My son is in his final year of primary school this year. Whew. Let me rest after that sentence, because I can’t quite believe it. I’ll say it again: my son starts high school next year. I think it’s more terrifying than when he started kindergarten – because now he’s not just walking across the road to a school of 20 kids, he’s getting on a bus and travelling for 40 minutes to an enormous school with 700 kids.
So yes, his transition from primary school to High School is much on my mind lately, and I am watching him, hoping that he is mature enough and resilient enough to cope with the big wide world of spiteful teenage girls and boys that will want to punch him and teachers that don’t know him from a bar of soap. His teachers are watching him too, along with his class mates of course, and they want them to step up academically, to put the effort in, to take more responsibility for their learning. In this spirit, their teacher has given them each a book to read from Australian author Jackie French. Jackie French has written many books for children and young adult readers and is known for not shying away from writing about difficult topics. In other words, she has great respect for her readers.
Nick was far from excited to be given a book to read – in fact, he was as grumpy as hell about it. He likes to read, but even as a young child, I could never guide his reading. Still, he has to get used to reading assigned texts, and his teacher had requested a book report from all of them on their book. So, reluctantly, he sat down and began to read the book he had been given, ‘They Came in Viking Ships’. Two days later, he was still reading, his iPod gathering dust – and now I had a new problem – he was staying up half the night reading. “I can’t go to sleep yet, Mum – they’re in the middle of the big battle!”
I decided that was better than finding him playing Clash of Clans in the middle of the night, plus he was learning – and so was I. “Mum, did you know that the reason the Vikings called it Greenland was to throw people off – it was just all ice. Same for Iceland, but it was all beautiful and green.” Um, no, I didn’t know that – awesome! He finished that book within a week, earning an award from his teacher, and was hungry for more – although he was concerned it might have been the only good book that she had written :). On his kindle I bought him Hitler’s Daughter, which he devoured in 24 hours. Next I bought him A Waltz for Matilda, inspired by the iconic Australian folk song Waltzing Matilda. This was the first book in a three part series – so I decided to pay a visit to the library to get the others. I’ll do almost anything to facilitate his reading, but he was sending me broke!
As he’s reading the second book in the series, The Girl From Snowy River, he gets up and starts walking around the lounge room. “Mum, she’s just broke her back. I had to stop reading for a bit.” Of course he goes back, but after a while, he gets up again. “Mum, this sounds weird, but my back is hurting now!” I look at him in wonderment, knowing that what I am witnessing here is the birth of empathy – which as we all know, is painful.
A book can change a child’s life; a book can change the world! Every book a child reads creates new neurons in that child’s brain. If you want intelligent children, give them a book. If you want more intelligent children, give them more books!
More importantly, humans are not born with empathy. Every time a child reads a book, they are every character in that book. If we want, in this very, very divided world, to understand each other, to be able to face challenges together, books are the way to be that person.”
– Jackie French on ABC News Breakfast (Author, Senior Australian of the Year and Australian Children’s Laureate for 2014/15)
Thanks Jackie, you rock <3. Oh, I just have to share this with you as well, found on her website:
Jackie wrote her first children’s book `Rainstones’ in a desperate attempt to earn $106.40 to register her car, while living in a shed with a wallaby called Fred, a black snake called Gladys and a wombat called Smudge. The editor at HarperCollins said it was the messiest, worst spelt manuscript they’d ever received. The mess was because Smudge the wombat left his droppings on the typewriter every night. The spelling was because Jackie is dyslexic. Jackie recommends all beginning writers misspell their first book so it stands out of the pile.
Don’t you just love her already?
Best Short Read
Fixed vs Growth – the Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Lives by Maria Popova for Brain Pickings.
Every week I get a Brain Pickings newsletter delivered into my inbox, and there they have been steadily building up, creating a towering pile of virtual information, as things are wont to do if they take more than a minute to read or there is no urgency attached to them. The thing is, there is always a piece of gold in these collections, without which my life is a little poorer – so even thought I am a ruthless deleter, I don’t delete these. Instead, I have been reading an article each night while I sit with my daughter while she goes to sleep. This article goes beautifully with the education and learning theme of my opening rant (as I call it in my head), which could be a sign of this being a well thought out blog post, but alas, isn’t :). Truthfully, I never know what I am going to write until my fingers start tapping the keyboard, and everything just falls into place underneath it :).
In this article, Maria Popova, Brain Picking’s founder, is talking about a book called Mindset – The Psychology of Success by Stanford Psychologist Carol Dweck:
One of the most basic beliefs we carry about ourselves, Dweck found in her research, has to do with how we view and inhabit what we consider to be our personality. A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled. A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities. Out of these two mindsets, which we manifest from a very early age, springs a great deal of our behavior, our relationship with success and failure in both professional and personal contexts, and ultimately our capacity for happiness.
I found this article absolutely fascinating – click here to read more.
Best Impulse Purchase
I was in my local hippie shop the other day – you know, crystals, wall hangings, incense, buddhas – just looking around. I saw some metal singing bowls and remembered that getting a singing bowl was on my list of important things to do this year. Why? Because singing bowls are a wonderful way to balance and harmonise the vibration of your environment, as well as your own energy, and others as well if you choose to use them as a healing tool. Each bowl comes with a felt covered mallet that you can use to strike the side of the bowl, or run it around the top of the bowl to make the distinctive humming song of the singing bowl.
I’ve played with quite a few singing bowls, but rarely if ever can I make them sing – so I say to myself as I look at the bowls, if I pick one up and it sings for me straight away, I will buy it. I pick up two – nothing – and I wonder if I am cursed. I see another one, all purple and gold with sacred symbols carved into it and pick it up. I sit it on the flat of my palm, fingers outstretched, and strike it with the mallet. It has a lovely tone. Then I run the mallet around the top of the bowl – and it sings! I control the urge to jump up and down with excitement – I’m not cursed! – and buy that little sucker 🙂 Look how beautiful it is 🙂
THE FOURTH SIGN OF THE ZODIAC (PART 3)
I know, you never intended to be in this world.
But you’re in it all the same.
So why not get started immediately.
I mean, belonging to it.
There is so much to admire, to weep over.
And to write music or poems about.
Bless the feet that take you to and fro.
Bless the eyes and the listening ears.
Bless the tongue, the marvel of taste.
You could live a hundred years, it’s happened.
I am speaking from the fortunate platform
of many years,
none of which, I think, I ever wasted.
Do you need a prod?
Do you need a little darkness to get you going?
Let me be as urgent as a knife, then,
and remind you of Keats,
so single of purpose and thinking, for a while,
he had a lifetime.
– Mary Oliver from Blue Horses
This is a four part TV miniseries starring Frances Dormand and Richard Jenkins, with appearances from Bill Murray and Martha Wainwright. I’ve been wanting to watch it for ages, but like all things that only I will like, I have to schedule it in ruthlessly :). Set in Maine, it tells the 25 year story of Olive, a cranky but strangely likeable school teacher and her husband Henry. It’s beautiful, people – so well done. Each episode resonated with me for 24 hours afterwards, and even now, when I have finished watching, it stays with me. There is no such thing as a simple life.
Best Bee Hive
This is not a ‘Best Of’ heading you’re likely to see again in a hurry 🙂
Have you ever seen what traditional beekeepers have to do to get honey? The big white suit, the smoke, battling the bees…it’s so last century, people. Check this out:
That’s all from me this week my lovelies. Enjoy your week ❤