Posted in Education, Family, literature, Opinion, parenting, reading, summer, teaching, teen, toddlers, Uncategorized

Woodland Adventure Handbook

Review: Woodland Adventure Handbook by Adam Dove is a book I reviewed for work that I thought some of my readers might like.

It’s a little handbook about family activities to do in the woods. Adam Dove using ideals from UK “forest schools” and makes them approachable for parents and teachers. Learning through play is not a new idea by any means but it is becoming increasingly popular. TInkergarten, Montessori, and others have grown in the last decade. Why? I think the standards and pressures for what children are supposed to know when has become almost excessive. Parents are trying to find alternative ways of teaching that don’t require young children to sit at a desk 8 hours a day.
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Each section has a story, followed by how to set up for the upcoming activities, then games and things to create that go with the story. At the end is a wrap up of what was learned.

For example, section 5 is called “Magic potions and wizards’ power wands”. The story at the beginning is just explaining the ingredients needed to create the potion that can only be used to help others. It says to follow stick arrows and footprints. So, before you go out in the woods with your children you make stick arrows and footprints that lead to the things they need. They follow it, create potions, craft wands, and play a game.

It’s a really cute book with some new ideas for any parent wanting to do more outside and get more involved with your child’s education. I would think the target age range could be anywhere from 3 to 7. Possibly a little older if you make it more elusive for them.

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Posted in Education, Family, parenting, summer, teaching, teen, toddlers, Uncategorized

Outdoor Education and Camping!

Tablets, smartphones, laptops, eReaders, television, game systems: There are so many reasons for your kids to stay inside and stare blankly ahead not absorbing the world around them (note: I put eReaders on the list because a lot of times I see kids using them they’re playing games, books are okay 🙂

I’ve posted a few articles about being outdoors with children and how it’s educational for them, but this weekend is our first attempt at taking our three year old camping. I am nervous and excited but it also prompted me to look up educational reasons to take your kids camping that I wanted to share. (Update: we didn’t make it through the night. We did get to do some of these things though it was fun for awhile just playing in the woods so…still worth a shot!)

1) Outdoor Education- this is an educational initiative all its own now. Many countries (Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Norway come to mind) have outdoor education as part of their normal school curriculum. It consists of everything from hiking trips to playing more outside, to having several recess breaks throughout the day, to fishing trips. In the New Zealand Curriculum Framework, they state that providing outdoor education gives students “opportunities to develop personal and social skills, to become active, safe, and skilled in the outdoors, and to protect and care for the environment.”

2) Problem solving- many spur of the moment issues can arise while camping. Is that poison ivy? Is there rain coming? Taking children camping can help them better their problem solving skills and quick thinking techniques. To prep for the trip have your children be involved with packing their own supplies. Obviously, guide them to pack essentials but let them really decide what they want and what they do not.

3) Imaginative play- camping provides ample opportunities for imaginative play. Being out in nature surrounded by trees (or the ocean if you choose to camp on the beach) gives them a backdrop they aren’t used to at home. The campfire is also a great place for imaginations to take off. Take turn telling stories. If you are having trouble starting, try making up new endings to stories you already know. Like what if Little Red Riding Hood didn’t realize that the wolf was pretending to be her grandmother? What if they lived together for a while, how would the wolf act?

4) Unplug! Along the same lines as imaginative play, being outdoors and camping really gives you and your family a chance to unplug together. It may be tempting to break out the phones or bring the iPads but don’t. Spend your time together, together. You are not home so you shouldn’t be worrying about work and things that can be dealt with once camping is over.

5) Cooking in a new atmosphere- cooking is a great learning experience. Measuring, mixing, and playing with different textures and ingredients. Camping provides a completely new way to experience the learning process of cooking. Bring some pre-made items like pancake mix and let your child help with pouring it on the pan over the fire. In addition, being outside instead of in the kitchen might help you not worry so much about the mess.

Here are some activities to do with your children while camping to make the experience fun and educational!
Scavenger hunt- there are many available online if you don’t want to create one yourself
Frisbee or catch
Fishing or crabbing
Bubbles
Crafts- a lot of ideas out there on Pinterest. Here are some I really like.
Sand toys

Posted in Education, Family, Library, literature, Opinion, parenting, summer, Uncategorized

Review of Geek Parenting

Occasionally, I actually get to read. As a librarian, I get asked all the time for recommendations and I’m sorry to say I don’t get to read nearly as much as I would like. However, some books just stick with you and I recently read Geek Parenting by Stephen H. Segal and Valya Dudycz Lupescu. I wanted to share some of my thoughts on it. 

 

A short book that uses examples from other books, movies, and shows to mirror life as a parent. It’s an easy read, and an entertaining way, to show parenting through glimpses of literature and cinema.

One analogy references The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (if you haven’t read it, read it). The argument made is that in the book, Nobody Owens is raised by everyone in the graveyard. It’s not only his adoptive parents who raise him, but many other people and ghosts who prepare him and educate him. He says, “ In the modern world, it is rarer than perhaps it once was to be closely tied to the people who live around us. We may live our lives behind fences, both literal and metaphoric, but there’s something to be gained by turning nearby strangers into real neighbors.”

My favorite section (surprise) uses The Princess Bride to show the importance of reading to your children. In the film version the grandson is sick in bed playing Nintendo. His grandfather comes to read to him but the boy is extremely reluctant to sit and listen. However, once the story gets interesting and he starts to fear for Wesley and Buttercup, you can see his excitement start to rise. In those moments he has developed a new love for reading and storytelling. “Today’s kids have more forms of entertainment competing for their time…let’s not forget the unique appeal of reading a story aloud to our kids. We can pick up the pace, slow it down, or hit pause, depending on their interest. We can revisit favorite parts again and again.”

Another point the authors mention, along the same lines as above, is that children need to be allowed and be prompted to use their imaginations. They use the Chronicles of Narnia series as an example. “Now take a moment and imagine what might have happened if Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy had smartphones or iPads.” They say “boredom is creative potential.” Which is now going to be a motto in my house whenever it looks like boredom may be kicking in. Don’t just assume that because there is downtime, and because you’re inside, that the television has to be on. Just because it’s a long summer day doesn’t mean everyone needs to be on the computer or on their phones. There’s plenty to do and plenty of resources now to help you come up with imaginative play.

Using Obi-Wan and Luke Skywalker as an example the authors explain the power of positive reinforcement. They stress that constant negatives are not good for the psyche of a child. The classic phrase “the beatings will continue until morale improves” is one they mention that really shows the outcome of such behaviors. I will admit, the praise for the good things is something I struggle with as a parent and just in general. It’s so much easier to notice the bad then it is the good.

These are just a few examples of things that stuck out from reading this book. I would highly recommend it as a light read for any parent (or anyone dealing with children honestly).

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One & Two (Special Rehearsal Edition Script): The Official Script Book of the Original West End Production

Posted in Education, Family, parenting, summer, teaching, Uncategorized

Playing in the Woods

I’ve had several posts about getting outdoors, and playing, and how they positively affect intellectual growth (and bonding!) of a child. I was reading up and found some great play ideas for being out in the woods and with the cold season approaching (still hasn’t hit us quite yet) I thought this would be a great time to get some ideas out there.

1) Journey Sticks

Journey sticks have a rich history, most popularly attributed to Native Americans. Journey sticks are to represent someone’s individual experience. Along the way of a long expedition or important travel, the person creating the stick would gather pieces of nature to attach to their stick. Then they would return and tell of tales of their journey.

To create a journey stick find a good sturdy stick during the beginning of your hike through the woods (you can also choose to just accumulate items to take home and make the stick once there). As you go through the woods look for special items- a brightly color leaf, a feather, a special flower. Bring along some tape, string, and straight pins to attach them to your child’s stick.

 

 

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(Click on photo for link)

2) Nature Photography

Being out in the woods is a great place to get your children to appreciate photography and beauty of nature in general. You can do this in a few different ways. If your child is older, you can let them use your digital camera or phone if you feel they are responsible enough. Give them a list of things to try to get on photo: a bird, two different colored leaves together, a tree that looks like it has a face. If you have a younger child, you might not want to trust with anything expensive, so get them a disposable camera. Make sure before heading out into the woods that you explain there are only a certain amount of photos on the camera. Teach them to take one photo at a time and learn to use their eyes and ears to find new and exciting pictures to take.

 

3) Story Telling

The woods are the perfect backdrop for so many stories. Fairy tales, ghost stories, adventure tales, and legends seem to be more believable when told surrounded by nature. If you live somewhere with a state park that allows fires try going on an afternoon hike and end the day with a story and some snacks by the fire. You don’t have to camp overnight to enjoy tales and s’mores. If you can’t have a fire just find a spot to sit under a large tree or a place to spread out a blanket and relax for awhile. Some great stories to tell are:

Little Red Riding Hood

Robin Hood

Hansel and Gretel

Rumpelstiltskin

Local tales- look online or at your local library to find myths and legends that relate to your area.

Just like wanting to read at the beach, this is also a great time to bring along a few books from home and just sit outside and read together.

 

4) Scavenger Hunt

If your child is old enough to read then make up a list of items to find while out in the woods. If they are not then just tell them one thing at a time as you go along your hike.

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(Click on photo for link)

5) Coloring and Art

Sometimes you can do the same thing you would be doing at home just while outside! Find a nice spot to set up; if there is a picnic area use that, if not find an area to lay out a blanket to play on. Don’t forget something hard to lean on if coloring on the ground (clip boards are great for this). You can color things you see, trace leaves off of the ground, or put leaves under your paper and color so you reveal the leaves’ stems.

 

6) Bubbles

I can find a reason to put bubbles on any list I make honestly. Bubbles in the woods are just pure magic. If you are creative try combining bubbles with another activity, like story telling. Make up a story about how fairies are attracted to bubbles or that in the woods you are currently in bubbles are supposed to reveal treasure. If you can, sneak a quarter or something they consider treasure, and hide it in the direction the wind seems to be going.

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This website (click on photo for link) has some great ideas for if you are camping and need activities for overnight.

Playing outside is a dying art form so any chance you get to get out there with your child do it. Here are some tips for starting a garden at home and getting your child involved. Rain isn’t always an excuse to stay in either.

Posted in Education, Social Change, summer, teaching

Taking Action

I did a post awhile back about getting teens more involved in their education and communities and brought up the idea of volunteer opportunities. I am a sucker for a great documentary and ever since doing research for my novel Forgotten Stories I have been drawn to any documentary about social injustice, especially about women. Although it is from 2012, I just recently watched It’s A Girl on Netflix. If you haven’t seen it please watch it but I’m warning you it’s one of those documentaries that you just shake your head the whole time you’re watching it.

It’s basically about gendercide and infant deaths of girls in India and China. It also mentions that the human trafficking epidemic is spurred on by the view that daughters will bring nothing but burden to their families. Of course there are exceptions, like one named Mitu I believe it was, who is fighting the medical board in India.

What does this have to do with my educational blog? Well, when I had spoke about volunteer opportunities before it was more along the lines of car washing and volunteering at the humane society. What are the limits of getting teens involved with more serious social injustice? Are these topics too graphic for them?

I know when I was a teen I heard someone from the CFCA (Christian Foundation for the Children and Aging) speak at my church and I talked my mom into sponsoring a child, Jonathan. Because of that we sponsored him for over ten years, until he was eighteen. We had a chance to go to Guatemala to meet him and see his family for three weeks in 2009. If I hadn’t heard that man at church speak and if I hadn’t pestered my mother, he may not have had a sponsor.

I guess what I’m thinking is that I feel so strongly towards social injustice that takes place all over the world. From the teens that I work with and others that I know, I know they can be a powerful force. But how do you teach them about all these negative things in the world? Not just that but those that involve sex, abortions, rape, violence, drugs, and countless other topics that you never want your children to have to hear about?

Posted in Education, music, summer

Summer 2014 Song

So this is a little off topic but at the same time it’s not. This summer has been a whirl wind for me as far as my career goes. I left a stable (but not going anywhere) position at a library that I really enjoyed working at (for the most part) to pursue a grant written job that has absolutely no stability or guaranteed end date. I could go in tomorrow and they could tell me “sorry grants been pulled, no job for you” and this almost happened. There were a few days where we didn’t know if the state was going to go forward with the BASIS Program that I work for so for a couple days I didn’t know if I would have a job.

Anyway that was just to set up why this summer has been so critical for me. I never thought I would be a teacher, educator, tutor, mother, anything that made me spend extra time with kids or teens. That just wasn’t for me. I liked lattes and smoking and talking about controversial topics in literature. I didn’t want to make construction paper bunnies and listen to teens complain about their parents.

Well I was wrong…I have loved this experience. I actually am considering going back to school or taking the Praxis so I can actually be a full time educator. I also may start an educational nonprofit in my area. I don’t know but I definitely think I had found my niche. The whole reason I even became the Young Adult librarian at the library I worked at was because no one else would do it. Teens get over looked SO MUCH when it comes to educational incentives. Just Google it. You’ll see how many things there are for elementary students. Look at your libraries and see how much stuff they have for younger kids compared to their teen patrons. Granted there are plenty of great grants, nonprofits, and government programs that offer scholarships for students entering college (and other college prep material) but the teens in the middle of the road? Not much…

So this was a super long story just to say that the song I will think of for the Summer of 2014 as asked by Musical Maker is “Am I Wrong” by Nico and Vinz.