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)




Children Must Play

Dr. Christopher Perrin’s seminar was entitled, “Why Children Must Play to Learn”.  I’ll be honest: I attended this because I like Perrin as a speaker, but also because I wanted a little permission to let go of my “school-must-be-rigorous” guilt.  This guilt had been building over many days when the 6yo ran off to build intricate blanket forts in her room, instead of doing schoolwork at the table. Despite that, her reading skills are blooming, she’s memorizing her math facts, and she’s making academic connections relating to science and history.  Perhaps the play is a good thing?  I listened to Dr. Perrin to find out.

Perrin introduced us to the idea of a “play history”.  What’s your play history?  Cal Tech discovered that those with great play histories made great engineers – however, those that lacked play histories in their children were poor engineers.  Cal Tech changed their interview process to include play histories, and based hiring decisions on those that had played well as children.

Plato speaks of play and learning going hand in hand: if a child doesn’t play, the learning will not be permanent.

Play is self motivating.  Children want to return to the same play again and again.  Of course, there is a similarity to the ideals of Classical learning: we learn through repetition.

Many toys today offer high amusement, but low on educational benefit; especially those that advertise their educational focus.  David Elkind in the book The Power of Play speaks about this problem.  Toys should leave something to the imagination.  Another book recommendation was Stuart Brown’s Play.

Perrin stressed the importance of Dad rough and tumble play, especially with boys (although girls benefit, too!)  As we get older, however, we are made to feel guilty about play.  It’s “unproductive” time spent.  However, play makes life lively, and it is a part of what makes a person whole.

Play has a very real, practical purpose.  It prepares us for an uncertain, changing world.  It’s a simulation.  Animals play, especially baby animals.  If you’ve ever watched a puppy, you know they are not just having fun; they’re training for hunting and social order and all the skills that an adult dog might need.

Perrin shared the definitions of Greek and Latin words that show the important connection between children, learning, and play.  Paidia in Greek means “play”, while “paideia” means “children” – the words are very similar to each other.  In Latin, “ludus” meant elementary school, but could also mean game or play (we get the word “ludicrous” from “ludus”).

Play is relaxation from work.  It’s a way to refresh and recharge.

Entering the Flow:
“Entering the flow” is what happens when work, play, and love intersect.  The result? Joy and delight.

Perrin encourages us to play with our children.  Surprise them and be unpredictable!  He also encourages us to push our children outdoors, or to play, create, use their imaginations, and steer them away from the technology and schoolwork devoid of all play.

So perhaps my fort building daughter is in training for a future career as an engineer?

But What Good Is an English Major

  • Ian Andrew’s seminar title in full was – “But What Good Is an English Major – A Homeschool Graduate Reflects on the Benefits of a Literary Education”, which was timely, because I had been wondering the same thing. In high school, I wracked up more English credits than p.e. and all my enrichments combined (I had to count my English credits as electives; otherwise, I didn’t have enough to graduate). My oldest is the same way: literature is her thing.

Ian Andrews is the son of Adam and Missy Andrews, of Center for Lit fame. This was his first speaking engagement at a homeschool conference. His big question was – “Why get an education when you can train for a career?” As the child of two literature buffs, the first lesson he learned was to “sit still and pay attention”. This lesson served him well in his life, and he believes this is something all English majors learn to do.

Ian gave a demonstration in front of the class of true literary analysis – one that uses our thinking skills and helps us to gain appreciation for great literature, rather than killing it. Led through the Scarlet Letter, we understood the characters and setting, the plot arch through its rising action, and the (many possible) turning points of the novel. We saw what Hawthorne was really getting at through the trials and tribulation, to bring us into a deeper understanding of his real theme: truth, freedom, and forgiveness.

He said not to believe the hype that English majors cannot find jobs. English majors are in demand, as they have the skills necessary to thrive in the workplace.

English majors possess these skills:

  • People persons. They’ve already interacted with a wide range of personalities – the Hester Pryns, the Dimmsdales, the Chillingsworths, and the Goodwives of our current age – and they know how to get along with all of them.
  • Good communication skills. English majors can write clearly, accurately, and persuasively, which is invaluable in jobs.
  • Sit still and pay attention. English majors have sat and paid attention through some very difficult literature. Non-lit people tend to struggle with focus.

What does an English major bring to a job interview that no one else does?

  • Listening skills. The interviewee will listen to what the job entails and will ask good questions about the job.
  • Tools to learn. The English major has the tools to learn anything they put their mind to.
  • Will know that they don’t know everything. The average interviewee assumes that they need to know everything already, and that will be obvious in the interview. The English major, however, recognizes that they don’t know everything and isn’t afraid to admit their lack of experience. They are ready and able to learn new things, and can quickly add to their skill set; making them an invaluable asset in the workplace.

Homeschool Convention 2016

At this time last week, I was at the Great Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati, OH, learning from fantastic speakers.  If you get the opportunity to visit a convention, take it!  It’s a great way to glean new ideas, become encouraged, and peruse curriculum.  This post will cover two topics: List of Seminars that I attended, and Convention Tips.  The List of Seminars will serve as a Table of Contents, linking to a review of each seminar (links will be added as the review becomes available).  Convention Tips will help you navigate the stupefying maze of convention speakers and curriculum sellers.

List of Seminars:

  1. Ian Andrews – “But What Good is an English Major?” – A Homeschool Graduate Reflects on the Benefits of a Literary Education.
  2. Dr. Christopher Perrin – Why Children Must Play to Learn
  3. Chrystal Evans Hurst – Balancing the Busy
  4. Sarah Mackenzie – Beauty and Delight in the Ordinary, Chaotic Homeschool
  5. Michael Gurian – The Minds of Girls: Effective Strategies for Teaching Girls
  6. Andrew Kern – Why Writing is Not a Subject and Why Every Subject Needs Writing to Be Properly Taught
  7. Beth Ellen Nash – Thriving as a Highly Sensitive Person
  8. Carol Topp – Career Exploration for High School Students
  9. Janice Campbell – Teacher’s Toolbox: Planning, Record-keeping, and Transcripts as a Blueprint for Homeschool Success.
  10. Adam Andrews – Socratic Method for Dummies
  11. Carol Topp – How You (or Your Child) Can Become a Published Author
  12. Martin Cothran – G. K. Chesterton and the Metaphysics of Amazement

Convention Tips:

  • Drink plenty of water and bring snacks.  Sometimes it’s difficult to break away and grab a meal, so have something on hand.  Staying hydrated is critical to avoiding overwhelm, which can manifest as migraine headaches.
  • Pick a variety of seminars, one that energizes you, one that teaches you new methods, and one for each stage in your children’s learning.  If you teach any special classes in a group setting or want to understand your curriculum better, see one of the seminars taught by the author or a representative of his/her company.  If you do not want to hear a sale’s pitch, however, avoid seminars whose sole method is to sell you on their books.
  • It’s OK to quietly and respectfully sneak out the backdoor of a seminar that isn’t meeting your needs or expectations.  Take a breather or slip into the 2nd choice seminar on your list!
  • TAKE A BREAK.  Seminars are schedule with 1 half hour in between and run continuously from 8:30 am until 8pm, without lunch or dinner breaks.  You do not need to fill that time with every seminar hour offered.  If you sit in on 4-6 seminars in a day, consider it a success!  Hitting all 8 in a day will lead to crash-and-burn quickly.
  • TAKE QUIET TIME ALONE, if you need to.  Everyone gets depleted.  Keep an eye on how much the noise, excitement, and new information might be overloading your circuits, and take a time-out if you need to.  If you bring your family with you, keep an eye on their needs, too.  Overdoing it isn’t worth it.  Seminars that you missed can always be purchased afterward, or you can catch up with a friend that sat in on that particular seminar.
  • Schedule time to hit the curriculum hall.  Schedule lots of time.  Make a list of books you want to see.  Peruse the hall at your leisure, getting an idea of what’s available and where it’s located.
  • Don’t impulse-buy books.  Pre-planning is key.  Buy books from your pre-planned shopping list.  Or, if you’ve been trying to decide between two curriculum, use your time in the hall to chose between the two and make your purchase.  If you don’t purchase anything at all – it isn’t a bust!  You can always order from home when the time is right.
  • Don’t buy ahead.  It’s tempting to see the books you’ll need in 6-12 months and think “if I buy it now, I’ll get a discount”.  It happens often: a publisher you’re sold on no longer works in 6 months, and you find yourself ditching that curriculum and switching to another.  I’ve even experienced this with a math book that we’d used for 3 years.  I bought ahead 9 months, and discovered half way through the previous level that it was no longer working for us.  It’s better to spend a little extra on shipping later for a book that will get used, then save up front, but keep the book unused in a closet.