There have been a few conflicting reports in the media lately concerning school beginners. On one hand we have people stating that kids should not start school until they are seven. Connected with this view, we have the claim that play is the most important learning experience for those under seven – something I agree with wholeheartedly.
On the other hand we have educators stressing the need for children of four and five years old to be taught computer skills as soon as possible – as (they claim) it is the new way to learn.
After reading that children should all be working on their iPads in the classroom, I was interested to see there had been a parental revolt after a Queensland school advised parents that their Prep children had to bring their own iPad to school.
‘Ashgrove State School in western Brisbane has been forced to review its 'BYO iPad' program for prep students after a backlash from parents’. (ABC, 13.06.16)
But here’s a quote from someone promoting a children’s computer program called Mathletics “it is important to teach our kids the skills necessary to prepare them for what the future has in store from an early age.”
Guess what? There is a lot more that ‘the future has in store for them’ than computer skills. Take just life in general, for example.
So, what to think? Let the kids learn through play? Expose them to computers? Or what?
The learning through play and the later school starting age propositions are fine as long as parents have the necessary time, abilities and ambitions as well as access to materials and locations to provide a positive learning environment for the children.
Sadly this is not always the case. Nor is it possible for every four to seven year old to have access to worthy pre-school services.
So there are possible stumbling blocks for these ideas and schemes.
As for the emphasis on school directed computer skills and iPad use for five-year-olds, I do wonder if that notion is even practical, let alone necessary. If ‘tapping’ and ‘swiping’ a screen takes the place of pencil, crayon, paint brush and play doh activities, wouldn’t less finger and hand manipulation and movement limit the children’s motor development significantly? And what about eye sight and visual development? Would there be too much focussing on one small space, instead of the wider world?
So for the moment forget about ‘start school at seven’ and the ‘bring computer studies into the prep year’ arguments.
Let’s just pretend that all children are equal and that, while play is definitely a crucial part of every child’s development, assume that they are all ready for school at age five.
Let’s also disregard any urgency in a need for computer skills in the prep classroom and just consider a classroom full of learning opportunities in the form of building materials, words, letters and books – lots of books.
The thing about small children is that, owing to the fact that their brains are like sponges for soaking up information, they LOVE to learn. And one of the things they most LOVE to learn is how to read. Learning to read is not a boring chore for small children. They are so anxious to be able to read that teaching that skill to kids is an easy task. Once the appropriate paraphernalia is presented to them (in a playful way, of course) they mostly just do it themselves. Sometimes they need very little special learning-to-read assistance. We’ve nearly all known some small child who has been able to read before he or she has experienced even a day at school. And mostly it’s been without any assistance. They just soak up knowledge and then up pops ability.
In my humble opinion, the underestimation of small children’s ability is wide-spread and staggering.
Sure, there are some little ones who need lots of help along the way – but, in the main, kids are primed to learn and learn they do, with only a small amount of input by their teacher or parent.
It may come as no surprise to know that I spent many years of my teaching career, with school beginners. I used to ‘teach to the top’ as some people called it. That meant that if I taught to where I thought the children could be, (not to where I was told they should be) then most of them reached that level. Those who didn’t quite attain the ‘top’ straight away still enjoyed the ride and eventually got there.
And it’s not just reading ability that children are capable of gaining easily. It is also the gaining of knowledge in many forms.
Given an appropriate amount of colourful plastic blocks, small children are usually able to work out simple mathematical equations with great enthusiasm. (“What are three lots of three?”)
There’s also the undeniable fact of small children’s appreciation of literature – something that is often times ignored in this digital age.
Five-year-olds enjoy literature of a more advanced level that those suggested by educators. They especially love the silliness in the Winnie-the-Pooh books and appreciate the word play and rhythm of ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ and the likes.
I have watched as prep children have listened in breathless silence to Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Selfish Giant’ and been moved to tiny tears. (It was probably not strictly a prescribed story for any level of school classes, but I didn’t ask for permission.)
Sure, let them learn through play – and the more out-door play the better - but also produce games that include words and letters and books and poems and see them fly.
Yes, learn through play…..whatever it takes…let them use an iPad if you like.
Let them begin schooling at four, five, six or seven…read to them LOTS…
Just never, ever underestimate the ability of a five-year-old.
My last blog was about Donald Trump and, although it contained quite measured comments(I thought) and wasn’t hysterical at all, it was not read by many. In fact that blog engendered one of the smallest readership counts of my blogs ever.
What restrained people from reading it? Was it the picture of Mr Trump adorning the heading? Or was it because people are heartily sick of reading about him – or even perhaps the more knowledge gained about ‘The Donald’ the scarier it becomes…whatever… readers stayed away in droves. My blog on ‘Trump’s Big Con’ managed a three digit figure of readership on one day only.
As a consequence, this newest blog will deal with a much more manageable problem.
The problem of consumerism - and STUFF.
There’s a movement in USA called ‘The Story of Stuff’ www.storyofstuff.com which states:
‘We have a problem with Stuff. We use too much, too much of it is toxic and we don’t share it very well. But that’s not the way things have to be. Together, we can build a society based on better not more, sharing not selfishness, community not division.’
There are other movements, internet sites and books which urge us to de-clutter and live a more minimalist life – for the sake of Planet Earth and our own sanity.
One quote that really resonated with me was:
‘Fill your life with stories to tell, not stuff to show'.
We are being swallowed by stuff – unnecessary possessions - clothing, home décor, electronic devices, whatever.
Here’s a great idea, from ‘Becoming Minimalist’ (Joshua Becker):
(Suggestion No 3, from 15):
‘Remove 10 articles of clothing from your closet today. Go ahead. If you are typical, it’ll take you roughly 5 minutes to grab 10 articles of clothing that you no longer wear and throw them in a box. Your remaining clothes will fit better in your closet. Your closet will be able to breathe again. And if you write “Goodwill” [that means Op shop] on the box when you are done, you’ll feel better about yourself as soon as you drop it off. Most likely, you’ll find yourself inspired to do it again.’
Try it – it works! Although it did take me more than 5 minutes to do it.
There are other such simple acts such as:
Don’t buy a six-pack of undies.
Buy one pair of excellent quality.
AND…buy natural fibres … plastic/synthetic fibres are infiltrating the intestines and tissue of fish in our oceans!
All those synthetic fabrics are causing chaos from which the world (nature) may never recover.
Using such man-made products can be deadly serious as well as plain stupid of us humans.
From The Guardian earlier this year: ‘New studies indicate that the fibres in our clothes could be poisoning our waterways and food chain on a massive scale. Microfibers – tiny threads shed from fabric – have been found in abundance on shorelines where waste water is released.’
You can read lots more about this scary problem at Beachapedia.org
‘The problem of plastics accumulating in the ocean has been widely documented and there are indications that the problem may be getting worse. In fact, there may be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.’
And, of course, stop using PLASTIC BAGS…it isn’t hard to do!
Many countries have wisely banned the use of plastic bags (there is a list of them & their progress on-line)
About seven years ago, when I visited Ireland, I found the wonderful ‘no plastic bag’ rule. (If you really, really needed a bag, you were charged for it).I only had to be caught out once without my own carry bag to remember to take one the next time.
[The Republic of Ireland introduced a €0.15 tax in March 2002. Levied on consumers at the point of sale, this led to 90% of consumers using long-life bags within a year. The tax was increased to €0.22 in 2007. The revenue is put into an Environment Fund.]
It was a shock to return to Australia and watch supermarket shoppers pushing trolleys with about twenty or so items packed ever-so-loosely in about eight plastic bags!
And when buying only one small item in many shops, a check-out person usually wants to place it in an unnecessary plastic bag.
“No thanks!” is all you need to say, as you pull out your cotton carry bag.
And now as Christmas approaches, we are being inundated with catalogues of things we must buy to make Christmas perfect.
Resist the urge to buy any of that superfluous glittery junk that is as costly to the health of the planet as it is for the health our credit card.
There is no real need for most of the STUFF advertised.
Resist, resist, resist - and see how much better you feel – especially when the hole in your finances is not as big as last year’s shock!
So, you see, if you stop the junk buying and stop accumulating stuff, you and our planet both win.
Imagine, if you can, a hospital that asks people in the community to publicly vote for the doctor who will be in charge.
So, in the lead up to the ballot, most doctor candidates offer their qualifications and experience; they give examples of what they have done and what they hope to achieve in the future. But there is one doctor who shouts,
“I will abolish all illnesses. I will cure everyone and I will not only make you people well and healthy but I will make your entire lives better.”
“Yay!” shout the people as they applaud before toddling off to vote for him.
They do not stop to think. They do not stop to find out that this ‘doctor’ has no qualifications for the job and has never even been in a hospital, let alone treated someone’s illness.
Imagine, if you can, a school that asks people in the community to publicly vote for the teacher who will be in charge.
In the lead up to the ballot, most teacher candidates offer their qualifications and experience; they give examples of what they have done and what they hope to achieve in the future. But there is one teacher who shouts,
“I will make sure that all children turn out to be clever. I will ensure that your children know absolutely everything and it will not cost you a cent. We will be a school of smart, clever people and I will not let any person who is not as clever as I demand to enter into my school.”
“Yay!” shout the people as they applaud before toddling off to vote for him.
They do not stop to think. They do not bother to find out that the ‘teacher’ has no qualifications for the job and has not been near a school since he left his own schooling 55 years before. He does not even know how to teach a five-year-old how to hold a pencil.
Now, imagine, if you can, taking your car to be serviced. A ‘mechanic’ assures you that he will make your car run like a new Rolls Royce. He promises you that you will never have any car trouble again.
(You get the drift? He is not a mechanic….etc. he doesn’t even drive a car).
Would you hire a ‘builder’ who promises to build you a bigger and better house with everything you ever dreamed of, but who is a man who has never even held a hammer, let alone drawn up house plans?
Would you allow someone who wasn’t a doctor to perform surgery on you?
Would you allow someone who wasn’t a teacher to ‘teach’ your children?
Would you allow someone who wasn’t a mechanic to ‘repair’ your car?
Would you choose someone who wasn’t a builder to build you a home?
BUT….this is what the people of USA have done.
They have appointed a man who isn’t a politician - who has never been a politician…..who is an inexperienced and unqualified man – to be their President.
So……….can you see the similarities between the above scenarios and Trump’s big con.?
Trump is not a politician.
He has never held political office.
He has never even been an office holder in a small community organisation, and yet…and yet….he has shouted at and seduced millions of Americans who have not stopped to think.
Millions have believed his empty and unattainable promises and have run like lemmings over the cliff of unrealisable hope, into an unknown and dangerous future.
Trump has massaged the masses; he has used their discontent and unhappiness to gain his own reward; the reward of being the leader of the (arguably) biggest power in the world.
He is disrespectful towards the political process, has no idea about global trade or foreign policy.
He is no politician; he has no experience in affairs of the state or national security.
As for Trump the man - I find it hard to describe him without resorting to retelling the many stories of his appalling words and behaviour. Most of us have heard it all before, so here is a concise description of him, from The Guardian (10/11/16), written by Gary Younge from Indiana. He writes that Trump is:
“A self-confessed sexual predator, race-baiter, xenophobe and Islamophobe – not to mention a thin-skinned Twitter troll who mocks disabled people – he also refused to recognise what had until now been the boundaries of acceptable electoral discourse.”
How is it that this man was able to (Pied Piper like) cajole millions of people into thinking (or, quite possibly NOT thinking) that he would make a suitable President of US.?
I realise that many people are dissatisfied with their lives and I accept that many, many people only think of themselves; people whose thoughts and worries do not venture outside their own little bubble of what affects them personally. And I truly accept that there is a huge divide between the haves and the have-nots. So is it a class ‘thing’ and not a political ‘thing’? I think so.
This is a phenomenon that is universal.
It has been around for decades.
Remember the ‘Red Shirt’ mob in Bangkok of about 10 years ago? That was caused by similar sentiment.
But, I would suggest that the answer to relieving inequality and disaffection is not to vote in an incompetent man who just may wreck more than the USA – politically, environmentally, socially and monetarily - leading to unmitigated disaster throughout the world.
What an unimagined shock for the world is the Trump victory - and this shock will no doubt continue.
Right now I am far too upset to be able to write logically.
Today I would rather offer thoughts on COMPASSION – and the lack thereof.
I often speak of compassion and the need of compassion (and kindness) to help the world to keep functioning in the best way possible. But what of all the LACK of compassion that is being shown lately?
Particularly relating to Australia.
For anyone who is not in Australia – or who might be in Australia, but living under a rock – the latest announcement from our Prime Minister, regarding asylum seekers who are currently rotting away in off shore prison-like detention centres is that (& I quote from last Sunday’s newspaper): ‘ASYLUM SEEKERS WHO ARRIVE BY BOAT WILL BE BANNED FROM SETTING FOOT IN AUSTRALIA FOR LIFE – EVEN IF THEY ARE GENUINE REFUGEES’
Did you read that correctly?
‘Asylum seekers’ – people fleeing from persecution and SEEKING ASYLUM, will be banned.
And not banned for this week, or for the next year, but banned FOR LIFE.
Even if they are GENUINE REFUGEES.
Can you believe that?
Read it again and take in the implications.
Take in the harshness.
Here’s the official wording:
(This law would) “…prevent unauthorised maritime arrivals (UMAs) who were at least 18 years of age and were taken to a regional processing country after 19 July 2013 from making a valid application for an Australian visa”.
What cruelty; what total LACK of COMPASSION.
While I am one who is horrified and upset over this announcements, it seem like I am in the minority – or at east in this part of the world.
That is, my relatively small part of the world – because in the Letters Page of Sunday’s paper, where people are invited to email their opinions, I was dismayed to read comments, sometimes boarding on hateful, in response to our PM’s announcement.
In amongst seven brief ‘views’ appeared this:
‘Harsh , but fair enough’ (‘Fair’? I wondered)
‘Good. And send the current lot in detention home….’ (‘Home’? Most have no home left)
‘About time too. We should be able to have a say who we invite to come and live in our country…’ (‘Invite’? Do refugees fleeing death, have time to wait for an invitation?)
And, on the same note:
‘Excellent. Finally we will have some say as to who comes to this country.’
That’s possibly a big enough sample to demonstrate what I am trying to say.
Interestingly enough, the people who sent in these comments are only brave enough to give their names as: ‘Steve’, ‘Brian’, ‘Paul A.’ ‘Pam’ and ‘Ray’. No surnames or addresses, to identify who they are. (And ‘Pam’ was the only female name in amongst them all, which possibly suggests that either the letters’ editor prefers male correspondents or men have less compassion than women).
With relief, on the same page, I found a considered letter, thoughtfully written (by a woman) and signed with name and address, offering the reverse opinion. This writer asked how people who think like our immigration minister ‘can be so cruel?’ She mentioned people who were ‘desperate enough to try to come here by boat’ and how they are being ‘treated like criminals’. But it was one lone voice.
Where I live is a beautiful part of Australia. It is warm and sunny most of the time. There are beaches and forests and friendly people, but it harbours an underbelly of racist ultra right-wing opinion spruikers who I find extremely difficult to relate to.
Perhaps I am mistaken in thinking we only have an ‘underbelly’ of racists, as more and more it seems as if that attitude is becoming more mainstream.
Is it similar to the Trump phenomenon?
A shift to the right? I can understand, while not agreeing. But why be so devoid of compassion towards your fellow man?
A glimmer of sense (and hope?) came from Nick McKim, Australian Greens Senator for Tasmania, who wrote:
‘The government's politics of fear, hatred and division must not triumph. We need to stand together and remind our politicians that Australia is a welcoming and accepting place.’
Can we please listen to this voice of reason – and compassion?
Being a ‘Baby Boomer’ – well, to be honest, a PRE-Baby Boomer, I was born into a time where commodities of all sorts were scarce. The parents and grandparents of my childhood valued every little thing. They saved string – and so did I. And, so do I still, whenever it appears!
Socks were darned, shoes were mended with something called Kromehide (anyone remember that great smell?). Leather shoes were also polished every day, not only to make them look good, but to preserve them and help them be water proof - and, therefore to last.
Brown paper was saved for parcelling up things. Many goods that had been bought at the hardware store – or even a clothing shop – were wrapped in brown paper and TIED WITH STRING…by a person who served you. Can you believe it?
So, string was saved, brown paper was saved and so were rubber bands. The picture accompanying this post shows the latest rubber band collection that lives and thrives in a bottom drawer in my kitchen. (Incidentally, the container is a recycled hand cream tub).
There are also little saved knots of string in my kitchen drawer and carefully folded sheets of brown paper in the cupboard.
Rubber bands now arrive at our place regularly: around local weekly newspapers, weekend newspapers and bundles of sales catalogues.
But rubber bands seldom leave this house. They just congregate in the container, waiting to be of use. But that doesn’t happen very often.
So, what do we do with theses excess rubber bands? I guess most people throw them out…but I can’t bear to do that. Can’t bear to see the waste of a good thing! (Rubber bands were previously such a necessity, as well as being quite scarce, that sometimes we actually had to buy them!).
Yesterday I mended a bath mat. Does anyone else ever do such a thing?
Does anyone mend or repair anything any more?
Earlier this year I repaired a 50 year-old teddy bear. Once the holes were sewn over and patched I bought it a new outfit in the baby-wear section of the local op shop. Does this make me crazy?
Socks that are too far gone to be darned I cut up in a spiral pattern to make into stretchy ties for growing tomato plants.
I save the end drops of liquid hand wash (watered down) to use for hand-washing of ‘delicates’.
I am frugal in other ways: I collect the seeds from my flowering plants to scatter in the garden the following season.
Frugality is my middle name and I learned the habit from the previous generations who really did value everything.
No, I don’t save the fat off the roast lamb and use it as spread, so I guess I have progressed into the modern age somewhat.
But am I crazy to be saving rubber bands that more than likely will never be re-used?
Is frugality a thing of the past?
I choose to comment on social issues and write creatively on a variety of subjects - for a variety of audiences.