Author Archives: Heather Shumaker

Joys of a Burned Finger

My son burned his finger the other day as he was helping me cook. I love it when these things happen. Not the pain, of course. What I love is when kids engage in real life and learn how to … Continue reading

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4 Responses to Joys of a Burned Finger

  1. Cari Noga says:

    I was astonished this weekend when at an overnight SCOUT camp all the children were told by the director NOT to run outdoors as they might trip and get hurt. I thought Scouting was supposed to be all about outdoor activity! On a similar note, a friend shared how her son’s finger started bleeding at soccer practice after being hit by a ball (who would have thunk, at a soccer practice?) The hit aggravated a prior injury, which the 8-year old calmly explained. My friend, however, who had taken her other two children for a walk away from the field, subsequently received a stern notice that the soccer league was not a drop-off program, that coaches were not responsible (!) and parents were required to be in physical attendance at all times. For safety’s sake, of course. Good grief.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Oh my. No running outdoors at Scout camp? Now there’s a place where children should be experiencing burned fingers – from building campfires. And running!

  2. Jenifer says:

    I love this! I’ve pretended I didn’t see “no running” signs in places where it made no sense to me to limit running. And since my kids can’t yet read, they were none the wiser. :)

    I also love the idea of teaching them how to fall, as well as teaching other safety skills (such as how to cross the street). But I’m not always sure of the best ways to do that teaching, or how to judge that the kids understand a skill well enough to tackle the next challenge (such as crossing the street alone).

    I’ve read Gavin de Becker’s “Protecting The Gift” and I’m familiar with (but need to revisit now that my kids are older) Free Range Kids. Do you have other good resources for helping parents give their kids the skills they need to take reasonable risks and assess which ones the kids are ready for?

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What’s Fair and What’s Equal

We don’t want to play favorites. That’s a basic tenet of raising kids. Yet our quest for impartiality can get in the way of recognizing, supporting or celebrating one child. Don’t play favorites, that’s still true, but kids can handle … Continue reading

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One Response to What’s Fair and What’s Equal

  1. One of my biggest pet peeves is how most people freely interchange the terms “fair” and “equal.” Equal is rarely fair, and fair should rarely be equal. Why? Because we are all unique!

    I feel stuck sometimes, especially with kids when they all want the approval of adults. Your example of praising the 12-yr-old and the father immediately mentioning his other children is a great example. Let the ones being praised have their 100% moment of glory. and insist on the same treatment when the next child has his/her success.

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Making Room for Justice

What would you say if you saw a group of eight 1st and 2nd grade boys excluding a girl from their running game? Possibly this: Sexism. Girls discriminated against. Our adult minds leap to what seems obvious. We might sigh … Continue reading

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2 Responses to Making Room for Justice

  1. Meghan Owenz says:

    Love this! I call it “natural consequences.” Children learn from natural consequences if adults don’t step in and stop them from happening. The little girl’s behavior had a natural consequence – the children didn’t want to play with her any longer. I bet she learned from it too.

  2. Excellent observation. I’m amazed that everything you say about raising children is 100% common sense and based on how children see their world, not an adult’s interpretation of a child’s world.

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Debunking ‘Choice’ in Children’s Behavior

Choice gets a bad name in early childhood. Adults scold kids about the “choices” they make on a daily basis: “That was not a good choice” (when she hits her brother). Or perhaps we interrogate: “Was that a good choice … Continue reading

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2 Responses to Debunking ‘Choice’ in Children’s Behavior

  1. Sarah says:

    Thank you for this. After working in a handful of daycare centers when I was in college, I am horrified and often repulsed to see how that time has snuck its way into my parenting. I tend to default back to those years and I hate it. This is one of those phrases that I have heard, that I have USED, but it has always bugged me, though I couldn’t put my finger on why.

    I love the phrase “neutral and helpful.” So much more effective.

  2. Keith says:

    “It’s ok to go up the slide.” What a great title for a book!

    Thanks for the helpful article, it was very enlightening. I’ll keep it in mind with my little ones (8 and 6, both going on 41).

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It’s Time to Go UP the Slide

The book is here! I’m on the radio today celebrating the release of It’s OK to Go Up the Slide, and everywhere I go – from Denver to Vancouver to Boston – I’m hearing people share the stress points in … Continue reading

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12 Responses to It’s Time to Go UP the Slide

  1. Deidra says:

    congrats!

  2. Roberta Horne says:

    Congratulations Heather! I look forward to reading it!

  3. Congratulations on your new book release, Heather. I see you’ll be in Madison next month at UWWI. Hope to see you there to say hi and get an autographed copy.

    Chris

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Chris, Yes I’ll be there. Will be good to see you and looking forward to signing a copy for you.

  4. On the topic questions you posed, the biggest stress I see is overscheduling of children by their parents. I think downtime has gotten pushed aside because everyone wants their kid to be the best and brightest at whatever the establishment tells them we need. Today it’s STEM, ten years ago it was computer anything, tomorrow it may be stand up comedy for all I know. Give kids “dead time” to just sit, think, daydream, imagine, ponder, ask questions, and I think they have a much better chance of deciding for themselves what path their lives should take.

    Chris

  5. Warmest congratulations!

  6. Crystal says:

    Please know that I am only trying to understand the logic in no homework when I ask: ” Are your beliefs of over scheduling after school the same for children with learning difficulties? Those that are playing catch up in school and who’s neuro’s suggest non typical practice of social skills and discrete trail ABA?” What is your take on that? For our family I think we have fined tuned knowing limits of my son and that he benefits more from being led outside his comfort zones. That for us is a little social and academic work Afterschool but mostly goal oriented fun. He benefits both scheduled time after school and free time. Most often free time is a new science project that he has come up with:). With the other subjects he looks to be led until he is confident or NEEDS to be led to build confidence. Again, this is all scheduled until he is indepedant. What are your thoughts?

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Such an astute question. I think the idea behind homework and no homework is this: the family needs to be in charge of what’s best for the child during after school hours. Depending on family philosophy and needs of each child, after school time can be many different things. You said it well yourself “I think we have fine tuned knowing the limits of my son.” Keep finding that balance.

      As families with special needs children know, there are not only more challenges, there are also more appointments that eat up a child’s day. It’s an enormous balancing act to give kids the playtime and emotional release they need. Homework to me is an assignment dictated by the school to be done on family time. Home goals are everything you do to support your child, your whole child. Thanks for writing, Crystal.

  7. ray wills says:

    Read your interview article in THE NEWS today your title for the new book is excellent Its so good to see that you understand the importance of free play in a childs life.I have recently moved here from England UK where i was very involved in play provision for many decades establishing adventure playgrounds and managing town wide play programmes. I admin a facebook page on play and also write non fiction and poetry.I wish you every success with the new book .Im looking for publisher for mine which is a history of organised play provision over the years largely based on my own experiences.Take good care ,Ray Wills

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Welcome, Ray! I wish you every success in helping to establish adventure playgrounds here in the US. Your experience will be invaluable. Also best of luck on finding the right publisher for your history of play book. Redleaf Press often publishes good play books. Perhaps they would be a good fit?

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Who has Mentored You?

I was in California last week, the home state of Bev Bos, legendary early childhood advocate and mentor to thousands. She died the week before I spoke on Feb. 4, and it was fitting that I should be addressing a … Continue reading

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6 Responses to Who has Mentored You?

  1. My dad was a great mentor. He quietly persevered through whatever came his way, and showed me the value of play, sports, discipline, and practicing to get better.

    Another mentor is one of my two best friends, Dennis. The great lesson he taught me was life is too short to save all the fun and recreation until retirement. He’s had great balance between work and play in his life, and my life is richer because he taught me that by example.

    Chris

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Chris, Thanks for sharing your mentors. Dennis’s example is something so rare these days – and yes, we need to see the living embodiment of it – balancing play and work. As my father says, “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.”

  2. Jan Waters says:

    Thank you for recognizing and remembering Bev Bos. She was the best! Jan Waters

  3. Debbie Silver says:

    I was sad to read your post about Bev. I heard her speak many times and even had the pleasure of having dinner with her at an event! Every time I read (or reread) one of her books, I learned something new. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a compilation of all her wonderful and inspiring quotes, like the one you posted!!!

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      So glad you got to meet her, and isn’t it amazing how we are ready to hear certain messages only as time goes on? Good for you re-reading Bev’s wisdom – and I’m looking forward to seeing what quotes you collect!

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Go Up the Slide with Early Bird Gifts

Author update: Early bird gifts extended to March 13, 2016. A box arrived on my doorstep from Penguin Random House this week. I thought it was THE BOOK. Instead it was a batch of lovely postcards from the publisher, but … Continue reading

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4 Responses to Go Up the Slide with Early Bird Gifts

  1. Deidra says:

    Congrats!

  2. Anne Donn says:

    Congratulations on your new book. So happy to hear that it’s release is getting close. I love the title. What a great way of seeing the world, as you go up the slide. All is well here.

  3. Saundra Fischer says:

    I am so excited about your new book! Your work has probably influenced me more as a parent and educator than any other author. Meeting you was a highlight last year. Thank you for all that you do!

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Of Karate Kids and Soccer Moms

Karate. Ballet. Soccer. Swimming. Hockey. Art lessons. Music lessons. Theater class. Children’s choir.  The number of enrichment classes out there for children is mind-blowing. Chances are, if you have kids, you’ve signed your child up for one of these fun-filled … Continue reading

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Fantastic Fiction: Encouraging Young Writers

As our family moves through public school, I’ve heard six years’ worth of teachers explain why kids don’t write fiction in their class. “Frankly, kids aren’t very good at fiction. They only write about explosions, aliens and robots,” one teacher … Continue reading

Posted in Joyful Literacy | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

9 Responses to Fantastic Fiction: Encouraging Young Writers

  1. deidra says:

    Yes fiction writing is alive and well in our school. My son’s stories are so creative. He is becoming a great story teller. Is his spelling, grammar, and punctuation perfect? Absolutely not. There stories sometimes don’t flow very well, but most importantly they are really creative, funny and strange.

  2. ann says:

    I think the problem is teaching to the tests. It is crazy high stakes in public schools that have not found a creative way around to actually teach kids. For those schools that find ways to actually teach, they often find ways to develop the creativity in kids. Creativity in one area helps in other areas. The problem is when you feel like you only have time to teach the facts, the basics, the test, then you can look at creativity as a luxury instead of a necessity. I sure hope this will change soon.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Thanks for your comments, Ann. You’re right, it must seem like a luxury, and you’re so right how creativity flows from one area to the next.

  3. I’m so happy you wrote this one. My best childhood moments were being alone, making up wild stories about witches and queens, and yes, even princes and princesses, but the witches, oh I had such good and terrible witches. And in these fantasies, I was allowed to die and resurrect on a regular basis. It is truly the basis for an active imagination.

  4. Jan Waters says:

    What are they doing to creativity???? They are dumbing down kids’ education! Who are these people who don’t value the creative spirit? Preschoolers write wonderful stories and an adult can write it down. We are not educating scholars we are educating technicians. Jan

  5. Anna says:

    That teacher’s reasoning is so crazy. I presume she has also cancelled math, since some kids aren’t that good at it? And art – after all, 6-year-olds’ drawings are hardly known for artistic merit. In my first years of piano lessons, my playing really sucked – clearly my parents should have quit giving me music lessons. In fact, isn’t it the very nature of any skill that needs to be taught and/or practiced, that the student is bad at the beginning?

  6. Katrin says:

    My son’s teacher has them write journal pages twice a week. They all have a blank top for a picture and then lines to write something. Some start with prompters such as “I wish”, “My Mom”, “I wonder”.
    He writes the most hilarious 1-4 sentence stories in his first grade spelling with really simple but extremely expressive pictures.
    I wish there was more writing and encouraging to write, but it seems like I should be happy about what his teacher already does.

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Flash Card Babies

This morning I watched a mother hold her six-month-old baby. They were watching a screen together and the mother was singing along a counting song. “Twenty-two, twenty-three…” There was nothing truly wrong with the scene except expectations. The baby was … Continue reading

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9 Responses to Flash Card Babies

  1. So much common sense wisdom in such a simple message. Thank, Heather.

  2. Erika Cedillo says:

    Absolutely loved this post Heather, thank you! I know parents that have been doing flashcards with their kids since very early in their life, for me it didn’t feel good. Now your post has put it so clear. It is about time, but give time for every stage of development and allow them to play and let them get the concepts at a more appropriate time. Take time, don’t rush time, loved this!
    And I specially liked when you talk about parents dreading their kids fall behind, once again this is another issue that is about the parents and not the kids. I’ve worked, and keep working, on keeping my own expectations at bay and just allow my daughters to unfold their beautiful and brilliant characters at their own time.
    Thanks again!!

  3. Kirsten says:

    To my nearly 4-year-old, “yesterday” is any day that was in the past. Certainly makes things confusing for us when she’s talking about something that occurred almost a year ago, but she’s formulating how time works. She knows Tuesday is recycle truck day, but I have no idea if she understands the frequency of that occurrence, and that’s okay. She’ll get there and I’m so grateful to have advocates like you.

  4. Anna says:

    I remember reading something somewhere (maybe an REI site?) pointing out that before you try to “teach” your baby something, you need to ask yourself what he would have been learning in that time that you’ve now displaced, and which was more important.

    If the kid is 6 months old, there’s not even any kind of doubt: what nature was teaching him during those minutes was far more important than the numbers or letters you decided to drill: e.g., sensory integration, correlation of cause-and-effect, the fundamentals of universal grammar, recognition of key phonemes in his native language. . .

    Anybody who thinks counting or memorizing the number series is more important than these things is simply a moron, and shouldn’t be trying to direct anybody’s education.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Lovely point. I often think in terms of “opportunity cost.” What are you giving up to make time for what you are doing?

  5. fionasamummy says:

    I used to sing numbers to baby B when I was so exhausted I couldnt think of any songs. Great article though.

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