Learning fun for the holidays, without a slide in sight!

 

Alanspeak, A slide for children to play on https://openclipart.org/detail/191139/childrens-slide

Alanspeak, A slide for children to play on https://openclipart.org/detail/191139/childrens-slide

A week or two ago my good friend Sarah Brentyn who blogs at Lemon Shark (Navigating the uncharted waters of parenting and life) raised the issue of students having required reading over the summer holidays. Sarah recalled that when she was at school she had lists of books to read, and book reports to complete as proof of having done so. She expressed concern that no holiday reading is currently required of her school-age sons.

The basis for Sarah’s concern is what is known as “the summer slide”, the loss of skills, especially reading, if not practised over the long summer holidays.  Studies show what teachers observe: that students start a new school year with skills at lower levels than just a few months earlier. Revision and review of the previous year’s work must be factored in before new work can be commenced.

Sarah wasn’t so much concerned for her sons who are avid readers and will read regardless of whether it is required or not. Knowing Sarah, her sons will also benefit from an environment enriched with a variety of other learning experiences. All children could benefit from the types of support and encouragement Sarah provides for her sons.

Sarah’s concern was for children who don’t choose reading as a holiday activity. She believes children should continue to learn over the holidays, and does not understand why learning can’t be fun. I agree with Sarah. However I am a bit ambivalent about the requirement that particular books be read, and probably am not in favour of asking that book reports be submitted.

CoD_fsfe_Books_icon

There was never any set reading to be done over the holidays when I went to school, or when my children went to school, and I am not aware of any such requirement of children attending school currently in Australia. The fact that it is not a requirement doesn’t make it either right or wrong. It is simply a new concept to me.

I would be reluctant to set homework for completion over the holiday period, especially the summer holidays for a number of reasons, including:

  • students will be moving to a new class and teacher, some even to a new school, after the holidays and that teacher may not view the set work in the same way
  • students have spent the school year reading, writing and performing other activities required of them, activities that may have little relevance or interest to them
  • students may spend the holiday period in alternate activities and then rush or “fudge” required tasks, seeing them simply as work that must completed, rather than something they want to do
  • I think children need time to follow their own pursuits and interests without having to fill in a worksheet to say what they have done
  • I think children and their families need some time together without the stress of completing set tasks
  • I think it is important for children to have time to wonder, imagine and create, to be comfortable in their own company, devising their own plans and schedules and activities, some of which may be just down time (the ability to relax in an ever-hurried world is very desirable).

gardening

But, like Sarah, I wouldn’t always be leaving children to their own devices, allowing them to wander the bush and beach from daylight till dusk as I did during the school holidays (when I wasn’t reading a book, playing games with siblings or friends or doing household chores). I would be mindful of their activities, ready to make suggestions, provide experiences or encourage other interests; but the direction would always be theirs and never forced or “required”.

However I am equally as keen to avoid the occurrence of that “summer slide”. As my contribution towards its prevention while also promoting the notions that learning is fun and that opportunities for it abound, I link to three of my previous posts:

20 suggestions for maintaining reading momentum during the school holidays

Let the children write! 20 suggestions to get children writing during the school holidays

Counting on the holidays!

While I reproduce the suggestions from each post here, each set of suggestions is also available as a free downloadable PDF in my TEACHERS PAY TEACHERS store. For your convenience, I have provided a link to each in the headings below:

Reading

  1.  Read to and with your child every day – continue the practice established throughout the year with special sharing times during the day or at bed-time — or both!
  2. Demonstrate that you value reading by making time for your own reading, or setting aside a special quiet time when everyone in the family reads.
  3. Visit the library and borrow to read, read, read!
  4. Read poetry books, song books, picture books, joke and riddle books, crossword books, information books, chapter books (these can be read to younger children, or with older children – taking turns to read a page or a chapter each) — what are your favourites?
  5. Trade books no longer read for others at a second-hand book store.
  6.  When dining out, have your children read the menu and choose their own meal.
  7. Include your child in holiday cooking and have them read the recipe – ingredients and method. Perhaps they could read the recipe book to select the meal for the day.
  8. Suggest your child read the TV guide to find when favourite programs are showing and establish a timetable for viewing, rather than haphazard watching with random flicking through channels.
  9. Provide your child with bookstore catalogues and encourage them to read book descriptions to guide their next selection.
  10. Bestow upon your child the title of ‘Family weather watcher’ and have them consult weather forecasts in the newspaper or online to select the most suitable days for planned outings and activities. 
  11. Include your child in making decisions about holiday activities. Give them the guide, or read the guide together and jointly choose the activities.
  12. Make the library, museums and art galleries high on the list of must-dos. Many of these offer a wonderful assortment of free holiday entertainment for children, and reading is an essential part of getting the most from each visit! 
  13. Engage your child in some craft activities which require them to follow written instructions. The ability to understand and follow procedures is empowering and requires the ability to read written, as well as visual, instructions.
  14. Encourage your child to ask questions about every day events and phenomena. Help them to research in books at home, in the library or on the internet. 
  15. Provide eBooks as well as books in print. Good ones bring a new dimension to the reading experience.
  16. When going out for the day, or journeying further away on a holiday, support your child in locating destinations on a map and in selecting an appropriate route. Engage your child in giving directions while en route. 
  17. Include your child when reading bus or train timetables.
  18. When doing the family grocery shop, give your child their own list of items to look for. 
  19. Listen to recorded books on long car journeys, or have books for listening to or reading along with in bed.
  20. Make the most of every reading opportunity that occurs throughout the day!

 

Writing

  1. Use adhesive notepaper to write messages to your child and encourage your child to write a message back.
  2. Encourage children to write letters or emails, cards or postcards to grandparents, aunties, uncles and friends. These can be to inform them of the holiday or the year’s activities, or to thank them for a visit or gift.
  3. Demonstrate that you value writing by making time for your own writing, e.g. keeping a diary, writing letters and cards to family or friends, writing a shopping list.
  4. Display a message board prominently in the home and list important events, reminders and messages. Encourage your child to add their own messages to the board.
  5. Provide a calendar or diary and ask your child to note family birthdays, holidays and events for future reference.
  6. Encourage your child to keep a diary in which important events and feelings are noted.
  7. Play word games e.g. Scrabble and other crossword games; Boggle or ‘hangman’. (If you don’t like the connotation of ‘hangman’, give each player ten counters to start with. Each time an incorrect guess is made, they give away a counter. If all counters are used then they miss that word.)
  8. Write poems and songs together.
  9. Encourage children to write and perform ‘plays’ for the family.
  10. Take photos of events during the day and use them to make a photo book. This can be done instantly on a computer with photos taken using a phone or tablet and emailed with accompanying text.
  11. Insert photos from a phone, digital camera or tablet into a slideshow program such as PowerPoint, then add text to create a digital story or record. With one click these can be saved as an automatic show or MP 4 video.
  12. Involve children in planning the weekly meals by selecting recipes for a menu they write, and for which they create a shopping list of required ingredients.
  13. Write rebus messages to your children and ask them to write a rebus message back, e.g.                 I think you are great
  14. Invite your child to create lists e.g. activities they would like to do over the holidays, movies they would like to see or friends they would like to invite to a sleep over.
  15. Encourage your children to write the step-by-step instructions for making a craft item they have just designed, or to write down the rules for a game so that everybody is sure how to play.
  16. Suggest that your child write down questions they would like answered, and then write the information discovered during research (by interviewing or asking people, reading books or internet search).
  17. Suggest to children that they make a storybook for a younger sibling or friend.
  18. When going out for the day, or journeying further away on a holiday, children could be asked to write directions for the journey as discovered by consulting paper or online maps.
  19. Help children to set up and maintain a blog to create a record of activities and events to be shared with family and friends. The posts could be regular e.g. daily or weekly, or follow particular activities.
  20. Make the most of every writing opportunity that occurs throughout the day!

Maths

Number and place value

  1. Count items e.g. birds in the sky, shells collected from the beach, people for lunch, steps in a staircase, windows on a house, seats in a bus . . .
  2. Count out the cutlery required for each person at dinner
  3. Include your child in shopping activities by helping them to:
  • Recognise the coins and notes
  • Count the value of coins and notes
  • Predict whether they have enough money to purchase an item, and whether there will be change
  • Tender the money in payment for an item

4. When your child is sharing e.g. the biscuits, balloons or slices of fruit, ask them to:

  • Predict if there will be enough for everyone to have one, or more than one each
  • Share out the items, allocating the same number to each
  • Determine if there are any left over and what to do with them

5. Use terms like half and quarter correctly, e.g. when cutting apples, oranges, sandwiches, pizza, to indicate pieces of equal size

6. Play games that involve counting, e.g. counting the number of skips, balls in hoops, pins knocked down or dice games like snakes and ladders that require adding as well as number recognition and counting

7. Make up number stories e.g. “We had five apples in the bowl. I ate one, and you ate one, how many are left?”

8. Read books with number concepts e.g. Pat Hutchins The Doorbell Rang, Eric Carle Rooster’s off to see the world  or Kim Michelle Toft One Less Fish

Patterns and algebra

  1. Use items to make patterns e.g. sort and create a pattern from shells collected at the beach, building blocks or toy cars
  2. Look for patterns in the environment e.g. fences, tiles, walls and window, zebra crossings
  3. Decorate cards and drawings with a patterned frame
  4. Make gift wrapping paper by decorating with potato prints or stamp patterns

Measurement and geometry

  1. Include your child in cooking activities and allow or support them to:
  • measure the ingredients
  • set the temperature on the oven
  • work out the cooking finish time
  1.  A child’s understanding of volume and capacity can be developed when they:
  • pour glasses of water from the jug and discuss terms such as enough, full, empty, half or part full, more, less
  • pour from one container into another of a different shape to compare which holds more and which holds less
  1.  Scales can be used to compare the mass of different items or quantities e.g. compare an apple and an orange, measure the mass of butter required for a recipe
  2.  Measuring length can be included by:
  • measuring and comparing height
  • cutting a length of string to tie a package
  • measuring who is closest to the jack in a backyard game of lawn bowls
  1.  Use the calendar to
  • Learn the names and sequence of days in the week or months in the year
  • count the passing days or the number of days until an event
  1.  Identify shapes in the home and environment e.g.
  • 2D shapes: tiles on floor and walls, shapes of windows, sections of footpath
  • 3D shapes: cereal boxes (rectangular prism), balls (sphere), bottles or cans (cylinder), dice (cube)
  1.  Play games that involve shapes e.g. jigsaw puzzles, tangrams
  2.  Talk about directions e.g. left, right, forwards, backwards and follow directions on a grid
  3.  Play games that involve directions and movement in space e.g. battleship,Hokey Pokey,Simon Says, snakes and ladders, ludo
  4.  Read and discuss books that include measurement concepts e.g. Pamela Allen:Who Sank the Boat?(volume); Eric Carle: The Very Hungry Caterpillar (days of the week) and The Bad Tempered Ladybird (time); Penny Matthews and Andrew McLean A Year on our Farm (months and seasons); and for looking at places on a map Mem Fox Sail Away The ballad of Skip and Nell or Annette Langen & Constanza Droop Letters from Felix

Probability and statistics

  1. When discussing the weather or desired activities include the language of probability e.g. possible, certain, likely, unlikely, impossible
  2. Encourage children to collect data about family or friends by asking yes/no questions e.g. do you like swimming, or making a graph of the family’s favourite colour or meal.
  3. Play games with spinners and dice and talk about the likelihood of spinning or throwing a particular number.

 

I hope these activities demonstrate how easy it is to maintain learning while having fun over the holidays. I’m sure you will have many more favourites of your own.

Thank you

I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post.

Can you dig it?

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills is talking about dirt and has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about dirt.

In her post Charli says that,

writing is like gardening - Charli Mills

and talks about sowing compassion to make our world a “worthier place to live”.

These are wonderful ways of thinking about dirt and good reminders of the importance of the earth beneath our feet, which is often taken for granted, even ignored, unless one is a farmer, a gardener, perhaps a miner, or possibly a child.

Children are often admonished about playing in the dirt, as if washing off a little soil  was the greatest difficulty. In our towns and cities we cover the soil with concrete and leave few patches of bare earth where children have an opportunity to dig.

Soil, though an essential resource of our Earth, is often overlooked. Ask a young child what living things need and they may say “water, air, food, sunshine and shelter”. Soil won’t rate a mention. But without it we wouldn’t have a thing to stand on! Nor would we have our other essentials: air, food and shelter – all dependent on the soil for their production.  The importance of soil and of conserving becomes even more evident with the realisation of how little of the Earth’s surface is available for producing food.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin If Earth was an apple . . .

Another great gift from the soil is knowledge. Much of what we know of Earth’s history and human history has been revealed by the soil as successive layers have been exposed or excavated; uncovering secrets of the past and enabling a much richer understanding of earlier times.

dinosaurs at museum Jan 91

© Norah Colvin

Our knowledge of dinosaurs has all been revealed from the earth with the first discoveries and identifications made only a few hundred years ago.  And there is still much more to be discovered. My children and grandchildren, along with many other children and adults, are fascinated by dinosaurs. How exciting it would be to make a new dinosaur discovery, find hidden treasures or unlock secrets of the past!

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

It is possible that many more dinosaur, and other, discoveries are yet to be made. The world’s only known evidence of a dinosaur stampede was found in Australia just a little over fifty years ago.  Even more recently a gardener in the UK found a dinosaur bone in his backyard! In the US, if you find a dinosaur fossil in your backyard it’s yours to keep!

According to this video, finding dinosaur fossils is quite easy:

The excitement of making new discoveries  and finding answers to questions is motivation for many.

In his book Good Ideas: How to Be Your Child’s (and Your Own) Best Teacher Michael Rosen relates a story told by David Attenborough. He says that, as a child, David took an interest in bones and if he was out walking and found some he would take them home and ask his father (a GP so would probably know) about them.

But his father didn’t just tell him. Wanting his son to be curious and interested in finding things out for himself, he responded, for example: “I wonder if we can work it out . . .” They would then look through books about zoology and anatomy and try to identify the bone’s origin.

Knowing that it is through the comparison of found bones with bones of familiar creatures that scientists have been able to work out much of what we now know about dinosaurs and other extinct creatures makes such an activity even more exciting and inspirational.

Rosen goes on to share an experience from his own school days. When a teacher confessed to students that he didn’t understand Comus by Milton, which had been set for study, the class and teacher spent the year together figuring out its meaning. Rosen compares the effectiveness of this approach to many others, stating that study techniques, “didn’t teach me how to find things that I really wanted to learn about. It didn’t take me down interesting side-alleys where I would find things that I didn’t know I would be interested in until I found them.” But he says what he learned from exploring Comus was “something that’s more to do with feeling than knowledge or learning: it was a confidence that I could investigate and discover things for myself. It’s ironic, isn’t it, that I got that feeling from someone who quite genuinely didn’t understand something?

A sense of wonder and curiosity, and a desire and willingness to find out for oneself answers to one’s own questions is fundamental to learning. Digging in the dirt occasionally can’t do that much harm. You never know what new discovery you may make!

Moini, A treasure chest with lots of twinkling gold coins, https://openclipart.org/detail/188617/treasure-chest

Moini, A treasure chest with lots of twinkling gold coins, https://openclipart.org/detail/188617/treasure-chest

The thought of just such a discovery is what inspired my response to Charli’s challenge:

Digging for gold

Her spade crunched against the obstinate soil. Then tap, tap, tap, another thin layer loosened. She scooped up the soil and tossed it onto the pile growing steadily beside the excavation site. With expectant eyes and gentle fingertips she scanned each new surface. Then again: tap, tap, tap — toss; tap, tap, tap —toss!

She pushed back her hat to wipe her sweaty brow, leaving a smudge of dirt as evidence. She glanced skyward. The sun was high. She’d been digging for hours. She must find something soon. What would it be? Pirate’s treasure or dinosaur bones . . .?

 

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.

 

 

 

 

Empowerment – the importance of having a voice

Norah:

I recently revisited a series of posts about the value of using Eric Carle‘s picture book The Very Hungry Caterpillar in an early childhood setting; home or classroom.

In this post I share a follow-up to that series which addressed the issue of empowering children by giving them a voice. At the time the post attracted quite a few thought-provoking comments which are worth reading if you haven’t already done so.

In one of those comments it was suggested that perhaps a new edition with a correction made in response to children’s comments could be considered. It is not unlike the suggestion by Steven in the previous post that correct information be provided at the end of the book. It was felt that the “correction” would be seen by children as a response to their requests and help them see the value in voicing their opinions.

But this post goes beyond a debate about the correctness of “cocoon” or “chrysalis”. It states the case for empowering children by giving them a voice.

I appreciate your readership, and your comments. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post, including past and current comments.

Originally posted on Norah Colvin:

In a previous series of posts I wrote about science inaccuracies in a picture book and questioned with whom lay the responsibility for providing young children with correct information.

While this post builds upon those posts, it also takes a divergent path: the need for children to have a voice; to be empowered to ask questions, to state their needs and report wrongdoings.

On a highly respected educational website Scholastic, with the by-line “Read Every Day. Lead a Better Life.”, in an article about Eric Carle author of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, children are told that

“Eric already knows that a caterpillar emerges from a chrysalis, not a cocoon! So don’t bother writing to tell him.”

This seemingly innocuous statement may be easily overlooked but packs a powerful message.

What does it tell children?

The author has been told many times, already knows and isn’t going to…

View original 696 more words

Are you game?

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills is talking about childhood games and has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that involves a children’s game or rhyme. I think she chose this topic just for me. Thank you, Charli.

I love games and am a strong believer in the use of games to enhance learning. I have memories of playing games that span my lifetime, from early childhood until the present, and have visions of playing games far into the future.

Johnny Automatic, cartoon of a girl and boy playing with a ball https://openclipart.org/detail/721/playing-ball

Johnny Automatic, cartoon of a girl and boy playing with a ball https://openclipart.org/detail/721/playing-ball

One of my earliest memories of an organised game was of “Drop the hanky” played at a birthday party. I was about five years old at the time. I think that perhaps, until this event, I had only ever played imaginative games with my brothers and sisters. I was obviously not familiar with the rules or the ethos of the game. I’ll let my flash (non-) fiction explain.

Plum pudding

We sat in the circle chanting,

“I wrote a letter to my love and on the way I dropped it.”

“It” skipped around the outside, waving a handkerchief.

“One of you has picked it up and put it in your pocket.

Not you. Not you. Not y-o-u!”

Suddenly “It” was running and children were scrabbling behind them.

“Run,” they called.

Then “It” was beside me.

“Plum pudding!” they all screamed hysterically.

The adult pointed to the centre of the circle. “We’ll have you for dessert,” he grinned.

I cried, wondering what it would be like to be eaten alive!

© Norah Colvin 2015

© Norah Colvin 2015

Obviously I was traumatised for the memory to be so vivid and almost nightmare-like since the memory ends abruptly with the fear. Obviously I wasn’t eaten for dessert, I survived the trauma and, to complete the fictional narrative, I guess you could say “I lived happily ever after.”

But games don’t need to be traumatic. Games are better when they are fun; and I have many more memories of having fun with games than I do of being traumatised by them. Some of my “best” memories are of the laughs shared playing games like “Balderdash” and “Billionaire” when we (hub, son, daughter and partners) set aside traditional holidays for playing games together as a family. My house may have shelves laden with books, but they also have cupboards bursting with games.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

We didn’t always play purchased games. Sometimes we made up our own. It takes some skill in problem solving to think up a new game that will be fun to play with just the right amounts of challenge and competition, and an equal chance of “winning”, if there is a winner. Games without a winner, played for the fun of playing, are just as enjoyable.

I have always included games in my class program. As well as being fun, if carefully chosen they can also progress learning. Games can be played at the beginning and conclusion of sessions; at transition times to reenergise, refocus and refresh; and as part of the teaching/learning program with whole class, small group or individual participation for targeting practice of particular concepts.

One obvious benefit of playing games is the development of social skills such as:

  • Sharing
  • Taking turns
  • Cooperation
  • Dealing with competition
  • Accepting a loss
  • Accepting a win graciously

In their book “A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change”, Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown talk about ““arc of life” learning, which comprises the activities in our daily lives that keep us learning, growing and exploring.” They say, “Play, questioning, and — perhaps most important — imagination lie at the very heart of arc-of-life learning.”

Throughout the book they talk about the importance of collaboration in engaging online in multi-player games and say that When understood properly . . . games may in fact be one of the best models for learning and knowing in the twenty-first century . . . Because if a game is good, you never play the same way twice.

monopoly

Robert Kiyosaki in his book “Why “A” Students Work for “C” Students and Why “B” Students Work for the Government” talks about the importance of learning through games and explains how he learned, and was inspired to learn more, about finance from playing “Monopoly”. He says that Games are better teachers than teachers.” While I prefer to not agree with that statement in its entirety (I don’t even like playing Monopoly), I could understand his reasons for making it.

Rarely a day would go by that at least one game wasn’t played in my classroom. We would play games in literacy groups that required children to read and think critically. We would play games in maths groups to practice skills in fun ways or to solve problems cooperatively. We would play games in science to try out ideas or research information. Some of the games involved physical as well as mental activity. Some were played with the entire class, and some on their own.

One game we used in maths groups as well as an activity in the last few minutes of the day was a problem solving game that I was involved with from its inception, The Land of Um or, as it is known in the UK, Scally’s World of Problems. (Also available as an app.)

http://www.greygum.com.au/nebula/index.php/the-land-of-um

Scally

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I was asked for an idea for a program, I suggested something that required children to explore to find out “what happens if” and “how things work”, much as they learn from their exploration of the “real world”. I also suggested that what they learn be consistent and apply at the next level. From that small seed and through the collaboration and synergy of a small group of creative people the “Land of Um” was born.

Because, in my recollections anyway, it was “my” idea, I am very proud of “Um” and enthusiastic about its potential to encourage children to develop the thinking skills involved in solving problems.

Um app

In my class the children worked enthusiastically and collaboratively in small groups on an interactive whiteboard, taking turns to control the “Um” while working together to find the solution to each puzzle. As the level of difficulty increased the children needed to plan ahead, to visualise steps and predict what would happen and the effects of different actions. At each new level and in each new world, while the basics remained consistent, there was always something different to learn and explore. The children never tired of the using the program and were always eager to be the one to suggest the solution to the next problem. It was/is a joy to know that I had a part to play in the design of this program that has so many benefits to learners, not least of which is the fun of working together to solve problems.

How significant are games in your life? What special memories do you have?

If you are interested, there are many more stories about games to read on Charli’s blog.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts on any aspect of this post or flash fiction.

 

 

 

Five Photos Five Stories — Day five

Back to Day one (books) and introduction to the challenge

Back to Day two (writing)

Back to Day three (Ziggy the Three-Legged Wonder Dog)

Back to Day four (My retirement jetski)

Happy birthday to me!

I had a wonderful day today. It was both my birthday and my final day of work for Education Queensland, my on-again off-again employer for more than half of the forty+ years since I began my teaching career.

My work colleagues spoiled me with kind words and wishes and generous gifts. We celebrated with lunch yesterday and morning tea today and shared stories, laughs and wishes for each other for the future. They made me a beautiful photo book filled with their thoughts and wishes. I think it is my new favourite book and will remain so for a very long time.

It was quite overwhelming to have such a demonstration of appreciation for my contribution to the team, especially when my intention was just to flutter out quietly as if carried on butterfly wings. They are a wonderful group of people and I was very fortunate to have the opportunity of working with them. They definitely belong to S.M.A.G. and I showed my appreciation for them by having some magnets made up to tell them so.

For morning tea I took along a marble mudcake in remembrance of the marble cakes my mother used to make for my birthdays. I intended to post a photo of the cake but got carried away chatting and totally forgot until it was almost all gone.

However I have something more special to share.

I had dinner with my family at the home of my son and his partner and children. Bec and Glenn were there, and Bob, and my sister Ruth. We had Thai take away, one of my favourites. But what was very special was that Rob and the children made a chocolate self-saucing pudding for dessert. It is Rob’s speciality. I’m sorry there’s not enough to share, but I assure you it was delicious!

Rob's self-saucing pudding 18 June 2015

Rob’s self-saucing pudding 18 June 2015

Of course my family spoiled me too with wonderful gifts and birthday wishes.

This is my last post in a series of five in response to a challenge by Geoff Le Pard. Thank you, Geoff. I enjoyed the challenge though I wrote more than I thought I would.

My week has been extremely busy with things to organise for my last week in this job as well as respond to this challenge so I have not kept up with reading posts and responding to comments on mine. Hopefully I’ll be able to remedy that real soon. Thank you for your patience.

I invite my sister Ruth Irwin to participate in this challenge. Ruth is just getting started with blogging, inspired by the flash fiction challenges by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch, and may find photos easier than text at this stage with just a phone for posting.

The rules of the Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge are:

1) Post a photo each day for five consecutive days.
2) Attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or a short paragraph. It’s entirely up to the individual.
3) Nominate another blogger to carry on the challenge. Your nominee is free to accept or decline the invitation. This is fun, not a command performance!

Thank you

 

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

 

Five Photos Five Stories — Day four

Back to Day one (books) and introduction to the challenge

Back to Day two (writing)

Back to Day three (Ziggy the Three-Legged Wonder Dog)

My retirement jetski

My retirement jetski

My retirement jetski

Geoff Le Pard threw me a challenge to post five photos and five stories over five days. He is probably just as surprised as I am that I took him up on it, especially as this week is particularly busy and significant.

Tomorrow I finally break up with a relationship that has been on-again-off-again for over forty years. Tomorrow is my last day working for Education Queensland. While I then become “officially” retired, some of you may know that I am not very fond of that “R” word and prefer to think of my life as taking a redirection.

In a couple of weeks’ time I commence another part-time job at the University of Queensland with the exact number of hours for me to remain “officially” retired, but nominally “working part-time”. The remainder of the week I will continue to write and work towards fulfilling my goal of establishing an online store of educational resources. This is where the jetski comes in.

There are many expenses involved with preparing content for the website including getting work illustrated, having the website designed and, hopefully, if I can figure out a way, having interactivity added to some resources. Deciding how much cost is acceptable is difficult when there is no guarantee of ever getting any return, and often the time I spend tapping away on my computer keyboard when I could be doing other things comes into question.

The fact is I love tapping away on my computer keyboard writing works of my choosing, and the expenses involved are necessary in order to make my “creations” available to others through a website. If I were to choose a jetski, a sports car or an around the world cruise as a retirement gift for myself, as many do, and spend hours each day riding the waves or the roads, no one would question my choice of activity or the cost of the initial purchase or ongoing maintenance. They would be pleased that I was having fun, enjoying my later years. Well, for the moment at least, writing is my pleasure and I (try to) justify the expense by calling it my “jetski”.

As my work targets an early childhood market, illustrations are an essential accompaniment to my work. When I first registered my business and domain name, my (graphic designer) niece designed my logo and beautiful banner, which you see at the top of my blog, and produced illustrations for some stories. Recently I have had other illustrations done by artists from 99designs so I am starting to make headway in that direction.

Kari Jones (ArtbyJonz), who did the S.M.A.G. badge has produced illustrations for two stories. Here is a sneak peek at one illustration from each:

ArtbyJonz ©Norah Colvin 2015

ArtbyJonz ©Norah Colvin 2015

ArtbyJonz ©Norah Colvin 2015

ArtbyJonz ©Norah Colvin 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and sneak peeks of illustrations for stories by Sketcherlady, Goetia and Tyohermawan, to whom I awarded the first contest.

sketcherlady ©Norah Colvin 2015

sketcherlady ©Norah Colvin 2015

Goetia ©Norah Colvin 2015

Goetia ©Norah Colvin 2015

tyohermawan ©Norah Colvin 2015

tyohermawan ©Norah Colvin 2015

I have been very happy working with each of these designers. They have all been very helpful and accommodating and worked hard to produce illustrations to match my requests. I am happy to recommend any of them if you are looking at getting some work illustrated.

The next step is to speak with a web designer. I must say I’m a bit fearful of the cost, but hey, it’s my jetski.

What seems to be more problematic at the moment is adding interactivity to some resources. PowerPoint has some facility but not enough. I looked at another program recently which promised any interactivity I could imagine. But unfortunately the program designers had not imagined what I had! I discussed some of my requirements with a friend who is learning to code and he thought it would even be difficult to code what I want. Since these open-ended interactions are to be a point of difference for me, if I can’t have them, I may need to trade-in my jetski on something completely different. Maybe a novel? (That must be pretty easy, eh Geoff?) I’m not sure I’m ready for that. If you have any suggestions about adding interactivity to resources I’d love to receive them please.

I nominate my lovely fellow local Queensland bloggers to take up this Five Photos Five Stories challenge should they so wish:

Irene Waters who writes memoir and blogs at Reflections and Nightmares and already shares many beautiful photos and stories;

Desley Jane, a girl with a camera who blogs at Musings of a Frequent Flying Scientist; and

Marigold Dicer who blogs at Versus Blurb but who has popped off the scene temporarily while she completes what used to be called “prac” teaching when I went to college.

Please be aware that your participation is completely voluntary. I know each of you already post frequent photo stories. However if you choose to participate, I hope you enjoy the challenge as much as I have. :)

The “rules” of the Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge are:

1) Post a photo each day for five consecutive days.
2) Attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or a short paragraph. It’s entirely up to the individual.
3) Nominate another blogger to carry on the challenge. Your nominee is free to accept or decline the invitation. This is fun, not a command performance!

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

Five Photos Five Stories — Day three

Back to Day one (books) and introduction to the challenge

Back to Day two (writing)

Ziggy the Three-Legged Wonder Dog

With this post I am going to “kill two birds with one stone” (though why I would want to kill any birds is beyond me).

I am posting a Day three photo and story in response to the challenge set by Geoff Le Pard, and responding to the flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about an animal rescue.

If I didn’t have a real life story to write about I would probably write about Charlotte’s Web, a wonderful story by E.B. White about courage, compassion and friendship.

My real-life story is also of courage, compassion and friendship.

The background:

My children had pet-deprived childhoods. It could hardly have been any other way. Both their parents also had pet-deprived childhoods. I know all the theory about pets helping to develop responsibility, caring for others and compassion and I’m all for it. But with that responsibility comes restriction, and I’m not all for that. For me, a pet-free childhood led to a pet-free adulthood. I’m not certain that I am any less responsible, caring or compassionate as a result.

While Rob may have had the occasional goldfish or Siamese fighting fish and Bec may have had guinea pigs, mice and rats at different times they never got over the deprivation of not having a real pet, of not having a puppy. As soon as the opportunity arose, they each adopted their own puppy. This is the story of Ziggy the Three-Legged, Wonder Dog, a puppy adopted by Bec and her partner Glenn just over a year ago when he was about three and a half months old.

Ziggy the Three-Legged Wonder Dog

Ziggy the Three-Legged Wonder Dog

Bec explains that ”He had a rough start to life – he was found abandoned in a cardboard box with a broken leg which had healed over poorly. Fortunately, he was taken to the RSPCA where he was looked after. This is why he was a three-legged dog when we met him: his leg was amputated.”

When they took Ziggy home he was a scared little puppy but with their loving care and devotion he has developed into the warmest, friendliest little puppy that you could ever meet. It was through eyes of compassion and huge loving hearts that Bec and Glenn chose to take on the care of a three-legged dog, the first puppy for either of them. I think they were a bit misled about the amount of care he would require, and though there has been a lot of stress involved with surgeries and food sensitivities, they have never regretted their decision to adopt him. He was a very lucky little puppy the day Bec and Glenn walked in and fell in love with him at first sight. And still is.

My flash fiction is unrelated to Ziggy’s rescue, but deals with a situation in which a rescue is required. I realise that once again I have gone dark rather than light. Apologies. I hope you enjoy it.

Break out

Your wide-open eyes fix on me through bars, imploring and accusing at the same time.

Why am I here? Don’t leave me! I don’t – want – to be here! I want – to go – home!

My heart tightens in a vice-like squeeze. My palms sweat and hands tremble.

I meet your stare with overwhelming hopelessness and helplessness.

I didn’t know . . . I thought . . . I never meant . . . I thought it would help. 

They close the door, turn the key and lead you away.

“Damn those rules!” I scream silently, futilely planning your rescue.

***

Today I nominate the lovely compassionate Bec who blogs intermittently at There’s No Food and Ziggy the Three-Legged, Wonder Dog and engages in discussions with challenging suggestions and new ideas in comments on my blog while working diligently towards completing a PhD in Environmental Management. Bec, I know you are busy. It is not compulsory but there if you wish to share some of your wonderful Ziggy or produce photos.

! also nominate the wonderful awe-inspiring multi-tasking Charli Mills to take up the challenge is she so wishes. As well as being a very talented writer and generous supporter of my blog, she also posts beautiful photo stories on a second blog Elmira Pond Spotter.

The rules of the Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge are:

1) Post a photo each day for five consecutive days.
2) Attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or a short paragraph. It’s entirely up to the individual.
3) Nominate another blogger to carry on the challenge. Your nominee is free to accept or decline the invitation. This is fun, not a command performance!

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.