Save the Date: Saturday, August 27, 2016 from 9 to noon:  Connect with Heirloom Parenting @

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Spring Semester 2016 Family Events @ Shady Oak!


skeetersThe two Shady Oak Schools will join together for Shady Oak School night at the Skeeters ballgame at Constellation Field in SugarLand on Friday, May 6.  Ticket sales begin Monday, April 4, for $12 each in the Shady Oak Christian School office.  We will sit together at the game and our schools will be recognized.  There will be fireworks after the game, so don’t miss any of it!  The Skeeters games are very active and family friendly.  Friends and neighbors are welcome to join in the fun!

Don’t Miss the Shady Oak Schools Spring Program! 

notesPlease join us for our exciting Spring Program on Thursday, April 28th  at 7:00 p.m.  Children should be brought to the hallway of the Sanctuary of First Baptist Church at 6:45 p.m.  Please dress your children in colorful, comfortable clothing.  Families and friends are welcome.  Child-care for 2 years old and younger is provided by reservations with Bridget.    Our  school will be joining the Primary School in presenting “Through the Year at Shady Oak” with a line-up of class favorite songs.


Spring Thing Family Fun Night — on Friday, April 8th!

family Night Flyer


spring thing 2016

SATURDAY, APRIL 9 @ 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM


WHAT IS IT?  A family event with fun games, crafts and activities for children and families, a Bounce House, Cake Walk, and a silent auction of artistic class projects. 

All proceeds benefit the Shady Oak Schools


Spring Craft Times

glueHello, my crafty people! We’re gearing up for Spring Thing and need some help preparing craft kits for sale as well as the items we’re going to be using in the Crafting Corner at the event. I’ve scheduled the following dates for us to work:

Mornings, 8:30am – ??, at the Primary School Campus — 600 Main Street –Tuesday, March 1 (Early Release date) Monday, March 7 Monday, March 21

Evenings, 7:30pm – 9:30pm, location listed Thursday, March 31, 600 Campus *Thursday, April 21, home of Elizabeth Meeh.

*This date is after the Spring Thing; we will be working on Teacher Appreciation gifts.

As always, come when you can and stay for how long you can. Small kiddos are welcome to come to the morning craft times to as long as you bring something to keep them occupied. Evening craft times are for adults only, with exceptions made for “fresh” babies that are nursing, mostly sleeping, really cute, etc.  😉

Before the March 1 date, I’ll email out a list of tools that would be helpful to bring (scissors, glue gun, etc) if you have them. I should have enough tools to go around, but extras are always helpful.

See you soon!  Stevie

Available for purchase now at the Primary School (600 Main Street):

Little Acorn Kits


Shady Oak Coffee Club

Catch up with your Shady Oak friends and get to know some new ones! Stop in for coffee at Joseph’s Coffee Shop on Morton Street every other Tuesday for some adult conversation and camaraderie — and some crafting if you so choose (just make sure you can fit your craft in your own personal space bubble). Being perky and actually awake is not required…that’s what the coffee is for. Our next meeting in March 8, 2016 (we meet every other Tuesday). Contact Stevie Ballow for more information (

Free Parenting Seminar — Scheduled for Thursday, April 14th

Peaceful Touch Training

 peaceful touch 1Shady Oak Christian School is a Peaceful Touch school.  That means that most teachers have received training on this approach and that we offer regular parent education on it.  Today’s Peaceful Touch movement took shape in Sweden stating in 1995.  Axelsons Institute in Stockholm organized trainings to give teachers practical touch methods and raise their awareness of the wide benefits of touch for children, especially children ages 3 through 8.  Over the years, our teachers at Shady Oak have noticed improved concentration and a calmer classroom atmosphere, as well as deeper bonding, when the Peaceful Touch techniques are put to use regularly.

Brandie Trigger Mitchell and Joyce Trigger will present an Orientation to Peaceful Touch training session on Thursday, April 14, from 5:30-6:45 in the Primary Building.  This experiential training is for parents and teachers and will provide a personal awareness of the benefits of touch, as well as hands-on practices to use at home and at school.

The session is free and includes a light supper and reservations are a must! Please make your reservations by emailing Bridget at by Wednesday, April 13 at 3 p.m.

Please note: no childcare is provided for this event.

Training certificates will be available.

Scheduled for February 25th


Kathy Strode and Joyce Trigger will be offering their insight and wisdom again on Thursday, February 25, from 5:30-6:45 p.m.  Childcare for Shady Oak children will be provided free of charge, but reservations are required.  We will be discussing the “18 Ways to Empower Parents” in a casual, roundtable format. Mrs. Strode and Mrs. Trigger will use their decades of experience to help parents understand their job of teaching children right from wrong, teaching them the meaning of life and keeping their children safe.

Bring your supper, if you’d like. Make your reservation for yourself and for child care by emailing Bridget at

“18 Ways to Empower Parents”  (Revised list of “20 Most Common Parenting Mistakes I See”, by Mike Leary, Family Psychologist)

The  following is a list that was used to focus our Parenting Discussion led by Kathy Strode and Joyce Trigger on Thursday, February 25th.

  1. Limit the choices you give your children.
  2. Don’t praise them for everything they do.
  3. It’s not your job to make your child happy.
  4. Don’t overindulge them.
  5. Give plenty of time for free play.
  6. Being SMART will not save your children.
  7. It’s not a strict religion that will give them perfect values and save them.
  8. Talk about the hard stuff.
  9. Be careful to not be hyper-critical of your child’s mistakes.
  10. Shaming, shunning, or threatening are not the ways to cooperation.
  11. Preserve childhood
  12. Limit screen time.
  13. It’s not your job to keep your child from being bored.
  14. Deal with the negative consequences and loss that certain behaviors will bring.
  15. Some risky play is good!
  16. Debrief your kids at bedtime.  Show you care!
  17. Teach manners, kindness, and volunteerism.
  18. Give allowances, but not for chores.


Free Music Together® Concert:  

music together preschool 1Shady Oak families are invited to a special family concert on Saturday, February 20, at 4:30 p.m.  It will be held at St. Anne’s Catholic School at 2120 Westheimer Rd., Houston 77098.  The public event is hosted by Prelude Music Foundation and Prelude Music Classes and will feature Uncle Gerry from our Music Together CD’s.  Your family will be able to sing right along because most of the songs will be from our current Drum Collection.

FROM JOYCE:  On a personal note, I have been to one of Prelude’s family concerts when our 3 year old granddaughter was an infant, and it was so fun and engaging for all of us. There will be instruments of all kinds and it will be “up-close and personal”.  I hope you will make plans to attend.  There are destinations nearby—Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Central Market, and other places to make the trip worthwhile.  I will definitely be there and will save you a seat! 


 Recent Article in New York Times Touts Executive Function Skills

A recent article written by Thomas Friedman in the New York Times describes the following skills as necessary to get a job at Google, one of the world’s most successful companies.  The skills are among those listed in an essay written last month by Joyce Trigger on Executive Functions (See article below) that we are seeking to develop in Shady Oak Kids.

The article starts by saying that “GPA’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless. …We found that they don’t predict anything,” states Laszlo Bock, the senior vice president of people operations for Google.

Bock says, “There are five hiring attributes we have across the company.  For every job, the No. 1 thing we look for is general cognitive ability, and it’s not IQ.  It’s learning ability.  It’s the ability to process on the fly.  It’s the ability to pull together disparate bits of information.”  The second, he added, “is leadership—in particular emergent leadership as opposed to traditional leadership.  …What we care about is, when faced with a problem and you’re a member of a team, do you, at the appropriate time, step in and lead?  And just as critical, do you step back and stop leading, do you let someone else?  Because what’s critical to be an effective leader in this environment is you have to be willing to relinquish power.”

What else?  Humility and ownership.  “It’s feeling the sense of responsibility, the sense of ownership, to step in,” he said, to try to solve any problem—and the humility to step back and embrace the better ideas of others.  “Your end goal,” explained Bock, “is what can we do together to problem-solve.  I’ve contributed my piece, and then I step back.”   It is not just humility in creating space for others to contribute.  It’s “intellectual humility.  Without humility, you are unable to learn.”

The least important attribute they look for is “expertise,” said Bock.  To sum up Bock’s approach to hiring:  Talent can come in so many different forms and be built in so many nontraditional ways today, hiring officers have to be alive to every one.

At Shady Oak, we really agree with looking at nontraditional ways of exhibiting talent.  We believe, in the language of Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences, that the best question we can ask ourselves and parents about each child is, “How is this child smart?” rather than the traditional question of  “How smart is this child?”

Developing “Executive Function” At Shady Oak

(Who is a “Shady Oak Kid”?)

For more than a quarter of a century, parents, teachers, and others have used the term “Shady Oak Kid” to describe a child who has attended Shady Oak Christian School and has benefitted from attending this nationally recognized play-based program.  A “Shady Oak Kid” stands out from his/her peers for being bright, caring, articulate, confident, self-regulated, and respectful of other children and adults and the environment. Research shows that this is not just proud parents or staff of a school describing children they love so much!

Such children have developed traits and skills that now have been researched and named “executive functions.”

Children who regularly engage in plentiful creative, imaginary play excel in the mental skill referred to as “executive functioning”. This functioning involves the prefrontal cortex of the brain. The term “executive function” refers to mental processes through which children learn to regulate and control their own “knee-jerk” impulses and emotional reactions. It means they gradually learn to think and control behavior before they act inappropriately. They gain competence in mentally solving problems so they learn to behave more reliably within acceptable social rules and conduct.

The ability to regulate and control one’s behavior corresponds closely with success in school and adult life. Adele Diamond of the University of British Columbia believes that executive functions predict children’s achievements as well as IQ tests do or even better, because they go beyond what we know and tap our abilities to USE what we know.

Children who are deprived of enough free time, space, and opportunity for creative play are at risk of NOT developing these play outcomes.

  • Abstract and symbolic thinking, decision-making, creative problem solving and goal setting;
  • Complex language development and ability to “self-talk” through learning steps;
  • Emotional awareness and competence, identity and self-image development, ability to maintain self-control through self-regulation, stress management and ability to delay  gratification;
  • Social skills, such as patience, cooperation, negotiation, non-violent conflict resolution, teamwork, sharing, considering other’s point of view; and,
  • Formation of a moral or ethical code that distinguishes right from wrong, respect for others’ rights and ability to work toward the greater good.

Play is an instinctual birthright designed to spur on and sustain human development.  Children rely upon it. We, at Shady Oak Christian School, are advocating for children’s crucial need for authentic play.


Galinsky, Ellen. Mind in the Making. New York: HarperCollins, 2010. Print.

Hirsh-Pasek, K., Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, Laura E. Berk, Dorothy Singer. A Mandate for Playful Learning in Preschool: Presenting the Evidence. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.


Thank You for Your Comments

In last month’s newsletter (Shady Oak Newsletter, January 2014), we asked you to tell us what you value in your Shady Oak experience. It is not to late to send your thoughts along  to Mrs. Wenzel at

Here’s what some parents wrote. What would you add?

  1. This environment allows my children to be children AND, at the same time, learn, mature, and develop life skills.
  2. Shady Oak is a community where the children learn to be responsible and caring for what is in that environment, whether that is a person, plant, animal, things, etc.
  3. Teachers are always available and, above all, interested in your child as a whole, not as a score.
  4. Staff is beyond wonderful! They totally get how to help these kids grow and learn educationally and religiously.
  5. Academics: My son loves the play-based learning. I can tell a huge difference educationally between him attending two days a week at Shady Oak versus three days a week at daycare.
  6. Christian environment.
  7. Developmentally appropriate curriculum and teaching strategies.
  8. Young child specialization with NAEYC endorsement.


The Value of the Shady Oak Experience

A few years ago, at a staff meeting our staff reflected on the value of preschool and primary class experiences at our school.  This was an important time allowing each person the opportunity to give words to often unspoken, but very real, feelings about the significant things that come from going to school at Shady Oak.

Although the list was made a while ago, we believe it is valuable enough to repeat.  The list we generated follows. We welcome new input of you parents who may be able to add to this list.  Most of these values produce tangible results.  We continue to hear from families many years after children have “graduated” from Shady Oak about the values of the experience here.  Can you put words to some of that?  Has your child gained some new skills or made some progress in an area that is not listed below?  Put in on paper and give it to any staff member.  We would love to add it to our list.  We’re proud to let everyone know about what sets apart the “Shady Oak Kids”  that we’ve been hearing about for years!

* Independence / Responsibility

* Play in all weather

* Social and verbal interaction

* Conflict resolution

* Movement in space – Primary

* Low Stress (childhood is valued)

* Character building

* Risk-free

* Low teacher turnover

* Thinking outside of the box

* Thoughtfulness and awareness of team players

* High education levels

* Success in life

* Confidence

* Individuality is treasured

* Pride in accomplishments

* Knows what feels right

* Social competence = academic competence

* Exposure to nature

* Ability to get dirty

* Small classes

* Deal with and teach alternatives

* Play and fun


Can you ‘teach’ Thankfulness?

 Submitted by: Debbie Elder, future director of Shady Oak Primary School

How do we teach our children thankfulness in our world of overabundance and entitlementitis? We (including myself) give our kiddos everything and expect them to be thankful. In this season of giving, it is the perfect time to teach HOW to be thankful.

Start with a gratitude journal. It is not only a perfect tool – everyone can use one. Even if your child is a pre-writer, he or she can cut and paste pictures. Or you can record their thoughts for them.

When I taught preschool, the kids loved it!

When I taught elementary, the kids loved it!

Even, when I taught middle and high school, the kids LOVED it!

That tells me we should all be keeping a gratitude journal. My girls are now adults but they still keep a gratitude journal daily and I know they will pass this tradition down to my (future) grandkids. (I can’t wait!)

Ok, here is my entry today:

I am sooooo thankful to have the opportunity to give children things I have learned.

I am so thankful for my supportive family. (I need them as I venture into another school).

I am so thankful for curlers and eyelashes. Yes, I said curlers and eyelashes.

Everything in the gratitude journal does not have to be HUGE. It is just as important to be thankful for the little things.

I am really looking forward to introducing a gratitude journal to some of your kiddos or to carrying on the tradition if you already do it. Let’s take this season of thankfulness and carry it throughout the year.


By Kristi Chambers, Shady Oak Pre-K Teacher

Most psychologists agree that perseverance is an inherited trait.  Some children are simply more persistent than others.  I think we probably all agree that perseverance is a trait we would like for our children to have.  So, is there anything we can do as adults to affect the degree to which our children persist or persevere?  I think so.

A few weeks ago, during small group time, I wrote each child’s name in pencil on a wooden block.  The children were told to find the block with their name on it  and then were given a piece of sandpaper.  We examined the sandpaper and talked about the concepts of rough and smooth and the purpose of sandpaper in general.  I then asked the children to use the sandpaper to remove their names from the blocks.  They all started the task eagerly but soon gave up saying “it doesn’t work.”  This gave me the opportunity to tell them that it really does work but that it takes hard work to get the job done.  All of the children succeeded in removing their names from the blocks and they were all very pleased with their own accomplishment.  How rewarding to succeed at something that is difficult!  A week or so later, in the science center, we made butter.  Again, this activity took patience and perseverance.  We cranked the paddle for two days before we saw butter in the churn and shaking the cream in the baby food jars took a very long time.  In the end, butter was achieved and, I’m guessing, had never tasted so good.

I have thoroughly enjoyed talking to the children about hard work and perseverance this past month.  They really are hard workers!  I hope you will give them tasks at home that they can work hard at and accomplish.  Not only will they be more likely to work hard in the future, they will begin to see themselves as people who can achieve something even if it is difficult.


Perseverance Part II

By Kristi Chambers, Shady Oak Pre-K Teacher

So, what if you have a child who IS persistent and perseveres to the point of frustration?  My oldest daughter, who is now 16, fits into this category.  Many things come easy to her and when she encounters something that is more difficult to accomplish she can become very frustrated.  I had to help her know when to take a break from a task.  If you are working on a problem and walk away from it for awhile, your brain continues to work on the problem even when you are not consciously thinking about it. This even happens when you are sleeping!  You might have experienced feeling that a problem is much more readily solvable after a nights sleep.  I remember my daughter working on a difficult piano piece and getting very frustrated because she kept messing up in the same place every time she played it.   I had her walk away and do something else for a while and when she went back to the piano she played the piece perfectly.  That doesn’t always happen, of course, but knowing when to take a break and when to seek help is important and a great skill to learn for all of us and especially those of us who persevere.



After nixing astronaut, archaeologist, veterinarian, journalist, and engineer, I thought for sure what I really wanted  to be was a mom.  I had no aspirations to be president or change the world.  My mom didn’t work outside the home until I was in 5th grade, and I appreciated her being home and being able to participate in my school life (as much as an elementary kid could).  When I graduated from college, even though I had earned a degree in Biomedical Engineering, I stayed  home in preparation for my life with kids.  But I wasn’t quite ready at 21 for mommy-hood, so I got a part-time job.  Then I turned 25 and still wasn’t itching to have a baby. . . I knew (or thought I knew) how much work and time they required!  My husband and I settled into our adult lives, and I began a semi-career as an artist and jewelry designer.  I even scored a few local magazine mentions.  I was feeling pretty good about my life as a non-mom.  But as 30 rolled around, my husband and I decided to put up or shut up.  My Daughter was born a few months shy of my 30th birthday.  And then life cranked up the steam roller and smashed me flat.

Whoever said that the Peace Corp was the “toughest job you’ll ever love” was wrong. . . It’s parenthood.  Being a mom has so far been the hardest, sweetest, most irritating, amazingly wonderful job I’ve ever had.  My life didn’t change after I had a kid; it was turned inside out.  I felt as if my hair, my guts, and my sanity were wrenched free, whirred around in a blender, and poured sloppily back into my body.  I was no longer a woman, an adult, an artist.  I was a sleep deprived, angry, floundering, unidentified Jane Doe that had no idea what she was really supposed to be doing.  I found my daughter’s infancy exhausting, age one intensely boring, age two fantastically frustrating, and age three ridiculously unpredictable. Potty training nearly set me over the edge.  It took almost 4 years of soul searching, medication, and acceptance to figure out that my original idea, the thing that I had always thought I wanted to be, was actually the right thing for me.  I really was supposed to be a mom.  I also learned something else: it’s okay to be just and only a mom.  And moms are the real world-changers, the real superheroes.

This year at Shady Oak, we are going to try something new.  It’ll be our own grand experiment.  We are going to set up a small group time and talk about why we as moms, parents should make it a priority to interact with and include our kids instead of “raising” them.  We’re going to talk about ways to entertain, educate, and engage our kids with simple things instead of complex schedules and mechanisms.  And we’re going to gripe about all the things we find frustrating and impossible (it’s can’t be just about the technical details).  We’re also going to make things . . . After all, how can we teach our kids to be imaginative and inventive if we don’t know how to do so ourselves?  And we are going to learn how and why all this “play” stuff is necessary for kids to grow up to be confident, self-reliant, self-sufficient, problem-solving, world-changing adults — or just parents.  You may actually learn something about yourself along the way too. — Stevie Ballow, Kaylie’s mom.

Glue Gun 101

Making my weekly mad dash through JoAnns, I passed the book aisle.  My eyes flitted from one title to another, but then stopped dead at one in particular: “Life is a Verb.”  Sadly, I didn’t have time to actually pick up the book and read it, but the title struck me as an awesome statement.  Life should be about action . . . Growing, moving, crying, breathing, creating, laughing, singing. And here’s the good part: having kids in your house makes it easier to remember how to do these things (they haven’t had time to forget how yet!).

My favorite way to make my life an action word is to craft with my kid.  It’s fun!  And if God can create light from nothing, you can transform a toilet paper tube into something cute.  I promise.  To help you on your way, I’ve prepared this short list of craft essentials.

1. Scissors:  1 pair for paper/plastic/cardstock and 1 for fabric/felt/thread.  Do not mix.  Ever.

2. Glue:  Water-based craft glue (I like Crafter’s Pick blue label) or Tacky Glue.  White school glue is easier for the kids to use (to squeeze).  Glue guns are quick, but sometimes don’t make a very strong bond.

3. Foam stickers:  The best are plain assorted shapes . . . You can use them like sticker Legos to build whatever kind of picture you want.

4. Glitter:  Everything’s cooler with a little glitter.  And yes, everything you own will have glitter stuck to it.  Get over it.

5. Paint: Watercolors for paper (washable, mixes well), acrylic for everything else (permanent, sticks to just about anything).

6. Smock:  Get a big t-shirt, cut a slit  up the back all the way to the neck (but not through it).  Should fit over any outfit.

Need more info?  Want to learn some mad skills?  Come to the Craft Days or Small Group for ideas, projects, and fun conversation.  Want to participate but can’t work during school hours?  Be sure to let myself or Joyce know and we’ll do our best to include you.

Stevie Ballow, drop me a line at:

 Get Thee Behind Me, Pintrest!

By Stevie Ballow, Kaylie’s Mom

As I sit down to hammer out this article, my cursor drifts toward the Pinterest button on my bookmarks toolbar.  Then It wavers, drifting toward the Etsy button.  Finally, it comes to rest on my Email button, and I dutifully click it and start typing.  Maybe as a reward for finishing the article, I’ll visit Pinterest, I tell myself.

For those of you who don’t know Pinterest (, it’s basically an online bulletin board where people “pin” up articles, pictures, recipes, etc. that they find on the net.  Visual, versatile, fun . . . Addicting!  And there are TONS of ideas and tutorials on the site for projects that you can do with and/or for your kids.  Art projects? You bet. Birthday party ideas? Sue. Healthy granola recipes? Yup.  Give yourself 10 minutes and you’re BOUND to find awesome.  And if you’re like me, don’t forget to set a timer for 15 – 20 minutes.  After it goes of, you should actually pry yourself away and go do the dishes/fold your laundry/ scrub the toilet.

There are lots of sites out there that have fun projects, but if you’re  looking for a single, comprehensive, repository of pictorial info, this one’s it.  And here’s the disclaimer:  You will be using the Internet.  Don’t give out your SSN, DL, CC, or any other acronym that could get you in trouble.  And make sure your virus scanner is up to date . . . There are nasty people who use this fabulous tool to hack into your life.

Here are two of my boards to get you started: (fun things to do with grown-ups) and  (fun things to do with your kids.

Happy Pinning!


Parenting Tips; Transitions to a New School or Class

At this time of year as families are making choices about school for next year, it is important to remember a few things about your kiddos. Children between the ages of 3 and 7 have little understanding of abstract time segments like weeks or months, “summer”, or “next fall”. If your child is going to change schools for next year, that change is likely being discussed at your house now. You have probably even gone to visit the new school. A child should be told the amount of details that he or she needs at this time. For some children, that is very little. For others, it is more. They need to see the new school over and over and visit it in order to be at ease. Realizing again about children’s lack of understanding about time, after the decision and initial discussion have occurred, we believe parents should drop the topic until the school year is nearly over.

Be aware of signs of confusion, even stress, at the time of an impending change. Some of those signs can include (but are not limited to) fussiness, lack of focus, pulling back from friends, not sleeping well, and any other changes in otherwise normal behavior patterns.

Even children who are staying at Shady Oak, but changing classes, may show some signs of dealing with a change. Much later in the Spring, at school, we will help children begin to think about going to their next classes at Shady Oak. For now, though, let’s “seize the day” and enjoy it to the fullest.

Fighting Commercialization with Toy Choices

As you are shopping for gifts for your children and others on your list for Christmas this year, we ask that you give consideration to gifts that lend themselves to creativity and to imaginative play.  Low tech playthings allow the child to devise the theme of play and foster originality and inventiveness.

High tech toys—invariably the ones that need batteries—stifle the child’s fantasy world.  For some very helpful suggestions for toys see the TRUCE website

It’s not just the quality and type of toys that parents need to be wary of—it’s also the sheer quantity of playthings that can accumulate.  What’s wrong with endless toys?  For one thing, a surplus of these possessions is bad in the same way that having too many possessions is bad for adults.  They need to be picked up, maintained, organized, cleaned, and stored.  They cost a lot.  And, too, all of that non-recyclable plastic takes a huge toll on the earth.  In a paper called “Curing the ‘Gimmes’”, Mary Kalifan, the director of the Parent Child Resource Service at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, gives these reasons for not giving our kids so many toys:
1. Constant indulgence breeds a feeling of entitlement.
2. Excess breeds boredom.
3. We deprive them of the joy of anticipation.
4. Too much choice is confusing to kids.
5. Kids appreciate something more when they have come by it through the sweat of their brow.
6. They may learn to equate love with material objects.

All are good reasons to limit the number of toys your kids have—while ensuring their quality.


The Toll of Commercial Culture on the Rights of Childhood and Your Right to Raise Your Children (Part I)

As I hope you know, we are in the business of preserving childhood at Shady Oak.  We celebrate giving your children opportunities and even their “right” to be children.  We feel in many ways that this is “going upstream” in today’s culture.  Culture, in this context, can be defined as what children see and hear in the world around them. It has a huge impact on their likes and dislikes, their ideas about how the world works and what will make them happy and fulfilled, and even how likely they are to reach their full potential as individuals.

Currently, researchers, educators, parents, and other advocates for the rights of childhood are speaking out about the media and commercial culture that surrounds children today.  They are examining children’s behavior, their choices, their play, and other outcomes that can teach us a lot about what children are learning and even, how media and commercialism may be depriving them of the childhoods they need to develop their full potential.

In this article we will look briefly at the effects of “screen-sucking” on children.

Screens are everywhere!  Today, screens are a major force in children’s lives.
There are screens in bedrooms, kitchens, mini-vans, airports, and shopping   malls.

What’s going on as children sit in front of a screen?
? They are having secondhand experiences-not directly involved in the real world having the concrete hands-on experiences we know are so important for their development and learning.
? They are learning someone else’s lessons-i.e., the scriptwriter’s –about who are the good and bad guys and what good and bad guys do, about the clothes they need to buy to be pretty  and “cool” and how they should act when they’re wearing those clothes, i.e., sexy clothes for sexy dances.  These are often not the lessons the people who care about them are trying to teach.
? They are getting used to the frenetic, high intensity stimulation that can make everything else seem boring when the screen is turned off.
? They are not exploring their own ideas, working out their own solutions to problems, being creative and imaginative in their own unique ways, but rather are being programmed by someone else.
In the next part of this series of articles on this topic we will take a look at the marketing that is targeting our children.

Does your Cell Phone use effect your children?

Dear Mommy and Daddy,
Today I had a GREAT day at school!  We sang songs and did art and played and had snack and played and read some books and learned lots of new things about the world around us and played.  I collected mulch in my socks and sand in my shoes, and I will most definitely need a bath tonight.

And guess what???  I am so excited to share my day with you.  While I am having such a wonderful time at Shady Oak, I am missing you.  The highlight of my day is seeing your face as you come through the gate.   I wait anxiously as the other mommies and daddies pick up their kids for you to come.

You see there are things I want to show you:  the big hill, how I can finally do the monkey bars, the new friend I played with today, the sandcastle I built, the rocks and acorns I collected, the beautiful picture I drew just for you.  There are also things I want to tell you:  we had a special snack today because it was my friend’s birthday and we did a cool experiment in science and we sang a new song and we went to chapel today.

I look forward to seeing you.  I wonder if it would be possible for you reserve this time just for me.  Could you please leave your cell phone in your car when you pick me up?  I need this time with you.  I can’t tell you all I need to tell you and show you all I need to show you when you are talking on the phone.  I promise my excitement to see you and my enthusiasm about my day will be worth it.

I love you lots,
Your Shady Oak Kiddo

Report from the American Academy of Pediatrics

 We were pleased to read of the recent report by this prestigious medical group advocating more unstructured time for play for children.  At Shady Oak we have been speaking up for the value of play experiences for 20 years. You can read more about this report at  and then click onto the link about stress and play.  Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, the report’s lead author and a pediatrician at The Children’ Hospital of Philadelphia said, “In the current environment where so many parents feel pressure to be super parents, I believe this message is an important one.”  The report says enrichment tools and organized activities can be beneficial but should not be viewed as a requirement for creating successful children.  Above all, they must be balanced with plenty of free play time, the report says.

Numerous studies have shown that unstructured play has many benefits.  Those studies are what have driven the Shady Oak program to include long periods for children to engage in what appears to be unstructured play.  The play is actually quite structured through the environment which is set up by the teachers.  To an observer, the children look like they are “just playing”.  But we (and you) know that it is much more than that. The report says, “Perhaps above all, play is a simple joy that is a cherished part of childhood.”

Share this information with your friends with young children who are wondering what type of preschool and primary school experiences to provide for their children.  To those of you parents at Shady Oak, thank you for choosing an environment that enhances the healthy development in so many areas for your children.  T. Berry Brazelton, noted pediatrician and author, praised the academy report. “I hope it will have some effect.”  Children overscheduled with structured activities “are missing the chance they have to dream, to fantasize, to make their own world work the way they want it.  That to me is a very important part of childhood,” Brazelton said.

Health News
10 Kids’ Nutrition Myth Busters- Written by Jane Brody

 Jane Brody, New Your Times award-winning Personal Health columnist, has always taken a no-nonsense approach to feeding her own children and grand-children.  Now she debunks ten myths about your kids’ eating habits.

Slender Charlie’s parents worry that he hardly eats anything, though he seems to be healthy and has lots of energy.  Jackson, at age 6, is an avid television watcher.  Although he’s in the 50th percentile for height, he’s in the 90th percentile for weight.  But his parents are sure he’ll slim down when he starts growing.

Myths about nutrition and physical activity for young children abound.  It’s time to set the record straight.

FACT:  Fat cells acquired in childhood become permanent residents in the body, and kids may face a lifelong battle to keep them from filling up.  But rather than place a chunky child on a diet, encourage healthy foods and more exercise:  biking, skating, walking, or swimming — preferably with you — or find a group activity.  Also limit TV.  Numerous studies have shown that the more time kids spend in front of the tube, the fatter they are likely to become.

FACT:  The fastest way to turn a child off a new food is to insist that he try it.  A better approach is to put a tiny amount on the plate and let the child decide whether it seems worth a taste.  Seeing others eat it may be encouragement enough.  Repeat this approach periodically, since kids’ notions about food can be fickle.

FACT:  High blood pressure is one of the leading killers of Americans, and the problem can start in childhood with a high-salt diet.  The best approach to snacks is  moderation  — try one sweet and one salty snack a day.  Always keep fresh fruit, whole grain crackers with peanut butter, and cut-up veggies with dip on hand.

FACT:  Vitamin supplements and fortified snacks cannot fully compensate for serious nutritional deficiencies.  They rarely contain adequate supplies of several important nutrients, like iron and calcium, though fortified cereals, milk, and juice can help to fill in gaps.  Try packing nutrient-rich ingredients into foods you know your child will eat, like pasta sauce, meat loaf, soup, or muffins.

FACT:  My twin sons might have gone hungry if not for packaged macaroni, frozen fish sticks, and canned spaghetti.  With two parents working, it can be hard to prepare home-cooked meals every night.  Though most are high in salt, packaged foods served  now and then do not spell nutritional disaster.  Neither do fast foods, as long as they are eaten only occasionally.

FACT:  If your child is revved up after a party, blame the party, not the sweets.  Well-designed studies have thoroughly disproved the idea that sugar is a stimulant for children.

FACT:  Physical activity is important to lasting good health regardless of a child’s weight.  It builds strong muscles and bones, fosters a healthy appetite, promotes social contacts, enhances mood, and induces restful sleep.

FACT:  No psychologically normal child with wholesome food readily available will deliberately starve, but some children seem able to eat only a little at a time.  Offer them small quantities of foods they like; have on hand foods like cheese, fruit, and whole grains, which contain important nutrients, and feed these light eaters more than three times a day.  Nothing fills up a child’s stomach faster than “knots” caused by anxiety, coaxing, and criticism.  Children should never be cajoled or bribed to eat certain foods or clean their plates.

FACT:  A preference for sweets is built into our genes, and most children like them whether they get them early in life or not.  Rather than forbid sweets, regulate how much and how often they are consumed.

FACT:  Studies have shown that children who don’t eat breakfast tend to be irritable and restless and have more problems with memory, calculations, and quick thinking then breakfast eaters.  They’re also more likely to become overweight.  Breakfast IS the most important meal of the day.*

*The preceding article is from the February/March 2006 edition of Nick Jr. Family Magazine, pages 72 – 73.


Food For Thought:
The Importance of Water

 By Susan Lee M.Ed

Did you know that getting enough water is an important aspect of brain function? It is especially important for children who are in a stage of tremendous brain growth to drink enough water. Eric Jensen in Teaching With The Brain In Mind tells us that dehydration in children leads to lethargy and impaired learning Some children will seem to “wake up” after a few days of adequate water intake. Pure water assists digestion, washes away toxins, aids the lungs, heart and blood vessels and energizes the brain and body.

Think of a living sponge. Without water, a sponge does not receive oxygen or nutrients and therefore has limited function. Thinking skills are related to the quality of “spongabiliy” of the brain which has an almost unlimited capacity when working at it’s maximum potential.

Potential. Potential is a good word to understand the role of water in the brain. Without enough water to carry the electrical potential of cells, our thoughts do not move from one brain cell to another as well. Water has the amazing ability to enliven us, fostering the development of energetic, naturally curious, and more focused children.

Carla Hannaford, Ph.D., in Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All In Your Head; says that the brain is between 75% and 90% water. Especially in Texas, we need to teach our children the importance of drinking enough water all day long. Like rain, water is best taken in frequent small amounts. Parents and teachers should make sure all children have easy access to water and, if possible, carry their own water bottle throughout the day.

Let’s teach our kids the water habit. Parents need to set a good example, and would be wise to carry a water bottle with them to work and in the car. Many of us have a habit of choosing soft drinks, carbonated beverages and juices over water. Try an experiment. For one week, choose water instead of drinks and notice the difference. Children will learn from our example and encouragement. Great job, Mom and Dad!

Susan Lee is an educational consultant for brain development with the Brain Train Center of Austin.

“Why Does Andrew Act So Hyper?”

This is the first generation in which each morning “Andrew” uses shampoo that smells like strawberries and uses soap that smells like a rose garden and is colored blue and green.  Then he applies more phenols to his hair with scented hair spray.  He applies aluminum-containing and petrochemical dyes.  Then he dresses in clothes that smell springtime fresh from scented chemical dryer sheets.

He walks across the carpet and breathes residue of flea killer and shampoo.  His parents smoke, so he smells the phenols and various toxins from cigarette secondary air.  His parents cover up the cigarette smell with scented room deodorizer, which Andrew also smells as he walks to the kitchen.  As he passes through the living room, he smells the phenols from the fireplace.

Once in the kitchen, he pours himself a bowl of Rainbow Colored Krispie Krunchie Yummies, made from rice (instant sugar in his stomach) kept colorfully crunchy by petrochemical dyes and petrochemical preservatives.  On the cereal, he puts some neurotoxic aspartame and skim milk that contains BHA as well as herbicide and pesticide residue from the grass eaten by the cow.  He also has some white-flour toast (instant sugar) spread with a thick layer of margarine containing artificial flavorings, artificial coloring, and preservatives as well as trans-fats, which further dehydrate him.

Then he has a pancake made from white impoverished flour (instant sugar), fried in margarine, then coated with more margarine.  Over all those petrochemical flavorings, colorings, and preservatives, he pours pancake surup containing artificial flavor, artificial coloring, preservatives, and three different forms of sugar.

For his breakfast beverage, he choose a concoction labeled “10 percent real fruit juice” and containing neurotoxic aspartame and assorted petrochemicals in the form of artificial flavorings, colorings and preservatives.   For protein, he has some sausage, containing sugar and assorted phenols in the form of erythorbates, nitrites, preservatives, and artificial smoke and maple flavorings.

After breakfast, he walks across that fragrant carpet and through the perfumed and phenol-laden air again, back to the bathroom, where he brushes his teeth with toothpaste that is  colored and flavored with more petrochemicals.

Ready at last, he leaves home and walks across the lawn, which has pesticide and herbicide residue on it.  As he awaits the school bus, he breathes auto exhaust from passing traffic.  When the bus arrives, he enters and sits down.  On the way to school, auto exhaust enters every time the doors open and shut.

Once at school, he notices the smell of  fresh paint on one of the walls.  During first period, he goes to art class, where he uses assorted paints and glues.   During second period, he has wood shop class, during which he cuts into particle board (50 percent glue) and coats wood with varnish.  After second period, he starts to get thirsty, so he stops at the soda machine and selects artificially flavored, colored, and preserved orange soda pop, which contains the greatest amount of petrochemicals of any flavor of soda pop.  For lunch, he has a school lunch replete with artificial flavors,  artificial colors, preservatives, starches, and sugars.
Those are some of the reasons Andrew acts so hyper.

Reprinted from:  Helping your ADD Child by John F. Taylor Ph D

Are You Adding a Pinch of Plastic to Your Food?

Think twice before you wrap your cheese with plastic wrap.  Ditto for defrosting plastic-wrapped chicken in the microwave or for using margarine tubs to heat up leftovers in the microwave.  The reason?  Researchers are discovering that some plastics contain chemical additives that can pass into food during storage and cooking.

These chemicals can act as “endocrine disruptors” or EDs.  EDs can make their way into your food when it comes in contact with certain plastics, plastic wraps, Styrofoam, and polystyrene containers.  Because the additives can generally dissolve in fat, they tend to move more freely into high fat foods.

Researchers aren’t yet certain of the effects of EDs in humans, but they suspect they could affect reproductive system development, thyroid functions, immune functions, cognition and the risk of breast and testicular cancer.  Scientists also fear that EDs could do the most damage during times of rapid growth: the prenatal period, infancy, early childhood and puberty.

Here are some things you can do to limit your family’s exposure to potential EDs in food:  Don’t wrap high fat foods (cheeses, meats, pastries, etc) in plastic wrap.  Transfer take-out food in foam cups or plates to different containers upon arriving home.  Use wax paper or plastic wrap labeled “polyethylene” to cover food in the microwave and leave and inch between food and the wrap.  Avid using wraps labeled “PVC”.  Use microwave safe plastic, glass or ceramic to cook or reheat in the microwave.  Plastic containers with a “2” or “5” on the bottom of the container are made of polyethylene and polypropylene and are considered to be free of potential EDs.

This Article was taken from: Healthy Food for Healthy Kids” by Bridget Swinney