Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What's for Lunch Wednesday - Food Attitude

Photo by wheat_in_your_hair
There is lots of information on the Internet about food and health.  Organic, free-range, biodynamic, local, ultra-local, urban gardening, food miles, Weston A. Price, vegetarian, vegan, GAPS, GFCF - food is something that everyone seems to have an opinion about.  What is the healthiest way to feed our families?  Who knows?  To be sure, there is a lot of passion and judgement surrounding this question for a lot of people.

But here is an interesting article from the latest New York Times Magazine on how our diet and eating habits affects our children's body image - boys too, but especially girls:
Food is never just food. Food is love. Food is solace. It is politics. It is religion. And if that’s not enough to heap on your dinner plate each night, food is also, especially for mothers, the instant-read measure of our parenting. We are not only what we eat, we are what we feed our children.
A quick and worthwhile read - check it out.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ron Miller's Talk

Success!  I finally figured out how to get the keynote talk from our March 20 conference up on You Tube.  The catch is that it's broken up into ten-minute segments, but hey, it's better than nothing...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Book Review: The Big Turnoff

In honor of Earth Week and the Great TV Rebellion 2010, I thought it would be a good time to offer a review of one of my favorite parenting books, The Big Turnoff: Confessions of a TV-Addicted Mom Trying to Raise a TV-Free Kid by Ellen Currey-Wilson.

In this startlingly honest memoir, Currey-Wilson invites readers to share her most intimate thoughts in a way that few of us would, even with our dearest friends. From the dysfunctional family where she grew up, to the jealousy she feels when two members of her playgroup start spending time together without her, to the time she offered a friend’s psychologist husband sexual favors (in front of her friend!) if he would give her “the answers” to the battery of psychological tests her son Casey was about to undergo, the author is willing to bare her most embarrassing secrets in a way that makes the reader fall in love with her quirky neuroticism.

Though the story is set around the author’s efforts to protect her son from exposure to television despite her lifelong addiction to the medium, TV can be seen as a metaphor for many of the alternative lifestyle choices that many of us make. Currey-Wilson struggles with both the philosophy and the practice of keeping her son TV-free: How will she find a babysitter who does not just plop Casey in front of the tube? How much should she reveal to her friends and family about her decision to eschew Sesame Street and Arthur? Can she reveal her son’s media-free status at all without sounding like a judgmental zealot? Will other parents consider it a burden to host TV-free playdates so that her son can attend? Will he be an outcast at school because he does not know who Pokemon is and does not own a Wii? Who among us has not asked ourselves these same questions about some of our own unconventional parenting choices?

Currey-Wilson’s example stands as an inspiration to those of us who sometimes tire of the pressure to “fit in” that we endure as we make choices for our families that are outside the mainstream. Her story also gives readers the courage to parent consciously, to face our own pasts, to ask the hard questions of ourselves that will make us better parents and better people.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Book Review: Henry David's House[Children] should not play life, or study it merely, while the community supports them at this expensive game, but earnestly live it from beginning to end.  ~Henry David Thoreau

http://thewellspringschool.orgYears ago I had the pleasure of spending a day at Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts.  I went by myself, hiked around the pond, and sat on its banks to read Walden.  It was an idyllic pre-children day.

This past summer, when we again found ourselves in the Boston suburbs, I took the kids to visit the pond.

It was a warm day, and we spent the morning dipping our toes in the cold (frigid, really, even in late August)  water before taking the hike out to see the site of Thoreau's legendary cabin. 

The foundation is still there, and visitors can go visit a replica of the legendary cabin.  The hike was much longer than I recalled, especially with a toddler who did not want to be carried yet was not really able to walk very well. 

But we did enjoy playing by the pile of rocks that many visitors have left by the cabin site to commemorate their visit and the influential work of Thoreau.

Given our love of this place, I was very excited to find the book Henry David's House, edited by Steven Schnur and illustrated by Peter Fiore.

Schnur distills Thoreau's great philosophical work on nature and simplicity into a diary format, including details of life by the pond that children can relate to.  Included are passages describing the selection of the building site, the construction of the cabin, the labor involved in building it, the wildlife surrounding it, the visitors Thoreau entertained there, and the changing of the seasons during the year he spent living there.  The inclusion of small details, such as the "two or three small maples turned scarlet across the pond" on the first of September and "the whooping of the ice in the pond" as it froze in winter really bring life at Walden alive for the reader, as well as encouraging children to become attuned to the sights, sounds, and smells around them.  The oil paintings are a beautiful, simple complement to the text.  I especially love the picture of Thoreau playing his flute in a rowboat surrounded by lily pads - very Monet-esque.  I can't wait to bring this book along on our next trip to Concord!

Monday, April 12, 2010

What is Community?

You may have noticed that I've been a little light on posting this past week.  I was feeling quite a bit under the weather and wasn't spending much time at the computer. 

During my convalescence, I was reading The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Approach - Advanced Reflections (second edition) edited by Carolyn Edwards, Lella Gandini and George Forman.  A little light reading, you know?  Anyway, there was a quote from the second chapter that really jumped out at me:

Communities are groups of people who can do together what they could not accomplish alone and who have a stake in each others' well-being.

On that note, I'd like to take this chance to publicly thank all the wonderful members of our Wellspring community who have taken the time to drop me an email or call, or otherwise check in on me, or even send meals for our family.  It has meant the world to me - I am so grateful to be a part of this wonderful group of people!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Friday, April 9, 2010

Friday Favorites

British Teachers: Standardized Tests "Deny Children A Well-Rounded Education" ::: Eco Child's Play

What Should be Cut From School Budgets When Times Get Tough? with Noam Chomsky and Alfie Kohn ::: Ecology of Education

Tips for Raising Resilient Children, Parts 1 and 2 ::: Let the Children Play

Welcome Spring Stick ::: The Forest Room

Thoughtful Thursday ::: Montessori Mama

And an ongoing web favorite...

The Metropolitan Museum of Art posts a Featured Work of Art on their homepage every day, which I like to check and give myself a bit of culture.  Our family is thinking of taking a trip into the City soon to visit their super-cool collection of Egyptian art since the kids have been working on Egypt in school this week.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

March at Wellspring

The one hundredth day of school has come and gone this month. We celebrated by bringing in collections of 100 things and decorating the classroom with 100 streamers and 100 balloons (counting by 10s). The children compared collections and observed the difference in size and shape of 100 things. One hundred sparkling Popsicle sticks look very different than 100 pieces of rice, yet the children agreed that 100 is 100 no matter the size. The children began the month counting to 100 by ones and progressed to counting by 2’s as they hung pairs of mittens, socks, hats, and pants on the laundry line. The children counted by 5s in a circle using both their finger and toes. Lastly, they used the floor grids to count by 10s, 5s, and 2s well past 100.
We celebrated the birthday of Dr. Seuss with a month long focus on his books. We rhymed, sang, wrote books, and spelled all in honor of Dr. Seuss. We even made Oobleck and studied states of matter after reading after reading Bartholomew and the Oobleck. Special thanks to the moms who helped clean our space after this experiment!

The train trip to the Far Hills Post Office provided a wonderful connection to our community. With letters in tow, the children walked to the train station, boarded the train for the 8 minute journey to Far Hills, walked a few blocks to the Post Office, conducted their business, toured the facility, and then returned to school via the same route. When we explained to Postmaster Patty that we were tracking how long it would take for the letters to be delivered, she shared that the Post Office does the same thing. You’ll see our map on the purple felt tracking the letters. This trip and activity helped reinforce that Wellspring Community School is part of a greater community and maps can be used to find local towns as well as far away countries.

In the World Cultures program, we travelled to Gabon, Africa. Heather worked with the Peace Corps in Gabon and shared photos, music, and stories from her time there. Heather even cooked plantains for the children’s snack and many took the opportunity to compare them to bananas.

The children delighted in watching the eggs hatch and taking care of the baby chicks. Most children eagerly waited for a turn to hold one and refill the food/water. Thank you to Parvathi for photographing this special time in our space! We continue our weekly monitoring of the bluebird boxes in the meadow with hopes of observing nesting. Perhaps we will see some changes upon our return from Spring Break.

Did your child offer to make you pancakes during the school break? We read If You Give a Pig a Pancake, and most children learned how to mix and flip pancakes during nook time. If your child offers to make pancakes or help with the flipping, take them up on it. The pancakes were delicious!


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Friday, April 2, 2010

Friday Favorites

Progressive Schools: The Real Revolution in Education - Even though Jenny of Let the Children Play is writing on the other side of the world from Wellspring, she could just as easily be talking about the United States.

Fostering Social Connections - Half Full argues that Happiness is....being socially connected.

The Boys Have Fallen Behind - Nicholas Kristoff (LOVE him!) suggests in the New York Times that books that gross-out parents and may even include an explosion or two might be just the ticket to correct boys' lagging literacy scores

Increasing Number of Parents Opting to Have Children School-Homed - From The Onion, this is just plain funny

How to Show Your Kids You're Still Learning - Simple Homeschool offers three tips for modeling lifelong learning for your children