Category Archives: Philosophy

Motivation – why we do the things we do

Over at the Carrot Ranch this week Charli Mills is talking about motivation, specifically the motivation of fictional characters to do the things they do. She explains that ‘motivation can be external–a desire to please, to be found attractive, to be accepted’ or ‘internal–a drive to succeed, a passion to experience adventure, a fear of failure’.

Motivation is not a new concept to this blog and I have explored it in a number of previous posts.


In What did you do that for? Rewards and motivation I discussed the use of extrinsic rewards (such as stickers, awards and cash incentives) for school students; and questioned the authenticity of intrinsic motivation, which ‘is usually related to something of one’s own choice through interest, challenge or purpose’, in an institution at which attendance is compulsory.  I suggested some strategies that teachers may employ to stimulate an intrinsic love of learning.

why am I doing thiswhat's the point

Continuing the consideration of the effect of compulsory schooling on a learner’s motivation, the post Why do I have to? explored the use of philosophy as a tool for making the goals of education explicit. All three philosophers: Peter Worley, Michael Hand and Stephen Boulter agreed that if students knew why they were expected to learn certain things, they would be more motivated to do so.

the examined life

A discussion of the impact of praise upon a learners’ motivation and achievement was stimulated by reading The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz, a book recommended by Anne Goodwin.  The Post Seeking praise – Stephen Grosz revisited explored Grosz’s suggestion that praise could cause a loss of competence, especially if children were being praised for being clever. Responses to the post, including a guest post by Anne Goodwin, added greater depth to the discussion.

Other ideas about motivation abound.

Shelley Wilson’s blog Live every day with intention,  which promises to inspire and motivate you (‘A motivational blog about living life to the full, writing, reading and feeling inspired to follow your dreams’) is the basis of her new book ‘How I changed my life’.

In this TED talk The puzzle of motivation, Dan Pink explains that the value of intrinsic motivation is a scientific fact. While the focus of his talk is the business world, the findings are equally relevant to education. He says that external rewards may work in limited situations but that they often impede creativity. He says that ‘the secret to high performance isn’t rewards and punishments, but that unseen intrinsic drive – the drive to do things for their own sake. The drive to do things because they matter.

Which brings me back to my motivation for writing this post and sharing these thoughts: Charli’s post, mentioned at the beginning of this article, was an introduction to her flash fiction prompt to In 99 words (no more, no less) show the underlying motivation of a character.

My motivations for engaging with the flash fiction challenges set by Charli are both intrinsic and extrinsic:

I enjoy:

  • the dual challenges of writing to a prompt with a clearly defined word count;
  • the opportunity of writing fiction;
  • exploring the application of Charli’s prompt, however tenuous, to education;
  • the camaraderie of the fellow writers and the opportunity to read and comment on their posts and flash fiction pieces; and

I appreciate the feedback, support and encouragement I receive in response to my writing.

In her prompt, Charli suggested that the character ‘may not even understand the motivation fully, but (that I should) let the reader grasp it.’ I have written two pieces in response to this prompt. I hope you enjoy them, and get an inkling of what motivates the characters.


More than numbers

The more he stared at the numbers the less sense they made.

They swirled and blurred. He just didn’t get it.

“Numbers don’t lie,” they’d admonished.

“But they don’t tell either,” he’d thought.

The hollowness left when all he knew had been extracted could not be filled with the smorgasbord of numbers loaded on the page.

The richness of lives reduced to mere squiggles.

“This is what’s important,” they’d said, fingers drumming tables of data.

With heaviness of heart he closed the book and walked away.

“They are not even numbers,” he thought. “If they were numbers, they’d count!”



More than words

“More!” they implored.

She surveyed their eager faces then glanced at the clock.

“Just one more?”

“Okay. Just one more.”

Before she could choose, a book landed in her lap.

“This one,” he said.

“Yes,” they chorused. “It’s a good one!”

She smiled agreement, then started to read.

They joined in, remembering, anticipating.

She turned the page.

“Wait!” he said. “Go back.”

“Did you see that?” He pointed to the page.

“But look what he’s doing,” someone else chimed in.

They all laughed.

The shared joy of a beloved book. Each time the same. Each time a little more.


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

Of rainbows and unicorns – Part 2 – Do fairy tales and fantasy still have a place for children?

I have many discussions with parents about whether they should read fairy tales and stories with magical elements to their children. These parents raise a number of issues, for example:

  • Horrible things happen – Hansel and Gretel are abandoned in the woods (by their parents) and are captured by a wicked witch – the wolf tries to trick the seven little kids left at home alone
  • Parents are often dead or absent – Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Rapunzel, Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk
  • Stepmothers are mean – Cinderella, Snow White
  • Sexism, especially the need for a female to be rescued by a handsome prince – Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty
  • They contain “magical” creatures such as fairy godmothers (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty), witches (Snow White), giants (Jack and the Beanstalk), trolls (Three Billy Goats)
  • Myth of happily ever after
  • Stereotypes – beauty is good, ugly is bad
  • The presence of magic – good magic of fairies and bad magic of witches – Sleeping Beauty; magical bean seeds and geese (Jack and the Beanstalk)
  • Bullying – Cinderella

Maria L. Hughes, writing for The Little Prickle Press sums up the concerns this way:

“many of the older tales incorporated rather dark themes devoted to death, suffering and children being murdered. But then there is also a second incorporation that has to do with later Disney movies of these fairy tales and them being too happy and can result in parents thinking their child will be deluded with ideas that the world will just work for them and things will be good.”

While I acknowledge these elements occur, I am not prepared to abandon fairy tales because of it.

While I may consider a diet of only fairy tales problematic, I think something would be lacking if a child was refused access to the richness of their stories and tradition. Like most fiction, they offer an avenue for escapism. In addition, the stories can be used as a tool for initiating non-threatening discussions of the issues listed above.

In Once upon an if The Storythinking Handbook Peter Worley writes

“Stories are just one way that we are able to sharpen our own character in order to prepare for the narratives we will one day find ourselves in as the story of our life unfolds before, around and within us.” 

Following a comment by Richard Dawkins, a recent discussion on The Guardian considered whether fairy tales are harmful to children. So far the consensus seems to be that they are not.

Albert Einstein was a supporter of fairy tales and is often attributed with the following quote, discussed in more detail by Maria Popova on brain pickings.

Anne Fine, in the Foreword to Once upon an if The Storythinking Handbook explains

“In an increasingly complicated world, we more than ever want our children to be able to think with clarity, rather than lead lives hampered or derailed by all those false assumptions and unexamined prejudices that seem as easily inherited as freckles or brown eyes.

How can we go about teaching them to peel back the surface of their first thoughts on a matter, or even their strongest beliefs, and look at them with more care? . . . fiction has always fostered the moral, intellectual and emotional development of the growing child. (‘Should she have done that?’ ‘Would I?’ ‘What else could have been done?’ ‘How would it feel?’) Good stories highlight the sheer complexity of things. They furnish a far greater understanding of the world and everyone in it. For most of us, fiction has always been the earliest – and many would argue the best – instrument we have had for ethical enquiry.”

Think of the ethical inquiry that could occur when discussing Goldilocks and her break and enter, Jack’s theft of the giant’s belongings and the constant portrayal of the wolf as the bad guy; just to get you started.

Melissa Taylor on her blog “Imagination Soup” suggests the following 8 reasons why fairy tales are essential to childhood:

  1. Show kids how to handle problems
  2. Build emotional resilience
  3. Give us a common language (Cultural literacy and canon)
  4. Cross cultural boundaries
  5. Teach story
  6. Develop imagination
  7. Can be used to teach critical thinking skills
  8. Teach lessons

In a previous post about fairy tales, written in response to a flash fiction challenge set by Charli Mills  I mentioned that I was not a keen reader of adult fantasy. In a comment on that post Charli mentioned that she knew others with similar feelings. I will leave you with a link to another article on brain pickings in which Maria Popova discusses the thoughts of one of the masters of fantasy, J.R.R. Tolkien on Fairy Tales, Language, the Psychology of Fantasy, and Why There’s No Such Thing as Writing “For Children”

What do you think? Should we read fairy tales to children? Why/why not?

What are your favourite fairy tales and what lessons have you learned from them?

Please share your thoughts.

This is nice

If you haven’t yet visited Brain Pickings by Maria Popova, this week’s newsletter is a great place to start.

Maria Popova describes herself as “an interestingness hunter-gatherer and curious mind at large”. She gathers up all sorts of things that you didn’t know you were interested in, until you are.

Brain Pickings — “is a cross-disciplinary LEGO treasure chest, full of pieces spanning art, design, science, technology, philosophy, history, politics, psychology, sociology, ecology, anthropology, and more”.

I’m sure you will find something of interest to you!

This week’s offering If This Isn’t Nice, What Is? Kurt Vonnegut’s Advice to the Young on Kindness, Computers, Community, and the Power of Great Teachers  provides ideas, quotations and excerpts from speeches made by Kurt Vonnegut at college graduation ceremonies between 1978 and 2004.

Here are just a few that I found particularly interesting or appealing. Please visit Brain Pickings for a more complete synopsis.


 “But I say with all my American ancestors, “If what Jesus said was good, and so much of it was absolutely beautiful, what does it matter if he was God or not?”

If Christ hadn’t delivered the Sermon on the Mount, with its message of mercy and pity, I wouldn’t want to be a human being.

I would just as soon be a rattlesnake.”

“But in our personal lives, our inner lives, at least, we can learn to live without the sick excitement, without the kick of having scores to settle with this particular person, or that bunch of people, or that particular institution or race or nation. And we can then reasonably ask forgiveness for our trespasses, since we forgive those who trespass against us. And we can teach our children and then our grandchildren to do the same — so that they, too, can never be a threat to anyone.”

“I recommend that everybody here join all sorts of organizations, no matter how ridiculous, simply to get more people in his or her life. It does not matter much if all the other members are morons. Quantities of relatives of any sort are what we need.”

“By working so hard at becoming wise and reasonable and well-informed, you have made our little planet, our precious little moist, blue-green ball, a saner place than it was before you got here.”

“When things are going sweetly and peacefully, please pause a moment, and then say out loud, “If this isn’t nice, what is?”


Which ideas of Kurt Vonnegut do you find interesting?

With which do you agree or disagree?

Liebster Award acceptance responses


Recently I nominated a number of bloggers for a Liebster Award. Out of the thirteen I nominated, six chose to share their thoughts by answering the questions I asked. Considering the percentage of responses that are often received to a survey, I think this is a great result.

Below I have presented the questions that I asked and collated a summary of each response. If you wish to read each respondent’s answers in full, please visit their blogs. I’m sure you will find much more of interest.

You may notice that not all respondents have answered every question, and that one respondent has chosen another question of her own. That’s okay. I gave them permission to do so!

Remember, these were open-ended questions with no wrong answers and everyone did a marvelous job in answering them. I am very grateful to each for sharing the depth and openness of their thoughts. I think we have much to learn from them, and from each other. This is a list of respondents with links to their blogs.

Anne Goodwin  annethology  annecdotal Anne Goodwin’s Writing Blog

Nillu Nasser Stelter, Fiction and Freelance Writer

Nicole Hewes Cultivating Questioners

Charli Mills Carrot Ranch Communications Words for People!

Caroline Lodge book word

Nanny Shecando


1. What do you value most in life?

Anne Goodwin

Authenticity; ambivalence; fairness; mutual respect.

Nillu Nasser Stelter

the ability to choose how I live my life. Freedom is everything.

Nicole Hewes

moments of possibility and opportunity, where the world seems open and the choices seem infinite

Charli Mills

living in such a way that I look for beauty all around me and find good even when life’s path gets rocky

Caroline Lodge

my daughter

Nanny Shecando

the chance I get everyday to make the most of it. That I can do whichever I chose to do.


2. What activities do you enjoy and why?

Anne Goodwin

Reading and writing; walking in the countryside; choral singing and growing (some of) my own food.

Nillu Nasser Stelter

lazy afternoons in the park with my family; sinking into a bubble bath with a good book; singing when nobody is listening and dancing when nobody is watching

Nicole Hewes


Charli Mills

Activities that connect me to living in the moment: gardening, cooking and writing about the birds outside my window

Caroline Lodge

Reading and writing, and talking about both with other enthusiasts.

Nanny Shecando

any activity that allows me to be creative


3.What is something you wish you had more time for?

Anne Goodwin

I don’t think we can do everything (that’s what fiction is for – the chance to live other lives) and I’m reasonably happy with how I portion out my time.

Nillu Nasser Stelter

reading and writing; other creative pursuits

Nicole Hewes

travel, try new recipes, read more books, and to spend with my friends and family

Charli Mills

I’ve found that by taking time to stare at a sunset or falling snowflakes, I have all the time in the world. It’s what I do with it that matters.

Caroline Lodge

it’s not so much time as ability to fit all the things I love in my life

Nanny Shecando

read more books


4.What is one change you would like to make in the world?

Anne Goodwin

a shift in emphasis from a culture of greed to one of equality and compassion

Nillu Nasser Stelter

more understanding for each other, first within our own countries and then across country boundaries; clean water for all!

Nicole Hewes

change our society so that equal educational opportunity could actually exist, so that everyone could have access to basic resources, and so that money and special interests wouldn’t dictate the media

Charli Mills

contribute to world change through one beautiful book at a time; honor the hero’s journey within us all and to actualize everyday beauty

Caroline Lodge

World peace; access to books for everyone

Nanny Shecando

people holding themselves accountable for their actions


5.What is something you would like to change about yourself?

Anne Goodwin

I’d like to be more laid-back; a published novelist

Nillu Nasser Stelter

I’d like to care less about what other people think about me.

Nicole Hewes

I would like to be a tad more outgoing and a little less independent

Charli Mills

To stop worrying whether or not people approve of what I do.

Nanny Shecando

to practice a, “you’re full of greatness so long as you tap into it and utilise it” mentality


6.What surprises you most about your life – something good in your life that you hadn’t expected, dreamed of or thought possible?

Anne Goodwin

taking part in choral concerts of major classical works along with some pretty decent singers and a full orchestra. It’s a real emotional hit

Nillu Nasser Stelter

The ease of transition from single person to family life; how tiring and rewarding it would be.

I have evolved from a child with a mass of insecurities to someone who is comfortable with herself.

Nicole Hewes

Being in a relationship with a partner with a worldview quite different from mine who challenges my views and assumptions and is incredibly kind, supportive, and loving.

Charli Mills

an upheaval in my life would open the door for me to step into that writer’s life. It isn’t easy, but it is what I’ve dreamed of doing and I’m doing it.

Caroline Lodge

That it goes on getting better, that I go on learning, that there are so many amazing people in the world and I know some of them.

Nanny Shecando

that I am able to be so happy, comfortable, confident and secure in leading the life that I do.


7.What ‘big” question do you often ponder?

Anne Goodwin

The fact that our species has invested so much energy and creativity in the technology of warfare and so little in strategies for living in peace with our neighbours.

Nicole Hewes

Why our differences continue to lead to such polarization and why empathy can be so selective.

Charli Mills

How do I listen to God’s calling and live in the light?

Caroline Lodge

How can articulate and intelligent people inflict direct and indirect suffering upon others?

Nanny Shecando

life vs the state of dreaming. How can we really distinguish which is which? How do we know if what we perceive to be real is actually so?

8.What sorts of things amuse you?

Anne Goodwin

my husband’s dreadful punning jokes. And I quite like dark humour exemplified by the ditty Always Look on the Bright Side of Life from The Life of Brian

Nillu Nasser Stelter

Slapstick comedy and Ally McBeal; innuendo; the children

Nicole Hewes

comments that my second graders make in our classroom; when the ridiculousness of an idea is exposed by positing the same thinking in another situation.

Charli Mills

Silly little things

Caroline Lodge

Unintentional meanings in things like the sign “uncontrolled pedestrian crossing” in London.

Nanny Shecando

the daily conversations that I get to share with the kids.


9.What do you like to collect?

Anne Goodwin

Slugs from the garden

Nicole Hewes

copies of student work that blows me away with its insight or hilarity (I have a “smile file” where I keep these items). I also like to collect quotes and articles and stories that suggest that gender roles are actually shifting and gender stereotyping is altering. And pasta recipes

Charli Mills

Stuff from the ground that’s old–rocks, fossils, arrowheads, purple glass.

Nanny Shecando

books and old sheet music


10.If you could talk with anyone and ask them to explain their ideas and/or actions, who would it be, and why?

Anne Goodwin

I’d ask the women who doled out white feathers to men out of uniform in the First World War why they thought they had the right. If I couldn’t time travel, I’d ask our Prime Minister, David Cameron, why he isn’t ashamed that a rich country like ours has spawned so many food banks.

Nillu Nasser Stelter

both my grandfathers, who have both sadly died

Charli Mills

I’d love to talk to my 5th-great grandfather and ask him why he left North Carolina. He was a poet and wrote such sad verse about leaving those mountains as an old man.


11.What is something you can’t do without?

Anne Goodwin

My glasses, voice-activated software

Nillu Nasser Stelter

feeling connected

Nicole Hewes

a good book on my person at all times

Charli Mills


Caroline Lodge

my daughter

Nanny Shecando

a notebook and pen


12.What is something important you learned about life, and how did you learn it?

Anne Goodwin

That, unlike a work of fiction, we can’t scrub out the bits that don’t work and start again.

Charli Mills

A life of truth is not an easy one.

Nanny Shecando

you don’t get anything unless you ask for it


13.What is your earliest memory?

Anne Goodwin

I distinctly remember standing on the steps leading up to the front door of our house, replying “two in August” to a passerby who’d asked my age. However, this being one of the stories my mother liked to tell about me, and knowing what I do about the fallibility of autobiographical memories, especially those from early childhood, I doubt its authenticity, and regard it as my mother’s memory, not mine.

Nillu Nasser Stelter

Probably my gran singing ‘Nanu maru nak’ (my nose is small), a Gujarati nursery rhyme, to me, but I often question whether my memories are real or reconstructed, so I can’t be sure.

Charli Mills

One of my earliest memories is of a black cat that I coaxed into being a pet on a ranch where I lived the first seven years of my life. That cat made me feel safe

Caroline Lodge

Someone threatened to steal my little sister. It was an early experience of a quandary: if I went to get adult help she might get taken, but could I make sure she was safe on my own. I was scarcely 3 and she was newborn.

14.What sorts of things irritate you? (Caroline Lodge)

Caroline Lodge

There are lots of things, and one of them is the pervasive idea of favourite books and writers in tweets and blogs. It’s such a simplistic, reductionist concept that I try to avoid it. I added this question, just so I could indulge in a favourite whinge.


The responses reflect the richness of our humanity, both the commonality and its diversity. Which responses strike an accord with you? With which do you differ?

Please share your thoughts and keep the conversation going.






Empowerment – the importance of having a voice

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 do anything about it.

The author is tired of being told he is wrong and doesn’t want to hear it any more.

The author is “right” and not to be questioned. (The book, with its misinformation, is highly acclaimed by millions around the world. However if, in answering a question on a test, children were to write that a butterfly comes out of a cocoon, they would be marked wrong. Explain that to them.)

For me the most insidious part of this message is

He already knows, “so don’t bother writing to tell him”!!!!!!!!

You can’t change it.

You know it’s wrong, but you can’t change it, so don’t bother trying.

Although many societies are now moving to eradicate it, child abuse is still far too common worldwide. Not only must the attitudes of societies change, but children must be empowered, they must be encouraged to speak up and they must be listened to: their voices must be heard.

In a recent child abuse case that occurred at a Queensland primary school, the student protection officer reportedly said that she couldn’t understand why the children who had been sexually abused did not come forward.

couldn't believe 1

The accused had continued in his role as child protection contact for a year after the first complaint was made. The student protection officer found it hard to believe that her colleague was a paedophile;

couldn't believe 2

and still she says she doesn’t understand why the children didn’t come forward!

Click here to read the complete article.

It seems to me the children did come forward if the first (indicates there were more) complaint was made more than a year before anything was done about it.

The children tried to say, but were not believed. The predator was believed and protected while the plight of the innocent victims was ignored. The report states that parents who complained about the abuse of their children were ostracised by the school community and made out to be the “bad guys”.

Is it any wonder that, if not listened to and not believed, and if more is done to protect the offenders than the abused, the children become increasingly reluctant to tell?

After the first children had come forward and not been listened to or believed, may not they have said to others, “There’s no point in saying. They already know. They won’t do anything about it?”

Or what about the parents who were ostracised and made out to be the bad ones?

Doesn’t it make the message very clear – you are powerless. Your voice won’t be heard. Your opinion doesn’t matter.

Carry this message over into countless other situations and you have a population who is afraid to speak up, fearing the disdain of reproach, the embarrassment of being unvalued and the helplessness of one’s message being unheard.

How many times have you felt you must remain silent for fear of ridicule, rejection, or worse?

How many opportunities for creating a positive change have been missed because the task seemed insurmountable or the personal repercussions too unpleasant?

When have you stepped up and made that change happen because you were not afraid to speak up or speak out when faced with an issue you felt strongly about?

What changes can we make to empower children (and adults) everywhere?

By the way, in that article on the Scholastic website, it is reported that Eric Carle believes that “the most important part of developing a book . . .is working with editors to revise it.”

Would it make any difference to the magic of The Very Hungry Caterpillar if, after all these years, Eric Carle rewrote a corrected version with a butterfly emerging triumphantly from a chrysalis?

What would that act tell all the countless children who have written to tell Eric about his mistake, and the many others who wanted to but were told there was no point?

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Please share your thoughts.

Related posts:

Searching for meaning in a picture book — Part A

Searching for purpose in a picture book – Part B

Searching for truth in a picture book – Part C

Finding power in a picture book – the main event

Paying it forward – a Liebster Award!

Last week I was intrigued, surprised and delighted to find that I had been nominated for a Liebster Award.

I was intrigued because I had never heard of a Liebster Award; had no idea of what it was for or why I should have been nominated for it;

I was surprised because I’d had no inkling that such an honour was about to befall me;

and I was delighted to receive the nomination from fellow blogger, Harriet the Bloom whose blog is “A place for educators to reflect, recharge, and revive.” Thank you, Harriet, I am indeed honoured.

In reality, before feeling delighted and honoured, I felt a little confused. Confusion, if acted upon, leads to learning. So I headed over to Google and Harriet’s blog to see what I could find out.

It appears that the purpose of the Liebster Award is to:

  • provide encouragement for new bloggers with a following of fewer than 200
  • promote communication between bloggers,
  • recommend blogs to others.

Nominating others for the award is like paying a compliment forward.

According to Harriet, the

Liebster rules

Answers to the 10 questions posed by Harriet:

  1. Congratulations! You just won the Liebster Award! What are you going to do next?

The immediate answer is contained in this post. The longer term answer is: keep on blogging!

2. Describe yourself in three words.

Happy. Thoughtful. Loyal.

3. Describe your thoughts on your very first job.

In my early teens I swept out a carpenter’s workshop on a Sunday morning. It was hard, dirty, tiring work. The head of the heavy wooden broom was about 60 cm long and difficult to manoeuvre. It would take about 2 hours to sweep up all the sawdust and I would go home and sleep for about the same length of time to recover. For hours I would be blowing black dust out of my nose, but the crisp $1 note I received in payment was sufficient encouragement for me to return and do it all again the following week.

4.If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

I would love to visit Monet’s garden. I would love to sit on a seat near the bridge overlooking the waterlilies and ponder the big questions of life. I would like to share my contemplations with the artist, his contemporaries and philosophers from all eras. I love the works of Impressionist painters, especially Monet’s Waterlilies and Van Gogh’s Starry Night. The mood evoked by these beautiful paintings is especially conducive to philosophical musings.

5. I like food. What is your favorite recipe?

Whenever we have a family get-together it is expected that I will make a pavlova. It is enjoyed by all generations, and although I make a double (using 8 egg yolks) there is rarely any left over.

However, for birthdays and Christmas with my immediate family (husband and children) I usually make a strawberry torte. It is a special treat that I have been making on these occasions for almost 40 years. While the in-laws find it a little rich for their taste buds, the grandchildren are taking to it in true Colvin fashion.


strawberry torte

6. Give a short summary of the book you are currently reading.

As usual I have a few books “on the go” at the moment, but the one of which I have read most at this stage is “Why ‘a’ Students Work for ‘c’ Students and Why ‘b’ Students Work for the Government: Rich Dad’s Guide to Financial Education for Parents” by Robert Kiyosaki. Of course it appealed to me because of its relevance to education and because I had read others of his books years ago: “If You Want to be Rich & Happy: Don’t Go to School” and “Rich Dad Poor Dad”. In this book Kiyosaki contends that schools don’t educate students for financial success and urges parents to teach children about finances at home. He suggests that playing “Monopoly” is a great way to start. He is greatly concerned about the “entitlement mentality” which he considers to be so pervasive in our society. Some of his ideas are challenging and confronting; others make perfect sense. I recommend the book to anyone wanting to achieve financial independence. I would love the opportunity of discussing his ideas with others.

7. What inspired you to start blogging?

Blogging wasn’t a goal, or even an idea, initially. My intention is to create my own website to market teaching resources that I produce. I have a lot of learning to do before I am ready, and part of that learning involves attending seminars. Some of these seminars recommended having an online presence and building a “brand”. Blogging was suggested as one avenue for achieving this. I decided to give it a go, and have found it rewarding in itself – an unexpected pleasure, delightful detour and amazing adventure.

8. How did you come up with the name for your blog?

My blog is simply my name; that wasn’t difficult.

9. What do you do when you experience writer’s block?

Eat. Procrastinate. Go on with something else. Push through it. Write around it.

10. Which post are you most proud of and why? Provide a link.

This is tricky. I don’t think I’ve written it yet! However I very much enjoyed the comments and discussion that ensued from my series of posts about “The Examined Life” by Stephen Grosz.  The series includes:

A book worth reading: Stephen Grosz “The Examined Life”

Seeking praise – Stephen Grosz revisited

and a guest post by Anne Goodwin in response:

Examining praise: Stephen Grosz – the third instalment!

The discussion stretched my thinking and learning and I am grateful to all participants in the conversation. Learning is what life is all about!

Nominate 10 bloggers for the Award:

As the rules appear to be blurred rather than definite e.g. Harriet’s rules differ slightly from those on Wording Well , which differ again from those on Sea Play Photography, I decided to nominate 13 bloggers.

Belinda Pollard of Small Blue Dog Publishing (Australia)

I’m starting with Belinda Pollard of Small Blue Dog Publishing because it was Belinda’s recommendation that prompted me to enter the world of blogging and tweeting. At a seminar hosted by Queensland Writers Centre last year Belinda urged all writers to have an online presence. She said that Twitter was like the water cooler for writers. I’m beginning to see that she was right. Belinda’s posts about all aspects of writing and self-publishing, including blogging, have been a great source of information for me and I appreciate what I have learned from her.

Belinda, I know you have thousands of followers on Twitter but Word Press tells me that you have fewer than 200 followers on your blog so I hope you are happy to accept this award.


Next I’d like to introduce you to Hope who blogs at NANNY SHECANDO. Hope blogs about her experiences as a nanny, cooking and craft. She says, “We’re staying young, Peter Pan style, by embracing the creativity and sunshine in life.”

Anne Goodwin (UK)

Anne Goodwin’s website is rich with things to read: short stories, interviews with authors, book reviews, blog posts and more. Anne is one of the writers I met at ‘the water cooler’ and we have had many interesting and thought provoking conversations since then. I love the way Anne has called her website Annethology and her blog Annecdotal. She tweets @Annecdotist. Very clever!

Caroline Lodge (UK)

Caroline Lodge blogs at book word . . . about books, words and writing. She joined with Anne and me and we stood around the water cooler sharing ideas and exchanging thoughts. I’m certain you will find much of interest on her blog including suggestions for blogging, great books to read and writing tips.

PS Cottier (Australia)

For a little bit of poetry I recommend PS Cottier who posts a poem every Tuesday, and occasionally writes prose.

Teachling (Australia)

Teachling is a blog dedicated to improving education with ideas about teaching, learning and parenting. Teachling believes that “Improving a child’s life-chances is everyone’s responsibility” Along with me and millions of others, Teachling is a big fan of Ken Robinson.

I have always enjoyed reading philosophy and engaging in philosophical discussions. I support the teaching of philosophy as an active thinking subject in schools and am excited about the benefits of a thinking population to the future of our world. I have two great blogs to recommend in this category:

Peter Worley’s philosophy foundation (UK)

Michelle Sowey at The Philosophy Club (Australia)

Note: Last year I reblogged one of Michelle’s posts:

Can you kill a goat by staring at it? A critical look at minimally invasive education

There’s No Food ( Australia)

A bit closer to home (actually much closer to home, it’s my daughter’s blog) I’d like to recommend There’s No Food. Bec blogs about “wholefoods, vegetarianism, slow living and their existential friends.” She has interesting thoughts about the impact of our food choices on the environment and practical suggestions for changes we can make to our everyday routines.

Obscure Pieces (Australia)

Glenn at Obscure Pieces expresses himself through black and white photography. His special interest is urban and landscape photography. He frequently offers support and comments on my posts and has generously allowed my use of some of his photographs. Thanks Glenn.

Cultivating Questioners (USA)

On her Cultivating Questioners blog, Nicole posts about her experiences as a teacher, especially encouraging her young students to use higher-order thinking skills . I love to see a young teacher so passionate about education.

Nillu Nasser Stelter (UK)

Nillu Nasser Stelter is a fiction and freelance writer and her blog features short stories, flash fiction and tips for writing. I love the ways she uses words effectively in her writing to create a picture or emotion.

Carrot Ranch Communications (USA)

Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch Communications also blogs about writing. As of Wednesday 5 March she launched a flash fiction challenge. Each week writers have the opportunity to accept the challenge to write a 99 word “story”. This is something I haven’t done before so I’m hoping to join in the fun. What about you? I’m sure it’s not as easy as it sounds!

Now my nominees, it is your turn.

These are the things I would like to know about you:

Note: Although I have listed 13 questions, you need answer only 10. You may substitute one of your own if you wish.

  1. What do you value most in life?
  2. What activities do you enjoy and why?
  3. What is something you wish you had more time for?
  4. What is one change you would like to make in the world?
  5. What is something you would like to change about yourself?
  6. What surprises you most about your life – something good in your life that you hadn’t expected, dreamed of or thought possible?
  7. What ‘big” question do you often ponder?
  8. What sorts of things amuse you?
  9. What do you like to collect?
  10. If you could talk with anyone and ask them to explain their ideas and/or actions, who would it be, and why?
  11. What is something you can’t do without?
  12. What is something important you learned about life, and how did you learn it?
  13. What is your earliest memory?

I look forward to reading your responses and continuing our discussions at my place or yours!

Happy blogging!

How to find out the number of followers on a blog:
For Word Press blogs:
View the blogs in the Reader
Click on the blog name at the top of the blog
Lo and behold, you will be provided with the number of followers. Easy for Word Press.
For other blogs
I wasn’t sure how to find out for others not using Word Press so I sent them a message on Twitter asking their numbers. Simple.

A book worth reading: Stephen Grosz “The Examined Life”


What appeals to a reader about a book, or what a reader takes away from a book is as individual and personal as the reader. What is of most significant to one, may be of lesser importance, or even insignificant to another. The fact that many different readers can read the same book and take away a very different impression, understanding and emotional connection is testament to the power of the written word, the value of reading and the ability of an author to reach readers on many different levels.

Recently I read Anne Goodwin’s review of the book “The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves” by Stephen Grosz. Anne described the book as a “must read for any thoughtful individual.”

I was already familiar with the quote attributed to Socrates:

“An unexamined life is not worth living.”

and recently read an article by Simon Longstaff in the NewPhilosopher magazine examining the quote.

Simon suggested that

“one can make sense of Socrates’ claim if it is understood to mean something like – those who do not examine their lives (make conscious ethical decisions) fail to live a life that allows them to experience being fully human.”

He goes on to say that

“In a world of abiding uncertainty and complexity one can recognise a certain attraction in not examining too much, for too long in life. Thus the allure of those who offer to provide clear answers, simple directions, precise instructions (whatever) so that you may set aside examination and merely comply, or unthinkingly follow custom and practice – perhaps living a conventionally moral life rather than an examined ethical life. One can easily imagine how pleasant an unexamined life might be.” 

I like to think of myself as a thinker often engaging in a bit of self- or other-reflection, living a somewhat examined life, not blindly complying or following customs and practice and always open to a challenge of my beliefs and ideas.

Anne’s review intrigued me.  By fortunate coincidence I was finishing one audiobook and ready for another, and was delighted to find that “The Examined Life” was available in audio format.

Anne’s review gives 7 reasons why readers and writers of fiction should read “The Examined Life”. You can read them here.

As Anne suggested, I found it compelling “reading” throughout and agree with her description of the stories as

“especially exquisite. Beautiful prose, tightly structured, these are moral stories without being moralistic, gentle fables . . . that leave us pondering the big questions of how to live.”

Alex Clark on Vintage Books was also complimentary, saying that

“what The Examined Life shows above all else is that we should not fear looking deeply into ourselves, because it is more likely that the effort of holding our feelings at bay will render them far more damaging.”

In search of a succinct synopsis, I found this on the Book Depository:

“We are all storytellers we create stories to make sense of our lives. But it is not enough to tell tales. There must be someone to listen. In his work as a practicing psychoanalyst, Stephen Grosz has spent the last twenty-five years uncovering the hidden feelings behind our most baffling behavior. The Examined Life distils more than 50,000 hours of conversation into pure psychological insight without the jargon. This extraordinary book is about one ordinary process: talking, listening, and understanding. Its aphoristic and elegant stories teach us a new kind of attentiveness. They also unveil a delicate self-portrait of the analyst at work and show how lessons learned in the consulting room can reveal as much to the analyst as to the patient. These are stories about our everyday lives: they are about the people we love and the lies we tell, the changes we bear and the grief. Ultimately, they show us not only how we lose ourselves but also how we might find ourselves.”

Each of these reviews focused upon the importance of examining life, of delving into our own stories and emotions.

At the commencement of this article I suggested that what we each take away from a book is as individual as we are; because what each of us brings to a book is very different, and what we need to take away is also different.

The part of this book that had the greatest impact upon my thinking will the subject of my next post. I hope you will join me for it.

If you have read or read “The Examined Life” by Stephen Grosz I would love to know what you think of it and which of it resonates mostly with you.

Please share your thoughts.

Quick links to articles mentioned in this post:

Anne Goodwin (Annethology)

New Philosopher

Vintage Books

Book Depository

Searching for purpose in a picture book – Part B

What is the purpose of picture books? Is their purpose simply to entertain with an interesting story and rhythmical language that is fun to read and recite? Is it simply, as I said in my previous post Searching for meaning in a picture book – Part A, “. . . a special time of togetherness, of bonding; of sharing stories and ideas . . . “ Could the purposes of picture books extend beyond entertainment alone? I think most people would acknowledge that reading picture books to young children has a profound effect upon children’s learning and development. In addition to entertainment, picture books can be used for a multitude of purposes, including:

  • to encourage a love of reading and books
  • to develop vocabulary and knowledge of language (through immersion and engagement rather than direct instruction)
  • to provide a link between the language of home and the language used in the wider community and in education
  • to support children embarking on their own journeys into reading
  • to inspire imaginations
  • to provide opportunities for discussing feelings, emotions, ideas, responses
  • to develop feelings of empathy, identification, recognition, hope
  • to instill an appreciation of art by presentation of a wide variety of styles, mediums and techniques

I’m sure you can think of many more than I have listed here. But what of knowledge, information and facts?

How, and when, do children learn to distinguish fiction from fact, or fact from fiction? At the moment that question is too big for me to even think about answering, but it is a question that I ponder frequently and may return to in future posts.

Children seem to realise early on that animals don’t really behave like humans and wear clothing.

They don’t expect their toys to come to life and start talking.

They quickly understand, when it is explained to them, that unicorns and dragons are mythical creatures and, to our knowledge, don’t exist.

But what happens when the lines between fact and fiction blur and content, though presented in fiction, has the appearance of being based in fact? For example: The lion is often referred to as “King of the jungle” and appears in that setting in many stories. However, lions don’t live in jungles. According to Buzzle, they live in a variety of habitats and jungle isn’t one of them. You knew that didn’t you? But what about the children? When will children learn that lions are not really kings of the jungle? Do you think it matters if children grow up thinking that lions live in jungles?

What about when animals that don’t co-exist appear in stories together? For example: Penguins often share a storyline alongside polar bears. Does this encourage children to think that penguins and polar bears co-exist? When do adults explain to children that penguins and polar bears live at opposite ends of the planet? At what age do you think children will happen upon that information? Does it matter?

What about the way animals are visually portrayed in stories? Must the illustrations be anatomically correct? For example: We all know that spiders have eight legs. Right? If I was to ask you to draw a picture of a spider, how would you do it? Have a go. It will only take a second or two. I can wait.

Now compare your drawing with these:

How did you go?

While children easily realise that this picture is fictional:

They have less success is understanding what is wrong with the previous images. Spiders have eight legs. Those drawings show eight legged furry creatures. The story says they are spiders. That must be what spiders look like. Right? Unfortunately, real spiders look more like this one:

All eight legs are attached to the cephalothorax, not the abdomen (or even one body part) as shown in most picture books. While I am sure you drew a spider correctly (didn’t you?), most children and many adults draw them more as they are depicted in children’s stories. Is this a problem?

I am not for one moment suggesting that we get rid of fictional picture books and stories. I love them! And as I have said, and will continue to say, many times: they are essential to a child’s learning and development. There is no such thing as too many or too often with picture books. Instead, I would like you to consider the misconceptions that may be developed when the content of picture (and other) books may be misleading, and how we adults should handle that when sharing books with children. One of the books that gets me thinking most about this topic is “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

As I said in a previous post, it has been published in over 50 languages and more than 33 million copies have been sold worldwide. I am almost certain that you will be familiar with it, and upon that assumption, I have one final task for you in this post. Please share your response to the question in this poll:

To be continued . . .

I would love to receive any other comments you would like to share regarding the content in this post.

I do apologize that I have been unable to get the text and pictures in the layout I desire. I obviously have more investigations to carry out and learning to do.  🙂

Maybe next time I’ll have it mastered, says she, hopefully!

Whose idea is it anyway?

First of all, let me say, there is nothing scientific in this article.

The notions, unless otherwise attributed, are just my thoughts and ideas.

Or are they?

Have you ever had an idea just ‘pop’ into your head?

What about an entire poem or song? Maybe even a story?

Have you ever had an idea; only to find out that another has had almost the exact idea at roughly the same time as you with no chance of collaboration or leak?

Where have these ideas come from?

Do you really think you have thought them up when they have come fully-formed and unbidden?

Sometimes I am not so sure.

Sometimes an idea pops into my head; an idea with no connection to any current thought. It may take me by surprise and make me think: Why didn’t I think of that before? Or rather, why did I think of that at all?

I can’t explain the force that at times propels my hand across the page, fervently trying to keep pace with and capture the words as they spill forth, lest they escape to a region from which they would never be retrieved.

Sometimes I’ve written stories, which I may, or may not, have submitted to a publisher, only to find another very similar in print not long after. How can this be? There was definitely no collusion. My story had been written before the other was in print; and the other would have been underway by another publisher before mine had been submitted.

Have you ever noticed that often two movies on a similar topic or theme are released almost simultaneously? Is this coincidence or planned?

I know that sometimes songs are very similar, and in fact, there have been court cases over certain bars and riffs. I am surprised this doesn’t happen more often. How can new combinations of notes still be arranged? How difficult it can be to get a melody out of one’s head. How much more difficult it must be to be certain whether that melody is one of your own creation or one that your ears have captured.

image courtesy of

image courtesy of

I remember hearing someone suggest, many years ago, that there are many ideas out there (floating around somewhere in the universe?) ready to be picked. Sometimes they are picked simultaneously by different people in different places around the world.

I wasn’t too sure about that, but it did provide an explanation, of sorts, for the duplication of ideas.

A few months ago, I listened to a fascinating TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert: Your elusive creative genius.

The focus of Elizabeth’s talk is a little different from my own, but she did offer some thoughts on this topic also.

I was particularly interested to hear that in ancient Greece and Rome

people did not happen to believe that creativity came from human beings . . . People believed that creativity was this divine attendant spirit that came to human beings from some distant and unknowable source, for distant and unknowable reasons.

The Romans called this entity a “genius”. A genius was not a clever individual. It was the spirit that would help shape the artist’s work. The artist did not need to take full credit or responsibility for the work, as the work was that of the “genius’ working through the artist.

Now that seems to support the notion of ideas arriving fully-formed, as does this next one:

Elizabeth went on to talk about the American poet, Ruth Stone, who described how “she would feel and hear a poem coming at her from over the landscape” and she would have to run back to house in order to “collect it and grab it on the page” before it thundered on to another poet. I won’t quote the whole story here. Please follow the link to read the rest. It may surprise you as much as it surprised me!

Looking for a little more content for this article, I came across this blog post by Amanda CraigSynchronicity, or when writers have the same idea

Amanda writes,

“Synchronicity is when two or more people have the idea at the same time. Science is littered with examples of this. Darwin only published his Origin of the Species because a fellow biologist had also deduced the concept of natural selection, and sent him his own book in manuscript; several people can claim to have invented the computer, and so on. So, too, in literature. I still remember a Spectator Diary Susan Hill wrote when she found out that Beryl Bainbridge was working on a novel about Scott’s doomed expedition to the Antarctic. She had to abandon it. Rival biographies of the same person are commissioned simultaneously, and sometimes even films (like the two versions of Les Liasons Dangereuses).”

Now, is that just what I’ve been talking about?

Follow the link to her entire article to find out what she thinks about synchronicity.

Still eager for more, this article about Multiple discovery explains that scientists, also, are similarly burdened and, according to Robert K. Merton

Sometimes the discoveries are simultaneous or almost so; sometimes a scientist will make a new discovery which, unknown to him, somebody else has made years before.

So where is all this leading me?

It is simply to introduce the poem,  “A leaf floated down” which came to me as I was preparing for my day. The thoughts were not connected to any others of the moment; the first verses simply wrote themselves, and the parts that I am least happy with, are the parts I laboured to bring forth. I hope it is my own!

I’d love to know what you think about this synchronicity that we, as creatives, often experience. Please share your thoughts!

Searching for meaning in a picture book — Part A

Do you recognise this book?

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Chances are you do.

According to the website of the author Eric Carle, since its publication in 1969 it has been published in over 50 languages and more than 33 million copies have been sold worldwide. It ranks highly in the Wikipedia List of best-selling books.

Most primary schools, preschools and kindergartens would have numerous copies in their libraries with a copy in most classrooms as well as in teachers’ private collections. Most homes with young children would have a copy in their storybook collection.


In addition to the books, many of those schools, classrooms and homes would have some of the associated merchandise; including toys, games, puzzles, posters and colouring books, which are now available.

When I typed ‘the very hungry caterpillar’ into the Google search bar about 5,640,000 results were listed in 0.33 seconds!

 Google search the very hungry caterpillar

There are activities, lesson plans, printables, videos, and advertisements for merchandise. There is a plethora of suggestions for using the book as a teaching resource, including counting, days of the week and sequencing.

I think you would be hard pressed to find someone that hasn’t at least heard of the book. That is quite an impact, wouldn’t you say?

For a book to have done so well, it must have a lot going for it. And it does.

There are many things I like about this book, including:

  • The bright, colourful, collages with immediate appeal
  • The natural flow and rhythm of the language making it easy to read, dramatize and recall
  • The sequence of numbers and days encouraging children to predict and join in with the reading and retelling
  • The match between the illustrations and the text supporting beginning readers as they set out upon their journey into print
  • The simple narrative structure with an identifiable beginning, a complication in the middle with which most children can empathise (being ill from overeating) and a “happy” resolution with the caterpillar turning into a beautiful butterfly.

Reading to children

 Nor and Bec reading

Sharing of picture books with children from a very young age has a very powerful effect upon their learning.

There are many benefits to both parent and child of a daily shared reading session.


It can be seen as a special time of togetherness, of bonding; of sharing stories and ideas. It can be a quiet and calming time; a time to soothe rough edges and hurt feelings; a time for boisterous fun and laughter; or a time for curiosity, inquiry, imagination and wonder.

Whatever the time, it is always a special time for a book
; and all the while, children are learning language.

8-12-2013 7-38-33 PM

© Bernadette Drent. Used with permission.

They are hearing the sounds and rhythm of their language. They are being exposed to new vocabulary, sentence structures, concepts and ideas. They are learning important understandings that will support them on their journey into literacy e.g. they are learning that the language of a book differs from oral language and that the words in a book always stay the same.

They begin to realise that it is the little black squiggly marks that carry the message, and they may even start to recognise some words.

Robert 2

Many of these, and other, features make “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” suitable for incorporation in an early childhood curriculum, for example:

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

  • Literature appreciation – love of language, knowledge of story, interest in books
  • Reading – the clear, simple and predictable text make it an easy first reader
  • Maths – counting and sequencing the numbers, sequencing the days of the week
  • Visual arts – learning about collage and composition of a picture
  • Philosophical inquiry —sharing interpretations and discussing feelings about the story, asking questions raised including the ‘big questions’ of life


Eric Carle, in an interview with Reading rockets, describes it as a book of hope. He says:

You little, ugly, little, insignificant bug: you, too, can grow up to be a beautiful, big butterfly and fly into the world, and unfold your talents.”

He goes on to explain that,

I didn’t think of this when I did the book, but I think that is the appeal of the book.”

But I’m not going to let him have the last word!

While “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” has always been one of my very favourite picture books, I do have some misgivings about the impact that this book has had.

In future posts I will share what I consider to be some limitations of the text, and what I consider to be the most powerful use of all.

What do you think?

What appeals to you about this book?

What questions does it raise for you?

Please share your ideas. I look forward to hearing what you think.