Art and New Discoveries

As our class will be going on a field trip to the San Francisco Botanical Gardens next month our Atelier (Art Specialist) bought in some cacti for the kids to practice their observational drawing. They used Indian ink and pastel, to apply the ink the kids used a variety of brushes, plastic forks and skewers.

A Problem of the Month in maths was this worksheet looking at the patterns in bowling pins and using repeating patterns to work out how many pins were set up. It is interesting how the kids approached this with their super cute drawings, most of them getting messier and messier at each line of the x pattern.

After assembly this week the whole school all sang a song to the birds – yes this is the whole school including the teachers and the specialists. It was a cute little song I am sure the birds really enjoyed! We all danced in a circle around the labyrinth near the upper playground, it is such a wonderful place to work!

My discoveries this week were overnight oats and how good they are as a study snack! All I did was get this recipe from Oh She Glows Every Day by Angela Liddon, I store it in the fridge adding fresh fruit and coconut to the bowl for the healthiest snack ever.

Apple Pie Overnight Oats
(this is my slacker version adapted from the cookbook)

1 cup oats
1.5 cups cashew milk
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, to taste
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Small pinch of fine sea salt
1 Fuji apple unpeeled – chopped up finely
2 tablespoons chia seeds
Ground Allspice
Ground Ginger

I just used a large mason jar put all the ingredients in there gave it a shake and left it for the morning and the next day and the day after, it keeps a few days in the fridge and is a great snack anytime!

The avocado with Siracha is sitting atop a super easy recipe for baked zucchini patties from the Vitamix cookbook I found at the library.

I love the library and one of the books I found there this week was this amazing Lebanese cookbook, and it made me so hungry just looking through it. If only I could get decent Lebanese food here like I do back home in Melbourne!! The good thing about working full-time is discovering shortcuts to eating well and the best place to find good recipes is at the local library, go Mountain View Public Library you are my best friend 😀

 

Frogs and hope for the future

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Last weekend for the long weekend we wandered out the house to get some air as it was as hot as a greenhouse, so the best strategy was to stay inside the house with the blinds down and no windows open as we have no air conditioning. We went to Picchetti Ranch for a photo shoot as I wanted to get some pictures for my sustainability report for University.

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When we got to the ranch the kids were complaining – why do we need to go for a walk!? Though as soon as we wandered down the trail, we found this beautiful peacock belonging to the winery next door. Soon the kids were enjoying themselves when we found a big tree to climb and then the best thing happened!

We were walking on a seasonal pond, totally dried up for the summer and we found some amazing creatures of hope, frogs. It was so amazing to see these little guys hopping around our feet, trying to capture them on camera was super tricky! So surreal to find frogs as in all the 11 years I have been here, this is the first time I am seeing them! The kids really want to go back when we get the rain in the winter time.

The weekends have been super busy with writing my sustainability report and I am really enjoying it as it truly resonates with me and learning about applying Education for Sustainability in the curriculum makes me very happy and gives me hope for the future. Teaching children to love and appreciate the earth is the best thing we can do for them!

We chose Picchetti Ranch as it is close to McClellan Ranch down the road where we have the chickens, as in my “fictional sustainability report” I would like to create a permaculture garden with chickens so here are some kids with chicken pics! I was so happy to see the little ladies again as I hardly get to see them anymore as I am at work.

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My saviour my bike has been the best therapy to get out and about on solo bike rides to clear my mind and organise my thoughts in regards to the planning on my writing. The rides have been very inspiring as well with finding dead fish and polluted waters in the bay strengthening my ideas of the importance of a creating a sustainable mindset for ourselves and the citizens of the future.

Arts and writing

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A week of seeing such beauty unfold with the children’s art projects that they made for Back to School night last Thursday. The previous week we planned projects for the parents to work on for their kiddos, another writing project.  But we had to get some interesting writing and art up on the wall by the children to show their parents 😀 They may look like shot glasses, but the glasses are filled with liquid watercolor ready for a watercolor wash over the top of a crayon drawing.

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The project was inspired by the book Quick as a Cricket where we read the book to the kids, and we brainstormed some adjectives and animals for their own “power animal pose.” The plan was to write their animal such as, Cute as a Bunny or Playful as a Dolphin on their lined paper and then draw their animal with crayon on the watercolor paper and cover the background with a watercolor wash which is so vibrant. While they were making I was calling the kids outside to pose so we could place them on their picture – it was such a great idea from my co-teacher to take their photo to add to the final artwork.

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We had a lot of fun during Story Workshop finding inspiring ideas for stories where the kids will create little scenes with blocks, animals, natures, found objects and make a dry collage to find ideas to write. Some children even paint, and eventually, the watercolor will be made into a background for a story or however they want to use it.

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The Arts Specialist at our school creates some incredibly simple though powerful pieces this using tissue paper glued on rolled out paper by the meter to make a huge mural of color with the Provocation what do you know about art? It looks so good hanging around the school with so much color.

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This is Alex a massive ball of finger knitting that lives in the 4th-grade bunk bed! To imagine the size of this yarn ball, it is sitting on a single sized bed!

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Our math this week was looking at Jo Boellers YouCubed Maths resources which were fun and interactive for the kiddos, and they really enjoyed the Growth Mindset videos.

Other math fun is so much fun with a manipulative that is so accessible – a deck of cards! Here are a couple of games we played last week.

Salute – One deck of cards and at least 3 players. One player is the General who makes the combinations. The other two players each take a card and, without looking, flip it up on their forehead (it took me a couple of tries to get that!). The General adds the numbers together and says the sum. The other players have to quickly figure out the equation that made the sum. The first to say the correct equation takes both cards (i.e., 10 +8 = 18, my card is 10). You can play with addition, subtraction, multiplication, etc.

Spiral – With one full deck of cards you create a spiral on the table starting from the middle and working outward (cards facing up). Jack = 11, Queen = 12, King = 13, Ace = 1. Each player has a pawn on the middle card of the spiral. Taking turns rolling a dice and moving forward that many spaces. To stay on that spot you land on, you need to say the number sentence of the card and number you rolled (i.e., 5 +11 = 16). If you say it incorrectly, you go back to your previous spot. Bonus rules: doubles = if you roll the same number you land on, you get another turn/bump = if you land on the same spot as another player, you bump them back to start.

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The end of the week we had Back to School night, so we were busy prepping a story project for the parents. The children wrote the beginning and drew a picture then the parents would write the middle of the story and draw a picture and this week coming up the kids will see what their parents have written to complete the end. The kids were so excited to see what their parents had written, but we had to keep it until all the parents had completed their writing so the kids can see them all together in a group. Unfortunately, we had two families who did not come to Back to School night, but life happens!

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Thursday was also the night when the heat arrived, and it stayed with us until Sunday. The temperature on Friday was 42 degrees Celsius, and it was exhausting in the classroom with no air conditioning – there are just two fans in the class, and there was no breeze either so it was super draining and uncomfortable! Still, we just did low key activities like writing and planning stories and finished the week off with a popsicle to cool off.

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The long weekend was an excellent time to relax but not for me! I had to start my Sustainability Report for a fictionized school in 2020 full of references and written in APA style. I had a 7:30 am yoga class Saturday as it was too hot to sleep. After yoga, I came home and got to work for the rest of the day, and lucky my neighbor dropped over a fan to cool down as the house was closed up tight to keep the cool in but the upstairs was as hot as ever! So I got my report off in an excellent direction, and I still need to write another 2,500 words, but I now have a plan which is such a good thing.

Sunday I went for an early bike ride and caught the sun behind the clouds and the haze. Riding really helps with getting my mind clear and think about how I am going to deal with the report and everything else coming my way this week. Lucky with the advice of my co-teacher I have bought a planner so I can keep track of my work, volunteer gigs, school, and family. It really helps to see and plan my week ahead as well as have it on my calendar on my phone – so much to plan for the next 6 months, but it is all good and all exciting!

Riding around the town

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Last week was my first week in a full-time job with a class of 2nd-grade kids. It went by so fast, and I was quite exhausted by the end of the week, and I was ready to celebrate my first week in the classroom with a glass of wine at the park on Friday afternoon with my own kids and neighbors. As I am doing an Education degree, my posts will reflect on my time in the classroom and help me compile resources for the future to use, this way I can always share with my teacher friends fun ideas for math as well!

Some of the fun stuff we enjoyed this week was math manipulatives in the math centers, after each 20-minute rotation, the kids will reset the space ready for the next group of children to play. The kids just love math time, and for the first couple of days the Mystery House Place Value game was a hit but as the week went by the popular place was the Geo boards – creating patterns with rubber bands.

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Race to 1000

This is always a hit with the kids and the kids adding up in 1s, 10,s 100s and 1000s in their head by rolling the dice, and they sometimes work in pairs to race to 1,000. The cool thing is that my co-teacher has wooden dice that we customised with larger numbers to travel to 1,000 quicker rather than using dice up to 6. The kids have also tracked down Dungeons and Dragons game dice which can be challenging with many random numbers coming up.

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Geo Boards – design creation

The Geo Boards are always very popular with the DIY your own pattern to share with the class I did see many animals that were already designed to use as a reference, but I think what the kids enjoy most is creating their own patterns after they have made them.

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The game of Blokus

Another fun game is Blokus where the kids have to take over territory on the board, and the shapes of your own color cannot touch and are usually placed on the diagonal to go across the board. The boys here have designated each color fire for red, water for blue, grass for green and lava for yellow all the way making a story to add to this super fun math game.

Oh and some other fun resources for the maths growth mindset is Jo Boalers student and parent resources.

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Building a car

What I really love about the school I work at is their emphasis on team building and collaboration. This was a fun team building activity where the children were working in pairs with each group designing a part of their dream car – after everyone had developed their part, the pieces were assembled together to see what it would look like. The idea was to make a flying car which is what the red wings were, the kids really enjoyed this project and working together with a small team.

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The Marshmallow challenge

For science class this week we wanted to work again in teams and were inspired by the Marshmallow challenge as a design challenge for the kids. This video was featured in one of my units for University last year, and I just loved it, it was so good to see the kids in action. Each group had their own interpretation on how to build the structure to test out what would work. The presentations and gallery walk around the class were quite impressive – we are doing it again this week with different materials such as a wooden skewer instead of spaghetti to see how high the towers can get.

Some highlights of our class time this week was when we spoke about goals, and one one of the children mentioned that when there are problems or challenges, there may be gaps in the way to help. This makes sure that you are not making your goal too high and unattainable.

The kids also love Story Workshop where the children make a dry collage using materials such as:

  • an octopus and other sea creatures in amongst shades of blue fabric with sea related objects in the scene arranged on the desk.

This helps captures the idea, and the children use these props to talk through an idea. This has to be the best way to create ideas for stories, and the kids are so enthusiastic when creating their scenes that they either want to make a movie from them or to capture a still photograph to remember what they made.

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The weekend was not a time of rest for me as I volunteered to help with the 3rd Annual Safe Mountain View Summer Bike ride. We had such an incredible turnout with 149 people turn up with their bikes for a 28 degree Celsius day – the perfect weather in the California sunshine.

Initially, I had signed up to scoop ice cream, but the energy of volunteering got a hold of me, and in the end, my post was directing bike traffic through Mariposa Park, it was so much fun! I loved seeing so many bikes parked ready to go on the ride while we waited for people to sign in their waivers, decorate their bikes, get their face painted and get a bike tune up courtesy of a local bike store.

Here are my friends beautifully decorated bikes ready to hit the road. It was so good to be riding on the road with so many other cyclists – another time where I participated with many bikes on the road was with Critical Mass in Melbourne to stop traffic. Hey, I was a student at the time and did not really think about the consequences of really annoying commuters!

After a lovely dinner at our friend’s place on Saturday night, I was well and truly knackered but the weekend did not end there! I still had one more event to attend for our Home Owners Association annual BBQ, and I made a raw chard salad topped with slivered almonds and my fave fig tart with a cornmeal crust. After this was all over I managed about 2 hours of study, I think I had better get myself organized this week so I can add more hours to the study time to get my final report written!!

Serendipity and the Eclipse

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Art, Writing, and Drawing

Inside a Reggio Inspired Classroom, it is organised and arranged in such a way that the children instinctively know where to locate what they need and where to put them when they are done. Last week I helped with setting up the classroom with little things like laminating and helping out with the class library as my co-teacher is such a professional and has the experience on the look and feel of the classroom. It was exciting as she has moved to a new classroom, so it was setting up the class from scratch! To experience this magic and how much work is involved behind the scenes was so insightful.

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Natural Materials

I really love the natural materials area where there are magnifying glasses to explore nature close up, something close to my heart where even at my house I have a nature bowl where we collect pinecones, moss and other nature finds.

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Natural Materials and Living plants

The class is so full of natural light with plants in the classroom, and eventually, there will be a classroom job of watering the plants by one of the children. The furniture is beautiful and even quite comfortable to sit upon.

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Maths – now this looks fun!

The maths area is full of games and manipulatives for the kids to explore math and today as it was my first day in the classroom with children their enthusiasm with the math games was contagious. I was watching the kids play War with the playing cards, and it is all about counting the cards, and we even had a deep conversation about poker!

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Made by the students last year

Beauty and colour are in the classroom with these bead and crystal rainbow window decorations made by the students of the previous year as a gift.

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Class Library

The books are organised in a way that can be categorised easily by the kids, and the books upon the shelf are from the school library focussing on this year’s question of identity. Each year in the classroom the whole school looks at a theme, and each class explores their big question posed by the teacher.

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The reading riser to relax upon

This lovely area offers a place to relax and read a book, and the kids absolutely love it, and next door is the quiet nook where if you need some alone time you can go there behind the curtain and be in peace. Being in the classroom today with 15 excited and social kids was so enjoyable, and I left the work today feeling happy that I get to be with these kids for the rest of the week. I thought I would feel quite exhausted sometimes after I do a volunteer class shift but today I felt happy to have this opportunity to be part of another beautiful community in the Valley.

Our first day back was exciting but to top it off we enjoyed some time outside with the kids watching a total solar eclipse through pin hole cameras either made by the children and parents or our science and math specialist at our school. Even watching the eclipse through a colander was super cool as you could see many crescents on the paper where the kids had interpreted what was happening in a drawing. We are located south of Salem in Oregon was in the path of totality so we saw about 75% of the total eclipse so it did not get dark, though the light did dim a little and the air was cooler. I really enjoyed this experience and it was so good to be outside with the kids, checking out the eclipse using various pinhole cameras made from cereal boxes and the like.

I have read on astrology blogs that it is time to do what you have wanting to be doing for a while – looks like over the last couple of months my path has been slowly carved out to somewhere I am going with my future Education degree! Whether you like frou frou magik or not there’s some good stuff happening here on earth right here, right now 😀

Chickpea, potato and chard salad with coconut sambal

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To Roast

1 cup chickpeas

Potatoes cut up into small pieces

Small amount of olive oil

Salt

Pepper

Smoked Paprika

For the salad

A bunch Rainbow Chard or any green you like, cut up into small bite size pieces

1 x Capsicum cut into small pieces

Marinade

Lemon

1 tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar

Vegan Mayo to taste for a dressing-like consistency

Coconut Sambal

1x Cucumber and Tomato cut into small pieces

Shredded coconut

Lemon or Lime

Salt and Pepper

Method

  1. Roast chickpeas and potatoes in a 425-degree oven for 30 minutes.
  2. After 30 minutes the roasted chickpeas and potatoes should be done – cook to until browned and potatoes are cooked.
  3. Leave the chickpeas and potatoes to cool in the oven.
  4. Make the salad when the chickpeas and potatoes are roasting add the chopped chard
  5. In a big bowl add the chard and capsicum and make the marinade in a bowl using a whisk.
  6. Pour the marinade over the chard and capsicum and cover the leaves.
  7. Make the sambal in a separate bowl and distribute the Lemon/Lime Shredded coconut and salt and pepper.
  8. To complete the salad add the chickpeas and potatoes to the chard and capsicum.
  9. And serve in big bowls, topped with as much coconut sambal you desire.

 

 

 

Curiousier and curiousier

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Part of my journey in my education course is self-reflection, and last week I handed in my first Assignment an essay on Ecobiography for the Sustainable Education and Perspectives unit I am doing. It was an insightful journey discussing my experiences that influenced my life to live sustainably. The timing was perfect for my jump into full-time work in Elementary teaching.

This week the teachers are together with all the staff in workshops and presentations called “Professional Development (PD)” this is something that I was familiar with when talking to teachers at my kid’s school but little did I know that I would one day be a participant myself! I am thoroughly enjoying the week with many engaging presenters discussing the Reggio Emilia Approach to education, and I cannot believe that I have this opportunity to be working with such inspiring educators. This approach makes so much sense where the teachers work as a facilitator with the students and the journey in learning is led by the children. I can see myself falling in love with this way of teaching as it unfolds organically and is so engaging for the children. The examples that have been presented to me in shared discussions with the teachers are incredible. Reading the 100 Languages of Children you can imagine how this approach works.

This week I have felt exhausted as I have been getting up early to do my yoga and then get ready for work and we are out the door at 7:25 am to get the kids to school and then I have a 20-minute drive to work. That is a super commute I must say, and I have been getting there super early which is a good thing so I can get myself together before our training starts. By the end of the day I am starving – it is like having jet lag adjusting from the summer schedule to a full-time work routine, and I am only 3 days in! It is a matter of getting to bed early and managing my time at home, so I can prep and cook quickly for an early dinner and get the kids to bed so I can perhaps study once I get into the routine. There will be not a lot of play time, but we will manage to have some family game time together as I have a sitter to take care of pick ups with the kids and drive them to their activities, thank goodness.

Today was a highlight of the PD week with an embodied storytelling workshop with the whole group after lunch. We sang together a beautiful African rhythmic song and listened to a Native American Indian story about the hummingbird and the rattlesnake. This story was used as an inspiration for our team presention, we went outside in the sunshine on the grass and did some exercises as a group and soon after we were in our small groups to plan our play on relationship inspired by the story we heard from Lauren our storyteller (who was fantastic!). Our story focussed on the values of the school and seeing how relationships need to work together, I had so much fun collaborating with everyone. It seems like this path is where I should have been all along, but it has taken me a while to get here.

So much to learn and take in and it warms my heart with the experiences I am having this week with such an incredible team of people. I am so thankful for my friend Iris who mentioned this job to me and that my family is supporting me on this journey of where I really want to be as a human being. I am so looking forward to working with the kids next week and to see this empowering philosophy in action.

New chapters = New Beginnings

 

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Back in the bay and the countdown has begun to the start of school for the year – everyone is pretty happy to go back! We have only 4 days to go, and for me, it is 3 as I start a new job as a Teacher Assistant on Friday with Orientation – how exciting as I have not worked full time for about 9 years!

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Since coming back I have enjoyed Granita cocktails with lemon verbena from my neighbours garden and watermelon from my CSA box, absolutely incredible. I made cocktails at a friends house the other night for dinner, and we had mixed melon and mint with lemon and Hangar 1 vodka, just the perfect drink for a tasty Indian meal! Oh I have to mention the inspiration for Granita was from Melbourne from an Italian coffee house called Pellegrini’s where every Friday they made fresh gnocchi and served it with watermelon granita, it was such a treat!

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I have loved being back on my bike and getting around the trails I opted for a 7.5-mile ride down the trail early on a Saturday morning and it was just perfect. Smooth riding, flowers in bloom and many bridges to cross.

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I have been really enjoying the colours in nature and coming back after spending a month in a dramatic winter scape it is beautiful to see everything in bloom and so alive!

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Sometimes I feel like this little guy trapped in its razor wire with one step forward and many steps back with the amount of work I have to get through with University and now planning for a full-time job plus volunteering and taking care of the household. One thing at a time from my list and eventually I get through, and there is more work. Still, it will make the time fly by, before I know it plans will be underway for our house in Oz.

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We had an enjoyable hike with our friends from Oakland on Sunday at the halfway meeting point in Pacifica and found this super cool County Park with many eucalyptus trees. There were so many and it was just like being home in Australia. That could be one of the many reasons how I have managed to be here so long, being amongst native trees and enjoying their energy. This tree was just spectacular as it was gigantic, growing like an oak tree with its massive supportive trunk in the centre.

There was so much fog that morning, and it enlivened the trees formations. We walked up and down for around 5 miles, and it was refreshing for all of us with some lovely views along the way. The trees were my favourite as we wandered through the many different landscapes.

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The kids were very excited to have found some sibling lizards on the hike and caught them for a bit of play – you can just see them on Ash’s finger sitting together. The bonus was the cafe at the bottom of the hill from the park was Beach Monkey Organic Cafe had tasty food for all of us including delicious Acai bowls!

Not long to go until life changes gear and I start a new chapter of my life for the next 6 months, it is something to look forward to and a super opportunity to engage in for my education degree.

Thoughts for the future

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Slowly I am getting used to life back here after our fantastic time back in Australia – one step at a time…

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My plan is to go back next year once our house in Oz is complete and a little big bigger, and we have a place to live in Melbourne. Many people have been asking me what the difference between Australia and the USA is?

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My answer is always that Australians are very relaxed, friendly human beings. Americans take a little while to feel acquainted and are always on the go – an energy that to resonate through the community even on the freeways. Gotta go here, there and everywhere all at once.

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So I have done a little bit of reflecting about why I cannot feel settled here and why I want to go back home (my birth home).

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Culturally the differences are vast where here in our little bubble of Silicon Valley ego seems rather significant. Understandably people are working hard, and they define themselves by what college they went to – this always perplexed me, but college does cost a lot of money here, so why not talk about it. Australians do not really talk about themselves so much but as my friend pointed out Aussies do like to speak about other people 😀

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Whereas back down under people will say hello to you on the street and smile, just because. The friendliness of conversations even with shop owners really makes me happy. When we were visiting the main drag where our house is in Oz, I spoke to a book shop owner about living in the area, and she mentioned her kids go the schools I was interested in going to. It was such a serendipitous moment as it confirmed my decision on wanting to return to Melbourne because she spoke so highly of the school communities and had been a resident there for 27 years!

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So fundamentally it is ego (in the Valley) vs. authenticity (down under), and for me, I know where I would rather be. It has taken me a while to feel comfortable here in California these last 10 years so having a connection to an amazing school community really helped me with a feeling I was amongst “my people”. Our elementary school is an incredible community – multi cultural, open minded, supportive and loving, so it has been just perfect.

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I want my children to grow up in a school that embraces the arts, music and humanities as I feel it is important to have a whole education that develops the whole child. I feel that once my son hit middle school here, the education is just OK – he is missing out on art at school, but he has had some great sporting opportunities like cross country and robotics/engineering. Hey, he can create his art (graphic novels) at home!

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Touring the schools in Australia made me realise that I want my children in Melbourne to complete their education as I feel it will be well rounded including a true appreciation for the arts – which is what that city is about! The arts, friends and family are what my heart aches for when I am in California having the beauty of art around me in the form of gorgeous architecture and the accessibility to amazing galleries embracing arts everywhere.

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Here in California, there is art in San Francisco at the SFMOMA and museums around the city that I am yet to explore but time is slim in my life, and it’s tricky to get out and about just for fun these days with study and now work. I am excited to be starting a job as a Teacher Assistant at a local school in August, this is an incredible opportunity for me as it aligns with my Education degree, to be completed way in the future…

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So weighing up the positives which are the perfect weather and nature in California and the negatives, where I really miss my time with my family. I feel the decision to move back will be beneficial for myself as I can do my Education placements and the kids will have access to well rounded 21st-century education. A 21st-century education you might ask? It is teaching for the future, and the children learn skills that prepare them for a life of uncertainty in their careers where jobs that exist may be something else in the future.

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It will be a bittersweet farewell to California though I know now after visiting Australia two years in a row that I feel more grounded to Australia and that is where I want to be. California has been a great experience, and I have really enjoyed my time here growing up with my family but the time has come to decide on the future and where I see our family. I had a glimpse into the future when we were in Melbourne, and I like the fact we can:

  • walk/bike to school
  • walk to the shops
  • walk to the train
  • public transit into the city
  • a gym is on the way to school
  • a fruit and veg market is down the road
  • my sister in law and her family is a drive away
  • there are bike tracks close by
  • a beautiful park is a walk away complete with a flying fox.

We just need our house to have a couple of extra rooms! That plan is coming along with my friend who is an architect who can help us with our project, so the ball is rolling along.

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I really miss my family, and because they do not travel we have to go to Oz, it will be much better to be 2 hours away by plane from my family rather than a whole day travel time. Time is ticking away, and I have investigated our options and feel that the opportunity for the children to enjoy their tween/teen years back in Australia will be a good thing for them, having them appreciate the arts and the academics hand in hand.

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As for now, I have a job for the next few months that I have to juggle with part time study, my family and volunteer duties. It will be busy but the time will fly by, and before we know it, the time will come to go back to Australia for good.