Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Heavy Reading

I'm almost done with my second child psychology/parenting type book of the summer. They're both informational books designed for the masses, so they're relatively quick reads, but heavy nonetheless. Also scary in places, though helpful in many ways. I found them both to be quite worthwhile reads on the whole and hope to write up thorough reviews on Love2learn in the near future.

Incidentally, neither mentions homeschooling a bit, though they may end up providing a morale boost to homeschool parents both because they provide pretty broad coverage of some of the things schools struggle with and because they highlight some things children need (like time spent experiencing the world outside and plenty of time out-of-the-desk for younger children) that are easy and natural to accomplish at home. Both come from completely secular viewpoints.

Here are the titles:

Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men by Leonard Sax

This book focuses on the problems - particularly in motivation - prevalent among teenage boys and young men today (especially as contrasted with 30 or 40 years ago). The author, a medical doctor AND psychologist, highlights five likely causes of the problem (changes within the school system, video games, ADHD medications, environmental factors and cultural problems (especially the lack of role models). To be fair, this list over-simplifies factors that he treats in a pretty balanced way. For example, he doesn't insist that video games should be entirely avoided, but advocates reasonable time limits parental screening of individual games to avoid dangerously violent and inappropriate ones.

I did find the book alarming in a number of places, partly because his tone is a bit sensational in places (although there are probably many people who could use such a wake-up call). Keeping the skeptometer in tune while reading the book is a good idea, but there's really a lot of helpful stuff to dig through here.


NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

This book focuses on a number of issues relating to parenting and education in which science shows us a different view from current cultural assumptions. As someone who's a convention breaker both by circumstances and personality, I found this book, for the most part, quite delightful. While the previous book is based on one doctor's experiences and interactions, but with a lot of scientific data for back-up, this book is a denser conglomeration of scientific studies on different topics which the authors have gotten heavily involved in. I loved how often they had actually sat down and observed studies conducted by experts in various micro-fields of child behavior while still sharing interesting stories about how their new-found knowledge had impacted their own families. Lots of cool stuff!

Like the previous book, however, there were certainly a few things here and there that bothered me or set off my skeptometer (not so much regarding the scientific data as the commentary surrounding it). Also, younger moms who tend towards the paranoid might want to discuss the details with friends and family enough to help them avoid over-analyzing their own methods. The book isn't about some sort of perfectionist parenting technique, but more about eliminating (or at least casting some doubt upon) ideas that tend to be counterproductive.

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