Friday 20th April 2018

Archives for January 2017

Hot Topic In Education NOW. 2017.18.

Hot Topic In Education NOW. 2017.18.

I am hot under the collar…and I don’t even wear a collar!

I am hot because I am feeling mad about what is going on in education around Australia right now.

This is not even about the HOT weather and how not all schools have air con!

I am HOT because I am an advocate of schooling and education, particularly in terms of equity but what is making me mad (and hot!) is this topic.

T E S T I N G.

We in Australia are going to follow a UK path for assessment kids aged between 5 and 7. The second year of formal schooling.

Here’s what was said in UK in 2012. Its points are many but what bothers me is the ‘stupid’ way in which nonsense words form the test. Kids who are reading and beginning to understand reading hesitate over words which DO.NOT.MAKE.SENSE.

Here’s a news report from media based on current Australian Minister for Education Simon Birmingham’s decision to get this testing procedure implemented. It is not factual as the Principal of Merrylands East PS, John Goh knows, when I tweeted to @birmo yesterday this:

DenyseWhelanBlogs @DenyseWhelan1

@johnqgoh @Birmo on news BIG talk of #phonics as if never been taught as part of a rich literacy experience. Who does your press releases?

There has been more said about this in many areas but do  not be fooled. The Governments in Australia hold this type of testing as a carrot and stick. The Labour government started some time ago aligning the results of NAPLAN to tied funding to the states. It is not, as far as I can see, funding to support the specifics of the findings, it is about compliance.

I remain more heated than I probably need to be as a retired educator who served kids of NSW Public Schools but it’s because I am passionate and someone who specialised in early childhood learning that I have to speak up.

I apologise for the ranty type of post here but I, along with many of my colleagues in teaching around Australia are fuming about the notion that LITTLE kids need a standardised test like the one being planned. If you are a teacher or know teachers, you will be aware that they actually KNOW which kids are not doing well. They have skills and experience. What is needed is F U N D I N G to continue to help these identified children to have greater opportunity to learn and grow. But no, the Australian government is planning to P A Y organisations to  T E S T  all of the kids their second year of formal schooling rather than look at what schools could already tell them.

My former consultancy role as an education specialist for families. Now retired.

What’s your view on this latest idea (which will happen) for national testing?

Do you have a child who would be taking part in this?

Are you aware that teaching phonics in isolation with no  meaning (context)  to help a child understand what is read?

But phonemic awareness is another skill. More about that here.

Did you know we learn to read in a variety of ways?

THIS appeared in my FB stream and is too good not to share and ADD!


Have I asked enough questions? YES!!

P.S. If your child returned to school this week, I hope it was a good day!



Joining Kylie Purtell and friends here for I Blog On Tuesdays.





Back To Routines. #LifeThisWeek 5/52. 2017.17.

Back To Routines. #LifeThisWeek 5/52. 2017.17.


Str- e- tch!

Oh, here we go, back to routines!

Is this how it is for you right now?

I chose this prompt for this week as it is, for most of us, back to whatever routines form our lives.

We have, in many cases, had some time off from the usual routines and now it’s back to real life!

In our case, it’s actually been interesting NOT to have to get back to real life because we are retired from paid work, family responsibilities now our kids have well and truly left home and needing to be anywhere, somewhere by a certain time.

However there are days where we need to attend appointments and in my husband’s case perform his volunteer roles but we can take our day at a more leisurely pace. I know I needed routine in my life as a mother and a professional and it was via lists, preparation of meals and clothes ready to wear and generally having a running diary both in my head and on the fridge calendar.

Now, there are some routines I need to follow: eating meals, going for a walk, doing the blog and so on but it is less-timetabled and more free. It has taken me some time to become used to it all but now…love life with fewer routines!!

This sums up me in quite a few ways! The old me really.

I am someone who enjoys helping others and I also did some on-line research about the value of routines and agree that they are good for consistency and a smoothly operating family life…as best as can happen! I love this site that is Australian based and has many, many more helpful ideas for families.

Why routines are good for parents
Routines take some effort to create. But once established, they have lots of benefits:
* They free up time for you to think about other things while you work.
* Regular and consistent routines can help you feel like you’re doing a good job as a parent.
* When things are hectic, routines can help you feel more organised, which lowers stress.
* A routine will help you complete your daily tasks efficiently.
* As children get better at following a routine by themselves, you can give fewer instructions and nag less.
* Routines free you from having to constantly resolve disputes and make decisions. If Sunday night is pizza night, no-one needs to argue about what’s for dinner. Source: here.

What does “Back To Routine” mean for you?

Have you had a break from routine?

Do you find you can keep to a routine most days?

Can you give yourself permission to vary the routine and have some extra fun?



Here are the rules for the link-up “Life This Week” is a link up that runs every Monday and remains live for until Thursday at 5 p.m.during that week.
* You can link up something old or new, just come on in.
* Please add just ONE post each week!
* Feel free to go with the prompt for the week to add your ‘take’ on the prompt. Or not.
* Please do stay to comment on my post as I always reply and it’s a bloggy thing to do!
* Check out what others are up to by leaving a comment because we all love our comments, right!
* Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere. I don’t have a ‘button’ so a link in text is fine!
* THANK you for linking up today! Do come back next week. Next week’s prompt is “What’s Enough Money?”.

I link up here with Alicia on Mondays and here with Kell too! Pop over and link up too!


My Week 5 Intention. Listen Actively. 2017.16.

My Week 5 Intention. Listen Actively. 2017.16.

I have been delighted with my success in carrying out my intention to #savourthepositive. I used Instagram to spread my message and it was a good reminder each day to continue with encouragement and support from my followers! Thank you!

thought I was good at listening but like many, I listen with an ear (and brain!) that is formulating a response or an opinion.

I have noticed that when I listen actively  speakers are both engaged and valued and it is demonstrated in their body language.

The person I listen to most and need to be more actively listening to is my husband.

In the past, I have been butting in, arguing the point and all those things I know chatty and bossy people like me can be.

What I now know is how much my relationship is changed for the better when I listen actively.

This is my Week 5 Intention.

I will actively listen in conversations with my husband each time we chat. I will also actively listen when I am out and about locally and speaking to people on the phone.

For those who are interested in the work and research about relationships from the Gottman Institute here is more about Active Listening. Dr Gottman and his wife have interesting and consistent research about whether a relationship in trouble may be saved or not….and no surprises, having respect and regard for the other is one. This is exemplified in active listening!


Joining in with Leanne and the Lovin Life crew each Thursday here.


Australia. 2017.15.

Australia. 2017.15.

Yesterday was Australia Day. It is remembering that on 26 January 1788 a white settlement commenced within Sydney Harbour at Port Jackson. It is close to where Circular Quay is, the ferry terminals and just around from the Opera House to the east, and Sydney Harbour Bridge to the west.

However, it is not a day of celebration for many Australians, the original Australians, who regard this as a day of sorrow. My thoughts are that Australia needs to change to date to reconcile with all who are Australian. However, this is very much a contentious option at present.

I have therefore gone with a traditional (Anglo if you will) view of my country. Australia so very well captured in the essence of this poem by Dorothea Mackellar. The photos which follow are mine. Again I have tried to capture the essence of my country.


My Country
The love of field and coppice
Of green and shaded lanes,
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins.
Strong love of grey-blue distance,
Brown streams and soft, dim skies
I know, but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror
The wide brown land for me!

The stark white ring-barked forests,
All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon,
Green tangle of the brushes
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops,
And ferns the warm dark soil.

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When, sick at heart, around us
We see the cattle die
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady soaking rain.

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the rainbow gold,
For flood and fire and famine
She pays us back threefold.
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze …

An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand
though Earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.

Dorothea Mackellar


Fig tree in Sydney. Close to the harbour.

Manly Beach at sunrise. Manly was named after an Aboriginal person because of the ‘manly’ appearance. I grew up near here.

The Three Sisters. Aboriginal legends abound about these ‘ladies’ located in the heritage listed Blue Mountains beyond Sydney.

The Jamison Valley. Part of the Blue Mountains. In the early 1800s white explorers Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson made their way across here.

Semi-rural Sydney scenes but more likely to be housing estates now and into the future.

Magical morning at the Central Coast.

Iconic Sydney. Ferries, Circular Quay and the Harbour Bridge. This is Port Jackson and where the first white settlement occurred.

Essence of the coast of Australia!

My now local area. Wyong River. Original land owners the Darkinjung people.

As Aussie as it comes..the bush and a track leading somewhere…

Walk by the Parramatta River in NSW and read these sculptures. All denote the original and then white settlement of the earliest founded place in NSW (other than Sydney)

Our wonderful coast…we are a country bound by oceans. This is the Pacific Ocean/Tasman Sea as it reaches east to New Zealand.

Thank you Australia for all you have given me in my life.


Joining photography friends who blog here:

Trish, Steph, Sue and Jen.






On the weekend I visit the Ultimate Rabbit Hole here with Sammie and 3 bloggers who also host the link up!


Starting School in 2017. 2017.14.

Starting School in 2017. 2017.14.

Starting school is huge for everyone concerned. Maybe you remember your first day at school. I do, and I was confident enough to go straight into the Kindergarten classroom leaving Mum behind. It is not always like this however, it can be with less anxiety if some steps of preparation are taken.

I have written about it before  here.

In 2014 I was asked to contribute to an article by friend and writer, Donna Webeck,  which of course I did. Reviewing it today,  it holds true for 2017. I hope it can be of help for you and your child who may be starting school this year.

I have highlighted the sections where Donna quoted me, along with 2 others, for the article. Here they are:

Talk to the teachers*
School teachers have lived through many “first days”, so if anyone will have an insight into what will work best for parents and children starting school solo it is they.
With her vast experience, Whelan has seen it all. The good news? Your child won’t truly be as alone as you fear.
“This child will not be the only ‘solo’ child starting school I can state that unequivocally,” she reassures.
“What a school that is looking out for every child’s needs on day one will do is to ‘notice’ every child. Not always in a direct and over-the-top kind of way because teachers are long-experienced observers,” Whelan explains. They will also ensure socialising starts via introductions between children as well as settle children into small groups.
“There will be less than a day for your child to have had someone to sit next to, share a game with or go to the toilet. They may not be called ‘friends’ yet anyway, but your child will not be alone.

There is also this:

Keep your own emotions in check
Often children who are nervous about starting school sans friends feel this way because they are feeding off their parent’s anxieties.
“Monitor your own stress levels,” warns Hirst. “Children can pick up on how you are feeling so try to talk positively about school.” Whelan couldn’t agree more, commenting that fear can be contagious. “I am of the belief that our kids can catch our emotions and I would be keeping mine in check – as best I could!”
She also mentions that unless we make a fuss, the child will not know there is something for them to worry about. “To be honest, a young child has no real concept of starting school and being alone or knowing no-one unless his parents, caregivers or others have made a big deal of it.”
Spicer asks you to think long term, because promoting positive emotions will do you a favour down the track. “Research shows if kids start out enjoying school early on it’s more likely they will enjoy it ongoing.”
The final word on coping goes to Whelan, who wants to reassure this: “I can’t quantify how they cope but I do believe it’s part of our parenting role to see that they can be left to manage themselves,” she says.”We’ve  grown these little people to be people. It’s about taking more steps away from us, just as we did and our parents let us do.”

*added now: I do not mean ‘talk to the teacher in depth’ every single morning and afternoon unless there is a real issue of concern but just a conversational ‘hi’ and ‘how are things?’ is fine and reassuring in first week or so. Believe me, don’t even think of asking as the teacher is attempting to bring the class to the room or on the way out…it’s tricky I know because you want to know…but observe for a bit is my advice! Make a proper interview time for any real and on-going issues. Please! 

So, what are your memories of starting school?

Do you have someone starting school in 2017?

How will it be for you and your child?

And ICYMI (in case you missed it, in 2016 I wrote about Starting High School!)

I would love to hear your stories in the comments!


Joining Kylie Purtell for IBOT here and she DOES have a school starter in her family and I know there will be mixed emotions next week in her household.


Tips For Living In A Shared Household. #LifeThisWeek 4/52. 2017.13.

Tips For Living In A Shared Household. #LifeThisWeek 4/52. 2017.13.

This week, 47 years ago, my parents drove the 6 hours from Sydney to Barraba with 20 year old me, my luggage, teaching needs and more to check out where I would be teaching and where I might live!

I was more excited than nervous. This was me, getting ready for what I couldn’t wait to do! Teach. The school was located about 30 minutes drive from where my boyfriend of 3 years had just started his new job after graduating with his Ag Science degree, and we would likely meet up most weekends! Even though I didn’t have a car.

Sweet! But, where would I live? In those days single teachers often found accommodation in a person’s house as a boarder but I was not 100% taken with that notion. The school was open and that I got to meet the DP who was getting ready for school starting that week and asked him about accommodation. He mentioned the teacher share house just down the road from school where there was a vacancy. We drove to the house (see photo from screen shot!) met the already arrived 2 teachers (one was yet to come) and I was offered the place. All in the space of an afternoon.

Looking back, and speaking to Dad only recently about this whole experience, apparently Mum found it all pretty traumatic leaving her daughter behind. I recall her helping me get the bedroom sorted (my part of it as it was a shared one – the front room seen in the pic) and just being ‘Mum’ about it all. She cried on the way home Dad tells me. Oh. I found the truth of how that feels when my daughter left home aged 21.

This post one year ago is about my first school as a teacher.

Back to the topic! I had NO idea what it would be like to live in a shared household with 3 somewhat older women. We were all on the same staff of the K-12 school. However, I was the spoiled only daughter who had a social life as her priority rather than anything else to do with chores so I think, over time, I did not do well as a contributor to the house.

I learned to cook spaghetti bolognaise as we did have a cooking roster and I got some help there.
I did keep my room tidy. I used to save up my washing and take it home to Mum’s when I drove down to Sydney for a weekend every fortnight or so with the DP who would make me drive part of the way (and back) as he was visiting his fiancee.

My relationship with the boyfriend fizzled in Term One, so I became much more interested in socialising and holding Saturday night parties! The other housemates were generally away on the weekends. Once I met my now-husband in the final term, I did nothing. Except be lovelorn when he wasnt there and we married by the following year. I learned that I was a NOT a good household sharer. Marriage though was a BIG lesson!!

Thanks for my Facebook friends for their tips!

Tips for Living In A Shared Household.

  1. Don’t live with Denyse when she is young and in love (my tip)
  2. Work out from the outset whether you’re going to do shared meals or fend for yourself.
  3. Allocate cupboard and fridge space accordingly. If doing shared meals, allocate a budget and draft meal plan.
  4. Use your words. Literally.Don’t get in a huff with your house mates when they don’t do things your way.
  5. Spoons in the sink when there’s a dishwasher two feet away can drive you mental.
  6. Hold regular house meetings.
  7. Work out who is an introvert and who is an extrovert. Make plans accordingly. In one share house I lived in, where people were incredibly busy and social, we instituted a weekly no guests night.
  8. Live alone.
  9. Some people suck at grocery shopping. Train them.
  10. If you own anything precious, don’t keep it in shared areas. It will likely get broken.
  11. Oh God, just don’t. The stories I could tell about my nightmare 4 months.
  12. Set ground rules – who does what, and what items are shared and which are your own.I think talking about things as they come up is great, so they don’t become bigger problems.
  13. And do fun things together – like house dinners and nights out, because they’re your new family. I loved my share house experiences for the most part!
  14. If you find yourself house sharing in middle age, as I have, share with a man. Living with another woman was too stressful and it’s never fair when both are set in their ways. The dramas were awful. Never again. My last two housemates have been men and it’s worked really well for all of us.
  15. Make them clean. Don’t just clean because no one else is doing it and it’s driving you slightly mental. You’ll just get resentful that you’re the only one who cleans anything.

So, have you ever lived in a shared household?

How was it for you?

What tips would you add?

Thanks for sharing!


Here are the rules for the link-up “Life This Week” is a link up that runs every Monday and remains live for until Thursday at 5 p.m.during that week.
* You can link up something old or new, just come on in.
* Please add just ONE post each week!
* Feel free to go with the prompt for the week to add your ‘take’ on the prompt. Or not.
* Please do stay to comment on my post as I always reply and it’s a bloggy thing to do!
* Check out what others are up to by leaving a comment because we all love our comments, right!
* Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere. I don’t have a ‘button’ so a link in text is fine!
* THANK you for linking up today! Do come back next week.   Next week’s prompt is “Back To Routine”.


I also link up here with Alicia and here with Kell on Mondays.



My Week 4 Intention. Savour The Positive Pt 1. 2017.12.

My Week 4 Intention. Savour The Positive Pt 1. 2017.12.

Last week I know I benefitted from my intention of kindness and it was brought home to me even more after a stressful time on Tuesday. I had to summon up the courage to drive a long way (45 minutes) on a super hot day to the periodontist who I HAD to see about my poor gums. I did it, but it was at a physical and emotional cost the next day when my IBS struck and I couldn’t go out. But, instead of my ‘old ways’ of talking to myself and thinking I had ‘failed’ I was able to be kindly towards myself in word and action and be a friend to myself!

Being a friend to yourself takes practice!

It was also lovingly helpful to have so many commenters who understood what I was writing about when they read my post last week. Thank you all! This kindness that is spreading around is GOOD!

Building upon this, and wanting to continue to learn more about how our thinking can distort our feelings (and vice versa) I have become a firm fan of the work of Rick Hanson PhD & his collaborator  Richard Mendius MD. He speaks from years of research about the ‘neurons which fire together wire together’ and how we CAN affect our health by too much of the negative messages,  self-talk and so on.

I have been listening to him speak with  Richard Mendius about  and in doing so, am beginning to make some subtle but helpful changes to my daily experiences.

My Intention Week 4/52. 

My intention this week is to ensure I am taking time to SAVOUR positive experiences of all kinds including these:

knowing I am loved and have a person who is my best friend to talk to, hug and be companion to every single day

that the world of nature just outside my house in the form of my small garden offers me opportunities to observe, smell and touch to let the memories flood my brain

I know this needs to be on-going so next week will be an update and more about what I have learned via the lessons and meditations from this CD program.

Have a good week everyone.


I join Leanne and friends here for the Lovin Life Linky on Thursdays.


Norwest Sydney Remembered. 2017.11.

Norwest Sydney Remembered. 2017.11.

We moved from our country teaching posts to Sydney in 1978. We were fortunate to be able to buy a new house and land package at Kellyville, on the fringe of Castle Hill and almost semi-rural area for $44,600. (today’s value: $900k) We raised our two children here, and then in 1993 succumbed to the lure of a new house, and an easy-to-obtain mortgage to buy land at the newly created Bella Vista (suburb) and build an architect designed house. All for around $400,000.

It was wonderful being almost pioneers on the old land that was inhabited firstly by the original owners, and then by the early settlers including John and Elizabeth MacArthur. In fact, the house we built looked up to the original Bella Vista farm (still there in part for historic purposes and appreciation of current citizens) so it always felt like being a part of history too.

Over the years much has already happened to the area, see the timeline here and we bought our land in 1993 and moved to the house in January 1994.


Seven Hills Farm


Aboriginal custodianship of the Cumberland Plain by the Darug people


European settlement and exploration of the Cumberland plain commenced


Seven Hills was sub-divided by the Crown into a series of grants to free settlers including 500 acres was transferred to James Robertson


Stock Farm was sold to John Macarthur along with 1,250 sheep. Bella Vista Farm Park still contains the historic homestead and farm buildings with a single avenue of bunya Pines and is open for public recreation.


North Sydney Brick and Tile Company Limited (Norbrik)

Norbrik purchased a total of a thousand acres of land with part being used for their brick and tile manufacturing plant which operated on part of the site from 1956 to 2002.


Norbrik investigated alternate uses for the site and came up with the concept of a business park where people worked, lived and played.


Baulkham Hills Shire Council and the New South Wales State government rezoned the land as Employment land.


First Stage of Norwest Business Park

The first large-scale business park in Australia of some 377ha was brought to the market. Subdivision works were completed for Stage 1 and construction of buildings commenced in the early 90′s with Australia Post, Cathay Pacific and Hillsong Church acquiring land and commencing construction in 1993.

The first residential development took place in the Bella Vista Village precinct.


We sold our house in 1997 for $474,000 (today’s value: $1.5million) and moved to a suburb across Old Windsor Road, Glenwood, which had been a large dairy farming property. We purchased this house and land package for around $300,000.(today’s value:$950k)

Over the decades housing sprang up on both sides of Old Windsor Road as did the multitude of businesses and other commercial enterprises such as schools, hospitals, churches and retirement places. Much changed in that time and the establishment of a ‘centre’ with a man-made lake gave the area some quiet spaces and pleasant areas to view and rest.

I often walked around the Lake at Norwest Shops. Grandchildren who accompanied me over the years enjoyed feeding the ducks. This was a fun thing to do but sadly those ducks were over-fed and the waterways added many fish of dubious species as well such as carp.

It was in 2014 I took these photos. We have not lived nearby since then and I do know that changes have been made, of course, with even more buildings for both business and residential purposes. There is a rail system being added to the area to hopefully reduce to huge road traffic component of living away from good public transport. However, all in all, the area no longer held any appeal for us after all the years so we have moved on!

Family and friends who remain do so because of location, work and school/study commitments, relationships and more…. and because it’s Sydney!! We have retired to the Central Coast of NSW about 90 minutes drive north.

Do you know the history of where you live?

Are you familiar with this part of Sydney?

Let me know more in the comments!


Joining photography link up friends here:

Jen, SueSteph and Trish

On the weekend I add my post to the Ultimate Rabbit Hole here with Sammie and Paula and new friends too.