Monday, April 30, 2012

Homesick and Happy

Michael Thompson has a new book out, one that will resonate with many of us frantically putting the finishing touches on summer plans.  Although this is not the topic of his Wednesday May 2nd Talk (that will be based on his book, Best Friends / Worst Enemies) his philosophy and years of research highlight some similar insights for parents -- sometimes we support our kids best by getting out of their way.

Homesick and Happy

How Time Away from Parents Can Help a Child Grow

Published May 2012

An insightful and powerful look at the magic of summer camp—and why it is so important for children to be away from home . . . if only for a little while. In an age when it’s the rare child who walks to school on his own, the thought of sending your "little ones" off to sleep-away camp can be overwhelming—for you and for them. But a parent’s first instinct—to shelter their offspring above all else—actually deprives children of the major developmental milestones that occur through letting them go—and watching them come back transformed.

Friday, April 27, 2012

What Happens to 3 out of 4 Girls Flipping Through A Magazine

I have a copy of Miss Representation to share if anyone wants to borrow it... also at Waynflete on Monday May 7th-  This event is free and open to the public.  Refreshments will be served.  FMI: go to:  or contact Carrie Branson at 774-5721 ext 201.

Workshop almost full!

We have over 20 people registered for our Workshop on Educator-Parent Communication with Michael Thompson - sign up soon if you want to attend... the workshop includes a yummy dinner and we need a food head count! 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Parenting Together

Criticisms of parents abound in the media and attempts to avoid being a "helicopter parent" without ending up a "distracted parent" can be crazy-making.  Films like Race to Nowhere and Bully reflect the importance of caring adults coming together to make the world safer and more responsive to children's developmental needs -- when we feel more confident in our communities investment in caring for children, when we trust the larger culture to do right by our individual kids, I think we can much more easily enact a parenting that is lovingly moderate - - when we're triggered by a sense that the world does not care well for our children and that raising our children is an essentially private job, it is easy for individual parenting to become more extreme or occur under extreme pressure.

I love the Parenting for Peace series, because it brings together parents and educators from our broader community to discuss public issues with regard to raising children -- these are not queries about our specific kids, but conversations about more general cultural and political issues -- from the Commercialization of Childhood to kids needs for "Wild Play," we've helped prompt some significant discourse over the last couple of years.

I am especially grateful for our co-sponsors who help to bridge FSP with our larger community and who also do the work of making raising-children a community affair.  This spring, we are collaborating with:

Mom to Mom of Maine - an especially important group for breaking isolation and helping to develop community among parents!  "Mom to Mom of Maine is a community of both stay-at-home-moms and working moms who join together to provide support, friendship, activities and advice."

Cumberland County YMCA - where the mission deeply reflects the importance of building healthy communities across our differences.  The Cumberland County YMCA is committed to building strong kids, individuals, families, and communities through programs and services that promote a healthy spirit, mind, and body for all, regardless of ability to pay.

USM's Teacher Education Department and School of Social Work  - both spaces where inquiry, reflection, action occur and ideas about children's needs are of top concern.

Media Sponsors

Children's Museum and Theater of Maine - a safe and engaging place where families come together to play and to connect (playing there saved my sanity when my children were small!) The Children's Museum & Theatre of Maine exists to inspire discovery and imagination through exploration and play. The Museum & Theatre serves as an indispensable resource for families and educators, helping to create a broad community devoted to our children's development and learning.

Hardy Girls, Healthy Women and Boys to Men of Maine -- both these organizations serve kids and communities by challenging stereotypes about "girls" and "boys" are supposed to be and providing resources for parents, educators and kids themselves to come together to create a more peaceful and inclusive community.

This list makes me feel less alone as a parent - together we can discern the values that will best support our diverse families and work together to implement communities where our families thrive.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wednesday Night Fun

Hula Hooping on the Eastern Prom!  Come one, come all for free hooping, Lots of hoops to use!  Bring a picnic and friends and join the weekly hooping festival, 6pm every Wednesday! 

Tracy Tingley

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

5/5 International Climate Impacts Day (from 350.Org)

Close Buy & Cash Mobs

Don't forget to do that graduation, birthday, mother's day, etc. etc. present from CLOSE BUY and 25% goes to FSP (or whatever nonprofit you choose).   I love the snack bags - what do others recommend?

Also, Victoria shared this link to CashMob Maine as a way to support local businesses.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Rachel Carson and Climate Dots

TODAY!  USM is hosting a celebration of Rachel Carson's groundbreaking work and an inquiry into the "what next" for environmental health and safety.  I must admit, Sandra Steingraber's words to us 2 years ago are seared in my head -- we just don't get to choose not to care about this issue.

Rachel Carson: A Life in Perspective

In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the publication of the groundbreaking book, Silent Spring, the USM Department of Environmental Science will celebrate Rachel Carson’s connections to Maine and her impact on contemporary society with a panel discussion highlighting the influence of Rachel Carson on the lives of current female environmental leaders in Maine, including:

Lisa Pohlmann, NRCM Executive Director
Pattie Aho, DEP Commissioner
Michele Dionne, Wells National Estuarine Research Preserve
Melissa Walsh Innes, Maine State Representative (D-N. Yarmouth)
Amanda Sears, Environmental Health Strategy Center

Moderator: Naomi Schalit, Executive Director, Pinetree Watchdog

Thursday, April 19, 2012, beginning at 5:00 p.m.
Hannaford Hall on the USM Portland campus
Co-sponsored by the USM Women & Gender Studies Program. FMI visit

AND, if you then leave wishing for action, check out
Climate Impacts Day 5/5/12

a growing project to bring people (of all ages and sizes) together for a kayaking & land based fun event on 5/5 at the East End Beach -- more details to come - or sign up here!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Play Again & The Dragon King

This film is showing at the Frontier in Brunswick -- if anyone is able to go and bring Michael Thompson postcards, please do!

Film | Play Again
(in celebration of Earth Week)
Thurs April 26 | 2pm, 6pm, 8pm*
Fri April 27 | 2pm
Sat April 28 | 2pm
Sun April 29 | 6pm, 8pm
Buy Tickets

*discussion to follow 8pm with the Cathance River Education Alliance and Project Learning Tree as well as Outreach Coordinator for Play Again, Greg Lemieux

PLAY AGAIN is an award winning documentary directed by Tonje Hessen Schei, produced by Meg Merrill, and edited by David Bee. The soundtrack includes music from Icelandic band Sigur Ros and singer Kimya Dawson.

At a time when children spend more time in the virtual world than the natural world, PLAY AGAIN unplugs a group of media savvy teens and takes them on their first wilderness adventure, documenting the wonder that comes from time spent in nature and inspiring action for a sustainable future.

Kids | The Dragon King
Sun April 29 | 2pm | $14 | Buy Tickets

Cricket Hunt School invites you to help celebrate 10 Years of Excellence in Education at the Tanglewood Marionettes production of The Dragon King.

An underwater fantasy based on Chinese folklore, Tanglewood Marionettes' latest production tells the tale of an intrepid Grandmother who journeys to the bottom of the sea to seek the Dragon King, and the answers to why he has forsaken the land above.

Colorful sea creatures, an exciting adventure, and a Dragon King that will knock your socks off! All this and more can be found in Tanglewood Marionettes' newest all-ages show.

Resources for talking with kids about friendship problems

Why come hear Michael Thompson (May 2nd @ 7pm USM's Hannaford Hall) talk about Best Friends / Worst Enemies?

Because strong social ties and friendships are linked with health and well-being to the extent that a good friend is as important as broccoli and wearing your seatbelt! (Listen to The Importance of Building Social Connections).  Yet figuring out how to form and maintain healthy relationships while maintaining an independent-self is hard work.  People are different so there is no cookie-cutter approach to friendship (thank goodness) but there are strategies and skills that kids can benefit from learning. 
  • Books That Heal recently suggested the film Chrissa Stands Strong as an opening to discussion about how to navigate teasing and bullying (and why not to treat others that way).  She has a lot of other suggestions for using books to open up conversations about relational aggression. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Parent-Teacher Communication

Parent-Teacher, or Parent-School communication is a thorny topic.  Gone are the days that a bi-annaul parent-teacher conference suffices; in the digital age we have lots of access to communication, for good and for bad.

We are delighted to bring Michael Thompson to Maine to offer an interactive workshop on this topic, because communicating about communication is actually a really important step in designing a system that is efficient, humane and responsible.  Schools both need to establish boundaries around communication -- we all know how consuming email can be -- and guidelines for enhancing family involvement... this takes work!

Within our communities, there are divergent pressures -- the iconic "helicopter parent" who needs disproportionate resources from schools and the iconic disengaged parent who never shows up. Thus, schools need strategies for educating all parents about what constitutes healthy involvement and needs strategies to reduce anxiety for parents leaning toward over-involvement while increasing a sense of welcome for parents who never step through the door.  

Here are some resources for perusing:

  • An NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools) summary of a similar workshop with Michael Thompson and an article by Thompson himself arguing that sometimes less is more when it comes to school -- parent information exchanges. 
  • From the other side (schools wanting more connection to families) is a blog post summarizing social media techniques for sharing info
  • Harvard School of Education's Family Research Project (lots of research, lots of ideas on Family Involvement in School) - this research focuses more on strategies for helping disenfranchised families connect with modern schools.
  • Sarah Lawrence-Lightfoot has a book, "The Essential Conversation : What Parents and Teachers Can Learn About Each Other.  I really liked her analysis that there is a "ghost in the classroom" as parents negotiate their own memories of being a student and awkward power relationships between adults.  There are lots of excerpts, tip sheets, etc. on the internet, based on her book.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Child Labor - now there is a problem!


Friday, April 20th | Doors open at 7:00pm | Film at 7:30pm | FREE

SPACE Gallery | 538 Congress St. | Portland, ME 04101 | (207) 828-5600 |
Part of SPACE Gallery's annual sustainable food event, Food+Farm 2012

Every year there are more than 400,000 American children who are torn away from their friends, schools and homes to pick the food we all eat.  Zulema, Perla and Victor labor as migrant farm workers, sacrificing their own childhoods to help their families survive.  THE HARVEST/LA COSECHA profiles these three as they journey from the scorching heat of Texas’ onion fields to the winter snows of the Michigan apple orchards and back south to the humidity of Florida's tomato fields to follow the harvest.

From the Producers of the Academy-Award® Nominated film, WAR/DANCE and Executive Producer Eva Longoria, this award-winning documentary provides an intimate glimpse into the lives of these children who struggle to dream while working 12 – 14 hours a day, 7 days a week to feed America.

Presented with the Maine Migrant Health Program.  Discussion to follow film.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Jon Courtney | Screenings Programmer | Co-Founder

SPACE Gallery | 538 Congress St. | Portland, Maine 04101 | 207.828.5600 |

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bullying vs. Normal Problems

Bullying is getting a lot of attention these days -- and it should.  Kids should not have to suffer in school, should not be afraid of their peers.  (See this post for more about the film & study guide).

On Tuesday, MPBN aired a call-in show featuring Maine educators and a student and there was an interesting conversation about the nuances of bullying.  Stan Davis, a well known anti-bullying speaker, argued that they were moving away from even the term "bully" because it overly implies intent and overlooks all the ways that kids might engage in mean or threatening behaviors without fully understanding their own power.

I think all of this is so important to know about, to talk about and to prevent.  I also, though, appreciated what I learned in Michael Thompson's Best Friends/Worst Enemies:  not all mean behavior, not all relationship conflicts are high-stakes and require adult intervention.  Parents and teachers can emphasize kindness and compassion but also remind kids that they are resilient and ok; sometimes we can do this best by providing indirect comfort rather than drilling into the details of the upsetting moment (this requires self-restraint, requires being ok with not knowing all that happens in our kids daily lives).

From PBS : What Parents Can Do, Secrets of Social Life, Going to School  
Interview for coping, instead of pain. When children experience social rejection, we often experience it with them. But it doesn't help when you dwell on it by asking excessive questions, or trying to figure it out for them. Instead of "interviewing for pain," ask what they've done to solve the situation, compliment their efforts, and let your child know you are there. Keep in mind that best friends will get along, fight bitterly, and make up faster than adults. They are simply more flexible and resilient.  (Michael Thompson)
I do remember how lovely it was to confide in my nana, a woman who had experienced some truly difficult moments. She loved me to pieces, let me talk and have my cry, then usually turned on the tv or pulled out the cards.  She didn't fix anything, didn't ask again, didn't shame me, didn't worry about me and that message that a bit of a bad day was a normal part of life was very helpful!

As all the media about bullying builds, it can be hard for parents to discern  -- What if our child is being bullied? What if our child bullies someone else?  As important, however, is to understand how to support ordinary hurts, ordinary conflicts, ordinary friendships.

On May 2nd, Michael Thompson will speak at USM's Hannaford Hall and help us understand the elements that separate a crisis from a bad day, and the school and community conditions under which children's friendships have space to thrive, sustain challenges, and even break apart without endangering the individuals involved.

 (Thompson will offer a workshop on parent-teacher communication earlier in the day; register here! )

Sunday, April 8, 2012


If we want to place well in the Clynk school contest, we're going to have to organizze some serious bottle drives this April break:

Real-time total raised

CLYNK card$61.30

CLYNKed containers


We're in 15th place...

Outing Club raised:

CLYNK card$115.80

CLYNKed containersbottles1,636

Yoga for Kids

Cool opportunity, almost across the street from school:

 New youth yoga sessions are starting at Yogave!  (170 US Route 1)

Ages 7 - 10
Tuesdays 4:00 - 4:45 pm  
April 24th - June 5th (7 week session, $70/session)

Ages 11 - 14
Thursdays 4:00 - 5:00 pm 
April 26th - June 7th (7 week session, $85/session)  

Note: If your child is on the cusp of one of these age groups and you think he or she would fit better in the other session, please e-mail Sarah. 

To register: Contact Sarah at

Sarah Estabrook will be leading the new sessions since Jeanette is leaving to open Roost (an artisan juice bar).  Like Jeanette, Sarah is trained through Childlight Yoga.  Sarah teaches weekly adult yoga classes as well.  Sarah also currently teaches second grade and has four years of experience working as a fourth grade classroom teacher as well.  Her masters degree is from Boston College in reading/literacy instruction.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Bits & Pieces, Math and Reading

* A parent who wondered why we give so much more attention to books than math created "Bedtime Math" - fun problems for kids on a daily basis.  You can check the blog or sign up to get problems via email.

* As a bridge, check out the Bank Street Cook Prize "the only national children's choice award honoring the best science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) picture book for children."  While on the page, check out their lists of "best books of 2011"

* Winner of EB White Read-Aloud and Indie Book Awards announced - time to MaineCat some of these books!

And, if book buying is in the cards:

* Save 26% +  free shipping on orders over $10  Use source code 2012April at checkout and save on Offer Expires: 4/18/12
Lee & Low Books is an independent children's book publisher specializing diversity. It is our goal to meet the need for stories that all children can identify with and enjoy.

* If all that reading (and math) stimulates an interest in writing, consider submitting to the Portland Public Library's Poetry Contest  or check out the amazing offerings from the Telling Room.

Finally, for those with younger kids, check out these awesome April Vacation activity:

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Mama's Boy Myth

I don't know anything about this book but the title sure is fabulous !

See BoystoMen for more information!

Author Kate Lombardi is coming to Portland

Author Kate Lombardi will be coming to
the Portland  Public Library on  June 7th to discuss her book
"The Mama's Boy Myth: Why Keeping our Sons Close Makes them Stronger"

Odyssey For Peace

Come One and ALL!!! 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

From Institute for Humane Education

We invite you to sign up this week for our online course, Raising a Humane Child, and gain skills and support for bringing the tools of humane education to your parenting. Starts April 9! Learn more and register.

As our children's first and most important teachers, parents have an important opportunity to start building pathways to kindness and compassion for people, animals, and the earth, starting when children are very young.  

To help nurture compassionate children, there's a lot we can do, including:
  • model a message of compassion for our families;
  • build reverence through daily observation and connection with the natural world;
  • read and tell stories that show compassion and care for others;
  • gently guide their choices & help them think critically;
  • provide them with opportunities to help others. 
We hope to see you in the course! 

Warmly, Amy

Amy Morley, Director of Operations
Institute for Humane Education
M.Ed., M.A., & Graduate Certificate in Humane Education · Workshops Online Courses · Free Resources
(207) 667-1025 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Inclusion, Identity, Community

I mentioned, in Quaker Meeting this morning, that Andre Robert Lee is coming to visit FSP today and later will share his story... I said that the underlying query is about inclusion -- what is it to feel at home in a place and for whom is it easier and what can we do to make FSP truly inclusive of all of us... but as soon as I finished, I realized that isn't the essence of the query - instead, the harder underyling question is about if  it is  possible to hold multiple "homes" at once.  If kids give over to belonging at FSP are there places they no longer fit?  Is it harder to play in their neighborhoods or to join a district sports team or even to just fit in to conventional society?  For whom are these losses really meaningful and sorrowful (and for whom are they just part of the process of identity development)?  What strategies do kids employ to maintain multiple homes and multiple identities?

These are some of the questions we'll get to think and talk about tonight - I'm looking forward to it!