Blogging by second graders

I have decided to let G blog here. He has been writing some nice essays in School. Why not let him put them here? This will also be a nice way for M and G to stay in touch with their friends once we moved to the burbs. I created a "contributor" level account for him. This will let him type his own entries (posts) into wordpress but I will have to review it before publishing it to the public. We have a short discussion on privacy issues -- leave out details and names in the posts. He seems to get it.

Finally, as I watch him type his first story, I realize he can really touch type now. Not bad for a 7 years old !


Thinking Out Loud, Learning about Learning

For the last few months, M has been "thinking out loud". She would explain her thinking on many different topics to me as it happens. For example, we were watching Modern Family (yes it is marginally child friendly) and she would tell me what she think why a character in the show is doing certain things. This is not limited just to empathic situation. She does this for all topics -- how some mechanical device works, for example. This is important for me because it gives me a glimpse into her learning and reasoning process. By listen to her narration, and help her adjust her thinking, I can teach her learning and reasoning. A key 21st century skill is learning to learn, and we now have a natural platform for me to do this with M. I am very glad.

To summarize -- it is much less important for me to "correct" her conclusions. If her mental model of how the toaster pop up the toast is wrong, well maybe she has just invented a better way! It is important to monitor how she reason, and both learn from her and help her develop her learning skills.

I wonder if we can explicitly encourage this narrative behavior in families, or in school?

City vs Suburb

DaisiesA friend told me, sending kids to private schools in Boston is like buying a brand new BMW and driving it off the cliff, every year. It is, in fact, absolutely true. So at the beginning of each year, city parent's conversation always end up with evaluating moving from the city to the suburbs. Finding a town with good public schools, and you get to keep that BMW, not to mention more room, and ... what? Each year I go through this analysis as well. So I thought I'll put it down on paper here.

What I will give up by moving to the suburbs from South End

  • A diverse neighborhood -- this is not just lip service -- our neighborhood, South End, is diverse in many ways. From economic diversity, to life style diversity, to ethnic diversity. We have retirees and young professionals. We have lawyers and painters.
  • Walking -- we can walk to almost everything. I do not always walk, sometimes I drive, but when the weather is nice, or I need a break, a quick walk to food/bank/post office/library/park is wonderful.
  • Hubway -- I used it last fall when it was first introduced. While it did not have stations in all the places I needed, it was still useful. As it gets deployed more, it will really be useful.
  • Fresh produce -- I live close to a Chinese supermarket that sells a lot of good, fresh produce. I can literally run next door and 10 minutes later cook a healthy meal.
  • Playground -- We happen to live across the street from a wonderful park, which is usually thought of as a suburb perks. In this case it is better than in the suburbs.
  • Somewhat specific to our location, We are so close to the major highway entrances, we can get to anywhere out of the city quickly, ballet lessons, gym class, Chinese school.
  • in door parking and clean streets during snow storm -- the city does a great job in clearing snow off the streets, and with in door parking, I never needed to do anything with snow, and certainly do not need AWD if I don't venture out too far. Gone with the days of driving up and down icy hills with the quattro.
  • in door trash disposal -- the benefits of living in a loft building

What will I gain by moving to the suburbs


  • no private school tuition, obviously
  • living space -- for the same money, we will get a bigger house. With the kids this is a plus. Although after living in the city I definitely will still practice some degree of minimalism living
  • no more parking tickets, and cheaper parking -- City of Boston $1.25/hour. Suburbs - $0.25/hour or free
  • quietness -- I remember the days when night time you actually hear nothing -- and less lights too.
  • FIOS -- this is just a stupid Boston thing -- why don't we get FIOS in the city?
  • Cheaper car insurance -- at least I think this is true. Of course we will drive a lot more
  • BBQ -- so we like to use the outdoor grill a lot even in the city until the BBQ police shut us down
  • Full size washer and dryer -- anyone who lived with the internal drying Bosch dryer will know what I mean

Looking at this list, amazingly, maybe because I am bias towards living in the city, the city plus side is much longer than the suburb pluses. Really only space and cost are the two major reason for someone to move to the suburbs. Surprising?


Giant Crayon, a scientific observation

Why do kids like these giant blow up toys? They love it. M won this Crayon somewhere and treat it like a treasure. Last night she left the valve opened and this morning she needed to re-inflate it. After awhile she commented to me that something is holding the air in. I encourage to examine the valve more closely. She found the one-way mechanism but not quiet understanding how it would work just yet. I told her we will work on it this evening and she needs to draw up what she find in her journal. Everything is a learning opportunity, I always say. If you would only pay attention to the children.

Documentary writing

How do you get a six years old to write three pages of notes by herself? Easily.  

M wanted to play school. I wanted to watch and return the Netflix movie how to train a dragon. How about, this class is to watch a movie and take notes on how to train a dragon?


Two and a half hours later, because we had to hit paused many times, both M and G made three pages of notes each on the movie. G is still feeding off his index card note taking experience and made forty something numbered points about the story. M wrote three pages of text. We all enjoyed the movie on top of all that.


Our love of Challah Bread

 G, and I actually, really like Challah bread. I think it is the Asian taste buds. Mom brought home a loaf yesterday. G asked during dinner time "Mom, why did you buy Challah bread"? "To make french toasts, mom answered. Two minutes later, "Mom, why did you buy Challah Bread?", "French toasts", same answer. After the third time same question, I said to G "But we can make some straight toasts with it too!"

Finally he is happy.


Advantage of having Dinners with Friends

Monday night we went out to dinner with M's school friend after our school Christmas concert. We shared a lot of conversation and laughs between the two families. Today while we were in the car, M volunteered a thought: It is good to have dinner with friends. I did not know (her friend) very well. Now I do. You can learn a lot about them with dinner.

A very keen insight.

Vocabulary Lesson for Dad

M and G are playing with Lego people and animals. G: This is the doe. Dad: Is the the male or female deer? G: I think it's female. Dad: No, isn't it the male deer? M: No Dad. It's female. Remember? (singing) Doe, a deer, a female deer......

M is good at Golf too

M is really very good at sports. Today we went to mini golf for the second time this year, with one of her friend. It was her first time. M was so proud of her "skill" that she insists of being the instructor for her friend. Then at the end of the 18th hold, M beats G by 1 hole and won the game! Now I know this is really going to go to her head big time. Fortunately her brother is pretty good sports about it, loosing by 1 hole. To be fair, he was careless with several easy putt and he knew it.