Monday, December 29, 2014

Parenting Month 50: A-T-A yaaa! enrichment and assertiveness

Carnegie museum of natural history
We're reading instructions for mommy at the Carnegie Science Center.  This is the next step.

We have finally caved in to the suburban parenting pattern of enrichment classes.  In our case we focused on the one thing that we do not provide: lessons in assertiveness.  And the vehicle we chose was a local taekwondo studio that had started out around two years ago.  We are not particularly interested in mastery, although if T wants this to be his sport for his growing up years, we would not be particularly disappointed. But we want him to relate to other adults (or at least older people) who are authority figures and can give instruction for him to follow and command respect.

Actually, we are more interested in that he can build confidence in action outside the safe harbor that we provide when we teach him things.  When we first went, they were telling us about how martial arts classes in pre-schoolers helps in the case of pre-schoolers who need to burn off energy and bounce of the walls at home. As we have a child whose worst episodes of acting up are probably laughable to most parents of pre-schoolers, we replied that was not the problem. But what we are worried about is that he grow in confidence in action.

He is an introvert, and the son of two introverts, who are fully aware that much of the world is organized and evaluated with extroverts in mind.  And we see that in his daycare. He was part of a trio of introverted boys. They have separated on their fourth birthdays to another daycare, the pre-K at our daycare, and the second pre-K class. And the one in the other pre-K class is worried of him being lost in the shuffle (it is large, the size is at the room physical limit.  While on academic and artistic levels he is expressive (he is in a small class), when it comes to crowds (they merge in the afternoon) he still withdraws amidst the hurly burly of 20+ preschoolers running around.

The first sessions were what would be expected. As the class does their warmups, exercises, and yells, he withdraws.  But, in a credit for this school (and the fact that there are few beginners at any point in time) he got some personal assistance from the school owner.  So the first few session, he essentially had private classes, and now he takes his place with the rest of the (small) class.  Progress!, and kudos for the school!

In other areas, he is enjoying his small, pre-K class. There are only around 8 students, and reports are that he is active talker in the group activities; circle time, singing, etc.  Arts are slow, as he is very deliberate so projects take much longer than others, but he does them.  He reverts to form when the classes merge in the afternoon (the extra space for the second pre-K class has another purpose in the afternoon).

He is increasing his academic abilities.  With LEGO we went through the City Advent Calendar, which required that he take a small number of blocks and figure out how to make the object based on an iso-picture, as the month progressed, he was getting noticeably better at the spatial awareness, and doing the Christmas presents was much better at figuring out instructions by himself. He is also getting better at working with random pieces, as we build things and make up story lines to go with them.

He enjoys reading, especially as he is much more competent at phonics. He will pick out new books, and while he may ask us to read it, by 3-4 pages in he is doing most of the reading. We find it especially amusing when we he reads books to his little sister, because he does it using a teacher voice (as much as a four year old can imitate a teacher).

Lighttable at Carnegie museum of Natural History
Making patterns with shapes on a light table

A is becoming a sneaky little baby girl. She has started manipulative play, taking toys and waving them around. She can move things to her mouth, such as a toy, or more useful, her pacifier (funny event, sometimes when she wants to cry, she will use her hand to move the pacifier over so she can cry more effectively).  Our other big observation was that she is now mobile.  She can scoot. At the beginning of the month, we were not sure, because she does not move that fast.  But give her a few minutes, she will have noticeably scooted on the playmat towards a desired goal.  Our funny moment was when T was trying to play with A's toys (on the pretext of teaching A how to play with them), and she scooted over a couple feet and picked up one of his completed LEGO sets.  We see a lot of that in the future.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Way Into Chaos by Harry Connolly: Book Review

The Way Into Chaos (The Great Way #1)The Way Into Chaos by Harry Connolly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Harry Connelly has made an incredible world. The Way into Chaos is named because it has its protagonists surviving in a world that has fallen from order into chaos. The heroes and other characters are complex, each with a range of motivations. There are those like one of the protagonists who think of things like honor, loyalty to the empire he has sworn an oath to, and devotion to a cause. Others may have had such thoughts, but have looked around them and believed that the empire that they were loyal to has fallen. Others were never loyal to the empire, and made choices on what they thought was best as order fell around them, and a new threat entered there land.

The diversity and depth of the characters is what draws you in. In the first chapter, you are introduced to many characters and their backgrounds, only to have most of them gone by the end of the second chapter. As the book goes on, there are several rounds of this, parties form around the protagonists on their missions, only to break up and go their separate ways in the course of events. These are not handpicked heroes chosen for a special mission. These are individuals who made there way out of disaster into a dangerous world, trying to make their way within their limits. And that keeps my attention as I went page after page. I'm looking forward to working through the rest of this trilogy.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thinking with Data by Max Shron: Book Review

Thinking with DataThinking with Data by Max Shron
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thinking with data focuses, not on how to do data analysis, but on the questions that one should be asking. It does so in two ways, first through providing an overall framework to looking at situations, then working through a series of topics using examples to serve as plausible paths of decision making. In a fairly short book, it covers the framework, determining purpose, threats to validity, experimental design, and a few extended examples that illustrates both concepts and deviations. It is a useful quick big picture book that is useful for those whose focus has been on the methods of data analysis or for those who do not have a quantitative background but are faced with data questions and need to be able to work with data analysts.

The first part is probably the most rewarding. Max gives a framework of how to frame a data problem. Context (who is interested in the problem, what are their overall goals and why, what is the goal of the project), Need (the specific need that could be solved through the use of the data model), Vision (an understanding of what the results of data analysis would be like), and Outcome (an understanding of how the data analysis results would be used). The end of this framework would be a story that you can tell

Next is a discussion of how the details of the problem could be fleshed out. The content is probably familiar to anyone who has had to work with stakeholders. The valuable portion here are the vignettes of working through this process on projects. In particular the fact that the vignettes are not projects that necessarily go smoothly, so it does not have the idealized feel that many published vignettes do.

Next is a discussion of presenting the results. The focus here is that the results are not the output of the data analysis, but the use of the data analytics methods to construct and argument. And that argument is going to be presented to people who have backgrounds, prior beliefs, prejudices, and sometimes reasons to argue against your findings.

How to address these disputes is through conducting experiments and testing alternative hypothesis. So a section of the book is on defining causality and designing experiments (interventions) to handle different types of alternative hypotheses.

What makes this useful is the framework and the vignettes. It is good for a quick introduction to this area. As others have noted, it is not tightly organized, so after the first chapter with the framework, it is not useful as a reference, but it helps in focusing how to think.

I teach classes on working with data, and one area that is difficult to get across is the concept that there is a unified whole in the topic, not only a bunch of separated techniques. I plan on using much of what is in this book to help provide that unified whole my classes.

Disclaimer: I received a free electronic version of this book as part of the OReilly Bloggers program.

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