Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Papa Green Bean's Secret Sauce

Vital Ingredients for Happy Parenting

  • Embrace silliness and a humorous perspective in day-to-day activities. It is a key to getting your children to open up with you in an honest and personal manner, that many adults never achieve. This closeness transcends itself into a child being able to follow her dreams for life with an honest gusto.
  • Total respect for children includes a genuine light-hearted view of life. The ability to see into the child's eyes with an empathic loving twinkle models a positive up-lifting attitude. Enthusiasm—the ability to let loose—to be ourselves, lets the child know that there is true joy in living. All of the rest of it, then, becomes much, much, easier. 
  • Try to understand your children’s thought patterns. To observe and study the baby, infant, and young child (birth - 6), and more importantly, to gain appreciation of the immense work going on inside their brain. This can be a step to understanding human kind, and its vast potential for a bright future. It helps you to be more optimistic!
  • Insights into brain development are more than just interesting science.  They underscore the importance of hands-on parenting—taking the time to cuddle a baby—converse with a toddler, provides a stimulating experience for everyone.
  • The most important time of a baby's life is the first thousand days. Therefore, the natural unfolding of each newborn, and how best to allow, rather than hinder, this enormous budding of a human being to reach its fullest potential is everything.
  • The child’s ultimate achievement is to develop the power of concentration. The parent is the guardian of this right. We must help to bring it forth. The most precious gift we can give the child is patience.
  • The freedom to work as long as she wishes according to her own timing and rhythm should be respected, like allowing a child to play with wooden blocks, creating her own structures, unimpeded.
  • We should allow time for repetition, like climbing up and down a sofa or stairs 5, 10, even 15 times consecutively.
  • The real learning takes place without interruption, like when a child becomes completely absorbed in drawing (colored pencils and blank paper), or working with model clay, or pouring water (different sized cups in the sink), etc. The child becomes radiant, refreshed, and satisfied with a deep feeling of joy that can be termed magical.
  • One insightful way to look at child rearing is as a dance, with the child leading. That means operating by the child's cues. Babies, infants, and young children are wired to signal what they need: food, sleep, boisterous play, or a soothing session with a book. A parent's chief job is to get those signals right. When that happens, a child feels secure and confident about engaging the world—in other words—ready to learn. 

  • The images through which you perceive a child will be sensitively picked up by the child and will play a large part in how they react to you. Children appreciate a parent's willingness to get down on their level and roll with life. I've seen many adults acting too solemn for no reason except that they are not able to 'let go' of their personal responsibilities. Children know when you are fully engaged with them.
  • Our challenge, as adults, is to respect the child's cues. Each time a baby tries to touch a tantalizing object or gaze intently at a face or listen to a lullaby, tiny bursts of electricity shoot through the brain, knitting neurons into circuits as well defined as those etched onto silicon chips.  There is a time scale to brain development, and the most important year is the first.
  • Modeling games of imagination, like play acting or singing and making up your own fun lyrics displays empathy.  Encouraging light heartedness with outrageous reactions allows the child to create their own funny ideas without reluctance. Cooperation with other children becomes easier when the child is around attentive adults, who regard the child's needs as they would their own. Children are very sensitive mirrors. Surrounded by peaceful, loving, laughing parents, they will grow up flowing in the here and now of life.
  • Gifts of creative love take a bit extra. My father would write a short poem on my birthday card or on a present at Christmas time—in the form of a clue to the mysterious gift inside. It became a family tradition that I have carried on with much pleasure. Today, I often write a longer poem onto an anniversary, graduation or birthday card. My wife and daughter have caught onto the ritual, often returning the favor.  This thoughtful act is a present in itself—the time and effort is so much appreciated by all.
  • Poetry in day to day life can be as simple as saying to your two year old, "I don't suppose you can touch your nose with your toes?" or, "Before you put on your pants, shake out any ants!"
  • This kind of rhyming catches a young child's attention and forces them to smile, but also to think. One of the reasons I did these fun exchanges with my daughter was because it kept me engaged in some of the more mundane daily activities like getting dressed. 
  • Depending on the age of your child, these 'games' (as I like to call them) should be adjusted, but be sure to throw words out there that your child will not necessarily know. Kid's brains are great at surmising meanings. They appreciate intelligent conversation, stretching minds... "All this play in the park has made me ravenous, I think I could eat a rhinoceros".

  • Time together should often be open. And it doesn't mean you must always be having a conversation.  A silent walk holding hands is golden. Lie down together on a grassy knoll with eyes closed, taking in the sounds swirling. Around you.
  • Incorporate spontaneous fun with educational games, creating a bonding experience. For example, while closed-eyed, open your ears, taking turns naming the plethora of sounds in the air. Open your eyes to describe clouds—a classic game of imagination. Tell stories, taking turns. Laugh and roll in the grass, take your shoes off and dip into the lake. Ask open-ended questions about life to ponder and discuss, contemplate. 
  • Children speak to a universal truth—life is most enjoyed by letting go of both the past and the future, and rather, living in the most precious time of all—the here and now. That ‘secret sauce’ is what young children do so very well. And a few lucky adults are able to retain that enlightenment. There is a lot of life in every moment if you slow your pace, look, and listen.
  • Understand children that have a delicate sensitivity of not just childhood—but of life itself.  A. A. Milne wrote of “long thoughtful shadows” in enchanted places. This expresses the free-range outdoor play that transcends boredom, spinning quickly into inventiveness—when sticks become boats and woods convert to castles.
  • Babies are born watchers—and they develop based on the modeling within their immediate environment. That's why when my daughter was a newborn; I was holding conversations with her—that's correct! I would use her facial expressions, mainly her eyes, as her non-verbal responses to my statements and questions. She became a good conversationalist by first being a good listener.
  • The in-arms phase as part of a continuum can be described as a second nine-month gestation period, giving the human baby a full gestation period of eighteen-month—the actual birth being the half waypoint. This is a remarkably insightful concept. Many childrearing norms in today's culture have developed from an intellect that is not in the best interest of children. As parents we must not conform to customs that are anti-continuum, like separating infants from their parents during the in-arms phase.

  • Encourage exploration and discovery. Let your baby crawl around and get into everything. Simply safety-proof the room and let them go—fully charged! Also, let them manipulate objects for long periods of time... there is no rush to a babies trials and tribulations... they are building blocks to a life of learning.
  • Reinforce curiosity. Avoid the urge to stifle their mindset of intrigue. If allowed to search to their hearts content, they will build self-confidence and the power of experimentation—the spark of a genius mind.
  • Allow time for reflection.  Children need plenty of down time to absorb their activities and observations. If they show a need to just sit and rest, let them be. 
  • Read with inflection and introspection. Reading books to a baby, toddler, and infant is as important as all the experts tout. The factor that makes reading even more valuable is when the adult makes the concerted effort to speak in dramatic tones with nuanced variability. And if the child asks questions, it is a prime opportunity to open up a discussion of the dynamic within the story line. The parent can also initiate questions. This builds empathy and emotional connectedness to the characters in the story, as well as you. 

  • Support unstructured play. Children do not need to be directed much of the time. It is difficult for many parents to hold back and let a child play in their own way and at their own pace. Allowing a child to play, either by themselves or with playmates, encourages imagination and conflict resolution in the most unexpected and interesting ways. It actually gives you a break to catch up on the newspaper while you keep an eye on your little scientist toiling away.
  • Permit experimentation. Again, this builds on the theme of not interfering with a child's natural desire to take in the world around them as they test parameters. It is important to let the child 'fail' at simple tasks and efforts when very young. There is no better lesson in a toddlers 'misfits' than to spend an hour filling a bucket with the treasures of the garden, only to spill the contents struggling up the porch stairs, and having to carefully put all the 'treasures' back again.
  • Encourage wonderment and awe. Have discussions about nature/wildlife/science/everything with your child. Never talk down to a child about the real world we live in. Briefly, explain the truth. They may not fully understand what shining stars are, but the fact that you let your child up past 'bedtime' to see real twinkling diamonds in the evening sky is a moment of parent/child togetherness that will stand the inspiration of time.
  • Display the "Just try it" attitude. Loving life means modeling the proper perspective about the willingness to try new things. And to a young child, everything is new! A parent’s positive encouragement to give all things a go spills into the child's malleable psyche, giving them a zest for daily living.
  • I was always honest with Anna. I stuck to my word in our conversations together. She grew up knowing she could trust me. She also knew I was watching her, and that I would encourage her efforts more than her results. She knew she had the time to play/work on whatever it was that occupied her, so she developed concentration and confidence in herself. 
  • If a child grows up in an atmosphere of 'truth', the art of communicative conversation rises to higher and higher levels. By the way, this includes discipline. For example, you tell your child that you would like them to put away their books and wash their hands before dinner. Then if they sit down with clean hands but books still strewn over the floor, you politely remind them to pick up the books and return them to their bookshelf. There is no reason to threaten them with 'no dinner' if they don't. It becomes simply a matter of living together in a respectful and loving environment.

  • Following through on your word is certainly one of the best methods of instilling a spirit of healthy zest for life in your children.  Consistent sincerity becomes contagious and creates a foundation for trust. When your children believe in you, they will love you forever.
  • Using 'I don't know' with young children opens up the honesty channel for greater communication. When children know they can trust you they are able to become themselves and blossom without self-doubt. 'I don't know' is very powerful in all relationships. I said, "I don't know" a lot. The "I don't knows" were often followed by, "But why don't we find out!"
  • There really isn't a definitive "difficult" child. The child who is most challenging is the one who doesn't think like we do. Much of what we perceive as our children's deliberate efforts to frustrate us are actually a difference in perception. If you as a parent can help your child discover his or her areas of aptitude and then reinforce them, you will help to build your child's confidence while developing his or her abilities more than you could ever have imagined, and become more knowledgeable—happier parents.
  • Fatherhood is changing for the better. There are more stay-at-home fathers. Fathers are also becoming more in tune with the intricacies of what matters in life. Dads are spending more quality time with their families. No doubt, it's exhausting to play with your toddler, devoting 100% of your attention. But this is what it takes early on in their life. It is so worth it. It is without a doubt—the best investment I’ve ever made. 

Cheers, Papa Green Bean

Monday, October 31, 2016

Wild, Wise and Rad: Tea Party Time

Healthy Environmental Family Fun

Alice in Wonderland's tea party three minute scene depicts silliness, imagination, wit and and a deep sense of humor. It is indeed a most curious event when children are in the midst of playing—magic happens—adventure is created.

Understand the desperate need for children to create worlds of their own, bubbles of make-believe play that are building blocks for their self-confidence, and comprehension of the real world they live in.

What children deserve from us is respect. We owe them a full and complete—like in 100%—level playing field. Respect: a reverence, a deep admiration. No less.

Wildini: Ceramic Mugs for Young Children

A local entrepreneur, Heather Alvis,  has created a line of animal themed ceramic mugs that elicit the essence of regard for children. She has gone a step further by incorporating her personal environmental sensitivity, which she wishes to pass down to her daughter and son.

"I've identified my top 3 core values as excellence, harmony and sustainability, in that order.  I love the idea that it is possible to exist symbiotically with the environment.   We have an astonishing amount of evidence of the side-effects plasticizers (like BPA) have when they come in contact with food and the food chain.  Plus, even a small bit of research on "Plastic Pollution" gives copious images and videos of the extreme volume of discarded plastic that is harming our oceans and wildlife.  This is mostly in the name of 'convenience'.  And although the USA is not the biggest contributor, we are a major factor in the production of plastic, because we BUY almost everything in and of plastic.  We can all make a difference in how we live day-to-day by giving up  some conveniences we take for granted.  Plastic is a substance we have lived without for thousands of years, and now, in only 100 years, it has become ubiquitous, incredibly useful in some ways, and devastatingly problematic in other ways.   So, I'm committed to having less unnecessary conveniences in order to becoming plastic free and have less personal impact on the earth.  I hope this inspires people around me to be aware and make changes where they can too." 

Here is an article that speaks specifically to this, which gives several resources and a bit more depth:  Wildini: products for kids that promote independence & inspire love for the natural world, Getting to Plastic Free.

Go Heather ! And the best place to start this message is with our young children, after all it is their world to inherit, to pass along to following generations. Heather's seven year old daughter is an environmental activist at her first grade school trying to reduce use of straws and other plastic disposables. Her four year old son attends a Montessori school in which the environment is respectful of all equally.

The little 2 1/2 to 6 year old children in Montessori schools have a tidy tradition of holding tea parties with real china. Thanks Marnie for these tips:

  • Fine Motor Skills: three year olds take such care in pouring tea... slow and steady.
  • Grace, Courtesy, and Sequence: Practice social skills. Serve your guests first, then yourself. Refill your guests tea cups if their cups are low. Beginning around 2.5-3 years old children are ripe for this sort of learning.
  • Pretend Play: Children have the capacity to understand a lot and to be able to exercise this understanding and to see this greater world through pretend play is great for their development.

Dr. Maria Montessori in The Absorbent Mind:It is true that in all these activities, the child may be said to be playing. But this kind of play is effortful, and it leads him to acquire the new powers which will be needed for his future.’ 

Time for a cup of tea, 

Papa Green Bean

Friday, September 30, 2016

Why Is Conversation So Important?

  Listening Is An Art

A few years ago, my father was visiting my daughter and me with his partner, Maureen, a certified master gardener. This was their first time in Minnesota—and it was early summer. We had been walking around a lake, and were now sitting on a park bench. Maureen started a conversation by describing the flora surrounding the water and how the vegetation was quite different from her parks in Georgia. I agreed and mentioned the invasive species, Kudzu, prevalent in the south but nonexistent in the midwest. My father said looking at my daughter, "I'm glad you enjoyed your classes this year." Maureen began to explain that invasive species are quite different regionally. My dad interrupted, "What books are you reading, Anna?"

My father-in-law, Don, does the same thing, except one-on-one which is even worse than in a small group. When there are four people you can divert into two two person conversations if need be. But with two people? I started, "Jen and I have been working on a few children's books in our spare time." Don replies, "I see that there must be a sailing club out on the bay." Arrrgh! (Don is a good man—he and my mother-in-law have been married 52 years. See All Are Significant.)

Granted, men interrupt more and are generally worse conversationalists than women—take the presidential debate between Trump and Clinton as an embarrassing example. However, conversation is an art form, I say. Conversation is a skill. And it is not taught in school. It is not taught in college. It isn't taught anywhere. It is learned from day one as a baby—as a noticer.

How about a little more warm water, pops?

Babies are born watchers—and they develop based on the modeling within their immediate environment. That's why when my daughter was a newborn, I was holding conversations with her—that's correct! I would use her facial expressions, mainly her eyes, as her non-verbal responses to my statements and questions.

Papa Green Bean and Anna, his three month daughter, have a conversation.

"We are going to have a fun day today, Anna. First of all let's put on some music. Would you rather listen to Mozart, Neil Young, or My Fair Lady?" I show her the three record covers holding them in front of her long enough for her to see the three separate images. "Not sure? I feel like some classical, is that okay with you, Anna?" I look at her and her eyes enlarge staring back at her dad. "Great, Mozart it is." 

"Now let's go into the kitchen and take a look inside the refrigerator." I pick up Anna and carry her in my arm—open the refrigerator. "Look at all that food hiding inside, Anna. A refrigerator keeps our food cold and fresh. Hmmm, how about we share an apple? The apple is cold isn't it?" I place the apple into Anna's hand and her face shows surprise and interest. I hold the apple against my cheek and say, "The apple is cold." Then I hold it up against Anna's cheek. She smiles rubbing her cheek. 

Give me a knive, dad!

"Yes, the apple is full of energy, so let's cut it up and eat it. First, we'll wash it." I turn on the water and place the apple under the water letting Anna see the action. "Do you want to touch the water, Anna?" She looks a bit apprehensive. "That's okay, you don't have to touch the water. Let's dry the apple with a towel. I'll put you down here while I cut the apple, okay, Anna?" I lean her against the counter wall and cut the apple up into slices. 

Anna watches the motions of the knive and the way the apple falls apart. "Here is a slice for you to taste and one for me." I pop a piece into my mouth and chew it saying, "delicious and nutritious!" I press a slice against Anna's lips and her tongue licks it instinctively! I place the apple into her hand and wait for her to grip it. And so goes the conversation between Papa Green Bean and her daughter. 

What made Anna a wonderful conversationalist? 

She couldn't talk—she was a great listener!

  • Being an attentive listener, offering specific feedback on the topic, leaves the talker with a particularly positive impression of the listener. 
  • So, if you want to make closer friends: ask them open ended questions about themselves—then listen carefully, with facial expressions and short comments that show you are not just listening but retaining the information.
A good listener

The article,  Why Are So Many Smart Kids Missing This Important Social Skill? discusses with clarity the value of consciously instilling lively conversation into the parent/child dynamic. Here are some highlights:

How To Read Nonverbal Cues

  • That’s all the stuff that we say without uttering a word. It’s most of what gets communicated! “Nonverbal behaviors—facial expressions, gestures, intonation, proximity to one another, body language—are 65 to 70 percent of overall communication comprehension."
  • From birth, our babies track our smiles, tune into whether our tone is happy or angry, follow what we’re looking at. All without words. Later, when they point at something and say, “Dat?” they count on us to name it. When they ask for something and we look puzzled, they think, “Oh, she didn’t get what I said.
  • It’s more intricate than it might seem. When one person is talking, the other has to be quiet and listen. He also has to pay close attention and show with nods or uh-huhs that he’s following along. He has to hold back from interrupting until it’s his turn—and know when that is and what’s expected of him.
  • Babies need practice holding conversations with us even before they understand our words. Toddlers need to be encouraged to take their first stabs at joining us in it. And preschoolers and older kids—on up through the teen years—need to be engaged in lots of face-to-face talk.
Face-to-face talk

  • One way that can be overlooked, especially in an era of academic preschools, nanny care, and solo play on computers: playing with other kids. Play—especially pretend and physical play—is a huge way kids develop all kinds of social skills, especially social communication.
  • Kids can be oblivious. Explain what people think of you if you don’t look them in the eye and say hello. Your kids might not even realize they’re giving a negative impression. By the way, this is true of adults, also.

Good Things Happen To Good Conversationalists

1) They focus better in school.

Having basic social-communication skills allows kids to follow along when teachers point to the blackboard and stay on topic during lessons—right from the start of school.

2) They can advocate for themselves.

Being able to “read” others and know how to talk to them gives kids the power to stand up for themselves. Not only can they better ask for help, but they can challenge a teacher’s mistake, navigate friend drama, and even fend off bullies. With more power, they feel less frustration and show fewer behavior problems.

3) They’re better liked.

Kids like other kids who know how to say “Hi” and talk about stuff. You have more friends when you’re able to sort out differences, share, and empathize—and not hog the conversation or blurt out random things at inappropriate times. And you can bet that teachers, coaches, and future employers prefer such kids too.

Taking turns with confidence

How To Take Turns

  • You talk, I listen. I talk, you listen. Conversation is like tennis, volleying back and forth.
  • Conversational turn-taking starts with games like peekaboo and waving bye-bye. You cue the child to join in and have a back-and-forth interaction, following the child’s lead.
  • Normal, relaxed, give-and-take conversation is all it takes. 
  • Asking questions is a good tactic because it gives turn-taking a nudge. Sprinkle “ask words” into your kid talk: what, when, where, how. Learning how to ask questions is like building a bridge.
Bridging the conversation

Hear, hear to good listening and better conversations,

Papa Green Bean

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Forget Nice—Be Genuine

The Strength of Authenticity

I used to try to be nice to everyone.  I found myself using white lies to appease other people while holding in my true thoughts and emotions. People would compliment me by saying what a nice guy I was—"Johnny gets along with everyone."

After my daughter was born, I soon realized that this approach was deception. Something about becoming a father made me understand that I did not want my child to be nice like I had been. So, I changed and began to speak my truth. This made life so much easier, which helped me to gain internal strength.

That's me in my dad's arms being nice!

I soon began to see myself as more real—people looked at me differently. This translated into modeling self-confidence, which, in turn, allowed a more natural self-discovery for my little child, Anna.

By giving her honest answers to everything we experienced she grew up with a self-determination that encouraged curiosity and the natural empowerment of truth. I started to say, "I don't know" much more! Accepting the fact that I was not hiding anything inside, I was being genuine to myself and everyone I touched. With Anna, the "I don't knows" were often followed by, "But why don't we find out!"

Anna being her silly self! Hey, I can always get another shirt...

I am writing this post as a response to the insightful article titled, Instead of Teaching Your Kids To "Be Nice," Teach Them This.... Dr. Shefali understands the deeper psyche workings of human beings. Her approach is genuine. These qualities are the foundation to understanding children. Please click on the link and read the article for yourself. But first, I wish to share some of her tantalizing truths here:

What Does 'Be Nice' Really Mean?

  • "Be tolerant and accommodating
  • Keep the peace—don't ruffle feathers
  • Give up something about yourself or your belongings even though you don’t want to"

Girls are told to, “Be sweet.”  Sure that may sound okay, but what does that really mean?

"Be Sweet"'s message is:

  • "Deny, avoid and distract yourself from your true feelings
  • Avoid conflict and find a compromise at all costs
  • Don’t be assertive, but instead, find a way to get along with the other person"

Dr. Shefali clarifies her view of "Nice":

"The core of this blog is that “niceness” can never come from a denial of our true feelings and sense of self. On the contrary, true niceness can only manifest when we are fully authentic to our feelings and sense of self."

Dr. Shefali asks parents and all child caregivers to:

"Shift the focus away from niceties and superficialities of behavior and instead, teach our children this: 

  •  Engage with others from an authentic place
  •  Know your boundaries and don’t allow anyone to cross over them
  • Respect the boundaries and freedoms of others
  • Not everyone is going to like you nor should they have to
  • You don’t need to be friends with everyone nor should you feel the need to
  • No one is defined by anyone or anything outside of oneself
  • Lying to one’s self for the sake of a relationship will ultimately end in dysfunction
  • Sometimes it is more important to be honest than “nice.”
  • If “nice” comes at the cost of authenticity, it is better to veer away from the relationship
  • Those who love you will allow you to be honest and authentic at all costs"

Girls can climb slides backwards, too!!!

I have found that this approach of feeding the soul and not the ego, as Dr. Shefali states, takes away the burden, or pressure, of trying to be nice. It makes living in the present with truth much easier—much more energetic.

Luckily, I was able to understand the strength of authenticity and pass it on to Anna. My daughter has fed off of this all her life—becoming an individual with a sparkle in her gait!

Dr. Shefali gets it.

My daughter lived it and got it.

It works. Forget nice. Be genuine.

Cheers, Papa Green Bean

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Make Your Own Hummus—Let Your Children In On The Fun!

Humming Hummus

One of my all time favorite concoction to eat is hummus.  
It is delicious, nutritious and tastes nothing like chicken!

Classic hummus

Rightfully so—a child’s taste buds should be opened to a variety of foods—so, use hummus as a go to snack of humongous proportions! Mostly used as a dip, an assortment of edible digging utensils adds to the lovely nutritive value of this chow. Skip those salty potato chips—instead have your children cut cucumber chips, slice up carrot, celery, and sweet pepper sticks—even radish slices. Rad right! Use your own favorite vegetables for the children to clean, prep and eat as hummus scoops. Come to think of it, I’ve used tomato wedges also! Pita wedges are popular but I don't use them—prefer blue corn chips—infusing some Tex-Mex flavors (see Additional Ingredients list below.)

Friday, July 29, 2016

Presidential Parenting

Helpful, Not Hurtful, Leadership

There is little room for complacency in raising a child just as in running a country.

Complacent: marked by self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.

All types of babies are born into our world—this is a green heron—thanks, Joe!

Just as a president is the leader of a nation helping to guide its citizens, parents are the most important role models to their children helping to raise them up, hopefully, into caring citizens of the world. But, often the leadership is uninformed—the caregiver shortsighted. This can be more hurtful than helpful. As citizens of a country, just as parents of a newly born baby, we should make every effort to become better informed as we move forward into the future. I sure hope to. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Data, Not Destiny

It's Just Data, Not Destiny

Here is my summary of Teaching with Poverty in Mind by Eric Jensen—Chapter 2: How Poverty Affects Behavior and Academic Performance.


  • There is no shortage of theories explaining behavior differences among children. The prevailing theory among psychologists and child development specialists is that behavior stems from a combination of genes and environment. 
  • Genes begin the process: behavioral geneticists commonly claim that DNA accounts for 30–50 percent of our behaviors, an estimate that leaves 50–70 percent explained by environment.
  • This tidy division of influencing factors may be somewhat misleading, however. First, the effects of the nine months a child spends in utero are far from negligible. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Natural World Of Winnie-the-Pooh

Nowhere, Just Out Playing

A serendipitous meeting of two thoughtful literary texts occured this week for me. Such was the case when I attended a book reading at Village Books, our wonderful local independent bookstore. Then, days after, I listened to an eloquent poetry reading by my lovely friend, Linda Conroy. They both touched my inner child.

The author at Village Books was Kathryn Aalto and I listened with some interest as she spoke about her New York Times bestseller hardcover, The Natural World Of Winnie-the Pooh. Aalto has master’s degrees in garden history and creative nonfiction with a particular interest in literary landscapes. Much of the book is devoted to the flora and fauna of Ashdown forest and the Hundred Acre Wood—the pristine natural setting of the most popular children’s book in history. I was about to escape out the back of the presentation when Ms. Aalto said, “In closing, I’d like to read a bit from my introduction.” What she recited spellbound me…

Since Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner were published in 1926 and 1928, they have taken on greater meaning. We value the books for simple expressions of empathy, friendship, and kindness. The stories are classics as they express enduring values and open our hearts and minds to help us live well. But as I read about Milne and walked around England with my children, I saw how they tell another story: the degree to which the nature of childhood has changed in the ninety years since Milne wrote the stories. There is less freedom to let children roam and explore their natural and urban environments. There are more digital distractions for our children that keep them indoors and immobile, and heightened parental fears that do so as well.
At a time when there is so much talk about nature-deficit disorder, rising childhood obesity levels, reduced school recess, and overprotected childhoods, these stories and illustrations remind us of the joy in letting our children explore the natural world and the importance of imaginative play away from the eyes of parents. The real and imagined places of the Hundred Acre Woods are tender touchstones for the precious time of childhood. Milne’s books remind us that aimless wandering and doing Nothing is actually a very big Something for little ones.”

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Free Range Learning (entire review)

Free Range Learning

How Homeschooling Changes Everything


Laura Grace Weldon’s Free Range Learning combines insightful wisdom, tender compassion, and vibrant understanding in helping the reader see the potential in meaningful, real-life learning—growing up in a respectful, engaged, and joyful family. Her handbook transforms boundaries—or does away with them altogether. She is a kindred spirit.

I would like to share my favorite bits of Free Range Learning—with mostly direct quotes. Apologies for the many salient points that I leave out within the 275 pages of this inspirational ‘go-to’ reference book.

The Wisdom of Laura Grace Weldon 

(tasty morsels of her unique thinking)

Education as Life, for Life

ü  The child’s wondrous progress from helpless newborn to a remarkably sophisticated five-year old happens without explicit teaching. In fact, most of a child’s learning is so continual that it goes unnoticed.
Ø  Toddlers experiment like enthralled scientists. They rapidly develop a grasp of everyday physics.
Ø  They master nuances of social interaction long before they can speak in sentences.
Ø  Their comprehension expands much more quickly than their growing vocabulary. Often, children seem to ignore what they aren’t ready to learn, only to return to the same skill or concept later with ease.
Ø  What they do is intrinsically tied to why they do it, making the learning process purposeful. They are confidently in charge of their own instruction.
Ø  They require little fanfare for their achievements, as mastery gives them more than enough satisfaction.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Free Range Learning (3 of 3)

Free Range Learning

How Homeschooling Changes Everything


No one, after reading Free Range Learning with an open mind, can justifiably argue in defense of formal K–12 schooling. However, it would be a disservice to Laura Grace Weldon’s considerable grasp of the human spirit to simply recommend her book for parents of home schoolers. Everyone should put this handbook in their bookcase after marking it up half as much as I have!

Due to the extensive material I wanted to include, this post has been divided into three separate posts. This is part three of three. One final post including all three parts will follow tomorrow. Part one of three was posted two days ago, with part two of three posted yesterday.

A future inventor in action

Ethics, Spirituality and A Greater Good

ü  When adults insist on compliance in their children—true understanding is usurped—encouraging moral immaturity.

ü  Many adults continue to assert that children do best raised with more punitive, heavy-handed methods. That is shortsighted. The real underpinning of civilization is cooperation.

ü  We can be mindful of where we put our parenting energy.
Ø  It’s easy to notice children squabbling for five minutes and ignore two hours of peace.
Ø  What we consistently notice is amplified.  What we recognize persists.
Ø  If we habitually notice the worst in a person, even though we are trying to bring about improvement, we unwittingly reinforce these negative behaviors.
Ø  For a child whose self-image is forming, this principle is even more important.
Ø  Noticing when a child has done something right helps to strengthen not only that behavior, but also the motivation behind that behavior.