Thursday, December 22, 2016

My Favorite Early Learning Resources

Papa Green Bean's Top Twelve 

Here is a treasure chest of free resources for parents. Give each a look and please follow the ones you like. They are the best of what I've seen anywhere—honestly helpful and inspiring.

1) Teacher Tom's Blog  (Age Range 2 - 5)

Teacher Tom is my favorite early learning writer. He understand children like no other I know. He posts five times a week. If you have a Facebook account, please like his Teacher Tom page. It is often my favorite read of the day. Tom Hobson is the only employee of the Woodland Park Cooperative School in Seattle, Washington. In his words, "The children come to us as 2-year-olds in diapers and leave as "sophisticated" 5-year-olds ready for kindergarten. The cooperative school model allows me to work very closely with families in a true community setting." 

I love when my dad reads Teacher Tom's blog!

2) Forty Short Films for Early Learning  (Age Range: 1 - 6)

The Department of Education in Zurich, Switzerland has created an astonishingly beautiful series of forty films—less than five minutes each. They are "designed to support professionals who work in early childhood education, care and upbringing: In the areas of family support, parental counseling and education. For this reason, the short films are available in 13 languages with extensive expert commentary."

Play based learning is the best!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Papa Green Bean's Secret Sauce

Vital Ingredients for Happy Parents and Cheerful Children

  • Use a huge amount of humor, silliness and absurd thinking to encourage imagination and optimism. Respect for children includes a genuine light-hearted view of life.  Embrace a witty perspective in day-to-day activities. It gets your children to open up to you. This closeness to you enables a child to follow her dreams with gusto.  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 for everyone. 
  • Babies are born watchers—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.

  • 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. 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 critical.
  • Our challenge, as adults, is to respect the child's cues. Each time a baby tries to touch a tantalizing object, gaze intently at a face, or listen to a lullaby, tiny bursts of electricity shoot through the brain, knitting neurons into circuits of connectivity.  There is a time scale to brain development, and the most important period is the first thousand days.
  • The child’s ultimate achievement is to develop the power of concentration. The parent is the caretaker of this right. We must help to bring it out. One of the most precious gifts we can give the child is patience.
  • 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 becoming a life long learner.

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.

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.

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!"

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.”