A+ in Dreaming

A + In dreaming

My four-and-a-half year old daughter received her first report card a few weeks ago.

I scanned the boxes and ticks, my stomach tightening. My daughter’s sweet waif like spirit was being reduced to a few squares. A few ticks.

She was being marked on attendance and rhythm, and keeping beat in time to the music. It was perfectly innocent, and designed to show where her strengths and weaknesses are and where she needs to improve.

I am not ready for this.

Meanwhile, my daughter sprung around the house, legs flailing and arms outstretched as she talked animatedly about her children who live in Eng-a-land, and learning about lizards from Mr Salt in homeschool.

How do you grade this stuff? This ability to dream and create and spring around enthusiastically?

Reports and the such have been on my husband and my mind lately as we start to look at schools for my daughter.

I don’t think we are ready to have the way she holds her pen etc. and the way she keeps rhythm quantified. I try and capture some of her stories and lovingly store her creations in a Tupperware box in the cupboard, or hang them on the fridge. This stuff is not good, bad, average, weak or excellent. It just is, and as a mother, I love every bit about it as an expression and extension of herself.

I run a little Imagination School for a group of homeschoolers once a week. It used to be fortnightly, but they requested we do it every week as they love it so much. *Fills my heart.

We do simple little activities, like making mini books, or postcards from far away lands. We read, we make treasure hunts and tell stories. These boys have never been tested on their imaginative, creative ways, and so they continue to expand like the universe. Their ability to imagine is limitless.

This stuff isn’t testable, and nor should it be. But it’s the stuff that’s underpinning creative thinking, problem solving and the ability to think abstractly, which are fundamental to learning and innovation.

Even though she doesn’t attend Imagination School, my daughter counts down the sleeps until it’s on. We talk about Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, a previous life spent in Eng-a-land and Imagination School most hours of the day. On home days, we make and do with whatever is around, using our imaginations to make the world a prettier place.

For now at least in our little sunshine home, we are nurturing all those things that can’t be boxed or ticked away.

Do you have a dreamer?

For more tales from the sunshine house, book ideas and imaginative activities, visit me over at Facebook. You can also sign up for my monthly newsletter, which is full of sunny goodness.

Linking with Essentially Jess.

The storytelling tin

storytelling tin I have a little bag I take with me to imagination school. The boys (my ‘students’) don’t really need much in the way of stimulation – their imaginations are so rich and vibrant. But my useful bag is packed with useful things designed to unstick imaginations that have stuck.

One of its contents is the storytelling tin. Each week, the tin is filled with tidbits. Stuff I have found around the house or the garden. Shells, little dolls, little books, feathers…whatever.

On a lazy home day a week ago, I pulled out the tin for my daughter. ‘Let’s tell a story,’ she suggested, and used the contents of the tin to inspire her tale. The story she told was about a shell and a boy. It went something like this:

The shell couldn’t talk about the boy he loved because he didn’t have a mouth. The boy was called Frannie. They were best friends. The boy couldn’t hear him because the shell had a tiny mouth.

The story could have been about anything. It didn’t matter. She decided to paint the story on paper, so laid the objects from the tin on the table and one thing led to another and the next thing we knew, there were rainbows everywhere.


rainbow hands There’s a story in everything. Little people are pretty magical at unravelling stories tucked away in tins and other places like that.

How to make a storytelling tin:

1. Take one tin

2. Fill it with random things

3. Give it to your child with the instruction, ‘Tell me a story.’

For more tales from the sunshine house, visit me over at Facebook. You can also sign up for my monthly newsletter, where I occasionally run giveaways for subscribers, and update you with the latest sunshine news.

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Podcast ~ Engaging the Imagination

Engaging the Imagination Podcast

I’ve been thinking tonnes about imagination lately; about what it is, where it can take us, and what use it has in our lives. My fortnightly workshops with a local group of homeschoolers have made me realise how crazily amazing the unfettered imagination is. The stories these kids tell literally blow my mind…

So with the help of a friend, and a patient meticulous husband, I finally got together my first podcast ~ Engaging The Imagination ~ for those who were unable to come to the community talk I did in Wollongbar in February.

You can download my podcast (right click, save as). It’s a 25 minute talk about what imagination is, and the importance of nurturing our children’s imagination. I share a few ideas about how little imaginations can be engaged and given the opportunity to flourish.

I am eager to know what you think…this is my first experience recording a podcast, and I am a bit excited about its potential.

Click here to subscribe with iTunes.

Visit me over at Facebook for more natter through the week. You can also sign up for my monthly newsletter, where I occasionally run giveaways for subscribers, and update you with the latest sunshine news.

Sunshine Sundays ~ A Secret Place

The Secret Garden Frances Hodgson Burnett Lauren Child

The Secret Garden

I sit on dry leaves, under a canopy of palm fronds. Our spot is shady, protecting us from the intense midday sun. I pull my knees into my chest for comfort.

My daughter sweeps the leaves with an over-sized broom.

“Just tidying up before Maddy gets home,” she tells me. “You look after Daisy and Tuna? Maddy’s plane is late.”

The leafy enclosure takes me back to a leafy, private burrow in tangled lantana across the road from our property. The burrow was large enough for kids to climb into, but too small for an adult. Like children of the wild, my brothers and I hacked with machetes and made the cavern larger. A boulder sat in the centre. We used it as a table to plan our next battle against the neighbours, Conrad and Troops. We peered through gaps in the lantana to see if Conrad had discovered our hideout.

Around the same time, with Dad’s help, we constructed a treehouse in the dense pocket of rainforest regrowth. One night, we attempted a camp out. My brother sang a tribal song to drown out the chorus of cicadas. When I peered over the flimsy railing, I saw fluorescent mushrooms tucked against the tree’s trunk. They looked like fairy lanterns. By day, they were translucent and invisible. Our courage didn’t last the night, and we retreated home to warm beds.

Not far from the rainforest, was the shade house where I tucked myself into a cardboard box one Christmas Eve after running away from home. Even though I could hear my parents calling out and see their torches, I refused to answer their calls, and eventually fell asleep. A torch shining into my eyes woke me up.

These were the secret places that sheltered and protected us from the adult world…

Back under palm fronds, my daughter interrupts my thinking.

“Now, you be Mary, and I’ll be Dickon.” I try and hide my smile as she talks. She has perfected a Yorkshire accent, like I use when I read her The Secret Garden.

“Look like tha’ spring has come. Look there at tha’ robin. Aye!

“Don’t laugh, Mama!” she says.

We have been reading The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett most nights. It’s our special place to wander together after I have put Rosie in bed. She loves turning to the beautiful illustrations by Lauren Child and sneaking a look.

Not a lot happens in the story, and yet she is captivated. “When will they find the garden?” she asks repeatedly. I think she enjoys the conversations, and the constant anticipation of the garden about to be found, or the roses about to bud.

The Secret Garden was my favourite book as a girl too. It’s one of the books that stayed with me. It’s like carrying a secret place around inside – a place to escape to, which looks like an over-grown English garden, and smells like the Moore in spring.

I have been inhabiting secret places since I can remember, in my imagination and in the real world. Now my daughter inhabits her own.

Do you have a secret place? Can you share?

If you would like to share your story about a secret place, please link up for Sunshine Sundays. We’ve grown such a beautiful community of bloggers that come every week, comment on each other’s posts and respond with such sensitivity and thought to the theme each week. Sundays have always been my favourite days, and now they are even better. Next week’s theme is “If only…”

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Sunshine Sundays ~ Imagination


At the base of the property where I grew up was an old olive tree. Its branches reached upwards from its base, making a hollow centre. Inside the tree there was space enough for a small human. The floor of the hollow centre was covered with a thick carpet of small, hardened leaves. Light filtered in through the mesh of leaves and branches.

The tree was more than a tree. It was the home to a family of tiny bears – a mother, a father and two children – who lived in the tree trunk. A lizard marched on the branches above, and a fairy made her nest among the leaves. A miserly King lived in a cut-off boab tree not far from the olive tree, and refused to share his wealth with the family of bears.

I spent afternoons after school and weekends socialising with the bears, the fairy and the lizard. We chose not to associate with the King, who clearly did not understand the art of sharing and kindness.

My memories of this tree and its inhabitants are more vivid than most of my lived memories.

My imaginative life continued through school. Imagination found its way into stories or plays. It found an outlet in visual art at some point. Imagination was my reprieve from life. It was my entertainment. It made life more interesting. As soon as I had the chance, my mind wandered into an undiscovered world of stories, characters, images and pictures…Come to think of it, all this still applies.

As a mother, I draw on my imaginative resources lying in the dark, telling stories to my little sunshine girl. She gives me a theme, like “mermaids” or “rainbows” and I weave it into something especially for her imagination. She drinks in the story, asks for another, and reluctantly drifts off to sleep, where her mind wanders into stories of its own.

Her day too is filled with imagination. Like I had as a kid, she has regular characters. The key players in her imaginative stories are Maddy, her teenage daughter and Daisy and Tuna,  her two younger children to a different father (their father died, incidentally). Maddy, Tuna, Daisy and Sunshine Girl have a life that roughly mimics our real life. They do all the things we do, could do, or can’t quite do, or possibly things I did when I was a child. Maddy recently went to Austria to visit her father, but unfortunately, he didn’t have much time to see her as he was too busy on his computer.

Imagination, like learning, knowledge, intuition, social skills and communication is one of the fundamental building blocks of life. Children naturally gravitate towards it. From about the age of three, a child wants to and is inclined to imagine whenever they have the chance.

I am giving my first ever community talk in Wollongbar this Wednesday for the Wollongbar Progress Association. In preparation, I have spent the last few weeks researching, reading and pulling together ideas about imagination and creativity in early childhood, and the more I read and write about it, the more I realise how familiar it is, and how intrinsic it is to my own life and my life with my children. I find myself getting all passionate and excited as I pull the themes together, and shape them into something I can share with the community.

If you are living near Wollongbar NSW, and happen to free this Wednesday at 10am, you are welcome to join us for morning tea and a chat. I will be sharing my passion and interest in imagination, and ideas about how to nurture and engage our children’s imagination. This free community event will be held at Wollongbar Hall on Simpson Ave. Wollongbar NSW.

Tell me about your imaginative life and how you nurture imagination in the comments below, or link up your post about imagination for Sunshine Sunday. Everyone is welcome, and posts can be old or new. You can even share an unthemed post if you would just like to join in.

Next week’s Sunshine Sunday theme is “Love” (in lieu of Valentine’s Day, naturally).

Visit me over at Facebook for more natter through the week. You can also sign up for my monthly newsletter,

Sunshine Sundays


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