Making Grammar Relatable and Fun

It is no surprise that I absolutely adore alternate methods of teaching. Most of my lessons are taught as hands on as possible. My 1st graders have full access to different Montessori inspired trays that vary from grammar, math, to science based activities.

When my class began learning about nouns, verbs and adjectives most classes spent hours circling nouns and underlining verbs. And yet, the kids just weren't getting it. So I whipped up some different sentence identification sheets and printed out some Montessori grammar symbols. I unfortunately do not have access to 3D grammar symbols so instead I used a red rubber ball and some pyramid blocks that I painted. My kids LOVED the hands on approach to truly understanding what a verb was (it moves, rolls, just like a red ball), as well as adjectives and nouns.

This has been a work on our shelf for a month now and when I went to take it down the kids begged to keep it! Such a great way to add some Montessori inspired activities into your public school classroom or homeschool. I have the sentence identification card shown above, plus some more available here or here.

On Raising {Emotionally} Responsible {Smart} Children

Originally Published December 7th 2014.

After stuffing her little legs into tights, putting on a leotard, driving through the city and trooping through the wet parking lot we made it to the dance studio. She ripped off her outer layer and skipped through the studio door without looking back as I took my seat next to a mother in the front row of chairs. The mother next to me had brought in her hysterical little one who absolutely did not want to go inside. With a flick of her wrist this mama told her daughter "leave now please" and her daughter sulked into the doors sniffling back tears.

Five minutes later when Grace came tumbling through the door in near hysterics straight into my lap it felt awfully familiar to the previous incident. After years of this caregiving thing I have learned something that I think revolutionizes how we interact with all children. Little ones do not respond well to words. Little ones are action based, they need life modeled for them.
With that I have stopped asking a sobbing children with great concern and a booming voice "WHAT IS WRONG?! WHAT HAPPENED?! SHH SHH TELL ME WHAT HAPPENED?!" Instead I model calmness in my body, I steady my breath to a matchable pace, I rub little backs and I let them cry. My goal is not to find out exactly what happened right away, my goal is to give the child an inbreath in an outbreath world. When we as adults are upset, near tears (or already there) in public the last thing we would want is someone asking us one hundred questions. We would go to the bathroom, calm ourselves down and decide what we need in that moment.

These are sacred moments, one does not rush into sacredness.

Raising our voices to a panicked level, and being concerned ourselves does not calm a child. Asking questions that a child is too upset to answer or even understand does not work. Dare I say when we start asking questions and saying things like "SHH Calm down!" we are belittling feelings, feelings that we will beg children in a decade to please share with us. Feelings that in two decades they will have stuffed so deep that they do not even know they exist any more.
So I model calmness, I model breathing and in a few minutes Grace calms down. She slides off my lap and takes a few long breaths. She has seen me do this when her brother does something he was asked not to do, to calm down my own body and take some breaths. Modelling is how little ones learn.

With that she marches right back into that dance room and when she comes back 30 minutes later she chats on and on about how wonderful her class was, how she loves her little friends and her teacher. To the shock of the lady next to me I never even mentioned the tears, they had passed in a long wave of preschool emotions.

When Grace marched back into that room that same mama leaned over and asked half shocked and half annoyed what I would have done if Grace wanted to go home. I gave her a smile, as a young caregiver I give into an inferiority complex easily, forgetting that we are all mamas in spirit just trying to make sense of this world. In a tone much too low I told her simply that we would have gone home.

As adults at some point in our lives we have all decided to cancel on something last minute, to leave an event early, to say no to something, to decide we are too tired/sick/weary to do something. We get that choice as adults and yet we never award it to children.

When a child decides they are too tired or just do not want to go to an event we force them, we say it is responsibility in action. But maybe the responsible thing is what the child has already done, they have taken check of their own emotions, and they have decided what they can and cannot handle.

Maybe it is our job to shepherd that choice in littles, to let go of trying to teach them adult responsibility and obligations and instead show them responsibility to themselves. These little ones are wired for self-care, they are wired to know what they do and don't need. Yet we rewire them to fit into adult obligations and responsibilities and then 20 years later we get annoyed when they are burnt out after college because they never took care of themselves, or maybe we helped them forget how.
The goal is to raise children into balanced, well rounded, confident people who are innovators and free thinkers, not anxious followers desperate to fit in. -Emily Bartan

The 5 Things Sisterhood has Taught Me

Originally Published November 4th 2014
 *For the content of this post women/woman refers to any person who identifies as well, a woman.

 I was born into the wrong wave of feminism. The year I was born was the same year that third wave feminism was coined and began to take off, subsequently second wave feminism and its ideals of sisterhood got left in the dust.

23 years later, here I stand still holding a banner out of the 60's proclaiming that sisterhood is totally a thing y'all and come get on the bandwagon again! I read books like the red tent and I long for an even larger community of sisters. When I spent 3 months in Mozambique and saw mamas raising their many small children in community, laughing hard at each other over open fires, my heart began to rise. There was a calling, clear and persistent, a calling to a deeper level, to a spiritual sacredness that only happens when women rise up together. Whenever I sit in women only groups or among close soul sisters my heart feels most alive, most welcomes, most at home.  

These are dangerous words, especially as I finish up an education at a liberal arts college, in a liberal state in an even more liberal city. Sisterhood has been knocked aside as people began advocating for more LGBTQ rights, defeating gender norms, stopping systemic oppression, gender pronouns and other issues that come along with third wave feminism. And yes, there are issues, and yes they are very important...

But, I suppose I should be honest, some gender norms annoy me. It kills me a little inside when a friend finds her baby is a girl and all of a sudden people gush with words like "pretty, princess, tutus" and don't get me started on the incestuous language we use for little girls and their fathers. Yet... Yet... I believe woman are different from their male counterparts. There I said it. Maybe it is because I put a lot of faith in science, or I am projecting experience. Either way it is what my deepest heart believes is true, and when it comes down to it, that is what is most important to me. The word woman resonates with me, sisterhood, she/her, soul sisters and friendship are beautiful songs to my ear. file000346276799 

I believe women are courageous, mothering, peace makers, strong, brilliant, and so many other things. I wish when we found out "little peanut" was a girl our first thoughts went to welcoming them into our sisterhood, declaring words of courage, grace and love over their lives, not just... well... pretty. Pretty is what society values, because woman have had it spoken over them since utero. What would change if we declared wisdom, grace and radiance over babies in utero? What if from a young age we taught babies and toddlers that they judge people based on character, wit, and compassion? What if we taught our little girls in kindergarten that their class mates were sisters, that by themselves they could only accomplish so much, but if they banded together they were a majority, they could change things! What if when our twelve year old comes home in tears over the latest girl/boy love triangle drama we enforce that men come and go, sisterhood is forever. Men can only give us so much, there will be beautiful friendships and relationships with men, men are so important, but not at the sake of sisterhood. What would happen then?

So here I am 50 years later, waving my banner of equality and believing that women are part of a greater sisterhood. A sisterhood that is waiting, is open and ready to take them in with all their shame and all their vulnerability.

With that, I give you the 10 things that sisterhood has taught me. My mother. Friends. Writers. Researchers. Female only gatherings. Mentors. Readers. Small group leaders. All the courageous woman around me who gave up on the Joneses long ago and instead lived for their heart.

1) Speaking of the Joneses, I remember still being in elementary school and mother telling me that she thought she knew herself when she graduated. She laughed, it simply wasn't true. Years later I had melded her experience with many others, here I compile them into one. It is not until 30 that most woman learn who they are, it is not until 40 that most women figure out they don't care what the Joneses are up to anymore and then not until 50 do women realize that the Joneses were just trying to keep up with everyone else! That the Joneses also fought, that their kids talked back and maybe they were just as miserable as everyone else seemed to be. Women are competing every day against each other, trying to keep up and not realizing that no one else has it together, and maybe women simply need to let it go. Maybe, if we recognize all this in our 20's we wont spend 30 years of our lives breaking ourselves for other people. Maybe, we would be a lot happier! de9uL9L7RSmzV4SAoAO5_Lauren and Winona Under a pass-1

2) Never apologize for who you are. Women are known for apologizing, for everything. All the time. Don't believe me? Go sit in a high school or college classroom for a few hours. Woman after woman will speak up starting sentences with, "Sorry if this has been mentioned..." "Oh, sorry but I have a question..." "Sorry but could you..." STOP IT. Stop. Do not apologize for questions. Do not apologize for making people uncomfortable for your new brilliant ideas. Do not apologize for going into business, staying single and being rich, as long as it makes you happy! Do not apologize for going into art and being content in your little studio apartment. Do not apologize for getting married. Do not apologize for not having children or having a dozen children. Do not apologize for how you eat, how you dress or how you live. Simply do not apologize for being you in all your humanity, to anyone. Do not apologize for following your heart.

*Do still apologize if you actually need to apologize, this is not a road pass to just be a cut throat meanie all the time.

3) Stick up for your sisters. Think female solidarity! If you see a woman being abused or you suspect abuse, be a sister. Step in and speak for your sister who is voiceless. Stop gossiping, stop turning sisters against each other. Think the best of one another, lift each other up. This is how we stop the Jonses complex. This is how we take on the world. Solidarity and peaceful resistance friends!

4) Understand that you hold incredible power in either building up or tearing down sisterhood. Whenever you make a choice to hide your true self, when you attempt to build yourself up falsely for the goal that others will envy you, you break down sisterhood. You allow your sisters to think "wow I wish I was more like her. I wish I had my life together like that." But when you go into the world as your true self, when you shine confidence, and talk about radiant things and also the not so radiant things you grow bonds of sisterhood. You allow your sister to think, "wow she is brave, happy and glowing in the midst of it all. she needs my support to stay that was, and I need hers!" Recognize your power, every time you go out. You have a choice!

5) Honor your womanhood, honor everything you are. If you cannot honor yourself in all of your humanity, in all of your feelings, in all of your perfections, in all of your flaws, how do you expect anyone else to honor you? I once had a teacher who during class elections was asked if you could vote for yourself, she replied, "If you don't vote for yourself, how do you expect other people to?" That is some sage advice brought to you by a 5th grade teacher. If you do not honor, respect, love, and care for yourself, how do you expect any other people to do so? If you do not think you are WORTHY how do you expect others to see you as worthy? 1370554308iyevd

With this I only have a story to share. One passed down through generations, I read it in a book many moons ago. A book I have since lost and have not been able to google this information. If I eventually find it, I will update.

There are many ideas as to what started the term "witching hour," now it is a term used in horror movies to describe the time from 12-3am. Yet, tradition says that the witching hour* used to take place at 3:08, and it had nothing to do with witches, instead sisters. This is centuries ago, back before cell phone clocks, wall clocks and wrist watches. Around 3:08, when women had just had another nursing session and put their babies down, they would leave their houses, they would feel the pull of sisterhood and they would meet. Women would take 15 minutes out of their nights to gather together, to chat, to laugh, to talk. And then they would return to their houses, to more night time feedings and toddler cries. It was beautiful, a time just for sisters, for women to gather together outside of the business that held their lives.

*It gained the term witching hour as men found out about this time, and did not believe woman could meet together without sorcery.*

Maybe Fear is Killing our Parenting and Our Children

Originally Published October 30th 2014

Today I spent a decent amount of time walking through the International District of Seattle. After the events of what will go down as the blog blow up of 2014, I needed to clear my head and forget about the 1,000 hits an hour my post was getting.

I was in an Asian grocery store meandering the candy aisle (because I am an eight year old at heart) when a little girl, who was maybe four walked down the same aisle, alone. She asked me in Chinese to help her reach the candy she wanted, I know this because I know the word candy in Chinese and she was actively pointing whilst jumping up. Social work ethics ran through my head, my face as a child kidnapper on the front page of the paper crossed my mind, I pushed it all out and picked up the kid.

Exasperated by the candy effort she looked at me, switched to English and pointed her ANALOG hello kitty watch in my face and exclaimed that she had not been able to find her mother for ten minutes. Could I help her?

I held back horror that she was so calm, and that we could not hear a frantic mother screaming for her child. I met her hand and began to walk with her to the front of the store, on the way we spotted her mother who upon seeing us looked at her watch. Under her breath she said oh ten minutes. My curiosity got the best of me, and when I handed the child off to the mother I asked why she was so calm, most mothers would be running around, panicked, absolutely positive that some 70 year old man had taken their child to live in a hole. "I'm teaching her reliance! And concrete is too hard to build a hole through!"

"Self reliance...?" I asked.

"Reliance on other people. On her community. That people will always be there for her." 15_1

Y'all, that is when it hit me. We are scared, our society is all based on fear.

Fear that our children will get kidnapped, or molested, or hurt. Fear that our children will never become independent if we don't start young. Fear that someone will judge us for almost everything we do. Fear that no one will really be there for us if we take a leap of faith, a step of independence and it fails.

So much of this fear is unwarranted, a child has a greater likelihood of being kidnapped or molested while at a family reunion not while riding their bike down a street. People do not think about you nearly as much as you think about yourself, so chances are no one is really judging you.

But, this experience got me thinking, maybe our fear about our children never becoming independent is warranted. Why? Because our fear has led us to teaching independence and reliance the wrong way.  

Maybe, instead of teaching our children to be self-reliant we teach them FIRST to be people-reliant. Just as the lady in the grocery store said, reliant on their communities and the people around them. Let our children learn that there are people looking out for them. That if mom or dad aren't around that there are other people there to take care of them and to help them! Why be so quick to induce fear into our children? Even more so why be so quick to teach your 2-3-4-5 year old to be as independent as possible? 1413996915s7t01

Maybe, just maybe if we taught our preschooler that they could trust the world and people, that the world and people would always have their back then they would naturally become independent. They would be willing to take risks, to do things themselves, to grow into independent little humans simply because they trusted that if they failed no one would be their to mock them, instead mama, daddy or someone in their community would grab their hand and help them up.

I am sure this scares people, because well, as said above- they are afraid. The media has scared us and tricked us into believing our world is unsafe, people are unsafe and unless we bunker our children down and teach them independence and how to never talk to stranger we might as well just be handing them over to a psychopath on criminal minds.

But, what the news is telling us is simply unfounded. Crime rates are going down friends. There are only 115 cases of kidnappings a year committed by a stranger taking a child, of those 115 children 90% of those children return home safe within 24 hours, and the vast majority were teen runaways. Moral? Your four year old is more likely to be kidnapped by his/her own father than a stranger. (Statistics from Free Range Kids)

Or maybe the fear isn't the media, maybe it is is even closer to home, maybe we are scared that our little 3 year old won't get into college because they can't tie their own shoe yet. Or they will still want you to tie their shoes in junior high. Now, more than ever I am convinced that people-reliance breeds self-reliance and independence and that giving children freedom to be allows both of these reliances to grow. Most four year olds I know can't read an analog watch none the less navigate a grocery store without a hint of panic, yet their mothers and fathers are insisting they are independent. What gave that little girl independence was her trust of people, trust of the world and the lack of her parents ruining her beautiful outlook of humanity with their own fear.  

Trust your children, trust people, and maybe try trusting that this world is actually working for you not against you.

An Open Letter to Mrs. Fryburg

Originally Publish October 25th 2014

Dear Mrs Fryberg*, I want you to know that I don't blame you. As the media sends a fire storm, your community turns it back and your family stares confused, I don't blame you for what happened yesterday. I know you were a good mama, doing everything you could to give your son the best life. And it sounds like he had a very lovely life, and that can only be because his mama loved him dearly.

As the news broke yesterday my mind immediately went to you. I thought of you welcoming your son into this world fourteen years ago. You watched your sons first steps, you probably recorded them and sent them in with him for his all about me project in elementary school. Those pictures probably came home crinkled in his back pack, and you just shook your head and laughed to yourself, because boys will be boys! You wiped his tears when he went to kindergarten and prayed he wouldn't be left out come middle school. You watched his football games and cheered him on, you watched him begin to grow into a man and you wondered how that little baby could now be so big.

You did your best as a mama, I truly believe that. There is nothing different you could have done, nothing more. This is not your fault.

Yesterday, and in the coming days (months) you will hear about all the mothers who lost a child today as well. There will be angry news reports, people will put your son on the altar and crucify him over and over. You will hear your own name and those of your family. People want someone to crucify, that is all they have ever wanted. But I am writing simply to tell you that I know you lost a child today as well. Your loss is just as valuable. Your child just as valuable.

I also know that unlike all the mamas who lost their babies today, you feel abandoned. There is no news outlet reporting how amazing your son was (I am sure he was!), there is no town gathering around you to support you in your grief. So today although you mourn the loss of your son, you also mourn the loss of your community. I am writing to let you know that there is a greater community of people across the world who are praying specifically for you. We are people who believe love is a choice and no amount of hate can change things. We are a group of people who saw the amish go to the shooters family in 2007 and with tears in our eyes we exclaimed that what we saw was radical forgiveness, and grace and love, and it was truly the only way to live ones life fully in Christ. It is truly the only way to live any life really.

Today I write your sons name next to the many others. He will not be forgotten to me, I will remember him as another victim, a victim to a brutal world that is not kind to any of us. I will remember him as being taken from this world much too soon. A victim to harshness that is not easy, and can steal innocence much too soon. A victim to feelings that would make even the strongest monks fall to their knees, an agony that only pangs of the soul can cause.

With Grace,

*Mother of Jaylen Fryberg the identified Marysville Pilchuck shooter