Tag Archives: Family

Guest post on Sally Cronin's Smorgasbord magazine

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #Family – Reflections on Learning by Norah Colvin

I’m over at Sally Cronin’s wonderful blog again this week, sharing another post from my family archives. However, this time the post author is my wonderful daughter who shares her thoughts on being home educated. We’d all love it if you popped over to read and share your thoughts.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Today is the last in the present series from the archives of Norah Colvin which is actually reflections on learning by her daughter Bec, and written when she was 26 in 2013… so I am sure that her PhD in Environmental Management is being put to good use. Bec shares her early memories of being home schooled until enrolling in school in grade 4.

Reflections on Learning

In a previous post To school or not to school I explored some issues I was grappling with as my daughter reached school age. I stated then that in future posts I would explore the effects of decisions I made upon my children’s (and my) education.

My daughter, Bec, now 25 and working towards a PhD in Environmental Management at UQ, has beaten me to the post by writing the following reflections on her schooling experiences. Who better to explore the effects…

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celebrating Christmas with a strawberry torte

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #Family – Berry Delightful by Norah Colvin

I’m having a delicious time over at Sally’s this week, sharing my post about berries. Won’t you join me?

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

This is the third post from the archives of Norah Colvin and this week she shares her childhood memories of mulberries and her flash fiction that week in 2017 in response to the Carrot Ranch Literary CommunityIn 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.

Berry Delightful by Norah Colvin

mulberries

What is your favourite berry?

Which berries make your taste buds sing?

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…

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Smorgasbord posts from your archives #family

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #Family – Understanding family relationships by Norah Colvin

Sally Cronin has featured my post about understanding family relationship in her Smorgasbord Posts from your Archives #family series. If you missed it the first time, you might like to pop over to Sally’s to read and check out other posts on Sally’s wonderful blog.
Thank you so much for sharing, Sally. It’s a pleasure to feature on your blog.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Delighted to welcome educator and storyteller Norah Colvin and some posts from her archives. In her first post from 2015, Norah who is a dedicated participant in the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction challenge, was reminded about a family mystery.

Understanding family relationships by Norah Colvin

At the Carrot Ranch this week Charli Mills is talking about cold cases and challenges writers to, In 99 words (no more, no less) write about an old mystery in the current time. Is it a discovery? Is it solved? Does it no longer matter, or does it impact innocent generations in between?

My thoughts immediately turned to a mystery that occurred in my family over one hundred years ago when the two-year old brother of my grandfather disappeared and was never seen again.

http://www.clker.com/clipart-10083.htmlhttp://www.clker.com/clipart-10083.html

Most families do have a skeleton or two in the closet. Not all families like it to be known. Many…

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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.

Home is where the start is

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

Early childhood years, from 0-8, are the formative years. It is during these years that most is learned. Children learn about the world through their explorations. They learn about themselves through the responses they receive from others, and learn about others through these responses also. Attitudes to most things begin in the home.

Children require warm, nurturing, positive relationships that demonstrate the way life should be lived, in actions, not just words. As Anne Goodwin, former psychologist says, the interactions with significant adults will greatly influence the adult that the child becomes.

If home is where it starts, then we can’t wait until the children are of school age. By then it’s too late. It is relatively undisputed that it is difficult for children to catch up what may have been missed in those early years. Sadly, much of the intense formal work in school does more to alienate these children further, rather than improve their opportunities for learning.

Therefore, we must begin in the home, and I don’t mean with formal structured programs. I mean with fun activities that validate parents and children and provide them with opportunities and suggestions for participation and learning.

Guiding parents in play sessions for parents and children.

Guiding parents in play sessions for parents and children. © Norah Colvin

It is these beliefs that informed my home-based business Create-a-way,

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

and my idea for an early learning caravan that, staffed with an early childhood educator, would

  •  go to the parents and children in their neighbourhoods, meeting in a local park or community greenspace, on regular weekly occasions;
  • invite parents to talk with, read to and play with their children using provided books, games and toys;
  • model positive parenting behaviour, explaining to parents the benefits to their children of engaging with them in activities and discussions;
  • provide suggestions for inexpensive and easy activities to do at home;
  • encourage borrowing from a book and toy library.

Of course, for many parents, such as those reading this post, nurturing a child’s development is almost second nature. They have the education and resources, and a belief in the benefits, to empower them to nurture their children’s development. They require little additional support.

Requiring most support are those without the benefits of education, resources or a belief that life could be improved. If all they have experienced through school systems is failure and rejection, they will have difficulty in perceiving any purpose in trying. It is these parents and their children that we need to reach. If they feel valued, they in turn may find value in others. If we improve the lives of those marginalised by poverty or lack of education, it must contribute to improving our society, and our world, in general. This will help us to feel safe in our homes, in our localities and in the wider world.

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills is talking about homes and the importance of having a roof over our heads. The way we treat each other, especially those hurting, indicates there is a greater need for compassion and for those in need to receive a helping a hand.

In my response to Charli’s flash fiction challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about home, I attempt to show that the situation in which one is raised is not always a self-fulfilling prophecy. Out of the cruellest situations, hope can be born. We, as a society, need to do what we can to give hope to many more, to help break the cycle of despair.

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The birth of Hope

Startled by the blueness of eyes and the intensity of unfamiliar feelings, she suddenly relaxed, as if finally, home.

She’d not known home before: not locked in a room with hunger the only companion; not shivering through winters, barefoot and coatless; not showered with harsh words and punishments.

She’d sought it elsewhere, mistaking attention for something more. When pregnancy ensued; he absconded. They kicked her out.

Somehow she’d found a place to endure the inconvenience. Once it was out, she’d be gone.

But now, feeling unexpectedly connected and purposeful, she glimpsed something different —a new start, lives entwined: home.

Thank you

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

You’ve got a friend in me

 

One of the greatest contributors to a child’s happiness at school, indeed for happiness in life, is friendship. Talking with children about their day at school will more than likely contain some reference to their friends; who they played with, who they didn’t, who was absent, who was mean. If they felt sad during the day it was possibly because someone wouldn’t play, wouldn’t let them play, or was mean.

Getting along with others seems to come naturally to some children, especially to those who see positive social skills modelled by parents and family friends, who are given lots of opportunities to mix with others of all ages, and who are encouraged to express themselves and their feelings. Other children don’t find it so easy, sometimes due to lack of positive role models, but often for other reasons.

Most children require some explicit teaching from time to time, for example to share, take turns and to use friendly words. Many schools incorporate the development of friendship skills into their programs. Some schools, such as one that employed me to write and teach a friendship skills program in years one to three, develop their own programs. Other schools use published materials such as the excellent You Can Do It! program which teaches the social and emotional skills of getting along, organisation, persistence, confidence and resilience.

In the early childhood classrooms of my previous school, we used the songs, puppets and stories included in the You Can Do It! Program. We also involved children in role play and discussion, providing them with opportunities to learn the language and practice the skills in supportive and non-threatening situations. Having a common language with which to discuss feelings, concerns and acceptable responses meant issues were more easily dealt with. More importantly children learned strategies for developing positive relationships and friendships with others. They came to understand their own responses as well as those of others.

SMAG ccbyncnd

I have talked about friendship in many previous posts, including here, here and here. My online friend Anne Goodwin, who blogs at Annecdotal even wrote about it in a guest post here, and I described friendship trees that I used with my class here.

Friendship tree

In this post I want to acknowledge a new friend and a long-time friend. (I can’t say ‘old’. She’s younger than I!)

My new friend is Pauline, The Contented Crafter. At the beginning of last week Pauline announced a very generous giveaway for Christmas which I shared with you here.  Pauline invited readers to nominate someone as a deserving recipient of her beautiful Christmas light catcher. She posted the nominees and their stories here and invited readers to vote for the two they would most like to receive the light catcher.

pizap1

I nominated Robin, a friend of over thirty years. That must be deserving of an award in itself! In case you missed her story on Pauline’s blog, I include it here so that you can understand why I value her friendship so highly.

I have a wonderful friend for whom this beautiful light catcher would be a perfect gift. Each of its strands holds a special significance, as if Pauline had her in mind.

She gifted her friendship to me more than thirty years ago and, thanks to a miracle and the protection of angels, it is a gift that continues.

Over twenty years ago, on my birthday, she was involved in a serious car accident. My birthday became her life day, a constant reminder that life and each passing year is a precious gift. 

Her many injuries, requiring numerous surgeries over the years, did not injure her bright, cheerful nature and positive outlook on life. Although she lives with constant pain you wouldn’t know unless you asked, and then only if she chose to tell you.

She has an enormous generous and loving heart, and her home is warm and welcoming. Family, especially her two grown daughters and her dear Mum who passed this year, is important to her. She loves to bake and craft individual gifts for her family and friends. She is always busily thinking of others.

She is a gifted musician and amazing music teacher. She plays the flute and sings like a Robin. She incorporates music and fun into classes for children and lessons for adults learning English. All come to her classes eager to learn and leave singing with joy and acceptance.

At Christmas the family gather round to decorate the tree and “remember the moments” marked by ornaments made by smaller hands, collected on travels, or signifying achievements and occasions like graduations and engagements.

I know my friend would treasure this beautiful light catcher as another reminder of life’s precious gifts and moments that make it magic. Thank you Pauline for the opportunity to express openly how much I value her friendship.

You can find out more about Robin on her website and even purchase her wonderful CD “Notes from Squire Street”.

Robin - Notes from Squire Street

I am very excited to say that Robin is included in Pauline’s list of winners. In fact Pauline’s generosity is being extended to many of the nominees, and even to one for commenting on the post. Very soon Pauline’s light catchers will be dispersing rainbow light of friendship and joy around the world. I think that is a beautiful and generous gesture.

Thank you

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

 

 

Five Photos Five Stories — Day five

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

Back to Day two (writing)

Back to Day three (Break out)

Back to Day four (My retirement jetski)

Happy birthday to me!

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

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

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

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

However I have something more special to share.

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

Rob's self-saucing pudding 18 June 2015

Rob’s self-saucing pudding 18 June 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you

 

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

 

 

The power of words

writing

The ability to learn language always amazes me. Given a supportive environment most young children will learn the language of the home effortlessly; forming their own hypotheses about its use and very quickly understanding the complexities of language structures and nuances of meaning.

I am also impressed by the fluency and comprehension of many for whom English is not their first language. I briefly touched on some of the difficulties experienced even by users of English as a first language in a previous post about spelling.  Sometimes I wonder that communication is possible at all, especially when considering local idioms and sayings that make little sense out of context, but largely go unnoticed. What must a new speaker of English  think when encountering “Bite the bullet, break the ice, butter someone up, or even bring a plate”.

How difficult it must be too, when words, like vice for example, have multiple meanings.

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills has been talking about vice. Her article is about the not-so-pleasant type of vices. As usual, I like to be the contrarian and consider alternative viewpoints. That might be considered one of my vices. Sometimes I laugh when a thought takes me to a context far away from a speaker’s intended message. Other times I fail to see the intended humour, reading beneath the surface intent to hidden messages.

To illustrate this I will use two recent examples:

bicycle

The cyclist and the flight attendant

He: a cyclist, just entering the last third of his life (about 60, give or take 5 years)

As his bike was being loaded onto the plane he explained that he had ridden from Alice Springs to Uluru, the long way. (I’m not sure of the distance of the long way, but the direct way would be more than long enough for me!)

Alice Springs to Uluru

She: a flight attendant still in the first third of her life (about 25, give or take 5 years)

“That’s so awesome! I hope I continue to exercise all my life.”

I didn’t hear his response; I was laughing too hard: the innocence and blindness of youth. How well I remember thinking anyone over about thirty was at death’s door. What amuses me now is the number of people my age who think we are much younger than those of the previous generation at the same age. I think the blindness and selective sight continues throughout life.

Of course I interpreted her words to mean: “You’re so old. I can’t believe you could do that. I hope I can still exercise when I am as old as you!”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The joy of fatherhood?

Waiting for the same flight was a father and his daughter, approximately two and a half years of age. The daughter was doing what any child of that age would do: looking around, exploring a short distance away from dad before returning to his side. From what I could see she was doing no harm and was perfectly safe. It was a small airport, she could not wander far.

Each time she moved away he barked a short command at her. Although his words were not familiar to me, I had no difficulty interpreting them. As with most children, sometimes she heeded them, sometimes she didn’t. Sometimes he repeated the command, or retrieved the child. Sometimes he didn’t.

Then I saw his t-shirt and read the word emblazoned on the front. I am a reader. Sometimes I wish I were not. The words read, “Guns don’t kill people, Dads of daughters do”.

I have never “got” the need for messages on apparel, and definitely not a message as negative as this. I assume it was meant to be amusing, but I could see no humour in it. Maybe he didn’t understand the message underlying the words (he was speaking in a language other than English). Maybe I read too much into it. Apparently though, according to this Google search, there is a sizable market for shirts and products extolling these sentiments, some even with the inclusion of the word “pretty”.

My interpretation of the subliminal message is one of acceptance of a number of vices, and my belief is that until we can obliterate the insidiousness of messages such as these from the common psyche, our society won’t much improve. To me the message commends: disrespect for others, sexism, murder, violence, antagonistic relationships between parent and child/father and daughter, an absence of nurturing, an acceptance that children are difficult and a burden . . .

Perhaps I should stop there. I think this father and daughter team would be prime candidates for the early learning caravan project I wrote about recently. I would love to help this father see, not only the power in his words, but the treasure his daughter is and the importance of their relationship.

As I’ve explained, I sometimes see humour in words where it’s not intended, and fail to see it where it is. I’ve attempted to include humour in my flash response to Charli’s challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a vice, by using three different meanings of the word. I’ll be interested to know if my “humour” matches yours, but won’t be surprised if it doesn’t!

This one is definitely not about Marnie!

 

Vice-captain

She almost danced along the verandah. What would it be: medal, certificate, special recommendation?

The door was open but she knocked anyway.

“Come in.” The command was cold. A finger jabbed towards a spot centre-floor.

Confused, her eyes sought the kindness of the steel blue pair, but found a vice-like stare.

She obeyed.

“In one week you have led the team on a rampage:

Smashing windows

Uprooting vegetables

Leaving taps running

Graffiting  the lunch area . . .

We thought you were responsible. What do you have to say for yourself?”

“But sir,” she stammered, “You made me vice-captain!”

 

Thank you

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

Displaying symptoms or true colours

For just over a year now I have been participating in the weekly flash fiction challenge set by Charli Mills of the Carrot Ranch. I enjoy participating for a variety of reasons, including:

Challenge: I enjoy the challenge of

  • thinking of something to write
  • telling in story or scene in the 99 word total
  • applying it in some way to my blog’s focus on education

Variety: I enjoy writing in various forms and genres and the fiction is a pleasant change from the informational writing that I am primarily engaged with at the moment

Practice: The requirement to tell a story in just 99 words means that I need to:

  • choose my words carefully to make my meaning explicit
  • decide what can be told, what can be implied, and what can be omitted
  • think of alternate ways of expressing an idea or describing a situation or character

rough-writers-web-compCommunity: The Congress of Rough Writers: I have made connections and online friendships with a wonderfully supportive and encouraging group of bloggers, whose numbers are constantly growing.

 

Feedback: The feedback that I receive in response to my flash fiction pieces and the posts in which I embed them gives meaning and purpose to the writing. I enjoy the in-depth discussions which quite often occur in response to the blog’s content and the additional thinking that I often need to do as a result. While it does distract me somewhat from my longer-term writing goals, the immediacy of the feedback is encouragement to continue and I am always appreciative of it.

There are many other reasons and benefits of participating in the challenges. The above are just a few. If you have not yet considered joining in the fun, now might be the time to do so.

This week Charli Mills wrote about a vivid dream that compelled her from her bed in order to capture it on paper before it escaped. She says that

“Characters sneak into our dreams, our waking moments and tease us. We write to find out who they are.”

Thinking about the character from her dream led her to consider symptoms, and the way that symptoms reveal more of who they are.  She challenged the Rough Writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story to reveal a character’s symptoms. 

Many of my responses to Charli’s challenges have been written to find out more about Marnie, who reveals snippets of her life, as if in flashbacks or dreams, at various ages. You can read what we already know about Marnie here.

“Symptoms” seemed perfect for revealing a little more about Marnie. A child such as she would display a great variety, an important one of which would be her attempt to hide those symptoms from others.

Here then is the next part of Marnie’s story, which follows on from the bullying episode shared last week.

 

 Symptoms

The children suddenly appeared: one bedraggled and muddied, the other exuding authority.

“Brucie tripped her. On purpose!” declared Jasmine.

“Come on, Marnie. Let’s get you cleaned up,” said Mrs Tomkins. ”Then we’ll see about Brucie.  Is your mum home today?”

Marnie looked down and shook her head.

“Will I help you with that jumper?”

A jumper? It’s too warm . . .” Her thoughts raced.

Marnie turned away. As she pulled up her jumper, her shirt lifted revealing large discolorations on her back.

Over the years Mrs Tomkins had seen too many Marnies; too many Brucies; never enough Jasmines.

 

Sadly, children like Marnie and Brucie are very real and very familiar to many teachers.

A few weeks ago I shared a post by Julieanne Harmatz on her blog To Read To Write To Be. I always enjoy reading Julieanne’s blog because it helps me walk right back into the classroom, in my mind. The Student Z she described in that post has many “symptoms” in common with other students I have worked with over the years.

This week Julieanne shares ways she provides authentic opportunities for using digital technologies in her classroom. One of the ways is student blogging, and Julieanne linked to a post written by one of her students, Zoe. I was very impressed. I’m sure you will be too.

In the post Zoe shares information about, and links to, her favourite song and singer. She says it is her “favorite song because it teaches you why not to bully.”

The song is a rap version of “True Colours” with additional original anti-bullying content written by 12 year old MattyB to support his younger sister who is excluded and bullied because of her “symptoms”. I have not linked to the song here because I would like you to read Zoe’s blog and listen to the song there.

I was so impressed by Zoe and MattyB, both showing traits of strength and of being an “upstander”, as described by Mrs Varsalona in the comments on Zoe’s post,  that I decided to find out a bit more about MattyB.

Here is the story of how MattyB and his family wrote the song to support MattyB’s sister Sarah.

I love to hear positive stories like this, don’t you?

Thank you

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

All in the family

The nature/nurture debate wages constantly. Are we who we were born to be, or are we shaped by our environment to be who we are?

To my untrained mind (I have no qualifications in psychology) it appears that who we become results from a mixture of each in combination with a dose of self-determination. Sometimes it can be difficult to separate the nature from the nurture. Are we that way because of genetics or because of the family environment in which we grew up?

tweedles

It is true that no two individuals, even siblings, experience identical environments. Even in the closest of families the differences can be as pronounced as the similarities; in interests, capabilities, personalities and attitudes as well as physical characteristics. Both similarities and differences can be used to argue equally well for nature or nurture.

A paper published by NATSEM (National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling) in 2013 described a close link between education standards, employment and poverty, leading to social exclusion and disadvantage in Australia. It explained that lower education levels resulted in higher levels of unemployment, and therefore poverty, and that children living in poverty were at risk of not completing high school and of having poor nutrition. And so the cycle would continue.

That is not to say that children living in poverty are doomed to continue doing so throughout their lives (we all know successful people who through their self-determination have pulled themselves up and out of the situation) but it may be much more difficult for them to achieve the levels of success that seem to come so easily to others in kinder circumstances.

According to the Institute for Social Science Research at the University of QueenslandResearch shows that when schools, families and community groups work together to support learning, children tend to do better in school, stay in school longer, and like school more.” Commencing this year, the “Parental Engagement in Schools” project aims to discover what type of involvement best supports student learning and outcomes. Encouraging parents to be involved is another issue.

While my general observations as a teacher, and those of many colleagues, support the notion of a connection between economic status and educational advantage, a paper recently released by the University of Bristol states that “Poorer parents are just as involved in their children’s activities as better-off parents”, and that “The findings support the view that associations made between low levels of education, poverty and poor parenting are ideologically driven rather than based on empirical evidence.

Perhaps over-generalisations in this area are just as problematic as those that expect all family members to be alike. I think that, regardless of background, it is important for teachers to support all students to make positive choices for their future. This can be done through demonstration and modelling rather than criticism and blame.

8-12-2013 7-38-33 PM

I also recommend a certain set of strategies that all parents, regardless of their economic status, can employ to give their children a great start is life, including:

  • Love them
  • Talk with them
  • Read to them
  • Encourage their questions and curiosity
  • Help them seek answers and solve problems
  • Encourage their independence
  • Foster confidence, a willingness to have a go and to try multiple times and ways
  • Be accepting of differences and don’t prejudge their future based on the experiences and futures of others.

 

The old saying goes that “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family”. Although I have read suggestions that we may be genetically close/distantly related to those we choose as friends, I can’t testify to the authenticity of the “science” that makes those claims. However, I think many families have at least one member they would probably prefer to disclaim relationship with! Not my family of course!

Which brings me to the flash fiction challenge set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch this week. She wrote about an Aunt Bronco Billy and challenged other writers to: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a nutty aunt.

I hope I’m not that “nutty aunt” that everyone in the family shies away from, but I am aware of some who are. (Again, not in my family!)

Here is my response to Charli’s challenge. I hope you enjoy it.

 

“Aw, Muuuum!”

“Don’t ‘Aw Mum’ me. She’s your dad’s only sister . . .”

“But Mum …” I could already smell her stale cigarette breath and feel the stickiness of her too-red lipstick that wouldn’t rub off.

“It won’t hurt you. She’s not staying long.”

“Why can’t Jason?”

“Because Jason’s going to work,” she said.

“Yeah, Squirt,” grinned Jason, throwing his backpack over his shoulder.

“Smoochie Coochie,” he mocked, squeezing my cheeks into a pucker while making loud lip-smacking sounds. His laughter followed him down the street.

Suddenly she was there with her sharp green pistachio grin.

“Smoochie Coochie!”

Smoochie Coochie

 

Thank you

 

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