Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Charlotte Mason

Charlotte Mason wrote a lengthy series of books on Education. Her philosophy of education includes forming good habits from birth, nature study, short lessons, classics, "twaddle" free books, and parental involvement. This is a popular homeschool method of education.

Here are a number of good websites that go into depth about what Charlotte Mason Education is all about.
The Charlotte Mason Research and Supply Company
The A B C s of Charlotte Mason
Simply Charlotte Mason
Penny Gardner's site
Ambleside Online a free online curriculum

A Thomas Jefferson Education

This book, by Oliver DeMille is a must read. The leadership education he describes in this book is one that many parents are seeking for their children. These ideas can be implemented with many other "brands" of education. The 7 key elements to this are:
  1. Classics not Textbooks
  2. Mentors not Professors
  3. Inspire not Require
  4. Quality not Conformity
  5. Structure Time not Content
  6. Simplicity not Complexity
  7. You not Them

Our Favorite Family Read Alouds

One of my family's favorite activities is reading aloud together. Reading together is important to a child's education and development. If kids are too young to sit still for long periods, offer them quiet activities that they can work on while you are reading. Here are some of our family's favorites.

Little Britches Series by Ralph Moody (this is our favorite!)
Little House Books
Narnia Series
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series
A Child's Garden of Verses
Winnie the Pooh

Monday, November 27, 2006

Educating Children

There are many ideas out there on the best way to educate children. I feel it is important to review and look at the philosophies available and then pick and choose those that fit with how your family works.

For your reference, I am coming from a homeschool prospective, but each of these philosophies do have schools that follow their principles. I have my own personal beliefs about the best way to educate children, yet I am also willing to "roll with punches" as they come and change what isn't working. Parents must all choose what they feel is best for them when it comes to educating their children, whatever that may be.

In the near future some of my posts will be about different educational philosophies out there today. These ideas are important from the beginning of childhood, as many of them offer discipline ideas and parenting ideas that one can start from right away.

Friday, November 24, 2006

More on Parental Connection

Beyond the day-to-day care, feeding, and maintenance of children, parents’ emotional or affective involvement in their children’s lives plays a key role in the overall well-being of their children. Children do not grow up into healthy adults in a vacuum. They need adults -- and most especially their parents -- who connect with them to reach their optimal potential. Adults other than a parent can help a child grow and develop, but it is the parent, who “loves them for free,” that will give them a safe and secure emotional base to stand on.

We have learned that parental interaction begins before birth. A fetus can hear, see, taste, and feel. Their sense of smell is acute at birth. Babies that have heard music played before birth, are calmed when they hear it after birth. A newborn recognizes his mother’s voice. These are just a few ways that parents interact, often without even knowing it.

After a baby is born, if kept physically close to her mother, much interaction can occur. That baby is wired to find her way to her mother’s breast, gaze into her eyes, and get her needs met (Klaus & Klaus, 1998). If this closeness is continued throughout the early days and months, a baby and mother pair will get to know each other and become well attuned to one another. This is a type of beneficial parental interaction that is needed and often not received in our modern Western culture.

We are used to finding ways to separate ourselves from our children, rather than finding ways to include them in our lives. Parental interaction should start as early as possible, and the first few days after birth are one of the most important times. One of the best times to educate parents, is as expectant parents. Many are seeking to figure out how they want to parent, and are more open to input from others. If parents are not reached at this stage, there are other times and other moments to help parents see just how important it is to interact with their children.

Very young children absorb a great deal of what is going on around them. They need a consistent care giver, optimally a parent, to observe, mimic, and learn from. They again need a safe base to come back to as they explore their world around them. Children learn who they are just by being with a parent most of the time. As they shadow their mom (and dad), they figure out how they fit into the world on an emotional and social level. When a young child stands on a chair beside his mother to help her make food for dinner, or to wash the dishes, he gains a sense of fulfillment, a sense of worth. He knows he is part of something; he belongs. He gets to talk with mom and stretch his verbal abilities, he learns about the work he is doing, and yet he enjoys it all. Mom gets to slow down and get to know her son better and connect with him.

As children grow, they may spend more and more time away from their parents, but they still need that safe base to return to. When a child struggles at school, she wants to come home and feel that she is still loveable, still worthwhile. Mom and Dad need to take the time to reconnect with her over and over again. Her sense of self counts on it. This does not mean that mom and dad give her a life free of struggle, but that they become the soft place to land when she falls.

Adolescents need just as much time and interaction as their younger counterparts; some say they need even more. Adolescents still need hugs and affection from their parents, these communication lines still need to be open. Adult children also need loving interaction with their parents. It never goes away. Parenting is more than food, shelter and clothing, it is a nurturing that can be found in these, yet is found in so many other needed interactions with children.

Parental emotional involvement is such a key element to raising happy and healthy children. There is not enough support in our culture for ideal parenting. Mother’s who choose to stay home with their children often do so facing isolation, lower socio-economic status, and contempt from their working female counterparts. The majority of social outlets are mind numbingly dull or not child friendly. It is no wonder many mothers reject the idea of staying home, even if they could afford to.

Our entire society suffers when children do not get the parental interaction they need. People need to see the seriousness of this, and be given real ways to make changes to help the children in their lives. It is not an easy task. I think most parents have problems giving of themselves at times, largely because loving parental involvement is not the norm. Loving parents are not scarce, what is scarce is the “know how” to put that love into action to create the type of connection children need.

Klause, M.H. & Klause, P.H. (1998). Your Amazing Newborn. Reading, Massachusetts: Perseus Books.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Sex Education

Douglas Kirby has researched many different programs to find which type of program is the most effective at keeping youth from risky behaviors. I was intrigued by the information from this article. I feel we can use this information to get the type of programs we want for our children in our schools. You will need Adobe to download it.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Connection Parenting

Pam Leo has written a simple handbook to help parents start to "parent through connection instead of coercion, through love instead of fear." Each chapter is written with one way to connect, such as respecting children, listening to children's feelings, and decoding children's behavior. Each chapter is then followed by journaling exercises for the parent to do, to help them be able to understand and more fully implement the ideas they are learning about. There is also a great list of resources listed in the back of the book.

When I picked up this book to read it, I was being pretty hard on myself as a parent. Through reading this book, I was able to discover that I did have some talents in parenting, and it helped me to use what I do well more, and not be quite so hard on myself for what I may not do as well as I like.

Friday, November 17, 2006

10 Tips to Save Money

These are all tips that I have found very useful in saving money. Many of them are more about adjusting our additudes about spending, then about finding a good deal.

1. Plan a menu, make a grocery list, and shop at your discount grocer.
2. Don't shop for entertainment. If you need a shopping fix, go to the public library and check out a bunch of books.
3. Find a good thrift store, and shop there... this too can become a money wasting habit, so practice impulse control. You can buy most all of your clothing, furniture, and other household items, and still look good.
4. Learn to cook simple healthy meals. This not only cuts down on your food bill, but also your doctor bills.
5. Use complementary remedies at the first sign of illness. Many people find herbs, homeopathy, or just plain drinking water to stop a cold in its tracks.
6. Do you really need all the "good smelling" stuff out there, like candles, lotions, perfumes, plug-in room fresheners, sprays, etc.? Cut down on these money wasters.
7. Learn how to clean with distilled white vinegar and baking soda, and stop buying cleaning products.
8. If you have a baby, breastfeed, co-sleep (no crib to buy), and carry your baby (no stroller, swing, or baby seat needed). Cloth diapers also save a bundle of money, especially if you ask for them as shower presents. These may seem counter culture, but many very normal people raise their children this way today.
9. If you want to purchase a large or expensive item, write it down, and wait 30 days. Often when you come back to it, the "need" is no longer there to have it.
10. Challenge yourself to live creatively. See how you can make what it is you want with what you have. Learn to fix things instead of throwing them out. Remember that buying stuff does not make a person happy, but rather finding joy with what you have right now does.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Tools for Parenting

As a veteran mother, and a family life education hobbyist, I have often wondered just why I have a hard time putting into practice the ideals I hold so dear. Reading about what I believe in only gets me so far. Working on parenting programs (a good one is Becky Bailey's Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline) may get me a step farther, but I always seem to fall back into poor parenting behaviors when the stress level gets high. This is extremely frustrating and disheartening for me.

I discovered Naomi Aldort's ideas, bought her book Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselvess, and found some hope. She is realistic in the fact that some behaviors and thought patterns we hold may take years to break, yet gives us the courage to keep trying. Many of Aldort's ideas are based off of Byron Katie. Byron founded The Work, which is a process of questioning your thoughts. I have found that when I use her four questions to rethink my thoughts, I am freed from emotional baggage, and able to concentrate on parenting the way I want to. If you find yourself knowing what you want to do, and unable to do it, I recommend looking into Namoi Aldort's and Byron Katie's ideas.

Monday, November 13, 2006


We all must earn money somehow in order to survive. Most of us marry with at least one bad money habit, usually more, and then we have to somehow blend our habits with the habits of another person. This can help in some aspects, but it can also really hurt. Finacnces can be a big source of contention in marriages and families. My husband and I are frugal hobbyists, and we enjoy reading about all the different ideas of how to save, make, and grow your money.

First, start with Dave Ramsey. If you do not read any other finacial planning book (you want Total Money Makeover), you will survive and thrive if you follow Dave's plan. We like to listen to Dave on the radio at least once a week to keep us motivated and on track. We listen over the internet for free.

Millionaire Next Door is an eye opening look into what millionaires really live like. Understanding how rich people live, helps you to live in the same way. It is written by Thomas J. Stanley, and William D. Danko, two professors who began researching millionaires, and were surprised by what they found.

The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach is another superb book. Simply, make things automatic.

We also like Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and his Cashflow games. Although we personally take a more conservative approach than what Robert does, his ideas on money will help you think outside the box.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Feeding the Family

Eating is usually a topic that becomes important to families at some point in time. I know food and eating more healthfully has been an interest of mine for a very long time! Eating can take on a whole new dimension when the family is involved. There is so much to consider. Is is okay to eat in front of the TV? Can we bring books to the table? Do we eat breakfast together as well as dinner? Are the kids allowed to complain about what they are served? Do they have to eat it? How do we carry on pleasant conversations at the dinner table with young children? Learning how to balance family members' preferences and still eat well (whether that is healthy or just tasting good!) can be another challenge as well.

Here is one article that shows the importance of having at least one family meal together. Meals Matter shares another article about the nutritional benefits of eating together as a family regularly. Iowa State Extention has helpful article on how to get the family to eat together.

There are a plethora of cookbooks, meal time organizers, menu-planners, and helpful hints out there to feed your family. If something works for you, use it! It doesn't have to be hard to fix a simple meal for your family, and get them to eat it. Here are a few of my favorite resources:

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Mothering and Fathering by Tine Thevenin

I read this book many years ago and found it very helpful in accepting how my husband parented differently than I did. Here are three Amazon reviews for you to read, and one opposing view written by a father.

If you are seeking to understand why your partner does things differently than you, this book may shed some light for you. This is written by the author of The Family Bed.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Parenting Support Groups

Holistic Moms Network
If you are a holistic parent or are interested in learning more about natural options, then the HMN is for you!

Local support groups meet during the day, are non-sectarian and welcome all at-home mothers and their children. Local chapters sponsor regular meetings with speakers and discussion topics, family parties, playgroups, baby-sitting co-ops, special activity groups, community service projects and more.
La Leche League
La Leche League International provides support and encouragement to breastfeeding mothers, as well as a wealth of information on the subject. Regular support meetings can lead to the development of friendships, as well as contacts for playgroups and baby-sitting co-ops.
API International
API advocates attachment parenting methods to develop and fulfill a child's need for trust, empathy and affection to create secure relationships.

Because I Love You
Because I Love You
(BILY) is a parent support group designed to help parents whose children ( of all ages ) have behavioral problems. These problems are in the areas of, but not limited to: attitude, substance abuse, school attendance, physical/ verbal abuse, running away, and curfew.

MOPS International
MOPS (Mothers of PreSchoolers) provides fellowship for mothers with young children, offering a nurturing, caring environment with a spiritual focus. Meetings follow the school calendar. Moms share information, have group discussion time, and learn a craft, while children play nearby with supervision.

Mothers and More
M&M is a national support and advocacy group for women who have altered their career paths in order to care for their children at home.
National Association of Mother Centers
NAMC is a non-profit umbrella organization which includes more than 50 Mother's Centers across the country. Local centers sponsor workshops, seminars, groups and special events and serve as a place where mothers can come together with other mothers and members of the professional community to explore the experience of becoming and being mothers.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Aletha Solter, her works reviewed

Aletha Solter, a student of Jean Piaget, has written three books for parents that have some valuable thoughts in them. The Aware Baby, Tears and Tantrums, and Helping Young Children Flourish each share a similar message, that is sometime babies just need to cry.

I discovered her books before my third child was born, and gained another parenting tool that became very helpful to me. I have found the cry it out beliefs to be very detrimental to children, and their relationships with their parents. When an infant is left to cry, he learns that he is not heard, and he will not be responded to. He misses out on one of Erik Erikson's stages of development, that of being able to trust. So, I responded to my first two children's cries, even though it was hard at times to do so. I always tried to get them to stop crying, and if they didn't, I felt that I was doing something wrong as a parent. I felt guilty and overwhelmed at times, because I didn't know how to "help" my child.

Solter's ideas helped me to see that I still needed to respond to my children's cries (this is something I just knew instinctively I needed to do), but that sometimes, after all other needs are met, a baby (or child) still has a need to cry.

I like to relate it to myself. When I am distraught, and feel like crying, the best thing for me to do it cry and work it out that way. Often what we do to babies, is to tell them to be quiet, by bouncing, putting a pacifier in their mouth, shushing them, telling them don't have to cry, feeding them, and the list goes on and on. If I was crying, and someone told me to be quiet, or tried to get me to stop when I really needed a good cry, I would resent it. I would not like it, and if I was not allowed to cry, those emotions would be bottled up inside.

All this said, a baby should NEVER be left to cry alone. She should be held close by and you should focus your loving attention on her as she cries. Solter's books go into much greater detail. There is good information to think about in her books. The downside is that the format isn't one that most of us are used to. It is not flashy, and it is set up in a question/answer format. There may be some information that some parents do not feel fits them (as in most books), and if you find that this is the case, then by all means, do not use those ideas!

One of the best things that this book did for me, was to help me realize that crying was not a sign of me being a "bad" parent.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Parenting From The Heart by Jan Hunt

This book gently leads a parent to a healthier relationship with her child/ren. It is a reference work that parents can come to again and again to receive a fulfilling boost of approval, yet it challenges us to do better. This book is one of the few books that have helped me truly understand what a child really is, namely another human being on the sojourn of life, albeit in a smaller package. It made me aware that because of that smaller package, children are so often taken advantage of. How many times have you talked about your child's faults to another adult, as your baby stands there and hears each word you say? Would you do the same to another adult? Would you want someone to do that to you? This book addresses that, and helps parents find a better way.

visit Jan Hunt's website The Natural Child Project