Tuesday, August 25, 2009


In June, I went to the LLL of MO conference in Columbia. We had two great keynote speakers who both spoke about discipline. The first was Elizabeth Pantley, best known for her The No-Cry Sleep Solution book. This is one of the most often checked out books in my LLL Group's lending library. She spoke about that book as well as presented material from her No-Cry Discipline Solution book. One of the things I connected with was about your "triggers"--what tends to get you upset/angry with your kids. Here is an excerpt from her book:

What sets you off?
Most parents get angry over issues that are insignificant in the grand scheme of life, yet happen on such a regular basis that they become blown out of proportion. Some of the most common parenting issues that trigger anger are whining, temper tantrums, sibling bickering, and non-cooperation. Determine which behaviors most bother you and set about making a plan to correct each problem that sets off your anger.

Notice your hot spots
In addition to triggers, there are “hot spots” in the day when anger more easily rises to the surface. These are typically times when family members are tired, hungry or stressed. These emotions leave us more vulnerable to anger. This can happen in the early morning, before naptime, before meals, or at bedtime. You may also encounter situations when misbehavior increases, and so does your anger: grocery shopping, playdates, or family visits, for example.

--From The No-Cry Discpline Solution by Elizabeth Pantley
My trigger is whining! Oh. My. Goodness. Our "hot spot" is when we're hungry (any of us) and my personal hot spot is when I'm trying to get ready to go somewhere--I have a very short temper when I'm trying to get out the door and feel like people are throwing rocks in my path! (somtimes literally ;-)

The other keynote was Lu Hanessian (of Let the Baby Drive--another very popular book in my LLL Group's library). One of the observations she made about trigger issues is that your specific triggers probably reflect your own personal issues--so, if you have a problem with whining, you probably have an issue with neediness. And if you have a problem with not being listened to, you really have an issue with validation/self-worth. It was very interesting and made a lot of sense.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Media Review: Time 4 Learning

Media Review: Time 4 Learning


Last year marked my first “official” year homeschooling. Over the course of the year, we experimented with a variety of schooling options. I believe in life learning and am comfortable with a relaxed, very informal approach to homeschooling. However, I also discovered that I still have a strong part of me that feels the need for some type of formal “school” each day for my now 6 year old son. We primarily tried worksheets and found those boring, repetitive, and often pointless. We had periodic power struggles about whether he needed to do them or not and I found myself seeking another way to meet my need for a bit of school in every day, but not something oppressive or non-enjoyable.

Enter Time 4 Learning. I took the opportunity for a free trial membership for both of my sons. I discovered that my 3 year old was a little too young still to benefit from it and continued the trial with my soon to be 6 year old only. We discovered that Time 4 Learning fit neatly into the rhythm of our daily lives.

Though, the lessons are easily self-guided/directed even for a Kindergarten aged child, I did discover my son enjoys the program more and seems to benefit more when I sit with him on my lap while he works on it. At the beginning of our trial membership he complained that some of the lessons were boring and I discovered that those were the ones below his level, with me sitting there with him I am able to let him know it is okay to skip ahead or to just take the quiz instead of the complete lesson. After I started this approach, his enjoyment level went up and I don’t get any complaints!

At the Kindergarten level, there are lessons available in Language Arts, Math, and Science. I peeked ahead into the First Grade level and they really are a remarkably complete program/curriculum.

The lessons are self-guided and have a variety of themes—park, under the sea, kitchen/restaurant, etc. I liked the practical content included—for example to learn about measuring and measurement instruments, the child goes (virtually) to a chef’s kitchen and figures out how many cinnamon rolls can fit into different sized pans. For some areas there are supplementary stories or worksheets included. Each series of lessons about a specific topic is followed by a 10 question quiz and then the complete “chapter” of lessons is followed by a 20 question test. The tests are also self-guided and my son shows a high level of comprehension in taking them (higher than I expected, I confess!).

After completing “lesson time” for the day (the duration of which can be altered by the parent, but starts automatically at a minimum of 15 minutes), the child has the opportunity to visit the “playground” (again for a pre-defined amount of time—the default is 15 minutes). I found we spend 30-45 minutes on lessons with Time 4 Learning a day and that feels comfortable to both of us. My son can usually complete 3 or 4 different lessons and quiz during that amount of time.

We’ve spent about 6 weeks with the program now and I’ve noticed an increase in both his math and reading comprehension skills in everyday life—I think this is because we have more fun working together on the Time 4 Learning lessons than we ever did with worksheets!

We had minimal trouble with the audio on some of the language arts segments being difficult to distinguish between letter sounds.

Our only ongoing complaint for both of us is that the lessons do not let you click ahead until the instructions have finished playing—since the instructions are often very repetitive it gets frustrating to have to listen to them multiple times instead of being able to click ahead. On the tests and quizzes, you do have the capacity to click ahead.

Though I do not need to keep formal logs yet, I appreciate that the program offers a “portfolio” with a variety of reports in it for record keeping purposes. This can come in very handy!

We generally do Time 4 Learning in the morning, before the rest of day gets under way. This helps me get my personal need for “formal” school met and tidily out of the way. It makes more sense to me to have him work on a program like this instead of doing worksheets—it is similar content, but the interactive style makes it much more interesting for both of us.

Disclosure notice: The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own (and my son’s). I was compensated for writing the review.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

I give up! Letting go...

...of this blog. Or, at least of my old vision for this blog. I do not have time for it any more and it has been more of a chore than anything for quite some time. I still want to keep a log of my yearly readings, so I think I'll keep posting periodically, but almost as more of a list than anything interesting. I do not have very many readers here and my other blog projects feel more important than this one--this was a hobby-blog really, or just for fun, and fun is usually what I let go of! Also, I have that depressing sense of adding to the virtual cacophony of voices with it and where's the value in that? This isn't the only thing I'm going to let go of, I've got to go through my life priorities and make some more cuts. This is just the easy one, because I've felt it kind of draining me for a while.

I really enjoy the book The Mother's Guide to Self-Renewal and I get the author's email newsletter. In the most recent issue--titled Do You Love Your Life?--it posed the following questions:

Are you living the life you've always wanted? Do you feel like you're the master of your life or the slave to it? Does how you spend your time reflect where your priorities lie or do you feel like your life is a list of "should's"?

Here are some questions for you (and if applicable, your partner) to consider:

  • What do you value most in life right now (ex: time, relationships, flexibility, a short commute, your community)?
  • Where does the majority of your energy go on a daily basis (work, household management, relationships, parenting, spiritual renewal, your to-do list)?
  • Does your life feel a)overwhelming, b)barely manageable, c)occasionally hectic or d)pretty simple? (Check out these great tips for simplifying.)
  • If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing that would significantly impact your quality of life, what would it be?
  • What are three actions you could take right now to radically simplify your life and create more space, ease and flow in your day-to-day experience?
These are good questions to consider...as I answered some of them, I duly noted that "write Molly Reads... blog" wasn't on there! ;-)

I've referenced before how I have kind of a black and white view of my tasks/commitments. If I cannot give something my all, it eats and picks at me until I decided to cut my losses and move on. I can't just leave something and say, "I'll work on this later, when I have more time. I have to make the cut. I have to quit. I have to totally dump it! So, I'm not sure if my only-post-a-list/sentence plan will actually work, or if it will continue to lurk in my brain as an unfinished to-do until I truly shut it down for good.

The Tipping Point

I recently finished reading The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. I enjoyed it a good deal more than Outliers, which I also read recently. The sections I marked in this one were about personality and core traits vs. environment. I come from a social work background, a field in which I have often explained using the following: psychology deals with the individual person. Sociology deals with society. Social work addresses person in environment. And, so did these section from The Tipping Point:

"All of us, when it comes to personality, naturally think in terms of absolutes: that a person is a certain way or not a certain way...this is a mistake, that when we think only in terms of inherent traits and forget the role of situations, we're deceiving ourselves about the real causes of human behavior..."

"The mistake we make in thinking of character as something unified and all-encompassing is very similar to a blind spot in the way we process information. Psychologists call this tendency the Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE), which is a fancy way of saying that when it comes to interpreting other people's behavior, human beings invariably make the mistake of overestimating the importance of fundamental character traits and underestimating the importance of situation and context. We will always reach for a 'dispositional' explanation for events, as opposed to a 'contextual' explanation."

What I think is interesting about this is that my observation is in our OWN behavior though, we use the contextual explanation (sometimes excessively so, particularly when the behavior is out of character for how we'd like to be/believe we are). In short, we quickly assume other people have fundamental character flaws, but we have contextual excuses for ourselves!

I was also interested by the Good Samaritan study he referenced (in which seminary students were told to go make a presentation--some were told they had "extra time" and others were told they were late. Some of them were actually speaking about the Good Samaritan and others about something else. Some were in seminary because of a calling and others for other reasons. They each encountered a [fake] sick person collapsed on the street needing help. The defining factor about who stopped to help was whether they thought they had extra time--those with extra time stopped. Those who though they were late, stepped over him, even if they were going to speak about the Good Samaritan!): "What this study is suggesting, in other words, is that the convictions of your heart and the actual contents of your thoughts are less important, in the end, in guiding your actions than the immediate context of your behavior."

I don't know that I like this idea, but it does seem consistent with reality (for better or worse).

I also noted his conclusion to the book: "Look at the world around you. It may seem like an immovable, implacable place. It is not. With the slightest push--in just the right place--it can be tipped."


Lady of the Snakes

Our August book club read was the fiction book Lady of the Snakes. As you will soon read, I'm changing my approach to this blog and basically "retiring" it, so I will just go ahead and share briefly the quotes I'd marked from it (only two):

"This is what women's lives are like...It had never occurred to her--not really--that women's lives were so deeply different from men's. Now she saw it, and it shocked her."

I recall a similar moment in my own life after my first son was born--my husband went back to work and all of the sudden I was like, my whole WORLD has changed and he is going along basically business as usual. I felt like it was unfair, in a sense, to BOTH of us--me for having to undergo what I experienced as an often painful transition of self from autonomous woman to mother on my own, and for him having his own transition so ignored/unacknowledged by our culture that he was expected to just return to work like nothing had happened.

Quoting from the Russian diarist:

"In moments of despair I have felt each new child like another silken thread binding up my soul. But on happier days I see each one--not so much as a new beginning, but as a new note in a complex harmony, adding depth and resonance to a tapestry that already exists."

"Jane Levitsky sat at her desk thinking of the different moods of motherhood--joyful, oppressive, tedious. Peaceful. Exhausting."

This reminded me of something else I used to say/feel: How is it possible to simultaneously feel so captivated and yet captive, bonded and also bound?


Saturday, August 8, 2009

And some more...

"Be broad-minded,
Whole, without relying
On others."

--Hongzhi Zhengjue

"With gentleness,
Overcome anger.
With generosity,
Overcome meanness.
With truth,
Overcome delusion."

--The Dhannapada

Saturday, August 1, 2009

More Zen

"Peace does not dwell in outward things, but within the soul; we may preserve it in the midst of the bitterest pain, if our will remains firm and submissive. Peace in this life springs from acquiescence, not in an exemption from suffering."

--Francis Fenelon

"Most people believe the mind to be a mirror, more or less accurately reflecting the world outside them, not realizing on the contrary that the mind is itself the principal element of creation."

--Rabindranath Tragore