March 30, 2016 at 11:59 am (Contributing Writer, Sarah Mattison Buhl)
Tags: Communication, Parenting, Teenager
My son is 15. He will likely move away to attend college in three short years. I stayed home to watch him grow for 12 years before returning to work. I hope I told him I loved him every day. At five he was the kind of boy who sprang out of bed in the morning saying, “It’s my lucky day!” Today he is the kind of guy who considers everyone a friend and is a perennial optimist. It turns out every day really is his lucky day. Many things will go right for him in life, but some things will go wrong. What then? Optimism will certainly help, but resilience is what he will need when simple optimism isn’t enough. Read the rest of this entry »
March 29, 2016 at 11:58 am (Contributing Writer, Mister G, music, Video)
Tags: Mister G, music, Music Education
School of Rock
In the 30+ years that I’ve been playing music professionally, I’ve been lucky to have many incredible experiences performing all around the world. There are lots of variables that go into creating a great show: the venue, the crowd, the sound, and of course, the rapport with other musicians. It’s a rare occasion when everything comes together, but when those magical moments happen it’s powerful for everyone fortunate enough to be in the band or in the audience.
Recently, in New York City, I played a concert that immediately found a spot high on the list of my all-time favorite gigs. The sold-out show was at a great theater (Symphony Space) on Broadway and my backing band was a group of phenomenal children. The kids who played with me are the stars of the hit Broadway musical “School of Rock.”
In many ways, working with Brandon, Evie, Dante and Ethan was similar to rehearsing and performing with grown-up pros. I sent them mp3’s and chord charts of the songs before we met, and they showed up prepared having done their homework. We had one short rehearsal and then played the show. Read the rest of this entry »
March 28, 2016 at 11:59 am (Contributing Writer, Ecology, Kurt Heidinger, Video)
Tags: Ecology, entomology, phenology, Rivers, Watershed
A River Is Always In Synch
Like tiny submariners bursting up and out of the bottom of the brook, breaking into wings and soaring for a short time above the world they once knew, the stoneflies are here, molting from crab-shells they lived in. On the back of my neck, computer keyboard, every boulder around me: they multiply, skitter all directions, avoiding the rushing water they recently called home. The frenzy begins. Read the rest of this entry »
March 23, 2016 at 12:00 pm (Candice Chouinard, Contributing Writer, Take Action)
Tags: Creative Free Play
Compost to Good Use
Spring in western MA! Now is a time where I always like to move toward more nature-based art. Using natural object as a medium allows us to make the connection between the land and art. I have many favorite nature-based art projects, but my all time favorite is vegetable stamping. It’s an engaging and simple activity for even the youngest artist to participate in. All children love doing this activity, most will even eat vegetables during it! This idea is simple; use vegetables to create beautiful prints that will be worth saving and worth doing again. Read the rest of this entry »
March 16, 2016 at 11:59 am (Carrie St. John, Contributing Writer)
Tags: Books, Creative Free Play, Literacy
Playing with Books
Books support literacy and learning. And when you have too many books in duplicate and falling part, they can even support creative-free play!
We might have a book problem at our house. Some are read over and over. Some are just collected such as the various printings of Moby Dick. Some gather dust. I am not sure where that yellowed copy of How to Use a Microscope came from but we have never opened it. Books are everywhere. All of my art history, theory, design and teaching manuals line one wall of the bedroom. The fiction and garden books are packed into the bookcase turned headboard. Sewing, knitting and books on art for kids fill the shelf under the bench. Current reads by both of us are scattered about the living room. Cookbooks belong to the pantry. And my daughter has arranged her library by subject and book series. She is a series reader and collector. How many versions of Harry Potter does one need? We might be book hoarders. Or maybe we aren’t because we recognize a problem developing.
Books just find their way into our house. We love to browse the local book shop and our neighborhood used bookstore. Book fundraisers are always good for a bargain. We often check the book share-and-take corner in the school lobby. Grandma feeds the addiction. Books are everywhere and hard to pass by without at least a peek.
Brainstorming here on what to do with the extras. There are the ones we start and a chapter or two in realize there is no interest. And there are old ones aged and crumbling. Those 20 year old copies of college textbooks are not needed. There must be some way to use these for play purposes. So here are some ideas! Read the rest of this entry »
March 7, 2016 at 3:00 pm (Candice Chouinard, Contributing Writer, Take Action)
Tags: Creative Free Play
This has been the worst season for sickness. Well for me anyway, a first time mom with a toddler in daycare! It seems toddlers are the best and worst patients. They can ride out colds for months, in a steady stream of mucus. Or they can go under in a hail of fevers and vomit. Either way it is no fun for anyone.
After experiencing my own sick toddler, I began to think about how to smooth out the rivers of sickness that flood though our kids and find was to play sick. Here are a few fun ways to pass the sick days away… Read the rest of this entry »
March 7, 2016 at 9:00 am (Contributing Writer, Ginny Hamilton, Parenting)
How much do you love me? This is a test.
First grade, declares my six-year-old, is all about learning to sit at a desk. Kindergarten block center, dramatic play, and extra recess have been replaced by dictation, handwriting, and tests. Yes, I’m surprised to learn. Tests in first grade. I was ready to get worked up about the diagnostic tests in the fall – my boy spending the good part of two school days filling in small circles with a number two pencil – until he came home. Excited. My nerdy little boy LOVED filling in small circles with a number two pencil!
Testing. We’ve seen a good deal of testing behavior this year. Will I actually be in trouble if I play in the basement like I’ve been told not to? What happens when I freeze OJ, olive oil, and blueberries in a cup? What happens when my friend and I get into the spray paint? Will Mama follow through on the consequence she said is coming? This is the kind of testing that belongs in first grade, in my oh-so-humble opinion. Read the rest of this entry »
February 29, 2016 at 12:00 pm (Contributing Writer, Hindsight Parenting, Logan Fisher)
Tags: Motherhood, Parenting, relationships
I Can’t Fix Everything and Maybe I Don’t Want to
Break ups, breakdowns, breakthroughs, soul-breaks, deal-breaks and break-a-ways. When my children’s hearts break, it’s enough stress for this mom to break out into a sweat.
Ok…Ok. I’ll take a break…from the word, break. (See what I did there?) But really…in all seriousness…when will this urgent need to fix all that ails my children finally pass? Let me ask you. When your kids are sad, broken, beside themselves, do you agonize over how to make it better? Or am I alone in that?
This past week was a doozy for this fix-it-all-mama. Both boys, Son1 and Son2, experienced their own particular heartaches and, well, it was as if those things happened to me. Their sadness, their losses, their disappointments became mine. Honestly, the fact that they were hurting was pure unadulterated agony.
But luckily, just in the nick of time, my husband said something that got me thinking. In the midst of a full on mope, he looked me in the eye and said, “Son1 isn’t alone in this experience. What did we do when we were young and this happened to us?”
Read the rest of this entry »
February 22, 2016 at 9:00 am (Contributing Writer, Ecology, Kurt Heidinger)
Tags: Ecology, Nature, phenology, Riparian Zone, Rivers, Sense of Place, Watershed
The Life Riparian
“Land is not merely soil; it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants, and animals.” – Aldo Leopold
Riparian is a strange sounding word that denotes “river bank”: the meeting point of river and land. We enter the “riparian zone” when we get close to a river. It is a place we want to be, because it brims with exuberant sounds and smells, and because it often harbors wild plant populations that flower and fruit, attracting pollinators and all sorts of other hungry creatures. In fact, when I think “riparian” I think of food. The riparian zone is where the food is, and where the food is, life is. It is possible to trace this living landform from where it almost touches the sky all the way down to the sea.
A few weeks ago, two miles high in the Chilean Andes with my friends at Superfun, I became dangerously dehydrated. Careful to avoid water that might have bad bacteria in it, I found what I thought was a perfect source. Beneath a melting ice field I filled my canteen and drank until I gasped in pain. So cold, the water sang in my skull; so pure it tasted like breath. For half an hour I sat on a rock, loving the fact that this straight-from-the-glacier water was as perfect as water can be. The purest of the pure, cleanest of the clean, the supreme goal of bottled water drinkers achieved. Woo!
Read the rest of this entry »
February 1, 2016 at 12:00 pm (Contributing Writer, Ginny Hamilton, Parenting)
Tags: Advice, Parenting, Parenting Advice, Reproduction, Sexual Education, Where Do Babies Come From
Consenting to Questions
It starts simply enough. These conversations do. We pull onto I-91, skirt Northampton afternoon traffic to the edge of town to get my allergy shots.
Mama, why do they throw away the needles? Why don’t they use them again?
My practice is to answer my child’s questions when he asks. The trick is answering only the question he has asked. Questions beget questions.
I explain about contamination, how my blood is on the needle and could share germs with somebody else if the allergy nurse used it again. I can’t recall now whether he asked what germs or whether I volunteered information, but within a quarter mile I was explaining HIV. How scientists haven’t figured out how to fix the disease from those germs so the best thing is to not get it.
How do you get it? Of course he asks.
Not through sneezes or spit like colds, but from blood and …. take a deep breath as silently as possible so he doesn’t notice the pause before I answer honestly… from the liquids from your penis or vagina. (Yes, I know, not from pee. But I was improvising at 65 mph!)
Which of course begs the question how those liquids get shared. And suddenly I‘m talking about sex with my first grader. Again. Read the rest of this entry »
January 27, 2016 at 9:00 am (Candice Chouinard, Contributing Writer, Take Action)
Tags: Creative Free Play
Making Snow Where There is None
Looking for ways to “make” snow at home? Check the kitchen pantry! Shredded coconut. Potato flakes. Flour. All are great for inspiring creative-free play during a snowless winter!
Winter is here. But without snow in New England it feels a little different. I am not complaining, because it is nice to take the children out without the gamut of snow gear, however it does feeling like something is missing; SNOW!
Often winter indoor activities are quiet, clean and predictable. I have found that by creating toddler friendly sensory activities help these cold winter days just melt by. Here are a few fun snow related activities that can be adjusted for even the littlest toddler.
Read the rest of this entry »
January 25, 2016 at 1:00 pm (Contributing Writer, Ecology, Kurt Heidinger)
Tags: Chile, Ecology, Nature, Salt
Rivers are everywhere, and one of the joys of paying attention to them is—if you let them, they bring you places far from what you have left behind. Sometimes that new space, that new place to wander, is exactly what is needed, for there the unexpected can find you, and in finding you, can awaken you to the multiplicity (and miracles) of worlds there are on our small, living planet. In this post, I am taking you to a river new to me, far from those who are my friends and teachers in Western Massachusetts… Read the rest of this entry »
January 19, 2016 at 9:00 am (Contributing Writer, Dane Kuttler, Food)
Tags: Cooking, culinary arts
Why I Will Let My Kids Watch Cooking Shows
Cooking shows are robbed of their central sensory features – the ability to smell and taste the food being prepared. To compensate, they have to create a full-spectrum visual and audio show that captures and keeps the audience’s interest. How do they do it? By treating the viewers like toddlers.
When our kids are very young, we’re taught to envelop them in a cloud of words – to narrate their actions, what they might be thinking, and to explain the steps of our own thought processes as we maneuver them through the day. It often sounds something like, “And now we’re getting in the car, and I’m going to buckle you in, and then we’re going to the post office…”
A variety of published studies have touted the benefits of talking to our kids, but there does seem to be a cutoff – an age where a child’s questions begin to steer the conversation, rather than our pattering observations. This is totally normal, and kids’ inquisitiveness certainly leads us to a variety of conversations we might have never otherwise had. (“Well, I don’t know if giraffes ever feel angry; what do you think?)
And at some point – much to many parents’ relief – the ceaseless questioning begins to taper off, as kids find their own tools for discovering the world. However, when I teach kids in the kitchen, I find myself reverting to the patter-narrative patterns that I would use for much younger kids. Why? Because like driving cars and tying shoes for the younger set, the methods of kitchen work are often a mystery to older kids, even kids with parents who love to cook. Read the rest of this entry »
January 4, 2016 at 9:00 am (Contributing Writer, Ginny Hamilton, Parenting)
Tags: Advice, Parenting, Parenting Advice
I recently exchanged emails with a friend from yoga teacher training. Ten years younger than I am, she now lives on the opposite coast. Facebook keeps me up on her world travels, recent wedding, yoga for refugees and cancer survivors. But a personal email these days feels as rare as a handwritten letter.
“How’s your private work going? And raising a kid in Western MA? My god, how old is he now? Six?! Are you making a manual on all the great things you’re doing to bring up a kid in today’s crazy world? I’ll memorize them by heart when we jump down the family path :) lots of love”
I started a wry response, naming the importance of deep breaths and good wine. But then recognized, knowing her, she was serious. In a world of unsolicited advice, she was asking.
And I realized I have ideas to share! Read the rest of this entry »
December 30, 2015 at 9:00 am (Contributing Writer, Sarah Mattison Buhl)
Tags: Communication, Luck, Opportunity, sandwich generation
Preparedness Meets Opportunity
My dad arrived at the Hartford airport five days ago from Wisconsin. This is no small thing for a man who abhors spending money and relishes the well-worn comfort of his only home of the past 46 years. Dad is 76, and a true gentle-man from a bygone era. He wears a black fedora when he goes to church or a funeral. He looks a little like Frank Sinatra. What makes his 1,000 mile trip even more herculean is that he cannot speak. A stroke wiped out his ability to write or communicate his thoughts with any of his former eloquence seven years ago, shortly after my mom died. His fate is both lucky and cruel; His intellect is intact, and he still has a head for numbers, but his words are locked in a room for which the key has been lost. Read the rest of this entry »
December 29, 2015 at 9:00 am (Contributing Writer, Mister G, music)
Tags: Mister G, music, Music Education, Songwriting
The Gift of Songwriting
One of the greatest things about being a songwriter is freedom. While there are countless opinions on what constitutes a great song, at the end of the day there are no rules whatsoever.
From a musical perspective, any genre is fair game. Want to write a ska song today and a bluegrass tune tomorrow? Go ahead. How about a ten minute classical inspired epic, followed by a ten second snippet? That’s fine too.
It’s likely that the music you write will be a reflection of the mood you’re in. For example, if you’re happy chances are you’ll pick a faster tempo than if you’re sad. If you’re feeling silly, the lyrics you write will surely be different than if you’re feeling down. The sky’s also the limit when it comes to topics: pretty much anything that you find interesting can become the subject of a new song.
In that respect, songwriting is a great mirror to our emotional state. While many people journal, songwriters tend to document their feelings through a combination of words and music. Some examples of this approach would include Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Ani DiFranco, Other songwriters choose to invent characters and scenarios that aren’t necessarily related to their own personal experience. For artists like Tom Waits, Donald Fagen and Bjork, songwriting provides a vehicle to explore alternate realities. Read the rest of this entry »
December 28, 2015 at 9:00 am (Contributing Writer, Ecology, Kurt Heidinger)
Tags: Ecology, Hilltowns, Massachusetts, Nature, outdoors, Pioneer Valley, Rivers, rivers and streams, western massachusetts
We Carry the Ocean Inside Us
A few days ago, when the East Branch of the Westfield River was shrouded in warm drizzly fog, it occurred to me that I was in a giant breathing lung. Every breath I inhaled was as wet as what I exhaled. My exposed skin was wet, too, with mist, and the tips of the wool threads of the sweater I wore held glistening beads of water that matched the droplets hanging from delicate branch tips.
Amphibians must feel this way, I reckoned, but even more so—for, unlike us warm-bloods, they breathe through their skins. I’ve walked with kids who reprimand other kids for picking up newts and frogs, because our skin oils clog the breath-pores of their cool, moist lung-bodies. That’s sensitivity, the kind that makes me hopeful. Whom ever is teaching these kids deserves a high five!
Way way back in time, about 390-360 million years ago, fish with gills and lungs crawled out of the water and onto land. It is hard to grasp such a length of time—or is it? Most of the colorful rocks that comprise the Westfield’s riverbed are about that old. Our lungs, the breath we’re breathing this very instant, can be traced back to these miraculous walking fish. Gills extract oxygen directly from water; somehow they managed to reverse the engineering of their gills, and created within them a sort of mini ocean, an inner sea, where atmospheric oxygen could be turned into sea-water: and that sea-water is our blood. Our lungs are 90% water, and our blood 80%. Somehow, the walking fishes brought the ocean onto land, by keeping it inside of themselves. And—think of the taste of sweat when it drips onto the tongue—that is exactly what we do today. Read the rest of this entry »
December 23, 2015 at 9:00 am (Candice Chouinard, Contributing Writer, Take Action)
Tags: Creative Free Play, kindness
Making Words a Gift
Every month we take preschoolers to the Calvin Coolidge Nursing Home to visits whom we call, the Grandmas and the Grandpas. We have been doing this for a few years now and it wasn’t until recently that I realized how impacting it is on both generations. It wasn’t until one of them put a call in on a banana to one of the Grandmas and told her he was coming soon and he missed her. He missed her and this is the way a 3-year-old says he cares. He missed her and he was thinking about her. What could be better than that?
The visit itself to the nursing home is an amazing gift for both the children and the residents there. The children are the center of attention (which they love), laughter fills the room and the residents are happy and engaged. Often they reminisce about the past and their children, whom are grown and grandparents themselves. They gently sweep the faces of the children and they both smile. A priceless gift!
Here are a couple of gifts that integrate creative-free play with thoughtful ways children can reciprocate their love and caring of the elders in their life… Read the rest of this entry »
December 16, 2015 at 9:00 am (Carrie St. John, Contributing Writer)
Tags: Creative Free Play, Parenting, Play, Stories, Storytelling
Stories To Inspire Creative Free Play
I was a bit of a geek as a teen so homework was completed right after school, part time job on weekends and just a handful of close friends. I spent a fair amount of free time at my older siblings’ houses playing with their kids. It was a blessing to be a part of their childhoods. I had part time, little siblings that were really my niece and nephews.
I learned a great parenting lesson from my oldest sister, Penny, nearly 25 years ago. She dives right into the winter holidays the day after Thanksgiving. She has an incredible collection including a wall of elves, a near life size snowman, a shelf of angels and a cabinet filled with Rudolph, Frosty, Grinch and Little Cindy Lou Who and all the other television characters we grew up with in the 70s and the Nativity. She makes the tree a family showcase with ornaments made over 20 years ago my her children. Holiday fills their home. When my nephew, now a college graduate and police officer, was 3 or 4 years old, she started a grand tradition that fed perfectly into his love of stories, play and imagination. A mysterious elf visited the house. The elf made tiny foot prints, ate cookies and left surprises. This was well before the current Elf on the Shelf craze. My sister created the fantasy he craved. Stories were told. Questions asked and answers often came on the fly to continue the magic of the elf for a very curious little boy. No one ever saw this elf. He came and went under the dark of night. Andrew never needed to actually see him. The stories alone kept the elf active and alive through December.
The excitement and mystery my sister created for my nephew is something I try to add to our house now. Plant a seed. Put a mind to work on the possibilities. Watch the love of a good story. Create fantasy. Give childhood a bit of magic.
What a great time of year to tell stories! Share family stories. What was this time of year like when you were little? What holidays did you celebrate? What special activities did you do? Boost family memories by telling stories about a special day spent together. Create new mysteries and adventures. What if Jack Frost did paint the windows with snowflakes? What does he look like? How does he get around the earth? Spark ideas to get your little ones telling stories and playing fantasy games. Storytelling improves vocabulary, writing and spelling. It’s fun. Stories can lead to hours of pretend play with parents, siblings, friends and visiting cousins using dress up, toy people, construction toys and tiny animals. Stories encourage children to create images in their minds bringing the story to life. Make illustrations! All ages can create stories with spoken words, drawings or detailed written tales.
We are always collecting and saving items in bins and on shelves for creative projects. This month maybe games or a book or two related to story telling and a game to spark an idea:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Carrie St. John
Carrie was born, raised and attended university in Michigan. As a child she rode bikes and explored her rural neighborhood freely with siblings and neighbor kids. Mom and Dad never worried. The kids always made it home after hours wading in the creek and climbing trees in the woods. After college she moved to Kyoto, Japan to study traditional Japanese woodblock printing. In 1995, she began a career at a small Chicago firm designing maps and information graphics. Life brought a move to Northampton in 2001. Carrie completed her MFA at UMass in 2004. Her little love, Sophia, was born in 2005. The two live in downtown Northampton where they constantly make things, look forward to morning walks to school and plan each spring for additions to their plot at the community garden. Carrie continues to do freelance work for clients here and in Chicago.
December 15, 2015 at 9:00 am (Contributing Writer, Dane Kuttler, Food)
Tags: Cooking, culinary arts
On Food, And How to Make It
A Story From Cooking Class…
“It’s not fair!” seven-year-old Ethan cries from the back seat as I reveal the big surprise on this week’s menu. “Robbie (age nine) always gets a treat because he likes soda and I don’t and that’s always the treat.”
Shopping with Robbie and Ethan is always a bit of a great adventure, and they are terrific sports. They’re learning their way around the market, tasting new fruits and vegetables with part of every snack (starfruit! pomelo! cauliflower!), and also figuring out what I can be persuaded to buy – and what I can’t.
“Pleeease can we have these? You said we were going to make soda and I don’t want any but I could have this instead!” Ethan’s attempts at negotiation are both understandable and in that particular pitch of whine that could rival a mosquito. I raise an eyebrow and give my standard line – cool, calm, mildly incredulous.
“That doesn’t look like food.”
Read the rest of this entry »
December 7, 2015 at 9:00 am (Contributing Writer, Ginny Hamilton, Parenting)
Do you let your kids quit? Do you let yourself quit? In this month’s “Off the Mat: Reflections on the Practice of Parenting,” Ginny Hamilton explores the difference between being comfortable in the deep end and being in over your head.
Today, I quit. I’m not big on quitting. But I am proud of myself in a way. Hear me out.
In September, my son started swim lessons. Despite our best intentions for fun, exercise, and life skills, it quickly became a dreary slog. Timing is everything, and Fridays after school isn’t his best time. Even so, I refuse to let him consider quitting until he can swim in water over his head.
Last week, when offered a Monday lesson slot, we switched without hesitation. Suddenly, swimming was fun again! He cut through the water, head down, crawl strong, buoyed by success. Read the rest of this entry »
November 30, 2015 at 9:00 am (Contributing Writer, Hindsight Parenting, Logan Fisher)
Tags: Motherhood, Parenting, relationships
The Gift of Myself
I do not have the ability to support my children monetarily. I admit that for a long time that could sometimes get me down, especially during the holidays. There are so many things that I wish I could get, buy and do for my kids; cars and college tuition, toys and tech, a modern sleek house they could be proud to bring their friends to, well-needed vacations and well-earned rewards. But I can’t. It just isn’t in the cards and hasn’t been for awhile. But then, just in time, while reading Ralph Waldo Emerson, I came across a line of his poetry that turned me around, that reminded me of what was important. Read the rest of this entry »
November 25, 2015 at 9:00 am (Candice Chouinard, Contributing Writer, Take Action)
Tags: Creative Free Play, kindness, Volunteering
Making Giving about Giving
Recycle brown paper bags into “donation bags” this holiday season and join a local family friendly effort to bring kindness and giving to the holiday season!
This is the time of year to think about not just our families but also for our community. Living in such a small valley makes it easy to make connections that are meaningful and valuable. One easy activity that will help your children understand the value of giving and gratitude are donation bags!
At my daycare we have teamed up with Lindsay Fogg-Willits, owner of Art Always in Florence, and came up with this awesome easy activity. Giving helps us all feel fulfilled in so many ways; it helps establish the means for empathy are caring, besides it just feels good. Read the rest of this entry »
November 23, 2015 at 9:00 am (Contributing Writer, Ecology, Kurt Heidinger)
A Great River Teacher: Greenfield’s Karl Meyer
When it comes to learning about the rivers of Western MA, we are our own best teachers; for, the surest (and perhaps only) way to understand rivers is to be with them: to visit them often, walk their edges, get to know the creatures who call them home, meditate on their floodings and dryings and flow patterns. Swim in them. Float on them. Let them take you, calm you, connect you. In our world so many things are mixed up and frustrated; a few hours with a river reminds us that our world is not the only world; rivers teach us that water embraces whatever is before it, and there is no obstruction that can’t be flowed over and beyond. Read the rest of this entry »
November 18, 2015 at 9:00 am (Carrie St. John, Contributing Writer)
Tags: Commercial Free, Creative Free Play, Hand Art, Non-Commercial, Parenting, Play, Thanksgiving
Where did all the play go? Am I the only parent that is mourning its loss?
The new math makes sense to me. I read Old Dogs, New Math: Homework Help for Puzzled Parents last winter after a friend with middle school aged children mentioned the math concepts coming my way. I like to be prepared. Current reading readiness makes sense. At first I was a bit surprised by the way letter formation and penmanship is introduced in kindergarten—broken down into simple strokes and marks—no letters. I came from the generation of blue, lined practice paper with dashes mid way to mark the height of lower care letters and teachers that loved red marks. I decided to watch and wait. It worked. So far I am on board and enjoying the elementary school experience with my daughter. Read the rest of this entry »
November 17, 2015 at 9:00 am (Contributing Writer, Dane Kuttler, Food)
Books For Growing Foodies
As a cooking teacher, many people assume I got my start as a wee tiny child, probably peeling potatoes at my mother’s knee, or learning my grandmother’s matzah ball secrets. The truth couldn’t be farther from these sweet tales! It’s true that I did help out in the kitchen periodically, but I don’t remember taking much joy in the tasks I was given, and I didn’t start cooking on my own until late into high school.
No, readers, before I was a cook, I was an eater.
And before I was an eater, I was a reader (well, a listener-of-books-read-to-me.)
The first memories I have of being excited about food (well, excited in a larger way than the simple excitement of being hungry and eating) all sprang from the pages of children’s books. These weren’t necessarily children’s books about food – some of them had a single illustration or passing description that I latched onto and savored. Read the rest of this entry »
November 2, 2015 at 9:00 am (Contributing Writer, Ginny Hamilton, Parenting)
Visiting extended family of my parents’ generation, I’m aware of how little we’ve focused on manners thus far in my kiddo’s life. He still eats with his fingers, comments on people’s appearance in a matter of fact way, and asks how old they are, assuming everyone is as proud of their years attained as he is at 6 and a half.
The age question catches our hostess up short. Sorry, I say, we haven’t put much focus on manners beyond please and thank you.
What do you focus on? she replies.
And I’m stumped, realizing I can’t articulate it.
Given that “why?” remains my child’s favorite word (followed closely by “poopy”), I’m regularly prompted to explain the logical reasoning behind various social norms. Take table manners, for instance. Napkins in laps protect pants from spills. Elbows are less likely to knock over milk glasses, again, if they are off the table. Talking with your mouth full is a choking hazard, besides just being gross to look at. These are concrete reasons to practice politeness.
But what about my higher priorities? What about honesty? Kindness? These require a greater appeal than logic. Honesty involves owning up to our faults, foibles, and imperfections. Kindness grows from compassion and acceptance that run counter to the mainstream in which we swim. I was taught how to be polite, not how to be kind. Read the rest of this entry »
October 28, 2015 at 9:00 am (Candice Chouinard, Contributing Writer, Take Action)
Tags: Creative Free Play, kindness
Making Halloween a Thanksgiving
This Halloween, kids can give back when receiving candy from their neighbors. Here are 4 easy handmade crafts kids can make before Halloween night to carry with them and to give back to neighbors.
It is Halloween, a time of year everyone dresses up! Young children especially love this time of year! For them, this their costumes and love for pretend play, it’s Halloween all year round. Finally everyone is playing along!
It is also a puzzling time for toddlers and preschoolers. When toddlers go door to door during Halloween it is exciting and mysterious. They knock on strangers’ doors and get candy for being brave, dressing up, and playing along. A fun way to make the whole experience more engaging and reciprocal is to give back to those neighbors, to the community, to the generous people behind the candy.
Here are a few easy crafts that you can carry along with your children the night of Halloween. Invite them to exchange their handmade craft with their neighbors giving out candy, strengthening community connections and allowing your kids to give back. Read the rest of this entry »
October 26, 2015 at 9:00 am (Contributing Writer, Ecology, Kurt Heidinger)
Tags: Ecology, heat waves, Hilltowns, Massachusetts, Nature, outdoors, Pioneer Valley, River Walking, Rivers, rivers and streams, western massachusetts
Freshwater Sponges: A Most Ancient and Wonderful River Friend
Of all the river beings who remind us of the unity of our highlands and our beaches, the most startling is the lime-green freshwater sponge that you sometimes encounter downstream of swamps and beaver dams. I am always blown away when we meet each other around here, not only because they are most venerable of the multi-celled river beings, but also because you’ll find that they are not documented as living around here yet!
The leaves are falling again, and soon enough we’ll view without obstruction the muscular bodies of our hills and valleys.
I think of geology when I see our biome bared: the thermochemical transformations that over eons have given us our sandy happy valleys and smooth rounded granite ridges.
400 million years ago our mountains were the first and tallest in what is now North America; 200 million years ago the subterranean lava leaks that are now Mt Holyoke and Mt Tom were spluttering; 90 million years ago the Atlantic Ocean formed, splitting North America off from what is now Europe and Africa; and very recently, only 13,000 years ago, the Laurentian Ice Sheet crushed the mountains into boulders and pebbles, then melted and those waterfalls and rivers spewed the grits out into the ocean, where they formed Long Island and Cape Cod. Yes—the sands of P-town come from here, where we live! Read the rest of this entry »
October 21, 2015 at 3:00 pm (Carrie St. John, Contributing Writer)
Tags: autumn, Creative Free Play, Nature, Nature Art, nature based education
Searching for Fall
Scavenger hunts appear to be popular right now. They are being used for local fundraisers. They are mentioned on many television programs this fall. Local college groups are joining in. So we went on a nature scavenger hunt of sorts.
Head outside with the kids to hunt down the visual signs of fall with a mental list of outdoor things specific to the season. Brilliant red leaves. Acorn tops. Pine needles. Helicopter seed pods. Colorful fall flowers. After all your collecting, stop in the woods and make a nature collage on the ground. This took a bit of convincing at our house because this will not be permanent. There was a bit of concern about leaving our project behind…
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