Category Archives: Family

Mending Fences flash fiction stories prompted by the Carrot Ranch challenge

Mending fences

What time is it when an elephant sits on the fence?

Time to get a new one!

Mending fences #flash fiction prompt from Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch

This week, when Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a broken fence. You can mend it, leave it, or explain its place in a story. Go where the prompt leads, I spent quite a bit of time fence sitting, undecided about which fence story to choose.

As you know, there are many types of fences: literal, metaphorical, even imagined. Fences are usually built to contain things, to keep people or things on one side or the other, or to define a boundary and possibly restrict passage. But the term “mending broken fences” has a different nuance of meaning. In this use, it means to repair a broken relationship as opposed to improving boundary security.

But which fence should I choose?

Should I share some history?

Rabbit-Proof Fence

This year marks the one-hundredth anniversary of my family (grandfather, grandmother and their young family – my father, the fifth of nine, was born three years later) taking up residence on a property owned by the Rabbit Board. My grandfather was a boundary rider until 1955, repairing the fence built to protect farming and grazing lands from the destructive introduced species. His youngest son replaced him, continuing until the role terminated in 1957. My uncle purchased the property from the Rabbit Board and lived there with his family until his death this year not long after the anniversary celebrations.

or perhaps reminisce?

The Cow Jumped Over the Fence

Until I was six, my parents were small crop farmers. The farm didn’t generate much income and there were more bad years than good. To help feed the growing family (there were six of us by then) Mum and Dad invested in chickens for both eggs and meat and a milking cow. The first cow knocked down the fence and escaped to freedom. Dad repaired it and bought another cow, which squeezed under the fence. After a third cow jumped the fence, Mum and Dad decided milk deliveries were a better option and we kids never learned to milk.

Note: I did write about this incident, a little differently, here.

Should I plan a lesson?

Teaching positional prepositions with The Elephant’s Fence

Make a fence from pop sticks.

Make an elephant using different-sized pom poms for body and head; pipe cleaners for legs, trunk and tail; paper or felt for ears; and googly eyes.

Place your elephant according to these instructions:

  • Beside the fence
  • In front of the fence
  • Behind the fence
  • Under the fence
  • Between the palings
  • Next to the fence
  • Above the fence
  • Below the fence
  • On the fence.

Now choose a place for your elephant to be. Tell your elephant’s story:

  • Why is it there?
  • How did it get there?
  • What is it doing?
  • What will happen next?

or attempt a story?

Sometimes it is the imaginary fences that can be more limiting. Sometimes it’s better to leave things that aren’t broken in the first place.

Broken with intent

The fence was too high to jump or even see over, no footholds to climb, and palings too close to squeeze or even peer through. It hugged the soil too compacted to dig. It seemed impenetrable, and so intrigued. He stacked boxes for makeshift steps—not high enough. Finally, he hatched a plan—balloons! He blew them big and tied them tight, attached some string, and waited. And waited. Then a gust of wind lifted him high, over the fence, where another, just like him, smiled and said, “Should’ve used the gate; latch is broken—always open to friends.”

Thank you blog post

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

glitter, glisten, smiles and sparkles

Add a sprinkle of glitter to make your day sparkle

Children love to create artworks using pencils, crayons, paints and anything they can stick to a surface using glue. With access to a variety of materials, they can be absorbed for hours creating their masterpieces.

While they might select from the materials offered, I found the one thing that few children could resist was glitter—and the more of it, the better.

There is nothing like glitter to add a bit of sparkle to the day. The only trouble is, glitter is so light and so small, that it goes everywhere—on the artwork, on the table, on the chair and on the floor. It sticks to the hands and is smeared on the face and takes forever to remove from the hair. But everyone loves it nonetheless, and it adds a little brightness to the day.

Smiles are like glitter in that they also spread easily and brighten the day. However, they are not nearly so messy, cost nothing, and require no cleaning up at all.

I think smiles are the glitter we should add to the artwork that is everyday life. And if there’s one thing about smiles, the more you give, the more you receive. Smiles come from a bottomless well, from a source that never dries up. A sprinkle of smiles will make anyone’s day sparkle, and who knows what difference a smile can make to another’s life.

The Ripple Effect by Tony Ryan

I often think of The Ripple Effect, written by Tony Ryan, and its inspirational stories. I especially enjoy this quote by Bette Reese included in the book: “If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito.”

quote about effectiveness and size by Bette Reese

One of Tony’s stories describes the following scenario:

“As you enter the freeway, you discover that the traffic is heavier than usual, and is moving quite slowly. You then notice that the young driver in the car beside you is trying to enter your lane, because her exit is coming up. No-one is letting her in, and she is becoming tense and upset.”

Tony then describes the turning point in her day:

“You stop, and wave her in front of you with a flourish and a smile.”

and the ripple effect:

  • “she returns your smile, acknowledges your thoughtful action, and drives on
  • her tension dissipates, and she arrives at her company office feeling buoyed by your little effort
  • as the main receptionist, she is the first to greet the hundreds of people who enter the office each day
  • with her positive greeting, she decides to brighten up the life of every person she meets throughout that day
  • because of her efforts, many others in the business district are inspired to focus on their own positive efforts.”

Like glitter, we can never know how far the effects of our smiles might travel. There can never be too many smiles in any one day, especially in a classroom filled with children.

man glisten a flash fiction challenge by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about man glisten. It was a fun term coined by two men with glitter in their beards. What more could it embrace? Look to the unexpected and embrace a playful approach. Go where the prompt leads.

I’d only come across the word “glisten” before in the Christmas carol, Walking in a Winter Wonderland.

But Charli’s prompt reminded me of an incident in my childhood that had absolutely nothing to do with glitter or glisten (I don’t even remember glitter in my childhood) but loads to do with smiles. I’ve rewritten the incident to include glitter and other alternative facts. I hope it gives you a smile.

Glitter smiles glisten

Relentless rain meant no beach for the country cousins. They spent eternity on the verandah, making artworks, playing games, and bickering.

On the last day, when Mum said to clear space for their mattresses, they fought over who’d do what. Toys and games ended up in a haphazard tower with the glitter bucket balanced on top.

When Dad bent for goodnight kisses, he stumbled and demolished the tower. Glitter went everywhere—including all over Dad. The children gasped.

“Your hair glistens, Dad,” smiled the littlest.

Dad smiled too, then everybody laughed.

Dad wore a hat to work that week.

Writing Skills workbook with Strike Me Pink

I previously wrote about this incident for inclusion in a Writing Skills Homework Book published by Pascal Press. Workbooks such as this are very different from the teaching resources I now share on readilearn, but: it was paid work.

This version is closer to the truth.

Strike Me Pink!

Because we lived near the beach, our cousins visited one Easter. Unfortunately, it rained all weekend. Just imagine eight children under ten years old and four adults cooped up in one tiny cottage. Everyone’s patience was wearing thin. We children were starting to whinge and niggle each other. The adults were trying to keep cool and prevent us from hurting each other.

One night when it was all too much, the children were sent to bed early. Four of us were on mattresses on the floor. The line for drying washing, strung across the room overhead, held only one item: my pink dressing gown. I had carelessly tossed it there out of the way.

When Dad came in for a goodnight kiss he thought we looked like a row of toy soldiers in a box. Bending down he exclaimed, “Strike me pink!” And he was! The dressing gown fell from the line and draped over his shoulders like a cloak. What mirth erupted at the sight of my father looking like a pink general. The tensions eased and smiles returned to everyone’s faces.

The next morning was fine as our cousins left for home. We hadn’t been to the beach, but we did have a story to share that would bring a smile to our faces for many years to come.

Note: I don’t know how many others used the term, but my Dad often said, “Strike me pink” to express surprise.

Thank you blog post

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

 

 

How do you perform?

theatre seating

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills talks about her years as a ballet-Mum, working behind the scenes to ensure the performers were ready to take to the stage.

She talks about the pleasure of watching from theatre stalls, a recent performance of dancers taught by the daughter she’d taken to lessons all those years before.

She sees connections between her role as stage-Mom and her role as Lead Buckaroo at the Carrot Ranch; and similarities between ballet performances and performing with flash fiction.

This, of course led to the week’s flash fiction prompt in which Charli challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write that features a performance. You can interpret what is a performance any way the prompt leads you.

There is little in which Charli is unable to find an analogy to writing. Likewise, I am always keen to find the connections, similarities and analogies to teaching. I have long considered teaching to have elements consistent with entertaining and performing, with our classroom the stage, and the students the interactive audience, the participants for whom and by whom the daily enactment evolves. Regardless of how we feel, each day we enter our classrooms ready to perform, determined to give our students the best educational experience possible.

But I am also familiar with other performances. I performed in many plays as part of studying Speech and Drama throughout school. Both children had a big interest in drama at school also, and I spent many hours ferrying them to classes around the city, making costumes, and watching rehearsals as well as final performances.

As a teacher, I would provide opportunities for children to role play, improvise impromptu scenarios, create puppet plays, and perform songs or plays for parents throughout the year.

Then there are the other impromptu performances that toddlers are great at turning on when the inappropriate moment takes them.

Tonight, I had the pleasure of viewing a presentation, rather than performance, of a story written by local author Yvonne Mes. The story A Starry Christmas was animated and displayed in a spectacular light show on Brisbane City Hall. What an amazing way to have one’s work shared. Congratulations must go to Yvonne for writing the story, and the teams who animated it and produced it. You can watch a video of the story and read some additional information about the event on Yvonne’s website here.

I thought I’d combine a few of these ideas into my response to Charli’s flash fiction prompt this week. I hope you enjoy it.

Christmas lights

A two-day city visit is never enough, but they were determined – trekking the city, visiting in-store Santas, viewing Christmas-dressed windows, watching street performers, even attending a pantomime, with just a brief playground stop for lunch. The light show was the day’s finale.  The tired parents and niggly children collapsed onto the lawn in anticipation. Suddenly the littlest began to perform – crying, screaming, stamping, flailing. Nothing would soothe. The eldest observed, zombie-like. Soon the light-show distracted, occasionally interrupting the performance. Only when the fireworks began, drowning out his cries, did he give in to sleep, sprawled indecorously on the grass.

Thank you blog post

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

 

readilearn – 6 Fine motor Christmas activities for the classroom and home – Readilearn

In this post, I welcome early childhood educator Johanna Clark to the blog with ideas for developing fine motor skills in fun Christmas activities that are suitable for both the classroom and home.

These activities supplement existing readilearn Christmas activities and suggestions that can be provided to parents to keep children engaged in reading, writing and mathematical thinking over the holidays.

Johanna Clark is an early childhood educator, with a background in early primary teaching. She is passionate about developing children’s early literacy and fine-motor skills in the years before formal schooling begins to build a solid foundation for learning. She believes in creating a classroom that children love coming to every day, and that helps all children to succeed.

In her spare time, she can be found reading or crocheting (or both!). She also combines her teaching and creativity by designing handmade, educational toys for her small business and Etsy shop, ‘Jo and Co. Design’. She specialises in crochet dolls and felt travel games.

She has two small children who love testing out her new toy designs and raiding her picture book collection!

Over to you Johanna.

Whether December in your classroom means the end of the school year or the end of the calendar year, it’s always fun to work some Christmas-themed activities into the schedule. It’s a great way to discuss students’ own experiences and expose them to different ways of celebrating, both around the world or in their own community.

Fine motor skills are so important to develop, in pre-school settings, the first 3 years of schooling and beyond! They allow children to build their hand-eye coordination, concentration and finger/hand/arm muscles. All of these skills are needed for pencil grip, using scissors and other general life skills such as buttoning, zipping and using cutlery.

So why not combine fine-motor skills and Christmas?

Following are some ideas for Christmas themed fine motor activities that can be used both in the early years classroom and at home. Most are suitable for small groups or independent work and some can even be used to decorate your classroom and share the festive spirit!

Continue reading: readilearn – 6 Fine motor Christmas activities for the classroom and home – Readilearn

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