read it or weep

read 1

The last two days of school I have been participating in workshops on literacy. The first day was about how the human brain learns, and what goes wrong in the learning to read and write process. Yesterday was about decoding, homophones, rime (not rhyme, though that is important), the important of learning to write and the evil of sight words.

This particular linguistic expert puts most of the reading issues that students experience down to lower socio economic households as they are more taciturn (less verbal communication and limited vocabularies), failure to understand rhyme (yes, those old nursery rhymes do have a large roll to play in learning to read) and then a major inability to sound out the vowels, consonants and syllables in words. Oh, and the confusion of being taught homophones at the same time – for example the word rain should be taught and then about three weeks later the word rein, so that they going into  different learning nodes with different memory pathways.

It appears that teaching sight words relies all on memory and a child may appear to be able to read fluently, but present them with a word they haven’t learnt, even simple words such as “just” and they won’t be able to read it. They don’t know how to sound out vowels etc and so come to a halt.

I am of course simplifying it all, and I am still grappling to understand many of the concepts, especially as I have two full days of workshops to complete early next week, but it does make a lot of sense. Of course, none of is it new to we of the older generation, as it is how many, if not most of us, learnt to read and write.

Each level of skill must be automaticised before going on to the next level, and automaticised to a certain speed. At the same time it is taught so that the child experiences success at each level, to encourage them to proceed.

The work load is very heavy for those teachers working at the lower end of the spectrum. Next year, I will be working  with the top percentile students, what might be called gifted and talented by some ( we do actually have a few of them by some miracle!) . I hope that on Monday, or Tuesday I am given some insight into teaching them too!

Data shows that about 60% of the students entering our our school next year fall into the areas as having some form of reading difficulty. That is a scary figure. These children have passed through 8 years of schooling, including prep, and yet still fail to read and write properly. It is hoped that by the end of one year that in many cases we will have advanced them three years and hopefully introduced the students to the joys of reading for pleasure. I guess time and effort will show the proof…may the force be with us!

bell, book and carrot

carrots 2

Early morning drive to school, listening to Neil Gaimam and Terry Pratchett’s story, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (1990).

 I was visualising the description of the M25 London orbital; “ lorry blocked the road. And the corrugated iron blocked the road. And a thirty-foot-high pile of fish blocked the road. It was one of the most effectively blocked roads the sergeant had ever seen”  as the four riders of the apocalypse, Death and Famine and War and Pollution riding on their Harleys passed through the blockade, followed by the four human wannabe “real” Hell’s Angels : Grievous Bodily Harm, Cruelty To Animals, Things Not Working Properly Even After You’ve Given Them A Good Thumping but secretly No Alcohol Lager, and Really Cool People, who were not quite as successful at passing.

I rounded a slight bend in the road and found the road covered in carrots; large fresh carrots. No accident to perceive, no truck seeking its load, just carrots splayed across the bitumen like willing sacrifices to the juice blender god.

It explains so much about my life – all this time I have been a bit player in a fantasy novel about the apocalypse. So many questions answered.

Now the question is : who are you and are you real?

a dog with a bone

Every Christmas we purchase a large ham, and every Christmas I save the ham bone to make soup. Well, I intend to make soup, but as Christmas is summer time in Australia and the temperature is usually over 30C and not exactly the weather to be tempted by soup, the ham bone gets placed in the freezer for use in the colder months.

Usually that is where it stays, until next Christmas when I take it out and replace it with a fresh ham bone. Except this year! This year, the ham bone went into the freezer in December, and reappeared in November, not to make soup, but to make one Augie Dog a very happy dog indeed.

Augie Nov 2013

He chewed on it for over three hours straight and then needed a long nap to recover from his excitement!

I sent the photo to Daughter1 who declared she still has a ham bone in the freezer too! She has offered to gift it to Augie – perhaps a Christmas Day surprise for him!

oranges and lemons, the bells, oh the bells…


I drove over and collected my sister on the way to a local garden nursery, today. I have been planning it ever since we moved in last year and today was the  day I finally found the time and the motivation perhaps to commence our plans for an orchard.

I purchased  lime, orange and mandarin trees. There is already a lemon tree in the garden, planted by the previous owners. It is looking a little sad but hopefully we can bring it around.

We had a prolific lime tree in the garden of our city home and everyone has missed its fruit since our move – nothing to garnish our drinks. I never had much luck with the orange tree we had there, but I think it was too close to palms trees, fighting for moisture and sun. Hopefully, we shall learn from our mistakes.

I also chose pots of parsley, sweet basil and thyme. Our herbs suffered in the move and lack of care this past chaotic year and so time to replant.

Planning for new growth in the new year – and reaping the harvest of our efforts!

herbs 1

bend and stretch, reach for the sky…

woe is me Dancer Martha Graham

There are laws that stipulate that a teacher must be in the room with any groups of students when any other adult is present, and that is how I found myself being a computer tower this afternoon.

I was asked to be the teacher in the room as a counsellor/speech pathologist worked with a small group of learning support students. The first activity was physically acting out a scene or a thing. We were a computer and when one student was asked to be a part of a computer he suggested a computer tower/hard drive, but he was too shy to act it out, so I got the pleasure of leaving my comfy viewing chair and being a piece of hardware. I did it with style though, might I add. Then I got to be a swimmer at the beach, only to be told by another student that my hand strokes were not correct! Critics; they are everywhere! My final presentation was as a whiteboard. I doubt if anyone has ever acted a whiteboard better.

After that we did “I” statements to bullies. When you did …. I felt…. I want…. It was a stretch for me, because being the shy retiring type that I am I find I statements difficult….. ho, ho, ho.  I did find it difficult though when my bully told me he was better at minecraft than I was. I wanted to agree “too right you are” but acted out my part and suggested that we just play together without competition. The therapist told me I had given a great answer and I positively beamed.

One of the students in the class is the adopted son of a colleague. She has told me previously that he had an anger management problem (after he punched another student in the face), but I fear it is more than that. He is in eighth grade, doesn’t have a great level of intelligence and  has a fascination with violence. As I listened and watched him interacting in the class I just thought that he was possibly a psychopath and that if I heard in years to come that he had either ended up in jail, or worse still bludgeoned his parents to death in their sleep, I may not be all that surprised.

He was born in an Asian country and was close to three years of age before they were able to bring him to Australia. I don’t know what happened in his early development phases, but something certainly impacted very severely. Previously she has described to me the moment she saw him in his cot in the orphanage and how excited she was to hold him. I don’t think they knew of his learning and emotional issues at that stage but had probably been warned of such a possibility, or at least I hope so.

Life is so cruel at times – cruel to him and his parents, and no doubt his birth parents as well. One does wish they were Queen of the World, or a goddess to right such wrongs at times…

Tuesday round robin writing and the zilkenzenderpied

woman writing picasso

So here is how it is going to be people; a story in many parts. I will start the story and then leave it hanging. The next person will write their contribution (in the reply area so we can see the thread) and leave it open for the third to continue and then the four and the fifth, until it comes to its natural end – if it does!

It might even be a choose your own adventure, it two people post at once. What fun!

And it starts…

It would have all been alright, if only she hadn’t heard that Mildred have found a zilkenzenderpied which she had presented with more than a simple flourish of superiority at the last Ladies Club gathering. Thirty pairs of eyes had settled on it, clasped in Mildred’s finely manicured hands, and there had been an audible sound of air being sucked between veneered teeth and glossy lips.

If Josephine had just stayed in bed that morning, beneath the blankets as had been her first instinct, then she wouldn’t had witnessed the look of triumphant that Mildred had thrown her way; that challenge her eyes had communicated would have fallen unnoticed. No, Josephine; Josie to her husband, Jo to her school friends, had not listened to her instincts, but had ventured forth, unknowingly ruining her own life…

the post that you really MUST read (but only if you want to)


Every time I click onto online media, or look at a magazine these days I seem to be confronted by declarations that I “must”, “should”, “need to” read these books, visit these places, eat these foods, look at these pictures, view these videos, before my life comes to an abrupt end and I turn to instant dust.

Also an instant guilt trip. A little like those obnoxious chain letters and now chain emails that declare that all the fires of hell will descend if you don’t pass on to your nearest and dearest within minutes, the must/should/need declarations always leave me feeling the faintest bit anxious that maybe I really am missing out on something when I skip passed them

Lingering doubt, that maybe my life would be complete if I went back and viewed it, read it, pinned it. As if my life needs more anxiety crammed into it!

And who are these so called experts who declare that my life will be incomplete, I will be a social outcast and unable to hold me own at the next dinner party if I don’t do as I am instructed by them?

As a mother I fell into the habit of telling my children what they “should do” until one of my daughters asked me not to say should to her anymore as it stressed her out. She was right. She was grown and no longer needed Mummy telling her how to live her life. I have tried very hard not to “should” (except for Mr FD, who desperately needs my constant direction) ever since.

I have always been one of those who hated people telling me what I “should” do and have always, always pulled against that as hard as I can. So why do it to others?

So I am starting a movement – the LET’S SAY NO TO LISTS THAT DEMAND SHOULD/MUST/NEED. You supply the acronym (not that you need too!) and I will bring the soap box (not because I should)!

getting with the spirits

Christmas cake 1

I have been a little into the Christmas spirit (and the alcohol spirits!) this week. First I created a “‘Tis the season to be reading” Christmas reading display in the library, and today I have baked our Christmas cake.

I actually followed the recipe to the very detail this year, something that will stun and amaze my daughters no end! They are used to Mama being a little hit or miss with quantities and the queen of substitutions! This time I made a shopping list, checked it thrice and made sure I had the correct ingredients in the correct quantities. Taste will tell, but looking at the cake on the cooling rack, I think it might be my best effort yet! Who would of thought – maybe being Martha Stewart OCD is a good thing!

I have all the gift shopping completed (online!), with most items hidden away for now. It is Petite Fille’s first Christmas, and she will have both Grandmas at her beck and coo all day long! Along with some young cousins, and lots of gift paper and boxes!

We are going German themed this year. I am “assembling” wurst salad. I have been checking Pinterest for German recipes and have been a little taken about at just how many of the “everyday” meals we had growing up were actually of German origin. I guess my mother grew up with a German grandmother who would have influenced the cooking a great deal. I have even tracked down German tea – East Friesian Tea, The rest of the menu is still in debate as all “bringing a plate” but we  are hosting at our house.

Yes, it will be sad without BIL this year, but we have a grandchild who will fill the house with renewed love , and fond loving memories of Christmas past. It is what it is – Christmas!

give me your young…


Yesterday, the year 12s graduated. We had a grand ceremony, the last of many this week (academic awards, sports awards, graduation dinner etc. etc. etc.) with the entire school body and associated parents assembled.

For many of our students they are the first in their families to compete twelve years of schooling, so it really is a fine achievement. An even bigger achievement considering the messed up families some of them have had to battle. Even the cynical Flamingo Dancer was momentarily, and may I emphasise the word momentarily, overcome with a wave of good will to student kind. Luckily my natural instincts of callousness, sarcasm, and self centeredness soon regained their primacy. Some weaknesses must be carefully managed.

The student leaders stood in front of those assembled and declared this “is a moment I will never forget”. Yes you will, replied the voice in my head. If you drink as much alcohol as you say you plan to at schoolies next week, you won’t remember anything after Tuesday.

“I will remember you all, always!” You will forget their faces in five years, their names in 10. You will walk by them in the street and not recognise them, even when they say their names, in 15 years.

We will always be there for each other!” Oh no you won’t. Let some guy come between two of you and there will be claws at ten feet within minutes. And the boys will be too damn lazy to care about anyone. I myself could quite happily walk over the bodies of a couple of people I went to school with…I would even help them become bodies!

Then there was all the gushing about how much they loved the school, the wonderful times they had together, the memories, oh the memories. The nightmares you mean! One school leader apologised to her cohort for not always being very nice to everyone (cutting the weak from the herd, always a great quality in a leader, don’t you think?) Two boys delivering their farewell speech cried (good for them, I say!)

Then we led them triumphantly through a guard of honour to the front gate – a brilliant way to get them off the school grounds. They are deposited on the footpath, the gate closes behind them … and we go back to class.

Now, we are a lower-socio economic area, so what do they do to celebrate? Why they pile into cars and race up and down the street outside the school, honking horns and yelling. Yep. They hoon the school where we all know they fought hard to not attend every day of those five years we had them. Now we can’t get rid of them.

Eventually the smarter ones realise that everyone is in class and no one cares about “yesterday’s heroes” and so they disappear into the sunset. We start preparing the class of 2014. The assembly line goes on…

truth to tell

I was supervising the snaking line of year eights awaiting their immunisations. I was working the crowd with a comedy routine to relieve the stress. As they were sitting on chairs I announced to the grade that under one of their chairs was a lucky number and the person with the lucky number “four” would be receiving four vaccinations that day. The looks of horror and panic on their faces was priceless!

I didn’t say it was their stress I was relieving…