Friday, November 19, 2010

Raising Reading Boys

This article from the Wall Street Journal is a fabulous expression about the connection between education and electronic media, especially for boys.

The best quote in this opinion piece is as follows:

"One obvious problem with the SweetFarts philosophy of education is that it is more suited to producing a generation of barbarians and morons than to raising the sort of men who make good husbands, fathers and professionals. If you keep meeting a boy where he is, he doesn't go very far."

I couldn't agree more. Thanks, Thomas Spence!

Monday, September 13, 2010


I was watching ESPN with my husband last week when one commentator went on a bit of a rant about some issue. He turned to his co-anchor, apologetically and said, “Sorry to get on my soapbox for a bit.” Hi co-anchor replied, “I thought you looked taller.”

Recently there has been a lot of buzz on my local homeschooling group board about the merits of gaming. I think it’s fascinating how we can feel equally passionate about diametrically opposed points of view. I like that we can, though, and I think a sense of ‘righteous cause’ can bring out the best in each of us, even when we’re at opposing points of view. For me, video games are a hot topic and I have to sidestep a soapbox nearly every time they come up, because I’ve never met anyone who feels as strongly about it as I do. Without going into detail, I’ve personally witnessed significant damages done to families as a result of too much gaming. It’s those experiences that have led to my personal feelings on the matter, and so I recognize that my point of view is pretty slanted. That said, here’s my point of view on gaming.

Video games trigger the release of dopamine in the brain, dulling a person’s senses and causing addiction in many cases. But it never triggers the release of serotonin, which leads to satisfaction or happiness. If it dulls our brain function and doesn’t make us happy, why do it? Incidentally, this is exactly the chemical response that occurs in pornography and gambling addictions.

The following link describes the results of a study about gaming done at BYU. The psychologists on the study were actually hoping to find some positive results because one of them really likes interactive team gaming, and he was very disappointed to find that everything associated with gaming thus far in their research has been negative.

I firmly believe that any time spent playing a video game would be better used in other pursuits. Gaming can be like a gateway drug to pornography addiction to many people, men especially.

When a program is supposed to be educational—like a flight simulator or ever-advancing medical technology to aid doctors in surgery preparation, it is called simulation. When the program is not educational or does not promote standard moral values (such as the sanctity of life), it is called a game and deemed harmless. Both of them train our minds and bodies, whether it’s for entertainment or professional development.

Many people, boys especially, have a lot of physical aggression that they need to express somehow. Some suggest that video games allow a kid to get out their aggression without hurting anyone, but I disagree. In the few times my son has played violent-natured games, he has come away more hostile. But when he leaves soccer practice, physically tired and having been mentally engaged, he is a kinder, better person. Frankly, the same is true for me. If I’m tuned in to the TV, no matter what the show, I’m never as happy as I am when I’ve been exercising.

A true optimist can find the bright side in every situation. Many people seem to do this with video games, saying they enhance hand-eye coordination and develop strategic thinking skills, etc. Similarly, a drug addict could be said to be preparing for a career in phlebotomy.

Obviously, that’s an extreme example, but why should we try so hard to praise the few good qualities of a thing with so many negative side effects? Why not just choose a better past-time? Because guess what, folks? Time is passing.

How about ping-pong for hand-eye coordination or chess for strategic thinking? There aren’t any social, developmental, or addictive side-effects and plenty of good outcomes that have us using our bodies and interacting with other humans in person.

I know most people believe there is plenty of good interaction in games, and even physical exercise with the Wii Fit. I just think it comes in a distant second to reality every time.

I saw the movie “Inception” recently. It’s a fascinating, graphically stunning film. It left me thinking hard about reality and fantasy. When it comes down to it, most video games envelop the player in a fantasy world. So the question remains, what about our own realities are we avoiding by playing them for hours on end? Could we be doing things that make our realities better if we spent a little more time in the here and now and a lot less in a fantasy world?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Cinderella: Part I

Cinderella: Part 1: The Little Mermaid

Growing up freckled and redheaded, I was nearly always compared to either Pippi Longstocking or Harriet from the TV show, Small Wonder. (Remember the show with the robot girl and Harriet, the horrible red-haired freckled neighbor?) These were not favorable comparisons. So when Disney’s The Little Mermaid came out, I was thrilled. I watched it over and over again. My brother collected all the McDonald’s Ariel rubber figurines and gave them to me for Christmas in a shoe box. It was my favorite present that year. I even remember coloring a Little Mermaid coloring book while I watched the movie. (Keep in mind that I was still doing this at age 15.) Seeing a character like Ariel made me think that being a redhead and being beautiful might not be mutually exclusive propositions. That was a big deal at 15.

Fast forward a decade or so: My oldest sister told me that she had recently banned The Little Mermaid from her house. I was shocked. She’s a redhead like me. Didn’t she feel the same kinship with a fellow ginger character?

I can’t remember her exact words, but when she explained why, it went something like this: “My nine year old is defiant enough. The last thing she needs to see is a rebellious sixteen year-old in a bikini.”

There it went in those few words--my love of all things Ariel was shattered. I had never thought about The Little Mermaid as anything more than a story about a pretty redhead. But I had no girls to raise then, just a truck-loving boy. I quickly saw the wisdom of my sister, the mother of a daughter. Since then, I have not been able to look at a single fairytale (with redheads or without), except through the eyes of a mother. And I am a mother who wants her children, daughters especially, to have good examples of virtuous, strong, capable, smart women.

So, about a year and a half ago, when my baby girl was given a blanket with a picture of Ariel on it, I thanked the giver politely and promptly sent the bikini-clad blanket on to Goodwill. I wasn’t going to begin sending mixed messages about modesty and sexual display before my child could even talk!

I felt a little self-conscious about taking such a strong stance so early on, especially because it felt like a very feminist thing to do (and I am not really a feminist). But the more fairytales I’ve read, the more convinced I’ve become that these stories about pretty girls are not benign and we should be careful of them, whether they come with pretty redheads or not.

Tune in next time for Cinderella: Part II: Cinderella

Thursday, May 13, 2010

What Love Is...

When I was in high school, I had a huge crush on a boy who moved in. I found out that in the place he had lived previously, he'd liked this one girl so much that he had called into the radio station and dedicated a song to her. To me, that seemed like the pinnacle of love--the most public declaration a person could make. I thought, "That is what love is!" and mourned the fact he would never feel the same about me.
Since then, I've seen a lot more of what love is and I feel stunned and humbled by how much of it I receive and witness.

When my husband would hold back my hair and rub my back in the bathroom while I experienced terrible morning sickness, that was love.

When my younger son climbs into bed with my older son to sleep at night, that is love.

When my long-suffering friend doesn't mention it when I'm late for the 100th time, that is love.

When my sisters express confidence in me, despite having seen all my mistakes growing up, that is love.

When my mom went to the the hospital every day while my baby girl was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit fighting for her life, that was love.
Even though mom couldn't make it through the doors to see my daughter because it was too hard for her to witness the struggle of a tiny, sick infant, that was love.

When my kids climb into bed with me to snuggle in the morning, that is love.

When my husband sits and watches "What Not To Wear" with me, that is love.

When my friend gives me the bracelet she won in a blogger's drawing, that is love.

When President Hinckley sat, flanked by his son and daughter at the funeral of his wonderful wife, and cried in lonely anguish, that was love. Just seeing the picture makes me cry.

I am feeling very grateful for my loving friends and family. Thank you for being so kind to me. What love do you see and receive?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Junior Mint's Story

Yesterday, Junior Mint got upset with me because I wouldn't let him watch a movie preview on Netflix. He used his new Cub Scout skill of writing with Native American picture characters to write a story. Here is how part of that story went:

The boy with the big voice hunted the woman morning, noon, and evening. The boy swam in the river with a bow and arrow and shot the arrow at the woman. The brothers made peace. The brothers hunted the woman.

Junior insisted I sit and work out the symbols while he waited. When I was all done, he asked if I knew who the woman was supposed to be. I told him I was pretty sure I did.

Do anybody else's kids do stuff like this?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pronoun Problems

Here is a conversation I had this morning with Curly Fry.

Curly: Me do it!

Me: No, you say, 'I do it.'

Curly: Me do it?

Me: No, 'I do it.'

Curly: You do it?

Me: No, you do it!

Curly: Me do it?

Pronouns are tough!