Posts in Practical Parenting

The Tuttle Twins – book recommendation

January 14th, 2019 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting, Reading Recommendations 4 comments

When the Bible and Vladimir Lenin agree, it’s time to pay attention. One of Scripture’s recurring themes is teaching and shaping the next generation’s views and beliefs. As for Lenin, he said, “Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.”

If you are shocked by the way college students are embracing socialism, you haven’t been paying attention for a few decades. Of course, this is a result of many factors, but one that is less frequently discussed is that few of us focus on economic education even when taking responsibility for our own children’s education. After all, when was the last time you discussed inflation with your seven-year-old? Talked about competition and market regulation with your pre-teen?

Fortunately, the Tuttle twins have stepped into this void.  A series of entertaining books featuring the fictional twins present complex ideas with clarity and simplicity. Whether the twins are running a lemonade stand, enjoying themselves at camp or hanging out with neighbors and classmates, basic societal and economic principles intertwine with their lives.

I have frequently undertaken the job of warning you to beware of books that might undermine your family values. Often, the agenda in the books is hidden. If you don’t pre-read them, you will probably never know about the message on p. 63. In contrast, these books openly have an agenda: a defense of what my husband calls ethical capitalism. The author, Connor Boyack and illustrator, Elijah Stanfield, take concepts from thinkers, economists and authors such as Henry Hazlitt, Ayn Rand and Frederic Bastiat, and turn them into appealing and informative stories.

Judging by my test panel’s response, ranging in age from eight to fourteen, children will enjoy reading these books, which would be a worthwhile result in itself.  Even better would be if parents and older children read them as well, sparking an opportunity for family conversation and for more advanced reading for the older group. As parents, we ideally have more than four years to inoculate our children against the harmful ideas and mistaken beliefs that will bombard them. I heartily recommend that you add this series to your tool kit.

The Tuttle Twins

Free Will and my Children

January 11th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance 2 comments

A Your Mother’s Guidance post by Rebecca Masinter.

An age-old question asks how God can punish Pharaoh with further plagues when God is the one hardening his heart so as not to let the Jewish people go? How can he be punished when he had no choice?  This is a classic question and we’ve all heard various answers.  I’d like to consider one basic answer Maimonides teaches us and its ramifications for mothers.

Maimonides says that in the beginning, of course Pharaoh had free will. In fact, during the first five plagues the Torah doesn’t say Hashem hardened Pharaoh’s heart.  Pharaoh hardened his own heart.  It’s only after multiple hardening of his own heart that he moved far enough into evil that God took over the job and began hardening his heart for him.  Pharaoh began with free will, but through his actions evolved into someone who lost his power of choice.

How is this relevant to us? 

Well, on a much smaller scale than Pharaoh, I know that there are actions I  take, sometimes willingly, sometimes not, that can lead me into situations where I have less control over the way I act.  For example, after a sleepless night, after skipping a healthy meal, I sometimes don’t have the wherewithal to respond to tough situations the way I would ideally choose to do so.

If that is how I feel sometimes, how much closer are my children to that state of no free will.  Sometimes when I go to the store late at night and see mothers dragging a screaming toddler around at 10:30 PM, I feel pity for the child who truly has no control over her behavior at that time.  It’s just too late and she’s too tired. She’s lost her free will. 

With some thought we can identify for each of our children what are the factors that lead up to them losing their free will.  I don’t think it’s the same for each person, and certainly some children get to that point of loss of control much more easily than others.  Once we’ve identified what stressors contribute to our children reaching the point of no self-control, we can try to limit those and when they’re unavoidable, build in ways for our child to rest or recoup as early as possible.

One last point that I have found helpful to remember: when a child has lost control, you cannot reason with them, consequences or punishments will often have no effect, and no parenting can effectively take place at that time.  What we can do is provide stability, unwavering love, support, and calmness, while we try to give them time and space to get back in control of themselves.

Introducing: Your Mother’s Guidance (Proverbs 1:8) by Rebecca Masinter

January 9th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance No Comment yet

I have exciting news to share. My husband and I have been blessed with seven wonderful children. They have further enriched our lives through their marriages and families. Our eldest, Rebecca, started her teaching career at about two years of age when she lined up her dolls and stuffed animals and instructed them. Over the next few years,  her younger siblings joined the class.

Eventually, Rebecca became a beloved middle-school teacher while studying for her BA in biology. After marriage, as her family grew, she focused inward running a science ACT prep business from her house while homeschooling her own children, the youngest of whom just turned four.

Rebecca invests a great deal of energy, commitment, time and study into being a mother and a teacher.  She is constantly looking to improve. Over the years, she has become a resource for many parents in her city and fields calls from around the country as well. I am delighted that she recently began to podcast very short messages, where she shares mothering lessons from the Bible. Because this podcast assumes Hebrew proficiency as well as an advanced Jewish studies’ background, it isn’t accessible to all.  However, Rebecca is allowing me to tweak these teachings so that I can share the transcripts with you.  I look forward to start  doing so under the heading Your Mother’s Guidance (Proverbs 1:8)

 

The Patience Pitfall

January 7th, 2019 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 5 comments

If you homeschool your children, you have probably been on the receiving end of this statement: “I think what you’re doing is wonderful, but I just don’t have the patience.”

Nine times out of ten, the correct response is to smile and change the subject. Your conversation partner doesn’t actually think that what you’re doing is wonderful; she actually thinks it’s insane. Never for one minute has she considered keeping her children with her at home. School is working well for her family.

Every once in a while, though, those words express a plaintive cry for help. They come from the depths of the soul of a mother who worries that school is damaging or short-changing her child but is terrified at the idea of being a full-time parent and teacher. Endowing you with saintly levels of patience allows her to rationalize that she couldn’t possibly do what you’re doing. After all, she wasn’t born with your supernatural talent.

Here is my dirty little secret. I homeschooled not because I had overflowing reserves of patience, but because I had very little of it. I had absolutely no patience for helping a child with inane, boring and convoluted homework. I had no patience with being nominated as the homework police.  I had no patience with placing family priorities behind the (understandable) demands of an institution. I had no patience with waking a sleeping infant in order to drive carpool. The list goes on.

Here is what I discovered. Reviewing multiplication tables, reminding people that the words ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ mean different things, and rarely having an uncluttered kitchen table did require patience. It was the same type of patience needed to help little ones remember not to drop their clothes, toys and shoes all over the house and to say please when making a request. In other words, being a teacher was an extension of being a mother. The more I worked at one identity, the better I got at the other.

If you need time to recuperate after getting everyone out the door in the morning; if there are constantly miserable hours of ‘witching time’ between school and dinner; if getting the kids to bed is an exhausting, nightly performance, some homeschooling lessons might be exactly what you need. Because (for healthy moms) homeschooling encourages you to hone your mother skills.

Phrases like, “I can’t wait for school to start,” and “If winter vacation lasts one more day I’m going to go out of my mind,” aren’t accolades to schools. They are reminders that things in the home need to change because they aren’t working well. There is only one reason for children to go to school. That is because it benefits them.

The child who heads off in the morning knowing that his mother would rather spend the day with him, but sacrifices the opportunity for his well-being, is a child ready to make the most of his studies. The child who suspects that school is an excuse for his mother to get rid of him learns an entirely different lesson.

Technology and Kids: Part Two – You Need to Think About This Now

December 30th, 2018 Posted by Practical Parenting 10 comments

“No one walks down the aisle with a pacifier in his mouth.” “College admission offices aren’t going to ask how old she was when she was toilet trained.”

The above (one hopes) true statements are relayed to young parents as a way of saying, “Relax.” As such, they are valuable bits of advice from those whose children are older and who recognize that things that mattered greatly at one point became completely irrelevant down the line.

Not everything falls into this category, of course. Sometimes, things that happen in one’s early years have grave repercussions down the road. A mother who drank heavily or took drugs while pregnant may damage her child in a way that no later intervention will be able to correct. A baby deprived of sensory contact, affection and security might need to struggle mightily in future decades in order to live a happy life. These examples are extreme, but good people recoil at the not-so-uncommon scenario of a child given sugar as a major food group or one who is plopped in front of a screen for hours a day.

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Technology and Kids: Part One -The Video Game Fortnite: How Scary Is It?

December 25th, 2018 Posted by Practical Parenting 2 comments

This is the  refrain that often goes through my head: “Thank God I’m not raising children today.” Partially, this is because I don’t have the stamina I had in my twenties and thirties and am glad to pass the baton to the next generation. However, it is not after a delightfully exhausting afternoon with my grandchildren that I most often sound this mantra.  It is when I see the decisions that today’s parents face .  These high-stakes quandaries were never issues for my friends and me. 

Reading about the uber-popular videogame, Fortnite, brought these feelings once again to the fore. Fortnite is a “shoot ‘em, kill em’” game designed to capture and retain the attention of boys. It does so very effectively whether we are talking of twelve-year-olds or males in their forties. This visually vivid and violent game was carefully designed to gain a rating that would let parents allow their teens to play. That is to say that you don’t actually see blood or dismemberment. (Parenthetically, it has to be one of the great ironies of our age that some parents who meticulously refused to let their six-year-old boys play with water pistols or run around with sticks saying, “Bang, bang, you’re dead,”  seem to have lost a much greater battle when it comes to their pre-teens and technology.)

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Hide and Seek

December 17th, 2018 Posted by Practical Parenting, Reading Recommendations 2 comments

I have written quite a bit lately about the children’s books I’ve been reading, appalled at how much of an agenda they contain. An article by Dave Seminera in the December 16, 2018 Wall Street Journal reminded me of another point.

I don’t know who chose the title for his opinion piece, but it is most apt. Reading from Left to Left points out that even if books are individually unoffensive, or even exemplary, the thrust of what is available leans heavily in one direction. Recently, certain adult news magazines ostensibly writing about women candidates in this fall’s election, highlighted only Democrat women, ignoring or downplaying those running on the Republican side. Mr. Seminera notes a similar philo-Left trend in the books chosen for display and attention at his Barnes & Noble.

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Censored Cilla

December 10th, 2018 Posted by Practical Parenting, Reading Recommendations 4 comments

Hoop skirts and petticoats went out of style before my time as did butter churns. Nonetheless, I am two generations closer to a time when those items were in general use than my grandchildren are. And while I love sharing classic books with the young ones in my life, I also look out for writing situated in current times.

With this in mind, I was delighted to meet the fictional protagonist Cilla Lee-Jenkins, a spunky and funny eight-year-old aspiring author. Like the author, Susan Tan, Cilla’s family is composed of both “white-bread” American and Chinese immigrant grandparents.  The first two books in what may well become a long-running series were almost entirely a pleasure to read. (There is a third book I have not yet read.) Aye, there’s the rub.

In the second book, Cilla Lee-Jenkins: This Book Is a Classic, Cilla’s aunt gets married, providing a pleasurable peek into both Chinese and Korean wedding customs. The sour note comes as Cilla’s aunt’s friend, Jane, is introduced along with her own girlfriend and soon-to-be spouse, Lucy. Sigh.

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Differentiated What?

December 3rd, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 2 comments

When a friend of mine chose to homeschool her daughter, it greatly agitated her sister. This sibling didn’t raise the usual bugaboo about socialization. Rather, she was horrified at the idea that “just anyone” felt capable of teaching a little girl to read. 

Her consternation made more sense when my friend shared that this sister was a reading specialist, who had invested years and money in training. No wonder my friend’s confidence in her own abilities, despite a glaring lack of credentials, upset her sister.

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This Agenda May Be Harmful to Your Health

November 28th, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting, Susan's Musings 52 comments

I originally started writing this with the intention of posting it on our website as a Practical Parenting column, but then I realized that the problem I’m describing actually affects all of us. While the examples I mention have to do with children’s literature, every detail of the culture surrounding us impacts us, often in ways we don’t recognize.

Some years ago, a member of the California synagogue that my husband and I led worried that she was exhibiting tendencies of paranoia. She revealed that she had multiple locks on her apartment door, wouldn’t open the door to accept packages, and was constantly looking over her shoulder on the street. After a bit of discussion, it became clear to us that she lived in a high-crime neighborhood and rather than being paranoid, she was simply being realistic.

Whenever I see the news, women’s magazines, children’s books or many other media, I find myself hyper-sensitive to underlying agendas. In Stalinist Russia, young students were told to place their heads on their desks after praying to God for candy. Not surprisingly, when they lifted their heads their requests had gone unanswered. Then they were told to ask Stalin for candy and once again lay down their heads. Not surprisingly, candy seemed to rain down as their teachers distributed it while the children’s eyes were squeezed shut.

That approach may have lacked subtlety, but the message was clear. In some ways, more delicately delivered messages can be more dangerous. We don’t even realize that our minds are being directed and our beliefs formed.

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