Thursday, March 31, 2011

When She Is Ready, It Will Be Easy

The term "pooty" came from Orange County.
My daughter is four years old. She uses a pacifier, all day and all night. She loves it very much. She has had it for so long now, that I barely even notice it anymore. She speaks very clearly even with it in her mouth. I can relate, because I used to use a pacifier, and I also did not give it up until I was four. I am grateful that my parents allowed me to use it until I was ready to give it up, and my husband and I plan on giving our daughter the same freedom.

Many people feel compelled to comment on the fact that she still uses it, and that she is too old for it. Some share how they were able to break their children of the habit using one trick or another.

The trick stories always include some form of the phrase It Was Easy! As it if should be just as easy for me. And maybe it was for them. But I'm not buying what they're selling. No one knows this child better than Nick and I do, and we know none of the tricks would work on her, even if we were willing to try them. We trust that it will be easy for her to give it up when she's ready, but not before then.

Here are some of the (simple!) suggestions I have gotten over the past couple of years, and some responses to them:

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Photo: How Kids Feel About Homework

I recently stumbled upon this picture of my brother, Greg, from about 18 years ago. It should be on a poster for a "Stop Giving Homework" campaign:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Five Things I Wish I Had Never Said About Parenting

I wish I had never said never. Before I had kids, I used to look at other people and how they dealt with their kids, and think I would never do that. At times, I even made the worse mistake of saying it out loud. The problem is, I didn't know. I didn't have a clue what it would be like when I had my own kids.

These two have showed me just how wrong I was...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Physical Fitness Testing Is Asinine

Check out this article from the Los Angeles Times, entitled Only 1 in 3 California students make the grade in physical-fitness test. According to the article, "The 2010 test scores show that 28.7% of the students in grade five, 34.6% in grade seven, and 38.5% in grade nine rated as "fit" in all six areas of the test." Another article on the Huffington Post says these numbers are "indicative of a growing health hazard for kids nationwide."

Is this a joke?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mary's In Trouble. What Should She Do?

This is a story about Mary.

Almost every day for a few years, Mary has spent many hours with Peter and his friends, who are very cruel to Mary. They call her terrible names, throw things at her, spit at her, destroy things that are valuable to her. She has started to eat meals in the bathroom when Peter is around, because it is the only place she can escape his torment. She believes she is worthless and has thought about killing herself. Peter has warned her not to tell anyone about the things he does to her or else he will only make it worse for her. He is much bigger than she is, so she has not said anything until now. Mary has finally come to you and shared her story, and she is afraid.

How do you feel about Mary? About Peter? What should Mary do? Do your answers depend on who Mary is, and what is her relationship to Peter? Let's think about some of the possibilities...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Make Sure They Learn the Right Things

When talking about unschooling with people who are new to the idea, there is another question that usually follows Aren't there things everyone needs to know? It goes like this:

How will you make sure your kids learn the right things?

The short answer is: I can't. I will explain. But first let's talk about school.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Things Everyone Needs To Know

One of the common questions about unschooling and its lack of curriculum:

Aren't there things everyone needs to know?

I'm not sure about that. When pressed to answer their own question, most people say things like "basic math" or "how to read" and then have trouble thinking of much else. Even if I conceded that these two things were absolutely necessary for every person to know, that would hardly justify me sending my kids to school, as schools try to teach a whole lot more than just those things.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Quit Happens

Look at some of the popular "wisdom," in the form of one-liner clich├ęs, about quitting:

1. Winners never quit, and quitters never win. False. First of all, winners sometimes quit. Especially after they win. Second, quitters sometimes win. Sure, maybe if you quit playing baseball, you won't win at baseball anymore. But you can win at other stuff because you aren't wasting your time playing baseball when you don't really want to. And third, what if you don't care about winning? Or what if happiness is a win for you? Then quitting something that takes away from your happiness is an automatic win.

I prefer: Quit while you are ahead. As in, if you have achieved what seems to you to be a satisfactory level of success, and you don't want to do something anymore, then it's ok to quit. Also, if you realize that you are not enjoying something, then quit before you waste too much more time doing it.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Kid Who's Not a Quitter?

Yesterday, there was a segment on the Today Show with "parenting expert" Michele Borba, based on her article entitled How To Raise a Kid Who's Not a Quitter. First of all, I am always suspicious of anyone who writes a "How-to-raise-a-kid-who's-not" article, because I don't think it's possible to use a formula on your child to make him a certain way or not a certain way. Secondly, I recently blogged about how I Am a Quitter, and I don't think it's a bad thing. Why do people think it is important to raise "non-quitters"? Have they thought about what that means?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

When I Jumped Off the Train

I was a great student. All through school, I got the best grades, I was in the hardest classes, I was a top performer. I did what I was told, I participated in class. A teacher's dream. I still remember the one C I ever got on a report card, in 4th grade math, after I had switched schools in the middle of the school year. I was pretty upset about it then. Thank goodness I was still able to get into the high school and college of my choosing...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What Makes a Good Teacher?

We need teachers. More importantly, we need good teachers. Because for most children today, school is a reality. As long as school is required for most children, for 180 days a year, for thirteen years, it would be ideal if they could have amazing teachers to spend all that time with.

Thinking about all of the teachers I have ever had, I realized that most of my favorites were math teachers. This is not a big surprise, since math was my favorite subject. I didn't mind going to math class or doing math homework, because I liked it. I understood it. It didn't take much effort for math teachers to connect with me because I was already connected with the material. But what other things did all of my favorite teachers have in common?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Burden of Proof

Math teachers do not care if you know how to get an answer. They care more that you can prove that you know how to get an answer. Here is an example to illustrate the difference:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

TESTS, Part II: Failing is not Fun

In my last post, I explained that one thing tests teach you as a student is that you are on your own. This is terrible enough in itself, as it puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on you for no reason, since these kinds of tests rarely pop up in the adult world. But there is another thing that tests might teach you: that there is something terribly wrong with you if you don't do well on them.

The problem is that all through school, many of the tests given in each subject are basically testing the same things over and over again. Memorizing facts or formulas you probably don't care about, for a short period of time. Or writing coherent and well-formed essays about things you probably don't care about, in 45 minutes or less. Or not getting tricked by questions that were specifically designed to trick you.

So how many tests do you have to take before it's pretty obvious how good or bad you are at these things? I wouldn't be surprised if most students who regularly do poorly on tests know when they are going to fail before they even get to school on test days. I think I can understand a little bit how these kids might feel, because there was one kind of test given twice a year in middle school that was a huge problem for me.