The Minds of Girls

At the Cincinnati Convention, I saw Michael Gurian’s The Minds of Girls.  He is a neuroscientist and you can find more info at his website here:

The 60 minute session was full, full, full – tons of facts about the brain and specifically how the minds of girls works.  I’ll just share a few of the practical things that I learned from this session.

Brain Differences
A comparison of the girl brain and the boy brain side by side show the most stark differences at the age of 10 years old.  The differences are so sharp, it’s a wonder that girls and boys relate to each other at all!  At this point, there are more differences in the brains of the sexes, than there are similarities.  The brains gradually change to grow more and more alike.  By age 20, there are more similarities than differences.

How Girls Think
A girl’s mind sees everything, and this all encompassing vision can paralyze them.  They see what’s right and they see what’s wrong.  This leads to frustration and the common phrase “I can’t do this!”  Another thing that girls do is self-deprecate.  “I’m stupid.” “I can’t do this.”  This is hard wired in girls, and what has allowed girls to bond through the ages.  Basically, by insulting herself, she’s essentially saying “I’m not threatening”.  This is also how girls receive help.  They cry out, and someone comes to help them.  Gurian encouraged us, though, to not give in to the helplessness.  Girls need to learn independence, and she needs to learn how to tackle things that are hard.  He recommended these steps:

  1. Step away.  Say “I’ll come back in 10 mins”
  2. Make sure she understands the first part of the sequence (whatever she is learning).
  3. Break it down into segments.  Ask, “Do you know how to do this?”
  4. Allow her to explain.

The “leaving for 10 mins” is important.  When a girl hits that point of frustration, her brain shuts down in order to process her emotions.  Zero learning happens after she’s reached that level of stress.  That’s why it’s important that parents do not use harsh tones, or trigger that stress.  And once that stress level is reached, allow your daughter 5-10 mins to process and come back.  Don’t give too long!  But after 5-10 mins, come back and try again, using the tips above.

Teaching Girls Well

  • ADD is underdiagnosed in girls.  Girls can hide it well and still do basic tasking.  The ADD girl is flighty and can’t do one thing in depth.
  • Ears are more sensitive in girls.  Girls are quieter.  Tone of voice is important.  A sharp tone will shut down cognitive function and cortisol levels increase.  Provide a quieter environment with fewer distractions.
  • Give full directions and answer questions before they begin to work.
  • Girls need warmer rooms, generally, in order to work well (boys typically need cooler rooms to be comfortable).
  • Girls tend to like collaborative work, but competition is also very good for them.
  • Girls are typically motivated by grades and a desire to please.
  • Small talk and relaxation before tests/quizzes

Competition & Risk Taking

We all know boys are highly competitive and take risks, seemingly without thinking!  But girls think everything through, and don’t usually take risks.  Some girls avoid risks because they have the perfectionistic genome.  It’s important that parents give girls permission to make mistakes.  Girls need to get comfortable with failure.  Dads and their influences of risk taking are very good for girls.  In fact, Gurian encouraged us that having two parents with different styles of parenting is GOOD.  If one parent is having a difficult time reaching a girl in a certain subject, switch parental teachers.  If Math is a problem subject for Mom & Daughter, have Dad take over on that subject.  If you, the parent, aren’t having success – don’t be too hard on yourself – girls need diverse influence.  Don’t be afraid to have another person (Dad, or outsource that subject to another teacher) teach that subject.

Problem solving

Girls experience, express, and expel.  Allow your daughter time to express their feelings.  As she is expressing, listen for the repetition.  When she starts to repeat the same thought, stop her and paraphrase what she said.  Allow 1-2 mins for her explain, and then when repetition sets in say, “Ok, I’m done.  I got that you felt that way.”  Listen for the gem or kernel in the complaint, but not the whole thing.  Don’t try to boost self-esteem by saying “you’re right to feel that way, let’s make you feel better” – instead, say “I hear you, now how can we solve that?”  It’s OK that they feel discomfort.  Focus on problem solving.

Technology and Diet

Both technology and diet affect brain development.  With technology, limit more when young.  A 15yo can handle more technology than a 2yo – however, limits are important.  Do not allow technology useage (TV, computer, smart phone, tablet, etc.) 1 hour before bed.  Read a book, or do something that doesn’t involve a screen.  So much of brain development happens during sleep, but technology invades that process.

Sugar also affects the brain.  Sugar causes creation of insulin, which the brain must process, and then no learning happens during that process. So limit sweets during lessons!  Girls tend to be more sedentary, so exercise is a problem for girls.  Obesity affects self-esteem, and Gurian strongly recommended tackling weight issues now in youth.  Allowing obesity to continue through childhood into adulthood triggers 3 obesity genes, and this is much harder to overcome later on.

STEM & Girls

It is a good idea to give spatial assignments to girls.  Recognize that girls will want to use their verbal skills to work it through.  The talking strategy helps them.  Give one assignment allowing them to talk it through, and then give them another assignment that is silent, and must be worked tactily.  These STEM skills can be developed in girls and it is good to give them these types of assignments.


How to Study Logic

Intro Logic Books
My 7yo wrote the title on my notebook: Mama’s Logic Book. Simple, yet classy.

My Challenge B student will be studying Introductory Logic and Intermediate Logic next year.  This is always the subject that makes up-and-coming Challenge B moms tremble.  It seems so intimidating!  So, a group of us moms decided to get together weekly.  On our own, we each struggle to find time to work through 5 lessons.  Then, we get together and have discussions.  Oh, the discussions!  Deep, wonderful discussions in which we ponder simple statements, or analyze our children’s whining (gotta love practical application!).  If you are studying logic (or anything hard), I recommend finding a team of fellow moms to walk the journey with you.  It’s not a requirement; but it makes the learning more enjoyable and fun!

So, in the course of doing weekly lessons, I’ve hit upon a method that makes Logic easier – for me:

Enter – the Logic Notebook…
I keep one of those 17c spiral notebooks that I stock up on during the Start of School Sales every August.  I fill up that notebook with all of my notes and exercises.  In order to streamline my learning, and make it stick with ME, this is how I do my lessons –

      1. REVIEW:  I review previous content quickly by copying charts.  Anything that the Introductory Logic book puts into chart or picture form, I copy.  Next time, I’ll challenge myself to do some of it from memory. Eventually, I’ll know it all from memory, and that’s really exciting, because then I can make some good mental connections! (See my charts below)My Logic Notebook
      2. READ & NOTETAKE: I go to the end of the Unit in the Student Logic book, and I jot down the Review questions.  These questions relate to definitions, and comparing two different terms (how are they the same? how are they different?)  The answers come directly from the student material, so I jot down the answers as I read them. I find these questions zero in on what’s the most important from the book. It’s my way of simplifying all of that info. (See Review questions pictured below)…20160520_130359.jpg
      3. ANSWER THE EXERCISE QUESTIONS: The end of each Lesson has Exercise questions that relate to the text, and give you practice with what you learned.  If I get stuck at this point, I pull out the DVDs and watch those. Which reminds me of the BIG QUESTION:

I (trepidatiously) followed every Challenge B support group thread that asked this question. I found that a majority said YES! Get the videos!  Many said, skip the Introduction videos, but get the Intermediate videos.  And a rare few said, don’t get the videos – most of it’s self-explanatory, and the videos only cover what’s in the book.  A few also said that youtubing and googling troublesome topics is enough.

I have found that I have been able to do many lessons without the videos, BUT when I need the videos, boy do I need the videos!  It was expensive, but so far, I’ve been happy to have them.  The videos follow everything in the book; however, sometimes Mr. Nance explains the concept with extra examples, or I found hearing his emphasis made more sense of the black and white words on the page.  In some cases, I was a bit stumped by the exercise questions.  Mr. Nance spends time at the end of each lesson to also explain the exercise questions, and gives some example answers to help you understand what you are doing.  This explanation of the exercises is what has been invaluable.

So…you’ve decided you want the videos, but your on a tight budget.  $50-$75 for each video set isn’t quite in that budget.  What do you do?

  • Form a group of moms that chip in and buy the videos together as a group.  Organize Logic Day (or Night) and watch videos with fellow moms.
  • Buy the videos and resell them when you’re done.  Ebay, Amazon, Half, and some of the online homeschool used curriculum boards are good places to resell.  Or, sell locally.  Join local facebook groups for selling used curriculum.  Participate in a local curriculum sale.  If your state homeschool conference has a used curriculum sale as part of the conference, get in on that.
  • If you’re a CC family and your student is going in to Challenge B, you could ask the tutor to create Logic Days, where the parents sit and watch videos.  If this is the case, HELP YOUR TUTOR out!  Offer to host, schedule, and lead these viewings.  The tutors have so much to do to prepare for our students, so this is a great way that you can bless your tutor and your fellow parents.

Balancing the Busy

I began Friday morning at the Homeschool Convention by attending “Balancing the Busy – Chrystal Evans Hurst

This was a good seminar for those looking for little organization gems to help them balance their busy.  I tend to avoid these types of seminars, however, because they serve to remind me how disorganized I am!  When Hurst admitted to overcoming her perfectionistic tendencies, I knew this not my type of seminar.  But, Hurst was fun, witty, and relatable.  She’s a good speaker for others who struggle with perfectionism – she’ll remind her audience to relax and enjoy their families, while balancing the busy.

“Balance is overrated,” she began.  The definition of balance is the even distribution of weight to remain upright and steady.  Another definition is equal or correct proportions.  Balance changes.  What makes up balance for you today, in this season of life, will be very different from balance in the next stage of life.  It requires being flexible.  Finding balance today does not mean that you will keep balance.

3 C’s of Balance

Be clear – what are your priorities?

Create boundaries and guidelines

Take care of them and you

Hurst had some really good analogies.  One was a funnel.  With a funnel, there is more at the top and middle.  The closer to the container, the less there is.  She encourages us to be clear about what our containers are.  If the items in our funnel will get in the way of our husbands and children, then those things should not fit in our funnels.

She also encouraged us to remember ourselves!  Spent a few minutes here and there doing things that will replenish us.  Talk to a friend, or read a book for 15 minutes – it doesn’t need to take long, but something for us.

Keep a calendar on your phone.  Hurst color coordinates her calendar, so that it is easy to see at a glance by category.  Plan fringe time for time that you need to be by yourself.  Family needs to honor that time that you carve out for yourself.  Older kids can keep a wall calendar.  Schedule time with your kids, too!  If your child requests time with you (play with me, Mom!) – add it to your calendar.

Hurst’s next analogy was rocks and sand in a jar.  We’ve all heard the question, if you have rocks and sand to fit in the jar, the rocks need to go in first.  The sand will fill in the small spaces between the rocks.  What are your rocks?

She reminds us that You Are the Manager.  You get to plan and manage your flow.  Be flexible with your schedule, and be ready to change as children grow.  Naptimes change as babies grow into toddlers and drop naps. 

Hurst had several recommendations.  She likes Amy Knapp’s Big Grid Family Organizer.  She’s found value in the book Managers of Their Homes, and uses block scheduling (  She uses a ticket system or stars that children can earn to use for rewards (such as screen time) – this helps children to manage themselves.  She recommended  Be clear with yourself and your children: what would you like them to do?  Write it down. 

Lastly, Hurst encouraged us to create memories for our families, based on what you love and what you do well. But don’t try to create memories by comparing yourself with other moms and using those moms’ gifts.

Beauty and Delight

At the Cincinnati Homeschool Convention, Sarah Mackenzie spoke about Beauty and Delight in the Ordinary, Chaotic Homeschool.  This was a beautiful session, and exactly what I needed.  Here were a few key points:

The definition of efficiency:
To be efficient means to achieve maximum productivity with a minimum of wasted effort or expense.

Homeschooling is NOT efficient.  Relationships are not supposed to be efficient.

20 years from now, what would you wish you’d been doing?  (Something to keep in mind as we make decisions about our homeschool or feel discouraged).

When things are going well, we have a tendency to add in a little more until things fall apart again. She said that being consistent while moving through a few important things looks very different from consistently trying to jam in too much.  What if we focused on less, but do those things well?

Relationships trump accomplishments.  Always pick your child over an accomplishment.  They are the images of God.  They ARE what we’re doing that day.

How many times have we been waiting for that big, beautiful moment, but miss the small beautiful moments?  Those small moments are the most lasting and important.  After this session, I’ve learned to look for those delightful moments – sharing the delight in a fluffy cloud floating over head, having smoothies at the table with my children and delighting in conversation – those are the beautiful moments I would miss if I were only looking for our math facts to be mastered, or whatever my big goals are for my children.

She mentioned adding in small tweaks, shifting our focus with what we are already doing –

  1. Ritualize – what can you do daily that changes the focus of the day? Classical music in the morning? A morning hug as a greeting? Sing the doxology together? Light candles during meals?
  2. Read aloud – it doesn’t have to be long, and it’s OK if it looks chaotic. 5mins? 10mins? 15mins? Pick something from a good book list and jump in!
  3. Relishing – spend more time enjoying and delighting in your children.  Have a “Just because we can” day to do something unexpected.  Go swimming or bowling, or whatever sounds fun.

She also mentioned “Not many, just memorable”.  As moms, we often think we need to do something regularly and make a habit of it in order for it to count.  Baking something special, going someplace special, doing something special – it only needs to happen once or twice, and your children will remember it as something you did often.

There were many more gems that can be mined – she has a wonderful book called Teaching From Rest, which I’m savoring right now. A friend that also went to convention summed this session up beautifully – complete with some soul-filling quotes.  Read her post here:

Cornerstone Home Learning: Convention Season: In Which I Begin To Cry (or Reflecting on Beauty in the Homeschool Life)