Friday, March 30, 2007

Beautiful day here

I don't know how I got the coloured underlining in yesterday's post. Certainly nothing I did on purpose.

Stunning, stunning day here today. I'm inside studying most of the time, but I do keep having to sit in the sun for a bit, or hang out washing, and otherwise enjoy it. I was reading about "Globalisation, Ethics and Mathematics Teaching" before lunch - and I understood some of it! Now just have to figure how to relate it to my own projects!!

I also caught a monarch butterfly that was trying to get out the high window in the kitchen. Hopefully it was less traumatised by the capture than by the predicament it was in to start with.

By the way, the (sometimes) random photos are mostly for the benefit of the Little Kids, should they happen to 'read' the blog from time to time. Makes it more interesting (to write and read) too.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


I took G and I(child) on the bus to Te Papa yesterday. This is the first time I have tried taking two toddlers (plus the double buggy) on the bus, and it worked out just fine, thanks to the helpfulness of the public and one of the bus drivers.

(We also saw E and her mum on the bus - what a bonus!)

I've often taken 2 year olds on the bus (up to 3 of them), and a couple of 2 year olds and a baby are fine to manage. The difference is that their legs are long enough to climb up the big steps themselves - which is not the case for I or G. (Or E for that matter). The double buggy is also unwieldy to manage with one hand.

But yesterday my Auntie Connie was in town, so I arranged to meet her at Te Papa so we could catch up, and that provided the impetus to venture forth on public transport.

Bus drivers have a reputation for being unhelpful at the moment. (And I have seen some grumpy ones.) But I find that if you are polite and ask for help, they will give it. In the event, each time I was getting ready to get on a bus, someone offered to lift up the buggy, which was very kind of them. Once off the bus in town and with the kids back in the buggy, we zoomed around just fine.

The girls loved the bus trip, with lots of vehicles to see out the window. We saw the Brooklyn fire engine at one point too - I is very interested in it at the moment. They also had a great time at morning tea in the cafe, both sitting up in the armchairs ("like ladies"), and wandering around looking at the other coffee drinkers. At the end of the visit we went out to watch the ducks ("duck, duck"). Just a shame I forgot to bring any bread for them.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

National Spelling Bee

Well, Rowena was in the national spelling bee yesterday, but unfortunately she did not get a place. I have to say that listening to kids spell words was a whole lot less interesting once R was eliminated - lost the edge somehow. (It'll never be a great spectator sport!)

The girl who did win had flown in from Christchurch, and was over 1/2 an hour late for the competition. Apparently there was fog at the airport in Christchurch which delayed the flight. I thought she must be in a terrible flap, wondering whether she would make it at all, but she made a superb recovery. Among her prizes (a trip to Washington!) was a 5 or 6 inch think dictionary - the official dictionary of the American contest. That's one consolation of not winning - you'd feel almost obligated to study the thing before the final!

I think I read in the paper that she has not been out of the country before, so that is some kind of justice anyway. (This was R's prime motivation for the nationals. Fair enough too.)

By the way, it turns out that the woman who has organised the whole effort for the past several years (since its NZ inception) is a friend of mine from another local playcentre. I didn't catch up with her on the day, but I must find out what gave her such an interest in spelling bees.

Friday, March 23, 2007

How Children Learn by John Holt

I've sent away to for several of the books on my reading list for Theoretical Foundations of Education. Amazon helpfully suggests that the books should arrive in 4 to 8 weeks. The first one, "How Children Learn" by John Holt, came in 9 days. Total cost about $22.50NZ. I'm very pleased.

I have been reading it avidly, and am finding it more interesting that Holt's other book (which I have blogged about separately a bit). This is because he is writing a lot about younger children - the age I have been working with for years in Playcentre and my teaching diploma, as well as the Little Kids I care for now. The current chapter, reflecting on language and how kids make sense of it and learn to use it, is just fascinating. Throws light on the current situation of I(child) learning words (and E using more and more words). It's really hard to choose a short extract to post to give the flavour of the chapter. I'd rather lend the book out once I have read it a couple of times.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Learning new words

We've been having lots of fun with language lately. E has been saying isolated words since January, but I(child) has been very quiet - using great non-verbal communication, but no words at all. Not long ago she started saying "hello" and "bye-bye" quite clearly - on a good day.

On Thursday my Mum and Dad (Nana and Poppa) were visiting, and Nana was watching the Little Kids play in and around the water trough. Nana was saying "duck" and E would repeat it (lots of times during the morning). Finally, I(child) seemed to get the idea of what this talking thing was about, and she repeated "duck", while holding the toy duck. She seemed very pleased with herself, and they played this naming game over and over. In the same way, I(child) also began to say "ball" and "boo" (as in "peek-a-boo"). Later in the day, after Nana and Poppa had gone, I(child) said "baby" while looking at the baby on some packaging.

When I's mother arrived (with I's grandad) I told this story. She very obligingly said "duck" without my prompting, just when I held up the toy duck and said "what's this". Clever girl! She did the same for a ball.

Altogether not a bad day's work - tripling the child's vocabulary!!

(New words today were "mum" and her name.)

(I thought it was about time I put some more pictures up - a bit boring otherwise.)

Monday, March 19, 2007

Rowena wins Regional spelling bee

Wow! Fantastic news. Rowena has come first in the Regional spelling bee! She's going to the nationals on Saturday, and if she wins that she gets to go to America for the competition there (with a parent).

We hadn't even been much aware of spelling bees until the other week when her English teacher said she was a great speller (which we did know) and should go in the school competition. She won that, and went from there, with another girl, into the Regionals. (It's for year 9 students.)

All very exciting. I don't think I have ever been regional champion of anything, so great work Ro!!

on concentration

I was reading John Holt´s ¨How children fail¨ a week or so ago. In this book one of the problems he talks about is that children find school so boring that they cannot keep their minds on the work, and so do not learn it. (He was writing in 1960s America.) This seemed to be for two reasons. Firstly, the style of teaching was often for the teacher to leacture on the topic, asking the class questions from time to time to check understanding (or that they were paying attention). Secondly, the children could not connect the topic being covered with their own real life, and the teachers didn´t see this as a priority. So the topic covered was much less memorable; there was nothing to hook the child´s interest, so they were bored by it and didn´t learn.

I think John Holt is onto something here, and so must many teachers, as I´m sure my kids school makes the effort to relate what they are learning to how it can be used in real life. Another way of looking at this is that they use the children´s real life as a starting point for the topics they want the children to learn.

John Holt makes the point that children he observed did not know when their minds were wandering. Even with the best will in the world, if the material was stultifying then the kids would miss big chunks of the explanation and not be able to reproduce it. He suggested that the difference between a good and a poor student may be that the good student knows when their attention has wandered and can make some effort to go back to that point. He also comments that he finds this effect in himself (of his mind wandering when listening to a boring speaker), even when he is trying to fight it.

This is the point I am at this morning. This week I am reading a book called ¨An introducation to the philosophy of education¨ by SJ Curtis. It´s lovely and peaceful to study here, sitting partly in the sun and the kids at school. But I keep finding my mind has wandered off somewhere else, and I have to go back a few sentences to find out what I have been reading! Sometimes I can catch what my mind is working on instead of understanding about what I am supposed to be reading. Sometimes it´s even related to what I´m reading. But it´s quite annoying because it´s making the book go very slowly.

One thing I was being distracted about was how I might blog the thoughts I was having – so I´m doing that to get it over and done!!

I have a really helpful lecturer who talks about how to read a book. He suggests that you don´t have to understand a book on the first read through; in fact you shouldn´t try too hard. Just let it sink into your brain. Then go back and read the book through a second time, this time trying to engage with the ideas a bit. I´m holding out hope that this method will let me ´get´ the content of this book in time. Because it´s not that it is uninteresting or I can´t relate it to my life and work (which I can) – my mind is just doing other things as the same time!

A new computer AT LAST

I have been away at a national Playcentre meeting this weekend, presenting papers for a working party I have been on. Turned out to be very busy, but the working party is now disbanded, so fewer weekends away in future. (Yay!)

On Saturday, via a flurry of text messages, we agreed to get me a new computer, and Bern went out and purchased it. So I arrived home to find it set up and good to go! Great excitment. (Thanks, Bern.)

I've been frustrated with my set up for a while (crashing and so forth), and I keep finding new software that I can't run on my old machine. It was time to bite the bullet and pay for a new harddrive. (I'm now going to be wanting some new software - inevitable expense!) Apart from having to get my files off the old machine I just have to adjust the settings to how I want them.

The new machine has a DVD player. Bern's computer already had one, but my machine has the big screen, so much better for watching movies. We haven't had TV in the house for 10 years, so this is going to be popular with the kids I'm sure. Two problems here: other house members wanting MY computer to watch DVDs; and ME wasting time watching them!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Section 59 Brush-Off

I'm following quite closely the progress of the Bill to repeal Section 59 of the Crimes Act. I'm pleased that it's looking good at the moment, but it's frustrating that it's being delayed. Although, if I didn't happen to think this Bill was the best action to take (on balance), then I'd be pleased with the opportunity to delay in the hope of changing the outcome, so you have to be consistent.

On Monday I finally got around to sending a bunch of letters to selected MPs outlining my view, and I have started getting replies, which is an education in itself. The most cynical so far has been from Mark Blumsky (who voted against the Bill). Here's a guy who used to be (a popular) mayor of Wellington, and who was in the paper a few weeks ago saying he is thinking of stepping down from parliament because a back-bencher can't achieve anything concrete. And yet, you hardly ever hear of him commenting on local or national issues, or supporting local people, or otherwise doing any work. (He's a list MP.) There is such a lot of policy to get your head around, he could usefully spend the first three years with his head down just reading; I wonder if he is doing that much? But in any case, if he ever wants to take the Wellington Central electorate from Labour (and he has a good chance next year as Marion Hobbs is not standing again), then he has to allocate one day a week to actually trying to do some good in the community.

I sent him a letter about S59 because he might be my electorate MP one day, and I recievecd the following reply:

Dear Maureen Woodhams,
Thank you for your letter of (date) regarding the .... Bill.
I appreciate your taking the time to let me know your thoughts.
I respect your opinion - I hope you respect mine.
Yours (etc)

Mark has not got the point. I am a private person. It's my job to have opinions and tell my MP (or any other MP) about them. If I have good reasoning, I might just be persuasive.

He, as an MP, is not a private person. He is being paid by the public to gather information and make the best decisions he can. Therefore, his opinion is not particularly relevant (though it will colour which information he accepts as being valid or useful). That's why I think the letter is a brush off, and I question what work Mark Blumsky is doing for his parliamentary salary.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Hanging ice block

It's being a busy week, and looks like it is only getting busier for the rest of it. That's one of the good things about working with toddlers: you can't hurry their pace, so there are enforced periods of calm and peace in my week. (Mind you, this is not around lunch-times!!!)

I took G and I to playcentre again this week. (One of these days they are going to fill up that session, but in the meantime we're making the most of it.) I saw a great new way to offer water play. Henrietta had frozen an ice-cream container full of water, with a cup in the middle of it, so that she ended up with that size block of ice with a hole in it. She had hung this by a rope over the water trough. I was playing with it with I(child), watching it drip, trying to catch drips in our hands, and making it swing so I(child) and E* could experience the pendulum motion. I(child) was trying to figure out where to put her hands to reach the block of ice as it swung toward her. She couldn't reach it when it was still, as the water trough was in the way.

(I have written E* to differentiate from E, who wasn't with us yesterday.)

At home, Elanor and I got an ice-cream container (with a good fitting lit), and worked out what cup will just fit. We think it has to be a tight fit so the cup doesn't float around, or fill with water. It froze overnight (a full ice-cream container will usually take longer than overnight to freeze - the air in the middle made it faster in this case), and this afternoon we put it out, hanging from the washing line. Great excitement from the Little Kids. Elanor spent a long time playing with it too.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Church Camp at Waikanae

We spent the weekend at El Rancho in Waikanae - and what a beautiful weekend it was. Lovely weather, good friends, and the kids reliably disappearing for stretches at a time. (Katie and Rowena didn't even sleep in our cabin.) I was carrying round (and even read some of) a book by John Holt "How Children Fail", which sounds like a depressing title, but is actually a classic book with some telling insights into things that make school hard for kids, and ways to overcome them. (He makes some points which I personally agree with - which is always a good way to know that an author is writing sense!!!)

Bit of a slow start to the weekend though. We spent over an hour in s--l--o--w m--o--v--i--n--g traffic up the coast, due to road resealing. We had an unprecedented chance to check out people's gardens. Then, when we arrived, we couldn't go into the campground because about a dozen police cars were there before us - an armed offenders squad call-out. We went off to the beach/cafe, and by the time my latte had arrived someone had had a text that it was all over and we could get in. I didn't see anything in yesterday's paper about it, so will have to keep a look out.

Reading the above, it sounds like I am pleased to not see my kids for large chunks of the weekend - which is not the case. However, there is a huge contrast with what going to camp was like 8 or 10 years ago with little kids. In fact, I felt like we had all the advantages of being a childless couple hanging out with friends, plus all the advantages of having children - with none of the disadvantages of either.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Walk to the Windmill

This morning I went on a school trip, walking to our local wind turbine. This was with Sophie's syndicate - 108 kids, 4 teachers, a handful of parents and 3 dogs. It took us about 50 minutes, uphill all the way, and was fine except for the last 5 minutes which was a bit steep! (Brutal actually.) Beautiful view when you get there though. I hadn't walked it before. I think that counts for my exercise for today and at least one other day as well.

By the way, you can see our house if you know where to look.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

March Quilt Guild

I ended up speaking at quilt guild tonight. The scheduled speaker was unfortunately sick, so, at the last minute, someone organised to have people speak about their local quilt groups. A couple of people had been primed ahead of time, but then others who were in groups were asked to get up and talk about their group. When the moment came it was either Dianne or myself!

We formed our group nine years ago this June. There are about 5 in the group at the moment, but it has been up to 10 at times. We meet on the first and fourth Thursday evenings of the month, either at peoples houses, or at the Resource Centre. I talked to a lady who wanted to join the group, and swapped phone numbers. We have made a lot of quilts over the years, but some years lately we seem to do more knitting than quilting. The trouble is that I don't have a hand quilting project that I just want to work on at the moment. I probably have a top I could baste (I have any number of UFOs - unfinished objects.) The best idea is to have a medium sized project that you keep in a bag and only take out when going to a meeting - that way you always have everything to hand.


I sat down to blog about sushi (of all things) last night, and got majorly distracted looking for a suitable photo on Google Images to illustrate the post. All of a sudden it was past my bedtime! I'm going to have to do my own 'food styling' to get just what I want.

I was thinking about sushi because that's what Bern volunteered to bring for a work morning tea this morning. So we came home last evening from homegroup and started rolling sushi at 9.45pm. In the event, he wasn't well this morning, and didn't go to work, so the kids had some sushi in their lunchboxes, and we can have the rest as an entre tonight.

I can't remember why we made our first sushi, but it has become something that Sophie is the expert at. We usually make vegetarian sushi, with pickled ginger, cucumber, carrot, avacado, etc. (This is because some people in our house are fussy about fish (!), and we don't usually shop for special ingredients, so just use what we have in the fridge.) Served with soy sauce for dipping, and very dilute wasabi paste. When we were away on holiday with friends in January we had some very elegant picnics with sushi (and salads, bread, etc). It's actually very portable, if you take a board and cut it up at the picnic site.

Chickens at playcentre

Well, there's never a dull moment here. I took G and I(child) to Playcentre yesterday - and Henrietta had brought two chickens for a visit! They 'free-ranged' around the outside area, pecking under the bushes and generally ignoring the children. The kids, I in particular, thought they were fascinating, watching, pointing, and coming back to watch them again later. Great to have a 'country experience' for these city kids.

Meanwhile, G was very involved with cars and trains during the session. She was rolling cars down a ramp into the water trough, and later walking round and round a table which had the train set out on it, rolling carriages. Very engaged with both. 'Rotary' or possibly 'trajectory' schemas are indicated.

Here's Susan Harper on schemas. Good old Google! (I wonder who else I know has a blog?)

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Minimalist water play

Because I am teaching toddlers at the moment, my programme has a strong focus on exploring the elements of the natural world. That means providing opportunities for water, sand, (dirt!!) and natural materials every day. Water in particular has a very strong fascination for most toddlers, and though it's something they interact with every day (eg, drinking it, washing in it), they never tire of exploring all its properties. At 1 and a 1/2 they are developing 'working theories' for how it 'works' and how it interacts with other substances (like their clothes, or the ground). They also find it very familiar and soothing.

However, waterplay has one or two limitations. It is quite possible for a toddler to drown in fairly small amounts of it (eg, if they knock their head falling into a bucket of it), and they will also get soaking at any opportunity, until they practice and develop their motor control. (One reason for lots of practice with the stuff.)

One of my favourite ways of offering water play outside is in a shallow tray. I have a plastic tray which I weigh down with biggish stones, and put 1/2 inch of water in it. This needs hardly any supervision as it's impossible to drown in, but provides patting and small splashing opportunities, as well as allowing the toddler to see how stones will change appearance when wet, and then dry in the sun. They can get their hands wet, but won't get their clothes soaking (unless they very carefully sit down in the tray - which I haven't seen yet, but this doesn't mean it won't happen).

I sometimes put a tray of water out as well as a water trough, along with buckets, watering cans and the teaset. But it's particularly useful when I don't want to change the kids clothes again, but still provide water exploration opportunities.

Round the Bays Photos

They have finally got the photos from the Round the Bays funrun up on the web. These are commercial photos and can't be saved to disk, so I can't put on the blog, but you can see me finish at this link. I don't know how long these links will work, but they are good today.

Bernard is here.

Sophie is here.

Jerusha is here.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Bic Runga Concert

The other event of the weekend was that we went to the Bic Runga concert at the Alana estate in Marinborough on Saturday afternoon. The weather turned out hot and sunny; we set up with our blankets and wine and nibbles, kicked back and had a great time. One small niggle was that she only sang for 65 minutes - not enough for 50 bucks. Her sister did some songs as an opener.

During the band's break, when Bic was singing with just her guitar, she suddenly stopped in the middle of the song and declared "there's a man having a pee in that bush over there!" She sounded quite taken aback (well, wouldn't you be?) and laughed, and it took her a minute to get singing again. I bet he was deeply embarrassed (should think so). Very funny.

Some more on Bic here.

The host site is playing up and not printing posts.

I have got Bern to load Firefox onto my computer, and using that I was able to access the functionality of Blogger. I still don't know why Internet Explorer let me down. I just want my computer to do the things I want - with no complaints!

Martinborough Fair

I went to the Martinborough fair at the weekend, with my sister Annie and several of her friends. They have been making a weekend of it for some year, and it was nice to be invited to join them. The weather is usually good and we were not disappointed this time. It was warm and a bit overcast on Saturday morning (when the fair started) which was all to the good as it kept the heat down. Sunday was a scorcher; we did some local shops and found a shady cafe courtyard for lunch.

Annie and I looked at about half the stalls in the 4-5 hours we had. Far too many to do them all justice. Lots of jewellery this year, and quite a few paintings stalls this year. I always like the textile stalls. I like handmade sewn stuff, and there was lots of woolen crafts too - knitted jerseys, felting, etc. The berries and ice-cream were lovely! We yakked late into the night.

Photo is from Google Images - so probably a previous year.

Friday, March 2, 2007

On sausage packaging

Yesterday we went to a BBQ for Girls Rally at Shoreland Park. This happened to be one of those days when I was extremely organised, and had a caserole in the oven early, so that I could do a bit of study before tea. Sophie reminded me about the BBQ, and of course there wasn't anything suitable in the house to take, so we went to the supermarket on the way. (I am now VERY ORGANISED INDEED for tonight's tea!)

I would like to say thank you very much to Island Bay New World. My usual supermarket is pak'n'save, and in the last few years they have stopped selling sausages in trays of 12. When you have a family of six, 12 is a most convenient number for sausages, and 11 is just no good at all. For some strange reason, pak'n'save started packaging in groups of 11 or 7. I can't think of any moderate group size where 11 or 7, being prime, are of much use, once you get past the toddler stage of only wanting (or getting!) one sausage. (I would quite understand groups of 8 or 10.)

I care about numbers, so this sort of thing bothers me.

Anyway, as I was walking along the meat isle I said a little prayer to the sausage-packing-fairy: "please could there be a tray of 12" - and there was! Lots. Lemonade, bananas, bread, and the salad and sauce from home, and we were away.

ps, I counted 57 seagulls lined up to take bread that was being thrown to entertain a one year old child. Mostly in neat ranks of 4 or 5, and only the front ones josstled each other. Perhaps you have to rise quite a way up the seagull 'pecking order' before you even have a chance to fight for thrown bread!

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Read too long. Blog tomorrow.