Die! Onions Die!

In a night that will go down in history, Daniel not only helped me cook dinner tonight but also banished me from the kitchen when he was confident in performing tasks himself.  We were trying out my shiny new Tupperware Smooth Chopper which I purchased with him in mind.  He is beginning to enjoy helping out in the kitchen more as he gets older but chopping things finely and not getting them everywhere is still very hard.  So we made rissoles with finely chopped carrot, zucchini and onion.  he wasn’t too sure about doing the onion because he knows it can make me teary but then he twigged the fact that with the lid on it wouldn’t be a problem.  And thus came the words, “Die! Onions die! You’ll never make me cry again!”

So the onions were a highlight followed by not only having the chance to break eggs (one of his favourite activities) and then to successfully beat them (another thing that has been tricky.)

I wouldn’t leave either of my boys unsupervised to put things and and out of the smooth chopper due to the very, very sharp blades but I did retreat when instructed that, “I can make this stuff into balls now Mum!”

(This post was not sponsored in any way by Tupperware but if they ever did want us to test anything we would be delighted to do so!)rissoles rissoles1 rissoles2 rissoles3


What Works For Me 66/365 Making Lemonade

The quote below borrowed from Facebook sums the last couple of weeks up pretty well.

You know how you can be terminated at any time during your first six months probation period without any reason being given?  That happened to me about ten days ago.

There was a charade of having a “meeting” and discussing reasons but until that day I had never heard of anyone being terminated because the father of a child in their care couldn’t find child’s shoes that were right outside the door (in the right place) and the mother got mad.  There were other “reasons” but they were just as trivial as that one so I won’t waste any more blog space on them.  So in the course of three days I had my employment terminated, I had to go back on the following day and pack up all my gear which totally filled my car and then return again the next day for a farewell morning tea – another charade of sorts carefully engineered to be held when as few people as possible would hear about it in time and scheduled for a time when the majority of parents would not be able to attend.

This will sound bitter and it probably is but don’t let anyone tell you that childcare in Queensland is about the best interests of children and parents.  It is all about the bottom line.  It is a way of companies making maximum money by paying the lowest possible wages – even lower than the award in many cases – and employing down trodden workers who are too scared to speak up about their rights or the way they are treated.  If they do speak up and question things (like how one centre could cut a person’s pay to $3 less per hour than they were getting for doing the exact same job in another location) they run the risk of bullying and reprisals.  There is a union for child care workers but they don’t join for fear of “upsetting” their directors.  It’s a shame because the “Big Steps” campaign is growing momentum throughout the country but if child care workers are too scared to be in unions how can it succeed.

I had an awesome 9 months being a Kindergarten teacher and I don’t regret my time spent with my beautiful preschoolers for one instant – it was so much fun!  At school, one starts with a list of things that have to get done in the day.  In early childhood I started with a list of things that might happen and then sat back to see how the day unfolded.  It was challenging and exciting to see where the children’s learning led us.  We sang and read stories every day.  I not only taught songs and rhymes to my preschoolers but to many other staff as well.  The other staff knew I was a good source for good books to read and ideas they might not have thought of.  We started a garden after being directed to by management and then with no other support apart from parents it flourished with carrots, snow peas and rocket growing everywhere.  I saw most parents on most days and so knew that we were delivering a program that fitted with the needs and interest of families.

My practice has been greatly enriched by contact and support from children and parent of many different nationalities.  I learned even more of what it means to “fly by the seat of your pants” as a teacher and was exhilarated by it.  Last but not least, I had the joy of working with a dedicated, loyal assistant who was blooming as an educator before our eyes.  I won’t keep going because it’s still a bit “raw” except to say that I will never work in child care again.

I want to be an Early Childhood teacher but I will only contemplate doing it in a school setting where my work is valued.  So for now it is back to supply work, continuing to sell Avon and looking for some students to tutor.

In the spirit of “what works for me” there have been some things that have worked in past week or so.

  • Getting out of bed.  It would have been much easier to just stay there on many days but after working so hard for the past 6 months I didn’t want to lose momentum.
  • Having a to-do list.  It is a massive one but it gives me a starting point when I literally can’t decide what to do next.
  • Getting out of the house.  Rather than move from the bed to the recliner, I’ve been out somewhere everyday – to the shops, to Church, to knitting or to drop off and pick up Avon brochures and orders.  And I’ve been talking to people, not necessarily about my employment situation, just about whatever is important.
  • Having something to look forward to.  A few months ago we had a kitchen flood (burst pipe under dishwasher) and lost SEVEN appliances including and slow cooker and rice cooker.  We were given a hefty store credit to replace them and it became even heftier when we found we were getting the goods for cost price.  Seven new appliances were delivered on Tuesday and I’ve done a lot of playing since then.  Lots of fodder for more “What Works For Me” posts there.

So if you see me out in the street and we talk about my job I will still look a bit sad but there’s nothing I can do about it (or indeed could have done) so my focus is on moving on.  Might make it into the Rio Olympics in weightlifting.

What Works For Me 55/365 Helping Them Use Their Words

I read somewhere recently that the learning in an early childhood setting starts when the children arrive in the morning and doesn’t finish until they leave in the afternoon.  An illustration of this concept for me is sandwich day.  The children need to ask for their sandwiches by name rather than touching them because of hygiene etc.  But for little ones that are English Language Learners this is quite difficult.  They are unsure of the words, they have a small audience and there is a bit of time pressure.

To alleviate this problem I’ve taken photos of all the different sandwiches, made them into flash cards and we’ve role-played asking for our sandwiches.  For those children that have no difficulty asking for the sandwiches they want we are working on “please” and “thank-you.”

What Works For Me 42/365 Extending the Experience

What better way to follow up a visit to the museum than by creating a museum display of your own!  Daniel reminded me that he had kept the box from my office chair purchased a few weeks ago so we fashioned it into the beginnings of a diorama last night.  Then when I went shopping today I  was charged with the task of delivering paint back to my boy.  Then I came home to this.  The scene involved soldiers but apparently it will be adapted for dinosaurs when more are available. Just like the museum updating its displays really!

What Works For Me 4/365 Doing It for Themselves

Sisters Brothers are doing it for themselves.

My push for the boys to have a bit more independence began in earnest in November.  The thing that really spurred me on what was when we were in a shopping centre before Christmas and I gave the boys some money so they could go off and buy a present for myself and Anthony. Eric immediately told me that people under 18 were not allowed to go up to shop counters.  We discussed how this was not the case and they set off happily while I sat in the food court with a coffee and my phone. Eric had his phone too.  20 minutes later they were back, beaming like a pair of Cheshire Cats and bearing a very large Target bag.  They had explained their whole mission to a wonderful cashier at Target who really took good care of them, putting my present in a black bag so that I wouldn’t see it and reassuring the boys that they were doing a great job. Top marks to Target!

Since then some other baby steps have been:

handling the electronic check-out of library books without me standing with them

going across a road to buy themselves sausage rolls at the bakery

walking 5 mins home from our local supermarket (instead of doing small grocery shop with me)

ringing their friend’s houses to arrange play dates and the like

Paying cash for some items while shopping and returning with change

On the home front they are really improving with:

feeding Vera

dealing with Vera “souvenirs”

loading and unloading dishwasher

cutting up things needed for dinner (especially mushrooms in the case of Daniel)

starting a load of washing

hanging out washing (Eric)

baking (Eric)

tying a knot in the gar bag before taking it downstairs (Eric)

bagging up empty toilet rolls and putting now rolls on holder (Daniel)

I have no doubt people reading this will look at some items and think to themselves, “They couldn’t do that yet?”  But we are all different.  As I often used to say to parents back in my days as  Year 2 teacher, “They all learned to walk and talk at different times so it stands to reason that they will learn other things at a different times too.”

I love the way their confidence blossoms as a result of taking on challenges and succeeding and the way in which they have had to solve problems and have managed to do so often even if it means discussing options with another grown-up.  Their most recent crisis was a yesterday when the bakery had run out of sausage rolls and they had to choose something else.

And please know that they are safe.  We have endlessly discussed a range of situations that may crop up and the things they would do.  If we are in a familiar place I negotiate a time with them to meet me and Eric has his phone.  If it is an unfamiliar location I might allow them to go to a counter or similar but keep them in my line of sight.

What Works For Me 2/365 – Extending the Play with Open Ended Questions

There are not too many open-ended toys that interest my boys these days.  However Daniel has been lying on his tummy in the lounge almost every night since mid-December playing with his Magnetix set.  Then at Christmas he received a large supply of Mighty Beanz which (for the uninitiated) are plastic cylinders with rounded ends containing a ball bearing so they flip over.  He often comes to me with big descriptions of what he has built and what its purpose will be and to tell the truth I don’t extend these conversations too much at night because while he is still firing on all cylinders, I’m on the wind down.

This morning he had a “Eureka” moment of sorts when he was tidying up his toys.  The Magnetix pieces will stick to the Mighty Beanz! When he came running in I asked, “What happened?”

This opened the flood gates for all sorts of imagination and invention. We looked at whether the “faces” should be on display or the “names” and we discussed many different display/building options that involved the extra pieces.

“Why would you put them that way?”

“What else could you do?”

“Are there any other ways they will join?”

I have to admit I was tempted to comment about how tidying up can lead to wonderful discoveries but I decided to leave that conversation for another time and turn my full attention to what was happening with Daniel.  It was time for his agenda not mine.

Later on in the day, he came wandering around with one of the magnetic pieces testing out the different metal surfaces to see which one would hold his magnet.

“What sorts of surfaces does the magnet like?”

“What could happen now?” (when he stumbled across some magnets I had on the desk)

I made a few suggestions which he accepted with delight including the filing cabinet, the legs of the ironing board and my metal hole punch.  Just when I thought he was getting a bit obsessive, clicking the magnet on the different surfaces over and over again he informed me that I had to listen because there was a different sound for each surface the magnet stuck to.  He worked away then making sequences of his magnet sounds.

The open-ended questions were so useful here.  There were no wrong answers and he knew that I was accepting his ideas and thinking. I was pushing him along a bit but it was all just a part of our conversation.  It is a bit of a constructivist approach to learning because his understandings all built on each other. The most important thing of all was that he knew for certain that I was listening to him and that his ideas were valued.  It would be easy to walk away and get something else done when a child is absorbed in play like this but I’m glad I stuck around this time.

NB:  I was going to link up to Magnetix but found that they had been recalled as there were some concerns about children swallowing the smaller parts.  Luckily we’re past that stage here!  It seems that the company has re-invented the toy to a certain extent and re-named them as Magnext.