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Archives for : Non-Fiction

The Chicken Encyclopedia

The Chicken Encyclopedia: An Illustrated Reference by Gail Damerow comes out in a couple of weeks. As the title implies, it’s written in encyclopedia/dictionary format with topics alphabetized. It may seem strange to sit down to read an encyclopedia for entertainment puposes (unless you share genes with me), but I found the book to be quite informative and enjoyable to read. As someone interested in raising our own chickens for both eggs and meat, to live more sustainably and to have healthier food, this was a great place for me to start. I knew quite a bit about chickens to begin with, but I quickly realized there were many fascinating things I hadn’t known. With beautiful full color pictures and an easy to read format, the book is a must read to the new chicken fancier.

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

Free Range Chicken Gardens

Jessi Bloom’s Free-Range Chicken Gardens: How to Create a Beautiful, Chicken-Friendly Yard, available at the end of January, is the quintessential book for chicken owners and gardeners alike. Chock full of information for the chicken novice, Bloom’s book makes a compelling argument for allowing chickens to free range in your garden to create a symbiotic environment benefitting plants, chickens, and their human counterparts. With pertinent and practical information, this inspirational book will have the urban or suburban (or even rural) gardener or chicken owner making the cross-over to a mutually beneficial and sustainable free range chicken garden.

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review.

Previously posted at Living Peacefully with Children.

Made to Play!

If you are one of the many parents enthralled by simple handmade toys but are intimidated at the prospect of making them yourself, never fear! Joel Henriques will help get you started with the ideas in his new book coming out next October, Made to Play!: Handmade Toys and Crafts for Growing Imaginations.

Contrary to what companies may have you believe, children don’t need, nor truly want, lots of flashy toys which play by themselves (where is the fun in that, anyway?). Instead, simple toys which require healthy doses of imagination from the child open up realms of opportunity, creativity, and learning.

Craft challenged parents who previously felt left out when it came to making toys for their own children will be bolstered in this book, as the ideas are simple and easy for anyone to do. Turn a few supplies, often ones you already have on hand, into miniature toys that will delight your children and give you confidence to tackle more difficult projects.

Disclaimer: A copy of this book provided by Shambala Publications.

Previously posted at Living Peacefully with Children.

Scream Free Parenting

I read Hal Edward Runkel’s book, Scream Free Parenting, Sunday afternoon. I’ve heard the title bandied about on AP sites and wanted to check it out. I’m always on the look out for new consensual living books. I feel like I’m a better mother when I actively try to grow as a person and parent. My hold came in at the library last week, and so I picked it up on our weekly library run on Friday. Sunday afternoon was a lazy afternoon and a perfect time to catch up on some reading while watching the kids play.

I think the title could be a little off-putting, but I reserved any judgement on the book based on this. In all honestly, it’s a catchy title and therefore sets up a good marketing plan. I started off reading with high hopes, as I am getting ready to start our local NCP/CL book club back up after taking a break from it for a while. I was hoping that I could add this book into our discussions.

The book started out well. While there were a few references that had me stop in my tracks, I quickly realized they were there to appeal to a wider audience and that they weren’t actually part of the content of the book. Runkel makes a lot of good points. He mentions that the only person you can really control is yourself, and that by focusing on yourself and your words and actions, rather than on being reactive to situations, you can improve your communication and reltionship with your child.  He stresses that parenting itself is a way in which we can grow as people.  Runkel also discusses the difference between having a responsibility to our children rather than being responsible for our children. Children are people and need to be allowed to be their own persons. We have to remove ourselves from viewing them as an extension of ourselves. He has a lot of nice catch phrases in the book which are certain to appeal to many parents along with some genuinely good advice thrown in.

About 1/3 of the way through the book, as I was sending messages with a friend about restarting the book club, I mentioned that this might be a good book for us to discuss. At the end of each chapter, Runkel has even included reflection questions – perfect for a discussion group. And if I could package the first half of the book and market it by itself, I would recommend the book to every parent.

Unfortunately, half-way through the book Runkel changes course. He switches from the great advice and reminders he was giving parents to a much more authoritarian view of parenting, requiring that you set consequences and stick with them. It’s very punitive in nature and doesn’t allow for any discussion or cooperation between parent and child. In fact, I’m sure users of the infamous Love and Logic disciplinarian style would love the book.

So, for the book as a whole, I’d recommend you look around for another way to spend your afternoon. If you are willing to take what you want from the first half and discard the rest, it isn’t bad. Luckily, there are many really good books out there that are much better.

 

Previously published at Living Peacefully with Children.

Free Range Kids

In April 2008, Lenore Skenazy wrote an article for The New York Sun entitled Why I Let My 9-Year Old Ride the Subway Alone. There was a lot of feedback from this article. Parents were outraged that she allowed her child alone on a subway. Parents were thrilled to see another parent allowing her child freedom. She was immediately called by television studios for interviews. Later she began her blog Free Range Kids and wrote a book entitled the same, Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry. There was a lot of publicity in the radical unschooling world prior to the book’s release. I have to admit I felt some excitement about it and considered pre-ordering it. The price at the time held me back. My ideals of simplicity gave me enough common sense to know that I should probably check the book out and read it before spending hard-earned cash for my personal library.

It took our public library a while to get the book in. In fact, I just recently was able to request it and read it. I sat down to read the book and was immediately drawn by the fact that it started out very conversationally – promising to be a quick read, something every time pressed parent of many young children appreciates. I found myself thinking that many parents would enjoy that aspect, however, I found that I did not. I would have enjoyed a book which read like a novel, with great insight and some research. Instead, the book is written in the manner that (admittedly, I presume here) Skenazy speaks. I have to say that it really grated on me and I contemplated not finishing the book many times. I have an affinity for complete sentences.

During the 200+ pages of the book, the author attempts to make her point against helicopter parenting by giving example after example of over the top control. One can only read so much of this before thinking that enough is enough. She states several times that parents also need to lighten up on each other and not judge, but she doesn’t give other parents that same respect she asks for, continually joking about other parents and being quite harsh at times. While some may find her style humorous, I don’t enjoy spending my time reading about one parent degrading others, whichever side I happen to agree with. It grows old quickly, and I found myself freqeuntly checking to see how much I had left to read. She stated that we shouldn’t pay attention to so called parenting experts, and then would repeat other parenting experts to support her side.

The crux of the matter is that in order to allow our children more freedom, we need to know our kids and trust them. A healthy dose of common sense goes a long way and will help your entire family to enjoy life more. With those two sentences, I’ve just saved you some valuable time reading the book and preserving your sanity while preventing eye strain from rolling your eyes and dental bills from grinding your teeth.

If you are really interested in what true dangers are out there and how to put your mind at ease, instead I recommend picking up a copy of Gavin de Becker’s Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe. It’s definitely worth the time to read and occasionally review.

Previously posted at Living Peacefully with Children

Between Parent and Child

Before Alfie Kohn, Pam Leo, Naomi Aldort, or many of the other consensually living authors of our time, there was Dr. Haim GinottGinott revolutionized the parenting and psychology worlds with his new philosophy on communicating with children. His book, Between Parent and Child, was on the national best seller list for over a year when it was written in 1965. While the republished version, edited and amended by his wife Dr. Alice Ginott, has been updated, it retains the same basic premise.

First and foremost, children need compassion and understanding from their parents. They need to hear that their feelings, wishes, and dreams are acknowledged by us and that those internal feelings are always acceptable, although the resulting behaviors may not be.  Guidance, not criticism, will help them to convey their thoughts and feelings in appropriate manners. As parents – the indviduals whom our children should be able to count on and trust more than anyone else, the words we use hold much more power and we should be cognizant of that when we speak with them. By modeling effective communication and giving our children the opportunities needed in order for them to develop their own responsibility, we will be helping them develop the skills they need.

If you are looking for one book to add to your home library this year, I would strongly recommend putting this one on your list of possibilities.

Previously posted at Living Peacefully with Children

Raising a Thinking Child

Most parents want their children to be equipped to handle life when they are grown. The skills needed to do this are ones that we can help them with right now. Rather than handling situations for them, and hence taking responsibility for our children, we can show responsibility to our children by helping them to problem solve and handle conflicts on their own. Myrna Shure has addressed not only the philosophy behind helping children learn how to think rather than what to think in her book Raising a Thinking Child: Help Your Young Child to Resolve Everyday Conflicts and Get Along with Others, but has gone the step further so often requested by parents by going through numerous examples of how exactly to do this.

Shure begins by explaining the principle concepts of Interpersonal Cognitive Problem Solving, generally referred to as I Can Problem Solve (ICPS), which has been successfully used in home and institutional settings for decades. According to the book, ICPS will help you:

  • increase your awareness that your child’s view may differ from your own;
  • see that helping your child think a problem through may in the long run help more than immediate action to stop what she is doing;
  • provide a model of problem-solving thinking for your children – as a thinking parent, you might inspire your child to think.

ICPS will help your children:

  • think about what to do when they face a problem with another person;
  • think about different way sto solve the same problem;
  • think about the consequences of what they do;
  • decide whether or not an idea is a good one;
  • realize that other people have feelings and think about their own feelings too.

The concepts in the book were not new to me. As part of striving for a consensually living family, we try to brainstorm solutions as a family or help our children think through their own problems to come up with their own solutions. When people develop their own solutions, they are much more likely to implement and follow through with them. What makes Shure’s book unique is that she goes through specific key words to use during dialogues and has numerous examples to help parents new to using this type of technique.

Reading through the examples, I was struck with the thought that the process and word choice was almost patronizing to children and adults alike. I couldn’t imagine going through the examples with my children. However, as I continued through the book, I was immediately struck by the example given where the mother stepped in, using ICPS techniques with her children when the father, who had less opportunity to practice these techniques, was frustrated and reaching his limit. That was the moment when I realized the value of the given examples for families, children and parents, who are new to such concepts and are looking for key words to help them in the learning process.

As the title implies, the examples in the book are geared toward families with young children. They would need to be adapted quite a bit for familes with older children (or even some familes with younger children) so that the kids didn’t feel as if they were being spoken down to. However, the main philosophical concepts are relevant to all families and individuals for thinking through conflict and resolution.

Shure shows in her examples that children are empowered by solving their own problems. Yet, she also advocates liberal use of praise in order to get children to practice these new found skills. In my opinion, the book and concepts in general would be strengthened by removing the use of praise.

 

Previously posted at Living Peacefully with Children

Parenting From the Inside Out

Parenting from the Inside Out by Daniel Siegel and Mary Hartzell is an informative and insightful book. Our previous experiences have lasting effects on future experiences. If we don’t take the time to process our own pasts – good and bad, we are destined to repeat history. While I didn’t find any of the information to be new, the biological and psychological processes were very interesting. That being said, I wouldn’t recommend the book for many individuals due to the technical nature of much of the book. If you are looking for a good parenting book addressing healing yourself from your childhood and separating yourself in order to be fully present with your children, I would steer you instead to Naomi Aldort’s Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves.

Previously posted at Living Peacefully with Children

It’s So Amazing

After reading It’s Not the Stork with my children, I had high hopes for It’s So Amazing, the next book in the series by Robie Harris, geared for ages 7 and up. I decided to read the book before sharing it with my children, as I wasn’t quite certain what the difference between the two books would be. For the most part, the book builds on information presented in It’s Not the Stork, with the added topics of puberty and HIV/AIDS.

Harris addresses HIV in her previous matter of fact manner. She also takes a similar view point for bringing up the terms of hetero- and homosexuality. After going over the basics of puberty and briefly discussing sexual intercourse, birth control is mentioned, which may be uncomfortable for some families. However, it is not a definitive guide, only mentioning condoms and birth control pills, and is more an opening to discuss the concept with your children, ending with the fact that abstinence is the only way to completely avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

I had the same complaint with this book as its predecessor in regards to its reference to intact penises as uncircumcised. In this book, she goes further to say that both are normal. While our society’s vernacular isn’t quite what it used to be, accepted would be a better term for circumcised penises than normal. Society accepts individuals with both intact and circumcised penises, but there is nothing normal about cutting off a part of someone’s body. She also once again mentions in her discussion of okay versus not okay touches that it is acceptable for a doctor or nurse to touch a child’s private parts. It is never acceptable for one person to touch another person without their permission.

She also lost a little respect in this book by presenting to the mainstream crowd when it comes to childbirth. Not everyone chooses to have an attendant, which isn’t left as an unsaid option in this book. Women, in almost all cases except for when there are rare problems, are perfectly capable of birthing a child and do better when not inhibited and without interventions. Mainstream choices such as immediate cord cutting and delayed skin contact with the mother are also stated as fact rather than choice. While she mentions c-sections as an alternative birthing method, the word normal is once again inappropriately used. Surgery, while accepted, is never normal.

I ended up choosing not to share this book with my children. The greatest reason is that they haven’t shown any interest in discussing puberty more than we already have. They are still young, although we will probably be discussing the topic in greater detail in the next couple of years. However, I think there must be a better book out there for when they decide they do want to explore the topic in more depth.

Previously posted at Living Peacefully with Children

Positive Discipline

In her book Positive Discipline, Jane Nelsen approaches the topics of gentle and non-punitive parenting from an Adlerian point of view. She introduces the four R’s of punishment – resentment, revenge, rebellion, and retreat – and focuses her version of positive discipline as one which works toward mutually acceptable goals and solutions. The book has a lot of good information in it, although this is not the book I would recommend to parents new to the concept of consensual living or non-punitive parenting.

Nelsen writes as though she is lecturing, which ironically she advocates against (small pun intended). While she provides review questions at the end of each chapter, supposedly for discussion, they read as text book assignments. In an attempt to cover a multitude of ideas, the book tends to be repetitive and drawn out. This isn’t a book that grabs you with inspiration, compelling you to turn pages. I do find the book useful for quiet contemplation for those who are comfortably practicing  consensual living and actively working toward their own growth as parents and individuals.

Previously posted at Living Peacefully with Children