Monday, September 12, 2011

Play Here Now

Welcome to the September Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Through Play

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how challenging discipline situations can be met with play. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


Not too long ago I was having a really bad day. You know, one of those days which starts just a bit off kilter and goes down hill rapidly. I had hopes of getting some work done, tackling some home improvement projects, essentially have a satisfying, productive day. Instead everything took longer than I had planned, I ended up at my job much longer than I had expected, other family members were equally unproductive and it topped off with an interruption by a pushy door-to-door salesperson just as I was making dinner (oh and when she rang the doorbell I turned on the wrong burner and nearly set the house on fire). By the time our salesperson left I was quite literally in tears and just wanted to hide for the rest of the day.

Except that wasn't really what I wanted. What I wanted was my day back. I wanted to be able to be able to lay my head down at night and be content with where I stood. As I took a few breaths and attempted to get some level of composure I knew what I needed - I needed to let go of the expectations of productivity and do a little "be here now"ing. My zen exercise is play.

It is hard for me to play. I claim to find it boring, but it would be more honest to say that the "protestant work ethic" and drive for productivity that is an integral part of my learned experience leave me struggling to "waste" that kind of time. As is so often the case, my oldest suffered the most, and at one point when she was 3ish had an imaginary friend who she named "Jessica." My mommy guilty story is that she wanted to play with me, and since I had not accommodated her, she pretended that I did. And as is so often the case with each child and passing years, I have been able to appreciate the opportunity that play provides for truly being in the moment with your child.

A couple of years ago my middle daughter was in a play and at that time was young enough that I wasn't comfortable just dropping her off at rehearsals. This meant that 3-4 times a week I would be sitting on the floor off to the side of the rehearsal space with the youngest who was then a bit over a year. Old enough that I couldn't just sit and nurse her and young enough that she needed my constant attention in this non baby-friendly space. So for those hours I couldn't read or knit or do laundry or anything else "productive" - I had to focus entirely on my baby. The universe certainly knows what lessons we need.

So back to my bad day... As I was finishing up cleaning the kitchen I called in the oldest boy and asked if he wanted to play Othello. Not to turn away from a chance to beat his mom he said of course and grabbed the game. Shortly in we were joined by the 2 of the 3 other kids who were at home as well as my husband. After I lost the game (though only by 4!) dad and daughter played and by the end of it everyone was feeling more relaxed and in touch with each other.

Play is a way to connect. It is often less intense than cuddling or conversation so can be particularly useful when there is internal and/or external tension. It is a way to cross ages and often interests. It is a shared experience that has the potential to be universally accessible. And while I also continue to value and nurture my children's ability to play without me (benign neglect and all), I want to remember to play more.

Daily Mantra....
Play Here Now


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • On being a more playful parent — Isil at Smiling like Sunshine shares how the Playful Parenting book impacted her.
  • Parenting a toddler through play — Alicia at I Found My Feet lists some examples of how she uses play to parent through everyday tasks and challenges.
  • Splashing in Puddles — Abbie at Farmer's Daughter shares how she learned to get dirty and have fun with her little boy.
  • Say Please — Cassie at There's a Pickle in My Life explains how they taught their son manners by "play," showing that actions speak louder than words.
  • No Nanny Needed — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life wishes parenting through play was her only responsibility during the day.
  • I'll Run Away With Gypsies — Nikalee at Spotted Pandemonium maneuvers physical and emotional obstacles while spinning playful tales, jumping through hoops, and inspiring the kids to clean the living room.
  • A Promise To My Daughter — Lindsey at An Unschooling Adventure writes a poem for her daughter promising to use play instead of anger when facing difficult situations.
  • Parenting Through Play — Not Always Easy But Always Rewarding — Amy at Peace4Parents discusses how play hasn't always come easily to her, the power of appreciative observation, and how her family learns together through play.
  • Imagination Plays a Role in Our Parenting — Tree at Mom Grooves shares how parents can use play to set the foundation for communication and understanding.
  • A Box of Crayons — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction talks about how a simple box of crayons has become a wonderful parenting and teaching tool.
  • The Essential Art of Play — Ana at Pandamoly shares some of her favorite lessons available for young ones through play.
  • The Art of Distraction — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro shares a list of distracting alternatives to harsh punishments in tough parenting situations.
  • Grace and Courtesy Games at Home or School — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now has ideas for grace and courtesy games that help you encourage courteous behavior without reprimanding your child.
  • I am woman, hear me roar! — Mrs Green from Little Green Blog shares how one simple sound can diffuse an argument in an instant.
  • Getting Cooperation Through Play — Amyables at Toddler In Tow talks about respecting the worldview of a preschooler by using play to encourage connection and cooperation.
  • Playful Parenting = Extra Energy??Momma Jorje didn't think she had the energy for playful parenting. See what she was surprised to learn…
  • Dance Party Parenting — Laura from A Pug in the Kitchen learned how to be the parent her children need through play.
  • Wrestling Saved My Life — Wrestling is as vital to her son's well-being as babywearing once was, finds Hannah at Wild Parenting.
  • Parenting through play — By playing with her children, Tara from MUMmedia is given amazing opportunites to teach, train and equip her children for life.
  • Parenting Through Play Starts in Infancy — In a guest post at Natural Parents Network, Issa from LoveLiveGrow shares that though she only has a 3-month-old, playful parenting has already started.
  • Play Before Sleep — Adrienne at Mommying My Way writes about how playing and singing with her son before he falls asleep helps calm her frustrations that tend to arise at night.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Learning to read

I decided to repost my contribution to a thread on a local homeschool board.  It is an issue important to many young or new homeschooling families:

As .... alluded to, there is a school of thought (supported both by research and anecdotal reports) that reading is primarily a developmental task and that many a diagnosis of "dyslexia" is actually when we attempt to push the brain to go beyond its capabilities at any given time.  Imagine diagnosing all of our 9 month olds who weren't pulling up and cruising with paraparesis.

Day 48 - Some books
 Phil and Pam on Flickr
On the personal side I have had children reading at 4, 12, and 8.  Child number 3 was reading before child number 2 - I've known this to happen in other families.  The child who read at 12 is not one of those who picked it up and was at grade level in 3 months like many, it continues to be a difficult task for him.  However.... he is willing to do it, he looks forward to the day when it becomes easier and novel reading is enjoyable, he is "well read" thanks to audio books, and his self-esteem and image of himself as a learner has zero relation to has natural ability is this one particular skill.  He is also functional and was actually functional prior to the point that I would have described him as "reading".  Frankly given the benefits we have incurred by allowing the natural progression, even if reading is never a relaxing past time for him I am fine with that.  As a special education teacher I saw the lives of far too many children sacrificed on the alter of an externally imposed reading time line.

A couple of links.... this is a site of stories of learning to read in various ways at various ages (Think of it as _How Weaning Happens_)  I will say that Sandra Dodd rubs me totally the wrong way, but don't let that deter you from the useful stuff she has on her site.  These are a couple of academic researchers who have decided to focus on unschooling families  There is also some good stuff in the work of Raymond and Dorothy Moore (_Better Late than Early_, etc).

In the end it has helped me to think of it a bit like potty learning.  I can spend months or years in a miserable battle with a kid that just isn't ready or I can watch their developmental timeline and avoid the headaches and potential long-term (and life-long) fall-out of a less than positive experience.

ps - this is absolutely not to dismiss observations of different learning styles. Just like with potty learning, weaning, crawling, etc there are different motivations and strategies that work better for all of us.