Fighting the Summer Slide

Free photo 2244515 © Jan Kranendonk – Dreamstime.com


When Thea suggested I write a piece on planning for summer, similar to this one from last year, I was all for it until I sat down to write it and realized I had no idea what I was going to do with the kids this summer…

I want to write, I want them to have fun, and I still don’t want them to experience “summer slump”: the backward slide in academic gains from the previous school year. It’s important to me that they spend enough time using their brains over the summer so August back-to-school isn’t too painful. Things have changed, though. When they were younger, I had weekly themes and math manipulatives and stacks of picture books…I was in my element! Now that they are older, what does avoiding the summer slide look like? Here’s my first attempt at figuring that out.

READING

Yes, our library has an awesome summer reading program, but my youngest was the only one “into” it last year. The other guys read a lot, they just weren’t eager to sticker-chart their reading. I need a fresh take on reading this summer. I’m thinking I’ll have them give reviews for the books they read on video and then send the videos to their cousins or friends (just over my phone). They love making videos and it will be a way to .incorporate technology that doesn’t involve a game controller…because they can’t have screens until 4pm in the summer. Yes, there’s always initial resistance to this rule, but after a few days they get on board with it and they find other things to do during the day. We’ll probably have a weekly trip to the library to keep a fresh selection of books, too.

Free photo 2369068 © Yuriy Kaygorodov – Dreamstime.com

WRITING

For previous summers they all had a spiral notebook “journal” that they had to write in before they were allowed to go cause trouble in the neighborhood. Just like with the technology rule, there was always an initial protest, but after a few days, it became part of the routine. I have to make a change this summer, though. Camps start at 8am or 9am and we’re busy grabbing sports equipment and yelling at each other…there’s not really time for journaling before we have to be on the road. I think I’m going to move writing time to right before they’re allowed to do tech. Yes, one last hurdle before brain rot! I’m sure there will be protests, and perhaps rioting, but I bet they’ll write in order to play their favorite video games.

Continue reading “Fighting the Summer Slide”

Creativity: Mysteries, rituals, and the power of practice

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

For the artist, the wellspring of ideas is like the Holy Grail: the elusive key to eternity, the stuff of legend. Creativity goes by many names: inspiration, invention, genius, The Muse. Where, though, does it come from? As writers, we’re obsessed by this question, desperate to derive a map to it, that we might come and drink from it as we desire, fearful that at any moment we may be cut off from it forever. 

As parents, you are confronted daily by the spontaneous creative explosions that are the norm for kids. What’s the only thing more creative than a bored child? A group of children. Hyped on sugar. 

I had a front stage pass to this innate, if raw, creative capability recently. When the play-date ended and I had a few minutes of quiet to work in my office, I sat staring at the cursor while it blinked at me. I had just been tossed about by a whirlwind of creative play, and yet found myself unable to articulate an idea, let alone a useable sentence for my Middle Grade fantasy-in-progress. (O! The irony!) Instead, my mind kept wandering not only to the question of where ideas come from, but to why it is it that kids and adults experience creativity so differently. 

Photo by Nick Hillier on Unsplash

So I turned to Google. What could it tell me about the sources of creativity? Apparently, it doesn’t exist in any one part of the brain. According to professor of psychology Arne Dietrich, author of How Creativity Happens in the Brain, creativity taps into many different mental processes. And contrary to the old adage that ‘necessity is the mother of invention,’ this 2016 Scientific American article from Tim Vernimmen posits that plenty may actually foster greater creativity. Very Maslowian. The other key factor? The degree to which we are interconnected as a society, at least according to psychologist Michael Muthukrishna. He’s supported by evolutionary biologist Joe Henrich, who (in the same paper) states, “History shows that inventions invariably build on earlier findings that are recombined and improved upon. Most of the things we use every day are inventions that no single human being could ever design within her lifetime.” 

So there are really no new ideas? Just new combinations of ideas? This sounds not only like it could be a quote from Audre Lorde or Mark Twain (which it very nearly is) but like we’re getting close to the idea of a universal mind, or “Over-soul” as Ralph Waldo Emmerson dubbed it. If you think this concept belongs purely with the Transcendentalists and psychologists (a la Carl Jung’s collective unconscious), then you might be interested to learn that eminent physicists David Bohm and Erwin Schrödinger (who won a Nobel prize) also support the theory that there is a single human consciousness which we only perceive as being individual.

I guess it could explain how multiple individuals, or even groups, can arrive at the same point of invention at the same time without communication: whether we’re talking cave paintings, pyramids, or plot lines. But why do kids seem to be able to tap into it so much more readily than those of us with a few more years under our belts?

It all basically boils down to consistently opening the door to invite the creative into our lives. The more often we open the door, the easier it swings on the hinges.

Continue reading “Creativity: Mysteries, rituals, and the power of practice”

Thoughts on Parenting from a Former Child

A guest post by Diana Calvo

Today we’re welcoming Diana Calvo to The Space Between! We have focused on mental health with a few of our previous guest bloggers, and we come back to this important topic today. Diana is a life transition coach and co-author of Amazon International Bestseller “Expect Miracles“. You can read her full bio here. In her article, she shares thoughts on healing ourselves and a technique parents can use to identify their own triggers. Diana also happens to be Julie’s friend since third grade. Yes, she has stories! We hope you enjoy her insights below…

Recently The New York Times published an article about teaching mindfulness at school, as one method for dealing with mental health issues in children. The article got me thinking about children and mental health, and more specifically, my own mental health as a child. I can’t help but wonder how having access to mindfulness teachings might have changed the course of my life.

Mindfulness at school is one thing, but what excites me more for the future of children’s mental health is the idea of a parent dealing with her own mental health issues, and appropriately discussing her experience with her children. Breaking the cycle, in other words. If a parent is also willing to explore his spirituality – whatever that might look like – and share that experience with his children, we’ve now identified the most impactful formula there is for leaving our children a world that is better than the one we were born into. Mental health plus spirituality is a powerful force for healing.

Now, I’m not a parent, but I am a child of parents with mental health issues, and I know from my own experience how devastating my mother’s narcissism and my father’s personality were on my own emotional development and mental health. Before I began my own journey of healing, I spent a lifetime – 40+ years – in a state of suffering related to the subconscious choices I made, and beliefs I adopted, while I was in their care. A combination of psychology and spirituality has been my personal path to liberation from this trauma. Today I’m deeply interested in the alleviation of suffering, and that’s why the mental health of children, and their parents, is of interest to me.

One time, in the context of a healing circle, I had the privilege of witnessing the mother of a newborn baby girl expose some of her fears about parenting. A lot was happening with the baby that the mother didn’t understand. She believed she needed to have all the answers, and then felt inadequate when she didn’t. A discussion followed: What if the baby didn’t really need a mother who had all the answers? What if the baby would benefit more from having a mother who was willing to sit beside her own fear, rather than run from it?  What kind of woman would this little girl grow up to be if she was exposed to an adult who was skilled at coping with uncertainty? 

Continue reading “Thoughts on Parenting from a Former Child”