Thursday, October 30, 2014

Comment on "Parenting as a Gen Xer"

For the first time in my life I find myself a conservative. When I read the article on the Washington Post about what it is like to be parenting as a Gen X-er, I had a pretty strong gut reaction to the author's conclusion:

"The truth is, my generation of parents are pioneers here, like it or not. We’re the last of the Mohicans. We can try as hard as we want to push back and to carve space into our children’s lives for treehouses and puzzles and Waldorf-style dolls, but in the end, our children will grow up with the whole world at their fingertips, courtesy of a touch screen, and they will have to learn how to find the balance between their cyber and real worlds. It is scary. I don’t think I even believe there is a “right way” to parent with technology. But acknowledging that what we are doing is unprecedented – that no study yet knows exactly what this iChildhood will look like when our children are full grown people – feels like an exhale of sorts."

I really was uncomfortable to read "I don't think I even believe there is a 'right way' to parent with technology." I thought, "but there is a wrong way."


I fully buy in when my pediatrician recommends no screens for children under the age of two, and limited thereafter. I have watched my son become addicted to screens and struggled through breaking that addiction (despite the good that came from it). And so as we grow, I have tried to set very strict limits on screen time. I have spent an inordinate amount of my energy and time trying to tolerate the ranting and raving and arguing about having more. I've made compromises, sure. It doesn't seem fair to cut it out entirely after we've discovered so many wonderful things out there...TV programs, apps, YouTube, iTunes, etc. But I have steeled myself to be patient with the mess that is inevitable when I invite them to help me cook, clean, or just go outside to play instead of plugging them in.

I want to conserve childhood the way I remember it - spent playing outside, helping around the house with chores, and discovering national treasures by traveling the country together in our van. I want to conserve the value of an honest-to-goodness book sitting in your lap. I want to conserve the natural childhood wonder that comes with observing leaves blowing from trees in autumn, snow melting in your palm, and seeing the first buds on trees in the spring. When my children remember back to their early years, I want them to remember how big the world felt when they rolled down the hills and climbed the biggest rock they could find. Because in this world where information is at our fingertips, I want them to know where that information came is born of curiosity, which is something everyone has access to when they are children.

Error and Approximation

When I turned and saw this "word" on our refrigerator I had to stop myself from thinking, "Well that's just plain wrong." I pondered it and realized that Mikey had approximated his name. He had M, K, and E in there well enough. But he substituted a T where I was supposed to be and again T for Y. When I asked him about it he said it was his name and, pointing to the letters one at a time, said "M, I, K, E, Y. I had to use 'T' a couple times."

I think it is because I write Preschool Engineering that I have come to recognize pre-STEM in so many places and ways. First of all, pre-algebra is evident to me because he is using symbols (T) to represent other things (I and Y), which is a fundamental skill of algebra.  I also consider this approximation of his name an experiment in error analysis, a commonly overlooked aspect of STEM learning. He saw the letters from which he could choose (the complete alphabet is missing because, you  know, they are used everywhere): A, E, E, O, O, O, U, F, G, K, M, R, S, T, T. He found as many relevant ones as he could: M, K, and E. He identified that he was missing I and Y and decided that T would be a good substitution for each of those letters. In assembling his name, "MTKET" was just right enough for him to be comfortable using it for "MIKEY."

The problem solving that this "misspelling" of his name represents baffles me. It also reminds me how important it is that I didn't squash his work by saying "well, that's just wrong, Mikey." and make him go hunt around the house for the missing letters. Instead, I asked him about it and in all truth told him, "I think that the way you approximated your name is pretty neat."

Monday, October 27, 2014

Homework Benefits for Parents/Caregivers

Shortly after my posts on homework and scribbling in which I advocate for some family time at the end of the day and how to spend that time, this article was published on HuffPost. It was titled "Coloring Isn't Just for Kids. It Can Actually Help Adults Combat Stress." It compliments my recent revelations beautifully!
Image from

My original argument for homework time was to schedule in some downtime at the end of the day. It helps me know what to do when we're all running a little ragged. It is something the kids look forward to every day: Anna enjoys her last milk for the day, Mikey craves the closeness and the last new thing of the day. They color, play with stickers, read snippets from their activity books, etc. I'm usually just there for support. But what HuffPost adds is that this type of work (specifically coloring) can be de-stressing for adults, too.
"In simplest terms, coloring has a de-stressing effect because when we focus on a particular activity, we focus on it and not on our worries."

The article goes on to suggest some coloring books for adults. They are all different from the ones I suggest in "Not Your Average Coloring Book" and I am excited to try them. Somehow reading this little article on HuffPost was all I needed to justify having my own creative outlet at homework time. Not only will I de-stress but I will be modeling homework for my kids. I can design projects large and small. I can show them trial and error, demonstrate how to handle the frustration of something not going as planned, and teach them how to be gracious and proud of a job well-done. I will show them that coloring isn't just for kids...and why should it be? After all, Picasso encourages us: "Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life."