Overprotection Series

Breaking the literary bubble

As I begin this series of posts on “overprotecting” our children, I want to clarify that this is more of an ongoing conversation and clearly seen through my lens as the mother of a 5-year-old living rurally in the State of Maine. I recognize that some of the topics I will discuss are not culturally comprehensive and, plainly put, I feel privileged to be able to have some of these choices to make at all. That said, let’s start this analysis in the world of readily available literature in the United States.

fullsizeoutput_89cThe sheer amount of accessible literature here in the U.S. is reason as a parent to rejoice, but also perhaps cringe a bit at the decision-making process of what to bring into the lives of our children. We are presented with older classics that perpetuate stereotypes of women and men, often vilify people of color and present heterosexuality as the only option, but often acutely address misfortune, fear, death, jealousy, anxiety, despair and sacrifice amongst others, versus newer materials that are much more inclusive and less xenophobic, but often relate a sugarcoated reality and don’t help our children work through their emotions, achieve true empathy or bolster coping skills. As I recently read in Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Traditions by Starhawk, Diane Baker and Anne Hill, “Somewhere between the pitfalls of ignorance and appropriate lies the path of cultural education.”

I have an overabundance of children’s fiction and nonfiction from the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, as my own library has been supplemented with hundreds of books from Scholastic and Rigby, for which my mother was a sales representative and accumulated quite a selection. What I am finding as a homeschooling family is that these resources are wonderful, but also deficient and in need of current supplemental materials. They often omit historical facts, are extremely stereotypical in gender roles, mistreat people of color and use terminology that is now outdated. That said, I see them as extremely valuable and use them in what is often referred to as “teachable moments.” I explain why a word is no longer acceptable or how history has proven a theory or policy incorrect or misguided. Many people choose to completely disregard such literature, but I find that to be a disservice to our children. If we brush our historical and societal mistakes under the rug than where is the progress shown? I have found that, even at a young age, my daughter gains deeper appreciation and insight when she recognizes my fallibility as a mother and the same can be said about society as a whole. We are ever-evolving and our progress can only be shown through recognition of our errors and making the choice to do better.

This leads me to questions for anyone reading this. What are some of the past and current books you enjoy with your children? Do you avoid hard topics? Do you use older literature and use the “teachable moments?” Do you strictly stick to new literature? As I said in the beginning of this post, this is mainly a discussion and I would love your input. Please feel free to share in the comments here or at any of my social media outlets. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Overprotection Series

A work in progress

I have had a very hard time quieting my mind and gathering my thoughts as of late. I’ve sat down to write multiple times, only to go off on many tangents and erase all those tiny dancing characters on the screen. I’m planning on doing a series of posts soon on how we, as parents and American society as a whole, are seemingly overprotecting our children (and I am definitely guilty of this) to the detriment of their growth and success. I want to delve into our literature choices, recreational choices, food choices and beyond. For now, I am gathering steam on my (knitting) needles, as I often do when narrowing down my thoughts. Please bear with me and feel free to offer your thoughts here or on any of my social media outlets. Be well.

A picture from this past fall that brings me joy and calm.

Save some for the bees

IMG_3391We spent many days last summer sitting on the playhouse porch in the garden — sketching, having tea parties, watching the shaded garden beds slowly slide into sunlight and vice versa. The wind rustled the maple, birch and beech leaves most days and the near constant buzz of the bees often called us into action to check on the progress of the fruits and veggies. Petunia would gather mint and lemon balm for her special teas and snack on tomatoes. She’d clip zinnias and nasturtiums for her mud pies and grab sweet thin baby carrots when I wasn’t looking because that is how she likes them best. All this was done in concert with the bees and butterflies without conflict. She knows to steer clear of the hornets and wasps, but those honey bees and bumble bees are always too busy to notice our presence.

My mother has been in a moving frenzy, partially why I’ve been so removed from the blog recently, and in doing so we have unearthed troves of old boxes and bins of days gone by. Petunia calls these my “time capsules,” as each box tends to be from a certain period of my life. They are filled with old report cards, papers and trinkets of all sorts. I roll my old lucky marble in my hand and cry over letters from old friends. And then there are the books, the piles and piles of books. So many have left for new homes already, but there are so many I want to read again or save for my sweet girl to read one day. I peak inside a few each day, skimming through my old highlighted sections and notes.

Today, while sorting, I came across an old copy of Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education (Nature Literacy Series, Vol. 1) by David Sobel. In it I had highlighted this passage:

What’s important is that children have an opportunity to bond with the natural world, to learn to love it and feel comfortable in it, before being asked to heal its wounds. John Burroughs remarked that ‘Knowledge without love will not stick. But if love comes first, knowledge is sure to follow.’ Our problem is that we are trying to invoke knowledge, and responsibility, before we have allowed a loving relationship to flourish.

IMG_2244So, back to the bees and Petunia. She has expressed on some of the coldest winter days her longing for the dandelions and mayflowers to return. She loves to pick them for potions and bouquets for anyone in her path. We’ve talked about needing to leave some for the bees, as they are the first fresh nectar they’ve had in months, and she enthusiastically agrees. Had I asked her to leave the flowers without memory of those long summer days alongside her buzzing comrades, would she be so inclined to leave them be? So often we expect children to toe the line without even giving them adequate time to arrive at the line. I’m slowly learning, as a mother, that I need to scale back the structured days and let the whims of the bees be our guide more often. How do you encourage and support your child in developing empathy with the natural world? What do some of your best days spent cultivating a sense of connectedness to nature look like?


Refill that heart pouch

I keep in a pocket of my purse a small pouch filled with tiny cardstock heart-shaped punch-outs. Sometimes when running errands, when Petunia is in an especially good mood, I suggest we “spread a little kindness today.” She is given the pouch and, if she comes across someone who engages with her positively or someone who just appears to her like they need a pick-me-up, she offers them one of these hearts. Often times people are taken aback, but most are very receptive to her charms. The hearts get tucked into wallets, change purses and pockets, always with a smile, perhaps to be sent through the washer and dryer with disregard, but just maybe to serve as a reminder later that day, or someday in the future when the wallet is cleaned out, of the innocence and altruism of our children. Today, a day following yet another mass school shooting in America, seemed like a good day to replenish our heart pouch.

IMG_5207Oh, friends, please nurture your children, especially the young boys. Let them know that emotions – all emotions – are legitimate. Let them know they are in a safe space where anger, fear, jealousy and sadness are as important to express as happiness, pride and bravery. Let them know that they are heard and seen. Teach them how to cope with disappointment and failure. As parents, these are our responsibilities and we owe it to our children to fulfill them.


In Praise of Instagram

Out of all social media sites, my needs and desires from a platform most happily align with Instagram. For many years I had a private account, only sharing with friends and family, but within the last year I made a new account in order to network with other homeschooling families, homesteaders and makers. I’m slowly developing and nurturing these connections with people across the country, and even across the globe, and loving every minute of it. I’ve found inspiration for homeschool activities, knitting and sewing, gardening and animal husbandry. Perhaps the most amazing and mutually beneficial aspect of Instagram, however, is connecting with artists in their own space and on their own terms.

Last year I found an artist in Bath, England who made the most delicate flower sketches. I was able to connect with her through a direct message and commission an image I had in mind for a tattoo. Next, I found a tattoo artist who specialized in florals here in my home state of Maine and within no time I had this synergetic Queen Anne’s Lace forever cast upon my skin.

More recently, I was turned onto an artist in Northern Ireland who does illustrated portraits of children and, within a few days after inquiry, my inbox lit up with a sketch of Petunia ready to use for valentines of all shapes and sizes. With intentioned art at hand and a messy dining room table, something simple like valentines have turned into much more meaningful keepsakes.JENSKETCHES_CLAIRE


Sweet valentines for Petunia’s friends, printed at Staples on a glossy card stock.
Framed 5×5’s for Petunia’s grandparents, printed at Staples on a matte card stock.

I suppose this reads like an advertisement for Instagram, and perhaps it is, but I see it more as a “thank you” to makers, growers and caregivers of all sorts who share their work and knowledge through daily pictures and stories, in turn illuminating this common space with value and camaraderie. Whereas bickering and sanctimonious rants seem to fill many of the other social media platforms, I still find Instagram to be a community-oriented, humanizing space where the world truly becomes a bit smaller and meaningful sociability still exists. If you’re there and want to connect, please do!

I am going to link to the artists I spoke of above, so please check them out!

queenanneslaceThe Queen Anne’s Lace illustration was done by Holly Grace Illustration (also found here).

The tattoo was done by Elladecorates at Wicked Good Ink in Portland, Maine.

The illustrated portrait of Petunia was done by Jen Sketches (also found here).