Nothing was dreaded more than the inevitable spring assignment to write a poem about some aspect of nature. I would sit, pencil poised, waiting for inspiration to strike… and nothing would come. I would sit outside, close my eyes and listen, just like the teacher said, but the breezes didn’t speak to me, nor did the flowers whisper their secrets… I thought a bee was whispering in my ear once in fourth grade… but it turned out that he was just wishing for nectar from the plastic flower on my hair clip. The most I could conjure was some tacky little set of couplets in which the ending words of each line rhymed. I wouldn’t call it poetry, I knew then that it wasn’t, it was just something I contrived to get over the assignment. Click to read more…
If you want to find us on a Saturday night you should look at The Mill in downtown Bristol, NH. We love to pack up the herd and a beanbag chair, for Ezra to sleep on, and head into town for an evening of live music in the cozy back room of our local coffee and ice cream shop. David and Linda run the place; they live in a tipi over on Murray Hill road and have for two years. Interesting folks.
Sometimes, Gabe and I take our knitting.
Last Saturday found us anchoring down our usual three tables, sipping tea and coffee. Hannah was holding out for the ice cream. Gabe and I were knitting away; he’s making his first sock. In walked an older couple, evidently regulars, although new to us. The man smiled down from beneath his fleece hat and snow white beard and said, “Oh! You must be Waldorf Schoolers!” We get a lot of funny questions and comments about our brood and their educational orientation, but this was a new one: Waldorf Schoolers? “No, we’re not, why did you think so?” I asked. “Because your boy is knitting. That’s a hallmark of the Waldorf Schools, they teach their boys to knit.” There you have it. Who knew? This got me thinking.
I’m not one who spends much time worrying about “gender equality or neutrality.” I just teach them the next logical thing. We’ve got a list of “life skills” that is pages long that we’re plowing our way through over time trying to turn out kids who are not only educated in the intellectual sense, but who have a whole bag full of practical tricks from which to draw throughout their lives, regardless of who they become or what they choose to put their hands to. Hence, knitting.
My Mim taught me to knit when I was six. I remember it vividly. It started at about five, actually, with spool knitting. Pip pounded four little finishing nails into the head of a wooden spool and Mim set me to making rope out of her scrap ends of yarn. I made yards of rope as a little person, perched on a stool at the bar of her cottage. When I could produce rope to her satisfaction she moved me to real knitting needles and scarf knitting. She sat patiently with me and drilled me on the basic stitches with the precision of the Marine that she was, “Knit! Purl! Knit! Purl! Good, keep going!” She taught Josh and Jacob to knit too. While I knit long scarves and eventually pointy little hats, she knit sweaters and slippers for the boys and I.
Naturally, when Hannah turned six, the Mim in me said, “It’s time to knit!” Gabe was right behind her, and last week Elisha started his first scarf on number ten needles with the chunkiest possible rainbow hued yarn. He says that Mim would be proud of him and that the scarf is for his good buddy, Jillian. Ezra is begging me with his whole heart (and occasionally a temper tantrum) to knit. He gets the spool, beginning this week.
Actually, Mim’s gift to me of the ability to knit goes far beyond my four kids. I’ve taught at least five friends to knit as well… one of whom went on to give herself carpal tunnel she knit so much! I take no responsibility for damage incurred by my pupils. Another friend is cranking out socks as fast as she can and has taught four of her six to knit as well. And not one is a Waldorf Schooler!
I know, I know, socks are cheaper at Walmart and hand knit sweaters are sometimes the tackiest things on the planet. But sometimes they’re also the most gorgeous expression of love. My Dad lives for my hand knit socks and cackles with joy at Christmas when he opens them… even though my Mom said he didn’t deserve them because he ruined the only pair she ever knit him by putting an axe through his boot, and his fresh knit sock, and his foot… but that’s another story. My husband (and the boys who want to be just like them) live in their “house hats” knit out of the ends of my sock yarn.
Love isn’t the only reason to teach your kids to knit.
There are other reasons. In our family, for several generations, we have a habit of preserving old skills. It is important to know how to do things, just for the sake of knowing how to do things. It enriches the heart and gives a person options. I like knowing that my family will never lack socks, mittens, hats, scarves, bags, sweaters etc. No matter what happens to the economy, where we live or how much money we make. I can always make them myself. Knitting isn’t the only old skill we preserve, but it’s a good one.
Learning to knit is also an antidote to our “hurry up” culture.
Last week as I sat on the couch with Elisha, holding his little hands under mine and teaching him “Knit, purl, knit, purl.” I pointed out the most important part of the lesson: “Elisha, if you are going to knit you have to be patient and diligent. When you get stuck, ask for help and Gabe will fix it, but you must work carefully and not lose your temper.”
In teaching a child to knit you’re working on what Charlotte Mason would have called the Habit of Attention, and you’re not cracking one school book to do it. Knitting provides children with a way to be productive and keep their hands busy while their minds are doing other things, like listening to live music at the cafe, or listening to Mama read history after lunch, or watching a movie with the family on a Sunday afternoon. It is an excellent car activity (Gabe knit a scarf for Ezra on the way to Washington D.C. and Hannah is working on a purse for her friend for Christmas). It is good for self esteem as well, as it provides a real, tangible accomplishment, and is an adult skill of which a child can be justifiably proud.
Or, maybe you hate knitting… my Mom did, that’s why she farmed it out to my Mim. No matter, it doesn’t have to be knitting. The point is that there are adult skills that we all have, old skills that need preserving for the next generation, that can be taught to our children.
Make these things an integral part of your children’s education. Resources for how to teach them are available easily on the internet, for free in many cases. Your kids may hate it. But then again, they may love it… you won’t know until you give them a chance. I would never have predicted that my outdoor adventure boy would also be the champion knitter of the children in our home. I’m so glad I didn’t keep him from it!
Post Script: I wrote this article on the plane ride home, somewhere high above Montana. Two days later when I took the kids to their music class there sat three children from three different families knitting and crocheting! How great is that?!
As the language of everything from Shakespeare to international business, English is one of the world’s most important methods of communication. While many have the chance to acquire it during their school years, adult learners shouldn’t be put off by its inherent quirkiness and large vocabulary. As can be seen below, the benefits far outweigh any effort required to learn it.
Those who like to travel will find that the ability to speak English makes the experience far more rewarding. Not just in terms of being able to speak to locals, but for interactions with other travellers too.
According to the British Council, English has special or official status in more than 75 countries. It’s spoken as a first language by 375 million people and as a second language by approximately 375 million people. Estimates suggest that one in every four people is able to speak a little English, with numbers increasing year-on-year.
English is the primary language of books and newspapers around the world. The ability to read and understand English also opens up the possibility of enjoying the historical achievements of English literature. Dickens, Milton, Bronte, Locke, Blake, Hardy and Coleridge are all far more enjoyable when read in their original language.
Approximately 75% of the world’s mail is written in English. The internet, too, is a hotbed of English communication. Estimates suggest that 36% of the internet’s 200 million users communicate in English – a number that is growing daily as more and more people get online.
In the West, English continues to be the favoured language for popular music. While young people tend to use the lyrics of songs to help them learn the language, older learners do better by enrolling on dedicated courses, such as those offered by Skola.
The ability to speak English increases an individual’s employability – which is a big plus in these economically gloomy times. The language is vital in a range of professions, for example, more than two-thirds of the world’s scientists read in English. With this in mind, there are numerous specialist English courses for adults providing tailor-made instruction for particular careers.
A mastery of the language provides job opportunities outside of English-speaking countries, as well as in them. Multinational corporations employ English-speakers in offices around the world. English is also the first language of organisations such as the European Union, the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, and NATO.
Because writing down everything you do every day is deadly dull.
If your idea is that “travel journaling is educational so I will sit my kids down every day of this trip and make them write down what we did,” what you might actually be teaching your kids is that writing is extremely boring. Instead, help your kids add zip to their journals and maybe they’ll enjoy writing.
Following are ideas to make the journal more fun to write and more fun to read later. As a bonus, if you try a bunch of these ideas, your child will explore an enormous diversity of writing and communication styles (even math!).
Being considerate of others will take your child further than any college degree.
Marian Wright Edelman
I’ve been thinking, for quite some time, about how to write this article. How to dive into the fray of how the various factions parent in a way that won’t be offensive to people I love, or devaluing of the great effort that every parent I know pours into their decisions about how they raise their families.
There are so many “factions” within the parenting world. When you have your first baby, it seems like it’s all going to be so clear and easy, and then within five minutes you’re handed three books by your two best friends and your mother-in-law that are as diametrically opposed as fire and ice. There are procedures and “methods” for everything from how your kid eliminates, to what you put back into him, to where and when he sleeps and no matter what you do, someone is convinced that you’re doing it terribly wrong. The stakes are so high, therapy will be needed (for Mom, if not Baby) and we’re all trying so desperately hard to “do it right.”
I’m learning a few things, better than 16 years into this parenting project. I’m learning that there’s no way to do it “right,” but that what I can do is my best. My kids are mostly teenagers now, and they’re a happy, cheerful lot, over all. True, we’re not “out of the woods” yet, and perhaps tomorrow someone will come home in clothes stolen off of a homeless man with a brand new, red and raw tattoo and a girlfriend with unmentionable piercings, picked up off of one of the bar tables with a pole in the red light district. It could happen. We’re living in Thailand after all.
I don’t claim to have it all figured out, but here’s what I do know:
I can’t tell you how to parent, you can’t tell me how to parent, it happens from the gut and the heart and we have to do our best. It would be better, if we could support each other in doing so.
I’m thankful for the books I was given that set me on a path with my kids that has evolved into a houseful of a lot of fun, most days. I’m even more thankful to the hands-on Mamas who were a bit further down the path from me who were able to shine a light, lend me their lenses of perspective from five years on, and help me steer the course towards our hopes for the long haul when I was mired in the muck of the moment.
I learned something from those older, wiser Mamas that I wouldn’t trade for silver or gold.
It’s a simple, simple message, but it’s one that transformed my entire approach to parenthood, to my children, to my husband, to myself.
Would you like to know what it is?
Everyone tells you that having kids will change you. And it’s true, if you let them. If you are willing to acknowledge that being the one responsible for their growth does not mean you have reached some pinnacle of personal development and no longer have more growth to do within yourself.
Rather, becoming a parent can stretch and reshape the image you hold of yourself in very profound and enlightening ways. This has been my experience. Click to read more…
A few weeks ago I spent part of an afternoon’s party chatting with my friend Gabriel.
He’s eleven, the oldest of nine children and the big brother to five homemade and three adopted siblings. One is deaf. One is hard of hearing. He showed me his yo-yo tricks while we talked.
He smiled a lot. He said wise things.
“You know,” I mused aloud, “You should write an article about this for my website. I think a lot of families would be really encouraged by your story and I think a lot of kids would benefit from knowing how they could reach out to kids who hear and communicate differently. You’ve got some great skills and your family has some wonderful tools to share.”
He smiled, continued his yo-yo tricks and ran outside to play with the kids.
I complimented his Mama. She’s one of the best I know. I can’t even tell you. You should read her blog, and get to know their fantastic family first hand, because I can’t possibly say enough to do them justice here. If you’re interested in their adoption story you can read about it here, and here, and here. It was one of the great privileges of my life to be able to participate in bringing their three sons home last winter.
This week I got an email from Gabriel.
He’d done what I asked, and written an article for this blog. I just want to say, publicly, that while I’ve reformatted slightly for the blog style, I haven’t made even one correction to grammar, punctuation, spelling, or writing style. This is the pure work of an 11 year old boy, the oldest of nine, home schooled, and in my book, one of the impending movers and shakers of his generation. It’s better than half of the submissions I get (and return) from adults.
Without further ado… here is his story…
Most of us enjoy music to some degree. You turn the radio on in the car and sing along to your favorite station as you’re driving home from work. One of the first rites of passage for preteens in our generation is owning that first MP3 player. The writers of television commercials know that the selling is often in the kind of music they choose to accompany their sales pitch during that sixty-second spot.
Music is everywhere.
It’s an indelible part of life. And, like doughnuts versus apples, there are varying degrees of “good” vs. “good for you” with respect to music. It’s one thing to enjoy popular contemporary music, and who doesn’t? But it’s also a great thing to periodically look beyond the Adeles and the Lady Gagas of today, and begin learning to appreciate the music that in many ways started it all, centuries ago.
If you’re a parent, you’re probably already familiar with this idea. You’ve likely participated in some way in incorporating classical music into your child’s life. Maybe you’ve helped your sixth-grader with her homework as she studies the life of J.S. Bach and writes a report about the famous composer. Or maybe you home school and you’ve taken your children to the library to borrow some CDs of Mendelssohn and Handel to play as you fix dinner together of an evening. But if you haven’t, no guilt trips here! However much or little you have done to encourage music appreciation in your children, it is never too late to begin. And the great news is, it’s not as complicated as you think! Here are three great ways to enrich your child’s world (and your own as well!) through music:
1. Make good use of your local library.
Choose one composer per week, to study. This doesn’t have to be an in-depth or time-consuming project. Visit the library and, depending on your child’s age/reading level, find an appropriately-leveled book about that composer, to read at home, perhaps over dinner—or at bedtime. As mentioned earlier, you can also usually find a CD or two of the chosen composer’s music to borrow for a week or so. This is incredibly easy to incorporate into daily life. Just pop it into the CD player in the car on the way to school, or at home as you’re doing chores. Before you know it, your child may be recognizing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons or Pachelbel’s Canon in D!
2. Consider music lessons in a chosen instrument. (The voice is an instrument too!)
For some families, the budget just doesn’t allow for consideration of such things as music lessons. But the good news is, you don’t always have to take your child to a studio and pay a teacher to instruct your child in person on violin or guitar on a weekly basis. If you can afford to do that, then great! It will most assuredly not be time wasted and your child will learn not only musical lessons, but also lessons in listening to and submitting to another teacher’s authority—an especially valuable lesson if you home school and Mom is usually the only teacher! Your child will also meet new friends, which is a nice added benefit!
But if private lessons aren’t in the budget, consider online lessons. There is a multitude of websites that cater to online instrument instruction. Some are free; others have reasonable monthly fees. It all depends on what level of instruction and how much variety you want, as the parent, and what you feel your child would most benefit from. The perennially popular YouTube also has an abundance of instruction videos, ranging from voice to guitar to drums, and those are free, of course. The only major cost involved for online lessons would be either the purchase or rental of an instrument. Of course, if your child’s chosen channel of musical expression is singing, then very little cost is involved!
Whether you choose private lessons or online instruction, your child will learn not only the basics of treble clefs and half notes; he will also gain valuable training in diligence by learning to practice his instrument daily. He will also be exposed to the richness and power of classical music as he learns to play.
3. Take the family to concerts—anytime, anywhere!
I’m not just talking about those Saturday night tickets you have to see Sugarland. Peruse your local newspapers, find out when the high school or college is putting on a fall concert. Go to concerts in the park where the admission is free and the seating is picnic blankets on the grass. Remember, music is everywhere if you just listen for it. Save up your dollars and put them toward a trip to the nearest big city to hear a symphony orchestra play some evening. It builds character. Even young children will get a kick out of watching the tympani players and if any of your children take lessons, it will be of great interest for him to watch a more seasoned musician working at the craft your child is just beginning to learn.
Classical music often gets a bad rap. Boring, repetitive, too old-fashioned to be relevant or of any value today.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Take the time to really delve into it. Tchaikovsky’s Peter and the Wolf is nothing short of an adrenaline rush if you know the plot of the story as you listen. The intricate melody lines of some of Mozart’s compositions are absolutely mesmerizing if you really listen to them closely. Classical music has also been proven to have a positive influence on the human brain (i.e., the Mozart effect). If nothing else, it broadens our horizons and our musical tastes.
And for your children, it gives them invaluable pieces of history and culture that will continue to have wonderful, lasting effects on their learning, long after the last notes have been sounded.
Justin Miller is a professional blogger that writes on a variety of topics including guitar lessons. He writes for JamPlay.com, a leading online music educator offering 2,000+ video guitar lessons in HD.
Mothers are given a hard time for nursing their babies (even well covered and discretely). There us much talk of banning young children from some flights. And there are a spate of restaurants popping up that are declaring themselves child-free zones. What do you think about that? If any other age group, or population segment were named, would that fly? It’s the subject of much debate, to be sure.
There was a point in life when I had four kids under four years old.
It wasn’t easy to take a walk to the park, much less go out to dinner. Perhaps that’s what gives me compassion for young families who are having a hard day and causes my first reaction to be to help out rather than point a finger. That being said, my favourite restaurant has a sign posted squarely on the door that reads, “Children as welcome… to remain seated and quiet.” When I’m paying for a meal out, I like my peace and quiet as much as the next person. Happy giggling from the table is one thing, a child climbing onto my table to sample my food is quite another.
So where’s the balance? What’s a parent to do?
We can participate in the public discourse and lobby hard for our children and their rights, but we can also start at home and work hard to teach our children the socially acceptable behaviors that will allow them to go anywhere, with ease.
Here are a few ways you can prepare your children to be joyful and a joy in restaurants and other public places. Click to read more…