Opinion and Other Random Things

Slipping Back Into Blogging

2014 has been kicking my butt.

Mr Pilot has been doing FIFO work overseas this year, and it turns out that all those things that we do in our family are a lot harder when you’re doing them on your own. And when he’s home we do tonnes of family stuff, so I have less time to do things like blogging (and exercising). When I have had blogging time and motivation, I tend to write book reviews or write over at the sewing blog.

But I miss writing. And I have stuff I want to say and don’t feel like I have places to say it. So it’s obviously time to start blogging a bit more. I doubt I’ll be a prolific blogger any time soon, but it’s nice to maintain some space that’s mine and to keep my writing ‘eye’ in. And hopefully there’s still a reader or two around ๐Ÿ™‚

Boys at the Park 23
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The State of Me: November 2013

There are days when things seem to be easy and days when things are ridiculously hard.

I spend most of my time wandering in a fog of little sleep.

Some days it is really hard to be patient and calm with Squirm.

My anxiety is higher, especially my social anxiety and I keep finding excuses to avoid people.

I like being outside, reading and watching Squirm play.

I’ve started doing yoga, every day. I love the way it makes me feel, even when it’s hard.

I’m getting a fair amount of crafting done at the moment – it makes me happy too ๐Ÿ™‚

We’ve been rewatching The West Wing at night – there’s so much of Season 6 I don’t remember.

I’m starting to get excited about blogging again.

The State of Me : Adventures of a Subversive Reader

Squirm tries out his photography skills on me

What’s going on?

You may (or may not) have noticed that I’ve been a bit quiet lately. We’ve been thrown into a bit of chaos lately with a possible move in the future. The problem is, we don’t have any confirmation of whether or not we’ll be moving – something which has done wonders for my anxiety. Meanwhile, we’re trying to get things fixed around our current house – which led to a long, convoluted and anxiety inducing adventure with the gutters – and that’s only the first thing we got done!

So, to catch up, I thought I’d put together a bit-of-everything post – which hopefully will inspire more posts!

Something to Support

Kaleidoscope

You probably know that I’m passionate about good fiction for children and young adults. I’m also passionate about diverse fiction for children and young adults. This is not always easy to find, especially as you head into genres such as science fiction or fantasy. Kaleidoscope is an anthology of diverse, contemporary Young Adult fantasy fiction which will be edited by Julia Rios and Alisa Krasnostein, and published by the independent Australian publisher, Twelfth Planet Press (I’ve reviewed some of the awesome Twelfth Planet books here and here). There is a Pozible campaign running at the moment, with awesome rewards (including Twelfth Planet Press books) and it’s a campaign well worth contributing to.ย  If you can’t contribute to the Pozible campaign, maybe you could pass the word around on social media – I’d personally love to see this collection in every high school library! (There’s also a blog with great articles and a Facebook page to follow along with the progress)

Provocations

I know I’m terribly behind on these – partly because we’ve had little or no access to our back yard. I do have two new ones and a bunch of others planned. I’ll have them up as soon as possible.

Awesome Coconut Oil Chocolate

Have you tried these Coconut Oil Chocolates over at Sew, Cook, Laugh Live? I seriously love them – and I haven’t bought a bar of chocolate – or missed them – since I made them. That’s a HUGE thing for me. Today I’m going to try making them with ginger ๐Ÿ™‚

Kids Clothes Week

Kids Clothes Week starts next week! I’m not an official participant yet, and I’m not sure what my schedule will be like next week, but if you sew things for kids, head over, sign up and enjoy checking out other people’s wonderful outfits.

And what’s Squirm up to at the moment?

Adventures of a Subversive Reader

Everything! He’s 100% toddler at the moment and constantly busy. He loves investigating things – especially things with wheels. Here is is checking out his friend’s car ๐Ÿ™‚

Creating New Blogs Is Kind Of Addictive . . .

. . . Well, not really, but I have been making a new blog.

You see, I really wanted to blog a bit more about things that make my geek heart sing. Like television shows which I love and books which make my heart sing. I want to talk politics and educational theory and rant about why reading for pleasure is so important – with occasional statistics.ย (Which funnily enough, is how I started blogging, back when I had a Diary Land account . . . )

None of this really fits in with what I have here. Here is best for parenting and books for kids and activities for Squirm and Squirm himself. It’s difficult to blog about a Jackie French book one post and the definitely written for adults comic series Saga, the next. (By the way, Saga is wonderful and I highly recommend it!)

So I’ve created a new blog – Subversive Reader Geeks Out. It still links to my Facebook page, if you want regular updates, or you could just drop by every now and then to see what’s geeking me out today ๐Ÿ™‚

Some things I might write about . . .

Some things I might write about . . .

A More Uncluttered Life: Project 333 – The Clothes

A More Uncluttered Life: Project 333

Yesterday I talked about Project 333 in which I’ll be wearing just 33 pieces of clothing for all of the Australian winter. Although I had some clothes to show you, I hadn’t put my list together to share, mostly since most the clothes were in the wash!ย  Today, the majority of the clothes are hanging in my cupboard and I’m pleased to share them with you.

Refresher: How am I approaching Project 333?

For the project I am only counting clothes – not shoes, jewellery (which I rarely wear anyway) or scarves. I’m also not counting underwear, sleep wear, my swimmers which I wear to Squirm’s swimming lessons or ‘lounging around the house’ pieces. I am counting my ‘house jeans’ though, which are too big to wear out of the house, but so comfortable that I wear them a lot at home.

The biggest thing for me to think about is that I need to have a baby friendly wardrobe – easy to clean, easy to move in, enough pieces to change if I get really dirty and breastfeeding friendly. In the end, there actually seems like quite a lot of clothing here. I’m keeping a tally of what I wear over the month and it will be very interesting to see which are the most worn things!

I didn’t have to worry too much about matching. All my ‘bottoms’ are neutrals, so the tops pretty much go with them in any combination. I tend to keep to blues, greens and pinks – though there’s a bit of orange, red and purple in here too ๐Ÿ™‚

What have I included?

Project 333 Clothes : Adventures of a Subversive Reader

1-5: Cardigansย (not pictured: the grey cardigan I’m wearing)

Winter in Queensland doesn’t get all that cold. Most of the time I’m warm enough with just a light cardigan over my clothes. I love these colours, which also make up most of my wardrobe. The photo doesn’t do them justice, but there’s blue, green, light pink and dark pink. Five cardigans is probably an overkill, but I do wear them almost everyday all day in winter. The different colours also make up for last year when I was pregnant and only had a daggy grey and a black cardigan which fit!

Project 333 Clothes : Adventures of a Subversive Reader

6 – 10: Woollen shirts, vests, boleros

I love winter because it’s actually cold enough to wear some of these. There’s a blue and a purple bolero, a grey vest top, a green shirt and a pink and white striped short sleeve cardigan which is great on its own

Project 333 Clothes : Adventures of a Subversive Reader

11 – 17: Long Sleeved Shirts (not shown, a red and white striped one I’m wearing)

The more I look at these pictures, the more I feel like I’ve gone overboard with tops. But then they’re the most likely to get dirty, the most likely to need washing and – to be honest – where most of the colour and personality is! I can also layer a lot of these for ‘new looks’. It’s hard to see, but there are actually 4 striped shirts in the picture, plus the one I’m wearing. I really like stripes . . .

Project 333 Clothes : Adventures of a Subversive Reader

18 – 26: T-Shirts (not pictured: a black t-shirt which is on the line. It’s the black version of the plain white one in this picture)

I really like funky and nice coloured t-shirts. I have three Threadless shirts in here which I just bought recently, plus one I bought in Melbourne a few years ago. Also a couple of nice neutral shirts. These all have elasticised, buttoned or low and stretchy necklines for feeding

Project 333 Clothes : Adventures of a Subversive Reader

27: Dress

This was actually my one maternity dress, but it’s well cut for non maternity use and perfect for feeding. I really like this dress, but I’m not sure how much I’ll wear it. It’s more of a ‘back up dress’ I think.

Project 333 Clothes : Adventures of a Subversive Reader

28: Jacket

Another piece which I might not get much use out of, but which I’ll need if we get one of our cold snaps or if the winter winds get really harsh. It’s a bit tatty on the inside, but a really nice looking jacket on the outside

Project 333 Clothes : Adventures of a Subversive Reader

29: Red Tunic Top

My ‘good’ shirt. This is so comfortable and looks great with jeans. Since I wear nursing singlets, I won’t need separate tops to go under it

Project 333 Clothes : Adventures of a Subversive Reader

30: White Patterned Skirt

Another piece which I might not need, but which gets me through anything. This is a gorgeous skirt from Colorado. It is strong, sits beautifully and looks marvellous for how old it is! This one has survived years of teaching, so I know it’s good for many occasions.

Project 333 Clothes : Adventures of a Subversive Reader

31 – 33: Jeans (not pictured: black skinny jeans on the line, blue relaxed jeans which I’m wearing)

My mainstay! I love jeans and the way they can be dressed up and down so easily. I recently bought two pairs of nice, well fitting jeans and even got the length on one pair properly tailored. The home jeans don’t fit at all well, but nothing beats them for comfort right now (which is good when you’re rolling around with a baby)

What would be on your ‘must wear’ list if you only had a limited number of clothes?

Read more about A More Uncluttered Life Here

Living a More Uncluttered Life

Last post, I told you about how I’d been uncluttering my study. I’m nearly finished with it, especially since the garbage will be picked up tomorrow, but I’m already noticing a few differences. In fact, one of the first things I did was pick up my crochet hook and begin making some little crocheted characters – something I hadn’t done in ages.

Living a More Uncluttered Life

Why did I return to crocheting creatures? Because it was easy. Because everything was right there where I needed it – I could easily lay my hands on the right hook, the right yarn and even the eyes. And then I had space to work.

A little decluttering is a powerful thing.

So, I wondered, what would happen if I consciously chose to unclutter my life in other ways. If I chose to do more with less, chose to spend less time on inconsequential things? If I created a house that makes me truly happy. And how can I go about doing this?

Well, it turns out there are lots of books and websites on being more uncluttered. So I plan to peruse them, to find things that some something to me and to try them out. Then I will, of course, share the results with you. Because if decluttering one room feels so good, what would it me like if more and more of my life was in the same state?

What would you like to declutter in your life?

When Governments Bully Children and Parents

Governments Bullying Parents and Children

There’s a lot of news about disgusting behaviour in Federal politics at the moment, most of it aimed at other politicians. But I want to take a moment to bring your attention to something at a Queensland state level – the disgusting act of an Education Minister criticising the parenting of people he is supposed to serve – using his power and position to bully them.

The Queensland State Government, under Campbell Newman, recently made a decision that they would close 9 schools in Queensland. Some of these decisions simply don’t make sense. Fortitude Valley, just outside of Brisbane City, is a small school, but right in the middle of a massive growth area with the building of apartments nearby. Furthermore, the 2 nearby schools which the students will be expected to go to – New Farm and Brisbane Central – are both at capacity. Brisbane Central (where I went as a child) simply does not have any more room for students, while there’s talk that temporary classrooms will be put in at New Farm (another growth area) to house the numbers.

So these kids have nowhere to go, they’re in a school growing in numbers, but they’re told that their school is going to close.

I’m not sure if it’s the same in every school, but in my experience, children can be pretty protective of their schools. I remember the hard work students did in student councils to improve their school facilities. I remember the pride of a child when I let him know I went to the same school as him, and he told me about recent refurbishments. Children care about what happens in their schools. So when they’re told that their school is closing, they would be likely to want to do something.

So yesterday, the Fortitude Valley P and C organised a protest outside the school. It was held on a wide footpath, with plenty of parents and adults around as well as the children who are facing losing their school. It was a great example of teaching children about democracy and civic values – that we have the right to protest peacefully in this country.

Except if you’re a child, obviously. Because the Education Minister of Queensland – John-Paul Langbroek came out and said that he didn’t think it was ‘appropriate’ for children to be protesting for something which directly affects them. He says they are ‘consulting’, but it’s pretty clear from his dismissal of children, that he’s not interesting in ‘consulting’ with them – making sure that they have to protest to be heard. He went on to criticise the parents of these children for involving them, dismissing it as ‘union-led hysteria’. (Watch the ABC clip here)

As a minister, John-Paul Langbroek is in a position of power. And to use that power to criticise someone else’s parenting – to effectively ask them to shut up and sit down, and for goodness sakes don’t let anyone know that there are children involved – is bullying. Putting someone else down and trying to curtail their political rights – even when they’re a child – is bullying.

The parents of Fortitude Valley State School are good parents. They’re standing up for their rights and teaching their children that they can be involved in society – that they can be informed, interested people. The children of Fortitude Valley are active and interested. They have the right to be heard. Don’t let the government bully them – go and Like their Facebook Page, add your message of support, share the information so others can get behind them.

Good parents deserve good community support.

Learning About Learning: Where are we now?

Learning about Learning: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

For a long time now, one of my interests has been educational philosophies. Obviously this isn’t terribly interesting to most people, and there are probably some who feel that time could be better spent learning about eyebrow shaping or penguin wrangling (my eyebrows are awful and Sea World keeps a close eye on their penguins whenever I’m nearby), but it’s something that really fascinates me – especially how we can create the best learning experiences for children.

Obviously this was useful to me when I was a teacher. I was able to implement changes in the way my classroom was set up, the way I worked with students, the types of lessons we had, even some of the topics we approached, thanks to the reading I did. But since Squirm’s birth, I’ve become more and more interested in Early Childhood learning and learning environments. I worked, primarily, with middle and upper primary, then lower secondary students, so learning about early childhood is a totally new ball game for me. I have been fortunate, though, that I have some brilliant early childhood/lower primary school teachers as very good friends, who have shown me just how good early childhood teaching can be.

One thing which deeply worries me is the pressure for younger students to be doing more academically. There are schools in my area who won’t take students into Prep unless they can write their full names – not nicknames, which might be easier for 4 or 5 year olds to write, but their full names. There’s an awful lot of pressure on children to be reading and writing by the end of Prep, so they don’t ‘fall behind’, so they’re ready for Year Three when the NAPLAN testing begins.

As this pressure moves further down – from Prep to Kindergartens which now have to incorporate phonics lessons into their program – it’s not hard to see the pressure moving further down again. If Kindergarten aged children (4 and 5 year olds) need to be able to sit still and learn sounds, then we’d better make sure that 3 and 4 year olds know what the alphabet looks like. And if 3 and 4 year olds need to know what the alphabet looks like, we’d better make sure that 2 and 3 year olds can sing the alphabet song. Suddenly early childhood learning becomes less about about discovery and invention, and more about making sure we tick all the academic boxes. And I don’t think this is coming from the educators – it’s hard to miss the pressure being applied from politicians and ‘experts’ who believe that atandardised testing is the cure-all for all educational woes (or the companies making money from them).

The focus and pressure on Standardised testing has worried me for a long time now. This is actually the first year I haven’t ‘done’ NAPLAN since it began – I’ve always had Year 5 or Year 7 classes, so I’ve had a lot of experience with it. I must admit, I’ve been able to use class results to highlight areas where I could improve my teaching, though I’m sure a low-stakes test would have given me the same information. But instead of low stakes and low pressure testing, we’ve continued to push our students through testing which has left them in tears (the break between maths tests for Year 7s was almost always guaranteed to have tears), left them physically ill, left them not wanting to come to school, made them feel cynical and tired of learning (in 2011, my students started to refer to NAPLAN as ‘That which must not be named’ to avoid the NAPLAN saturation which had overtaken the school) and then, given parents almost no information about how their child has actually performed. The tests are heavily bell curved, meaning that only so many students can achieve the top levels, and parents are left with little more than a dot on a line.

So how do we prevent this NAPLAN mania, this drive for ‘academic achievement’ from moving further and further down to our youngest children? Should we just ‘suck it up’ and join the conveyor belt, buying NAPLAN materials for our toddlers to ensure that they aren’t ‘left behind’? Or is there a different way to approach early childhood education, or a different way to approach education altogether?

Or most importantly for me – how can I make sure that learning is a joy for my child? How can I make sure that he wants to learn all his life? How can I make sure that he’ll be curious about the world, that he’ll question what he sees, that he’ll participate?

That’s why I continue to read about Educational Philosophies. That’s why I’ll continue to debate the use and methods associated with NAPLAN and other standardised testing. That’s why I’ll continue to share my thoughts on education here.

The Con of ‘Certified’ Infant Sleep Trainers

The Con of Certified Sleep Trainers - You'e inviting this person to 'fix' your baby - what training have they really had?

Last week, the Courier Mail wrote a gushing advertisement for a sleep training service. This seems to be one of those bread and butter topics for mainstream media, there’s a pretty steady stream of articles and segments touting one ‘baby whisperer’ or another, filled with language about ‘manipulative’ or ‘wrong’ babies that need to be ‘fixed’.

What particularly struck me about this fairly mundane article, was the mention of the ‘training’ the sleep trainer went through. She wasn’t involved in a paediatric health field, (or any health field) before becoming a sleep trainer. Instead she ‘retrained’ to become one.

There’s nothing wrong with retraining. I did a post graduate degree in teaching, so was surrounded by others ‘retraining’ to become teachers. We all had 3 or 4 year degrees in our past (one of my friends had a PhD in Chemistry) and then completed 2 more years university with around 400 hours of practical teaching (and most of us would have liked more). I was then allowed to teach in a classroom on my own, but had to complete more hours to become a ‘full’ teacher, both under the Queensland College of Teachers (a regulatory body, overseen by the government) and Education Queensland (my employer).

With that in my background, I was really interested to see what kind of training would be required to become an Infant Sleep Trainer – particularly since these people often offer advice on mental and medical issues babies might be having.

So far, I’ve found three different training courses. One from the Maternity Institute (which I think might be like the Ponds Institute) is called the IMI Maternity & Child Sleep Consultant Certification program. This is a 12 week online course which covers a range of sleep related topics, as well as “The Business Basics Of Sleep: What is involved and what you need to get started” and “an in-depth look at green and eco-friendly sleep practices” (Eco-friendly sleep practices? What is eco-unfriendly about sleeping?) This course is the cheapest at a sale price of $1550 (American), though there are additional add ons you can pay for.

The next course comes from the Family Sleep Institute and is the FSI Child Sleep Consultant Certification. This course, which involves a 4 week pre course and then a 12 week course, with 70+ hours of teaching material, “allows our certifying graduates to confidently run their own private and independent child sleep consulting practices as soon as they graduate.” (No probationary period here). This course, which entitles you to free promotion of your business, includes lessons in “Business Aspects: Website Design, Database Management, Marketing, Pricing” This course will cost you around $3000 (American)

Finally there was the Gentle Sleep Coach (though I could find no information on her ‘gentle’ sleep coaching practices) and the Gentle Sleep Coach Training and Certification Program. This course touts itself as being the most comprehensive training course around, so possibly closer to the kind of training you would expect from other professionals (teachers or doctors) working with children? Or 80+ hours of training. And what do you pay for the 80+ hours? $4995 for the additional program, plus $1000 a year to be certified. (By the way, my yearly teacher certification cost about $60. A professional engineer in Australia would pay around $600) Parting with that $1000 a year allows you benefits, including “use of the GSC logo and business resources”

Wait a minute. Doesn’t that sound awfully like a franchise? So are people actually paying for these programs to become trained health or counseling professionals? Or are they paying to be part of a franchise?

The focus on ‘business practices’, the talk of ‘a career you can have when you have kids’, the franchise nature of some of these programs – plus the minimal work you need to put in to be fully certified. More and more, this is sounding like Avon or Tupperware or other products you ‘sell’ to other people. Except we’re not talking about makeup or plastic goods here – we’re talking about babies, and possibly the mental health of parents and their children.

I’ve got no doubt that there are many well meaning sleep trainers out there. There are probably those with additional medical degrees, possibly even ones in mental health. But there is no regulatory body, no government oversight, no place to turn if the advice, routines or procedures turn wrong. And the training available is simply not rigorous enough to allow these people to work with our children. We wouldn’t allow teachers into the classroom after 70 hours of study, even with ‘on the job learning’ there’s simply no way they would be prepared to work with our children.

There’s also the fact that the majority of these courses are online – and then allow you to call yourself a ‘baby whisperer’ or to pose as a ‘sleep expert’. That would be like calling myself an expert on global history, because I’ve taken (an equivalent length) online course. (So if you want to spend $300 to get advise on Global History, drop me a line)

Parents in need of sleep help, of real help, are usually pretty desperate. They don’t have the time to look at the backgrounds, the qualifications, the training of ‘sleep experts’. They don’t have the time to sort the good from the bad. When they see the word ‘certified’ it needs to mean something. Instead, what they’re getting at the moment, if a bunch of certified people who might have taken a 12 week course and is looking to make a quick buck off your distress, or might have 30 years working as a sleep trainer, as well as degrees in nursing, or training as a lactation counsellor. There’s a place for the latter, especially as support for tired parents. There is no place for the former to be working with our children.

There needs to be more government oversight, there needs to be a proper regulatory body, there needs to be acknowledgement that no matter what you might think about sleep training, this is too important to be left to people who don’t have adequate training or who might just be in it to make some money.

Movie Review: Goddess

Goddess: Adventures of a Subversive Reader

Squirm and I are regular visitors to our local cinema’s Bring Your Baby sessions. Although it’s not perfect (we’re usually the only people with babies, so there’s pressure to ‘be quiet’, I have to remind them to keep the lights on and the sound down, the movie choices can be . . . questionable) it’s a nice way to get out of the house, and at least I’m seeing some movies instead of wistfully listening to all the movies I’d like to see!

Yesterday’s movie was Goddess, and I thoroughly recommend it!

Think Australian musical with charming UK leads. Think story of a mother who’s feeling isolated in a small town with her children while her husband works away. Think about a mother who happens to be quite a good musician and decides to share her talent for making funny little songs with the world. Then what happens when the world comes to her and promises to make it big time.

The actors were all really adorable and the story is, on the whole, excellent (though I’m a little over ‘lusting over/being tempted by other people story lines’. There doesn’t need to be a third party to be relationship problems. And don’t get me started on non consensual kissing . . .) The songs are incredibly catchy and lovely. And there’s some really interesting questions for those involved in online pursuits – such as blogging. Is there really only one opportunity? Do we have to sell out to meet the opportunity? What happens when our online world and the offline world collide?

I’d really recommend getting out to see it. Event/Greater Union cinemas will show it on Wednesday as Bring Your Baby (though probably not Friday, being Good Friday and all) and hopefully it’ll be around for a while longer. And here I’m going to leave you with a treat . . .

 

(This is not a sponsored post. We paid for our ticket and do each week. It really is an awesome movie, though)