Reflecting on our journey in sourcing and collecting children's books that support our goals for learning about and loving nature, as well as fostering integrity, creativity, and innovation, I decided to share some of the parenting books that continue to influence my thinking and may have value for others in seeking inspiration. Each of the books below contains threads of the same themes and has contributed to the experiences we seek out on a daily basis. Enjoy!
Exceptionally helpful for exactly what it says - Simplicity Parenting. This book helped us forge a path towards decluttering and simplifying our home (and as a result, our minds and our lives). The key and takeaway for me is "less is more" in practice. This relates to almost everything in the home, as well as daily schedule. As a result of reading it, we have moved to:
A simplified daily schedule including key routines of sit down meals, daily outdoor time, and sacred protection of sleep
Simplified consumption of whole (and organic where possible) foods at regular meal and snack times
Limited media including no tv/screen time for kids and limited news via radio
Simple shelf toy rotation with 8 or less toys out at a time
Seasonal book rotation
It is interesting looking back now at this book after reading it last year. I am surprised at how many of the practices we implemented and how these has have continued and grown in other areas of simplification and as a result, sustainability. The best part looking back is how the vision presented in the book for imagining your home as,
"a place with space, and time, for childhood - and with time for one another everyday"
is feeling like a reality. ❤️
This book opens with one of my favourite quotes,
"Nature is not a place to visit. It is home" - Gary Snyder
Somehow, at the right time in life, this quote hit home and has become a central philosophy to our family life. I have also viscerally felt these words when stepping outside after too long indoors and in my heart felt the meaning of being "home" in nature. It is not a foreign place, but allows becoming somehow part of a greater oneness. Funny to write these words, as the next quote I found after writing that line, to sum up the spirit of this book, is the author describing his first memory of visiting a frog pond with his mother, who thought better of stopping him as he waded out into the pond, filling his boots with water and feeling,
"perhaps for the first time in my life, a deep and ecstatic sense of oneness with nature".
Sampson does an excellent job of bringing this feeling to life (so much so that his exact sentiment was reflected in my experience), as well as giving realistic and practical strategy for getting children (and adults alike), out into nature regularly, as well as brining nature inside. Excellent inspiration - I have definitely remembered Sampson's mother on more than one occasion and "thought better of" stopping my kids from charging into natural outdoor experiences - mud, wet boots and all!
Grateful is the word I have for Gladys Hunt's Honey for a Child's Heart. We were fortunate to find this book early in our first child's life. Prior to reading it, I knew we wanted reading to be central to our family life, but this book helped provide a vivid example of how one family did this in practice and grew their children into passionate, life-long readers. It also gave me the idea of looking for both Caldecott (for the the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children), and Newbery (for the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children) Award Medal winning books, which had never occurred to me prior. This secret has since led us to many wonderful (and often available at discounted price) books, since it is easy to find award winning books dating back many decades. We have found some of the best (and absolutely timeless) books both through reviewing Hunt's age-based recommendation lists as well as looking for other books by her recommended authors and illustrators. We have also started looked specifically for Caldecott and Newbery winners. Because of Honey for a Child's Heart, we are growing a significant and classic library that we all love, enjoy, and hope to spend many hours both together and individually exploring for many years (and possibly generations) to come!
After reading a book and leaving it for awhile, I always find value if in particular moments it whispers wisdom or words to me when they are helpful. This is a book that continues to whisper and always at opportune times. One of those recent times was with my 3 year old son. I felt the rage rising in me and the need to WIN an argument with him regarding which learning tower he should stand on. At this moment, as things were escalating to where I was contemplating how to let him know I was in charge and that was why he would do what I wanted him to, the book whispered,
"Sometimes we have to put our foot down, ... but before we deliberately make children unhappy in order to get them to get into the car, or to do their homework or whatever, we need to weigh whether what we're doing to make it happen is worth the possible strain on our relationship with them.”
In that moment I chose our relationship and let him choose his own tower. It was amazing how things deescalated and I could tell that he felt heard and respected. We had a peaceful next few hours and even though I "lost", it felt very much like the right outcome.
There are many other examples in the book of parenting choices based on an attachment focused parenting style. I appreciate it as a reference and for how it continues to remind me to focus on the long-term relationships we are building day by day, moment by moment, and sometimes, argument by argument.
What stuck with me from this book by Sharifa Oppenheimer, is captured in her insight,
"I would never have survived with media in our life! Because I relied entirely on my children's innate capacity to create, imagine, be active, and entertain themselves, they did exactly that." ... "Cut out the media, give your children open-ended toys and plenty of story as fodder for the imagination, and you will have the time you need!"
She includes many media-free activities and ideas that follow the seasons and incorporate elements of nature. Her philosophies are centred around open-ended play, plenty of unstructured time outdoors, focus on reading and storytelling, and creating a family culture through traditions regardless of denomination. I fount it practical and inspiring as well as very much aligned with our movement towards simplicity and sustainability. A great one to have on the shelf and pull out for both inspiration and activities all year round!
Tugboat engineering with painting tape and boxes:
“You made a bridge for you to go through. You pulling the library. Mama move!”