Sunday, July 29, 2012

"Hey can some one help me with this ?"

As your children start to progress through the schooling system the level of output required grows. The schooling system set challenges that carefully measure the child and the learning stage that they are at so as to ensure they are ready to progress to the next level (actually its about ensuring they fit on to some bureaucratized bell chart , but that's a separate lecture).

I'm referring here specifically to the classic school project.

When did school projects get so complicated ? When I was of a schooling age the project was on something like Ancient Egypt  or a major river system and off I would go to procure a  large piece of cardboard and map out in pencil what I was going to do. Then came the cool part, I was allowed to cut up National Geographic magazines for the photos. Finished of with some neat penmanship on faint pencilled lines and the job was done.

This was held up by two students while you walked the class through you research and subsequent learning. If it was judged to be of worthy quality it would be stuck up on the wall for all to see, with the rest deemed unworthy sent home to be retired quietly.

Nowadays, that would simply not do.

Oh No, the projects are hideously complicated and involve multiple outputs and mediums. They also come with a university level marking sheet for each component that you have to follow nor risk losing valuable points.

Nothing shocked me more than watching a recent project come together that involved watching TV ( this still baffles me ) a survey and a written report and thinking it was done, when he announced  "So now we have to make a video " ! " Can you help me ?"

Wait a what ?
Really ?

But what I have noticed is that once again competitiveness creeps in.

No - not from the kids.

From us. Yes us the parents.

Take for example the bridge building project. It's a bog standard project for Grade 3 children. You The child is expected to take items from around the house and construct a drawbridge. The rules are simple
1) No Lego can be used.
2) You have to be able to carry it into class ( no bricks or concrete)

It's heaps of fun and uses all the old toilet rolls and tissue boxes you have around the house. However when you arrive on the day of judging at school you can clearly see which parents are in it to win it.
Perfectly engineered bridges that look like they belong in an art gallery are abound.

I mean some of the bridges were clearly designed by engineers. Oh yeah that right half the parents are.

And don't think this is just a localized problem., I was reading a worried parent blogging (  Yes I read other parents blogs, don't look so surprised ) about her son competing against all these other bridges with clearly assisted builds. The comments field quickly filled up with other parents sharing the same dilemma.
Do you help or do you just let their imagination run wild ?

What kind of message does this send to the  kids who are standing there with their pride and joy constructed of paddle pop sticks, string and toilet rolls, all covered in every color of the rainbow ? ( thankfully The Beloved has great color co-ordination for our bridges ) while the others stand there with bridges they don't really understand.

image courtesy of

So after we assisted with the filming of the video, I forceably removed myself from the project. Because after all, I have decided that they will just have to deal with the fact that you don't win everything and you have to learn to do things by yourself.

And I just wanted him to be proud of what he could achieve.

Otherwise the kid will wake up one day and they're 40 and still living at home with you.

And that my loyal readers just aint happening on my watch.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The July Holiday with added NASA

It's that time of the year when Dad on the Go and family pack up for a week or so and travel the country side. It's the school holidays and in order to get the minions out from behind their video games we get out of the house. So we pack ourselves up and get ready for Family time !
Along the way we remember why it may not be possible to spend long periods of time in confined spaces together , get over this and an hour later start all over again.

The trip to our nations capital now becoming an annual ritual we wanted to ensure we didn't do the same attractions (can you even use that term in Canberra ? ) over and over and so turned our attention to to the other possibilities.

Before that however, as per usual we split up to get to the final destination of Canberra. The eldest and I took the direct traditional politicians route - Flying. So off we went via Virgin Airlines and Canberra International airport, the title of which is a chuckle in itself.

Side note -Big tip to all you traveling dads - you can not put two slices of bread together with cheese in the middle and put it through those big toasters with the conveyor belt system. It will catch on fire.

The Beloved and the youngest decide to go via Rutherglen and a number of side attractions golf courses.

Once in the sunny but freezing suburb of Quanbeyan we had to start to make the hard decisions. The attraction (still not sure about that word) we eventually chose was the deep space communication complex. Its hidden deep in a mobile phone free area about 50km's outside Canberra.
The second you drive through the gates with the NASA logos and the mobiles and electronic equipment warning sign , you know it's going to be cool. They have a model of the Mars Rover vehicles and a complete video walk through of the upcoming Mars landing by the Rover " Curiosity" on the 6th of August. Just standing near these giant structures it is difficult to explain the immense size yet intricate workings that go into each array.

The volunteer inside took the time to explain the whole Mars rover landing process to us and gave us wads of info on how to download the space software the kids were using in the exhibits. The links are here because they are just unbelievable.

 I give this two thumbs up. It's got something for the whole family.

 Then back to our hosts house for a side of lamb and some chickens cooked on the spit and UNO and Red wine. We went via a National park that boasted koala feeding sessions and plenty of wildlife. The Koala wasn't there and I do not consider a lake full of pelicans wildlife. This gets half a thumbs up, mainly because the kids had to walk a long way which is a good thing.

As we drove out of Canberra the next the warning lights flashed on the dash that icy roads were likely. With the outside temp at -3 Celsius, it was spot on. As we climbed through the Snowy mountains the temp rose and the sun peeked through the clouds. But our passengers were too busy digesting a lamb.

Arriving at the Gippsland lakes the weather turned on it's charm and tempted us to go fishing. No fish were evident but the views more than made up for this and it turns out you can really enjoy wine if you have a great view and some peace and quiet. Getting this peace and quiet involved sitting 500 meters away from the kids but you get my point.

Once again another great little break provided by this great nation and some great friends. I even managed to learn something along the way.

So I know what I'll be doing on the 6th of August. I'll be watching the landing on Mars and hoping that all goes well for them.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Get out of the way please - I want to hug your mother

As a child I watched my parents do all sorts of exciting things as a married couple. I also watched them continuously attend / deliver all the myriad of activities we excitedly embarked on, from French horn lessons through to breeding Siamese cats.
When you move out of home (much to your parents relief , especially if you are less than 30 years old) you set off to explore the world and find someone to spend the rest of your days with.

If you are lucky enough to find such a some-one, when you first get married it's announcing to the world that not only are you ready and able to look after yourself but that you also believe you have the ability to shoulder the responsibility for another.

When the first child is born suddenly that's all that matters and every thing else is re prioritized. It's like some one hit the Go switch and you're off and running with a vague idea of the route but no map.

You cease to be the couple and immediately become the  parents. You try and try to still be a couple but you get consumed in the hustle and bustle.

Gone are the romantic camping trips .

image courtesy of

Gone are sleep ins and slow brunches

Gone are the long dinners and discussions of what the future will look like, because it's here right now - you are in it.

Now that our two are almost teenagers we realised that in the not too distant future we will be retired and will need to spend large volumes of time alone together so we had better get back to basics.
It's so easy to get caught up on the hustle and bustle of being parents that you easily forget about your partner and more often that not yourself. So here is what we are going to do.

Set aside time to be a couple and remind ourselves why we got married and had kids in the first place. (Because lets face it my original idea of raising the kids to be our little slaves has NOT worked out at all.)

We have decided to keep it keep it simple, a little like the army reserve - one night a month and one weekend a quarter.

As a side note date night the first time we tried this our date was over in 30 minutes because we did all the things we would do with the kids :
1) Pick a restaurant that serves entrees, main and desert all at once.
2) Pick a noisy place with service so fast, the food must have been flash fried

So as we walked home we planned the next date a little more carefully.

image courtesy of

Anyway we figure getting away once a quarter or so should be fine as getting the kids baby sat and planning a night away somewhere can resemble a military campaign.  But I can happily report that after the first effort, I am indeed looking forward to the next one. Even though a) I played Golf and b) It was played in the pouring rain and gale force wind.

So utilising all my knowledge gained from my online amateur psychology degree (that's still in the mail) - I issue the following instructions :

1) Stand up, walk away from the computer.
2) Push any small children / distractions away from your partner (they'll be fine)
3) Give your partner a hug

Repeat as often as required.

Now , I'd better stop messing around here on the Internet and prepare some conversation cards for the next date, I can't afford to run out of stuff to say........