March 23, 2016

Warm Up with Quick, Easy Tasks

Another good one from HBR, this time about "completion bias." Completing tasks, however small, gives us pleasure, so we tend to do simple and sometimes meaningless tasks rather than complicated and perhaps far more meaningful tasks.

So is the answer to avoid those simple tasks? Actually, no, because "finishing immediate, mundane tasks actually improves your ability to tackle tougher, important things." So the article suggests planning out your most important work for the day, but then cranking out a few (not too many!) small tasks to get into the groove before tackling your more demanding work.

To that suggestion, I'd add that it's even better if your quick tasks at the beginning of the day are high leverage. Here's a small example. Two days ago, I received an email asking me to approve the design for a sign that we had ordered. Before tackling the important work of the day (it happened to be a long bike ride with my son, but that's beside the point), I sent a quick reply approving the design. Our designer was able to get the sign printed, built and installed today, three days ahead of schedule!

March 19, 2016

The Deadline

HBR has a helpful article about deadlines. Here's an excerpt:
Deadlines can also make it easier to honestly assess your workload. If you have something due on Friday and you’re aware that it will take all your available time between now and then, it’s easier to decline extra projects or meetings.

It's true that deadlines bring focus and help us prioritize, but as we juggle time-sensitive projects at work, we can lose sight of the ultimate deadlineWe don't know the exact date, but we know it's coming.

If having something due on Friday helps us decline extra projects and meetings, how much more so should the fact that our days are numbered help us to prune counterproductive pursuits from our lives.

"Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:12

March 16, 2016

Jesus and Politics

With eight months still to go until the US election, it's a good time to take a deep breath and think about where Jesus stands in all of this. Scott Sauls has written a helpful article to help Christians get some perspective. It reads, in part:
Matthew’s emphasis on a tax collector and a zealot living in community together suggests a hierarchy of loyalties, especially for Christians. Our loyalty to Jesus and his kingdom must always exceed our loyalty to an earthly agenda, whether political or otherwise.
We should feel “at home” with people who share our faith but not our politics even more than we do with people who share our politics but not our faith. If this isn’t our experience, then we may be rendering to Caesar what belongs to God.
Read the whole article here.

March 13, 2016

ADHD and the Relative Age Effect

Children develop in different areas at different rates, and they can mature significantly in just a few months.

Younger children are diagnosed with ADHD at much higher rates than older children in the same grade. (32% higher for children born in the month before the school entry cutoff than for children born the month after according to the US study linked to below.)
Researchers in Taiwan looked at data from 378,881 children ages 4 to 17 and found that students born in August, the cut-off month for school entry in that country, were more likely to be given diagnoses of A.D.H.D. than students born in September. The children born in September would have missed the previous year’s cut-off date for school entry, and thus had nearly a full extra year to mature before entering school. The findings were published Thursday in The Journal of Pediatrics.
Other research has shown similar results. An earlier study in the United States, for example, found that roughly 8.4 percent of children born in the month before their state’s cutoff date for kindergarten eligibility are given A.D.H.D. diagnoses, compared to 5.1 percent of children born in the month immediately afterward. 
"Is It Really A. D. H. D. or Just Immaturity" NYT editorial
Here are some ideas for mitigating the relative age effect in the classroom without prescribing too much Ritalin. How about assessing children's readiness for school and being flexible with cutoff dates? Or take a cue from youth sports leagues that are organized into age cohorts narrower than one year. If the goal is to treat every child the same and expect the same from every child in the class make the age cutoffs every six months instead of every year.

Our preschool, takes the opposite approach and embraces various maturity levels. We have 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds together in a multiage classroom where differences in maturity are expected and desirable.

March 11, 2016

Metaphor for the Church

Should the church operate most like a business unit, a military unit, or a family unit?

Taking cues from the business world is popular these days, but look at the qualifications for elders in 1 Timothy 3.

An elder "must manage his own household well."

Let's be fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers to one another!

HT Tim Challies

August 16, 2013

Help Your Child Read with Discernment

I'm reading through the Harry Potter series (amazon affiliate link) with my son. The books are good, but have some iffy content. I thought about writing here about how to help kids read with discernment, but just today I came across this excellent post by Christina Fox at the gospel coalition.

She recommends that parents consider
  • the worldview that the author of the book promotes
  • what kind of character traits the book promotes and what kind of consequences follow good and bad actions
  • whether the book is good literature or not. She says that good books "enrich children's vocabulary, enlighten their imagination, increase their knowledge, and encourage their desire to read." 
And finally she recommends the practice of reading together with your child.

Read the full article.

July 5, 2013

The New NIV Bible Bugs Me

This year, I am reading through the New Testament in a few different translations. Now I am in the NIV, and because I'm traveling, I didn't bring my paper 1984 NIV with me. I'm reading the new (2010) NIV online at Bible Gateway.

I had heard that there were certain liberties taken to make the new NIV gender neutral and that some scholars and pastors didn't like what some of those changes implied theologically. I haven't been bothered by the theology so far, but to me the changes destroy readability. Here's one example from this morning's reading (Matthew 15).

16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”
 What are the antecedents to the two "thems?" Plural pronouns, plural antecedents, right? But then verses 18 and 20 would read like this:

 18 "But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile the things that come out of a person's mouth.

20 "These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile the unwashed hands.”

Thankfully there's the ESV, which I'll stick with at least until the NIV comes up with a more elegant way to be gender neutral.

June 22, 2013

Home School, Private School, Public School

As we shift back toward homeschooling, I found the following series of articles very interesting. Three moms share why they send their kids to public schools, send their kids to private schools, and keep their kids at home for school, respectively.

Perspectives on Our Children's Education: Going Public

Perspectives on Our Children's Education: A Private Enterprise

Perspectives on Our Children's Education: Homeward Bound

June 13, 2013

"Grit" Trumps IQ in Predicting Student Success

I see this in school and life all the time. It is those with grit who succeed. Check out Angela Lee Duckworth's paper, "Self-Discipline Outdoes IQ in Predicting Academic Performance of Adolescents" pdf or if you prefer video to dry, academic papers, watch her TED talk.

June 11, 2013

Gaining Ground: Adventure Farming

It has been a while since I read a 300+ page book in less than 24 hours, but that's what I did this weekend. Gaining Ground: A Story of Farmers' Markets, Local Food, and Saving the Family Farm hooked me in and I can't really figure out why. I live in a big city, am not that into organic or slow food, and the closest thing I do to farming is remind the kids to water the houseplants once a week or so.

But Forrest Pritchard's book about taking over the family farm and getting back to the rhythms of soil, water, grass and food struck a chord. It was an adventure book and a meditation. It made me want to raise fresh, delicious food, or at least buy from a local farmer. Know any in Tokyo?