Driving to town today with my young one, I decided to just see what our local radio was covering at the moment. We've been spending more time in the car together recently, and sometimes I just can't help looking for a little adult diversion. I caught just a few words of an interview concerning this morning's horrific events at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Quickly I turned off the radio, wondering if my son had registered the words gunman, school, shootings.
Hold your children close. That's the concluding sentiment I see in articles tonight. Call me overprotective (and hypocritical), but I believe young children should not be exposed to common media, especially the daily news. Unless they are personally affected by these events, why should they have to try and make sense of this senselessness? And senselessness abounds these day. Even listening to the average day's news of economic woes and political strife is not something a child under age 10 or 12 should have to deal with. Let them at least go thru the nine-year change with as much innocence as possible. There is plenty of time for them to understand the twisted world as they grow older; plenty of opportunity for them to lay away worrying.
If your child has overheard news coverage or adult conversation about a scary or disturbing event, then for sure you need to talk to them. Follow all the expert advice about bringing it up before they do, and listening to their feelings. Validate those feelings, and try to share some perspective of wisdom. In my case today, I said, "It sounds like someone was separated from their angel and made a big mistake." I then started sharing how I believe angels help all of us.
If there is some cool news event you want to share, like Curiosity going to Mars, talk about it with them first, make up a story about it, and for the over 8 year olds maybe listen to coverage online, or even watch a video. But watch out for the advertisements - that's a whole other topic. Today with the internet we have even more ability to be discerning about what news we expose children to. For now, I will stick to my New York Times email updates, and only listen to Sparkle Stories or music when I'm in the car with my little man.
As the weather starts to turn, I've had to reach into the medicine cabinet a few times for some preventative cures. I suppose we all have our favorite standbys, but it occurred to me to share mine here. I have no medical training, this is just mother's wisdom I've gained from others who have shared with me.
One of the more common herbal remedies these days is echinacea (pronounced: eck i NAY sha). If I remember, I start drinking an echinacea tea early in the fall. This year I bought Celestial Seasonings Wellness Tea; it's flavored with mint and licorice. I share a cup with my little one, he likes it with honey of course. It's important to note that echinacea is really supposed to be used preventatively, and not for more than about 14 days in a row. If you're already feeling under the weather, there are other things more effective then echinacea, such as grapefruit seed extract.
I turn to grapefruit seed extract for almost everything. It's also known as GSE or Nutribiotic. In researching for this post I found there is some controversy about the claims that this product is a natural antimicrobial; it may have synthetic additives that make it so. Well, regardless, I feel from experience that it works. I mix 15 drops with water and pound it back- it is the worst tasting stuff ever!! I could buy it in tablet or capsule form, but then I'd have less control over how much I took, and I couldn't use it topically. I've used it for infected cuts, throat gargle, ear drops, nasal rinse, on my horses hooves, in the chickens water... I mix it with water in a dropper bottle for my son, and give him a dropper full whenever I realize he's been eating with dirty hands, or is starting to come down with a cold. I hope the bad taste has the added psychological effect that he doesn't want to pretend to be sick, or eat with dirty hands. But truth be told, I usually let him have something sweet, like elderberry syrup, right after the GSE. I am often heard singing, "Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down..."
Elderberry syrup is a more recent stand-by for me. It's so expensive in the stores, but it's easy to make your own. I give it straight or make a natural "soda" with it. Yum! And I guess it has vitamin C and other characteristics that help the body fight off sickness.
My last two things I am so grateful I had on hand recently are Oscillococcinum (I just call it the Osc-Cos stuff), and cough drops with zinc. The Osc-Cos stuff is a homeopathic flu remedy that "reduces the duration and severity of flu symptoms" if you take it as soon as you start to feel symptoms. My son had aches and fever on Wednesday night (hence this blog topic). I gave him some of these dissolving pellets before he fell asleep, and again in the morning. His fever went down by mid day and though he was a little under the weather for a few more days, he was not laid up with the flu. I also gave him zinc cough drops and later the GSE and elderberry.
Of course this is all just anecdotal. Maybe it's all just in my head like a placebo effect. But then again, I did hear last year about some research on placebos and it turns out that often times they really do work!
Here is part one of a follow-up to my "Learning Under Pressure" post:
Do children have rights in school? Well, I've seen rights and responsibilities handouts from schools, but nothing like this poster put out by New Learning Culture. If these rights were upheld in our schools, there would be much less stress and thereby more learning. When I read through this list, it's just seems like common sense. But then again, many educators need extra training in order to offer a classroom that incorporates these rights. Which is exactly part of Carmen Gamper's mission at New Learning Culture.
Rumor is that activists in Italy are sending out a poster to each school and the relevant political associations throughout the country. Let's visualize the message spreading!
All Children have the Right to Do the Following:
1. Go to the toilet when needed.
2. Have drinking water available.
3. Move the body when needed.
4. Learn to take care of personal needs.
5. Learn and process emotions through play.
6. Learn through exploration, trial, and error.
7. Make mistakes and not be shamed.
8. Learn at a personal pace.
9. Fully understand a subject before being tested.
10. Not to be tested involuntarily. Instead, share knowledge by free choice, only when ready to receive feedback on learning progress.
11. Not to be punished. Instead, children should be respectfully encouraged to become more self-disciplined.
12. Not to be compared with peers. Instead, acknowledged as an individual student with individual talents, opinions, and characteristics.
13. Not to be judged for being different.
Posters are for sale at www.newlearningculture.com/sacred-child-companion.html
I am so excited because I just won a free consultation with Donna Ashton, an expert on creating sane, productive rhythms in the home! And she is an expert by way of having twins whom she home-schools, while also running her own business from home. How does she do it?!
Well, maybe I will find out. I bought Donna's 4 Steps to Rhythm earlier this summer and have made some good progress, getting a better flow on the days when I am home with my four year old son. It makes such a difference when he knows, that I know, what we are going to do next. I can just look on the fridge and say, "It's play-time for you now, while I'm working, and then we will have lunch." Sometimes I set a timer so he feels there is some outside accountability as to when we will move to the next part of our plan.
Now don't get me wrong, we are following a flexible rhythm, not a set schedule. The time when things happen can float, and there is room for some spontaneity. (I love being spontaneous - probably why I need a schedule, right?) But with my new rhythm, I notice I'm able to give more attention to my child, and get more work done. I feel less frustrated at the end of the day.
Here is the daily rhythm I've been working with recently:
Brush Teeth, Comb Hair, Dress
8:00 Outside chores, walk
9:00 Inside for planned activity time (1 hour) Circle time and Craft
11:00 Little at self-play, Mom works till 12:30
1:00 Quiet time (1 hour)
Mom works 1-2pm
2-2:30 Chore time, Little helps and plays
3pm Snack and dinner prep
4pm Play till 5 pm, usually outside
Mom finishes work/chores
5:15 Dad home
5:30 -6pm Supper time
Pickup Toys Time while dinner is being prepared. (15 min.)
It's still a work in progress, so I'll let you know how I change things after the consultation. If you want a glimpse of Donna's homeschool rhythm with 8 year old twins, click here.
I just have to share this great resource that my family has been enjoying all summer. When my son needs some help getting into quiet time, and I need a little distraction so I can get some paperwork done, we've been turning to Sparkle Stories.com.
I bought a subscription, and each week new stories are ready to download. There are several story line subscriptions to choose from for different ages. I love that these are created by a homeschooling dad who used to be a waldorf teacher, because I can trust that the stories carry the values that I want to share with my child. Listening to stories is so much better then TV, and sometimes even better then picture books, because we have to create our own pictures in our minds, which strengthens the imagination muscle. And listening inspires me to be a storyteller too!
This week there is a free story available on the Sparkle Stories Blog - just click here.
There are also free sample stories to listen to on their website.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” - Albert Einstein
All over the USA it will soon be the first day of school for the 2012-2013 school year. Do you remember as a child (or adult), how stressful the first day of school can be? Not knowing who will be in your class, what your teacher will be like, but knowing you will have to behave well, and fit in, or life will be very uncomfortable. And do you remember the stress of homework and tests? Do you remember all those facts you were tested on? Probably only the ones you used repeatedly, like spelling and math facts, and then a few science or history things that you found interesting. Why? Because it has been proven that learning can not enter our long-term memory when we are under stress. I've been looking into this more and here is a breakdown of what I've found.
It's been proven over and over (just do a google search) that long-term and short term stress can impair brain cell communication. How? Well, learning and memory take place physically at the synapses, which are junctions through which brain cells communicate. These synapses are located on specialized branchlike ridges, on neurons. For information to be processed in the brain, neurons must communicate through chemicals and electrical signals across synapses in a process called neurotransmission. When we experience stress, hormones such as cortisol (and others) can flood the brain, affect neurotransmission, and limit the ability of synapses to collect and store memories. (psychcentral.com/news/2008/03/12/stress-affects-learning-and-memory)
Catherine Warner, a researcher from the University of Maryland who studied the effects of stress on over 10, 000 first grade students had this to say. "Our findings indicate that stress in the classroom environment affects children’s likelihood of exhibiting learning problems (difficulties with attentiveness, task persistence, and flexibility), externalizing problems (frequency with which the child argues, fights, disturbs ongoing activities, and acts impulsively), problems interacting with peers (difficulties in forming friendships, dealing with other children, expressing feelings, and showing sensitivity, or internalizing problems (presence of anxiety, loneliness, low self-esteem, and sadness in the child). These findings suggest that stress — in the form of negative classroom conditions — negatively affects the way children pay attention in class, stay on task, and are able to move from one activity to another."
Our various school systems may (or may not) have improved over the last few generations, but in many ways they have changed very little. School is still a very stressful place, in a society that has increasing, chronic stress triggers all the time. The pressure that teachers feel over lack of school resources, crowded classrooms and standardized testing contributes to stress in our students lives. And a record number of students are enrolling in american schools, as population and enrollment rates continue to increase. In particular, more prekindergarten and kindergarten students were expected to enter U.S. public school systems in 2011 than ever before. About 1.1 million children attended public prekindergarten last year and kindergarten enrollment was projected to reach an all-time high of approximately 3.8 million students. (National Center for Educational Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=372)
We want all these students to learn well, right? They are the future, and will have real problems to solve. So we owe it to them and ourselves to figure out ways to take the pressure off. (This includes home-schoolers too, as we all know home life can be stressful too.) Learning must happen in a relaxed environment of creative exploration. And I'll have more to say on this shortly, as I just finished a week long course on how to provide such a learning environment that truly strives to meet the needs of healthy, curious children.
I went to a beautiful baby shower this weekend. I hadn't been around so many first time moms to be in a long time. Probably since I was pregnant with my first child. I remember after that first baby was born I felt like I had joined a new club. The Motherhood Club. And there was so much that I had not expected!
It got me thinking, "What advice would I want to share with these new moms?"
My quick response would be, "Relax and enjoy babyhood. Go slow and stay home as much as possible the first year."
And then I'd highly recommend these two books for the first year:
The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night by Elizabeth Pantley
And Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron
Welcome to the Club!
I was recently reminded how powerful a tool singing can be for parents with children of all different ages. Of course infants love to hear you singing, even if you are off key. A song can relax and entertain the young child and singing can also release tension for the adult who may be stressed by baby's crying. Singing has been part of my little one's sleep routine since the first days.
I talk to myself quiet a bit and somewhere I read a helpful hint, that when we are home with toddlers and even older children, chattering aloud with our inner thoughts, talking to ourselves to put order to things, we may be adding nervous energy to our child's experience. Our chattering may interrupt their play. Instead we can sing those thoughts to ourselves, creating a calming effect and also allowing the child to distinguish that we are not talking to them.
But song can also be helpful when dealing with teens. The other day in the car, my 16 year old son was getting upset because the day was not going as he would have liked. He had two to appointments and then had to wait for me to do errands. I tried to be understanding, but as he talked about his upset he got more frustrated, and I started to feel stressed too. Then from some unplanned inspiration I made up a little ditty; singing " The world does not revolve around me, the world does not revolve around me. Oh how I wish that it did, but I know that it won't, no the the world does not revolve around me." This little song broke the tension. My son gave a sideways smile and then was able to continue his day with out holding a grudge.
One of the most profound teachings I've been blessed to encounter has been Marshall Rosenberg's Nonviolent Communication (NVC), or as I like to call it, "Empathic Communication" or with the kids "Giraffe Language". The basic idea behind the teaching is that all humans have the same basic needs, and these needs motivate our feelings and actions. Conflict occurs when two or more people's needs do not coincide at the same time. So during conflict, we can choose to look behind another's actions to see what they are needing, and we can thereby strive for constructive resolution.
As parents we often experience conflict. There's direct conflict with our children, when they are reaching for the candy before breakfast, or there's inner conflict such as " I just want to relax and check Facebook, but Johnny keeps annoying me."
What we need to be asking is, "What do you need?" We can ask this of others (empathy) and of ourselves (self-empathy). It may be easy to do this with a baby; they have a few basic needs such as security, warmth, food, rest, burping, eliminating. But all too soon our little ones develop more complex needs, and they also develop strategies for getting those needs met. Studying Empathic Communication helps us understand the difference between needs and strategies, while giving us some formats for expressing our needs, hearing others, and finding resolution.
"Mom, can I watch TV?" (TV can be a strategy for meeting needs for fun or learning.)
"Pleeeease?" (whining as a strategy for getting needs met)
"Are you needing some fun?"
"Then how about listening to an audio book or going for a bike ride?"
"NO, I want to watch TV!"
"I hear that you want TV, but I'm saying no because I'm feeling concerned for your wellbeing, since I know you watched TV yesterday and I believe TV isn't good for people. What else would you like to do for fun?"
OK, more on this later, I can't write a whole book right now. But others have and I'd highly suggest exploring NVC and parenting. Below are links to a few places to start.
Insights into nurturing the physical, emotional, mental, spiritual wellbeing of our children.