Monthly Archives: March 2013

Solo Adventures

Part of my research for my next book involves train travel, so I’ve been querying train companies in England.  Today I received an email with a highly satisfying answer: yes, kids can ride the train without an adult. As the … Continue reading

Posted in Parenting with Renegade Rules, Books for Kids | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

9 Responses to Solo Adventures

  1. My parents put me, my sister, and my aunt (also our age) on a train from Minneapolis to Milwaukee to visit our great grandparents’ farm in Elkhorn, WI. My sister and aunt were 9, I was 8 at the time. We were so-o-o-o scared to be leaving our parents, but had a great time on the farm, and came back much more confident (I presume- don’t remember a lot of the details of that trip). Back in the 60s we didn’t have Amtrak, just the Milwaukee Road or whatever that particular railroad was named.

    Of course, I don’t know if it took a lot of negotiation by our parents to let us travel alone, but we were met by the great grandparents in Milwaukee, so there was no chance of us getting into trouble unless we got off the train before Milwaukee, which we weren’t eager to do since we figured our only chance of survival was to trust these relatives we barely remembered from their last visit, maybe when we were 4 or 5.

    Other than that, we had pretty much free range of town once we got old enough to ride a bike, tell time, and understood bus schedules. It wasn’t unusual to ride bikes into Minneapolis to swim at one of the lakes or play miniature golf, or take the bus downtown to watch “BIlly Jack” 4 straight shows at the movie theater.

    That freedom was one of the best memories of my childhood, and I mourn that loss of adventure and freedom that today’s kids have. I think its huge for building independence and self-confidence.


    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Love the story of your train journey! Can’t do that with cars… It’s trips like that that really create memories – the independence of it is something that can only be experienced first hand. Hooray for the ‘Milwaukee Road.’

  2. Laurie says:

    “When we step to the side, kids can experience their own lives and adventures.”

    I respect your words of wisdom. My parents were huge advocates of this mindset. One small example is them putting my sister and I on an airplane in San Diego and flying us to our aunt and uncle in Chicago. We’d have a blast with them while mom and dad were making their way across county in the car. Then we’d have a family road trip back again. It was a win-win situation!

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Bet your parents enjoyed the peace and quiet of the long car drive, too! Definitely a win-win. Love your story.

  3. Zane says:

    This is interesting, Heather. I’ve been thinking a lot about the fact that so many children characters in classic books are orphans or away from their parents—because of a vacation or some other circumstance. I agree that it’s important to let children (fictional and real!) have their own adventures (parent-free). But I must admit that some of my favorite scenes from The Penderwicks (our recent favorite books) are the interactions between parents/adults and children. There is a lot of wisdom in the way these relationships are developed. The children struggle with certain aspects of their parents/adults, of course, but readers also feel very assured that the father, in particular, has a deep respect, admiration, and love for his daughters. And this love buoys the main characters throughout their darkest moments.

    So, I’m striving for that balance in my stories: creating children characters who have the freedom necessary to have proper adventures while also nurturing their relationships with wise adults.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      I’ve just been reading the Penderwicks myself! Lovely books. In these books, adults function to give the kids a good cornerstone of comfort and strength, but if you look at them, parents are still fairly absent. The mother is dead. The father is kindly but often lost in his own world walking in the woods looking at botanical specimens. The oldest girl basically raises the 4-year-old. In the third book the parents are completely gone and the kids are entrusted to an aunt (who conveniently sprains her ankle and is therefore out of commission).

      I do think your point about adults respecting kids and being there for them in their darkest moments is extremely important. In fiction and real life. Like Mr. Penderwick, or Dumbledore in Harry Potter, kids can turn to wise adults they respect in times of need and know they will be listened to.

  4. Deidra says:

    I never traveled like that as a child, but had a lot of freedom to roam the neighborhood. Rode our bikes or walked to friends, local store to buy candy. Took the bus to the mall to shop or see movies. I now live in NYC and try to give my 6 year old age appropriate independence whenever possible.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Trips to the candy store are just as important. Glad you experienced that freedom yourself and are finding ways to give that gift to your 6-year-old. It’s amazing to realize how much independence kids used to have, even in NYC (“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn…”).

  5. Cari says:

    I was pretty protected as a kid. I do remember the landmark day when I was allowed to walk to the corner candy store with only my friends. My mom did make us go the long way — to the end of the block where there was a stop sign, instead of jaywalking kiddie-corner. I also remember my first ten-speed and the freedom it afforded. Both were probably when I was 9-10ish. As a parent, I’m sometimes frustrated by the rules that limit our ability to incrementally expose our kids to independence, and thus build the self-confidence it requires to handle it. When my son was five, I started allowing him to go upstairs at the library by himself, either via stairs or elevator, while I took the other route and met him there. Turned out what I thought was a controlled lesson was violating library policy. Ironic, as one of my favorite kids’ books, no doubt available in that library, is Mop Top, about a six-year-old whose mom lets him go get his very own haircut –across vacant lots, no less!

When Should Homework Begin?

This country is fed up with excessive homework.  I know, because every day people stumble on my blog by typing in google searches such as “why there should be no homework” and “are there teachers who disagree with homework?” Some … Continue reading

Posted in Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

13 Responses to When Should Homework Begin?

  1. deidra says:

    I don’t believe in homework really ever. There is simply not enough time in the day. It’s not necessary. The few worksheets sent home aren’t going to make learning happen anytime sooner. Kids spend 7 hours a day in school being told what to do by adults. For those of us who work, our kids spend another couple of hours in afterschool, again being told what to do by adults. What precious little time there is at home needs to be kids figuring out what they want to do and spend time on the things that they choose. Developing there own interests.

    Yes, sleep is the most important thing kids need to learn. Young kids under the age of 10, need between 10-11 hours of sleep a night. I plan on telling my son’s teacher every year, that sleep is a priority over any project or assignment.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      I hear you! Bravo – keep spreading the word. Your point about after school “extended day” programs is good – so many, many kids are in LOONNGGG days, starting at 6am with before school care and going to 6pm with extended day until their parents can pick them up. This is a grueling schedule for anyone, and kids need to collapse when they get home.

      And SLEEP. Our nation is a sleep-deprived nation. Love your priorities – sleep over assignments! Sleep is what gives kids good learning, memory and focus.

  2. Angie Lathrop says:

    I just read “One World Schoolhouse” by Sal Khan (of Khan Academy), and he had an interesting section about his experience at MIT: basically, he stopped going to lectures and instead simply worked on the problem sets or reading or writing or whatever it was during the “school day”–this enabled him to take twice as many classes because he wasn’t spending so much time in passive mode.

    His point was that people learn when they are engaged, and what I’m starting to see with my 8th grader is more lecture-type classes (which rarely engage him) and then the problems or writing or other assignments are supposed to be done outside of school hours. Which makes no sense, because wouldn’t it be better to be doing the actual work when the teacher is there to help?

    That’s where the concept of “flipping the classroom” is gaining a lot of attention: Assign the video lectures (not too long, though) as homework (if you must have homework), and then use school time to actually do the work. The teacher is freed to help students as they need it, instead of us poor parents struggling to remember how to calculate the slope of a line and put it into y= mx+ b format…

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Love these new ideas about schooling. I was one who always fell asleep during lectures. With the prevalence of videos these days to teach all sorts of things, this makes a lot of sense.

  3. Laurie says:

    Heather – I love your ideas about engagement. Fantastic post – thank you!

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Thanks – yes, engagement is a struggle for teachers who really want to connect with parents. I think ‘homework for parents’ actually bridges that gap better than homework for kids.

  4. April says:

    I was a preschool and then a first-grade teacher for many years. Now my own son is in preschool. His teacher very occasionally (like maybe three times a year) sends home an assignment like the one we did last week, where each child made a scrapbook page about themselves and took it to school to make a class book. I think “homework” like this helps bridge the gap between home and school, and it was a fun project my son did almost entirely himself. This is the kind of occasional homework I liked when I taught as well, and there was never a penalty if a child did not complete it. I do not like worksheets for homework, and I think the point I’d stress is that it should be occasional – not every day or even every week. I love your idea for assignments for parents. As a teacher, parents used to ask me what they could do to reinforce their first-grader’s learning at home. I’d say, “read to them. Read to them a lot.” Most parents would blink and stammer on with, “well yeah, but what else?” I totally agree that kids spend seven hours in school a day, which is too long for elementary school, in my opinion. They don’t need to be doing school at home, too.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      “Read to them a lot.” Bravo! I like your comments about occasional projects, too. When things are occasional, it can make it a fun project. Thanks for writing.

  5. Pingback: Interview with Heather Shumaker, Author of “It’s OK NOT to Share” (plus GIVEAWAY!) | Abundant Life Children

  6. Shanna says:

    I am a K-2 teacher and mom of rising 1st and 5th graders. I couldn’t agree more with your post! I think it would be better for teachers to think of discussion topics for parents and children. The next day, IN SCHOOL, a quick journaling or wikki post could summarize what they all discovered. It engages parents with their children while still allowing kids to be kids and play outside or enjoy activities they want to pursue afterschool such as art, music, dance, gymnastics, or just downtime.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Discussion topics – love it. So many healthier ways to engage parents and children with school learning than the typical homework assignments.

  7. Wendy says:

    I am a second grade teacher with a 2nd grade child myself so I can see things from both sides. I taken in all these comments from both teachers and parents. I am coming to the understanding that tasks/assignments one per school term would be the best way to go. These tasks/assignments also need to tap into all the ways children learn and not just the numeracy/literacy type work sheets that you often see.
    Home life is stressful enough without adding more battlegrounds by having more school work to do. I think activities such as those mentioned above where the parent gets to know what the children are learning about in that term are worthwhile. I used to think work sheets every week would help the children bridge the gap for what they dont know….but I have totally changed my view now.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      I love hearing from teachers who are also parents. So glad you had the perception and courage to change your view. Once a term? That sounds like a doable schedule. The kids in your class are lucky to have you.

Most Popular Posts – Sticks, No Homework and more

My first blog post went up last spring.  I had one reader the first day.  Since then I’ve welcomed more than 35,000 readers to this “renegade” blog.  Whew!  Thanks to each and every thoughtful reader. Today I’d like to share … Continue reading

Posted in Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

4 Responses to Most Popular Posts – Sticks, No Homework and more

  1. Laurie says:

    Heather – It’s a pleasure to be one of your many subscribers. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed each and every post!

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Thank you, Laurie! Thanks so much for following along. It’s great to have you.

  2. deidra says:

    This is wonderful. I am so happy to have found your blog. I have many renegade rules for life. Get dirty when playing, throwing rocks(in water, at trees, down a hill), cereal for dinner when everyone is too tired for words, letting little boys wear nail polish or wear dresses, etc.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Glad you found it, too! Love your all renegade rules – especially your first one “get dirty when playing” sums up so much. Thanks, for sharing!