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An inspirational and practical book for parents who are trying to create a warm learning environment in their homes. No worksheets, no flashcards, just authentic learning experiences.  This book is meant for parents whose children will go on to traditional school, but homeschooling parents will benefit as well.

My two favorite quotes:

Referring to a class of 5 year olds: “I need my kids to talk.  After all, these kids can’t think with their mouths closed.” (p.9)  My son is constantly talking, muttering, and whispering to himself.  But that’s just how 4 year olds think!

“The love of reading and the ability to lose oneself in another world are gifts we give our children when we read aloud to them.” (p. 34)  My parents gave me this gift, and my husband and I are giving it to our kids as well.

It’s always nice to read a book in praise of something that you’re already doing.  So this was a nice “pat on the back” for our family.  A few things Dr. Laura said also challenged me.  First, she addresses the loneliness and feelings of drudgery that a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) can feel feel.  She says

The “Is that all there is?” feeling isn’t there because you are a SAHM.  It is a natural phase of life when the planning and hoping has largely come to fruition: you are married, settled, have children, responsibilities, challenges, problems, and disappointments, with the “sameness” that goes along with those.    p. 53

I confess that in the day in and day out of being a SAHM, there are many times when I wonder, “Is this all there is?  Diaper changing, endless dishes and meal prep, wiping sticky faces, potty training and whining children?”  It’s nice to be reminded that this is normal for me to be feeling, not so much because I’m a SAHM, but because of the phase of life that I’m in.

The second challenge I discovered was that as a SAHM, I should learn to think about my job as bringing The Good, The Bad and The Unforgettable. While The Good is nice, and The Bad makes me want to quit, The Unforgettable makes it all worthwhile.

The Good– sometimes goes unnoticed:  Time to play with my kids everyday; eating breakfast, lunch and dinner together; lots of hugs and kisses whenever needed; seeing my kids first thing in the morning and last thing at night; not having to worry whether they’re being well cared for and safe during the day; less stress on our marriage.

The Bad–I tend to focus on:  Potty training, temper tantrums, whining, long days without talking to another adult, potty training, endless tasks that are never complete, potty training

The Unforgettable–Hearing my son say repeatedly, “Mommy, I had so much fun at the park with you.”  Watching my daughter (only 11 mos old!) develop an absolute passion for books and hearing her say “moon” as she points to her favorite, Goodnight Moon.  Going outside on a beautiful summer evening together as a family to say goodnight to the full moon, the stars, the sky and the noises everywhere.

Thanks for the reminder Dr. Laura that I have the best job ever!

I initially read this book from sheer curiosity.  Why would a couple choose to have 18 children, and how do they possibly survive each day?  I expected a crazy family, and instead, I was privileged to read a heartfelt testimony of how God has and is working in their family.

This book is a combination autobiography, Q&A, testimony, parenting tips and organizational hints.  The Duggars are strong Christians, with firm convictions in many areas.  However, they are quick to note that their convictions about birth control, style of dress, homeschooling, etc. are not for everyone.  Each family should discern for themselves how God is calling them to act in those areas.

I think the sections of the book I enjoyed the most were the ones about the Duggar’s parenting philosophy.  They have a well thought out approach to Christian parenting and discipline.  Michelle also shared some organizational tips, one of which I’ve already put into practice to organize our mass of toys.

The contrast between this book and Mommywood, which I read a few weeks ago, was striking.  Tori Spelling is trying desperately to provide a “normal” childhood for her children, by giving her kids physical things:  parties, trips, homes, friends, experiences.  The tone of her book overall is one of “It will never be enough.”  The Duggars don’t care about “normal.”  They are providing for their children’s hearts by teaching them what is important: worshiping God, following His will, and spending time with God and family.  The tone of their book is one of peace, trust and contentment.

This book was so fantastic, and there’s so much I’d like to say about it, but I don’t have the time!  I do encourage parents and those who are about to become parents to read this book.  I’ve read a lot about children and parenting–discipline, sleep schedules, feeding, health, etc.  But I never considered the importance of reading a marketing book until now.  This book has changed the way I watch TV, stroll through Target and make any type of purchase decision for my children.

A few highlights:

  • “A marketer who establishes ‘educational credit’ can get away with anything.” p. 3
  • “Baby Einstein offers bright, shiny chaos…[the researcher] speculated that babies seemed riveted by these videos because they were sucked into a loop from which they couldn’t escape.  Every time they tried to process what they were seeing, to make sense of an object or action, the scene would shift to something different.” p. 104
  • “Good marketers realize that [young children] see characters and figures right away, and they want kids to recognize the product, and the best way to do that is through characters.” p. 125
  • Regarding books based on licensed characters, according to an author of such books: “These books are not sold on the writing…These books are sold on concept and cover design.  Buyers for a Wal-Mart or a Barnes & Noble don’t say, ‘Let me see how well-written the stories are.’  The writing–and even the pictures–are, unfortunately, not that important.” p. 178
  • Regarding free “curriculum” that Scholastic and Disney give away to thousands of preschools and daycares nationwide:  “…most teachers keep the video of the TV show to pop in the VCR…and even more important, put up the poster featuring the TV-show characters in a place where the children can clearly see it every day.”  “They’re getting exposure to the character and the idea that it’s educational.  That’s really the goal, as far as marketing goes.”  p. 204

Wondering how Baby Einstein changed everything about marketing to parents and children?  Ever considered the crazy success of Thomas & Friends?  How about the “Disney Princess” family?  And then there’s Elmo’s World, Nickelodeon, Leap Frog, Playhouse Disney, Sesame Street…

How is a parent to combat the constant barrage of marketing?  Susan Thomas’ simple conclusion:

To vaccinate against the baby genius virus…may require participating in something many of us are uncomfortable with: doing Nothing…Doing Nothing means that adults and their young children have periods of unstructured time when they can see what just unfolds.  Doing Nothing isn’t mediated by television, classes, computers, or educational toys…Whatever else, doing Nothing isn’t overthinking; it’s just hanging out.  To adults, this may not seem like much, but to babies and toddlers, it is the foundation of life [emphasis mine].  p. 227

Since I am a San Diego native who frequented Sea World as a child, a book with Shamu on the cover will always catch my eye.  Of course, when you think “Shamu” you don’t usually also think “love and marriage.”  But that’s exactly what Sutherland did when she wrote a column for the New York Times about how the lessons she learned while observing at an animal training school helped improve her marriage.  She got such a response, that she turned the article into a book.  It’s interesting, funny and full of techniques you can use to improve all types of relationships.

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