The Home of the Ghosties!

The Home of the Ghosties!

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Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Parent/Teacher Interviews and a Fancy Plan

We have just had our parent/teacher interview for the Pink Kid.  She’s only in prep, so you don’t expect many problems…  But it turns out that while the Pink Kid is very well-behaved, pliable and eager for teacher approval, there is a lack of willingness to push herself beyond the minimum requirement.  She’s managed to avoid learning the Golden Words (this is a list of the most common words in English – “the”, “that”, “this”, “if” and so on, including "so" and "on") and always chooses the easiest take-home books to read.
Pink Kid is lazy!!
Well, we kind of knew this.  Pink Kid is very cute and has adopted some charming attitudes and engaging manners.  It has become much easier for Pink Kid to “oversee” than to “do”.   With a helpless sigh and a politely worded request for help, she finds many willing volunteers.  Blue Kid, surprisingly, can be cajoled into many things and tantrumed into others.
“I can’t change the channel on the television.”
Blue Kid can and does.
“I can’t do up my button.”
Blue Kid can and does.
“I can’t do this on my DS.”
Blue Kid can, but she might have trouble getting it back from him, because I have banned him and confiscated his.
Recently, she accompanied me on my morning inspection of rooms.  We went past Blue Kid’s room and to my surprise, he’d made his bed and “cleaned up” (shoved all toys and dirty clothes under the bed).  In any event, I thought I could make some mileage out of this…
“Look, isn’t Blue Kid a good boy!”  I said pointedly to Pink Kid, “He’s cleaned his room and made his bed!!”
“Yes, that’s wonderful!” she replied enthusiastically.
Moving on down the hall, I came to her room…
“Oh, no!” I said in mock horror, “What happened here??” – the bed was unmade and every Barbie Doll and Pony she owned was scattered amongst yesterday’s clothes on the floor.
“Oh, Blue Kid didn’t have time to clean up here before he went to school,” she replies.
So you get the picture.  Pink Kid is trying to sail through life on the back of female helplessness.  I cannot abide this.  It must cease.  So we’re not helping the Pink Kid anymore.
Furthermore, we have implemented a reading program, and we don’t accept the plaintively delivered “No!  You read it to me!” anymore.  She must read.  And none of those easy word books.
“Here,” I said, last night, throwing Fancy Nancy on the bed, “read this to me.”
Fancy Nancy is a favourite.  It fulfills all the requirements for Kid Like – “FUNNY”, “BEAUTIFUL” and “SHINY”.  It’s very pink, with glitter on the front cover!  The illustrations are very cute and funny, and, of course Nancy’s views about conducting a fancy life are shared wholeheartedly by the Pink Kid.  Fancy Nancy, whilst pink, shiny and funny, avoids being trivial, and is clever and engaging enough not to annoy the adult who thinks she might be reading this one often.
We’ve only had the book a short time, so Pink Kid doesn’t know it off by heart, but she has heard it at least twice.  So even though it is well above her reading level, I want her to work out the words by sounding out and story context.
And she did a remarkably good job.  As a matter of fact, the only words she did seem to have trouble with were the Golden Words!  When I reminded her to sound out the letters, she often read those correctly too.  She even managed to sound out the French words like “merci” and “peignoir” – with a good Aussie accent (I had to tell her the ‘g’ was silent, though…).
So we’ll continue on my reading regime and I will refuse to dumb it down for her.  Any story I would read to her, I will now expect that she reads to me.  I will try to add intellectual rigour to a child with great emotional intelligence… by refusing to be sucked in!

Sunday, 19 June 2011


Well, I was excited...

Moon Ghostie Manners is finally released and will be for sale on Amazon in a few days!

I received the proof this afternoon and I'm finally happy with it!  I came bouncing in waving the proof in my hand and did the "shoving under the nose" thing to my husband.

"Yes, I've read it," he comments in monotone.

Well you can't be satisfied with that!  So I go and push the copy into the viewing range for the Blue Kid (ie:  in between his face and his laptop).  He actually tries quite hard...

"Oh, cool!"  He even takes the book and reads aloud the first sentence... then hands it back.

And that's it for potential audience.  Pink Kid is having solo Grandma Time ("I don't want you to come with me!  Then you and Grandma will talk and she won't play with me!").

So I think I'll go and ruin Pink Kid's day by stealing Grandma away and making her read the Ghosties (again!).  Well, it's only fair... she's my mum!  She HAS to be impressed!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

What happens when computer nerds procreate?

Well don't let's mince words... my husband and I are... nerds!

We both work in computers and love all things electronic.   Assembler programming under a towel on the beach is our idea of a vacation.  As they say, however, what goes around comes around -- around came the Blue Kid.

At the parent/teacher interview in prep, we were advised that the Blue Kid's fine motor skills were a little behind as his dexterity with a pencil was somewhat lacking.  DINGDONG went the bell in my head... that could be because he doesn't use a pencil.  He's had a laptop since he was three and his dexterity with a touchpad is superior!  But okay, I'm a bad mum, I didn't let him paint with paint, but with (ms)Paint!  We didn't make the same mistake with Pink Kid, but that didn't really help the pencil-challenged Blue Kid.

And so the years went on and sometimes Blue Kid lifts his nose out of the Nintendo DS/laptop/playstation.  This worried me greatly.  You hear anecdotes of children with affected attention spans, sleep disorders (due to playing with a backlit screen too close to bedtime), and all sorts of other evils which emanate from overuse of all things electronic.

Children should read real books on real paper and play with real pens, and such activity is rarely rationed.  Electronic gadgets, however, particularly those which partake of the INTERNET should be locked away and produced as a supervised and brief reward for persistent application in more traditional and acceptable children's passtimes.  This seems to be the general view held by parents and "those who know" about kids.

Hence we have that one hour on, one hour off rule (which others think is still too much and Blue Kid sees as cruel and unusual punishment).    So like an outraged dowager, I march into his room and snatch the evil gadget away at the 61 minute mark!

"NO!!  I have to SAVE it!!!"  he cries.
"No, I will save it," I say, because Blue Kid can be devious and knows I get distracted easily.  I start to press buttons on his DS ... (how hard can it be???  I've supported Enterprise Servers!!), "So how do I save it?"
"Just keep pressing 'A'" he replies, sighing heavily at parental stupidity.

And so I do.  And I get a story.   It's an illustrated story with fantastic computer graphics (some of our best artists these days are in game development).  It's an adventure story line which involves the reader in the plot.  There are many possible paths to take to the "finish" of the game.  There is scene setting, instructional text and interactive challenges.  The language is kept at about a 10 year old's ability to read and there's lots of text.

I start to suspect that there may be very little difference between these kind of games and that much vaunted idea for the super new, bleeding edge fantasy that publishers are starting to talk about, THE INTERACTIVE BOOK ... and I wonder...  are they a bit behind?  We call these things games, but the text content is significant.  The child interacts with the story (and there is a definite plot), and there is animation and audio.  So where is the taxonomy going to draw its battle lines??

The Blue Kid is not a voracious reader (as historically defined).  Paper books are okay, but not adored and are only taken from the shelf under duress.  But for an 8yo, his vocabulary is extensive and when he reads aloud, even well above his level, his recognition of words and comprehension are astounding.  He uses electronic initiative to find answers to questions we can't always answer, and, I have to admit, ways to cheat in the electronic games/interactive books.

Yes, too much of a good thing is still too much of a good thing, but perhaps some things are not as evil as they're marketed...