Going back to school

As a result of having some time on my hands, for the foreseeable future I have a new meeting to attend on Monday mornings – helping out for an hour in Mr6’s Year 1 class. I help the students with an activity known as ‘Recount’ – where the kids write an account of what they did on the weekend.

Last week was my first foray into the class and I enjoyed my trip, but suspect the students enjoyed it even more! They were genuinely excited to have someone else in the class to help them with their work. One of the girls did seem to act up a little more than usual and had to be given 2 warnings!

The biggest thing I noticed was the spread of capabilities inside one classroom – there are kids who have trouble with their spelling and sentence structure and others who are quite good at putting their weekend into words. I wonder whether this is an isolated case or whether this can be found in every class in every school in every state across our country. I hope that my presence in the class is both welcoming and helpful to the students, many of whom I already know by name!

I feel honoured to be able to provide a small contribution to the development of our future generation, and recommend it to any parent out there. 🙂

Walking lessons

As part of my CrackOfArse challenge I went for a brisk 30 min walk this morning before heading home and picking up the boys (Mr almost-6 and Mr almost-9) to walk them to school. Walking with my boys gives me pleasure because it’s a chance to talk with them instead of talking at them during  normal day.

Today’s lesson was the difference between buying a house and renting a house, and branched out into loaning money and how interest works.

The other observation is that they see things I do not; they spotted things like screws, rubber bands and springs on the ground; flowers in a garden that one of our neighbours used to grow; the shadow from a centipede was larger than the centipede itself; and just how long some streets are!

For me, this morning’s walk I felt connected with the environment; I walked on the side of the street where there was more sun; I smelled wonderful smells coming from flowers, kitchens and rubbish bins; I wondered what the stories were behind the 4 cars that are now home to many spiders and their families, and gazed up into the blue sky on this awesome Sydney Autumn morning.

Get out there for a walk, it’s a skill you already have in your toolbox and you can do it anywhere. Walk with purpose and use your senses to pick up on the things that happen all around you. You’re worth it!

Pocket Money for Kids

In 2010 we implemented a pocket money system for our boys (now 5 & 8). Once we decided that we will provide pocket money to the boys, we discussed whether or not to make it earning-based or simply as a treat/reward. There are 2 main schools of thought on this:

  1. Pocket money for no reason
  2. Pocket Money for completing certain {household} tasks

Pocket Money for no reason: We decided against this one fairly early on as it does not mirror the reality in everyday life. No-one gives you money ‘for no reason’ in our society. One of the goals of parenting is to raise functioning members of society, and to us, one way to help with this is to try and mirror the real life ’employment’ model to help them understand how money works. In other words: you have to perform something in order to receive payment.

For this reason we opted for model 2: They would receive payment for completing certain household duties every week. Some duties are mandatory to receiving their pocket money, however there are other tasks available to allow them to earn a little more if they wish to! However, there are sites/articles explaining that this could be fraught with danger (such as this raisingchildren.net.au article). However, to try and prepare our children to contribute to society/understand how the world works, we decided to push on with this model, and for our family, it works.

What they need to do – The Basics & the Extras

The Basics: Here’s the standard list of duties:

  • Making their bed
  • Putting their clothes away,
  • Keeping their room tidy (relatively speaking)
  • Packing away toys (especially in the lounge as we don’t have a large place so no rumpus room for our boys to spread their stuff)
  • Unloading the dishwasher
  • They also have a rotating roster for setting/clearing the table at dinner time, putting the rubbish out and watering the plants

The Extras: Here are the tasks that can earn them extra (note most of these are performed in conjunction with one of us):

  • Hang washing on the line
  • Take washing off the line
  • Handwash dishes, plastic containers, lunchboxes, etc
  • Wash the car
  • Rake the leaves/help with the gardening

Distribution

The boys each have 4 moneyboxes (combination of jars + moneyboxes) that relate to the following categories. There are rules around what they can spend their money on, and in essence they do not need to spend money on Clothes or food or any other necessities:

  1. Long-term saving (20%)
  2. Mid-term saving (40%)
  3. Spending (30%)
  4. Charity (10%)

Long-term saving: This is for once-a-year purchases, such as Christmas presents and a birthday present for their brother.

Mid-term saving: Similar to long-term, this can only be accessed every 3 months and can be used to supplement Spending, should the need arise. The goal of this is to use it to save money for something for themselves. So far it’s been used to buy toys and a video game.

Spending: This is their money to do what they like with. If they wish to go to the corner-shop and buy lollies and ice cream – they’re welcome to! If they want to buy bread to feed to the local birds – they’re welcome to! We will offer suggestions on what may have longer-term value (a lolly is gone quickly, a toy car or pack of cards will last longer).

Charity: This money is used for donations to any worthy cause. Quite often during the year, the school will require a gold-coin donation to participate in mufti-days or special activities. We also encourage the boys to regularly donate some of their money to charities.

Why we’ve chosen this & Our hopes

  • We’re doing this to teach our boys the value of money (we believe it’s best to learn it in the home and learn it early!)
  • It’s also important to teach them how to handle money
  • We wanted to balance the concept of spending (immediate gratification) and saving (delayed gratification[1]). Another way to look at it is to determine what is worth buying now vs. worth saving for.
  • It’s hoped our boys will eventually become better members of society; through understanding the link between work and reward, as well as being able to manage money and not fall into the trap of excess consumption.

I would love to hear from other parents out there (either for or against pocket money for kids) – leave a comment!

Resources & Further Reading:

  1. For more information on delayed gratification, I recommend Don’t! The secret of self control by Jonah Lehrer
  2. A similar article to the above was posted by Matthew Hall on Neerav Bhatt’s blog.
  3. Teaching kids about money
  4. Pocket money and kids

The new Three R's

There are a number of lists of “The three R’s”:

  • Reading, Writing and Arithmetic
  • Reduce Reuse Recycle
  • Read, Write, Recite.

After a recent discussion at a North Side Coffee Morning (#nscm), I devised a new list of 3 R’s to help focus a little more on things that count (outside the realm of the academic education arena). These 3 R’s can be used in almost all aspects of life, and is something i am trying to instill in my children:

Respect.

esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability*

Respect for yourself and others is an important trait to have. Not much can happen in this world without respect. If you respect the people that matter, it can take you far!

Responsibility.

One of the most important traits you can have is to be responsible: Responsible to yourself, your fellow man and the world you live in. Responsibility is an important part of life because it shows that you care about what you do and the impact you have. Having the fortitude to stand up and admit you stuffed up or hurt someone goes a long way. It’s also one of the cornerstones of trust, an important part of what makes the world go round.

Here’s one of my acts of responsibility I blogged about earlier in Taming the Ugliness.

Resilience.

This is a tough skill to learn. The ability to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back into it is one of the skills that will see you through many encounters in life, both good and bad! It’s quite a difficult skill to teach, however I have been trying with my boys to get them to understand that there will be times where things don’t go your way. It’s how you act when things are not going your way. It used to be called ‘character building’, but today I’ll call it resilience. Empathy with the ‘other’ side of the story or being able to see things from both sides can help.

Can you think of any other R’s that could make useful traits for life?

* All definitions from dictionary.com

My 2010 Goals :-)

Family/Relationships

  • Reinvigorate my relationship with my wife
  • Enjoy time with my boys
  • More family trips away
  • Talk to my father more
  • Continue nurturing all my relationships with people I have met and yet to meet.
  • Continue to reach out to others to help them in their life journey

Fitness-General

  • Become fitter than I am today
  • Run 500km in 50 weeks (up from 250km in 2009)
  • Run once per week for the rest of 2010
  • Be able to run 5km in 25 mins/10km in 55mins

Fitness-Cycling

Fitness-Running

Leadership

  • Soccer Coach for my son’s U6 team
  • Volunteer more

Motorcycling

  • Riding4aCause – Cross-USA motorcycle ride raising awareness for Male Depression

Social/Economic/Other

  • Eliminate our mortgage as quickly as possible
  • Reduce our burden on the environment
  • Continue to look for simpler/streamlined ways of living
  • Look to expand my career into new opportunities, hopefully utilising my Learning & Development capabilities
  • Reduce, minimise or eliminate negativity

Thoughtful Gifts

Many of you may know I am not that into having possessions (aka “stuff“), but do appreciate items that add value to our lives, or items that stimulate creativity in my children. Here’s a list of things to consider when buying gifts this Festive season (or any occasion for that matter!)

Thinking points

  • Does the list have a single use only? (if so, it’s unlikely it would be in our house)
  • Will the recipient truly use the product/item/service or will it be tried once and not used again?
  • Does the item need supervision to ensure the recipient doesn’t get into trouble?
  • Is the item useless without other people (think water pistol)
  • If something goes missing or breaks, can it be fixed/repaired or is it done with?

What’s on the list?

Here are things on the shopping list for the family that fulfill the following criteria: Allowing creativity, inspiring, family-oriented or can teach practical skills.

  • Lego – This has always fit many criteria and is a big thing in our house, so it’s  almost always on top of the list. Lego rarely looks like it does on the box when my boys get into it! They make ‘creations’ out of the pieces and Mr 7½ photographs them for posterity. Any type of lego can be used for these creations!
  • Computer games that require thinking – puzzle solving games are big (like Lemmings or Chips Challenge from days past), as are adventure games (Indy Lego for the PS2 fits the bill for family-oriented as the kids love playing with someone).
  • Board games – We’ve bought Uno, Magic 7, Guess Who, Trouble and many others over the years and we still get a lot of use out of them.
  • A3 Sketch pad and crayons, pencils, textas, rulers etc. The number of artworks we have in this house is quite large, and we’ve even extended into making colourful placemats (with an A4 Laminator and their creative genius!)
  • Matchbox/Hot wheels cars – these are used in many ways, from simple vroom vroom races on the floor, to being part of the lego or geotrax cities that get created. They’re also great at some social events to help keep the kids occupied
  • Outdoor activities – for past Christmases + Birthdays there have been kites, bikes, balls and scooters.
  • Last Christmas, Mr 7½ got as digital camera and has found many, varied uses for it, including making home videos and creative pictures when you shake the camera (also taking photos of Lego creations)

So, what didn’t get a  look in?

  • Dunka Doos (you soak them in water and they ‘grow’ into larger animals)
  • Star Wars Light Saber (nothing you can’t do with a few toilet rolls or some time + imagination with a broomstick and some paint). At $60 or so for a single-use item it’s up there on the list of things that are not likely to make it into the house
  • Transformers – they don’t do much except transform, and most of them {wheeled vehicles} don’t roll very well. Once a piece is broken, the toy becomes useless.

These are my thoughts…what are some of yours?

A bedtime poem for my boys.

I made up this little poem whilst tucking Mr4 into bed a few days ago. I thought I’d share this with you all!

The time for fun is over,
It’s time to go to bed;
I love you from your little toes,
Up to the top of your head!

Nice & simple, just the way I like it 🙂 Do you have any little sayings or poems you recite to your children? let me know!

(With thanks to 2 pioneering dads that blog, Writerdad & Bloggerdad who often share their thoughts about fatherhood!)

Fathers

I’m writing this as a {belated} post to honour Manweek, an initiative to help Australian men talk about how they feel. There are quite a few fantastic posts out there that I know of, I am sure there are more (see end of this blog). I’m not sure whether there’s merit in these 2 stories but feel it’s best to get something out of my brain, it’s been rattling around in there for too long!

My Father & me

I’ve not been particularly close to my father, and know in some ways I was always the odd child. I’m different from him and my brothers but yet I know there are parts of me that came from him. (Before your mind races down a path, there is no ‘twist’ to this story – he is my father, I see him every week, there’s no doubting that!) One thing we’re very different on is that he’s a workaholic. I know many people who throw that term around a little too easily, however in the true sense of the word, my father really only knows work. He gets up at 4am, comes home at 7pm, eats and goes to sleep. That’s almost all there has been in his life. Sure we went on holidays every now and then, but for most of his life all he’s known is work. He doesn’t follow sports, doesn’t go to the pub, doesn’t get drunk, doesn’t threaten anyone nor raise his voice, but for the most part his life, work has defined him.

I don’t want to be like him; I don’t want other fathers (or fathers-to-be, or anyone for that matter) end up like this. I vowed to not become a workaholic and to actively pursue other interests. Perhaps this is why I am diving more and more into many varied topics (people, learning, thinking, the brain, social interactions, relationships, Sudoku/brain exercises, cycling, running, marathons, eating well, families, children….), and quickly coming to the realisation that I am (sometimes) not present in the moment. In it’s own way, not being present or ‘in the moment’ could have the same effect of not enjoying what’s here and now.

I’m vowing to enjoy everything I can about life, and looking for ways to share my thoughts and feelings with a wider audience. I’m also looking for ways to become a better father as well as understand both my father and father-in-law more. Just like I mentioned in my ‘Inner Story‘ post, everyone has an inner story that outsiders generally do not see. I’d like to uncover their stories. Maybe not today, but hopefully before tomorrow.

So in my quest to becoming a better father, what have I done?

  • I’m consciously taking time to be with my boys. Working from home allows me some freedom here – I’m not sure I could go back to an ‘office’ job
  • I’m staying active (both physically and mentally)
  • I’m learning from great people like Scott Drummond, Gavin Heaton, Mark Pollard, Trent Collins & Matt Moore, all of whom shared some of their inner story for Manweek.
  • I don’t want to be a workaholic
  • In an effort to get closer to my father, I have been researching the Blanda name and pulling together the family tree.

Father-in-Law

I was recently asked if I wanted to take my father-in-law’s (FIL) boat. At first, I didn’t understand the context of this and offering someone the use of their boat in the middle of winter seems a strange request. A little digging (not enough discussion on the matter, just a couple of questions as we were bundling the sleepy kids into the car for the drive home) and my FIL said he didn’t use it much, and if I got my boat licence he’d let me bring it home and take the boys out on it if I wanted. (He’d offered previously and we have been out on it before). If it didn’t interest me, he would sell it. It was a strange conversation in that it didn’t really go anywhere…

When I got home sand discussed it with my wife, she could not understand where this had (suddenly) come from – the request to take the boat or he would sell it was quite odd/out of character. Until we surmised that he believes he could not get his boat licence if he were to take the test (he’s currently not licenced). His mate from the pub told him that they’re clamping down now on boat licences (most likely in the wake of boating tragedies on Sydney Harbour in the past few years). Perhaps he feels it’s not in him to get a licence, therefore the easiest solution is to get rid of the boat?

I intend to find out more behind this request – the boat is something the boys have been looking forward to going out on, and is a great way to enjoy the outdoors when the warmer weather arrives, so there’s hopefully no more talk about selling the boat! I’d like to know a little more about the thoughts behind getting rid of it….stay tuned!

More on this (I’m sure as I have barely scratched the surface about being a father) in future!

Same stock; different flowers

In my blog post Letting your Flowers Grow I made note of some small milestones in the lives of my children as they transition to the next stage of their lives, gaining independence and skills to work their way through the world.

Something I’ve been guilty of recently and I’d like to share is about looking at your children for who they are as individuals as opposed to a part of a group (aka ‘family’). I’ve come to realise my boys are substantially different people – akin to having been grown from different seeds. This is an important point to remember about children; they all start from the same stock, however as they develop and grow, they become themselves. It’s important for us to realise we must let them become themselves.

As parents (especially of younger children) we must do our best to resist comparisons between siblings. Things like ‘why don’t you act like your brother (or sister)’, or ‘have a look at X, he’s being a good boy and tidying up after himself, why can’t you’. Fundamentally, each person has different drives – what works for one may not work for another. Each person has a unique listening & learning style, and one of the best ways to keep these young minds fed and nourished is to try to understand how each of your children respond. Some seem to work only when pushed; some seem to innately know (or sense) what to do next; Some daydream the day away.

I am on a personal mission to understand how we think and how the brain works, not only for myself as part of my passion for learning but also to help communicate with my children better. One of my 2009 goals is:

Improving the quality of my relationships….includes spending more time with my boys.

Also, one of the other things I am working on:

Helping reduce the amount of stress I cause in my family (by snapping less and thinking more) – this will also help me get rid of thoughts as quickly as they come

are both linked to trying to understand how the brain works and how we learn. Applying what I learn to myself + relationships to the ones around me are important part of growing as a person. Part of my recent book buying spree is aimed at helping me achieve this. It’s a difficult (but not impossible) path to help change ourselves, but ultimately there is only one person who can change anyone else – the rest are there as inspiration or motivation. I hope to {one day} be the inspiration or motivation for people I come into contact with.

My 2009 Goals

Originally written on Monday, January 12, 2009 at 3:14pm as a Facebook note. To link up to me through Facebook, add me as a friend!

As a follow-up to my Musings of 2008, here are some of the goals I will be aiming for in 2009 (I won’t call them resolutions – I ‘resolved’ to do some of these years ago! 🙂

For me:

  1. Increase my volunteering efforts (First volunteering event was on 4th Jan)
  2. Researching the Blanda name/family tree/how ‘Blanda’s’ are related (already begun)
  3. Improving the quality of my relationships, both personal & business, including visiting more people and having more people over for lunch/dinner/a drink or a chat (includes spending more time with my boys).
  4. Understand how I tick
  5. Work out what I want to do with the next few years of my life
  6. Become fitter: All of the below are either a part of or will be a result of becoming fitter:
    1. Participate in more cycling events (including completing the 90km version of the Gongride)
    2. Take up a martial art with the boys
    3. Participate in more walking/jogging/running events (including completing a Half-Marathon)
    4. Build a small gym in my garage

For the Family:

  1. Reduce the amount of electricity we use in the house (underway)
  2. Pay off the mortgage quicker in 2009 than we did in 2008 (underway)
  3. Continue looking for ways to simplify our life and reduce the need for material possessions (ongoing)

What are some of yours resolutions, goals or ‘want-to-achieves’ in 2009?