Monday, 11 July 2016

Trying to channel Elsa

fifth form rivals
I’ve just recovered from a nasty bout of influenza–followed by a nasty bout of spring cleaning and decluttering. I singled out about two hundred books, I think, for disposal or donation.

I also made a resolution: I would read and review each of my school stories, and then donate them. There are always new books to read. I don’t need to hoard them.

Then, of course, today I pulled out the first of the pile, The Fifth Form Rivals by Winifred Darch, and a few pages in I am remembering why it is one of my very, very favourites of all time. The pangs! (And look at that cricket bat on Pat’s shoulder: it’s a metaphor.)

This is why I love ebooks. They take up no space, so you never have to face getting rid of them.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

A note on Pulse

I have been too shattered by the events in the Pulse nightclub to say much that is coherent. Our brothers and sisters, and our allies, were killed and hurt for just existing. What can you really say about a tragedy like that?

Only four things, really:

Gun regulation in Australia works to prevent tragedies like this. Hatred is terrible; hatred with an assault rifle is deadly.

This was a particularly horrendous and heartbreaking act; do not forget that homophobia and prejudice kill, in big or small ways, every day.

Love, not hate and further prejudice, is the only way to face hatred and violence. May love win.

My heart is with the survivors and the families. We all grieve with you.

Xxx Eleanor

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

The road to hell…


I am a terribly disorganised person by any standard. I would utterly fail in the structured life of my beloved boarding school books. I am messy, perpetually unkempt, absent-minded, forgetful. These traits are unlikely to change, both because of my personality, and my child-led life. Oh, and chronic illness. There’s that.

I am also a very happy person with a full, loving, creative life.

Every now and then, I realise that my life would be (even) happier and I’d have more time for what I really want to do if I broke things down into little tasks and actually made an effort to make them habits.

I had a big realisation yesterday, because I was reading Montessori blogs, and realising that the invitations I want to set up with my some kind of involve less cluttered space. Strewing, invitations–whatever you call them, they are a big part of a relaxed homeschooling approach, and they work better without a blanket of toys over everything.

And… I want to write more. It’s not just a matter of getting books out; I am a more healthy and happy person with daily writing. Giving up sending my son to childcare For His Own Good a morning a week (a whole different story) means I don’t have dedicated writing time any more, although in practice I was often too stressed during it to get more done. I miss that. Writing is my joy.

I want to keep up with my lifelong learning, both for myself and as an example for my future-unschooled son. I want to actually make progress on craft projects instead of always abandoning them for the next thing. I want to be tidier.

So last night I made one of my periodic resolutions to Get Organised. I set up Habitica, the gamify-your-life rpg, and being me, I ignored all the advice to start with a few tasks and have hundreds, but small and manageable (I hope) ones. I unsubbed from about a million mailing lists. I decided to start from scratch again with Fly Lady, which really helped me before when I kept up with it.

I am going to get thirty minutes of writing or editing in a day, no matter what.

And I’m going to shine my sink.

Let’s see how it goes, huh?

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Review: Penelope’s Prefects (1950) by Judith Carr

Penelope's PrefectsPenelope’s Prefects by Judith Carr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Three and a half-ish stars.

School Story Type: Madcap Schoolgirl.

Given a scholarly, vague and forgetful Prefect for the ill-reputed Middle School, the Middle School monitress, Penelope, decides to reform her form with the help of her self-appointed “prefects”, her best chums. Given that Penelope is not exactly a model schoolgirl herself–it’s beyond me why she’s monitress in the first place–her gang’s efforts to bully the form into line only cause more chaos.

The plot is predictable enough: ill-advised attempts to improve things, followed by rebellion by other girls, pitched physical skirmishes and predicaments and furious mistresses and seniors. Detention and punishments inevitably follow, including the fairly barbaric one of being locked in a cupboard for half an hour a day. But you know all will be well in the end, and Penelope and her “prefects” will win out.

The girls often seem too young and idiotic for their age, and there is a preoccupation with stockings and suspenders, including trying to wrestle them off each other to put the seams straight, which feels quite strange out of historical context. All the manic energy is a bit tiring after a while, too, and I found myself wishing Penelope was just a wee bit more self-reflective, and that her schoolfellows had a wee bit more personality. But these are prettyy minor complaints.

All in all, this is an amusing and sometimes sparkling example of the madcap schoolgirl subgenre.

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Sunday, 8 May 2016

Rainy Day Unschooling

Shower Rain, 15°C

Adelaide, South Australia

The weather has finally remembered that it is nearly winter, and is wet and blustery. A perfect day for cuddling up inside reading, sewing and writing.

Unfortunately, the little boy has decided it’s the perfect day for Disney Infinity, and the stay at home mummy’s services are required for playing Thor. I put in a plea to be Black Widow or Ant Man, to no avail. He’s Iron Man.

The little boy has recently mastered the art of playing console games, and right now, it’s all he wants to do. That means I’m battling against all the voices in my head telling me that screen time for three year olds is evil. We’re intending to unschool our son, and I am trying to remind myself to stop listening to “commonsense” in favour of seeing the learning happening: problem solving, hand-eye coordination, persistence in the face of failure and frustration, sight words. And to see the joy.

It’s strange, really, that I write about regimented school systems where every hour is planned for, when it’s the opposite of my actual educational beliefs. Maybe that’s part of the appeal, just like I devoured school stories while loathing school. I just wanted to be left alone, to read, to write and learn without interference.

Oh, well, break over. Time for Thor to smash some frost giants.

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Saturday, 30 April 2016

"In the Fifth at Malory Towers"--Enid Blyton

In the Fifth at Malory Towers (Malory Towers, #5)In the Fifth at Malory Towers by Enid Blyton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When you ask someone their favourite Enid Blyton school story, two times out of three they will name In the Fifth at Malory Towers (1950). There's a magic to it, even coming right near the end of a popular series.

The girls are putting on a school pantomime, and there is drama offstage more than off. Vain competition for the role of Cinderella between the fluffy Gwendoline Mary and her even more ghastly mirror image Maureen; clashes of power between the uncooperative but brilliant Alicia and the hard, domineering Head of Form Moira; and protagonist Darrell desperately trying to hold things together and make a success of the play she and the musical Irene have created.

And then there are the anonymous hate letters Moira keeps receiving...

It all comes together beautifully. Moira, with her twisted relationship with her younger sister, and her clinging, self-sacrificing yet vaguely scary friend Catherine, are wonderful additions to the crew. The intensity is high, the atmosphere vicious and suspicious, and only meek Mary Lou and tomboyish Bill really seem completely apart from all the spite and power playing.

Glorious, glorious stuff. And the knowledge that Darrell will triumph beautifully in the name of friendship and hard work keeps it all from being too dark.

And of course, darling Mam'zelle Dupont plays the most marvellous trick on her bad, bad girls.

Hold it Darrell, while we slip away. It is your own great moment. There'll never be another quite like it

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Sunday, 10 April 2016

Light Intensity Shower Rain, 18°C


School Story Haul

From a visit to the Oxfam bookshop, a glorious haul. Particularly pleased with the two 1920s Dorothea M. Pocock books, but my favourite title has to be Penelope’s Prefects.

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