A brilliant student, Marcus sailed through grade school. He completed his assignments easily and routinely earned As. Marcus puzzled over why some of his classmates struggled, and his parents told him he had a special gift. In the seventh grade, however, Marcus suddenly lost interest in school, refusing to do homework or study for tests. As a consequence, his grades plummeted. His parents tried to boost their son’s confidence by assuring him that he was very smart. But their attempts failed to motivate Marcus (who is a composite drawn from several children). Schoolwork, their son maintained, was boring and pointless.

The story above is from a Scientific American Mind article entitled The Secret to Raising Smart Kids. (I've changed the name because in the original it is "Jonathan."  Apologies to any Marcuses who might read this.)  I insist that Marcus was probably right:  most seventh grade schoolwork is boring and pointless.  Be that as it may, the article investigates a question I have wrestled with for decades:  Why do so many bright students fail of their promise, surpassed sooner or later by their apparently average, ordinary classmates? (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, April 7, 2009 at 10:08 am | Edit
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I've written often enough about threats to the fundamental right of parents to educate their own children:  the dreadful situation for homeschoolers in Germany, my concerns for Switzerland, and the unwarranted judicial intrusion in family life and education touched closer to home, in California.  California ultimately upheld the legitimacy of home education, but it appears North Carolina is the next battleground.

As with the Terri Schiavo case, it is family problems that allowed the court's nose into this tent.  It illustrates a serious problem with our "no fault" attitude towards divorce:  despite the husband's admitted, ongoing, adulterous affair, his desire to send his children to public school has been allowed to trump his wife's desire to continue homeschooling.  What is truly worrisome, as it touches homeschooling is the judge's power and attitude, as well as whatever precedent his decision may set. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, March 12, 2009 at 10:22 am | Edit
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"What is VPK?" asks an article in our city's magazine.

Pre-math, pre-reading and social skills.  How do I teach my child all this information before she enters kindergarten?  Many parents used to ask themselves that precise question not too long ago.  However, for the past four years, concerned parents have decided to enroll their children in what is called VPK, or voluntary pre-kindergarten education....VPK is free [that is, tax-funded]...regardless of family income.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, March 4, 2009 at 4:57 pm | Edit
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As with most First Things articles, David B. Hart's 2004 essay Freedom and Decency is intellectual, dense, long, and not easy going.  But—again like most First Things articles—it is well worth the effort.  (Hat tip to John C. Wright.  Who says science fiction writers can't be deep thinkers?)  What earns the article its own post rather than a brief mention in my "Casting the Net" series is the following extraordinary paragraph, which leaps from the somewhat dry erudition with the shock of a striking panther.

I am not convinced that we are in any very meaningful sense in the midst of a “culture war”; I think it might at best be described as a fracas. I do not say that such a war would not be worth waging. Yet most of us have already unconsciously surrendered to the more insidious aspects of modernity long before we even contemplate drawing our swords from their scabbards and inspecting them for rust. This is not to say that there are no practical measures for those who wish in earnest for the battle to be joined: homeschooling or private “trivium” academies; the disposal or locking away of televisions; prohibitions on video games and popular music; Greek and Latin; great books; remote places; archaic enthusiasms. It is generally wise to seek to be separate, to be in the world but not of it, to be no more engaged with modernity than were the ancient Christians with the culture of pagan antiquity; and wise also to cultivate in our hearts a generous hatred toward the secular order, and a charitable contempt. Probably the most subversive and effective strategy we might undertake would be one of militant fecundity: abundant, relentless, exuberant, and defiant childbearing. Given the reluctance of modern men and women to be fruitful and multiply, it would not be difficult, surely, for the devout to accomplish — in no more than a generation or two — a demographic revolution. Such a course is quite radical, admittedly, and contrary to the spirit of the age, but that is rather the point, after all. It would mean often forgoing certain material advantages, and forfeiting a great deal of our leisure; it would often prove difficult to sustain a two-career family or to be certain of a lavish retirement. But if it is a war we want, we should not recoil from sacrifice.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 4:48 pm | Edit
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A couple more quick takes, as I dig through the backlog.

Think Your Kid's Gifted?  You're Probably Wrong, from Geek Dad.  An unfortunate title, as is the similar title of the article on which he is commenting; I would have said instead, "You're Probably Right."  At long last parents are beginning to realize that children are not mindless lumps of clay, but are nearly all born brilliant.  (You doubt that?  Plunk yourself down in the middle of a foreign country and see how long it takes you to become fluent in the language.)  Finally people are realizing that what they do, or don't do, with their young chldren makes a difference, and that they need better opportunities than most of them get.  Why do some people feel it necessary to debunk the idea?  Probably because, being fallen humans, we tend to focus not on "my child is brilliant" but "my child is brighter than someone else's child."  Geek Dad catches the real issue, however. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, January 16, 2009 at 6:57 am | Edit
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Take time out of your Christmas Rush and enjoy this offering from the Von Tone-Deaf Family Singers.  :)

(Hat tip to Jennifer at Conversion Diary.)
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, December 20, 2008 at 7:54 am | Edit
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With both of our girls we participated in the wonderful YMCA Swim and Gym classes from the time they were a few months old.  The Y no longer offers this great class—the organization officially no longer believes infants should learn to swim, much to the distress of Floridians who know how important it is.  Be that as it may, these twice-weekly parent/child sessions were one of the best parenting decisions we ever made, and lots of fun besides.

Having little ones who can swim well has its consequences.  For one thing, you freak out all the other folks at a public pool when your child launches herself into the deep end, while you remain in your lounge chair, calmly watching her swim the length of the pool and climb out. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 5:10 pm | Edit
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To all those following and praying for Heather, Jon, and Judy Wilson:  Judy's trial resumes this afternoon.  I'm no longer there to continue my blow-by-blow commentary, but I'll pass on the news as I am able.  Jon is now scheduled to appear as a defense witness, so prayers for him and his testimony would be appreciated.   (I find it bizaare that he was ping-ponged that way—he was originally scheduled, like Heather, as a witness for the prosecution—but my prosecuting attorney friends don't.  Facts are facts, and you use whomever you need to establish them.)

There may even be a verdict today, so prayers for the judge would also be a very good thing!

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, October 29, 2008 at 7:20 am | Edit
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The American Academy of Pediatrics has recently doubled its recommendation of vitamin D intake for children, from 200 IU to 400 IU per day.  Not only is vitamin D important in the prevention of ricketts, but there is increasing evidence that its deficiency can promote type 2 diabetes, cancer, and autoimmune diseases.  Some doctors think 400 IU may not be enough.

This recommendation is all well and good, but I draw the line at this:  Breastfed and partially breastfed infants should be supplemented with 400 IU a day of vitamin D beginning in the first few days of life.  The reason?  [B]ecause of vitamin D deficiencies in the maternal diet, which affect the vitamin D in a mother’s milk, it is important that breastfed infants receive supplements of vitamin D. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, October 16, 2008 at 4:25 pm | Edit
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The Associated Press hasn't taken up the story yet, though I know from experience that will probably change.  I wish private grief could remain private; since it is not, however, I need have no qualms about providing updates for those whose love and prayers support the particpants in this unfortunate drama.

Nearly six years after Isaac's birth, and more than four after she was charged in his death, Judy Wilson's formal trial began.  Although they support Judy and never wished her to be charged, Heather and Jon were subpoenaed by the prosecution as witnesses—the only eyewitnesses other than Judy herself.  Required to report to the Allegheny County Courthouse by 8:30 a.m. on Monday, we packed ourselves up—three sleepy children, breakfasts for eating in the car on the way, a cooler with lunch and snacks, an overstuffed diaper bag, Jon's laptop bag (Lime Daley service must be available, trial or no), a bag of books, toys and games, plus jackets, blankets, baby slings, and oh yes, legal paperwork—and headed for Pittsburgh, in the middle of rush hour.  (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, September 23, 2008 at 8:57 pm | Edit
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Three years ago I read and reviewed Lu Hanessian's Let the Baby Drive, and recently my thoughts have been returning to that insightful book.  Today's Frazz brought it again to mind.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, September 10, 2008 at 7:33 am | Edit
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When an article from my "to blog" backlog, a recent post from one of my blogging contacts, and an article from the most recent issue of a magazine I respect all converge, I can take that as a good suggestion for today's post.

Jennifer Fulwiler writes the Conversion Diary blog (formerly "Et Tu?"), which I've featured before (here, among other places).  This is her article in America.  John C. Wright is a science fiction writer.  It was his blog post that alerted me to the First Things article.  Read his introduction, but don't settle for his summary of the article.  Instead, read Mary Eberstadt's The Vindication of "Humanae Vitae" yourself. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, August 13, 2008 at 11:04 am | Edit
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I hate to give such horrors any more publicity, so if you already view Planned Parenthood as evil incarnate, don't follow any of the links on John C. Wright's post, Footnote to Modern, Ever-Changing, Ever-Evolving Moral Standards.  If, on the other hand, you still cling to the hope, as I did for a long time, that the omni-present organization might not be utterly irredeemable, you owe it to your children to take a look (with them out of the room, of course—preferably out of the house).  I wish I could cleanse my brain of those cute, Sesame Street-like videos, but sometimes it's useful to know just how bad the situation really is.

I like the idea of socially responsible investing, but this has reminded me that whatever harm might be done by an undesirable gnat stock amongst those in our mutual funds is dwarfed by the camel damage paid for with our tax dollars.

Oh, by the way.  In case you miss it (which I recommend), take my word for it that when the folks at Planned Parenthood use the word "abstinence," they mean something entirely and disturbingly different from what you, I, and the dictionary do. So define your terms carefully (and make them define theirs) before conceding agreement on any point.
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, July 29, 2008 at 6:21 pm | Edit
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A friend of ours has four children.  They're all still less than eight years old, and have yet many years to develop their tastes in music, but where they stand now offers some food for thought.

When the oldest was in utero, his musician mother was teaching at a college, and was totally immersed in classical music, particularly opera.  He is now very bright, intense, and serious, with a lovely boy soprano voice and a love of classical singing to go with it. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, July 6, 2008 at 12:54 pm | Edit
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I shouldn't be surprised when what is said in comic strips mirrors opinions expressed by essayists in more serious venues.  After all, both get their inspiration from the same human condition, and humor is an efficient and effective way to make a point.  Nonetheless, I always take note when I hear the same message from widely divergent sources, as happened when I read in close succession Francis Schaeffer's The God Who Is There and John Taylor Gatto's The Underground History of American Education. When an evangelical Protestant theologian living in Switzerland and a self-described lapsed Catholic schoolteacher from Pittsburgh, writing on issues that apparently differ markedly, make the same historical and philosophical point, perhaps I had better listen.

The conjunction of Mallard Fillmore and Mike Thomas, about which I wrote yesterday, is less portentous, perhaps, but today's has signficant social and philosophical implications. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, July 2, 2008 at 8:00 am | Edit
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