Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Playing should be riskier business

I was watching my son play outside. He was hauling a huge log out of the woods to place it across two other logs. He basically made a precarious balance beam. And there he the top of a pretty big hill...testing a balance beam that he built. And I did nothing.

I did nothing because I didn't need to do anything. The likelihood of him getting injured - really injured - was fairly low. The likelihood of him getting extremely upset over my interrupting his fun and then doing whatever he wanted when my back was turned was fairly high.

He looked up to see me watching through the window. I waved. He smiled and waved back. I stop watching and hoped for the best.

I have made my peace with risky play. I know that my son is going to leap off low walls, try to climb trees and forge new paths. Why fight his instinct?

But that is just one Mother's view. It's harder to get companies and governments to think that way. So, it was refreshing to see this article discussing how some playgrounds are bringing a risk factor to their designs.

The best part of the article was reading about the risks they were bringing in: Old lumber, bricks, tires and dirt pits. I liked thinking about the way that children would quickly get over scraped knees and bruises to get back to building catapults and leaning towers.

For now, I haven't seen any of these types of playgrounds in my area. I am sure they are difficult (legally speaking) to set up. Would I let my son play in one? Yes. But I may not want to watch.

Do you let your child engage in risky play? Tell me in the comments.

Monday, March 19, 2018

What's a number line?

I didn't like math in school. I was actually pretty good at math, but I didn't like it. It seemed too finite. I loved writing because there was a lot of room for interpretation, but in math there was only one answer. And I had to show my work.

The math teachers I had all taught us to find our answers using only one method. But that is definitely not the way my son is taught math today. He is given several different strategies to work out the answer. In other words: I don't always understand his homework.

But that's OK. He does. And sometimes he even explains it to me. When he does take the time to explain it to me, I can tell that he likes teaching me something I don't already know. (Also: I am happy that I can understand it.)

The truth is that children relish the opportunity to teach their parents. And the even bigger truth is that this learning style really works - for both parties. When children teach a new skill, it means that they have to have a deeper level understanding of the skill first.

In our home, I can see this with math homework and I can see it in other areas, too. Since we play a lot of family games together, my son absorbs a lot of setup information and much information that he is quite comfortable teaching games to others.

So, I like to ask my son questions - not just because I want to learn something from his answers, but in the hope that he will take the time to teach me something new.

What skills do your children like to teach to others? Tell me in the comments.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Ideal income for your family

I try to have honest conversations with my son about money: How to save some, how to give back, all the different ways to earn it (outside of his traditional allowance). Sometimes the older boy from down the street comes over and talks about how there isn't enough money in his household to do the things in life he wants to do, and that sparks more conversations with my son. Because, like most parents, I want my son to understand how money works but I don't want him to worry about our family's income - it's a tremulous balance.

Usually, I tell him that Mommy and Daddy are good at budgeting - spending money on the things we need in life like our house and food, and then we make decisions together about what to do with our discretionary income - saving for his college and family vacations. For the age that he is at now, that seems to suffice.

Income can be a hard topic for children to understand, but it is important to keep up the ongoing discussion. I never thought that there was one right income for a family (just as I never believed there was one right house type or vacation for family), but evidently I am wrong.

Some people who are way smarter in math than I am figured out what incomes would make people happiest in the U.S. and you can read about those numbers here.

The problem that I have with that research is that money doesn't define happiness. I know people who are happy at every income level and every type of house and various numbers of children. I think that happiness - true happiness - comes from a lot of factors (money being just one of them).

What amount of money do you think you would need to make in a year to be truly happy? Tell me in the comments.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The way my son changed my digital life

There is an utterly shocking number of websites that my son uses during his school week. Several of them are for math, there are a few for reading, and there are a couple that cover both math and reading. I understand that each website is different and tracking different skills, but I dislike how many there are. A few weeks ago, my son brought home a flyer touting a new website that we could use at home. That flyer went into the trash.

The point of my micro rant above is to say that my son sometimes uses my computer in order to get his homework done. After the homework we visit other websites together. And for weeks afterward, I see remnants of our time together in the form of digital ads.

I never really think much of those ads - stalking me with alternative boot options when I've gone shoe shopping or reminding me about the rug I am still thinking over. But when those ads started showing me toy options at Christmas and cute boy clothes after I purchased some polo shirts for his school...I thought about how creepy it was that those online stalking bots now knew I had a son.

I started ignoring the ads again, until I came across this article about one Mom's view of her children's digital ads invading her life. Yes, they are annoying reminders that we are being tracked, but she is able to point out that it is one more of those odd things she may miss seeing when her children are out of the house.

That feeling - the last time I'll get to experience something that my son does - is one that I know well. I look through the old videos I have of him, remembering the sweet way he still used both sign language as well as his burgeoning vocabulary, or the way he would flop face-first onto a pile of pillows. And day...he just stopped doing those things.

Granted, he usually replaces those cute little idiosyncrasies with new ones for me to ogle over, but I need to learn to enjoy them while he does them, and not think too much about when he'll stop doing them and how my life will change.

What small sweet acts have your children stopped doing that you miss? Share with me in the comments.