Friday, 29 November 2013

Keep It Simple (pdf)

The culmination of the Screw Work, Let's Play 30 Day Challenge

TA DA! Click on the blue writing :) Remember to subscribe to the blog or like my FB page if you want to know when the next one is out, thank you xx

by Niki Willows!

Hello my lovelies. Oooh there have been tears this evening! 

We're off to the Brecon Beacons tomorrow so I decided to upload 


tonight! Woo hoo! 

I didn't want to make you wait until tomorrow night when I know you've been sat there twiddling your thumbs waiting all week. No? Well may be not, anyway, had the file all stored on THE CLOUD (oooh get me and my new technology skills!) But NO it was all scrambled and a right mess. Turns out oldest's laptop doesn't have some version of word that I needed SO I'm now in youngest's room whilst he's practicing a bit of slap bass (google Ben Harper if you want to hear some) as I'm trying to load the thing up - it has been almost an hour of faffing so far. Is it worth it? You tell me

It was more than an hour - I ended up driving up the M4 to the other half's in Bristol. As I turned off the motorway I remembered that I'd left both my walking poles and walking boots at home so had a tearful moment in the car. I don't really do tears so you can tell how STRESSED I AM!

Then I got to Bristol at 6.30 and am now uploading this at 8.30 So thanks to my partner, Martin, who has the patience of MANY saints and to Sam for bringing my walking boots and poles over!

Actually I'm very proud of it so have a flick through and if you like it (or if you don't) give me some feedback...

Bit Of A Rant

I've had this rant whizzing round in my head this morning. It's day 29 of the 30 Day Challenge so getting ready to 'Launch' the project or they also call it 'Shipping' (good video about shipping here if you want to find out more ) and having got to this point it has made me really THINK. Think about a lot of things, but to be honest I am a bit cross to have got to 47 and realised through this project that the thing I love doing is taking photographs. 

Now for anyone who has known me for any time at all will know that I am never without a camera. I have loved taking photos for as long as I can remember. The first time I can remember is a trip to Whipsnade Zoo from Burrowmoor County Primary way back... The CROSS bit is that I didn't follow this love of photography and I'm furious at that 'careers' teacher who asked me what subjects I was good at and told me to be a Hotel Receptionist or go in the Army - can you see any similarities between the two because I can't.

I didn't follow his advice I went and did two years at Norwich City College taking Preliminary Social Care. Which I enjoyed, I thought I'd quite like to be a nanny which I did - also could be described as hired skivvy depending on the family you were working for. Ended my nanny career on a farm in Berkshire with a lovely little cottage and a car and still stay in touch with that family.

BUT I am so cross with the school system for asking you what your best subjects are and basing their advice on your whole future career on that. They NEVER asked me what I was good at outside of school, never asked me what I was interested in, what I LIKED to do, what things I couldn't stop thinking about or couldn't wait to do at the weekend.

This came to a bit of a head a couple of years ago with my youngest. The older three had all done 6th form, had a year out and gone to uni. Pretty much doing things that they were interested in but fitting the school/6th form/uni model that schools favour. Youngest was/is a bright spark, really good at sciences (AGaT; Able, Gifted and Talented in Chemistry) and maths. He toyed with the idea of doing something Physics/Chemistry based. When he was at home although he got his homework done and got the 'right' scores and grades, when all that was done, he drummed. He played the actual drums (we have great neighbours!) and he drummed on the table at meal times, he drummed with his feet if his hands were busy, he hummed music, he watched music, he listened to music, he went to see bands and he drummed some more. He drummed at Parent's Evening with his fingers and I would sit there saying 'Charlie, STOP drumming and listen' He thought about doing Music for A Level and they told him they wouldn't have him because he wasn't achieving his Target Minimum Grade in the subject. They probably said that at one of those parent's evening WHILST he was drumming.

So he decided to go to College to do music. No one in the family was happy about this, he was the bright spark, he could do so well, wasn't he going to go off and be an amazing chemist? I thought long and hard and knew school wasn't the right place for him. He was always asking teachers questions that they didn't have time to answer and it frustrated him so much. I didn't know what to say. In my soul I knew he was a drummer boy and I said 'Follow your heart Charlie.' 'WHAT?' said my daughter 'Don't be bloody stupid!' Physics son phoned up saying 'No Mum, no, make him go to 6th form, he's throwing everything away.' But I left it to Drummer Boy and he did go to college and he has loved every minute. He eats, sleeps, breaths and absorbs music through every pore.

Last night was the college gig. The new First Years are incredible - they bravely kicked it off with a female singer and Whole Lotta Love and they pulled it off, just fabulous. The Second Years were doing their own compositions and there was my boy, doing his thing; singing, playing bass AND drumming. And he looks like he's right where he is supposed to be. AND his siblings all think he's bloody marvellous and extremely cool :)

The same thing happened with my sister; bright spark but also extremely creative. She got pushed the uni route, got a first in law, woo hoo, fantastic we all thought. But years later LISTENED to her creative voice screaming inside (she would say that's far too dramatic) and now is a Printmaker and Sculpturer. (spell check tells me that's not a word but I'm leaving it in)

Anyway, back to me being cross, hmmm I seem to have calmed down a bit now. I'm all for education but surely it's should be about the whole person, not just what they can do in the dinosaurs that our schools are? Do kids learn abut managing a budget, how to do what you love, how to work collaboratively in a community? May be they get some bits of that but school is a factory that we put them into and they are supposed to come out the other end in a neat box. Well my box was being kicked from the inside with bits of 35mm film sneaking out of the edges and proper old flash bulbs popping away that smelt funny. I'm sure you've seen the Ken Robinson animation that sums it up so well? If not WATCH IT!

I got kind of head hunted recently. Then I was told that if I was offered the job I'd need to go back to Uni for two years because I didn't have the correct teaching qualification. I already have a degree in Early Years Education and an adult teaching qualification. But I didn't have the RIGHT qualification, the right piece of paper. I could have talked about the subject standing on my head easily, and I may not have that particular qualification but I have a hell of a lot of experience in the subject matter and a lot of experience in talking about it to people. But yeah, I'm not a qualified teacher. So I said no, I won't come for an interview but thanks for thinking of me.

I just don't think that the best qualification for a teacher is a degree in teaching. You need to know about the subject too. And really I think that all teachers should be doing a couple of days a week working in the field that they teach about, otherwise whatever they say is something they've read rather than what they KNOW because they've done it.

That got me thinking about my own teachers and people that I have learnt from. Moira the OT was a fabulous lady, managed to teach without telling you and that is such a skill, learnt oodles about children with SEN from her. David Bruce who I nannied for taught me all about wine and a little about beer and a lot about not judging people by their background rich or poor. Ruth Parsons, my friend from the woods, teaches me something new each and every time I see her and she's not even trying to, actually so does my yoga teacher also Parsons, may be it's the name. Julia at my old job taught me to have a go and to let people that you were managing have a go and just to see if things would work. But the only teacher I really remember from school is Mr Jones Music (not the Welsh one, we had two) who would take us to church to practice for the carol concert and play them jazz style if no other teachers were about. And I didn't take music.

My best teachers have been people who were not teachers but people who are well rounded and passionate about what they do, and people who are not afraid to share what they do. They are not people who think 'Oh if I show her that she might do it better than me and nick my idea' They are sharers and I think we need more of those.

So back to ME (haha!) and photography. I've enjoyed the project and am so pleased that it has made me focus on what I love again. Although the project finishes tomorrow I will continue to play and to create because I should have been doing that all along x

ps - this is one of my sister's prints, I think she's amazing

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Sore knees!

Hey Beautiful people, I hope you're having a great day. I have had a sore day. You may have seen my earlier photo of the boy's climbing wall in progress. Well when he was little he used to leave his toys all over the floor, then it was clothes and now it's bits of wood. Ok so they weren't exactly strewn across the floor like Lego bricks aged 7 (gosh didn't they hurt your bare feet!?) they were laid neatly along one side of the hall,  BUT his bike was in pieces on the other side of the hall. Now despite the fact that I'd been through the hall about 27 times already that day for some reason on the 28th time, may be it was 29, I tripped over the bloody wood and landed on the bike. OW! I have considered taking a photo of my knees for you but it's not a good look. Cut and bruised and swollen. Pretty ugly actually.

Luckily I was working at home all day today because although I can get my trousers on if I move it HURTS! So I've been in trackie bottoms all day, well classy. Both sons have been telling me to 'Man up' Cheers boys. Son away at Uni was most sympathetic on the phone - I love you best Joe! - Anyway the wood is now moved, hopefully he'll tackle the bike tonight.

Big night tomorrow night, youngest son is playing in the college gig which is always a great night out. If only they had a bar too, honestly it would be like a mini festival.

I've just about finished the weekend freebie. Just need to work out how to merge two word docs which is proving a bit tricky at the mo. In the meantime this is what is happening in the garage!

Monday, 25 November 2013

Sneak peek and thank you

Thank you so much for all of the positive feedback on this little blog; lovely inbox feedback with some great ideas on facebook, kind comments on here and some people who know me in real life actually spoke to me about it. So thank you, thank you, thank you - I'm bowing, can you see?

I've been working on my project this evening, I'm quite excited about it so wanted to give you a peak! Here it is...  


So there we are, can you see what it is yet? Honestly you'll love it and it's FREE anyway so how can you not! I showed it to youngest son who said 'Did you take the photos Mum?' and I said yes and he told me he was very proud of me. Bless him what a cutie. A six foot two cutie but one all the same. 
So all will be revealed on Saturday as long as I can sort out the technicalities of not having a laptop, being in Bristol not home and pdfs, websites and the 30 Day Challenge. It'll be fine!

Here is a little pic for you of some Fairy Food, it's already on faceyb so sorry if you've already seen it.

Meanwhile in my garage my oldest is building a climbing wall, like you do. So here's a picture of that too. I'm sure it fits all building regs and follows all HSE standards but he will be using a big mattress as a crash mat just in case! 

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Leaves and Children's Cameras

I've been playing with leaves a lot for my project and last weekend found these amazing red ones, maple I think. It was  also a still day so I could go out and really play. I liked the colour against the green grass. I'm putting lots of ideas into a little booklet which will be free on here, so watch this space :) 

Dead simple isn't it? If you're working with children they can make shapes and then take the photos themselves. PLEASE don't buy those awful 'children's' cameras. Why on earth would they want a clumsy big bright plastic thing with massive buttons when they have tinier hands than ours and are much more technically able than we were at the same age. Buy a drop proof waterproof camera by all means but leave those horrible plasticky things in the toy shop because that's all they are.

Friday, 22 November 2013

What's in a name?

Now there's a question. What IS in a name?

 I've been asked three times this week if I changed my name to Willows because I'm a foresty/outsidey person. Well firstly I am NOT that person. I currently have a desk job and sneak outside when I can! But no I did not change my name. This is the very name I was born with. My Dad's family are Willows and it's a Lincolnshire name. I was once married and I didn't change it then either, I really like my name. And to be honest, it was quite handy when I got divorced because I didn't need to change anything! So there we are Willows is just who I am and it is rather nice that I like to be outside and am a Forest School Leader too.

I've also been asked why the blog is called Rounded & Grounded - well I'm pretty round and I like to think I'm grounded! No, really it came out of a conversation I was having about the education system (don't get me started on Gove and 2 year olds in school and targets and how we MEASURE children...) I was saying that the thing all children need, despite what our education system tries to force them into, is to be rounded and grounded. And the lady came back saying 'I like your bit about being rounded and grounded' and I thought hey, that's not a bad name for the blog. So there you go, here it is!
Two fabulous FREE publications that are always in my work bag are these two below -

Health and Safety Play Statement - perfect common sense for anyone working with children

Mud Kitchens pdf from the fabulous Muddy Faces

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Suuuuuny Wiltshire!

Oh it is just beautiful outside today. The rain was LASHING at my window last night so I was surprised to see it so sunny this morning. We're 3/4 of the way through this 30 Day Challenge and tonight there's a big meet up of some of the people involved up in Laaandon. If I'd been more organized, and if I'd had any leave from work left, I'd have gone as we're in the city this weekend anyway. But, no leave and the usual lack of organisation SO there's also a mini-meet up in Bristol - yay for the South West! - so I'm going to that.

I haven't walked into a bar on my own for many years so arranged to pick another SWLPer up from the station and then she texted to say 'Had you thought about the train?' Well, blow me down, no I hadn't! I am so used to bombing (within all speed limits anyway) up and down the M4 to see the other half that I forget I can get the train there too. So, get me, I'm going on a train. To meet a group of strangers. I'm sure it'll all be fine. No, really - anyway if I go missing it's the Watershed between 6.30 and 9 so you can start the search there.

So my project is about free outsidey things and I'm currently uploading a lot of photos to photobox cos I want to print them off and make my pdf a little like a scrapbook with my writing in too. I even bought some beautiful drawing inks last night in case I fancy adding a little colour. Then my sister reminded me that I'd been bought some on a BIG DAY OUT in London when we were children - and she was away at Brownie camp. She wasn't happy at all. And she STILL remembers it, ooops!

So here's a couple of sneak preview project pics. Let me know what you think - although so far I have told no on about this blog except fellow SWLPer Keira who is doing some marvellous family things with her children. I expect we could link that onto each other's blogs at some point.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Setting Up An Outdoor Play Project (pdf)

  Well you may think I'm getting carried away now with a second post on day one, blimey! But no, this is to test if I can upload a pdf thingy as I said earlier. Well, it turns out I can but only after several hours of messing around with gmail and various pages of Chinese - seemed to be the default setting! - and a good hour of help from my extremely patient son Sam. Thank you Sam, I seriously would have frisbeed the laptop across the room.

ANYWAY here we go, a very tiny little pdf about setting up a play project, just because sometimes people ask me that kind of thing. To be honest the same very basic principles would work for pretty much any group. So, pdf on How to set up an Outdoor Play Project here
Woo hoo, finally got round to creating a blog only to find out that once signed in I have previously created two other blogs - obviously many moons ago!

So here we go then; primarily a place to put outsidey stuff which I already do on good old faceyb but sometimes, quite frankly, I just want to run on a bit more than I do on there. Unbelievable I know.

So I've started this thing called the SCREW WORK, LET'S PLAY 30 DAY CHALLENGE (SWLP) - capitals because I do think it's worth shouting about. It's a project to play with what you love doing, so key things have really been to find out what it is you DO love doing! And then get right stuck into the process and with daily prompts from the SWLP team they kind of poke, cajole and guide you along the way to create SOMETHING to share at the end of the 30 days. That date is fast approaching. 

I'm kind of sure I know where I'm going, my idea is to create a free pdf (or similar) giveaway of outdoorsy ideas that are very visual - I do love taking photos! - I just find that some people struggle a bit with what to do outside so I'm hoping this publication will be something they can have a quick look at or stick in their bag to take out and it will give them a starting point. And we all know that once you start playing you can just go with the flow with kids. They will always take play a step further than anything we'd ever thought about.

So the blog is for me to have a mad ramble every now and then and a way to share the pdf thingy - although I currently have no idea how to do that but I will learn!

Faceyb link here

So many gorgeous colours about at the mo, beautiful beech trees here on the road to Colerne.