School Finder – Finding the right fit for your family!

When we landed in Sydney almost 5 years ago, it was probably the most overwhelming yet exhilarating time of our lives. Where would we live? Where would I buy my groceries? What is the traffic like? And most importantly, how on earth am I going to find the right school?
In order to settle into life ‘Down Under’ and get sorted with all the things necessary to ‘live’ as a family, we had given ourselves about 10 weeks leeway.
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First day at Aussie School!! 
A few days after arriving, our relocation consultant, turned up! Lisa drove us around for three days looking for the best location in Sydney, to fit what we were looking for to build our new life. (A dream right??)… Yes, we were spoilt, but using a service like this, meant we landed on our feet in the perfect spot for the whole family!
I am well aware that lots of expats arrive in Australia without this kind of assistance, and that’s why I want to introduce you to a couple of amazing women who are dedicated to helping you find the perfect school & location for your family even if you’re not on Aussie soil!!

Meet Steph & Claire from School Finder!

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Steph is a mum to 3 kids,  who lives in Bayside, Melbourne. Steph worked for 6 years at Kilvington Grammar before having her first child and taking 6 years off to expanded her family. She completed her masters while away from the classroom and got involved in community kindergarten where currently she is President. Steph went back to the classroom in 2017 working in the state system and now works 2 days a week teaching Year One. Steph loves teaching because no day is the same, the kids make you laugh and you’re always kept on your toes.
‘Teaching is so rewarding!  Seeing your students ‘ah ha’ moments and pride in their success makes all the tough moments worthwhile’ – Stephanie Murphy
Claire is also a mum and has worked for 11 years in the Catholic system across different areas of Melbourne from Cheltenham to Melton and now based in East Malvern. She has her masters in ‘Inclusive Schooling’ and is currently working 2 days a week in Year 6. Claire has taught extensively in Prep and has been a transition coordinator welcoming children in at the beginning of their primary school journey. Conversely Claire has also taught 3 years in Year 6 and has seen her students graduate and transition to secondary schooling. Claire is a lover of learning, challenging herself to always think differently, try something new and see where it leads. She also has the most infectious laugh making it hard to not all end up in stitches.

What made you decide to set up School Finder

School Finder was borne from our own personal experiences. When I (Steph) was looking for a school for Henry (my eldest) I found not only were my choices limited (at the time we lived further down the Peninsula) but the variety of offerings was so diverse it was hard to really decide what I wanted. At the same time Claire had just had her first baby and so, as I searched Claire answered my phone calls about what I liked, what I didn’t and things I noticed while looking at different schools. 2 things were really clear – even with our teaching background, we still needed a clear criteria and set of parameters that met our children. Parents on tours with me spent most of the time smiling and nodding uncertainly, whilst I spent a lot of my time deciphering jargon for them.
After I had chosen a school for Henry and we were in the process of moving and finding him a kindergarten, we decided to write down some of the things that Claire did with me, informally, as a framework for what now we call our Welcome Survey. My husband built the website, we started putting our name out there and between friends, family and word of mouth our little start up was born and we began to get clients and test out our service.
‘In our first year we didn’t charge any of our clients, we wanted to see if what we did worked for families, we wanted to review and refine our service and build relationships with new people and schools. Now we have clients from all over Melbourne and interstate Australia. Including several international moves also’ – Stephanie Murphy 

What services do you offer expat parents moving to Australia for the first time? Can you assist parents even when they have never visited the area?

When families move to Australia we want to ensure we talk to them about what the Australian school system looks like, how the calendar year & terms work, and educational approaches. We then walk them through the online resources they can access including MySchool, Find my school and bettereducation.com.au.
As with all of our clients, whether local or far away, we start by sharing our welcome survey which really identifies what parents are looking for in a school setting. We question the pragmatics of location, after school care, and canteen, to the values and ethos by which people raise their families and what they want from a school. We also question how much involvement a family wants to have in a school community.
Then, via Skype or if in Melbourne in person, we coach parents on how to use online tools, how to build a personalised criteria and how to write direct questions that relate to that criteria. If parents have never visited the area, we go for them and report back or book them in for when they arrive in Melbourne!
School Finder has 3 staggered packages depending on need. So if parents are happy after the one on one they are not locked into the next step. If we tour on behalf of the client we go with their criteria and questions and operate like a proxy for them. Schools are often really happy to take us through and because we are teachers who walk the walk and talk the talk, we can be quite direct in what the family is looking for.

If a parent was moving to Victoria, from overseas, what would be the reason they would choose your help?

For a family moving to Victoria we would start with the welcome survey then set up a Skype or Zoom meeting to chat and talk through the Australian schooling, personalised criteria and questions. We use multiple screens to teach parents how to use online tools and we discuss some of the issues with sites like bettereducation.com.au which is advertising heavy. This is the ‘Check In’ and is vitally important for introducing families to us and the Australian Education System.
Our next package up called the Line Up – sends us away from the check in to do the research and take the leg work out of ‘what’s out there?’ After we have done our research we come back to the client with 3-5 schools to tour, how they meet their criteria and contact/tour information all in one document ready to go. We also tour for our clients so if they have completed the Line Up, then they want us to tour, we can do that on their behalf, either charged as part of the full relocations package or by the hour depending on the clients needs. In some cases we have already toured the school so we don’t need to tour again but do some fact finding in terms of class sizes, entry points, availability of spots.
We try to keep our service really personal, so what we do for one client may not match the needs of another. We make sure we tailor our service to your family’s needsStephanie Murphy 

In your opinion, what is the most challenging thing when helping overseas/expat families find the best school for their child?

Apart from the time difference which makes it near impossible to get on the phone to chat to the schools, we have found that expat families find the difference in the Australian and UK education models quite significant. That, combined with understanding the VCE end of the journey can be tricky.

Why do you think your services are important for parents moving to a new country?

As one of our clients recently said ‘You’ve been our woman on the ground’. Moving to a new country is exciting and daunting but when you’re migrating with children there are so many things to consider. Where do we live? How far is that really to work? What is close by? Do we want to go to the local school? Can we walk there? Is there childcare I like close by?
We believe we can give expat families a helping hand in understanding what Australian schooling is like and help them to feel a bit more ready for what they are arriving into when they get here.
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Recently I was on a school tour and met a family who had arrived from Scotland 4 weeks earlier. The family had toured over 12 schools, been looking for housing in 5 suburbs and were still living in their AirBNB feeling utterly overwhelmed. Their kids were, on the whole, happy to be living in a new place but, their youngest was struggling without a routine.
Within a week we found them a school, helped them settle on a location to live and now 3 weeks on they are much more relaxed into Aussie life.
Claire and I got into teaching because we love helping people, forging good relationships and a great rapport with those around us and seeing the results.  This is exactly what we do with School FinderStephanie Murphy 

 


 

I understand that leaving your home can be overwhelming, let alone struggling to build a new life so far away! Claire and Stephanie have made this process a whole lot easier for you, so I hope you will support them in their crusade, to make expat family life a lot easier to build! Recently the team at School Finder have connected with a relocation company who specialise in Melbourne rentals (hurrah)! This means that they can help you find the right school and get you into your new rental stress free.

I’d love to hear how you found the right school for your new expat kids!

Liv xx


 

School Finder Consulting

Qualified and expert educators guiding you through the school-finding process.

Our Team: Expert educators who have worked across the sector. But just as importantly, we are also parents.

Our Services: From a simple sounding board to a comprehensive one-on-one plan that will get your child from kindergarten to grade prep and beyond.

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Build and play with Playgroup Victoria to celebrate 50 years of DUPLO

The Ultimate DUPLO® Playgroup is coming to LEGOLAND Discovery Centre® and you’re invited!

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Your little builders are invited to LEGOLAND® Discovery Centre on Wednesday 11th  September for a fun and inspiring morning with Playgroup Victoria to celebrate 50 years of DUPLO® fun!

The Ultimate DUPLO Playgroup will take place from 8:30am-10am, giving families with kids aged 0-4 the opportunity to enjoy building activities, storytelling, a visit from Emmett from The LEGO Movie (YAY!!!!), and enjoy the arts and crafts in the centre’s new DUPLO Farm Adventure zone at a discounted rate.

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Playgroup Victoria and LEGOLAND Discovery Centre are hosting the special event to mark 50 years since LEGO created DUPLO, the big bricks for small hands.

DUPLO was designed to inspire toddlers to unlock their full potential through interactive, creative and playful experiences.

According to the LEGO Play Well Report, 95% of parents believe play is essential for children’s well-being and is a vital educational tool.

LEGOLAND Discovery Centre supports the important role Playgroup Victoria plays in bringing young children, parents, families and communities together to learn and develop through informal play and social interaction. DUPLO Farm Adventure (1).jpg

“Participation in playgroup positively impacts so much of children’s development as well as parent’s capacity to engage with their children through play,” Danny Schwarz, Playgroup Victoria CEO.

“LEGO is a wonderful tool that allows children to practice their fine and gross motor skills. Moreover, it encourages them to create, be curious, be innovative, share, imagine and play – all which feeds into their greater understanding of the world and its concepts,” Sinead Halliday, Playgroup Victoria.  

The new DUPLO Farm Adventure zone at LEGOLAND Discovery Centre is an interactive experience where toddlers can let their imaginations run wild. Behind the giant barn doors, children can explore a multi-level farmhouse where they can build with DUPLO and climb, crawl, slide and swing!


To purchase tickets to the special event, enter the promo code “ultimateplaygroup” at www.LEGOLANDDiscoveryCentre.com.au. Families can stay at LEGOLAND Discovery Centre after The Ultimate DUPLO Playgroup concludes.

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As well as DUPLO Farm Adventure, LEGOLAND Discovery Centre is also home to two thrilling rides, a 4D cinema and 11 LEGO build and play zones to keep kids of all ages entertained!


The Details:

What: The Ultimate DUPLO Playgroup

Where: LEGOLAND Discovery Centre, Chadtsone Shopping Centre, 1341 Dandenong Rd, Chadstone, VIC 3148

When: Wednesday 11th September from 08:30-10:00 (families can stay after the event)

Cost: $25 per adult; $20 per child 3yrs and over, free for children 2yrs and under

Bookings: www.LEGOLANDdiscoverycentre.com.au

 

***Adults will only be admitted to The Ultimate DUPLO Playgroup with a child and children must be accompanied by an adult.

Don’t ban mobile phones, teach children the importance of honesty! 

I have two children at Primary school. I am “one of those mums” who hasn’t let either of them have a phone yet. Why would I? My son is 7, and my grade 6 daughter is 10. They’re never really in a situation where they need a phone. Not only that, I don’t want them to be able to access any form of social media without me being there. I don’t believe children under the age of 16 have anywhere near the right capabilities to understand or use social media in the right way! They’re still learning social etiquette in the playground for goodness sake, so why open up a whole other world where a simple “No!” can be completely misconstrued.

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Aside to the misunderstandings that come about from a simple text message, smartphones and social media can have seriously detrimental effects on our children’s emotional wellbeing. Alongside increased stress and anxiety levels, children have been shown to have dramatic changes in how they see themselves and measure their self-worth. So why would Primary Schools allow mobile phones through the gates? Well, how the hell can they stop it? This week (three weeks after I wrote this article) it seems that the Victorian Government are finally taking steps to ban mobile phones in all Victorian schools. This has caused lots of chat, mostly from parents who are understandably concerned about their children being left without any way of contacting them.

Just like most primary schools, our school has a “no mobile phone” policy. It’s all very clear! When you come into school, you switch your phone off and hand it to your teacher, who locks it away until the end of the day. Or, you can hide it! You can leave it on, hide it in your bag and bring it out at school swimming when you and your mates want to make a TikTok video. Or you can sneak it into your bag when you go on grade 4 camp, and make Instagram stories of your mates being silly in their underwear. Come on, who cares who’s watching our 9 year olds running around half naked?  Oh hell, let’s go the whole 9 yards and make some Instagram posts with our girlfriends in front of the mirror in the change rooms. Who cares that poor old Sally is nude in the background? Her mum won’t mind!!

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It’s all good and well for primary aged child to have a phone so that parents know they’re safe when they’re walking home, however, when our children are at school, I think we’re allowed to expect that they are safe too, and not being subjected to all the nightmares of social media and the internet? It should go without saying that they aren’t being filmed for Instagram, or photographed for Snap Chat shouldn’t it?

I think as parents, we’re well within our rights to know that when the bell goes, and school begins, children are not uploading to their socials, taking photographs or subjecting other children knowingly or not, to any kind of online activity.

According to Bully Zero Australia Foundation, one in eight Australians experience cyberbullying.

It’s not about being paranoid; it’s about keeping our whole community safe.

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Do we need to send primary aged children through metal detectors at the school gate? Probably not. Do we have an all-out ban on phones, and expect our children to walk home with no way of being contacted? No, absolutely not. Do we need to stop our most vulnerable children accessing the help they need through a device, no way! Therefore, the only way teachers can ever get a handle on mobile phone usage at school is by us parents taking control. Now!

We need to talk to our children about their devices and how they are using them. We need to make sure our children are being honest and using their phones in a safe and respectful way. We need to teach our children the importance of handing their devices to a member of staff, and absolutely make it their responsibility to do so. If they can’t be responsible enough to do that, they shouldn’t have a phone!

Mobile phones can take bullying out of the playground and into the home.

You only have to scroll apps like TikTok to see how many children (and I mean Primary aged) are using their devices in school time. It’s not only a worry for the safety of your own child, but for the children in the background who are completely oblivious to the fact they are “Insta famous”.

We mustn’t ever underestimate privacy. It’s supremely important when it comes to our very young children. “Private accounts “still reveal all sorts of information about a child, and do not stop online bullying!

Of course there’s a limit to what schools can do about children who sneak their devices into the playground. Without bag searches, metal detectors or honesty, teachers are being blindsided every day. This is resulting in our children not having a completely safe environment in which to learn, away from the pressures of social media and the worst of the internet.

The village needs you!

Our primary school children don’t understand the dramatic implications of their online behaviour. They don’t see the harm in hiding their phone in their bag and taking the odd picture of their friends in the playground. We don’t need an all out ban, we need to teach our children the importance of honesty!

It’s our responsibility as parents, to keep our children safe, however, it’s also our responsibility to make sure the children around them are safe too.


It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless – L.R. Knost

Liv xxx

 

Melbourne Winter Masterpieces: Terracotta Warriors | Cai Guo-Qiang

The NVG Winter Masterpieces this year is a sight to behold and one for the whole family to see. Not only does this incredibly well curated exhibition house 8 Terracotta Warriors, it is also home to approximately 170 pieces of stunning work, old and new.

The Terracotta Warriors are often referred to as the eighth wonder of the world, and The National Gallery of Victoria has brought them to Melbourne, so that we can see them, close up. This is honestly, not to be missed!

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Cai Guo-Qiang: The Transient Landscape, presented in parallel with Terracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality has just opened in Melbourne, and is running until 13 October, 2019. 

Arguably the world’s most exciting contemporary artist, Cai Guo-Qiang’s features his brand new masterpieces, created using gunpowder! The videos of how this was achieved are fascinating, and the children are guaranteed to love the theatre of it all.

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‘Using gunpowder brings me closer to nature and even the universe. Of course at the moment of ignition the explosion is instantaneous… but gunpowder has its origins in minerals that took hundreds, thousands or millions of years to form.’Cai Guo-Qiang 

As if the gunpowder creations and the Terracotta Warriors aren’t enough to thrill,  Cai Guo-Qiang has created 10,000 porcelain birds, each one suspended from the ceiling as if mid flight. These birds have been created solely for this exhibition.  This monumental installation of 10,000 suspended porcelain birds, create a three-dimensional impression of a calligraphic drawing of the sacred Mount Li, the site of the ancient tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shihuang, and his warriors. It is a sight to behold!

As with many of the NGV’s exhibitions this is absolutely a child friendly one!  Alongside the exhibits you will see detailed explanations specifically targeted at a younger audience. Perfect for all budding art lovers!

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I strongly urge you to take your whole family to see Melbourne Winter Masterpieces: Terracotta Warriors | Cai Guo-Qiang. As well as delivering an entire new perspective on Chinese culture, past and present this exhibition is sure to create a love of art that you will all enjoy for a lifetime.


 

Location: 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne VIC
Date: 24 May to 13 October 2019.
Tickets: ngv.vic.gov.au
Cost:  Adults $30, Children $10 Family $65.

 

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Find joy in the journey!

A weekend at JoyBell Cottage

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It seems like an age ago that we left the rush of the city behind us and headed out into the Victorian countryside. A weekend of heavenly fresh air, family time and glorious Aussie bush exploring lay ahead of us, and let me tell you, the Friday night traffic wasn’t going to get me down.

We were heading to JoyBell Cottage, a much adored, family owned hideaway near Elaine, 117km from Melbourne. Elaine is small town located on the Midland Highway between Ballarat and Geelong. At the 2016 census, Elaine and the surrounding area had a population of 228, so we knew it was going to be blissfully serene. Hurrah!

Leaving the cities in Australia is a real eye opener to just how barren parts of this country are. I love that you can drive huge distances down under and see very little sign of life, just the odd kangaroo or lonely farm house. It seems to make every journey an adventure!

The arrival

We arrived at our secluded little retreat in the bush at about 8pm, exhausted, but thrilled at the promise of total peace for the entire weekend! 

6537FBA8-531D-4DDD-BAFD-CAF341914758We were so thankful to Sam, the owner, who had left a box of treats for us, and a beautiful welcome note from her children. This sort of personal touch is what JoyBell is all about! It really is like coming home. This was a beautiful start to what was going to be a really special weekend.

The story behind JoyBell Cottage

Every wonderful house has a story doesn’t it! JoyBell is no different! You can feel the warmth as soon as you walk in, and I’m certain it’s because of the love that has been poured into this house since it was bought by Sam and her husband.

Sam and her husband both grew up in the Aussie bush and wanted to give their children experiences that mirrored their own childhoods as often as they could. It took a year of searching for the right place but they finally found their little piece of paradise and purchased this beautiful cottage. They named it JoyBell after Sam’s mother in law Joy, who sadly passed away in 2017 from leukaemia. Joy was a passionate quilter, nature lover and raised her boys as a single mum. She was amazing, and her incredible quilting talents are in pride of place throughout the cottage!

JoyBell Cottage has 5 acres, so there is plenty of room to wear the children out, or go for a peaceful walk! There is a dam where we caught yabbies (tick off the bucket list)  and plenty of room to ride bikes, explore the Australian bush and make the most of the beautiful outdoors on the doorstep!

Sam and her family have filled their lovely country cottage with Joy’s treasures, quilts and furniture, which have made it not only incredibly comfortable to stay in, but beautiful and welcoming. You can almost smell the freshly baked cookies as you walk into the kitchen.  It is a true testament to the life of Sam’s mother in law, and knowing the story, and visiting the cottage, I think the name is absolutely perfect.

If you are looking to connect with nature and each other, this is the perfect weekend getaway. If you’re looking to get the children away from the tv and their iPads, this is the place for you. If you want to explore the Aussie bush, and have breakfast on the deck whilst listening to nothing but native birds, this is the place for you. If you want to see Australia at its most wonderful, this is the place for you.

JoyBell Cottage

JoyBell cottage is a rustic Australian bush home with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a laundry room, a large family room, a games room and a kitchen diner. The decking is perfect for mealtimes, snoozing, reading, watching kangaroos hop past, and enjoying the outdoors!  It is welcoming, relaxed and ready for anyone to enjoy. Why not treat yourself to a weekend in the bush! It doesn’t get any more relaxed or more Aussie than this!

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‘Joy is the most magnetic force in the universe’ – Unknown

You can learn more about JoyBell and book your stay by contacting Sam via Instagram 


What’s nearby? 

For those of you who love to have something to do, when you’re done relaxing, here are a few ideas for your weekend at JoyBell.

Ballarat

Ballarat is 35-40 mins away and a hive of activity for couples and families. Check out the Visit Ballarat website for what’s on right now!

Our faves:

Buninyong – Local town

Buninyong is about a 20 minute drive from Joybell Cottage. The first thing that you’ll notice is the beautiful Town Hall and the incredible number of coffee shops! Oh and the peace too!

Our faves:

Buninyong Town Hall – If you are there at the weekend, you must pop in and talk to the members of the Historical Society. They will tell you some fascinating tales of Buninyong’s past! One of my favourite facts was that ‘Buninyong’ is the aboriginal for ‘Man laying down with his knees up’ which is exactly what Mount Buninyong looks like!!

Book Cottage – Search out this wonderful little cottage bursting at the seams with $1 books. It is run by the local Lions Club, who make you feel like a long lost friend when you are joyfully flicking through all the books you have ever wanted!

In Buninyong there are more coffee shops than you could ever use in a weekend and a well stocked supermarket. You’ll find a play park, a skate park & a parkour park! Yes kids, it’s true!! Ace street art dons the walls and the botanical gardens are worth taking a stroll through. Buninyong also has a small art gallery and an outdoor pool, although we didn’t check these out.

Mount Buninyong Winery is a whole afternoon of adventure! So many games for the whole family to enjoy, and plenty of space for the kids to get outdoors whilst you sip some local wine and eat the most delicious pizza you ever tasted! Go smoked salmon, its AMAZING!!!

 

Have a beautiful time!

xxxx Liv xxxx

There’s work to be done at Sovereign Hill these school holidays

Hey Melbourne parents! School holidays are fast approaching and there’s so much going on, it’ll be hard for any of us to be bored! Have you visited Sovereign Hill before?

You can read about our last visit right here!!

Whether you’re a seasoned visitor or a Ballarat Gold Fields virgin, you’ll want to get all over their Easter Holiday fun!

We’ve been informed that the blacksmith needs a new apprentice, there are animals to be fed and Brown’s Confectionery Manufactory have lollies that can’t make themselves! You and the children better rush up there and get to work! 

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This Easter holidays, between Sat 6th April  and Mon 22nd April, Sovereign Hill are exploring the working life of the goldfields. Relive history and discover the lost trades with a range of exclusive workshops and free events that will transport you and the kids back to the busy goldfields of Ballarat. Genuinely a fascinating day out for all ages

Here is a list of the fun you and the gang can get involved in:

  • Pour your own Candle: Become a candlemaker at Hewett’s Candle Works and learn how to make your very own candle. Hear about the secrets of good candle making, and let Sovereign Hill’s experienced candlemakers guide you through the process. You get to take a candle home too!! 
  • Make your own rope: Using traditional methods, try making a rope, and then see if you can turn your rope into quoits. Will you beat Sovereign Hill’s champions at a game? We hope so!! 

 

  • Become a Blacksmith: Join Sovereign Hill’s talented Blacksmiths and try your hand at forging. You’ll all be taken through the basics of blacksmithing and learn about the history of this trade on the Ballarat goldfields. A great story to take back to school after the holidays!

 

  • Where did photography come from? Come and see a ‘camera obscura’ and learn how the romance with the captured image began. Sovereign Hill’s photographers will give you an enlightening insight into how images were created and how cameras evolved over time. This is a mind blowing for the modern day child!

 

  • Sweet Experience: Brown’s Confectionery Factory is hiring! You’ll have to get your uniforms on and help Sovereign Hill make some butterscotch lollies. Smell, touch, and roll your own lollies while learning about the sweet treats of the goldfields.

 

  • Spokes and Wheels: Watch the talented wheelwrights machine and assemble the components of a wooden wheel using the latest in 1800s wheel making technology. Then try finishing your own spoke with hand held tools.

 

  • Belt making: Back in the 1800s, everything was made by hand and even the simplest piece of clothing had a story to tell. Go back in time and join Sovereign Hill to craft your own belt using traditional methods at Sovereign Hill’s leather harness workshop.

See, we told you… there’s no way you’re going to find yourselves at a loose end this Easter! More fun to come in the next few days!! Keep it here!

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The Lost Trades program will run from Saturday 6th April until Monday 22nd April, 2019.  

**Many of the Lost Trade workshops need to be pre-booked, so to find out more, or to make a booking, visit www.thestoryliveson.com.au

Jump into another world at Gravity Zone Seaford!

Last day of the school holidays and we’ve had a massive treat! We were invited to check out the new Hologate virtual reality experience at Gravity Zone Seaford.

For those of you with kids who constantly beg to be taken to Gravity Zone (yes, we’ve all been through it..) please note, the begging is only going to get more persistent with the arrival of Hologate!

Just when you think Gravity Zone cant get any better, they go and install the best new VR games they could have possibly found. Now, I’m one of those people who gets dizzy just watching kids on rides, even swings make we ill, so anything VR and I shy away. Not today! I just had to get a go on this, and it was more than exhilarating.

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The kids and I donned our goggles, and jumped straight into another world!! 

 


What is Hologate?

Hologate is a VR experience like no other. It is insanely realistic. We were all hiding from enemies, shooting snowballs like there was no tomorrow and jumping up and down like crazy folk! It’s hard not to get immersed in this other dimension! Using high-end headsets and exhilarating graphics, Hologate transported all three of us to another world where every motion felt real. You can fight dragons, have a snowball fight or problem solve your escape from a sinking submarine, so there really is something for everyone. Gravity Zone provides everything you need-just bring your sense of fun and they will do the rest!

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‘Hologate is active and physically engaging. Get ready to duck, reach, grab and spin as Gravity Zone delivers the latest in VR technology.’- Gravity Zone

Play in teams or challenge each other  

A wonderful advantage of this experience is that you can create a team of up to four players and battle it out or work together as a group towards a common goal. It’s such a wonderful treat to team up with your kids and work together to get as many points as you can, or defeat a bad dude. The kids loved this team work just as much as I did! There aren’t many games where you can all have as much fun as each other!

How long does each game last?

Optimal play time for Hologate, like many virtual reality experiences, is 10 minutes per game. Trust me, it goes so quickly!! There is no denying that the premium content will leave you wanting more so The Wilsons absolutely suggest purchasing 3 games per visit. **Super mum!

Are there age restrictions?

Hologate is recommended for ages 5+. Some of the games are pretty full on, so Gravity Zone staff are there to guide you as to which games are appropriate for which ages. My two are easily scared so we went for the less confronting games.  Shooting snow balls and chasing coins had us all enthralled, trust me!!

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Great fun for all ages!

Hologate really has brought Gravity Zone up a notch. Not only can the kids jump their little hearts out on the trampolines and have a go at Laser Tag, there is now a whole new world for them (and you) to explore. Three cheers for Gravity Zone!!!!!!


 

The summer holidays may be over but why let that stop you having fun with your kids!

BOOK NOW and have something awesome to look forward to at the weekend! 


 

With anything we are invited to, I always give you my honest opinion. This is absolutely worth the money!

Smashing it again!

Brand New Boxes, just in time for Santa!

Yes, you guessed it! Smash Enterprises have only gone and developed some awesome new grub gear for our little folk! Not only is it fab, it’s also here just in time to be added to Santa’s delivery!

We’ve been test driving the brand new Bento Bite which not only makes me a healthy food goddess when it comes to packed lunches (I love filling all the little compartments with goodness), it’s also, most importantly, Monty proof. If that’s not a unique selling point I don’t know what is.

When it comes to lunch luggage, Smash seriously give us the goods. Every damn time. This years special for my gang has to be the glow in the dark ‘Fashion Tritan’ drink bottle. I’ve been telling Monty, that it glows even brighter the more he drinks… Summer hydration win!!

Reasons to choose the Brand New Bento Bite:

  • Removable inner tray
  • 6 compartments
  • Leak proof snack pot
  • Sealed lid to resist spills
  • Child friendly latch
  • Durable outer case
  • Cute designs
  • Sealed lid
  • Ice brick included
  • Two awesome designs (llama or Dinosaur)

Healthy, rubbish free lunches are now totally achievable, even for the most exhausted mama’s. Be gone to Woolworths and gather the goods for your gang!

Olivia xx 

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If you want to get your mitts on these awesome new lunch boxes, head to Woolworths from December 15th when they’ll be lining the shelves waiting for you super mums! *Only available whilst stocks last!


SMASH ENTERPRISES IS AN ICONIC AUSTRALIAN OWNED COMPANY THAT HAS RELEASED OVER 20 MILLION PRODUCTS, QUICKLY BECOMING A HOUSEHOLD NAME IN THE LIVES OF CHILDREN AND ADULTS WORLDWIDE. AS ONE OF AUSTRALIA’S LEADING AND MOST RECOGNISED BRANDS, SMASH IS KNOWN FOR ITS IMAGINATIVE AND EXTENSIVE RANGE OF INNOVATIVE PRODUCTS ACROSS A VARIETY OF CATEGORIES INCLUDING LUNCH BOXES, DRINK BOTTLES, STATIONERY, OUTSIDE DINING AND MORE! TODAY, SMASH HAS ALL THE PRODUCTS YOU WILL EVER NEED!

 

 

DINOSAURS WILL BE TAKING OVER MELBOURNE!

 

Did you hear a roar? A stomp? The Dinosaurs are coming!

Have you got dino obsessed little ones in your house? If so, we have just the thing for your school holiday diary!! The Wilsons are so excited to tell you that Jurassic Creatures is set to open in Melbourne this September. These amazing creatures will be taking over St Kilda and we’re pretty sure you won’t want to miss out.

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Jurassic Creatures is an exhibition with over 30 + dinosaurs that will captivate young and old alike. Explore a prehistoric world full of life like moving dinosaurs and be amazed and thrilled as the greatest creatures ever to walk the earth return before your eyes and come alive.

You and the family will get chance to learn all about the dinosaurs 165 million year domination of life on earth. You will watch them move, hear them roar, and from the ripple of their skin to the glint in their eye, you will begin to think that the dinosaurs really are back!

Apart from this amazing animatronics show, you will be able to become a Paleontologist for the day. Children will be provided with their expert digger outfit, and chip away at their very own fossil. Plus there will be many more dinosaur activities to take part in including dinosaur sand painting, dinosaur 3D Jig-saw Land, fossil displays, dinosaur inflatable activity lands, dinosaur eggs to have photos in, walking dinosaurs and so much more.

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School Holidays are coming and this looks like it may be one of those awesome holiday experiences for the whole family. Hey, it may even stop the tricky bath time questions like “Mum, why did the T Rex have such small arms?” …. “Ask Siri darling”

Jurassic Creatures is set to bring all the wonder and excitement of the prehistoric world of dinosaurs back. Get ready to be thrilled as you see Triassic period comes to life!


ENTER OUR COMPETITION TO BE IN WITH THE CHANCE OF WINNING 1xFAMILY PASS

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All the Information

Open from 15 September -14 October – Jurassic Creatures will deliver a realistic animatronics show like no other that will capture the imagination of children & parents everywhere.

The event includes:

  • A spectacular dinosaur exhibition with realistic animatronics
  • An Interactive Fossil digging area
  • Dinosaur Sand painting
  • 3D Jigsaw Land
  • Dinosaur Inflatable Activity Lands
  • Plus so many other dinosaur activities for the whole family

Melbourne get ready to feel the Dino-Roar!

JUST THE FACTS

What Jurassic Creatures

When Saturday 15 September 2018 – Sunday 14 October 2018

Where St Kilda Triangle, adjacent to Palais Theatre

Cost

General Admission $31.56. Family Ticket $99.44 (2 adults, 2 children). Under 2 year old are free – Sessions are 3 hrs each

Website www.jurassiccreatures.com.au Tickets Ticketmaster

Road Trip the Stuart Highway with kids!

 

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I know, I know, road tripping with the kids sounds like a holiday from hell to some people. “Are we there yet” being shouted over and over, popcorn covering the back seats, umpteen toilet breaks and cries of “I’m booooored” interrupting “The Greatest Showman” soundtrack. However, if ever there was a trip we have done, that we could recommend to you, this would be it.

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If you get the pleasure of “are we nearly there yet” on the way to the supermarket, this is probably not the holiday for you YET! Some days we were smashing out 700km+ which is not a distance for the fussy traveller! There is no amount of iPad time that can fill that space, so be prepared to play games, sing, write journals, wildlife spot, and throw in a few obligatory arguments into the mix.

Travelling through the red centre of Australia, was not only a great big tick on the bucket list, it was without doubt the trip of a lifetime. Nothing could compare.

 Our top reasons to road trip with your gang

Family time – Yes this is a cert when you’re ‘trapped’ in a car or van with the family. This is the trip to do if you’d like to spend time together, lots of time. There are no kids clubs, it’s just you guys, a few dead kangaroos and the road ahead, but this is what makes it so perfect. As contrived as it sounds, we all learnt so much about each other. We had hours and hours to talk, sing our favourite songs, tell jokes, play games and really immerse ourselves in each other. Life gets in the way of these beautiful moments and a road trip is the perfect way to rekindle lost time. It’s amazing what you talk about when there are no emails distracting you and no YouTube on the tv.

Scenery – Driving through the centre of Australia is like being on a David Attenborough shoot. The dingo’s running past, the Emu looking up to see who is frantically waving out of the Campervan window. The colour of the earth changing so dramatically to that deep, warm red that is so quintessentially Australian was amazing. That same red earth that we soon learnt would be ingrained in our clothes, shoes and skin. Every now and again we would stop on the side of the road and Monty would hop out and find a pile of Kangaroo bones, or a half eaten eagle. The enchantment on his face at his latest haul of treasure to take back to school was priceless. The scenery is like nowhere else on earth, and we were right there, in the thick of it, treading the same ground as people have been for thousands of years, and it felt so magical.

Sightseeing – The beauty of road tripping the Stuart Highway is that you get to see places and speak to people you would never meet if you flew this route. The incredible salt lakes, the vastness of the outback, the eagles soaring above us as we sped up the only highway going North. Road tripping allowed us to follow the signs to places we hadn’t planned to visit, and stop at free camping sites because the scenery was particularly spectacular. Road tripping gives you the freedom to make your own way, in your own time, and stay the extra night if you fancy it.  This is one of the reasons it’s a great holiday when travelling with kids.

Adventure – As our journey went on, none of our excitement waned. I was sitting on the edge of my seat, watching the red earth fly by the van. The children were in the back, faces up against the windows, a live wildlife show, eyes wide and mouths open, shouting “dingo” or “eagle” every now and again! The view is like a movie set. The scenery, unbelievable.. This is the outback. The real outback.  It’s almost too beautiful to put into words. Driving the Stuart Highway is nothing less than epic. The adventure of scrambling through incredible gorges, tiptoeing across water holes, laying your hands on Uluru and looking at ancient aboriginal cave paintings. Free camping, building campfires, finding roadside treasures and footprints of creatures long gone. We loved lying in the red dirt at night, star gazing up at the most breathtaking skies you have ever seen. There is almost too much adventure out there to tell you about.

New Friendships – We stopped at every roadhouse along our journey.  They were all so different but each one had the same collection of people huddled around the fuel pumps.  The drivers of enormous trucks getting a much needed break after hours on the road. There were travellers, refuelling and stretching their legs, batting flies, eating a much needed piece of homemade cake, or sipping on a cold beer. The atmosphere at these roadhouses was awesome. Everyone is there on an adventure and trying desperately get some wifi. People chat to each other, you hear wonderful stories of what’s to come, and swap tips for your onward journeys. A regular servo turns into a hub of storytelling and the birthplace of new friendships.

Journals –  These books are so special. The hours the children spent in the back of the van drawing their surroundings, writing little scripts about what we had seen and sticking in leaflets and ticket stubs from the tours we’d been on. They are filled with adventures, stories and bursting with tales which we will all remember for years to come.  I can picture us holding these books in twenty years time, when our children have their own children, telling tales of the Dingo we saw, the mine we climbed in to, or the dreamtime tales from Uluru. To have pages and pages of aboriginal dot paintings that the children created after visiting Uluru, is such an incredible keepsake that we wouldn’t have got any where else.

New experiences & Noodling – Coober Pedy is a funny old town, almost a little like you have stepped back in time, but, by far the best hours we spent on our road trip were noodling in a barren patch of ground just off the high street. Noodling is sifting through the dumps left by the miners and specking is walking slowly along staring at the ground looking for any signs of colour. A very eager gentleman at our camp site told us that noodling was allowed as long as you don’t take a shovel, and showed us on the map where he had collected a jar full of tiny gems. The kids LOVED noodling. I was less enthusiastic, mainly because of the flies, and the fact that I couldn’t find a single sparkly stone. After an hour or so Monty had enough gems to give one to every kid in his class. I was panicking that we were about to give 22 kids our little fortune, but nevertheless he was adamant they weren’t for us!  Noodling is completely free, and one of the days the kids remember most about our trip.

Just go!

Our kids are very used to road trips. I would say this is a must if you want to explore Australia by road! However you plan to road trip; caravan, car, campervan, bus, motorbike or even bicycle, (yes there were a few) get out there and see the magic of the Australian outback. It may seem like a mammoth feat with children but believe me, it was our greatest adventure yet, and I know it will be yours too.


This is not a cheap holiday.

We flew from Melbourne to Adelaide, where we hired a Britz campervan. The van came with everything we needed to be comfortable. We just had to stock up with food and hit the road.

When you weigh up the cost of the trip vs the experience it was totally worth it, but no, it wasn’t cheap! In fact it’s one of our most expensive trips to date and we were only away for 13 days. *Fuel is eye wateringly expensive in the outback.


Tips: 

  • Campsites were fairly reasonably priced, be prepared for some to be a lot more expensive than others.
  • Make sure you book you Uluru campsite first! It gets busy. **The IGA is amazing.
  • Free camping is FREEEE and super fun!
  • Take lots of pens, books, games and music to keep you entertained.
  • Be prepared for no wifi or phone signal. Download movies and games onto your devices, and tell your boss you aren’t contactable.
  • Stock up with plenty of food and drinks. Eating certainly passes the time and roadhouses aren’t cheap!
  • Take a decent camera, the pictures will be wonderful.
  • Pack warm clothes, it gets COLD out there
  • For anyone who suffers with nosebleeds.. Take tissues. The air is DRY! We learnt the hard way.
  • Take your first aid kit.
  • Prepare for the price of fuel!
  • Do a tour of Uluru. It’s worth the money!