Saturday, November 04, 2006

Book: The Leader's Voice

Like most parents, I want my children to be happy and successful. But, what is the definition of success? An Ivy league degree or a job that pays well? I have been searching for the definition of success. And then one day, it hit me. Success means leadership.

This book gives clear examples on what leadership is. As Americans seem to be heading in the wrong direction on so many issues, we kind of forget what a true leader is. So many people in power no longer have the fundamental moral values. It corrupts people following them. It is a very sad time.

"To all the unsung and sung leaders, from the boiler room to the boardroom, who spoke from their hearts about work that matters." Leadership is an emotion feeling that inspires others to follow. Leadership is the courage to stand against the prevailing voices of our time. Leaders bring ideas and hope to others. Leaders leave impact on society.

This book reassured me what leadership is and it has never changed.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Book: Admissions Confidential

I received this book as a gift from my husband's aunt. Her daughter is currently a freshman at Princeton. At first, I thought this book was about giving parents tips on college applications. But it turned out the intention of the book was quite the contrary.

Rachel, the author, stumbled on a job as an admission officer at Duke University after being an editor at Oxford press. She described her first-year experience at Duke. It is a truthful recount of the whole college admission process. It was very personal for her and it revealed what was going on behind the scene.

The main point is sad. So many applicants look so much alike. They are called BWRKs, Bright Well-Rounded Kids. Who gets in and who gets rejected can be arbitrary. In the last chapter, Rachel went on to discuss whether it really matters where a person goes to college.

There are many funny and interesting stories in the book. It is a good read even for people who are not involved in any college applications. For me, the book gave me a refreshing break from all the technical books that I have been reading.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Cogito.org

After a long time of planning, the beta version of Cogito.org is recently live. This is a site for gifted students who are passionate about math and science. I took a peek today and found lots of interesting content there.

In a way, this website is one of a kind. I had felt that information and news about math and science are largely neglected in American K-12 schools. It seems uncool for kids to talk about them.

Cognito.org celebrates students and scientists who are seriously involved in math and science. The interviews introduce many career options, such as bio-statistician or epidemiologist. I am delighted to find links to many free course wares and on-line tutorials, such as MIT Openware. It opens many opportunities to further learning. I also enjoyed the Essays. I have a genuine interest in knowing how smart people think.

To make life really busy, students can learn about competitions, summer programs and internships. While it is great to have all the information, it can be overwhelming in choosing what to do.

Overall, this is a website worth exploring. It will expand the horizon for many students and, myself included, their parents :).

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

College Application II

MIT's Dean of Admissions, Marilee Jones wrote a letter to parents of all applicants. I received that letter today. It was warm, supportive and encouraging. It is a message much needed as I am getting really nervous about the gazillion things that my son needs to do for this coming month.

She said, "You'll likely find yourself playing many roles in the coming year - friend, guide, coach, cheerleader, even therapist. While it may seem temping to be involved at every step, the role of 'applicant' must truly belong to your child. Our application is carefully designed to help us get to know your son or daughter, and to be effective the voice must be exclusively his or hers. Just remember - they have to do all the work, including writing their own essays. This is their rite of passage into adulthood, after all. ..."

"One last thing...your child will need you to stay calm and grounded in the days ahead. I like to think of parents as the shoreline and their children as the little boats learning to sail. Sometimes when they are learning, the boats get lost in the fog, or run aground or tip over. But they always use the shoreline to navigate against and the shoreline never changes. When you get the urge to become over-involved in the admission process, remember that you are the shoreline and your job is to remain steady and reassure your child that everything will turn out well in the end. They need to know that they can do it, and that you have faith in them and their future."

Sunday, September 24, 2006

College Application I

I like to share my experience as my son is going through the college application process. This has become one of the most daunting tasks for young people today.

I came across a message from the Office of Admission at Stanford University. It was beautifully written. In the message, it asks students to reflect on their personal goals and values and not to package themselves as what they think Stanford wants.

I believe the same thinking goes for parents too. We need to reflect on how to support our children's goals, to develop their characters and not to be distracted by how we can help them get into the best colleges.

The whole message can be seen here http://admission.stanford.edu/applying/

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Daruma Doll

We learned about the Daruma Dolls when my older son was taking a Japanese culture class during middle school. His teacher asked every student made one from paper. The doll has no arms and no legs. It has two empty circles for eyes on his face. You can see an excellent description of Daruma Doll from Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daruma.

According to my son's teacher, Daruma Doll is used for goal setting. Using black ink, one fills in a single eye while setting of a goal. The doll is then placed in a prominent location to serve as a constant reminder about working hard towards that goal. It helps the person determine and focus. When the goal is achieved, the second eye is filled in.

The goal for my son's doll was to achieve 1400 SAT scores at 8th grade. He had the doll's one eye filled and after several months he was able to fill in the 2nd eye. I could still remember how proud and exultant he was.

Later we purchased quite a few dolls and use them for truly challenging and serious goals for our children. The kids were able to fill in the 2nd eye a few times now. The Daruma Dolls in our family become a symbol of determination, persistence and glorious success.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Independent 529 Plan

I came across this website about a new independent 529 plan for private colleges. It is sponsored by more than 250+ schools including some of the very best such as Princeton, Stanford and MIT. Since my older son will start college next year, I am thinking of prepaying 4 years of his tuition as soon as he decides on a school. It will save a little bit of tuition and tax on the investment gain.

For people who can't find a better investment return than the tuition inflation (about 6%), this could be a reasonable option. More information can be found at its website, http://www.independent529plan.org.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

YouTube Parents

I bought a digital camcorder to tape my son's piano recital. He hated that I was taping him playing the piano. However, he is very enthusiastic about recording his playing of the Dance Dance Revolution game. He and I got all serious, setting up the tripod, testing different positions and trying several songs.

It is wonderful that we get to doing something together as mother and son. He uploaded his video to the YouTube site. Hope you enjoy the videos too. This is parenthood in the age of web 2.0.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Buy an Internship for Your Child

There is an interesting article on Wall Street Journal today titled "Interships for Sale". A few companies such as Morgan Stanley, NBC, Miramax, WebMD, Electronic Arts, etc. put out summer interships as auction items at private high school fund raising events. Parents, who are eager to build a perfect resume or a college application for their children, are paying thousands to land their kids an internship.

I asked my kids their opinions on this. They said, "This does not make sense. The companies should hire people with skills not people with money." We also wonder what kinds of messages are being communicated to the kids -- If you have a wealthy parent then you don't need to work hard to be the best.

This reminds me a story I read from the Fast Company magazine. A 22-year-old Harvard graduate did not get a promotion that he had been expecting. His boss told him that he needed to work on his weakness first. When his parents learned the news, his mother called the company's HR department the next day and demanded a mediation session. I don't know what happened in that session. Maybe she bought him a promotion after all.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Video Games

The Wall Street Journal published an article on the positive side of video games, the Brain Workout - In praise of video games. It is delightful to know that video games do not promote violence. Moreover, they are good tools to teach real-life skills.

Both my kids start playing video games since they were one year old. We have the entire evolution of consoles from 8-bit Nintendo, Sega, Nintendo 64, Playstation, Playstation 2, XBOX and individual desktops with uncensored high-bandwidth Internet connections. When they were young, my husband and I set time limits on how much they can play each day. The privileges would be taken away if they did not do well at school. As they grow older, they have learned our values and they use their judgment on how much they play. In our house, our motto is "work hard and play hard".

One thing surprised me is that my kids learn quite a lot of vocabulary words from games like Age of Empire. They are able to focus and persist for long hours on solving problems. There is always a quest for higher score and better performance. It correlates well with their learning behavior at school. Video games are not the center of their life. When they find things that are more interesting than the games, they spend their energy somewhere else, like doing Math.

Video games are no evil and they ought to be treated as an extracurricular activity. It could balance the sometimes really boring school work. They have been an essential part in my boys' childhood. I believe they will carry the fun memory with them for a long time.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad

I finally had a chance to read through this book and it addresses an important gap in today's education -- how money works.

There are a couple of key concepts that are worth communicating to our children.

  1. The definition of wealth. This is not about the house you live in, the car you drive or what luxury items you have. The simple definition offered in the book is how long you can sustain your current life style when you stop working.
  2. The differences between buying assets and buying liabilities. Assets are things that add cash to your networth, such as stock, real estate and investment. Liabilities are things that subtract cash from your networth, such as mortgage, credit card debt and car loan.


The concepts in this book can be understood by most children and will help them make informed decisions on money early on in their lives.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Serious About Math Education

Both my husband and I have advanced degrees in engineering. We value math education. I have been very concerned about the inconsistency and quality in public school math curriculum, so I take the responsibility on my own to make sure my kids learn a solid foundation.

When they were at elementary school, they did the Highline advanced math program at http://home.blarg.net/~math/. The two-year program is effective to practice basic skills in all areas. In addition, I purchased contest books from http://www.mathleague.com/. These books offer challenging multi-choices questions.

If a student is serious about math, I suggest she or he accelerate through all middle school and high school math curriculum. My older son took EPGY math from Stanford gifted program http://epgy.stanford.edu/ and finished precalculus around 8th grade. He got a good foundation and that really counts. I wished he had taken Geometry too but somehow we did not do it.

In addition, both of my kids visit http://www.artofproblemsolving.com/ website. The website publishes a two-volume book called "The art of problem solving". The book is geared toward AMC competitions. My friend's son Jonathan Hung, a 8th grader, worked through both volumes. It was frustrating at the beginning because of the depth, but he worked very hard and overcome the challenges. He placed 1st at Washington State Math Competition this year and also made it to the Washington State MathCounts team. The team finished 2nd place at the National and Johnathan placed 29th among 228 finalists. I can take some credit in his success because I introduced the website and books to him :).

To really excel, a love of mathematics is needed. It is more important to foster that passion so the child will work on problems by her or himself without parent supervision. Luckily, this is the case at my house. My older son has been a USAMO qualifier for two years and my younger son was invited AIME this year at 7th grade. They both think math is their favorite subject and are happy with what they have learned. It is very rewarding to know that the mathematical seeds I planted in them have been growing steadily and lively.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy Mother's Day!

Our family loves to watch the show "Numb3rs" . The show's main characters are Don and Charlie. Don and Charlie are brothers. Don works at FBI. Charlie is the younger one, a prodigy in math, who finished college at 13 and works as a Math Professor. In each episode, Charlie helps Don to apply math modeling to solve FBI crimes. It is math and science in action. Our kids love it.

There is another aspect of the show that intrigues me -- the wisdom hidden in their conversations with their father.

In one episode, Charlie's father told the following story. When Charlie was in the fourth grade, he was constantly bullied by another student. Don had to walk Charlie home everyday to protect him. However, one day Don was not able to do so. The bully followed Charlie home and picked on Charlie. Charlie's father watched the whole thing from the window and did not come out to help.

He said to Charlie, "You are always so loved and protected. But the world is not a safe place. Only when you started to fight back that is when I realized that you have enough heart to take whatever life is going to throw at you."

He did come out to break the fight between the bully and Charlie later.

While this is a made-up story, not many tales are as true and as profound like this one. I wish to share it with all parents on this Mother's day.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Raising Entrepreneurs

I read this from the Outstanding Investor Digest and love to share this with everyone with 4 years old or younger. You may still have a chance to become the mother of the next Warren Buffet. This is an excerpt from Warren Buffet's talks in Berkshire Hathaway's shareholder meeting.

"I recall seeing something many, many years ago where they tried to correlate business success with various variables. And they looked at grades in school, whether they got MBAs and all of that sort of thing. But what they found is that the best correlation with business success turned out to be the age at which they first started their own business. The people who got very interested in starting lemonade stands or whatever tended to correlate better with business success than any other variable they looked at."

When Buffet was five, he set up a gum stand on his family's sidewalk and sold Chiclets to passersby. John Templeton started his business at age four, growing beans in his mother's garden and selling them to a local country store.

I always thought school grades are most important for kids. Now, think again!

Forgiveness

This is about a true story happened at Boston. A little girl publicly forgave the convict who put her in a wheelchair for life.

When the accident happened three years ago, her mother chose forgiveness instead of anger to deal with the tragic event. She taught her daughter to forgive and to move on with life. A graceful act and a precious lesson it is for her children and everyone else.

We can't expect there are no obstacles in our children's life. There will be problems. There will be mistakes. There will be failures. And there will be unfairness. I believe that the most critical task for parents is to show kids how to deal with the difficulties in life. We need to accept that bad things do happen and believe that it will always be better tomorrow.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Sweet Acceptance Letter

My older son got accepted to the 23rd annual Research Science Institute (RSI) at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is among 53 US students chosen to attend the program for top math and science students. In addition, 20 students from other nations will also attend.

Two days ago, we also learned that he qualifies for the USA Math Olympiad the 2nd time.

I feel elated. Overparenting is good. At least for now...

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Gifted High School Program at Bellevue, WA

I just got an email from Dr. Riley, superintendent of the Bellevue School District. He reported that there are enough students registered for the new gifted high school program so the program will begin this fall. It is great news for students in this area. I believe that this is the most rigiorous academic program that a public school can offer.

If your son or daughter did not register for the Interlake program but you would like to do so now, contact Sharon Collins, the Principal of Interlake, and she will help you with the registration process.

More information can be found in BSD New High School Gifted Program website.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Saving for College

I visit Personal Finance Blog from time to time. The author posted a wonderful discussion on college saving. The articles there explain all options and examine their pro-and-cons, including his own action plan. It is a great starting point to understand the daunting responsibility of paying for your children's education.

Japan's First Figure-skating Gold

I read from the Time magazine about the gold medalist Shizuka Arakawa. It says, "Arakawa, 24, considered retiring in 2004 and finished ninth at last year's world championships. But she stuck with it to please her dad and wound up scoring Japan's first figure-skating gold and becoming a national hero."

Parents' expectation could be very powerful. Using it wisely can produce great results.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Summer Programs

It is time to schedule summer activities. I have compiled a list of math and science summer programs for middle and high schoolers on this site. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Book Review: "Top of the Class - How Asian Parents Raise High Achivers and How You Can Too"

This book talks about how Asian parents value education and see it as a top priority. Most concepts are not particularly surprising and they are practiced among all families producing good students, Asian or not.

Best 5-dollar Advice

I had a serious disagreement with my 16 years old. We resented each other for not seeing things our way. I was very upset thinking that all my efforts putting into raising him right had gone wasted. I desperately needed help and comfort.

I did a search on the Internet and found some pointer about the Parents Leadership Institute. I ordered a booklet called "supporting adolescents" from the site and had read it twice since. This is by far the best parenting advice I've ever gotten on parenting teens.

The article first rebutted the stereotyping negative attitude toward teens. It reemphasizes the teenagers are marvelous, hopeful, intelligent and wonderful. It taught me that my job is to become my children's allies. "They want us to be aware of the challenges they have to meet. They want us to listen to them, to work to understand them well. They want us to loan them our confidence when they feel unsure of themselves. But they don't want us to think for them".

The article outlined 5 practical steps to become your children's ally. What really helped me is learning to listen. It said "Your teenager will talk to you when it feels safe, not when it's convenient", "When your teenager talks to you, listen. Don't give advice", and "Any time you use more than a sentence, you've probably stopped listening."

I took the booklet's advice and learned to become an ally to my children. I still disagree with my son's decision but I support his independent thinking and acknowledge that he needs to do the activities that keep him hopeful about his life. By following the steps suggested by the article, I created new channels for my son to understand how much I love and respect him. We are both happier now.