How to Give Your Child a Growth Mindset

August 23, 2014 in homeschooling, psychology

This video is great, but don’t miss the article that goes with it–The Learning Myth: Why I’m Cautious About Telling My Son He’s Smart. In the article Sal Khan of the Khan Academy discusses a topic I have been following for several years, ever since I read a book called Nurture ShockNurture Shock reports on some experiments made using classrooms of kids as gunea pigs to find out what type of praise encouraged children to expand their efforts on a project and what types of praise (if any) might tend to tempt them to quit and go no further. Turned out that praising a child for being smart had a natural tendency to make the child want to stop with whatever success he’d already achieved. The child didn’t want to chance messing up the teacher’s (or parent’s) good opinion. He/she didn’t want to fail. Failure was anathema. In contrast, the study found that the classrooms in which the children were praised for effort, caused the children to almost unanimously opt for taking another test even when they were told the next one would be harder. Effort was the thing praised, not a particular level of success. Therefore failure was not a dreaded outcome–only effortlessness. When you think about it, it starts to make sense, doesn’t it?

So, back to the article by Sal Khan. I saw it in my Facebook feed and loved everything he had to say. He has explained the whole premise so clearly and I wanted to share it with as many parents and teachers as I could. In fact, the evidence suggests that incorporating this new approach into your child-rearing or classroom (or both) may be the single most important thing you do for the education of your child (apart from spiritual matters). Here’s a brief excerpt–

Researchers have known for some time that the brain is like a muscle; that the more you use it the more it grows. They’ve found that neural connections form and deepen most when we make mistakes doing difficult tasks rather than repeatedly having success with easy ones. What this means is that our intelligence is not fixed: and the best way that we can grow our intelligence is to embrace tasks where we might struggle and fail.

Watch the video and read the article, but don’t stop there. There’s much more on this important subject. Click here for a few more videos and links regarding this concept. And I can’t mention the Sal Khan and his Khan Academy without saying that every homeschooling parent, teacher, and tutor should know about this completely free online academy (middle-high school)–it’s an incredible resource! Khan’s personal story in itself is fascinating and I guarantee you’ll love him and what he is doing!


Also related–Playing Video Games–Some Real Benefits for Kids (They learn to fail but keep trying)

Playing Video Games–Some Real Benefits for Kids

July 7, 2013 in homeschooling, psychology, Technology

Update August 23,2014— The video interview to which this post was originally linked has been taken down–so sorry. But the information is summarized below and very much worth reading. Also, some incredibly interesting articles on the subject of gaming and its benefits are now linked below.

Original Post–

If you worry about your kids playing video games too much, the research in the above interview may be of some real help in knowing when to pull the plug and what types of games to encourage. According to the studies presented here, video games have some definite benefits if the time is capped off at no more than 21 hours a week, still quite a chunk of time. But there are some other criteria as well for gaming to be beneficial:

  1. The games must be hard enough–so hard that players fail 80% of the time
  2. The games that are best are those which are collaborative in nature–team based games rather than just solitary competition.

Those are two pretty big caveats, but still this can give parents something to aim at other than just limiting time spent. I especially loved factor #1. It reminded me of an interview I heard with the inventor of Spanx, Sara Blakely, who is a self-made billionaire. She said that when she was growing up, her dad used to ask her everyday when he got home, “What did you fail at today?” He wanted to train her to think in terms of trying new things and not worrying about the outcome as much as just the experience. I loved that! I couldn’t get it out of my head. Made me think of Darkwing Duck’s maxim “Let’s get dangerous!” darkwingMy daughter gave me an Atlanta artist’s rendition of Darkwing for my wall that has been an encouragement to me many times to go out on that limb, trust God, and see what happens. The second factor is interesting too because it’s easy as a parent or teacher not to encourage collaborative efforts enough in anything. As a homeschooling mom, I don’t remember requiring many team-effort style projects for my kids’ schoolwork. My children were often doing the same lesson along side each other, of course, but collaboration was not usually necessary. Perhaps my son wouldn’t have hated those team projects in computer science at Ga. Tech as much later on if he’d had more experience. The video includes more info than I’m giving you here and continues with studies being done to use games specifically designed to help with depression.

If you want to learn more:

As I searched to find the online interview that was removed, I found massive new statistics that are coming out on the benefits of gaming.  As a homeschooling mom I was used to thinking video games were the enemy trying to steal my children away from more productive activities. There still needs to be a balance, of course, but these articles were eye opening for me. I have weeded out the two I liked best that challenged my assumptions. I would encourage you to read them if you’re interested or concerned as I was.

The Power of Thought

March 24, 2013 in homeschooling, psychology



If someone told you that merely thinking about playing a scale on the piano could in any way approximate physically practicing it, would you believe it? Watch the video below to see what studies have shown about the power of thought and how far it goes to re-wiring the brain in very similar fashion to the new neuron tracks that are formed when physically doing something.

I can imagine all sorts of practical applications to this idea, and it might encourage your kids to use thinking to reinforce something they are trying to learn–guitar chords, basketball lay ups, you name it. Of course, I can hear it now, “Mom, don’t worry–I’m thinking about doing my chores!”  The video also made me think about Jesus’s words on the similarity of thinking about sinning and actually doing the sin. This video adds scientific evidence for his assertions. Not that we needed it. :)

Check out Professor Elliot Engel

March 20, 2013 in English, homeschooling

Professor Elliot Engel at

If you don’t know about Professor Elliot Engel, check him out! He has audios and videos on famous authors and a few historical figures that are quintessentially some of the best homeschooling supplements you will find anywhere! I promise. His talks are usually around 50 min. and he always includes humor and details that you simply won’t hear anywhere else. My kids still refer to tidbits they learned from his audio talks on Shakespeare. Do you know why a box office is called a box office? It goes back to the 1600’s! And his lecture on Robert E. Lee is eye-opening. — at

Southeast Homeschool Convention

March 2, 2013 in homeschooling

I’ll be speaking at the Southeast Homeschool Convention in Greenville, S.C. in less than two weeks. The convention is being held March 14-16. In case you’re going to attend, my topics and times are listed below.  I would really love to meet anyone who gets my tweets or reads this blog!

I was interested to see that Dr. John Rosemond will be among the speakers. He is one of my personal heroes and mentors on child discipline. When my kids were young, I had a VHS tape of some talks he did on PBS. I watched that tape over and over. He saved me untold stress and mistakes! He’s just one of many speakers and performers –like Tim Hawkins— who will be entertaining and encouraging and informing homeschooling families over the course of these 3 days. The video clip they have on the page for Tim Hawkins is funny–go watch it and see. The list of speakers and topics is truly wonderful. If you cannot get to one of these conventions (there’s one in Cincinnati 4/4-6 too), you might keep an eye out for mp3 downloads of seminars that may be offered post convention.

I will also be manning a booth for The Shorter Word with copies of my books going cheap! If you’re there, please look me up.

Below are my seminar descriptions from the convention catalog–

Friday 8:30 a.m., room 100AB
TOPIC: The Pack of Tricks

In this session, Laurie White will walk you through her Pack of Tricks, a unique approach to memorizing a simplified framework for western world history. The tricks include memory devices, dates that do double duty, and easily associated key events or people. There are 15 tricks in all. Laurie will expand the significance of each item in history, fleshing out interesting background on some of the people and events, and helping you see how the big pieces fit together in a way you never saw before. By the end of the session attendees will have the 5 most central tricks memorized—even down to giving the dates for events you never thought you’d remember.

Saturday 2:30 p.m., room 100AB
TOPIC: A Little About Language

Ever heard of Frenglish? You’ll find out what that is if you come along with Laurie White, author of the fun and popular text King Alfred’s English, as she introduces you to some principles of language and grammar which have shaped English into what it is today.

  • Where do languages come from in the first place?
  • Shakespeare and Jane Austin could say “ain’t,” so why can’t I?
  • Who makes up those grammar rules anyway?
  • Why is English spelling so incredibly difficult?
  • Why does it increase your child’s English vocabulary to learn Greek and Latin roots?
  • In what way do language changes provide evidence for special creation?

Come learn the answers to these questions and more, and find out how English is becoming the first truly global language in history.

Deep Learning

January 31, 2013 in homeschooling, psychology

A PBS news segment on "Deep Learning"I caught a segment of the PBS News Hour last night (1/30/13) that was really interesting. The title of the segment was “Teachers Embrace ‘Deep Learning’–Translating Lessons into Practical Skills.” And do you know what these teachers were doing? Well it seemed to me that they were basically imitating homeschooling techniques. The emphasis was simply on doing stuff that expanded the lessons.  Hands-on applications, getting the students out of the classroom, and projects–isn’t that homeschooling 101? So, now you know: we homeschoolers have been doing “deep learning” but just didn’t know what to call it. The segment is inspiring and might give you some ideas. At the very least, it is certainly affirming of what  we homeschoolers are all about.

Here’s the segment (just 9 min.)


The True Story Behind the X in X-Mas

December 14, 2012 in Christianity, language

When I was a little girl in the 1950’s, I remember one of the stores in our small Georgia town having a sign outside that said “X-MAS SALE.” My mom hated that sign. She pointed it out every time we went shopping making sure we knew how terrible it was for “someone to take the ‘Christ’ out of Christmas.” Of course, my sisters and I agreed. So I was very surprised to find out years later from a history teacher in college what that “X” really stood for. Turns out the X isn’t an X at all but rather it’s the Greek letter “Chi” (X) which has the sound of our letter K. It also just happens to be the first letter in the Greek word for “Christ.”  So the X is an initial, an abbreviation, for Christ and not an X-ing out at all. In fact, using the chi symbol to stand for Christ has a very long history. It goes back at least to the time of Constantine, the first Christian emperor of the Roman Empire. Upon his conversion to Christianity, he began using the symbols of both X (chi) and P (rho), the first two letters in the word “Christ,” to stand for his new faith. In the Catholic Church, the priest’s robe is decorated with the XP symbol at Christmas. Many Protestant churches have traditionally used the symbol as well, sometimes on their altar cloth or on the mantle of the pastor’s robe. So letting an X stand for Christ has been going on for a very long time–way before the 1950’s.

Admittedly, today is a different story. Christians are swimming against a tide of new and often fervent atheists and secularists who are, either figuratively or literally, attempting to take the “Christ” out of a lot more than just the word Christmas. Most of us are familiar with many of the modern battlefields, from courthouses where 100-year-old engraved copies of the Ten Commandments have had to be removed, to high school ball games where prayers “in Jesus name” are no longer allowed. At Christmas time the struggle becomes front stage and center because, of course, Christ is naturally right there at the heart of it all. He’s the babe in the manger, the inspiration for heavenly choirs of angels, “the reason for the season,” and the name that is and should remain smack in the forefront of what we as Christians have for centuries called this wonderful, mid-December holy day: Christmas–the celebration of the Christ Mass. Yet now we must put up with store clerks who will only say “happy holidays,” schools who let children out for “winter break,” and a deluge of media hype and advertising that is also sidestepping the forbidden word in favor of the same or similar bland holiday greetings. It’s as if they are all saying, “Whatever you do, don’t mention Christmas!” Everyone knows it’s all about Christmas, but they refuse to say it. Makes you feel crazy sometimes, doesn’t it?

So how should we respond to the attempts to de-Christianize Christmas, and more specifically, what should we do about this X business? If the X is Greek for the first letter of Christ,  should we struggle against it? Well, whatever we say or do, it should be filled with grace and respect. Trying to get tired and overworked sales clerks to say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays” really isn’t the point, is it? Shouldn’t we just be patient and understanding, perhaps praying for them as we wait in line? ( If I were working retail at Christmas I’d sure need people praying for me.) Of course, whenever we do have the power or influence to change a sign, a brochure, or a banner, we should put the Christ back in Christmas however and whenever we can.

But as far as the X goes, we can have fun enlightening people about this letter’s true origin. We can teach our children that nothing has been X’ed out after all. In fact, the X is a witness to the very roots of Christianity itself, a  testimony to the antiquity of our faith and to the death-defying efforts of the early Christians to get the message out. The first Christians were all Palestinian Jews living in Aramaic-speaking communities, yet they did not write down the gospel story in their own local native tongue. Why? Because they couldn’t rest until the whole world knew of a savior who had died for everyone. So they chose instead to write in the trade language of the Roman Empire, the language that the greatest number of people would be able to read and understand. They wrote in Greek. Thus we got the X for Christ.

So instead of fighting “X-Mas,” perhaps we should start a campaign among our fellow believers to use it every chance we get! Think of what a great conversation starter that could be. So here’s to putting Christ back into the “holiday season” and to wishing everyone a very merry X-Mas!

A coin minted during Rome’s Christian era showing the emperor on one side and on the other side the Greek letter X(chi) layered over the letter P(rho).