A woman came up to me in town today and said, "I've been reading your book! My kids are so imaginative... I just need to remind myself to get out their way."
It's so very easy to over guide, over stimulate, and over schedule our children right out of their creativity. And sometimes we find that when we just step aside and listen from the next room, let them solve some of their own problems, and say a little less now and again - we then find an ever-blossoming imagination!
A woman came up to me in town today and said, "I've been reading your book! My kids are so imaginative... I just need to remind myself to get out their way."
In going through photo albums this week for another project I am working on, I came across this old picture of my older sister, me (the middle one), and a friend playing in the water on the beach at Lake Tahoe (where I grew up). It brought back a flood of memories of playing at the beach and in the water (mostly the shower and the sink) when I was a child, and brought a huge smile (and I admit, a tear or two) to my face.
And how coincidental that it would be this week, because today you can check out my guest post over at The Savvy Source, most appropriately titled The Wonder of Water Play. Here's a sneak peek:
The Wonder of Water Play!
Water is a tremendous and abundant element of the earth. It provides a sensory experience, connection to nature, and insight into the mysteries our world holds. Water play offers opportunity to develop emotionally, cognitively, and physically. On top of all that, it is one of the easiest sources for our children to tap into their creativity and thinking skills.
And here we are; summer is nearing its end. But that doesn’t mean the water fun needs to end along with it. As you enter the transition period that often is September, keep in mind all of the wonderful ways you can keep the magic and creative wonder of water play alive in your home.
Read more here!
If you haven't already discovered the precious book review site called Kids Literati, you must check it out. In their own words:
"Kids Literati is a book blog about the best in children's literature. Book reviews for the most discerning kids, parents, and educators. Classics, fiction, non-fiction, fairytales, and popular favorites - we read everything worth reading."
When you go to the site, click on Archive at the top of the page to see all of the books they have reviewed, by category or title. You won't be disappointed, and you may just find a new favorite story.
And check out their latest review... that's right, it's a review of my book,Child of Wonder.
Here it is: Kids Literati
We're back from a few days camping with fellow scouts, followed by a trip to the White Wolf Sanctuary in Tidewater, Oregon. We're dazed and amazed by the lasting effect the visit had on our family, and how mesmerizing an encounter with a wild animal can be. In this case, all of these Arctic wolves were rescued from various traumatic or abusive situations and now reside happily here, on forty acres of fenced land. Here, Zeal gets a sniff and a kiss from a yearling wolf pup.
He's still talking about the encounter: making plans to learn more, visit again, and perhaps adopt a wolf. His creative little mind is working on the next step to make it all happen.
Zeal has spent the week climbing all sorts of walls, indoors and out.
How wonderful to see a child "touch the top" of whatever it is they are working towards.
In this case, as I've mentioned before, I feel that climbing all sorts of things is a pretty valuable skill towards creative development.
Now, we’re off to run with the wolves.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend!
I'm feeling creatively inspired by the world right now, and here's a small list of things that are lighting my fire. At the end of this post, please do share what you love and the things that feed you and your family creatively.
When I was a child, Sunday afternoons were reserved for a family drive, usually to nowhere interesting to us kids. I’ll never forget the time our fuel pump was shook loose way out in Wabuska, Nevada (I have no idea what’s there now, but back in the 70’s there was absolutely nothing there except an old abandoned bar and a closed down plastic factory.)
Even today, I just love putting Zeal in the car and taking a drive into the country. Luckily, I married a man who also appreciates such a drive. And Zeal is amiable, as well. We always seem to emerge from our drives with a renewed appreciation for the land and each other, as well as feeling creatively re-inspired. Here’s a photo of the sunset on a recent long haul.
I love them when they are awake too, but there is something very special (and angelic) about a child sleeping. And I absolutely love the moments of waking when they are so cuddly and open to sharing their dreams, a story or a song, which I suppose leads me to the next one.
It’s been a long while since I have stayed up all night to greet the sunset (a sign that I am getting older). Still, the mornings give me space and quiet to let my thoughts settle. The early morning quiet is my time. Everyone needs to find their time: the time of day when they are most creative, most productive, most settled. When is your time?
A Good Cup of Coffee.
When I was a child, there was always a pot of coffee on in the house, and our kitchen was a bit of a gathering place. As I grew and traveled, and lived overseas in Indonesia and India, I became enamored by these ways of preparing this very special drink I was always surrounded with and coffee became a part of my ritual of those early mornings. Now that I am pregnant again, I will just have to settle for my red raspberry leaf and nettle tea. Luckily, I have a good excuse to put my feet up and enjoy it. Zeal will show you how (doing so in our front yard tree).
Nighttime Summer Hikes.
A Clean House.
I hate cleaning, and while I absolutely and totally appreciate a good productive mess, I love love love a clean house and the feeling of peace it brings over everyone who dwells here. Lately, we’ve been spending so much time outdoors that the house is keeping fairly clean. And that just feels so good.
A Book to Write in.
I always keep a book going of sketches, stories, article ideas, and other random words. Here are this year’s books, now totally filled. I guess I need (get!) to go shopping!
Now it's your turn... what's inspiring you?
Imaginary worlds are a true wonder! I love hearing about the different lands children create while they play, alone or with friends. Often, children who create and play in them are in touch with their creativity in ways adults can no longer imagine.
What we know about this kind of imaginary play is this:
Children who engage in imaginary play involving imaginary friends or worlds…
• use abstract reasoning skills
• grow socially as they are practicing taking on another’s perspective and experimenting with relationships
• engage in original thought
• are usually characterized as creative and cooperative
In our house, Civilizania is the land of choice. It’s a place filled with mystery, monsters, and mayhem.
A few years ago, when Civilizania first appeared in our home, Zeal and a good friend would play that our backyard “island” of plants and flowers was the land of Civilizania. They would meet together inside our house and board The Invisible Airplane (a plane only children and people who have been to Civilizania could see)
I hear there is a whole mythology surrounding the place, but apparently only parts of the mythology (passed down on the scales of the gun breathing dragons) are remembered, and sadly, some may be lost forever. But Zeal has recorded some of what he has “learned” about the place, and so we have hope the history will be retained. Last week, we ran across the sketchbook Zeal began in his preschool years as he began a “Research Guide to Civilizania”. Here are a few of the sketches. Of course, it being a research guide and all, he had us label the various pictures.
Studies show that imaginary play is most prevalent in children ages 3-6, and that, for whatever reason, this kind of play diminishes in the elementary years. So while Zeal isn’t so much excited about taking regular trips to Civilizania anymore, he has decided that he would like to make a picture book and story about it “for other little kids who might want to go someday.”
Here lies the beginning of our new writing adventure for the coming month(s). Exciting stuff awaits, I am sure.
Going to Civilizania
2008, by Ginger Carlson (with input from Sir Zeal, a frequenter of Civilizania)
There’s a place I go to sometimes when I just don’t feel like everything feels so good.
This crazy world, I hear the grownups say.
But I know a special place where things don’t have to be so crazy.
I call it Civilizania. And you can go there too.
Noone is ever just born in Civilizania, they have to go there…on a journey. Papa calls it a Seeking Journey, the kind of journey you take when there’s something you need to change about the world.
Mama says, there’s always something worth changin’.
Civilizania has another name. Some people called it Trouble Island. What I’ve noticed about grownups is that they sometimes only see the bad things that could happen. And it is true, if you keep your eyes open in Civilizania, you might not like what you see.
You might see some of the fire-breathing dragons in Civilizania. Fire-breathing dragons are always mean when they are hunting. And they are always hunting. But like Mama says, there’s always something worth changin’, so I figure this is my chance to be a part of that change.
Luckily, dragons aren’t the only thing in Civilizania.
When you go to Civilizania, look for your friends because they are there too. You may not know them yet, but keep looking and you will meet them. This is the thing about friends: they’re everywhere. Mama thinks we spend too much time being afraid of people. Sometimes I’m shy, but everyday I know she’s gonna ask me who did you meet today? And now I usually have an answer. And with a little bit of work, even some of the dragons can become your friends.
And with your friends, you can do amazing things.
When you go to Civilizania, listen.
If you are quiet long enough, you can hear the sound of the drums beating together inside of you and your friends. If you are really quiet, you can hear the sound of the trees and the flowers. Listen long to them because they have seen more than you.
When you go to Civilizania, use your voice.
The dragons are most afraid of your voice. If you and your friends use your voices together, you will be stronger.
When you go to Civilizania , you need to be careful, but not too careful. When you’re too careful you might miss out on the great stuff that can happen, like finding a bug under a rock or seeing the sunset from the top of a very tall mountain. If you’re too careful you might miss that feeling you get when you hold hands with your friends to sing the new song you just learned.
When you go to Civilizania, ask lots of questions. Don’t always believe what the dragons tell you. I heard somewhere that if you always just believe what you are told that you will never find out for yourself what truth is. Papa says, the truth is always different for every person, so you really gotta search.
When you go to Civilizania, it’s a really good idea to go by foot. When you do, you need to walk tall and take big steps. That’s the thing about walking. If we walk together the road is always easier and then it doesn’t seem so long.
But don’t think you’re the only one to have ever walked that road. If you look closely you can see the footprints of the people who have come before you.
When you get to Civilizania, you might realize that you didn’t pack your bags. You think you might not be ready for the journey, but then you’re there for a while and you travel a bit, and you notice that you already have everything you need.
So the next time the grownups shake their heads and say this crazy world, know there’s a place where things don’t have to be so crazy.
It’s called Civilizania and sometimes it seems like Trouble Island. But if we keep our eyes open, use our voices, and listen, together we can make it better.
And we may decide to stay.
1. Read aloud daily.
2. Take books with you everywhere you go. Travel to the store, park, ocean, church, with books in a basket, just in case.
3. Find a cozy place to read in your home.
4. Check out books on tape from the library.
5. Read signs and other environmental print together as much as possible.
6. Tell stories as a family.
7. Tape record your child telling stories.
8. Read songs, poems and patterned stories together. Recite them or sing them together whenever you feel the urge.
9. Do make reading a happy time together.
10. Find a time for reading to suit both of you. It is usually a good idea to switch off the television.
11. All children need time to look at and discuss the pictures in a book. Also, discuss the story with your child as he/she is reading it. Talk about what is happening and what might follow. When the book is finished ask your child if he/she enjoyed it and ask him/her to tell you why.
12. If your child makes a mistake do not worry. Reread the sentence or page pointing out the error gently.
13. Tell your child the words he/she does not know. Do not expect your child to sound out every word. Do not labor this point.
14. Your child may sometimes be reading a book that is “too easy”. Don’t worry – he/she may need to reestablish confidence, and it is useful for reinforcement.
15. If you think the book is hard for your child to read, then read it aloud to him/her. This will give your child encouragement and also develop expression and fluency.
16. Do praise and encourage your child. It is vital to build your child’s confidence.
17. Ask questions about what you read. Make connections to your lives together.
18. Reread favorites over and over again.
19. Play with words your child does know how to read. Make word cards or sentence strips and make silly sentences or stories with them.
20. Talk about interesting words, authors or illustrators.
21. Subscribe to children’s magazines and read them together.
22. Give books as gifts!
As you might have guessed if you've read much of this blog, we don't spend a whole lot of time in front of the television. In fact, we don't own one, but Daddy being a film history scholar, we do rent and watch film. In the past several months, Zeal has been enjoying many of the old silent era films (that should probably be its very own post), but most recently he's be enthralled by the work of Andy Goldsworthy. This is Zeal's kind of art and expression of creativity!
Andy Goldsworthy is a British sculptor, photographer and environmentalist living in Scotland who produces site-specific sculpture and land art situated in natural and urban settings. His art involves the use of natural and found objects, to create both temporary and permanent sculptures which draw out the character of their environment.
We've been especially enjoying the many books Zeal has checked out from the library, renewed, and once that ran out checked out again. Here are some of his favorites:
but there are many, many more by Andy Goldsworthy that are worth exploring.
And add to that the documentary about the man himself, Rivers and Tides. I love watching this with Zeal for the simple reason that I get to watch Zeal watch it, learn from it, tilt his head and know that he is studying this man and his ways of creating.
Read more about Andy and see some of his works in this digital catalogue.
And here's a little clip from Rivers and Tides, Zeal's new favorite movie.
Please pardon the wrinkles around the edges as I work to give The Wondershop a bit of a facelift. If there is something you would like to see here, now's your chance to speak up and let your creative desires be heard. Is there something you'd like to see here? Please use the contact tab above to let me know your thoughts!
In the meantime, Happy Wondering!
Our trips have been plentiful this summer; we're all grateful for that. Now, with a bit of quiet time, I am settling after being away for a bit, going through pictures, and reflecting on the trip.
As we began this most recent trip, this time by plane, we wandered into a cute little airport eatery. It was not your typical airport eatery filled with overpriced, bad food, but instead was decently priced with lots of good healthy choices. As we were paying for the food, I noticed a set of unique looking wine glasses and took a peek. There was a line drawn in the middle of the glass. Written just above the line was the word “optimsta”. Just below: “pessimista”. Smiling, I put the glass down and thought to myself, I’m definitely an optimista. And on we went with our journey.
Two planes, four days filled with love, laughter, and adventure, and we found ourselves at the airport once again, this time on our way home. It had been a perfect trip in every way. He said his ride on the carousel was a highlight and we laughed about the carousel being a metaphor for life (he loves to talk about metaphors).
And now at the airport, here’s how the events unfolded:
We missed the terminal, and had to circle the airport a second time.
Zeal got extra time with Grammy and Aunt Julie.
Checking in, we find that we are booked on three separate airlines, and we have to check-in at three separate check-in counters.
Zeal proudly showed off his new lego creation to more and more people.
Finally at the check-in counter for our originating flight, we are told we can no longer check luggage and we have to pay for any pieces of luggage we do want to check, but we can carry-on anything within the proper size dimensions (uh, hello, we checked it on the way down without a charge!) We decide to carry our luggage on, all four pieces of it (two backpacks and two suitcases).
Our luggage is all the right size to carry-on.
My toiletries, some of them rather expensive, are seized at the security check point because they are in 4 ounce bottles instead of 3 ounces (did I mention that I didn’t check them because of the charge? Ugh!)
They were half-used so replacing them costs only half as much.
Each of the three times we changed planes, our “new” plane is in an entirely different terminal in the airport.
We got lots of exercise coming back.
The whole encounter reminds me of a few great books worth exploring, both with the theme of optimista/pessimista.
That’s Good, That’s Bad by Margery Cuyler
and Fortunately by Remy Charlip
Now, I admit, those little bits in italic were not my first thoughts. In fact, they're Zeal’s thoughts, all the things he said to me as I was recounting the story. Each time, I agreed with him, albeit a bit reluctantly. And now here I am thinking, I want to be a half-full mama for him; I want to be the optimista I thought I was. At least I know my son is. I’ll take my cues from him today – these little ones are always the best teachers.
As you may know, I am huge fan of Byrd Baylor's many titles. I love beginning our day (and often my workshops) with her book The Way to Start a Day, but I think Zeal's very favorite is I'm in Charge of Celebrations. He loves "Dust Devil Day" and "Coyote Day" and loves making up his own celebrations.
Well, today I'M in charge of celebrations and I deem today my official "Quiet Day" and boy am I celebratin'! The boys have gone camping, and while I was itching to go with them, I forced myself to keep quiet and stay home. After all, they are getting their father-son bonding time, and I am getting so much more than I ever imagined this time and space would give me.
I often take moments for myself, and am actually quite good at making sure I get it in on regular basis. I'm in book clubs, a writing group, and have a regular dedicated yoga practice. But I've just realized that I never take this time for myself at home. I always go somewhere - on a walk with a friend, to the yoga studio, on a drive. But here I find myself in my own space, and the experience is quite different, and renewing in a way I hadn't imaged.
I do admit that I cleaned the place, organized my share of closets, and even (my mom would be so proud) ironed the placemats that came oh so crumpled out of the dryer last week before this feeling settled on me. I even ate a piece of dark chocolate and made it to a yoga class (not in that order). I look around now, and the house is clean, and the lights are low, a candle is burning, a breeze is floating in from the window, and for the first time in a while I feel my breathing restored, my thoughts settle. There is noone here to ask me a question, noone to read to but myself, and I realize how very much I love the quiet.
So I think I'll go curl up with a bit of pregnancy ice tea and this old book, About Storytellers by Donald G. Mitchel, an original from 1878 I added to my collection years ago and haven't yet read.
But just cause I am mama, I can't help but post a photo of the guys I am missing (just as they were about to pull out of the driveway), even if I do love this time celebrating the quiet.
Enjoy your own quiet moments!
Now that we’re back from our series of little vacations, we’re happily settling in and looking towards our final quarter of the year, a time we usually make quite a few goals for ourselves, individually and as a family. Of course, we always have goals (all of us) that have to do with what we’re reading. So here’s a little piece about teaching kids to self-select their reading material. No matter what your children’s learning environment is (home, school, the world) understanding oneself as a reader is a valuable life skill for all levels. Enjoy!
Empowering Readers ~ Teaching Kids to Select Appropriate Independent Reading Material
Self-selection is a powerful motivator for readers of any age. In keeping with an approach of allowing children to choose what they learn, here’s a suggestion to also allow children to choose their own independent reading material.
Know Thyself. Allowing young learners the freedom to learn who they are as readers is key in the self-selection process. Often times, young readers want so badly to be able to read a certain book (usually based on a cover picture) that they experience disappointment (and a blow to their self esteem in the process). Setting goals for themselves as readers (and achieving them) is where we eventually want to be. Continued progress is what we are aiming for. Knowing where one is NOW and being OK with that is where we need to begin.
Finding an EASY Book.
The first step is to help your child find a book that is really too easy. That is, a book in which they can read and understand EVERY word without exception. It is just too easy. For beginning readers, their EASY book may be one that is wordless, or just has one or two words per page. This process is meant to give the child confidence: “Yes! There is something out there that I can read!”
Finding a Learning Book.
The next step to knowing thyself is to find a LEARNING book or what I like to call a “JUST RIGHT” book. That is, a book that one can read and understand most of the words in. Now, this book needs to be one that a child can read independently, yet sometimes may have questions about a word’s meaning, but can still make meaning from the text as a whole. Hence, it is a level of book that they are continuing to LEARN from.
Finding a GOAL book.
Now that your child knows what is too EASY and what is JUST RIGHT, it is important for her to find the book that she wants to be able to read. This process may take more guidance at first, but soon she will become a master at setting goals that are appropriate. Remind your learner that at one time their EASY book was a LEARNING book for her. Maybe that was just 2 months ago. What book does she want to be able read in the next two months? She may need a few gentle reminders at first about not making too much of a leap at first. Remind her that we need to take small steps to achieve our goals. But remember: allow it to come from the learner, not imposed upon her.
Make sure that you somehow keep a record of what your child chose as an EASY book, a LEARNING book, and a GOAL book as well as a date by which she wants to achieve her goal. I suggest also always keeping the books in a highly visible place, perhaps in a basket on your family’s project table or in the special spot your child has chosen as her designated work space, or where she keeps her reading work.
Reviewing Your GOAL book and setting new goals. Always, always, always follow through with this part. Make sure you review your learner’s GOAL book on or near the date she said she wanted to be able to read it. Ask her to try and read it independently on her own, then come back and ask her if there are any words that were once difficult, but now she knows. There will most likely be many. Could she now call this book a LEARNING book? Is it still too difficult? Review your goals together and begin the process again. You’ll find that your learner is gaining in more than just reading skills; she is beginning to know herself as a reader and gaining confidence!
We've spent the last few days on vacation, another precious few days with the cousins and Grammy.
On the way here, we read this book: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basis E. Frankweiler, a book I hadn't read in a long while. Zeal loved it! As we got to the end of the book, we came across this passage (don't worry, it won't spoil the book or tell of the storyline at all):
"The adventure is over. Everything gets over, and nothing is ever enough. Except the part you carry with you. It's the same as going on a vacation. Some people spend all their time on a vacation taking pictures so that when they get home they can show their friends evidence that they had a good time. They don't pause to let the vacation enter inside of them and take that home."
So here's the part we are carrying with us as we end this journey, some of which we captured on film, and some is just inside:
Climb on your goofy older cousin's back when you need to see, or just want to be a little closer to him.
Stop to smell the flowers, and then step back and just appreciate them because, yes, the bees are out!
Smile a goofy smile. Everybody loves to see you smile.
And then put your camera away for a while so you can enjoy each other to the fullest!
See you tomorrow, for then we will be back in our cozy home for a spell.
This week, I'll be making a few stops at the Lane County Fair to sign copies of Child of Wonder.
Come on out on Thursday from 5-8PM or Saturday from 2-5PM and let's talk wonder! We'll be in the Gleason Atrium.
Hope to see you at the fair!
We're busy building lots of memories here these days.
Just wanted to stop in today to share a few links with you of a few past interviews:
You can read one over at the Artful Parent here, and part two here.
And then there was this one over at the Do Life Right blog.
Here's one on Famliies.com, and this is part two.
And if you happen to speak German, here's a special one.
And if you'd rather listen, you can hear a very short radio interview here. Be aware that I was super sick the day this interview was done, which is why am sitting here wondering why I am sharing it. C'est la vie.
Enjoy the moments of wonder you uncover in your day and weekend!
Oh, it's so wonderful to see pieces emerge from the kiln. Zeal is very much experimental with his pottery, and most of what he creates usually gets returned to a lump of clay before having the chance to be fired - which I love about him and his ability to accept and embrace impermanence, but it is so satisfying to see things actually make it to the final stage.
Here's a piece we sculpted together, a Family Totem:
Our family members are (from bottom to top): Raphael (Daddy), Me, Zeal, and a star for the baby on the way.
You can't see it in the photo, but it stands about nine inches tall.
Zeal also made a dog that was attached to the side of the totem(for our very important pup, Bengali), but it broke in the bisque firing. He's been making lots of faces lately and, for one reason or another, has been having lots of trouble getting them to stay in one piece. Here's one funky face with a forked-tongue that didn't quite make it, but nonetheless, he wanted to fire and is happy with it: I'm learning a lot about how thick pieces need to be to not break, says he.
And here's one I made just for fun: a oak leaf fairy house lantern. I'm having trouble catching the detail on film, but you get the picture. It was great fun to make, and Zeal now insists I start a series of them. Maybe a few seasonal fairy houses would be fun to rotate through the house.
My how I love the potential of real earth clay!
In my book, Child of Wonder, I have a chapter called “Let the Flower Bloom,” about allowing children to approach and arrive at their own creativity and expression at their own pace. In my opinion, it’s one of the most important chapters in the book, for without respect of personal pace and understanding of the range of development, I believe our children are doomed to have their creativity and personal expression stifled and even fatally crushed. On the other hand, when we do respect both their process and their pace in all they do, their creativity can bloom in ways we hadn’t ever imagined.
Today, this respect and patience, the kind a flower requires to beautifully bloom, paid off for my own little flower: my seven year-old son Zeal. Most things in life come very easy to Zeal – he talked at a very young age, has lots of friends, embraces life to the fullest, loves the joy of personal expression, and can reason and philosophize with the best of them.
For the last six years or so, we have been providing him positive water experiences and waiting for the day when he would glide along unaided, body and head fully submerged, and just swim away from his dear parents. But that day seemed further and further off in the distance. Would it ever arrive? Would he ever swim on his own?
At times, I’ve been silently discouraged by his progress, or lack thereof, as he refused to even put his face in the water, much less begin to swim laps. We’d tried everything: games, lessons, fun with friends, talks about the importance of learning water safety, more lessons, just giving up and not talking about any expectations, “practicing” in the bathtub, anything to get him to enjoy the water and make him more comfortable with the very natural experience that it is. Still, he continued to have reservations about the water and his precious little face.
When Zeal started walking, at 9 months, he literally and without warning to us just stood up and walked across the room. When a friend gifted him a hand-me-down bike just after his fourth birthday, he got on it and within 10 minutes of running behind him, he started riding around the park. So why should swimming be any different for him? Of course, it wasn’t. It just took him a little longer this time around.
Well, without a word, he decided today was the day. He got in the water, bobbed for a second, and took off swimming. It looked almost effortless as he kicked and moved through the water. It looked as though he’d been doing this for years. But it wasn’t without effort at all.
This kid, like his mom, is a watcher. We watch, study, until we’re ready to jump in with both feet and take off with a splash. Even knowing this about him, about me, it has sometimes been difficult to just let the flower bloom the way flowers do, with gentle care and loving patience. And he did in fact, yet again, bloom! And as always, he did it in his own sweet time.
Calling all faeries...Today and tomorrow, August 2nd and 3rd, Child of Wonder books will be for sale at the Faerie Worlds Festival in Veneta, Oregon. If you happen to be going to the festival, please stop by the children's area and take a peek.
A portion of all proceeds will go to benefit the Eugene chapter of SpiralScouts.