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Posts tagged ‘science of parenting’

Welcome to the Carnival of Evidence-Based Parenting! First Edition: Preschool

Welcome to our first edition of the Carnival of Evidence-Based Parenting!

What is a blog carnival? It’s a collection of blog posts, all focused on one theme, submitted by various bloggers. We plan to hold our carnival every month or two, rotating hosts to different blogs and choosing a new theme for each carnival. Bora Zivkovic of A Blog Around The Clock wrote about blog carnivals in his post on the history of science blogs. Carnivals aren’t as common now as they once were. Instead, bloggers are sharing their work through social media outlets. But as Bora wrote, carnivals do something that social media can’t: “Each edition of a carnival is a magazine, a snapshot of the moment, and a repository of pieces that both their authors (by submitting) and hosts (by accepting) thought were good and important.” This is what we’re hoping to capture in our collections of posts on parenting and science.

atomblocks2b copySince I have the honor of being the first host of this Carnival, I’ve been thinking about what “Evidence-Based Parenting” means to me.

If you had asked me what evidence-based parenting meant when I first became a mom, I probably would have said something along the lines of, “doing everything right.” Now I know better.

I know that parenting is complex. I know that there are countless factors that enter into our parenting decisions, and even the best science can’t describe all of those variables. I’m a scientist by training, and I like to see data when I’m faced with a tough decision. But if I’m wondering if preschool is right for my kid, then I know that looking at the data will give me some ideas about important considerations and average outcomes, but it still isn’t going to tell what is the right choice for my child.

Why, then, do we care about the science? There’s something about parenting that invites judgment and controversy. Maybe it’s because we care so much about getting it right, but deep down, we’re afraid we’re doing everything wrong. Pick a parenting controversy, do an online search, and you’ll find strong voices supporting opposing sides. They’ll also both be citing science to back their opinions. My only solution to cutting through the spin in these cases is to get to know the field and broadly understand the evidence base for it. Or perhaps better still, since we’re busy parents and all, find someone you trust who can do this for you. That’s what this carnival is all about: science-minded bloggers compiling some of our best resources on a given topic to bring you a summary of the important science. It’s helpful (and more fun!) to work together on this, because we know that a true base of evidence requires multiple viewpoints, all committed to looking through the lens of science.

Evidence-based parenting means recognizing what we don’t know as well as what we do. It is an attempt to understand the questions as well as the answers. It isn’t a search for the One Right Way so much as it is a quest to understand the variation, complexity, and bias inherent to real life. After all, no scientist will tell you that their research has answered all the questions; instead, they know that every new experiment uncovers both new knowledge and new questions. To me, it is this spirit of curiosity that defines evidence-based parenting.

Let’s get to the posts for our first Carnival. Preschool: Do you need it? What kind is best? How can we even measure that? Read more

I’m Writing a Book!

I have always wanted to be a writer, long before I thought about going into science. I have a stack of journals going back to when I was nine-years-old, wire-bound notebooks with frayed covers. They are each carefully titled: My Writing: Volume 4, Written and Illustrated by Alice Sawyer Green. The writing inside is rich with details of a childhood, tedious as they are: school cancelled for snow, play practice, baking cookies, skating in sneakers on our frozen creek, and a record of state license plates spotted on road trips. But it is there, documented. I’ve been doing this for a long time. And yet, I can’t bring myself to say that I’m a writer.

When I was a senior in high school, I started learning the violin in a group class. Those first few scales played on the violin are as awkward as a nine-year-old’s writing. They are hesitant and careful and yet somehow so loud. It’s impossible to be subtle when you’re learning to play a new instrument. You have to screw up repeatedly before the notes become music.

I loved playing the violin, though. I worked hard at it, practicing for at least an hour per day, and not because anyone told me I had to but simply because I wanted to be better. But still, I never would have called myself a violinist. Or a musician. And indeed, with that attitude, I never would be a violinist. In college, I went through phases of playing through the simple tunes I learned in high school, but I never took lessons again. I stopped learning.

Looking back, I was scared of all the loud, off-key screeching that lay between being a beginner and becoming competent in music. And it was impossible for me to not compare myself to the other musicians at my school. It seemed that they had all been playing for at least a decade, and the skill they had acquired through all those years of practice seemed unreachable to me. Now that I’ve been alive for a few of them, I realize that a decade isn’t really that long. Time is ticking away on the next one. In the end, I’m not (yet) a violinist not because I didn’t start at a young enough age, but because I stopped playing the violin.

If I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and I’ve been writing down my stories since I was a little girl, what is stopping me? Is it the knowledge that any chance of being good at writing will require countless hours and years of work? Is it the certainty that along the way I will produce bad writing? Is it the fear that I might not ever be very good at it?

My two-year-old Cee would never learn to dress herself if she had that kind of attitude. And we’d miss out on all the maddening and enlightening moments in which she insists on trying to put her shirt on upside down or two legs in one pant leg.

So. Deep breath. Here we go. In this decade, I will become a writer. I’ll probably be playing off-key without knowing it, and I might walk out in public with my pants on backwards once or twice. But how else will I learn? Read more