Archive for March 2013

Ren's Baby Name Blog and Other News

Aw, yay! An interview I did about my kids' names was featured on one of my favorite blogs! 

It's here: 

Ren's Baby Name Blog

Also, I'm getting ready to do a blog hop with some other blogging moms. We're doing a month-long series about homeschooling, starting April 2nd. We'll be posting every Tuesday and Thursday and we're covering a few different topics: 

1. A day in the life
2. How do you organize your day?
3. Why or how did you get started?
4. Homeschooling styles and/or curriculum choices
5. What didn't work for you?
6. My biggest frustration.....
7. How do I feel about socialization?
8. Blogger's choice

The perspectives the group of us will cover should vary-- some of us have preschoolers, some have teens or adult children, some have elementary or middle schoolers, and all of us have different styles and family lives and schedules. If you're thinking about homeschooling or have just always been curious about what it's like, check back here on Tuesday for my first post and links to the other six ladies and their blogs!

Finally, now redirects to my new URL, . Squee! I have a subdomain of my husband's website while he decides what to do with his domain. 

So. Excited. About. Baby. Name. Blog.

Some of that might be because of other big news-- my sister is having a baby! Yay! YAAAAAY! 


Why My Kids Don't Know They're Smart

I think my kids are incredibly clever. My boys are twenty-eight months old and they can count almost to twenty, recite the alphabet in order, name about twenty colors, around thirty animals, and just have excellent memory in general. We've started working on their full names and addresses. They remember, almost verbatim, sentences from books we haven't read in weeks. But I've never-- not once-- told either boy that he is smart (okay, so I've slipped once or twice, heh).

I'm not pushing them so hard to excel that I resist praising them. In fact, Adam and I decided before they were born that we weren't going to make a habit of displaying them-- I don't prompt them to say the alphabet for people and the only time I've recorded them counting, they had no idea I was recording. Even now they sing the alphabet to their toys and rarely to us directly.

But before I had kids, I read about this book, NurtureShock. I read some blog posts and articles about it and some summaries of the first chapter. And one of my favorite podcasters recently interviewed one of the co-authors, Ashley Merryman. It's the podcast Raising Playful Tots and you can find that specific podcast here.

Basically, the concept discussed in the first chapter of NutureShock is that we're harming our kids by constantly praising them and telling them how smart they are. There have been short-term studies that show that kids who are told they are smart begin to choose easier and easier projects and develop a crippling fear of failure. Kids who are told that they worked hard get excited about challenges and will start choosing more difficult projects and have a better attitude about their own effort or work.

I don't think that not telling my kids they're smart will mean they never struggle. On the contrary, I know they will struggle-- and I want to make sure I'm equipping them to handle that. I know from experience (mom: I love you. I know it was stuff everyone thought was good at the time) that hearing how smart I was constantly as a kid warped my expectations. I began to think that if I didn't understand something right away, I was a fraud. I spent a lot of childhood bouncing from one "hobby" to another trying to find something I'd immediately be "smart" at (I wanted a kind of "instant protegé" experience).

One of the studies mentioned in that chapter of NurtureShock is a study involving two groups of students (either third graders or middle schoolers- I can't remember) and math lessons. One group was given a thirty minute (that's all!) presentation on the brain and the other group was not. The presentation talked about the brain being a muscle-- the more you work it, the stronger it gets. Just from that thirty minute lesson, the first group did consistently better in the math lessons.

They've found that kids who are regularly told how "bright" or "smart" or "clever" they are tend to swing wildly between two reactions to challenge-- they avoid it because of a fear of failure or they are groundlessly optimistic about success (usually too much of the latter leads to a child eventually ending up with the first response). Kids who are told how hard they worked, how much effort they put into something, tend to seek out challenge and learn more.

I'm not saying you're a bad parent for calling your child smart. I would be doing the same if I hadn't read some of this book and heard these podcasts and read studies about it before having my own kids and while they're still little. I'm not even telling you that you should stop-- maybe your kid has a personality that copes with that particular kind of praise really well. But this is what our family is doing and why. If you have a child that you know is bright and recently seems to be avoiding challenge or collapsing under failure, take a step back and think about how you're praising them. Kids need praise and encouragement-- but I think we should be careful to praise them for real effort, so that praise stands out to them and makes them focus on what they can control about their learning environment.

You can't control smart, so a lot of kids end up hitting high school and being overwhelmed by a fear that they "lost" it-- that they peaked as a toddler and are now just "average" and that parents will be disappointed. That's a lot of weight for a teen. But muscles? Muscles are something you can work on.

What do you think? Aside from this, are there any other decisions you've made as a parent about being more intentional in how you speak to or interact with your kids?

a necessary crisis

A few weeks ago, I finished reading through the book of Luke in the Bible and started reading the book of John. I've been working through the Gospels after reading several epistles, just working through one chapter (or half-chapter in some cases) a day. It's been the reading plan that's been working the best for me recently and I've been learning a lot.

Except that day a few weeks ago, when I started reading John, I got a few verses into a very, very familiar opening and had the thought: What is this nonsense?

I struggled in my heart for several minutes with it. It felt like I was reading about a cult-leader. It was all mixed up and crazy-sounding and seriously out there. I almost immediately had the thought following: I've been spending too much time with the wrong influences.

I kept reading and the doubts kept nagging at me, even as I prayed about them (kinda). Then a few days after that, Adam suggested (wisely) that we start having an evening prayer time together and stick with it. It's also been turning into a time for us to discuss what we're reading in the Word and what's going on with us in our days. I told him about the nagging doubts I'd been having. I assured him, with honesty, that I still truly believed that Jesus was the Son of God and that He had died for me. But I couldn't shake the weirdness of that one encounter with the beginning of John and lingering doubts about my faith. I also told him that I thought part of the problem was that I'd been spending too much time with the wrong things. Evil things? Not necessarily. But I'd been giving them too much time, too much attention.

Adam agreed, but also said that something else was going on. The beginning of the book of John, as familiar as it was, had sounded a bit like nonsense. He reminded me that it is just that-- foolish nonsense-- without the revelation of the Spirit and that for some reason, I'd been allowed to have a glimpse of what that looked like in a way I never had before. There was a weight on my heart when we were talking, a kind of fear or dread that was overwhelming and drove me further into prayer and more aware of both the power of God and the need to be seeking Him and serving Him with my whole heart. Later, I remembered the verse from Proverbs about the fear of the Lord being the beginning of wisdom, but in that moment and right after, I had the thought, This is what the weight of the Lord's glory feels like, just in a small part, and is it not a mercy that I can approach Him so freely?

Then yesterday, I had another even briefer moment where I looked out the window of my car and briefly wondered, "Do I really believe one God created all this?"

The answer is yes, I do. I thank God for a faith that requires me to believe crazy, impossible things and then also cares for me in so many little, practical ways. I cannot comprehend or fathom how much God really manages and yet I know He does. I know this, too: He has worked my salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, His Son, who is also God.

I'm spending more time in prayer and more time in scripture. I cling to the cross. It offends, it is foolish, and it is perfect and true. Sometimes, I just need to remember what the Gospel is and I need to fill my head and heart with that daily.

This is the Gospel:
We are a broken, screwed up, hurting people. We cannot heal or fix ourselves, even for all our good intentions, and time isn't doing us any favors, either. Jesus came to the earth not to condemn but to heal, to mend, to save. He died and carried the punishment of all the terrible things we do to each other and to ourselves and then rose from the grave, because death could not hold him down. And then He offered to save us, too. Not so we could be rich on earth or feel good about ourselves, but because we could never be perfect enough or worthy enough on our own to dwell with a Holy God-- a God who loves us and wanted us to be able to dwell with Him and worship Him. A God who desires, still, to heal our hearts and mend those things within us we cannot escape. Because to live without God is miserable and to be separated from Him forever is hell. And God made a way for us to escape that, even at the price of His own Son's death. This Gospel is joy.

Praise be to God.

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