, studying our inconsistencies as they try to figure out this crazy world. And they will call you on it. When a child pushes your buttons, remember: they are your buttons, not hers. Take the time to listen to what your child is trying to teach you. One of the secrets of parenthood is our willingness to transform ourselves out of love for our child. When you're willing to look at your buttons, you open up a deeper self-awareness that is transformative for both you and your child. 
6. A symptom is the body’s way of letting us know something has to change. 

Good medicine asks what is the symptom trying to accomplish? rather than simply suppressing it. Our body has its own intelligence and yet so much of pharmaceutical advertising tries to convince us that there is something wrong with feeling symptoms. Much of my medical training was focused on stopping symptoms as if they were the problem. (This is like telling the body to shut up. It’s rude!) We don't trust the body’s intelligence. We think too much and tend to be afraid of feelings in our body. 

But children have taught me that a symptom like fever is actually not the problem. Whatever is causing the fever may be a problem, but the temperature is simply the body’s way of trying to deal with what’s happening. 

Take, for example, the child with a fever. What other symptoms does the child have? If he is playful, you may not need to suppress the fever. It means the body is trying to make metabolic heat to mobilize the immune system. To help it do this, you can give warm (not cold) fluids so it doesn’t dry out and nourishing foods like soups to fuel the fire.

7. Be prepared. 

The one phrase from the Eagle Scout motto that stuck with me since I was a boy was Be prepared. This is a state of readiness that can be fueled by confidence or fear. 

These days I practice what I call “preparatory medicine” rather than preventive medicine, so that getting sick is not seen as a failure. Being healthy does not mean never getting sick. Life is a journey of ups and downs and the growing child lives in a constant state of flux. A resilient immune system is one that learns how to get sick and get better. Living too clean a life robs us of the information necessary to be fully prepared to recover. 

Rather than living in fear of illness, there are natural ways we can support our children to recovery from illness quickly and efficiently: good nutrition, hydration, probiotics, rest and exercise. But the most important? Rather than focusing on how often your child gets sick, celebrate how often she gets better.
8. Healing takes time. 

The most alternative medicine I practice these days is taking time. As a society, we're addicted to quick fixes because we have no time to be sick anymore. As a doctor, I was trained as a kind of glorified fireman, looking to put out emergencies quickly and efficiently. 

In emergencies, strong medicine is often necessary to save lives but most health problems in childhood are not emergencies. In those instances it takes more than strong medicine to get better; it takes time. I realize that taking another day off from work because a child has been sent home from school with a runny nose can add real stress to our already stressful lives. But children have taught me that healing is a kind of developmental process that has its own stages too. 

When we don’t take time to recover, we rob our children of the necessary stages they need to learn from if they are to develop long-lasting health. When we take time to recover, illness becomes a journey of discovery, not just a destination; we begin to see our health and illness as two sides of the same coin. 

9. The secret of life is letting go. 

Life is a process of constantly giving way. Things pushed past their prime transform into something else. Just as spring gives way to summer, so is each stage of development a process of letting go. Crawling gives way to walking. Babbling gives way to speaking. Childhood gives way to adolescence. By breathing in, you breathe out. By eating, you poop. 

Each season, each stage, each little rhythm of our life is a matter of letting go. This allows us to get rid of what we don't need to make room in our lives for new information. Learning to let go is not always easy and each child has his own adaptive style and timing. Nature favors diversity. Remember to honor your child’s unique nature. This is what my book Fire Child Water Child is all about. 

Perhaps the most important way children teach me how to let go is in the way they play. Playing means letting go of our inhibitions; it frees us up and allows us not to take ourselves too seriously. 

10. Trust yourself: You're the expert on your child. 

One of the most important things I teach new parents is how to trust themselves. Nowhere is this more daunting than when a new baby comes into our life. We’re expected to know everything and yet we feel like we know nothing. But children have taught me that this knowing-nothing can be a real opportunity to open our powers of intuition. 

Mindful parenting begins by listening with an open heart to your child’s life without fear or panic. Studies have shown that a mother’s intuition is more powerful than any lab test in picking up problems. Unfortunately today we are flooded with so much scary information that it interferes with our ability to listen to our own intuition. (Just think of the arrogance of a doctor who acts like he knows your child better than you do!) 

Take a tip from your baby. Look into your baby’s eyes. Imagine what it feels like to be conscious of the world before you have language, before all those labels that scare us and divide things into good and bad, right and wrong. Babies have no enemies. This is seeing from the source. It is what Zen Buddhists call “beginner’s mind.” Watch closely how your baby breathes with his belly. This is Qigong breathing. Stop thinking for a moment and try breathing this way. You may just find the answers you need waiting for you there.

11. Take the long view. (Because it’s easy to get caught in the immediacy of a problem, especially at 2am.)

Having watched thousands of children grow into adulthood, what sometimes seems like a big deal at four-months old or 14-years old may be no more than a small bump in the road. Children have taught me how to take the long view of life. When we step back and see the big picture of our lives, we discover wisdom and compassion.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Earth Day

Happy Earth Day 2015!

Earth Day is an annual event, celebrated on April 22nd, aiming to raise awareness for environmental protection. The event was first celebrated in the United States of America in 1970, and today is celebrated in over 190 countries around the world. 

Being such a widely recognised event, there are endless activities for all ages. The Earth Day Network provides "The Climate Education Week Toolkit", which is a free, easy-to-use, and has ready-to-go resources with everything you need. The Toolkit includes a week’s worth of lesson plans, activities, and contests for K-12 students that meet Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core (and would also easily meet Australian and other countries standards). Each day covers a different theme related to climate change with two highlighted activities handpicked by Earth Day Network for your use.
If you just want some simply, fun activities head to Pinterest -a teacher (and stay-at-home/home-schooling parents) best friend! You'll find a tonne of activities, from simple find-a-words and colouring-in pages, to science experiments and writing activities. 

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Mummy/Teacher Style

It's a fine line to look professional as a teacher and yet be comfortable in your clothes, knowing they could end up with paint, glitter, chalk, texta or bodily fluids on them! The same goes for being a Mum - you want to maintain your sense of style and look put-together, but you don't want to wear you're epensive labels for fear of having them ruined by your little one! 

With a start to the cooler months here in Oz (bye-bye shorts, hello jackets!) I've turned my attention to my Autumn/Winter wardrobe. While we don't get REALLY cold days here in Wollongong, our days can start off quite fresh, so the key is layering. After having my two boys, my wardrobe has been thinned out due to weight, size and shape changes, so I'm always on the lookout for items that are versatile and can be worn at home; doing the grocery shop; jumping around at Gymbaroo; and running around at the local park whilst maintaining a sense of style and sophistication - and can also be worn to work in the classroom!

I have always loved a good chambray shirt - a chambray dress shirt even more! Thanks to Allison over at Utterly Organised I came across one of this beauty at Coles - for $29!!! What a steal! Like Allison, I was aiming to purchase one from Country Road but who could pass this bargain buy up! I will be using this purchase as an everyday/classroom item - at $29 I don't care what ends up on it! I'm hoping it washes and wears well (time will tell - stay tuned!)

The shirt-dress is good because:
  • it's comfy, yet stylish
  • can be dressed down or up
  • flattering - the waist tie is great
  • a good length - I'm 176cm (5'9") and I was amazed at the length! Can be worn with or without tights/stockings
  • Sleeves can be rolled up or down 
  • Great for breastfeeding mums as it is button-up
While I was there, I checked out the rest of the Coles "Mix Apparel" range and picked up two basic stripped shirts - one long and the other medium sleeved - perfect for the cooler months.These will be great layering pieces that could be paired with my puffer vest, a nice blazer or cardigan, or worn on their own with a nice scarf or necklace.

Monday, 6 April 2015

ANZAC Day resources

There are some topics that are difficult to approach with young children - war is one of those topics. But thanks to some fantastic authors and illustrators we are able to share stories and discuss the topic of war in a gentle way that educates and enlightens our children to something that is generally an unpleasant and sometimes unspoken topic.  

ANZAC Day (April 25th) marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. 

ANZAC stands for: Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. 
To find out more about this important national occassion, head to the Australia War Memorial site.

After seeing a lot of requests on social media sites for books and activities to use with students to teach them about ANZAC day, I started researching the best books and activities for teachers to use for various age groups/year groups.

Storybooks for Preschoolers, Kindergarten, Year 1 & 2 students (Infants):

Author: Phil Cummings

Illustrator: Owen Swan
Publisher: Scholastic Australia, March 2013
Suitable for ages: 5+
Anzac Biscuits is a story that goes beyond the experiences of soldiers. It shows the private moments of families who are left behind to worry about their fathers, brothers, uncles and sons. Laid out over alternate pages, Phil Cummings cleverly tells two stories simultaneously. A young man fights a war on the other side of the world while his wife and daughter bake Anzac Biscuits for him.

Author: Margaret Wild
Illustrator: Freya Blackwood
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia, January 2013
Suitable for ages: 5+
After a library is burned down during the war, a young boy and his father keep the last surviving book safe in a treasure box. Even though they had fled their home, and the boy had lost his father and was too weak to carry his suitcase, he kept his promise to keep the book safe.
The Treasure Box starts with visions of war but symbolises identity, nationality, survival, hope and perseverance.

Author: David Hill
Illustrator: Fifi Colston
Publisher: Scholastic New Zealand Limited, March 2012
Suitable for ages: 6+
The powerful story of one man’s fight in the trenches and the little messenger dog who saved him. Young soldier Jim McLeod waits in the trenches of World War I for the order to attack the enemy. With him are his friends, and Nipper, the messenger dog. When they charge across no-man’s-land, Jim is shot and finds himself face to face with an enemy soldier.

Authors: Susie Brown and Margaret Warner
Illustrator: Sebastian Ciaffaclione
Publisher: Little Hare (Hardie Grant Egmont), April 2012
Suitable for ages: 6+
Lone Pine touches on battle and the loss of lives, but its main focus is to show how a pine tree and its scattered pine cones have connected families, generations and countries through memorial and remembrance. Lone Pine is the combination of emotional text and wistful illustrations. It is the true story of the pine tree that currently stands in the grounds of the Australian War Memorial.

Author: Sally Murphy
Illustrator: Sonia Kretschmar
Publisher: Walker Books Australia, March 2012
Suitable for ages: 5+
Henri lives in the French village of Villers-Bretonneux. Billy lives in Melbourne, Australia. These two little boys, who live thousands of miles away from each other, share one story that unites Villers-Bretonneux and Melbourne in history. A moving and inspiring story of World War One.

Author and Illustrator: Mark Greenwood and Frane Lessac
Publisher: Walker Books Australia, March 2008
Suitable for ages: 5+
Set during World War I, 'Simpson and his Donkey' is a child friendly story about the difficult topic of war and the heroes that arise from it.

Author: Catriona Hoy and Bejamin Johnson
Publisher: Hachette Australia, February 2008
Suitable for ages: 4+
This is a simple and emotive story that shows how war service can bring generations together. It is a story of a young girl who participates in formal Anzac Day events with her father and grandfather. Readers walk away from the book with a strong need to remember and pass on the stories of our national servicemen and women. My Grandad Marches on Anzac Day includes a detailed foreword about Anzac day and the ode.

Author: Jack O’Hagan
Illustrator: Andrew McLean
Publisher: Omnibus Books (Scholastic Australia), February 2014
Suitable for ages 7+
The lyrics of well-known Australian song,"Along the Road to Gundagai" convey the hopeful and optimistic thoughts of a soldier as he fights in WW1. This picture book adaptation features beautiful illustrations- some wordless- that alternate between the soldier’s reality and his dreams.

Author: Mark Greenwood
Illustrator: Frane Lessac
Publisher: Walker Books, February 2014
Suitable for ages: 7+
This is the extensively-researched story of Midnight and her rider, Lieutenant Guy Haydon, who were part of the Australian Light Horse’s Charge on Beersheba in October, 1917. Frane’s rich and remarkable illustrations compliment this very touching story.

Storybooks for Year 3, 4, 5 & 6 students (Primary):

Author: Kerry Greenwood
Illustrator: Annie White
Publisher:  Scholastic Press, March 2014
Suitable for ages: 8+
Kerry Greenwood shares her father’s story in a heart-warming tale of two mates who are initially excited about their post, but soon realise that their friendship is paramount in helping them get through the terror of fighting at Gallipoli. The story is quite detailed and lengthy, but is supported by a range of stunning water-coloured illustrations and sketches of personal sepia-coloured photographs.

Author: John Schumann
Illustrator: Craig Smith
Publisher: Allen & Unwin, February 2014
Suitable for ages: 10+
Craig Smith brings John Schumann’s confronting war-themed song to life with illustrations rich in meaning and emotion. The text and illustrations will undoubtedly give parents and teachers much to discuss with children, in particular the human cost of war.

Author: Martin Flanagan
Illustrator: Ainsley C. Walters
Publisher: One Day Hill, December 2011
Suitable for ages: 9+
'Archie’s Letter' effectively combines personal recount and primary sources to provide children with a comprehensive and heart-wrenching account of one soldier’s war experience.
Archie, a teacher and a writer, kept records of his experiences in letters and poems during World War II. He wrote poignantly about working under Japanese rule on the Burma Railway, disease, abuse, death and working alongside ‘Weary’ Dunlop.
Archie’s children noticed that their father was different from other men. Quiet and withdrawn he would deal with his grief without inflicting hate on the ones around him. In 2002, Archie met with an elderly Japanese woman who wanted to know the truth about World War II. She helped him to forgive the Japanese for their wrong doings towards him and his friends.

The Horses Didn’t Come Home
Author: Pamela Rushby
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd
Suitable for ages: 10+
This is the harrowing tale of the horses that bravely fought with the Australian soldiers in the Battle of Beersheba. It is a part of Australia’s military history which is not widely known.
The story is shared between two characters - Laura is at home in Australia, and her horse was sent to the Middle East to be used during World War I battles. The second character is Harry, a soldier fighting in the Battle of Beersheba with his sister’s horse, Bunty. Harry sends many letters to Laura, and never shields her from the truth. It is in a poem written by Trooper Bluegum that she learns the fate of her horse.
The Australian soldiers won the battle with the help of their loyal steeds. Ultimately the horses would not be given the respect they deserved though. Deemed too expensive and difficult to return home to Australia many were killed and others were sold to English and Indian armies. Many devastated soldiers, including Harry, illegally destroyed their horses to ensure abuse and torture would not come their way.
Pamela Rushby credits her inspiration and research sources. She provides a glossary for readers and a background to the story at the back of the book.

Activities for Preschoolers, Kindergarten, Year 1 & 2 students (Infants):


Activities for Year 3, 4, 5 & 6 students (Primary):



And for all age groups, making ANZAC cookies is always a great activity. For your littlies, you could do a cut and paste step-by-step procedural activity, and for your lower and upper primary students you could have them cut and paste the recipe in order or find their own and write it out.

I hope this has been helpful. Please share any other resources you really like doing with your students below.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

World Autism Awareness Day - April 2nd

Happy World Autism Awareness Day followers!

Today, and the whole month of April, is dedicated to raising awareness and understanding for Autism Spectrum Disorders. This year, instead of asking everyone to go blue, you are encouraged to dress in bright colours and celebrate the spectrum! 

If you want to know more about Autism, watch this interview with Temple Grandin - a leading expert and advocate for in understanding and celebrating Autism.

And here, Kermit the Frog explains and demonstrates how to think visually - a frog way ahead of his time!

Here are some great sites that provide activities and tools to help raise awareness and understanding for ASD:

Colourful Lava Lamp Sensory Bags

Sensory Bins

Autism Speaks - Puzzle Piece Project

Apps for Autism

I hope you have a wonderful day, and month, celebrating the spectrum!
#coloursforautism #celebratethespectrum