iPad is not a 4-letter word

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, with my 7-year son using an iPad at school, and doing Google searches, reading books, and listening to music at home. Even my preschooler practices writing, plays memory games, and looks at family pictures on my iPad.

They also love taking selfies.
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I don’t want my kids to fear technology when it is the most amazing educational resource since the invention of writing. The problem is not screen-time itself. The problem is how to teach kids to responsibly use technology as a tool for good rather than evil. Like learning to cut food with a knife, the knife itself has no inherent moral quality, the morality comes from how the user perceives and uses the tool.

“The computer is, without question, the single most important tool of modern society. Our limiting kids’ computer time would be like hunter-gatherer adults limiting their kids’ bow-and-arrow time.” Peter Gray, author Free To Learn

Read this perspective on it: Technology and Natural Learning from City Kids Homeschooling blogger Kerry McDonald. She has a knack for putting into words what my gut is trying to tell me.

summer slide

For the first time in my parenting career, I was faced with the task of avoiding the dreaded “summer slide” for my rising second grader. A month into the summer, after a vacation in Los Angeles, his own 7th birthday party, July 4th, trips to the beach, and more birthday parties, I decided it was time.

I made him a reading clipboard, with his school reading log on it, and about 5 pages of suggested book titles. He dutifully highlighted books he thought he’d like. We went to the library every week, and I talked him into picking out 1 or 2 books at a time. I nagged. A lot. And I hated it. The nagging and the not reading and the crankiness.

Then I read this post from my favorite homeschooling blog, City Kids Homeschooling: Unschooling and the 3 Rs. And I realized… the more I asked, the more I nagged, the more I hounded and begged him to read, the chances of him ENJOYING reading would decrease exponentially.

Children are natural learners. Even 7-year-olds who act like tough guys. They have a curiosity about the world that we’ve left behind in favor of checking things off the list, getting the better grade, filling out the reading log. Parents can be overly focused on achievement, and so can our schools.

Why do we push our young children to complete activities for the sake of being finished with them, like Type A control freaks? Instead, we should be surrounding them with natural opportunities to learn. My son doesn’t care if he reads 40 books this summer or zero. He just wants to do fun things.

So I stopped talking about it. I brought home books from the library by the bagful, and I left them on his desk or in his room. Books about sharks, baseball, and dinosaurs. Books from his beloved Magic Tree House series, a graphic novel version of The Wizard of Oz, and picture books he could read to his little brother. I never mentioned them, I never demanded he read them. And HE FREAKIN’ READ EVERY ONE.

Not only that, but he was excited about what he read. He LEARNED things that he didn’t know before. Reading made him THINK.

And isn’t that the whole point of reading?

goat rodeo days

Any blog post that compares a day with kids to “a huge goat rodeo” is gem. My house has felt like a goat rodeo all summer.

Goat Rodeo days. These involve multiple kids, all mobile and past the napping years, seemingly bent on devising complex plots to undermine your attempts to even start any item on the day’s to-do list.

baby goats are cute

On days like this, I can’t wait to hit the Sweet Spot. When the kids are old enough to entertain themselves. When no one needs me to give them a snack or a juice, or a band-aid, or even a hug.

We’re not there yet. I yell a lot. I have butts to wipe. I hear mamamamamamamamama ALL. DAY. LONG. And sleeping through the night means I fell asleep putting the boys to bed and decided not to bother getting into my own bed.

But all these things that drive me bananas mean that they need me. And someday they won’t.

RANTS FROM MOMMYLAND: The Sweet Spot.

new normal

My thoughts are all over the place after this week of utter insanity.

I think about the 7 Boston Marathons I’ve watched from the Crate and Barrel store on Boylston Street, where this year the windows were blown out by the blast a few buildings away. The attack happened at the time when the majority of runners were approaching the finish. Not the elite runners, but the everyday folks who run for personal reasons, in pursuit of a goal they may have never achieved before. These are our mothers, brothers, fathers, sisters, cousins, coworkers, neighbors, teachers, and friends. Unlike 9/11, there was no political or economic significance to the time or place. The marathon attack was at a community event, on runners and spectators just like you and me, and the only motive was to create fear, pain, and extreme suffering for this entire city and nation.

I think about this new reality we live in, and are raising our children in, where we are constantly aware of the possibility of an attack by evil people. Evil people aren’t just leaders of other countries with nuclear weapons, they are not just targeting people with money and power. Evil people are hurting our children, and it breaks my heart to think of how many children have been lost all too recently.

I think about what I’ve told my first-grader about this past week. “Some very bad people put bombs in Boston where people were watching the marathon. Yes, it is near where I used to work. Lots of people got hurt, but even more people were helping to rescue them.” And yesterday, “The police want us to stay home today because they are trying to catch the bad man who hurt so many people. It’s okay to be scared, but I will protect you, and we are safe here.”

I say it in a calm, almost matter-of-fact tone so he doesn’t get scared. A tone that tries to makes it seem normal. But I don’t want this to be his normal. I don’t want him to think that bombings and man-hunts and sirens and helicopters flying overhead and lock-downs are normal.

I want him to think that normal is having a picnic at Jamaica Pond, walking to the top of Peter’s Hill with his little brother and dog, meeting up with friends at the playground at Fallon Field, going to school that doesn’t have to close because of a “situation.” This particular situation is over, but, pardon my language, this shit is still fucked up.

I want him to think that normal is watching the runners cross the finish line at the Boston Marathon on Patriots Day. Will we? I don’t know yet.

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i miss film cameras

I miss the days when you had to take your film out of the camera, and bring it to the developing place, wait a week, and go back to pick them up in order to even see your pictures. The anticipation of getting your pictures back from your vacation was almost as good as the trip itself. Back then, I always had prints of the pictures I took, hundreds of prints, so I was motivated to frame them, make albums, scrapbooks, send them to friends and family, all that good stuff.

Now, I take pictures constantly, but with my phone. And they stay in my phone. I try to upload (or is it download?) them onto my computer, or to a photo sharing service like Shutterfly or Picasa. But it takes a long time. Or at least, in my mind, it’s going to take a lot of effort, and so the pictures stay in my phone.

What I do love about digital pictures are these handy-dandy, pretty, and easy-to-order photo books! Once I get it together to get my photo files up-or-downloaded, it’s insanely simple to pick out ones to put in a hardcover bound book. Click click click, and you have an album.


So, 3 months later, I’ve finally ordered a photo book of my little guy’s 3-year-old birthday party. The cutest part is when he asks, “Can we read the Dash book again? No, the Little Kid Dash book, not the Baby Dash one.” So cute.

Someday, I will be organized enough to take pictures of my kids’ artwork and doodles and projects that I don’t have space to store. I will updownload them onto Shutterfly and order compact, color-coordinated, and chronological books. We can all dream, right?