Author Archives: Heather Shumaker

Happy Homework: When is elementary homework OK?

If you’ve read my “No Homework” post, you know that our family has banned homework for our elementary school-aged kids for several years. Is homework for kids K-6th grade ever OK? Yes. There is such a thing as “Happy Homework.” … Continue reading

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One Response to Happy Homework: When is elementary homework OK?

  1. Pingback: Why We Say "NO" to Homework - Starlighting MamaStarlighting Mama

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Reading Aloud for a Lifetime

My first child learned to read early. Soon after, he announced, “I don’t need bedtime stories anymore. I can read by myself.” He made the same mistake many adults make: that reading aloud is only for the very young. Reading … Continue reading

Posted in Our Bedtime Story Book, Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

4 Responses to Reading Aloud for a Lifetime

  1. deidra says:

    Thanks for the reminder. I have kind of stopped reading to my 8 year old, mostly because he devours books on his own. I will have to start again.

  2. Shannon says:

    Thank you for this. My mom and I went through so many children’s classics — and later, adult classics — together. We read every morning before school all the way through high school. It’s very much a comfort activity for me now. We still try and get together around Christmas and reread some of our favorites.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Ah, lovely. What a wonderful way to start the day, and what a wonderful gift for a lifetime. Thanks for sharing your family’s reading tradition. Inspiring!

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Of Blankies, Bears and Loveys

Sometimes we adults get worried about a child’s attachment to a favorite blanket or toy. “He’s too old for a blankie,” people say. “She’s got to stop carrying that old thing around,” or “It’s not the lovey I mind, but … Continue reading

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

9 Responses to Of Blankies, Bears and Loveys

  1. deidra says:

    My child has a lovey and as far as I am concerned he can get it for as long as he wants. It was a gift from my aunt and I am as attached to it as he is. I brought my lovey with me to college and it stayed on my bed until I got married. My best friend in college also brought her lovey to college.

  2. Briana Feinberg says:

    Thanks for this. My son has a monkey that goes everywhere with us (and we have a “deputy monkey” so I can occasionally throw him in the wash!) I kept my beloved bear with me through my whole life, and in October, I posted this anecdote on Facebook:
    Ellias has suddenly developed a friendship with Barney, the bear who was my constant companion through childhood. Barney was with me at home, during hospital stays, and later on my travels across the ocean. My family used to joke that he would be walking down the aisle with me… so it is very gratifying to watch Ellias asking him if he’s “been to the moon” (because the bear on his pjs is dressed as an astronaut) or if he’s been to the zoo, or the children’s garden, or the train station, and for Barney to reply, “No, but I’ve been to Paris, France and seen the Eiffel Tower.” Ellias asked Barney if he would come to his crib with him tonight, and as I closed the door, I overheard him saying, “Barney, do you like fish sticks?” This is some serious Toy Story stuff going on here, people.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      I love the “deputy monkey!” Always good to have a stand-in. How heartwarming that your son is developing a relationship with your childhood bear. Sounds as if they will get on famously!

  3. Celine says:

    Thanks Heather for talking about it today. It comes just the day as I’ve been watching a French Nanny show, where there was a five-year-old with a pacifier in her mouth all day long (or so it seemed). Nanny obviously ordered her to throw it in the garbage, and… by the end of the show, the same little girl was definitely sucking her thumb. Just shows you there is not much you can do to avoid dentist bills.
    Interestingly, two of my hubby’s workmates shared how jealous they were of those who had braces at school, as they did not need them themselves…

  4. Sarah says:

    Recently on holiday in India our daughter’s “Baby” was forgotten at our hotel lobby when we set out for the airport, 2 hours away. We realised half an hour into the journey. We phoned the hotel & Baby was sent in a separate taxi to meet us at the airport! The taxi cost more than Baby had in the first place but thank goodness it was India & the cost was in rupees – negligible in £s compared to our daughter’s need for her Baby.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      What a lovely story! I can just picture the extra taxi rushing to meet you. Glad she has Baby back with her again.

  5. Pam says:

    I gave my 7 yo son a blankie when he was about 6 months old. He has loved it since, and he continues sleeping with is blankie. He also used pacfier, but that one we sent it to the pacifier heaven. As a result, my son started sucking his thumb and hasnt stopped since. I was very worried, until I read this article. I can understand my son a little more now. Thanks.

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New Year’s anytime

My kids had fun counting down the New Year. By the time midnight came, one was in bed, but my older son stayed up to watch the ball drop and leaped and shouted “It’s 2015!  It’s 2015!” We all need … Continue reading

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2 Responses to New Year’s anytime

  1. I guess I think of New Season’s more than New Year. A new golf season in March or April is the start of imagining the possibilities of mastering the stupid game at least once.

    Fall is the season to refresh after a (usually) hot summer. Fall colors, blue sky days with billowy clouds, and cool nights with windows wide open make for invigorating sleep (which is NOT an oxymoron. :-) )

    Jan. 1 is the start of my fiscal New Year, which is the time to evaluate spending and savings goals and adding up last years income and expenses to see if we gained or lost financial ground.

    And of course there’s the start of baseball season around April 1 and hockey season around November 1 (college of course–go Gophers!)

    I try to avoid specific “resolutions” and just do what needs to be done when I evaluate what needs fixing or improving. Don’t need a specific date for that.

    I’m sure school-aged kids’ new years revolve around the first day of school in the fall, not Jan. 1. I based my life perception on that, exclusively. Jan. 1 was just a day to celebrate starting a new calendar, eating good food with family, and watching football all day.

    Good topic, Heather

    Chris

  2. Heather Shumaker says:

    Love your idea of New Seasons. Very true, it’s how we live our lives. So many new starts and seasons of life for everything.

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Announcing a New Book

There’s been a bit of silence on the Starlighting blog lately. That’s because behind-the-scenes I’ve been tapping away on my keyboard to create the sequel to It’s OK Not to Share. A new book is being born! This book – … Continue reading

Posted in Agents and publishing, Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

14 Responses to Announcing a New Book

  1. Can’t wait. All my young friends are raising their families as we speak, and so I find myself interacting almost daily with these little ones. Yes, going up the slide.

  2. Catie Hill says:

    I love the new name! I especially like the first one, though that may be because I’m familiar with your “movement.” (met you a couple times in Leland.) The one with “digital” might appeal to a newer group, which would be fantastic. Regardless, I look forward to being able to actually read myself (17 mo, 4 1/2 yo, 15 yo) and when that happens, I’ll be stoked to read your new book! THANK YOU! Keep up the good work and the good word!

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Catie, so good to hear from you in Leland. Thanks for your title input, and many thanks for your kind words! Good luck with all those busy kids.

  3. Maggie Lesoing says:

    I love the title for the new book. My kids are now 17 and 21 and I so wish your book(s) existed when my kids were little. The common sense (which, as they say, is not so common!) you spell out in the first book would have helped me to stand strong to my beliefs and be an advocate for my kids. Any chance you’ll have a book for parenting “older” kids at some point? That would be fantastic!

    Love your work, thanks so much for being here!

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Maggie, thank you. I’m glad the title resonates with you. Older kids? I felt I was going “older” with topics for elementary school, but I see you’re looking for even older ones than that. I wonder how many books there are about parenting kids in their twenties?

      You touched on exactly the right word – advocate. “Up the Slide” is all about helping families gain courage and respectfully advocate for kids’ needs as the children enter the world of school.

  4. Love the title. Good luck with the book. I hope it sells twice as well as the first one.

    Chris

  5. Kirsten says:

    Thank you for all you do and all your encouragement to us parents who are renegades! I like the second title option best. The first one says it all, but it’s a bit long.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Thanks for your title input! Glad you find my books helpful for your own renegade parenting. All the best.

  6. Deborah says:

    The first one!
    “It’s OK to go UP the Slide: more renegade rules to protect children’s rights to risk and recess”
    Yes it’s long but I like the alliteration and I prefer it to “digital age” – digital age IMO would have been appropriate in the naughties (2000-2009) – just my opinion though!
    And I’d love an email to let me know when it’s ready to order or even pre-order.
    Thanks!

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Great! Thanks for your excellent input, Deborah. Yes, I suppose we’ve been in the digital age for a while now…good point.

      I’ll be sure to let you know when the book’s ready to order and pre-order. Thanks for your interest!

  7. katrin says:

    I just discovered your first book and the discussions on notjustcute.com, and I’m hooked. I wish, I had read your book earlier, but maybe I can still turn this parenting mess around…
    Anyway, I just wanted to say, that I find the first pay of your suggested title awesome, but the second part about risk and recess seems not to cover all you are taking about in your new book.
    Please disregard my comment, if I’m wrong. I’m looking forward to reading the new book!

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      So glad you’re hooked! Kids are forgiving – they do fine as we adults change and grow. Best of luck trying out new habits and hope you find some that work well for you.

      Thanks for your title input! My current thought for a subtitle is: “More renegade rules for home and school.” Glad to have you on board, Katrin.

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Allies for Outdoor Time

It’s 8am and my kids are out sledding with the neighborhood kids. They scurried out of their pajamas when a neighboring 8-year-old knocked on the door, sled in hand. There’s lots of talk about getting children outside to play. I’ve … Continue reading

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

8 Responses to Allies for Outdoor Time

  1. janwsyc@yahoo.com says:

    We have no snow (yet) but leaf piles are still intact and will get kids away from the screens for a long time!! Taylor came over and played in the giant leaf pile with the dog for 2 hours! Jan

  2. 10-12 years ago, our neighborhood was pretty good for all the kids hanging out together outside. When most of them were under age 10, it was common to see 4, 5, or 6 of them outside playing some sort of kids’ game. But when they get to junior high and high school, all the organized activities such as sports get in the way of neighborhood fun. But I see glimmers of hope around town with spontaneous groups of kids out in neighborhoods making their own fun.

    Chris

  3. Yes! Children often inspire other children. There is no need for an adult to say, “why don’t you try climbing that tree?” or “wouldn’t it be nice to go sledding?” When they see other children doing it, that inspires them to try or to go out and play. Love this simple post.

    - Angela Hanscom

  4. Linda says:

    Great post – this is so true! We live in the country, so unfortunately we don’t get any kids knocking on our doors spontaneously, but I do try to encourage outdoor play dates whenever I can. It’s not easy, because few parents in our area share my enthusiasm for outdoor play in all weather.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      I grew up in a similar area, so I know it’s not always possible for kids to fall into play by knocking on doors. Good for you for encouraging good old play when you can!

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In the Dark

Last weekend we hosted a party to celebrate the dark. It was ostensibly a Halloween party, with costumes and bobbing for apples, but the main ingredients were simply nine kids running around in the dark. Kids love to be outside … Continue reading

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

3 Responses to In the Dark

  1. I was briefly frightened of closets and unlit rooms and basements as a child, but I loved being outside at night; on a farm, outside at night was, ironically, a safe place. Just this week, I felt that shiver of energy when the dark came on with howling wind, and I felt that same embrace of the night as exciting and thrilling. But also safe. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Heather Shumaker says:

    Yes, it’s funny how closets and basements are the “dark” that scares kids, but the real dark doesn’t so much. Thanks for sharing your love of night!

  3. Marisol says:

    The darkness is mistery, is does not have adjectives of color. Everywhere wacht the dark is interesting. Good idea

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Kids need Good News

I stumbled on a bit of environmental good news this month. Amid tales of climate problems, declining honeybee populations and invasive carp it’s rare to hear good news stories about the environment. Since 2004, Americans are driving less. Much less. In … Continue reading

Posted in Good News Stories, Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

4 Responses to Kids need Good News

  1. Cari Noga says:

    At 6 and 9 my kids are both still quite insular, so my priority is presently increasing awareness of the world around them, taking the good with the bad. So I like to simply draw attention to the newspaper as I’m reading it, usually at breakfast. I’ll often show a picture and try to engage them on the subject. I do like the idea of helping kids feel they can make a difference, too.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Sounds as if you have a great breakfast balance. The first step is just noticing all that’s going on around us, as you say.

  2. I’m in this for my grand (!#!) nieces and nephews, and I’ve learned that when I’m around the house, if I don’t tell their parents, my nephews and nieces, the good things that happen, cynicism tends to abound about everything from government to compost. Yup, the children need to hear some good things because honestly, it’s a challenging time for this coming-up generation. But if they are fed on fear and darkness and the resulting helplessness, that’s no good either. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Glad you’re putting those good words of optimism in there! Serious problems need optimistic people to help solve them. Your grand nieces and nephews are lucky to have you.

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Homework Letter Update

First, thank you to the folks who have read my controversial post “Why we say “No” to  Homework.” I must admit, I was blown away by the thousands upon thousands who read that post. Many of you have asked excellent follow-up … Continue reading

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

9 Responses to Homework Letter Update

  1. Marta Zeegers says:

    Hi Heather,
    As a Pre-K ECEer, I was rather stunned last year when a parent approached me to find out why her just-turned-four year old daughter wasn’t reading yet. She was baffled as to why we weren’t doing worksheets. I tried my best to explain my classroom, and that I would not be asking any of the children to do worksheets or pressuring them in any way to “learn to read” but rather providing a literacy rich environment within a larger child-rich environment.
    Don’t know if my message got through to her, but I hope so!
    I love your book, my copy has so many dog-ears and creases… I share bits of it with whoever will listen! Thanks for making the language so easy to use!
    Cheers,
    Marta

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Good to hear your story, Marta. Yes, I’ve heard from many teachers that parents ask for worksheets and homework, even at a young age. The process of education goes both ways. So glad the book is serving you well. Those kids are lucky to have you.

  2. Robbye Edwards says:

    Love to hear others who have the same opinion on homework. My 17 year old is an “Out of the box” learner. He makes all A’s, other than Algebra 2. When trying to speak to his teachers about his learning style all of them agreed with my opinion except his Algebra teacher. He would rather spend his time at home building computers, websites and Apps., riding dirt bikes and rebuilding his 73″ Duster. We are blessed to go to a private school that has an understanding of learning styles:)) He is being moved from that class to a teacher who supports our decision. He still has homework but he is not up until 2 AM( seriously) like his classmates. I’m pretty sure he is going to grow up to be a healthy, happy, productive member of society!

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Good for you for speaking up and finding a teacher that was a better match. Wonderful – thanks so much for sharing your story.

  3. Lisa says:

    Heather, I’ve been fighting the homework battle for over two years. I have 7 kids – my oldest is now a high school senior, and I am sad to say that when he was in elementary school, I just didn’t know better, and I would fight with him daily over homework, taking on the role of drill sergeant/enforcer, because that’s what I thought I was supposed to do. It wasn’t until my fifth child was in first grade a couple of years ago that I had kind of a revelation. She was coming home from school every day with a packet of worksheets to do, and she would cry and dawdle and complain that she was tired, and I would sit there and make her do her homework anyway. Then she started complaining of tummy aches and saying she didn’t want to go to school, and that’s when it hit me: this is all just too much for a six-year old. I started reading everything I could get my hands on about homework and realized that as a practice, it’s not evidence based and has no intrinsic value, especially in elementary school. I tried to reason with my daughter’s first grade teacher, but I was met with “My way or the highway.” I ended up telling the teacher flat out that I just wasn’t going to make my daughter do homework anymore and I really didn’t care if her grades reflected it, and that teacher and I had this huge falling out over it, drama drama drama, blah blah blah. Anyway, my daughter didn’t do any homework for the rest of the school year and did just fine academically. But since then, I’ve taken it to the district and the school principal, trying to get the homework policies changed, and nobody will budge. So I fight individual teachers about it, and sometimes they are receptive, and sometimes they are not. I now have a high school senior and a seventh grader, both of whom manage their own homework pretty well. I have two fifth graders (twins) who have daily homework, but I’ve made clear to their teacher that I will only support homework to the extent that it doesn’t create stress and tension in our house, and that it doesn’t interfere with other activities/pursuits. My fifth child is now a third grader and I’m actually pulling her to homeschool her because she’s falling through the cracks at school. I really feel like her first grade teacher did her a huge disservice with her inflexible authoritarianism and turned my daughter off to school, rather than instilling in her a love of learning. In second grade my daughter was placed with a teacher who was counting the days until her retirement, and this year she’s gotten placed in a 3-4 combo class with a teacher who is teaching full time for the first time – AND she’s very committed to homework as a necessary practice. So I finally realized that if I don’t do something a little drastic to try and turn things around for my daughter, she’s going to have years of misery ahead of her.

    Anyway, you’re right that the problem is a big one. The whole thinking surrounding homework needs to change, but I’m really not sure how that is going to happen. I am really losing confidence in the public school system, what with overcrowded classrooms, Common Core, and homework policies that are not supported by evidence.

    I write a blog about school and homework if you’re interested: http://hometownhomeworkchronicles.wordpress.com

  4. Lisa says:

    Also, I meant to address your point, too, about your son remaining responsible for mastering the material even without doing homework, and I just wonder how a child can do that when so often, teachers do make mastering the material dependent on homework. So often, it seems that teachers rush through lessons (I’m sure due to time constraints) and then expect the practice and application of the lessons to take place at home. How do we deal with that?

    • Kim Dunn says:

      Good question Lisa! My son (a 9th grader) has wanted to only learn it in the classroom. When I have let him slack off on homework on and off through the years, my assessment is that he still doesn’t know as much as I would expect. This shows up clearly with the scores on his math tests. Of course his math teacher would say he needed to do the homework for practice. They are on a block schedule, meaning there are chunks of classroom time that could be dedicated to math practice. I can’t imagine the teacher talks the whole time. The end result is that the output is poor, time is wasted at school and at home. Unless I completely jump in and teach it to him, much understanding gets lost. When he is home sick, I do the teaching and get better results with less effort in a shorter period of time. A lot about life today is just pushing through the volume of things in our lives instead of truly learning and absorbing and appreciating life.

  5. Good for you, Heather! I opted to homeschool for the same reasons. I hope your bravery has an impact on the public school system. Hooray for teachers who are willing to listen with an open heart!

  6. Pingback: Why We Say "NO" to Homework - Starlighting MamaStarlighting Mama

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Recess is as vital as Lunch

What if you heard a teacher say: “Your assignment is late. You can’t eat lunch today.” Preposterous, we say. Lunch is essential for giving kids energy. It boosts brain power, helps focus and concentration, and gives kids a social break. … Continue reading

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6 Responses to Recess is as vital as Lunch

  1. deidra says:

    My son’s old school withheld recess for kids who did not complete their work. When I complained and said it was a punishment, the principal wrote back and said it was a consequence and not a punishment. It happened to other kids in his class and other kids at the school. I am really not sure how she was able to get away with it, because the NYC DOE Wellness Department had a policy prohibiting the use of physical as a punishment or reward and a policy against withholding recess as punishment.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Wow – a school violating its own policy about not withholding recess. A true educational and cultural gap there. Glad he’s at a new school!

      • deidra says:

        We are very happy too. His day is a little longer, but the trade off is 30-45 minutes for lunch and 45 minutes for recess. A much less hectic and more humane lunch/recess period.

  2. Jaime Havard says:

    The school my son attended was usually the #1 school in our state and they stopped having recess for classes 3rd grade and up a few years ago. For years I thought the principal just wanted to keep that top position and I blamed her. When I started investigating Common Core and related testing issues I realized it was not the ranking…. it was the growth. They are under an incredible amount of pressure to continue to grow even though the scores are already knocking on the ceiling. Testing begins in 3rd grade so a regular recess period vanishes – to squeeze those last percentage points out of successful students. There is no finish line in the “Race To the Top”.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Third grade is far too young, as you know. My next book is compiling research that shows academic performance and even test scores tend to go UP when kids have recess. Sometimes school officials will be swayed by the logic of the data.

      Perpetual growth is impossible to maintain no matter what you are measuring, especially humans.

  3. Tammy Alcorn says:

    I am a mom that has a 9 year old with high functioning autism and ADHD. He is constantly in at recess time for not finishing his assignment he was working on before the recess time. The teachers ar see always using recess as a disipline and punihment for him. I have finally reauezted to the teachers to please use another method of discipline ecause my son needs recess to ge out his full energy. I beleive parents need to help their children and stand up for them.

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