I’m thankful for a lot of things this year: my health, the opportunities I have, my family and friends. What are you thankful for?
Nick Yee at Terra Nova posts a link to a BBC article explaining that 90% of the time, gamers are not addicted to gaming. Neither Yee nor the BBC article claim that excessive gaming isn’t a problem, but it’s not addiction the way alcohol or drugs are an addiction. What it represents is a social problem. Many gamers are boys who feel isolated at school or at home. As I pointed out earlier this week, Tyre’s book covers gaming as a problem and although she interviews people who run rehab centers for gaming, she seems to lean more toward the idea that gaming is a substitute for something that’s missing in boys’ lives, mostly success at school and social acceptance.
The BBC article takes parents to task, claiming they don’t put enough restrictions on their children’s gaming activities. I’m sure that’s true in many families. I know from experience, though, that even with restrictions, you don’t always know that your kid is gaming. Kids can sneak a laptop into their room, for example, or go to a friend’s house and play. What I think needs to happen (and I say this partly thinking out loud about what might work for me) is that kids need to be encouraged to do lots of different activities and to have lots of activities available. That means having books around to read, friends to play outside with, other hobbies such as art or building things to fill the time with. Parents have to lay that foundation and sometimes even arrange opportunities for other activities for their kids. This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot as we head into winter. I think too often parents assume this kind of stuff will just happen–and maybe it used to 20 years ago–but not so much anymore.
Via eHub, I found Springpad, a tool that organizes all kinds of things. I haven’t played with it much, but what appealed to me most was the Weekly Meal Planner and Household Budget. On the meal planner, you can add recipes to your day. Then you can generate a shopping list. The formatting is a little wonky–likely as a result of the original web page formatting, but it’s doable. I use an iPhone app that I love for my shopping lists, but I’m usually working from the Cooking Light site and/or a paper planning list. If I could connect those two apps together, that might be heaven.
There are all kinds of other springpads to track health and medical records, exercise plans, to-do lists and more. It’s beta, of course, but definitely looks like an interesting tool to try out for a while.
Laura at 11D mentions the slow blogging movement. My dear friend and colleague, Barbara Ganley, was featured in this article on Slow Blogging, which is oddly in the Fashion and Style section. What’s up with that? I’m kind of a medium blogger myself, though some days (like today, for example), I find enough time and enough interesting tidbits to blog more than once. I think some bloggers lean more toward the habits of essay writers and others toward more rapid-fire commentary. There’s room for both and probably everything in between. The blog is dead! Long live the blog!
Bummer. I just discovered this blog six months or so ago as I started contemplating the possibility of a different job structure. I’ve gotten great advice from it, and just find it interesting as a lens into the world of entrepreneurship and freelancing.
One of the things I did this weekend was to finish this book. I have about 4 books going at the moment and this is the one that kind of stuck. As most of my readers know, I’m struggling with Geeky Boy’s school difficulties and I picked this book up in hopes of gaining some insight or finding a good solution. The book is very well researched and Tyre doesn’t shy away from including some controversial positions, especially in the section on brain research. She doesn’t give those controversial positions a break, either, pointing out, for example, that one proponent of an educational program directed at boys that’s based on brain research is not a researcher himself and doesn’t even have a degree in anything related to brain science. The real scientists are very circumspect about what their results have to say about differences in learning between boys and girls.
The book covers a lot of ground, starting with preschool and going all the way through college with a few detours here and there. My own son was not one of those typical fidgety boys who always needed to be running around so the early chapters don’t apply to my personal experience, though I certainly know boys who fit the descriptions in the book. Some of the personal stories are just heartbreaking. Boys at the age of 6 or 7 who come home dejected and tell their parents they’re incapable of being good, where good is defined as sitting still for long periods of time. In the early years, Tyre covers such issues as recess and ADHD, pointing out that programs like NCLB have meant in some schools the elimination of recess, which ironically makes it harder for boys to focus. She shows how many more boys are diagnosed with ADHD and that teachers themselves often push parents to get their boys diagnosed (even though it’s unethical for them to do so). She criticizes teachers who have no tolerance for the energy of boys and at the end of the book, calls on them to leave the profession.
Her point about school in general is that it favors girls all the way through. From the early years, when sitting still is important to neatness and organization in the middle to working harder in high school, girls do better at the game of school. I’ve seen many signs of this throughout our school years. In second grade, at our very first parent-teacher conference here, Geeky Boy was chastised for his handwriting and his lack of organization. I laughed this off at the time, assuming that he wouldn’t be writing much past elementary school anyway. In our very first year of middle school, however, his teacher again criticized his handwriting and even had the whole class (predominantly boys) practice handwriting for a week. I yelled about this, saying that I didn’t think it was appropriate and that the kids should be learning content. Her response was neatness counts for the final grade. It really just made me mad. In middle school, too, being organized is hugely important and very few boys are good at it. From the book:
‘Eleven-year-olds go from having a single nurturing teacher to having six teachers with different personalitites and different expectations. Then there’s the paperwork. Every teacher gives handouts, requires you to bring certain textbooks or workbooks to class. Each one assigns homework, and each assignment has a deadline.’
It’s more organization than is required of most paying jobs. And it’s required for 11-year-olds. Geeky Boy still hasn’t mastered this. And unfortunately, his parents aren’t much help here. We’ve developed our own coping mechanisms, but we’re don’t naturally keep our lives organized. I, personally, have been working on this since I was about 12! Geeky Boy aces almost every test that’s given to him and he actually talks about the things he’s learning. It’s clear, for instance, that he’s totally into his history course and that he’s getting a lot better content in it than I ever got in school. But he fails to turn in assignments because he forgets to do them or forgets to turn them in and his grade gets dragged down. It’s distressing to think that a smart kid like him isn’t doing well and could, in fact, miss out on opportunities down the road simply because he hasn’t come up with a good way to keep up with all his responsibilities. And, sadly, as Tyre points out, this is exactly what happens to many boys. They miss out on upper level and AP classes in high school, which means they aren’t as good candidates for college.
One chapter that was hard to read was the one of video games. Tyre does not outright condemn them the way many parents do, and even goes so far as to say that there is little evidence to support that video games, even aggressive ones, cause violence in kids. What she does say is that games can be addicting, in part because they fill a void caused by school. Video games offer boys an opportunity to socialize and to be successful. If they don’t feel successful in school, they can feel successful in a game. She tells a couple of stories of young men who get so caught up in their gaming that they end up in rehab programs and/or dropping out of college. This was a hard chapter to read in part because I don’t know if I buy the idea of Internet addiction. On the other hand, I know it’s hard to keep my own son away from the video games. And I worry that he may head down a road where gaming becomes more important than life. At the moment, I’m trying to model this for him, by setting limits for myself and only playing when I’ve gotten my work done. Currently, thanks to his poor grades, he’s banned from gaming anyway. Sigh.
Tyre’s book is full of good information and I would actually recommend that not just parents of boys read it, but parents of girls as well. The book is, however, short on advice for parents. She recommends changing the whole system, a tall order for any one parent to contemplate. Although I’ve had some success in explaining to teachers how telling my son he’s failing because he can’t write neatly leads him to be discouraged in areas that he is actually doing well in, I find the school system so daunting that I don’t interact much with it at all. Tyre would probably advocate that I be a little more active and stubborn about the situation. That idea terrifies me. I will say that knowing it’s not just my kid and that school is stacked against him, I can do my best to help him cope. And that’s pretty much where we are now–coping–and biding our time until high school, where we hope we will begin on a better foot.
In the comments, Janice points out this article in the NY Times also discussing the math problems people have when trying to figure out what’s reasonable to save on. Mr. Geeky and I have spent hours in the past doing the back and forth of deciding whether to buy something or figuring out how to save money. For me, saving $80/mo. on school lunches isn’t worth the time I’d have to spend making the lunches. But both kids have indicated they’d like me to do this. We’ll see.
This is a phrase I’m sure you’ve heard and one my father-in-law said to us a lot when we were in grad school. There’s an interesting conversation going on over at Half-Changed World about the cost of food and how low-income people are buying more Spam and other not-so-healthy options. I have written about health, food, and class twice before. Yes, it’s true many of us do not have the survival skills of our grandparents. I can make my own pasta and bread, but I don’t like to mostly because I lack equipment, time, and space to do so. Of course, I’ve been spoiled by watching food shows. My grandmother’s kitchen was 2/3 the size of mine and she made everything from scratch. I think mostly it’s a matter of establishing certain habits. We have a good farmer’s market, but I forget to go. Many of the CSA’s are $700/yr or thereabouts, which is a bargain really, but if you’re poor, you don’t usually have that kind of money and don’t know what to do with half that food anyway. And growing my own? Well, I have a postage stamp of a yard, which I’ve joked about growing potatoes and cabbages in and then guarding those with a gun, but really, I don’t know much about growing either. I’ve done it. I could do it, but could we really save a lot by doing that?
I spend on average $150/week on groceries. I buy a fair amount of produce, but I do use a lot of shortcuts–frozen veggies, pre-made dough, the occasional frozen entree or side dish–and I buy meat. But I could live without it if I had to. These days, I tend to see what’s on sale and then think about what kinds of things I could make from it. Ground beef was two for one last week. That made a spaghetti meal and tacos. And it wasn’t the lean meat either. And that’s the thing–and what I said 3 years ago too–the good stuff is expensive. You can complain all you want about poor people not knowing how to prepare healthy meals, but when you’re just looking at the bottom line, you’re likely not to pay as much attention to the nutrition labels.
This week is about establishing some sort of routine so that I don’t spend all my time eating bon-bons and watching “What Not to Wear.” I still feel that I need to dig the house out from under its years of neglect, so I really do do laundry almost every day. Something always needs to be washed.
My day starts at 6:30. I wake up Geeky Boy, shove him into the shower while I go get coffee. Mr. Geeky is sometimes responsible for this task, but a) he stays up later than I do and sometimes it’s just as hard to rouse him at 6:30 and b) Geeky Boy doesn’t get up for him as well and c) he’s not very patient with Geeky Boy’s resistance to waking up (yes, pot, kettle).* At 7:00, I wake up Geeky Girl and I go downstairs and make breakfast. Right now, that’s an English muffin and a half grapefruit. Sometimes it’s eggs. Sometimes we skip that and Geeky Boy eats at school.
At 7:30, I drive Geeky Boy to school. We’re within walking distance, but it’s a really long walk. He has to leave no later than 7:10 (which means getting up at 6:00) to get there by 7:35/7:40. When it’s cold, we always drive him. I’m home by 7:45.
Meanwhile, Geeky Girl has been getting ready at home. Mr. Geeky is away this week, but normally he prods her through the process. She needs less prodding than Geeky Boy, which Mr. Geeky likes immensely. He can check email, etc. and not have to be “on” as much. She leaves at 8:00 for the bus.
During my work days, I would get in the shower either right after I got home from dropping Geeky Boy off or between 8 and 8:30. Now it’s 8:30 at the earliest. When Mr. Geeky is here, I usually wait for him, so it’s 9 or 9:30 before I shower. This may seem irrelevant, but I generally don’t start my “work” day until after I’ve showered, but I think delaying that until 10 is going to be problematic, so the shower may get postponed in lieu of work. The joys of working at home!
At any rate, this week, I’ve worked through until lunch on a couple of writing projects, splitting the time evenly between the two, so about 1.5 hours on each. This is working for now, but I have a feeling, I may end up alternating days on each project or working on one in the morning and the other in the afternoon, something like that. The main thing I want to establish is that morning (which is my best brain time) is for work of that nature, not for housework, etc.
After lunch, which lasts only 20 minutes or so, I do housework-type stuff. I’m limiting this to only an hour. Each day is devoted to a particular part of the house. Today is living room day. What I’ve been doing is not just general straightening, but also massive cleanouts. Today, for example, I’m going to work on the entertainment cabinets, getting rid of some things we don’t need and organizing it. I’m also going to hang the blinds, blinds that we purchased at least 6 months ago (this is what I mean by neglect).
From 2-5, I putter. I’ve done different things. Sometimes, I just take a complete break. But mostly, I’ve been reading or finishing up a house project or baking. I’ve also tinkered around with a web site I’m working on for my future possible business, responded to various emails, etc. Geeky Boy gets home anywhere from 3-4 and Geeky Girl gets home at 4, so really, it’s hard to get involved in much of anything if I’m only going to have an hour to devote to it. When they get home, I get them started on homework. I also assign them chores. Every day, as I’m puttering, I think of things for them to do. Yesterday, I had Geeky Boy gather all the trash and take it outside. Geeky Girl is still excavating her room and they both had to clean the kitchen. Today, I’ll probably have Geeky Boy sort the recycling. Every day, there’s work to do on their rooms. I’m trying my best to establish new habits for them. In the past, there’s not really been time for chores except on the weekends and we all kind of rushed around in a vain attempt to maintain order.
This leaves evenings free. Sometimes, there’s more homework to complete or a chore or two to finish up, but generally, by 7:30, we can all relax and do whatever. Yesterday, we watched the Daily Show together. We’ve played games, etc.
I have a feeling that the holidays are going to throw a wrench in all of this. But, I’m hopeful that by at least Christmas, we’ll have a good enough foundation laid that I can really get cracking on things by January. Right now, I consider myself on sabbatical without a project.
*For the record, I think it’s ridiculous that school starts for teenagers at such an ungodly hour. I really, really wish they’d change this, for all our sakes.