Posts tagged: inspirational/parenting

Loving Every Child – Wisdom For Parents (by Janusz Korczak, edited by Sandra Joseph)

By , October 23, 2007 8:53 pm


Henryk Goldszmit was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1878. He is better known by his pseudonym, Janusz Korczak (pronounced “Yanoosh Kor-chock”)

Not only did Janusz Korczak become a well-known writer (Korczak even wrote quite a few children’s books that were apparently extremely well-known in their day, including King Matt the First) but he also became a pediatrician so as to better be able to help sick and poor children.

In 1912 he decided to go a step further and became the director of a new Jewish orphanage in Warsaw. He lived in the attic of the building and accepted no salary. He cared lovingly for the children and had a profound belief (which was not at all the mainstream view at the time) that children should be respected and listened to.

In 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland. In 1940, they ordered Korczak’s orphanage to relocate to the Jewish ghetto, which was a deplorable slum filled with disease, starvation and corpses on the streets.

Korczak made daily begging expeditions to obtain food and medicine for the children. He attempted to maintain as normal a life for the children as possible: teaching and playing with them. He also took over a hospital for sick and dying children in his belief that children should die with dignity.

Although encouraged by non-Jewish friends to leave Poland and save himself, and despite being offered many opportunites to escape, he always replied:

“You wouldn’t abandon your own child in sickness, misfortune, or danger, would you? So how can I leave two hundred children now!” (Loving Every Child, p. 82)

You can all see where this terrible tale is headed. On August 5, 1942 Janusz Korczak lead his two hundred children on a parade through the streets to the train station. They carried the orphanage flag designed by Korczak, and each child carried one favorite toy or book. Korczak and his children were taken away in freight cars to Treblinka where they were all sent to the gas chambers.

This was not meant to be a biographical post about Janusz Korczak, but I don’t believe that one can discuss this book Loving Every Child: Wisdom for Parents, without knowing a bit about this remarkable man.

I stumbled upon this book after hearing a March 3rd NPR story about it: Parenting Advice From a Polish Holocaust Hero. I read it cover-to-cover right away, think about it often, and knew I would write about it one day after I was able to digest the enormity of Korczak and his wisdom, as well as write a post about him without crying.

Loving Every Child: Wisdom for Parents is actually a compilation of quotations from some of Korczak’s other works, primarily How to Love a Child (1919) and The Child’s Right to Respect (1929). It is divided into chapters that each cover a very general subject. For example: “Communication,” “A Child Will Play,” and my favorite – “Adults Are Not Very Clever.”

Janusz Korczak was so incredibly ahead of his time. The advice in this book could have been written yesterday. To think that he wrote these words in the early 1900’s just amazes me.

As I mentioned previously, the main theme of the book is respect for the child. Korczak’s keen observations about the interaction between children and adults really make it seem that this man was able to get inside a child’s head and see the world as the child sees it. His sense of empathy and compassion is overwhelming.

This book has profoundly touched me. Although Korczak’s story brings tears to my eyes whenever I think of it, I have to agree with Ari L. Goldman in his Foreword:

“But what I particularly like about this volume is that it takes Korczak’s wisdom about children out of the context of martyrdom. Most people learn about him through exhibits at various museums commemorating the Holocaust. Korczak, of course, deserves a place there. But he especially deserves to be remembered for what he taught us about children and about ourselves.” (Loving Every Child, p. viii)

This is a book to keep on your nightstand and pick up again and again. Even nearly one hundred years later, Korczak’s words serve as a reminder to us all, to listen to and respect our children.

Here are some of my favorite passages from Loving Every Child: Wisdom for Parents (actually, they are ALL my favorites, so it was hard to choose just a few):

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“We plunder the mountains, cut down the trees, and exterminate the animals. More and more the forests and marshes are being replaced by buildings. We are planting human beings in ever new territories.

We have subjugated the world and have made use of the iron and the animals; we have enslaved other races, we have organized international relations in a cursory way and appeased the masses. Injustice and ill treatment prevail. We do not really consider childhood worries and apprehensions as very serious matters.

Any child is an unequivocal democrat and does not recognize any hierarchies. Whether it is another child’s hunger or the agony of a tormented animal, it causes him pain. Dogs, birds, butterflies, and flowers are equally close to his heart, and he feels kinship with each pebble and shell. He does not believe that only humans have souls.” (p.45)

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“The child is small, lightweight, and there is just less of him. We ought to stoop and come down to his level.” (p.20)

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“When is the proper time for a child to start walking? When she does. When should her teeth start cutting? When they do. How many hours should a baby sleep? As long as she needs to.” (p.8)

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“The child never begrudges the time spent reading a story, having a conversation with the dog, playing catch, carefully scrutinizing a picture or retracing a letter.” (p.34)

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You can also read an excerpt from the book at the NPR website.

Photo is of Janusz Korczak circa 1930, courtesy of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. (USHMM – Photograph #65010, courtesy of Mińôdzynarodowe Stowarzyszenie im. Janusza Korczaka)

Raising Environmentally Aware Children (Blog Action Day)

By , October 15, 2007 12:01 am

I truly believe that the way to raise environmentally aware children is to instill a love and appreciation of nature at an early age.

Here are some ideas and resources to help parents encourage a love of nature in their children. Just one of these ideas alone may not make much of a difference, but a combination of several should begin to have an impact on the way children perceive the world we live in. I hope so anyhow! Please give some of these a try:

1) Get your kids outside! Go for a hike, or even a walk around the neighborhood. The National Wildlife Federation has a website for parents and kids called The Green Hour which is filled with ideas for what to do outside. Also check out Backyard Nature with Jim Conrad for 101 nature-oriented activities that change seasonally.

2) Have your kids plant a small garden. If you live in the city, have them plant a pot or two on the deck or even in a sunny window. Here are some of my tips for gardening with children: The Children’s Garden.

3) Subscribe to nature magazines for children such as Zoobooks (ages 4-12), Zootles (ages 2-5), National Geographic Kids (6-14), National Geographic Little Kids (ages 3-6), Ranger Rick (ages 7 and up), Your Big Backyard (ages 3-7) or for really little ones (ages 1-4) – try the National Wildlife Federation’s Wild Animal Baby. Not only do these magazines teach kids about nature, but they encourage reading too!

Note: Ranger Rick must have been around for eons, because even I remember getting it, and loving it, as a child.

4) Subscribe to a nature club such as the Arbor Day Foundation’s Nature Explore Club.

5) Put out a bird feeder, or better yet, a variety of bird feeders (hummingbird, thistle seed, suet feeders, platform feeders, peanuts in shells, as well as the traditional sunflower and millet varieties). Even in the city it should usually be possible to hang a small feeder outside a window. If you can put out a bird bath, especially a heated one for climates with cold winters, you will notice an even greater number of bird visitors.

6) Get a kit for raising butterflies, frogs, ladybugs, or hermit crabs for example.

Or how about an ant farm?

Or my personal favorite…sea monkeys!

7) Set an example. Whether we like it or not, kids model parents’ behaviors. Show your own interest in nature, and point out interesting animals, insects, plants etc. on a daily basis. To inspire yourself, I suggest reading Rachel Carson’s book The Sense of Wonder. Read my review of it here. Also, you can check out the adult resources here, at the Hooked on Nature website.



8) Come up with some nature-themed art projects for your children, or recycled art. Good resources for ideas are: Nature’s Art Box, Recycled Crafts Box, and Earthways: Simple Environmental Activities for Young Children

If you are interested, I reviewed Earthways here.

9) Involve children in your recycling. Let them help sort. Take them with you when you drop it off. Older children might benefit from a book like Down-to-Earth Guide To Global Warming. Read my review here for more information.

10) Read nature-themed stories to your children. Here are some suggested reading lists by age from the Hooked on Nature website:

Ages 3-8
Ages 6-14

11) Set up a seasonal nature table in your home where children can display their outdoor finds. A fall table for example might have fall leaves, acorns, and pine cones, whereas a spring table might have spring flowers, feathers and grasses. Change the table seasonally and see what wonders your children come home with.

12) Start solstice celebrations in your home. Explain about the movement of the Earth, what causes the seasons, and what the solstice means. Last year we had our first annual solstice celebration on the winter solstice. We lit candles and had a special meal. The children gathered whatever they could find outside to create the centerpiece (pine branches, pine cones, rocks, and twigs). They still talk about that evening more than any other holiday celebration that we have had! I believe that being more aware of the natural rhythms of life, helps build an awareness of the importance of nature and the planet.

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I really wish I had begun this post three weeks ago instead of last night, because I know that there are many more great ideas for getting kids excited about nature and the environment. This will definitely have to be an ongoing project for me.

I hope you have enjoyed my ideas, and will find them useful. The main point is that children are the future of out planet. Get them outdoors and teach them just how wonderful our planet is…PLEASE!!!!

What Goes Around, Comes Around…

By , October 3, 2007 11:00 pm

Thank you all so much for the comments on Monday’s post (The Great Candy Dilemma). Your interest truly warmed my heart and I was so pleased to see a few new commenters. Thank you!

It is funny how something so small as a comment from a reader can really make a blogger’s day, and I am sure all bloggers would agree. In cyberspace, a comment can be like a handshake, a pat on the back, even a hug. It makes me happy to know that I have reached someone and they have reached back.

Before I get all mushy and sentimental here, I’d better get to my point. A comment makes me happy. When I am happy, I make my kids happy. They then make their teachers and class mates happy, etc. etc. etc. Pay it forward. Good karma. What goes around, comes around. Whatever you call it, it is a fact of life, and one that I would like my children to learn.

My pleasure from all your virtual hugs and handshakes reminded me of a few books that we have that help kids understand the whole “pay it forward” idea.

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Love and Kisses

First is a book for little ones called Love and Kisses.

I read this to the baby tonight, it is one of her favorites although she is probably too young to “get” the deeper meaning. I bought it in board book format when my now seven year-old was a baby, and it has held up really well even after being loved by three children.

The story begins with a little girl blowing a kiss to her cat, “Blow a kiss and let it go. You never know how love will grow!” On the next page, we see the little girl kissing her cat again. On the following page the cat kisses a cow, who kisses a “giggling goose,” who kisses a fish, etc. etc. You get the idea. The kiss passes through a variety of very sweetly illustrated animals and ultimately ends up where?? Yes of course! Back to the cat, then to the girl. The last two pages say: “Kisses! Kisses! Smooch and smack! You’ll have your love and kisses back!”

This is such a happy little book. Even though the message is profound, it still makes for a happy, uplifting bedtime read that toddlers can enjoy. The text is a melodic rhyme and the illustrations are really cute and funny.

The book comes new in a board book or paperback format (both are eligible for Amazon’s 4-for-3 promotion), or you can find used hardcovers. I personally recommend the board book version since mine has lasted forever, and toddlers really like this book!


Because Brian Hugged His Mother


This book tells the story of little boy Brian who woke up one day and decided to run into the kitchen and give his Mom a big hug and kiss, and tell her he loved her. Of course, “Brian’s mother felt loved and appreciated” and made Brain and his sister Joanna their favorite breakfast. So, at school, Joanna helps her teacher, who then does something nice for the new principal, who was so happy, that she was lenient with a misbehaving student and so on, and so on.

Of course, after passing through many different people in Brian’s town, the kindness eventually ends up with a police officer who catches Brian’s Dad speeding, but because she is feeling “supported and honored,” she gives him a warning instead of a ticket. Brian’s Dad, feeling “grateful and relieved” reads an extra long time with Brain before bed. That made Brain feel “loved and treasured” so he had pleasant dreams, slept well, and awoke feeling great. He then ran to the kitchen to give his mother a hug!!

As you can glean from my summary, not only does the book teach the concept of karma very simply and plainly, but it is also provides a wonderful opportunity to discuss feelings. Each character feels differently (in a positive way) after being the recipient of a thoughtful deed. A discussion of words like “valued,” “accepted,” “respected,” or “honored” can really enhance a child’s understanding of the many nuances of positive emotions.

The illustrations consist of quite life-like watercolors that nicely depict the scenes of daily life that accompany the text.

Karma Coaching Cards for Kids (Karma Coaching Cards)

OK, I promised books, but this is not a book. It is a set of cards. “Santa” left these cool cards in my oldest daughter’s stocking last Christmas. For a long time we were doing one of these every morning and a Sweet Dreams Card every night before bed. While the Sweet Dreams Cards are still a “must” before bed, the Karma Cards have fallen a bit by the wayside lately, perhaps due to our hectic morning schedule (ie. Mom isn’t a Morning Person). Well, we rediscovered them during a room cleaning and my daughter is “into them” again!

I am not a baby flashcard sort of mom, but for the right child, these cards seem to be a fun way to teach the pleasures of positive actions. Since my daughter is so hooked on the <Sweet Dreams: 36 Bedtime Wishes, these work for her.

The idea is that a child chooses one of the 25 cards and does what the card says at some point during the day. Some examples are: “Choose one of your toys to donate to a charity,” and: “Find a penny dated the year of your birth and give it away to someone special.” Most of the cards spread kindness to others, or help you feel better about yourself. Several are merely useful in a more practical sense, such as practicing a family fire drill, or learning the words to your national anthem.

In case you feel like you could use a little karmic nudge yourself, there are also Karma Cards for adults with a variety of themes (including Karma Coaching Cards Environment (Karma Coaching Cards) Рthat is my personal area of deficiency and guilt). Karma Cards are recommended for children ages 5 and up Рwith adult supervision.

(2016 update: These are still available but only used)

The Sense of Wonder (Rachel Carson)

By , September 12, 2007 9:21 pm

For someone who is supposed to be “unplugged,” I seem to spend quite a bit of time flitting about on Amazon. We have no decent local bookstore (sorry “Bookworm”), and I love books. Even our local library is poorly stocked. So that is my excuse and I am sticking to it!

Anyhow, one of my happy Amazon finds one day was this lovely book: The Sense of Wonder, by Rachel Carson. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the book, although the description and reviews on Amazon made it sound wonderful.

The text is a republication of a 1956 essay by “ahead of her time” environmental writer Rachel Carson (Essay: “Help Your Child to Wonder,” Woman’s Home Companion magazine, July 1956). In this edition, her inspiring words are accompanied by gorgeous, and often unusual, nature photographs by Nick Kelsh. As the dust jacket flap says: “Kelsh’s camera is drawn to patterns in nature that all too often elude hurried adults…” which is the whole point of Rachel Carson’s essay.

This is a big book (111 pages), but much of it is photography. I was easily able to read the whole thing in bed one night before going to sleep (and believe me, I am so tired at the end of the day that I don’t usually last long, no matter how good the book).

Rachel Carson writes about helping children discover nature, and about rediscovering nature with a childlike sense of wonder as an adult. This wonderful essay is a compilation of Carson’s thoughts about experiencing the world of Maine’s rocky coast with her nephew Roger. As she says:

If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder…he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” (p.55)

Carson speaks much of “feeling” vs. “knowing,” exploring with the senses rather than the intellect. She expresses her philosophy in this wonderful image:

If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow. The years of early childhood are the time to prepare the soil.” (p.56)

Another all-too-true lesson from this book is that as adults, we tend not to see that which is available to us every day. We grown-ups lose ourselves in the artificial and mundane. We forget how to really observe and experience the world, and tend to take the nature around us for granted. Because we can see the stars almost every night, we never actually stop to take the opportunity to gaze at the stars! Just as when living near the Grand Canyon, for example, one never goes to visit it.

The next time you “see nature,” even if it is only a bird momentarily alighting on the railing of your city apartment balcony, Ms. Carson urges you to ask yourself:

“What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?” (p.67)

Relearn the observation of the natural world using all your senses. See the beauty and perfection, even in the tiniest of objects. Take a hike in the woods (or your local city park) equipped with only a magnifying glass and an eager child to see what beauty you can find.

I find this book to be so inspirational, every time I read it I want to immediately drop the laundry basket and rush outside with my children! Honestly, I could read it over and over again. It evokes in me the same feelings that I experienced while reading Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea(published in 1955). I simply can’t believe that these amazing women wrote these remarkable words fifty years ago.

There are many obvious differences between the two books, but deep down, they convey the same message and have the same peaceful and comforting “feel” about them. How interesting that they were written within one year of each other, both works taking place by the sea in New England, and both authored by extraordinary women. I wish I had a doctoral thesis to write (in all my free time) because I certainly see a fascinating one here.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to any parent, especially those of the Waldorf, Montessori, or home school persuasion. If you are like me, you will want to read it over and over again. If you are still not convinced, then check it out of the library and I bet that after a quick read you will be ready to invest in a hardcover version of your very own.

Unplugged Birthday Party

By , September 10, 2007 10:28 am

For me, it is one of those dreaded times of year again: birthday party time. A Good Mom probably cherishes these milestone moments and decorates for hours, bakes a cake from scratch, plans fun games and then sits back and enjoys watching her wee one having the time of his or her little life with perfectly well-behaved and polite little friends at The Birthday Party.

I, however, have come to rather dread The Birthday Party. For me it symbolizes a time of excess, greed and waste. Just call me Birthday Scrooge. I have grown tired of watching my kids rip wrapping paper off yet another toy we don’t need, only to toss it aside to rip the paper off the next one, as all the other kids “ooh” and “aah” with envy.This year I decided to suggest something different to my daughter. Having recently spent a lot of time at the local Humane Society shelter adopting a dog and three cats to add to our already large menagerie, I suggested that this year we have a Humane Society birthday where we would ask guests to bring an item for the shelter animals instead of the usual gift. My daughter loves animals and understands that many animals are homeless, but I wasn’t sure that a 7 year-old could be altruistic enough to forgo the excitement of birthday presents.

I picked my moment carefully (after we had finished sorting out a bunch of old, unplayed-with toys to donate) and made the suggestion:

“Every year at your birthday party you always get a lot of toys like these that you never play with and that just clutter up the house. How about this year we ask everyone to bring pet food, or something for all those homeless animals at the shelter instead?”

“Oh yes, yes, yes!!!” she said. Even her little brother asked if he could do that for his birthday too (we’ll see if he still wants to when his time comes next June).

We asked our cat sitter, who works at the Humane Society, to tell us what they really needed most right now. We put this list on an insert inside the party invitations. My daughter was very excited to help make the insert requesting donations instead of gifts. We even added some photos of our recent shelter adoptees.

We had the party on Saturday, and as you can see from the photo, the eight guests were extremely generous in their donations of food and toys for the animals! The parents all commented on what a great idea our party was. I am sure they were happier spending their money on food for the homeless animals than on a cheap toy for the child who has too much.

Today after school is the really exciting moment. I will pick my children up from school and we will take everything down to the shelter to give to them. My daughter can’t wait!

I must say that as I write this, I feel every bit the Proud Mama. My daughter, at only age 7, was able to derive pleasure from giving rather than receiving. For once, this was a truly enjoyable birthday party for us all!

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