Category Archives: resources


Talking Parenting

There have been a lot of expectant parents crossing my path recently. From the gaggle at school to ones at social events like Saturday night’s latke party. I am drawn to share with them some of my family’s experiences recognizing that they are getting blitzed by every parent and non-parent with loads of advice and stories. I have tried to whittle the things I offer down to a small handful, and I tend to stay away from several topics.

My number one piece of advice is, take a notepad and pencil to the hospital with you. The three shifts of nurses each day for several days will give you tons of useful advice that you won’t remember because you just had a baby. I offer this because it is probably something the expectant parents haven’t heard. I try to stay away from talking about naming kids. Usually these conversations flow around what both they and I are thinking about.

And these conversations make me smile. I think underneath it all, I get to think about my own kids and their infancy again.

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Ebb and Flow

On the beach, pebbles and even shards of glass wash in and out until they are worn smooth and ready to be collected as treasures by the next bather. Driftwood and even the less pleasant detritus of civilization also float in and out. Mounds of seaweed are deposited and then sometimes pulled back in by the surf.

And so our family’s shores are subject to this rhythmic and cyclical ebb and flow of stuff–of clothes, of toys, of the paraphernalia of rearing children. Recently, my wife and I made a concerted effort to fling bags of clothes and toys along with a high chair and more back into the endless sea of new and expecting parents.

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The Problem with Downsizing

Recently I cleared out the detritus of eighteen years of teaching. I am still teaching, but I really don’t need some of the stuff that had just moved with me over time. Old curriculum manuals from Philadelphia Public Schools and class sets of copies went to the recycling. I have several bags of nice materials and books to take to school for any teachers who are interested in increasing their collections.

One thing made its way to my desk. I pulled out all of the old teaching material catalogs, and I see them in a in a whole new light. I really want to get a bunch of the stuff for my kids. More specifically, I want it to surround them with media, toys, and materials that fully align with the values I put into my teaching career so far. This set of catalogs is a distillation of all of the child development, social justice, environmental, diversity, adventure learning, hands-on learning, pedagogy, and other types of work that I have integrated into my practice.

I will list a few of my favorites with text from their websites:

  • Syracuse Cultural Workers: (Awesome posters and other visuals) Founded in 1982, SCW is a progressive publisher committed to peace, sustainability, social justice, feminism and multiculturalism. We create and publish visual materials, like calendars, posters, T-shirts, cards and postcards, and distribute them across North America. We also distribute selected products, like books, music and DVDs, to complement our offerings.
  • Teaching for Change: (Great books, videos, more) Teaching for Change operates from the belief that schools can provide students the skills, knowledge and inspiration to be citizens and architects of a better world — or they can fortify the status quo. By drawing direct connections to ‘real world’ issues, Teaching for Change encourages teachers and students to question and re-think the world inside and outside their classrooms, build a more equitable, multicultural society, and become active global citizens.
  • Acorn Naturalists: (Nature exploration materials)For over two decades, Acorn Naturalists has focused on developing and distributing resources that nurture curiosity about the natural world. Our selections provide teachers, outdoor educators, naturalists, parents, and others with unique, effective educational resources.
  • Youth Communication: (My kids are a ways away from this, but great writing by teens for teens) Youth Communication creates short, nonfiction stories that appeal to hard-to-reach teens. Teachers and other adults use the stories and related lessons to help students improve their reading and writing skills, and improve the social and emotional skills that support school success.
  • American Science & Surplus: (I built several science curricula using these folks) Here at American Science & Surplus we are fascinated by discovery and invention. And we are dedicated to having fun along the way. We offer an eclectic range of products, many with a science or educational tilt to them, others simply handy or amusing. Value is important, and whenever we can, we carry surplus at prices well below retail. We love closeouts, inventory overruns, mis-manufactures, and items whose time has not come.

Those are just a few of the many great sites out there. In recycling an couple of catalogs, I have the burning desire to replace them many times over with awesome posters, books, and hands-on fun for the kids (and for myself).

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Last year, I think, I found out about CitySmart Cambridge. This organization promotes alternatives to auto transportation such as walking, biking, and public transportation. I got various packages of materials from them as well as a free bike helmet for my daughter.

Recently, I have been doing quite a bit of cleaning out in my office. I came across a wad of materials from CitySmart. My daughter is of an age to begin to appreciate them. I am excited to share a Getting Around Cambridge Map with an associated measurement tool. We can mark where our home is and start exploring further and further out making marks where things are like friends’ houses and playgrounds. I know she will be excited to see where her school is.

When I was in high school, I covered the walls of my room with maps from National Geographic. I have always loved maps. I am glad of this chance find during my cleaning and am very excited to start sharing the wonderful world of maps with my daughter.


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How Popular Culture and Media Frame Historical Events and Actors

The second section of Rethinking Popular Culture and Media, one of the books I am currently reading, delves into how historical events and people are misportrayed especially in children’s books and movies. So far I have read essays on Rosa Parks, Columbus, Helen Keller, Thanksgiving, Mulan, Pocohontas, and My Heart is on the Ground: The Diary of Nannie Little Rose, a Sioux Girl.

Much of what I am reading is not new to me having been introduced to it through diversity trainings, previous reading, and working with teachers who critically analyze culture and media for the many messages they present to children.

A passage in the article on Thanksgiving, written by Michael Dorris, struck me:

As parents, our lot is often to watch and worry and cheer and commiserate, curbing throughout our impulse to intervene. The world of children interacting with children is in large part off-limits.

Passivity ends, however, with relation to those adult-manufactured and therefore wholly gratuitous problems with which our children are often confronted. We naturally rise against the greed of panderers of debilitating junk foods; we reject dangerous toys, however cleverly advertised; and we make strict laws to protect against reckless motorists. We dutifully strap our children into seatbelts, keep toxic substances out of reach, and keep a wary eye for the dangerous stranger.

With so many blatant dangers to counter, perhaps it is unavoidable that some of the more subtle and insidious perils to child welfare are often permitted to pass. …

Attitudes pertinent to “racial” or “sex-role” identity are among the most potentially hazardous [deficiencies of our own attitudes and training], for these can easily be internalized–particularly by the “minority” child. Such internalized attitudes profoundly affect self-concept, behavior, aspiration, and confidence. (pp. 101-2)

This article and the others concretely lay out how each example of popular culture and media has just this effect on children. If these ideas resonate, I highly recommend this book. As with most publications of Rethinking Schools, it is an outstanding collection of writing from thought-provoking authors.

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Feeding My Fathering

I have posted about using RSS readers on Technological Ontogeny. They are a wonderful way to aggregate information from many sites in one place and to keep up to date on things that matter to you.

One of those categories, for me, is parenting. I have a folder in my Google Reader titled Parenting/House. Recently I learned how to create a bundle of the individual subscriptions within that bundle. Feel free to click on the link and look them over. Some are worth every post, some hide their gems amongst wide swaths of garbage.

I’d love to know the blogs or other sources of information, inspiration, and support others read for their parenting.


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Fathering Resources

I don’t have any specific fathering resources on the web that I like. There is good stuff sometimes on the good men project and father mag, but there is often stuff I don’t like. Any ideas?

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