Monday, February 11, 2013

Flood Season

We should rename our seasons I think,

Flood Season, Fire Season, Drought season, Storm Season.

Sorry I've been a bit out of the loop lately folks, time gets away and children mess with your head.  I hope everyone fared okay during the floods.  I know some people in my district are thanking their lucky stars to be alive.  When reality hits you like that, little things like a freezer full of spoilt meat doesn't seem to matter quite so much.

I don't often do photos but here's a few pics of our creek during the big wet.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Water Issues

I've been having one of those months.  You know the one, where you try to fix a problem and end up making it worse.  We have friends arriving tomorrow and only contaminated water to drink.  I think I went wrong when I filled the tank with town water.  The chlorine may have eliminated our precious little ecosystem within our drinking water. Has anyone else had this problem?

It started about a month ago.  We have three rainwater tanks and the one we were using for everything was empty.  The other two had been pilfered a few times already and were getting low as well.  We needed it to rain, but rain has been elusive this month.  Rain was predicted and by draining the last of the other tanks (one at the quarters, one which has a single tap in the kitchen) we could hold out for about a week.

I didn't want to fill our tank with the dam water again, because that would mean we couldn't drink the water plumbed into the fridge.  So I came up with the brilliant plan of getting council water from town. Thus it was organised.  We drained the rest of the water whilst waiting a few days for the truck.

All good, we had clean water to drink and in which to bathe.  About a week later it rained.  Not huge amounts but enough to top up the tank and refill the other two to about one quarter full.  The singleton tap in the kitchen managed a drizzle.

A few days later, our water supply started to go cloudy, then it had black specs through it.  Soon it looked like it had iron filings throughout.  I figured it was sediment from the bottom of the tank being stirred up, but it didn't settle. It got worse, then it began to smell like something dead.

We managed to get a sanitizer for the water which has eliminated the smell.  It hasn't changed the colour though, and we've decided against drinking it.  So we're left with the water with the one tap in the kitchen, except the level isn't high enough to get any pressure in the tap.  This problem was solved by pumping water from the other clean tank into it.  But now we have stirred up the settlement and the water has floaties in it.

So now we have two types of water, non-drinkable but sanitised black water and drinkable water with specs floating through it.  I'm sure my city-slicker dad and our American guests will be far from impressed.  Luckily the Foodstore is having a special on bottled water this week.

But what could have caused the water to go bad?  Is it that the chlorine did kill the good bugs in our water leaving only bad bugs.  Was it because the new water was diluted by the rain, thereby making the chlorine levels too low, and allowing algae to grow in the tank?

Next time we run out, I won't be so picky about filling up from the dam.  Who cares about a little yellow in the water?  At least it won't be black.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bull Cruelty at Warwick?

I was watching the news this evening when a report came on about the Warwick Rodeo.  They showed footage of a bull which had had its leg broken at the start of a bull riding event.  The screen-shots showed how they attempted to move the bull with a utility vehicle, but this failed when the bull charged the ute.  They then attempted to move it by bringing in more bulls so that they would herd together and all exit the arena.  This worked but in the process, another bull mounted the injured one, and drove it into the ground for a few moments.  After that, the footage showed the bull being loaded on a truck.

This isn't even news, but since they had the footage, the media decided to make it into a story.  The story presented outrage at the cruelty suffered by this animal. There was even an interview demanding explanation by organisers of the event. To a non-rural individual, I can see how easy it would be to get caught up in the hype.  I am visiting my parents in Brisbane this weekend and we saw the program during dinner.  My mother (the problem solver) started discussing what she thought should have been done instead.  It's what we do though isn't it?  We see something like that on TV and immediately put in our opinions of what we would have done or what they should have done, even though we have no experience whatsoever with the field in which we are discussing.

What would I have done?  So easy to comment from the comfort of my chair on the other side of the TV and after the event.  I'd have done exactly the same thing.  What are the alternatives?  Shoot the bull?  Then what?  Get a rope or a chain and drag the carcass from the arena?  That would have made an even better story for the media and would not really have been suitable for all the kids watching.  What about a tranquilizer gun then?  Again, how do you remove the sleeping bull without seeming brutal?

There was a problem, it was solved, no problem.  The media had a nice little story but it didn't even make the headlines on their website.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Education's next important step

I had this post on my other blog but I have decided to keep that blog for financial education tips only.  Now when I want to have a rant about the school education system in general, I'll be posting to this one.  Here's my issue:

I worked as a teacher aide in a city state school for two years and as a teacher in a country state school for two and a half years.  In my time at these schools I observed many children who our system deems "at risk".  These kids were not just slipping through the cracks, they had gone.  There was little left that the current education system could do for them.  They were practically illiterate, innumerate, had no self-worth and no motivation to try to do anything to improve their own education.

I also saw kids who were highly motivated, had a fabulous outlook on life and were getting exceptional grades.  It distressed me that these students had no real skills which would benefit them out in the world.  What I mean is, that they could use a formula, write a story, read a book and pass a test.  What concerns me is that they had no idea how to manage money and it didn't occur to them that there was an alternative to getting a job or going to university for further study to get a different type of job.  Even then, they don't have the interview skills to be able to get a job, let alone negotiate wages.

Within Queensland's Educational curriculum I was unable to help either of these groups of children.  The new Australian curriculum also does not allow for students to gain the necessary assistance.  Here's why:

1.   Students are assigned a grade based on their age.  This does not allow for gifted students or those requiring extra support to get the help they need to progress at their own level.  Teachers are unable to help students because they have to teach a certain level to this group as a whole.  Even if the entire class is  at a level lower than they should be, the teacher still has to teach the work at which they should be, because they have to report on that higher level.  For example, I might have a class of fifteen year old students.  They are in grade ten.  The grade ten curriculum requires that they learn algebra to a certain difficulty level.  The parents are expecting a report on their child's progress at this level from A to E.  To give them this report, I must assess the students at this difficulty level, to assess them, I must therefore teach this work.  No problem so far, I'm all for giving kids the opportunity to excel.  But if I teach everything on the year ten maths curriculum, I don't have time to catch these kids up on things that they don't understand that they should have mastered by grade 5.  And tell me, what is the point of standing up in front of a class and explaining pythagoras' theorem when the entire class of kids themselves think that 4.12 is bigger than 4.4?  They don't get it, they don't care and they're not going to do the work anyway so why not just teach place value instead?  Because I have to give them a test so that their parents know that their kid is an E standard in year 10 maths?

2.  The work the students are expected to do, conditions them for a world in which we no longer live.  Before computers, it would have been an advantage to be able to recall vast amounts of information.  A person who was good at learning facts could have gone far in a company.  Now there is no need to be able to recall huge amounts of data.  Science has shown that within days after learning something, we recall barely ten percent of what we have learned.  Even if we memorise something, unless we use the information regularly, we will forget it soon enough anyway.  So what is the point of the current forms of testing in schools?  Would it not be better to give students the skills to find the information they need rather than learn complex formulas and historical facts.  There is nothing in the world resembling the current form of "tests".  Even if people are given the data, and a time frame in which to extrapolate some meaning from it, they are given days or weeks, not mere hours and they have access to other research tools, other people's skill sets and opinions on which they can draw to gain an answer.  Instead of "Testing" our kids individually, should we not be encouraging and teaching teamwork, communication, negotiation, research and critical analysis of sources?

3.  The subject matter which is compulsory in schools barely gives students any skills which they will require on completion of their studies.  By all means, teach the kids to read and write and do basic mathematics, but beyond year eight, the conditioning process begins and students are only being prepared for a life of further study.  Think about what every person does when they leave school.  They have to earn an income in some way.  They have to drive a car.  They have to vote in government elections.  They are likely to enter a romantic relationship.  None of these things are addressed in school.  English, Maths, Science and History should take a back seat to new subjects which teach our kids something useful.  If they want to read Shakespeare down the track, or learn calculus, by all means, let them at it. But how about we teach our kids how to find work, both with an employer, and on their own merit.  How about we give them communication, negotiation and teamwork skills to be able to run a committee or speak to an employer in an interview.  What if we have an entire subject on responsible driving and get them all a car, bus, motorbike, heavy vehicle and powerboat licence before they leave school.  What if the majority of Australians were taught about our current political systems and were encouraged to speculate on its merits.  What if relationships and parenting were subjects taught over five years during high school?  Would our divorce rate drop?  What would the next generation of kids benefit from that?  Let's teach financial management as a subject instead of a brief unit in one strand of a Maths option (a perceived lesser option that the "Smart" kids don't take).  How would our country fare if everyone knew how to maintain a surplus monetary fund?  Our "A" students are not tomorrows leaders, they are tomorrow's followers.  They are fully conditioned to work hard, get a good job, not challenge authority, vote for the party representing the working class, and pass on these values to their kids.  How often do we hear that our leaders (I'm not talking political leaders) and wealthy people were school dropouts.

4. The school terms are not conducive to learning.  Let's argue for a minute that what students are taught in school is actually worth learning, and for primary school, I do believe that it is.   Our current school year is made up of four, ten-week terms with a fortnights break between them.   The first four weeks of each term is filled with productive learning.  The teachers are motivated and organised, the students are refreshed from their break and everyone is on top of their game.  Then we get mid-term testing and everyone breaths a sigh of relief that the unit is over.  After about week six, it's a hard slog for everyone.  Teachers are burned out and students are tired.  Lessons drag, and everyone is counting the days until the final week of term.  More testing takes place and student attendance starts to drop off during the last two weeks of term.  Whilst schools maintain a policy of teaching right up to the last minute, no real learning takes place in that last week.  Ten weeks is just too long... for everybody.  My suggestion is that we shorten the terms to six weeks.  You can fit six units of six weeks into the calendar year with two weeks break in between each one and a six week break at Christmas (our summer holiday).  You lose four weeks from our current model, but if the last week of term is just filling in time at the moment, what is the difference?  Spend the first five weeks teaching and learning and the last week completing assignments (not tests).  Have a break and begin again refreshed and revived.

I will be home-schooling my children through their primary years because I live in a rural/remote area.  I'd like them to be able to attend a high school for social reasons as well as resources that I do not have at home.  I'd like my children to be able to stand in front of a room of people and speak confidently.  I can't teach them that when there are no other students here.  But I will not accept that they be conditioned in the manner in which the Australian public is currently schooled.  I have twelve years, I guess, to write a new curriculum and start a new type of school.  I would appreciate any and all help in this crusade.  Please contact me by email if you have anything to contribute.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Animal Cruelty Witnessed

I've just spent one minute watching my cat play with a mouse.  I'm not sure how long it's been doing this or how much longer it will continue.  Poor little mouse.  I bet it wishes it was a cow about now.  It would have had a more humane death.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Farmer's Life

I'm in Brisbane now waiting for my new baby to arrive and I've been reflecting on the differences in lifestyle of the city person to the country person.  It came about whilst I was discussing the current education system with a friend of my mother's.  She commented about the stupidity of not being able to keep kids back a year if they were struggling at school.  I suggested that parents need to remember that it is their responsibility to educate their children, not the government's, and that schools are a resource that you do not have to use.  We then moved on to, "Who can afford to stay at home to educate their children these days?"

I wondered at this because it does seem to be the norm that both parents work these days.  My question is: is it really necessary for a family to have two incomes?  There are plenty of single parents rearing children on one income despite the laws regarding child maintenance.  So perhaps we need to consider our lifestyle expectations.

My city friends seem to live in modern houses with multiple bedrooms, study, media room or formal lounge with plenty of space.  They have the latest technology with respect to TV, Computers, IPads, IPhones, and copious amounts of toys for their children.  They have dual incomes.

In my district, the only ones with modern homes appear to be in my parents' generation.  The ones that have slogged away at farming for decades to save enough for a renovation.  Many of my friends live too far out of town to conveniently drive their kids to school and have no other choice but to home-school, making a second income from employment impossible.  When I look around at my fellow farmers and graziers, I don't see wealth, but I do see happiness.  Like many businesses these days, you have to work it yourself, for far longer than the standard 38 hour week just to survive.  Many farmers don't even take a wage for themselves and they certainly cannot afford to pay someone else the standard labour rates.

But our priorities are different I suppose.  We don't have the latest gadget or computer.  We don't even have windows that shut properly, or a decent paint job on the house.  We use borrowed or donated furniture.  Our kids are wearing hand-me-down clothes and share a bedroom.  We eat vegetables that we grow ourselves instead of buy at the shops.  But our lives are completely entwined with our kids.  We don't get babysitters for a night out, we take the kids with us.  We don't spend all day at work and see our kids for a limited time each day.  They come too. The children are just as familiar with the jobs that need to be done daily as we are and they are enthusiastic participants.

People out in the country prove daily that you can live on one income.  You can live on a fraction of one standard income.  It was not that long ago that people were happy just to have a roof over their head and food on the table.  Now many people think they have to live in a McMansion, have all the latest toys and give over the responsibility of raising and educating their kids to strangers and systems that will never value individual children like their parents can.

What are your priorities?  Are you happy?  Do you have time for a doll's tea party, or are you too exhausted from work?