You’ve probably already noticed that these days, figuring out what to eat isn’t a simple matter. Opinions are all over the place. Unlike most diet books, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan is objective—maybe the most objective, balanced diet book out there. You’ll never sound gullible quoting from a book by Pollan.
Pollan is not a nutritionist, but a journalist seeking the answer to a seemingly simple question, namely: “What should I eat?” It gives sixty-four succinct food truisms, including “Eat only foods that eventually will rot” and “It’s not food if it’s called by the same name in every language. (Think Big Mac, Cheetos, or Pringles.)”
The book’s bottom line: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Other Notable Quotes:
“There have been, and can be, healthy high-fat and healthy low-fat diets, but they have always been diets built around whole foods.”
“I learned that in fact science knows a lot less about nutrition than you would expect—that in fact nutrition science is, to put it charitably, a very young science . . . Nutrition science . . . is today approximately where surgery was in the year 1650—very promising, and very interesting to watch, but are you ready to let them operate? I think I’ll wait a while.”
A wide variety of traditional diets are healthy; the modern diet is not. “What this suggests is that there is no single ideal human diet but that the human omnivore is exquisitely adapted to a wide range of different foods and a variety of different diets.”
John Holt is John Holt. That is why Learning All the Time is one of the best nonfiction books; he is just a hard-rocking dude. Seriously, though, if you have any interest in homeschooling or just better understanding children, this is the book for you.
Kids are all their own kinds of genius. Just give them a good, positive environment in which to learn and grow, and see what happens. That’s the theme of this and many of Holt’s books on education.
The best way to teach a child to read: don’t. Read to him, let him be exposed to books, give him books as gifts, until one day they ask to do the reading. Then read the book together, one word at a time, unsystematically. General pronunciation rules are too often broken to be worth teaching.
Good learning book: Let’s Read by L. Bloomfield & C. Barbara and Gnys at Work [sic] by Glenda Bisser.
For learning times tables, make a grid and let the child fill it in at her own pace, without correcting it. Keep it on the fridge, and have her do it over and over.
“Anytime that, without being invited, without being asked, we try to teach somebody else something . . . we convey to that person, whether we know it or not, a double message. The first part of the message is: I am teaching you something important, but you’re not smart enough to see how important it is. Unless I teach it to you, you’d probably never bother to find out. The second message is: What I’m teaching you is so difficult that, if I didn’t teach it to you, you couldn’t learn it.”
The author’s first elementary school believed in lots of praise. The result: “By the time I came to know them in the 5th grade, all but a few of the children were so totally dependent on continued adult approval that they were terrified of not getting it, terrified of making mistakes.”
Babies do not learn in order to please us, but because it’s their instinct and nature to want to find out about the world. If we praise them in everything they do, after a while they are going to start learning, doing things, just to please us . . . The next step is that they are going to become worried about not pleasing us . . .”
“What children want and need from us is thoughtful attention. They want us to notice them and pay some kind of attention to what they do, to take them seriously, to trust and respect them as human beings. They want courtesy and politeness, but they don’t need much praise.”
Grapevine: The New Art of Word-of-Mouth Marketing by Dave Balter and John Butman makes an excellent point: the best marketing in the world—the most effective, the most reliable—is word-of-mouth marketing. The problem: advertisers can’t drum it up, no matter how hard they try. Lasting, powerful word-of-mouth happens only when products and services are the real deal.
People love talking about the stuff they buy. We do it all of the time. But why? The reasons are discussed in Grapevine. They include: the desire to educate or help, the desire to prove our knowledge, the desire to find common ground, the desire to validate our own opinions, and the pride of ownership.
Notable quote: “There’s a tiny part of the brain, the hypothalamus, that among other things helps regulate sexual urges, thirst and hunger, maternal behavior, aggression, pleasure, and to some degree your prosperity to refer. The hypothalamus likes validation – it registers pleasure in doing good and being recognized for it, and it’s home to the need to belong to something greater than ourselves. This is the social drive for making referrals.”
Additional note: Genuine word-of-mouth is not “buzz.” It’s not the latest thing that everyone is talking about right now. It goes far deeper than that, and lasts longer.
So, so much music. So much great, important music. How do you choose what to expose your kids to first? How do you even remember all the songs you once loved? Here, a checklist to fill in the gaps in your current music collection. At my homeschooling house, I have an “Important Songs to Know” folder with most of the individual songs on this list, the ones I don’t have (or want to have) the full album for. We also listen to a lot of kids’ music, language-learning music and podcasts.
Important Musical Artists
Bach Handel Vivaldi Mozart Beethoven Rossini Shubert Mendelssohn Chopin Schumann Wagner Verdi Brahms Tchaikovsky Dvorak Puccini Strauss Stravinsky
Simon and Garfunkel (esp. Sound of Silence, Scarborough Fair) Billie Holiday (esp. Blue Moon, God Bless the Child) The Beatles (Hey, Jude; Let It Be; Yesterday; Yellow Submarine) Celine Dion (esp. The Power of Love, My Heart Will Go On) Mariah Carey Miles Davis Louis Armstrong (esp. What a Wonderful World, Cheek to Cheek) Frank Sinatra (esp. My Way, Fly Me to the Moon, New York, New York, That’s Life, I’ve Got the World on a String) Bing Crosby Kanye West (esp. Gold Digger, All of the Lights) Michael Jackson Eminem (esp. Slim Shady) Ray Charles (esp. Georgia on My Mind, Night & Day, Hit the Road, Jack) Ella Fitzgerald Joni Mitchell (esp. Big Yellow Taxi) Peter, Paul and Mary (esp. Puff the Magic Dragon) Norah Jones (esp. Don’t Know Why, Come Away With Me) Chuck Berry (esp. Johnny B. Goode, Roll Over Beethoven) John Mayer (esp. Your Body Is a Wonderland) John Legend (esp. Glory, All of Me, Ordinary People) Bob Dylan (esp. Like a Rolling Stone, Blowing in the Wind, Knockin on Heaven’s Door) Elton John (esp. Can You Feel the Love Tonight, Circle of Life, I’m Still Standing, Tiny Dancer) U2 (esp. With or Without You) Beyonce (esp. If I Were a Boy, Crazy in Love) John Denver (esp. Take Me Home, Country Roads) Elvis Presley (esp. Can’t Help Falling in Love, Blue Suede Shoes, Hound Dog, Jailhouse Rock, Don’t Be Cruel) Madonna (esp. Vogue, Like a Virgin, Material Girl) Johnny Cash (esp. Ring of Fire, I Walk the Line) Billy Joel (esp. Piano Man, New York State of Mind, We Didn’t Start the Fire) Bob Marley (esp. Could You Be Loved, I Shot the Sheriff) Stevie Wonder (esp. I Just Called to Say I Love You, Could You Be Loved) Bette Midler (esp. From a Distance, I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today, The Rose, Wind Beneath My Wings) Aretha Franklin (esp. Respect, [You Make Me Feel Like a] Natural Woman) Barbra Streisand (esp. The Way We Were) Johnny Cash (esp. I Walk the Line) Eric Clapton (esp. Tears in Heaven, Wonderful Tonight) Don’t Lie to Me, Barbra Streisand (esp. You Don’t Bring Me Flowers, The Way We Were) The Rolling Stones (esp. [I Cant Get No] Satisfaction, Paint It Black)
I Try, Macy Gray Give Me One Reason, Tracy Chapman Born in the USA, Bruce Springsteen It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere, Alan Jackson Imagine, John Lennon Happy Christmas (War Is Over), John Lennon Proud Mary, Tina Turner What’s Love Got to Do With It, Tina Turner I Will Always Love You, Whitney Houston I Hope You Dance, Lee Ann Womack Jennifer Hudson She’s Everything, Brad Paisley Kiss, Prince Basket Case, Green Day American Pie, Don Mclean Cat’s In the Cradle, Cat Stevens Wild World, Cat Stevens When I Come Around, Green Day Nothing Compares 2 U, Sinead O’Connor Zombie, The Cranberries Losing My Religion, R.E.M. Wake Me Up When September Ends, Green Day Paint Me A Birmingham, Tracy Lawrence So Sick, Neyo Baby Got Back, Sir Mix A Lot Hips Don’t Lie, Shakira Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen Jump Around, House of Pain Hips Don’t Lie, Shakira Walk this Way, Aerosmith and Run DMC Don’t Take the Girl, Tim McGraw Fooled Around and Fell in Love, Elvin Bishop Empire State of Mind, Jay-Z and Alicia Keys Find Your Love, Drake Renegade, Styx Smells like Teen Spirit, Nirvana Little Lion Man, Mumford & Sons Everybody Wants to Rule the World, Tears for Fears Augustana, Boston How’s It Going to Be, Third Eye Blind Chicken Fried, Zac Brown Band Wanted, Dead or Alive, Bon Jovi To Save a Life, The Fray Wonderwall, Oasis Surfin’ USA, The Beach Boys I Get Around, The Beach Boys Message in a Bottle, The Police Yellow, Coldplay Forever, Drake The House of Rising Sun, The Animals Ride, Twenty One Pilots Closing Time, Semisonic Apologize, OneRepublic Same Love, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis with Mary Lambert This Love, Maroon 5 Closer, Chain Smokers Love In This Club, Usher Meant to Live, Switchfoot Dynamite, Taio Cruz Africa, Toto I Ran, Flock of Seagulls Lovefool, The Cardigans Say My Name, Destiny’s Child I Gotta Feeling, Black Eyed Peas Staying Alive, Bee Gees Fight For Your Right (to Party), Beastie Boys My Girl, The Temptations Long Cool Woman, The Hollies Carry On Wayward Son, Kansas Clocks, Coldplay Free Fallin’, Tom Petty If You Could Only See, Tonic Tik Tok, Ke$ha The Message, Grandmaster Flash Dixieland Delight, Alabama Don’t Stop Believing, Journey Sweet Caroline, Neil Diamond Your Love, The Outfield Everything I Do (I Do It For You), Bryan Adams Stairway to Heaven, Led Zeppelin Thunderstruck, AC/DC The Middle, Jimmy Eat World Breakeven, The Script One Dance, Drake Yeah!, Usher with Lil Jon and Ludacris Ms. Jackson, Outkast Bust a Move, Young MC Nuthin’ but a “G” Thang, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dog UpTown Funk, Bruno Mars Somebody that I use to Know, Gotye Another One Bites the Dust, Queen I Will Always Love You, Whitney Houston YMCA, Village People Let Me Love You, Mario I Heard it Through the Grapevine, Marvin Gaye The Gambler, Kenny Rogers Purple Rain, Prince Kiss, Prince In the Air Tonight, Phil Collins She’s Got the Look, Roxette I Feel Good, James Brown Forever Young, Jay-Z In the Mood, Robert Plant Fame, David Bowie Let’s Dance, David Bowie Live and Let Die, Paul McCartney Band on the Run, Paul McCartney Said I Loved You … But I Lied, Michael Bolton Johnny B. Goode, Chuck Berry Old Man, Neil Young Heart of Gold, Neil Young Angel, Shaggy It Wasn’t Me, Shaggy Don’t Worry Be Happy, Bobby McFerrin Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Cyndi Lauper True Colors, Cyndi Lauper She Drives Me Crazy, Fine Young Cannibals Escapade, Janet Jackson Tom’s Diner, Susanne Vega Dancing in the Streets, Martha & the Vandellas
Tomorrow (from Annie) Maybe (from Annie) Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Judy Garland (from The Wizard of Oz) When You Wish Upon a Star (from Pinocchio) Footloose (from Footloose) (from My Fair Lady) Sunrise, Sunset (from Fiddler on the Roof) Tradition (from Fiddler on the Roof) Oklahoma! (from Oklahoma!) Oh What a Beautiful Morning) (from Oklahoma!) (from West Side Story) Da-Doo (from Little Shop of Horrors) Skid Row (from Little Shop of Horrors) Suddenly, Seymour (from Little Shop of Horrors) Beauty and the Beast (from Beauty and the Beast) This Provincial Life (from Beauty and the Beast) Kiss the Girl (from The Little Mermaid) I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair (from South Pacific) Bali Ha’i (from South Pacific) White Christmas (from White Christmas) Sisters (from White Christmas) Songs from Hair Songs from The King and I Songs from Grease Peter and the Wolf theme music (by Sergei Prokofiev) A Charlie Brown Christmas theme music Star Wars theme music Westworld theme music The Staircase theme music The Keepers theme music Medium theme music Felicity theme music
Important Folk Songs and Singalong Songs
The Star-Spangled Banner America, the Beautiful Oh, Susanna Coconut Banana Boat Song (Day-O) Home on the Range You Are My Sunshine My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean Ain’t We Got Fun? Down By the Old Mill Stream Someone’s In the Kitchen With Dinah Take Me Out to the Ballgame I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad You’ll Sing a Song Down By the Riverside Lavender’s Blue When the Saints Go Marching In Amazing Grace How Great Thou Art I’ll Fly Away Kumbaya He’s Got the Whole World Swing Low Sweet Chariot What a Friend We Have in Jesus This Little Light of Mine O Holy Night Jingle Bells Santa Claus Is Coming to Town Have Yourself a Merry Little Christms The First Noel We Wish You a Merry Christmas The Twelve Days of Christmas Oh Come All Ye Faithful Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer Hark! The Herald Angels Sing We Three Kings Away in a Manger Silent Night What Child Is This? God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen Joy to the World Angels We Have Heard on High I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day It Came Upon the Midnight Clear Jingle Bells Frosty, the Snowman Let It Snow Holly, Jolly Christmas The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting) I’ll Be Home for Christmas I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas Deck the Halls We Wish You a Merry Christmas
Important Children’s Songs and Artists
Raffi Mr. Rogers
The Alphabet Song Rock-a-Bye Baby Twinkle Twinkle Little Star Ba Ba Black Sheep Mary Had a Little Lamb Star Light, Star Bright Hush, Little Baby (Don’t Say a Word) Skidamarink Knees Up Mother Brown Down By the Bay Itsy Bitsy Spider Frere Jacques Lollipop, Lollipop If You’re Happy and You Know It Skip to My Lou The More We Get Together This Old Man Wheels on the Bus Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes The Ants Go Marching One By One Are You Sleeping, Brother John? Row, Row, Row Your Boat Humpty Dumpty Five Little Monkeys Ring Around the Roses Old McDonald Three Blind Mice Nick Nack Paddywack Pop Goes the Weasel Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush Hey Diddle Diddle Jack and Jill London Bridge Is Falling Down She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain This Little Piggy Little Bo Peep Sing a Song of Sixpence A Tisket a Tasket Little Boy Blue Old King Cole Little Miss Muffet The Muffin Man Over the River and Through the Woods The Farmer In the Dell Baby Bumble Bee BINGO Do Your Ears Hang Low? Where, Oh, Where Has My Little Dog Gone? How Much Is That Doggy In the Window Alouette There’s a Hole in the Bucket John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt
The importance of physical activity is one of my soap-box topics. I love that as a homeschooling family we have the time to take bike rides and long walks during the day.
No one is saying your child should become an all-star. But learning the basics of a wide variety of sports helps them understand their options and almost certainly find something they truly enjoy.
Physical Education Checklist
Volleyball Soccer Baseball Football Basketball Badminton Tennis Swimming Running (with proper form) Roller Skating Ice Skating Biking Dance Hiking Yoga Hide and Seek Capture the Flag Tag Sardines Dodge Ball Kick the Can Obstacle Courses
I remember learning basic biology in school. It was a long time ago, and yet, most of this stuff stuck. It’s everywhere, after all–in the news, in other books. And yet, after creating this list, I was struck by the fine delineations, especially regarding the differences between genes, genetic traits, chromosomes, alleles, and DNA. Interesting review here.
Basic Biology Knowledge Checklist
Living thing: Living things need air (though different gases are needed by different living things), water and nutrients; they grow; they have metabolism; they reproduce; they die; they are made up of cells; and they have these visible attributes: a distinct orientation (head and tail, top and bottom), symmetry, fine structure and detail, and a tenuous quality (meaning certain conditions must be met to preserve them; in other words, they can die).
Classification/taxonomy: Organizing things into groups according to their shared features. A living things is classified according to its domain, kingdom, phylum (if animal) or division (if plant), class, order, family, genus, species, and subspecies (race, breed, or variety).
The three domains of life: Bacteria, archaea and eukaryota. There are about ten eukaryota kingdoms, including plants, animals and fungi.
Plant kingdom: Made up of the living things that get energy from the sun
Animal kingdom: Made up of the living things that get energy from living, biological food
The human taxonomy: Eukaryota domain, animal kingdom, chordates phylum (since they have a stiff rod that supports the body), the mammal class, the omnivore order, the homo sapiens species and various races of subspecies
Common name: Name commonly used for a species of animal or plant
Biological name: Official name of an animal or plant. Usually in Latin and made up of the genus and species name, but sometimes also contains the name of the sub-species.
Species: Subgroup whose members can mate and reproduce offspring of their kind
Life cycle: Stages of growth and development of living things. Different for different species. (Frogs have a tadpole stage and caterpillars have a cocoon stage, for example.)
Generation: All members of a species bearing offspring around the same time
Male: Boy offspring; fertilizes the egg
Female: Girl offspring; produces eggs and sometimes births the offspring
Reproduction: In animals, the producing of offspring by parents
Sexual reproduction: Reproduction involving two parents, one male and one femaleAsexual reproduction: Reproduction involving only one parent
Fertilization: Adding DNA to the egg that starts its growth
Mating: The pairing of opposite-sex animals that results in fertilization
Food chain: A series of plants and animals that use each other for food. It starts with a plant that gets food from the sun, then continues with the animal that eats that plant and so on.
Food web: A series of interlinked food chains. Creates interdependence.
Cell: Smallest unit of living matter, but still visible under a microscope. (Try looking at a thin slice of onion membrane.)
Mitosis: Cell division resulting in two genetically identical cells, each with a set of the same chromosomes. Happens when the nucleus of the cell divides.
Cytokinesis: The second stage of cell division in which the cell plate forms to divide the two cells
Fungi: Living things that lack chlorophyll and feed on living and dead things
Bacteria: A type of single-celled organism that exists everywhere on earth. Most types have not been studied.
Protozoa: Single-celled eukaryotes that feed on organic matter
Amoeba: A type of protozoa, fungi, algae or animal that can change shape, usually by extending out pseudopods (fluid-filled sacs in the shape of arms or tentacles)
Excretion: The elimination of metabolic waste
Parasite: Living thing that feeds on other living things and also uses them as their home
Host: The living thing that homes and feeds a parasite
Homeostasis: Biological equilibrium, when a living thing’s internal conditions (such as temperature and mineral levels) are steady
Decomposition: The process by which organic substances break down into small pieces, which then get recycled
Dormant: Asleep; not dead but not reproducing, as a dormant seed
Evolution: The long series of changes that happen to all living things
Extinction: The dying out of a species
Natural selection: The natural process by which some species adapt and survive and others die out
Artificial selection: The human-controlled process by which some species change and survive and others die out
Mass extinction: The large-scale dying out of many species (and biodiversity) on earth. Happens due to major weather changes brought on by major events, like an astroid hitting the earth.
Adaptation: The process by which a species changes over time to adapt and survive
Biomass: The combined weight of all living things of a certain type in a certain area. The biomass of plants is higher than of animals. At each level of the food chain, the biomass is lower.
Basic Genetics Knowledge Checklist
Genetics: The study of genes and heredity
Gene: The instructions inherited from parents that tell the body how to develop a particular characteristic or characteristics in the body (what qualities that characteristic will have). They are in every cell of the body (except red blood cells).
Genetic trait: A single trait that is expressed due to the instructions of the related gene. There can be multiple traits expressed by a single gene.
Heredity: All the traits passed from parents to their offspring
Genome: All of the genetic material of an organism (DNA or RNA)
Gene map: Shows the arrangement of the genes on a chromosome
Chromosome: The bundles that hold all of the individual genes. They are stored in the cell’s nucleus. Humans have 46 chromosomes: 2 sets of 23. Each chromosomes holds many, many genes.
DNA: Dioxyribonucleic acid. The chemical makeup of the genes. Always in a paired double strand and in the shape of a double helix.
RNA: Ribonucleic acid. This molecule reads and regulates genes. Sometimes called a messenger.
Nature and nurture: Heredity and environment. Both produce characteristics of an individual living thing, but how they interact is usually often unknown.
X and Y chromosomes: The chromosomes that determine gender. Everyone has one X chromosome, but males have a Y and females have a second X.
Dominant gene: The gene in the gene pair (the allele) that dominates the recessive one, and therefore gets expressed in the organism. Most genes are either dominant or recessive.
Recessive gene: The gene in the gene pair (the allele) that does not dominate the other. The recessive gene is expressed only when there are two associated recessives present, one from each parent.
Co-dominance: Occurs when the contributions of both genes are visible in the organism
Allele: One of the two associated genes in a gene pair
Homozygote: Both of the alleles of a gene (both copies of a gene) are the same
Heterozygote: The alleles of a gene (both copies of a gene) are the same
Carrier: An organism that has a recessive allele for a genetic trait but does not display it. Can pass the allele onto offspring, who will express it if they inherit the same one from both parents.
DNA profiling/genetic fingerprinting: Determining an individual’s unique DNA code, usually by sampling a particular section of it
Genetic engineering/modification: The direct manipulation of an organism’s genes using biotechnology
GMO: Genetically modified organism
Gene splicing/ recombinant DNA (rDNA): DNA molecules formed in a lab bringing together genes from separate organisms
Cloning: Producing genetically identical individuals of an organism either naturally or artificially. In nature, many organisms produce clones through asexual reproduction.
Parts of a plant cell: Cell wall; cell membrane; cytoplasm containing chloroplasts, chromoplasts, other organelles and the nucleus; a large vacuole containing water, sugar and other dissolved substances
Photosynthesis: The process plants use to make food. Steps: 1. Leaves, roots and stem take in water, sunlight and CO2. Chloroplasts in leaf cells contain chlorophyll which absorbs sun’s energy. Energy is used to combine H2O and CO2 to make carbohydrates and oxygen. Some of this can be stored as starch. The carbs and oxygen are then used to release energy, CO2 and water. At night, there is only respiration using stored energy. In daytime, photosynthesis is faster than respiration, so more energy is stored.
Roots: network of string-like structures (fibrous roots) or tap roots (like carrots). Absorb water, nutrients, anchors the plant.
Parts of a root: Primary root; secondary roots; root hairs; root cap
Types of roots: Fibrous roots (many equal-sized primary roots); advetitious roots (roots that grow out of the stem, like the hairs on an onion bulb); aerial roots (as in ivy); prop roots (for trees)
Stems: Transports nutrients; include trucks, vines, central points of grass
Parts of a stem: Buds (small growth that becomes a new shoot or a flower); shoots (new stems that grow off the main stem); main stem
Leaves: Food-making parts of plants. Leaves have veins and holes on their undersides to let in water and air. These can open and close. Note that leaves include pine needles.
Vascular tissue: Carries food and water through the plant
Bark: Dead protective tissue on the outside of a tree. Bark is formed in a living layer underneath the current layer after that layer gets pushed out by the new rings that are forming. It has tiny raised openings that provide oxygen and CO2 exchange, and it protects the tree from disease and helps hold in moisture. Since it can’t grow, it peels off and new bark is formed underneath.
Heartwood: The oldest rings of the tree; can’t transport water anymore
Sapwood: The newer rings; still transport water
Annual ring:A single layer of secondary thickening in an older plant, which takes one year to form
Seed: Has an embryo, food supply and protective coat. Seedlings grown in the dark are different from those grown in the light. Grow taller to seek light, but are weaker structurally. Seed gets energy from storage, not sun, but shoots require sun.
Flowers: Enable reproduction by containing male and female sex cells (gametes). Parts: petals that produce nectar to attract insects needed for pollination; stamens (the male part which contain pollen); and the carpel or pisitil (the female part that contains ovules in their ovary and can trap pollen). Some plants have male and female parts in all their flowers. Others have flowers of each type, and others have only male or female flowers, and need to be cross-pollinated with another plant of their genus or species.
Fruit: The part of the flowering plant that holds the seeds. This includes nuts, succulent fruits, berries, pods (like pea pods), kernels (like wheat kernels) and more.
Cones: The part of conifer trees that hold the seeds. They start out open, then after pollination, close up. When the seeds are ripe and the weather is warm and dry, the scales open and drop the fertilized seeds so they can find dirt to grow in. The cones then remain on the plant for a year or so. Note that conifers have male and female flowers and self-pollinate. Seeds are dispersed through animal excrement, wind, water and catching on animal fur.
Asexual reproduction: Reproduction that doesn’t involve a male and female sex cell. Algae, ferns and mosses do this because they don’t have flowers. But some use spores to reproduce also, alternating sexual and asexual reproduction.
Vegetative reproduction/vegetative propagation: When a plant can reproduce itself by itself asexually. Examples: plants that grow from bulbs (like tulips), from runners (like strawberries), from tubers (like potatoes), from cuttings and even from just a few cells (as in a lab). Note that for growing from cuttings, the cutting might need to stand in water and grow roots first before being planted in dirt.
Reproductive structures of plants: Flowers, cones, and spore capsules. Divisions (phylums) are made in the plant kingdom according to the form of the reproductive structures.
Anthers: male part of reproductive structrues; produce pollen
Ovaries: female part of flower – contains eggs that get pollinated by anthers, grows into the fruit, with each egg a seed.
Pollination: The transfer of pollen from the male part of a plant to the female part of the plant
Growth season: One year of a plant’s life
Plant lifecycle types: Annuals (die out except the seed each year); biennials (die in two years); herbaceous perennials (roots live many years but above ground parts die each year); woody perennials (most of parts above and below ground live on); ephemerals (very short lifecycles)
Dormant: Still alive but not actively growing; a seed. To see if a seed is still alive, try to grow it.
Germination: The waking up of a dormant seed
Soil: Dirt that is suitable for plant growth
Tropism: A plant “sense”
Autotropism: The ability (as of a plant) to make one’s own food
Geotropism: The ability (as of a plant) to sense gravity. Plants grow away from gravity, even if the soil is upside-down.
Phototropism: The ability (as of a plant) to sense light.
Thigmotropism: The ability (as of a plant) to sense touch.
Deciduous tree: Tree that loses its leaves each year
Evergreen tree: Tree that doesn’t shed its leaves all at once. They have tough, waxy leaves that don’t lose as much water.
Fungi: Not plants, but plant-like. Grow in damp and dark. No chlorophyll, so feed on dead or living things. Inc: mold, yeast, mushrooms. Some are helpful, as yeast and cheese mold. Some are poisonous to animals and plants.T
Angiosperm: Plant that produce flowers
Hydrophyte: Plant that grow in water. Include algae, seaweed, lily pads and more
Waterlogged: Oversaturated with water. Water-holding capacity is better for rich soil but poorer for sandy soil.
Aeration: The air flow to plant roots. Roots need oxygen, though plants take in CO2 and give off oxygen. Leaves transport sugar but can’t transport oxygen.
Drought: An extended dry period
Erosion: Bare soil exposed to elements. Prevent it by maintaining a vegetation cover. Erosion lowers soil quality since topsoil is richest.
Soil management: Maintaining proper balance of soil nutrients, airflow and water in soil
Soil conservation: Erosion prevention
Crop rotation: Rotating crops in order to balance the mineral levels in the soil since plants use and add different amounts of various minerals as they grow
Basic Zoology Knowledge Checklist
Parts of an animal cell: Cell membrane (no cell wall like plants have); cytoplasm; organelles, including mitrochondria, which convert substances into energy for the cell, vacuoles, which house fats and liquids, the nucleus, which controls everything that happens in the cell, and the Golgi complex, which stores and distributes the substances that are made inside the cell (the warehouse). Cell also has centrioles, ribosomes to build proteins, and lysosomes. Note: See a picture of cell division to view these stages. Also note that different cells specialize according to their job.
Tissue: Cells of the same type combined together to do a particular job
Organ: Tissues of different types working together to do a particular job
System: Organs of different types working together to do a particular job
Body structures of animals: Most have a fluid-filled cavity and a skeleton to hold the cavity in place and allow for movement. All have an outer layer to enclose their bodies, which can be skin, an exoskeleton, a cuticle, scales, shells, prickles, fur and more. Animals also have a part or parts of the body to provide for locomotion, such as fins, flippers, wings, legs, etc.
Biped: Animal with two legs
Quadraped: Animal with four legs
Vertebrate: Animal with a backbone
Invertebrate: Animal with no backbone (as a snail)
Arthropod: Animal with an external skeleton/ exoskeleton (as a grasshopper)
Warm-blooded animal: Animal that can regulate its body temperature
Cold-blooded animal: Animal whose temperature changes with its environment
Herbivore: An animal that eats only plants
Carnivore: An animal that eats only meat
Omnivore: An animal that eats both plants and meat
Types of animal communication: Body language, such as preening or dancing; making noises, such as using vocal cords or rubbing body parts together; sending out chemical messages through pheremones or by spraying; and changing color.
Parts that animals use to sense their environment: Eyes; ears; specialized body parts for sensing balance; specialized body parts for sensing water pressure and currents; whiskers; tentacles; taste buds; parts for detecting electric pulses given off by other creatures (sharks do this). Note that birds may be able to sense Earth’s magnetic field and use it for migration, too. Also, animals detect gravity.
Types of animal reproduction: Animals either lay eggs (before or after fertilization) or give birth to live young
Larva: The form some animals take before beginning metamorphosis
Pupa: A hard shell that forms on larva inside of which metamorphosis occurs
Metamorphosis: The total restructuring of an animal’s body, sometimes inside a pupa or cocoon
Hibernation: A period of inactivity in some animals that includes the slowing of the metabolism
Migration: The large-scale movement of a species from one place to another
Lots of people will tell you that learning a new language is easy. And it can be . . . but it usually isn’t. The problem isn’t with the actual difficulty of the language, though. The problem is that we don’t practice.
Unless you live among native speakers, it’s a problem that’s not easily remedied. My suggestion: every few months (more if you’re in a hurry), play some audio recordings of words with translations or children’s music in the car on repeat. Language learning is not an all-at-once thing; you’ll need lots of time and repetition to let it sink in. If possible, be casual about it, but be consistent.
If you’re a person who enjoys reading and writing, copy your word lists onto flash cards or foldable lists. Personally, I spend countless hours writing and rewriting my lists when in full-on language learning mode.
You can also make games out of your vocabulary words–all kinds of fun games. At the end of this post I provide a story you can tell your kids that incorporates practice and repetition (theirs or yours).
Complete Beginners’ Spanish Word List
Hello: Hola Good morning: Buenas dias Good afternoonL Buenas tardes Good evening: Buenas noches Goodbye: Adios; chau What is your name?: Como se llama? My name is …: Me llamo; mi nombre es … Pleasure to meet you. Mucho gusto. How are you: Como esta (for a less familiar person); Como estas (for a more familiar person); Como esta usted (for a formal situation or older person) Where are you from: De donde viene I’m from …: Soy de … See you later: Hasta luego. See you tomorrow: Hasta manana
Important: Importante Interesting: Interesante Perfect: Perfecto Excellent: Excellente
Thank you very much: Muchas gracias You’re welcome: De nada Execuse Me: Disculpe; perdoname; con permiso Goodness: Caramba Please: Por favor I’m sorry: Lo siento Forgive me: Disculpe Help me: Ayudame Danger: Peligro Forbidden: Prohibito No smoking: No se fuma Fire: Fuego; incendio Emergency: Emergencia Hurry up: Appurase; rapido For sale: Se vende For rent: Se alguila Look: Mira Stop: Pare Watch out: Cuidado That’s fine: Esta bien Go away: Dejeme Bienvenido: Welcome Oops: Opa (an expression from Greek) True: Verdad Of course: Por supresto It’s okay/don’t worry about it: Tranquila; no se preculpe Are you sure: Seguro What do you mean: Como How do you say: Como se dice At what time: A que hora Qual es: Which is it
Me, I—mi, yo You—tu (familiar) usted They, them; ellos o ellas This—-esta That—este Now—ahora Because—por que But—pero For—para To—a Actually—-En verdad The—la, e, los, las (depending on gender) In—por, en We/us—nosotrous a—un, una never—nunca only—solo alone—solamente maybe—quisas o tal vez Equal—iqual Without—sin She-he—-ella, el Their—su Her’s/his.—la , le Your—tu (familiar form) Other—otra Also—tambien Yes/no —si y no (shaking one finger is the most common form of no in South America—the index finger) Therefore—por lo tanto Then—entonces Of the —del Per—por Like/similar to—paracido Here—(different words used depending on distance aqui, aji, alla) Together —-conmigo, contigo (familiar) Quite—bastante
To be—Ser (permanent): soy, son, es; estar (less permanent): estoy, esta To do—hacer…hago, hace To feel—Sentir sineto , sienta To be there—hay To want—querer, quiero, quiere, quieres To like—Gusta, me gusto, se gusta To go (irregular verb) voy, vas, viene, To live—vivir—vivo, vives, viva To eat—comer como, comes, come To drink—For non-alcoholic beverages: Tomar: tomo, tomes, tome; For alcohol: Beber …bebo, bebes, bebe To cost—cuesta To carry/transport—Llevar To Exit—salida( noun) To Arrive:—Llegar, llego, llegas, llega To park: Estacionar To Wait: Esperar, espero, espero, esperamos To speak: Hablar, hablo, hables, habla To say—digo, dices, dice To stay put—quedar, quedense (command form) To Help—ayudar, ayudo, ayudas, ayuda To be able/capable—Puedar, puedo, puedes, puede To understand—entender entiendo, entiendes, entiende To comprehend—Comprender, comprendo, comprendes, comprende To Hope—Esperar, espero, esperes, espere To know/be acquainted with (person) Conocer, conozco, conoces, conoce To know (facts) Saber, se, sabes, sabe To charge/exchange—Cambiar, cambio, To travel—viajer, viajo, viege To close—Cierrar to find—encountrar to wash—lavar, lavo (clothes) to clean—limpiar, limpio, to buy—comprar, compro, ustead compra to sit—sentar to smoke—fumar to take—tomer to walk—cambiar-=–cambio, cambias, cambia to search for—buscar, busco, buscas, busca to see—ver veo, ve To give—dar, doy, da To pay—pagar, pago, paga To sign—firmar, firmo, firme To need—necesitar, necesito, necesita To cook—cocinar cocino, cocina To reserve—reservar, To confirm—confirmar Include—incluye To take a photo—sacrar una foto To Call—llamar, llamo Prohibitied—prohibito To accept—acceptar, acepto To sleep—dormir,duermo,duerma To work—trabajar, trabajo, trabaja To think—pensar, penso To believer—creer, creo, cree To stop—parar To return—volver To sell—vender,vendo, vende To exit—salir, salgo To come—venior, vegno, viene To lose—perder, pierdo, pierde To win—ganar, gano, unstead gana To study—estudiar, studio To dance—baillar, bailo, bailas To sing—cantar, canto, canta To play—jugar..juego, juega To hate—odiar To love—-amar, encantar, encanto, encanta
Large—grande, Small—pequeno Afraid—austado Fast—rapido Slow—despacio o despacito Good—bueno, bien Bad—mal, malo Pretty—bonita Handsome—guapo (word also means hard working in some contexts) Fat—gordo Thin—flaco Tall—alto Short—corto Open—abierto Closed—cerrado Personal—personal Better—mejor Best—primer Hot—caliente (refers to heat, piquante refers to spicy) Cold—frio Exact—exacto Special—especial The same—mismo Different—differente Cheap—burato Expensive—carro Necessary—necesito (this is a verb, not an adjective) Necesito eso, or necesita eso (you need this) Not necessary—no necesito Joven—young Difficult—dificil Easy—facil Modern—moderna Old—viejo Classic—classico Weak—debil Strong—fuerte Oldest—mejor Youngest—menor Ready—listo Light—ligero Heavy—pesada Perfect—perfecto Excellent—excelente Private—privado Stupid—estupido Smart—intelligente Late—tarde New—nuevo Logical—logico Strange/weird—extrano Interesting—interesante Wet—mojado Dry—seca Second hand—segundo Busy—ocupado Quiet—tranquilo Dangerous—peligro Safe—seguro Available—disparsible Tired—cansado Broken—roto Important—importante Sure—seguro Worried—preoccupado Fun—divertito Happy—felix Sad—triste Shy—-timido Often—frequentamente
People and Animals
Grandfather—abuelo Gandmogther—abuela Father—padre Mother—madre Secretary—secretaria Waiter—amarero Miss—senorita Mister—senior Mrs—senora Family—familia Relative—familiares Police—policia Military—gendarmo Everyone—todos las personas No on—nadia Person—persona Boy—nino Girl—nina Children—ninas, ninos Baby—bebe Husband—espouso Wife—espousa Girlfriend—novia Boyfriend—novio Dog—perro Cat—gato Cousins—primos Nieces/nephews—sobrainas,sobrinos Uncle/aunt—tio, tia Men/man– hombres, hombre Women/woman—mujeres Daughters—hijas
What—que What is it—que es esto Where —donde esta How much—cuanto? Who—quien Who is it?—quien es Which—cual How—como Why—por que Why not—por que no What time is it? Que hora es?
Black—negro White—blanco Blue—azul Red—rojo Yellow—amarillo Green—verde (careful in using this description, though: some things that are green are considered dirty, i.e. pornography or a “green” magazine) Pink—rosado Purple—purpuereo Orange—naranja
Museum—museo Bookstore—libroria Bakery—panaderia Department store—almacia Country—campo (refers to terrain/geography) City—ciudad Home—casa Exchange store—casa de cambio Address—direction Movies—cine Restaurant—ristorante Parking lot—estacionamonte Café—cafeteria Bar—taberna Bank—banko Hotel—hotel Hostess—hostel Room—cuarto Bathroom—bano Bus stop—parade de autobus Entrance—entrada Exit—salida Supermarket—supermercados Mall—cinto commercial Shoe store—zapateria Hospital—hospital Police station—comisaria Post office—el correo Pharmacy—farmacia Embassy—embajada Place—lugar, parte, locale School—escuela secendaria (secondary school); escuela escuela primaria (grade school) Building—edificio
Hungry—hambre Thirsty—sed Food—comida To eat—comer Drink –beber o tomar Coffee—café Milk—leche Cream—crema Water—aqua Ice—hielo Miner water—aqua mineral Sugar—azucar Tea—te Soft drink—gaseosa Bottle of wine—una botella de vino Red/white wine—tino /blanco vino Salt—sal Pepper—pimiento Mustard—mostaza Oil—accete Vinegar—vinagre Garlic—ajo Soup—sopa Noodles—fideos Chicken—pollo Meat—carne Vegetables—verduras Fruit—fruitas Seaford—mariscos Fish—pescado Cold veggie soup—gazpacho Banana—banana Orange—naranja Apple—manzana Tangerine—mandarina Pineapple—pina o anana Mango—mango Avocado—aquacate Onion—cebolla Turkey—pabo Tomato—tomato Sausages—chorizo Ham—jamon Rice—arroz Corn—maiz Beans—frijoles Juice—jugo Lemonade—limonada Cider—cidra Flour—harina Bread—-pan Ice cream—helado Chocolate—chocolate Vanilla—vanilla Strawberry—fresa Pastry—pastel Cookies—galletas Custard—flan Milk shake—batido de leche Espresso—un expreso Cheese—queso Eggs—huevos Butter—mantequilla o Manteca Margarine—margarina Whisky—whiskey Beer—cerveza Alcohol—alcohol Tuna—atun Lobster—langusta Sardines—sardines Salmon—salmon Bacon–tocino Broth—caldo Stew—guiso Steak—chursasco, carne BBQ—churrasco , churro Tenderloin—tourneados Roast beef—rosbef Pork—cerdo Toast—tostada Grilled—parrilla Baker—Horneado, Mashed potatoes—pueredo papas Potatoes—papas (careful to use las papas because the word is feminine. El Papa refers to the pope) French Fries—papas fritas Chicken breast—suprema de pollo Salami—salarme Breakfast—desayuno Lunch—almuerzo Soysauce—salsa d soya Liquids—liquidos Fry—frita Grill—parilla Salad—ensalada
Plate—un plato Cup—una taza/copa Glass—vaso Teaspoon—una cuchariva Spoon—cuchara Fork—tenedor Knkife—cuchillo A can —una lata Box—una lajo A jar—un pomo Menu—la carta What is today’s special?—Cual es el plato del dia Reservation—reservacion Table—mesa I’dlike to order—quisiera pedar Bill—-la cuenta Fast to go—comida para llevar Fast food—comida rapida
Where/there—aqui, aji Here is—aqui tiene Right—derecha Left—izquierda Straight—derecho One block—una cuadrenta Turn—gire Corner—ciquina Opposite from—frenta a Next to—junto a In Front—frente In back—al antes Everywhere—en todas partes No where—ninguna parte Far—lejos Close—cerca North—norte South—sur East—este West—oeste Highway—carretera Lost—perdido Upstairs—arriba Downstairs—abajo Separate—aparte Together—contigo,conmigo
Time—tiempo Hour—hora Day—dia Week—semana Month—la mesa Year—ano Today—hoy Evening/night—noche First—primero Second—segundo Third—tercero Last—ultimo Morning—la manana Yesterday—ayer Tomorrow—manana Before—antes After—despues Later—despues, lluego Earlier—antes Every day—todos las dias Always—siempre Never—nunca 1:00—una hora 1;15—la una y quince/cuarta 1:30—uno y media 1:45—cuarto al dos 1:01—la una y una Date—fecha The end—el final Finished—finis
More—mas Less—menos All—todo Some—unos None—nada That’s all—eso es todo Kilogram—kilo Half kilo—medio kelo Dozen—docena Approximately—approximente A bit of—un poco de Number—numero Single—individual Double—doble Too much/too many—demasiado Not enough—no bastante Enough—bastante Many/much—mucho Very—muy A little—poco, poquito
Money—dinero Dollars—dolares Travelers checks—chequs de viajero Exchange rate—cambio Commission—interes Fee—tarrif Bills—billetas Small change—suelto Signature—la firma The payment—le debo Credit card—tarjeta de credito Cheap—barrata Price—precio Discount—discuento ATM—el cajero
Medicine—medicina Doctor—-El Doctor Ambulance—ambulancia Nurse—enferma What’s wrong>–Que le pasa I’m sick—Me siento enfermo Headache—dolor de la cabeza Flu—la gripe It hurts here—me dula aqui I feel dizzy—tengo mareos nauseas Pregnant—embarazada Pain—dolor Stomach ache—dolor to estomacho Backache—dolor de espalda I feel—siento Diarrhea—diarrhea Antibiotics—antibioticsos Allergic—alergico Vaccinated—vacundo (a)
Passport—passaporte Documents—documentes Bag—bolsa Vacation—vacaciones Suitcases—maletas Business trip—viaje de negocios Baggage cart—carnto para maletas Room—cuarto, habitacion Single bed—habatacion con una sola cama Reservation—reserve Shower—ducha Private bath—bano privado Oceanview—vista del mar Motocycle—moto Taxi—taxi Bus—autobus Car—auto, coche Truck—camion Station—estacion Ticket—boleta, pasaje Roadmap—mapa de carreteras, plano de ciudad Boat—boats, Port—puerto Cabin—camarote Subway—metro One-way ticket—billete de ida Round-trip ticket—billete de y vuelta Departure—partida Arrival—llegada Tourism/tourist—turismo, turista
American—nortemaricano(a) Englis—ingles Spanish0—espanol Grammatical—gramatica Meaning—signfico Questions—preguntas One more time—ulta vez Femine—feminia Information—informacion Life—vida County –pais (refers to actual country, not a general description) Age—edad Word—palabra World—mundo Death—muerte Race—carrera Competition—competencia Party—fiesta Free-libre Game—juego Holiday—fiesta Vacation—vacaciones Power—poder Religion—religion Catholic—catholico Protestant—protestante Drama—drama Information—informacion Friendship—amistad
“The Spanish Backyard” Story and Game
Harriet and Toby were just regular kids, living in just a regular house. Still, they had what many people don’t: they had a wonderful backyard.
Sometimes their yard was a wide, deep ocean. Other times it was a space station. But Harriet and Toby’s favorite times of all were when the yard became a magical kingdom far away, where anything they spoke in Spanish appeared.
The catch: they had to speak the sentence properly three times in a row.
One day, Harriet and Toby were hungry. They were waiting for their parents to finish cooking a large meal. So, they decided to make food appear in their yard–every kind of food they could imagine.
What do you think Harriet and Toby asked for? What would you want to make appear?
Note to teachers: Here, have your students make sentences with the word list you’re working on currently. Change the scenario to fit the types of words you want to practice. Each time the student gets the sentence right, draw what they said or say, “Look! It’s a …”]
Harriet and Toby continued playing The Spanish Backyard until the sun was all the way down.
Here is a collection of the stories I often try to remember at bedtime, but can’t. My plan is to use the handy links in this list to read most of these to you at least several times in the coming years. Also, while you’re still young, I’m going to read you summaries of some of our great ancient stories (like the Illiad and the Odyssey) to give you a jump on classic literature before you’re old enough to read them yourselves.
The links take you to either free, full-text versions of the book or story or free online summaries as appropriate. Just pull up this list on your phone or tablet and your complete children’s literature education is ready to go.
Peter Rabbit and other stories by Beatrix Potter
Where the Sidewalk Ends, Shel Silverstein
The Little Engine that Could, Watty Piper
The Cat in the Hat, Dr. Seuss
How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Dr. Seuss
The Lorax, Dr. Seuss
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, Dr. Seuss
There’s a Wocket in My Pocket, Dr. Seuss
Green Eggs and Ham, Dr. Seuss
The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Willems
Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak
Goodnight, Moon, Margaret Wise Brown
The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle
The Giving Tree, Shel Silverstein
The Snowy Day, Ezra Jack Keats
Winnie-the-Pooh, A. A. Milne
Harold and the Purple Crayon, Crockett Johnson
Pipi Longstocking, Astrid Lindgren
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Judith Viorst
Matilda, Roald Dahl
Madeline, Ludwig Bemelmans
Oh, The Places You’ll Go, Dr. Seuss
James and the Giant Peach, Roald Dahl
Guess How Much I Love You, Sam McBratney
Are You My Mother?, P.D. Eastman
Amelia Bedelia, Peggy Parish
Corduroy, Don Freeman
The Curious George series, H.A. Rey
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! and other books by Mo Willems
The Frog and Toad series, Arnold Lobel
Miss Nelson Is Back, Harry Allard
Let’s Go All Around the Neighborhood, Patty Thomas and Anthony Rae
Books by Richard Scarry
On the Night You Were Born, Nancy Tillman and Peter Parnall
Everybody Needs a Rock, Byrd Baylor
Once There Were Giants, Martin Waddell and Penny Dale
Love You Forever, Robert Munsch and Sheila McGraw
The Father Bear series, Else Homelund Minarik and Maurice Sendak
The Encyclopedia Brown series, Donald J. Sobol
The Alfie series, Shirley Hughes
I Love You Through and Through, Bernadette Rossetti-Shustak and Caroline Jayne Church
The Monster at the End of This Book, Jon Stone and Michael Smollin
The Berenstain Bears series, Stan and Jan Berenstain
The Magic School Bus series, Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen
Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday, Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz
The Marshmallow Incident Judi Barrett and Ron Barrett
Georgie and the Robbers, Robert Bright
Each Peach Pear Plum, Janet and Allan Ahlberg
This Moose Belongs to Me, Oliver Jeffers
There Was and Old Woman Who Lived in a Glove, Bernard Lodge
The Clifford, the Big Red Dog series, Norman Bridwell
I am not a film buff. Still, I don’t want my kids to miss out on the movies that even today, inform our shared cultural conversation. There’s a lot to learn here about love, hope and coming of age–and about writing an awesome screenplay, too.
Classic Films for Children
Wizard of Oz Return to Oz Alice in Wonderland E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial Labyrinth The Neverending Story Goonies The Karate Kid Star Wars: A New Hope Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Star Wars: Return of the Jedi Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (original version) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (new version) Ghostbusters (original version) The Muppet Movie (original version) The Lord of the Rings series The Chronicles of Narnia series The Harry Potter series The Anne of Green Gables Series The Anne of Avonlea Series
A Christmas Carol
Miracle on 34th Street
A Christmas Story
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Frosty the Snowman
The Muppet Christmas Carol
Beauty and the Beast
Beauty and the Beast
The Sound of Music
The Parent Trap (original version)
Swiss Family Robinson
Lilo and Stitch
Winnie the Pooh
The Red Balloon
The Jungle Book
The Adventures of Milo and Otis
Grave of the Fireflies
Home Alone 2
How to Train Your Dragon
The Iron Giant
A Little Princess
Escape to Witch Mountain
Classic Films for Older Kids and Adults
A Face in the Crowd
An American In Paris
Babes in Toyland
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Brother Sun, Sister Moon
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Crimes and Misdemeanors
East of Eden
Hannah and Her Sisters
Cries and Whispers
From Here to Eternity
How Green is My Valley
How the West Was Won
Igby Goes Down
Il Dulce Vita
It Happened One Night
It’s a Wonderful Life
Love is a Many-Splendored Thing
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Mutiny on the Bounty
Night of the Living Dead
North by Northwest
On the Waterfront
Jesus Christ, Superstar
Planet of the Apes
Raise the Red Lantern
Rebel Without a Cause
Singing in the Rain
Splendor in the Grass
Strangers on a Train
The 39 Steps
The Absent-Minded Professor
The African Queen
The Apple Dumpling Gang
The Bells of St. Mary’s
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
The Importance of Being Earnest
The Lady Vanishes
The Last Days of Disco
The Lives of Others
The Lord of the Flies
The Man Who Knew Too Much
The Man Who Shot Liberty Vallance
The Music Man
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
The Thirty-Nine Steps
The Three Faces of Eve
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
The Unsinkable Molly Brown
Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines
To Catch a Thief
West Side Story
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
You Can’t Take It With You
Wild at Heart
A Scanner Darkly
Being John Malcovich
Eat, Drink, Man, Woman
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
The Truman Show
Kill Bill Volumes I & II
Man on the Moon
March of the Penguins
Meet Joe Black
Requiem for a Dream
Summer of My German Soldier
Run Lola Run
Saturday Night Fever
The Princess and the Warrior
The Princess Bride
Educational Videos for Children
Tumble Leaf Reading Rainbow Wishbone Zoom Beakman’s World Destination Truth National Geographic shows The Electric Company Bill Nye the Science Guy The Magic Schoolbus Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood Sesame Street But Why (podcast) Tumble (podcast)
Educational Videos for Older Children and Adults
Planet Earth How It’s Made Myth Busters TED talks Drive Thru History Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey Timeshift Ken Burns: America The Most Extreme How the States Got Their Shapes America: The Story of Us Worst Case Scenario Ancient Discoveries American Experience American Masters Chasing Mummies Steven Hawking’s SciFi Masters The Adventures of Captain Hartz The Unknown War Castle Secrets and Legends Get Schooled Super Structures of the World United States of America Joseph Campbell: Myths Travel with Kids Through the Wormhole
The Rachel Divide Amanda Knox Searching for Sugar Man Jesus Camp Going Clear Paradise Lost Cave of Forgotten Dreams Life Itself The Wolfpack Bowling for Columbine Amy Room 237 RBG Grey Gardens Undefeated How to Survive a Plague Abacus Spellbound Jiro Dreams of Sushi Blackfish The Act of Killing Icarus 13th Hoop Dreams What Happened, Miss Simone? Casting Jonbenet 20 Feet from Stardom Strong Island The Look of Silence Exit Through the Gift Shop Citizen Four The Cove Grizzly Man Paris Is Burning Faces Places The Staircase The Keepers Herb & Dorothy Iris Sour Grapes Ted Talks Revisionist History (Podcast) Bisbee ’17 Did You Wonder Who Fired The Gun? Free Solo Hale County This Morning, This Evening The Last Race Minding the Gap Shirkers 306 Hollywood Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Three Identical Strangers McQueen Momentum Generation The Thin Blue Line Food, Inc. King Corn The Future of Food Food Matters
What can I say? I like a book about a girl on a diet, especially if the diet is successful. In How I Gave Up My Low-Fat Diet and Lost 40 Pounds, Dana Carpender blends good science and good advice with her compelling personal story.
If you’ve never tried a low-carb diet before–maybe even feel a bit skeptical–you may find Carpender’s book helpful. It’s great introduction to a very complex topic, a mix of scientific studies and commonsense advice.
A few notable points:
A 2000 New English Journal of Medicine low-carb study showed there are no health benefits to low-fat diets at all.
5-HTP and niacin may help people avoid emotional eating.
L-glutamine helps reduce carb cravings.
The book also gives a good description of insulin and ketosis.
Twelve years of elementary and high school plus extracurricular studies leaves us with a lot of information. Too much information, sometimes. Since we can’t retain everything, our brains have to pick and choose. And sometimes they make pretty bad decisions. We might live with our in-depth understanding of the oboe forever, say, but can’t recall whether Alexander the Great lived before or after the Roman Empire. If we don’t want our most important knowledge areas to fade out, then, we do well to periodically review the basics.
That’s the role of the Knowledge Checklist.
A Knowledge Checklist is just what it sounds like: a collection of essential information on a variety of subjects for people who want to re-learn the basics. It’s not a textbook; instead, it’s an overview, a handy guide to help you pinpoint your knowledge areas that need a bit of padding.
I’m having lot of fun–so much fun!–writing these for myself and my homeschooling children. If you find any mistakes or other opportunities for revision, please let me know.
Completed checklists are linked; check back for the rest.
Anger is natural. It’s a normal part of life. But we don’t want to experience it for longer than necessary. Fortunately, our emotions aren’t entirely out of our control; by questioning our negative beliefs, our accompanying negative feelings become less persistent and less convincing. There are many methods for doing so, but the one with the most evidence behind it is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
In The Feeling Good Handbook, one of the most-read books on the subject, David Burns details the process. I highly recommend this and other CBT books, or working with a therapist who uses the method regularly. (There are also CBT worksheets and instructions online.)
In spite of the prodigious amount of literature devoted to the subject, CBT is a simple, intuitive process. Working either with a therapist, or alone with a journal, you identify your most anxious, fearful or hateful thoughts. Then you examine it objectively, asking yourself if the thought is entirely true, or if it’s untrue or just partly true–an exaggeration. By the time you’re done, you’ve found at least a few more positive thoughts to counteract the negative ones, and as a result, your depression or anxiety is lessened. In a perfect world, every child would be taught the technique in school, and every adult would practice it regularly.
Notes and Quotes:
“If you want to break out of a bad mood, you must first understand that every type of negative feeling results from a specific kind of negative thought. Sadness and depression result from thoughts of loss…”
“If you say, ‘I just can’t help the way I feel,’ you will only make yourself a victim of your misery–and you’ll be fooling yourself, because you can change the way you feel.” . . . “If you want to feel better, you must realize that your thoughts and attitudes–not external events–create your feelings.”
“I don’t believe you should try to be happy all the time, or in *total* control of your feelings. That would just be a perfectionistic trap. You cannot always be completely rational and objective.”
CBT Steps: One: Describe the upsetting event or situation. Two: Write down your negative feelings about the event or situation. Three: For each feeling statement, write down the automatic thoughts, the distortions and the rational responses that match it.
Beware of the ten most common forms of twisted thinking, namely: all-or-nothing thinking; overgeneralization; using a mental filter; discounting the positive; jumping to conclusions; magnification; emotional reasoning; ‘should’ statements; labelling/name calling; personalization; and blame. When these show up in your thinking, notice the essential falsehood it gives rise to.
“Ten Ways to Untwist Your Thinking: Identify the distortion; examine the evidence; the double-standard method; the experimental technique; thinkng in shades of gray; the survey method; define terms; the semantic method; re-attribution; cost-benefit analysis.”
“From a practical point of view, how can you know when you should accept your feelings, when you should express your feelings, and when you should change them? The following questions can help you decide: How long have I been feeling this way? Am I doing something constructive about the problem, or am I simply brooding and avoiding it? Are my thoughts and feelings realistic? Will it be helpful or hurtful if I express my feelings? Am I making myself unhappy about a situation that’s beyond my control? Am I avoiding a problem and denying that I’m really upset about it? Are my expectations for the world realistic? Are my expectations for myself realistic? Am I feeling hopeless? Am I experiencing a loss of self-esteem?”
“Troubleshooting Guide: Have I correctly identified the upsetting event? Do I want to change my negative feelings about this situation? Have I identified by Automatic Thoughts properly? Are my Rational Responses convincing, valid statements that put the lie to my Automatic Thoughts?”
The book also gives many other specific strategies for dealing with depression, anxiety, phobias, communication issues and much more.
I love a good journalist. Tara Parker-Pope is one of those. She’s done her research on the research, and now presents us with a thorough examination of the science of marriage. Here are my notes on For Better: How the Surprising Science of Happy Couples Can Help Your Marriage Succeed.
Contrary to popular opinion, “. . . marital stability appears to be improving each decade.”
Modern marriage is sometimes called the “soul mate marriage,” and the expectations on it are high.
“. . . Strong marriages have at least a five-to-one daily ratio of positive to negative interactions.”
Scientists have found a genetic link for monogamous and non-monogamous behavior.
Hormonal contraceptives can cause women to choose the wrong partner, blunting her natural instincts.
Marriage is a protective factor for colds, cancer, heart attacks, dementia and more.
The longer a relationship continues, the less sex women crave. “Researchers from Hamburg-Eppendorf University in Germany interviewed 530 men and women about their relationships and interest in sex. They found that 60 percent of the thirty-year-old women studied wanted sex ‘often’ at the start of a relationship. But within four years this figure dropped to fewer than half, and by twenty years, only one in five women wanted regular sex. The sharp decline in sexual interest wasn’t seen among men in the study.”
Researchers found that the way a partner describes how they met their spouse–whether their story of the event is tinted with optimism or with negative or regretful overtones–predicts their future with that spouse. (Happy couples also say “we” or “us” more often than unhappy ones.)
Eye rolling is one of the most reliable body language indicators of troubled marriages.
“Marriage researchers say that 70 percent of the time, the conflicts that arise between couples are never resolved. In one study, couples who were tracked for a decade were still fighting about the same things they had been arguing about ten years earlier . . . The lesson, say a number of noted marriage researchers, is that compatibility is overrated.”
“Studies show that women tend to initiate about 80 percent of fights. This doesn’t mean women are to blame for causing all the trouble in marriages. It just means they are more willing to take the emotional risk of trying to resolve problems.”
Physiologically, women respond with greater calm to conflict than do men.
Successful arguments often start with a complaint. Unsuccessful ones often start with a criticism.
Successful arguers know how to de-escalate a fight using calm tones and non-hostile body language.
New parenthood lowers marital satisfaction greatly, though largely temporarily.
A fair division of household chores is one of the best ways to avoid marital tension.
Often, women chose to take on more responsibility at home because they don’t want to give up control. They also care more about and are better at deciphering details.
Arguments between same-sex couples seem to contain fewer verbal attacks and less controlling behavior.
Couples who stay married often marry after the age of twenty-five, are not college dropouts, wait ten years before deciding whether or not to divorce, marry someone with similar interests and background, and marry someone whose parents are still married.
It’s the marriage book I recommend more often than any other: Venus on Fire, Mars on Ice: Hormonal Balance–The Key to Life, Love and Energy by John Gray. If you are uncomfortable with frank discussions of innate gender differences, this might not be the book for you; otherwise, have at it. It’s practical advice with a good bit of hard science to back it up.
Notes and Quotes:
Many of the differences between men and women are due to differences in hormones—both in their levels and in the ways they behave in their bodies.
When feeling stressed, men seek testosterone-raising and testosterone-releasing activities. When feeling stressed, women seek oxytocin-raising and oxytocin-releasing activities.
For men, testosterone is released during work-like, problem-solving activities and raised during rest/zone-out/no-talking time.
Women are different. “Testosterone feels good to her because it gives her a sense of power and capability and makes her feel sexy, but it doesn’t lower her stress level.” It may even raise it.
Instead, women seek oxytocin raising activities—primarily talking and bonding—and oxytocin-releasing activities—care giving.
Men are different. “Oxytocin feels good to him, increasing his tendencies toward trust, empathy, and generosity, but … [it] doesn’t lower his stress level.” it may even raise it by lowering his testosterone.
Cortisol, the stress hormone, is only good for them in a true emergency. As a daily response to modern life, it prevents people—both men and women—from maintaining healthy levels of their other needed hormones because the body prioritizes the making of it. Thus, when we’re stressed out, they feel the need to engage in even more oxytocin-raising and -releasing activities (for women), and even more testosterone-raising and -releasing activities (for men). Soon, their schedules are fuller than ever, and they become even more stressed out.
Tomorrow morning, you are going to have to wake up. You’re going to have to take the baby to the park and to the playdate you have scheduled, and pretend that everything is fine. How are you going to get through it? How in the world are you going to get out of bed, knowing the foundation of your life—your marriage—is crumbling?
Though the hormonal needs of individuals vary widely (some women need more testosterone than other women and some men need more oxytocin than other men), these needs explain the presence of traditional gender roles. Women enjoy nurturing others, then being nurtured through conversation and relationship, while men enjoy working and problem-solving, then spending time alone to rest.
Women aren’t cranky—their serotonin is depleted due to stress and fluctuating blood sugar levels.
Men aren’t lazy—they are chemically built to need more time off.
Women don’t prioritize chores over self-care—they choose to release oxytocin by taking care of the home environment.
Men aren’t insensitive—they don’t crave the bonding women do.
Women don’t want to avoid sex—they need oxytocin-building, caring words and actions in order to get in the mood.
Women don’t overreact—they experience a larger response in the brain when under stress than men do.
Women don’t complain endlessly—they talk about their feelings at length in order to rebuild their relaxing oxytocin.
Men don’t procrastinate—they choose to rebuild their testosterone levels through rest. They put off doing chores until an emergency, at which point their testosterone kicks in and tells them to act.
Women don’t worry an unreasonable amount—they simply enjoy nurturing others and thinking about their needs.
No married couple gets everything right. Here, a few pieces of marital wisdom that didn’t make it into Matthew and Rachel’s story.
1. Figure out the money thing. Different plans work for different people. The key is to do just that: plan.
2. Figure out which kind of fight you’re having. Is the fight about what it seems to be about–money, in-laws, whatever–or is it about feelings and egos getting wounded? If it’s the latter, deal with the feelings first. Then circle back to the mother-in-law’s casserole catastrophe.
3. Make it into a joke. I hinted at this one several times, but seriously–no, not seriously–this is funny stuff. Marriage is funny. Kids are hilarious. If you can laugh even while fighting, resentment and tension lessen considerably. (The kids will appreciate it, too.)
4. Keep the chores separate. Yours are yours and theirs are theirs. This minimizes chore fights and nagging considerably.
5. Figure out what you can control and what you can’t. Marriage is the Serenity Prayer all over the place.
6. Use “I” statements. You’ve heard this before, but it bears repeating: No matter how unnatural or uncomfortable it feels, make it about you. After all, it is about you. Otherwise you wouldn’t be dealing with it. Right?
7. Don’t punish your partner. They won’t learn a darn thing through it except to escalate and solidify their bitterness and anger. No one wants to feel like the bad guy. Whenever possible, make them into the good guy and yourself into the good but struggling guy. They’ll become the person you show them in your mirror.
8. Don’t yell. Ever. What is the point?
9. Most important, notice the small resentments and don’t let them grow any bigger. Seeing a few of my married-couple friends repeatedly pass entire evenings together barely looking into each other’s eyes caused me to suspect the discomfort in their relationships. I realized that I never wanted my marriage to get to a place where we could no longer really look at each other.
What would you add to this list? Let me know and if it’s not already in the book, I’ll consider adding it here.
Some of the advice in Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby is pretty standard stuff. Some of it, however, is not. Here, a lesson-by-lesson Q and A to help clarify a few of the more nuanced suggestions.
Lesson: Change Your Story
What if my partner is regularly rude, selfish and impatient? Should I still change my story about him?
What do you mean by regularly? Does your partner treat you well most of the time? Do you usually feel good when you’re around him? Does he bring much more happiness than unhappiness to your life? Is he holding up his end of the bargain? These are the questions you need to answer. Only you.
But maybe he really is just a bad person.
He’s not a bad person. He’s a person. Sometimes people appreciate you, and love you, and understand you, and sympathize with you, and you feel so lucky to be their friend. And other times, they get annoyed, and they get annoying, and they lose their perspective, and they try to find someone to blame. That’s just the way of things. When you relax your character judgments, you see more clearly. You are more able to make decisions about your relationship based on your needs, your feelings and your mental health.
Lesson: Don’t Fight. Just Talk Instead.
My husband suffers from chronic depression and anxiety. He is on edge a lot. It isn’t unusual for him to be in a bad mood as soon as he gets home from work. What is the best way to handle a bad temper?
First, don’t be afraid of your husband. Anger is often about control. Sometimes people yell because they feel out of control of a situation and want to merely let out the frustration they feel. Other times they yell as a way to intimidate others into letting them have their way. This is not a judgment; we all do it, and most of us do it regularly. However, anger is a sign of weakness. Yelling is the weak person’s way to feel strong. Know this, and know this with compassion.
Second, don’t respond to anger. Say nothing—nothing at all. Don’t apologize for or justify your partner’s temper, either to others or to yourself. Don’t pretend you agree with his perspective or placate him. Just let him be. Fully accept, embrace and acknowledge that this is not a good or justifiable quality, but merely a common one.
Say nothing. Let the silence be not a resentful one, though, but one that comes from a deep sense of self-respect; a caring, dignified silence.
A lot of the time, that’s what I do. I just ignore it and let it go. Other times I engage with him—either to agree with him and make him feel better or to defend myself, if the anger is directed at me.
No sometimes. No engagement in that moment. No response, other than a blanket statement like, “I hear you,” and that only if he specifically asks for it. He will be astounded at your self-control.
But then how will anything get solved? How will we work through the problem?
If the problem is just his problem—his anger problem—there is nothing at all for you to do other than offer an example of another way of being, praying for him, and suggesting he get outside help if needed. If the problem is a family or relationship one, simply wait to discuss it when neither of you are upset. It’s a lot more fun that way, and much more productive, too.
What about expressing your anger? Isn’t doing so a hugely important thing to do for your own mental health?
Admitting your anger to yourself is, I believe, hugely important. But talking about it with other people is often unnecessary (except in a self-controlled, reasonable way). Imagine being the kind of person who is able to deal with all of her anger, resentment and negativity internally, who doesn’t blame others for it or play the victim. Do you like that image? Maintaining your self-respect is reason enough to observe your pain in your own quiet heart rather than exploding at your partner.
One night after dinner I asked my husband to help me with the dishes. He said he would, and started doing them, but after a little while he stopped. I finished sweeping the floor, then started getting the baby ready for her bath. Then I asked my husband if he was going to finish the dishes. He said, “You said you were going to help but never did.” I said, “Can’t you see that I’ve been cooking and cleaning for over an hour?” He never finished the dishes or apologized. Now I’m mad at him. What do I do?
Why did you ask him to help you with the dishes, if what you really wanted was for him to do the dishes? Maybe this was just a communication issue. Say exactly what you want, even if the request is less attractive that way. If you want, tell him what you will do, too. Something like, “Can you do the dishes, Hon, so I can finish sweeping up and get the baby in the bath?”
Your fight wasn’t about whether or not he did the dishes. Your fight was about your feeling unappreciated or unloved. Know the difference, and deal with the real issue first. Tell him that you don’t feel loved in this moment, and ask him to acknowledge all the work you were doing.
Remember: Always assume his motives are good. Don’t start the inner monologue about his lack of character. And don’t hear insults where insults aren’t spoken. Instead, hear need— tiredness, stress, sadness—or just his desire to feel loved, too.
Chapter Four: Don’t Make It Into a Big Deal
Can you give me another example of how to pretend something isn’t a big deal? Is it just about ignoring the little stuff, or what?
No. It’s partly that, but it’s also about having a bit of fun with the process.
When something is bugging my husband and I know that it’s a temporary thing–a bad mood, tiredness or whatever–I use the opportunity to practice what I preach in this book: being nice, not getting angry, keeping my perspective. Here is sort of what that looks like: First, I don’t take hold of the rudeness he’s offering me. If he continues to offer it, I say something like, “Hon, are you okay?” Usually, that diffuses the situation pretty quickly. On the rare occasion on which it doesn’t, though, and he’s actually mad at me, he might explain what’s bothering him. That’s my chance to either talk it through or tell him that I love him but I’m choosing not to do what he wants me to do.
I’m a pretty serious person. I tend to be a little more like Rachel the list-maker than Genevieve the intuitive. How can I learn to not sweat the small stuff?
Control freaks do well to find other outlets for their passion. Do you have at least a few other close friendships? Do you have at least one hobby you really love? Your partner shouldn’t be your only source of endorphins.
Also remember that the whole letting go thing feels weird at first; when you’re emotional, your instinct is to directly deal with the situation. After a while, though, as talking about your relationship issues becomes less the norm than the exception, you begin to settle into a habit of ignoring stuff that starts you both spinning.
You become more at peace with peace.
What if we never get there? What if we never figure out how to be “comfortably in love” again?
Relationships aren’t always fun and easy. But they should be a lot of the time. If yours isn’t, you’re either not a good match—water and oil—or you’re really seeking out problems. Stop the problem-making habit and start a fun-making habit. If you do lots of enjoyable stuff together, little problems tend not to grow.
And definitely don’t get too much into his emotional business unless he shares it with you. Remember that your partner’s happiness is his job—not yours. Be the best partner you can be, and let him figure out everything else. Give him advice, then let him make his own choices.
Lesson: Be Uncomfortably Nice
What is the best way to show my partner that I love him on a daily basis?
Use a pleasant tone of voice. Always, always, always, unless you truly, in that moment, cannot. If you follow only one piece of advice in this book, follow this one. Use a (sincerely) pleasant tone of voice at all times, particularly during the mundane activities of life. This is where your relationship really lives. If you’ve fallen into that common but horrible habit of speaking with slight condescension to your partner on a regular basis, know that in order to make things work, this will have to change.
So, what about when your partner says something that’s not just rude, but super mean? The other day I told my husband I was really stressed out and he said, point blank, “I don’t care.” I couldn’t believe it. It hurt so much.
That does hurt. Have you asked him why he said it?
He said it because he didn’t care. In that moment, he didn’t care about how I felt.
Not necessarily. People say this stuff. He probably cares but at the time was upset about something else. My best advice is to ask him if he meant what he said. Ask him sweetly, at a time when he’s not mad. He’ll be impressed by your mature way of handling the situation. He’ll remember it, and if you handle rude comments this way regularly, he’ll eventually learn to be more careful with his words.
Countering not-nice with nice is the best way to get an apology.
So, how do you do this? I mean, we all snap at our partners and kids sometimes, right? We can’t be nice all the time.
Make it your number one priority for a week. A nice tone of voice, all day long. It’s a habit.
Lesson: Shamelessly Bargain (And Always Have a Bottom Line)
One of the things my husband struggles a lot with is getting time to exercise. He likes it, and it’s important to him, but there’s only a certain window of opportunity–in the hour after work–when he can get to the gym or take a jog. Lately, though, he’s been skipping this window and coming home early to crash on the couch. Then when it’s his turn to take the baby, he says he really needs to get his exercise done. It’s not fair, and the other day it caused a huge fight. What should I do?
It sounds like you have a schedule in place that you’re generally both happy with. If that’s the case, it’s just a matter of sticking to it–even if he doesn’t like it. Tell him that it’s his baby time, offer to discuss it, then walk away. If you need to, leave the house to force him to do his duty.
Oh, that’ll go over well.
Risk the argument. See it as an investment you make for your future happiness; if he sees you’re going to enforce your agreement, he’ll take future agreements more seriously. See it as practice for when you have to do the same kind of enforcement with your kids.
If you don’t take this advice, don’t blame him for taking advantage of your fear of confrontation.
Oh, and as always, when you leave, leave with a smile, or at least without undue emotion. He may not be smiling back. But that’s okay.
Lesson: Apologize Every Chance You Get
The other day, I was a jerk. I said some things I regret, and don’t know how to forgive myself and move on. Any advice?
I know how you feel. There are a handful of slammed doors behind me, too. Some I’m now a bit embarrassed about, but one or two, not so much. It doesn’t solve problems to scream, and should be avoided whenever possible, but when it happens rarely, it often buys you a few days of the handle-with-care treatment you need.
Did you ask your partner to forgive you yet? If not, do. Some of the tenderest moments in relationships come after fights and sincere apologies.
After that, take apart the argument. Pull the meat from the bone. What is the important stuff here? What do you need to do differently next time to avoid the argument? Do you need to renegotiate something? Time to look forward.
Lesson: Change Your Partner the Right Way
What about when there’s a behavior in my partner that really does need to change? In the book you show how Matthew slowly learned how to take on more responsibility for his child. In my case, I’d like to change the way my husband disciplines our kids. I want him to be more firm. Is this something that I can change about him? Are some qualities changeable, and others not?
Yes. But we don’t know which is which until we give our partner the chance to show us.
The way I see it, there are three ways to change your partner for the better. The first, and most important, is just believing the best of them, and treating them well. This is the one we should always be doing.
When this isn’t enough, we have two other options. One is the major argument or discussion, which involves detailed negotiation. The other is what I call “the slow nag.” This is when you make little hints and suggestions–maybe even good-natured jokes–about the issue without ever forcing it. When done right, it’s surprisingly effective.
Are you sure this will work?
Okay, fair enough. But are you sure it’s okay to try to change your partner? Everyone tells us this is a terrible idea, that we need to accept them as they come or not at all.
Yes, I am absolutely sure that over the course of your marriage, you can and will change your partner in a wide variety of significant and not-so-significant ways. It’s not only possible but nearly unavoidable; we do it every single day. Whenever we look at someone, whenever we speak to them, whenever we have any kind of interaction, we affect the way they think and feel. Think about it: How would your partner affect your behavior towards him if he did what is recommended in this book, and treated you with utmost respect and love all the time? You’d change a heck of a lot. And the changes you didn’t make in spite of his caring suggestions would probably be the ones that meant too much to you to lose. Well, it’s the same for him. There are things about himself he won’t change for you or for anyone, ever. The question is: Can you live with those things? Are they deal breakers or not?
Lesson: Brush Up on Your Endocrinology
My husband is such a taker. He just takes and takes and takes, until I can’t give anymore, and I explode. Why are men like this? How can I get him to give more?
Don’t concern yourself with why. Men are simply better at getting their own needs and wants met than women are. When you can’t or don’t want to give anymore, simply don’t. Tell your husband that you need some “me” time, and take it–even if he doesn’t love the idea. The trick is to do this gently, without anger and with grace. For me, this has been one of the hardest marriage skills to learn, but now I get a nap every day. It was worth the work.
Here, it’s worth mentioning that personality differences, too–not just gender differences–affect the way your partner meets his needs. My favorite personality typing book is the (misleading titled) Dressing Your Truth: Discover Your Personal Beauty Profile by Carol Tuttle. The book only discusses female personality types, but in other books of hers, males fall into the same four categories. Understanding not just your unique behavior but the basic internal beliefs that give rise to that behavior is incredibly therapeutic and healing.
The bottom line: There are four main personality types: wind, water, fire and rock. Wind people are bright and animated. Their driving purpose in life is to enjoy it. Water people are subtle, caring and soft. Their driving purpose is to love and care about people. Fire people are dynamic and passionate. Their driving purpose is to accomplish their goals and change the world. Rock people are bold and striking. Their driving purpose is to seek and disseminate truth. If you want to better understand the motivations behind your partner’s quirks, read this book.
Lesson: Don’t Defend Yourself
Okay, so not defending myself. I get how doing so can be unhelpful and even counterproductive, escalating the fight even further. But self-defense is one of our primary human drives; we all want other people to acknowledge when we’re in the right, or to at least to basically understand our intentions. How can I avoid getting defensive?
Try this: Look forward with great anticipation to your next opportunity to be criticized by your partner in some way. Then, when it happens, in the moment in which it is happening, ask yourself, “What would it feel like to just not defend myself right now—to smile and say nothing committal, maybe even to agree with what my partner is saying? Would it make me proud?”
Then—just as an experiment, mind you—say something kind in response. Not necessarily an apology, if an apology feels insincere to you, but something sweet and understanding. Something like, “Okay. You might be right about this. I promise to give it some real thought.”
Now, observe how you feel about yourself in this moment and compare it to how you might have felt had you defended yourself. Do you feel more self-respect? And what about your partner’s response? Did their anger begin to dissolve?
It sounds like what you’re saying is that you should just accept whatever criticism comes your way, no matter how wrong it is. That’s not self-respectful, is it?
Yes, that’s what I’m saying, and yes, it is. You don’t have to accept the criticism as true, but you can listen to it in silence without agreeing with it in any way.
But doesn’t this just come across as a big “I don’t care what you think” attitude?
Preferably, no. At times, in an effort to be less defensive, I’ve used a superior tone of voice, responding with something like, “Okay, Honey. You have your opinion.” I’ve since come to the belief that this sort of attitude isn’t nondefensiveness—it’s ego, disguised as nondefensiveness. And it really, really didn’t work. It didn’t make me feel good, and it didn’t dissolve his anger; in fact, it fueled it big-time.
If you’re going to choose between shutting down your partner without explaining your side and expressing interest in your partner’s feelings, then asking him if you may explain your reason for what you did, choose the latter every time. At least you’ve shown that you are willing to truly listen, and by asking first to defend yourself, you’ve put them in a much more receptive mode.
Lesson: Appreciate the Gift
Logically, I know that marriage is a gift–even the hard parts, the arguments. But how do I go from knowing it to really knowing it, to feeling really grateful for my partner on a day-in-day-out basis?
I have two ideas. The first is to dote on your partner–to do loving acts regularly. The second is to relentlessly question your negative thoughts about him or her.
A lot of people try to describe why it is that parenting, which (if you believe the cliche) is the toughest job on the planet, is also one of the most well-regarded and most sought-after. Here is my attempt: The beauty of parenting is that here is this perfect new person, and you have the privilege of loving them the most.
Teaching children is great. Watching them grow and admiring them and laughing with them is wonderful and awesome. But just loving someone this much, giving this much of yourself for another person every day—that is the part that really gets you. Well, it’s the same with any other relationship. It’s the same with marriage: the practice of loving another person just feels good. Making dinner for your partner, speaking gently with them when they’re in a bad mood, holding them when they’re sad–these are the things that give our lives real meaning, and the things that truly bond us.
Compliment your partner. Every single day. Say nice things, particularly when it’s unexpected. Be specific, too: something like, “I am feeling very tender and affectionate towards you today.” Genuine compliments are far too rare and far more valuable than most of us realize; whenever we get one, we really treasure it, don’t we? We remember some of them for a very long time.
My second idea is to relentlessly question your negative thoughts about your partner. In “Change Your Story” I describe the process of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and I cannot recommend it more highly. The theory among some psychologists and certainly many spiritual guru-types on its effectiveness is that when you remove the negative thoughts, love simply fills the gap, since love is who we really are underneath. Sometimes I’m skeptical that this is the case with me, but the more I journal my negative thoughts and replace them with the truth, the more cheerfulness and lightheartedness I feel, which naturally flows into my attitudes about other people. Particularly people I really, really like anyway, like my husband.
There was a time when I would have paid anything for a magic wand that could, with a wave, turn off all my husband’s worst traits. The other day, though, when I was talking to my sister on the phone about relationships, it hit me: At some point, I stopped wanting my partner to be perfect. What would it look like if he had no flaws? Would he do everything I ever wanted or asked him to do? And how long would it take before I started seeing him as a robot, an automaton: “Honey, will you wash the dishes?” “Sure, my dear.” “Then go wash the car and pack the car for our trip?” “Of course.” That’s not even a relationship, is it?
Marriage is one of the biggest challenges I’ll get in this life. I’m milking it for all the self-improvement it’s worth.
Why don’t you recommend therapy?
I do. I am a therapist in training and I think every single human should be so lucky as to have a skilled mental health professional to talk to once a week.
Some of your advice is strange. Are you sure it’ll work?
In my life there are very few certainties, and for the most part I like to keep it that way. One thing I do feel sure of, though, is that self-improvement efforts—no matter how small, no matter how flailing, and no matter how many times they seem to fail—are worth it almost every time. Because often, even when they seem to fail, they don’t fail all the way; somewhere inside you, something has changed. Maybe it takes a year or two for you to see the difference, but eventually you do.
Eventually, you’re glad that you tried.
May the greatest blessings follow you on your path to marital bliss.
We human-types repeat ourselves a lot. Throughout the day we rely on a handy set of go-to statements in order to preserve precious brain power.
“Go slow,” we tell our toddlers. “Use your words. Be patient. Take turns.”
“It’s for the best,” we say to our friends. “It’ll all work out.”
We say these things many, many times.
My husband hears a lot of the same stuff from me, too: “Can you wash the dishes?” “Don’t stay up too late” and “Take the baby” are at the top of my list.
A bad mantra can be a hard habit to break.
Fortunately, a good mantra can be a hard habit to break, too. My advice: Pay extra attention to your oft-repeated statements, evaluating how well they help you achieve your goals. Then consider replacing a few of them with a nicer, more effective version.
Here are a few feel-good statements that can replace a whole variety of feel-bad ones.
Instead of “I can’t believe you did/said that” or “You are such a jerk,” try:
“Are you feeling grumpy today, Honey?”
“Are you feeling unloved today?”
“Are you okay today? Is anything wrong?”
“Is there anything I can do?”
“Do you want to talk about it or would you rather wait?”
“Hey! That wasn’t nice.”
“I love you. I know you mean well. But I don’t understand the reason you did this. Can you explain, please?”
Instead of a sarcastic “you’re welcome,” try:
“Will you say thank you, please?”
Instead of “It’s not my fault,” or “You’re the one who . . .,” try:
“That wasn’t nice of me.”
“I’m feeling grumpy today.”
“Do you want to know why I did that?”
“Do you want me to explain now or would you rather wait till later?”
Instead of “I am so mad at you,” try:
“I am feeling angry right now, but it will pass.”
“Watch out. I might have to squish you/tickle you/[insert other completely comical threat].”
Instead of “You aren’t listening to me,” try:
“Do you want me to explain more, or do you want me to just listen to your thoughts and we can talk about my side later?”
Instead of “No, I’m not going to do that for you,” try:
“I’m not going to do that right now. But I love you.”
Instead of “Stop ignoring me,” try:
“I am feeling lonely today.”
“I am feeling neglected today.”
“I am feeling unappreciated today. Will you do something nice for me?”
“Do you appreciate me?”
“Do you love me?”
“Do you want to cuddle?”
Instead of “Well, ‘night, Hon,” try:
“I love you. I really, really love you. Good night.”
“I want you to know I respect you. Good night.”
“I’m truly glad you’re my partner, Hon. Good night.”
One morning, you wake up to notes on the fridge reminding your partner to treat you better. What’s your reaction? Yeah, I thought so. Here, then, a cheat sheet with all of the main lessons in this book. My advice: use it flagrantly.
Lesson: Change Your Story
For the Fridge:
“I promise to believe your intentions are good.”
“I promise to double-check my story about you.”
Lesson: Don’t Fight. Just Talk Instead.
For the Fridge:
“I promise not to discuss an issue unless it’s worth the tension it will cause and unless I’ve given it some time.”
Lesson: Don’t Make It Into a Big Deal
For the Fridge:
“I promise to underreact.”
Lesson: Be Uncomfortably Nice
For the Fridge:
“I promise to use a kind, respectful tone of voice, even when upset.”
Lesson: Shamelessly Bargain (And Always Have a Bottom Line)
For the Fridge:
“I promise to negotiate, not nag.”
“I promise to focus mainly on solutions, not emotions.”
Lesson: Apologize Every Chance You Get
For the Fridge:
“I promise to take every opportunity to say I’m sorry.”
Lesson: Change Your Partner the Right Way
For the Fridge:
“I promise not to nag you to change, but to gently encourage it instead.”
“I promise to mirror back to you the change I want to see.”
Lesson: Brush Up on Your Endocrinology
For the Fridge:
“I promise to focus on solutions, not emotions.”
“I promise to understand that your needs are real.”
Lesson: Don’t Defend Yourself
For the Fridge:
“I promise to listen first.”
“I promise to ask permission before telling my side of the story.”
Lesson: Appreciate the Gift
For the Fridge:
“I promise to remind myself that one of the best parts of marriage is how it helps me grow.”