Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Visit to Laurelhurst

I thought I had posted these already and just saw that I hadn't! These are from last Wednesday. I had a chiro appointment today so Rachele and I decided to hop over Laurelhurst afterward to show Kai what a cahce is all about. :)

I love the first warm spell of Spring in Portland. People are so happy to get outside and soak it up!
Akasha tapping letters and saying random numbers lol.
I love this sequence. Kai looks like he is trying to woo Akasha with a flower.
He has caught her attention!
"No, you take the white one, not the yellow one!"
"Yeah, that one."
Straight to two little noses.
Kai opening his first cache! Will he grow to love it?
This guy walked by with this awesome huge dog. It was some type of purebred from Russia I can't remember the name of now. We asked his name, and he said, "Jerry." I said, "Like Jerry Garcia?" And he said, "Yeah, cuz he's a big hairy bear." Hahaha, he even had a little dancing bear leash!
We even saw some turtles sunning on a long, which turned was amazing because I had a turtle trackable the owner was hoping could be near real turtles, so this was the perfect spot for it!
This cracked me the hell up. Usually when you see a plaque like this, the tree has some special name, but just "Big Tree"? Hahaha, I am easily amused!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Eat Pray Love - Italy

I think I have a new favorite book, at least in the nonfiction world. Well, if you take out the parenting type books lol. Although it was found in the travel section of Powell's, I would almost put this book in the self help or spirituality - at least it was for me! I can't even begin to explain how much this woman reminded me of myself! Her spiritual journey was so inspiring to me and has me really interested in pursuing yoga more than I have in the past. If you haven't read it, the three words in the title each represent a theme for a country the author visited on a year long trip of self discovery. I loved so much about the book, I thought I would break my comments up into three posts, just like the book sections!

Before really delving into her time in Italy, she takes us on a bit of a journey through her recent past. One of my favorite things in the book takes place on a trip to Indonesia, while visiting a medicine man:

"I guess what I want to learn is how to live in this world and enjoy its delights but also devote myself to God."
Ketut said he could answer my question with a picture. He showed me a sketch he'd drawn once during meditation. It was an androgynous human figure, standing up, hands clasped in prayer. But this figure had four legs, and no head. Where the head should have been, there was only a wild foliage of ferns and flowers. There was a small smiling face drawn over the heart.
"To find the balance you want," Ketut spoke through his translator, "this is what you must become. You must keep your feet grounded so firmly on the earth that it's like you have four legs, instead of two. That way, you can stay in the world. But you must stop looking at the world through your head. You must look through your heart, instead. That way, you will know God."

Wow, so simple, but so deep!

Then we get to Italy, where she has gone primarily to learn to speak Italian (and to eat of course). I am not going to write out the whole chapter here, but she devotes an entire one to explaining the history of the Italian language, which I had no idea about, and it blew me away. An entire language based on poetry. Ah, now it really does make sense how beautiful it is!

But I must mention food! There is much to choose from, but I think this is my favorite passage:

...before I left Rome, he gave me the name of a pizzeria in Naples that I had to try, because, Giovanni informed me, it sold the best pizza in Naples. I found this a wildly exciting prospect, given that the best pizza in Italy is from Naples, and the best pizza in the world is from Italy, which means that this pizzeria must offer... I'm almost too superstitious to say it... the best pizza in the world? Giovanni passed along the name of the place with such seriousness and intensity, I almost felt I was being inducted into a secret society. He pressed the address into the palm of my hand and said, in gravest confidence, "Please go to this pizzeria. Order the margherita pizza with double mozzarella. If you do not eat this pizza when you are in Naples, please lie to me later and tell me that you did."
So Sofie and I have come to Pizzeria da Michele, and these pies we have just ordered - one for each of us - are making us lose our minds. I love my pizza so much, in fact, that I have come to believe in my delirium that my pizza might actually love me, in return. I am having a relationship with this pizza, almost an affair. Meanwhile, Sofie is practically in tears over hers, she's having a metaphysical crisis about it, she's begging me, "Why do they event bother trying to make pizza in Stockholm? Why do we even bother eating food at all in Stockholm?"

LOL, and the craziest thing about this is my daughter just married a guy from Naples, so there may be plans afoot to visit there. Gluten and dairy be damned. I will be trying the best pizza in the world if I do make it over there!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Amazing Article on the Science Behind Connected Parenting

And another one....

Tackling Distress Tantrums with Brain Research

The following article is an excerpt from the excellent book, The Science of Parenting: How today's brain research can help you raise happy, emotionally balanced children by Margot Sunderland

The RAGE, FEAR, and SEPARATION distress systems are already set up at birth to support a baby's survival. They are designed to be so in order to save infants from being eaten by predators, and to keep them close to mom. The potential dangers in the modern world are very different, but nevertheless, everyday events can easily trigger one or more of these systems in your infant's brain. For example, his fear system may be triggered when a door slams, or his rage system when you try to dress him, or his separation distress system when you walk out of a room. Infants keep getting overwhelmed by the triggering of these brain systems beause there is so little higher rational brain functioning "on-line" yet to help them think, reason, and calm down.

This is important to understand when faced with a genuinely distressed or screaming baby or child. He needs your help to calm down. With consistently emotionally responsive parenting, your child's frontal lobes will start to develop essential brain pathways that will, over time, enable him to calm these alarm states in his lower brain.

A distress tantrum means that one or more of the three alarm systems (rage, fear and/or separation) in your child's lower brain has been very strongly activated. As a result, your child's arousal system will be way out of balance, with too-high levels of stress chemicals searing through his body and brain.

Distress tantrums happen because essential brain pathways between a child's higher brain and his lower brain haven't developed yet. These brain pathways are necessary to enable a child to manage his big feelings. As a parent, your role is to soothe your child while he experiences the huge hormonal storms in his brain and body. If you get angry with a child for having a distress tantrum, he may stop crying, but this may also mean that the fear system in his brain has triggered, over-riding his separation system. Or he may simply have shifted into silent crying, which means his level of the stress chemical cortisol will remain sky-high. As we have seen throughout brain research, uncomforted distress can leave a child with toxic levels of stress hormones washing over the brain.

This brain scan shows that the primal, core brain (sometimes called 'lower' brain or 'inner' brain) is activated when a child or baby is distressed (red/orange) while many outer brain or frontal lobe areas are deactivated (purple/blue).

Children can't talk or listen well when distressed.

The dramatic brain and body changes of a distress tantrum hijack your child's thinking functions and the verbal centers in his higher brain that control the comprehension and expression of speech. It is important to understand this because trying to talk to your child during a distress tantrum, or expecting him to talk about his feelings, is a waste of time. All he can do is discharge his emotions.

A distress tantrum needs sensitive handling.

It is important that you take a genuine distress tantrum seriously and meet your child's pain of loss, frustration, or acute disappointment with sympathy and understanding. When you do this, you will be helping your child to develop vital stress-regulating systems in his higher brain. Repeatedly getting angry with a child's genuine distress can mean that the child never develops effective inhibitory mechanisms in his higher brain. Picture a man who often loses his temper in a restaurant, or violently kicks a faulty vending machine -- in early life he may have missed out on the vital parenting that would have helped him manage rage. (1, 2, 3)

Regulating childhood distress is a key task for all parents, teachers, and other caregivers.

Receiving help to manage intense feelings of rage, frustration, or distress means that a child can develop the brain pathways that enable him to calm himself down when under stress. If we don't respond to a genuine distress tantrum and, instead, adopt a fixed approach to all tantrums, we lose a vital opportunity to sculpt a child's brain in a positive way. It is deeply reassuring to a child to know that an adult can calm and understand the volcanic storms that rip through his body and brain. It is most disturbing to a child that when he is in terrible emotional pain his Mommy or Daddy gets angry or just walks away from him.

How to handle distress tantrums:

Your role is to give your child a sense of safety, comfort, and reassurance when he is having a distress tantrum. These techniques can all help to calm your child.

1. Use simple, calm actions or provide a simple choice. For example, if your child is upset about getting dressed, ask him whether he wants to wear his blue or his brown pants.

2. Distraction is a wonderful, often underused technique. It activates the seeking system in your child's lower brain and makes him feel curious and interested in something. It can naturally override the brain's rage or distress systems. It also triggers a high level of dopamine, a great positive arousal chemical in the brain, which reduces stress and triggers interest and motivation. (4)

3. Hold your child tenderly. Sometimes it really helps to hold a distressed child, but you must feel calm and in control yourself. Being next to your calm body will bring his over aroused body and brain systems back into balance and release natural, calming oxytocin and opioids. Say simple words such as, "I know, I know." (Words alone, however, will not strongly release these wonderful chemicals.) If his rage system has been triggered, as well as his distress system, and he is throwing things around the room or hitting or biting, you will need to use a holding technique.
4. Sometimes a child will feel safe and contained just by you sitting down calmly next to him and talking gently. Some children find this preferable to being held, because it allows them the freedom to move.

5. Avoid using the time-out technique during a distress tantrum. You wouldn't walk away from your best friend or send her to a time-out room if she was writhing and sobbing on the floor, so this is certainly not appropriate for children, who have far fewer emotional resources than adults. Using time out for a child in distress would also mean missing a vital opportunity for rage and distress regulation and establishing effective stress-regulating systems in the brain.

6. Avoid putting a child in a room on his own during a distress tantrum. Although the child may stop vocal crying, he may continue to cry internally-something that research shows is more worrisome. (5, 6) Whereas vocal crying is a request for help, silent, internal crying is a sign that the child has lost faith that help will come (learned helplessness). In some people, this tragic loss of faith can stay for life.

7. Remind yourself that a child's distress is genuine. A two year-old who is screaming because his sibling has snatched a toy car is not just making a fuss. Research shows that a sense of loss activates the pain centers in the brain, causing an agonizing opioid withdrawal. (7) Because small children have been in the world for only a few years, they don't have a clear perspective on life. As adults, we have a backdrop of events and experiences that tell us that the loss of a toy car is a minor disappointment. But for a small child, this loss can mean everything. If a child is repeatedly punished for grief fueled tantrums (grief often includes rage), the lesson he learns is: "Mommy cannot manage or understand my grief." As a result, he is likely to switch off feelings of hurt because they are no longer safe to have. And this has consequences for how a child manages his feelings into adulthood.

Reference Notes:

1) Brody GH, et. al (1982). Contributions of parents and peers to children's moral socialization. Developmental Review 2:31-75.

2) Haley, DW, et. al (2003). Infant stress and parent responsiveness: regulation of physiology and behavior. Child Development 74(5):1534-46.

3) Barbas H, et. al (2003). Serial pathways from primate prefontal cortex to autonomic areas may influence emotional expression. Neuroscience 10(4):25.

4) Panksepp, J (1998). Affective Neuroscience. Oxford University Press, New York: 54.

5) Gunnar MR (1989). Studies of the human infant's adrenocortical response to potentially stressful events. New Directions for Child Development Fall (3-18).

6) Hertgaard, L, et al. (1995) Adrenocortical responses to the strange situation in infants with disorganized/disoriented attachment relationships. Child Development 66:1100-06.

7) Panksepp, J (2003). Neuroscience: Feeling the pain of social loss. Science 302(5643):237-39.

Article About Teaching Less Math at School

Just an article I wanted to save for later access....

When Less is More: The Case for Teaching Less Math in Schools

In an experiment, children who were taught less learned more.

In 1929, the superintendent of schools in Ithaca, New York, sent out a challenge to his colleagues in other cities. "What," he asked, "can we drop from the elementary school curriculum?" He complained that over the years new subjects were continuously being added and nothing was being subtracted, with the result that the school day was packed with too many subjects and there was little time to reflect seriously on anything. This was back in the days when people believed that children shouldn't have to spend all of their time at school work--that they needed some time to play, to do chores at home, and to be with their families--so there was reason back then to believe that whenever something new is added to the curriculum something else should be dropped.

One of the recipients of this challenge was L. P. Benezet, superintendent of schools in Manchester, New Hampshire, who responded with this outrageous proposal: We should drop arithmetic! Benezet went on to argue that the time spent on arithmetic in the early grades was wasted effort, or worse. In fact, he wrote: "For some years I had noted that the effect of the early introduction of arithmetic had been to dull and almost chloroform the child's reasoning facilities." All that drill, he claimed, had divorced the whole realm of numbers and arithmetic, in the children's minds, from common sense, with the result that they could do the calculations as taught to them, but didn't understand what they were doing and couldn't apply the calculations to real life problems. He believed that if arithmetic were not taught until later on--preferably not until seventh grade--the kids would learn it with far less effort and greater understanding.[1]

Think of it. Today whenever we hear that children aren't learning much of what is taught in school the hue and cry from the educational establishment is that we must therefore teach more of it! If two hundred hours of instruction on subject X does no good, well, let's try four hundred hours. If children aren't learning what is taught to them in first grade, then let's start teaching it in kindergarten. And if they aren't learning it in kindergarten, that could only mean that we need to start them in pre-kindergarten! But Benezet had the opposite opinion. If kids aren't learning much math in the early grades despite considerable time and effort devoted to it, then why waste time and effort on it?

Benezet followed his outrageous suggestion with an outrageous experiment. He asked the principals and teachers in some of the schools located in the poorest parts of Manchester to drop the third R from the early grades. They would not teach arithmetic--no adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing. He chose schools in the poorest neighborhoods because he knew that if he tried this in the wealthier neighborhoods, where parents were high school or college graduates, the parents would rebel. As a compromise, to appease the principals who were not willing to go as far as he wished, Benezet decided on a plan in which arithmetic would be introduced in sixth grade.

As part of the plan, he asked the teachers of the earlier grades to devote some of the time that they would normally spend on arithmetic to the new third R--recitation. By "recitation" he meant, "speaking the English language." He did "not mean giving back, verbatim, the words of the teacher or the textbook." The children would be asked to talk about topics that interested them--experiences they had had, movies they had seen, or anything that would lead to genuine, lively communication and discussion. This, he thought, would improve their abilities to reason and communicate logically. He also asked the teachers to give their pupils some practice in measuring and counting things, to assure that they would have some practical experience with numbers.

In order to evaluate the experiment, Benezet arranged for a graduate student from Boston University to come up and test the Manchester children at various times in the sixth grade. The results were remarkable. At the beginning of their sixth grade year, the children in the experimental classes, who had not been taught any arithmetic, performed much better than those in the traditional classes on story problems that could be solved by common sense and a general understanding of numbers and measurement. Of course, at the beginning of sixth grade, those in the experimental classes performed worse on the standard school arithmetic tests, where the problems were set up in the usual school manner and could be solved simply by applying the rote-learned algorithms. But by the end of sixth grade those in the experimental classes had completely caught up on this and were still way ahead of the others on story problems.

In sum, Benezet showed that kids who received just one year of arithmetic, in sixth grade, performed at least as well on standard calculations and much better on story problems than kids who had received several years of arithmetic training. This was all the more remarkable because of the fact that those who received just one year of training were from the poorest neighborhoods--the neighborhoods that had previously produced the poorest test results. Why have almost no educators heard of this experiment? Why isn't Benezet now considered to be one of the geniuses of public education? I wonder. [Note: Benezet's work was brought to my attention in a comment that Tammy added to my Feb. 24 post. Thanks, Tammy.]

For decades since Benezet's time, educators have debated about the best ways to teach mathematics in schools. There was the new math, the new new math, and so on. Nothing has worked. There are lots of reasons for this, one of which is that the people who teach in elementary schools are not mathematicians. Most of them are math phobic, just like most people in the larger culture. They, after all, are themselves products of the school system, and one thing the school system does well is to generate a lasting fear and loathing of mathematics in most people who pass through it. No matter what textbooks or worksheets or lesson plans the higher-ups devise for them, the teachers teach math by rote, in the only way they can, and they just pray that no smart-alec student asks them a question such as "Why do we do it that way?" or "What good is this?" The students, of course, pick up on their teachers' fear, and they learn not to ask or even to think about such questions. They learn to be dumb. They learn, as Benezet would have put it, that a math-schooled mind is a chloroformed mind.

In an article published in 2005, Patricia Clark Kenschaft, a professor of mathematics at Montclair State University, described her experiences of going into elementary schools and talking with teachers about math. In one visit to a K-6 elementary school in New Jersey she discovered that not a single teacher, out of the fifty that she met with, knew how to find the area of a rectangle.[2] They taught multiplication, but none of them knew that multiplication is used to find the area of a rectangle. Their most common guess was that you add the length and the width to get the area. Their excuse for not knowing was that they did not need to teach about areas of rectangles; that came later in the curriculum. But the fact that they couldn't figure out that multiplication is used to find the area was evidence to Kenschaft that they didn't really know what multiplication is or what it is for. She also found that although the teachers knew and taught the algorithm for multiplying one two-digit number by another, none of them could explain why that algorithm works.

The school that Kenschaft visited happened to be in a very poor district, with mostly African American kids, so at first she figured that the worst teachers must have been assigned to that school, and she theorized that this was why African Americans do even more poorly than white Americans on math tests. But then she went into some schools in wealthy districts, with mostly white kids, and found that the mathematics knowledge of teachers there was equally pathetic. She concluded that nobody could be learning much math in school and, "It appears that the higher scores of the affluent districts are not due to superior teaching but to the supplementary informal ‘home schooling' of children."

At the present time it seems clear that we are doing more damage than good by teaching math in elementary schools. Therefore, I'm with Benezet. We should stop teaching it. In my next post--about two weeks from now--I'm going to talk about how kids who don't go to traditional schools learn math with no or very little formal instruction. If you have a story to tell me about such learning, which might contribute to that post, please tell it in the comments section below or email it to me at grayp@bc.edu within the next week.[3] I've already collected quite a few such stories, but the more I receive the more I'll have to say.

*Some hyperlinks in these postings are automatically generated and may or may not link you to sites that are relevant. Author-generated links are distinguished from automatic ones by underlines.
[1] L. P. Benezet (1935/1936). The teaching of Arithmetic: The Story of an Experiment. Originally published in Journal of the National Education Association in three parts. Vol. 24, #8, pp 241-244; Vol. 24, #9, p 301-303; & Vol. 25, #1, pp 7-8.
[2] Patricia Clark Kenschaft (2005). Racial equality requires teaching elementary school teachers more mathematics. Notices of the AMS, 52, #2, p 208-212.

[3] If you email me, please forgive me if I take a while to respond to your email. My box has been very full lately. If I use your story, I will use your first name only and will not use the name of the child you write about.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Drawing of Ghost

What better when the art and the funny go together? I wish I had taken a picture of this drawing as it has gone missing. You will just have to use your imagination. :) There was a ghost... in a party hat... and some people (just faces I think) off to the side. The narration: "This is a ghost in a party hat, and he is scaring these people, only they aren't really scared, because you can't take a ghost in a party hat seriously." Aaaaahahaha!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

First day of Spring!

And I went to a homeschooling conference! Well, I did sneak some geocaching in during lunch, and at what a lovely spot! There is a small are of old growth forest right in Tigard that is just lovely.
Akasha with Tippy. These days I can't usually get her away from Akasha to put her anyplace for photos lol.
But we did get a little rock pose - these rocks were part of the cache clue!
Walkin' back to the car.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Flowers and Eggs

Two things that go along well with Spring Equinox!

So here is how Orion celebrated today:
Yes, Ron is asleep lol. Later that day, I made some hard boiled eggs with natural dies. The turmeric made a nice sunny yellow and the blueberries made a kindof purplish color that is hard to see here, but I don't think paprika made the promised pink. :) They weren't white, though, I will say that much.
At dinner we did a short ritual, blessing the eggs with the four elements and asking for what we want to "grow" in the spring. Then we ate some of course. :) We also did our jellybean tradition we started last year of having one of each color in a dish for each person and talking about what Spring things we can think of for each one.

Find 100!

I had read about this cache tied to Bookcrossing, so I thought that would be a good one for number 100. :)

Some people see a cache, others see a step stool.
This is what I get these days when I ask for a smile.
Finally into the cache... score!!!
Got me some Dahl!
And there is another cache in the same park.... Some people see a cache, others see a perch lol.
Learning the ropes.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Later that day...

A bath with a geocaching Travel Bug! :) Her name is Bubbles, and the owner joked about getting pictures in a bubble bath, so I figured it would be a cute opportunity.

Two kids and a bug.
How can a baby in the bath still have this dirty of a face?! :)
Hangin out with bubba.
Orion saying, "The bear is hiding in the snow," and Akasha saying, "Right there!"
Here she is!

More hiding bear. Such clever camo!
Bubbles in bubbles!

A Day Off...

Ron has been working crazy hours lately - like 90 hours a week kind of crazy. So he decided to take a day off. Not sure how he managed it, but he did! We had been planning to go geocaching as a family, and I knew just the spot I wanted to hit! We did start with one near a coffee place on the way - Papa's Haven - and what a find! A really hip little place with amazing java that even has the hemp milk option. Glad we checked it out!

Then it was off to the hidden waterfall in the heart of the city! Yep, you read that right. I can't believe this place is literally right next to Cornell and most people don't know about it. Not only that, but packed with history! It is the site of the actual old Cedar Mill! I had read about this cache and the fact that there isn't really a trail down the hill, so I was worried about the terrain and didn't want to do it by myself with the kids. It turned out to not be that bad, and I was also really glad Ron got to see it.

Orion going in for the grab with some help from Dad.
Pretty little falls. If you could see literally a few feet to your left, you would see the bridge over Cornell.
Seen on the way out on the falls side of the bridge. I laughed out loud.
Sign on the bridge.
I was surprised when I read the park department has never developed the area near the falls, "citing other priorities", but then I saw this sign and found out there is a viewing area right on the bridge! So made a bit more sense. Who knows about it though? Nobody I have asked!

Kindof a strange looking photo of Orion, but it was a funny moment. On the way back to the car he started collecting pinecones and excitedly calling it his "new hobby".

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Yep, Daffodillies

And my favorite kind, with two shades!

Monday, March 15, 2010


The front of our house isn't quite so bare anymore! I love Spring in Portland. Things seem to just keep appearing without any effort on the part of people.

We have been watching the buds on these for awhile, wondering what they would be. They are finally showing a bit of yellow, so I guess they are indeed daffodils, although they are the latest ones I have seen! The front of our house stays shaded, so I guess they were just pokey.
This plant, on the other hand, has just been exploding! I don't know what it is, but I really like it. Akasha loves it and calls the flowers hearts. :)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Ethan is 8!

Got to spend some time with dear friends today in celebration of a birthday.

Owen and Orion on the trampoline while Akasha checks out the slide.

Love this picture - the essence of Owen!
Akasha was very tickled with this little slide.
Owen is as sweet with her as can be.
For several slides, Akasha would plop on her butt at the bottom.
Then she figured out how to catch herself with her feet at the bottom.
Just plain cute.
Then a bit later I looked out the window to see this!
Go girl, go!
This is her "happy face".
"I made it!"
She went down several times with me holding her hand, then went down on her own.... A few seconds of terror on her face!
Classic cat moment.
And the pictures begin and end on the trampoline. :)