Monthly Archives: January 2014

A Musical Renegade

A beloved Renegade died this week. You probably know him. Pete Seeger. His sing-alongs unified millions. His ideas sometimes shocked folks. Like this typical Pete anecdote –  Pete walked by the living room where his grandson and a friend were … Continue reading

Posted in Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

9 Responses to A Musical Renegade

  1. Fleda Brown says:

    Wonderful post, Heather. Thank you for taking the time to talk about him.

  2. Jan Waters says:

    Pete has been a role model for us all at the School for Young Children. He will be greatly missed. Jan Waters

  3. No kids, but I sing just about every day. Usually sing along with recordings by “good” singers, since I need an extra large bucket in which to carry a tune. Singing is wonderfully invigorating and empowering, knowing that you can, either alone or with a large group (which is spectacular, hundreds singing along together in four-part harmony), permanently impress into someone’s mind a message, a feeling, an emotion. The same goes for playing a musical instrument.

    One thing I was fortunate to have in my family when I was growing up was the love of music. We learned all the old folk songs by listening to my parents’ records. Also had them some in elementary music classes, but most came from listening at home. That’s something that should be re-emphasized in schools- music first of all, but folk songs in particular, since they so often represent our common roots as well as our heritage and nationality.

    Some of the greats even changed the world.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      I love what you said – “folk songs in particular, since they so often represent our common roots as well as our heritage and nationality.” Plus learning others’ folk songs – they tell so much about a place and people.

  4. Nikki Stahl says:

    I loved this post, Heather! (well, I love them all whether I agree or not). You always make me think. Thank you!

Why Less School is Good

It’s another Snow Day for our local schools today. A day of universal rejoicing around here. Of course, unexpected Snow Days add inconvenience for adults. For me, that means scurrying to reschedule interviews and arrange last minute sitters, but most … Continue reading

Posted in Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

15 Responses to Why Less School is Good

  1. Elizabeth Dell says:

    So glad you shared this with your readers Heather. It is a fantastic article that I wish was required reading for every educator and policy maker.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Thanks for sending it on, Elizabeth!

      Perhaps the policy makers need it most. So many teachers understand play’s value but have a lot of requirements to follow.

  2. Holly Dean says:

    So true. And not to mention the absurd amounts of homework children have to do. How are children supposed to find themselves or explore what they want if they have no private time or ME time? It blows my mind that more people don’t think about how their own children spend the majority of their time. The excuse that all that time is required to learn is refuted when one realized it only takes about 100 hrs to learn to read, write, and do basic math. My children unschool.. and it’s the most wonderful gift I could have possibly given them. We don’t have to make jokes about going someplace we dislike every single day until the age of 18.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      This is really meaning of life, isn’t it? How we spend our time, both as children and adults. Life is the gift of time and we have to decide what to do with it.

      Glad the unschooling works for your family. Good for you! Though I know school can be marvelous – I loved my elementary school so much that I was sad about weekends – so school can be done right.

  3. Martha Amezquita says:

    I agree but in Calif. Even in the suburbs I would never let them go alone to the park. Sad sign of the times out here.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      I hear you. Every neighborhood has its own situation and I know you’ll find another spot for your kids to gain that independence.

  4. Zane says:

    Hooray for snow days, free time, play, and homeschooling! We cherish our “open space” time around here too and consider it the very best gift. When I was in college I took a wonderful class team taught by three professors from different disciplines. They included “open space” in our schedule — a classroom period for which nothing was planned. Those “open space” days resulted in some of the most memorable and through-provoking conversations I remember. It was a lesson well taken!

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Love your story of open space days. What wonderful professors to recognize the value of open space time and the life long lessons you obviously absorbed so well.

  5. Katie says:

    I agree. Letting a child use their brains and bodies for what they want to do, instead of following the exact instructions on a page, will hopefully encourage creative thinking. Even in my little 15 month old babe, I find that she is learning more new things just by entertaining herself, rather than by me sitting down with her and trying to have her put the puzzle pieces in the correct spot.

  6. Jill Dodds says:

    We were remembering you fondly this evening Heather and your fantastic presentation you gave us! Tomorrow we are hosting Peter Gray for our conference. Another wonderful learning opportunity supporting the importance of play! Stay warm!

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Enjoy every minute of your time with Peter Gray. Thanks for your fond remembrances. Keep opening doors in Iowa!

  7. Thanks again for spreading the renegade word to the world, Heather. The US education system needs a massive overhaul and you have many of the answers to the questions that everyone doesn’t quite know how to ask because they don’t understand one of the root problems with regard to education–the inability of a rigid system to cater to millions of individuals.

  8. deidra says:

    I loved snow days as a child. I wish I could stay home on snow days with my child. I work and it would mean using up one of my precious vacation days that I like to save for summer vacation, time off at the holidays, school field trips, etc. I am a big proponent of less school, more play and the like. But these snow days are so hard on working parents. It is easier for us to buck the system and take a sick day if we need a day off.

It’s Not a Choice

Our culture loves choice. Ever feel overwhelmed by it all? Go to the grocery store and there are 15 types of bread. Eighty types of snack food. In my grocery store, there must be at least 30 types of crackers … Continue reading

Posted in Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

8 Responses to It’s Not a Choice

  1. Heather – We need to cut kids some slack. I was 50 years old before I realized that, “Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing” (a choice).

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Yes, recognizing choices is tricky. Love your wise motto! Everyone should have it in a visible place for daily reminders.

  2. I have no kids, but I’m one of those who is more and more overwhelmed by choice, most notably at the grocery store, like Heather mentioned. I also see overwhelming choice in other areas: cars, movies, TV shows, internet websites and activities, restaurants, clothing, you name it, there are often too many choices to be manageable.

    That’s why I think there is a slight advantage to living in a small town. Choice is limited by geography if nothing else.


  3. Anne says:

    Hello Heather! I was wondering if you could recommend any pre-schools in or near traverse city, that are on the eco friendly side, if they even exist here? Do you know anything about the “Human Nature” school or the cooperative preschool?< I have been curious about your book for a while, will have to read it. Thanks!
    Will, check for response.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Hmm…I’ve never observed at the Human Nature school, and I always think you should observe before judging a place. I have heard from a few families who enjoy it there. Waldorf schools tend to have a naturey side, and there are 1-2 small programs in TC and Benzie. The cooperative preschool does a good job with play but doesn’t particularly emphasize nature or get outside much. My all around favorite preschool in the area is the Leelanau Children’s Center in Leland and Northport. They get outside and have gardens and animals, and their commitment to free play is top notch. Enjoy the book!

  4. As always, very clearly explained and right on the money. Looking forward to sharing this with friends and family. Thanks!

A Case Against ‘Use your Words’

When there’s trouble afoot –  a child grabs a toy or pushes someone – it’s common to hear a nearby adult say “Use your words.” That’s frustrating for kids. “Use your words” isn’t enough information. Which words?  What do I … Continue reading

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

4 Responses to A Case Against ‘Use your Words’

  1. I always thought the phrase, “that’s not nice” was pretty lame. Words like “nice” which are so vague, probably confuse children more than they instruct or guide them. “Be nice to him.” “If you’re nice to her, she might let you play with her toy.” I think the more specific you are with kids, the better they learn and understand how to handle situations.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Right on! “Nice” and “good” as well as “bad” are all vague words. Being specific works wonders.

  2. Another great post, Heather! You asked, “What other phrases do you hear adults commonly use that bug you?”

    It grates the bajeebers out of me to hear a parents say, “I’m going to count to three.” In my perspective, that’s BEGGING the child to push the envelope to three (five, seven or nineteen). And more to the point, when they get to the “magical” three and don’t do anything (don’t back up their “threat” with whatever it was they promised).

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Ah, yes, counting is very popular among parents. I’ve never done counting with my children. Never done time outs, either. But, boy, they certainly do get limits set on their behavior.