Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #88: "How to Make Almost Any Diet Work" by Anne Katherine

Image from the law of attraction book list featuring all major law of attraction authors at

Dear kids,

If you’ve never been pregnant and therefore need a different excuse for any extra pounds you might gain along the way, this book delivers. Also, a lot of what it says about individual differences in appetite control hormones is probably true.

The basic idea of How to Make Almost Any Diet Work: Repair Your Disordered Appetite and Finally Lose Weight by Anne Katherine is that hormones cause overeating and overweight . . . and that fortunately, there are a few supplements and simple eating habits that can help.

Notable quotes:

  • “Each cause of appetite disorder is related to an imbalance of the brain chemicals that control eating. One of the most potent of these is also the simplest to fix: excessive neuropeptide Y (NPY).”
  • “NPY is a chain of 36 amino acids. When it is released in the hypothalamus it makes a person eat—a lot . . . also tells the body to stop burning calories.” Too much NPY, and you’ll gain weight. You increase your stores of NPY when you skip meals, but it doesn’t “kick in” (isn’t released) until you actually start eating. (It assumes there was no food around until then.)
  • “If someone injected you with NPY, you couldn’t stop yourself from eating.”
  • “To combat this problem: never skip a meal. This also has the effect of increasing your levels of peptide YY (PYY), which counteracts NPY. PYY is also a chain of 36 amino acids, but it promotes satiety, acting as a “stop eating” sign.
  • “. . . When you started eating after a fast, your body held back on the PYY so that you would consume extra food.”
  • Normally, “Fifteen minutes after you begin eating, the PYY in your bloodstream should rise, reaching a plateau about 75 minutes later. At this point, you wouldn’t eat if somebody paid you to.”
  • “Your PYY levels remain high until long after you eat. This is why you aren’t hungry the morning after a large meal. However, if you skip breakfast, you won’t get your daytime PYY.
  • Solution: never skip breakfast. “Once your body receive its regular dose of PYY, your food intake could naturally be reduced by 33 percent every day, with no further effort on your part.”
  • Protein is the raw material for repair. Frequent feedings of protein give your brain a steady supply of the materials it needs to repair itself. The author recommends 50 percent complex carb, 50 percent protein snacks.
  • On “the addictive cycle:” In a primitive part of the brain called the VTA, neurons manufacture “the neurotransmitter dopamine, and then deliver it to the nucleus accumbens . . .” which is “your euphoria center.” Although different addictive substances act on various other parts of the brain, all addiction involves the VTA and dopamine.
  • “Almost every substance abused by humans has been shown to increase dopamine . . .”
  • Food acts on the VTA by promoting an endorphin release.
  • “An unexpected finding was that obese women were more anhedonic than overweight woman. Anhedonic means, literally, ‘no pleasure’ – that is, having a threshold resistant to the experience of pleasure.”
  • On sugar addiction: May also be exacerbated by opioid dependence, which can occur due to “intermittent, excessive sugar intake . . . Eating an excess of sugar on a regular basis actually changes the way genes express themselves in the brain, causing physical alteration. The brains pleasure receptors in the nucleus accumbens increase in a profile similar to morphine dependence.”
  • Stress and trauma also contributes by depleting our stores of “relief and effort neurotransmitters” (serotonin and norepinephrine).
  • Q: “If serotonin increases when eating sugar, why doesn’t satiety increase, too, since serotonin usually increases satiety?
  • A: “If you have sufficient supplies of tryptophan, serotonin will be readily released after eating starch, decreasing your appetite. Here’s the catch: As dopamine in the nucleus accumbens rises, serotonin simultaneously declines.” (137) Dopamine trumps serotonin. “Addiction trumps satiety.”

For more information, get How to Make Almost Any Diet Work: Repair Your Disordered Appetite and Finally Lose Weight on Amazon.



Get the entire recommended reading list at Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday.

Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #87: "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion" by Robert Cialdini


Dear kids,

It’s hard to do justice to Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini in a few words, except to say that is very likely the best book on sales ever written.

My Summary:

Cialdini identifies the six major tools of influence (i.e. sales):

  • Reciprocation;
  • Commitment/consistency;
  • Social proof;
  • Liking;
  • Authority; and
  • Scarcity.

On reciprocation: Giving gifts—even very small ones—creates a major sense of obligation in the receiver to reciprocate. Often, they will jump at the chance to get rid of that perceived obligation. The takeaway for salespeople: Give small “free gifts” before making the big sale. Or, ask for something big first, then retreat to something smaller when they say no, so they feel they owe you the sale.

On consistency: People have, and want to have, a strong sense of personal identity. If a potential buyer is “primed” beforehand to identify with your product, they’re much more likely to go all the way with it. The takeaway for salespeople: Get potential buyers to identify with your product in some (seemingly voluntary) way, such as agreeing to write a letter, sign a petition, display a small sticker or logo, pass along an email, etc. This also creates a perceived commitment, which they are loathe to go back on later. Or, get someone to commit to a product by making a lowball offer, then raise it later.

On social proof: People copy each other. They just can’t help it. No one can do all the research themselves; they rely on others to lead the way. The takeaway for salespeople: Use the cliché pitches: “fastest-growing,” “most popular,” customer testimonials, etc.

On liking: Liking is also a super effective way to encourage the desire to buy. The takeaway for salespeople: Think about how can you get people to like or root for your brand—to be on your side, identify with your cause, want to spread the word.

The book also discusses the principle of contrast, saying that when you first try to sell a higher priced item, or you artificially raise the price to begin with, when you take it down a notch it feels like a great deal.

Get Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion on Amazon.



Get the entire recommended reading list at Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday.

Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #86: “Neanderthin" by Ray Audette

Best Nonfiction Book - Instead of Education

Dear kids,

It’s hard for me to say how much meat we should be eating as a society. But the rest of the Paleo rules, I’m down with.

Neanderthin: Eat Like a Cave Man to Achieve a Lean, Strong, Healthy Body by Ray Audette makes a very convincing, research-based argument that at least some meat is good for us. It advocates paleo-style eating: eating natural- or near natural-state fruits, vegetables and meat but no dairy or grains.

Paleo rules: Do eat meats, fish, fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and berries. Do not eat grains, beans, potatoes, dairy or sugar.

Here, a few important points:

  • On why certain foods are unhealthy: Many grains are inedible without human agricultural practices (milling, long cooking); legumes filled with aflatoxins, alkaloidic (toxins), etc. Must be cooked. Dairy not available till farming, or sugar. Potatoes not edible until fire.
  • The Paleolithic Era is the time in human history when we were hunter-gatherers. It is also the time when we were healthiest.
  • “Indeed, if we look at the skeletal remains of man prior to 10,000 years ago before the technological innovation of the Neolithic (Agricultural) Revolution—we find no evidence of obesity and very little evidence of the plethora of other immune system diseases that are so common today. When we examine the remains of humans immediately following the Neolithic Revolution, we see at once evidence of the obesity and diseases common in the modern world.”
  • The physical characteristics of humans shows that they are natural carnivores.
  • “. . . More than 95 percent of primates have a single-chambered stomach incapable of digesting most complex carbohydrates as they occur in nature (in the absence of technology).”
  • “Within this savanna environment, man is the only primate . . . There are few of the trees whose fruit and leaves provide the bulk of food for the creatures of the forest. Life on the savanna is dominated by grasses, grass-eating animals called herbivores, and the carnivores and omnivores that, in turn, prey upon these herbivores.”
  • “Our unique characteristics include a large lopsided brain, bipedalism, eye dominance, a lack of fur, and a unique variety of sweat glands. None of these physical traits (except bipedalism in some bird species) is found in other animals.”
  • Big brains are necessary for hunting large animals, and not as needed for gathering.
  • Social dependence is most often seen in pack animals that are carnivorous and protective.
  • Brain size increased as humans developed tools for hunting and therefore ate more meat. Big brains need more nutrition.
  • Humans also have a “relatively small lower gastrointestinal tract,” making concentrated calories like meat, fruit and nuts much easier to digest.
  • Bipedalism is only found in humans and some flightless birds. “As a human, when walking or running your hands are free to use a weapon which, if thrown while moving, greatly increases the weapon’s velocity . . . Bipedalism also allows us to use our hands to carry over large distance more efficiently than other primates. The long-distance carrying ability allows us (through sharing) a highly efficient division of labor in our hunting and gathering efforts.”
  • The human is the best long-distance hunter, partly because there’s no fur and therefore less overheating. The ability to hunt other animals when tired and hot in mid-day also helps. Head hair protects humans from the sun.
  • Handedness, which developed thanks to eye dominance, helped us learn to “throw an object with accuracy. This ability is what has allowed humans to become the most efficient hunters on earth.”
  • Our long-time relationship with dogs helped humans hunt, too. Dogs circled the prey and humans shot at them from afar.
  • On vegetarianism: “All the plants and animals that once inhabited the cultivated land must be killed to provide space for vegetable crops.” Kills ecosystem that naturally provides balance for all. “In fact, it is for this reason that the person wearing a fur coat has killed fewer than 10 percent of the animals killed by the person wearing a cotton coat.”
  • There are no vegetarian primates.
  • “Since ancient times, the most destructive factor in the degradation of the environment has been monoculture agriculture. The production of wheat in ancient Sumeria transformed once-fertile plains into salt flats that remain sterile . . .”



Get the entire recommended reading list at Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday.

Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #85: “The Well-Fed Writer" by Peter Bowermann

Best Nonfiction Book - The Well-Fed Writer

Dear kids,

The Well-Fed Writer by Peter Bowermann encourages the self-proclaimed starving artist to man up, pick up the phone and sell his work. I have a soft spot in my heart for this book since it’s the one that convinced me to go out on my own with my writing.

What’s it about? Cold calling. Lots and lots of cold calling for freelance writers.

Some of the authors’ freelance writing tips:

  • Make a portfolio.
  • Write a professional bid letter and cover letter.
  • Get a logo.
  • Save receipts.
  • Use an assistant.
  • Get a recorder.
  • Get Strunk & White, a style manual and other books of the trade.
  • Make a brochure or info packet.
  • Get a business card.
  • Be a standout vendor! Under-promise, over-deliver.
  • Deliver early.
  • Get referrals to new clients from every client you work for.
  • Form personal relationships with clients and check up on them from time to time.
  • Send thank you notes and Christmas cards to remind clients you’re around.
  • Include in your quote meeting time, two rounds of edits, transport time, research and interviews, etc.
  • Use job agents.
  • Learn technical writing and writing software.
  • Do pro-bono work for nonprofits and friends.
  • Did I mention cold calling? Cold call 50 businesses per day.
  • Keep notes.
  • Contact: ad agencies, graphic designers, marketing companies, PR firms, book publishers (for editing work), event production companies, and the communication departments, marketing departments and sales departments of corporations.



Get the entire recommended reading list at Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday.

Basic Life Management Skills (A Knowledge Checklist)

Your high school student probably already has most of the skills on this list, at least to some degree. Treat this checklist, then, as a gentle reminder not to pass by the couple of things he hasn’t nailed yet.

Note that this list does not include skills mentioned in other knowledge checklists I’ve written, including sports skills, art skills, logic and much more.

General Life Management Skills

Cooking (baking, stovetop cooking)
Household cleaning (laundry, dishes, bathroom cleaning, etc.)
Time management
Money management
Simple household repair
Basic self-defense
Basic car maintenance
First aid
Child care
Public transportation use
Writing letters and emails
Address and phone number memorization
Contacting parents
Emergency procedure memorization
Good hygiene
Basic wilderness survival
Map and compass use
Online source verification and vetting
Making change
Recycling, reusing and environmental care
Keeping to-do lists and goal-setting lists, with steps to achieve those goals

Interpersonal Skills

Conflict resolution
Clear communication
Active listening without interrupting
Good eye contact
Good manners
Solid handshake
Saying “no”, “no, thanks,” and “really, no”
Responding with dignity to unkindness
Asking questions
Talking to strangers
Relaxing without screens
Casual conversation/small talk
Crafting a convincing argument
Arguing interpersonally
Labeling and discussing emotions
Separating fact from emotion
Public speaking
Moral understanding
Telling a joke (at least one good one)

Self-Care Skills

Spending time alone
Engaging in hobbies
Deep breathing
Cognitive therapy
Healthy exercise habits
Friendship maintenance
Spiritual practice

Personal Qualities To Develop

Hope, optimism and positivity
Purposeful cultivation of joy
Personal responsibility
Non-attachment to the opinions of others
Purposeful cultivation of one’s highest self

Read the rest of this series at Knowledge Checklists: Filling My Educational Gaps, One Subject at a Time.

And peruse my full recommended reading list at Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday.

Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #84: "Nurture Shock" by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

Best Nonfiction Book - Nurture Shock

Dear kids,

In the growing tradition of recently published nonfiction, Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman is a treat for the educated, modern reader. It’s a collection of short, well-written, well-researched pieces–sort of the Reader’s Digest idea, but cooler.

My Summary:

Nurture Shock is a collection of pieces offering unexpected ideas about teaching children more effectively.

The advice:

  • Don’t praise kids for smarts, or they’ll be afraid of failure. Instead, praise them for effort and for other things that are under their control. This will motivate them to take on difficult challenges.
  • Teach kids that intelligence is a muscle and can be developed.
  • Kids who get even fifteen minutes more sleep do much better in school.
  • Talk about race. Kids are always looking at differences. If you don’t talk to them about the differences, they will draw their own conclusions. Kids want to belong so they exclude others unless told not to.
  • Deal with lies calmly. All kids lie.
  • Teach kids to see and interact with siblings as they would a friend—someone whose loyalty isn’t taken for granted.
  • Play-based learning is extremely important. Tools for the Mind classes incorporate: (1) Sustained play. Kids write out a play plan for imagination games. (2) Self-criticism, self-reflection. Kids are taught to pick out the best examples of their own work and the work of their peers. (3) Buddy reading.

To help child learn how to talk:

  • Words should accompany interaction, especially facial cues. This is why TV doesn’t help babies learn.
  • Follow baby’s lead. Say words for items he’s showing interest in already, when the motivation to learn it is already present.
  • For small babies, wiggle a toy or object to draw attention to it before naming it.
  • Incorporate common sentences with new words.
  • Say the same idea in several different ways.
  • Respond to almost all vocalization in some way, teaching the child they affect you by their sounds.



Get the entire recommended reading list at Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday.

Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #83: “What Would Google Do?” by Jeff Jarvis

Best Nonfiction Book - Best Nonfiction Book - What Would Google Do

Dear kids,

Strangely, What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis is the book that ignited my passion for nonfiction. And yet, it’s not so strange. If you’re interested in the psychology of business processes at all, or in marketing in the internet-based economy, this book is one of a kind.

My Summary:

WWGD’s message is clear: We’re in a new, Internet-based economy, with new rules. Be forewarned. Figure it out. Catch up—quick.

The new rules are as follows:

  • Customers are now in charge. Due to the Internet, they can have a huge impact on even huge institutions in an instant.
  • People can find each other anywhere and coalesce either around you or against you.
  • The mass market is dead. It’s been replaced by a mass of niches.
  • The key sales skill is no longer marketing, but conversing.
  • The economy is no longer based on scarcity, but on abundance. Attempting to control the distribution of a product will no longer guarantee a profit.
  • Enabling customers to collaborate with you in product creation, distribution, marketing and more creates a premium.
  • The most successful enterprises today are networks and the platforms upon which they’re built.
  • Most important: Owning is no longer the key to success. Openness is.

A few examples of Google-league marketers: Facebook, Craigslist, Amazon, Flickr, WordPress, Lulu, Paypal.

Google uses a few guidelines that have helped them achieve their ginormous success.

They are:

  • Give the people control and they will use it.
  • Your worst customer is your best friend (because of information they can share with you to improve).
  • Your best customer is your partner (since word-of-mouth is the best marketing). Keep them. Offer incentives to spread the word.
  • The link changes everything. Businesses must have relevant links on websites for Google to see them.
  • Do what you do best and link to the rest.
  • Join a network.
  • Become a platform. Incorporate others’ ideas and businesses (like Facebook, WordPress, and Craigslist). Think distributed.
  • Everybody needs googlejuice. If you’re not searchable, you won’t be found.
  • Life is public and so is business. Transparency vital.
  • Learn to make mistakes well (by admitting them and addressing them ASAP).
  • Rethink company structure to offer “elegant organization.”
  • Small is the new big.
  • We’re in a post-scarcity economy.
  • The mass market is dead. Long live the mass of niches.
  • Google commodifies everything.
  • Atoms are a drag. Rethink ways to offer online, intangible solutions.
  • Middlemen are doomed.
  • Free is a business model. Give away value to extend your market base, then make money through the side door.
  • Decide what business you’re in. (In order to protect your business, rethink ways to solve problems you’re already solving but are no longer working 34 somebody else does.)
  • There is an inverse relationship between control and trust.
  • Trust the people; listen life is a beta; be honest; be transparent; collaborate; don’t be evil; answers a instantaneous; life is live; mobs form; a flash; beware the cash cow in the c mine (if your business relies on something whose doom is impending – move away from it now!; encourage, enable and protect innova simplify”; get out of the way.

Other tips:

  • Release an unfinished product in beta form so instead of customers complaining, they’ll feel like a part of the process and make suggestions.
  • In marketing materials and blogs, use a human, natural voice.



Get the entire recommended reading list at Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday.

Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #82: "Punished by Rewards" by Alfie Kohn

Best Nonfiction Book - Punished by Rewards

Dear kids,

Who would’ve thought that offering rewards is a horrible way to motivate someone to learn? In Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise and Other Bribes, Alfie Kohn, a well-known proponent of self-directed education, makes just this argument—and just may change everything you think you know about prizes, trophies, gold stars—even grades.

My Summary:

Behaviorism—the idea that human behavior can and should be controlled through externally motivating factors—is our cultural paradigm, and its legitimacy goes largely unquestioned. But this is not the only way to motivate kids to learn, and certainly not the best one.

Rewards and punishments are sometimes effective, but mostly just in the short-term; long-term, they often backfire.

There are five main reasons for this:

  • They manipulate. People don’t like to be manipulated, told what to do.
  • They rupture relationships. People begin to do nice things for rewards rather than out of true altruism and caring.
  • They don’t get to the root of the problem. They don’t help us discover why the “bad” behavior or lack of desire to learn is there in the first place.
  • They discourage risk-taking. They cause people to not want to fail.
  • And, most important: They cause people to lose interest in a task for its own sake. Learning, one of the most natural pleasures of the human experience, is no longer considered fun.

The author tells the story of old man who paid kids to tease him, then gradually lowered the payment. After a while, when the payment was lowered to just one cent, they lost interest and stopped.

Learning declines when learning activities are extrinsically motivated.

Verbal praise is one of the most-used rewards, and one of the most problematic.

The reasons for this include:

  • It signals low ability. When kids are praised for something they did easily, or something they did poorly, it makes them feel they’re being treated like a child or an idiot.
  • It causes praise addiction. Praising a child’s intelligence, for example, causes them to create an unhealthy identification with their intelligence that makes them afraid to fail, especially in front of others.
  • It reduces interest in a task. Kids who are overly praised for a particular activity assume the praise is meant to get them to do something they wouldn’t do otherwise. This assumption causes them to no longer desire to perform the activity.
  • Praise is a way to keep children dependent on us. It’s a shortcut—an external motivator that appears internal.


  • When you praise, praise specific tasks or effort. Don’t praise intelligence or skill in general. Make praise as specific as possible.
  • Avoid phony praise.
  • Avoid praise that sets up a competition.

This challenge also applies to the workplace. We think we can motivate people externally, but we can’t. We can only set up conditions in which their inner drive/motivation is able to thrive.

How to do this? Studies support using the 3 C’s:

  • Collaboration (give them good people to work with);
  • Content (give them meaningful work); and
  • Choice (give them autonomy).



Get the entire recommended reading list at Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday.

Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #81: The Happiness Equation

Dear kids,

There are a lot of happiness books in the world. Too many, probably–they overlap a lot. Still, sometime in your life, read at least a few.

The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything by Neil Pasricha is a pretty user-friendly choice. Pasricha isn’t a researcher or a scientist. Instead, he gathers data and inspiration from disparate sources to create this manual for happiness.

Selected Quotes (a.k.a. The Best Stuff in the Book):

On positivity:

  • “Being happier is the biggest challenge you face every single day at work. Same if you’re a stay-at-home mom, studying through school, or traveling abroad. Teaching and training your brain to stay positively focused while navigating the bumps of life is something we’re not taught at school.”
  • “Harvard Business Review reports that happy people are 31% more productive, have 37% higher sales, and are three times more creative than their counterparts.”
  • “The problem isn’t that we have negative thoughts in our brain. The problem is we think we shouldn’t have negative thoughts.”
  • “Why is it so hard to be happy? Because life was mostly short, brutal, and highly competitive over the two hundred thousand years our species has existed on this planet. And our brains are trained for this short, brutal, and highly competitive world. . . . Were we happy back then? The better question is: Did we have time to be happy?”
  • “. . . Research published in The How of Happiness by University of California psychology professor Sonja Lyubomirsky tells us exactly how much of our happiness is based on our life circumstances. And it is 10 percent!”

On anger:

  • “’Tell me something, Brahman: Do friends and colleagues, relatives and kinsmen, ever come to your house as guests?’ ‘Yes, the Brahman answered. ‘And tell me something, Brahman,’ Buddha continued. ‘Do you serve them foods and delicacies when they arrive?’ ‘Yes,’ the Brahman answered, ‘I do.’ ‘And tell me something, Brahman,’ Buddha continued. ‘If they don’t accept them, to whom do those foods belong?’ ‘Well, I suppose if they don’t accept them, those foods are all mine.’ ‘Yes,’ said Buddha. ‘In the same way, Brahman, I do not accept your anger and your criticism. It is all yours.’ The Brahman was stunned and could think of nothing to say. His anger continued to bubble up inside him, but he had nowhere to put it. Nobody was accepting it or taking it from him.”
  • “New York Times–bestselling author Daniel Gilbert writes in Stumbling on Happiness: ‘If I wanted to predict your happiness and I could only know one thing about you, I wouldn’t want to know about your gender, religion, health, or income. I’d want to know about the strength of your relationships with your friends and family.’

On time management and decision making:

  • The author tells the story of a fish monger who couldn’t understand why fish sales were so low, even though they had every kind of fish and seasoning. When they realized their customers were scared of the decisions involved, they switched to selling three kinds of fish. They seasoned it and printed it out with instructions, and sales went up over five hundred percent.
  • In order to pare down decisions, President Obama wears only gray or blue suits. Mark Zuckerberg, too, owns “maybe twenty identical gray T-shirts.”
  • In order to reduce decision fatigue, write down which things in your life you can automate, which things you can regulate (do in set times and windows), which you can effectuate (put on repeat), and which do you want to debate.
  • “What’s the counterintuitive secret to having more time? Chop the amount of time you have to do it.”
  • The author tells the story of a CEO who routinely ignores emails. He says, “Don’t get me wrong. I sometimes walk over to chat with a person or pick up the phone. But if I wrote back to an email, I’d be sending a hot potato. And nobody wants to be asked by the CEO to do something . . . never mind on an evening or weekend. Why? Because people would drop everything to reply. And they would expect me to reply to that. Basically, if I sent an email, it would never end. So I end it.”

On motivation:

  • “How do we operate? Like this: First, I think I can do it. Then I want to do it. Then I do it. We think we must have the ability to do something, and then the motivation to do it, before we can successfully do it . . . What happens? Our most desirable tasks are placed way off in the distance with mental barriers dropped in front of them.”

On authenticity:

  • Three tests for finding your authentic self: 1. “The Saturday Morning Test. What do you do on a Saturday morning when you have nothing to do? Your authentic self should go toward that . . .” 2. “The Bench Test. How do you feel when you put yourself in a new situation? Your authentic self will lead you toward that . . .” 3. “The Five People Test. Who are the five people closest to you in the things you love most? Your authentic self is an average of those people . . .”
  • “Chuck Klosterman says, ‘I honestly believe that people of my generation despise authenticity, mostly because they’re all so envious of it.'”

More of the good stuff:

  • “In his book Flourish, Professor Martin Seligman says that ‘we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested.'”
  • “Want to hear an old joke? An old man enjoyed sitting on his front porch every day until the elementary school bell rang and neighborhood kids walking past his porch stopped to taunt him from the sidewalk. Finally, the old man came up with a plan. He offered the children a dollar each if they’d return the next day and yell their insults. They were excited, so they returned, yelled their insults, and he paid each of them a dollar. He then said he’d like them to come back the next day and yell their insults, but he could pay them only 25 cents. So they returned, yelled their insults, and he paid them a quarter each. Before they left, he said that he could only afford to pay them a penny on Wednesday. ‘Forget it,’ they said. ‘That’s not worth it.’ And they never bothered him again.”



Get the entire recommended reading list at Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday.

Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #81: “Einstein Never Used Flashcards"

Best Nonfiction Book - Einstein Never Used Flash Cards

 Dear kids,

Einstein Never Used Flashcards: first of all, what a great title. And the book by Kathy Hirsh Pasek and Robert Michnick Golinkoff really delivers on it–seriously. It’s probably the starting point for homeschooling families looking for the latest information, stats and techniques on the science of learning. Whether or not you’re one of these families, read this for help facilitating your child’s education–and your own.

A few main points:

  • Play is learning.
  • Asking questions and having conversations is learning.
  • Memorization isn’t helpful without understanding and context.
  • There are seven different kinds of intelligence. IQ isn’t everything—not even the main thing—to concern yourself with.

Get Einstein Never Used Flashcards on Amazon. Or see Einstein Never Used Flashcards on Goodreads.



Get the entire recommended reading list at Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday.

Other Essential Learning Activities (A Knowledge Checklist)

Ideas for enjoyable, educational activities for kids aren’t hard to find. The trick is to remember them when the time comes. Here, I share a checklist of activities I plan to encourage each of my children to try at least once during their elementary school years. (I’ve hung it on our wall for easy access.) My goal is to expose our kids to a wide variety of games and activities in the hopes that several will become lifelong hobbies.

Essential Board Games and Puzzles

Maj jong
Other educational board games
Logic grid puzzles
Map of the earth puzzles
Other geography puzzles

Essential Science Projects

Treasure collecting from nature
Building science-related structures and models with mixed media
Building science-related structures and models with Lego (such as solar system models, lifelike animal and vehicle replicas, etc.)
Block building
Train set building
Playing with magnets
Breaking open and identifying rocks
Building circuits
Taking nighttime walks
Watching astronomical events (like a lunar eclipse, shooting stars or the Aurora Borealis)
Using a telescope and a microscope
Doing other science projects from science books

Essential Quiet Indoor Activities

Listening to educational podcasts
Listening to audiobooks of classic literature and interesting nonfiction
Setting reading goals with associated rewards
Writing stories and poems
Writing and self-publishing a book
Writing a blog
Creating a website
Learning computer programming
Creating a newsletter, newspaper or magazine
Doing educational coloring sheets (such as diagrams of body organs and systems, parts of the cell, maps and much more)
Memorizing important poems and passages
Listing life goals, dreams, and future plans/activities
Learning educational songs (especially with fact lists like the presidents, the major elements, etc.)
Writing longhand letters to friends

Optional Whole-Family Activities

Holding a family book club
Reading aloud together
Doing home improvement projects
Holding family presentation nights during which siblings do show-and-tell, hold demonstrations and teach mini classes to the rest of the family
Gardening and landscaping
Doing service work in the community
Job shadowing (visiting workplaces of people we know and learning about their jobs)
Wood working
Planning and throwing parties
Planning a family trip on a budget
Starting a small business
Holding a garage sale
Putting on a talent show
Making a bat house
Making a birdhouse
Making a bee home for honeybees
Creating a store for selling candy and other small items to family members
Planning and leading scavenger hunts
Building a town or dirt racetracks in the backyard
Build a go-kart
Building playground structures like teepees, volleyball poles and more in the backyard
Learning how to shoot a gun

Optional Classes and Clubs

Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts or Eagle Scouts
Instrument lessons
Singing lessons with performance
Art lessons
Drama lessons with performance

Optional Pretend Play Scenarios

Camping; Store; Restaurant; Post Office; Theater/Play/Music Play; Art Gallery; Grocery Store; Zoo; Toy Store; Gardening; Making Pizza or Muffins; Teddy bear/animal hunt; Car wash; Forts; Pet Hotel; Tea Party; Hospital; Cops and robbers; Superheroes; Star Wars; Vet Clinic; Lions and deer; Monster and townspeople; Alligators and swimmers; Fireman; Motorcycle, race car, truck drivers; Airplane Voyage; Submarine; Astronauts; Queen, king, servants, hosts and guests; Tea party host and guests; Library; Aliens; much more.

Optional Trips and Special Local Outings

Here, you can list the local attractions you’d like to visit and the longer trips you’d like to take.

Tide pool nature collecting
The aquarium
The zoo
The children’s science museum

Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #80: “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi

Dear kids,

There are a lot of books on marketing and business. But Never Eat Alone, Expanded and Updated: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz is a pretty unique bug. You won’t see many books like it. Whether or not you’re interested in sales, this book could change your life. No need to read the whole thing. Just try the first chapters and see if you’re inclined to continue.

Selected Quotes:

On the importance of a social network and generosity:

  • Your network is your destiny, a reality backed up by many studies in the newly emergent fields of social networking and social contagion theory. We are the people we interact with. Our paychecks, our moods, the health of our hearts, and the size of our bellies—all of these things are determined by whom we choose to interact with and how.
  • . . . The book’s original foundational mind-sets—generosity, authenticity, and a belief that greatness is anyone’s to seize, regardless of economic background, ethnicity, age, or gender, so long as they provide ever-increasing value to others—are thankfully here to stay.
  • Here are just a few things that this book will allow you to do: 1. Create a fulfilling, authentic, effective networking strategy that lasts a lifetime 2. Build and align social capital to achieve ever more ambitious goals 3. Combine strategy and serendipity to keep in constant contact with a wide network of people 4. Filter and prioritize your relationships for quality interchange that supports your goals and values 5. Cultivate a magnetic personal brand that has people clamoring to share information, access, and resources 6. Translate that brand to social media to build a devoted online tribe 7. Increase your value to your network, and specifically to your company or clients 8. Create innovative content to build a reputation as an expert and increase your online influence 9. Get “discovered” and tapped for the best opportunities 10. Create a life that you love and the network to cheer you on
  • As a kid, I caddied at the local country club for the homeowners and their children living in the wealthy town next to mine . . . I watched how the people who had reached professional heights unknown to my father and mother helped one another . . . They found one another jobs, they invested time and money in one another’s ideas, and they made sure their kids got help getting into the best schools . . . I came to believe that in some very specific ways life, like golf, is a game, and that the people who know the rules, and know them well, play it best and succeed. And the rule in life that has unprecedented power is that the individual who knows the right people, for the right reasons, and utilizes the power of these relationships, can become a member of the “club” . . .
  • When you help others, they often help you.
  • But . . . here’s the hard part: You’ve got to be more than willing to accept generosity. Often, you’ve got to go out and ask for it . . . Until you become as willing to ask for help as you are to give it, however, you are only working half the equation.
  • As Wired magazine put it in a 2010 cover story, “The secret to health and happiness? Healthy and happy friends … A half century of medical data [has] revealed the infectious power of social networks.”
  • Bottom line: It’s better to give before you receive. And never keep score. If your interactions are ruled by generosity, your rewards will follow suit.
  • I would argue that your relationships with others are your finest, most credible expression of who you are and what you have to offer.
  • Joseph Campbell, who coined the phrase “follow your bliss” in the early 1900s, was a graduate student at Columbia University. His blue flame, he decided, was the study of Greek mythology. When he was told there was no such major, he devised his own plan. After graduation, he moved into a cabin in Woodstock, New York, where he did nothing but read from nine in the morning until six or seven each night for five years. There isn’t exactly a career track for lovers of Greek myth. Campbell emerged from the woods a very, very knowledgeable man, but he still had no clue what to do with his life. He persisted in following his love of mythology anyway. The people who met him during this time were astonished by his wisdom and passion. Eventually, he was invited to speak at Sarah Lawrence College. One lecture led to another, until finally, when Campbell looked up one day twenty-eight years later, he was a famous author and professor of mythology, doing what he loved, at the same school that had given him his first break. “If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living.”

On making a connection plan for success:

  • The most simple version of the plan is separated into three distinct parts: The first part is devoted to the development of the goals that will help you fulfill your mission. The second part is devoted to connecting those goals to the people, places, and things that will help you get the job done. And the third part helps you determine the best way to reach out to the people who will help you to accomplish your goals . . . This means choosing a medium to connect, but, more important, it means finding a way to lead with generosity.
  • Moreover, you can apply the worksheet to every aspect of your life: to expand your network of friends, further your education, find a lifelong partner, and search for spiritual guidance.
  • Your goals must be specific.
  • Your goals must be believable.
  • Your goals must be challenging and demanding.
  • I suspect you’ve never asked your cousins, brothers, or brothers-in-law if they know anyone whom they could introduce you to to help fulfill your goals. Everyone from your family to your mailman is a portal to an entirely new set of folks.
  • People to reach out to: Relatives. Friends of relatives. All your spouse’s relatives and contacts Current colleagues Members of professional and social organizations Current and former customers and clients Parents of your children’s friends Neighbors, past and present People you went to school with People you have worked with in the past People in your religious congregation Former teachers and employers People you socialize with People who provide services to you People with whom you interact on Facebook Other online connections in social media or community groups
  • Another effective way to follow up is to forward relevant articles to the people in your network who might be interested.

Other self-promotion advice:

  • About ten years ago, Thomas Harrell, a professor of applied psychology at Stanford University Graduate School of Business, set out to identify the traits of its most successful alumni . . . Those who had built businesses and climbed the corporate ladder with amazing speed were those who could confidently make conversation with anyone in any situation.
  • Some people become power brokers through sheer intimidation and force of will; others, generally with far better results, learn to become indispensable to the people around them.
  • My point? Real power comes from being indispensable. Indispensability comes from being a switchboard, parceling out as much information, contacts, and goodwill to as many people—in as many different worlds—as possible. It’s a sort of career karma. How much you give to the people you come into contact with determines how much you’ll receive in return. In other words, if you want to make friends and get things done, you have to put yourself out to do things for other people—things that require time, energy, and consideration.
  • Develop a Personal Branding Message (PBM) A brand is nothing less than everything everyone thinks of when they see or hear your name.
  • Your PBM comes from your content/unique value proposition . . .
  • Your message is always an offshoot of your mission and your content. After you’ve sat down and figured out who you want to be, and you’ve written goals in some version of ninety-day, one-year,
  • Your positioning message should include a list of words that you want people to use when referring to you. Writing those words down is a big first step in having others believe them. Ask your most trusted friends what words they would use to describe you, for good and for bad. Ask them what are the most important skills and attributes you bring to the table.
  • Upworthy found that the best strategy for producing viral content was curation, not creation—they pull links that are already performing well in social media. They repackage them with irresistible headlines and use their easy-to-share page . . .

The author also tells two stories about generosity and the lack thereof. In one, a highly connected businessperson refuses to reach out to a valued contact on someone else’s behalf, wanting to save that favor for himself. In Ferrazi’s opinion, he lost the chance to make a meaningful connection with two people who could help him later–the valued contact and the new up-and-comer. He also tells the story of his father knocking on a woman’s door and asking for the old Big Wheel in her garbage. He made her day, he says, offering her the chance to do something nice for someone else. She gave him a bicycle, too.



Get the entire recommended reading list at Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday.

Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #79: “The Fabric of the Cosmos” by Brian Greene

Dear kids,

The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality by Brian Greene isn’t just your regular book. It’s a book that explains–well, everything. The nature of reality. You don’t have to read it, but I do recommend that you read a book like it. A bit of heady science goes a long, long way.

Selected Quotes:

  • The central concern of this book is to explain some of the most prominent and pivotal of these revisions to our picture of reality, with an intense focus on those that affect our species’ long-term project to understand space and time.

On the slippery nature of reality:

  • . . . Ingenious innovators and tireless researchers—the men and women of science . . . have peeled back layer after layer of the cosmic onion, enigma by enigma, and revealed a universe that is at once surprising, unfamiliar, exciting, elegant, and thoroughly unlike what anyone ever expected.
  • Surely, any sober assessment would conclude that although we might not understand everything about the universe—every aspect of how matter behaves or life functions—we are privy to the defining, broad-brush strokes gracing nature’s canvas. Surely, reality is what we think it is; reality is revealed to us by our experiences. [But,] the overarching lesson that has emerged from scientific inquiry over the last century is that human experience is often a misleading guide to the true nature of reality.
  • I remain as convinced now as I did decades ago that Camus rightly chose life’s value as the ultimate question, but the insights of modern physics have persuaded me that assessing life through the lens of everyday experience is like gazing at a van Gogh through an empty Coke bottle.

On past understandings of reality:

  • To Isaac Newton, space and time simply were—they formed an inert, universal cosmic stage on which the events of the universe played themselves out. To his contemporary and frequent rival Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz, “space” and “time” were merely the vocabulary of relations between where objects were and when events took place. Nothing more. But to Albert Einstein, space and time were the raw material underlying reality.
  • The two theories of relativity are among humankind’s most precious achievements, and with them Einstein toppled Newton’s conception of reality.
  • Even though Newtonian physics seemed to capture mathematically much of what we experience physically, the reality it describes turns out not to be the reality of our world. Ours is a relativistic reality.

On today’s understanding of reality through quantum mechanics:

  • A core feature of classical physics is that if you know the positions and velocities of all objects at a particular moment, Newton’s equations, together with their Maxwellian updating, can tell you their positions and velocities at any other moment, past or future. Without equivocation, classical physics declares that the past and future are etched into the present. But according to the quantum laws, even if you make the most perfect measurements possible of how things are today, the best you can ever hope to do is predict the probability that things will be one way or another at some chosen time in the future, or that things were one way or another at some chosen time in the past.
  • The universe, according to quantum mechanics, is not etched into the present; the universe, according to quantum mechanics, participates in a game of chance.
  • Whereas human intuition, and its embodiment in classical physics, envision a reality in which things are always definitely one way or another, quantum mechanics describes a reality in which things sometimes hover in a haze of being partly one way and partly another.
  • Things become definite only when a suitable observation forces them to relinquish quantum possibilities and settle on a specific outcome.
  • . . . The filaments of superstring theory can also vibrate in different patterns. These vibrations, though, don’t produce different musical notes; remarkably, the theory claims that they produce different particle properties.
  • Going from dots to strings-so-small-they-look-like-dots might not seem like a terribly significant change in perspective. But it is. From such humble beginnings, superstring theory combines general relativity and quantum mechanics into a single, consistent theory, banishing the perniciously infinite probabilities afflicting previously attempted unions. And as if that weren’t enough, superstring theory has revealed the breadth necessary to stitch all of nature’s forces and all of matter into the same theoretical tapestry. In short, superstring theory is a prime candidate for Einstein’s unified theory.
  • And, in a more robust incarnation of superstring theory known as M-theory, unification requires ten space dimensions and one time dimension—a cosmic substrate composed of a total of eleven spacetime dimensions. As we don’t see these extra dimensions, superstring theory is telling us that we’ve so far glimpsed but a meager slice of reality.
  • If superstring theory is proven correct, we will be forced to accept that the reality we have known is but a delicate chiffon draped over a thick and richly textured cosmic fabric.



Get the entire recommended reading list at Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday.

Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #78: “Love Is Never Enough” by Aaron Beck

[wpw_follow_term_me posttype=”post” taxonomy=”category” termid=”10″ disablecount=”true” followtext=”Follow This Serial” followingtext=”You Are Following This Serial” unfollowtext=”Unfollow This Serial”][/wpw_follow_term_me]

Dear kids,

Aaron Beck isn’t just another self-help writer; he is one of the most influential minds in the history of psychology. He created cognitive therapy, one of the most well-regarded and proven therapy techniques, and while most of his books are written for psychologists, this one is a gift to the masses. Love Is Never Enough: How Couples Can Overcome Misunderstanding outlines cognitive therapy and applies it to one of our most important areas of life: our partnerships. It’s one of the best books on marriage out there–and it will help you in other aspects of life, too.

My Summary:

One of the main reasons we argue with our spouses is that we misunderstand them and judge them unfairly. We do this because of our “cognitive distortions”–the flaws in our logic that occur mostly when we’re upset. These distortions include: mind reading, framing, overgeneralizations, labeling, defensiveness, tunnel vision, catastrophizing (making a small issue into a big one), personalization, negative bias, all-or-nothing thinking, either-or thinking and more.

The three steps to changing your unfair and harmful thoughts about your spouse are: Step One: Recognize and correct your automatic thoughts. Listen to your thoughts about your mate and determine what your thought spiral is. Step Two: Test your predictions. Step Three: Reframe your perspective of your mate.

On cognitive distortions:

  • Personalization occurs when you consider yourself the cause of your spouse’s behavior despite the fact that it has nothing to do with you. Example: “She’s in a bad mood. It must be because she’s angry at me.”
  • Negative (global) labeling occurs when you apply a global negative label to a person, not just to that person’s action. Examples: “He is a weakling because he did not ask for a raise.” “She is a nag because she wants me to quit drinking.” “He’s a slob because he doesn’t pick up his clothes.” People also may use the same type of flawed thinking in evaluating themselves: “I never do anything properly. I always antagonize people. I’m a failure.”
  • One of the most common of these distortions is polarized, “all-or-nothing,” or “either-or” thinking. If your spouse is less loving than usual, for example, you might conclude that he or she no longer loves you. In such polarized thinking, anything less than the most desirable is labeled as undesirable. There is either total love or total rejection, total consideration or total inconsideration—nothing in between.
  • An example of snowballing thoughts: “Why is he silent? He must be angry at me. I must have done something to offend him. He will continue to be angry at me. He is always angry at me. I always offend people. Nobody will ever like me. I will always be alone.”
  • Mind reading can produce inaccurate predictions resulting either in unnecessary upset or in what could prove to be a false sense of security.
  • The biased expectations, observations, and conclusions that form a prejudice reflect the frame of mind known technically as a “negative cognitive set.” When a husband has framed his wife within this set, for example, he will interpret virtually everything she says or does in a negative way . . . On the other hand, during the infatuation of courtship and early married life, couples show a positive bias. Almost everything the partner says or does is interpreted in a positive light.
  • If such overgeneralizations are repeated enough, the negative perspective of the “offender” becomes fixed.
  • Because of the symbolic meanings attached to ordinary failings such as being late, one spouse may attach a great deal of significance to the other’s tardiness: “Something may have happened to her” or “If he really cared about my feelings, he would be on time.” Fears or self-doubts like these generally lurk behind exaggerated reactions to minor events.
  • Most spouses are unaware they are rating each other according to moral standards. Interestingly, judgments like those their parents made seep into their own reactions; they see an erring spouse as “bad,” just as they were labeled by their parents, and they respond the same way as their parents did—with punishment.
  • Tunnel vision, or screening, applies to the selection of a single detail from an experience and the screening out of other data—to interpret the entire event on the basis of that sole detail. Example: “My husband hated the meal I prepared—he complained the soup was too hot.”

On sex differences:

  • “Men and women tend to have different conversational styles . . . Characteristically, women show a greater tendency to ask questions . . . Men are less likely than women to ask personal questions. Men are prone to think, “If she wants to tell me something, she’ll tell me without my asking.” A woman might reflect, “If I don’t ask, he’ll think that I don’t care.”
  • Women use more utterances to encourage responses from the other person.
  • Men are more likely than women to make comments throughout the stream of conversation rather than wait until the other person finishes speaking.
  • [Men] are less likely to respond to the comments of the other speaker; frequently they make no response or acknowledgment at all, give a delayed response at the end of their partner’s statement, or show a minimum degree of enthusiasm.
  • [Men] are more likely to challenge or dispute statements made by their partners, which explains why a husband may seem to be eternally argumentative.
  • Boys tend to play in larger, more organized groups, and these groups place a higher premium on status and dominance. Boys who are less dominant have a relatively low status within their group and are made to feel the inferiority of their status position. In contrast to that of girls, the social world of boys consists of posturing, asserting dominance, and trying to command the attention of an audience. Their conversation is filled with orders like “Get up,” “Give it to me,” and with ridicule . . .
  • The most powerful boy in a group is not necessarily the most physically aggressive but rather the boy who is most effective and skillful in his speech.
  • When it comes to talking out conflicts, again there is a sex difference. Many women, for example, take the attitude “The marriage is working as long as we can talk about it.” Many husbands, on the other hand, have the view “The relationship is not working as long we keep talking about it.”

On identifying automatic thoughts:

  • As a starting point, try to identify troublesome situations and the meanings you attach to them. For example, suppose your spouse speaks to you in a gruff way. Your automatic thought may be “My spouse is displeased with me.” You have to be particularly vigilant to pick up the hidden fear or self-doubt, such as “Have I done something wrong?” or ’Is he [she] going to scold me?” Next, tune in to the entire chain reaction: Have I done something wrong? (anxiety) My spouse has no right to be mad at me. (anger) My spouse always acts unfriendly. My spouse is a hostile, hateful person. My spouse will make life miserable for me. I can’t stand this. Our marriage is a failure. I will never be happy again.
  • Examine them and look for supporting evidence, contradictory evidence, alternative explanations, and more logical inferences.
  • If you had trouble pinpointing your automatic thoughts in an upsetting situation . . . try to relive mentally the event that once upset you.
  • Ask: What is the evidence in favor of my interpretation? What evidence is there contrary to my interpretation? Does it logically follow from my spouse’s actions that my spouse has the motive that I assign to him or her? Is there an alternative explanation? What evidence is there on the other side? Have there been times, recently, when my spouse has been friendly or loving?



Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #77: “His Needs, Her Needs” by Willard Harley

Dear kids,

His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage by Willard F. Harley, Jr. is a popular marriage book–and for good reason. It’s basic point: partnership isn’t all about love and self-sacrifice; in order to have a good relationship, we have to get our needs met. Your father and I read this for a marriage preparation group. It’s a good choice for the newly engaged, but any partners can benefit.

My Summary:

My favorite quote: “Figuratively speaking, I believe each of us has a Love Bank. It contains many different accounts, one for each person we know. Each person makes either deposits or withdrawals whenever we interact with him or her. Pleasurable interactions cause deposits, and painful interactions cause withdrawals . . . In short, your needs keep score.”

The author goes on to demonstrate the importance of keeping your account and your spouse’s account balanced, so that neither feels like they’re getting cheated or going broke.

Most of the rest of the book’s chapters are devoted to a particular need that spouse’s have of their partners (for example, physical intimacy, financial security and conversation). Harley recommends that couples rate each of their needs and discuss them at length with their partners.



Get the entire recommended reading list at Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday.

Basic Geography, Geology and Meteorology (A Knowledge Checklist)

As humans, we experience the effects of chemistry, biology and physics every day, but not always knowingly. Geography is the most sensual of the hard sciences, the one that allows us to better understand our immediate environment.

Basic Geography and Geology Knowledge Checklist

Layers of the earth: Outer crust, mantle (viscous), outer core (liquid metal), inner core (solid metal)

Earth’s crust: The surface of the earth that is made of various rocks and minerals with soil on top. The five main elements found in the Earth’s crust are oxygen, silicon, aluminum, iron, calcium.

Rock: Collections of minerals formed together into a stone. A compound.

Mineral: A single material of uniform color, texture, luster and structure. Usually made up of two or more elements.

Crystal: A piece of mineral that has a characteristic shape (box or cube). Ex: table salt. Each grain of salt is cube-shaped. Each molecule, too.

Dirt: They are made up of broken down minerals and organic substances through weathering.

Soil: Dirt that is fit to grow plants in

Ore: Any natural, earth material that is mined and processed to obtain a desired metal. Ex: iron ore is rock containing iron.

Metal: The chemical particles, often found in minerals, that are pure metallic elements such as iron, copper, gold and aluminum. They share these properties: 1. shiny; 2. conduct heat and electricity; 3. solid at room temp (except mercury); 4. some are magnetic (iron and nickel).

Alloy: A mixture of two or more metals

Steel: An alloy of iron, carbon and traces of other metals

Sediment: The dirt and sand that is carried away with water and wind and add layers to other places. The layers separate according to the size and density of the materials and eventually harden into rock under the sea and elsewhere.

Fossil: The structure that results when organisms are buried under layers of sediment and pressed on, then cemented into the soil

Clay: A kind of dirt with the smallest particles. Makes a very uniform, soft sdimentary rock, like shale … unlike sandstone. Clay soil holds water well.

The three types of rocks: Sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic

Sedimentary rock: Rock formed when other rocks break down into sediment, then gradually reform other rocks due to pressure and layering. The Grand canyon is an example of sedimentary rocks. Its layers are visible. It was once under the ocean.

Igneous rock: Rock formed from magma erupting from a volcano. It forms in an irregular, crystalline pattern combining two or more distinct materials, with less mixing. Come from cooling magma, so form quickly and doesn’t contain fossils.

Metamorphic rock: Igneous, sedimentary or other metamorphic rock that changes due to heat

Corrosion: The damaging chemical reaction that occurs when metal is in contact with oxygen. The damage happens because oxide forms on the metal.

Weathering: The process of the breakdown of minerals, rocks and organic materials through freezing, thawing, melting, abrasion, wind, acids, etc.

Water: A chemical compound that is the most common liquid on earth. It is a solvent that is formed when hydrogen burns in air (oxygen).

The water cycle: The process by which water is continuously recycled between the earth, the atmosphere and living things through heat and evaporation and clouds and rain

Dissolve: To mix something into a liquid

Solution: The result of dissolving something in a liquid

Soluble: Able to dissolve in liquid

Insoluble: Unable to dissolve in liquid

Tides: The rise and fall of sea levels caused by the gravity of the moon and the rotation of the earth

Air: The gas that we breathe. Air is oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide. It helps people breathe oxygen, which they need in their blood. It helps plants make food. It protects people from sun’s UV rays. Nitrogen: 78%, Oxygen – 21%, Other – 1%. Molecules/particles in air are constantly moving and there’s lots of empty space between them. Like water always flows downhill, air always flows toward lower pressure. To separate out the gases in air, just cool and compress it. Each gas liquifies at a different temperature.

Earth’s atmosphere: All of the air that surrounds the Earth. It is held near the earth due to gravity. There is no distinct starting point, but instead a gradual decline; the further up into the atmosphere you get, the less air is held down. Also, the higher air is thinner, with less oxygen, and unbreathable. (Side note: the moon’s gravitational pull isn’t strong enough to hold air down, so there is no air on the moon.)

Air compression: What happens when air particles are pushed closer together (as in a small space). Compressed air is more highly pressurized.

Air pressure: The condition created when air is pushed. When you push more air into a small space, air particles move closer together but try to escape by pushing on the inside walls (of the tire or balloon or whatever). The place on the body we notice air pressure changes is the ear since the eardrum must have equal air pressure on both sides, but air has to go through a bottleneck, and can move unevenly, resulting in popping.

Vacuum: When we suck or otherwise remove air from a container, we create a vacuum. By removing air, air pressure decreases. And since air always flows toward lower pressure, sucking occurs and air and materials from the outside get pulled in. (It’s not the motion of pulling out the air that causes sucking. It’s the higher pressure on the outside wanting to get in!) Outer space has no air, so it is a vaccum. If you went to space without a spacesuit you’d explode because all the air in your body would push outward toward the vaccum at once. Spacesuits provide air pressure.

Ecosystem: A group of plants and animals that interact with each other and their surroundings

Biome: A unique climate and soil type

The eleven biomes of Earth: Tropical rainforests, deciduous forests, mountains, coniferous forests, scrub lands, temperate grasslands/prairies, tundra, tropical grasslands, deserts, polar areas, oceans

Habitat: The natural environment in which a species lives

Biodiversity: The huge variety of living things in a particular area. Biodiversity is lost with selective breeding.

Pollution: The unneeded junk (particularly the human-made chemical particles) that gets into the air and water. Water pollution happens both due to poisons in water killing life and to the oxygen in the water being used up by the bacteria (or even plant) overgrowth as they feed on waste materials. When there is inadequate oxygen for fish and animals, the water becomes lifeless.

The Ozone Layer: The layer of ozone (O3) that exists in the upper atomosphere of earth. It is poisonous to humans but protects us from UV rays.

The Greenhouse Effect: The result of an overabundance of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which traps heat and causes a greenhouse-like effect on earth which then results in major climate change

Global warming: The result of the Greenhouse Effect

Sewage treatment: The process by which a city’s waste water is filtered for large particles, then left in tanks where the organic solids sink to the bottom and are broken down by bacteria

Carbon cycle: The process by which carbon cycles in an through plants, animals, minerals and the atmosphere. This happens mostly due to the respiration of carbon dioxide by animals, the incorporation of carbon dioxide by plants during photosynthesis, decomposition and the burning of fossil fuels.

Nitrogen cycle: When the nitrogen cycle is not in balance, global warming and ozone depletion can occur.

Intensive farming: Farming with use of chemicals, machinery, etc.


Earth Zones: Arctic and Antarctic; North and South Temperate; tropical (the middle, both sides of equator)

U.S. states, capitals, major cities, major rivers, mtns, countries of all continents, major climate regions and crops that grow there, biggest cities by pop and countries by land and pop

types of govn’t

latitude lines
Imaginary lines running horizontally around the globe. Also called parallels, latitude lines are equidistant from each other. Each degree of latitude is about 69 miles (110 km) apart. Zero degrees (0°) latitude is the equator, the widest circumference of the globe. Latitude is measured from 0° to 90° north and 0° to 90° south—90° north is the North Pole and 90° south is the South Pole.
longitude lines
Imaginary lines, also called meridians, running vertically around the globe. Unlike latitude lines, longitude lines are not parallel. Meridians meet at the poles and are widest apart at the equator. Zero degrees longitude (0°) is called the prime meridian. The degrees of longitude run 180° east and 180° west from the prime meridian.
geographic coordinates
Latitude and longitude lines form an imaginary grid over the Earth’s surface. By combining longitude and latitude measurements, any location on earth can be determined. The units of measurement for geographic coordinates are degrees (°), minutes (‘), and seconds (“). Like a circle, the Earth has 360 degrees. Each degree is divided into 60 minutes, which in turn is divided into 60 seconds. Latitude and longitude coordinates also include cardinal directions: north or south of the equator for latitude, and east or west of the prime meridian for longitude. The geographic coordinates of New York City, for example, are 40° N, 74° W, meaning that it is located 40 degrees north latitude and 74 degrees west longitude. Using minutes and seconds as well as degrees, the coordinates for New York would be 40°42’51” N, 74°0’23” W. (Latitude is always listed first.) A less common format for listing coordinates is in decimal degrees. The Tropic of Cancer, for example, can be expressed in degrees and minutes (23°30’ N) or in decimal degrees (23.5° N).
A hemisphere is half the Earth’s surface. The four hemispheres are the Northern and Southern hemispheres, divided by the equator (0° latitude), and the Eastern and Western hemispheres, divided by the prime meridian (0° longitude) and the International Date Line (180°).
Zero degrees latitude. The Sun is directly overhead the equator at noon on the two equinoxes (March and Sept. 20 or 21). The equator divides the globe into the Northern and Southern hemispheres. The equator appears halfway between the North and South poles, at the widest circumference of the globe. It is 24,901.55 miles (40,075.16 km) long.
prime meridian
Zero degrees longitude (0°). The prime meridian runs through the Royal Greenwich Observatory in Greenwich, England (the location was established in 1884 by international agreement). The prime meridian divides the globe into the Western and Eastern hemispheres. The Earth’s time zones are measured from the prime meridian. The time at 0° is called Universal Time (UT) or Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). With the Greenwich meridian as the starting point, each 15° east and west marks a new time zone. The 24 time zones extend east and west around the globe for 180° to the International Date Line. When it is noon along the prime meridian, it is midnight along the International Date Line.
International Date Line
Located at 180° longitude (180° E and 180° W are the same meridian). Regions to the east of the International Date Line are counted as being one calendar day earlier than the regions to the west. Although the International Date Line generally follows the 180° meridian (most of which lies in the Pacific Ocean), it does diverge in places. Since 180° runs through several countries, it would divide those countries not simply into two different time zones, but into two different calendar days. To avoid such unnecessary confusion, the date line dips and bends around countries to permit them to share the same time.
Tropic of Cancer
A line of latitude located at 23°30′ north of the equator. The Sun is directly overhead the Tropic of Cancer on the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere (June 20 or 21). It marks the northernmost point of the tropics, which falls between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.
Tropic of Capricorn
A line of latitude located at 23°30′ south. The Sun is directly overhead the Tropic of Capricorn on the summer solstice in the Southern Hemisphere (Dec. 20 or 21). It marks the southernmost point of the tropics.
Arctic Circle
A line of latitude located at 66°30′ north, delineating the Northern Frigid Zone of the Earth.
Antarctic Circle
A line of latitude located at 66°30′ south, delineating the Southern Frigid Zone of the Earth.
The most accurate map of the Earth, duplicating its spherical shape and relative size.
map projections
Two-dimensional representations of the three-dimensional Earth. Because projections attempt to present the spherical Earth on a flat plane, they inevitably produce distortions. Map projections are numerous and complex (e.g., there are a variety of cylindrical, conic, or azimuthal projections). Each projection has advantages and serves different purposes, and each produces different types of distortions in direction, distance, shape, and relative size of areas. One of the most famous projections is the Mercator, created by Geradus Mercator in 1569. It is a rectangular-shaped map in which all longitude and latitude lines are parallel and intersect at right angles (on a globe, meridians are not parallel, but grow narrower, eventually converging at the poles). Near the equator, the scale of the Mercator is accurate, but the farther one moves toward the poles, the greater the distortion—Antarctica in the far south and Greenland in the far north, for example, appear gigantic. The Mercator projection was used well into the 20th century, but has now been superseded by others, including the widely used Robinson projection. The Robinson projection is an elliptical-shaped map with a flat top and bottom. Developed in 1963 by Arthur H. Robinson, it is an orthophanic (“right appearing”) projection, which attempts to reflect the spherical appearance of the Earth. The meridians, for example, are curved arcs, which gives the flat map a three-dimensional appearance. But to convey the likeness of a curved, three-dimensional globe, the Robinson projection must in fact distort shape, area, scale, and distance. The Albers, Lambert, Mollweide, and Winkel Tripel are some of the other commonly used map projections.

Despite its being called “Earth,” more than two-thirds of our planet’s surface is covered in water. The rest consists of seven vast expanses of land called continents. The largest of these is Asia, followed by Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australasia. They contain an amazing variety of landscapes—mountains, deserts, tropical rainforests, woodlands, and polar ice caps.

Seventy-one percent of our planet is covered with water in the form of oceans, seas, lakes, and rivers. The highest mountain, the deepest trench, and the longest mountain range are all found under the ocean.

Longest river: Nile 4,160 miles (6,695 km)

Largest lake: Caspian Sea 143,243 sq miles (371,000 sq km)

Highest point: Mt. Everest 29,035 ft (8,850 m)

Lowest point: Dead Sea –1,312 ft (–400 m)

Largest ocean: Pacific Ocean

Largest desert: Sahara 3,263,400 sq miles (9,065,000 sq km)

Largest island: Greenland 836,327 sq miles (2,166,086 sq km)

Coldest place: Ulan Bator, Mongolia –26°F (–32°C)

Hottest place: Baghdad, Iraq 110°F (43°C), July/August

Wettest place: (by annual rainfall) Liberia, 202 in (514 cm) of rain per year

Driest place: (by annual rainfall) Egypt, 11°8 in (2.9 cm) of rain per year

The world today is divided into 193 independent nations, differing from each other in size, shape, population, people, language, government, culture, and wealth. World maps are always changing, as new countries emerge from colonial rule or old ones divide or fall apart. Fifty years ago, there were only 82 independent nations, the rest being colonies or dependencies waiting to gain their independence.

Every part of Earth’s land surface belongs to or is claimed by one country or another, with the exception of Antarctica, where territorial claims have been set aside by international treaty (a formal agreement).

Largest country: Russian Federation 6,592,800 sq miles (17,075,400 sq km)

Smallest country: Vatican City 0.17 sq miles (0.44 sq km)

Longest border: US–Canada 5,526 miles (8,893 km)

Country with most neighbors: China (14), Russia (14)

Oldest country: Denmark, AD 950

Youngest country: East Timor, 2002

People have lived on Earth for two million years. For most of that time, the population has remained small, as the number of births has roughly equaled the number of deaths. Improved medicine and health care, better sanitation, improved farming methods producing more and better food, and less physical work have all led to fewer infant deaths and more people living longer. This has caused a massive increase in population over the last 150 years. Today, the world’s population is more than six billion and is rising at a rate of about one million a week.

The world’s six billion people are not evenly distributed around the planet, but concentrated in areas where the climate is suitable and the land habitable. This concentration of people is measured by population density, which is the average number of people living in each square mile.

Cities such as Hong Kong have solved the problem of limited space by building up rather than out. This has led to a growing number of so-called megacities, with populations of more than ten million. However, overcrowding, pollution, and a lack of open space make such cities unpleasant to live in.

Top five biggest cities and populations: Tokyo, Japan 34.9 million New York, NY 21.6 million Seoul, South Korea 21.1 million Mexico City, Mexico 20.7 million São Paulo, Brazil 20.2 million

Country with smallest population: Vatican City 900

Most densely populated country: Monaco 42,649 people per sq mile (16,404 people per sq km)

Least densely populated country: Mongolia 4 people per sq mile (2 people per sq km)

Country with highest birth rate: Niger 55 per 1,000 population

Country with lowest birth rate: Hong Kong/Macao (China) 7 per 1,000 population

Country with highest death rate: Sierra Leone 25 per 1,000 population

Country with lowest death rate: United Arab Emirates 2 per 1,000 population

Country with the highest life expectancy: Japan (81)

Country with the lowest life expectancy: Sierra Leone (39)

Richest country (highest GNP*): United States $9,602 billion

Poorest country (lowest GNP*): Tuvalu US$3 million

*GNP = Gross National Product

he rocky ball that forms our world is one of nine planets in the Solar System. Earth is a sphere, with a slight bulge in the middle at the Equator, and a diameter of 12,756 km (7,926 miles). It hurtles at speeds of 105,000 kph (65,000 mph) during its orbit around the Sun, turning on its AXIS once every 24 hours. This journey takes a year to complete. The Earth is the only planet that is known to support life, in a zone called the BIOSPHERE.

Water, oxygen, and energy from the Sun combine on Earth to help create suitable conditions for life. The planet’s surface is mainly liquid water, which is why it looks blue from space. Earth is the only planet in the Solar System with an atmosphere that contains a large amount of oxygen. The Sun is 150 million km (93 million miles) away, producing heat that is bearable on Earth.

The atmosphere is a layer of gas surrounding the Earth that is some 700 km (400 miles) thick. It is made up of nitrogen (78 per cent) and oxygen (21 per cent), plus traces of other gases. Tiny droplets of water vapour form the clouds we see.

Oceans cover 70.8 per cent of the Earth’s surface, to an average depth of 3.5 km (2 miles). The hydrosphere (watery zone) also includes freshwater rivers and lakes, but these make up less than 1 per cent of Earth’s water.

Dry land occupies 29.2 per cent of the Earth’s surface, where the lithosphere (rocky crust) rises above sea level to form seven continents and countless smaller islands. Land can be categorised into biomes – major habitats such as forests, grasslands, and deserts.

The cryosphere (frozen zone) includes snow and glaciers on high mountains, sea ice, and the huge ice caps that cover the landmasses of Greenland and the Antarctic. In the past, during long cold eras called ice ages, ice covered much more of Earth’s surface than it does today.

Meteorology, the study of Earth’s atmosphere, is one of the Earth sciences. Earth scientists study Earth’s physical characteristics, from raindrops to rivers and the rocks beneath our feet. Other branches of study include geology (rocks), hydrology, (oceans and freshwater), and ecology (living things and the environment).

Satellite images allow scientists to monitor everything from ocean currents to minerals hidden below ground. Techniques such as radar and sonar have transformed our understanding of our planet. Some Earth scientists also spend time in the field, which means working outdoors, collecting data and samples from clouds, cliffs, craters, volcanic lava, and deep-buried ice.

The biosphere is the part of Earth that contains what is needed for living things. This zone extends from the ocean floor to top of the troposphere (lower atmosphere). Tiny organisms can survive deep in the Earth’s crust, but most forms of life are found from a few hundred metres below sea level to about 1,000 m (3,300 ft) above sea level.

Ozone is a gas spread thinly through the atmosphere. It filters harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight, while allowing visible light (the light we can see) to pass through. Other gases in the atmosphere trap the Sun’s heat when it is reflected from the Earth’s surface, providing additional warmth for living things.

Environmental scientist James Lovelock argues that the planet can be seen as a complete living organism, which he names Gaia, after the Greek goddess of Earth. Gaia theory states that Earth itself balances conditions to suit living things in the biosphere. This includes regulating the composition of the atmosphere the chemistry of the oceans, and ground surface temperature.

The ground beneath our feet may seem still, but in fact the Earth is spinning like a top as it orbits the Sun. The Earth takes 24 hours to rotate about its axis, an imaginary line running from the North Pole to the South Pole through the centre of the Earth. The Earth’s axis is not at a right-angle to the path of its orbit, but tilts at an angle of 23.5°. The angle between each region of Earth and the Sun’s rays alters through the year, producing seasonal changes in temperature and day length. These are most noticeable in regions next to the poles, which are most distant from the Equator.

As Earth turns about its axis, one half is bathed in sunlight and experiences day, while the other half is plunged into darkness and has night. The Earth always rotates eastward, so the Sun and stars appear to rise in the east and set in the west. The tilt of the planet means that at any time, one hemisphere (half of the Earth, as divided by the Equator) leans toward the Sun and experiences summer, while the other leans away and has winter.

The Earth is a giant, spinning ball of rock and metal. The rocky surface we live on is the Earth’s thin outer layer, called the crust. In places the crust is just a few kilometres thick. Underneath the crust are two more layers, called the mantle, and the core, which combine to reach a depth of 6,370 km (3,960 miles). Scientists discovered these layers by studying how shock waves from earthquakes change direction and speed as they travel through the Earth. It is thought that the core creates Earth’s MAGNETOSPHERE.

The Earth came into being about 4,600 million years ago. Along with the other planets and moons in our Solar System, it was made from material left over after the birth of the Sun. Earths surface has gone through many changes since, with the formation of the continents, oceans, and atmosphere, ’and the appearance of life.

Small particles of rock, dust, and gas in space are gradually pulled together by the gravity between them. The process is called accretion. The young Earth was formed by accretion over millions of years.

Huge pressure in the centre of Earth created heat that melted the rocks inside. For hundreds of millions of years the surface was bombarded by meteorites from space. About 4,200 million years ago, Earth’s surface had cooled and a crust of solid rock had formed.

The early atmosphere consisted of volcanic gases, which formed rain. From about 3,500 million years ago, this began to collect in oceans. Continents were also developing. Simple organisms in the oceans gave out oxygen into the atmosphere.

An imaginary slice out of the Earth shows that scientists believe it has a core made mostly of solid and molten iron, a mantle of solid and half-molten rock, and a crust of solid rock. The inside of the Earth is still extremely hot. Plate tectonics, mountain building, and erosion are constantly changing the appearance of the Earth’s surface.

Geophysicist Andrija Mohorovicic found that earthquake shock waves sped up when they reached about 20 km (12 miles) below the surface. He suggested that happened at a boundary where two different layers of material met. This boundary is between the crust and the mantle, and is now known as the Mohorovicic discontinuity, or Moho.

The Earth has a magnetic field around it, and the magnetosphere is the region in which this field can be felt. It stretches more than 60,000 km (37,000 miles) into space, like an invisible magnetic bubble, and protects the Earth from harmful solar radiation. The solar wind, particles which stream from the Sun, pull the magnetosphere into a teardrop shape.

The Earth has a magnetic field that is the same shape as that of a bar magnet. It is as though the Earth contains a giant bar magnet with its poles located near the North Pole and South Pole. These magnetic Poles are tilted at a slight angle to the Earth’s axis. Scientists think that the magnetic field is caused by currents of molten metal in the Earth’s outer core. From time to time, these reverse, with north becoming south.



Scientists believe that the Earth’s outer crust is made up of about huge fragments, called tectonic plates, that fit together like a cracked eggshell. According to the theory of plate tectonics, devised in the 1970s, these plates ride like rafts on the softer, red-hot rock below and very move slowly over the globe, carrying the continents with them. Past arrangements of tectonic plates created one vast SUPERCONTINENT.

Earth’s crust is a giant jigsaw of seven enormous plates and about twelve smaller ones. Many scientists believe plate movement is driven by slow-churning currents deep in the mantle beneath. As the plates drift, they converge (move towards each other) and collide, or grind past one another at transform margins, or diverge (pull apart).

The edges of the plates that make up the lithosphere are called boundaries or margins. New crust is mainly created at plate boundaries in mid-ocean, where the SEA-FLOOR IS SPREADING. Older crust is destroyed near the edges of oceans, where plates collide and one subducts (dives) below the other and melts. This causes the plates to move very slowly over the softer asthenosphere, below.

The shapes of continents such as eastern South America and western Africa would fit neatly if pushed together. The discovery of matching fossils and rock layers on land separated by wide oceans provided further evidence that landmasses were once united. Scientists call this supercontinent Pangaea. The slow movement of Earth’s plates caused Pangaea to split apart.

Some 300 million years ago, plate movement drove Earth’s landmasses together to form Pangaea (All-Earth). This was surrounded by the vast ocean Panthalassa. About 100 million years later Pangaea began to break up.

An arm of the Tethys Sea, an ancient ocean, opened to split Pangaea in two. To the north lay Europe, North America, Greenland, and Asia, with South America, Africa, India, Australia, and Antarctica to the south.

As plate movement continued, these large fragments split into smaller continents, which slowly came to their present positions. They continue to move at a rate of a few centimetres per year.

Climate expert and geophysicist Alfred Wegener pioneered the theory of continental drift in 1915. He became convinced that the continents were once joined, and put forward the idea of Pangaea. On the Arctic island of Spitzbergen, Wegener found fossils of tropical ferns, which suggested that the island had once lain in the tropics. His ideas were not taken seriously until the 1960s.

Mountain chains, longer and mightier than any on land, run down the centre of the oceans. At these mid-ocean ridges, where tectonic plates diverge, molten magma erupts to bridge the gap. Rock samples taken from the Atlantic floor in the 1960s showed that the youngest rocks lay in the centre of the ridges, with older rocks to either side. As the new rock forms, older rock is pushed aside, and the sea floor widens, or spreads.



Earthquakes are caused by movements of the giant tectonic plates that form Earth’s crust. SEISMOLOGY is the study of earthquakes. Most occur at cracks called FAULTS, at the boundaries where the plates meet. Every minute, the ground shakes somewhere in the world, but these vibrations are usually minor tremors that are barely noticed. When a major earthquake strikes, the ground shakes violently, and buildings and bridges topple.

As the plates slowly shift, rocks are put under pressure. They stick, then stretch and, as the strain gets too great, they shatter and jolt into new positions. Seismic (shock) waves radiate from the earthquake’s focus, underground. The epicentre, above the focus, suffers the worst damage.

Faults are deep cracks in rocks, mostly caused by movement at plate margins. Deep earthquakes strike in subduction zones where two plates collide and one slides below the other. Shallow earthquakes occur mostly where two plates grind past one another. The rocks may be shifted only a few centimetres, but over millions of years, this can add up to hundreds of kilometres of movement sideways, and up to 30 km (19 miles) of vertical movement.

The rocks along a fault may move up or down, sideways or diagonally, depending on the angle of the fault plane. The angle of the fault plane to the horizontal is known as the dip. In a normal fault, also known as a dip-slip fault, the rocks shift straight down or up, following the line of dip.

The distance that the rocks slip up or down during a quake or tremor is called the throw. In a reverse fault, pressure causes one block of rock to overhang another. As the rocks shift, the block is forced farther up and over the other. A reverse fault with a fault plane of 45° or less is called a thrust fault.

In a strike-slip fault, rocks scrape sideways past one another. The amount of sideways slip is called the heave. The San Andreas Fault, which runs along the west coast of North America, is a famous example. The rocks in an oblique-slip fault slide past each other, and also up and down in a diagonal movement.

Seismologists study earthquakes. They also examine the behaviour of seismic waves passing through the Earth to find out about its structure. Instruments called seismographs measure the intensity of seismic waves. The magnitude (size) of earthquakes can be rated by measuring either these waves, on the Richter scale, or the damage caused – the Mercalli scale. Earthquakes cannot be prevented, but they can sometimes be accurately predicted.



Volcanoes are vents (openings) in the ground from which magma (molten rock), ash, gas, and rock fragments surge upwards, in an event called an eruption. They are often found at boundaries between the plates in Earth’s crust. Volcanic eruptions produce volcanoes of different shapes, depending on the type of eruption and the region’s geology. HYDROTHERMAL ACTIVITY occurs where underground water is heated by rising magma.

Magma that flows over the Earth’s surface is called lava. A shield volcano produces lava that spreads over a wide area to form a broad mound. Magma collects underground in a space called a magma chamber, before erupting through vents to form low cones, and through fissures (long cracks).

A dome, or cone, volcano is formed when thick, sticky lava erupts from a volcano crater. The lava cools and solidifies quickly to form a dome. Further eruptions may add more layers. The collapse of a dome can produce dangerous pyroclastic flows – fast-moving flows of hot gas and volcanic fragments.

A steep-sided composite volcano is made of alternating layers of ash and lava, produced by a series of eruptions. Its thick magma does not flow far before solidifying. This type of volcano often has a main vent, fed by a chimney rising from its magma chamber, and additional side vents.

Magma forms when the rocks below the Earth’s crust melt. A flow of erupted magma along the Earth’s surface is called lava. When red-hot lava flowing from volcanoes cools, it solidifies into many different forms. One, pahoehoe lava, is fast-flowing and runny. As it cools, it forms a smooth, shiny skin, under which lava continues to flow. This sometimes wrinkles the smooth surface into ropelike coils.

Unlike smooth-skinned pahoehoe lava, aa lava has a rough surface, which is difficult to walk on and sharp enough to rip rubber shoes. This jagged material is formed when slow-moving, sticky lava cools and breaks up into sharp, blocky shapes. Flows of aa lava can be thick, reaching heights of up to 100 m (330 ft). The words for aa (pronounced ah-ah) and pahoehoe (pahow-ee-how-ee) lava come from Hawaii, where these lava types occur and were first studied.

The word “hydrothermal” comes from the Greek words for water and heat. In volcanic regions, the combination of heat and water below ground produces remarkable effects. In the oceans, openings called hydrothermal vents form when cracks containing red-hot magma fill with seawater. They spout black clouds of hot water mixed with gas and minerals. Hydrothermal activity on land produces hot springs, geyser, and pools of bubbling mud.

New mountains are built when rocks are pushed upwards by the movement of the giant rocky plates that make up the Earth’s crust. The rocks are pushed upwards in two ways: FOLD mountains are formed when layers of rock become buckled, and BLOCK mountains are formed when giant lumps of rock rise or fall. Volcanic eruptions also create mountains. Many mountain ranges have been built up and eroded away since the Earth was formed.

The Andes is the longest mountain range on land. It was formed along the western margin of South America, where two tectonic plates (rocky plates that make up the Earth’s crust) collided. The mountains are still rising by about 10 cm (4 in) every century.

Fold mountains are pushed up at a boundary where two tectonic plates collide. The boundary between an ocean plate and a continental plate is called a subduction zone. Here, the thin ocean crust slides slowly under a thicker continental crust, making the rocks buckle and fold. The ocean plate also melts, creating magma (molten rock) that rises to form volcanoes.

The world’s major mountain ranges, such as the Andes, the Himalayas, and the Alps, are situated along the boundaries where tectonic plates collide. These ranges formed in the last few hundred million years, so are they quite young. The map also shows thin lines of volcanoes that erupt from the ocean floor, forming chains of mountainous islands.

The Himalayas is a range of fold mountains formed by the collision between India and the rest of Asia. When the two tectonic plates collided, the southern edge of Asia buckled. The Indian plate continues to slide under Asia and, to date, has uplifted Tibet to a height of over 5 km (3 miles).

When layers of rock are pushed inwards from both ends, they crumple up into waves called folds. Rocks are too hard to be squashed into a smaller space. Instead they fold upwards and downwards. The immense forces that cause folding can crunch solid rocks into folds just a few metres across.

The rocks that buckle to form fold mountains are made up of layers of sedimentary rocks and igneous rocks. When the layers are folded, the rocks on the outside of a fold are stretched and the rocks on the inside of a fold are squashed. The folding also makes the layers of rock slide over each other.

Block mountains are mountains formed when layers of rock crack into giant blocks. Cracks in layers of rock are called faults. They form when the Earth’s crust is stretched, squashed, or twisted. The blocks are free to slip up, down, or sideways, or to tip over. These movements are very slow, but over millions of years they form mountains thousands of metres high.



Geologists (scientists who study rocks) divide the time since the Earth was formed until today into chunks called periods. During the various periods, different species of animals and plants lived on the Earth. For example, the Cretaceous period, which lasted from 146 million years ago to 65 million years ago, was the final period of the dinosaurs. Some rocks can be given a relative age by identifying the fossils they contain. The date of formation of some rocks can be found by using RADIOMETRIC DATING.

Coastal features, such as cliffs and arches, are formed by wave erosion. As the sea beats on rocky headlands, softer rocks are eroded (worn away) to form hollow caves. Twin caves on either side of a headland may eventually wear right through to form an arch. As the battering continues, the top of the arch collapses to leave an isolated pillar.

In the last few million years, sea levels have risen and fallen by up to 200 m (660 ft). Scientists believe these are caused by temperature changes, as Ice Ages come and go. During Ice Ages, sea levels are low because large amounts of water are frozen. When the climate warms, the ice melts and sea levels rise. Today, sea levels look set to rise because of global warming. This will bring a risk of flooding to coasts.

During an Ice Age, the weight of the ice depresses (pushes down) the land. Sea levels are low, so the crust beneath the ocean is not depressed. When the weather warms, melting ice causes sea levels to rise. This effect is partly offset by the land springing up when released from the ice’s weight, while the ocean bed sinks beneath the weight of water.


The water in the oceans is never still, but moves continually in strong currents that flow both near the surface and at great depths. This helps to distribute the Sun’s heat around the globe. Winds create surface currents, which are then bent by Earth’s rotation and by land masses to flow in great circles, called gyres. Warm surface currents coming from the tropics warm the lands they flow past. Cool deep currents flowing from polar waters have the opposite effect.

ocean floor
ust a century ago, the ocean floor was largely unknown. Now we know that the deep oceans have features such as mountains, deep valleys, and vast plains. Many of these are formed by the movement of the tectonic plates that make up Earth’s crust. Far below the ocean’s surface, volcanic mountain chains are rising in mid-ocean zones where plates pull apart. Elsewhere, deep trenches descend in subduction zones where plates collide and one dives below the other.

Oceanographers use sonar to map the ocean floor. The research ship directs sound waves at the bottom, and charts the echoes that bounce back to create a detailed map. Sonar has revealed features such as seamounts (submerged volcanic peaks), which rise 1,000 m (3,300 ft) from the sea floor, and guyots (flat-topped seamounts).

In 1977, scientists used submersible vehicles to explore the seabed and discovered vents gushing dark plumes of superhot, mineral-rich water. These black smokers, are caused by volcanic activity at mid-ocean ridges. Water entering cracks in the crust is heated by magma and mixed with mineral sulphides, then belched forth in dark clouds.
Islands are land masses entirely surrounded by water. They are found in oceans, seas, rivers, and lakes. Islands vary in size from tiny rock outcrops to vast areas such as Greenland, which covers 2.2 million sq km (840,000 sq miles). There are two main types of island: oceanic islands which are remote from land; and continental islands, which often lie close to the mainland. Many oceanic islands are volcanoes. Continental islands are often formed by changes in sea level.

Continental islands, such as the British Isles, rise from the shallow waters of continental shelves, which fringe the world’s continents. Often these islands were once part of the mainland, but were cut off when sea levels rose to flood the land in between. Smaller islands, called barrier islands, sometimes form off coasts where ocean currents or rivers deposit sand or mud.

Coral islands, such as the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, are composed of the limey skeletons of coral polyps. Large colonies of these anemone-like creatures thrive in the warm, shallow waters off tropical coasts or around seamounts. The polyps’ soft bodies are protected by cup-shaped shells, which grow on top of one another to form rocky reefs that eventually break the surface. If the seamount subsides, just a ring of coral, called an atoll, may be left.

Chains of volcanic islands sometimes form near the centre of tectonic plates, in zones called hot spots. Some scientists believe that hot spots occur where magma plumes surge up from the mantle below. The magma bursts through a weak point in the crust to form an island. Over millions of years, the hot spot stays in the same place as the crustal plate drifts over it, forming new islands.

Oceanic islands are often formed by volcanic eruptions when plates collide. As one plate is forced below another, its crust melts in the red-hot mantle below. This molten rock rises up again to burn through the crust and erupt on the sea floor. Over time, the erupted rock forms a tall seamount and eventually breaks the surface as an island.

When water flows over some rocks, such as limestone, caves may be formed by a process called chemical weathering. Water seeps into cracks and gradually dissolves the rock, widening the cracks until, over thousands of years, the limestone becomes riddled with caves and passageways. Water flowing through caves forms underground streams, rivers, and pools (such as this one in Mexico). Surface rivers disappear into sink holes and reappear many kilometres away. Eventually a cave roof may fall in, creating a gorge.


Groundwater is water under the Earth’s surface. Most groundwater is found in porous rocks, which have tiny holes in them. If a hole is bored straight down through the rock, groundwater is eventually found at a certain level. This level is called the water table, and it usually rises when rainwater soaks into the ground. A spring is a place where groundwater emerges from a hillside.


Lakes form where water fills hollows in the landscape. Some of these hollows are formed by glaciers gouging into the ground, and some are created when river valleys are blocked by dams. Other lakes are formed in volcanic craters, or when land sinks during earth movements. Most lakes contain freshwater, but there are some saltwater lakes, such as the Dead Sea between Israel and Jordan.

Auroras are shimmering curtains of light seen at night in the polar regions. They are known as the Northern Lights in the Arctic, and as the Southern Lights in the Antarctic. These spectacular displays are caused by charged particles from the Sun striking the upper atmosphere above the poles.

Ozone is a form of oxygen that gathers in the stratosphere to form a layer. This layer screens out harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays from the Sun, which can cause skin cancer. In the 1980s, scientists discovered that thin areas, or holes, were appearing in the ozone layer over the polar regions each spring. Ozone loss is caused by chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

Earth’s landmasses can be divided into nine major climate zones, based on their usual temperature, rainfall, and the type of vegetation that grows there. Tropical areas are hot all year round, while polar regions and the tops of high mountains are always cold. Temperate zones in between the poles and the tropics, such as temperate forests and Mediterranean regions, have moderate, but seasonally changing, climates. Deserts are dry, receiving less than 25 cm (9 in) of rainfall every year.


A flash of lightning is a giant spark of electricity. When ice crystals and water droplets move about and collide inside a thundercloud, static electricity builds up. Lightning is set off when the spark jumps through a cloud, or from one cloud to another, or from a cloud to the ground. A bolt of lightning heats the air to about 30,000°C (54,000°F) so the air expands suddenly and causes a clap of thunder.

Negative electric charge builds up in the base of a thundercloud, and positive charge in the top. The negative and positive charges are attracted to each other, so lightning can strike through the cloud. The negative charge in the cloud’s base also attracts positive charges in the ground, so eventually a lightning spark leaps through the air between the cloud and the ground.



The Earth has many natural resources that make life in the modern world possible. For example, rocks are used in their natural state to make buildings, but they can also be processed to provide the materials we need to make anything from bridges and cars to silicon chips and jewellery. FOSSIL FUELS provide us with energy, but so does water flowing down rivers, the wind, and even the Sun. Resources such as rocks and fossil fuels must often be extracted from the ground by MINING.

Rocks contain a great variety of useful minerals. Mining and quarrying involve blasting, drilling, and digging up rocks to extract the minerals. Most mines and quarries are worked for building materials, coal, metal ores, and gem-rich rocks and deposits. Mining is noisy, dusty, and can require the use of dangerous chemicals, all of which can cause environmental damage.

A gold mine in Indonesia is an example of an underground mine, where rock is dug out by machinery deep under the surface. There are two main types of underground mine: shaft mines, which are normally deep, with vertical shafts leading to tunnels; and drift mines, which are near the surface. Underground mining is very dangerous because of possible flooding, explosive gases, and falling rocks.

At the Bingham copper mine in Utah, USA, the ore deposit is close to the surface and is extracted by opencast mining. Opencast mining is cheaper and easier than underground mining because no shafts have to be dug, but it does more damage to the landscape. Once the ore is dug up, it is carried away by trucks, railway, or conveyor belts.

Coal, oil, and gas are called fossil fuels because they were formed from the remains of animals and plants that were buried by layers of sediment millions of years ago. Most of the energy used today comes from burning fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are non-renewable sources of energy, which means that once they have been used they can never be replaced.

Many of the world’s oil and gas supplies are found in rock under the sea, from where they are extracted through pipes drilled into the seabed from production platforms. Where oil and gas are found together, they were formed from the bodies of microscopic marine organisms. Oil is a source of chemicals as well as fuel.

Coal is formed by the burial of plant remains before they rot completely. Surface deposits of vegetation form layers of peat that become lignite and coal as they are more deeply buried over time. Burial compresses the plant remains and squeezes out any water. Further pressure turns coal into anthracite.

The seven oceans: North Pacific, South Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, Indian Ocean, Southern Sea, Arctic Ocean

The seven continents: North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia/Oceania

Time zone:

The three North American time zones:

Note that students should also learn how to read a map and compass; how to identify the four directions; and how to draw or make a model of the earth, the solar system and the path of the earth around the sun and the moon around the earth, showing how they rotate and how those rotations and shadows create days, nights and years. They should also learn about their local natural area, including their own time zone, climate type and seasonal changes as well as the names of common local rocks, trees, flowers, insects and other animals.

Basic Meteorology Knowledge Checklist

Weather: The atmospheric conditions caused by changing air pressure and heat from sun

Climate: The long-term weather conditions of a particular area

Wind: The movement of air that happens when higher pressure air is moving toward lower pressure air. If there’s no pressure difference, there is no wind.

Storm: Any disruption in the atmosphere producing severe weather, including strong wind, tornadoes, hail, rain, snow (blizzard), lightning (thunderstorm), clouds of dust or sand carried by wind (a dust or sand storm)

Lightning: The visible and audible flow of electricity that occurs during a thunderstorm. It can occur inside a single cloud, between clouds, or between a cloud and the ground. It produces an audible booming sound called thunder. Since the speed of light is greater than the speed of sound, we hear thunder after we see lightning.

Tornado: A funnel-shaped column of wind, evaporated water, dust and debris that moves rapidly, sweeping up objects in its path. It is formed when a thunderstorm occurs in areas of both cold and warm air.

Hurricane/typhoon/tropical cyclone/tropical storm: A spiral-shaped group of thunderstorms formed over the ocean that forms a cyclone (a circular movement of wind with a low-pressure center)

Earthquake: A sudden shaking of the surface of the earth due to shifts in tectonic

Seismic activity: The sum of all of the tremors and earthquakes in a region

Tsunami: A series of huge, destructive waves formed due to major events like hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, meteorite crashes and earthquakes. Tsunamis are sometimes mistakenly known by the misnomer tidal wave.

Evaporation: Water vapor that is breaking free from the rest of the liquid

Condensation: The water vapor that collects back into drops on a solid. It comes from the air.

Water vapor: The gas that forms when water evaporates

Dew: The water vapor that forms as the sun rises and begins to warm cold air and humidity into condensation

Humidity: The water vapor in the air

Atmospheric particle/particulate: Microscopic solid or liquid particles suspended in the atmosphere. Some are organic and others are human-made.

Thermometer: A tool to measure temperature

Barometer: A tool to measure air pressure

Main climate types: Tropical (Wet/rain forest, Monsoon, and Wet and Dry/Savanna); Dry (Arid and Semiarid); Mild (Mediterranean, Humid subtropical and Marine); Continental (Warm summer, Cool summer and Subarctic/Boreal); and Polar (Tundra and Ice cap).

How to make a sundial: Draw a simple clock face. Suspend a stick or pencil in the center of it. Sit in face up in the sun in a way in which the stick’s shadow points to the appropriate time.

Read the rest of this series at Knowledge Checklists: Filling My Educational Gaps, One Subject at a Time.

And peruse my full recommended reading list at Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday.

Arts and Crafts (A Knowledge Checklist)

Like freedom and fun, creativity is an inborn need. I mean, lots of people think they don’t need it. But maybe they just haven’t yet found their medium. Here, a checklist to pique their interest. As a homeschooling mom I hope to expose my kids to most of these at some point during their childhood.

For a list of books on art, see my post Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday.

Fine Art Skills Checklist

Drawing (with chalk, charcoal, crayon, marker, oil pastels, pen, pencil)
Painting (with acrylic paint, oil paint, watercolor on canvas, glass, fabric, human body, plaster, wood, walls with brushes, sponges, hands, stencils and more)
Graphic Design/ Electronic Art
Sculpture (with wood, wax, stone, metal, clay and mixed media)
Performance Art: Dance, Theatre, Music
Conceptual Art/ Installation Art
Recycled Material Art

Applied Art Skills Checklist

Ceramics/ Pottery
Film Making
Culinary Art
Glass Blowing
Light Art/ Lighting Design
Gardening/ Landscape Architecture
Graphic Narratives/ Comics
Fashion Design
Textile Arts: Crocheting, Knitting, Macrame, Weaving and More

Crafts Checklist

Clay models
Model sets
Jewelry (with beads, other materials)
Bean-filled heat packs (heat in microwave)
Dolls (sewn)
Miniature dolls and animals
Doll house with furniture
Stuffed animals (sewn, with button eyes) 
Greeting cards
Bound books
Christmas decorations (ornaments, bead chains, other chains)
Masks using paper plates and popsicle sticks
Foam-and-cardboard planetarium
Baskets (woven)
Nature-inspired art (including nature collecting)
Beard and glasses (wearable)
Edible necklaces with apples or other food
Word collages concerning that day’s lesson
Collages using drawings, paintings, other art we’ve done in the past
Hand puppets
Finger puppets
Mixed media/recycled materials collages on cardboard
Mixed media/recycled materials play city
Reduced-mess painting: put paint and small objects in a plastic baggie and mix
Makng leaf and hand prints or rubbings
Playing with playdough
Gluing and taping with recycled materials
Hole punch and tie string
Egg carton treasure box
Flower pots made from sticks

Read the rest of this series at Knowledge Checklists: Filling My Educational Gaps, One Subject at a Time.

And peruse my full recommended reading list at Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday.

Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #76: "Aspects of the Novel" by E.M. Forster

Best Nonfiction Book

Dear kids,

Could the author of A Passage to India, Howard’s End and A Room With a View possibly have anything to teach us about masterful novel writing? I’d say so. I heard several of the quotes from Aspects of the Novel by E. M. Forster long before reading this book, and little wonder: they’re unique, revealing and succinct.

On story:

  • What the story does do in this particular capacity, all it can do, is to transform us from readers into listeners, to whom ‘a’ voice speaks, the voice of the tribal narrator, squatting in the middle of the cave, and saying one thing after another until the audience falls asleep among their offal and bones. The story is primitive, it reaches back to the origins of literature, before reading was discovered, and it appeals to what is primitive in us. That is why we are so unreasonable over the stories we like, and so ready to bully those who like something else.”
  • The love of story is primal, and the curiosity that makes people want to finish a story is also base, primal.

On characterization:

  • “And now we can get a definition as to when a character in a book is real: it is real when the novelist knows everything about it. He may not choose to tell us all he knows—many of the facts, even of the kind we call obvious, may be hidden. But he will give us the feeling that though the character has not been explained, it is explicable . . .”
  • “The test of a round character is whether it is capable of surprising in a convincing way. If it never surprises, it is flat. If it does not convince, it is a flat pretending to be round.”

On point of view:

  • “The novelist who betrays too much interest in his own method can never be more than interesting; he has given up the creation of character and summoned us to help analyse his own mind, and a heavy drop in the emotional thermometer results.”
  • “May the writer take the reader into his confidence about his characters? Answer has already been indicated: better not. It is dangerous, it generally leads to a drop in the temperature, to intellectual and emotional laxity, and worse still to facetiousness, and to a friendly invitation to see how the figures hook up behind. ‘Doesn’t A look nice—she always was my favourite.’ ‘Let’s think of why B does that—perhaps there’s more in him than meets the eye—yes, see—he has a heart of gold—having given you this peep at it I’ll pop it back—I don’t think he’s noticed.’ ‘And C—he always was the mystery man.’ Intimacy is gained but at the expense of illusion and nobility. It is like standing a man a drink so that he may not criticize your opinions.”
  • “It is not dangerous for a novelist to draw back from his characters, as Hardy and Conrad do, and to generalize about the conditions under which he thinks life is carried on. It is confidences about the individual people that do harm, and beckon the reader away from the people to an examination of the novelist’s mind. Not much is ever found in it at such a moment, for it is never in the creative state: the mere process of saying, ‘Come along, let’s have a chat,’ has cooled it down.”

On plot:

  • “Let us define a plot. We have defined a story as a narrative of events arranged in their time-sequence. A plot is also a narrative of events, the emphasis falling on causality. ‘The king died and then the queen died,’ is a story. ‘The king died, and then the queen died of grief’ is a plot.”
  • “If it is in a story we say ‘and then?’ If it is in a plot we ask ‘why?’ That is the fundamental difference.”

For more information, get Aspects of the Novel on Amazon or see E.M. Forster on Wikipedia.



Get the entire recommended reading list at Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday.

Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #75: "Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book Of Homeschooling" by John Holt and Pat Farenga

Best Nonfiction Book - Nurture Shock

Dear kids,

Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book Of Homeschooling by John Holt and Pat Farenga isn’t my favorite John Holt book. But anything with his name on it is a push of the “Buy Now” button on Amazon for me.

Notable Quotes:

  • One morning in Boston, as I walked to work across the Public Garden, I found myself imagining a huge conference, in a hotel full of signs and posters and people wearing badges. But at this conference everyone seemed to be talking about breathing. “How are you breathing these days?” “Much better than I used to, but I still need to improve.” “Have you seen Joe Smith yet—he certainly breathes beautifully.” And so on. All the meetings, books, discussions were about Better Breathing. And I thought, if we found ourselves at such a conference, would we not assume that everyone there was sick, or had just been sick? Why so much talk and worry about something that healthy people do naturally?
  • If there were no other reason for wanting to keep kids out of school, the social life would be reason enough. In all but a very few of the schools I have taught in, visited, or know anything about, the social life of the children is mean-spirited, competitive, exclusive, status-seeking, snobbish, full of talk about who went to whose birthday party and who got what . . .
  • Years ago I read that one or more inner-city schools had tried the experiment of letting fifth graders teach first graders to read. They found, first, that the first graders learned faster than similar first graders taught by trained teachers, and secondly, that the fifth graders who were teaching them, many or most of whom had not been good readers themselves, also improved a great deal in their reading.
  • We can sum up very quickly what people need to teach their own children. First of all, they have to like them, enjoy their company, their physical presence, their energy, foolishness, and passion. They have to enjoy all their talk and questions, and enjoy equally trying to answer those questions. They have to think of their children as friends, indeed very close friends, have to feel happier when they are near and miss them when they are away. They have to trust them as people, respect their fragile dignity, treat them with courtesy, take them seriously. They have to feel in their own hearts some of their children’s wonder, curiosity, and excitement about the world. And they have to have enough confidence in themselves, skepticism about experts, and willingness to be different from most people, to take on themselves the responsibility for their children’s learning. But that is about all that parents need.
  • During his early years, my wife and I and a couple of friends taught him all he wanted to know, and if we didn’t know it, which usually was the case, it was even better for we all learned together. Example: at 7, he saw the periodic table of elements, wanted to learn atoms and chemistry and physics. I had forgotten how to balance an equation, but went out and bought a college textbook on the subject, a history of discovery of the elements, and some model atoms, and in the next month we went off into a tangent of learning in which somehow we both learned college-level science. He has never returned to the subject, but to this day retains every bit of it because it came at a moment in development and fantasy that was meaningful to him.
  • A very important function of institutions of so-called higher learning is not so much to teach people things as to limit access to certain kinds of learning and work. The function of law schools is much less to train lawyers than to keep down the supply of lawyers. Practically everything that is now only done by people with Ph.D.’s was, not so very long ago, done by people with no graduate training or in some cases even undergraduate training.
  • Q. I don’t want to feel I’m sheltering my children or running away from adversity. A. Why not? It is your right, and your proper business, as parents, to shelter your children and protect them from adversity, at least as much as you can. Many of the world’s children are starved or malnourished, but you would not starve your children so that they would know what this was like. You would not let your children play in the middle of a street full of high-speed traffic. Your business is, as far as you can, to help them realize their human potential, and to that end you put as much as you can of good into their lives, and keep out as much as you can of bad. If you think—as you do—that school is bad, then it is clear what you should do.
  • Q. I value their learning how to handle challenges or problems. . . . A. There will be plenty of these. Growing up was probably never easy, and it is particularly hard in a world as anxious, confused, and fear-ridden as ours. To learn to know oneself, and to find a life worth living and work worth doing, is problem and challenge enough, without having to waste time on the fake and unworthy challenges of school—pleasing the teacher, staying out of trouble, fitting in with the gang, being popular, doing what everyone else does. Q. Will they have the opportunity to overcome or do things that they think they don’t want to do? A. I’m not sure what this question means. If it means, will unschooled children know what it is to have to do difficult and demanding things in order to reach goals they have set for themselves, I would say, yes, life is full of such requirements. But this is not at all the same thing as doing something, and in the case of school usually something stupid and boring, simply because someone else tells you you’ll be punished if you don’t. Whether children resist such demands or yield to them, it is bad for them. Struggling with the inherent difficulties of a chosen or inescapable task builds character; merely submitting to superior force destroys it. 
  • This is the opposite of the “charisma” that we hear so much about. Charismatic leaders make us think, “Oh, if only I could do that, be like that.” True leaders make us think, “If they can do that, then by golly I can too.” They do not make people into followers, but into new leaders. The homeschooling movement is full of such people . . .
  • The elephant in the jungle is smarter than the elephant waltzing in the circus. The sea lion in the sea is smarter than the sea lion playing “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” on some instrument. The rat eating garbage in the slums is smarter than the rat running mazes in the psychology lab. The crawling baby, touching, handling, tasting everything it can reach, is smarter than the baby learning, because it pleases his mother, to touch his nose when she shows him a card with NOSE written on it.
  • Intelligence, as I wrote in How Children Fail, is not the measure of how much we know how to do, but of how we behave when we don’t know what to do. It has to do with our ability to think up important questions and then to find ways to get useful answers.
  • This ability is not a trick that can be taught, nor does it need to be. We are born with it . . .
  • For instance, a British study, described in the book Young Children Learning, compared tapes of the conversations of working-class parents with their four-year-old children to those of nursery school teachers with four-year-olds. It revealed that the children who stayed home asked all sorts of questions about a diverse number of topics, showing no fear of learning new words or concepts. The children under the care of professional teachers had much less range of thought and intensity, and they asked much fewer questions . . . 
  • One thing I’ve found useful, when helping kids go through this process, is to make three lists. One list is for things that come easily, things that you would do anyway, whether or not you sat down and made a plan about them. The second list is for things that you want to work on but feel you need some help with—maybe suggestions of ways to pursue the activity, or maybe some sort of schedule or plan regarding it. The third list is for things you want to put aside for a while, things you don’t want to work on right now.
  • Nonetheless, we continue to raise the level of fear of failure in our schools as the best means for creating “good citizens,” which is the ultimate legal reason that society compels children to attend school.



Get the entire recommended reading list at Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday.

Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #74: "Good Calories, Bad Calories" by Gary Taubes

Best Nonfiction Book - Good Calories Bad Calories

Dear kids,

Gary Taubes is a pretty awesome scientist-rebel. It’s fun reading good evidence that the establishment (including the government) is wrong.

In Good Calories, Bad Calories, Taubes handily disproves at least the following:

  • The fat-cholesterol hypothesis (the idea that dietary fat raises cholesterol levels in the body);
  • The calorie hypothesis (the idea that we can control our weight by counting calories); and, most significantly;
  • The pro-carbohydrate hypothesis (the idea that a diet high in the right carbs is good for you).

All in a day’s work.



Get the entire recommended reading list at Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday.