Is this simple?

This is a question I ask myself a lot lately. Is this simple? Really? Sometimes I get a little stuck on the answer.

Recently I was asked to work an extra day a fortnight at school. My initial reaction was a very Little Fearsian ‘nononono’, but it’s never that simple, right? Could we do with a little extra pay coming in? Yes. Would the extra child care costs make it worth while? Just, yes. The thing that was troubling me the most was how Little Fearse may react. On my three day working weeks she is much clingier. For the rest of the week I’m not allowed out of her sight – not to pee, not to shower, not to hang out the washing. On my two day working weeks this doesn’t happen.

I knew that working that extra day would mean a lot to my team at school and also to my students. As a teacher whether you go to work or not is never as cut and dry as doing what suits you as an employee, the less impact your own decisions have on the students the better. It takes time for children to build trust and relationships – for some kids half a year. Being there, standing in front of your students in the morning, is sometimes all they need to reassure them that today is okay, they can learn today. Of course there are also plenty of kids who couldn’t give a hoot if you showed up or not…and later in schooling those that would prefer you didn’t.

Big Poppa and I discussed all the pros and cons. We discussed options with our parents. Eventually a plan emerged that we could be okay with. Little Fearse would spend the same amount of time in day care, but would have an extra day with my parents. This was still not simple. It was more complicated than I really preferred, but as Big Poppa sagely pointed out, it didn’t mean one less day with me, it meant one more day with her grandparents. That was something to be celebrated, not something to make me sad.

Armed with this knowledge we spoke to Little Fearse’s day carer and asked to exchange one of her days in care for a Wednesday to accommodate my parents volunteering commitments. She had filled her last Wednesday place a day earlier! Was this simple? Yep! We were not going to outsource Little Fearse’s care to a third person, so there was no way I could (with good conscience) take on an extra day.

The point I’m making here, is that while not everything will be simple, it’s important to us to view decisions with the lens of simplicity. It won’t always work out for us, but ensuring that we keep simplicity at the forefront will help us to maintain this ideal as much as is possible in a world that is often very complex.

Mama xo

It’s National Bookshop Day (Praise for the library and a book recommendation).

Normally I like to go to my local bookshop on National Bookshop Day because I love having a local bookshop that I can browse. This year I can’t bear the temptation of visiting my local bookshop on this day, for a browse or otherwise! If I wasn’t Buying Nothing New I wouldn’t hesitate. My local bookshop needs support – it’s up against the Internet for goodness sake! The whole dang Internet. I’m glad the Internet isn’t my enemy with its cheap goods and free postage.

So, instead, I went to the library to pick up some books I’d conveniently placed on hold from the comfort of my own home (using THE INTERNET). One of these books, Simplicity Parenting has really caught my attention. Other than the fact that libraries have dvds and magazines and CDs and books you can borrow FOR FREE, it is also a great way to force yourself to read something. You only have it for a few weeks. It can’t sit on your ‘to read’ shelf waiting for the right time. I really need to stop buying books so readily in the future and make better use of the two week library book turn-around.

Anyway, Simplicity Parenting is a book I’m finding very relevant to my teaching (probably less relevant to my parenting). It is written for the parent who is already having an issue with their children. I do no have an issue with Little Fearse. I also hope that through our care to maintain a simple life, and a reverence for her childhood, that we may be able to avoid ever having these issues. A lot of the children I teach present as the author Kim John Payne describes – as children who are overwhelmed by life’s complexities. I hope that in my reading of this book I can perhaps help their school days to be simpler and more manageable.

In discussion our brain and its neuroplasticity in adult hood I read the following paragraph that both surprised and delighted me.

“[Sharon] Begley describes how neurologists have been astounded by the measurable, replicable effects of meditation practice on the mind and brain. Their brain scan evidence showed that the neural activity of highly trained monks was “off the charts” (in relation to standard measures, and in relation to the neural activity of more novice monks), even when they were not meditation. The areas of the brain where such emotional complexities as maternal love and empathy are believe to be centered (caudate and right insula), and feelings of joy and happiness (left prefrontal cortex), were actually anatomically enlarged  structurally altered by virtue of the monks’ lives and their mediation practices.”

Hey, we’re a long way off being a highly trained monks, but perhaps we are closer than we used to be. 

I’ll write more as I read more, so far I’m still in the first chapter “Why simplicity”. I look forward to reading the practical sections, too.

Mama xo

The importance of play.

Somehow I managed to get through the whole first term of school without having a rostered yard duty. Yesterday I had my first yard duty of the year. It was a miserable day; cold, windy, rainy. One of those days that you just want to be curled up in the staff room with a coffee and a warm lunch.

The highlight of yard duty is usually the kids that come and chat to you from other classes. It’s not often that you get the opportunity to touch base with children you used to teach, or their brothers and sisters dotted throughout the school. I like yard duty for that reason. It’s also a chance to have a laugh with your students without the pressure of getting a task completed or ensuring the point of your teaching and learning is reached. Schools can be very fast paced places. Yard duty never goes fast. Ever.

While I was hugging my too thin jumper against me I spent a moment pondering the time a tree fell down in the back of the school ground a year or so ago. It was in an area of the yard that wasn’t used much for children’s play – somewhere between a playground and a cricket pitch. Suddenly this fallen tree became hot property. Kids of all ages played in and around it. Cubbies with roofs of spindly branches and hidey holes between earth and trunk. Pirate ships, planks to walk, swords to swish. Their imaginations were endless. I’d watch with awe and fascination at the people these sometimes previously lack lustre children became in that fallen tree.

Likewise, when another tree trunk was partitioned into pieces to be taken away the children quickly adopted them. They were stepping stones first and then, when some bigger children found a clunky awkward way of moving them (rolling usually), they became a fort. There was always a teacherly warning – Be careful of the ants! Don’t fall off! Mind for splinters! They were fine, they were always fine. I noticed yesterday that the years have passed and the grass has grown a little around these wooden forts, but they haven’t been taken away as originally planned.

There are lots of slides and monkey bars and towers to climb in our playground, but I think the imagination really happens around these natural play grounds – the ones that pop up without planning. I love to see what comes alive in children when they are given something without rules and instructions.

Play is the most wonderful thing – I love that in my job as a teacher and my role as a mother I’m given more and more opportunities to play in my day-to-day life. It brings something alive in me, a feeling that yearns back to rickety tree houses and war games in ditches, ball gowns as costumes and tunnels in the hay.

I’m excited about the many years of play I have ahead of me. I can only hope that sometimes, just sometimes, Little Fearse will make those cubbies and tunnels big enough for me to join her.

Mama xo

The Rainbow Fish

I was reading The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister to my students the other day and it struck me that the lesson in the book can easily be interpreted as pro-minimalist. The fish is advised by the wise octopus to give away one of his most beautiful sparkling scales to each of his friends. It not only wins friends (hmm) but also relieves the fish from his concern about damaging or losing his shiny scales and allows him to frolic with the other fish.
Marcus Pfister is not wrong. Getting rid of stuff does relieve a lot of pressure. Especially if you have an upwardly mobile almost 11 month old baby roaming the house. As such a situation requires, all our dooby-wats and knickey-knacks have been moved off the bottom shelves and out of low flying cupboards. There are a lot of blank patches, once dust free. It gives you an opportunity to imagine life without those shelves of thing-i-mi-bobs that don’t have a purpose. Frankly, I’m not too fussed about that stuff anymore, no matter how cutesy vintage it is. Well, except the vintage Japanese kitten sugar bowl and milk jug. When you pour milk out of the spout it looks like the kitten is spewing. That’s entertainment right there.
Anyhoo, slight stray from topic. The other day some friends were over with their almost two year old son. He wandered off into another room and his Dad raced after him. I called out “Don’t worry if he breaks anything, it just gives us an excuse to get rid of it.” And you know what? It’s true.
As 2-4-1 carries on (current update: 15 in – 82 out ) the decisions are getting harder. We’re having to face the prospect of giving away sentimental objects and things we love for no reason except that they’re beautiful. Our thinking needs to shift even further to accommodate where the challenge is taking us. It’s kind of exciting.

Mama xo