Category Archives: Family

Berry delightful

What is your favourite berry?

Which berries make your taste buds sing?

This week at the Carrot Ranch Literary Community, Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) include music and berries. It can be fantastical, such as the music of berries or a story that unfolds about a concert in a berry patch. Go where the prompt leads.

mulberries

When I was a child, there was a huge mulberry tree growing in the backyard of one of our neighbours who was kind enough to allow access to the multitude of children in our family. Each summer the tree would be laden with fruit and we would pull at its branches to gather as much as we could into buckets and bowls. We would go home stained with purple on our bodies and our clothes and, mostly, around our mouths. We couldn’t wait to eat and there were plenty to go around. Mum would bake mulberry pies and fill jars with mulberry jam that was delicious on our buttered bread for breakfast or lunch.

Since then, I have encountered few mulberries trees, only occasionally sourcing their leaves to feed voracious silkworm caterpillars. The berries themselves seem not to be harvested for store sales. However, I was recently reminded of Mum’s mulberry jam when I spotted some on a shelf at the Jamworks gourmet deli. I must admit though, while I resisted the mulberry jam, I couldn’t resist the fig and ginger variety.

gooseberries

The other berry that was most familiar to me as a child, but never since seen, was what we called the gooseberry. There were gooseberry plants growing by our back fence. I remember picking the berries, peeling back the outer leaves and eating the small fruit, which I think had quite a tart flavour. As I recall, Mum would also make jam, but not pies, with these.

strawberry torte

(c) Norah Colvin

I recall that, even as a young adult, a serving of strawberries and cream had seemed a very luxurious and decadent dessert. Now strawberries are more affordable and readily available all year round. They are a favourite of my granddaughter. So much so that I need to have at least one punnet in the fridge for her when she visits. A strawberry torte is my family’s pick for special occasions such as birthdays and Christmas. I wrote about it and included the recipe here.

In addition to strawberries, stores now have a variety available all year round; including blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and cranberries. The berries make a wonderful filling for the other family favourite, pavlova.

pavlova

(c) Norah Colvin

But do you know what a berry is?

I checked with Wikipedia for the definition of a berry, and found that it is “a fleshy fruit without a stone produced from a single flower containing one ovary”.

Botanically, the following fruits (and vegetables) are berries:

  • Grapes
  • Currants
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplants
  • Bananas
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Blueberries
  • Cranberries
  • Coffee beans
  • Pumpkin
  • Watermelon

and these, commonly called berries, are not:

  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Mulberry
  • Blackberry

Do you need to change you answers to my initial questions:

What is your favourite berry?

Which berries make your taste buds sing?

Or are you happy to go with common usage? If I write about mulberries, will I be fulfilling the requirements of Charli’s prompt? Perhaps I should write about picking watermelons instead.

Mulberry picking

Mulberry Stew

Branches hung heavy with berries in reach of even the youngest child. They ate more than they bucketed; but there were plenty, including for birds singing in higher branches. Mum had forbidden them. “Mrs Wilson’s poorly. Don’t disturb her.” But they couldn’t resist. They scampered the instant she called.

“Where have you been?” She eyed the purple stains.

“We …” the youngest began to sing.

“Nowhere,” they shushed with hands concealed.

“What were you doing?”

“Nothing.”

Her lips twitched. “Hand them over.”

Later they pondered together how she knew.

When Dad got home, they’d have to face the music.

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

 

Easter holiday wishes – Readilearn

 

This week I have uploaded two new resources which are just as suitable for Easter holiday fun at home as they are for learning in the classroom.

Whose egg? A logic puzzle can be used with the whole class to introduce children to the steps involved in completing logic puzzles; or as an independent or buddy activity if children already know how to complete logic puzzles on their own.

Three friends, three eggs, and three baskets. But which friend has which egg and which basket?

Children read the story scenario and the clues, then use the information to deduce which friend bought which egg in which basket.

Great for reading comprehension and creative thinking; and for collaboration in a paired activity!

Continue reading: Easter holiday wishes – Readilearn

Author Spotlight: Karen Tyrrell – Readilearn

Read all about award-winning author Karen Tyrrell and her empowering book for children – Song Bird Superhero; just in time for the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence.

With today being the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence in Australia, today is the perfect day to introduce you to author Karen Tyrrell.

Karen is an award-winning author who writes books to empower kids (and adults) and help them live strong and be resilient.  After many years of classroom teaching experience, she continues to educate through sharing her own story of resilience as a survivor of bullying, through her words on the page, and through her workshops for adults that deal with writing, marketing, and funding, in addition to empowerment. She presents workshops for children in schools, libraries, and other creative spaces. With her flair for costuming and performance, she always conducts entertaining sessions with a splash of fun staring in her own scripted pantomimes.

In her first book Me and Her: A Memoir of Madness Karen tells of the bullying she experienced as a teacher, and of her remarkable survival story. Her second, Me and Him: A Guide to Recovery tells of the important role of her husband as support on her journey back to health.

From there Karen has gone on to write a number of children’s books, including Bailey Beats the Blah and  STOP the Bully, both of which are endorsed by Kids Helpline. She won an RADF (Regional Arts Development Fund) grant for her picture book Harry Helps Grandpa Remember about memory loss and strategies for remembering.

Karen’s three Junior Fiction novels Jo-Kin Battles the ItJo-Kin vs Lord Terra, and Song Bird Superhero share positive messages of self-belief, resilience, team building, problem solving and STEM science; each with a good dose of humour included.

It is Song Bird Superhero, a book for readers of about 7 – 10 years, that Karen and I are discussing today.

 

Continue reading at: Author Spotlight: Karen Tyrrell – Readilearn

Who’s on the move?

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills raised the subject of migration and challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a migration story.

Although Charli always provides suggestions, she also permits writers to go where the prompt leads, allowing their thoughts to migrate in whichever direction they choose. This is good for me as my thoughts always bring me back to early childhood education and, if I can somehow squeeze it in, butterflies.

Migration is a part of human history. We are told that humans originated in Africa, and that migration out of Africa began about 60 000 years ago (well, that’s one of the stories). That we are now spread across the world is no mean feat, particularly when we acknowledge that most of the migration occurred before the industrial age, long before steam ships and ocean liners, before motor cars and air travel.

But migration continues still, and our countries and cities become home to those whose lives began far away and who share different cultural traditions. The purpose of the National Geographic Society’s Genographic Project is to discover more about our shared genetic heritage. In an early childhood classroom, we, too, can discover how much we have in common and learn to appreciate our differences.

Whoever you are.

Mem Fox’s beautiful book Whoever You Are is great for encouraging children to recognise, respect, and  appreciate each other, similarities and differences included.

mem-fox-im-australian-too

This year sees Mem publish another beautiful book I’m Australian Too which shows appreciation for everyone who is part of our wonderful multi-cultural Australia. (Follow the links to both books and you can listen to her read them too!)

A number of readilearn resources support teachers in developing an appreciation for everyone’s heritage, including a history unit which helps children learn more about their own family history and traditions, and the histories and traditions of their classmates’ families.

Just as amazing as stories of human migration, are those of animal migration. I was surprised when I first heard of the migration of monarch butterflies from Canada to Mexico in the autumn, and back again in spring, a distance of over 4800 miles or almost 8000 kilometres. What a long flight for a butterfly, I thought, the poor butterfly’s wings must be ragged by the end of the journey. But the round trip involves at least four generations.

And although monarch butterflies are native to North America, they are now part of the Australian landscape, having arrived, possibly during the gold rushes of the mid-1800s.

Even longer, twice as long in fact, than the monarch’s migratory flight, is that of a dragonfly which, also over four generations, makes a complete circuit of the Indian Ocean – almost 1000 miles or about 16 000 kilometres. The story of how this tiny insect’s epic journey was discovered is fascinating. Who knows what one may discover when wonder is mixed with observation.

There’s obviously plenty of diversity from which to draw inspiration for a migration story. I’ve chosen to write a story set a little bit closer to home. I hope you like it.

Please pop over to Charli’s post to see where the prompt has taken other writers.

Adventurous plans

His bag was packed. He was ready. He stopped at the door for one last look, then stepped outside, pulling it closed behind him. At that moment, he was certain; he would never return. There was nothing for him here. Exotic places and untold adventures awaited. At the stop, he hailed a bus and climbed aboard. “Where are you off to?” asked the driver. “I’m on an adventure,” he said, tendering a fistful of plastic coins. “But only if you take me with you,” said his out-of-breath mother, smiling. “Okay,” he said. The driver winked as she climbed aboard.

Thank you

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

P.S. I’m excited to announce the launch of a new app for beginning readers created by my son, Robert. If you know anyone with young children who may be interested, please let them know about Word Zoo, available now in the App Store.

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Who’s watching?

This week in her fascinating post at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a watcher.

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From the moment of birth children are watchers, learning from their observations of the world around them – objects, people, actions, interactions. The adage “Do what I say, not what I do” holds little significance for young children. They may do what you say, but they are more likely to mirror what you do. For this reason, it is important to model the behaviours you wish children to emulate; for example, kindness, patience, empathy, truthfulness, tolerance, understanding. You need to be the type of human being you wish them to be. Example is a powerful teacher.

Dorothy Law Nolte summed it up in her poem Children Learn What They Live.

Watching is also important to teachers, especially early childhood teachers who spend a lot of time observing children to discover more about their learning needs. Learning in this sense is not confined to the academic. It involves regard for the whole person, especially social-emotional development. So much of what we learn about getting along with others is learned in the early years. While the teachers are watching the children, the children are watching them.

Thank you to my wonderful students, and their lovely Mum who made this for me!

Thank you to my wonderful students, and their lovely Mum who made this for me!

But children’s observations are not confined to the home or classroom. They are constantly watching the behaviour of others, learning about interactions and what is, and is not, acceptable. The responsibility for developing the kind of world citizens we want lies not solely with parents and teachers. We must all be mindful of the influence our actions may have upon the expanding world knowledge of those around us. That’s not to say we should be perfect. (Thank goodness, or I’d have been shot long ago!) We just need to be aware that little eyes (and big eyes) are watching and learning.

The way new situations are approached can vary according to personality as much as to the behaviour that has been observed in similar circumstances. Sometimes the expectation seems to be that, if children are put with a whole bunch of other kids their age, they will make friends easily. But that is no more likely than if a bunch of people my age were thrown together. Some of us are outgoing and feel comfortable talking with unknown others. Some like to observe for a while to determine an approach with which we may feel more comfortable.  Some require support to venture into unknown territory.

For my response to Charli’s prompt, I have written about a little one, hurt in the past and now facing a new situation, hesitant to make the first move. When children are taught to be accepting of and friendly towards others, reluctance can turn into confidence. I hope it works.

Friends

He stood at the periphery, silently observing, calculating their disposition, weighing his chances. Were they friend or foe? Appearances could be deceiving, as could his gut reaction.

They seemed harmless enough; but his sweaty palms, throbbing temples, and churning belly turned his legs to jelly. Even breathing was a struggle.

He became aware of someone tugging his shirt. Though unsure if she was talking or mouthing, he understood, “Would you like to play?”

His head would neither nod nor shake, but she led him by the hand anyway.

“Hey, everyone! This is Amir,” she announced.

“Hi Amir!” they chorused.

Thank you

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

You’re not allowed!

child-1439468_1920

How many of these did you hear when you were a child?

  • You’re too small
  • You’re too big
  • You’re too young
  • You’re too old
  • It’s too far
  • It costs too much
  • It’s too dangerous
  • Girls don’t do that
  • Boys don’t do that
  • It’s too …

Sometimes it was difficult to find an activity that, like Baby Bear’s bed, was just right. Oftentimes it was only ‘just right’ in the eyes someone wielding the power; and not always in the eyes of the one wishing to have, do, go, or be. Setting limits is often easier than chasing possibilities.

starr-cline-creativity

Many years ago I read What Would Happen If I Said Yes?… A Guide to Creativity for Parents and Teachers by Starr Cline.  Cline writes about creativity, emotional intelligence, giftedness, intelligences, diversity, and the power of “Yes”. On her website, she makes this statement:

“After years of observation and research, I have drawn the following conclusions:

  • Everyone has the ability to create.
  • The external environment is critical in the development of one’s potential, whether it be in mathematics, language, the arts, etc.
  • Individuals may have one or more areas in which they excel
  • IQ scores do not reflect specific talents or abilities
  • Creativity begins diminishing at about third grade”

I’m inclined to agree, and feel especially sad about the last point she makes.

What Would Happen If I Said Yes? challenged me to think about ways in which I could parent (and teach) more positively and encourage, rather than inhibit, creativity; encourage a willingness to try new things; and to avoid placing unnecessary limitations upon others and myself. I can’t say I was entirely successful, but I did make some gains.

In the book, Cline suggests that you “STOP every time you are about to say no. THINK about what might happen if you said yes!”  Consider the worst scenario that could occur if you said yes, and whether it would be really that bad, or even likely.

She says to consider why you may say No.

“Is it because …

You don’t want to be bothered

It wasn’t your idea

It’s a habit

Someone treated you that way

It makes you feel powerful”

She reminds that the messages saying “No” often sends are:

“Your idea is stupid

You are stupid

You’re not capable

You’re not worth it.”

In the long term, are these negative messages more important than a temporary inconvenience, or than the benefits that would accrue from positive responses?

But don’t get me wrong. Cline doesn’t suggest you just say “Yes” to everything. She says that sometimes you may need to come up with a creative way of saying no. She provides many ways of doing so in her book, which I recommend as a great read for both parents and teachers.

Even as adults we can find ourselves in situations where certain things are not allowed and rules are imposed, such as in the workplace or in clubs and other organisations.

Sometimes the things we are not allowed to do are self-imposed limits; we may not allow ourselves to do things because:

  • It’s scary
  • It’s unfamiliar
  • We feel uncomfortable
  • We don’t know anybody there
  • It costs too much

camping-1289930_1920

Sometimes, as I explained about my attitude to camping in a previous post Around the campfire, we make choices and find ways of justifying our decisions, at least to ourselves if not to anyone else. There are many reasons I choose to avoid camping, many other things I’d prefer to do, and I don’t often consider myself to be missing out.

Although I can appreciate camping’s appeal to others, it was only when I read a late comment by Bruce Mitchell that I began to consider some of the wonders, including Antarctica, I had missed. Maybe I’ll be more adventurous next time round!

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about something or someone not allowed

In her post, Charli speaks of many injustices, including the rules that say who is and is not allowed to vote in elections in the United States. The rules affect many, for many different reasons (or petty excuses based on power) and tend to be divisive rather than inclusive.

charli-mills-gift

Charli says that,

“The greatest gift you can give is to allow another. Allow someone else to listen to their favorite music. Allow someone else to tell you their story. Allow someone to connect to you even if you feel harried. Smile back, nod, acknowledge, empathize. Be loving. Some among us have denials you can’t see stamped upon their countenances because of circumstances.”

While deciding what we will or will not allow our children to do may seem trivial in comparison, surely bringing up our younger generations to be confident, independent, responsible, and accepting of others, allowing them to join in; creating an inclusive society, is something to strive towards. Perhaps if we allow our children, they will allow others.

For my response to Charli’s flash, I’ve gone back to childhood. Where else? I hope you enjoy it.

Not allowed

She knew they were in there. She heard their chatter. Her knocks began timidly, then louder. The room hushed. There was rustling, then padding feet. She waited. The door opened a peek. Her loving sister’s smiling face appeared, then contorted unrecognisably.

“You’re not allowed!” the monster screeched, and slammed the door.

She froze – obliterated, erased, smashed to smithereens. She was nowhere, nothing. Why? What had she done?

She could only shrug when Mum asked why she wasn’t playing with her sister.

Later, at dinner, she viewed her sister’s sweet smiles cautiously. Was she real? When would the monster reappear?

thank-you-1200x757

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

Once was a dog

grenny

I am not a dog person. In fact, I am not a pet person at all. The only pets I ever owned were short-lived: goldfish, fighting fish, hermit crabs, and billabong bugs. I was successful at keeping caterpillars in the classroom and observing them grow, pupate, and emerge as butterflies. But they couldn’t really be classed as pets. I’ve written about this before here.

I know all the theories about pet ownership; especially for helping children develop a sense of responsibility and care for others. I know about the contribution of pets to the physical and psychological health of their owners of all ages through the companionship and unconditional love they offer. I am touched by the heart warming story of Noah Ainslie, a little boy suffering from autism, and the difference his service dog Appa has made to his life, and the lives of his family. Please help if you can.

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It would not be unrealistic, with my focus on nurturing young children, to expect that I would be a pet owner. However, I’ve never been inclined to make the commitment required

My parents were both country people who moved to suburbia to raise their large family. There were never any pets. They said that dogs didn’t belong in towns. The dogs they were used to were working dogs, never pets. I guess there were enough mouths to feed without adding pets to the mix as well.

Unlike for some, lack of a pet as a child did not induce me to want one on reaching adulthood. Consequently, my children also missed out. Daughter had some mice, rats, and a guinea pig at various times; but nothing to compare to a “real” pet, like a cat or a dog. As soon as she moved into a house that allowed pets, she and partner went out and got themselves a dog.

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I must say, Ziggy is a gorgeous dog with a happy, friendly, easy-going nature. If I was going to have a dog, he’d be it. I’m beginning to get an inkling of the relationship between humans and their animal friends. There is definitely something very special about it. However, I’m still not interested in forming an attachment of my own.

Ziggy is a very special dog with very special owners. You can get to know the three of them in this video. (Watch from 11:.24 – 15:20.)

Unfortunately the video may not play for those residing outside Australia. Thanks to Anne Goodwin for alerting me to the fact.

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Ziggy’s innovative surgery put him in the spotlight for a little while. His story was also featured on the Tripawds blog

ziggy-on-tripawds-blog

and ABC News

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The importance and depth of the human-pet relationship was reinforced for me this week when Charli Mills of the Carrot Ranch reported that her big brown canine friend Grenny was gone.

Charli was devastated by his unexpected passing and shared stories of his special abilities and the ways in which he added to their lives. Her post is a wonderful tribute to Grenny’s life and his contribution to theirs. Charli asked writers to share stories about big brown dogs this week.

Charli said, In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a Big Brown Dog. I just want to read Big Brown Dog stories this week. I know dogs aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but you can write about that, too. Keep it happy, write something funny, surprising or tender. Thank you.

Well, Charli knows that dogs aren’t my cup of tea. She also understands that, with no personal experience on which to draw, I feel inadequate to respond appropriately to her situation, other than offer my heartfelt sympathies. As for writing, I could come up with nothing other than nonsense which I don’t consider at all appropriate.  Other writers have written beautiful brown dog stories for Charli.

Please follow the link to read Charli’s post, the lovely comments, and the beautiful stories.

Instead of a flash, I’ll leave you with a few picture books about pets you might like to read:

A Pet for Mrs Arbuckle by Gwenda Smith

a-pet-for-mrs-arbuckle-by-gwenda-smyth

What Pet Should I Get? by Dr Seuss

lifetimes

Lifetimes by Bryan Mellonie is a beautiful book for explaining death to children. It’s great to read at any time to help children understand that every living thing has its own lifetime. It is also great to read when the death of a pet is imminent or occurs. Understanding that death is a part of life, helps with the grieving process.

Breaths - life is not measured

Thank you

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