So Sam is back in school – a few minutes late this morning because both boys slept in until 7:30! (My “policy” is not to wake sleeping children until they are in 3rd grade.) We enjoyed bike/running over listening to Beethoven and talking about what life was like 200 years ago. Sam was very intrigued by how long people tended to live, how they had to heat their homes with coal, no bathrooms or phones, etc. Life was a lot harder in some ways, but in other ways they were slowed down enough to appreciate beauty all around them, much as we were during our “grounding” for Thanksgiving. Beethoven started writing music about the age Sam is now, and found his inspiration during long walks in the woods.(This is from memory reading a great biography about him 6 years ago, so hopefully I’ve retained these tidbits correctly ;0 ) Music is a really important part of life for us, and I am so grateful every time Sam picks up his uke to play.
I’ve been meaning to jot some notes down about two books, one of which I recently finished and the other is on my bed stand.
The Hurried Child: Growing Up Too Fast, Too Soon (Elkind) This book struck a chord with me when I stumbled across it – our family was in a phase where the calendar had booked up quickly, we were double-booked often and having to choose between equally good opportunities, and it seemed like I was saying “hurry” from 7:07am straight through for 12 hours. When I noticed this book was in its 25th year of print, I had to pick it up – how could things have been so crazy even 25 years ago? Elkind observes that dual income families have placed a special burden on children – not just the mad dash out the door to daycare, but the multiple transitions we ask of children throughout a day, from home to preschool/daycare, from daycare to after-school care with a neighbor or friend, and back home for an hour before bed. He notes that the meltdowns upon returning home are likely due to the release of tension built up during the day – the child manages his or her feelings and “adjusts” but the fallout happens when the child can finally relax at home. While I think much of it could have been stated more concisely, it is a good read and helps parents reprioritize so that these very brief early years are healthy and nurturing for the whole family. It doesn’t have to be a period of life we “survive” until the kids are old enough to be more self-sufficient. This should be a time to embrace their dependency, create special bonds, and not hurry up all those developmental milestones to suit our own needs.
Lighting Their Fires: Raising Extraordinary Kids in a Mixed-Up, Muddled-Up, Shook-Up World (Esquith) This book was sent to me by a friend (also a client) and I am grateful for it. The author is a teacher and parent with profound dedication to helping kids develop into extraordinary beings. He infuses his teaching with life lessons (about being on time, about valuing time and managing it so that it isn’t lost or squandered), and taking them on adventures such as a ball game for his fifth graders. I find that much of his philosophy is like mine – that important life lessons are all around us and certainly not confined to the mastery of sight words or basic arithmetic. While all that academic stuff is vital, it’s not what makes us extraordinary. Using our minds to think creatively about the world around us, to perceive the nuances of life and people, to have the freedom of time to dream about goals and pursue them…all that is important. It is part of why I am waiting for home school and public school to join forces for those of us who want the best of both: three months of school, one month of holo holo time with the kids. I think elementary school could be completely overhauled for the good of families and kids. So if I don’t head out this week, we’ll stay put for the month (Dave isn’t home to nay-say my ideas!) then go holo holo in March when we’re not competing with so many people.
I wonder what a wind tasting would be like? This was a recent texting-typo, and I ended up liking it very much. It made me think of all the different hikes with different smells, how the ironwood needles smell earthy and piney on our fish-pond run or Mariner’s Ridge hike, how the eucalyptus is so pungent over at Ualaka’a, how a rain shower makes the air taste rich… The boys and I have really been hankering to travel for a while now, despite the 50,000 miles we logged last year. Those expeditions lasted us a couple months of quelled wanderlust, but we’ve been registered for a space-a trip for about 4 months now, hoping for a good opportunity to jet off. Certain circumstances have kept us on-island (Dave’s travel, aging doggie, my work, desire not to get caught on the mainland with no way back due to competing with other space-a travelers much higher on the list because the spouse is traveling with them, etc.). But we keep looking for a good opportunity and excuse 🙂
Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods is an excellent overview of how this generation’s children came to have “nature-deficit disorder” as Louv describes it. There are very logical reasons for this development, but there are also plenty of opportunities to actively combat it, and help other families take the leap to join you. Excellent and quick read (maybe two weeks of before-bed reading).Neufeld and Mate’s Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers is written by a Canadian team – a clinical psychologist specializing in child development and his physician/author friend. Neufeld and Mate present a compelling treatise on how our peer-oriented culture fosters a wide range of social and developmental ills, from bullying to suicide and depression. Our society is obsessive about creating opportunities for our preschoolers to socialize – we’re all under this pressure to make sure our kids can get along, make friends and thusly do well in school, fit in, etc. But what does the evidence say? Is there another side to this coin. Indeed, there is. In fact, the largest study of children age preschool through kindergarten found that kids with the most experience in daycare/preschool also tended to exhibit more aggressive tendencies, problem behaviors, etc. Yes, high quality daycare and preschool can help kids from less engaged households fare better in school than their peers from similar households. Somehow this message gets distorted, though, such that we all feel compelled to put our kids in daycare or preschool to be sure they get every advantage in the world. I challenge every thinking parent to read both sides of the literature. This is one absolutely outstanding book: compassionate, contemporary and compelling.