Jonathan's birthday is coming up, and he told me what he really wants:  a real Boba Fett costume, from the local costume store.  (Perhaps it was Jango Fett, or Olive Fett, or some other miscellaneous Fett.  I lost track of the Star Wars characters once inflation set in and Episode 1 became Episode 4.)

I expressed my surprise, because he had already created wonderful costumes—headgear and jetpacks—for himself and his siblings, out of cereal boxes, styrofoam cups, and pipe cleaners.

"I am only creative," he replied, "because I don't have what I want."

Bingo.

There, from the mouth of a six-year-old, is the driving force behind innovation.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, October 3, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Edit
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I have another post on Free-Range Kids.  You've probably read most of it here already, in my review of the Melendy books, but I mention it because the comments over there are brimming with other good book suggestions that you may want to check out.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, September 27, 2010 at 7:35 am | Edit
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The Saturdays
The Four-Story Mistake
Then There Were Five
Spiderweb for Two:  A Melendy Maze

by Elizabeth Enright (Holt/Square Fish, New York, 2008)

I've heard it said—and often by teachers—that it doesn't matter what children read, as long as they're reading.  I couldn't disagree more.

Actually, there's just enough truth there to be dangerous:  When one is learning to read, the very best path to the next level is merely to read, and read, and read.  It doesn't matter if it's Dr. Seuss, Calvin & Hobbes, Star Wars, or Anna Karenina—almost anything will do that is decent and holds the reader's attention long enough for the practicing to work its magic.  When my father was sick and terribly thin, we pressed upon him high-fat, high-calorie, high-sugar foods that would normally have been anathema to a sensible diet.  (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, September 26, 2010 at 6:03 am | Edit
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Regular readers of Lift Up Your Hearts! know I'm a fan of Lenore Skenazy's Free-Range Kids blog, though I blush to admit I haven't (yet) read her book of the same name.  I've written quite a few comments there, and a recent letter I sent evolved into a guest post, which you can find here:  A List that Sums Things Up Nicely.

To anyone who may have wandered over from the link at FRK, welcome!  Things are pretty random here, as this is where I post, for family and friends, whatever happens to be on my mind.  That way they don't have to hear me talk about it quite so much.  Okay, so it's really just a small portion of what is buzzing around in my brain; fortunately, life imposes time limitations.

In the upper right hand corner you'll find links to what it's all about here, and various disclaimers and disclosures.  Thanks for visiting!

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 11:32 am | Edit
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altEverything I Want to Do Is Illegal:  War Stories from the Local Food Front. by Joel Salatin (Polyface Inc., Swoope, Virginia, 2007)

Until now, I've written more about Joel Salatin than I've read by him:  almost a year ago in Strange Bedfellows?  Not Really, and three months later in my review of The Omnivore's Dilemma.  Wanting to correct that sin of omission, I grabbed the only one of his books available in our local library:  Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal.

On every side, our paternalistic culture is tightening the noose around those of us who just want to opt out of the system.  And it is the freedom to opt out that differentiates tyrannical and free societies.  How a culture deals with its misfits reveals its strength.  The stronger a culture, the less it fears the radical fringe.  The more paranoid and precarious a culture, the less tolerance it offers.  When faith in our freedom gives way to fear of our freedom, silencing the minority view becomes the operative protocol. — Joel Salatin

Salatin wants to opt out of a little more of the system than I do, but I hear his cry.  You could call him bitter, but if you consider the miracle that is Polyface Farms, you have to wonder why our government is working so hard to stamp out such elegant, inexpensive, healthy, delicious, and truly "green" (in a conservationist sense) endeavors. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, September 11, 2010 at 9:21 am | Edit
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Exposure To Two Languages Carries Far-Reaching Benefits  From this article at ScienceDaily, you can follow links to many other articles on bilingualism and language learning, some of which I'll also include below.

People who can speak two languages are more adept at learning a new foreign language than their monolingual counterparts, according to research conducted at Northwestern University. And their bilingual advantage persists even when the new language they study is completely different from the languages they already know. ... And they believe the bilingual advantage is likely to generalize beyond word learning to other kinds of language learning, including learning new words in one's own language and a very basic ability to maintain verbal information. ... Previous research already indicates that individuals who have formally studied two or more languages as adults more easily acquire a new language than monolinguals. New research even indicates that the onset of Alzheimer's disease in bilinguals is, on average, delayed by four years compared to monolinguals. ... The Northwestern researchers chose to study bilinguals who learned a second language at an early age and in a non-classroom study to avoid suggestions that their subjects simply were exceptionally talented or motivated foreign language learners.

 (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, August 30, 2010 at 6:08 am | Edit
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Apology for homeschooling  No, not an "I'm sorry" apology, though there are some elements of adolescent shyness in this new homeschooling father's essay, but apology in the old sense of a defense.  Despite a slightly annoying "we're not that kind of homeschooler" attitude, it's an amusing presentation of "the best way to answer a curious stranger's questions" versus "the whole truth."

Mrs. GSP: Do you use a curriculum?
Me: Oh, sure! Absolutely.
Real answer: Give me a break! These kids are 5 years old. ... That said, you could argue that Leslie has developed a fairly demanding curriculum. But that word comes with certain expectations that don't fit here. It isn't written down, it doesn't run on a set schedule, and it isn't based on lesson plans, piles of worksheets or a fixed rotation from subject to subject....

Mrs. GSP: What do you do about socialization?
Me: Oh, we've got a nice support network. They have a circle of friends. They do lots of classes and activities. They go to birthday parties and stuff.
Real answer: My public answer is OK, as far as it goes. But hang on a minute, lady: What do you mean by "socialization"? ... Ordinary schools tend to socialize children by way of enclosed, age-homogeneous pods, while home schooling tends to socialize children through a wide range of interactions with older kids, younger kids and adults, as well as peers. ... Do we regret not exposing our kids to the intense cultural melting pot of New York's school system? Sometimes, sure. But we're also not exposing them to bullying, arbitrary systems of order and discipline, age-inappropriate standards of behavior, and the hegemony of corporatized kid culture. Desmond and Nini have never heard of "Transformers," and we're OK with that.

The follow-up article is better, a hilarious, yet serious look at the results of their homemade curriculum based on myths and other stories of the ancient world.  (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, August 27, 2010 at 8:04 am | Edit
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I'm working on getting Li'l Writer Guy home from Switzerland, but in the meantime, enjoy this wonderful story of a three-year-old who saved her father's life by walking to a nearby fire station and asking for help.  Note both that young children can be much more competent than we generally expect these days, and that this competence did not arise in a vacuum, but had been nurtured by her parents.  It doesn't have to be, in the words of the reporter, "very un-three-year-old-like."

I can't embed the video, but you can find it on the right of the above-linked page, or here.  (H/T Free-Range Kids.)

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, August 23, 2010 at 8:40 am | Edit
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The title isn't quite true, but it gets past the censors.

Joseph is the non-spitting-est baby I've ever met.  I never think of using a burp cloth, and although when I packed for this trip I took into consideration that my clothes would be subject to much baby spit-up, it simply hasn't happened.

It was a good choice of shirts, however.

Joseph had awakened after a three-hour nap, and was not surprisingly in need of a change.  Joseph finds a diaper change to be very inspirational.

Have you heard of the volcanoes that, instead of erupting straight up in the air, blow their lava out a side vent?  Bright yellow lava, hitting Grandma straight in the face, and adding a contrasting golden spray to the dark blue Carnegie Mellon t-shirt. 

No problem.  We're signed up for laundry on Thursday.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 11:23 am | Edit
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To repeat, from Part 1, lest I forget:

The first principle is that nobody should be ashamed of thinking a thing funny because it is foreign; the second is that he should be ashamed of thinking it wrong because it is funny. The reaction of his senses and superficial habits of mind against something new, and to him abnormal, is a perfectly healthy reaction. But the mind which imagines that mere unfamiliarity can possibly prove anything about inferiority is a very inadequate mind. — G. K. Chesterton, writing on foreign travel in What Is America?

Diapers

I thought the diapering world was divided neatly between cloth and disposibles, with elimination communication thrown in as an added wrinkle—which only shows how limited and parochial my world has been.  Of course, the whole diaper situation here was planned to be well under control by now, but it has become an issue thanks to a miscommunication with the "diaper lady" reminiscent of my last-minute struggles with Lufthansa's baggage policy.  "No, I don't actually sell diapers; I only have samples you can experiment with to help you decide what you like.  You can't actually buy them here in Switzerland, and no, I don't have any overseas suppliers to recommend...."  (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, June 25, 2010 at 2:15 am | Edit
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Lenore Skenazy's Free-Range Kids blog is one of my favorite antidotes to the frustrations of modern life, and the outrageous stories she finds make great pass-along blog fodder, though they probably don't do my blood pressure any favors.

In an attempt to resurrect the once-normal sight of kids playing outdoors with their friends till the sun goes down—now unthinkable to many parents despite a crime rate lower than when they themselves played outside unsupervised—she declared tomorrow, May 22, to be Take Our Children to the Park...and Leave Them There Day.  I don't think she was expecting quite the firestorm she created when she suggested that pre-teens could survive for half an hour without their parents hovering nearby.  You can read all about it, positive and negative, on her blog(More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, May 21, 2010 at 7:31 pm | Edit
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altThe Brain that Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science by Norman Doidge (Penguin, New York, 2007)

Neuroplasticity.

The idea that our brains are fixed, hard-wired machines was (and in many cases still is) so deeply entrenched in the scientific establishment that evidence to the contrary was not only suppressed, but often not even seen because the minds of even respectable scientists could not absorb what they were certain was impossible.  Having been familiar since the 1960s with the work of Glenn Doman and the Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential, the idea that the human brain is continually changing itself and can recover from injury in astonishing ways did not surprise me. In fact, the only shock was that in a 400 page book on neuroplasticity and the persecution of its early pioneers I found not one mention of Doman's name. But the stories are none the less astonishing for that.

In Chapter 1 we meet woman whose vestibular system was destroyed by antibiotic side-effects.  She is freed by a sensor held on her tongue and a computerized helmet from the severely disabling feeling that she is falling all the time, even when lying flat.  That's the stuff of science fiction, but what's most astounding is that the effect lingers for a few minutes after she removes the apparatus the first time, and after several sessions she no longer needs the device(More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, May 18, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Edit
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Today's Mallard Fillmore comic inspired this post, which Li'l Writer Guy had actually been working on in the background ever since a conversation we had about the subject last night.

Mind you, I don't know any of the details of how it will work, and am only commenting on the theory that children should be covered on their parents' health insurance until they are 26 years old. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, May 12, 2010 at 8:18 am | Edit
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A friend of mine likes to clean out her files periodically, and when she does I know to expect an envelope in the mail.  She's very much into recycling.

Some of the articles she sends are from years back, so when there's one I'd like to share it's not always possible to locate it online.  Thanks to Google News archives, however, you too can read this Lori Borgman column from 2002. 

Maybe when all's said and done, the greatest perk of staying for the duration is knowing and being known.

Lori is both wise and funny, a healthy combination in any era.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, April 9, 2010 at 8:15 am | Edit
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The Gobblestone School: A Tale Inspired by the German Criminalization of Homeschooling, by Jacob Schriftman (aka Jokim Schnoebbe) (Moonrise/CreateSpace, Scotts Valley, California, 2009)

I wanted to like this book.

First, I wanted to read it, and for that I had to buy it, as it was not available in the library.  It languished in my Amazon "save for later" cart for a while, but I recently decided to indulge myself.  I'm glad I read it, but as indulgence goes, I'd rather have dark chocolate. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, April 3, 2010 at 10:05 am | Edit
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