Imagination School

An image for "When Alien's Came To The Byron Bay Library" created in Imagination School.

An image from “When Alien’s Came To The Byron Bay Library” created in Imagination School.

I’ve mentioned ‘Imagination School’ a few times here, and on Facebook, and realised I have never really given you the low-down.

It kind of began on our honeymoon eight years ago, walking through the wetlands of Kakadu.

‘What do you really want to do, if you could do anything?’ asked my husband.

I thought of the sum of all dreams, and realised it would be to run a creative school for kids.

I love kids. And as a kid, I loved being creative. It was a path I followed into adulthood, having studied art history and creative writing. My first real job was working in an art gallery. And now I am a professional writer.

Lots of my friends at school did Brownies, or played netball or soccer. I did sewing classes. We had an amazing teacher – Mrs Corry – whose house we visited after school. We’d have afternoon tea, then as a group, we’d work on our projects. We made quilts, sweaters, suit jackets, pants…

I was laughing the other day at the outfit I made for our overseas adventure when I was 10. A soft tailored navy jacket with shoulder pads, and soft balloon trousers. Fashionable!

All of my after  school activities involved creativity and imagination. Our primary school was pretty excellent for promoting creativity in their curriculum. And my high schools too had excellent art and drama departments. I was lucky.

I had always imagined myself as an adult inspiring kids to engage with creative projects after school.

The conversation with my husband had long been forgotten when I did a talk about imaginative activities at a community event sometime last year. Shortly after, a lady contacted me to see if I would be interested in running a regular group for their homeschoolers. Yes, I definitely would be.

Particularly when I met the kids, and connected so well with them.

Our classes were fortnightly to begin with, and are now every week. We have so much fun. We make books, stories, and lately an animation. We play imaginative games, and storytelling games. We act out fictional characters and situations.

All our activities are collaborative. I bring a small bag with a few props and prompts, but the kids will take up my initial suggestions and weave something new and fantastic.

I feel like I could write a book of all the fun imaginative games and activities we’ve invented.

I love how imaginative these kids are. I also love how well they work together. The older kids help the younger kids. They all inspire each other. They are – this group is – a total testament to homeschooling.

Anyway, here’s the animation we made last week using the children’s watercolour paintings, Adobe Photoshop CS6 and iMovie. Hope you enjoy it.

May your day too be filled with creative, imaginative fun. x

When storytelling becomes lying, or maybe doesn’t


image Yesterday, my five year old told me about her day at preschool.

‘We found a cat,’ she said. ‘It had a name tag on its collar, which said “Please look after this cat. Its parents have died.”‘

‘That’s sad,’ I said.

‘It’s okay, Mum. We will look after it. It’s a big white fluffy cat.’

A few days before, she told me the preschool had guinea pigs.

‘How many?’ I asked.

‘One for each child,’ she said. ‘We also have horses. One for each child. And snakes. One for each child.’

‘Can I see them?’ I asked.

‘No Mum. They are around the back. Adults aren’t allowed back there.’

The previous week, she’d told me some teenagers were getting married at her school, and all the kids were invited, and they were allowed to eat fairy floss.

‘No adults are invited though,’ she said. ‘The teenagers only like kids.’ Their parents had also died.

I listen, and play along with her stories. I am never sure where the truth begins and ends. Maybe it doesn’t end, in her mind. And that’s okay, right?

I remember my own stories at that age. Clearly. Some I remember more clearly than things that actually happened. In fact my reality and my imagination are kind of confused. Some imagined things feel like were real.

Like the donkey.

When I was about 9, my mum heard me telling someone we had buried our pet donkey in the paddock.

‘We never had a pet donkey,’ she said.

But I was sure we had. For years, I’d been telling people about my pet donkey and about where it was buried.

I was caught out a few times. Although never malicious, my storytelling was construed as lying on a couple of occasions.

One day, when I was a bit older, my aunt was driving us home, and we couldn’t cross the causeway because there was water over the bridge.

My aunt went to the house on the top of the hill and asked to use their phone to call my dad.

The house had a beautiful cottage garden. When she returned to the car, I told my aunt that one day my dad had asked the owners if he could pick a bunch of flowers for my mum, and the owners said he could.

I strongly remember my family sitting around the dining room table laughing at my ‘fib’.

I can’t remember why I told it. It wasn’t to cause harm though. I’ve never really had much reason to lie. I never did anything too naughty, and if I did, Mum and Dad were generally forgiving.

I like to think my daughter’s stories are equally as harmless.

The irony is she’s ridiculously honest about things that matter.

Like that time she threw her good canvas shoes out the car window. She immediately confessed – she could have easily got away with it, as I had no idea. But she came right out with the truth.

For now, in these innocent childhood days, I am enjoying – and in fact marvelling at the stories she tells. Some are so damn imaginative and original I can’t believe they came from her young head.

I’m not sure what the psychologists say about this stage. But what do you think? Do your kids tell stories? And when do stories become something more sinister, like lying?

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.

Linking with Essentially Jess for IBOT.

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.