Author Archives: Heather Shumaker

Climbing UP the Slide

If you’ve ever been on a U.S. playground, you know one of the biggest controversies is this: should kids be allowed to go up the slide? The fact the question exists at all shows there’s a split between what’s good … Continue reading

Posted in Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

5 Responses to Climbing UP the Slide

  1. Erika Cedillo says:

    I’ve think of this issue many times. Mainly when my oldest was very little (she’s now 5) and I kind of “learned” that you should teach them to go on their bump. But in the back of my mind I would also think that going up is also fun, but I held myself from encouraging her to do it. Until she was older and more stable (3years), I realized that at her daycare they had a slide where they were allowed and kind of encouraged to climb up and that was an aha! moment for me. It was just a matter of waiting for her to be older and stronger to practice that skill. Now with my second that is 17 months, we are in the process of teaching her to go down on her bump only while her sister explores going up. I finally understood it’s a matter of safety and development. As for the harsh look of other parents, I think the only issue is you make sure your children don’t take over the slide and allow others to have a chance, and to teach them of being mindful of younger children. Going up or down, I think it’s a matter of physical ability and they need to learn what they can do! Don’t you remember how strong you felt when doing that? I like to see how proud she feels when she masters a new challenge, a new structure.

  2. My little babe just started going down slides (at 17 months) and she already tries to climb up them also! It must be some rite of childhood!

  3. Christy Qualin says:

    If other kids aren’t gonna slide down when my toddler is trying to climb up, I’m okay with it. Have never encountered negative vibes or comments from other adults. My playground pet peeve tho is people who bring their dogs! It’s for kids, not dogs!

  4. Jan Waters says:

    All kids, I believe if left alone, want to go up the slide at some point. The only problem I see is that some want to go up while some are coming down. But then what a wonderful opportunity to problem solve a conflict!! Jan

  5. David Parker says:

    Just make sure you don’t let our nanny government decide!

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Playing Dead

It’s easy to idealize childhood. Sometimes we forget just how much young kids have to grapple with. Death, for instance. Even kids who have not been personally touched by death are trying to understand mortality. Think about it. A young … Continue reading

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

6 Responses to Playing Dead

  1. deidra says:

    I had to talk openly about death with my child at an early age. My mother died of cancer many years ago before he was born. He started to ask questions about her and I was very honest with him. I simply said, she was sick and the doctors couldn’t make her better and that she was in heaven now. Interestingly, a year later a friend of mine delivered prematurely and the baby lived about a month and then died. My son knew she had been pregnant. We didn’t see them a whole lot and I kept my fingers crossed he wouldn’t ask about the baby. Well, as luck would have it he did. Again, I told him the baby was very sick and the doctors couldn’t make him better. My sweet little boy said(he was 4 years old), “I think the baby is in heaven and your mom is taking care of him.”

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Oh, that’s a sweet story. Thanks for sharing, Deidra. Glad you have been open to talking about death with your child. He will gain so much comfort and wisdom from your approach.

  2. As my babe is only 17 months, I don’t have experience with this yet. But since we live with a house full of animals (some old) and keep chickens, I know that she will encounter death with some of them while she is at a young age. I believe in telling the truth and not sugar coating things. Some people use phrases like “going over the rainbow bridge”, etc, and I think that is confusing. Death is a fact of life, so I think being open about it is important, even with a young child.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      I haven’t heard the “rainbow bridge” one! Sounds as if your child will have lots of personal encounters with animal death. That can be so helpful. Glad you are approaching the topic as a simple part of the life cycle. I predict you’ll have many meaningful conversations ahead! Thanks for writing.

  3. Heather, Our now-adult son learned about death through the loss of pets, making the transition to the death of human beings that we knew a little easier to understand and cope with.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Yes, pets do help kids learn about loss, death and grief, don’t they? I believe you’re right – it makes the transition to losing humans more understandable.

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Lessons from a Pirate Ship Cake

My kindergartener loves pirates, so we concocted a pirate cake for his birthday party. I love the process of turning a child’s wish into reality. The ship was three-tiered, complete with poop deck, bowsprit, topsails, gun ports and a chocolate … Continue reading

Posted in Celebrating Holidays, Cool Cakes and Costumes, Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

5 Responses to Lessons from a Pirate Ship Cake

  1. deidra says:

    WOW is all I can say!

  2. What a great mom! I would’ve killed for a birthday cake like that when I was 8 yrs old.

    My weakness is hanging on to financial documents way past when I need to. Not sure why, I just do, but am mentally working up to the day I start shredding the oldest of them.

    I have no trouble eating any culinary masterpiece either I’ve created (rare) or have eaten in a finer restaurant (a bit less rare, but we don’t eat out at fancy places very often).

    Chris

  3. Erika Cedillo says:

    I loved your post!! Thanks for the reminder of focusing on to the process, the memories, the experiences and relationships… and to let go.
    I hang on to every single craft my children do as if I would like to document every stage and how their abilities evolve. What I’ve came up to is to create a digital file so I take a picture of everything and now I have a big digital photo album that only takes virtual space but that I can go back to and see their crafts. Then I just choose the very special ones and I restrict myself to just 3 (well maybe 4-5) for every 6 months or so and then let go the rest because all are in photos.

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The Emotions of Help

I trained both my kids to pack their own lunch boxes before the start of school. The other day I finished my morning routine early and casually asked my 8-year-old if he wanted help. “Help?!” he retorted, scorn in his … Continue reading

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

2 Responses to The Emotions of Help

  1. I admire that you assign tasks by child, temperament, and capability.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Thanks, Laurie. I remember your parents also tailored tasks to fit each child. Personalities do come different!

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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!

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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.

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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.

    Chris

  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!

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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

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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.

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Castle Cake

January is cake time in our family. My youngest has a birthday and we have fun making elaborate cakes. For his 4th birthday he asked for a castle cake with a princess coming out of it. Thought you’d like to … Continue reading

Posted in Celebrating Holidays, Cool Cakes and Costumes | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

8 Responses to Castle Cake

  1. Holy Toledo – that’s FANTASTIC!

    Ahoy Matey, I’m looking forward to photos of the pirate ship!

    May 2014 be filled with simple, slow moments that nourish your soul.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Thank you, Laurie. I’ll let you know what the pirate ship looks like. Maybe we could use tootsie rolls for cannons.

  2. You’re one cool mom, Heather! If my mom had made a cake for me like that when I was four, I might have keeled over from excitement right then and there.

    No tips for a pirate ship other than don’t try to make tall masts or yardarms from cake.(duh) I’d use colored straws or thin wooden dowels.

    Happy New Year.

    Chris

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      I was thinking of pretzel rods for the masts and bowsprit and maybe yards as well. Still debating about the sails…

  3. Katie says:

    Funny that I read this post today, because I just got cleaning out some old picture albums and found a picture of a hamburger shaped cake that I made for my brother’s birthday when I was taking a Wilton cake decorating course. I made two 8″ round yellow cakes for the buns, then frosted them. I made a 8″ chocolate for the “burger” and edged the top of that with some red and green for the “lettuce” and “ketchup”. It looked pretty good!

  4. jenifer says:

    Great cake! When my princess-obsessed daughter turns 4 in September, I’ll have to pull it out. Then again, maybe I can wow her with a minimized version when her sister turns 1 in February. :)

    Could you use wontons for sails? Maybe brushed with butter and sprinkled with sugar?

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Have fun with your birthday castles! Ooh – and thanks for the sail idea. Never would have thought of that.

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New Discoveries and Read Along

Last week my writing group met for a joint book signing at a local bookstore.  We call ourselves the Powerfingers.  And indeed we lived up to the name this month – between us we signed two book deals and a … Continue reading

Posted in Agents and publishing, Good Reads, Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

10 Responses to New Discoveries and Read Along

  1. Anne-Marie says:

    Wow, Heather, thanks bunches. You are so right; we can’t do it alone. The writing may start in the attic, but in short order, we (and most writers) are at that communal table, turning to a few key people for those essential perceptions of the all-important Reader. Plus it’s fun. Thanks for doing this.

  2. Cari Noga says:

    Thanks for sharing, Heather. It occurred to me recently how there are five of us, and five fingers on a hand, which curls up into a fist. Nice metaphor for the smashing impact we have on each other’s work, and hopefully on readers, too.

  3. Heather – Oh what a fun introduction to your PowerFinger cohorts and for sharing their books as well. Write on!

  4. I have your book – got it just a few days ago. It’s a book I want to give to family, friends, and schools. And I’m only half way through it. Thank you for writing it!

  5. Julie says:

    Hi Heather,

    Is there a way to find preschools following your renegade rules in Massachusetts?

    Sincerely,
    Julie

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Julie – Hmm…I will have to put that question out to readers. Thanks to readers, I now know of some fantastic play-based preschools in Iowa, Connecticut, California, Ohio, etc. Let’s see what we can find out.

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