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Wordless Wednesday: There is no Macrocat, only Zuul February 25, 2015

Posted by mareserinitatis in pets, photography.
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Partial perfectionism February 19, 2015

Posted by mareserinitatis in family, teaching, younger son.
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The younger son had forgotten a text book which he needed to do an assignment, so I told him that he should get done what he could and try to finish it up in the morning.

But mom…she doesn’t accept work unless it’s completely done.

She may not, I told him, but your future teachers probably will, so it’s a good habit.  At least she’ll see you made some effort on it.

There were several classes I’ve had throughout college where I didn’t complete the entire assignment.  Frankly, sometimes I just couldn’t.  Or maybe I was short on time.  However, handing in 8 out of 9 problems, even if it didn’t earn me a perfect grade, certainly earned me enough to get a very high grade in almost all of my classes.

I really don’t like this policy of “it has to be completely done, and I won’t accept anything late.”  I totally get not accepting anything late, but I think the “completely done” thing is bunk.  I would rather a student put it in a thoughtful, partial attempt than not do anything at all.  The feedback I would provide as a teacher may be helpful to the student, too.

The notion of “all or nothing” feeds into perfectionism, particularly the kind that leads to paralysis and lack of motivation.  “It’s not worth it to do anything if she won’t accept incomplete work,” is the kind of mindset I grew up with.  Now that I teach, I know that every effort you make on your homework or on learning something will not be wasted effort.  Few people ever get any topic 100%, but putting in time and effort will get you closer.

I would always tell my students to put the best effort you can into your homework and then go to the teacher for help on the rest.  Teachers would rather see an effort or an attempt to solve something rather than a student who shows up empty-handed and saying, “I don’t understand.”  It’s very hard to understand how to help the student unless you can see where they’re struggling.

This is a good life skill to have, too.  Is it better to wait to clean the kitchen fully or should you at least take 10 minutes to do what you can?  Personally, I try to do what I can because I seldom have blocks of time to allow me to do things with the full depth and effort I would like.  You can make progress doing it a bit at a time.  It’ll never be as fast as you want, but it’s better to keep doing it than forget it because you can’t do it ‘right’.  Once it’s done, it doesn’t always matter how quickly you did it.

It also dissuades people from trying new things.  “Oh gee…I can’t cook crepes perfectly the first time out, so there’s really no point in trying.”  Honestly, a mangled crepe is almost always better than no crepe at all.  More importantly, you’ll learn from the experience.

I am therefore doing my best to teach my son that some effort is far better than no effort.  There are few things in life that we can do as well and fully as we like, so I want to disavow him of the notion of “all or nothing” right away.

Wordless Wednesday: You’re not going to eat all of that, are you? February 18, 2015

Posted by mareserinitatis in pets, photography.
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Wordless Wednesday: Where’s dinner? January 21, 2015

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Wordless Wednesday: Away from my treasure, ya scurvy two-legged land lubbers! (or cats laying on things) January 14, 2015

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New Year’s Goals: The 2015 FCIWYPSC edition January 1, 2015

Posted by mareserinitatis in career, family, grad school, personal, religion, research, running, work, writing.
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I’m not doing resolutions and haven’t done them for a while.  Goals, however, are another story, particularly when they’re of the quantifiable type.  While some of these are large goals (like with running), I break them down to weekly and daily goals, as well.

Writing this out is helpful because not only does it provide me with some accountability, it helped me realize I was bogging myself down with too much.  I had to cut a few items.

These are the things I think I can manage with some consistency:

  • Career/Work: Publish at least one paper and attend at least one conference.
  • Career/Dissertation: Set a minimum amount of time to work on my thesis each week, though the weekly total will vary if there’s a holiday involved.  (I do some version of this, but I think I need to make my planning a bit more specific.) Also, attend one conference this year.
  • Family time: Family play day once per month.
  • Marriage: Keep up with the weekly date with the spousal unit.
  • Self-care/Religious: Center down (or if you prefer, meditate or pray) for at least ten minutes a day, not necessarily all at once.
  • Self-care/Sleep: Stick to a consistent (and early) bed-time at least 4 days per week.
  • Self-care/Physical activity: Run or walk 500 miles by the end of October.  I did about 200 outdoor miles this year but didn’t keep track of treadmill time at all, so I think this is doable, especially in light of my next goal.  I’ve also learned I like to ramp down the activity around the holidays (too much to do), so that amounts to about 11.5 miles per week.
  • Fun goal: Do half-marathons in two new states this year.  Two down, 48 to go. I’m hoping to cross Wisconsin and Michigan off the list this year.  (And I’ve already registered for one of them.)
  • Misc/Blog: Post on the blog at least twice per week.  (I do that on average, but sometimes there are long gaps in between.)
  • Misc/Email: I will keep my main mailbox below 3000 messages.  That may sound horrible, but this is 1/5 of what it was just last week.  I need to either delete those messages, read them, or unsubscribe from all the spam I’m getting…probably mostly the latter.  Lots of unread email makes me overwhelmed.

So do you have any goals for the year?

The Christmas Aftermath December 26, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in computers, family, younger son.
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Christmas presents are better when they have an element of DIY. The younger son is learning how to replace a laptop screen…

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Mom, could you homeschool me? December 15, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, gifted, homeschooling, younger son.
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I knew we had to do something when, early in the school year, the younger son asked me to homeschool him.  When I asked him why, there was the range of answers that included he’s not looking forward to losing recess when he gets to middle school, he’d like to spend more time with me (obviously we’re nowhere being a teenager right now), and even wanting to finish college at 14 or 15.

All I could think was, “Aren’t you supposed to be the easy one?!”

He is.  Honestly, homeschooling him would be emotionally easy, but I’m not so ready to quit everything and become a full-time mom again.  Or maybe ever.  Not sure, and hope to never find out.  The fact of matter is that he’s involved in so many activities that homeschooling him would involve me becoming a full-time chauffeur, and I know it would make me crazy.

On the other hand, he’s said he’s not sure he wants to leave school because he likes it and would miss his friends.  After several discussions, he told me:

I think I need to write a pro and con list.

In the meantime, I’ve done a list in my head.  First and foremost, he likes school.  To me, that is the prime reason to keep him there.  If he’s got a good thing going, don’t mess with it.

Beyond this, however, we’re discussing some academic acceleration for a couple subjects at school.  I honestly do think that he’s better off staying where he is, but it’s also clear that the standard curriculum is not going to cut it.  At a couple points, I contemplated whole grade acceleration, but I’m now opposed to this idea.  I spent a lot of time reading through the Iowa Acceleration Scale material, and he has a couple things going against him: he’s already one of the youngest in his class, he’s small, and he’s athletic.  Participation in sports is a major no-no if you’re going to bump kids up entire grades because this can have very real implications for the physical development and ability later on.  I’m now certain that this would be a bad idea for him, and so subject acceleration in a couple areas seems to be the best solution.  Fortunately, the school is, so far, open to discussion.

The other thing I’ve come to realize is that there’s really no hurry in getting through school.  Is it really any better to go to college early and find a job early and lose that much time from your childhood?  I realize that, for some kids, this is the only way to deal with the gap between mental ability and typical school pacing.  Or maybe they are really that driven.  I am fortunate in the fact that my kid doesn’t seem to require that level of acceleration, and I’d like to give him as much time as possible to explore his options.

I think, most of all, I want him to understand that there’s no reason to hurry up and get there, despite the fact that a lot of people think that’s somehow a sign of competence. I guess I’m starting to realize that no one really will care if he finishes high school in two years or four…just that he get there and finished.  If he finishes in four, though, there’s the opportunity to explore more interests and do other things without the stress and expectations of adulthood weighing him down.  Given the opportunity, there are a lot of other things I wish I could’ve done in my teens that aren’t an option now.  I therefore hope he understands the value of taking his time: maybe he can learn to enjoy the journey.

Lexile ludification November 23, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, younger son.
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A while back, I wrote about our first experience with lexile ranges.  The short story is that lexile ranges are indicators of reading levels that are determined by sentence length and word frequency.  While they may be a useful tool to picking out books for children, they don’t at all address the complexity of themes or topics addressed in the books.  My concern was that the library at school would try to prevent the younger son from picking out books that may be above his lexile range but are ones that he is nonetheless interested in reading.

It looks like that’s not a concern now.  The younger son recently got some new lexile ranges from fall testing, and they are apparently higher than most high school students.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to find books for a kid in elementary school who is reading at high school level?  The teacher is adamant we find him some books in that range, but it’s extremely difficult to find ones that are emotionally appropriate.  There are several that are non-fiction, but let’s be realistic: they may not keep his interest.  About the only thing I did manage to find was the DragonSinger trilogy by Anne McCaffery.  Interestingly enough, these were books I’d been suggesting for a while as they were some of my favorites as a child.  There are some of CS Lewis’ writings in the list, also, but nothing from Narnia fits the bill.

I dug through my library and found a book I had intended to use for the older son: Some of my best friends are books.  (The older son was never in need of book suggestions, so it’s been sitting there unused.)  This is a book that suggests age appropriate materials for gifted readers.  I was glad to see that I was on the right track in suggesting several books to the younger son in terms of emotional content.  However, most of the books are still technically too low in the lexile category.

I don’t know that I feel good giving him books that he’s not emotionally mature enough to handle.  The older son has been combing through his library with suggestions of some of his favorite books.  However, even between the two of us, virtually everything keeps coming up short.  I’m contemplating telling the teacher that until younger son is ready to read War and Peace, we may have to worry more about maturity than lexile range at this point.  I would rather he read a good book than a difficult one.

 

Friday fun: The Rubik’s Cube November 21, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in math, younger son.
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As a freshman in college, I remember going to a toy and puzzles shop in Old Town Pasadena.  I became engrossed in a 3D puzzle display.  You know the horseshoes connected with chains that have a metal ring?  That’s the kind of puzzles in the display.  I spent an hour and a half looking for one I couldn’t solve because I decided that if I couldn’t solve it, I would actually buy it.  An hour and a half later, I’d gone through almost 30 and the store owner was giving me the stink eye, so I left.  My date was also rather annoyed, too, though apparently impressed with my puzzle skills.

The one puzzle I have never solved, however, is the Rubik’s cube.  The younger son just received one about a week ago, so I decided to go ahead and buy him a book to solve it.  I had one as a youngster, but was never able to solve it except through the brick removal-and-replacement method, which, while extremely efficient, kind of defeats the purpose.  I’ve decided, however, that it’s about time I learn how to do it, so this will probably be something we can do together over Thanksgiving.  I did some searching for a video tutorial, as well, and came across several as well as a lot of fun videos.

This was one of my favorites, and it makes me wonder what are some other unusual ways that people solve Rubik’s cubes.  While I think I could feasibly do it one-handed (at some point), juggling with the other hand is probably out.  I’ll have to see what the younger son thinks his chances are.

 

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