Wednesday, August 12, 2015


It is August, which technically is the last month of Winter here in New Zealand.
Although the wind and temperatures can be cold in August and the day  still start with a bitter frosty morning, the beginnings of Spring have arrived! The incredible miracle of new leaf and flower buds are filling stems, stalks and branches.
Right now is the perfect time to start a game with the children that lasts a year.
1. Take your child for a walk to find a planet or tree that has bare branches. Let them pick out their plant friend. 
The plant needs to be close by so they can see it regularly. 
* In you home garden
* In a kind friendly neighbour's garden
* In a nearly park
* In the parking area at the shops, supermarket, mall, cafe, hall, school..... somewhere you go often.
This plant is to become their year long friend.
2. Each week or if you prefer each month, together with your child take the walk to their plant friend so they can visit and see what is happening.
I have done the weekly and the monthly versions with my children and found both were very rewarding experiences.
3. Once there, the child needs time to just look and chatter away to you if they wish. 
Each visit the condition of the plant friend needs to be noted or remembered. The child can do this by making a drawing, taking a photo or collecting a sample. 
Drawing demands physical and artistic skills from the child as well as concentration and patience. But this type of drawing is not about creating a work of art, it's about looking and seeing. It needs time and patience from  mum to be prepared and have the equipment at hand, then to wait while the child draws. 
I found it best to also draw a plant friend, that way I was busy while they were busy.
Photos are good because they are accurate and quick, but that is also their downfall. They prevent the child looking and taking time to get to know their plant friend. That's why I prefer drawing.
Collecting Samples is also good because they begin a physical collection with which the child can compare the future stages of their plant friend.
We found it was best to label each sample at the time with a date tag, or glue it with strong glue onto cardboard with the date labelled underneath, or place it on a large paper page with a date label underneath then covering the sample with clear contact. 
However you do it the point is to get them to look, compare and observe for themselves the changes as they occur in their plant friend for the duration of the year.
4. Remember, My Plant Friend is an experience for the child. It is for them to learn and discover what they can using their senses. Mum is allowed to answer questions but not to become a teacher or take over steering the child in how to think about their plant friend. You may find help by reading the final points of the post "Kids Outdoors in the Winter"
5. - At the first visit the child may find only bare branches.
- Next small lumps will appear on the branches and stems. You may be asked what these are. It is fine to give them the name, 'buds', but leave them with the mystery of what a bud is. It is good for them to think and wait.
- The buds grow and form a shape.
- The buds burst open - depending on the plant the bud may hold a leaf or flower. Let them find out.
"life stirs in the beautiful mystery of the leaf-buds, a nest of delicate baby-leaves lying in downy warmth within many waterproof wrappings;...each has its own way of folding and packing its leaflets." HOME EDUCATION : Charlotte Mason p.52.
"Then the flowers come, each shut up tight in the dainty casket we call a bud, as cunningly wrapped as the leaves in their buds, but less carefully guarded." HOME EDUCATION : Charlotte Mason p.53.
- Watch the way the leaves unfold - each plant is unique. It is good to capture the process as you draw, photograph or collect samples.
- Gradually the leaves and flowers multiply and grow in size. They mature, become damaged by the wind, insects or birds. They decay. 
- Then there may be fruit. If a child discovers for themselves that the fruit comes out of the flower, they will know it and remember it for life.
- the leaves may change colour and shrivel, then fall off the branch.
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ these simple happenings are old stale knowledge to us but it is all new to a child. Our job is to put ourselves into the child's position and to wonder and admire the surprises they discover along with them.
Let your child find a Plant Friend this week.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


Here is another outdoor game for children where they get to think their thoughts without interference. It again encourages children to look carefully as well as the need to use their mind to picture and remember, then describe. It is easy to play Mind Photography.
The Game Mind Photography: 
1. Take your children to a place where there is plenty to see in the distance or there is a wide open view. Usually an elevated position works well - 
a hill
a headland
suburban scene
If you live in Auckland it is perfect to go to the top of one of the many volcanoes.
2. Sit everyone down, they need to be comfortable. For this reason it would be best if the children have already had a run around, eaten and had a drink.
3. The best way to teach this game is for you to firstly demonstrate how it works. You will need to already have a few Mind Photographs stored in your memory. 
Close your eyes and tell them about one scene that you remember. Describe it clearly and with enthusiasm. It could be a scene they are familiar with. Your description will influence them so make it memorable. When it is their turn they may mimic your words or mannerisms so be an example worth following.
4. Once you have finished, tell them it is their turn. They start by  spending some minutes looking at a section of the scene in front of them. They can take their time. They need to look at it carefully and remember the details.
5. When they think they have looked enough, tell them to shut their eyes and try to see the image of what they have seen. If any part of their image is blurry or they can't clearly remember what it looks like, they need to open their eyes for a closer look. Then close the eyes again and recall the image. When they believe they have the image perfectly in their mind then they are ready to describe what they see.
6. Tell them to close their eyes as they describe, just as you did. Everyone is to simply listen, not correct or offer their thoughts.
Children can use this skill of looking at a distant scene, closing eyes and remembering or recalling it, as often as they wish. This is not difficult. The difficulty comes when they need to concentrate and describe out loud what is in their memory. Therefore it is suggested that the describing part of this game be only played on occasions.
Benefits from Mind Photography:
# A child's mind is filled with rich images of places and scenes that will stay in their mind's memory card for life. These images  are ready to recall, be enjoyed and bring with them recollections of innumerable sights, things heard, smelt, tastes, feelings and imaginings. They are their images and memories.
Mind images made in a child's mind in this way will be clear and vivid into old age. 
The reason so many childhood memories for adults are vague or incomplete is because as a child we never looked fully of carefully to make a clear mind photograph.
# By nature children can successfully look in detail at things that are close or near to them and tiny, minute things. This is not difficult for even very young children.
But to ask a child to really look carefully at things in the distance or at a wide open scene, is a more difficult task. 
They need help to be aware of the distant view. This is where this game of Mind Photography is so helpful. 
To be able to look beyond, further than what is close by, to look so carefully that the details are clearly kept in one's mind, is a skill that prepares a person's future abilities in numbers of life areas. By adding to that the occasional verbal description, where the child's mind and concentration work very hard, and you contribute to your child's future success in writing. Clear, accurate verbal description is the forerunner of successful writing.
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ take the kids outdoors and play Mind Photography. It is an investment into their future.

Thursday, July 23, 2015


I want to build on one of the ideas I mentioned in the last post, KIDS OUTDOORS IN THE WINTER, of mums grabbing moments with the kids “to train the (child’s) seeing eye, the hearing ear.”
1.  Send the children off as a group to explore something
    - The rocks at the end of the beach
    - A garden
    - A small hill
    - The hedge
    - A little stream
    - A group of trees
   All you need to say is – Who can see the most, Who can tell the
   most about the rocks at the end of the beach…
   2.   Although not intentionally, to children this is like a
   competition. They race off to get there first. After a short time
   they’re back again, yabbering and breathlessly trying to say what
   they saw. The comments start with excited short phrases and jump
   all over the place, as their minds settle. Then sentences become
   longer with more detail.
3.   The child who has tried hard to describe something, such as a
   tree, deserves to know the name of that tree or any special
   information you know about the tree. Take this perfect learning
   moment, while the child is already curious about the tree.
   4.  The child who returns with nothing much to say or a lazy, clumsy
   description, needs no such extra information from you. Let them
   flounder along until they themselves choose to race back to look
   again and return with a more accurate description to tell you.
5.      You can finish the game by getting the children to take you and
   show you what they described.
   Children love to do this, as long as we listen while they tell. 
   Mum is interested, mum came with me, mum listened to me…
   This is a great simple family experience, playing The Exploration
   Game, but it may not happen like this the first time, so keep
   trying it. It is hard if you have only 1 child – you could borrow
   some other children or combine with another family to play.
   Here are 3 outcomes that come from this style of ‘training’ in
   # They develop mature skills of observation generally ~
   “By degrees the children will learn discriminatingly every feature
   of the landscape with which they are familiar.” p.47 Home
   Education: Charlotte Mason.
   Everything in the natural world is constantly changing, nothing
   stays as it was last week. Things grow, die, are moved by wind and
   rain and disappear. The unlimited scope of material outdoors,
   provides children with a huge range of experiences connections,
   interests and information gathering. Through simply looking on a
   regular basis, children store up a large amount of rich knowledge,
   ready for use throughout life.
   # The habit of truthful observation is learnt ~
   Mum “is training her children in truthful habits, by making them
   careful to see the fact and to state it exactly, without omission
   or exaggeration.” p.47 Home Education: Charlotte Mason.
   The Exploration Game challenges children to look quickly, look
   honestly and be discerning. Because they have siblings or other
   game-players who may also look and tell about the same thing, and
   because it is MUM (that font of all knowledge) who will hear all
   the comments, there is an obligation to be truthful and accurate.
   Developing such traits shapes the growing character of children.
   # The increase of vocabulary, conversation and skills to express
   their ideas ~
   “This is all play to children, but the mother is doing invaluable
   work; she is training their powers of observation and expression,
   increasing their vocabulary and their range of ideas by giving them
   the name and uses of an object at the right moment.” p.47 Home 
   Education: Charlotte Mason.
   The need to speak and tell in The Exploration Game, means children
   practice using the words they know while learning new ones. This
   adds to their overall success to communicate the ideas in their
   mind as they practice describing what they see.
   THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ play The Exploration Game.
   More on this next post.

Thursday, July 9, 2015


The winter school holidays are here. After months of rain and another cold snap over New Zealand, it seems ridiculous to even think about the kids playing outside for very long. But there are many sensible reasons to send or take the children outside to play in winter. Here are a few ~
 # lowers the level of friction between siblings
 # burns up excess energy
 # prevents them from being dominated by ‘unhealthy’ technology preoccupations
 # returns them home tired and ready to be calm and sleep well
 # provides them with opportunities to discover new things
 # satisfies their curiosity to explore
 # develops their thinking and decision making faculties
 # improves their physical fitness
 # possibly helps towards keeping them out of the high percentage of obese children in our country
The beach
The lake
Private or public gardens
The waterfront
A pond
The sky…
For outside time with the kids to be a success and not result in  kids being bored or mum being taxed, there needs to be a plan.
1.  On arrival let the kids roar off, be noisy, let off steam… Leave children to themselves and take in what they want. This needs to be a large part of outside time, where children organize what they want to do. [If you freak-out at this suggestion because you don’t have confidence that your child could be trusted doing this, then feel free to contact me via my website – I would love to help.]
2.  Some moments can be grabbed by mum “to train the (child’s) seeing eye, the hearing ear…”, using what is right there at the location. Facts, simply given for them to think on, can “germinate, blossom, and bear fruit, without further help or knowledge” from mum. This is like giving the child a special tidbit of information – ‘it’s the moon that causes the waves to keep rolling into the beach.’
3.  There is a lot of benefit for children to be on their own - sitting on a rock, nestling into long grass, resting in a tree branch, to ponder, watch, look, or follow what is happening around them. Give them private thinking time.
4.  Then physical activity such as running, climbing, jumping, hopping, skipping, rolling, frog jumping, include a ball or Frisbee…. You can give a suggestion or initiate the action. It can be a group thing or individual.
5.  Finally, always finish with drinks and food.
The point of being outside can be lost or compromised if ~
1.  Mum thinks she needs to or tries to entertain the children.
2.  Mum dominates by talking, explaining, or directing children in what to do. Just think, if you took your child to a circus or performance, would you talk over the acts, directing the children how to think about what they were seeing? So when outside let them think their own thoughts.

THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ make a plan, plan to go outside and spend time enjoying nature and each other.
More ideas on this subject to come next time.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Again I am back sorting through my filing cabinet, and have re-found an absolute TREASURE!! I have read this article so many times over the decades, and chatted with many about it, trying to get clearer ideas on what she talks about. I think I will be wondering about it till I am an old lady.
The author, Adeline, Duchess of Bedford, begins the article by saying that at some point everyone completes their education as a student and then starts on a life-long process of applying bits and pieces of what's been learnt into working and living life itself. Not all areas of study contribute to equip us for life. But in this article, the Duchess gives 4 "marks" she believes must be evident in us, to be ready to handle life. 
Here is a collection of my thoughts that I have written down over the years about the 4 "marks" mentioned in this article ~ 
 * This is not about learning facts about history - "..facts left to themselves are dumb."
 * We need to have a vivid feeling of history, by drawing attention to historic happenings in our own family as well as in life in the world beyond us. We need to regularly chat about what is going on around us.
 * We must apply history to ourselves. This is found through close examination of how people were affected both immediately and long-term (how they did what they did..), their behaviour or nature in the event. It requires us to wonder about it, live in it so we can apply it to ourselves. Youtube, BBC and Al Jazerra documentaries are  helpful resources, giving deep impressions of people living now and historically.
 * Artistic thoroughness is not about being a great musician, artist, crafts person... Rather it "can be detected in many things which have no apparent connection with" skills or talent. 
 * It is about doing all things artistically - the style of clothes we wear, our handwriting, how the table or tray is set, the arrangement of food on a plate, the way we drive or park the car... 
 * It is a type of neatness, enhancement, enrichment that we can bring to ordinary tasks. And this affects others around us - a badly  parked car affects another trying to park their car behind us, the artistically set table gives a welcome and communicates care to the exhausted home-comers, the stylish dresser brings a smile or gives artistic ideas to an on-looker....
 * The third "mark" is "a more important characteristic, inasmuch as the presence or absence of it affects larger issues."
 * Today there is a constant deluge of information and stuff from all spheres of life, which comes at us so fast, that there is insufficient time to fully consider or discern the worth of things. This produces "an intellectual confusion..."
 * Our minds are always strained, we can not keep up and believe we are constantly 'behind'.
 * To cope with the endless flow, we often choose to make decisions quickly, rather than thoroughly sifting the idea to see if it is of value. Our sense of proportion not only guides how we make decisions, but also forms our judgements and opinions on everything in life.
 * Advertising can be a part of this confusion, often misleading and tantalising, reducing the ability to properly weigh things up before making a decision. 
 * Having "a delicate power of discarding the crude and useless elements of a subject and fastening on its real issues is a sign of true education" and having a sense of proportion.
 * Sympathy is wrongly thought of as simply an emotion. 
 * The meaning the Duchess has in mind, is a "sympathy with varying temperaments and opposite convictions to our own." She is not asking that we take on many opposing views so that we have such a breadth of opinion that we loose any conviction.
 * This point asks that we become broadminded, large-hearted and have just judgement on matters because we have spent time thinking  from another's perspective.
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ Last week when I read these points again, having read them so many times before, I was again convinced of their truth. I hope you too find some "treasure" here that you want to put into place in your family.

Friday, May 29, 2015



It is true that not all the ‘clever’ and creative people in the world, have had parents who positively contributed into their lives. But I am interested to look at a second set of parents who were positive, and raised a son who became an entrepreneur in his teens.
His entrepreneurial projects started in the music industry and expanded into other sectors making Branson a billionaire. His Virgin Group holds more than 200 companies, including the recent Virgin Galactic, a space-tourism company. …
Branson is also known for his sporting achievements, notably the record-breaking Atlantic crossing in Virgin Atlantic Challenger II in 1986, and the first crossing by hot-air balloon of the Atlantic (1987) and Pacific (1991). He was knighted in 1999 for his contribution to entrepreneurship, ..” 
In Forbes 2014 list of billionaires, Branson was the seventh richest citizen of the UK with an estimated worth of US$4.9 billion.
Edward, or Ted, and Eve Branson said,“We didn't know whether he was 99 percent stupid and 1 percent rather exceptional. We hung on to that 1 percent. ” 
Richard Branson is the eldest of three with two younger sisters.
“My mother gave us a lot of freedom to go out and explore.
When I was seven, I was sent away to boarding school…. I didn’t do well academically. I was dyslexic, …” 
Richard’s dyslexia made reading and the understanding of some concepts extremely difficult. But despite this, at age15, he started a student magazine, along with friends. By 16, Richard had decided to leave school and give all his attention to the student magazine. His parents were concerned but gave no opposition, as his father knew what it was like to unwillingly be put into a career.
Edward was a barrister, who had wanted to be an archeologist. He was quiet by temperament.
Eve in contrast had been a onetime dancer, air hostess and glider pilot.
After Eve and Edward met they settled in a small village in the English countryside.
1.    NO TV – The children were not allowed to watch television and there was none in their home.
1.    LEARNING TO SURVIVE – FAST – “There is a rather well-known story about Mum stopping the car on the way home from a shopping trip and telling me to find my own way home - about three miles through the countryside, and I was somewhere around five years old. She was punishing me for causing mischief in the back seat, but she was also teaching me a larger lesson about overcoming my disabling shyness and learning to ask others for directions.
      LIVING WITH NO REGRETS –  The Branson children were brought
up to not waste time looking at past failures, but instead to immediately move ahead onto a new project. Working beside their mother, they saw in action, how to ‘try again’. She believed each day was a fresh chance to accomplish something new.
Instead of being shut down by his dyslexia, Richard applied this philosophy of living
with no regrets. “…he compensated for what he lacked by exceeding in other areas,
developing extraordinary people skills and learning to trust his instincts." He is also 
known for being a good listener.
GIVING FREE REIN TO FIND HIS OWN WAY – Richard’s parents provided him with 
opportunities and lots of freedom. “Did you expect him to fall on his face? Oh yes." 
THE BRANSONS.  The Wall Street Journal.
He was taught to throw himself wholeheartedly into life, and he learnt perseverance, 
to be adventurous and enterprising, the makings of an entrepreneur
5.    PUTTING OTHER PEOPLE FIRST, FINDING THE BEST IN PEOPLE  AND NOT CRITICISING THEM –  Eve used an approach to force Richard out of his timidity. She would say, " ‘When you're timid, you're just thinking of yourself! Think of the other person—put him at ease, get him a drink.’ I used to get very cross when he was shy.” THE BRANSONS. The Wall Street Journal.
The importance of other people, was seen in the family attitude that the company to be present at a meal was always a higher priority than the food that would be eaten.
Richard was also taught to not criticise people and to always look for the best in others. This was reflected by their parents, as they  treated the children’s opinions with respect.
STRONG FAMILY BONDS, WORKING TOGETHER AS A TEAM, WORKING HARD, BEING FINANCIALLY SUCCESSFUL –My family means the world to me, much more so than business. We are lucky to be very close-knit…” 
There was always a focus on teamwork in our home - working in the garden, helping to prepare meals, cleaning up. I have two younger sisters, Lindi and Vanessa, and Mum always kept the three of us working hard. It certainly instilled a very healthy work ethic in me, as many of my staff would point out! 
The children worked alongside their mum as she created wooden tissue boxes and wastepaper bins which she sold in shops, to increase the family income. She worked like a “whirlwind” with incredible energy and was hard to refuse.
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS - Obstacles and challenges are healthy for everyone, not just entrepreneurs. They force you to think outside the box, so to speak—to be creative.
The challenge is to follow through on a great idea. I think if [you’ve] got a great idea, you need to just give it a try. And if you fall flat on your face, pick yourself up and try again. Learn from your mistakes.”