The Tot’s Cafe has a new Spotlight Mom, Jeannie Lee, a mother of two: Christian, who is three and Bella, who is 17 years old. We met Jeannie at a free Forest Kindergarten preview that she was hosting as a playdate for her attachment parenting Meetup. We experienced her fabulous playgroup style as parents met at a park, set their blankets down together, and chatted. She’d invited everybody to bring a handwork project, so most of us were knitting and talking. She explained that handwork helped her practice being a “benign parental presence,” a term she liked from Kim Paine’s book, Simplicity Parenting. She believes that keeping her hands busy and feeling productive helps her foster uninterrupted free play.
Later, Jeannie gathered the mothers and young children with a song, formed a circle, and proceeded to lead the group through a delightful circle time. We sang sweet songs with darling hand movements, and although the songs and poems were not familiar to us, she sang each of the songs twice and the children were visibly engaged. It was fun and made all the mothers happy; and the children were randomly giggling and smiling too. The occasion was so joyous we did not want to leave. What we noticed about Jeannie is her love and appreciation for the children, and connection that she has with the moms. We were glad to hear that she posts all the lyrics and often even videos of her circle time at her blog http://www.womantalk.org.
Jeannie has led a Waldorf-inspired weekly parent-toddler playgroup for the last two years. Based on that experience, combined with her 10 years of teaching experience in the public school system and her love of the outdoors, Jeannie is now teaching a forest kindergarten for Earthroots Field School in Orange County, California. An all-new program, children ages 3-6 spend five hours outdoors singing, exploring, and learning in the woods, along with their parents. It’s a program to connect children with nature. Jeannie developed the curriculum for this program, which incorporates original stories focused on the local natural world of southern California, written by Caroline Colesworthy, Jeannie’s co-instructor for the forest kindergarten.
While Jeannie’s daughter just graduated from a public high school and is currently a freshman at UCLA, we discovered that Jeannie is an avid supporter of homeschooling, and more specifically, unschooling. Bella was homeschooled until 7th grade, and Jeannie worked this summer at the Not-Back-to-School Camp, the unschooling homeschool camp founded by Grace Llewellyn, the author of The Teenage Liberation Handbook. Jeannie has been supporting attachment parenting mothers for years, first as a La Leche League Leader, last year as the main organizer of an attachment parenting meetup group, and now through teaching for Earthroots.
To balance all her social interaction, Jeannie enjoys peaceful time in the outdoors, hiking and camping; and also contemplating contemporary art. We were surprised to discover that Jeannie has a master’s degree in Art Theory and Criticism from Art Center College of Design and that she frequently writes art reviews for spare cash!
Jeannie’s philosophies of raising her children are awe-inspiring to us. She practices attachment parenting and spends a lot of time with them. Both her babies were born at home. She mentioned that Bella wore cloth diapers, but ran naked most of her first three years, which made it much easier for potty transitioning. With Christian, she practiced elimination communication. We asked Jeannie if she is raising Christian differently than Bella and she confidently said that she was raising Christian exactly the same way – with very little television/screen media and plenty of time outdoors. She has no fear of judgment by others and goes with her personal values and instincts. It’s no wonder that so many mothers turn to her for parenting advice. Well, look at her and her daughter; Bella is a happy, confident, successful, loving person who is going to college on a scholarship. Jeannie must be doing something wonderful to inspire her children to bring out the best in themselves.
To learn a bit more about Jeannie and what she is up to visit her website www.WomanTalk.org