Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Back to School

Today our girls went back to school for the new year 2015. After a two month summer break it's a big change in routine - especially since we've just returned from a month's family backpacking holiday in Asia.

Just now the girls are full of the excitement of the new school year. Our eldest is starting high school (grade 7 here in Australia), which means new subjects, moving around classrooms for each lesson, getting a locker, and generally feeling much more grown up.  Our youngest is starting grade 5, and this is her first year of wearing the skirt and shirt uniform rather than a dress. She will also get her school laptop in a couple of weeks time, which is another source of excitement and anticipation.

Both girls have Naplan tests this year (government standardized school testing) which is something we will be looking at over the coming weeks and months.

After school sports and activities will start to begin over the next few weeks, and afternoons will begin to fill up with swimming, hockey, chess and who knows what new things this year!

The beginning of a school year is always full of promise and excitement. We're all hoping to make the most of the opportunities it presents to our girls and to us as a family.

Let's see what the school year of 2015 will bring!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Teaching your kids to be an individual

The ALS ice-bucket challenge

Yesterday, I watched a snippet of video of an Australian newsreader, nominated for the ALS ice-bucket challenge, politely declining to do it.  He did so by explaining his reasoning behind his decision. You can watch that video here.  This video provoked a huge reaction in the comments - both positive and negative.  Personally, I think he explained his reasoning very well. The ice-bucket challenge has raised awareness of the disease ALS and has also raised a large amount of money. Celebrities, friends, acquaintances, everyone seems to be getting involved but I admire this newsreader for his courage to stand up and be an individual; not just follow along, even though the movement in favour of the challenge is huge. Everyone has the right to their own opinions and choices.

This video, together with a couple of other things I read and saw recently, made me think about peer pressure, and how to teach our kids to stand up for what they believe in, no matter what everyone else around them is doing.

"The nail that sticks up gets hammered down."

Have you heard this expression, also known as "the tall poppy syndrome"? These expressions show the importance of 'fitting in'. Which let's admit, most of us want to do.

We learn what is and isn't acceptable within society or a group and we conform to a large extent in order to be accepted.

When peer pressure and conforming is good

Sometimes, peer pressure can be a good thing. It can help us overcome fears, perhaps try new things that we wouldn't otherwise try.  It can give us the courage to do things that may be difficult. 

For example, at my girls' school assembly this week, they showed a video of an actor pretending to be injured in the street. The video showed just how many people ignored the man, despite his calls for help. Individuals were reluctant to help. However, once one person decided to see if the man was ok, more people joined in, trying to be of assistance.  The idea was to show that it's often easier to do things when we work together - safety in numbers so to speak. Everyone likes to be part of the group. Most people don't want to be the one to stand out and do something different.

But - what if we didn't have those few people who make the first move, initiate the movements?

How do we teach our kids when it's important to stand out and be different?

To put it simply, I think we need to instil values and beliefs in our children at a young age, and the importance of staying true to these values.

How do you know when it's OK to succumb to peer pressure?  and when to resist?  You have to follow your own values and beliefs. If they are clear and strong enough in your child's mind, then you have to hope they have the courage to stand by them, regardless of what people around them may say or think.

It's also important to lead by example, show them that you take the initiative at times and start movements rather than just follow the crowd. 
Encourage your children to follow through with ideas they have for things to do. To start clubs, or try new sports and activities that aren't just ones their friends do already.

By encouraging our kids to be individuals, we are showing them how to be leaders not just followers.

There is nothing wrong with following a movement and getting involved with a group or activity that you enjoy and want to join and become a part of.  But I believe it is vital to teach our kids the importance of having their own opinions and ideas, and not being afraid to act upon them and stick to them, even when it means going against the majority.

Are you someone who is happy to stand out from the crowd for your own beliefs and values?  Do you agree that we should teach our children to stand out, not just fit in?


Monday, July 21, 2014

Zero Waste

Recently we've been trying to reduce the waste we send to landfill each week from our household. We've been looking at ways to reduce, reuse and recycle.  Our girls are really enjoying getting involved with this and together they made this video to show what and why we're doing it!

I'm impressed at how they made this video by themselves - learning to use Windows Movie Maker. They had lots of fun and I'm sure will be making more movies in the future!

Meanwhile - this one they're hoping to get shown at school to encourage their classmates to reduce, reuse and recycle more!


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Colouring competitions

Do your kids ever enter colouring in competitions? Did you when you were a kid? Ever win anything?
When I was a kid I won third prize in the local supermarket colouring competition and my brother won second. He got a big cuddly Gnu (yes a Gnu!) and I won a big cuddly panda.  I was always very proud of that win, but when I was older, my mum told me that only 3 people entered the competition, which I have to say crushed my colouring in pride significantly!

However, now that I am a parent myself, I can see that it was probably true!

Our local library hosts colouring in competitions each school holidays to win cinema tickets. My girls both like colouring in, and have been entering these competitions for a few years now. Most of the time they win tickets!  This time my youngest won the grand prize too which was a swingball set!

Both girls also won a double cinema pass to see Rio 2, so we had a family trip to the movies too.

I don't think there are many kids enter these competitions. Maybe kids prefer playing on their computers and tablets to colouring in.

It just goes to show it's always worth giving things a try. You've got to be in it to win it!

What competitions have your kids entered? Have they won anything?


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Catching Fire - what age is it suitable for?

The second book in the Hunger Games Trilogy - Catching Fire.  Our eldest daughter (age 11) read all three books recently, and then our youngest who is 9, picked up the first one from the school library and read that.  She really enjoyed it and launched into the second book straight afterwards.  Unfortunately she didn't get very far with the second book, saying it was boring.  Often when she says something is boring, it means it's too tricky, or she doesn't understand and she consequently gives up!

So - to encourage her to try again, we hired the first movie and all watched that together.  She enjoyed it and wants to see the second one but is still reluctant to read the second book.

What I've done now is to start reading it with her. We take turns reading a chapter each day. We're only just at the beginning of the book, and it is quite slow to get going into the story.  There are also quite a few words that she's asking about the meaning of.  I think this is definitely the way to read this book. I enjoy reading with her, and it's good for her to practice her reading aloud as well.  With the incentive of the second movie to watch at the end of the book, that will keep her going until the book gets into it's 'groove' so to speak.

I tried to look up what age The Hunger Games series is recommended for, and most sites seem to say around 10 or 11 as the youngest age. At 9, I think our daughter is ready for this book and it is challenging for her.  However, I also think that reading it together with me is the best way for her to read it as she has plenty of questions to ask for each chapter, so I can help her understand the story more fully.

I think having read the first book of the series, the content of the story isn't a problem for her. It's just the vocabulary and the tone of the book is just a little older than she is. It's always good to have an achievable challenge!

Have you or your kids read The Hunger Games?  


Disclaimer: the picture and link for this book takes you to The Book Depository which is an affiliate link. This means that if you purchase a book from them through that link, I get a commission.  All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


During a spring clean of our cupboards in last week's school holidays, I found a few games that we have never played before. 

So I decided that we should get them out and give them a go.

Yesterday my younger daughter and I played 'Elimination'.

This game is very simple. The board has 10 numbered grooves with a marble to sit in each one.  You then roll 2 dice and can remove the marbles from the corresponding numbers on the dice. Either the individual numbers or the sum of the two.  So for example in the picture above, I removed the 5 and 3 marbles, but could have removed the 8 marble instead.

You then simply take turns rolling the dice and removing the marbles. The person who removes the last marble wins!


For younger kids it would be a fun game for number recognition and adding two single digit numbers together.
We just enjoyed it as a fun, simple game!

Do you have any games in your cupboard that you never, or hardly ever play?


Monday, July 14, 2014

Learning chess as an adult

This year, our younger daughter joined the chess club at school.  Both our girls like to play chess sometimes, and as I wrote here a few years ago, it's a great game to play for improving your mind and all sorts of skills!

Since joining the chess club and participating in a few tournaments, I think our daughter's interest in chess is waning.  She sometimes comes out of the 'lessons' saying it was boring - which means really that she didn't understand what was going on. It does appear that some of the teachers are better at explaining things than others, but when she has a 'boring' lesson, it really does put her off wanting to play chess.

Personally I've never really enjoyed playing chess, but I always try to encourage our kids in whatever they do, and do things with them so they get plenty of practice, improve and so enjoy doing them more. 

Everyone enjoys doing things more when they are better at them!

So, seeing our daughter's interest in chess waning, I decided that I'd try to play chess with her to try and encourage her some more. I don't want our kids to just give up on things they find tricky, so me learning chess will hopefully set a good example!

We've got books out of the library to help. The very basic book is for me..

Plenty of pictures and simple explanations!

Then a slightly more advanced, but still a kids book for my daughter (she's 9):

So - let's see how we go. My daughter is happy to teach me as we play - hopefully this will help her understand the moves more as she explains them. I also hope this will pick her interest back up in the game.

How do you encourage your kids to stick at something if you yourself aren't interested in it?  Have you ever learnt to play a game or sport to encourage your kids to play?

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