Holidays and the iDevice

The child’s iDevice. iKnow: a blessing when you’re on a winner with a great educational app (like Reading Eggs) or you just want five minutes to go to the loo with the door shut (any app will do when you’re BUSTING).

But here’s a simple tip for parents and carers whose kiddliwinks claim they can’t switch off their iPad, iPad mini, tablet, PlayStation, Wii or other gaming device because, if they do, the universe will tumble down in a fit of,

“i’Ve got nothing to do!”

This single expression of despair is your exact weaponry for immediate shut down. What iMean by this is, the moment your child claims they will have nothing to do if they can’t use their technothingy is the exact moment they need to switch it off. It’s a sure sign that their brains have schwizzled away to a globulous mass of forgettingness about that action called iPlay in that thingy called iRemember – THE REAL WORLD!

IMG_1537So if you’re going spare because there’s no room in there for iDeas while the iThing is making you iRate, just wait for the moment your child spouts that special sentence, and they’re all yours.

Happy holidays!

A great way to connect kids with books and their own writing


In 2013, I visited a year 3 class to cover a staff member for just an hour. The class was mine on short notice so I grabbed one of my favourite kids’ books and headed to their room. As is the way, sometimes the best lessons come together in a whirlwind’s notice. Today’s was like this because we had a lot of fun, used words, colours and skills they’d been building and this single class led to a tangible, real-life reward.

WHAT WORKED (and these are steps you can follow at home)

  1. I read and re-read the book to the class, using my best accent to match the characters.
  2. We discussed each of who, what, when, where, why, how and which questions.
  3. We talked about the ways in which the pictures helped magnify the details of the story, the personalities of the characters and emotions on each page.
  4. We had a go at “becoming” the author by attempting to create our own illustrations of the key character and our favourite surrounds for him.
  5. And finally, but very importantly, we generated our feature of the lesson – each child wrote to the author, having to include the name of the book and three reasons why they loved reading it.
  6. I promised to post the letters to his publishing house, but let them know we could not guarantee the writer would reply as writers are very busy people. And that was that…


Two months down the track I received a phone call at school. The school receptionist said it was an author, someone from Melbourne. I was confused (teachers are very busy people too).

Indeed, it was in fact Leigh Hobbs, author of Mr Chicken goes to Paris, calling to apologise for his delay in writing back to us as he’d been in Europe when the package of letters arrived. But he had replied and wanted to thank the class for writing whilst letting me know they should expect  some special things in the mail shortly.

I kept hush, but couldn’t do so the day the package arrived. The kids were utterly thrilled and couldn’t believe an author would write back to them. And this single lesson became a reminder to me that reading and writing can be, at their very best, real life connections that resonate and inspire kids way beyond the next home reader.


Mums finding great books for their kids

Mums finding great books for their kids

Mr Chicken goes to Paris by Melbourne author and illustrator Leigh Hobbs is a brilliant book, to my mind, for several reasons. First and foremost, it’s hysterical because the main character is an utterly delightful oddity: a four metre high, scary looking chicken with a penchant for every food and a melt-your-heart personality.

As his personality and look is distinct, having a crack at a dodgy French accent (as he’s trying to do) can be quite entertaining. Even without this, create a great Aussie accent and let his French companion Yvette shine with a French one, or a little girl’s voice.


Be prepared to have a go. Every day at school, we ask children to have a go. That’s what learning is about. So why not you? They’d love to see you have a go, just like them. And let them know this. “Oh, this might be bad, but let me see if we can really meet Mr Chicken.”


It’s set in France, with real French settings. So, if you haven’t travelled, you can remind your child that these are really real real places. If you want to follow up and learn new things together, or prove this to them, jump onto the interwebs and google every place Mr Chicken visits. Voila! Geography and History lessons all in one!


And again, although I cannot guarantee the author will reply, work with your child to write to them – draw a picture, explain what they liked and why. This is as simple as checking out the publishing house of any book and writing to the author care of that publishing house.

Choosing an Australian author can be great because there’s that more real connection for the child that this is a person, just like them, living in a town or city, just like them, in their own country. For some kids it will be in their own state. Then again, picking an overseas author can be exciting with the thought of sending mail (and addressing a letter to an overseas destination, then posting it) to an author in a distant country.


This is a quick snapshot list, but any book your child likes is a great book to choose. It doesn’t even have to be fiction. If you pick up a fantastic science book they enjoy, write to that author. If they love a magazine article about horses or their subject of choice, work through the process with them of writing to the editor of the magazine, based on the publication details at the front of the magazine.


Mem Fox

Aaron Blabey

Jackie French (2015 Australian Children’s Laureate)

Jackie French

Jackie French

Leigh Hobbs

Anh Do (comedian)

Check out Goodreads for some more Aussie inspiration or head to the Australian Children’s Laureate website.


Liz Pichon (Tom Gates series)

Meg Cabot (Princess Diaries)

Julia Donaldson (Gruffalo)

Claire Freedman (Aliens Love Underpants)

Andy Stanton (Mr Gum)

Check out the UK Scholastic Book Club site for some international inspiration!


Priming parents before NAPLAN

Well, hi there mums, dads and any other family and friends zooming into infinity on NAPLAN eve. This post is for you if you believe either 1) you’re stressing more about NAPLAN than your child/ren  2) you think you haven’t done any or enough stressing and should be or 3) your child is stressed and this is stressing you out.

So here we all are.

My advice right now and for years to come is simple. I have opted for the Dr Seussish approach. At the end of the day (or more at the start) it’s important to remember that, like everything in life, this is about simply trying. I’m applying some simple QED logic and hope it really is of assistance, no matter how blindingly obvious my mantra seems. If any of the potential stressors are stressing, this little adventure is no less, and no more, than this.

By way of a gift, for this week and any other future times of potential performance perplexity, I offer this humble poster to print and bubblegum to the fridge. Click on it and amazing things will happen (ie. it will let you download and print).


Spare the rod

Taking a NAP: Did someone say, “NAPLAN”?

NAPLAN got you in a tizz? Well, have I got the thing for you. Whether you’re a first time parent or a seasoned professional, this test coming up for your year 3, 5, 7 and 9 kidlets in a couple of weeks is a dish best served lying down with a nice cup of tea by your side. And while you’re at it, stressing away if you are, or just enjoying a brief chill out, here’s a bit of an acrostic poem for your enjoyment.

(Get it? Acrostic poem? That’s something you do in English. Haha. You know, just like the NAPLAN English test.)

Who doesn’t love a good acrostic poem? Those lovely treasures brought home from the classroom and decorated in every adjectival platitude (ie. same old, same old, “I’m as individual as everybody else”) to be magnetised to the fridge, like, forever.

My class has a very wide range of needs and skills and talents. The one thing, however, that they all have in common is the ability to try. As we’ve been learning, nailing and refining the parts of speech in a sentence, our core message to each other is the simplest sentence of all:

I can.

So, just  say, “Give it a crack. Do your best. Oh, and sharpen your pencil.”

Nothing to see here, folks. Nothing taught to the test, anyway.

Libby the Lobster header

Libby the Lobster: motivating your child to learn

There’s nothing like the story of an Olympian to understand how to begin motivating a child. So why don’t we do that right now.

There are two types of motivation:

1) extrinsic – coming from outside of the self, with things like rewards and prizes or challenges and consequences; external

2) intrinsic – coming from within the self, from the head’s determination and decisions or the heart’s dreams and desires; internal

Here is a story about an Olympian. Let’s just call her “Libby the Lobster”.

Once upon a sunny morning, a little girl clung to the side of the swimming pool. To help herself get from one end to the other, she would grip on for dear life and shuttle along the lane wall. The fact that she was on public display as a young member of her local swimming club didn’t need to deter her. Who cared if they called her, “Libby the Lobster”? Who cared if she only ever amounted to being a crustacean with goggles? And who cared anyway? It was just a bit of fun and everyone was having a nice day.

Turned out Libby the Lobster cared. She cared enough that her mum helped her find a new swimming club and more people around her who saw the dolphin in Libby, not the lobster.

Libby 'the lobster' Trickett and Ms B

Libby ‘the lobster’ Trickett and Ms B

If you are struggling to work out where your own child’s motivation lies, this story tells of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators going on at once. Libby the Lobster seemed to want to swim herself. She’d cling to the edges and TRY to make it to the end despite outside voices, lighthearted as they might well have been. But, in the meantime, helping on the outside was a parent saying, “You can.”

Now for a few simple tips to help motivate your own child if that is one of the issues they are having at school or at home.


You cannot force intrinsic motivation. By definition, it MUST come from within. So, stressing out about your child’s lack of wanting to be organised or wanting to do well at school or wanting to bring home their homework because they think it’s valuable and beneficial to their learning, is going to get you a big, fat ZERO in the success stakes.

In primary school, my mum used to make us chops for dinner. I hated chops, much as I detested brussel sprouts and still refuse to allow my own children to sneak them into MY shopping trolley (but that’s another story). Still, every week we would do battle with the following conversation…

“But they’re hard and crusty and all bony.”

“But they’re delicious, my darling.”

“But they’re dry.”

“But they taste wonderful, sweetheart.”

“But I hate them!”


My point here is that, if the motivation is not coming internally, and you’re realising through hoarse voice and your own internal %$&*^$%$&*^*&! that it’s not going to miraculously appear, it’s OK to offer external motivators. You’re not giving up, you’re simply recognising that some extrinsic motivators may assist on the pathway to intrinsic motivation.

  • praise
  • reward charts
  • carrot danglers such as a special event or end of week treat.
  • modification of allowed treats such as iPad use or other regular events or assumptions

eg. If you bring your homework home every night for a week, and do it, you get a sticker on this chart. If you do this for a month, you will receive x (negotiated reward).

eg. 2. I will be speaking to your teacher every day after school. If you do not end up on the behaviour chart’s negative side (eg. sad face/stormy cloud/1,2,3 chart/down the behaviour slide or whatever the teacher has in place) for a whole week, you can have x (negotiated reward).

See my post on ideas for how to select and structure rewards.


If the motivation is not coming from within your child, if they are not clinging to the edge of the pool for dear life despite the challenging voices, it’s your job to seek them out and help your child find them.

The first way to do this doesn’t even require Google. It requires you. Your child is more likely to be internally motivated towards achievement, organisation and success if that is the model YOU are providing at home. And don’t worry, I ain’t perfect here. But if my child’s room is a mess, how can I expect them to want to be tidy if the rest of the house is a mess. Indeed, not so easy at all either, given how much we often work and how hard it is to find time to go to the loo during the day let alone clean the kitchen. However, looking at the bigger picture, consider the LANGUAGE you use at home. Focus more on being a positive guide for them. Use “YOU CAN” language more often. EXPECT them to be organised. SHOW them how to map out their morning before school. TEACH them the steps it takes to pack a school bag. GIVE them extra responsibilities at home. REMIND THEM that success does take hard work, and it’s worth it. These are words encouraging both SELF BELIEF and your POSITIVE message that having personal expectations will lead to greater success.

The other way to find your child’s internal motivators is to look at what does currently inspire them. Seek out their interests and what does drive them. Make a list of these for yourself. And it might be as short as one name: a hero.

We’d all like to think we’re their biggest hero. And that’s fabulous. Yay us. But truly, if you want to encourage your child to find their internal on switch, look to their sporting heroes, favourite singers, authors, performers, teachers, professions, and that’s a great place to start.

THEN go for Google gold: find out everything you can about that hero thing or person or job. Dig deep (particularly if your child likes dinosaurs and would like to be a paleontologist). Get your facts down and get to know your child’s world. With this information, then find out about that person’s own background, or what it takes to get into THAT profession, and introduce these ideas to your child.

For instance:

Tom Cruise – overcame dyslexia

Jackie French – Australian author who works with her own dyslexia was homeless as a teenager

Taylor Swift – has said of loneliness and bullying growing up, “Even if people at school wouldn’t talk to me, my guitar would talk to me.”

Winston Churchill – had a childhood stutter

Serena and Venus Williams – were pulled out of tennis for a while after the age of 10, thinking it was too much for them.

Libby Trickett, Australian Olympic swimmer – was once called a lobster for her seeming lack of talent in the pool.

PS. I had the privilege of being the emcee for a BHP Super Series event with top swimmers, coaches and Olympic water polo players including Libby Trickett, Luke Trickett, Bec Rippon, Kate Hooper and Fiona Njirich. Their Q and A sessions on the topic of “Motivation versus Inspiration” couldn’t help but inspire everyone in the room to dig deeper for their own personal motivation to succeed. And that includes parents finding more motivation to believe in their power to assist their own child on the road to self belief and an “I can” attitude.

Luke Trickett, Libby Trickett, Kate Hooper and Bec Rippon with year 1 student John

Luke Trickett, Libby Trickett, Aussie water polo Olympians Kate Hooper, Bec Rippon with John

If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out this fabulous piece from the Huffington Post about people who have overcome huge obstacles by motivation and determination.

Your versus you're

Do this, not that: can you spell these basic words?

In reading this piece, you are making a pledge not only to your child and yourself, but to the whole known universe. From now on, for a few simple, crucial words, writing them correctly will be your thing. That’s in any letter, document, or perhaps most searingly painful, on Facebook. Urk. And social media everywhere! You are going to be a role model. No rocket science involved.

We play a game at school called ‘Do this. Do that’. It’s a bit like Simon Says. The leader does action after action, saying, “Do This. Do this. Do this. Do this,” until he or she tries to confuse the crowd by sneaking in a, “Do that,” which students are NOT meant to do. Tricks someone every time, but, if the game is repeated enough, no one slips through the cracks at all. Now it’s your turn.

First to our pinky swear. Ready? Here we go…Do this:

I ___________________ pledge (aha. Yep. It’s ok, you can say it aloud; it’s just between us. No one is looking and only everyone who is listening can hear you). I _____________________ pledge that from this moment in time, I will live by example and do this, not that with these words.

Signed _____________. Date: _________________

We shall begin with the number one nightmare on student work and on the adult interwebs:

YOUR versus YOU’RE

Do this                      Don’t do that

you’re  – short for ‘you are’            your.     eg. Your books, NOT your awesome!

your – belonging to you                 you’re (short for you are)

there  – over here or over there     they’re (short for they are)

their – belonging to them                there (over there) or they’re (short for they are)

they’re – short for they are             there (over there) or their (belonging to them)

where – as in a place, like here.      were – it lost its ‘h’ in the past.

were – past tense of are                  where – a place, like here

its – as in ‘belonging to it’                 it’s – IT IS. This only ever has an apostrophe when it means ‘IT IS’.

If your you’re getting stuck, that’s ok. I can rescue you and also offer something for your family home to help you, which in turn assists your child when you are helping them with their homework or general writing.

Below here (opposite to there) is a little poster for you. It has these words and some tips for each. Feel free to print its (not meaning it is) contents. Heck, if you’re (not your, but short for you are) reading this site for ace-a-rama banana mummy, daddy love potions to improve your child’s classroom joy, save up for a $20 laminator. There will be plenty of posters to come! There’s great joy to be found in being a laminatrix.