Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Only 1 month away till SUMMER here in New Zealand - a bit hard to believe with our weather patterns - but here are some suggestions if you are in the mood for collecting up some summer reading material for when holiday weather arrives.
Thank you Laura Howard for this ~
Below are some interesting NZ books that have popped up recently in various emails I've received… most are just out, while Civilisation and The Luminaries were published 2013. I am always fascinated that despite the apparent death of the book, little New Zealand still manages to publish so many wonderful and varied titles! If you are like me, you might be pleasantly surprised to see the range of NZ books on offer – both fiction and non fiction, for adults and kids. Two years ago I joined a book group that only reads contemporary NZ books (usually published within the last year). I was worried there would be little choice and the standard would be below that of my usual diet of international books, but I'm pleased to have been so wrong in my assumptions! You can keep in touch with new NZ books through Auckland writers and readers festival emails, Parsons Library Supply emails, the NZ Book Council website, and ask at your local library – staff often love a good chat about NZ books. Enjoy!  

Manuka: The Biography of an Extraordinary Honey by Cliff Van Eaton
$34.99 PB. 240 pages. ISBN 9781775591634

One Girl, One Dream by Laura Dekker
$29.99 PB. 336 pages. ISBN 9781775540458
An autobiographical account of the youngest ever solo circumnavigation of the Earth. Aged just 14, New Zealand-born Laura Dekker defied the authorities and braved the open oceans to realise her dream of becoming the youngest ever sailor to circumnavigate the Earth. When she finished the journey she was still only 16, the youngest ever person to achieve this feat.

Tell You What: Great New Zealand Nonfiction, 2015 edited by Susanna Andrew & Jolisa Gracewood  DUE OUT NOVEMBER 2014
$29.99 PB. 130 x 198mm. 180 pages. ISBN 9781869408244
‘ Real, live stories, written to last’. Mountains, family secrets, cannibal snails, births, deaths, marriages…includes writing by Steve Braunias, Lara Strongman, Eleanor Catton, Tina Makereti, and others.

Civilisation: twenty places on the edge of the world by Steve Braunias
Our book group had the pleasure of meeting Steve and hearing some of his stories of his travels around NZ, as he researched and wrote this book. An irreverent, humorous, at times sad and touching picture of small town NZ, and some incredible characters he met along the way.

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
Don’t be put off by the size of this incredible Man Booker prize winning novel! You won’t have read anything like it. Outstanding.

My new zealand 123 book. Te Papa Press, due out 2015
ISBN: 9780987668875
This and the below book look like they will be wonderful reads to enjoy with your preschooler.

My new zealand colours book. Te Papa Press, due out 2015
ISBN: 9780987668899

Sunday, October 12, 2014


Last night one of our daughters had her 21st birthday party here at home. She had made digital invitations and decorations and together we had planned the food weeks ago. I had shopped for the food last week and she had taken her dad down to the supermarket one evening to help haul the drinks off the shelves into the trolley to the car then home.
Saturday was an all-out cook day for her and me while her dad and a brother helped another sister move house. 
Amazingly decorations were hung, the place cleaned up and with suitable clothing on, we welcomed the first guests. I realised half-way through the night I hadn't cleaned my teeth all day and had not put on makeup - agh- but really there was no time and more important things needed one's attention.
The whole evening was wonderful in every way. But the surprise for me was that so many wanted to speak at the speech time, after the speech time, driving home after the party via text, and throughout  today - to articulate their thanks, respect and love for the birthday girl. This was from an age group that we think of as being technology obsessed, therefore verbally and relationally impaired. Here was a display of the opposite, a wish to verbalise well thought out honest and heart spoken comment.
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ I'm again reminded of the need to tell my kids, regardless of age, how much I appreciate them, naming the reasons I am thankful that they are mine.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


This is the beautiful photo I have used as the background for my website for my parenting business. 
It's a track I have walked for over 18 years that leads from the road along the Tutukaka Coast down to the spectacular little beach at Whale Bay. It's a gentle sloping walk to go down to the beach and a demanding return journey. 
I first walked it when I was 8 months pregnant, along with my husband and 5 kids aged less than 2 1/2 up to 12years. That was the first year we camped at Woolleys Bay in Mr Woolley's front farm paddock, February 1996. We have gone back virtually every year since.
This track has lots of memories for me
- it's where one of our boys fell off the edge and slid down the sheer cliff about 50mt grabbing onto scrub as he went, bleating out my name.
- it's close-by to where one of our girls was proposed to by her  husband - she's now days away from giving birth to her second child.
- it's where I first read the text from my Mum telling me she had killed a snake in her kitchen the evening before by spraying fly spray in its face then pounding it till dead with her meat mallet - she was 88!
- it's where conversations about the unknown of the coming year have taken place with our kids, as they have gone to school for the first time at age 16.
- it's where we have stopped most years, climbed down the slope to the lookout and taken family photographs.
- it's where I have been lost in thought about a whole manner of things - thinking about the past, thinking about the future. It's a pretty and picturesque track to walk to get lost on.
In three months time we will be there again, having the same conversations with my last son about starting school, taking another family photo - hard to get everyone there at the same time these days, and lots of thinking for me as my home schooling career will be finished and new routines opening up.
You are welcome to have a look at my website ~

Thursday, September 18, 2014


"Fewer children starting school can speak in sentences, prompting an investigation by education chiefs. ..Schools around the country have noted a decline in the spoken language abilities of new entrants from all backgrounds.. School leaders and a specialist in linguistics suspect the problem could be down to children using gadgets too often and parents not talking to them enough. 
The ability of youngsters to express themselves in the classroom is essential to their cognitive development and future learning. ..
New starters could have the spoken-language ability of 2- or 3-year-olds, and even those whom teachers viewed as "average" often came in at levels below a 5-year-old. ..
Julie Cowan, deputy principal at Willowbank School in Auckland, believed there were many causes:'Maybe the fact that children are spending more time on devices and watching television is part of it. Talking as a parent, you are so busy and you have to get to work and drop the kids off.. we spend a lot of time talking at our kids, not necessarily talking with them.'..
Dr Jannie van Hees of the University of Auckland completed her doctoral study on oral language in the classroom for 5-and 6-year-olds. .. 'Children are spending too much time in front of the digital devices and hurrying from one place to the other. It is simple, free and easy to have conversations with your children. But increasingly, I think, families aren't...You can't take for granted, just because you are educated parents, that you talk effectively with children.
The best growing linguistic just those simple times of doing plain things with children but doing lots of conversational exchanges.'"
Nicholas Jones: NZ Pupils Struggling to Speak. Weekend Herald. The New Zealand Herald. Saturday September 6, 2014.

"He may have been dubbed 'the master evangelist of the digital age', but even the late Steve Jobs worried about the effect technology has on children.
While he persuaded millions that Apple's chic but pricey gadgets were a must-buy,..he prevented his own children from using iPads and limited their access to the internet generally.
..the Jobs' children would instead sit around a long dinner table in the kitchen and actually talk to one another. ...
Walter Isaacson, the author of the biography called simply Steve Jobs, told him later that 'every evening Steve made a point of having dinner at the big long table in their kitchen, discussing books and history and a variety of things.'...
Chris Anderson, ex-editor of technology magazine Wired, who has five children aged 6 to 17, agreed with the Jobs family approach.
'My kids accuse me and my wife of being fascists and openly concerned about tech, and they say that none of their friends have the same rules' ..'That's because we have seen the dangers of technology first-hand. I don't want to see that happen to my kids.'"
Ian Johnston: Apple Guru Kept His Kids Away from iPads. Weekend Herald. The New Zealand Herald. Saturday September 13, 2014.

More newspaper excerpts this week, sounding an alarm for parents to take stock of home life. 
Again, over use or inappropriate use of technology is being painted as the cause that is thwarting children's development.
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ no matter if your child is 5 or 17years old, how is their speaking ability? Are they relaxed in speech and involve themselves voluntarily in conversations (I don't mean  arguments and criticisms)? If your answer is an honest 'yes', then they are  obviously doing well and you can assume that their technology use is appropriate. If you are unsure or they are not communicating, are recluse.. then the suggestion has been given for you to intentionally start today to talk with your child and not at them, during the simple, plain times of the day. You could also take up the Jobs' example at the mealtime table. 
If you know right now that this is a problem at your house, you are the only people who can change the situation, so you need to make a plan, or there will be no change.

Monday, September 8, 2014


Tonight at tea the comment was made that handwritten information  has many benefits over typed. My son had popped in for dinner, and on seeing his book diary on the table I had asked if he intended to buy a 2015 diary or just use his phone next year. He said he loved to write in a book diary, and that he had been told by his acting teacher that handwriting had many benefits over typing. I checked online(typing), and found this thought provoking article ~ 
"Psych 101 was about to start, and Pam Mueller had forgotten her laptop at home. This meant more than lost Facebook time. A psychology grad student at Princeton, Mueller was one of the class teaching assistants. It was important she have good notes on the lecture. Normally she used her laptop to take notes, but, without it, she’d have to rely on a more traditional approach. 
So she put pen to paper—and found something surprising. 
Class just seemed better. “I felt like I had gotten so much more out of the lecture that day,” she said. So she shared the story with Daniel Oppenheimer, the professor teaching the class.
“‘I had a similar experience in a faculty meeting the other day,’” Mueller remembers him saying. “And we both sort of had that intuition that there might be something different about writing stuff down.”
It turns out there is.
A new study—conducted by Mueller and Oppenheimer—finds that people remember lectures better when they’ve taken handwritten notes, rather than typed ones. 
What's more, knowing how and why typed notes can be bad doesn't seem to improve their quality. Even if you warn laptop-notetakers ahead of time, it doesn't make a difference. For some tasks, it seems, handwriting’s just better.
The study comes at a ripe time for questions about laptop use in class. Educators still debate whether to allow students to bring their laptops into the classroom. And while researchers have found that laptop use during class-time tends to be distracting—not only do laptop-using students not perform as well academically, but also they’re less happy with their education—Mueller and Oppenheimer’s research seems to be the first quantitative attempt to compare laptops disconnected from the Internet with plain-old pencil and paper.
The study was conducted in three parts. At the beginning of each, students watched video of a lecture or a TED talk, and took notes on it either longhand or on laptops. 
Students watched the video, completed difficult mental tasks for 30 minutes, then took a quiz on the content. In this group, longhand-notetakers outperformed laptop-notetakers on the quiz. Analysis of student notes showed that laptop-notetakers tended to transcribe a lot of the speaker’s words verbatim. Mueller and Oppenheimer suspected that this was because those who typed notes were inclined to transcribe lectures, rather than process them. This makes sense: If you can type quickly enough, word-for-word transcription is possible, whereas writing by hand usually rules out capturing every word.
So students in the second group were given a warning. Before the laptop-users watched the lecture or took any notes on it, the study administrator told some of them:
People who take class notes on laptops when they expect to be tested on the material later tend to transcribe what they’re hearing without thinking about it much. Please try not to do this as you take notes today. Take notes in your own words and don’t just write down word-for-word what the speaker is saying.
The warning seemed to have no effect. The quiz showed that longhand-notetakers still remembered lecture content better than laptop-notetakers. And analyzing the notes that laptop-using students took, the two authors admit: “The instruction to not take verbatim notes was completely ineffective at reducing verbatim content.”
The final group of students took the quiz a full week after watching a recorded lecture. Some of these students were allowed to study their notes for 10 minutes before taking the quiz. In this last group, longhand-notetakers who had time to study outperformed everyone else. Longhand-notetakers of any sort, in fact, did better on the quiz than laptop-notetakers.
What’s more, if someone took verbatim notes on their laptop, then studying seemed more likely to hinder their performance on the quiz. 
In other words, taking notes on a laptop seems to lead to verbatim notes, which make it tough to study well. And you can’t successfully warn someone to keep them from taking verbatim notes if they’re using a laptop.
“We don’t write longhand as fast as we type these days, but people who were typing just tended to transcribe large parts of lecture content verbatim,” Mueller told me. “The people who were taking notes on the laptops don’t have to be judicious in what they write down.”
She thinks this might be the key to their findings: Take notes by hand, and you have to process information as well as write it down. That initial selectivity leads to long-term comprehension.
“I don’t think we’re gonna get more people to go back to notebooks necessarily,” Mueller said. “Tablets might be the best of both worlds—you have to choose what to write down, but then you have the electronic copy.” 
Incidentally, the two researchers might look at tablet use next. (They didn’t include them in this study.) But they have busy scientific dockets outside this work, as neither of them specialize in educational psychology. Mueller researches questions of law and morality, and Oppenheimer tends to focus on decision-making and the psychology of democracy.
But the two say they've appreciated their foray into note-taking research, which stemmed from a real-life problem. “I think,” Mueller said, “that’s where the best research comes from, because the questions resonate with other people.”"
TO REMEMBER A LECTURE BETTER TAKE NOTES BY HAND: Students Do Worse on Quizzes When They Use Keyboards in Class. Robinson Meyer. May 1 2014.
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ What will you do with this? Does it affect what your kids do at home or your attitude to the increasing move to have children work on laptops in class? It seems sensible to resurrect handwriting as a skill, once more.

Monday, September 1, 2014

"FATHERS DAY - 2014"

        Hans Albert Einstein, Albert Einstein, Eduard "Tete" Einstein

“In 1915, aged thirty-six, Einstein was living in wartorn Berlin, while his estranged wife, Mileva, and their two sons, Hans Albert Einstein and Eduard “Tete” Einstein, lived in comparatively safe Vienna. On November 4 of that year, having just completed the two-page masterpiece that would catapult him into international celebrity and historical glory, his theory of general relativity, Einstein sent 11-year-old Hans Albert the following letter - ”
The Secret of Learning Anything: Albert Einstein’s Advice to His Son: Maria Popova
My dear Albert,
Yesterday I received your dear letter and was very happy with it. I was already afraid you wouldn’t write to me at all any more. You told me when I was in Zurich, that it is awkward for you when I come to Zurich. Therefore I think it is better if we get together in a different place, where nobody will interfere with our comfort. I will in any case urge that each year we spend a whole month together, so that you see that you have a father who is fond of you and who loves you. You can also learn many good and beautiful things from me, something another cannot as easily offer you. What I have achieved through such a lot of strenuous work shall not only be there for strangers but especially for my own boys. These days I have completed one of the most beautiful works of my life, when you are bigger, I will tell you about it.
I am very pleased that you find joy with the piano. This and carpentry are in my opinion for your age the best pursuits, better even than school. Because those are things which fit a young person such as you very well. Mainly play the things on the piano which please you, even if the teacher does not assign those. That is the way to learn the most, that when you are doing something with such enjoyment that you don’t notice that the time passes. I am sometimes so wrapped up in my work that I forget about the noon meal. . . .
Be with Tete kissed by your

Regards to Mama.
The idea of writing a letter to a child is incredibly rare these days, and possibly even more rare for a father to choose to write to his child. But as Albert Einstein's letter to his son, written nearly 100 years ago, indicates, things that are important and dear can be communicated meaningfully in written form. There are several hints that this letter gives us which are worth practicing ~
 * This father has heard his son's thoughts of the difficulty he feels when his father returns home 
 * In a gentle fatherly manner he suggests a better way to meet in future 
 * He persuasively speaks of the importance of time together so that he can prove his fondness and love for his son 
 * He wants to teach him "good and beautiful things" which only a father can pass on to his child 
 * He speaks of his intention in the future to share with his son what has been of deep interest to him in his work
 * Then he discusses the things that interest his son and we sense Albert knows his son's interests and gifting, and advises not for 'success' but from a basis of love
 * His farewell is affectionate, respectful of the whole family but still expressing high value for this son.
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ with Fathers Day approaching this weekend, it would be great if the fathers took the opportunity to write to one child or a short note/email to all their children to communicate their fondness and interest in their own child's lives. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


When I was a girl at school in Australia we had school mottos. As a five year old we learnt and then would say the motto, "In knowledge we grow", in the weekly school assembly. At high school the school emblem displaying our motto, "Truth. Unity. Concord.". It was plastered over everything from school take-home notes, stamped on texted books,to adorning the exterior of buildings. 
It is probably still the same today in schools, but do schools actually have a motto nowadays that is known by their pupils? And does that motto affect the school's operations, the strategy of teachers and attitudes towards students, as they work towards making them ready to enter adult life?
"The logo is both a symbol and an introduction to the school; it tells a story about the school and reveals some of the significant values espoused by the school's community." Alfriston College.
For many schools the school motto is mixed into the Vision, Mission Statement or Purpose documents of the school.
In Judi Stell's article, "Making a Motto Meaningful in the Modern World", she says, "we regularly ask: “What is the purpose of a school motto and how can it guide our school today?”
The Oxford English Dictionary defines a motto as “a short sentence or phrase chosen as encapsulating the beliefs or ideals on an individual, family or institution”.
John Paul College include their school motto in their school crest. "Our College crest represents the values and ideals which our community upholds and which all students are encouraged to follow." As to if they are referring to the school community or wider community,it is not clear.
Elmer W, a retired school principal and author writes in an article titled, "Does your school have a motto or creed that you are committed to follow? How do you use it? What about a family motto or creed?", "I used the following school motto for many years and in many schools, as a very effective tool in communicating to children, parents, and the community that we care. At the beginning of the year, the motto, “At (Name of School) every child is important. We care about kids!” was displayed on a large bulletin board by the office. It was printed at the bottom of practically every newsletter throughout the school year. As a spin-off activity, a poster was placed on the door of every classroom with the following words and signed by the teacher, “In this classroom every child is important. I care about kids!” One way to communicate that we care is to keep saying it over and over, and the school motto is a good tool to use in doing so. Of course, we also must show that we care in as many ways as possible for the words are empty and meaningless without the substance; it is however, very important to keep saying it over and over." Elmer then closed throwing our a challenge to parents to consider a family motto that could be said together each day, and then asks if that would affect things at home.  
I have been wondering about the effects of mottos on their schools, as I drive past and read the mottos that are there on their gates. It has made me wonder what are they saying to the community about themselves?
Here is a little research of 25 school mottos around Auckland, along with the year they were founded. It's interesting to see a shift over the last 150 years, in what the founders held dear and wanted to aim their students towards.  
“Let me be of service to others” 1877
“The difficulty through the narrow” 1888–used by many other schools for the next 40 years.
“Be strong” 1903
“By love, serve” 1915
“To love, to serve” 1939
“Faith is to be saved” 1953
“A mind aware of right” 1953
“In bravery” 1955
“Look around, take everything into account” 1956
“Loyalty and courage” 1959
“The sky is open” 1960
“Worthy to hand on the torch” 1960
“Let courage be thy test” 1961
“Charity fulfills the law” 1962
“To wisdom with honour” 1963
“Character opens the way to the heavens” 1964
“Exert effort” 1968
“Innovative. Individualised. Connected.” 1970
“Building Greatness” 1972  
“Where everybody is somebody” 1972
“Equipping Individuals for lifelong learning” 1974
“Virtue mine honour” 1980
“Proud of who we are, what we know and what we can achieve” 1991  
“Faith is our compass” 2004
“Celebrate diversity” 2005
“Nurture each other, Inspire each other, Empower each other” 2010
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ Does your child's school have a school motto?  Does your child know it or understand what it means? Do you agree with it? If not, maybe you can create a better one and suggest the school rethink the old one.