Ratbags and Rogues


Step into working-class Sydney in the 60’s through to the 90’s. These ‘ratbags and rogues’ saved public spaces, historic buildings and homes. They even took over the building of the Sydney Opera House, at one stage! This is a story about the union movement, and what it takes to stand up to powerful figures, whose deepest desire is to squash you underfoot. Told with humour and wistfulness, it also has it’s share of tragedy. Given the current climate, it is also a call to arms. To purchase from Apple iBooks, here.
To purchase the paperback, click here.  For the Kindle version, click here.
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Light it Red for Dyslexia


It’s that magical time of year again! This is what I wrote last year. The other day, my daughter read a whole lesson plan out by herself! It has taken eighteen months of frustration and tears to build her confidence, but she now believes that she can do it, in her own time and way. We have tools in which to help her, and her involvement in drama, the arts and singing have contributed greatly to her heightened self-esteem.

She joined the RSL Rural Commemorative Youth Choir, and it has given both her and I such joy. The choir had a camp at Cockatoo Island, and sang at Government House recently, Damien Leith and Mrs Hurley singing alongside them. My daughter was so buoyant after this experience, it was hard to recollect a time when her confidence was at rock-bottom.

When she has a dramatic performance, she learns her lines by singing them to a beat. When she learns songs, she tends to do so quickly. It has been fascinating, observing how she learns and also humbling. She walks with a skip in her step and her head held high, just as I dreamed she would.

For more information on Light it Red for Dyslexia, click here.

Home Schooling in Sydney


Picture by 12 year old homeschooler, James
Hummingbird picture by 12 year old home schooler, James Julian

To register for home schooling in New South Wales, you need to apply online. Bostes then get in touch, and arrange a visit. I frantically put together a program for the year, ensuring curriculum targets are achievable. I have just had my review and was given two years accreditation, of which I am thrilled! I journal what my daughter has studied each day so I can keep track. I have been flawed at the wonderful reactions I have received since I started this journey. Everybody has been so supportive, and it has certainly made the going easier. I was worried that I would receive negative comments, though thankfully they haven’t come. My daughter sees friends most days, and sometimes asks for home time, as there are so many excursions we can go on! We usually start around 8am, and do a solid four hours before lunch. My daughter goes to singing, drama, guitar and gymnastics lessons on top. I am thrilled with her progress and relieved that I made the right decision in home schooling. As a parent, you second-guess yourself (frequently), but the proof is that her confidence has returned and the pressure has eased. There is nobody to compete or compare with, and she can absorb information in her own time.

Sydney has a very active home schooling community, and we are blessed to have met many wonderful kids and parents. In three terms, she has acted in plays and attended performances at the Opera House and Casula Powerhouse. She has visited May Gibb’s home, been involved in a sports carnival, toured the Opera Centre, Sydney Observatory, Wildlife World and attended a science workshop as well as puppet-making. I have to be organized, to keep up with it all! I start my writing when her school day finishes, and often get up early to do so too. We have a comfortable routine. I love doing life with this kid, and I am definitely smarter as a result of absorbing information!

Here is a poem about home schooling from one of my daughter’s friends. I love the perspective of an 11-year-old!


Home Schoolers

Someone freaky,

Someone wild.

Someone cheeky,

So much a child.

 

Without the school uniform,

Without the Smiggle bag,

Someone who’s not the norm,

Without the shop’s latest tag.

 

Home schoolers, Home schoolers,

That’s who we are.

Friendly with people of every age,

Each of us a shining star.

Free, not in school’s restricting cage.

 

We’re all unique,

We’re all ourselves.

We’re all home schoolers,

That’s who we are!

 

Someone weird,

Someone new.

Not much revered,

Sounds like me, sounds like you.

 

But, whoever I want to be,

Home schooler?

Is there something cooler?

Well, I’ve decided: me.

-Jemma Julian, 4/09/2015

For many kids, it’s the perfect fit. To be able to devise a programme that caters to your child’s interests is a blessing. Wherever we go in Sydney, there are friends to visit and fun to be had.

 

Homeschooling and Dyslexia


The day the resources arrived. The little girl was so excited!
The day the resources arrived. The little girl was so excited!

The mother would never forget the moment she realized our education system had few resources for dyslexic kids. She was talking to the teacher, her daughter outside, swinging her little legs to and fro. “Did I do okay Mummy? Are you proud of me?” Her mother smiled and replied that she was very proud of her, and that she had done very well. She could see the big picture, as parents are privy to. She could see her daughter being broken and scarred by the labels already stuck onto her skin, like a crude tattoo. If a child with dyslexia isn’t given adequate assistance by the time they reach adolescence, their view of themselves can be tragically aligned to their ability to learn within a system that won’t cater to them.

The mother enlisted the private tutor, and along the way, found another remarkable mentor. Elizabeth was an art teacher within the education department for a very long time. She resigned, and went into private practice, using a variety of modalities. She asked the mother to observe where the daughter’s eyes travelled when asked a question. “To the left,” her mother replied. Elizabeth explained that the little girl began to process information from the upper left of her eyes. “Does she have difficulty copying notes off the board, and does she have messy handwriting?” “Yes,” the mother replied. “She is having trouble coordinating what her eyes are seeing with her body movements. Reading off a board or piece of paper in front of her is bound to fail.” She put a coloured piece of paper-a complex word written on it- to the left of the child’s vision, and the child sighted it. Elizabeth then turned it over and asked the child to say the word. Not only could she say it, but she spelt it backwards and forwards! How can you adequately thank people who are giving a child the gift of self-esteem, dignity and a passion for learning? Elizabeth gave the mother exercises to do with the child at home. Even crawling around the floor would help.

The mother knew what she had to do. She studied the curriculum and designated outcomes for her daughter’s year, and developed a lesson plan, using resources and tutors she had uncovered. A home schooling mum she was blessed to befriend helped her. The education department came out and interviewed both her and her daughter, and she was given the go-ahead. Her registration came through toward the end of last year, and then it became real. She was terrified. Frightened of failing her daughter, of the enormity of the task ahead. She had to do it. Local schools weren’t equipped to accommodate dyslexic students. The competition started early, being judged by their class on their ability to write out their own speeches, then recite them publicly. After a month of home-schooling, her mother can already see the benefits. The child speaks with ease amongst adults and children alike. Her self-esteem has been lifted, and she is eager to learn. She often gets to her workbooks before her mother in the mornings. When she is stuck on a sentence, her mother is right there, to read it out. Able to learn on her terms, and in her own time. She has a full social life, to the extent that a day at home with just her mother is factored in. Rather than witnessing the reducing of a child, her mother is watching her grow.