ARE YOUR CHILDREN AT RISK?

For most parents it is impossible to understand or decipher what the ingredients in some of chil-dren‘s products actually are:

Have you ever looked at the ingredients list on your baby care and children‘s products and wondered what they are?

Have you ever researched what the ingredients are and what their purpose is?

Do you believe the ingredients are safe for your kids?

Are you aware of the effects the combination of some these ingredients may have on your baby and children‘s health and wellbeing?

Do you believe that products advertised or labelled ‗natural‘ or ‗organic‘ are safe to use?
ARE YOUR CHILDREN AT RISK?
Raise Questions, Seek Answers
When you know the truth about the chemicals in your baby and children‟s products you may be shocked at what you find!

Because you make ALL the choices and decisions for your children from birth to their formative years, it is vitally important that you make wise and informed choices for them.
You will decide: What products they are exposed to What medications they will take What food they eat Where and how they will live
Are you aware of the toxins they may be exposed to from their baby products and in their every-day environment?
What is that you require to help you understand the impact of toxins on your child‘s health and wellbeing now and for the future?
What do you think they would ask you in the future about the choices you are making for them today?
If your child had a choice, what would they choose?

Copyright © 2009 Niche Finders. All rights reserved.
Healthy Living
PUT YOUR BABY IN HARMONY WITH NATURE
We have all lathered and pampered our kids with all sorts of potions, lotions and concoctions so they feel soft and smell good. Most people intrinsically believe that companies would not inten-tionally promote or sell products that would harm our babies or children.
Is this really true?

“Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better”
Albert Einstein

Inner Alchemy
The alchemists of ancient times were aware that the human body works in harmony with mother nature. They used her secrets in a form of natural chemistry, free from synthetic chemicals using only ingredients derived from plants, minerals, flowers and nature.
This fact is what makes natural substances more powerful than any synthetic substance created by man. Most modern men and women have detached themselves from nature. We now live in a world where every aspect of our environment is saturated with synthetic chemicals. Sad but true…
We have been fooled for decades into thinking that ‗synthetics‘ are the way of the future and that they are safe and superior to nature. Given the massive increases in cancer and other im-mune related diseases since the beginning of the chemical revolution in the 1930‘s and the cur-rent global environmental issues of our planet, we can see that this may not be the truth.

Bi lingual learning NT petition

tuesday, december 16, 2008

Bi lingual learning NT – Please sign and distribute
Published date: 3/12/08

Petition For Bi-lingual Learning

TO THE HONORABLE THE SPEAKER AND MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

This petition of citizens from Australia and overseas, both Indigenous
and non-Indigenous, draws the attention of the House to the announcement on October 14th 2008 by the NT Government that from 2009 the ten remaining bilingual programs in the Northern Territory would be effectively closed down.

We believe that:
• The NT Government’s decision is educationally unsound, and that it will
hinder, rather than help, the children’s chances of learning good English. It goes against the strong evidence that using a child’s first language fosters greater cognitive development and proficiency in learning through all curriculum areas.

• The decision is demoralising for Indigenous communities who have put
effort into promoting and developing teaching methodologies that suit
bilingual and bicultural Indigenous children. Our NT bilingual and bicultural programs have provided real jobs, real work and real incentives for Indigenous educators to train and work in these schools.

• The decision will prejudice the survival of Indigenous languages. The use of the child’s first language also fosters pride in the students’ self esteem and Indigenous identity as recognised in the “Little Children are Sacred” Report.

• The decision goes against the recognition by the United Nations of
the right of Indigenous people to provide education in their own languages.

We therefore ask the House to:

Ratify the UN Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and in particular to direct the NT Government to comply with Article 14 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Article 14.1:

Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.

Signed:

Name:

Date:

Principal Petitioners:
Names: Kathryn McMahon and Yalmay Yunupingu
Address: 58 Tiwi Gardens Road, Tiwi, Darwin. NT 0810
Email: galiyan@yahoo.co.uk

Eleven Facts about NT Bilingual Schools

FACT 1: Bilingual schools teach English and an Australian Indigenous language
Literacy in the ‘mother-tongue’ is taught while a child is learning to hear and understand English. Over the 12 years of schooling about 70% of teaching will be in English.

FACT 2: A small percentage of Indigenous students attend bilingual school
16% of remote Indigenous students (7.8% of all students) attend nine bilingual schools. The remaining 84% of remote Indigenous students do not attend bilingual schools.

FACT 3: Bilingual schools out perform non-bilingual schools
Previous NT studies in the 1980s and 90s have shown that bilingual schools out perform non-bilingual schools in key English literacy and numeracy areas. See Fact 3.1 references on page 2.
Both national and international studies strongly indicate that teaching literacy in the mother tongue is the better way to support the development of English literacy. See Fact 3.2 references on page 2.

FACT 4: No evidence against bilingual schooling
There has never been a formal independent published report showing that bilingual programs have been anything but successful.

FACT 5: Bilingual program achievements were noted
The achievements of bilingual schooling were noted in the Department’s Indigenous Languages and Culture Report.
See Fact 5 reference on page 2.

FACT 6: Bilingual schools produce more Year 12 or NTCE graduates
Of the 31 Year 12 graduates in 2007, 70% came from bilingual schools. This means that a student is almost 9 times more likely to graduate from Year 12 if they come from a bilingual school. See: NTDET 2006 Poster: You Can Do It.

FACT 7: More teacher graduates from bilingual schools
There are more teacher graduates from bilingual schools than non bilingual schools. Up to 1998, 75% of all graduates (Ass Dip and Dip Teaching) from BIITE came from bilingual schools, or up to 1998 a graduate teacher was about 20 times more likely to come from a bilingual school. See comment on page 2.

FACT 8: Indigenous ESL students have double the student/teacher ratio as migrant ESL students. Migrant children from non-English speaking backgrounds attend intensive English classes with a teacher/student ratio of 1 to 10. Indigenous students with low or no English proficiency attend classes with a teacher/student ratio of 1 to 22.

FACT 9: Labour’s broken election promise on Universal Human Rights
Labour has forgotten its 2007 election promise to honour Australia’s commitments to the Universal Human Rights
Declaration, to which Australian became a signatory in 1948. See Fact 9 reference on page 2.

FACT 10: Labour’s broken promise to endorse the UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights
Labour’s pre-election (2007) platform endorsing the UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights Article 14 (below) has been
ignored. See Fact 10 reference on page 2.

Fact 11: Labour ignores Australia’s obligations under UN Convention of the Rights of Child 1989
Australia’s obligations under this convention talk about discrimination on the basis of language, ethnicity andidentity. See Fact 11 reference on page 2.
Page 2 15/12/2008 Email comments to: john.greatorex@cdu.edu.au
Eleven Facts about NT Bilingual Schools – References

FACT 3.1 references:
3.1.1 Devlin, B. (1995). The evaluation of bilingual programs in the Northern Territory, 1973–1993. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 113, 25-41.
3.1.2 Christie, M., Gale, K., McClay, D., and Harris, S., (1981) Academic achievement in the Milingimbi bilingual education program TESOL Quarterly, 297-314

FACT 3.2 references:
3.2.1 Greene, J. (1998). A meta-analysis of the effectiveness of bilingual education.[WWW document.] Retrieved
December 4, 2008 from http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/JWCRAWFORD/greene.htm
3.2.2 Meyer, M. & Fienberg, S. (Eds.) (1992). Case of bilingual education strategies. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
3.2.3 Ramirez, J.D. (1992). Executive summary of longitudinal study of structured English immersion strategy, early exit and late exit transitional bilingual education programs for language minority children. Bilingual
Research Journal, 16 (1&2), 1-61.
3.2.4 Willig, A. (1985). A meta-analysis of selected studies on the effectiveness of bilingual education. Review of Educational Research, 55, 269-317.

FACT 5 reference:
NT DEET (2005) The Indigenous languages and culture in NT schools report (2004- 2005). Pages 35-37, Retrieved
December 4, 2008 from:
http://www.det.nt.gov.au/education/indigenous_education/previous_publications/indigenous_languages_culture_rep
ort/

FACT 7 comment:
Up to 1998 there were more bilingual schools, but as 3 out of every 4 teacher graduates came from a small number of bilingual schools (which in 2008 represents 16% of Indigenous students), then calculations show that up to 1998, a graduate teacher was approximately 20 times more likely to come from a bilingual school.

FACT 9 reference:
Universal Human Rights Declaration:
Article 26.
(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

FACT 10 reference:
UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights
Article 14:
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providingeducation in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.
Article 15
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the dignity and diversity of their cultures, traditions, histories and aspirations which shall be appropriately reflected in education and public information.
2. States shall take effective measures, in consultation and cooperation with the indigenous peoples concerned, to combat prejudice and eliminate discrimination and to promote tolerance, understanding and good relations among indigenous peoples and all other segments of society.

Fact 11 reference:
Convention on the Rights of the Child
Article 29.1
“… education of the child shall be directed to (c) the development of respect for the child’s parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate and for civilizations different from his or her own …”

Childhood is Now

“Let us put our minds together and see whatkind of life we can make for our children.”- Chief Sitting Bull.
I often hear people say, “Kids today are different, I would never have behaved that way as a child.” Are kids today different or is it kids’ lives today that are different? In her book, The Continuum Concept, Jean Leidloff points out that, “Natural logic forbids belief in the evolution of a species with the characteristic of driving its parents to distraction by the millions.” As new parents we are all told, “Enjoy your children now while they are little.” Yet how much of the day do we spend enjoying our children? Many parents spend more of their day struggling with their children than enjoying them. How has this come to be? What is making parenting today more often a struggle than a joy?

Parenting never used to be, and was never meant to be, a one or two person job. Parents used to have a village, a tribe, or at least an extended family to help care for and spend time with their children. Few families today have the resource of a live-in grandparent, aunt, uncle or nanny. Even when there are two parents in the home at least one of them is gone much of the time. Whenever there is only one adult to care for children, for extended periods of time, there often isn’t the time, attention or energy to fully meet everyone’s needs. Whether a family consists of a single parent and one child; a mom, a dad and three children; two partners and two children or a blended family with multiple moms, dads and stepsiblings, most families need more adult resources.

My experience with children is that when their needs are met and nothing is hurting them, they are a joy to be with. I’ve learned that children do not always have the language to tell us what is hurting them or what they need so they communicate their needs through “needy” behavior. When children are not a joy to be with, their behavior is usually an expression of unmet need. Just as a baby’s cry is a communication designed to bother us and move us to action to meet the baby’s needs, the needy behaviors of children are designed to bother us and move us to action to meet the child’s needs.

Ironically, when children communicate their unmet needs through needy behavior, the action adults often take is to try to change the child’s behavior. As long as we keep trying to change the behavior instead of meeting the need, those needy behaviors persist. If we look at our own behavior when our children’s needy behavior is driving us crazy, we usually find we haven’t spent much time with them and we’ve been too busy and stressed to connect with them. If we look at our behavior when we are enjoying our children, we find that we are spending time with them and not rushing them from one place to another.

There are many reasons why children have unmet needs. Sometimes we can’t hear our children’s needs because our own needs are screaming so loudly. Sometimes we lack information about their needs. Sometimes we have so little trust in our own internal voice that we listen to advice that goes against meeting our children’s needs. Most often, however, the reason children aren’t getting what they need is that our lives are too busy and we don’t have enough time to be with them and enough time to just let them be. One of the reasons parents are too busy is that there is not enough adult resource to do all that needs to be done. The loss of the extended family has been devastating to parenting and to childhood.

Childhood today is very different than it has ever been. Parents are busier and children are expected to keep the same pace. There are so many more things to do and places to go. Children have to get to day care, preschool, school, games, lessons, and appointments. They often spend as much time (or more) in the car, getting to and from these activities, as they do at the activity. Children are frequently in transition from one place to another. Children need time with their parents and time for unstructured play, time to just be. Kids today don’t get much of that. Most children today spend less time in their home, with their family, than children ever have.
Most parents tell me that transition times are the times of greatest conflict with their children.

Getting out the door in the morning and bedtime are often a struggle. It seems the very thing we enjoy about children is also the very thing that drives us crazy about them. Children live in the now. Their attention is completely on what they need, feel or are doing right now. When we are rushing to “get out the door” or trying to get them to bed we are not in the now. We are usually thinking about where we are going and what we have to do next. When transition means children have to leave what they are happy doing to go and do something they may not even want to do, children naturally resist.

The only real conflict that exists between parents and children is conflict of needs. Getting out the door is our need. Getting the kids to bed is our need. When a child’s need to have time with us or time to just be is unmet they know that going out the door or going to bed means those needs won’t get met . When children express their unmet needs through their behavior and that behavior conflicts with parents’ needs the conflict of needs often turns into a power struggle.
This summer many parents told me how much they enjoyed their children when they were on vacation and/or when family or friends were visiting. When I asked why they enjoyed their children so much at those times the answer was always the same. “We had more time and there were more adults to do what needed to be done, so we all had more time for ourselves and more energy and attention for the children.” How can we have more of this for our family in everyday life?

We may have to begin to create more adult resource in small ways. Parents could ask family members and friends to spend more time with our family on a regular basis. We can invite other families to do things with our family and invite single friends to be part of our family. We create an “extended family of choice.” When there are more adults to meet the needs of children there is less conflict of needs and fewer power struggles. Even one hour a week of more adult resource would make a positive difference.

Creating more resource will mean having to ask for support. Most parents find it difficult to ask. We may feel like we are imposing or that we are supposed to be able to do it all alone. None of us can do it well, alone. Time has shown us that. We all have to work together to make it work for everyone. The children who depend on us now to get their needs met will one day be the adults we depend on to meet our needs. They will only be able to give what they have received.
We won’t get a second chance to “enjoy them while they are little.” Meeting the needs of children takes time, energy and human resource. If we don’t create the resource to give us the time and energy to meet children’s needs now when they are little, we will spend the time dealing with their unmet need behaviors when they are big. Childhood is now. The more resource we create, the more everyone’s needs will be met. The more everyone’s needs are met, the more we will all enjoy the children, when they are little AND when they are big.

About the Author…

Pam Leo is an independent scholar in human development, a parent educator, a certified childbirth educator, a doula, a parent, and a grandparent. She began studying child development, psychology, sociology, and anthropology after her first child was born in 1972. “I wanted to learn why we are each born as a tiny innocent being, and some of us grow up to be a Mahatma Gandhi while others become an Adolf Hitler. What determines the difference? I was determined to find out.” As a family child care provider for children ages two to ten, Pam clocked up 55,000 hours of child care over 22 years. During that time she home schooled her daughters and continued her own independent study of human development. In 1989 she developed a seven-session parenting series called “Meeting the Needs of Children” which she teaches publicly and in the prison system with inmate parents. “If I had to put into one sentence all that I have learned about optimal human development and parenting it would be this: our effectiveness as parents is in direct proportion to the strength of the bond we have with our child. Securing and maintaining that bond is our primary work as parents and is the key to optimal human development.” For more information about Pam Leo and her publications, visit connectionparenting.com.

COMMENTS – 2 Responses
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1. 1. ChrstyMar 2nd, 2008 at 9:18 pm
“Sometimes we can’t hear our children’s needs because our own needs are screaming so loudly” When asked if I want to have more kids I always think, well if my Mr right walks into my life and I have acheived my hearts desire why not. I really enjoy kids. But till that time, till the day when I feel less needy myself I hardly thing my hearth would be the most welcoming for other children.
But what to do? We can’t make the kids magically disapear until we’ve got out acts sorted out and the pressures off. What I’ve found which makes the day flow a lot better now (I’m a full time stay at home mom with no relations about to help and dad is a hardworking man) is, following my destiny. In however small way I can now. Just admitting to my self that “well there are other things which drive me and bring me to new heights”, and working towards that helps the day go a lot better with the kids. Dropping the other preoccupations which demand my time and bring me no way close to my dream follows. Just focussing on that and child minding (and all which comes with it) makes my day flow nicer now.
And for me destiny drives me to sing and write songs and that, as funny as it may seem, has transformed my time with the boys. Composing doesn’t take half as long as writing a book does and that frees up lots of time. I am not anxious that they go to bed so I can have time to write anymore. I bring a pad along while they go rollerblading and jot down things there for example. I sing while we go walking (and I have to be careful what I sing too because they sing it right back to me word for words pitch for pitch- that’s our singing lessons!) We had a pretty amazing experience one day to a song I had wriiten called I Stand Naked. Well I got all excited about it and while singing started to take my clothes off. The boys were singing the lyrics too behind me. They wasted no time in whipping their clothes off and all three of us were gyrating in front of the mirror singing I stand Naked in your eyes.
So my advice is to spending quality time with your kids in way that both of you benefit is to follow your destiny and finding a way to include them in the experience. My boys are the first two people I’ve met who really don’t mind me singing the same song over and over again. And they have memorised all the lyrics to all my songs and the three year old asked me one day after singing ‘I’ve tried reaching you with ESP’ Mummy what is ESP? It certainly enriches the lives of our kids. Just seeing us excited about a project which they too can learn a bit from makes room for a great household athmosphere.

A Call from The Wild: How today’s children need nature and how the future depends on it By Ian Cleary

A Call from The Wild: How today’s children need nature and how the future depends on it

I received Richard Louv’s new book the day I received the news that I was to become a father for the first time. The book, Last Child in the Woods, Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, is a timely reminder of the challenges that lie before all parents, but an equally powerful recognition that my work as an environment educator has more purpose than ever!

Louv’s fascinating book highlights the broken relationship we have with our environment which stems from spending less time physically in nature. He links this separation from the natural world to many problems facing children today, including, diminished use of the senses, attention problems, and increased emotional and physical diseases including higher levels of childhood obesity and depression. Through a combination of compelling anecdotes and research, Louv argues a strong case for more focused studies, pointing out that no other generation in human history has had such levels of disconnection with nature. He suggests causes in the current crisis include a reduction of easily available open spaces, parental fear of injury or abuse, and, of course, the modern lures of being indoors.

Any adult who has experienced the delights of natural experiences knows the benefit. But sadly, Louv believes we may have ‘scared children straight out of the woods and fields’ and given in to a litigious culture that promotes organised sports as outdoor activities over unsupervised play in nature. In addition, he believes our fear of violent crime is based on a perceived risk exaggerated by biased media coverage.

Turning our attention to indoor technologies such as TV, computer games, home computers and the Internet, we find that these have had a double impact on child development. First, they take from available time that previous generations spent outdoors and, secondly, they only allow partial development of the senses and impede physical development. A line from Richard Louv’s book really drives home the challenge ahead, when he quotes a small boy saying. ‘I like to play indoors cause that’s where all the [power] outlets are.’

The book stresses the need to see play in nature not as leisure time but as something that is as crucial for our children’s development as a balanced diet or a good night’s sleep. He uses the term ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ not to describe a medical condition but to describe the symptoms experienced when children are cut off from direct nature experiences. Louv’s examples tend to have an American focus, but in my ten years as an environmental educator I have come to believe it also exists in Australia and the UK and probably in most developed countries. It’s a symptom of a larger social problem that has children (and adults) spending less time in nature than in the past and developing more of a ‘virtual’ relationship with it.

So why is building cubby houses and catching tadpoles more important than computer skills and soccer? Studies into the effects of reduced nature experiences are limited, partly because no one took note of how much time children of the past spent outside. It was probably assumed that it would always be that way, and that it was only natural for kids to want to play outdoors. It would appear that for many this is no longer the case.

So what IS the impact of a less nature-based childhood?

The Biophilia Theory, championed by Harvard Professor E.O.Wilson, suggests that we actually have a biological need to be outdoors. We develop and thrive through the sensory input from the natural world and its absence can cause all manner of problems. A branch of psychology known as eco-psychology also supports this. Of particular interest is the work done on the apparent links between outdoor play and ADHD. Studies at Illinois University have shown that time spent outdoors in ‘green spaces’ can actually reduce the symptoms of ADHD. Louv wonders whether a lack of nature might also be a cause of such attention problems.

Nature seems to operate on a more relaxed timetable than our own. Something as simple as a walk on the beach or through a rainforest tends to have a calming effect on most people. Louv would argue that this calming effect is crucial in healthy childhood development.

Inspiring the environmentalists of the future

Of the many points Louv raises in his book, I would like to focus on one aspect that particularly concerns my profession. How do we as teachers and parents, teach about ‘the environment’ and what priority should we place on experiencing the real thing?

I believe environmental education in primary schools today should concentrate on physically getting into local forests and mangroves — learning to listen for and identify the calls of local birds, or to wander local bush land smelling, touching, tasting, listening to, and generally feeling an intimate connection with what sustains us.

Try this. Think of the term ‘environmental education’ and feel what comes to mind or what should be taught under this field. For many it gives rise to ideas of global warming, protecting rainforests and oceans, animal extinction, stopping whaling, conserving water and other catastrophes. All of that is certainly critical information for society to take on. But it’s just that — information. To change people’s actions they first have to associate the environment with something worth saving — something seen in terms of awe, wonder, beauty, vastness, inter-relationships, precious moments, complexity beyond knowing and love. With this firmly anchored in their hearts through direct experience, only then should we teach about the broader issues facing the environment. The problem is that without such direct experience of nature our kids get an imbalance of information; we risk focusing on the negatives before children develop an appreciation of the positives. It’s a little like learning about the deadly snakes before learning that most snakes are harmless and all have a crucial part to play in our environment.

How then do we relate to snakes? Are we motivated to protect them?

I often get asked the question, ‘At what age is it best to start teaching about major environmental issues?’ The answer is always the same — not until the child has had plenty of years experiencing, exploring and developing a fascination for what’s around them; not dinosaurs or Madagascan lemurs, but ‘their’ environment — real experiences. I believe the love of skinks in the backyard — not the panda bear in Asia — is more likely to drive children to live responsible environmental lives as adults.

Studies of the great environmentalists of the last hundred years show two things they have in common. First, they had a childhood rich in contact with nature, and secondly, a close relationship with an adult who was enthusiastic about the environment. These two options are becoming less available, at a time when the world actually needs more committed environmentalists. The role of teachers and parents in this equation is obvious.

A virtual relationship with nature

Ironically we live in a world where children know more about the earth, but less about their own backyard. The huge increase in information available online or through nature documentaries has almost taken the place of direct nature experiences for some. Kids will excitedly tell you of last night’s Discovery Channel documentary on monkeys, alligators, emperor penguins or lions of the Serengeti. But ask what bird just called and there are blank faces.

These amazing nature shows can perhaps do more harm than good by giving people an unreal expectation of nature. I often think back to a night walk I once led. We had been out for about an hour and in that time we had seen an echidna, a platypus, heard two types of owls calling, seen several species of frogs, a small snake and to top it off, we watched a yellow-bellied glider (a possum-like animal the size of a small cat) leap from a tall tree and, spreading flaps of skin between its legs, soar over our heads and land in a tree over 50 metres away!! At the end of the night when I asked what people thought, to my surprise several of the group, adults and children alike, were disappointed. On further questioning, they admitted they didn’t quite know what to expect, but thought they would see more ‘stuff’.

I often question younger children about animals they know. Invariably it is the tigers, lions, giraffes and elephants that first come to mind, demonstrating that their knowledge is primarily virtual, not built on experiences with their local fruit bats, frogs, gliders, possums, kangaroos, snakes and lizards. I would encourage parents to choose from the great range of children’s books available today that have an ‘Australiana’ focus.

Schools are doing an amazing job but maybe the environmental education that’s really needed goes beyond the remit of schools. In the past it has taken place on weekends and after school, in the backyard, down at the local creek or forest. It was spontaneous and unsupervised. Anecdotally, this time nowadays seems to have been taken up by other activities. Many of these nature experiences seem to be beyond formal schooling but not beyond family activities. I see huge potential here for parents to both generate environmental awareness and spend valuable time with their kids. Parents are in the best place to be that enthusiastic adult who can stimulate an interest in nature. Ultimately it will have a far greater impact on the planet than any household recycling or compost scheme.

A few years ago I worked as an Education Officer for the Oxford University’s Botanic Garden and I was asked to run kids activities once a month. It may surprise you, but I cringed at the thought of it. Not that I don’t love working with children, but I had done the ‘Kids Club’ gig at so many nature resorts and national parks, spanning a decade of school holidays and long weekends. They tended to turn into baby-sitting sessions, while the parent took a break or went off to explore on their own. It seemed like such a wasted opportunity for families to explore together. I felt for the kids and the parents as well. And so I modified the weekends from kids activities to family learning days.

The new activities I developed drew from the fascination that comes from exploring nature and from an observation that it’s often the parents who are unsure of how to ‘play’ in nature. It was a huge success and amazing to watch. Families shared the experience of learning and exploring, and parents eagerly took on the role of ‘Tour Guide’ for the day with the information I had primed them with. The activities challenged the adults to relax and enjoy their surrounds and they were often also inspired by their own child’s sense of awe. The adults soon had a ‘childlike’ fascination for what was before them. These creative and simple activities helped bring about a wonderful connection between parent, child and nature.

Over the years I have seen how many adults and children struggle being in nature. This disconnection creates a feeling of discomfort and sometimes even fear. But it never occurred to me that they may physically struggle too. The role that nature can play in the physical development of children hit me one spring morning in England. I took a school group of nine-year-olds walking through a beautiful wildflower meadow. These were kids from a rough estate who had had very few ‘outdoor’ experiences. As I watched them walk, I noticed that amongst all the laughter, they were struggling to walk over the uneven ground. Their teacher said that for many it was the first time that they had experienced uneven grass. Their brains were actually telling them, from past experience on the ovals and sidewalks, that grass is flat.

After these experiences, and now back in Australia I decided to write a book compiling all the years of activities that I have used to reconnect families with nature and with each other. I want to share beautiful ways to generate the awe and inspiration that nature provides, as well as the benefits that seem to follow.

From these activities comes a fascination for nature, confidence in being outdoors, the valuing of all life forms, improved self-esteem, imagination and creativity and a general honing of all the senses.

The activities also draw on another lesson that being in nature gives us and is particularly vital nowadays — the ability to slow down and ‘be’ at a more natural pace. Being in nature also gives us the gift of experiencing a place where there is no judgement. It is a place that eases our stresses while increasing our creativity. It has been beautiful to watch these activities heal what Richard Louv calls the ‘broken relationship with the earth’, while strengthening the bonds within the family.

Can we ever reconnect with nature?

I’ve thought a lot about whether an activity can ever actually ‘reconnect’ us with nature. It seems to me that we are never really disconnected. We breathe, we eat, we drink and in turn feed the earth with our waste and eventually our bodies. We are always connected as we ARE nature. We just live and behave as if we are not. So these so-called ‘reconnecting with nature’ activities actually help us to change our awareness of our place in nature; helping us to realise how deeply connected we always are.

It’s an exciting time to be alive and raise kids. I’m inspired by the incredible environmental movement, its dedicated teachers and rich spiritual traditions that are reawakening our awareness of our earthly origins. I want my children to live in a world rich in biodiversity and have a deep respect for others and nature, and see the role I played in helping them achieve it. It does take a commitment of time and energy, and often it feels like a movement against the tide. But I have a quotation on my office wall that I often look to for encouragement.

‘Some people know what they do. Others know why they do what they do. But nobody knows what they do, DOES.’

Hopefully through the work of enthusiastic parents and teachers, enough kids will develop an intimate love of their nature so that they will help drive us in a new direction — towards a life-sustaining society instead of our industrial growth society that is failing our children and our environment.

And so my thoughts turn from environmental educator to parent. How best to raise my child? I know the adult I am today is a result of my childhood. I cherish my memories of the outdoors, of camping, fishing, swimming, walking and, best of all, exploring. As a father-to-be, I know that I will be guided by that nostalgic view of a carefree childhood, and will make it a priority to give my child those opportunities. I also realise I will be challenged by the clash of past and present. I am not immune to the media messages about unsupervised play. The question is ‘Will I let my children explore on their own?’ I recognise the importance of nature and the harm caused by its absence, so the answer is ‘absolutely’. Not that I intend to disregard the potential dangers, it’s just that I will assess them against the risk to my child’s mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing of not having a nature-based upbringing.

Advice from me as an environmental educator is to be cautious about what we are teaching about the environment; push for school outings; fight to save the local bushland; meet your ‘neighbours’ (the birds, reptiles and frogs); read Louv’s book and most importantly, get out there. Merely being in nature will benefit you and your kids and … their kids. 

Published in Kindred issue 22, June 07

Ian Cleary is a passionate educator and speaker, whose environmental vision has taken him around Australia and the world. Now, as co-founder of True Nature Guides, he inspires people to experience and celebrate their profound connection with their inner and outer nature, their True Nature. To receive regular fun family activities, or updates on future workshops or publications, email Ian.

You can PUT YOUR BABY IN HARMONY WITH NATURE

It‘s important to understand that product sales In the ‗natural‘ and ‗organic‘ body care industry are driven by marketing and advertising gurus driven with the single intention of increasing profits for their clients. This is their role and they don‘t distinguish quality…. Many of the big cosmetics companies have jumped on the “organic” bandwagon regardless of their chemical preservative system, synthetic additives, fragrances and perfumes, plus a host of thousands of other chemical ingredients. Using catchy phrases like ―vitamin-e‖, “naturally-based ingredients”, “green tea”, “anti-oxidants” and many others, they hope to fool us into believing their products are natural, healthy and safe…and they’re not!! Just read the labels. It‘s time to realise that our bodies are meant to be at one with nature and that technology whilst part of our lives, has become detrimental to the long term health of humans and our planet? So what can we do to change this? As an informed consumer you have the power to make change simply by using your ‗buying‘ power. Be conscious of the products you choose. As you ‗detox‘ your home you will improve the health and wellbeing of yourself, your fam-ily, your pets and the planet.
Together we can make a difference. It‘s called PEOPLE POWER

DO YOU REALLY KNOW WHAT‘S IN YOUR BABY PRODUCTS?
Supermarket, drug store, pharmacy and health food store shelves are flooded with products that claim to be organic or natural and safe to use on your kids and you. However ‗eco-marketing‘ and ‗green‘ labelling‘ disguise the reality of the synthetic chemical ingredients in your baby products.
There is no enforcement or federal regulations in many countries that prevent companies from labelling these products natural or organic, even when they’re loaded with synthetic ingredients! For example, many baby lotions that claim to be ‗organic‘ many contain Propylparaben, a toxic chemical known to cause skin rashes and allergic reactions.
Research shows contact with this chemical on babies or children should be avoided! Another example is a baby shampoo that also calls itself organic, but includes the ingredient Cocamidopropyl Betain, a chemical that causes eye and skin irritation! These synthetics have definitely not been approved as ‗organic‘ ingredients, nor would they be. Yet they are found in most of our personal care products and we‘re led to believe they are safe to use on us and our kids.

2009 Niche Finders. All rights reserved.
They accumulate in the food chain and end up in our bones, organs, blood, fat, urine, ovaries and sperm. If you are pregnant they are passed onto your baby child via the placenta or later through your breast milk. (Article #1 – outlines the results of a study of the umbilical cords undertaken by the Red Cross. You may be shocked by what you read.) What‘s scary is that over half these chemicals have never been tested for their toxicity on humans, especially babies? So what happens when they‘re all mixed together to become a shampoo, bubble bath or baby lotion? Yes, you’re right! They become a toxic concoction!
About now you’re probably thinking how heavy this all feels. I’m hearing you!
How good do you feel knowing you are becoming wiser, more informed and
conscious about what‘s happening in your environment?
How does it get any better than that?
Copyright © 2009 Niche Finders. All rights reserved.

Connection Parenting, Pam Leo.

“Let’s raise children who won’t have to recover from their childhood.” – Pam Leo
“The level of cooperation parents get from their children is usually equal to the level of connection children feel with their parents.” – Pam Leo
Pam Leo is a founding board member of the Alliance for Transforming the Lives of Children (aTLC) and is one of the the primary architects of the aTLC Proclamation and Blueprint. The aTLC has generously posted a free, one-hour streaming audio in-studio interview (MP3) on their website. Please click the following link if you would like to hear the interview. The link will open in a new page:
What is Connection Parenting?
“Connection parenting is parenting through connectioninstead of coercion, through love instead of fear.”
The model of parenting most of us grew up with was authoritarian parenting, which is based on fear. Some of us may have grown up with permissive parenting, which is also based on fear. Authoritarian parenting is based on the child’s fear of losing the parent’s love. Permissive parenting is based on the parent’s fear of losing the child’s love. Connection parenting is based on love instead of fear.
Connection Parenting recognizes that securing and maintaining a healthy parent-child bond is our primary work as parents and the key to our children’s optimal human development. Our effectiveness as parents is in direct proportion to the strength of the bond we have with our child. Connection Parenting promotes parenting practices that support a strong, healthy parent-child bond.
Both authoritarian parenting and permissive parenting are reactive. Connection parenting is proactive. Rather than focusing on ways to discipline children when their feelings of disconnection result in uncooperative or unacceptable behavior, Connection Parenting focuses on ways to maintain and increase the parent-child bond/connection.
Connection parenting is an ideal, a navigation star we can look to for guidance. Whenever we question how to respond to a child we can ask ourselves, will this response create a connection or a disconnection. We feel connected when we feel listened to and loved. We feel disconnected when we feel hurt and unheard.
Sometimes a child’s behavior will push our buttons and we react rather than respond. As soon as we realize we have created a disconnect, we can reconnect by doing the following:
Rewind – Acknowledge we have said or done something hurtful
Repair – Apologize and ask for forgiveness
Replay – Respond with love and listening
Even if we can’t parent in the most nurturing ways all the time, the more often we can, the more our children get what they need, the better they will be able to weather the times when we parent in less nurturing ways.
Pam Leo is an affiliate of the Alliance for Transforming the Lives of Children ( aTLC ).
To learn more about parenting practices that support healthy bonding, please see the Proclamation and Blueprint for Transforming the Lives of Children at the aTLC website:
http://www.atlc.org/
Pam Leo speaks on Parenting Advice:
A parenting philosophy is relevant only to the extent that itpromotes parenting practices which support secure bonding.
Our effectiveness as parents is in direct proportion to the strength of the bond we have with our child. Securing and maintaining that bond is our primary work as parents and is the key to optimal human development.
Parents often tell me that they find parenting advice to be confusing and contradictory. They ask, “How do I tell the difference between ‘good’ parenting advice and ‘bad’ parenting advice? One expert or book says to do one thing and another tells me to do the exact opposite? How am I to know what is best for my child?”
My best answer to that question is the question I ask myself: “If I follow this advice, will I create a connection or a disconnection with my child?” When a parent’s behavior creates a connection, the child feels that the parent is on his side, and their bond and connection is strengthened. When a parent’s behavior creates a disconnection, the child feels that the parent is against him, and their bond and connection is weakened. Since parents’ effectiveness is in direct proportion to the strength of the bond and connection they have with their child, any advice that undermines the strength of that bond is counterproductive.
“In any interaction with a child, will my words or actions strengthen or weaken our connection?” – Pam Leo

Pam Leo – Connection Parenting
Attn: Magnolia
10 Old Orchard Road
Gorham, Maine 04038

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