Heather Shumaker, author of It’s OK Not to Share (whaaat? It is?), has a new book out this week. It’s called It’s OK to Go UP the Slide. (I know, right?) I’ve dutifully pre-ordered my copy (because friends buy each other’s books) and Heather Shumaker generously agreed to share her crazy revolutionary ideas about parenting and education on my blog. Rumor has it that I’m also giving away a free copy of the book.
How can you WIN this free copy? Since I still have no idea how to do that Rafflecopter stuff, you have to do one of these three things: 1) Follow me on Twitter and Tweet this blog; 2) Follow me on Facebook, either here or here, and FB this blog; 3) Subscribe to my blog feed (I’m not sure if it works but I’m hoping it does. Try it and let me know) THEN leave a comment below and let me know which one of these three things you did and/or why you want a copy of this book. I’ll choose a winner at random by midnight West Coast Time March 15, 2016 and I’ll announce who it is in the comment section of this blog, as well as on FB and Twitter.
Now let’s talk to Heather Shumaker…
Jennifer Margulis: It’s OK to go up the slide!?! So you want all kids to be lawless hooligans?
Heather Shumaker: I think that’s the fear. We worry that if our kids use a piece of play equipment differently than adults expect than they’ll be rude kids and we’ll be bad parents. But take some time to see what happens. Going up the slide is a universal form of play. Kids in Burma do it. Kids in Iowa do it. Kids climb the slide for a challenge and to interact with other kids in play.
We rush to protect the child who wants to come down, but so much more learning goes when we help kids sort out the “ups” and “downs.” Try saying, “I see a boy who wants to come down, and you’re going up. How can you both be safe?” This helps kids gain an awareness of others and practice solving their own problems. Sure, we need to intervene if it’s a dangerous situation, but often kids have a blast creating imaginary games that include going up the slide.
Learning how to listen to others and negotiate conflict is the opposite of hooliganism.
JM: You’re a big advocate of free play. But how can we let our kids play when teachers want them stuck in their seats, send them home with hours of homework, and generally thwart our efforts to let kids be kids?
HS: You’re voicing the frustration of many parents (not to mention kids!). If homework is hurting your family, this book may be a lifeline. It’s OK to Go Up the Slide spells out facts about homework (did you know there’s no academic benefit from homework for kids in elementary school?) and offers options to do something about it. Remember that YOU are in charge of your family. You decide how to run your family and what your children need. Then when you’re ready, dive into the ideas in the book to stop or reduce homework load.
JM: My kids are 16, 15, 12, and 6. Is it too late for them?
HS: Yes! No. I’m just kidding. It’s never too late. Though my “It’s OK” books are geared for preschool and elementary school-aged kids, people tell me all the time that they use my ideas on their college-aged kids and even their spouses. The chapters about risk, strangers, technology, empathy, and injustice all apply to children of any age.
JM: For parents too busy to read the whole book, what’s the Cliff Note version?
This book is written especially for busy parents with no time to read a book. You can jump to any chapter that interests you and read in any order. It’s got main points highlighted and cheat sheet “Words to Say” at the end of every chapter.
But here’s the gist: Rethink old parenting adages. Question what’s never been questioned when it comes to kids and school (like homework). Kids need risk in their lives. Plentiful, independent, healthy risk. They can do it. Can you? Trust kids’ right to learn, know, and make sense of their own world. Go up the slide!
JM: What are three things you wish every parent knew right now today that would improve their lives?
- Your child’s teacher is not your family’s boss. S/he’s your partner.
- Teachers and parents aren’t adversaries. True partners will speak up and talk to each other when there’s a problem.
- Our job is not to make life completely safe for our kids. It’s to give them training and make life worth living.
JM: Were you a confident kid? I know I wasn’t.
HS: Interesting question. I think it’s a process more than a personality. Some adults labeled me as shy because I was quiet, but my family and school supported me to constantly explore, try, fail, fall, and follow my own ideas. That’s what I believe confidence is.
Confident kids are willing to make mistakes. They’re given space to be independent, and offered tools and training to make it work.
JM: You’re a writer and educator and an expert on education. You’re also a mom. Is it ever a challenge for you to find a work-life balance? Do your kids appreciate what you do or wish you were home more (be honest)?
HS: My kids are now in school, so it’s easy to fit my writing workday into their school hours. I sometimes have to do backflips when one of them is sick or school’s cancelled for a Snow Day, just like any working parent, but writing is a flexible job and books have long deadlines, so I find it’s extremely compatible with raising kids. My kids feel the most impact—and so do I—when I travel to speak at conferences. They like that I’m a writer, they just want me to write about pirates!
JM: What else do you want to tell me and my readers?
HS: As a thank you for people who buy It’s OK to Go Up the Slide this week, you’ll get free gifts (special one-hour podcast taking you behind the scenes in the book, plus a set of designed quotes for your fridge). Simply 1) Buy the book from any bookstore before March 13, 2016 and 2) Send an email to email@example.com telling me where you bought it.
Want to win a FREE COPY of this book? Stop skimming, will ya? Read the second paragraph of this post to find out how.
Learn more about Heather Shumaker and read her infamous “Why we ban homework” blog post at www.heathershumaker.com.
Last updated: April 26, 2018