I went to a good public high school, but my senior year a nearby school in the district closed, and my school absorbed its students.
Their advanced students joined our honors classes, and two things were clear: 1. The kids were just as smart as us. 2. Their education — at a public school just a few miles away — had not been as rigorous.
One girl joined our English class, and in the first two weeks it was obvious she was crazy bright and crazy frustrated. One day, our teacher used the word symbolism, and this girl kind of lost it.
“We don’t know what that means!” she said. “You guys know a lot about things we’ve never learned.” I leaned over, and said, “We barely know this. They just started talking about it at the end of last year.”
But she shook her head and pressed her lips together. “I don’t think I belong in this class,” she said. “You do!,” I said. “You’re smart! You’re really smart.” And she was.
But the next day she dropped the class.
IT’S NOT ABOUT IQ
I’ve been thinking about this because I recently learned that lots of American kids start kindergarten with a huge disadvantage that has nothing to do with their intellect, and everything to do with a shared vocabulary.
By age four, American kids from high-income families have heard about 30 million more words than kids on welfare, and 15 million more than kids in working class families.
Kids on the lucky end of the word gap obviously have an easier time understanding teachers and making themselves understood, an easier time learning to read, and other benefits that give them a leg up — the perception of a higher IQ than their low-income counterparts. The advantages persist into high school and beyond.
I’ve seen how much vocabulary disparities affect high school students, seen adults who feel stupid when they don’t know what a word means in a business meeting. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be for a four year old.
Closing the Word Gap means a cultural shift toward investment in kids – and who’s against this, really? We need more early nutritional programs, support of family stability, and widespread access to early learning in preschools or at home.
China has made such a substantial investment in early childhood education that they should have more college graduates in 2030 than the total size of our workforce in the States.
Fortunately, the biggest impact we can have individually is completely free. We need to treat babies more like little people.
When we see babies or toddlers, we should be talking to them, making eye contact, and reading whenever we get a chance. It lights up their little brains, and makes everyone’s future a little shinier too.
In anticipation of the coming New Year, I made some parenting resolutions for myself. I’ve been exposed to a great deal of parenting research lately, and it turns out I’m finding new and creative ways to arrest my child’s potential. More eye contact! Less Mario!
Anyway, have a look:
If you’ve been doing anything to be a better parent, godparent, aunt or uncle, let us know in comments.
Wall Christmas Tree by All The Luck in the World
You don’t have room for a couch, let alone a tree.
Or maybe pine trees don’t exist in your country.
In case you haven’t seen them yet, these made me uncomfortable and made me laugh, respectively. (Thanks, Mr. Brad.)
What I’m most grateful for this Thanksgiving is that someone else is cooking. So instead of ordering turkey, I’m shopping for host gifts. Keeping a stash is less work than running an errand every time, but sometimes the cupboards are bare. So this is a mix of grab-on-the-go and order ahead, with some ideas on how to take a gift to the next level for someone who’s done something really nice for you. These are also my universal standbys for hosts who don’t like “stuff,” because all of them are consumable or easy to pass along.
Prince Vladimir Tea by Kusmi, $25
I’m all about tea, and you should try Prince Vladimir. I first had it over high tea at a schmancy hotel in San Francisco. It’s fragrant, caffeinated, and widely appealing even to folks who don’t usually love tea. This one is loose leaf, but the teabag version is a little cheaper.
Upgrade: Pack it with some steepers, a set of handmade mugs, or a pretty teacup.
Mt. Tam Triple Cream Brie by Cowgirl Creamery $18
This is the cheese version of homemade whipped cream. It’s so much creamier than all other cheeses, and they have it at my corner store. So while I don’t keep cheese in my cupboard, I do…
Upgrade: I buy silver plated cheese spreaders whenever I see them at garage sales or thrift stores (they’re like $3), but you can get new ones at Williams Sonoma or Sur le Table. Tape one to the top of a block of cheese with colorful Washi tape, and you’re Martha H. Stewart. If you want to go wild, throw in a little bag of raw almonds and a bar of nice chocolate.
Bulleit Bourbon, $27
If you know your hosts like whiskey, or booze in general, Bulleit is a solid mixing bourbon that’s also fine on the rocks. Makes great Manhattans, so…
Upgrade by throwing in a jar of:
Amarena Cherries, $16
These are nothing like maraschino cherries. The texture is dense, and the cherries have a rich, fruity flavor. Incredible in Manhattans, but also great as dessert topper.
I used to keep a bag of these on my desk because it satisfies every sweet craving. Chewy chocolate covered dried cherries, slightly salty crunchy hazelnuts, and so on. Then I kept pouring the whole bag into my face so I had to stop.
Upgrade: Recchiuti chocolate is ludicrously good, and they make options in every price range — all the way up to a giant box that’s a few hundred dollars, which makes a great gift for an entire office. They’re also little obscure, so people will think you’re their personal Willy Wonka.
I’ve been talking about these for years, they’re just so freaking cute. Are they any good? Well. They’re not great. I mean, it’s canned champagne? But they’re too perfect for a brunch, a picnic, a girls’ night out. They have telescoping straws stuck to the side. I mean.
Upgrade: Eh. If someone is cooking you Thanksgiving dinner, or letting you crash with them? Go with a bottle of Veuve Cliquot.
And let me know if you have any go-to host gifts. I’m always looking to increase the stash.
Happy Birthday, Mai. Thanks for bringing so much good stuff into my life. And then letting me ruin it by telling the whole Internet. I love you.
I sometimes make paper charts for my goals, so I can check things off as I go. This year, I’m using calendars to help implement some new habits.
I tend to like plain ones, so I can add my own imagery and color around a goal.
But I also love this celestial one because you can whisper reach for the stars!, and then look around to make sure no one heard you while you check off your goals with little gold stars.
On this one you can mark each day with a colorful icon, and at the end the tattooed lady is a bright tapestry of accomplishment. You go getter.
I did a Plain and Simple, 2014 Calendar Roundup on Pinterest with all my favorites, so go have a look if you also like to mark your progress with gold old pen and ink. Or if you just need a calendar.
And while you’re here, how do you track progress with new habits?
Did you know Disneyland makes light-up Mickey ears and glowing balloons that interact with their light show? Here are what Hank’s looked like during the World of Color. Such a cool idea, eh?