Blake-Soule and Soule share with us their deep family connections and meaningful memories, month-by-month through the rhythm of the seasons. It is this awareness of the changes in nature which instills a sense of togetherness and makes their family stronger. There are new activities, crafts and recipes for each month, including among other ideas:
A Log Cabin
We raised our Daughters in a log cabin.
The Boss's parents bought a farm way back before and built a Pan Abode home. Pan Abode was a company which milled logs according to your design, then shipped them to you -- it's a bit like a real-life Lincoln Log house. The Boss not only grew up in this home, but also helped build it with his whole family when he was 8 and 9-years-old.
The farm was sold to a developer and we bought the house just before Daughter #2's birth.
The Boss really did grow up in the country surrounded by farmland -- my first visit to his home revealed baby pygmy goats in the bathroom. Although our Daughters grew up in the 'burbs, the house was still surrounded by mighty fir, pine and cherry trees. We rarely saw Halloween Trick-or-Treaters and the local police didn't know the house existed -- when a 4-year-old (naming no names) was discouraged from playing with the phone and the police followed up later in the evening with a safety check for an interrupted 911 call, they said it took so long to find the house because they didn't know it was there. We didn't know she had made a 911 call!
As I think about it, the seclusion offered a connection to nature we might not have experienced in a more traditional home. Cherry blossoms blanketing the long driveway in the spring, rope swings and archery targets throughout the summer, enjoying autumn blackberries harvested from the vines which escaped the yearly purge, hosting an annual winter caroling party with everyone invited back to the house for cocoa -- creating our family memories was intimately tied to the seasons and the environment surrounding our home.
The Rhythm of Family Life is a gentle, memoir-like parenting book with absolutely no advice -- it's really all about sharing with the reader the wonders, creativity, and family joys derived from a purposeful awareness of nature and the changing seasons.
If you are curious about how to enter into a more reflective relationship with nature or want inspiring ideas for creating family memories connected to nature, then I highly recommend this book!
Unfortunately, this title is unavailable at this time at Bookshop.org.
Check for it at your local library or ask about it at your bookstore.
The Self-Driven Child starts with "the assumption that kids have brains in their heads and want their lives to work and that, with some support, they'll figure out what to do."
Giving children and teens the right kind of independence -- a sense of autonomy and self-control -- is critically important to a successful adulthood. Stixrud and Johnson's recommendations are based on current neuroscience research and developmental psychology. A few of the chapter titles give you a clear idea of the book's progression:
"Wait a minute, we're fish!"
Little Guy's recent end-of-the-year preschool program for parents included a Laurie Berkner song The Goldfish (Let's Go Swimming!).
While singing the song, the kiddos act out the lyrics, ultimately realizing they are fish -- Wait a minute, we're fish! -- and are only required to do what a fish does: swim. While I'm sure the song is intended to teach children about the different things they can do such as showering, brushing their teeth or bicycling, it also teaches them that being true to their nature is most important -- this is the crux of individual autonomy. It's okay for fish to swim and for little people to ride a bicycle.
If you haven't heard The Goldfish song, you can experience it on the Laurie Berkner Band YouTube video - one of my Sons calls it "The Amnesiac Fish" song.
Given the authors' backgrounds, the long-term focus in the book is success in college which, in the grand scheme of life, can simply be one of many short-term goals on the path to a life well-lived.
Nevertheless, I highly recommend this book because the premise and suggestions are applicable to raising healthy, independent people adept at making life decisions long before they leave our homes. And the authors acknowledge that most parents instinctively understand their child can think and act independently, but need encouragement to resist external pressures to over-manage their children's lives.
Hey, I've even recommended this book as a professional development title to my Daughter who teaches middle-school! That's how relevant this book is for the village raising our children.
Unselfie is based on and filled with a decade of Borba's research into teaching children empathy. Rather than being a dry treatise, the books is also filled with fascinating stories drawn from Borba's work as an educational psychologist and speaker.
The book is how-to guide for parents and teachers of babies through young adults presented in three parts:
Anecdotes and research support the more than 300 real-life, age-appropriate strategies and activities for practicing kindness.
Michele Borba, Ed.D.
Borba, a former classroom and special education teacher, author and parenting child authority, has long been considered a foremost expert in moral and character development. Her clients include Sesame Street, Harvard, the US Air Force Academy and the Today Show, among many others.
Borba's rationale for offering a research-based plan - focused on nine essential empathy habits - for addressing our children's empathy crisis is simple: empathy is a trait which can be developed throughout a child's life.
"What do kids really need to be happy and successful?"
No shhhsh-ing, just pats and "it's okay"
My Little Guy loves his baby sister, Noodle, and is quite aware of how the adults take care of her. In the first month she was home he has explained to his MamaDad that shhhsh-ing Noodle when she needs comfort was not the way to do it! He showed them that Noodle needs gentle, little pats on her back with "it's okay" repeated over and over. What's humorous about this story is that he knows shhh-ing is not good for his baby sister because our talkative Little Guy is often shhsh-ed during nap time at preschool....
In terms of empathy, this story is fascinating! My Daughter and Son diligently help Little Guy to identify his feelings -- teaching emotional literacy is one of the foundational steps towards empathy -- and are beginning to talk with him about others' feelings.
Somehow Little Guy has internalized the idea that being shhsh-ed is not kind and really does not want even his MamaDad to use it with his sister -- he's watching out for her feelings.
Little Guy is developing a pretty strong foundation for mastering empathy as he grows up. And very little fear of letting others know the best way of showing empathy! Let's hope he hangs on to this -- what Borba calls moral courage -- as he grows up.
Unselfie is a parenting book which does tell parents that developing their child's empathy is most important for their life-long happiness and success. And I had intended to give the book a qualified recommendation for just that reason -- remember, I believe parents have everything they need to rear their children well. But the more I think about Borba's message, how she's structured the book, and examine her other work, the more I lean towards a full recommendation.
I think we should teach our kiddos to be kind, really kind because it's the right thing to do as a parent and grandparent, not because it will give them success and happiness. But Borba's concrete suggestions on how to do this are thoughtful and practical. For this reason I would suggest the book is a must-add-to-your-parenting-bookshelf.