The ABC of Child Whispering: R is for REPORTS and how to interpret them

Your child’s report is not meant to be a judgement of their potential or even of their complete attainment so far this year.

It is simply a snapshot of observable progress at school.

Many children will happily receive reports that make you smile.

You will probably arrange a special treat for them to their favourite take-a-way and certainly praise them.


Spare a thought for the children with poor reports.

I work with some children who are terrified of these reports and also dread NAPLAN results.

For these children the disappointing results are yet another nail in the coffin of disappearing self-esteem.

It doesn’t have to be like this.

Parents can take these steps to turn these situations into a positive experience.

Calmly tell your child that when you receive their reports you will read them, discuss with them and make a plan to help them do better.

When you receive the report, read it through a few times to get the full gist.

Remember that teachers are human, over-worked, underpaid, underappreciated and also dislike reports- probably more than your children! They try to be fair but may miss some areas where improvement has already begun. Reports often do not reflect recent grades and levels of motivation.

Read each subject results and comments and read between the lines.



If you don’t read the guide you will likely misinterpret it. The letters and numbers have different values to those you expect from your own school days.

If you can see there is definitely a problem in some area, make an appointment to see the teacher and ask what you can do to help.

Then make a plan and encourage your child to be a real part of this plan.

Ask them what they think will help them improve. I am so often surprised that this step is skipped when learning plans are made for children. They often have quite an understanding of what they really need.

Write the plan down and allow your child to decorate it and display it.

Make sure you specify WHEN and HOW this plan will be carried out and make sure your child has an attractive work area with all tools such as pencils, dictionary, paper etc handy.

All children can improve educational outcomes.

They need the 3 Hs- HOPE  HELP  HOW to enable this to happen.

Any parents who would like free advice on how to help children with poor reports may contact us at


The ABC of Child Whispering: Q is for Quest







A quest serves as a plot device in mythology and fiction: a difficult journey towards a goal, often symbolic or allegorical. Tales of quests figure occur prominently in the folklore of every nation and ethnic culture. … The moral of a quest tale often centers on the changed character of the hero. Quest – Wikipedia

We are all would be heroes on our personal quests.

Some of us are brave, many are shy and there are many of who are scared stiff by our own quests!

This is why quest literature is so loved, in all its many forms! It allows us to enter into various fantastic scenarios and try them on for size. They give us the opportunity to observe the main characters as they battle all the elements that try to stop us on our questing journeys. We are all budding super-heroes!

JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings and more recently the violent but brilliant Game of Thrones are examples of how engaged we become with fantasy and quest literature.

Joseph Campbell identified stages of the The Hero’s Journey and these can be clearly seen in many of the fairytales and popular fantasy novels we read.


The stages are:
  1. THE ORDINARY WORLD.  The hero, uneasy, uncomfortable or unaware, is introduced sympathetically so the audience can identify with the situation or dilemma.  The hero is shown against a background of environment, heredity, and personal history.  Some kind of polarity in the hero’s life is pulling in different directions and causing stress.
  2. THE CALL TO ADVENTURE.  Something shakes up the situation, either from external pressures or from something rising up from deep within, so the hero must face the beginnings of change.
  3. REFUSAL OF THE CALL.  The hero feels the fear of the unknown and tries to turn away from the adventure, however briefly.  Alternately, another character may express the uncertainty and danger ahead.
  4. MEETING WITH THE MENTOR.  The hero comes across a seasoned traveler of the worlds who gives him or her training, equipment, or advice that will help on the journey.  Or the hero reaches within to a source of courage and wisdom.
  5. CROSSING THE THRESHOLD.  At the end of Act One, the hero commits to leaving the Ordinary World and entering a new region or condition with unfamiliar rules and values.
  6. TESTS, ALLIES AND ENEMIES.  The hero is tested and sorts out allegiances in the Special World.
  7. APPROACH.  The hero and newfound allies prepare for the major challenge in the Special world.
  8. THE ORDEAL.  Near the middle of the story, the hero enters a central space in the Special World and confronts death or faces his or her greatest fear.  Out of the moment of death comes a new life.
  9. THE REWARD.  The hero takes possession of the treasure won by facing death.  There may be celebration, but there is also danger of losing the treasure again.
  10.   THE ROAD BACK.  About three-fourths of the way through the story, the hero is driven to complete the adventure, leaving the Special World to be sure the treasure is brought home.  Often a chase scene signals the urgency and danger of the mission.
  11.  THE RESURRECTION.  At the climax, the hero is severely tested once more on the threshold of home.  He or she is purified by a last sacrifice, another moment of death and rebirth, but on a higher and more complete level.  By the hero’s action, the polarities that were in conflict at the beginning are finally resolved.
  12.  RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR.  The hero returns home or continues the journey, bearing some element of the treasure that has the power to transform the world as the hero has been transformed.

Children are fascinated with quest literature in all its forms and just like us with our quest literature, children need to be uplifted, inspired and encouraged.

These vicarious experiences really help children at a deep level to understand themselves and begin to glimpse a sense of their future journey.

In the past it was Robin Hood, Famous Five Adventures, Robinson Crusoe and so on. Kids still love these adventure/quest stories.

More recently Alan Garner’s wonderful books The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, The Moon of Gomrath and Elidor have become classics in this genre.

Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea trilogy is a classic addition and there are many, many contemporary authors writing in this area. Harry Potter and the Percy Jackson series are great examples here!

Kids need their heroes

There are some wonderful books out there just waiting for young questers to find them.

Here is a great starter list.

If your children cannot read them yet, read TO them! Older kids love audio versions of these books and they also benefit from the closeness and bonding of a loved person reading out loud!

Many of these books make great reading for adults as well. Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea books offer huge adventures of the mind for any brave, still questing adults!

Enjoy questing with your kids!




The ABC of Child Whispering: Q is for QUESTIONS

We are all curious about our world, about possibilities, what ifs?

What if I did that?

What if I am wrong?

What if she does that?

Most of us imagine multiple possible scenarios dozens of times each day.

Forming questions leads us to problem solving and ultimately we decide which questions to follow, form a hunch, hypothethise and try to order our inquiry.

This questioning attitude is an essential part of kids’ minds. Unfortunately, we dull their minds by not encouraging their questions.

We learned about question marks last week and I was astounded!

 WHY IS GOD THERE? asks a 7 year old.

 WHY DO YOUNG KIDS SOMETIMES DIE? asks a 9 year old.

 WHY ARE TEACHERS SO STRICT? asks a feisty 6 year old youngster.

 WHY DO WE HAVE TO LIVE FOREVER? asks a six year old who attends a Catholic school and on and on to totally mind blowing and obscure questions about the Mosasaurs.

My brain hurts but I know it is my job to awaken their curiosity not dampen it.

The link provided here is an excellent blog post on improving our ability to teach kids about questions. Both teachers and parents can benefit from a careful reading!




A positive spin on FIDGET SPINNERS!

Yesterday I was given my very own fidget spinner and I am SO enjoying it!

So far I have “spun” before breakfast, through breakfast and while organising tasks, generating ideas for a creative writing program and now while writing this and it’s only 10:30am.

I love it. It seems to help me focus and feel less stressed.

Researchers are running around telling us how wrong they are for children, how right they are etc.

It’s not a big deal!

Crazes have always been with us. Marbles, dinky toys, slinkies, hula hoops, conkers, clackers, knuckle bones trolls slime  football cards, Rubik’s cubes, Transformers , slap bracelets, Tamagotchis,  Pokemon , Yo-Yos …………………….
Wise teachers know what to do- “Your spinners live in here!”  as they produce a special FIDGETS HERE basket!

Then we get on with it- just like our teachers did and their teachers before that.

Maybe or maybe not it is good for ADHD or Autistic kids. Who knows? The next craze will be here soon so we can all obsess about that while the kids just get on with the job of being a kid and having fun and avoiding homework.

We could actually learn a thing or two from the kids.

If you can’t beat them- join em!

During the next fortnight we will be studying the science of fidget spinners and making them- check our Pinterest page for ideas!

We will use them to revise seconds, circles, revolutions, moon around the Earth etc

Anyway- back to my little idea generator- my spinner!

We DO have a choice

We are  acting like lemmings when it comes to our obsession with social media. We are ignoring our kids!

I am truly frightened about the poor oral vocabularies and poor language patterns of many of the children we see. Simply put- we are not talking to our kids enough and they are suffering!

We have choices and we need to really think about this. Teachers cannot possibly compensate for the way kids are being ignored, unnoticed and made to feel invisible.

I believe every child born is a gift from God and they deserve to be nurtured and cared for- not treated as if they were an annoying interruption to games, texting or face book.

Yes, I do know many of you don’t do this but many do and it’s just not fair to kids.

We are all texting madly and ignoring people we are with and when we ARE with the people we were texting, we text others. What is stopping us from BEING WITH each other?

It has gone beyond a joke and now kids are really suffering. Wake up. Your kids are lonely and they need you to be 100% present.

Many kids are completely addicted to social  media themselves- it is MUCH harder for kids to control this but we CAN!

Watch this and make up your own mind- we CAN turn this around and be there for each other- REALLY.

Watch this video and wake-up!


Dusting off a maths jewel: CUISENAIRE

                                                                    Caleb Gattegno invented Cuisenaire rods and they became incredibly popular during the 50s and 60s.

His rods and teaching method truly changed the landscape forever in terms of teacher expectations of children’s maths understanding.

I was fortunate enough to have them introduced to me at an early stage of my career and to have been placed in a school where they were still widely used.
As a rather scared beginning teacher I followed the provided guide book to the letter and used them on a daily basis.
I quickly learned to revise my expectations of what my grade one students could do.
We went WAY beyond the curriculum requirements and my class easily added, subtracted, multiplied and used the division process.
They even learned fractions easily and naturally and set out to use rods to solve simple word problems.

They also used their rods to build structures and make pictures. Children loved them and they all had a set in their desks!

Each colour corresponded to a number and this aided fast retention.

Check out this addition lesson for an example of teaching addition to very young children.

Sadly, the rods gradually went out of fashion and some experts commented that,

“Forever children will see YELLOW and think 5!”

Obviously they had not used Cuisenaire and certainly had not worked with kids! Kids are FAR smarter than that!

Some wise teachers continued using Cuisenaire to an extent and I am pleased to see them becoming popular again!

I now realise they can be used with older kids as well.
Teachers can demonstrate fractions, decimals, percentages with them, teach concepts of money, odd, even, factors and prime numbers and much more!
If they become widely adopted they will again show teachers how easy it is to teach kids to think mathematically and to develop fast recall and mastery of all major concepts.

Kids are much smarter than we think!

Of course they are but one resource in an ever-widening plethora of methods but it is one we can depend on to deliver results!

We have made them an integral part of our MAKING MATHS MEANINGFUL program and I hope to see them used again in all pre-schools and primary schools.

Children love these colourful manipulatives and as teachers and parents we all know what that means-

engaged kids+ great program= RESULTS!



The ABC of Child Whispering: Q is for QUICK

“Hurry. Get that done!”

“Quickly -don’t waste time!”

“Get a move on!”

“Just get it done!”

“No time for that. Move on!”

“Now! I said NOW!”

How often do we say similar words?

No wonder kids are spinning with no ability to stop, focus and slow down enough to try their hardest.

Why the need for this crazy pace?

Does speed add to the quality of life?

I doubt it!

We jerk our kids like puppets on strings and give them no time to play, reflect, think or daydream and them we act surprised when they show symptoms of ADHD! Then of course we often drug them.

Martin Whitely wrote an excellent book about this:

I watch the new children at my centre work at a very fast pace and throw down their pencils, “Finished Vicky! What do I do next?”

I don’t have to tell them.

The regulars look up and answer patiently, “You daydream. It makes you smarter.” (This comes from a famous story from Einstein.)

We actually have to demonstrate HOW to daydream. Can you believe that? These kids have lost that ability!

Some years ago I told an EQ4KIDZ group of children in Singapore that they had all passed the course and could finish their workbooks at home in their spare time.

One child looked at me in a puzzled manner and asked, “What’s spare time?” He speaks English all the time and understands “spare” and “time” but has never seen or imagined how these concepts could be joined together!

It is NOT OK at keep treating our children in this way. Their lives do not need to be stuffed full of endless activities. They need more of the verb “To be.”

Let’s all put some empty spaces in our schedules this week- for ourselves and for our children.

Our minds, bodies and spirits will thank us.

Check out the link below for more ideas.

What NAPLAN won’t measure


I have a lot of anxious kids at our centre this week.

One young lady told me she had not been to sleep properly for three nights because she was so worried about NAPLAN. We do our best to reassure kids that this is just a snap shot to help schools provide the best possible education but kids know the truth!

They know the letter will arrive.

They know they will be judged.

I watched the children intently yesterday as they chatted, grappled with maths problems and composed sentences and paragraphs. I listened to these children as they read their written maths aloud to help them comprehend the needed processes.

I watched a young man write a cohesive essay about the Stolen Generation and a year one child concentrate valiantly as she tried to get her letters to “bump up” against each other!

I was in awe as students compared a written text versus a filmed version of a fable. They were easily able to do this- even though there were quite young children in our class.

Our students continually inspire me. Sure- some of them have spelling and reading issues and quite a few seem to have an aversion to maths BUT there are so many elements involved in education and the important ones simply cannot be captured by NAPLAN.


Kindness: the children showed great patience as a student attempted over and over to interrupt the teaching to avoid the inevitable writing that would follow! They certainly showed a much greater degree of patience than I did!

Creativity: One young student thought a writing task I had set was a little boring so his answer was all in rhyme- all six sentences!

Confidence: after telling a child that the way she had spelled a word was not the usual way, she looked at me in a kindly way, “Vicky this is the way I spell it!”

Persistence: One of our students came to us totally illiterate and yet yesterday could write 1.5 pages about herself and possible career paths within 5 minutes!

The children’s intelligence, persistence, creativity, resilience and confidence and kindness will never be measured in national testing and yet surely these are the most important qualities of all?





Whether or not you agree with NAPLAN- it is arriving next week!

These tests are given to provide a snapshot of a student’s academic skills and the results help schools determine the effectiveness of their programs and the specific needs of their students.

Some children enjoy tests and many do not.

We have found many of our students are over-concerned and we know that stressed students are more likely to fail. This is the reason teachers and parents need to stay calm and help kids to de-stress.

Simply tell your child you know they will do their best and if they have problems you will help them and so will their school.

Don’t try to second-guess what might be in the test. It is far too late for that!

Now is the time for calm and focused thinking. Your children need good sleeps, minimum screen time and plenty of exercise.

Above all they need your calm attitude and a little fun! Laughter is excellent to lower stress levels and help children to stop worrying. No amount of worrying will help children to get better scores.

On the day of NAPLAN make sure your children eat a nutritious breakfast, get to school on-time and have a healthy packed snack and lunch.

They will probably want to chat to you about the tests after school but if not, just leave it be! They need a little down time to process and it is far better to simply continue with usual daily routines.

When you get the results, please do not stress if they are not what you expected. If your child gets nervous during tests they may make many mistakes and not really show what they can do.

Stay calm and congratulate them on pleasing results and tell children you will make sure they get all the help they need if the results are not good.

Remember-NAPLAN is just one measure of progress. Their teachers are also keeping dated samples of work, test results from class tests and observational records to make up a far more comprehensive picture.

Above all, help children to celebrate all their successes as well as difficulties and to let children know that their mistakes are simply signposts to success!




There are emerging concerns about children’s high stress levels during NAPLAN testing but the hidden, huge concern is massively increased teacher stress load and this is being largely ignored. Teachers are deliberately staying quiet and not commenting in the media for fear of their jobs.

We conduct a great deal of professional development around Australia with thousands of teachers and I can assure readers they ARE experiencing severe stress. Their time is taken up with administering and marking many practice tests – especially in term one where they get kids ready for this testing. Traditionally this was the term to thaw out Aussie kids’ brains from the long, hot summer baking and help them become receptive to the knowledge they will receive in the new school year.

Naplan years are now practising test papers instead and even “off year Naplan testing” is happening as enterprising companies have devised test papers for children in other grades.

Of course this is educational insanity and takes time away from good teaching. We are likely to drive our education standards down further as we know that quality teaching is the one factor that can make a difference.

Teachers simply cannot do their jobs as so much time is taken up with test preparation.
Any education system that uses testing as a major aid to check on levels of attainment is putting out a clear message- we don’t trust our teachers!
If the Government really does not trust teachers to be able to help children reach their potential we need to address this. Why this lack of trust? Does this lack of trust existing in other professions?
We need to honour our teachers, nurture them, show trust and provide the tools they need. A huge number of our attending teachers pay their own fees for our courses and report they have to buy their own JOLLY PHONICS and JOLLY GRAMMAR handbooks. Their salaries are not high- less than most professions and that sends a clear message- you are not worth it!
We can carry on down this destructive and negative pathway and increase teacher and student stress or we can look at truly successful educational models such as the one in Finland and start to trust our teachers, provide higher quality training for them and stop the massive waste of energy, time and money related to NAPLAN testing.