Lately I realize I haven’t been buying any print books. Not for a really long time, and it is not just because Borders has closed down (RIP Borders. :*() or that brick and mortar bookstores are becoming a thing of the past, like mom and pop stores (RIP too).
Truth is, my bookshelf is already bursting with books I’ve had since I was a teenager and then subsequently an adult. I am a voracious reader. I have read my favourite books between 20 to 50 times. And reading is my number one hobby. Always been, always will be.
So since I had the kids, I entered the world of ebooks. They cost considerably less, take up virtually (excuse the pun) no space, and are very very portable, thanks to the iPhone. Incredibly, I carry my entire library around (okay, not every single book as they are not all available in ebook, but definitely my favourite books which I have bought ecopies of).
I have to say this though, the reading experience is totally different. I find I have a much shorter attention span and get agitated more often. The book has to be exponentially more engaging to keep me reading. It’s something to do with the backlighting and the glare that causes this, but since my favourite activity of lying in bed reading is no longer an option, ebooks has been the way and will probably be for a long time coming.
Some of my friends are recommending I get a Kindle. I have to confess to be extremely annoyed at the geographic restrictions on many new ebooks when the print book is readily available in hardcover in Kinokuniya. Since I can’t read print anymore (for now, because of my motherly obligations – I’ll explain the logistics another time but suffice to say, it is about space and comfort), I have to patiently wait for an ebook to be released to the international audience about a year later. This doesn’t make sense. So publishers, if you are reading this, please think of the poor readers stuck with ereaders waiting patiently to read a book which is not available to them, just because it is digital content.
Still the cost of ebooks is a great lure. You can save on kindle fire books and other ebooks by signing up for ebook store newsletters where they routinely send you coupons, or just Google the store name plus coupon. I’ve print and digital copies of all my favourite books now. It feels great to carry them around (although my eyesight is seriously going!).
It feels like the days simply fly by. We wake, eat, have an activity and free play and suddenly it is dinner time and bath time and it is time for bed. It’s been days of joy and also for me, exhaustion.
The kids have begun swim class, which they both love immensely. Their coach is wonderful with kids and so very funny and relaxed. I am so grateful we found this place.
I also try to make sure they have plenty of time with the grandparents. I always wish I had known my grandparents better before they passed. It is a beautiful relationship and I have my happiest moments watching my folks have a bonding moment with my kids, usually a smile or a hug or sharing a joke.
The years fly by too fast. Although I often wish I have more time to myself, I remind myself I will have plenty of that when they enter their teen years and adulthood. This precious decade I spend close to them and nurturing their relationship with their grandparents is but a blink in all our lives. I try hard to make sure we all cherish it.
Going to go hug them now.
We have been down with gastric flu all week and haven’t done much. I’m so grateful my parents could help out while we all rested to recover. Which goes to show parents never stop parenting. I’ve already promised my kids I’ll help out with their kids…
When Wolf was almost 3, Boy died.
He saw Boy in his dying spasms and watched me weep as we brought him to the emergency hospital and weep even more when he died. He waited while I held Boy in my arms for a long time telling him I loved him and was sorry I didn’t spend more time with him.
The next day he followed us as I brought Boy’s body for cremation and watched me embrace Boy, let him go and wait the three hours for his cremation. He also saw me bring back his ashes in an urn and was curious to see his bones, which I declined because I told him, Mom would be sadder. He accepted.
He saw me go to the hospital and I gave birth to Kitten 2 days later and then life revolved around the 2 children. Occasionally he would ask to see Boy’s bones as the urn is on my dresser but I would gently say no.
That same year in December my grandma fell very ill. He saw me stay with her in the hospital, hold her hand and stroke her hair while talking gently to her. We explained to him that Mama was dying, like Boy did. He nodded.
We were all there before she died. At her wake and funeral he was there all the while and he went up to her in her coffin to say goodbye.
He knows everything dies and seems to accept it. Maybe he has seen it happen twice and thought it isn’t so terrible. We don’t bring it up much but perhaps because he lived it and saw us live through it and go on with our lives that he realized it isn’t something terrible to fear, it is simply a part of life.
I have brown thumbs but these flowers bloomed!
Wolf’s Smithsonian T-Rex finds notoriety scaling our bookshelf and then the stereo.
Another case for unschooling and attachment parenting: The attachment you have with your child will determine their future ability to have and sustain healthy and happy relationships.
So forget about the reading and throw away the TV. Have some one on one time, cuddle time, or eye to eye time with baby instead. Show your baby he or she matters.
From Psychology Today (bold emphases mine, bold and italics from the original article):
First and foremost: The fundamental task of early childhood isn’t learning to read, or to “get ahead” for school, or to impress the neighbors, or to give the folks something to brag about. Encouraging children to surge ahead beyond their real developmental needs leaves them with some really sludgy clean-up to grapple with later on.
What kids need from the get-go is a parent who “gets” them, who pays attention to what’s going on inside them, and who responds to them in a way that’s actually related to what the kid is feeling.
The research on attachment shows that there are a number of benefits which last a lifetime, including but not limited to at least the following dozen:
- The ability to sustain attention
- Better management of physical reactions to emotions – leading to improved immunity and fewer stress-related illnesses
- Less anxiety
- Better relationships with childhood peers, and healthier relationships as adults
- Fewer behavioral problems
- Increased capacity for empathy
- Greater ability to regulate mood (for example, calming down from excitement, or not getting caught up in frustration)
- Enhanced skills in communicating emotions in healthy ways
- Greater confidence and self-esteem (and it isn’t just based on performance and grades, but rather a sense of abiding and healthy self-worth)
- Better able to generate alternative solutions to interpersonal conflict
- Enhanced insight into themselves, and others
- Better modulation of fear, allowing for a willingness to explore and take on growthful challenges
“Well,” a parent (or a video marketer) might say, “letting a baby or a toddler watch an educational video to help them read earlier won’t interfere with healthy attachment.”
Actually, it can. As a psychologist/neuropsychologist who has been practicing psychotherapy and conducting cognitive evaluations for nearly twenty years, as well as having researched the relationship between brain and behavior in both infants and adults — I believe that using television to “teach” young children is a big mistake, with significant costs down the road.
(I’ll say here that reading with your child is a solid, helpful, wonderful thing to do. Explicitly teaching them to read, especially by video, is what I’m grousing about here.)
I’d love it if parents who feel they’re giving their child a “gift” with an early reading DVD would consider the following questions:
- What’s the message when (by offering your child a mesmerizing “educational” DVD, and also showing them your pleasure at their achievements) you emphasize the value of learning to read extra early, over time spent with siblings, parents, or friends?
- What might your child be learning from developing the habit of spending time in front of a “worthwhile” or “engaging” video, rather than with someone who loves him or her?
- What are you telling your child when you’re putting them in front of the TV instead of showing them that you value interacting with them and want to be with them?
- How does it help a child to see a screen as their teacher, rather than a real person — what do they do when they have a problem they need to solve, and they don’t have the early, repeated experiences of asking an adult to help them?
- What are you saying to your child about the value of learning if you can’t spend the time yourself to do it with them? (In the commercial for Your Baby Can Read, the announcer asks one thrilled parent of three early readers, “And did you have to do anything?” The mother replies with joy, “I didn’t have to do a thing!”)
And another thing: Early reading doesn’t do much for your child’s success in school, and there’s evidence that it may even be detrimental.
Let’s take a look at a few points in that regard – and note that this list is only a few of many reasons why early reading is a lousy deal for your child.
- Louise Bates Ames, PhD, a superstar in child development and the director of research at the world-renowned Gesell Institute of Child Development, stated that “a delay in reading instruction would be a preventative measure in avoiding nearly all reading failure.” Leapfrogging necessary cognitive developmental skills — and asking a young brain to do tasks for which it isn’t truly ready — is asking for trouble with learning.
- The brains of young children aren’t yet developed enough to read without it costing them in the organization and “wiring” of their brain. The areas involved in language and reading aren’t fully online — and aren’t connected — until age seven or eight. If we’re teaching children to do tasks which their brains are not yet developed to do via the “normal” (and most efficient) pathways, the brain will stumble upon other, less efficient ways to accomplish the tasks — which lays down wiring in some funky ways — and can lead to later learning disabilities, including visual-processing deficits.
- The description of brain development on which the “Your Baby Can Read” program rests its questionable claims is remarkably flawed, confusing language acquisition with reading. They state: “A baby’s brain thrives on stimulation and develops at a phenomenal pace…nearly 90% during the first five years of life! The best and easiest time to learn a language is during the infant and toddler years, when the brain is creating thousands of synapses every second — allowing a child to learn both the written word and spoken word simultaneously, and with much more ease….” There is a huge and unsupported leap here from language acquisition – which is definitely an important developmental task, necessary for connecting to one’s outer world – and reading, which is a very different neurological and cognitive task, and one which is not developmentally appropriate for a baby or toddler’s brain.
- Does early training really get you anywhere? There is a classic study of twins which was done by another pioneer in child development, Arnold Gesell, PhD, MD. He studied a pair of toddler twins, who were not yet able to climb stairs. For the study, one of the twins was given daily practice and encouragement to climb stairs, and the other twin had no stairs to practice on. After six weeks of practice, the “trained” twin could climb the stairs, and the “untrained” twin could not. However, within one week of being given the opportunity to climb stairs, the untrained twin completely caught up with the trained twin’s stair-climbing ability.
- The whole idea that learning to read early gives children — or our educational system, or our economy — an “advantage” is not based on empirical evidence. If you look at the US and Britain, you see the trends toward earlier reading and increasingly less successful educational systems. On the other hand, the majority of children in Finland begin instruction in reading at age seven – two years later than here in the US (and even later than the folks at “Your Baby Can Read” would have you start). The outcome? Finnish students not only catch up to their earlier-starting counterparts, but they surpass the United States, other European countries, and Asian countries as well, with top overall scores in the world in reading, science, and math. Oh, and the Finnish do attend preschool, but it isn’t “academic” in nature — it emphasizes social development and exploration.
I’ve always been lazy about the teaching. I love reading books with the kids but I don’t force them to remember the words. They will learn on their own. I did.
When I was 7 (the proper developmental age for reading), I suddenly picked up a book and began to read. Within months I devoured all of Enid Blyton’s books and then moved to Carolyn Keene. I never stopped.
I believe kids will learn in their own time, as unschooling parents do. Wolf potty trained himself on his own time, and he is learning to count, in his own time. He rarely nurses in public anymore and some days never even nurses at all till bedtime.
It is tempting (and I do too for some quiet) to let Wolf watch a video on the iPod (since we have no TV). This article reminds me about the message I am giving him. Not a good one. I need to reframe my thoughts and yes, I need my downtime, but perhaps there is something we can do together that we both love, like look at dinosaur books.
(Just had an idea to sit with him and print out his fave dinosaur pictures, then cut and paste them into a notebook that we can read together. Yay activity!)
Most importantly, I want my children to love learning. They can’t do it if we keep shoving learning down their throats, years before the schools start.
I remember losing my love for learning when I entered school. But thankfully, my first 5 years at home gave me a strong foundation of that love and after I finally finished school, I began teaching myself again: to fix things, to write code, to sew.
That is the gift I want to give my children.
The years pass too quickly. I must remember to cherish every moment.
It doesn’t feel like I ever sleep at all. Maybe it is because I’d spent the last few nights up doing the migration and every hour running to the bedroom to nurse one or more children back to sleep.
When I finally hit the bed I pass out till one or more kids wake up and the night nursing dance begins again.
When will I sleep again, I don’t know. But it is someday and for now, I wearily sniff my babies’ sweet cheeks and hair and work on enjoying these precious moments.
I must confess first. I was a TV addict.
After work, dear hubby and I would cuddle up in from of ole Faithful and watch our fave programs like CSI and munch on junk food. I could not live without TV.
Fast forward to year 2006 and Wolf was born. I read that the cost of watching TV was the opportunity lost spent on other more creative and productive things like reading, playing, or talking to Mom. According to many peer-reviewed studies, kids who watch TV have less vocabulary than kids who don’t, and the latter are more sociable.
I was sold. I swore my kid would never watch television. Ever. And I had to set an example. The TV became a glorified plant holder and took up half the space of the living room. Surprisingly I found life without TV pretty alright, since we were busy with the kids and really have no more free time. I do fantasize about the days when the kids are off to college and I can finally turn on my 35″ TV and watch all the dramas I missed in the last 18 years.
As for the old clunker, we gave it away to an elderly neighbour who was thrilled to have it. She was retired and watching TV every day on a tiny 20″. We figured that by the time the kids were old enough to watch TV, our CRT would have decomposed and we could get a brand new plasma t.v. for $200. And let’s make it a Samsung plasma tv or a Panasonic plasma tv.
And is there credence to all the reports about increased sociability and higher vocabulary? According to people who have met Wolf, he is very sociable with people of all ages and speaks non-stop like a Duracell bunny.
I don’t know about other children, but after 3.5 years of no TV, Wolf isn’t fond of watching it and he would prefer to play or read than watch TV. He went through a brief phase of TV phobia, probably from something he saw on it at Grandma’s house. But he sat through The Lion King (his cousin was watching at Grandma’s) just last week (which from a child’s eyes, seems awfully negative about brotherhood and rather pro-revenge and violence). His first actually.
According to the scientifically-based Nurtureshock, kids pick up extracts from a story, so even if a story with conflict that gets resolved at the end, the child may simply pick up the conflict and not the resolution.
We can’t shelter our children from the media – heck I want my TV back one day – but the first few years are crucial to protect them from the effects of the media, much of which we as adults are already immune to or unaffected by. But children are vulnerable and judging from our viewing of the “children’s movie” The Lion King, I won’t be letting Wolf watch any more till he is much older.
It seems everyone wants me to send Wolf to school, from my parents to the old lady I meet serving tea at the coffee shop. “It is essential for socialisation,” they insist.
The research says otherwise.
Playdates and preschool attendance can add stimulation—-and fun—-to your child’s daily life. But socialization-—the process of learning how to get along with others-—is not the same thing as socializing. Frequent socializing with peers does not necessarily lead to better social skills.
In fact, the opposite seems to be true. Too much time with peers can make kids behave badly. It’s the sulky elephant in the room that no one likes to talk about. Even upscale preschools are likely to make kids behave worse. As recent scientific studies confirm, preschool attendance increases childhood stress and retards social development.
(Source: Preschool Social Skills)
To many parents and teachers, these findings seem to defy common sense. Surely we learn social skills by interacting with other people. What could be more natural than letting your preschooler loose in a social world of her own peers?
In fact, part of this reasoning is sound. You do need people to learn people skills. The question is–which people? Preschoolers need to learn empathy, compassion, patience, emotional self-control, social etiquette, patience, and an upbeat, constructive attitude for dealing with social problems.
These lessons can’t be learned through peer contact alone. Preschools are populated with impulsive, socially incompetent little people who are prone to sudden fits of rage or despair. These little guys have difficulty controlling their emotions, and they are ignorant of the social niceties. They have poor insight into the minds and emotions of others (Gopnik et al 1999).
Yes, preschoolers can offer each other important social experiences. But their developmental status makes them unreliable social tutors. A child who copies other children may pick up good habits—-but she may also pick up bad ones. And peers do not always provide each other with right kind of feedback.
When a child offers to share his toy with a caring adult, he gets rewarded with gratitude and praise. He also learns that he will eventually get his toy back. When he offers to share with a peer, he may not get rewarded at all. Without adult guidance, these experiences can undermine social development by teaching the wrong lessons.
Moreover, it’s hard to see what’s natural about herding together a bunch of children who are all the same age. From the evolutionary, historical, and cross-cultural perspectives, it’s an unusual practice.
(Source: The darkside of preschool)
As parents, we are the best candidates to instill in our children the necessary building blocks in socialisation: empathy, emotional self-control, and communication. Offering our children a secure attachment and ourselves as good role models, and being involved and engaged in our children’s emotional world would arm them with better social skills than any preschool would.