All Together Singing in the Kitchen

With their children at their sides Nerissa and Katryna Nields of Conway, MA, performed a family show to a packed house at the Jones Library in Amherst as part of the library’s 30th annual Children’s Music Series.

Better known as “The Nields” this local sister duo recently released a kid’s music CD of traditional and original folk music titled, All Together Singing in the Kitchen. It has a wonderful collection of music with traditional songs, like “Alkendrum,” “Hop Up Ladies,” and Tom Paxton’s “Going to the Zoo;” along with a few rocking original tunes like Nerissa’s “Anna Kick a Hole in the Sky.”

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Massachusetts health care plan moving forward

BOSTON (AP) — The average uninsured Massachusetts resident could obtain health care coverage for as little as $175 a month under the state’s insurance law, less than half of earlier estimates, officials said Saturday.

The plans are a critical piece of the state’s landmark insurance initiative, which requires all state residents to have health coverage by July 1, 2007, or face tax penalties. Some insurers had suggested earlier that the premium would be $380 a month.

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March is Women’s History Month

March is National Women’s History Month. If you’re looking to supplement your child’s education or develop a lesson plan for your classroom, there are plenty of on-line resources, lessons and activities that parents and teachers can use to get their children involved in the study of women’s contributions to the world.

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Elmer’s Mardi Gras Party in Ashfield
Photo Credit: Victoria Worth

“I LOVE this site! I’m so glad I found it. Thank you for the links to Jesse James’s article and for the one to Hilltown’s Homeschool group. Next month my husband and I will be moving to Northampton with our 6 year old son, whom I homeschool … I’m excited about being a part of this community!” – Kyra Anderson

We welcome your comments!

Readers are warmly welcomed and encouraged to contribute their ideas, photos from local events, suggested resources, articles, Q&A’s, etc., to Hilltown Families. Either post your comments on our Community Bulletin board or email them to

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MotherWoman LogoMotherWoman, Inc. is a local non-profit organization based out of Amhert, MA, that provides psycho-educational support programs that create communities where mothers develop the confidence, self-esteem, knowledge, and practical skills they need to care for themselves and their children with awareness, strength, compassion and non-violence.

After receiving a grant for $13,330 MotherWoman is now able to offer free comprehensive Postpartum Depression Prevention and Support Programs, serving mothers in the hilltowns and Pioneer Valley.
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beflyer.jpgPastries, coffee and friends! What more could parents want on a Thursday morning (other than an hour more of sleep, folded laundry, a clean house, a completed to-do-list, a vacation to the island … but never mind all that!)?

On your way down from the hills into the valley, Hilltown Families invites you to drop in to Bread Euphoria in Haydenville for an a.m. social with other hilltown parents. Treat yourself to a cup of fair trade coffee or tea, an organic pastry, (they even have gluten free muffins!) chat a bit, and be on your way with your day… only a little merrier!

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Listen Listen and Listen Some More
by Joe Kelly for Dads & Daughters

Girls tend to be a riddle to fathers. Like any mystery, the relationship with our daughter can be frightening, exciting, entertaining, baffling, enlightening or leave us completely in the dark; sometimes all at once. If we want to unravel this mystery, we have to pay attention and listen, even in the most ordinary moments.

Why? Because a girl’s voice may be the most valuable and most threatened resource she has. Her voice is the conduit for her heart, brains, and spirit … Dads must help nurture these qualities…

To read more of this article visit

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Jewish Book Week

prose1.jpgIt’s Jewish Book Week, and in London a literary festival is held to promote Jewish books and writing. The festival might be in the UK, but we here in Western Mass can enjoy them on-line.

Jewish Book Week
Website for this UK literary festival (late February/early March) promoting Jewish books and writing. In addition to details about current and past events, the site contains reviews of fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books with Jewish themes. From the Jewish Book Council, a group “promot[ing] the reading of books on all aspects of Jewish thought and culture.” [(c) 2007 LII]

On their website they will be including lesson plans for different age groups which will be available for parents/teachers to download and use with their children/classes. Also on their site they have a section of new children’s books they frequently update.

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(c) AJ Kandy - CCL

“In the heated debates about testing, it’s easy to forget that tests are supposed to be tools for learning,” says Linda Stearn, managing editor of

Highlights from’s recent newsletter give tips on how both children and parents can prepare for tests administered in their schools. They make an honest attempt to demystify the different tests by giving a primer to explain their purpose and how to interpret the results. It’s a good read for any parent concerned about testing in our public schools. Read More

After a week off from school I’m sure many parents children are itching to get back into their daily routine. This past week was a lot of fun for those little snow-bunnies. Sledding, skiing, ice skating – the whole lot of winter wonderland activities could have been enjoyed … that’s if you stayed in New England. Those poor children who were forced to head south to the lands of sand and sun missed out on all that icy, cold fun. Poor kids …

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The Gateway Regional School Committee has announced that it will again hold meetings in all seven district towns during this school year, so that town officials and area residents will have greater access to those meetings. But discussion on the issue focused on the lack of attendance at those meetings, and the committee will consider whether or not to continue this practice for next year.

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Kindergarten Screening

Parents of children who will be five years old on or before September 1, 2007, are advised to call the Pupil Services Department at 685-1017 by Friday, March 2nd to schedule an appointment between 8-11am for Kindergarten screening.

March 12th screenings for the following schools will be held at Littleville Elementary School:

  • Chester Elementary School
  • Littleville Elementary School
  • R. H. Conwell Elementary School
  • March 13th screenings for the following schools will be held at Russell Elementary School:

  • Blandford Elementary
  • Russell Elementary Schools
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    (C) Hilltown Families - Sanderson Academy

    How could Sanderson Academy be reused?

    “What if the Hilltown Charter School took over a vacant Sanderson Academy building? 

    “The Hilltown Cooperative Charter Public School serves Franklin and Hampshire County children. It’s now based in Haydenville, but school officials there say their building lacks adequate play space, and they’d prefer their own quarters…

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    Celebrating the Year of the Red Fire Pig
    By Sienna Wildfield

    February 18, 2007 is the first day of the Lunar and Chinese New Year, the year of the Red Fire Pig. In years past hilltown families have gathered to share and discover the customs of celebration for this yearly holiday. It proved to be a great opportunity to educate our children and community of families about a holiday with which many were unfamiliar.

    Read more here.

    (c) Hilltown Families - Conway Grammer School“What a great service provided for us here. I find myself checking back regularly to find out what is going on in this culturally rich community of ours. Isn’t it great?Don’t you all just *heart* living in the hilltowns! Never a dull moment. Thanks for making it so easy for us to chose family activities.”

    Tony(a) Lemos
    Shelburne Falls, MA

    School’s out next week for many kids on winter vacation. The opportunities to celebrate our “culturally rich community” are expanded this week as many of our cultural institutions and organizations plan extra special programming, including the KidsBestFest happening in Northampton, MA, all week.  

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    Dental Outreach Taskforce Launched  
    Did you know that approximately 400 children in the Hilltown Community Health Centers’ service area have never received any dental services?  Additionally, about 40% of area residents have gone without dental treatment in the last twelve months.  Hilltown Community Health Centers’ dental departments treat many children with gum disease and oral problems.  Many of these serious dental problems could be avoided with regular preventive dental care.  But what is the best way for all children to receive good dental care? 

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    (c) Hilltown Families - Valentine Contra Dance

    A Heart-felt Dance Party

    by Victoria Worth
    for Hilltown Families

    The songs are still humming in my head, and when I look down, my feet are still moving to a recent rhythm. Long after Saturday night’s Valentine’s Family Contra Dance has ended, the joyous gathering lingers on in my mind. At the Town Hall, good food filled our tummies downstairs, and when dinner was over, we joined a crowd of children and adults already moving to the beat of the music.

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    Terri Hendrix - Fids & Kamily Award WinnerThe Fids & Kamily Awards
    by Bill Childs

    Late last year, two family music bloggers (Stefan Shepard of and Amy Davis of ) and myself organized the “Fids and Kamily Awards.” Inspired by the Village Voice’s annual “Pazz and Jop” awards, F&K is a compilation of year-end kids and family music “best of” lists from critics, writers, radio programmers, and others involved in the music industry. You can check out the full list of nominees and winners at

    Read on to discover the top vote-getters …

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    (c) Hilltown Families - JunkjamWe’ve all met them, and, silently, some of us are them … modern day treasure hunters who find all sorts of unique loot at flea markets, transfer stations and curbside on trash day. Donald Knaack, affectionately known as The Junkman, has made an art form out of this pastime, and has been able to contribute amazing music while promoting eco-friendly habits by creating Junk Music.

    On Friday night, as part of the free opening events for the Beyond Green: Toward a Sustainable Art exhibit at Smith College Museum of Art in Northampton, MA, one of the goals of this exhibit is to help transform the ways we make use of things in everyday life. The Junkman showed how recycled items can be used to make “music people want to hear performed on objects they don’t want.”

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    As part of a fundraiser for the Williamsburg, MA, public elementary schools, Radio Free Earth performed a famly concert this past Friday at the Williamsburg Grange.

    378529587_93c03083eb_o.jpgNever a shortage of activities for our hilltown families.  This week’s suggested events include dances, music, crafts, chocolate and more!  While a chock-full weekend of activities sure makes it hard to choose, the family Valentine Contra Dance in Ashfield is not to be missed.  Sure to be a swinging time! 

    Certainly we’ve missed a Valentine event or two, so please share your special event in the comment box.

    During the week are two parent a.m. socials suggested by Hilltown Families.  The first is at Elmer’s where they serve up a delicious breakfast made with many local ingredients!  The other is a new gathering suggestion at Bread Euphoria where you can treat yourself to organic pastries and the best fair trade coffee around.

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    00211_cd.jpgYesterday would have been Bob Marley’s 62nd birthday. Many of Marley’s songs have a very positive message that young and old enjoy, including songs like “One Love/People Get Ready,” and “Get Up, Stand Up” to name a couple. The political message may be missed by the little ones but the simple ones (like love and understanding) won’t be.  With the lively rhythms of Reggae music, many of Bob Marley’s tunes make a wonderful musical selection for kids. Putumayo puts out a CD titled Putumayo Kids Presents: Reggae Playground that has many additional favorite reggae artists.

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    The Homeschool Option

    Homeschooling: Key Facts and Resources

    Have you ever thought of teaching your children at home? More American families are choosing to homeschool their children every year.

    There are some surprising facts about the typical homeschool parents and reasons why they homeschool their children … it’s a mixed bag! Read More

    Gusterfer Yellowgold comes to the Pioneer Valley with a performance at the Flywheel in Easthampton, MA (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

    On Saturday morning Gustafer Yellowgold performed Gustafer Yellowgold Wild Wide World at Flywheel in Easthampton, MA, a family concert much supported and organized by Bill Childs of Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child. A fun weekend performance for families with kids preK-3rd grade and early enough to get out afterwards to enjoy the first significant snow fall!

    Preceeding the performance, families were served pancakes and the Pink Panther played on the big screen … all this before the invasion of a melancholic yellow alien from the sun – Gustafer Yellowgold – in a weekend morning music show!

    The New York Times described Gustafer Yellowgold Wild Wide World as a cross between “Yellow Submarine” and Dr. Seuss, filtered through the lens of the Lower East Side, and after seeing this performance you may just find yourself concurring with this analogy.

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    Happenings in the hilltowns and beyond for Valentine’s Day. Discover upcoming events and links for your family that are Valentine-ish, including dances, crafts, chocolate and more…

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    Tips for Dads & Daughters Watching the Super Bowl Together

    Dads & Daughters watching TV sports together–one of life’s pleasures. But what about those moments (like during some commercials) when you want to cover her eyes with your hands?

    Here are a few simple tips from the national nonprofit Dads & Daughters for fathers and stepfathers watching the Super Bowl (and other TV sporting events) with their daughters.

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    (c) Hilltown Families - Chesterfield at sunrise

    Happy February! Friday marks the halfway point between Winter & Spring. In the States we acknowledge this point with Groundhog Day. No matter if you see your shadow or not, we’re halfway to spring!

    On Thursday, if you’re traveling down from the hills to the valley in the morning, stop by Bread Euphoria in Haydenville for a coffee break with other hilltown parents. Wednesday is National Girls and Women in Sports Day. There are a couple of events taking place over this weekend for school aged girls to participate in. Check out the suggested events to follow …

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    (c) 2007 Steve Harwood - All Rights Reserved.This year’s slogan for the National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) is “Throw like a girl – Lead like a champion!” NGWSD is a day that acknowledges the positive influence participation in sports can have in a young girl’s life. It is also a day to honor sports achievements while working towards equality and accessability for women in sports.

    In honor of this national day there are several free clinics being sponsored by area colleges for young girls to participate in and learn more about sports, including Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and Smith College.

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    (c) 2007 Hilltown Families - Day in Deerfield

    Families feeling adventurous to take a day trip up to North Adams can enjoy a free family day at MASS MoCA, or journey over to Amherst to the Eric Carle Museum for music and art this weekend. The Meekins Library in Williamsburg and the Forbes Library in Northampton both offer free museum passes to check out for the whole family, just don’t wait until the last minute to check one out.

    A couple of activities hosted by hilltown parents this weekend include a French rendezvous in Ashfield and a Mom’s self defense class in Cummington. If you are a Hilltown Families parent and wish to host, sponsor or suggest an event for other area families with grade school children, email or post your suggestion in the comment field on the Suggest a group/activity event page.

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    Greenfield Center School
    Family Contra Dance 2007

    Wild Asparagus whoops it up at the Greenfield Center School Family Contra Dance. (Photo Credit: Sienna Wildfield)

    On Sunday afternoon, Wild Asparagus whooped it up at the Guiding Star Grange in Greenfield, MA. The Greenfield Center School held their annual Family Contra Benefit Dance and the dance hall was filled with families from all over Western Mass. This festive social dance was for families with kids of all ages.

    Families learned easy contras, square dancing, and movements to Jump-Jim Joe, Ride Sally Ride and Sasha. Ann Percival of Wild Asparagus lead the crowd along with her five-person band. The band uses a unique blend of talents to pack a punch of a performance, presenting traditional dances and music of New England folk heritage.

    The proceeds went to benefit the Greenfield Center School, an independent day school for students K-8th grade. GSC is known for integrating social and academic learning in every aspect of the school day, while emphasizing the building of community and celebration of the individual. This benefit dance let that spirit of the GSC really shine through by warmly welcoming the larger community to celebrate with them, and empowering the older students who ran the bake sale and silent auction during the dance.

    Old students from the GCS ran a bake sale and silent auction downstairs while families jumps and swung around upstairs. (Photo Credit: Sienna Wildfield)

    If you’ve been to a contra dance you know how much fun they can be for the whole family. If you’ve been missing out, not to worry, there are a plethora of contra dances to fill your calendar, including:

    A good way to keep up with contra dances happening in our area is the Pioneer Valley Contra Dance e-mail group.

    Other interesting links to visit on Contra Dances:

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