The holidays as ever have flown past. We spent five lovely days in Canberra with my mother and step father and a night on the road in each direction, once with family and once at a motel. I’ve logged a bunch of our experiences over at Trip Advisor. We had some particularly special meals out, saw more than a few museums and galleries and visited all the best playgrounds in town.
After months of talking and circling around ideas, trying to decide where and how we want to live. Including keeping voting tally sheets with pros and cons for each destination on the kitchen cabinets. We have decided that we will stay in Australia. The where in Australia bit remains nebulous, but we are effectively ruling out living in Scotland, Europe or Asia for now. I am still coming to terms with the next bit but it is likely that we will need to stay in Cobar for the duration of 2018 to build capital. Our key criteria in looking for a place to buy and build are quality school for the boys, proximity to family, proximity to a capital, affordability, proximity to wilderness, mountains, sea as well as climate stability, vulnerability and habitability. Nowhere meets all needs.
I’ve started a list of every good or interesting state or alternative school in Australia. As expected apart from a few really exceptional state schools I hadn’t encountered before, it is a pretty short list at the moment. I’m hopeful of being able to add more before we begin narrowing it down.
I’ve resolved to devote more effort to developing my creative abilities to combat the latent ennui of life out here. Finishing things is critical to progress for me and today I finally put finishing touches on two projects that have been lingering on my drive for years and months respectively. Both are being used for T-shirt design competitions the first is here on Threadless.
The second will go up on Woot! for a relevant competition opening there early tomorrow morning. Link to follow. Edit: It seems the relevant WOOT comp wont open until Thursday.
Votes are greatly appreciated on both. As with many such sites the winning entries get about $1k US, some store credit and a portion of all sales for the life of the design on the site.
Tomorrow is the first day of term 2 for me, though my student wont be back until Wednesday. As Tuesday is ANZAC day Monday is student free and hopefully productive.
Yesterday we spent the morning feeling disillusioned about the fate of humanity in Sunshine Plaza shopping center Maroochydore. Politics and global ecology can wait though, because then we went and saw ‘Moana‘. Marking F’s first cinema experience and L’s second. Moana is a good Disney, one of a number lately. Well balanced, without romance or princes, a good strong female lead and an entertaining though very stupid male sidekick oh and a pretty funny demigod. Some touching moments, treatment of Hawaiian culture felt respectful, a good hero’s journey all round. Other adults in the party went to ‘Rogue One‘ and ‘Fantastic Beasts‘. We followed up with a dip in the ocean/estuary at Cottontree and a barbecue before the long drive back to Crystal Waters.
N and I stayed up for midnight local by watching the altogether rather fun ‘Edge of Tomorrow‘ I almost forgot I was watching Cruise for a minute or two in the middle of the groundhog day war.
Today we took a dip in pebble pond and hid from the heat as best as possible. Tomorrow we head back to the city for a few nights before returning home to western NSW.
HighLife – Full disclosure my oldest friend is guitarist in this band. Fortunately I can honestly say they raised the roof with some tight as afro groove.
Jimmy Davis – Didn’t get the attention his singing deserved from me as I was too busy socialising.
Half Moon Run – Heard the buzz about town that this was the group to see. We were not disappointed they’ve a great big sound that will fill stadiums in the not too distant future.
Dave Callan – Who is a very funny man gave a dance performance like no other. Clearly a lot of work had gone into the choreography but the image of this man in a leotard twerking will not soon leave me.
Blue King Brown – Have always been good and watching them mature on the stages of Woodfordia has been a pleasure.
We finished the evening with the East End Cabaret – Who are a hilarious, sexy and very very rude pair of performers. In this show they were complimented by an AusLan sign language translator who nearly stole the show.
All of this complimented by tasty treats and plenty of delightful, peculiar and engaging street performers, puppeters and cosplaying ‘Game’ players. The game deserves more discussion, perhaps tomorrow.
We’ve forgotten surprisingly little in our packing and nothing we cannot do without. We are however without Christmas cards.
We waited for the postman to depart this morning and I was glad we did as my EFF Sticker pack arrived just in time along with some mail spam from a Charity which has now outspent my one time purchase/donation soliciting more money from me in glossy printing. Unfortunately despite paying a princely sum for good quality printing and ordering almost three weeks ago, our cards did not arrive in time. Oddly the component of the order you would think would take longer, a personalised mug, has come. Compounding the irritation our card design includes the year and will thus not be useful next year.
Part of my daily teaching routine is checking the ‘On This Day‘ Wikipedia page. It is always the day of something, though I’ve never noticed this one before. Monkeys are cool, apes are even better. Cut out Palm Oil!
Image from my collection, origin unknown, even Tinyeye is of no help.
Tomorrow we depart on our festivus adventure.
Today we have created a web of irrigation poly that will allow our nominated waterer to set three timers every other day and thereby keep our garden alive in our absence.
Our rough itinerary includes;
A night in Orange, a few days in Sydney, a night on the road north, a few days in Brisbane and a week in Maleny before making the return trip to Cobar.
I need to get packing and I’m hoping to put the sewing machine to work before bed.
But I knew that. I read the principal John Marsden’s books as a teenager and young adult and have I have been reading articles and following their development as a school since before I became a teacher. Candlebark and Brightworks are two of the most interesting experiments in education I know of and only Candlebark is accessible to us.
Hanging Rock is quite close to the school
One of my overarching impressions is of trust. This school trusts its students. They do not expect them to always do the right thing, or recognise all risks or behave with ‘adult’ maturity.
But they do trust them.
They trust them to move around the school independently, they trust them to feed themselves at the communal meals, they trust them to clean up after themselves.
I can’t stress enough that trusting students is a really radical idea in modern Australian education. I spend an inordinate amount of time, particularly as a relief teacher, setting expectations for and making students, often by repetition, walk in quiet neat lines for movement about the school. It is completely pointless, an activity that they will never repeat outside of the military in adulthood. It serves no useful purpose whatsoever. Children after all really only have two speeds; run or sleep, this school indulges that. Teachers say; meet me at such and such a place in five minutes and they leave the how up to the children, many of whom have bikes and scooters on campus for just such purpose.
They trust students to finish tasks and they expect them to do so. They do not set weekly busywork homework but they do expect incomplete work to be done in a student’s own time and returned. Students do take on tasks and projects that will only reach completion in the students own time.
They trust students to play safely within a large area of wilderness and to take first aid kits and walkie talkies if they are going out of what I gather are mostly visual limits. Pre-prep spend half days in the bush with sandwiches playing and learning how to move safely in that environment.
I asked a lot of questions but not enough and for my inattentiveness, N didn’t get to ask enough of her own at all. They had good answers for most. I didn’t ask enough questions about how a typical school day ran for students. How it is they incorporate National and Victorian curriculums into their format. I saw within different classrooms evidence of work on homophones, multi modal science units, the only pleasant sounding recorder lesson I have ever heard and a great variety of visual art. I saw students using blades and hot glue, riding bikes, playing chess and reading.
I saw not one single piece of Crafp.
The Crafp Cycle (Illustration due an update to comply with my ‘No stick figures’ class rules)
They have a Stephanie Alexander model school garden and they are actively using it. They have chooks and a pig, horses and a school dog. Students are able to spend time with the animals and be involved in their care. Food is prepared by cooks and the whole school eats together informally but off china with utensils. Food as with all excursions, camps and materials are included in the moderate but far from extreme fees. Only the instrumental music program costs extra.
They actively teach and have lessons devoted to chess, performance, public speaking, self reliance, bush craft, animal husbandry and problem solving. They do week long single topic focus study. They have an exciting curiosity driven pedagogy.
They only have one computer lab and students are only allowed in it accompanied by an adult. The justification here being that they believe “Students spend enough time device focused at home”. The limits of trust found here with screen time are interesting. Although each room has a projector and teachers use them widely, students are not permitted devices at school except on buses, where music is allowed. I am sure some people will think this is all very well and it is clearly working for the school. I think that there is perhaps a kernel of neo-ludditism to the protocol. But the children and screen time debate is a rant for another evening altogether.
It appeared visibly less multicultural than even the local public school here in Cobar. Unfortunately I think that this is a common feature of alternative education in Australia. I am not going to speculate on the why, only say that it is disappointing. The cultural melting pot of an inner city school doesn’t work everywhere but it does have real value in breaking down cultural barriers and stereotypes.
Candlebark is much better suited than most schools to prepare children for the challenges of the coming decades.
In particular this school better than any other I have so far been to is set up to give students the skills to survive mass automation and runaway climate change. Unfortunately it is also poorly geographically situated. Bush fires are an ever present risk and climate change will only exacerbate this.
The school takes fire safety very seriously. They have a fire bunker building (The library) capable of sheltering for the whole school, but they plan on never needing it. The school has its own buses and will evacuate well in advance of a fire front if it ever came to that. Also as red alert days are usually announced at least a day in advance they simply close the school on such days. At the moment they typically lose three to six days of school this way each year. That number is destined to rise. The Macedon ranges are pretty but very, very vulnerable to fire and the school and the new high school they have purchased are both in fairly thickly forested areas.
I would love to work there, it is clear that teaching is valued and rewarding and fun in that school. I would be happy to send my children there and we will be lodging an application pack even though we are not yet sure that we actually want to live close enough to do so. It isn’t perfect but it is a bloody good school and we can’t rule it out.
We had planned to drive direct from our Candlebark interview home to Cobar, but as we didn’t get on the road until three thirty the eight and a half hour drive had to be broken up for safety. We spent the night in a dive motel in Griffith after nine. Ate Mc dissapointment for breakfast and were home for lunch yesterday. All with a touch of sun and a feeling of serotonin debt that hasn’t quite passed yet. F has gotten sick and I’m fighting a sore throat. I got to see the local dance troupes annual performance on relief with year ones today. Which was… lets say an experience. Learning to use the public school’s 3D printer tomorrow.
We left at half six and arrived in Riddles Creek just after 5 this afternoon. I am not looking forward to the return trip when we will not be able to depart until after our appointment with the school at midday.
Planning on exploring tthe local area over the next two days, perhaps some bush walking, perhaps a trip to Ikea, maybe even check out some land.
Crashed early yesterday after a day with a different year one class and mayhap I will tonight as well. Today was a massive inter-school sports day hosted by one of the local mines as community outreach. I had the pleasure of shepherding a kindergarten class through the experience.
Despite best efforts I have a touch of sun and will retire early again. Very keen to get into the garden tomorrow and hopefully get some art made as well.
My new phone arrived yesterday, what a joy functioning, fast tech can be. A chunk of my tax providing a sorely needed upgrade over the iPhone4 that has been limping along in my pocket since Christmas. N is also getting an upgrade over her GS3 to a GS7.
I’ll just keep sharing little things as they occur to me. One at a time is probably for the best though.
L chasing bubbles in the back streets of Barcelona.
I’m painting tonight, roughing out some visualised drafts for evolution cards and maybe tinkering away a bit on a T-shirt image.
I have been torturing myself in dissatisfaction with some cards, in particular the castle card for months now. I have finally resolved to just get on with the evolution cards and leave the terrain cards alone for a little while. I figure provided I can start finishing things again, it will get easier as it goes.
I had another wild and wonderful day with year ones today and I have another lined up at the other school tomorrow. It is an exhausting business and all I want to do is paint and garden.
This sat unpublished in draft a long time. In the end I did get a good bit of painting in but I spent most of the evening having a good chat with an old friend which was well and truly worthwhile.
One of the striking experiences from my first trip to Amsterdam. The Bodyworlds exhibition by Gunther Von Hagens is incredible and confronting. Above the head of a human man plastinated and sliced neatly in half, below the brain, ganglia and primary nerve branches of another human man.
Another memorable event for which we booked our first ever Airbnb (Affiliate link) the opening one off performance of the Edinburgh International Festival. Deep Time was projected onto Edinburgh castle and the cliffs below with musical accompaniment by Mogwai. Mesmerising and almost vertigo inducing the projections were superb.
It was really very special and our apartment on the royal mile set the standard for all the excellent Airbnb accommodations throughout the rest of the trip. In fact every apartment we booked that way was wonderful in one way or another. By contrast Booking.com, our other goto accommodation site was often extremely disappointing.