Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pup + Beach = Fun

As you might imagine, our lives have gotten a good measure busier in the last couple of weeks with a new pup around the house. Callie has settled in well, but the calm placid dog of the first few days (lethargic is probably a better description) has gained rapidly in energy and puppy zest as her body became used to good nutrition, sleep, and play. We took her to the beach for the first time this weekend, enjoying the t-shirt weather and taking frisbees and other toys. Her favorite activity though was just running around the sand dunes with the kids. She proved to be quite speedy, passing up everyone in the family pretty darn quickly.

When it came time for Mackenzie's usual burial in sand, she settled in for a snooze up next to his uncovered head, and by the time we got in the car to come home she was plumb tuckered out. It's definitely a challenge to have a puppy in the house, especially with all of our activities and stuff, but overall it's very nice to have a dog as part of our family again.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Huh. Listening To "Experts" Inhibits Decision Making

The Eide Neurolearning Blog has an interesting article about the effects of being exposed to an "expert" on the brain regions responsible for making decisions and calculating probabilities. When thinking for themselves, students showed activity in these critical thinking brain regions, but when given advice from an expert, activity in those regions "flat lined." Interestingly, students in the study "tended to follow [the expert's] advice regardless of the situation, especially when it was bad"

At one point, the article states:
In Nicholas Kristof's Learning How to Think article, he reminds us of the "Dr. Fox effect" to which it seems all sorts of educated groups (college students, medical professionals, academics) are susceptible (..but one wonders whether less educated groups are less susceptible?)

The italics there are mine. One certainly does wonder that. This particular one (me) even wonders whether groups that are not "less educated" but "differently educated" are less susceptible as well. I'd like to think that healthy skepticism and thinking for oneself is a big part of the curriculum of life that my kids are exposed to. I do know for a fact that they are not likely to go along with a crowd just for the sake of fitting in, nor are they likely to take anyone's word as gospel without a grain of salt and some time to make up their own mind about it. I take care not to set myself up as an "expert", even when I am explicitly teaching them something (like our recent forays into Algebra, which I will have to write up separately), always encouraging them to do further research into any subject. On many occasions, they've certainly become more of an expert than I am on their particular subjects of interest.

I've often wondered how the early conditioning of kids to think of themselves as knowledge-receptors given to them by self-appointed "expert" teachers may influence the brain's abilities in the realms of critical thinking and decision-making. It seems that even the presence and instruction of an "expert" is a non-neutral thing, even when their advice is neither correct nor beneficial.

It may even be that the most critical thing that unschoolers "teach" their children is how not to be taught.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


I've got a ton of things to catch up on posting here, but our lives were hijacked this last week by an 11 pound bundle of energy and cuteness named Callie. She's a mostly Jack Russell Terrier, with what we think is some Beagle mixed in. Our neighbor rescued her from a not-so-good home situation, and she is just a sweet and fun little thing. A real cuddle-bug as you can see here!

She definitely adores the kids above all else, and just goes bananas whenever she sees them, and the feeling is very mutual. Asa has been wanting a small dog since, well since forever. And Mackenzie grew up with our dog Sabre, always having him around, and has been missing having a canine friend ever since Sabre died two years ago. So far they're both doing great with taking her for walks, keeping her from chewing on anything and everything, and even (gasp!) scooping poop (a requirement stated in my pre-dog speech to them).

Of course, since she's only four months old, she alternates between bursts of energy and tuckering out. Her favorite place to nap is right on top of one of us, but if that's not available she has taken a liking to my stuffed tigers.