Friday, April 25, 2014

Navigating NAPLAN: managing anxiety in kids.

This is the first in a series of three posts commissioned by 3P Learning.

I have two children who will sit their NAPLAN tests this year; my son is in Year 5 and my daughter in Year 3.

I have very mixed feelings about the testing, as many people already know. But my feelings don't change the fact that my children will be sitting the tests, and as a parent I feel it is my responsibility to ensure they are prepared for the experience.

When I say prepared, I'm not talking about teaching to the test curriculum which I believe wholly undermines the purpose of the testing anyway, but helping them manage any anxiety they may have around the process.

With the integrated curriculum that most primary schools have now adopted, situations which may be similar to test conditions aren't common in the way they were in the olden days - i.e. when I was at school (according to my kids). Investigations and similar open ended learning environments which feature in the early years now are fantastic for helping children develop skills around self directed learning, but are very different to the requirements of test procedures.

My son, having sat the NAPLAN test two years ago, has a fair idea what to expect. He is a very driven kid and can be quite competitive, so with him our big job is reminding him often that the test isn't about judging him or his talents, rather it is to provide a snapshot of a cohort of students across the country. 

My daughter however does have some nerves. She's not sat a test of this sort before, and unlike other schools ours does not teach specifically to the testing curriculum so she will go in with her general knowledge only (which is actually the point) and very limited experience of sitting under test conditions for more than a very brief period of time.

To help her feel more prepared, we've talked a lot about what test situations look and sound like compared to her everyday classroom. We have spent some time discussing the kind of things that may appear on the tests, and prior to the testing she and her classmates will have a practice session at the school.

While I don't believe that teaching to previous tests is beneficial to our children, I do think that some experience of test conditions can really help increase their confidence in themselves and in the situation. Whether we like it or not, standardised and other testing will be part of their academic futures as they move through the education system, so we choose to treat this as an opportunity for learning how to navigate the experience, rather than focusing on the outcomes.

Do you have a child sitting the NAPLAN this year? How are they feeling about it? Do you have some great ideas to help increase their confidence? 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Saying Yes.

This popped up in my Facebook feed recently, and it gave me one of those moments where you catch your breath and time stands still.

Not because it is mind-blowingly profound, although it is one of those little quotes I file away for future reference and inspiration. Not because Branson said it and I'm a total fangirl (which I am, isn't everyone?).

It made me react that way because it held up a mirror, and for the first time I saw the person it refers to.

I've spent most of my life saying no to things outside my comfort zone. And my comfort zone is relatively small and quite rigid. I'm the one who just goes along with what other people decide, mostly happily but they wouldn't know if I wasn't anyway. I'm the peacemaker and the soother of tempers. I'm the one who just wants everyone else to be happy, sometimes at my own expense.

I'm not disowning any of these traits. I probably really do need to develop a thicker skin as has been suggested so many times in my life, but then I wouldn't be my authentic self anyway. And why is thick skin something to aspire to?

But I guess I am at the point where NOT taking the risk is almost as scary as taking it. I've discovered a strength and determination that I didn't know I had before, and I'm using them with my natural people skills to do things that feel like they really matter.

Instead of staying where I am and just feeling proud of myself and my team, I'm launching us all off the ledge and waiting to see if there is a net.

For the first time I see myself as a person who says yes. And the best thing about that is I get to help other people do it too now. I'm not waiting for opportunities, I am creating them and they are amazing!

I've been scared and I've been wary and I've made mistakes and I will continue to do that because life. 

But I won't say no out of fear any more. The fear is still there, but I will face it.

I am saying yes.

Are you?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Hitting the wall.

I don't know if it is post race blues or what, but I have hit the wall.

I had a blast at Run for the Kids last weekend. I got to catch up with that gorgeous lady up there, hang out with my team, see so many people I love to see AND I smashed my target time by nearly 5 minutes. So much win.

And then it was the second week of school hols here, and we crammed in as much fun stuff as we could. And then it was Easter weekend and I got sick.

I'd been feeling a little bit blah for a few days, and now I have a decent dose of man-flu complete with epic whinging and moaning.

I know my body is just fighting off a virus or whatever, but geez it has gotten me down. I think not being able to run is half the problem. Or being unsure if I SHOULD run and just see if it helps but not really having the energy or the will to, and then feeling like a big sook because I'm forever telling other people to suck it up and JFDI and I can't even swallow my own medicine.

I'm full of sulking and moaning and just not much fun to be around. I am boring myself senseless with it. The problem with feeling so great and positive and optimistic most of the time, I guess, is that when you don't it is like an affront to your very being. I am offending myself by the minute.

So in the name of honesty and transparency I am sharing my big sook with you, just in case you've read all my GO TEAM YEAH US I AM AWESOME LIFE IS BRILLIANT and thought that was what every day is like for me.

It mostly is, and when it isn't I do everything I possibly can to shift back to that.

But sometimes you just have to wallow a bit.

And that is okay too.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Ever wanted to see how one of those cars that parks itself works?

You might remember I write a bit about the new Honda CR-V a while ago, and that I thought it was an awesome car except for one thing... not enough seats for my family. Sadface!

So Honda kindly asked me if I'd like to try out a new Odyssey, and I will confess I had a moment of hesitation because I immediately thought of an old school boxy van type automobile... the dead unsexy Mummy wagon.

I'm super happy I got over that, who knew a 7 seater (or 8, both options are available in the new models) could look so good? Having driven a people mover for a few years and not really loved it, I wasn't expecting to find the Odyssey terribly different.

How wrong I was.

It doesn't FEEL like a people mover to drive. The fuel economy (on petrol) is better than that of my diesel SUV which totally blew me away, and it has the guts to get up hill and over dale with ease.

It also has a really generous boot space, which was a huge issue in my old people mover.

It is a story that needs to be told in pictures really. Like these ones;

From 7 seater people mover to 4 seater luxury limo in one step. Unreal. 

The remote power doors were perfect when it was bucketing rain, the electric seat warmers a nice added bonus and the smartphone technology is a whole extra level of awesome.

But this is the bit that I loved the best.

Forgive the camera work, my 10 year old passenger gets a bit excited at times. And if you think the reverse parking is cool you should see parallel!

The Odyssey really took me by surprise. So much so that it is on our shortlist for consideration when we next upgrade our car (which won't be for a while, but it is a fun list to make anyway). I swore I would never buy a people mover again, but when people movers are as sexy and fun to drive as this one I may just live to eat my words.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

When did that happen?

My daughter turned 9 today.

She is a state away, staying with my sister and being ridiculously spoiled. Which is as it should be, especially considering the year she is having.

I miss her, and I am happy for her all at once. I guess that is going to happen more and more, as the years go by.

She was my smallest baby, and remained a petite little bald thing for the longest time. Even now she is so so tall, has such big feet but is so long and lean. She looks older than she is quite often, because of her height.

She is the only one of my children who doesn't have my blue eyes, instead she has her father's green ones. They are an amazing colour, impossible to capture in a photo. She had the darkest blue eyes as a baby and they didn't change until around her third year. She has always been full of surprises.

Because we knew she would be having this special holiday, we had a love bomb day together last week.

We had lunch at her favourite place, just this girl and her parents. It was pretty special, and not something that happens much at all in our hectic household. And then she and I went shopping for her birthday presents, having decided that at nine a girl would like to have some say in them. Being such a grown up and all.

I watched her and thought about these in between years.

She chose some toys that I would have thought too young, but that she loves. And then she insisted on some makeup (which I loved as a girl too). And I thought about the contrast, and the trickiness of these years and the ones ahead.

I have a nine year old daughter today, and I miss her and I can't wait to see her, but I know she is being treated like royalty and has loved every moment. And maybe it is just as well I can't embarrass her with my insistence that she remain my baby, just a little while longer.

She is growing up, and the years won't slow down no matter how I wish they would. I guess I'd best start catching up.