Chemical Chaos

August 2, 2011

Sometimes when I read a book I will find myself attracted to other books on the same topic. This time my latest readings have been on chemistry and the periodic table. The one that started it was The Disappearing Spoon, which is a history of chemistry, the hunt for elements and the creation of the periodic table (check out the extras, especially the videos). This romp into chemistry and the personalities involved is accessible to everyone, including students in upper elementary school. Read the rest of this entry »


The Rocket Boys of the National Institutes of Health

June 14, 2011

You have probably heard of the Rocket Boys of October Sky, which is a great movie for upper elementary and middle school kids. But did you know that the National Institutes of Health, NIH, also had their own Rocket Boys? Read the rest of this entry »


Grow a Gardener, or At Least Influence a Future Eater

March 11, 2011

Believe it or not, spring is just around the corner (at least in the Northern Hemisphere). I visited a flower and garden show a couple of weeks ago, where there were beautiful blooms inside while it snowed outside. I am itching to get out and play in the dirt.

I have been leafing through a nursery catalog (ooh, I think I’ll try a potted peach tree on the deck!), I have some seeds and at the garden show I bought lilies, and seed potatoes (where I’ll be trying the trashcan potatoes again).
Read the rest of this entry »


Brain Awareness Week!

March 2, 2011

Coming up later this month is Brain Awareness Week. Started in 1996 by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives to educate kids and their families about the brain and brain science.

If you are near Washington, DC check out the exhibits and activities at the National Museum of Health and Medicine. If you can’t (like most of us) see what activities there are for kids at the Neuroscience for Kids website.

Also, download this week’s Parenting Within Reason podcast where Colin interviews Dr. Joanne Deak about her book Your Fantastic Elastic Brain.


Best Parents Ever

February 22, 2011

A few of us at SBP have caught Angry Birds Fever.  And this video is so awesome it kinda makes me a little weepy.  I mean, what is better than parents who do this much for a cake?  Nothing!  Nothing is better!


The Wonderful World of Statistics

January 29, 2011

We as parents stumble along trying to make sense of the world as we make sure our kids grow up healthy and educated. One thing that we often encounter is the mysterious world of statistics. Read the rest of this entry »


My Fascination With the Duggars and Quiverfull

January 22, 2011

On episode 42 of our Parenting Within Reason podcast, we interview Vyckie Garrison, who is the editor and a contributing writer of  the blog No Longer Quivering.  Vyckie left the Quiverfull movement and writes about her experiences within it.  Quiverfull followers believe in letting God plan their families, and they often have ten or more children.  (Vyckie had seven.)  They also homeschool and instill the idea of submission among wives and daughters, who are brought up as domestic servants and “helpmeets” for their husbands.  Vyckie really gave us a wonderful interview.  She was very open about her life and her journey away from the Quiverfull movement.  Her blog is a fascinating read, especially because the women who write for it break up their posts into continuing episodes that draw the reader in.  The stories have completely hooked me.

The Duggars belong to this form of fundamentalist Christianity, and I have not been able to get enough of their show since I learned this.  I love watching 19 Kids and Counting, as much as it sort of freaks me out and scares me.  I find the kids and the parents totally charming, even when they’re talking about how the earth is 6000 years old.  While doing a little procrastinating from another writing project, I came across the video above.

The Quiverfull movement has become a topic of peculiar fascination for me.   I first heard about the Christian Patriarchy on Hemant Mehta’s Friendly Atheist blog.  He posted several excerpts from Katherine Joyce’s book Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement.  Geek that I am, I asked for the book as a present, ironically enough, for Mother’s Day.

One of the aspects of Quiverfull that I find the most alarming is that some parents within it adhere to a strict philosophy of child rearing espoused by a couple named Michael and Debbie Pearl, who have published the book, To Train Up a Child.  Excerpts can be found here, and this is the passage that is most emblematic of the training method advised by this book:

There is much satisfaction in training up a child. It is easy and challenging. When my children were able to crawl (in the case of one, roll) around the room, I set up training sessions.

Try it yourself. Place an appealing object where they can reach it, maybe in a “No-no” corner or on an apple juice table (That’s where the coffee table once sat). When they spy it and make a dive for it, in a calm voice say, “No, don’t touch it.” They will already be familiar with the “No,” so they will pause, look at you in wonder and then turn around and grab it. Switch their hand once and simultaneously say, “No.” Remember, you are not disciplining, you are training. One spat with a little switch is enough. They will again pull back their hand and consider the relationship between the object, their desire, the command and the little reinforcing pain. It may take several times, but if you are consistent, they will learn to consistently obey, even in your absence.

That’s right.  Use a switch on the child when he or she reaches for a toy.  Specifically, the Pearls recommend a quarter inch plumbing supply line.

The idea here is that by teaching your child to obey you rather than follow his own natural inclinations, you will instill enough obedience for the child to forego his sinful nature.  Obedience is the most important trait according to this thought process.  If you can’t obey your parents, you won’t obey God, and you’ll end up in Hell.

Vyckie says she did not practice this particular form of discipline with her kids, but she did emphasize obedience as the highest virtue, and she tells us in the interview how it drained the spirit right out of her children.  Once liberated from this dogma, the kids began to flourish and grow as individuals.

Vyckie’s blog has a heartrending series of apologies from parents who feel now that the stress upon obedience wrought psychological damage upon their children.  In an especially moving post, one writer speaks of the intense love she felt for her baby and the gratitude she felt upon finding guidance to protect her child:

If I could sum up the message that this book spoke to a young mother who deeply loved her baby, it was this:

“Momma, your baby is a sinner. He/she will try to manipulate you. Things like a child not liking a diaper change and squirming to be free are an example of a sinful will attempting to dominate you. You may think this is a little thing, but it’s huge. Why? Because if you let the child dominate you, the child will win. If the child wins, the child will learn that rebellion pays. The child will then grow up to probably reject God and go to Hell, because a rebellious heart will not want to follow God. So, Momma, never ever let your child win. Your child’s exertion of will [which includes anything you deem unacceptable---grumpiness, for example] is an act of war, and parenting is about the parent winning any and all battles of wills.”

I loved my baby. How grateful, absolutely grateful I felt, that someone was there to show me the way.

The mother then expresses her regret:

Baby,

I am so very very sorry. Everything I did, I did out of love. But that doesn’t excuse any of it, nor does it take it away. And I am sorry.

I suppose I find this so emotional, because I can relate so well to the ferocity of love that a new mother feels, along with the weight of responsibility for not only keeping this new being alive but somehow instilling virtue and life skills.  So many of us feel clueless and turn to books.  Who knows?  Maybe swaddling will turn out to be totally wrong and I’ll have to regret that one.  It’s easy to get misguided as a parent, and we all do the best we can.  Sleep training?  I’m still torn.  I’m sure I got that one wrong, if only because I never quite decided to do it one way or the other.  We’re all looking for answers, and the secular parents among us might find the wrong answers, too.

I hope you’ll give episode 42 a listen.  It’s a great interview.


Bats are Cool!

November 27, 2010

Bats at Chris' dad's hummingbird feeder in Arizona

Colin interviews Mary Kay Carson, author of The Bat Scientists and Dr. Merlin Tuttle, one of the subjects of the book: Episode 36 of Parenting Within Reason.

Catch up with other episodes here.


IMAX: Hubble

November 12, 2010

I’ve taken the kids to “Hubble” at the IMAX twice now. It’s really a thrilling introduction to the shuttle program, from zero gravity training at NASA’s swimming pools, to the thrust of blasting off into space, to the tense moments as the astronauts try to fix the world’s most delicate instrument in space with stubby-fingered gloves.

I also appreciated Leonardo Dicaprio’s humanist-themed narration. The film focused on our home planet’s uniqueness in the universe, and how the Hubble is helping us put Earth into context with the wonders and immensity of the cosmos, much like Carl Sagan did a few decades ago.

I’ve yet to see “Hubble” in 3D as it was intended. I can only imagine how amazing it would be. But even without the love-em-or-hate-em glasses, the film really takes you on a trip through the blackness of space and into the dust of a nearby nebula. It’s spectacular!

Check out this video on how they transformed 2D Hubble images into the third dimension…


The Spider Pavilion

October 15, 2010

Z and I have been doing a lot of science trips lately.  Most recently, we checked out the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, which did not disappoint.  I have vivid memories of the Natural History Museum in New York, and nothing has every really topped that experience of seeing giant dinosaur bones as a five-year-old.  But I was pleased to see that the LA museum is a pretty close second.  They’ve got the giant hallways of wildlife dioramas, and that’s enough to get an NYC girl nostalgic.  For Z, who’s two, it was just an awesome place to run around and yell, “Elephant!  Polar bear!”

We also bought tickets to the special exhibit going on now:  the Spider Pavilion.  It’s a small outdoor space where visitors can get up close and personal with spiders.  The spiders are out in the open–no glass between you and them.

When I describe this exhibit to my friends, they immediately know what I somehow managed to hide from myself while preparing for this trip:  room full of spiders plus Julie equals HORRIBLE IDEA.

Z is so fascinated by bugs of all kinds that I have become much less freaked out by them than I used to be.  So I was honestly thinking that seeing giant, Malaysian spiders up close would be super cool.  Here’s what happened instead. Read the rest of this entry »