The Ultimate Guide to Green School Supplies

green school supplies - pencils

Looking for eco-friendly solutions for school shopping this year? We’ve created six easy to use guides that break down some of the best green options for back to school basics. From easy to find brands who are making an eco effort to more unique, stylish and sustainable supplies that you would normally have to dig to find. We hope the items in the guides below will help you green your shopping list this year.

Mothering would like to thank Amy Serotkin of The Mindful Home for her expert assistance in creating these helpful back to school guides. Please check out her site and the many wonderful, naturally focused guides and reviews she has to offer. Look for more information about her site below.


6 Big Brands Making an Eco Effort

Many major retailers and manufacturers have introduced product lines made of sustainable materials. Other big companies are still making a number of their products in the USA despite pressure to produce overseas. Here are six of our favorites. 


Notebooks, Paper and Binders

Let your kids celebrate their sustainability in style with these gorgeous notebooks, paper products and binders made with the earth in mind. Many are made from non paper alternatives and others contain recycled content or are FSC certified.


Pens, Pencils and Highlighters

Little changes make a big difference. Choosing sustainable alternatives to even the most minor items is a great way to help kids celebrate our earth all year long. Here are some of our best picks for eco-friendly pens, pencils and highlighters.


 Miscellaneous School Supplies

Looking for some unique and eco-friendly products to round out your school supplies list? Don’t miss these green alternatives to conventional choices on everything from calculators to glue sticks.

f42d7b1a_keenBackpacks and Messenger Bags

After some serious research we are glad to announce that we have uncovered 10 eco-friendly and/or made in the USA bags that are perfect for back to school at any age. From super cute packs for the elementary crowd to stylish and durable selections for middle and highschoolers, we’ve got it all.

Long Honey sticks-500x500

Safe and All Natural Crayons

Most commercial crayons are made with paraffin, a petroleum based wax that is not easily biodegradable. Others have questionable additives. Here is a list of brands made with safe, natural ingredients to fit this year’s school supply list.

A Note from Amy 

At The Mindful Home, I create informative, thorough product guides, review individual items, and occasionally include related DIY projects. My goal is to provide everything in one place, so consumers can find environmentally friendly, non-toxic products with ease. I like to have all the pertinent links to information on toxins and manufacturing details included, so my readers can always choose to explore more if they like. I try to feature smaller retailers, manufacturers and crafters, and I’m always focused on finding things that are created in the most conscientious manner. 

At The Mindful Home, you can find the following three guides and much, much more, including periodic giveaways.

Image at top: Andres Nieto Porras

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Learning to Embrace the Present While the Past Fades Away


She was my little side kick.  We went everywhere together every day.  If I went to Target, she went to Target.  If I had a doctor’s appointment, she was the one collecting the sticker at the end.  We were two peas in a pod, and now at six years old you can clearly see that influence.  I’m sure that will change at some point, but in this season of our lives, my likes are her likes.  That’s just how it is with an oldest child.  With no older kids to emulate, she emulates her mama.

Yesterday she started first grade, and today is her first full day of school.  We aren’t new to school.  She went to a year of preschool, and she was in kindergarten last year.  But those were all half days.  By the time we got home from dropping her off, it was practically time to get back in the car to pick her up.

Those were baby steps into the world of school for her, and they were baby steps into the world of mothering a big kid for me.  Now we are in the big time with a packed snack and a lunch and a little girl who comes home just a couple of hours before dinner time, not all that long before her daddy comes home from work.

I never expected the silence in our house.  After all, I have a one year old and a three year old.  By almost every measure, the six year old is the quietest and the least needy.  But when we walked in the house this morning, the silence was deafening.  My ears weren’t bombarded with long drawn out stories, and I didn’t have pictures and stories flung into my hands. I could walk through a door without the risk of having her fall on my head as she climbs the doorways.

It’s hard being a stay-at-home mom to little kids.  It’s hard having to take an entourage to every single store and every single appointment and on every single errand.  It’s hard not having a moment’s peace to yourself until 9:00 at night and then often having that peace disrupted by cries in the middle of the night.  It’s hard.  It’s really, really hard.

But what they don’t tell you is how hard it is when all of a sudden you have a little bit of time.  When all of a sudden, you might notice three minutes of silence.  And most of all, when all of a sudden you have one less person to care for during the hours of 8:30-3:00.

I had to schedule a check up for my youngest daughter.  I scheduled it on a morning when my oldest will be in first grade and my middle child will be in preschool.  That way I only have to corral one little child in a room too tiny for a doctor, a mama, little kids, and a stroller.  But I almost started crying when I was speaking with the receptionist.  This is what I had wished for.  A calm doctor’s appointment.  A little time to breathe.  And now I’ll have it.  And now I wish to give it back.  Now I’ll gladly embrace the chaos and the noise and the confusion and the tears (both theirs and mine) because it would mean that they were all with me, under my wing, where I can watch them and protect them and mother them from up close.

My oldest child is six; my youngest is one.  There is a fairly good chance that we will have more little babies in the future.  My time as a mama to very little ones is far from over.

But yet still it’s transitioning.  Slowly but surely, we are moving away from that delivery room six years ago and we are moving into a future that is unknown and a little bit scary.

And I’m reminded yet again of just how difficult motherhood is.

It’s a never ending string of bursting moments.  Some of them bursting with pride, others with angst.  Some with joy and some with tears.  And some bring us to the brink of the unexpected.  I think it’s all that bursting — all of that raw, overwhelming, unencumbered emotion that makes motherhood what it is.  Raw and real and intense and alive.  Heartbreaking and heart filling and heart wrenching.

We spend most of our lives planning our lives.  Anticipating the future.  Planning for the future.  Driving our days towards destinations we plan out.

And then we have kids.  And it’s not only that we are no longer the drivers, now we no longer even know exactly where we are going.  All we know is where we have been and where they have taken us thus far.

Today and yesterday I have found myself grieving stages past, fearing that the future will hold heartbreak and loneliness and goodbyes.  But then when I open my eyes and I look around, I see that the past is, indeed, gone.  But it’s replaced by a future filled with new adventures.  It’s filled with learning and excitement and sharing.  It’s filled with tales of best friends.  It’s filled with knock knock jokes that go nowhere and drawings of images she has seen out there in the world without me.  Just as she taught me six years ago what this world is all about, now she is showing me parts of the world that I haven’t seen, or at least haven’t seen with mama eyes.  Yet again, as always, she is making my world bigger, more vibrant, more real, just by being in it.

It’s different, but still, it’s beautiful.  And I never would have gotten to experience this new morning had the previous mornings not faded with the night sky.

And so I find that I must learn to trust again.  Learn to trust myself and learn to trust my children and learn to trust life and its ability to unfold as it must.

These days are full of leaping into waters unseen.  But we know how to swim.  And I believe the adventure will be worth the leap of faith.

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Study Says Breastfeeding Reduces PPD, but There’s a Twist

A new study confirms that breastfeeding significantly reduces the risk that new mothers will experience postpartum depression. But the Maternal and Child Health Journal report, which looked at information from more than 14,000 mothers, also produced some surprisingly results.

To better understand the connection between breastfeeding and PPD the researchers looked at the mothers’ expectations for infant feeding in addition to their feeding choices after birth. One of the first of its kind to include such data the analysis found that, while women who expected to breastfeed and were able to do so successfully had a much lower risk for depression, those women who were unable to breastfeed but had plans to nurse their babies after birth actually had a higher likelihood of PPD.

For mothers who were not depressed during pregnancy, the lowest risk of PPD was found among women who had planned to breastfeed, and who had actually breastfed their babies, while the highest risk was found among women who had planned to breastfeed and had not gone on to breastfeed. We conclude that the effect of breastfeeding on maternal depression is extremely heterogeneous, being mediated both by breastfeeding intentions during pregnancy and by mothers’ mental health during pregnancy. Our results underline the importance of providing expert breastfeeding support to women who want to breastfeed; but also, of providing compassionate support for women who had intended to breastfeed, but who find themselves unable to.

The study also turned up another unexpected result.

Interestingly, among the group of mothers who had not planned to breastfeed, the risk of depression was higher among women who went on to breastfeed.

However, the study does state that “for previously depressed mothers, there may also be a protective effect from breastfeeding when mothers had not planned to breastfeed.”

It is also interesting to note that the study analyzed data from the Avon Longitudinal Survey of Parents and Children from the early 1990s in Bristol, England — raising the question of whether the results, which weighed maternal expectations so heavily, would have been different if more recent and geographically diverse data had been used.

Read the full study here.

Image: Raphael Goetter

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Bare-Bottomed Bliss


By Carisa Miller for Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers

In the summer sun, my children shed their attire and along with it, the last of their baby skin.

It is impossible not to smile, watching their bare bottoms bound around the garden. I am desperate to imprint those sweet cheeks on my memory, to hold visions of round little rumps in my mind, long after they stop streaking through the yard to splash in the kiddie pool.

Do children grow faster in the summer? Am I watering and fertilizing mine too much? When their bodies aren’t buried under layers of clothing, their rapid growth is much more evident.

I carry my youngest less often now. Yesterday I leaned over too far when I set her down; her feet hit the ground before I thought they should.

This is full-blown childhood. Little girls with grubby hands and tangled hair shriek and gallop across the lawn. Babies no longer live here.

Life is all giggles and skinned knees again. I feel myself wanting to live this way forever. They have only just gotten here and already, I can feel myself missing my daughters as children. In the heat of each day, I attempt to freeze them in time.

I peek over my book from the hammock as the girls dash between the water and the raspberry patch, becoming wetter and more berry-stained with each pass.

I chase them, as they squeal away from me on chubby legs. I feel a sense of urgency, to catch them before those legs grow long and lanky and are able to outrun me.

We roll into a pile of tickles in the grass. I scatter kisses on warm bellies and pinch those irresistible tushies.

This is the summer destined to become That Summer in my memory. It is this moment in my children’s lives. The summer of an almost-five and two-and-a-half-year-old. The only one of its kind.

Read More

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When I Look Back (a poem)

3240278033_8750a08f11_ban email response
a bill to pay
a friend awaiting a call
the blinking of messages and alerts all mixed into a swarm of more obligations
a pile of laundry to transfer into rooms
another bundle to dry
dishes to unload then load again
a counter to wipe, spilled drinks, crumbles of meals
bed linens to straighten after a night of tossing and turning
a face to wash, teeth to brush
hair to pull back, skipping a brush all together
already worn jeans to slip on once again
sandals to hold tired feet
a shirt with a scoop to allow for feeding
a closet full of clothes no longer known
tennis shoes as a reminder to walk a little more
the hidden chocolate bar when it all seems like too much
a phone nearby just in case
a clutter of toys to toss into bins
half-eaten books to align on shelves,
others with pages ripped, confetti covering the floor
pillows to place atop the couch,
the one where two forgotten cats rest
a meal to begin and another to put away
a breath to take
or even acknowledge is held too tight and too high

these are the things that keep me from myself
the tasks that take me away from time
to collect my thoughts, reacquaint myself with my voice
today I choose to place letters into words
words into sentences
sentences into a story of my life here and now
because, just as this process unfolds
so will the years
from months, days,
minutes and moments
moments like this
when I decide to ignore everything around me
because I want to feel
I want to pause time and write a glimpse of my story
so that I can someday look at something to remember,
when I’m sitting on the couch
showered and rested
with hair brushed
cats on my soft thighs
a cup of steaming tea rising like my breath,
just how it all felt long ago

Image: Konstantinos Mavroudis

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Black Bean Brownies (optionally vegan and gluten-free)

Black Bean Brownies


Thank you to Mothering member LorienIslay for sharing this recipe.


  • 1 (15-20 oz) can plain black beans, drained and rinsed (the recipe works fine with either size of can so I go with whatever is available on sale)
  • 3 eggs OR, for vegans, either ‘flax eggs’ OR three canned peaches ( 6 peach halves mashed with a fork)
  • 3 T coconut oil or other vegetable oil but coconut oil is most delicious!
  • 1/4 c cocoa powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 3/4 c white sugar or substitute of your choice
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 t (heaped) instant espresso powder (look for it at your local Italian grocery store — so worth it!)
  • 1/2 c quality chocolate chips or chopped semisweet chocolate (I use Callebaut)
  • 1/4 c walnuts, chopped (I usually make one pan with walnuts and two without since I don’t like them)

Cooking Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Lightly grease 8×8 baking dish or muffin tin or mini muffin tin (I liked the pan brownies the best though the bite-size are cute and great for kids).
  3. Mix black beans through espresso in a food processor.
  4. Pour mixture into a baking dish.
  5. Sprinkle on chocolate chips and/or walnuts.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes or until top is dry and starting to pull away from the sides (if using the mini-muffin size, reduce cooking time by five minutes).


Especially if you use the mashed peaches for binder instead of the egg, these brownies are chock-full of fiber, but they taste as good (or better!) than a conventional brownie.  I love taking these for potlucks as most vegan desserts aren’t appealing to kids.  If you use appropriate brands of cocoa and chocolate, they can even be gluten free which is also great for a potluck.  As good as they are fresh, they are seriously better the second day :)

image by jeffreyw

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Busting the Myth of the “Natural” Mother


I want to write about the joy I’ve found in motherhood, and one day, I will. But that joy is so relatively fresh and new, and joy itself so conflated and inflated with mothering, that I see less importance in giving voice to it.

Yes, my toddler daughter brings my heart a happy warmth and fullness that words are insufficient of capturing or conveying. But that’s the standard rhetoric, isn’t it? That’s what we collectively “know” and expect about mothering–that it brings the greatest happiness to women that they’ve ever known, that transitioning to motherhood is a natural and easy process, that it’s so rewarding it makes all the pain and sacrifices worth it.

We don’t have the same sort of collective dialogue, understanding, or even acknowledgement about the negative side of it or of those stories that don’t follow this trajectory. Because the misery, shame, and regret were so huge and profound for me–and for so many other women–I find it much more necessary (and personally cathartic) to share tales of my own dark and terrible experiences with motherhood.

When I became a mother, I had a whole new set of experiences, worries, and concerns unique to parenting and no mom friends to discuss them with. Sure, I could tell my childless friends how completely overwhelmed and exhausted I was, but they couldn’t commiserate or truly understand. They couldn’t relate to the loneliness I felt when I was left alone to breastfeed my daughter when we left the house, or during the quiet hours of the night when other people, including my partner, slept. They couldn’t understand the relentless care I, as a breastfeeding mother, had to provide for my newborn. Nor did they understand how I felt I had forever lost myself and unwittingly become someone else entirely. Although I almost didn’t recognize the comically haggard and increasingly wild-eyed woman staring back at me in the mirror, it was more than cosmetic–I no longer felt like or saw myself anymore.

I had a few friends who were also moms, but we weren’t especially close. I tried reaching out to them, but found our differences limiting. One had multiple children and actively wanted more, the other had only one, but experienced her transition into motherhood much more seamlessly than I did. Neither shared my history of sexual abuse, worked outside the home, or had the same financial struggles. Undaunted, I was added, and requested to join, three separate Facebook mom groups, but our commonalities (cloth diapering, home births) weren’t enough. Those moms expressed similar frustrations periodically (sleep deprivation) but no one openly related to my feelings that I’d lost myself and my identity or my heavy, intense–and thankfully temporary–regret that I’d had my daughter at all.

The friend I was closest with seemed genuinely horrified and insulted when I asked her if she regretted having her kids. I wanted to admit these terrible truths to other mothers without fear of their judgement. Most of all, I desperately wanted and needed someone to tell me that they, too, had had those doubts and regrets and come out of it to find contentment and acceptance–but no one did. I slowly retreated away from these mothers, because they inadvertently made me feel even more alone and alienated than before. I tried reaching out to my existing friends, but found any tales from their childless lives made me increasingly bitter and sad. I felt as if I were a sequestered passenger on some swiftly departing vessel, watching my old life shrink from view until it was no longer visible or accessible to me.

There was an extended period of time after my daughter was born that I didn’t just miss my old life, I very honestly grieved its loss. I was bereft. More than anything else, even sleep, I missed being able to spend time with my partner. All of the tiny, incidental, precious things I’d taken for granted before our daughter was born were gone, seemingly dead to me, and I was heartbroken.

One day, when our daughter was a few months old, we left her with her grandparents long enough to make a quick grocery run. I hugged my fiance in the middle of the spice aisle and started to openly sob because it had been so long since I’d been able to simply put my arms around him and keep them there. I realized that that moment was the happiest I’d been in many a moon, and the stark contrast between our lives pre- and post-baby made me indescribably sad. Even though my partner was there, living it with me, our lives were new and ironic: so much time spent together physically, but so little time actually together. All our attention was focused on our daughter. I found bits of happiness in that new life, but they were slippery and ephemeral. Other than brutal exhaustion, the only real constant I felt was deep, deep sadness and shame over how unhappy I was with my new life.

Despite my best efforts against it, which included regular exercise and ingesting my own encapsulated placenta (and suffering through their revolting burps), I found myself cripplingly depressed. Although I’ve battled clinical depression throughout my life, this was different: it was an inescapable beast that clung to me like a spiderweb. In my best moments, I felt like I was in a haze, almost as if I were watching myself float through someone else’s life rather than living it myself. In my worst, I felt like a caged animal, trapped and suffocating under the inescapable realization that I’d not only ruined my life by having my daughter, but hers and my partner’s as well. The only solace I could find was something I kept tucked away in the back of my mind like a spare key under a mat: when I found myself home alone, I would shoot myself in the backyard like a dog. When I admitted this to those closest to me, they were understandably distraught. Yet no matter how heart-wrenching their reactions were, my depression was impenetrable.

One day, a dear, childless friend told me she thought I had postpartum depression. She offered to put me in contact with a friend of hers, who I’ll call Emily, who’d found herself so wrecked following the birth of her baby that she’d once screamed “I HATE YOU” into her crying baby’s face. I felt an instant, tender kinship with this mother. Though I’d never screamed at my baby, I’d whispered sorrowful, apologetic words to her through streaming rivers of snot and tears–something none of the other mothers I knew online or in real life had ever done.

I reached out to Emily and found in her the judgment-free understanding and reassurance I’d been longing for. She told me that she too had initially found no joy in motherhood, only deep, endless sadness. Only after she’d began taking antidepressants had she been able to not only accept, but grow to love, her new life. She encouraged me to see a doctor for medication, but at the time, it wasn’t feasible. I’d lost my job shortly after my daughter was born, and had been piecing a living together with food stamps, WIC, unemployment benefits, and whatever freelance and contract work I could find. Emily swore it made all the difference for her, going so far as to say she owed her sanity to her medication. She felt confident it would work for me, too. I desperately wanted to believe her, but I didn’t. Thank goodness for Emily–she became my sole hope and lifeline over those long, bleak months when things got progressively worse. I emailed her many times, often just begging her to promise me things could get better. She always did.

It turns out she was right. Mere weeks after I got on antidepressants and antianxiety meds (a beyond-generous gift from my best friend), I felt like a completely different person. My mood stabilized and rather than be destroyed by the mundane annoyances of motherhood, I was able to withstand them. I fell madly, completely in love with my daughter. Rather than constantly lament the fact that it was no longer just the two of us, I was able see the magic that my family of three create together. Slowly but surely, my new life became more familiar, and evolved into what Emily had told me it would become: a new normal.

None of this means that my new life is perfect–any more than it means my pre-baby life was. But it does mean that my new life is now manageable–and more often than not, it’s pretty great. While the natural progression of age and time made parenting and adjusting easier, I’m confident that medication saved my life. I had a severe chemical imbalance that required pharmaceuticals to correct, and I am grateful I was able to access it.

I am also confident that Emily was instrumental for my recovery, too–not only because she encouraged me to seek out medication, but because she affirmed for me the normalcy of my own struggles with parenting and identity. Just as no two people are alike, there is no one way for women to adjust to and/or become comfortable or confident with motherhood–and yet there is one dominant narrative that doesn’t include struggle, regret, pain, or misery. Some women struggle more than others, and those of us that do often feel deep shame because of it. The notion that there is one way or experience of mothering is not only inaccurate, it is quite literally dangerously false. Only by sharing our truths and challenging the prevailing, warped narrative of motherhood will we combat the shame and silence that threaten our health and happiness.

Image: pixiedust8605

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Newborns Sleeping Through the Night: A Dangerous Myth


It seems as if every decade delivers a new scheme to get even our youngest babies to sleep through the night. And yep, I figured we were just about due for a book titled The Sleepiest Baby on the Block or 50 Shades of Baby Slumber when, this past lovely Sunday afternoon, I was confronted by the newest baby training idea on the block (which, by the way, makes Ferber sound kind of tame).

Here’s a behind-the-scenes play-by-play — a kind of diary of how it went down in real time (oh–except that Facebook seems to bend time, which I’d never really noticed until trying to build a timeline with their posts… and see that their time-stamps jump time-zones!). The identity of folks I don’t know has been obscured; for my friends, you’re in this with me!

Sunday, 2:30pm — I See a Call Was Sounded on Facebook

Newborn sleep a dangerous myth | Marcy Axness, PhD

I’m at our neighborhood club’s Sunday Jam — live music, that is — so I cannot actually listen to the segment that aired on Fox News. But I can read the article (as can you if you click on the image above). Oy. Really?? Stretch out the feeding intervals during the day to “train a baby’s hunger receptors to acclimate to a specific schedule”??

Over the years I have developed ever more serenity about things I cannot change, and am about 97% in remission from Quixote Syndrome. If I dove into the breach over every inane, harmful or even tragic thing I learn about, I’d never be able to tend to my own calling of helping people parent for peace. Stay the course, Marcy, stay focused.

Sunday, 2:40 pm — I See I’ve Been Specifically Summoned

Birthpower’s Barbara Rivera tagged me to please weigh in, along with a few others. Progressive Parenting‘s Gena Kirby was the first to gamely offer help, as others began to register their thoughts on the matter.


Sunday, 3:30 pm — I Dive Into the Breach W/ Longwinded Comment


Rather that perpetuate my error, I’ve blurred it out. One of the pitfalls of diving into the breach without time to reflect and research is that you can get things wrong. (I had a vague memory of Ferber having recanted his position on sleep training — not so; it was his negative position on co-sleeping that he famously recanted, so at least there’s that.)

Sunday, 3:36 – 4:32 pm — A Webcast Meeting-of-Minds Is Conceived

Screen shot 2014-08-20 at 10.42.38 PM

How can I resist such an invitation? I agree, and suggest we do it asap. It’s set for…tomorrow first thing in the morning… and it includes video, YIKES!

Screen shot 2014-08-20 at 10.55.19 PM

Sunday, 4:29pm — I Geek Out 

Screen shot 2014-08-21 at 12.33.51 AM

Sunday, 4:40pm — It’s Set & Announced

Screen shot 2014-08-20 at 11.54.57 PM

Sunday, 4:45 – 7pm — I Close My Laptop and Enjoy Real Life

Sunday, 7:30 — I Finally Watch the Infamous Fox News Segment


Lewis Jassey, MD, co-author of “The Newborn Sleep Book”

Sunday, 8:30pm 
– I Peek at the “Newborn Sleep Book” Fan Page

…where controversy is rearing its interesting head. (I’m including a few subsequent comments added since then as well.) This captures some of the leading concerns about the method — including its impact on breastfeeding.



I write a comment and hit “Post” and it seems to go somewhere, yet I cannot see it on the page. Oh, that’s it — you have to “Like” a page in order to have anything show up there. (I cannot bring myself to do it.) BUT… mysteriously…

Sunday, 10:53pm — I Receive A Friendly Warning*


At this point I should be sleeping — I’ve got an early call in the morning and I’d prefer that my eyes not be bloodshot. I only stopped by Gena’s FB page to see if there was any “breaking news” I should know… you know, to sleep on. I could so easily chime in on this point, but decide it’s best not to get all riled up before lights out. (*I don’t notice Gena’s post about having contacted the Jassey brothers — the authors — to invite them to join Dr. McKenna and me on tomorrow morning’s show.) I read a few more interesting comments on Gena’s page for good measure to send me off to dreamland:


…and one last check-in on the APPPAH group page (where this whole saga first began) turned up an excellent resource for parents confounded by all the differing theories and opinions:



Monday, 7am — (Ugh) Arise and Get PresentableScreen shot 2014-08-21 at 1.34.44 AM

Funny that we’re all talking about the
importance of getting sleep, and that is
rather viscerally brought to the forefront
of my consciousness because I’m not a
naturally early riser, and certainly not
“camera ready”… or PEOPLE ready. It
brings back memories of my baby days…
and early dawns. I have HUGE compassion
for parents missing their sleep!


Monday, 8am — Pretend I’m a Cinematographer

Screen shot 2014-08-21 at 1.51.43 AM
Is it vain to want to look decent when your image is going out to thousands? I think not. Once again, my past life in television production comes in handy: I know how to use a big white piece of poster-board to bounce a little fill light onto this old face. And this is the only time I ever use Photo Booth — to check the shot!

Monday, 8:15 — Last-Minute Fact-Checking & Research

It occurs to me to check on how the Jasseys’ book is selling, so I drop by Amazon for a look-see:

Screen shot 2014-08-21 at 2.02.36 AM

At this time, they have 71 reviews with an average 2-star rating. (There have been over 30 people who’ve added a review since Monday morning.) Their sales ranking is 15 thousand-something out of Amazon’s 8 million books. Not impressive for a book that just enjoyed national media coverage. As I am about to say in my opening comments with Gena, I have faith in parents’ wisdom!

Monday, 8:30 — Sound & Video Check w/ Gena

She cut her hair — cute! She’s nursing Jack — cute!

Monday, 8:53 — Gena Geeks Out

Screen shot 2014-08-21 at 2.21.50 AM

 Monday, 9am — We’re Live!

I cited James McKenna’s research in my book, so it is such an honor to spend this hour with him. (He is the leading expert on the physiology of mother-infant co-sleeping and its relationship to breastfeeding and to SIDS.) Dr. McKenna does not mince words when it comes to his dismay over the guidelines proposed in this book, particularly because it was written by pediatricians!

Screen shot 2014-08-21 at 3.39.11 AM

All in all, it was lots of fun and very gratifying — to have actually hopped on the ol’ Quixotic horse this time!

Top image:
footloosiety through its Creative Commons license

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Beyond Screens: Creative Ideas to Keep Kids Busy


Our kids are shaped by what they see and do. Very young children can become wired for overstimulation by screen time as well as the kind of commercial playthings that use sound, light, and movement to hold their attention. How does this affect them?

When play has to do with blinking beeping toys or rapidly changing images, children may have a diminished ability to amuse themselves. They may not be attuned to the slower pace of conversation, the expansive pleasure of make-believe, or the subtle wonders found in nature. They have trouble generating their own fun.

Even if you limit screen time and emphasize more naturally stimulating playthings, your child can still be overwhelmed by too many choices. You’ll find reducing a toy overload helps children play more creatively, cooperate more easily, and become more resourceful. Here are some toy overload solutions with plenty of toy and screen-free play ideas.

1. Rotate toys

Make it a family policy to have fewer playthings available at any one time. This way your child can deal with a smaller selection and play areas are less cluttered. Of course, use a sensitive approach. Pick up a few things that have been long ignored and put them away for that proverbial rainy day. You may choose to do this during naptime. When you do get out a toy, doll, or stuffed animal that has been “resting” you’ll want to quietly put away another object. If children notice, it’s common for them to feel sudden affection for the toy you’re taking. When you face objections, don’t make the policy painful. Work together to find another toy that your child can agree to put away. You’ll find the same old toys take on a new luster when a young child hasn’t seen them for a while.

2. Keep some toys for specific purposes

It’s helpful to reserve certain toys to be used only for situations that require more serious distraction. These might be perfect opportunities to use toys that require a parent close by, or time to permit your children to play with any passive toys they’ve been given. Keep such items for situations when your child is forced to be passive anyway, such as the car seat, waiting in line, or while you’re on a conference call. Even very young children come to recognize that such toys are kept in a diaper bag, a parent’s bag, or on a high shelf for special occasions. Explanations before and after use, “We only use this in the car” or “This is a Daddy’s-on-the-phone toy” help keep the boundaries drawn and help you put the toy away for the next time.

3. Join or set up a toy lending library

Collections of donated toys can be found through some museums, community centers, and public libraries. Toy lending programs give families access to a wider range of ordinary playthings and more expensive toys than they might ordinarily afford, as well as toys for special needs children. Search online to find a toy library near you or for helpful advice on starting a collaborative toy lending service.

4. Assemble play kits using non-toy items

You can throw together kits that stimulate imaginative play while re-purposing old objects. Of course, your child’s safety is the primary concern. These suggestions are not appropriate for children who put objects in their mouths or are too small to use the items safely. To keep up the appeal factor, put the kits away between use. They are great to get out when kids have playdates or when you need them to play quietly under your supervision.

Office: Use a briefcase or file box. Fill it with office-type items such as memo pad, non-working cell phone, calendar, writing implements, round-tip scissors, and calculator. A big thrill is a tape dispenser — this alone can keep kids happily occupied. A major coup is finding a manual typewriter at a thrift store. You’ll need to help them understand how to type one letter at a time to keep the keys from becoming tangled.

Costume: A costume box or trunk is a childhood classic. Keep adding cast-off and thrift store items likely to enhance make-believe. Include work wear, dress-up, jewelry, wallets, purses, shoes and boots, lengths of fabric that can be used as capes or veils, vests, tool belt, badges, and plenty of hats.

Building: Fill a large box with heavy cardboard tubes as well as other sturdy cardboard boxes. Add a roll or two of masking tape, string, plus hardware cast-offs such as nuts and bolts. Encourage children to build whatever they choose from the cardboard supply. They might need help punching holes in the cardboard to insert bolts or string. They might also enjoy hammering their creations apart with a rubber mallet when they’re done.

Store: Save empty clean food packages, re-gluing boxes shut so they look new. Children can set up a play shop with these items, adding their own toys or books for additional merchandise. Lend them your fabric shopping bags to load pretend purchases. They may want to swipe a pretend debit card or use homemade money to cover their transactions.

5. Encourage kids to make hideouts

Most children like making their own realms under blankets, in closets, and behind furniture. Outdoors they can make dens and forts out of a few branches or leftover planks. Provide sheets or blankets to drape over the furniture for an indoor hiding place, with couch cushions for support. On occasion, try to get a large packing box from stores selling refrigerators and washing machines. Your child can direct you to cut a few openings to transform the box into a boat, space ship, or castle. Once inside a hideout, they’re in another world.

6. Get elemental

Little kids adore water play. Pull up a stool to the sink and let them wash a few unbreakable dishes or toys with mild soap. They’ll stay busy pouring water from soup ladle to funnel to pitcher to cup. Add to the fun by putting a few ice cubes in the sink, giving them foil to shape into boats, or letting them add food coloring. Encourage them to do “science” by gathering a few water safe objects (perhaps a block, a spoon, a popsicle stick, a ball, a rubber band) and guess which ones will float before putting them in the water. This is the basis of real experimentation! You might let them play in the tub while you sit nearby reading a book or getting some work done on the laptop. Outdoors there are many more water options. On a hot day, water wiped on the house or driveway with a brush temporarily darkens the surface, giving toddlers the satisfying impression they are “painting.” It dries quickly so they can paint again. You can also give them a sponge to let them wash a tricycle, a watering can to give the plants a drink, or a sprinkler to run through. Don’t forget the pleasures of water added to dirt. Mud pies are a childhood classic.

7. Help kids set up obstacle courses

A rainy day indoor course might consist of a few chairs to wriggle under, a rope to hop over, four pillows to leap on in a row, three somersaults through the hall, and a quick climb up the bunk bed ladder.  Outdoors they can set up a bike, trike, or scooter obstacle course. Mark the course with sidewalk chalk or masking tape. The course may lead them around cones, through a sprinkler, under crepe paper streamers hanging from a tree branch, and on to a finish line. More fun? Setting up their own obstacle courses.

8. Bring back legacy games

All that’s needed for most sidewalk games are chalk, while backyard games only require a ball and a sense of fun. For instructions you may have forgotten or never learned, check out Sidewalk Games by Glen Vecchione and Sidewalk Chalk: Outdoor Fun and Games by Jamie McGillian. And remember to add those classic hand-clapping games, typically played while chanting a rhyme. A few rounds of Miss Mary Mack or Say Say My Playmate aren’t just fun, studies show they’re also brain boosters.

9. Stage treasure hunts

First hide a prize. Then place clues throughout the house or yard. For very young children, those clues can be pictures or rebus sentences. For older children, the clues can be written as poems or riddles. Each clue leads to the next set of clues before the treasure is discovered. The prize doesn’t need to be a toy or goodies, since the hunt itself is the real fun. Try “hide a packed lunch day” and let everyone search for the cache of lunches. Those who find sustenance first need to help others so the kids can eat together. Or hide the book you’re been reading aloud so kids can search for the treasure of the next chapter. Once they’re familiar with treasure hunts, children can create them for each other.

10. Let them help

Even the smallest children want to participate in the real work that makes a household function. They want to tear lettuce for a salad, clean crumbs with a small wisk broom, measure beans and pour them in the coffee grinder, sort socks, carry kindling for the fireplace, basically anything they see their elders doing. They benefit in remarkable ways, from greater dexterity to the development of character traits that lead to long-term success. What’s more, they have fun doing it.

Add your own unique ideas in the comments!

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Interview with Blair Lee, Pandia Press Curriculum Author (part 3)

Savvy Homeschool Moms Podcast, episode #43, Interview with Blair Lee

In this episode, the moms share the final part of their 3 part interview with Blair Lee, homeschooling mom and author of REAL Science Odyssey Chemistry 1 and Biology 2 by Pandia Press, and chat about their upcoming summer plans.

Some links in this episode:

To see the full show notes, including a LOT MORE links to all the resources mentioned, please visit our website: The Savvy Homeschool Moms, episode 43.

To subscribe to or download our show, check us out on iTunes, or our website.

This episode is sponsored by Moving Beyond the Page – homeschool curriculum for hands-on, creative, and gifted learners. Learn more at


Savvy Homeschool Moms

About Savvy Homeschool Moms

The Savvy Homeschool Moms is a podcast by homeschooling moms for homeschooling moms. “In the trenches as we’re going through it!”

Each episode brings listeners peeks into our homeschooling lives, answers to listener questions, and reviews and recommendations of resources we like. We don’t sugar coat the homeschooling experience, you’ll hear the good, the bad, and the weird. While we focus on a secular point of view, our show is respectful of all beliefs! We are a podcast to entertain, inform, and uplift fellow homeschool parents.

Through sharing our day-to-day joys and sorrows, challenges and triumphs, reviews and recommendations, we hope to help those considering homeschooling, just starting out, as well as those already in the homeschool lifestyle.

To leave us a message with your questions or comments, you can visit our website and click on the “Send Voicemail” button or drop us an email at moms(at)savvyhomeschoolmoms(dot)com.

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The post Interview with Blair Lee, Pandia Press Curriculum Author (part 3) appeared first on Mothering.

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