Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2012

GymbaROO article

GymbaROO.  Founded in 1983 in Melbourne by Margaret Sasse (1929-2009) to “help the children of the world maximize their learning potential”, Margaret drew no salary of directors fees for the entirety of that time, and in fact sold the family farm to keep it her mission afloat.
Over 30,000 children and their parents attend a Gymbaroo/KindyROO session somewhere in Australia every week. These numbers continue to increase every year due to word of mouth.

I’m back in my study although I have three shelves piled with paper and an overfull filing cabinet to sort before I can start my PhD again. I have just written and thrown aside papers finished with this term in my quest to complete.
As next year (2013) is GymbaROO’s 30 year anniversary, and the February edition of First Steps magazine focuses on achievements and glories.  As an ex GymbaROO teacher,  parent and now GymbaROO Granny,  I offered to write an article about past GymbaROO students “Where are they now?” I thought it was a great idea …

New Year Resolution and 40000 words left

What a joy! The 'almost' twins dressed like their Pop - more interested in the Christmas paper than the toys inside. Next year they will be running around. Moving back into my study after it has been painted and sorting the folders for the next week, culling school work and filing new finds. Just last week I found another literary competition (Under 21 Essay) Ernst had won while at Teachers Training College. No wonder I need more bookshelves. I have one day a week study leave this year (using my Long Service Leave) from March so my New Year's Resolution is to finish the first draft by Christmas 2013.

Counting on Frank...

is the Librarian's favourite book and I am having fun with numbers. If I need to write 320 paragraphs to complete my thesis then I have written approximately 120 since February this year in four chapters and 2 part chapters. This weekend I have written the princely total of 16 which is a good weekend's work. By Christmas my aim is the halfway mark (160) and by then I should have my study back.
After it was home to two daughters in quick succession, I am now happy to relinquish my indoor study to the grandsons and the train set and go back to the Bungalow (aka 'Butterfly House' due to my propensity for having the heater on high) refurbished and repainted with desk, sofa bed and quiet.

Celebrating Mooroolbark

Lovely to have a small commission (unpaid) to sidetrack the PhD: Celebrating Mooroolbark. Normally I submit to magazines and journals and hope they accept my work but this is the first time I have taken time out from research for some time to undertaken work that has been commissioned. Asked to write a section of this book using newspaper articles diligently collected and collated by the Mooroolbark Historical Society to a tight deadline was a challenge! Submitted by October 1st. Book Launch 25th & 26th October - definitely cutting it fine! Of course, I lived in Mooroolbark, taught at Red Earth Cluster Schools and attended a number of Red Earth Festivals with the girls so it wasn't as if I was writing about an unfamiliar topic. A pleasure to write, as some-one else had done the 'backbreaking' research in the archives and presented me with two large folders. A first book for MHS and I am sure not the last!

How to complete a PhD, work full-time and still have a family life...

Well.. after my last despondent post every-one may feel correct in assuming I wasn't managing any of the above. But PhD writer's block doesn't equate with time management issues. When I my PhD began my good friend R2 (that makes me R1 as in Scrabble) suggested 20 hours a week was the requirement for part-time PhD so that's what I do. I kept a log for a while to make sure I was on track but as with all similar procrastination activities the excel spreadsheet sits dormant on the desktop.
Here's my grand plan. Not particularly innovative.  Small chunks. Bit by bit. Nibble away. Concentrated effort at times of low work pressure; full-time for 50% of holidays and whatever-whenever for the rest. At least 5-6 hours on the weekend if full-time work is full-on. Bite size bits....research via TROVE, reading an article, writing a paragraph, interviewing by phone... can all be done in chunks. A hour here. An hour there. Chunk by chunk it is coming together. 30000 words and 6 fo…

A third of the way through a PhD and sort-of-stuck

I happily completed a chapter last month with a Cheshire Cat smugness, an article about toddler technology and a section of the Celebrate Mooroolbark! book making the October 1st deadline.  Sidetracked from the PhD, I have done other things with less success. My first turn at pushing WRM's pram did not engender confidence in my GM capabilities as I ran over the one large spikey thing that could puncture a tyre in the whole of Carlton.  A km from home, a flat tyre and a ready-for-a-feed-two-week old: pramming on 2 wheels is an experience I have no desire to re-try. Others were unhappy too!
Update: I have spent about 16 hours over the past 4 days writing refining the introductory first paragraph to my next chapter - yes... just the first paragraph of 5 - 6,000 words and have 188 words that I am happy with. A snail's pace. I feel like crying too, Wills!

'Think and wonder, wonder and think.' Dr. Seuss

My grandchildren have been born into a highly technical world, growing up as the first of the ‘Touch’ Generation. As toddlers they will never know a world without digital cameras, computers, DVDs, iPads and Smartphones or Skype. Discussion often centres on the impact of new technologies on teenagers but toddlers also have access to a wide range of multiple media. I note, with wonder and concern, that the pre-schooler in the café using mum’s Smartphone is becoming a distinctly savvy consumer.  Long-term research on the effects of the use of digital devices and how they may shape the developing brains of small children is inconclusive. Despite any concerns parents might have, technology is not only here to stay but is progressing at an alarming rate.  My favourite Australian companies creating aps for children include: Giggle Kids for littlies and Blue Quoll for my older nieces and nephews who love the language feature that reads the tales in another language. And ... my favorite Christ…

Another PhD distraction

With 30% of first draft writing completed time for another small distraction in the form of Grandson Number 2: William Ross who is I day old, cousin to Xavier who is now 3 months and 1 day old.

Fairy tales told in the bush

Looking at inscriptions I became fascinated with trying to find out more about Sister Agnes and whether she may have known Ernst.  Spending a day trying to track down information about her I found 4 small articles, three in the recently digitised Healesville and Yarra Glen Guardian. Fairy Tales told in the Bush was published in1911.What is interesting is that she writes under her ordained name of Sister Agnes. Sister Agnes was the Superintendent of the Diocesan Mission to the Streets and Lanes of Melbourne, and also Superintendent of St. Mark's Mothers' Union, Fitzroy.  "Fairy Tales told in the Bush," was pronounced as the 'ideal gift book for children' and was 'well illustrated' . Interestingly, it was published in London, and the proceeds of the sale went to Sister Agnes' city mission work. In a very 'Melbourne' touch her book is a Friday Night Special at Myers - discounted from 2 shillings to 1 and 6 pence (Display Advertising. 1918, Se…

Nestled in the mountains, principally for work.

The opportunity to be Acting Principal for two weeks at a small school with picturesque views of the ranges including Mount Donna Buang and Little Joe, both featured in Songs from the Dandenongs has been a delightful experience. The view from my office has been of  mountains bathed in sunlight or hidden by cloud. Different moods. Captivating. 

Placing 'Australia' in fairy tales

At Brighton Historical Society (Bayside Art of Words Literary Festival)  today I began my talk about Olga Waller (Ernst) who was a resident of Brighton, with a brief exploration of early Australian fairytales. A small group of Australian writers realised the importance of setting narrative firmly in distinctly recognisable localities for Australian children. Ethel Turner and Mary Grant Bruce, contemporaries of Ernst, chose a different genre. Of the total children’s books published between 1870 and Ernst's Fairytales of the Land of the Wattle only about a dozen were fairy tales. 
The fairies in Rosalie's Reward live in the rundown flower garden of a cottage near the Ballaraat goldfields and when the 'fairy godmother' appears it is in the form of an old (and rich) miner. J.R.Lockeyeare’s  Mr. Bunyip is a kind hearted chap giving some social and historical pointers to an eager Mary Somerville who has strayed from the path in a ‘Red Riding Hood like’ ramble. Charles Marson …

Conference for: Connections, Confidence, Camaraderie

Of all the conferences that we have presented our Girlfriends! Program at,The National Centre Against Bullying's 2012 Conference 'Social Media, Bullying and Vulnerability: Connect. Respect. Protect’
 (an initiative of The Alannah and Madeline Foundation) has been the best ‘fit’ for us.
Chris, Phillippa and I developed the Girlfriends!program after looking for a program to address challenging relationship issues of girls in our own Yarra Valley schools by connecting them with local community mentors and services. It was only after a dozen successful programs in a variety of schools that the concept of a website with free materials and, later a manual was born, over numerous coffees at the Blue Turtle. We wanted the Girlfriends!program manual to be practical, easy to use for teachers, versatile in diverse communities and student-negotiated. For the conference we used the forum: Create your own avatar with discussion focusing on whether its personality would be similar or differen…

A small PhD distraction or some-one to read fairytales

Emigration of fairies to Australia

I am intrigued that a reviewer suggests that Australia was a better environment for European fairies and that they had migrated for a better life. 
‘It may be mentioned that it has transpired that the fairies were so much disturbed, during the last 50 years, by iron railways and ploughing in the Old Country that they left it for Australia, and it is told in the most interesting and simple language how much good they did in this country’ (Australian Fairy Tales, Australian Town and Country Journal 1879:16).
Recognition of the merit of Australian fairytales by the Australian public  was certainly indicated by the presentation to the Duke and Duchess of York and Cornwall, on a tour of Australia in 1901, of a casket containing twelve Australian books for their children. Five of the twelve books were fairytales or fantasy: Fairy Stories, by Charles L. Marson; Australian Fairy Tales, by Atha Westbury; Spirit of the 'Bush Fire, by J. M. Whitfield; Australian Wonderland, by A.A.B. and Helma…

A look at how Australian fairytales were received contemporaneously

The small number of authors who decided to create an 'Australian fairyland' before Ernst wrote her book were well received by reviewers who measured the fairytales against their European counterparts and found them suitable for children. 
One reviewer even suggested that Australia offered a better environment for European fairies who had migrated for a better life. ‘It may be mentioned that it has transpired that the fairies were so much disturbed, during the last 50 years, by iron railways and ploughing in the Old Country that they left it for Australia, and it is told in the most interesting and simple language how much good they did in this country.’ 
Connecting the introduction of fairy folk into Australia as almost as unavoidable as was the rabbit and the sparrow but with pleasant consequences, a reviewer explains, ‘Though injudicious acclimatisation, as of the rabbit and of the sparrow, has its dangers, the introduction of the elves and gnomes of old-world legend into Aust…

The Stranger

Working my way through timetables and calendars for the term, a phonecall from Joe led to an interesting conversation about the sea wall of demolished Pentridge goal bluestone walls that had been burial markers. Helen's uncle believed he'd seen Ned Kelly's marker on a walk but he couldn't find it again to show her. 
THE STRANGER  My great grandmother, Harriet Spear, died when I was ten years old but I have fond memories of her sitting in front of our gas fire and telling 'family stories'.  She was very fond of saying 'There's bad in the best of us and good in the worst of us', and would always start my favorite story in this way. The track was rough and uneven.  My great-grandmother in her schoolday dress, curly, unruly hair disciplined into neat, conforming plaits plodded on as her brothers walked impatiently ahead.   It took an hour to make the four mile walk from Sailor Falls to the school house.  Perhaps daydreaming, she allowed herself to fall beh…

More mysteries than solutions at the PROV

Spent the day at the Public Records Office, Victoria with Susan finding more to intrigue. Found Julius Theodor Ernst  (Olga's father) on the Colony of Victoria Pharmaceutical Registers from 1884-1888 also confirming he was educated at the University Leipzig.  His brother Martin appears as an apprentice registered in 1890.

We were unable to find Julius in the large photographic record of those who worked at the German Court in the Melbourne International Exhibition 1888 (as Helen suggested he had) . He was reported to be a 'judge'. Did find 'C.Heyne' (photo 99) under the title 'Assistants'. Is he related to the Heynes of Adelaide? Apparently not I have on the authority of a descendant!

Melbourne in Autumn

As a reward and as a 'physical' full stop to the draft of chapter 3, which I worked hard to complete so that Pam could have it for inflight reading, the Librarian and I spent a couple of nights being tourists in Melbourne. I love Melbourne in autumn, crunchy leaves underfoot, 28 degrees one day, soft shell jacket needed the next and ... trams. Of course the eclectic mix of buildings is an easy partnership - original buildings proudly displaying their construction dates (1888, 1889, 1913 ) nestled between intriguing monoliths of concrete and steel. Ernst's life one building, mine the next. Eavesdropping I hear a tourist proclaiming that Fed Square had just been rated the 8th ugliest building in the world - I disagree.  Like a meandering river it flows down to Flinders Street Station where the 1910 building and its much loved clocks stand as a guardian of the city. 

Tell some-one who cares! or Is this really relevant?

Wrote a brilliant methodology chapter, left it to ferment in the laptop for a week while I was: juggling blocked toilets (it's a recurring theme isn't it?); mum in hospital; forgetting to tell my longtime friend and research assistant Susan the alarm code for the house (Oops - that woke up the street!), and then re-read it. That voice in my head was grumpy! and said if this is your contribution to scholarly debate you need to: - avoid repetitive material (I know 'tell-a-story, tell-it again and then tell-it-again is the mantra for persuasive writing but ...) - tame runaway notes (I know enough about Stephen Greenblatt to tell the examiners what he eats for breakfast but do they care?) - quote judiciously (I love a good quote - see previous post) - limit  jargon (is 'morphing' jargon?) I felt better when I read Tanya Golash-Boza's blog and she labelled the first draft 'spew writing.'

Using quotes as 'hooks' in my PhD

'Already I can see you, shapeless as you are now, embodied in my dreams as the finest of all my works.'  Olga Ernst (The Magic Shadow Show, p.18)

Pam and Marnee suggested the exploring the idea of beginning chapters with quotes from Ernst's works that express precisely the chapter focus or lead into the argument. Quotes are useful to because another's language may be so succinct that by comparison, mine may be ineffective. These are my fav quotes about research: The real purpose of books is to trap the mind into doing its own thinking. Christopher Morley (I am thinking... thinking some more).I once asked a young dissertation writer whether her suddenly grayed hair was due to ill health or personal tragedy; she answered: “It was the footnotes”. Joanna Russ (I think my hair is greyer despite minimal footnotes. However no one will know - hair dye is a wonderful invention!).It is a laborious madness, and an impoverishing one, the madness of…

Yay! chapter completed...75000 words left

Good learners don't always learn fast. The ability to hang out in the fog, to tolerate confusion, to dare to wait in a state of incomprehension while the glimmerings of an idea take their time to form is another vital aspect of resilience and thus of learning power: slow is often smart. Claxton (1999)
What a relief to have completed the Abstract and the Introduction to tweaking stage... and have Pam and Marnee applaud. It seems to have taken an age (well, two years) to get the structure and my voice right. After four weeks of intensive holiday writing and stuck-to-the-desk-Sundays it feel like I'm suddenly coming out of that fog and the ideas that seemed formless for so long now just need a 'cut and polish' to become another chapter. Now for Methodology!


Heather, I miss your love of good books and British film-making, your appreciation of my tea-making and painting prowess; your willingness to read everything I wrote; your adoration of my children and their partners;  your ability to hold up plasterboard with a broom while every-one else wilts; your ice-cream Christmas pudding, pavlova and zucchini soup but not the meatloaf.
Most of all I miss your quiet wisdom. XXX

PhD verbs

How many times can you write argued... suggested...discussed in 100000 words without seeming boringly repetitive?  Having a list of verbs in alphabetical order has meant I can browse quickly when stumped and either find the 'right' verb or a different thoughtline might be suggested. I wish I'd done it sooner and of course, surfing a bit I came across a couple of useful websites. Here's a ready-made list.  Ron Dorn has some good tips on writing papers and a couple of useful tables of active verbs that describe work and phenomena.

Kel writes...

Wandering through the net, look for a break from the Methodology Chapter, I came across Kel's 'faction' story published on a Swinburne Uni website. Weaving the facts about an incident during WW2 that her grandfather had talked about, she wrote a 'maybe' story. Bill died when Kellie was about 4 so she pieced together this article from newspaper articles, responses to advertisements and talking to returned soldiers. The story is dedicated to all the grandchildren who didn't get the chance to get know their grandfather.So proud of you Kel.   
Night over Sumatra Article: Advertiser (SA)13th August 1945, p.5

At the 33% mark of my PhD

I have been asked why I bother to spend my time on one writer who no one knows and has only written three books. Others have been forthrightly incredulous that a University would be remotely interested in supporting ‘my whim’ when the world has so many other pressing problems.
Children’s literature has become the poor cousin in the school curriculum as librarians have disappeared, rapidly replaced by part-time library technicians who cost less. Parents are encouraged to buy through school catalogues delivered by astute publishers to make book buying easy. I question the quality. Nevertheless, I am hopeful that the new Australian Curriculum (AC) may offer a renewed opportunity for literature to be re-established as important. Literature in the AC has its own strand!  Perhaps it's not surprising that on discovering Olga Ernst’s fairytales that I should be drawn to a writer, who conjured a world for her child readers set in familiar (to me) bush and city locales peopled with adventurou…

Twice Told Tales: A different fairytale interpretation

Fairytales are a wellspring which one often passes by without noticing but which, when one has once discovered it, gushes uninterruptedly and offers its, clear, good-tasting water to everyone who is thirsty and wants to drink of it.            Hans Dieckmann,1985
Fairytales are fascinating. Bettelheim (1985:v) writes a foreword in Diekmann's book:Twice Told Tales impressing on the reader that when children's fantasies are based on fairytales, complete with their dangerous consequences (such as being eaten alive, roasted in an oven, abandoned by parents... need I continue?), they serve an important purpose in helping deal with childhood anxieties.
Hans Dieckmann, a psychologist, explores his use of fairytales in patient - therapy, as a source of structure in the process of emotional development. Obviously, to work with an individual, unravel their history and interpret fairytale motifs that reoccur is a time-consuming process taking hundreds of hours of therapy.
However, after…

Whirling away the layers

One of the best parts of a PhD is the side tracks along the journey. I would probably finish faster but not enjoy the stroll,
or learn, as much.
H.C.E. Morant is one such divergence. Whirlaway was shown to me on Saturday, when I met with interested relatives, passed on after originally being given to Helen by her mother Olga Ernst.  An Australian girl (aptly named Helen) and her koala bear companion travel back in time to learn about Paleontology. Teaching + fantasy + timetravel. Enough to delight any child!
Sadly, most of its print run was destroyed during the "blitz"in the London warehouse where it was stored. This prevented it becoming the success story it was expected to be. Hutchinson declined to reprint it and the intended sequel an exploration of the planets for children which had been written already by Morant was never published. With her keen interest in astronomy the next book would have appealed to Ernst. How easily a writer can be discouraged as it seems that there…

Mantras and Outlines

In 3 days I had written what I thought were perfect paragraphs using the mantra* 'knowledge claim – reason – warrant – evidence – implications' from a Thesis Whisperer post.
Unfortunately, despite the length of time for serious writing with no coffee breaks (Vanilla Pod cafe closed) - I'd only managed three! (It could be argued that 3 perfect paragraphs are better than 30 mediocre ones but I'd like to finish this thesis.)
I discovered Scrivener. The Thesis Whisperer confessed falling in love in 5 minutes and I was sceptical. Any-one can fall in love with an iPad in 1.5 seconds but not a software program! I was wrong... 3 days later I have restructured my thesis outline.  Back to writing!