With my interest in both children and education you knew it wouldn't be long before I commented on the latest "Baby Einstein" controversy.  A study (based on telephone surveys) published in The Journal of Pediatrics found that babies between eight and sixteen months experienced a significant decrease in language development for every hour spent per day viewing baby videos.

Now those who ridicule parents' attempts to enrich their children's early educational enviroments are having an I-told-you-so field day, and those who profit from the business are crying foul.  The responses that bother me most, however, are those of the defenders of baby videos.  They are giving answers to the wrong questions, and reassurances for the wrong concerns. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, August 16, 2007 at 11:13 am | Edit
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Television has long been called the "idiot box," but here is more evidence that being a couch potato harms the brain as well as the body.  Unfortunately, in this case reading is just as bad as watching TV.

The Swedish experiment was actually about depression.  Previous studies have shown that the hippocamus region of the human brain shrinks in depressed people.  In this study, exercise was shown to have a significant anti-depressant effect in rats, and promoted dramatic neuron growth in the hippocampus.  (If you, like me, wonder how on earth they can tell if a rat is depressed, read the article.) (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, July 5, 2007 at 8:39 am | Edit
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One of our nephews is a Boy Scout.

My father was for many years a Boy Scout leader, so when I joined the Girl Scouts I was mightily disappointed that we did so little of the camping, hiking, mountain climbing, knot-tying, fire-building, and survival skills work he did with his boys.  Thanks to some amazing (and somewhat rebellious) leaders and dedicated parents, we still had a good time, but the national program left me less than impressed. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, June 25, 2007 at 8:41 am | Edit
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Not long ago, a friend was lamenting to me about how tedious elementary recitals are.  Little piano and violin students plunking and scraping away on the same, boring pieces, making the same mistakes you've heard hundreds of times.  I couldn't disagree more.

She has a different perspective, mind you:  she's a music teacher, so no doubt that makes a difference. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, May 5, 2007 at 3:20 pm | Edit
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This just in:  middle-aged men have no business stopping to chat with young people.  After all, the young and their elders have nothing in common, right?  No reason to talk to someone who is so different from you.  Certainly no reason to smile and speak to a stranger passing on the street.  Even if you both have dogs.

Here's the story.

The 43-year-old man was the subject of a police "be on the lookout" memo because two children said he spoke to them while they were walking their dogs. Police said no criminal activity had been reported.

I don't blame the police for being cautious.  Maybe the kids had been overly hyped to "stranger danger" by well-meaning parents and teachers.  Maybe they truly sensed something wrong.  In any case, I'm glad the police took them seriously. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, May 3, 2007 at 8:12 am | Edit
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I'm supposed to be writing about our trip to Europe, but the discussion on a friend's blog (begun here and continued here) tempted me to respond, and why waste a long essay in just one place?

The discussion began with the statement, "I loathe the spanking of children," and some very interesting comments followed.  Herewith my own contribution. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, April 19, 2007 at 9:39 am | Edit
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I've already written (here and here), about some of the dangers of epidural anesthesia during childbirth.  Today's reports bring still more bad news to those who see epidurals as an important part of the birthing process: an apparent link between fentanyl (a component of the anesthesia) and subsequent problems with breastfeeding.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, December 11, 2006 at 10:04 am | Edit
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Wild at Heart, by John Eldredge (Thomas Nelson, Nashville, Tennessee, 2001)
Captivating, by John and Stasi Eldredge (Thomas Nelson, Nashville, Tennessee, 2005)

When a good friend lent me Wild at Heart, it took a long time for me to steel myself to read it, for I expected it to make me angry. I've had more than my fill of books, especially from Christian authors, telling men to be authoritative and women to wear makeup and Saran Wrap.

After the first few pages, I was sure I was right, and I was going to hate the book. But I kept reading—something I'm not sure was true of many of those who wrote the negative reviews I read—and became convinced it's a worthwhile book. Oh, there's plenty I found exasperating, a lot I disagree with, and much that's expressed poorly, but Eldredge is asking important questions and has a few good answers. Although it deals with much more than just the church, the book is worth reading if only because it dares reveal church as a place where, all too often, the men are bored and the women are tired—and offers a remedy. Captivating attempts to do for women what Wild at Heart does for men. It is not as good, but still valuable.

(I wonder why it is almost all of my reviews these days seem to boil down to, "This book has some good things to say even though it requires a lot of work to get past the way in which they are presented.") (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, October 26, 2006 at 10:19 am | Edit
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I'm cleaning out old computer files, and came upon this article by Paula Rothermal of the University of Durham. Unfortunately, I no longer have any idea where I acquired this comparison of home- and school-educated children in the UK.

For reasons of copyright, the above link goes only to an abstract of the paper, but I'm posting a few interesting quotes that I believe fall into the "fair use" category. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, September 3, 2006 at 6:07 pm | Edit
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I should be happy that the New York Times is highlighting the importance of breastfeeding. But this article on the difficulties faced by nursing mothers in lower-income jobs is disturbing in ways the author did not intend.

Poor women, and their children, suffer because their employers are not as sympathetic to their need to pump milk for their babies as are the employers of professional women. Thus they are less likely to breastfeed their children, and when they do it is not for as long a time, in yet another case of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, September 1, 2006 at 8:56 am | Edit
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Okay, the latest airport security problem is not in the least bit funny. But sometimes you have to see the humorous side to stay sane, especially when you have loved ones planning to fly in the next few days.

All liquids and gels are presently banned from carry-on luggage at U. S. Airports. Exceptions are being made for certain medications and for pre-mixed baby formula, which will be allowed after inspection. After getting the word, parents at the Orlando International Airport (and no doubt elsewere) were frantically preparing bottles of formula and hoping they wouldn't spoil on the trip, since they couldn't bring bottled water on board.

How nice to have your baby's food with you at all times, handy, pre-mixed, with no fear of spoilage, and in a form that can't be consigned to checked baggage.

It was nice of the Transportation Security Administration to reassure us on that last point, however (emphasis mine).

Exception: Baby formula, breast milk, or juice if a baby or small child is traveling; prescription medicine with a name that matches the passenger’s ticket; and insulin and essential other non-prescription medicines
I'm guessing they're referring to expressed breast milk in a bottle...but still...it makes one think....
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, August 10, 2006 at 12:08 pm | Edit
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Serendipity. Searching for one thing and finding another. And another. The Internet is a beachcomber's delight. While researching my Johari Window post, I found information on Duen Hsi Yen's commentary, which led me to his article on education, which in turn took me to another of his sites, which was chosen in May of 1999 as the Natural Child Project's Parenting Site of the Month. Investigating the Natural Child Project site led in turn to this month's honored parenting resource, Parents for Barefoot Children.

(This is beginning to sound like something from A Fly Went By: "The fly ran away in fear of the frog, who ran from the cat, who ran from the dog. The dog ran away in fear of the pig, who ran from the cow, she was so big!") (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, August 7, 2006 at 2:45 pm | Edit
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Let me make clear up front that I'm glad our grandchildren are on schedule for most of the currently-recommended childhood vaccinations. I can be pleased with that because their parents have taken the time to research the issues, and decide which vaccines they think are worth the risk, and which are not, and are willing to pay the extra costs—in money and time—to spread the vaccinations out rather than subject their children to the assault on the immune system caused by receiving many vaccines on the same day. Moreover, the children are breastfed, which helps their immune systems deal with the vaccines.

Vaccines have prevented much suffering and death, and they do work; witness the frightening polio outbreaks in Africa when immunication efforts were hindered by Muslim clerics skeptical of both the vaccines and the good will of the vaccinators. But they are far from risk-free, and the government and the medical community are doing parents a disservice by pushing vaccinations as if they were entirely safe and absolutely essential for their children's health. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, August 3, 2006 at 7:35 am | Edit
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I mentioned in the last post that I am cleaning the kitchen. (You can tell how easy this project is by how many blog posts I've written today. Writing is my favorite form of break.) So...I just threw out some spices with expiration dates in the early 1980's. Yes, I tasted them, and no, they weren't worth keeping. We hauled those spice jars from New York to Florida, from Florida to Massachusetts, from Massachusetts back to Florida again...but enough is enough!
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, August 2, 2006 at 4:11 pm | Edit
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I hear it's officially TV-Turnoff Week. Those who know me know I'm more likely to respond negatively to social pressure like that. Still, I'm not about to turn on the television just to be different.

But if TV is a regular part of your life, do yourself a huge favor and turn it off. Start with a week, but don't stop there. What would you give for an extra four hours in your day? More than 20 more hours in your week? Even if you are one of the very rare folks who watches only half an hour a day, think about what you could do in that time. With just half an hour each day you could learn to play a musical instrument, learn a foreign language, read many books, keep in touch with far away friends and family, create your own weblog, spend time in serious, concentrated prayer, get some much-needed sleep, learn to juggle, create a garden, get in shape...and accomplish at least one if not many of those things you say you'd love to do, "but I don't have time." Go for it! You have nothing to lose but your chains.

Here are some more interesting links:

The TV-Turnoff Network

Excerpts from Marie Winn's The Plug-In Drug

Ruben Bolling's fabulous comic, Flowers for Trinitron.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, April 24, 2006 at 7:28 am | Edit
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