Moose’s Lodge

Raising a Moose

The Moose is almost officially smarter than me. April 18, 2010

Filed under: Moose — valben @ 10:40 am

Moose loves the United States of America like some kids love Elmo.  He talks about the different states constantly, LOVES doing his puzzles (his “big USA” and “little USA“).  When he first learned his shapes (over a year ago), he used to point them out in everything.  Now, he points out States (for example, the rug in our dining room has a leaf shaped like Maine, the emblem on his shoes looks like Alaska, etc).  In the process of doing the big puzzle, he is learning capitals.  He asks for the capital for every state, and is picking them up at the rate of 2-3 per day.  He asks me what the capitals are everywhere – in the car, at the store.  Sadly, I don’t know the capitals beyond the states I’ve lived in and a few others.  I keep a placemat map in the car so I have something to refer to when we are out.  I’ve already told him a wrong one, but somehow he knew not to retain it (yes, I now know that Oklahoma City is the capital of Oklahoma, NOT Tulsa – give me a break!)

I recently read in a parenting magazine that kids don’t retain anything they learn at a young age, therefore parents shouldn’t stress about trying to teach them to read or any other “hard facts.”  There is a sad assumption that in order to teach a child something, you either have to drill them or make it so structured they won’t want to learn anymore, or that it will be stressful for the parent and child (does Moose look stressed in the video above?)  If this is true, why bother teaching anyone anything?  I took French in high school and can’t recall a lick of it.  I learned South Carolina history in middle school, but I don’t live there anymore and I couldn’t tell you what year they seceded from the Union.

Moose knows his states better than anyone I know because he does his puzzles multiple times a day.  We all know toddlers love doing things over and over – every parent has a book that they have hidden to avoid the 50th reading in the same day!  And I never force him to do it, he asks to do it before he even eats breakfast.  He carries around the placemat when we go out so he can talk about the states. 

If you give a small child a little bit of real knowledge, they will find many ways to integrate it into their day.  All I do is show word cards, math, bits, and music 2-3 times a day.  It  takes less than a minute for each “session.”  When he is playing, I will hear him practicing saying artists names (my favorite is “Botticelli and “Albrecht Dürer”).  Sometimes, he pretends to teach his cars.  His favorite pupil is Frank (the combine from Cars).  He will say, “Look Frank, that’s a Roseate Spoonbill!  Good job, Frank!” 

I didn’t realize when I started “teaching” Moose, but a wonderful side effect is that I am learning these things at the same time.  I can now identify the name and artist of 20 different classic art pieces.  I know 10 of the most beautiful birds from around the world.  I know all of my states and most of the capitals.  My pitch identification is improving – I can now “hear” what C sounds like if I just think about it.  The only thing I can’t do that Moose can is identify those darn red dots by sight – he can pick out the difference between 15 and 13 dots (although Ben can also do this). 

Not that I am competing with my son – I WANT him to beat me.  By the time his finishes school, his base of knowledge will be  a thousand (maybe a million!) times bigger than mine.   And I will proudly tell anyone who will listen that the Moose is smarter than me 🙂


Dreams for the Moose April 17, 2010

Filed under: Moose — valben @ 12:34 pm
Tags: ,

Don’t worry, this isn’t another emotional post about my adventures teaching Moose!  It is pretty funny though, and I was warned by some parents I met at the “How to Multiply Your Baby’s Intelligence” course that this would happen.  I have started dreaming about encyclopedic Bits and word cards.

If you know me well, you know that I have crazy, detailed dreams and I usually remember most of them.  Last night, I dreamt I had paved brick pathway with random POIs (Programs of Intelligence) engraved on them.  I had some bits I was trying to organize, and it was really hard to read the bricks because they were covered with mud and dirt.  Moose was following me around trying to help, then he wandered off into the plant beds.  When I looked up at him, I thought the beds were littered with trash.  When I looked closer, I saw they were giant word cards instead of labels for the plants.  I walked over and started teaching him the plants in our yard. 

Meanwhile my bits were laying in a pile on the paved walk, and it started raining.  I had to decide between saving the bits or teaching Moose the plants.  But then Moose walked over, picked the bits up and brought them inside. 

When I woke up, I looked for Moose, but he was so exhausted, he never made it to our bed last night.  I wanted to give him a big hug for saving the bits, then I realized it was all a dream. 

I always attempt to analyze my dreams, and here I think the message was, simplify the bit-making process and teach Moose about the plants in the yard!  I was going to make bits for the plants we just put in last week, but I think some laminated word cards will suffice for now.  He loves learning and saying big words, so my guess is he will learn “rhododendron” and  “meadowlark forsythia” fairly quickly.  Luckily, we just planted last weekend, so I still have all the tags to make sure I teach him the right thing!


TV or not TV? April 9, 2010

Filed under: Moose — valben @ 2:28 pm
Tags: ,

When I was pregnant with Moose, I was working as a buyer.  Being pregnant was a great conversation starter when dealing with new vendors.  One of my coworkers, who was also pregnant, was the queen of making small talk.  At every appointment, she would ask two things – Which are easier – boys or girls?  and  What are some words of wisdom you wish someone had shared with you?

The answers were almost always the same – boys are easier (typically no fuss, although they all admitted girls were more fun and funny with their clothes and dramatics) and the words of wisdom always broke down to two topics – never start the kids on junk food and don’t ever get them started on TV.

I will save the junk food topic for another day.  Today, I wanted to share some compiled statistics about TV and kids. 

  • Approximate number of studies examining TV’s effects on children: 4,000
  • Number of minutes per week that parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children: 3.5
  • Number of minutes per week that the average child watches television: 1,680
  • Percentage of day care centers that use TV during a typical day: 70
  • Percentage of parents who would like to limit their children’s TV watching: 73
  • Percentage of 4-6 year-olds who, when asked to choose between watching TV and spending time with their fathers, preferred television: 54
  • Hours per year the average American youth spends in school: 900 hours
  • Hours per year the average American youth watches television: 1500

Let me do the quick math for you – the average child is watching 28 hours of TV per week, over 60 days of TV per year!!  It sounds ridiculous, but that is 4 hours a day.  That’s a movie plus a couple of their favorite shows, and maybe a DVD during car rides.  And I honestly don’t know if that counts gaming or other techie tools.

During my week at the Institutes, I asked some of the parents whose kids attended the on-campus school what their kids’ TV habits were like.  Most of the moms raved about Baby Einstein, which I found interesting given the recent rebates.  Another mom, who didn’t start doing the program until her kids were 3 1/2 and 5, said 2 years later they don’t watch near the amount of TV as they did before, and the programs they choose to watch are usually on Discovery Channel or History Channel –  given the amount of knowledge they have, “kids” shows just aren’t that interesting anymore.  She said they do reserve Friday nights as movie nights, where they take turns picking the movies.

Moose doesn’t really watch TV.  We have a general rule that we don’t watch TV while he is awake.  Sometimes, he watches Mater videos on the computer (but he is finished in 15 minutes).  Since he doesn’t nap, I sometimes pop in the Cars movie or some Mickey Mouse so I can take a break.  But I’ve noticed after several days of consistent TV watching, he gets whiny and aggressive.  That is when I cut the TV off completely and his attitude always improves within a day.

I realize I sound like some kind of a TV nazi (just like some people think I am a sugar nazi), but I am far from it.  Prior to Moose, I was a major TV junkie.  I still am – my DVR is jam-packed, and luckily, several of my shows are On Demand.  I don’t offer TV to Moose because I know how easy it is to get addicted to it!  And when he is watching, and his little eyes start to glaze over, it makes me sad to think I am wasting his precious time when he would rather be playing with me or learning something.

I am not judging any family who chooses TV as the primary entertainment for their kids.  I’m really putting this out there as a Thank You to the people who gave me their words of wisdom years ago.  So TV or not TV?  In this house, there is no question!!


Moose’s Passport Montage April 5, 2010

Filed under: Moose — valben @ 2:02 am

We are headed to the USVI in a few weeks, and although it wasn’t necessary, we decided Moose needed a passport. I went to our corner drugstore to take a pic and it was a total disaster. They somehow expected my 2 year old to stand on a tall, tiny, rotating stool unassisted while they took the picture.  The girl obviously never took pictures of a toddler before, because she kept waiting “for a good shot” even though I told her to just click away while he was happy.  I couldn’t have this photo gracing my baby’s passport book for the next 5 years!

I had to meet Ben at the passport office in less than 30 minutes, so I raced home and took a series of pics of Moose in our guest bathroom. They were all so cute, but I could only pick one.

And the winner is…


Great Expectations. . . of a Moose! April 4, 2010

Filed under: Moose — valben @ 2:46 am

When I was in grad school, I wrote a paper about expectations.  I was working as a Technical Supervisor at a production plant.  I took over a crew of about 16 guys. Before I even started working with them, I was given the “low down” on my boys – one of them was quite lazy, one of them was always willing to work overtime, another was slow but efficient, etc. In fact, the first day I walked into my shop, there were drawings on the beams the guys had made, as a way to pick on each other I guess, that highlighted what I was told – here was R. sleeping (lazy), here was S. working like a madman (overtime), here was B. with a turtle shell (slow). My guys were equal opportunity artists – there was a representation of everyone, and although meant to be funny, to them, there was truth behind it.

My first order of business was to make them erase every drawing on every surface. Not because they were lewd and I was offended (believe me, I ain’t that kind of girl!), but because I wanted to erase these labels and expectations. It was a small move, but I will tell you that in just a few weeks, every single person’s performance and attitude improved and we almost doubled our production rate. I would also like to think the guys were a little more confident as well, because they sure acted like it!

The point is, whether dealing with an adult or a child, they will always live up to your expectations. If you set them low, they will rarely exceed, but always meet those low expectations. Some people say, yes, but if you set them too high, you are setting yourself and your child up for disappointment. I have to highly disagree.  You can set yourself up for disappointment if your expectation meets the following criteria:

  • Make sure it has nothing to do with the child or his interests.
  • Do not, under any circumstance, give the child the tools or opportunity to meet the expectation.

A classic example is the parent who thinks Johnny will grow up to be a great doctor but when Johnny announces that he wants to be an artist, the parents will either protest, or they will accept it but still be secretly disappointed. Perhaps if the parent noticed that Johnny had great creative skill, they would have changed their expectation and started cheering for Johnny’s accomplishments as a budding artist. Then instead of being disappointed parents, they would be the proudest parents.

Or say Johnny did have an interest in science and medicine. But maybe school was a little difficult for him, and as much as he would have loved to go to med school, he either didn’t have the grades or he hated school so much he decided it wasn’t worth going to school for 5-10 more years.  The parents don’t understand, and again, disappointment raises its ugly head.

As parents, we have a responsiblity for teaching and guiding our children.  It is only natural for parents to have high expectations for their children – that is how we move forward as a society, you expect your children to be greater than you.  I admit, I love to watch Moose and try to picture him as an adult.  What I see is a smiling, handsome man, but the details of what he is doing changes from day to day.  He loves cars and puzzles – maybe he will be an inventor?  He loves painting and colors – maybe he will be a great artist?  The possibilities are endless.  For now, I will keep my eyes wide open and  teach him all about the world.


R-E-S-P-E-C-T April 1, 2010

Filed under: Moose — valben @ 8:47 am

There are many courses out there that propose you should teach your child to read as a baby.  Initially, I was drawn to the simple nature of Doman’s program.  But the biggest difference between his program and the other books and DVDs out there, is the focus on the relationship between the parent and child.  Although it is important that you love your child (as we all do), Doman’s group also emphasizes respecting your child. 

When you respect your child, you see them in a whole different light.  Everything they do now has a purpose, and you start to understand them better.  When a toddler breaks apart a toy, most parents are apt to yell, tell them to stop, apologize to others and say, he’s just a brute, excuse him.  But when you respect the child, you take note, start looking at things from his point of view, and you realize, hmmm, he has looked at it, touched it, tasted it, listened to it (by shaking), maybe sniffed it, okay, he is trying to figure out how it works – he wants to take it apart because he is curious, not because he is a brute.  A 7 month old who just learned to crawl is trying to wriggle out of parent’s lap and attempt a getaway.  Some parents say, ugh, she just won’t stay still! and put her in the playpen.  The respectful parent thinks, she just learned this amazing new skill, she is dying to try it out, I can finish checking my email later – and gets down on the floor to play with the baby and let her experiment with her newly learned skill.

I am not saying there is anything wrong with the parents who do the first choice.  Honestly, it is how most of us were raised, therefore we react the same way.  These parents still fiercely love their children, and they act this way because they are trying to protect their children.  But take yourself out of your big shoes and forget momentarily what is convenient for you, and put yourself in their tiny shoes.  That is when love turns into respect and your baby will grow in ways you never dreamed.