New Hampshire red and Australorp black…?

This week I hung out in Kew Primary’s garden and vegie-patch with Grade 1 teacher, Katie Braemar, and six new arrivals to the school: Henny, Penny, Clucky, Ducky, Pecky and Mabel! Those aren’t their official names, Katie tells me – the kids are going to name them next week – but they’ll do for now.P1060797

There are two types of chook wandering around the newly built chook house: one is…well…blackish and the other is sort of orange-y, but beyond that I haven’t a clue. Fortunately, my expert guide informs me they are an Australorp/New Hampshire cross and a New Hampshire/Rhode Island Red cross.P1060835

The most important thing, though, is that the chooks are laying eggs! Three of them have started already and the other three should be joining them shortly.

‘They lay one egg every 25 hours, Katie tells me, ‘and once they go into  full production we’re hoping to have enough eggs so that Sally can use them in the canteen – for the fried rice – and have extras to sell. Eventually, we’re hoping they’ll be completely free range and will have the full run of the garden.’

Glancing around the garden I can see some long strips of chicken wire that have been recently affixed to the fence, but I wouldn’t be confident of letting them out quite yet; half a dozen chooks and a playground full of kids doesn’t strike me as a good mix.

Katie has taken on the care of the garden and the chooks and organised the building of the chook house. So did you grow up on a farm, I ask her?P1060812

[Much laughter] ‘No, not all. Earlier this year when the vegie garden was quite overgrown I spotted a capsicum amongst all the leaves. On closer inspection I saw there were whole plants full of these vegies and after I’d picked a few I wondered what else was growing. To be honest, I was like a little kid – so excited that from these tiny seeds, yummy fruit and vegies were growing. It’s been great fun for me learning about how food grows, as well as getting my class involved and it’s a lot of trial and error as well which I’ve enjoyed. Then I thought, why stop at vegies when you can have chooks and fresh eggs daily!?’

So how are the kids involved?

‘The Green Thumbs – one of the Grade 6 Leadership groups – is responsible for feeding the chickens each day, grain, pellets and calcium grit, and for keeping their water topped up. Teachers can bring their classes to the garden and show them around and we’re hoping eventually it can be used to teach the kids about life cycles, the environment and sustainability.’P1060809

‘At the moment we’ve got broad beans, silver beet, celery, lettuce, potatoes, garlic, strawberries, corn and herbs – rosemary, coriander and mint. We’re hoping to sell the produce for a gold coin donation and maybe next year have a cook-up once a month, a make and taste, where kids get to pick the vegies and make something with them. I made coleslaw with my kids last week.’

‘We’ve got a huge water tank, a compost bin and a worm farm and some seedlings for more vegies, tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini and spring onions. Oh and our very own scarecrows made by the kids. And the chicken house is fully fox and rodent proof too.’P1060803

As an entirely urban and hopelessly un-green person, I am super impressed by the garden and its contents, and even more so when I discover how it was funded. Apparently, the current Grade 5 girls raised almost $6000 from a lapathon last year, which covered the cost of the brand new chook shed – and its inhabitants! – and some much needed garden maintenance.  Well done girls!

As Katie goes off to her staff meeting, I am left in the garden speculating how I can get a picture of the aforementioned chooks without them doing a runner into the garden and beyond. Every time I open the shed door they rush at me en masse and when I half close it and stick the camera through the gap they peck at me.P1060833P1060824

In the end, the kids come to the rescue by poking bits of straw through the chicken wire on the other side so I can quickly snap my photo of Henny and Penny…or is that Clucky and Ducky…? Who knows?

We didn’t have chickens at my school, or a kitchen garden, just a lot of privet hedge and an unpleasantly smelly gerbil in a tiny cage (from which I developed a lifelong rodent phobia) so I’m glad my very urban kids get to feed the chooks now and again and steal the odd strawberry when my back is turned.  P1060814

With special thanks to Scouty and Harry B for their expert chook distracting skills.

Katie Braemar has a great blog and you can read all about how her class made the coleslaw from fresh produce grown on the garden by clicking here:

Jacqui Tomlins


World Teachers’ Day, 25th October, 2013: A Celebration of (KPS) Teachers

World Teachers’ Day is celebrated in over one hundred countries throughout the world and is an opportunity for parents and students to demonstrate their appreciation of the enormous contribution made by teachers everywhere.teach3So, in celebration of our very own teachers, this week’s blog is dedicated to the staff of Kew Primary School.

In the last few days I have conducted a detailed and thoroughly scientific survey of student opinion asking the following three questions:

What do you like most about your teacher?

Would you like to be a teacher when you grow up?

Can you tell me something funny that a teacher has said or done?

Below are the results of the survey: (There are lots of them. I couldn’t leave any out!)bum

What do you like most about your teacher?

She is my favourite teacher because she is in the middle…she is a little bit strict but not too much. (Grade 1)

She is very funny, generally generous and sporty. (Grade 5)

She is kind, but she still tells people off when she needs to and that’s a good sign. (Grade 2)

The best thing about my teachers is that they teach me stuff! (Grade 2)

I like how we do table lotto and how you get to have jobs in the class. My favourite job is doing the roll. I like her because she uses her expression when she reads a book to the class.  (Grade 2)

She speaks nicely to people, and when someone is sad she tries to cheer them up. (Grade 1)

She was funny and she made our work fun; it was like a competition and whoever finished first got a prize – she made you want to do the work.  (Grade 6)

She’s kind and fair and she understands kids’ problems. She helps if people are teasing and she doesn’t mention names.  (Grade 5)

I have two favourite teachers; they don’t shout at me and they are never bossing me around. (Prep)


She’s nice and caring and I like her earrings. (Grade 2)

I liked him because he let us play soccer indoors! (Grade 3)

She would always have conversations with us about what we liked, football, for example.  (Grade 6)

My favourite teacher wasn’t too strict. She was always kind and patient and was funny! (Grade 2)

She gave me hard maths things to do and she didn’t shout a lot. (Grade 2)

He knew heaps about iPads and showed us lots of cool stuff. (Grade 5)

She taught us songs and she let me choose who could line up first for snack and other things. (Grade 1)

She would give us icy poles on really hot days. (Grade 5)

I like the games she runs in class and if you want to she lets you sit on the chairs instead of the carpet. (Grade 2)

When you’ve done something wrong she is very patient and kind. (Grade 1)

She was always enthusiastic about our work which made us also enthusiastic.  Usually if we finished our work quickly we could go out and play.  (Grade 6)

She did good activities which were fun, and she was funny. (Grade 2)

When I first moved here she was really nice to me. (Grade 5)

I like her because she gives me extra work and because she lets us swap seats every term. (Grade 1)

She is friendly and always smiles and lets us have free time. (Grade 3)

I like the teachers who just talk to me about me and my family. (Grade 1)

She is approachable, friendly and nice. (Grade 5)

She’s really happy and she looks after me. (Grade 1)

She is very nice and I miss her when she goes away. (Grade 1)

She is fair to everybody. (Grade 3)

Sometimes at lunch she lets us watch the number jacks on the iPad. (Prep)

Would you like to be a teacher when you grow-up?

Yes, I think it would be fun to be a teacher when I grow up. I would like to teach children what my teacher has taught us; they will probably turn out good readers as well. (Prep)

No, it would be annoying because you could have some naughty kids in your class. (Grade 1)

I would like to be a singing teacher because it gives children a chance to enter a different world. (Grade 1)

No, I will not be a teacher as I am too sporty. (Grade 3)

Yes, I would like to be an art teacher because I love arts and crafts. (Prep)

No, because I would have to know everything. (Grade 5)

Yes, but a ballet teacher. (Prep)

I don’t want to be a teacher because it’s a bit hard if your children are naughty. I don’t have a reason; I just don’t want to do that. (Grade 1)

Yes, I have thought about being a teacher when I grow up. I would also like to be an archaeologist. (Grade 2)

No. I have other ambitions, involving sport. (Grade 5)


Yes, because you could tell kids what to do and only give them a game when they deserved it. (Grade 2)

No, No. Definitely not. Too many children would be annoying. (Grades 2 & 5)

Probably not because I want to be a book reviewer or a Lego designer. (Grade 5)

No, because there could be a few naughty people and you would have to sit them in the corner. (Grade 3)

Yes, I would like to be a performing arts teacher because I like doing the dancing thing and the games. (Grade 1)

No, because I want to be a scientist. (Grade 1)

Yes, because I like the fact that they are helping kids to learn (Grade 2)

No. I wouldn’t want to teach all those kids; it would be annoying and hard because some of them are naughty. (Grade 2)

I wouldn’t like to be a teacher when I grow up because I am more into electronics. (Grade 2)

No definitely not. It is too busy and kids are very annoying. (Grade 1)

No, because I would rather be a lawyer.  (Grade 6)

Can you tell me something funny that a teacher has said or done?

Last week she tripped over the white board markers on the floor and it was really funny.  (Grade 2)

She is very funny when she is reading the book called The Duck and the Fox. At the very end of the story she uses her funny voice when the fox says stupid duck and the duck says stupid fox. (Prep)

When she said she goes for the Bottoms instead of the Bombers. (Grade 1)

She tries to tell jokes and they’re not very funny but I laugh to make her feel better. I once went up to her at lunch and said: I like your scarf, and she replied: Well you’ll be getting a high grade for that compliment! (Grade 5)

It was funny when she made a mistake on the white board and had to start again, and once she was talking and right in the middle a boy said: Frankenstein! (Prep)

Her jokes are hilarious! (Grade 5)

When kids got stressed he would say: ‘Hey! Cool your jets!’ That was really funny. (Grade 5)

She wrote on the interactive whiteboard with a permanent marker! (Grade 3)

She messed up the projector and all the images were upside down. (Grade 2)

Once she told us a story about being at camp and she gave the keys of the van to a kid to get something from the van. The kid came back and said that someone had left the hand-brake off and the van had rolled down a hill and hit a tree! We were all laughing. (Grade 5)

She was funny when she sang: Bellyflop in a Pigsty. (Grade 1)

One of the funniest things was when she fell down the stair; I was laughing but I also felt really sorry for her. (Grade 6)


I cannot remember precisely which teacher it was, I think I was in Grade 2 at the time. We were doing maths and the teacher was counting down with her fingers from ten.  She was left pointing her middle finger at the class.  It was very funny and the whole class was laughing.  (Grade 6)

She said we had to do one hundred star jumps, but actually it’s only one! (Prep)

She draws a funny ‘W’. (Grade 1)

Once he taught us the haka which was really cool. (Grade 5)

I don’t know. I know some not funny stuff. (Grade 1)

My teachers are not funny at all. (Grade 2)

A poem, a video clip and a message

When I was thinking about teaching – its many delights and challenges – I recalled a poem I read many years ago by the English children’s writer, Allan Ahlberg. I particularly love his introduction:

I think this poem has something to do with the psychological state of teachers. Imagine you’re a child in class and you ask your teacher five questions every day – that’s not many is it, five – but, if there are thirty of you, that makes 150 questions a day, 750 questions a week, 3000 questions a month, and if we say ten months in the year, that’s 30,000 questions a year. If a teacher teachers for ten years, that’s 300,000 questions. And this, of course, explains the situation which most children understand which is that all school teachers are crazy.  

Please Mrs Butler

Please Mrs Butler
This boy Derek Drew
Keeps copying my work, Miss.
What shall I do?

Go and sit in the hall, dear.
Go and sit in the sink.
Take your books on the roof, my lamb.
Do whatever you think.

Please Mrs Butler
This boy Derek Drew
Keeps taking my rubber, Miss.
What shall I do?

Keep it in your hand, dear.
Hide it up your vest.
Swallow it if you like, love.
Do what you think best.

Please Mrs Butler
This boy Derek Drew
Keeps calling me rude names, Miss.
What shall I do?

Lock yourself in the cupboard, dear.
Run away to sea.
Do whatever you can, my flower.
But don’t ask me!

Allan Ahlberg

So on the days you feel a bit like Mrs Butler, remember that there are many people who really appreciate the work you do. When I put out the call for parents to ask their kids to contribute to this blog, my in-box filled up in hours. The kids loved talking about you all and sharing their stories and the parents were eager to pass on their support and thanks. So Happy World Teachers’ Day everyone and thank-you for your kindness and humour, your hard-work and commitment, and for creating a fantastic learning environment for our kids.

Jacqui Tomlins (on behalf of the school parent community)

And finally, this is a funny YouTube clip of the English comedian, Peter Kay, talking about teachers. I hope it makes you smile:


From pen-friends to Facebook friends: Edoardo’s letter

I’m guessing all our kids could tell you what a Facebook friend is, but I wonder whether they would know what a pen-friend is?

Mine was called Astrid and she lived just outside the Black Forest in Germany. My older siblings had pen-friends, too: Marie Eve from Alsace and Thomas from Offenburg. When I think back (to England in the seventies) everybody had a pen-friend. It was fun writing to someone you didn’t know, and even more fun when a hand-written letter with an unusual stamp arrived from a far-away place (well France and Germany seemed quite far away at the time). And decades later my mum still exchanges Christmas cards with Marie-Eve’s mum.

A random survey of Kew Primary mums informs me that young Australians also had pen-friends, mostly in America, and the Kiwis (for some reason) were hooked up with the Scandinavians.

Recently I was talking to Sally who has Naomi in Prep and Susan in Grade 1. Sally had a letter from an Italian boy she’d met on a recent overseas trip. I was in Italy, she explained, with my husband, Jim, who was competing as a rower at the world Master’s Games at Lake Candia in Northern Italy.



Edoardo was the only child of the owners of the hotel where we were staying in a very small town called Caluso about an hour north of Turin. Edoardo impressed us all with his incredible magic skills each evening while we ate dinner or in the afternoons after the racing had finished when we were relaxing outside. It was impossible to work out how he did it. He was very good.



So we asked him a lot about where he learnt to do magic, what he wanted to do when he grew up, where he went to school and so on.  He said he would really love to write to some kids his age in Australia, and that his best friends would like to write too. So we put together a letter which he spoke to us in Italian, and which my friend translated into English so that we could give it to children here to read. If Kew Primary kids write to him he will be able to have his teacher or his parents help him to read the letter.

So I was thinking how cool would it be if Edoardo received a batch of letters from some kids in Australia? And how great if our kids got off their iPads, and their emails, and wrote a letter by hand, then went to the post office and bought and stamp and mailed it!? If you have a kid in Grade 4, 5 or 6 maybe you could pass on Edoardo’s letter:

My name is Edoardo,

I live in Montanaro and I go to school here.  My Mamma and Papa own the Hotel Erbaluce.

I go to school at Figlie Di Carija – a private Catholic primary school meaning the Children of Clarity.

I start school at eight o’clock and I finish at four o’clock. I have morning tea (15 minutes) and half an hour for lunch.  My favourite subjects are English, maths, science and art.  I am in fifth grade.  This is the last year of primary school (5 years).  After 5th grade, I will start at the middle school (year 6) and stay there until year 8.  Senior school goes from year 9 to year 13.

My best friends are Alessandra, Riccardo and Lorenzo.

Next year I will go to the middle school in Caluso, but my friends will go to school 9kms away from me in Montanaro.  We like to ride bikes together and play Yu-Gi-Ho (a card game).

I go to a special magic school in Turin on Tuesdays (9pm-11pm). One day (when I have grown up) I want to be a professional magician.  I am the youngest magician at my magic school.  The other students range from 13 years old to 40 years old.  There are 30 people in the class.  We have school holidays in the summer for 3 ½ months from mid-June until the end of September.  We have two weeks holiday at Christmas time, one week at Easter and some small religious holidays because I go to school with the nuns.

At Christmas time in Montanaro it snows at the hotel that my parents run.  I like to ski in winter in the mountains an hour from my home and make snowmen at home.

I would love to write letters to a friend in Australia and will write back to you.  My friends would like to write too.

Please write to me at:

Edoardo Baro

Via: Castel Fidaro No.9

Paese: Montanaro 10017


With thanks to Sally Peters.

Jacqui Tomlins

PS: Prep Swimming: The instructions that aren’t on the notice

It was with great excitement that Penny produced a yellow notice from her school bag last week: Mum! We’re starting swimming!

As a veteran of the Prep swimming program (this will be my fourth year) and informed by many years of working as a swimming instructor, I greeted this news with a mixture of happiness and dread; happiness because I’m glad Penny will be going along to swimming full of enthusiasm but dread because the effort of getting 20 five-year-olds in and out of the pool in an hour is enormous.kew-ymca

For the first-timers, here’s a few simple guidelines to make the Prep swimming experience a little easier to manage:

1. Make sure your kid can put on undies standing up. What?! Many years ago after a swimming lesson, a parent asked me what they should do to prepare their five-year-old for school swimming lessons. This child happened to be an exceptionally good swimmer but that aside, my answer was simple: Make sure he can put his undies on standing up. Most little kids sit down on the ground to put undies on. Next time you’re at public swimming pool, take a look at the floor (hint: it’s usually wet and not all that clean). Now think about kids sitting on that floor, struggling to roll undies up damp legs. Got it?

2. Name everything. Seriously, put name tags on name tags. At the end of every session there is invariably a pair of undies or one sock left; how does this happen? Who’s not wearing undies or only one sock? I learnt the hard way; one year my son went to swimming in a brand-new unnamed navy long-sleeved polo-top and came home in pale blue short-sleeved top that had seen better days…

3. The bit on the notice where the teachers ask for parent helpers? Sign up. Basically the ratio needs to be approximately ten thousand adults to one child to make this happen.

4. Despite what your child may tell you, no kid has ever been allowed to buy anything from the vending machines at Kew Rec. Urban myth. Don’t be fooled.

5. On the upside of all this effort is extreme exhaustion, the kids, that is. The walk to and from and the pool combined with their swimming lesson is very, very tiring. Lock in early nights on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Katrina Whelan

How to spend $1372.27 in an hour…when you’re only eight: A cautionary tale

Recently I received a text from my partner, Sarah, that went something like this: I think Scout might have spent $400 on the iPad!

And about a minute later another text saying: No, actually, $600!

And then another that just said: OMG!…$700…$800…

I texted back that I thought there must be some mistake. It wasn’t possible to spend that much money in such a short time; we must have been hacked. Check with the bank.

At first the bank said the transactions were certainly unusual and yes it looked like we had been hacked. We cancelled our credit cards immediately, but even after that, payments still came through.

With blood pressure and panic rising Sarah contacted iTunes who confirmed that the transactions were made from a device registered in our name. OMG! didn’t come

What we later discovered is that Scout had made 19 separate payments for ‘in app purchases’, totalling $1372.27; including 11 individual payments of $109.99 each. We didn’t know about ‘in app purchases’ then, but we certainly do now.

I’m sure many of you reading this are ahead of the game and have your ‘in app purchases’ button switched off and would never give your child your password anyway, but for the rest of you, let me tell you how it happened.

I was away and Sarah had a house full, friends over for dinner and kids everywhere. Scout yelled downstairs to ask if she could download an app: It’s free, she said, it’s called My Summer Break, and it’s about fashion and going to the beach and it’s rated 4+. Can I? summer break

Sure, said Sarah, and told Scout the password. Scout then downloaded the free – seemingly innocuous and apparently suitable for four year olds – game and started to play. In the game Scout was able to buy ‘Beach Bucks’ starting at $1.99 (Real Bucks) for 200 Beach Bucks and going up to $109.99 for 20,000 Beach Bucks.

We think that for the first ten or fifteen minutes she was able to do this without re-entering the password, and after that she had to provide the password again which, of course, she did. Do I think Scout knew that she was doing something she shouldn’t? Yes, probably.

Do I think she had any idea she was buying real money – and how much? No. I’m quite sure she didn’t. She plays lots of games that have things you can ‘buy’ bags of gold, treasure, special keys and I don’t believe that at eight she can clearly distinguish between real money and game money. When Sarah asked her, she said: I just thought it was in the iPad.Kids-and-Money

Later, I checked out the game – rated 4+:

It’s time for dressing up in the hottest swim wear fashions and flirting by the pool!

Work in a tan salon and earn money so you can shop for the best summer fashions. There are tons of outfits for you to try and buy. As your closet fills with fashions your popularity rises and you are on your way to becoming the next Queen of the Beach Parties.

Flirt with cute boys by the pool and get invited on dates!

Needless to say, we no longer have My Summer Break on our iPad. We have changed our Settings to disable ‘in app purchases’ and no longer have our credit card details linked. We have become a big fan of iTunes cards!

At the end of last term the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) visited Kew Primary to talk to the Grade 5 and 6s about in app purchases. Their visit was part of a worldwide consumer protection initiative called the Sweep which aims to raise awareness of this highly misleading practice that is largely aimed at our

Delia Rickard, the Deputy Chair of the ACCC who ran the session, asked the kids if they were aware of games that had in app purchases. Dozens of hands went up and the kids reeled off a very long list.

So if you haven’t already, you need to disable the in app purchases on your iPad or smartphone. If you go to this link on the ACCC website it will explain how to do that:

It’s very straightforward and only takes a minute.

So did we end up $1372.27 worse off that evening? Actually, no. After a lot of late night frantic internet research and a long, detailed letter sent to iTunes, Sarah managed to get the money back. It seems that if you can argue that your child made these purchases without your knowledge (even if they had the password) you can get your money refunded, but only once. You don’t get a second chance.

Clearly, we are not the first people to have experienced this and iTunes and Apple are very aware that it’s a huge problem.  The situation is being closely monitored by the ACCC who are considering what can be done to protect consumers against the dangers of in app purchasing.

In the meantime, check those settings…

Jacqui Tomlins