Thursday, March 6, 2014
Sunday, March 2, 2014
When someone calls my kids smart, I wince. I know they mean well, and I do very much appreciate it anytime someone gives my children positive attention, especially to compliment them. But I take great pains not to call my kids smart because I think it's one of the most counter-productive things I can do.
A while ago, someone very kid played an iPhone app with Summer. Summer really loved this person (and continues to love!) this person, and again, I so much appreciated the time this person took to play with my daughter. This person said, "Guess what? When you play this game, it makes you smarter! And you're already smart, so you'll be really good at this game."
Summer did well with the easy levels, and everyone (including herself) congratulated her on being smart. But then the game got harder, and when she couldn't beat a level on the first or second try, Summer lost interest. "I guess I'm not that smart," she said.
You can see where I'm going with this.
I don't think this particular instance is a big deal. Relatives and my friends can keep calling Summer smart all they want, because they won't have the influence I have. But as a parent, I don't want Summer to think a whole lot about being smart. I want her to know that being smart means nothing, and grit and hard work means everything.
I you think about it, after a certain threshold being "smart" doesn't mean a whole lot. Sure, it's important to know how to read and write and think about things in an abstract way. But Summer doesn't know how to tie her shoes or say her alphabet or read the word "sun" because she's smart. It's because she practiced.
Science backs this up. Well, soft science I guess. In an article called "The Perils of Praise" here is a description of an experiment a researcher conducted:
Dweck sent four female research assistants into New York fifth-grade classrooms. The researchers would take a single child out of the classroom for a nonverbal IQ test consisting of a series of puzzles—puzzles easy enough that all the children would do fairly well. Once the child finished the test, the researchers told each student his score, then gave him a single line of praise. Randomly divided into groups, some were praised for their intelligence. They were told, “You must be smart at this.” Other students were praised for their effort: “You must have worked really hard.”
Then the students were given a choice of test for the second round. One choice was a test that would be more difficult than the first, but the researchers told the kids that they’d learn a lot from attempting the puzzles. The other choice, Dweck’s team explained, was an easy test, just like the first. Of those praised for their effort, 90 percent chose the harder set of puzzles. Of those praised for their intelligence, a majority chose the easy test. The “smart” kids took the cop-out.
The article continues:
Why did this happen? “When we praise children for their intelligence,” Dweck wrote in her study summary, “we tell them that this is the name of the game: Look smart, don’t risk making mistakes.” And that’s what the fifth-graders had done: They’d chosen to look smart and avoid the risk of being embarrassed.
In a subsequent round, none of the fifth-graders had a choice. The test was difficult, designed for kids two years ahead of their grade level. Predictably, everyone failed. But again, the two groups of children, divided at random at the study’s start, responded differently. Those praised for their effort on the first test assumed they simply hadn’t focused hard enough on this test. “They got very involved, willing to try every solution to the puzzles,” Dweck recalled. “Many of them remarked, unprovoked, ‘This is my favorite test.’ ” Not so for those praised for their smarts. They assumed their failure was evidence that they weren’t really smart at all. “Just watching them, you could see the strain. They were sweating and miserable.”
Having artificially induced a round of failure, Dweck’s researchers then gave all the fifth-graders a final round of tests that were engineered to be as easy as the first round. Those who had been praised for their effort significantly improved on their first score—by about 30 percent. Those who’d been told they were smart did worse than they had at the very beginning—by about 20 percent.And the conclusion:
“Emphasizing effort gives a child a variable that they can control,” she explains. “They come to see themselves as in control of their success. Emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of the child’s control, and it provides no good recipe for responding to a failure.”
Friday, February 28, 2014
Summer, through a series of bumbling steps on my part, is finally going to the preschool of my dreams. It's a Montessori school. There are significant disadvantages to it. There is the distance. Seriously, she commutes to preschool. How crazy is that? It's a 12-minute drive away, but there are preschools three minutes away. The cost is pretty crazy too. And then I don't really even know that Montessori is going to have any significant long-term advantages on her well-being in the long run.
But I still think we made the right choice. Montessori is a philosophy I believe in. It emphasizes students learning at their own pace, and what they are interested in. It emphasizes carefully teaching a concept before the student is expected to learn it on her own. It emphasizes communal learning--in the mixed class sizes, the older children teach the younger children. It emphasizes self-reliance because each student is expected to do as much as they can by themselves. It emphasizes respect and order. In short, it is designed to prepare the world for the world as it actually is, rather than focusing education around a curriculum designed by adults (who usually don't even teach!) that has an emphasis around the academic world as opposed to the real-life world.
Several years ago I watched this TED talk about how schools kill creativity (a bit of a dramatic statement, if you ask me, but whatever):
Here is an excerpt from the talk:
Kids will take a chance. If they don’t know, they’ll have a go. Am I right? They’re not frightened of being wrong. Now, I don’t mean to say that being wrong is the same thing as being creative. What we do know is, if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original. If you’re not prepared to be wrong. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong. And we run our companies like this, by the way, we stigmatize mistakes. And we’re now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make. And the result is, we are educating people out of their creative capacities.
Academic ability has really come to dominate our view of intelligence because the universities designed the system in their image. If you think of it, the whole system of public education around the world is a protracted process of university entrance. And the consequence is that many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not, because the thing they were good at at school wasn’t valued, or was actually stigmatized.
I don't think Montessori is 100% in line with what I think education ought to be. There isn't much emphasis on dance. If I want my kids to get the perfect education, that is something I'll have to figure out on my own. However, I feel very lucky to know that Summer goes to a school that aligns with my values.
Summer goes to school every day from 9-3. This is a lot of time away from home for a four-year-old, especially a four-year-old with a stay-at-home parent. I didn't expect that she would settle into her school schedule that she would have for the rest of her years at home so soon. But it has been wonderful for her and wonderful for me.
She doesn't have separation anxiety. She looks forward to going to school almost every day (she still has her moments). And when she comes home, we have really lovely, precious times together. I think absence has made the heart grow fonder.
And I feel like she is really cared for there. Each teacher truly respects the students. Summer will never be belittled, bullied, lost in the shuffle, or made to undergo busywork that doesn't suit her. So if she is gone for a long time each day in that kind of environment, it doesn't bother me one bit.
So what am I doing with my spare time? Not much. Well, I am taking care of another child. But I do look forward to the time he is in Montessori so that I can work and have a little more time to myself. Because maybe absence will make our hearts grow fonder as well.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Lots of people are asking me how I like the DC area. I can't help answer with a "meh," but it's not really a fair answer. We have lived here two summers, the summer of '10 and '11, and those summers were fantastic. One summer was spent in Derwood, Maryland, which is a suburban/rural place about thirty minutes outside of DC (with no traffic). There were lots of trees, and it was hot and humid and there were tons of fireflies. It reminded me of Georgia, my second home. It was just really lovely.
The second summer was spent in Arlington--the same city we live in now but a different neighborhood. It of course has a very urban feel, and getting to the city in five minutes by car (and is) just fantastic. As I have said in a previous post, we often took Nathaniel to work, and then drove to the mall and waited for the parking to start around 9, and then hit some museums. It was really a lot of fun, and again, I didn't mind the humidity.
So then there is now. It's February. It's snowy. It's cold. We live on the ninth floor of a high rise on a street full of hotels, and getting out of the house is an ordeal. The kids don't have snow clothes. So do I like living here now? No. Will I like it when it warms up? Yes.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Friday, January 10, 2014
Obviously there has been a big break in my posting here. There are a lot of reasons, but the biggest one is basic embarrassment. I have been asking myself: do I need a public record of all my ups and downs? Am I actually contributing something valuable to the internet or is my blog just a symptom of the narcissism of my generation? Am I doing this for myself, or so that other people can see how awesome my life is and how great I am for keeping a regularly updated blog? How can I live with myself when I spend hours working on a post and it only gets one comment?
I am currently going to a fantastic therapist. For the first time it dawned on me that I have really high standards for myself. I didn't think I did have high standards for myself anymore because since undergrad, and to an extent my mission, my performance in the areas of my life that "count" have been mediocre. But I do still have high standards for myself as a mother, for example, just not in some areas. I sent Summer to school the other day with gum in her hair. I let the kids fool around on Apple products more than the Surgeon General recommends. I scream at them when I have had too much. I drag them to Costco with old food crusted on their faces.
But I realized that my embarrassment at my failures in these areas is mostly based on what others will think. It's not based on the standards I have set for myself in the areas I believe are most important. And when I chastise myself for these things, I never do it in context of all the things I do well. I am working on stopping that and realizing that when I make a mistake in these things, it's because I just have different priorities than other parents (and definitely people who aren't parents).
So the same goes for this blog. People are might judge it as self-centered, lacking in visuals, too personal, too intellectual, too boring, too sporadic, etc. But if it's something I'm proud of, then that's all that matters.
So I'm back. For now at least.
Thursday, September 19, 2013
A few weeks ago Summer was watching a nature show on Netflix about erosion. Of course, many of the most spectacular examples of erosion are in Arches National Park, and I decided that Summer had to see the place before we left. So we planned a trip.
Unfortunately, Henry got really sick right before we left. His ears are still having issues. He and I stayed behind to see the ENT again, and we scheduled a tube insertion surgery again. Poor guy.
But it made for a fun bonding experience for Nathaniel and Summer.
Friday, August 16, 2013
Summer has changed so much in her thinking, in her social life, in her play, and it is fascinating to be a spectator. Of course, I'm not just a spectator, I'm a parent, coaching her on self-esteem and age-appropriate behavior and learning of every kind.
A few days ago, I asked Summer what she wanted for lunch. I rattled off a few options and she stood there, looking into middle distance. I decided for her: peanut butter and jam. She consented. I was halfway done with making the sandwich when she looked at the bread and said, "Ohh, I know what I want! Butter and jam toast."
I wanted to make her butter and jam toast, but from what I understand becoming a short-order cook wouldn't be the best for her development. So I said no. I lovingly said she could eat the jam sandwich or go without.
She of course threw a tantrum, and of course I put her in time out. A while later she came out crying, and explaining just how much she wanted jam toast.
"Summer," I said, "I love you, but I can't just do everything you want me to do. It's not fair to me because it makes more work for me."
Summer replied, "When I have my own kids, if they ask for a butter and jam toast, I will make it for them. If they ask for mac and cheese, I will make them mac and cheese. I will make them whatever they want."
"But what if you kids grow up to selfish? They might always think they can get whatever they want if you did that, and that's not true. No one can have whatever they want."
"If they say, 'Give me some chocolate chips,' or something with lots of sugar, I would not give it to them. If they play with their food, and use something that I need to make dinner, I would say, 'Hey, no playing with that food, I need it to make dinner.' So they will not grow up selfish."
"So if they want too much sugar you won't give it to them, but if they ask for something else to eat you'll make it for them?"
"Yeah," said Summer.
"Well," I said, "I think that's a very good idea. I do things a little differently, but you are going to be a great mom."
I often second-guess my parenting, but it seems to me like Summer is such an amazing person that she will turn out okay in spite of me.
And now for some Summer pictures I haven't posted here yet (I think). It's an interesting age, because sometimes she looks so little, and other times so much like a big kid. I suppose that is just part of growing up.
|Summer and the neighbor boy.|
|Ice cream for her birthday.|
|She's a sweet girl.|
|I can't get enough of her antics.|
|She is learning to pillow fight.|
|Sometimes I let her dye her cereal milk.|
|She really loved her butterfly balloon.|
|At the playground.|
|Making sure Henry gets the chance to get up the slide.|
|This might be my favorite picture ever|
|Summer is a dream, I tell ya.|
Friday, August 9, 2013
I turned thirty last Wednesday. It was a good day.
I love to bake, but few recipes and equipment are made for baking for one, or two if Nathaniel happens to be in the mood for something sweet. So my birthday was a nice excuse to bake a cake I've been wanting to make for some time. It was really yummy.
Do you like my cake stand hack? I learned it from Lauren Conrad. No joke.
Okay, enough about the cake. Let's talk about me. :) I am really excited to be thirty. I have read articles about how twenty-somethings are super insecure, and I am looking forward to a more secure decade. I have read articles about how the twenties are the time time to experiment with fashion, and I'm looking forward to being unapologetically boring in my sartorial choices. I know it's arbitrary, but I feel like I have another decade to look forward to. I look forward to more interesting experiences, more reasons to smile, more love, more laughs, more life.
|More of this guy too.|
Thursday, May 9, 2013
I haven't done a pictures post in a while, so here is some of the stuff I have cluttering up the hard drive.
|"Hey, Mommy! Look, I'm in a pickle!" For reals that's what she said.|
|Sweet sleeping Henry|
|He loves his graham crackers|
|And he doesn't share.|
|I didn't intend for this to be a picnic, but that's what happened.|
|I tried to take a cool picture of myself and post it on Instagram because all my pictures are of my kids but I chickened out.|
|This is what happens when you leave yogurt out on the counter.|
|Is it just me or does this girl look sooooo old?!?|
|Oh my goodness I love her.|
|Playing with the baby goats at Grandma's house.|
|He was around 24 hours at this time.|