This book was shelved with the homeschooling books at the library, and although it's not specifically geared towards homeschoolers, it has a lot of grThis book was shelved with the homeschooling books at the library, and although it's not specifically geared towards homeschoolers, it has a lot of great suggestions that I think will be useful to the homeschooler crowd (as well as teachers and parents of children going to school-school).
I love Alfie Kohn's ideas about avoiding punishments and rewards, but his books (at least the ones I've read) are pretty heavy on theory and pretty light on practical application. Faber and Mazlish offer heaps of real-world examples that I've been able to try out immediately with my own kiddos. I would love to have a conflict resolution workshop at my kids' homeschool co-op based on the ideas in this book (but in case any of my fellow co-op parents are reading this, I want to attach an emphatic "Not it" to this suggestion).
The only thing this book lacks is a chapter on what to do when your nine-year-old has read the book ahead of you and is now correcting your technique when you try to implement the suggestions. (This shared reading also led to an interesting conversation with my daughter that began, "Mom, in one chapter they imply that saying 'your mother' is an insult, and I can't figure out why that would be an insult.")...more
Free-Range Kids is a decent book. Skenazy's style grated on me a bit after a while, but she did get me to think about ways that I can empower my kidsFree-Range Kids is a decent book. Skenazy's style grated on me a bit after a while, but she did get me to think about ways that I can empower my kids to do more on their own and take the steps to becoming responsible adults. I think I tend to be more free-range-y than many parents I know, but I still have my worries. Mostly I think the helicoptering I do is pretty appropriate to my kids' ages---or at least to my son's age. He turns four next week, and while I let him play out in the un-fenced backyard by himself, there's not much else I feel comfortable having him do on his own. Unfortunately, I do find myself setting similar limits for my eight-year-old, even though she is clearly ready to take on more responsibility. Skenazy's book helped me realize that and start thinking of ways to ease both kids into more responsibility.
I also liked the stats she included, especially about things like abduction risk. My favorite? If you wanted your kid abducted by a stranger, you'd have to leave her outside, unattended, for 750,000 years to make it statistically likely to happen (pp. 16-17).
Her tips for keeping kids safe from the minuscule risk of abduction by a stranger were also great. My daughter and I did some role-playing last night about what she would do if someone she didn't know asked her to help him (or her) find a lost dog, and I'm pleased to say, my daughter passed with flying colors. Now my son, who thinks of every person, animal, and streetlamp we meet as a fast friend? I think we'll have to do a little more work before I'm sure he's internalized the lesson, but it's a start. Going through all of this really helped ease my fears and boost my confidence in my kids.
Mostly, though, since I recognize my own penchant for anxiety, I'm accustomed to mitigating my own fears. I worry about ticks, so the kids and I wear permethrin-treated pants and long-sleeve shirts when we go on our weekly hikes. I worry about being hit by a car while we're on our bikes, so we carefully choose our routes and the times we'll ride to minimize the time we have to share the narrow New England roads with drivers unaccustomed to bicyclists. I don't let them eat raw eggs, but less because of the food-poisoning risk than because it turns my stomach.
So, a lot of the things Skenazy addresses are things I've already thought about. But the biggest barrier to me letting my kids be more free-range is fear of the judgment of other parents, which Skenazy addresses in "Commandment 6".
Last spring on the way to the thrift store, my kids and I stopped at the kids consignment shop to pick up a batch of what they euphemistically called "no thank-yous" from among the bunch of clothes I'd brought in the week before.
When we arrived at the consignment shop, the kids were reading quietly in the back of the car. I knew that if I got them out, the 30-second trip inside to pick up my bag of clothes would turn into an hour-long stay as my children made their way through every toy piled in the back of the over-loaded store. I knew this because that's what had happened the week before. So, noting that it was <70 degrees out and that I could keep an eye on the car through the window of the store, I gave the kids instructions to stay inside and not talk to anybody, and I jogged up to the store. I locked the car, but I didn't even take my wallet with me.
When I got inside I butted into a conversation at the front desk to let the employees know I was there to pick up my no thank-yous and that my kids were waiting in the car, so if they could make it speedy, that would be great. One of the young women went into the back to look for my bag, and I stood there watching the parking lot through the window as an SUV pulled up and a woman got out, pausing briefly to look inside my car. I watched the woman walk inside and wait in line.
After finding out how long a wait it would be to have items considered for consignment, she said, "Oh, and by the way...someone left their kids in their car out there."
"Oh, that's me," I said, smiling. "I'm just in to pick up some no thank-yous, and it's taking a little longer than I expected."
She just stared at me. My heart started beating faster, and I felt my cheeks grow hot.
"Look, it's not hot outside," I explained. "I'm watching the car through the window---I watched you pull up just now---and it's not like I'm browsing or waiting 45 minutes to have items looked at. I'm just in here to pick up a bag of no thank-yous."
She raised her chin a little and lifted an eyebrow. "Well, obviously you know what you're doing is wrong!" Then she turned and started for the door.
I would like to say that I just rolled my eyes and watched her walk away. However, that's not what I did. I followed her to the door and said, "And obviously you know it's none of your [gosh-darn] business!" (Immediately I heard a woman behind me say, "Hey! Watch your language!" Really? For a [gosh-darn]? It's not like I said "[fudging]". And where was she when this woman was saying I was "wrong"? I still apologized for my language, though.)
I stood there shaking, angry with myself for losing my cool, irate at that woman for judging me like that, and also terrified that she was going to call the police or talk to my kids or something. When the saleswoman came back and said she couldn't find my bag and would I mind waiting longer, I just told her to keep the clothes, that I couldn't wait anymore. I got into the car with my kids, who were still reading quietly, and drove to the thrift store, still shaking, still sure I was going to see a police cruiser with flashing lights behind me. I knew I hadn't done anything wrong (except for swearing at a self-righteous but well-meaning stranger), but the fear of being confronted by the police about it drove me to distraction. (The police never showed up, by the way.)
I'm glad that the woman was looking out for my kids. I'm glad she mentioned it at the store. If I'd left my head lights on, I would hope she'd alert the store, too, so I could turn them off and not kill my battery. It's the sign of a healthy community for people to look out for each other like that. But when I owned up to leaving my kids in the car, I wish she could have chalked it up to differences in parenting styles and left it at that. Despite this woman's assertion, I do not think I was in the wrong leaving my kids in the car like that. Heck, my parents once left my little brother and I (I was 10, he was 3) in the car when they took our sister into the emergency room, and that took HOURS. I wouldn't leave my kids for that long, but my brother and I were fine, if bored. I've not, however, ever left my kids in the car again, even for a short time. I even feel nervous leaving them in there while I pump gas, and I'm standing right next to the car when I do that.
If that's what it feels like to have a confrontation with a self-righteous parent about leaving my three-year-old and his seven-year-old sister in our car while I stared at them through a window ten yards away the entire time, I can only guess at what Lenore Skenazy felt in the midst of the crapstorm in which she found herself after admitting to letting her nine-year-old ride the subway by himself.
So, there's what passes as my review of Free-Range Kids. The book didn't blow my mind, but I'm glad I read it. It's given me a lot to think about, a little less to worry about, and maybe even a little more courage to own up to my free-range-y choices to other parents. Now if only I can do something about my potty-mouth......more
Even before I became pregnant with my first child, I began amassing baby care and parenting books. Unsure of myself as a parent, I sought solace in thEven before I became pregnant with my first child, I began amassing baby care and parenting books. Unsure of myself as a parent, I sought solace in the opinions of others. Over the last decade, I've grown into my role as mother enough that I've given away most of the books I'd collected in those early uncertain years. Most days, I trust in my ability to doggy paddle through the waters of motherhood and make the best choices---or at least the best I can manage---for my children and my family. I do some spot-checking, looking back to trusted authors to borrow their faith in a parent's abilities on those days when I feel the water at my chin and rising quickly, but mostly I feel competent enough to weather the fear on my own or with a phone call to a friend.
Now that I've left the parenting instruction manuals at thrift stores in three states, I've found myself yearning for a different sort of book. I find myself looking for a book that reflects the spiritual nature of my life as the mother of small humans, that recognizes the challenges and the joys as part of something that feels much larger than the decision about how much screen time my kids should have or the anxious moments scanning tiny print to make sure there are no hydrogenated oils in the store-bought cookies. Because I'm a UU and because I've had great luck finding the kinds of books that speak to me in the UUA bookstore, I aimed my browser in that direction and found Chaos, Wonder and the Spiritual Adventure of Parenting, which turned out to be just what I've been seeking.
Sarah Conover and Tracy Springberry join their essays with those of twenty-four other writers from a variety of faith traditions to tell stories of how parenthood has broken open their hearts, as Rosemary Bray McNatt puts it in her essay. Reading this anthology, I felt like I was in the presence of kindred spirits, surrounded by people who, though they come from very different backgrounds, face the same daily struggle I do of remaining sane in the face of the huge emotions our children bring to the surface.
Through their successes and failures, loves and losses, these fellow parents uncover more strength and love within them than they imagined was there. I especially love the stories about how the challenges of parenting has made these individuals more effective and patient in helping others outside their families. This is one of the fears I have---that the skills I'm developing at home with my children aren't really transferrable to the adult-filled Outside World and once my children leave the nest I'll be completely useless---and reading about those who've seen this whole thing through to the post-kids-at-home stage helps me feel less terrified for the future.
"How do we change our conditioned responses from the wounds inflicted by our families of origin so that we don't harm our own children? Either parenting becomes our spiritual practice, or we bequeath the damage to another generation." -Sarah Conover, from her essay, "Orthopraxy"
This book has some really helpful suggestions. Nothing amazing, but helpful. My two favorites were the suggestion of developing routines/rituals (DermThis book has some really helpful suggestions. Nothing amazing, but helpful. My two favorites were the suggestion of developing routines/rituals (Dermond gave more detail on how to do this than other books I've seen) and the image of an eternal stream of love and as parents, when we're angry, we need only dip into this stream to offer this love to our children (or ourselves or our partners). It helps me when I'm angry to not feel like I have to come up with the loving feelings on my own, that the love just exists and I merely need to access it. Kind of a simple idea when I write it out like that, but I've found it quite helpful....more
As the homeschooling mother of a preschooler, I never would have imagined that preparing my daughter to read could be so simple. Trelease really makesAs the homeschooling mother of a preschooler, I never would have imagined that preparing my daughter to read could be so simple. Trelease really makes the case for the importance of reading aloud to one's children (even if they attend school outside of their homes), and includes a fabulous directory of read-aloud books. Every book we've picked up from that list has been right-on for my daughter (including James and the Giant Peach, which I thought would be a little old for her, but which she loved)....more
Jacqueline Kramer gives information about her personal journey through pregnancy and motherhood from a Buddhist perspective, and guidance for all momsJacqueline Kramer gives information about her personal journey through pregnancy and motherhood from a Buddhist perspective, and guidance for all moms hoping to realize the spiritual potential of motherhood. I found the suggestions realistic, and I could really relate to the situations she described. It helped me take another step towards fully embracing and enjoying the "mom" role that I've chosen to make central in my life.
For anyone who reads this book and wants more, visit Jacqueline's website -- www.hearthfoundation.net -- for information about her free online classes....more
I checked out this book from the library and plan to buy a copy to have on-hand as a reference. There are so many ideas and recipes (for paint, play-dI checked out this book from the library and plan to buy a copy to have on-hand as a reference. There are so many ideas and recipes (for paint, play-dough, etc). I like that it spans such a range of ages and that so many of the projects involve homemade and found materials. Some of the activities are a little more involved than I will likely get into on a regular basis, but it has helped me feel less hesitant about messy projects. It's not organized as intuitively as I would like, but I'm finding things fairly easily when I go back to look something up....more
I found the "young 2's", "middle 2's", "older 2's" designations to be not very useful for my daughter, but the general layout of the book was very conI found the "young 2's", "middle 2's", "older 2's" designations to be not very useful for my daughter, but the general layout of the book was very conducive to quickly looking up fun, simple-to-set-up activities for toddlers. I especially liked the large number of rhymes and songs. There was a little more of the "when your child does this, praise her profusely" stuff than I'd have liked, but then, I'm a little funny about rewards and punishments. Even for me, though, this didn't detract much....more
The first section of the book has the stretching and movement exercises that my daughter likes best and that most closely match what I expected the boThe first section of the book has the stretching and movement exercises that my daughter likes best and that most closely match what I expected the book would be about. Section Two has exercises geared towards helping children grow up aware of and comfortable in their own bodies, and Section Three has pantomime games that parents and children play together to learn about something else (holidays, music, long car rides). I'm sure the exercises in Sections Two and Three are useful, I just expected the exercises to be more physical, getting up and dancing kind of activities....more
I got the book and DVD set and found the two together to be incredibly helpful in teaching my daughter ASL signs. Some of those first signs are very sI got the book and DVD set and found the two together to be incredibly helpful in teaching my daughter ASL signs. Some of those first signs are very subtle, and seeing the DVD really helped me recognize when she was trying to make a sign versus when she was just kind of moving her hands around. Signing really enriched our interactions and reduced frustration in those pre-verbal months. She's nearly three now and quite verbal, but there are still a few signs she uses, sometimes for novelty, sometimes for emphasis, and sometimes because she's feeling shy and doesn't want to say "thank you" out loud to a stranger....more
I will preface my review by saying that I recognize that I might be biased about this book because it reinforced many things about parenting that I alI will preface my review by saying that I recognize that I might be biased about this book because it reinforced many things about parenting that I already believe.
That being said, I really found this book enlightening. Small, an anthropologist at Cornell University, outlines research done here in the West about parenting practices and the nature of human infancy and describes parenting practices in cultures around the world. Her basic premise is that, while parents (and even those without children) often believe that there is a "right" way and a "wrong" way to raise children, what is right and wrong in parenting varies dramatically across cultures.
As a mother, I find myself now looking at my relationship with my daughter through a cultural lens. This book has helped shift my perspective so that I feel better able to recognize when I'm doing something contrary to the best interests of my family because of cultural influences, and I feel more free to make choices that contradict those paths deemed right by my culture. I've actually reevaluated our family's sleeping arrangements when I realized that the changes I had made and was planning to make in the near future were more based on cultural pressures than on what seemed right for my family.
I especially appreciated the inclusion of James McKenna's research on cosleeping/infant sleep. Small's discussion of SIDS was much more logical and based more on research and evidence than a lot of the information parents receive about SIDS from physicians and public health agencies, which is often way too dependent upon scare tactics, in my opinion.
For those interested in reading more about James McKenna's research and about safe cosleeping, check out his 2007 book, Sleeping With Your Baby: A Parent's Guide....more
The closest thing to a balanced view of vaccinations that I've found. Bob Sears goes through the vaccines one by one, and brand by brand, finds all ofThe closest thing to a balanced view of vaccinations that I've found. Bob Sears goes through the vaccines one by one, and brand by brand, finds all of the research that is out there, and delivers it in a mostly unbiased way. He clearly supports vaccinating children, but admits that there are some unanswered questions that might give parents pause and explores the limits of the research we currently have available. He is respectful of parents' concerns and also of their role as the ultimate decision-makers for their children.
Before reading this book, I was afraid to vaccinate my second child at all, even though I believed it was important from a public health standpoint. This book helped me to design a schedule that met my need for the safety of my individual children and my need to participate in the health of our larger society. And it helped me to approach my doctor with confidence when presenting my schedule and my reasoning behind it. I'm not the type of person who'll ever feel 100% confident I've made the right choices, but I feel one heck of a lot more comfortable with my decisions this time around than when I was flying blind with my first child and her vaccinations....more
Yes, I didn't really like this book. The style is too cutesy for my taste (text in multiple colors, silhouette pictures of happy couples, the orange rYes, I didn't really like this book. The style is too cutesy for my taste (text in multiple colors, silhouette pictures of happy couples, the orange ribbon bookmark).
It's set up with suggestions from real parents for keeping the romantic fires burning followed by endorsements by the professionals (and a lot of quoting of John Gottman). I found the professional statements to be patronizing and, in some circumstances, unnecessarily alarmist. Like in the section about yelling in front of your kids. Yes, yelling in front of one's kids isn't good. I doubt anyone would argue that. But warning about increases in babies' blood pressure when their parents fight isn't the same thing as offering support for those wishing to not yell in front of their kids. Does telling smokers that their health is at risk get them to quit smoking? Clearly not. It's one piece, but it's not the one thing that's going to effect a lasting change in their behavior, especially since it's a pretty universally accepted fact at this point rather than new information.
And the section with the list of euphemisms for the marital act and Mom's and Dad's genitals? Yeah, I found that kind of disturbing....more