Summers of Learning

Kids are constantly finding new identities. Breaks help kids find the new "me."

Kids are constantly finding new identities. Breaks help kids find the new “me.”

It’s fall, and kids have a summer-full of learning inside them. What’s more important than the “summer slide” of school skills is the fact that these are NEW people heading back to school. Summer gives a chance to restart.

However you spend your summer, kids are soaking up new experiences. They’re not the same as who they were last spring. The break is big enough to create a real break.

Breaks. We all need breaks. To reinvent. Refresh. Remember who we are, and discover who we are. Not who we were last year or last month, but who we are now.

Think about this proverb: “If you want to know where your heart is, look to where your mind goes when it wanders.” For children, where the mind wanders is called “Play.”

Regular schedules accomplish certain goals, but breaks are where our minds wander, where we encounter real life (good or bad) and where we are free from being judged by last year’s standards. For an adult, a break gives us the chance to remember or refocus our priorities. For kids, a break is a time to discover identity and make new leaps as it changes.

Without breaks, we just carry on. Carry on in our habits. Carry on with our judgments about a child’s abilities or behavior. Carry on without thinking. A child who’s been labeled as a troublemaker just continues that “I’m no good” mindset if there’s no break. A child who’s exploring new thoughts and friends can get stuck without a break.

A break can be an open door.

Breaks are essential for restarting life. And there are all kinds of breaks besides holidays from school routines and teachers. Our kids need breaks from us as parents, from the grip of regular friendships, and from constant sibling contact. Any of these can stifle kids without a few healthy breaks.

So if you’re the one who always puts your child to bed, trust your partner or a sitter to do it. Or see what happens when you separate siblings for a bit. Even a short break can help everyone realize we’ve been stuck in a rut.

It’s hard to see incremental changes when we live with kids day to day. “Look how they’ve grown!” aunts and uncles remark after a gap of time in seeing the kids. We also need to be saying: “Look how they’ve grown inside.”

Have you seen a child change into being “a new person” after a break or summer vacation? What types of summer learning do you see children do? Do you find it easy to see the present child, not the past one (from three months ago)?

Posted in Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

3 Responses to Summers of Learning

  1. Love my breaks. I suspect a child does even more.

  2. Anne Donn says:

    Thank you for once again for pointing the way to the truth of a growing heart and spirit. It’s so easy to get lost in expectations.

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Win a copy of It’s OK Not to Share!

Win a copy of this book. Or choose another. Four books to choose from if you enter and add a review.

Win a copy of this book. Or choose another! Four books to choose from if you enter with a review.

It’s time to celebrate kids and summer – summer reading that is. Some of you may already be back to school, but there’s still time to dig into good books. And win books!

For the finale to the Book-Lover’s Summer Giveaway, I’m offering four fascinating parenting books. If you’re the first name I draw, you get first pick of the titles. The second winner gets to pick from the remaining titles, and so on.

To enter, show your love for books. Here’s how:

1) Show your love for books by posting a book review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. You can review any book – It’s OK to Go Up the Slide, Saving Arcadia, or any book you like that’s ever been published. Honest reviews only – that’s what readers want.

2) Leave a comment on this blog or my Facebook page, Heather Shumaker Writer saying which book you chose to review. That’s it!  You’re entered to win. (Winners drawn with a random number generator; U.S. mailing addresses only).

Winners will be drawn on September 5th.

The books are…

It's OK small coverIt’s OK Not to Share  by Heather Shumaker  This is my first book, the one that started it all. If you have young children with big feelings, active bodies and strong opinions who love to play, this book is for you. Or for a friend or family member if you already have one. Maybe yours is dog-eared and you need a fresh copy? Write a review (“It’s OK to Go Up the Slide” needs more reader reviews).




left aloneNo Child Left Alone by Abby Schachter  Do you love Free-Range Kids? This timely book shows us just how far American government interferes with raising independent kids. If you’re wondering if your child will be picked up by the police for walking home from the park alone, read this book.





not sayWhat NOT to Say by Sarah MacLaughlin  Be a big boy. I’m going to leave without you. That didn’t hurt. There’s nothing to be afraid of. What’s the magic word? Do you want a spanking? This little book unpacks all the common phrases parents say in our culture, and exactly what’s wrong with them.




cultureDiscovering the Culture of Childhood by Emily Plank  This gem from Emily Plank gets us to think about children on a new level. Not as unformed, imperfect adults, but as fully formed children. You may discover ideas you’ve never thought of before.





Intrigued?  Ready to enter? Just add a review by Sept. 5 and get ready to add new ideas to your life with a new book.

What titles are you eager to share with others? Read any good books lately?

Posted in Good Reads, Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Win a copy of It’s OK Not to Share!

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Take a Technology Break

Can the Grand Canyon compete with the social media habit? It's trying.

Can the Grand Canyon compete with the social media habit? It’s trying.

This summer we camped out west and visited National Parks. The Grand Canyon was – Wow. But then I turned my head and encountered a different type of wow – the sight of people not looking at the view. No, not focusing on the view of the Grand Canyon at all, although they stood five feet from it. They were hunched in a private world scrolling through Facebook.

Let me add, these weren’t kids. Or even teenagers. These were adults. Middle-aged, older-aged. One daughter even called her dad out on it.  “Really, Dad? Even here?  Can’t you give it a break?”

When we think of technology and kids, we need to focus first on ourselves. Examine how we use and model technology and whether (or not) we are creating a healthy balance in life. The kids are watching. Some are modeling their sense of etiquette and normal behavior after us. Most are longing for more real-world contact, yes, even with their parents.

Need some technology balance? Go to my book It’s OK to Go Up the Slide, which includes parenting in the digital age. Chapters focus on both kid and adult use of technology.

playfulparent coverOr inject some more playful parenting into your life. The next book for the Book-Lover’s Summer Giveaway is Lawrence Cohen’s Playful Parenting. If you don’t know Larry’s work, he’s a compassionate and wise voice who understands both emotions and wrestling.

If you’d like to win the book, write a quick book review. Here’s how:

1) Show your love for books by posting a book review (1-2 sentences) on Amazon and or/Goodreads. You can review any book – It’s OK to Go Up the Slide, Saving Arcadia, or any book you like that’s ever been published. Honest reviews only – that’s what readers want.

2) Leave a comment on this blog or my Facebook page, Heather Shumaker Writer saying which book you chose to review and where you reviewed it. That’s it!  You’re entered to win. (Winners drawn with a random number generator; U.S. mailing addresses only).

Winner will be drawn July 18.

Enjoy the Book-Lover’s Summer Giveaway! Hope everyone had a happy 4th of July. Our local parade was terrific – except for that one woman who was marching in the parade while scrolling on her phone…

What about you? What zany places have you seen over-the-top technology use? Where would you like to banish it?  Share your tech stories or your book review comments.

Posted in Good Reads, Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

2 Responses to Take a Technology Break

  1. Anne says:

    Left a review on amazon for It’s Okay to Go Up the Slide. Waiting for it to be reviewed. :)

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Guess what? You’re the book winner! Send an email to heather at to share your mailing address.

Summer’s Great Book Giveaway

Get ready to win and review books! Book-Lover's Summer Giveaway.

Get ready to win and review books! Book-Lover’s Summer Giveaway.

Summer is here! It starts today for my kids. Time to forget adult schedules, follow dreams and be themselves. And for all of us grown-ups, time for some great summer reading.

This summer I’m doing a Book-Lover’s Summer Giveaway. Throughout the summer (when I’m not out camping away from all things technology), I’ll be giving away thought-provoking parenting books.

If the title interests you, show your love for books and leave a comment. Here’s how:

1) Show your love for books by posting a book review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. You can review any book – It’s OK to Go Up the Slide, Saving Arcadia, or any book you like that’s ever been published. Honest reviews only – that’s what readers want.

2) Leave a comment on this blog or my Facebook page, Heather Shumaker Writer saying which book you chose to review. That’s it!  You’re entered to win. (Winners drawn with a random number generator; U.S. mailing addresses only).

First winner will be drawn on July 4th.

First book is The Idle Parent. It seems a great book to start out the summer. This is an anti-helicopter, anti-entertain-the-kids book which could get you off on the right foot for summer. A sampling of chapter titles: The Myth of Toys, End all Activities, Down with School, Let us Sleep, Say “Yes.”

Here’s a quote from the opening that sets the tone:

“How to begin to educate a child. First rule, leave him alone. Second rule, leave him alone. Third rule, leave him alone.” – D.H. Lawrence, “Education of the People,” 1918

So get ready for a summer of fun reading, exploring new parenting ideas, and letting the kids alone. Remember, they’ve got their own ideas to pursue.

July 4: Congratulations to the winner of this book giveway. Watch for new ones coming this summer!

Are you ready for some summer reading? Don’t worry, you can always win the book now, then curl up in a cozy fall or winter armchair.

Posted in Good Reads, Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

6 Responses to Summer’s Great Book Giveaway

  1. Cheryl Rodriguez says:

    I would love to receive these books. I am this close to homeschooling because of the homework issue. I really want to instill a curiosity in my child that I see is not there in a public school setting.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Great! To enter, just post a quick 1-2 sentence book review. Then share what title you reviewed. Thanks!

  2. Justin says:

    I reviewed “It’s OK to Go Up the Slide”. Great book and common sense things that I should have known.

  3. Theresa B says:

    Finally finished “It’s ok to go up the slide”—-my personal take-away and review: challenge the rules of our K-8 program of running on the tan bark. Like in the book, if it’s not hurting person or property, why is it a rule?

    We went to the beach today so I could get some time to talk to my husband un-interrupted….the kids spent an hour collecting seaweed and throwing it into a pile—in front of where we were sitting. Each drop of the seaweed resulted in a big fat grin from my son and daughter…swelling with pride for their hunter and gatherer project they made up!

Embracing Rejection

We want kids to all be friends. But life is more complex than that.

We want kids to all be friends. But life is more complex than that.

Allowing kids to reject each other can build inclusiveness. What?! No, this isn’t George Orwell’s 1984, where every truth is backwards. It’s simply another renegade rule that takes some getting used to.

When I explain why respectful rejection is good for kids, I often get strong adult reactions. We’re terrified. We don’t want kids to be mean and reject each other. We want to teach them kindness. Most of all, we want them all to be friends. Those are noble goals, but just like sharing, when we try to force friendship, things backfire. Real-life kindness and tolerance need a different set of social skills.

Respectful rejection actually helps kids gain the skills and confidence they need to bring more people in. It’s a tool for tolerance, not intolerance.

When children are allowed to choose their playmates and say no to others (see chapters like “You Can’t Play = A-OK” in my book It’s OK Not to Share), they develop the skills and experience to be welcoming friends. It doesn’t come all at once. Feeling comfortable with others and knowing how to set limits in social situations is all part of it. Forays into friendship can take courage.

Why Children Reject

Developmental  – For young children, it’s true three can be a crowd. Very young children are still emerging from parallel play. Maybe it’s true they can’t handle one more person in their game. It’s too overwhelming. This is a developmental reason.

Protecting a Friendship – This reason is often overlooked by well-meaning adults. Kids who say ‘no’ to another child may be trying to concentrate on a friendship. They’re fully involved with an existing friend in play. It’s rather like when you’re having coffee with a friend and your husband/ wife/ partner shows up. It’s not that you don’t like him, but it changes the dynamic. Hopefully we’re adult enough to handle this situation, and no one goes away with hard feelings. That should be our goal with the kids, too. “Looks like you’re busy playing with Ruby right now.” We can guide kids to be respectful when they reject and help all children develop resilience and coping skills. It’s not that kids don’t like the other person, it’s just that they want to be with another friend right now. No big deal. If we don’t make it a big deal, we can help kids cope with temporary disappointment.

Fear-based Rejection – This is a big one. Kids say ‘no’ if they’re worried about another child. Maybe she hits. Maybe he’s bossy. Maybe a week ago she scribbled on a favorite painting. There are all sorts of legitimate and fanciful fears that motivate kids to protect themselves and say ‘no.’ It’s safer. If we’re not focused on the adult-imposed doctrine of “we don’t say you can’t play,” then we can help guide kids to saying ‘yes’ more often. Ask simple questions or make statements. “What will happen if Olivia joins your game?” “I wonder what you’re worried about.” “What will Tayson do that you don’t like?” Being direct like this helps uncover the fears. Then it’s a simple matter of helping kids set limits to feel safe. “Olivia, Chris is worried that you’ll knock her tower down. Are you going to knock it down? Oh, Olivia says she won’t touch your tower. Can she play with you if she doesn’t hit your tower?” Find the fear. Set a limit. Watch a friendship grow.

Children who feel safe – to enjoy a special friendship on their own, or to set a limit on another child – are MORE likely to be welcoming and inclusive. That’s because their rights are respected. The right to pursue a friendship without interruption, the right to speak up, the right to express fear and set peer-to-peer boundaries.  It’s about feeling safe and gaining courage through experience.

When we feel safe and confident ourselves, we’re more likely to be welcoming to others.

If you try respectful rejection with kids – rather than forced friendships – you’ll see kids who:

  • Get on well with others
  • Know how to make friends
  • Know how to be a good friend
  • Are kind to people around them
  • Know how to set personal boundaries
  • Are willing to give other people a chance
  • Are open and welcoming to new types of people

The ultimate goal of respectful rejection is inclusiveness. Just as the ultimate goal of “it’s OK not to share” is generosity. We all need practice and understanding to get there.

It's OK small coverCurious to read more on the dicey subject of rejection? Get a copy of It’s OK Not to Share.

What’s your take on this misunderstood subject? Are you willing to try respectful rejection? Do you remember forced friendship situations from your own childhood?

Posted in Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

7 Responses to Embracing Rejection

  1. Jan Waters says:

    Heather, You’ve learned SYC philosophy well and it is all developmentally sound. I love the way you can explain things. Jan Waters

  2. Funny, even as an adult I’m sooo hesitant to set boundaries when I’m deep in conversation with someone and another friend comes along. Maybe we all need practice at this.

  3. Erika says:

    Great topic! I really appreciate the example of questions to ask our kids if they don’t want to play with someone. It’s about being curious, open to their answers, to honor their choices and guide them to make it in a kind way. I tell my girls, it’s ok if you want to play by yourself, just say it respectfully. THanks for this post!!

  4. Zanzanil says:

    I used to see my daughter behaving badly with one particular child. I sat her down and explained that it’s ok to dislike some one. But there always a better way to say no. And it did work big time between them and eventually they did get along just fine.

  5. MIhaela says:

    Hello! Great material! Thank you for the precious information.
    I would like to ask you how can we help the rejected one? The case is: a pre-teen girl (11 years old) with Spina Bifida – she has a light locomotion issue (she is walking a little bit strange and she wares a special brace at her down part of the leg – she cannot run very fast and avoids to get involved in games with a ball or where she risks to be pushed, because her medical condition), who is willing to play more “calm” games with her peers when outdoors and she very often gets rejected. Many times she gets the answer: “we can play later with you a game in which you can participate”, but they forget her afterwards. She also gets this tough “no”. She is a bold child, who communicates easily with both children and adults. Thank you!

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Occasional rejection is one thing, and chronic rejection is another. With kids who are frequently rejected it often helps to have adult help, even if it’s talking about it and learning a few phrases “OK, my turn” or “When’s later? When you get to 10 points?” Later is too vague and it can help to quantify it. There’s a chapter on chronic rejection is my book “It’s OK Not to Share.” If she’s bold and tough and can communicate easily she can figure out many of these things herself, but it can help to ease the way.

Renegade Stories: “I Stopped Stopping Play”

Beth made renegade changes at Bethie's Place with amazing results.

Beth made renegade changes at Bethie’s Place with amazing results.

I’d like you to meet Beth Wolff. She’s a play advocate from North Dakota who runs a daycare called Bethie’s Place. What’s marvelous are the CHANGES she made to her program after reading It’s OK Not to Share.

If  you like renegade ideas, but are nervous about trying them in real life, read on. Beth shares how she implemented renegade rules into daily life and made the transition to a child-marvelous program. Listen here to podcast interviews with Beth Wolff.

“I first read It’s OK Not to Share on a 17-hour road trip to Utah,” Beth told me. “I read the book twice on the way there and twice on the way back.”

When she returned she didn’t waste time. She sent out an email to the daycare parents saying:  “I’ve just read the most amazing book. Life is going to be different. You’re going to have to be with me on this. Trust me.”

And trust her they did.

It's OK small cover

Beth had been doing daycare since 1980 and acted as a mentor to parents. She’d stopped doing thematic learning and calendars with her kids long ago. But although she strongly believed in play, she found she’d forgotten the nature of true play. Over time she’d gradually become more rigid. She’d fallen into the habit of saying ‘no’ to play ideas and built her program around rules, partly, she says, because cookie-cutter training sessions kept pushing her in that direction. One rule led to another.

How did she make the transition from a rule-maker to a renegade? “I stopped saying ‘no.’ I stopped stopping their play.” That was it. She didn’t warn the kids or announce the change, she just stopped banning ideas and started following the lead of the kids.

What were the results?  “The kids came out of cover with their play,” Beth said. “I’m a much happier person. I laugh more. Life with Beth Wolff is a lot more enjoyable.” The changes in the children were particularly striking, especially their huge gains in social and emotional learning. Here’s what she observed:

  • Kids are empathetic at earlier ages
  • Kids are willing to take turns
  • Kids can wait
  • Kids trust each other
  • Kids know where the ice pack is
  • Friendships begin at younger ages
  • They don’t need so many toys

If you’re wondering how to make the switch, take Beth’s advice. Trust the kids. Trust your gut. Trust their play. Making the change to embracing renegades rules is easier than you think.

Ready to be inspired? Listen to interviews with Beth on the Renegade Rules podcast.

What about you? Have you had success adopting ideas  from IT’S OK NOT TO SHARE or IT’S OK TO GO UP THE SLIDE in your family or program?

Speaking up is hard to do, but that's called courage.

Posted in Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

2 Responses to Renegade Stories: “I Stopped Stopping Play”

  1. I love seeing the real-life applications of your theories, Heather. Great story.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Thanks – real life stories are what it’s all about. And inspiration for more!

New Book Born: Saving Arcadia

My third book. Published April 1, 2017. If you never seen the beauty of the Great Lakes be prepared to fall in love.

My third book. Published April 1, 2017. If you never seen the beauty of the Great Lakes be prepared to fall in love.

I’m excited to announce my newest book: Saving Arcadia. This book gets back to my love of the outdoors and wilderness.

I grew up in a Great Lakes state – Ohio – but never really encountered the greatness of the Great Lakes until I moved north and lived in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. After graduate school, I landed a dream job preserving Great Lakes coastal habitat with a regional land trust in northern Michigan.

This book tells that story. A David and Goliath conservation adventure story that takes you behind the scenes into how a small community negotiated with a giant public utility to save 6,000 acres including a magnificent dune – and won against all odds.

For those of you who love nature, wild areas and beautiful beaches, this book is for you. It’s about the power of community, determination, inspiration, and deep down, a love of land and family. I wrote it to read like a gripping novel – like the real life adventure it was – and reviewers are agreeing:

“This work of creative nonfiction may be among the year’s best pieces of environmental drama so far.  Engaging, personal and lively, this tale of the Little Nonprofit that Could is a captivating and moving triumph. It is suspenseful in places, even gripping, and full of heart throughout. Accounts like these are what turn ordinary people into environmental activists.” ~ Foreword review

“You might not think a book about the struggle to wrest six thousand acres of Lake Michigan dunes from development would be a suspenseful adventure story, but [it’s] just that — a riveting story that spans decades about a small community of people who preserve a beloved tract against all odds.” ~ Northern Express

If you’ve read my first two books on parenting, be prepared for something new. The first books are about our relationships to our children. Saving Arcadia is about our relationship to our planet.

April (“Earth Month”) discounts of 30% off with code of SAV1.  This discount is good through the Wayne State University Press website, though you can order the book anywhere.

Book Launch parties in Traverse City, Michigan  April 8, 2017 at Bluewater Hall and in Arcadia, Michigan in July at Camp Arcadia.

Signed books are also available if you order through my local bookstores.

Happy Reading!

Posted in Agents and publishing, Good Reads | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

2 Responses to New Book Born: Saving Arcadia

  1. Congratulations, Heather. Looking forward to a great read.

  2. Mark from Arcadia says:

    Heather, great read, and I am proud of the sacrifice you made to save our dunes! Living among them, it make me shudder to think Baldy could have been covered with McMansions and golf courses. After work today, I will be hiking the dunes in your honor.

No Balls? No Kidding

What is the power of a ball to change play?

What is the power of a ball to change play?

Once in a while, an idea comes zipping through the air that startles me out of my old habits. I love it when a new idea upturns my day.

I know, I’m the renegade – I’m used to being the one who sends startling ideas out to others, ideas that upend stable ideas about parenting. But it’s nice to be on the receiving end sometimes.

This happened to me when I spoke recently with Dr. Debbie Rhea. She’s an incredible recess advocate who took a sabbatical to Finland, then returned to create LiiNK which focuses on more recess and more empathy. You’ll hear more about LiiNK and Debbie in a series of upcoming Renegade Rules podcast interviews this spring.  But for now…here’s a teaser.

LiiNK introduces schools to 4 recesses a day.  (Yes, four. That’s not a typo.)

I love it – though this didn’t shake my brain. You can read all about why kids need so much recess in my book It’s OK to Go Up the Slide. What she said next is what got me thinking:

“There are no balls allowed on the playground.”

What?!  Images of childhood games of Dodgeball and Kickball shot through my mind. I loved ball games at recess as a child. But here’s her reasoning – they intentionally wanted to promote unstructured, creative, kid-to-kid social play. The kind of play that naturally evolves when you put a bunch of children outside together. “When you have balls, kids use rules and turn them into a sport.”

Hmm. I’ve watched this happen. A ball in an elementary school playground becomes a soccer game. In most playgrounds I’ve witnessed, a ball segregates the boys from the girls. This seems to happen even when the girls regularly play soccer (or other ball sport) on a team, enjoy the sport and have skills. What would this same playground look like without balls?  How would the play change? It got me thinking.

Balls are terrific for play. Kids also use balls for all kinds of games, including creative ones they make up. I’m all for giving children a variety of props and environments to explore, balls included. But within the specific school-recess environment, would there be more creative, emotional, social and friendship learning with or without balls?

It’s a new idea. One LiiNK is exploring with powerful results. For now they’re working with the youngest kids, ages kindergarten through 2nd grade, and what’s good for recess may change as kids get older.

I’m not sure what I think of it yet. New ideas flop around for a while. The zing of a fresh idea can also hurt – our brains are pretty comfortable without change. But how wonderful to be open to new worlds when a new idea comes along.

What new ideas have startled you lately? What about balls on the elementary school playground? What would you see without them?

UpTheSlide final cover

Posted in Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

2 Responses to No Balls? No Kidding

  1. Wow. What a simple but radical concept. I’m with you, Heather. An intriguing idea but I wonder how it will pan out. I see both sides of the theory too, especially since I was one of those boys who always loved sports and competing. Maybe the trick is to use balls that aren’t sports-specific (ex; baseballs, footballs, soccer balls), but just generically round or unusually shaped balls that may foster creative play and game-inventing.

    No balls on a playground recess would probably lead to more games being invented that use other props or no props at all. I would expect to see more creativity and original thinking and playing among more kids, since the non-sporty types wouldn’t feel relegated to the sidelines like they do when most kids are playing kick ball or soccer or football.

  2. Debra says:

    Great question about props and environments. I like the Japanese school that left unicycles in the yard. Wish there were a site that collected and studies these; and helped our overtested students, undersupported teachers revitalize…

Founding a Better Kindergarten

Founding board members and families of the Red Oak Community School. No good kindergarten options in your area? Start one!

Some of the founding board members and families of the Red Oak Community School. No good kindergarten options in your area? Start one!

It’s time for some good news. If you’re looking for inspiration in the early childhood world, look no further than Cheryl Ryan and the brand new Red Oak Community School.

Her motto: “No grades, no homework, no testing.”

Like many parents, Cheryl noticed that kindergarten options were not good for the kindergarten-aged child. Cheryl’s from Columbus, Ohio, and already had her children at SYC (the Columbus preschool School for Young Children that inspired my books It’s OK Not to Share and It’s OK to Go Up the Slide), but SYC doesn’t include kindergarten. So what did she do? Together with a group of like-minded parents and teachers, she founded a new school catering to 5-8 year olds.

What’s amazing is that Red Oak went from idea to reality in just one year.

“People ask me: ‘Why didn’t you just homeschool your child?'” Cheryl told me. “This was easier.”

That’s right. According to Cheryl, starting a brand new school is fairly simple. Cheryl and her fellow visionaries brainstormed, filed for nonprofit status, found funding, hired teachers, found a building, and enrolled 35 students. Their first “let’s do this” brainstorm happened in August 2015. By September 2016, the school opened its doors to kids. Initially Red Oak is a K-2 school, with plans to expand up to age 14.

It’s a school where children love coming. It’s joy-filled learning with a strong dose of nature. Red Oak is a model for what we can do about kindergarten. So many caring adults lament that “kindergarten is the new first grade.” We need more kindergarten options that are healthy, good fits for children.

Worried about kindergarten options in your area? Start your own school.

  • find your tribe of like-minded families
  • file the paperwork
  • find a teacher(s) and space
  • enroll eager students

That’s the simplified version (setting up a school rules vary by state) but if you are dreaming about creating a place where kindergarten-aged children can THRIVE, then find out more about the nitty-gritties and listen to Cheryl’s shining example on our podcast interview. Cheryl was a guest on Renegade Rules podcast. Listen to the interview.

We all need inspiration. The world needs developmentally-appropriate kindergarten programs. If your town doesn’t have one, why not give your dreams some action and start one now?

Have any new kindergartens started in your area? Who are the visionaries who started a program you admire? Could you be another visionary?

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The Every Day Hero’s Job is Speaking Up

Speaking up is hard to do, but that's called courage.

Speaking up is hard to do, but that’s called courage.

I suppose the whole message of my “It’s OK” books is simply about speaking up.

Speaking up when something’s wrong. Speaking up directly child-to-child when a child doesn’t like something. Speaking up when the culture is at odds with what’s good for human beings. Speaking up if something is just plain wrong for life on this planet.

Sometimes we know something is wrong but we stay silent. That’s understandable, but make a resolution to practice courage. Silence can hurt. We hurt ourselves, our children and the people around us if we know something is wrong and don’t say anything.

For those of you who’ve bucked the system, questioned a teacher, family member or authority figure, disagreed with someone respectfully, been willing to state what you don’t like and work toward a solution together – you know it’s  hard. Extremely hard. Speaking up takes courage.

Speaking up is hard. It’s lonely. It takes practice. It’s daunting, difficult and downright frightening for most of us as adults. But if we learn this practice from childhood, it’s much easier. It also gets easier with practice. Courage begets courage.

The topics in my books cover speaking up in many forms: conflicts over sharing, conflicts over friendships, conflicts over anything, homework, recess-deprived children, strangers, body limits, feelings, ideas, respect. Fundamentally it’s all about respect and kindness.

On the eve of the U.S. presidential election, I’m speaking out in favor of kindness. No matter what your past or current political views, do not let your vote endorse a person with bullying, bigoted ideals and give him a seat of world power. It’s dangerous. If your views are conservative, support other conservatives on the ticket.

What we need — at all ages — is to make an effort to understand each other, take care of each other and respect each other.

Taking turns. Speaking up. Listening. Practicing emotional control.

As Winston Churchill said: “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

Have you found your courage lately? Have you ever known something was wrong “in your gut” for a long time before speaking up?  When’s the last time your practiced courage?

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