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.

Where the little brick houses stand


When I was a kid, we visited my grandma’s house every holidays. Memories of playing Duplo on her beige woollen carpet with my cousins linger, as does that time when my older cousin fell from the top bunk, and got concussion.

Then there was the time when we made posters to put in the neighbours’ letter boxes to invite them to a fictitious dog show – the winner, supposedly, would go home with a red Ferrari. According to our cleverly designed poster, the dog show would be hosted by the Lodges’, neighbours of my grandma’s who we had a vendetta against because they once complained about my grandma’s dog walking across their lawn.

Sigh. Those were the days.

Those were the days when you could play cricket down the little lane way, and your ball occasionally went over the fence into the paddock behind the house, where two enormous camphor laurels provided shade for the cows.

Those were the days when plovers attacked you when you were dog walking across the empty estates that looked over the sea.

Those were the days when my grandma’s house was one of the first on the estate, and red dirt blocks were dug out for prospective homes made of brick and tile.

We walked my grandma’s dog when we visited. She was getting older, and we knew she appreciated it. He was used to small, old-chatty-lady walks, so didn’t need to go far.

Walking around the estate, my mind was full of imaginings of living in an apartment in Paris, or walking the cobbled streets of Barcelona. I dreamed of a different life, convinced I was born into the wrong one. The skin didn’t fit etc etc.

Fast forward to 2005, and a life in London. Ironically, I had the potential at last to live that life I fantasised about, but it wasn’t going to happen. I spent a year craving home, and groundedness, and things like walking my grandma’s dog around the estate.

Fast forward nine more years, and here we are – no dog – but, children in pram, walking around the same estate. The camphor laurel trees have been cut down, and the paddock filled with more brick and tile houses, like the rest of the estate. My grandma’s house (now ours) is dwarfed by bigger brick and tile houses with much neater gardens.

When I walk (or run) around the estate, I still occasionally dream about living in an apartment in Paris, or walking cobbled streets in Spain. Sometimes I wish I could live in New York. Now my tentative dreams include a country house on a rural block, with an orchard, and chickens and a llama.

My brick and tile surrounds don’t inspire me, particularly. In some ways, they depress me. But there’s a comfort in living here, surrounded by familiarity. There’s also comfort in knowing those dreams still persist, like dull aches below the surface.

The difference is, these dreams no longer make me less content with my own life. I have seen them in the flesh, and discovered that happiness wasn’t found down a cobbled street in an unfamiliar town. My happiness is made of a fine balance of contentment, familiarity and wispy dreams.

Does your suburb inspire you? Are you still dreaming?

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Sharing with Essentially Jess for IBOT.

The nature of dreaming

As the heat of the day lingers, and my daughter plays with cups of water outside, I reflect on the dull but persist conflict of my heart.

Most of my life, and particularly since having a baby, I have felt a pull towards success. A successful father, a private school, a top Australian university and a family of high achievers leads me to feel that at some point in my life I will do something worthwhile. And so I continue to study, because in  the story I tell myself, this is the safest way to achieve success. In the background to my study are a million ingenious ideas that will one day make me famous, and each of these I dance around and dream about.

I listen to friends who have started businesses, or successful blogs, or have achieved something fantastic in their professional lives. A part of me is happy for them, but another part of me turns against myself, and points an accusing finger at all my failings, and my own lack of success. Why haven’t I started a business yet? Or become a doctor? Or published a novel? Why do I continually fall short?

In a typically philosophical conversation with my husband last night, we talked about dreams. The previous night a beautiful young man had said to Gregor that he believed we should all follow our dreams. In a typically cynical fashion, Gregor had suggested that this sentiment was for the privileged. People who have nothing to eat, he argued, just want something to eat. They aren’t likely to live the dream life of becoming an artist…or whatever the dream may be. And so unfurled a discussion about the nature of dreaming and following one’s dream. Even if, in our privileged society, we feel the need to live out our dreams…will it make us happy? Is this what life is really about?

I wonder…as I tip water from one container to another with Elka, the sun is setting and it is beginning to cool. I am thinking about my blog post, and about how to become a successful person, and she is asking me to come back to the moment: “Mumma, pour water. Mumma?” In these precious years, when I have the time and the space to really be with my child, why am I still so anxious to achieve something else? Why am I jealous when I hear of another person’s success? Why do constantly feel like a failure?

Gregor’s dream in his twenties was to become a rock star. He played two hours a day, wrote hundreds of songs, played in bands…he lived and breathed music. He was meanwhile living his dream of becoming enlightened at a Buddhist retreat centre in England. At some point, the two dreams collided, and his soon to be enlightened self told his ordinary human self that his dream to be a rock star was not bringing him happiness, only dissatisfaction. When at last he let go of that tightly-clung dream, he was released. And now can live happily ever after.

I think of Gregor’s release, and my own pithy dreams. Does my urge to “succeed” detract from the present with my child? I am starting to realise that I need a new definition of success. Success is my life as it is. Happy. Golden. Present. Full Of Love. I’ve repeatedly said I wouldn’t change a thing. But maybe the one thing I would change is to let go of my desire to be a better, different, wealthier, more “successful” person…

How do you feel about dreaming? Come, please tell me.

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