For no particular reason, Carolyn and I decided that this morning is the time to start our blog. We’ve been talking about it every now and then for a while. Our idea is that if we have to clean up the house, we could make it a little more fun (or something) by making a blog about it.

Carolyn told me just now that her reason for wanting to clean the house was so that she can make videos. Whenever she wants to make a video (which she loves to do), I groan and complain because I don’t want her showing any of the clutter in the house.

That got me started thinking about why I want to clean the house. My first answers were easy – so that I can have more space for people, so that I can find things, so that I can have space to do things, because it’s embarassing. It’s true, I want to have a clean table so I can make costumes, and I want to be able to walk around without feeling like I am navigating a maze.

But then Carolyn and I have an argument about whether we are going to start the blog this morning, and I realize the #1 reason I want to clean the house. I don’t want the house to keep getting in the way of my relationship wtih Carolyn. I want to be able to do reader’s theatre with her without realizing that we can’t find a space to do it. I want to be able to have our science supplies available and a clean, washable table so we can study things with her magnifying glass or make mixtures. Play games. Run simulations. Wrap ourselves up in scarves and pretend we are mitochondria – are those the ones with the little fibers? Play music and dance – at least on the days I can dance. Because I have issues with my back. Intense pain sometimes. I’m supposed to avoid hurting it, and sometimes it feels like that itself is going to kill me: having to be still and inactive, and feeling useless.




Carolyn and I quit everything.  Vision Therapy, home visits, occupational therapy.  Everything. Back in February we sliced out quite a few things – chorus, the new reading program, gymnastics.  This week, we canned everything else.  Monday mornings we still have my chiropractor appointment.  The rest of the week is open.

I didn’t tell the vision therapist properly; I simply cancelled my appointments.  She called up to urge us to keep coming.  ‘Carolyn really needs this therapy,’ she said. Yes, I agree.  Carolyn really does need this therapy.  But, I told the vision therapist, we’ve got to put it on hold for a while. I let her know that we felt the therapy is very important and we intend to come back.  I assured her that I knew that Carolyn’s progress did not put us in the clear.  I tell her we plan to keep working on the homework we’ve already been given and doing eye exercises at home, as part of our regular curriculum.

‘It might only be a month,’ I tell her.  I am polite, but I’m not negotiating.

None of this seems to reassure her at all.  She keeps trying to persuade me until I mention, ‘It’s not just you, by the way.  We’re stopping everything.  The in-home person, the occupational therapy, all of it.’  Her attitude seems to change a little.  Not to understanding, but more as if she has realized the truth: she is dealing with a lunatic.  There is nothing she can do to change it.  She reiterates that she thinks I am making the wrong choice, but lets it go.

I tell one mom, ‘I started reading this book called, ‘Just Too Busy.’

‘That’s right,’ she responds.  ‘Simplify.  I’d love to do that.’

I tell another mom, ‘We need some time to do reading, writing, and math.’

‘Absolutely,’ she replies.  ‘And just be a kid.  Play outside.  I’m with you, 100%.’

‘I can’t believe it,’ says another mom.

The occupational therapist is agreeable.  ‘Sure, no problem.  You can always do it later.’

‘How do you feel about it?’ asks my mom, on the phone.

I feel ecstatic.  Delighted, relieved.  Confident, proud, hopeful.  Ready.



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Shirley’s Preschool

“Learning is not a linear process. It happens when it happens: in a moment of inspiration, while looking at a flower, digging in the garden, diverting a stream, humming to oneself, scrubbing a floor.”

We should give marshmallows to every kindergartner. We should say, ‘You see this marshmallow? You don’t have to eat it. You can wait. Here’s how.’

When Walter Mischel studied the mechanics of marshmallow restraint in the 1960’s, he certainly didn’t expect that we’d still be studying it 40 years later. You may have heard that children who were able to resist eating a marshmallow for 15 minutes later turned out to be more successful by a variety of measures, including SAT scores. You may not have heard the details of what Mischel discovered.

The Appeal of Two Marshmallows.
The marshmallow-resistors in Mischel’s study all resisted in the same way: They distracted themselves. Even more interesting, when non-resisting children were given tips on how to distract themselves, they were also able to resist eating the first marshmallow.

It appears from Mischel’s study that self-control is a crucial predictor of success, and, importantly, that it can be improved through teaching.

Today, scientists are using brain scans and further studies to find out more about how self-control works, why it’s so important, and how it can be taught. You can read more about this research (but not learn how to increase your own self-control) in the New Yorker article, Don’t: The Secret of Self Control (May 18, 2009).

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