Monday, March 29, 2010

The boy who harnessed the wind

While working on our lego project about wind energy the kids and I were inspired by the young man in this youtube video.  The idea that he could take garbage and make something that could profoundly change the way of life for his village generated a lot of conversation about what we truly need, how we can get it and how not to be defeated by circumstance.

From Amazon:

Discarded motor parts, PVC pipe, and an old bicycle wheel may be junk to most people, but in the inspired hands of William Kamkwamba, they are instruments of opportunity. Growing up amid famine and poverty in rural Malawi, wind was one of the few abundant resources available, and the inventive fourteen-year-old saw its energy as a way to power his dreams. "With a windmill, we'd finally release ourselves from the troubles of darkness and hunger," he realized. "A windmill meant more than just power, it was freedom." Despite the biting jeers of village skeptics, young William devoted himself to borrowed textbooks and salvage yards in pursuit of a device that could produce an "electric wind." The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is an inspiring story of an indomitable will that refused to bend to doubt or circumstance. When the world seemed to be against him, William Kamkwamba set out to change it.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Rainbows, hugs and pink balloons

One of my favourite magazines sends out weekly emails of stories they are featuring.
This one, about celebrating birthdays in simple and meaningful ways arrived in my inbox today. It's timely as our family heads into birthday season and I am listening closely to my kids real wishes and trying to drown out the idea that birthdays need to be equated with "buy, buy buy".  My friend Emma has a gift for creating special celebrations for her family birthdays,with hand madegifts and beautiful gestures.

I remember one year when he was about 4 Colin wanted a rainbow and a hug for Christmas. Santa obliged with a rainbow playsilk from the Waldorf school store, and a beautiful book about hugs. He could not have been happier.

Even among mindful parents I know we can use the reminder that what children need is for us to buy less and be with them more.

What is a birthday? It is an opportunity to celebrate the life and the development of a person. Do my children need to see a table covered with a pile of wrapped toys in order to know that their family and friends are delighted and honored that they share this lifetime with us? Somewhere in our consumer culture, we have confused “presents,” material items, with expressions of love and gratitude.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Growing Up Global

Run, don't walk, to your local bookstore and order this book. I'll wait here.

This book is exactly what I want this blog to be. Full of resources and ideas about how to expand our children's world even if we can't hop on a plane.

The book is written by a mother who wanted to bring more of the world to her daughter's lives. Starting with the idea that children can learn to be a friend to the whole human race, the book relates what friends would do as they get to know each other. Opening with a chapter called Be a Friend, the author Homa Sabet Tavangar reminds us of basic principles of how to make friends from different parts of the world - everything from remembering to separate a person from regional politics, to learning how to properly pronouce and use a new friend's name. There are lots of suggestions about how to expand your family's circle to include people you may not otherwise come in contact with.

Other chapers, entitled Greet Your Friend, Play, Go to School, Watch the World  - Read a Movie, and Break Bread give excellent suggestions for activities and resources to help your family beome immersed in other cultures through language, games, sports, food, stories, music, movies and education. The chapters Celebrate and What Do They Believe delve into religion and culture, always with the goal of finding common ground and teaching children how to connect in respectful, genuine ways. The last chapter called Sustain Your Friendship talks about ways to put education and connection into action to widen our circle through giving and service, using the Millenium Development Goals as the starting point. 

This book weaves through threads of respect and caring for both the children it aims to educate and the ideas, cultures and people it highlights. The ideas are easy to implement, the resources it recommends are excellent and incredibly thorough and applicable to a wide age range. It is an inspiring resource to help your children become citizens of the world.  

Monday, March 8, 2010

Crafts around the world

Over at Crafty Crow this month, there are posts for "travelling" using recipes and crafts. Lots of fun.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Encouraging Simplicity in Kids

There's a great blog post here about ways to encourage kids to live simply.  I particularly like the idea about changing our language from "I want" or "I need" to "I like", which implies less attachment and less urgency.

Yesterday we took the kids to the mall - which happens about once or twice a year. We wanted to participate in an engineering program which was supposed to have been held in the mall but was unfortunately cancelled. While we were there we needed to look for a new kettle, get birthday presents for Gran and a cousin.

We traipsed from one end of the mall to the other in search of a simple stove top kettle that was 1) under $100 and 2) not made in China of cheap materials. No luck. But we did have plenty of time to talk about why malls are laid out like they are, the effect of advertising and image, and why there were so many people in a mall on a beautiful Saturday morning (the parking lot was full!).

I think my kids get it. I think they understand the role of advertising in their lives, the impact of a consumer culture in the lives of others and the choices we make. But I fully admit that they are still young and easily protected from the pull of those forces which are so ingrained in our culture. The hard work on those issues is still in front of us.

Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What is enough?

A few years ago my children were involved in a program and came home with an Enough Pledge.  It was a wonderful tool to talk to kids about what is "enough", and how that looks different depending on where we live. We talked a lot about living simply so that we could share the earth's resources. The pledge is no longer stuck to our fridge, unfortunately and I haven't been able to find it again. Luckily there are lots of other great resources to spark a lot of conversation about what is enough, what is fair, what we have in common and what our cultures value. Each book highlights families from around the world with their homes, possessions and weekly food supplies.

What the World Eats or the Hungry Planet

Homes Around the World

Material World

My kids are fascinated by the differences in lifestyles around the world and are developing a growing awareness of the implications that has for our planet in creating peace and sustainability.

This month I'll be watching a movie called Consuming Kids with some girlfriends and exploring simplicity resources, how the call to consume affects so much of our lives, and how to teach our kids to think about what they truly need.