Monthly Archives: June 2012

Damn you Toy Story 3, you’re responsible for the state of my house…

Who doesn’t love the Toy Story movies, right? Everyone from little kids to old folks and a lot of the people inbetween. They’re heartwarming and funny, the voices are outstanding, and the animation fabulous. They tug at the heartstrings – yes, I admit to shedding a tear or two at the saddest (and sometimes happiest) parts of the stories. I choke up when talking to the kids about Andy giving his toys to Bonnie, watching Jessie singing about her girl, or watching Lotso, the Clown and Big Baby being left behind. They send a great message, and you’d never discourage your kids from watching them. Or so it seems at first.

The problem arises when your children listen, observe and RETAIN the messages. Until the advent of Toy Story 3, I could, with a clear conscience and no interference (well, OK, I waited until the children were out of the house) sort out the year’s toys.  If my children no longer played with them, I could pass on the ones in good condition, either to our local daycare or to friends’ younger children. Those that were broken or missing parts, I chucked in the bin. And yes, the bins were always very full that week.

Then along came Toy Story 3. Jessie the Cowgirl is traumatised about going into a box in the attic. Lotso the tyrant runs things at the local daycare and is evil to the new toys. The toys are horrified at the thought of their boy no longer loving them. There is much sadness. Now at my house, there are the cries of “You can’t put the old toys into a box” “We can’t give them to the daycare – what if they are played with badly?” or “What if there’s a toy like Lotso?”. No matter how much reasoning I do, no matter how many times I tell them that toys do not come alive when we’re not looking, no matter much reassurance I give that the children at daycare will love and care for the toys, the small boys will not believe me. So as a result, here’s the state of my lounge.

This is just the lounge – I daren’t post a shot of the boys’ bedroom!

So damn you Pixar, damn you John Lasseter and Andy Stanton and damn you all the fine actors who made those 3D characters so real. Most of all damn you all for making me feel just a little bit guilty about those boxes of toys in the garage, and the fact that I often try and catch the toys moving around out of the corner of my eye.

What movies have influenced the way you live at home and why?

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Is giftedness in the eye of the beholder?

I am ashamed to say that when my then 8-year old asked me if he could do the testing for One Day School at the Gifted Education Centre, I thought that he wasn’t clever enough to get in.  I knew he was smart, but he’d always been happy at normal school, he wasn’t a problem in class and he’d never expressed any feeling of dissatisfaction with the education he was getting, and to be honest, I didn’t think he was gifted. But his two best friends were both doing One Day School, his point was that he believed he was as clever as them and he wanted to go as well.

The person who did the testing noted that my son was intellectually gifted (the top 2% of the population for his age group), and also that he was gifted in the area of leadership. And that his conversation was as sophisticated as an adult’s (I’d assumed that was because he was the fourth child of six and we all read and talk a lot, but apparently not). She offered him a place at the school on the spot, and the next term, he started at One Day School.

It was true that he was happy at normal school; it was also true that he wasn’t a problem in class, and that he had never expressed any dissatisfaction with the education he was getting. What can I say – he’s a positive kid and makes the best of most situations. But he LOVED One Day School. He loved being able to explore and build and bounce off other kids who challenged him. He had a teacher whose only complaint about him was that he was too much of a team player – apparently it’s more common for gifted kids to work as individuals. The reverse side of that was that he managed to include everyone in the class in his schemes and plays and could successfully work with any group of kids or any individual – a rare talent. He got to invent and build and do much more challenging work than at school, in broader subject areas. I would pick him and his best friend up after One Day School and rather than being exhausted after a challenging day, they’d be buzzing – bubbling over with new ideas, discussing experiments and concepts – their minds were so open after a day at ODS. But if he hadn’t been insistent about being tested, I would never even have thought to offer him the opportunity.

The rewards for my boy of being at One Day School far outweighed the inconvenience and financial penalty. When his schoolwork and attitude slipped at normal school, we had to have a hard conversation about whether he could continue at One Day School, and he was in tears at the prospect of not being able to go any more. We negotiated and set in place some markers at normal school that he had to achieve each term to continue at One Day School, and never had to have the conversation again. It was important though in teaching him that just because he’d been identified as gifted, didn’t mean he was any more entitled to special treatment than any other child at either of his schools. In fact, I tend not to talk about him (or any of the other kids) being gifted to other parents, because really, you just sound a bit up yourself. At home, we remind the kids that being smart is an accident of birth, and it’s what you do with it that counts.

But then I look at other kids I know. “Normal” kids, not necessarily academically gifted, and I think how much they could benefit from some of the advanced learning techniques and range of interesting subjects there are available at the Gifted Education Centre. Why does it take a special school to cater only for gifted kids? Couldn’t they also teach “normal” kids? Or couldn’t “normal” school offer the same kinds of education? I appreciate that gifted kids often have a range of behaviours that don’t work so well in a standard classroom environment and need something a bit extra.  But couldn’t we enhance the experience for all children by incorporating some of the lessons that are tried and tested and proven at One Day School?

Don’t get me wrong – I am not unhappy with the education my children have received at the state primary school they went to. They have had some wonderful teachers, who have found new and inventive ways to extend them. Their primary  school environment was community oriented, espoused strong family and cultural values and promoted emotional growth as much as academic or sporting prowess. Most importantly of all, they have all been happy there. And they have also been happy and extended at their intermediate schools and now for three of them, their high schools.

But for a gifted kid, do they need that little bit extra? Does it take them from being a reasonably content kid to an inspired, enthusiastic one? And can we provide it at home? Should parents of gifted kids be the ones to go to One Day School to learn how to parent their extra smart child? And should a gifted child be entitled to extra extension? Doesn’t that just widen the gap between them and the children who aren’t achieving (this is assuming that they are achieving – I have learnt from the Gifted Education Centre that many gifted children do not achieve at school).  Should it only be those gifted kids that need the extra help who go to a program like One Day School, or should kids like mine, gifted but coping well in mainstream school, have the same opportunity, but only if I can financially afford it?

I don’t have the answers to any of these questions, but I do believe that they are questions the education sector should take a good hard look at. Yes, we need to identify and assist our under-achievers. But we should also recognise that gifted and talented – and  by that I mean academic, or sporting, artistic or leadership gifted and talented – deserve to have extra attention too. And so do the  middle of the road kids. Because although we may think that they will never set the world on fire, who is to say what they would do if they had that extra bit of attention that under and over achievers have access to? Who knows what the potential is of a “middle of the road kid” if they are truly inspired by their learning? And there should be some way to make it financially viable for all parents, although that is probably a Utopian dream.

I’d like to finish with a quote from Dorothy Parker. “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” Long may we encourage curiosity in our kids, no matter where they sit on the spectrum! And long may the Gifted Centre for Education continue to promote gifted awareness, so that we can gradually mix it into mainstream, and in the meantime, provide our gifted kids with something to help them get through their weeks with boundless enthusiasm and curiosity. Happy Gifted Awareness Week to us all.

For more information on the Gifted Education Centre, click here. For information on GO- Gifted Online, click here. For more information on Gifted Awareness Week, click here. For the Gifted Awareness week blog tour, click here.

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Why blog?

So here’s a question – why blog? With my first blog, Being Gluten-free in New Zealand, I had a specific aim – to provide information in one place about recipes, places to buy gluten-free food and challenges I was facing. That blog ticks along nicely, has had nearly 10,000 views, and is regularly found on Google searches. I had the thrill the other day of seeing that someone searched for “gluten free by Lisa Rose”. Of course, that may have been someone I know, but still! That was a blog with a defined purpose, and as a result, a lot of my older posts are still being viewed.

Authors use blogs to publicise their stories and connect with the readers of their novels. Young Adult authors seem to do this especially well. Refer to Cassandra Clare’s Tumblr for a really great example of this. She talks about what she’s doing, talks about her books, and occasionally her personal life. So another blog with a purpose.  Although is a Tumblr a blog? Bit of a dinosaur here, will have to get the kids to explain!

Celebrities often blog – check out Tori Spelling’s ediTORIal page. Lots of promotional stuff, but lots of personal too. Or Brooke Burke on Modern Mom – I have to say her parenting blogs are always interesting and very warts and all. They are promoting their brand, but it does seem like they want to communicate. Tammy Lynn Michaels at Hollywood Farm Girl blogs in a lot of detail about her life, and from her, I get the idea that it’s because she has a need to write and doesn’t really care who reads it. For those who don’t know her, she’s an actress who played Nicole Julian on Popular (Ryan Murphy’s other high school show) and is Melissa Etheridge’s most recent ex-wife. Her blog isn’t promotional at all, and please note that Google have an advisory notice on it because of the language she sometimes uses. Politicians blog,  radio hosts do it too, and they’re generally wanting to be heard, to get their viewpoint across. And of course ordinary people blog about all sorts of topics – from cooking, to travel, to parenting and politics, to art, and cake. For some, blogging becomes a business, with advertising, product reviews and competitions. Check out Larger Family Life which began as a family blog and has turned into something far bigger. Generally, it’s because we all want to communicate.

This maritime signal flag means “I want to communicate with you”. Perhaps all blogs should have it!

But why do I blog? I found the more I wrote on my gluten-free blog, the more I wanted to write. And the more widely I wanted to write about topics other than being gluten-free. I remember as a small child writing stories all the time. And enjoying creative writing at school more than anything else. I didn’t write much in my 20s and as a new parent in my early 30s, but then a friend and I decided to write a romance novel together. 75,000 words later, we had a book. A few more years later and we had a second book with ideas for a third and fourth. Of course no-one wanted to publish them! But writing books no-one reads is a huge time commitment, and as anyone who has run across this blog before knows, I don’t always have a lot of time.

So a blog is a great thing – you can write short posts and people actually READ them. Sometimes they even comment. Isn’t that what all writers want? Readers and feedback? But by its very nature, a blog is about personal perceptions and personal opinions, no matter how widely circulated or read. It’s not necessarily factual, it’s putting our own reflections on to a topic. It’s trying to get our point across, often using examples from our lives. Above all, it is deeply personal.

One thing we need to consider with anything we write in a potentially worldwide forum – be it Facebook, a web page, a blog, a article which is published in a journal, Google Circles, Linked In – is that we don’t know who is going to read it. We don’t know what filter of their own personal experiences the reader will view the post through. Sometimes, when we write, we miss the point of our post and the post says something to a reader that we didn’t mean it to. Sometimes, it can seem as though we’re self-aggrandizing at the expense of others. And just how much personal information should we reveal? Should we use a pen-name on our blog so that we can’t be identified? But if we do that, we can’t publish the posts on our Facebook or Linked In pages.  And then how do we get readers? Should we talk about our family members by name? Should we ask their permission before talking about them at all and should we get them to review any post we write that discusses them to make sure they’re OK with it?

So do I write about family matters because I want to brag about my kids (or complain about them!) or to boast about what a good parent I am (which is to say not very good, although I do mostly learn from my mistakes!)? Not so much. I’m following the old adage to write what I know, which in my case is my family.  Sometimes it’s because I have an opinion about the topic or because something that happens triggers a thought or idea for a post. Sometimes I’m overly sentimental, sometimes I’m preachy, and sometimes I am probably just plain wrong – from someone else’s viewpoint. But in this social media, self-referential world, at the end of the day, a blog is about the person writing it. It’s all about me dahlings! So although I try and be careful about what I write, and normally ‘sleep’ on posts overnight, then re-read with the thought that my children might read it, I don’t run it past anyone else before I post it.

At the end of the day, and with all of this set to one side, when I come back to my first question, it turns out there there is one very simple answer. Why blog? I blog because I need to write. It’s as simple as that. Even if no-one ever reads it, I am still writing. Still honing my craft.  And I am slowly coming to the realisation that I am a writer, published or not, and it’s time to start acting like it. So that’s me and why I  blog. What about other bloggers out there? Why do you blog? And what are your thoughts on the privacy issue?

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