Sunday, December 09, 2007

Raising Resilient Children

If you only have time to read one parenting book, I'd recommend "Raising Resilient Children" by Dr. Robert Brooks and Dr. Sam Goldstein. I just recently discovered this book published back in 2001. I recalled difficult times with my sons and this book would have provided excellent solutions to those problems I had been through.

The goal of parenting is to raise happy, healthy and successful children. It can be translated to one quality -- resilience. The guideposts for parents include:

  1. Being empathic
  2. Communicating effectively and listening actively
  3. Changing "negative scripts"
  4. Loving our children in ways that help them to feel special and appreciated
  5. Accepting our children for who they are and helping them to set realistic expectations and goals
  6. Helping our children experience success by identifying and reinforcing their "island of competence"
  7. Helping children recognize that mistakes are experiences from which to learn
  8. Developing responsibility, compassion, and a social conscience by providing children with opportunities to contribute
  9. Teaching our children to solve problems and make decisions
  10. Disciplining in a way that promotes self-discipline and self-worth

The authors are renowned psychologists who had worked with children and parents on real issues for decades. The scenarios told in the book are all too familiar. Either I experience it myself or episodes experienced by my friends. It is hopeful to see solutions being tested and outlined.

I must admit it may be not easy to act on these advices, but it is certainly a great starting point for parents to foster a wonderful relationship with your children.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Definition of Toys

I read this quote from designer Brendan Boyle at IDEO from a book and like to share it with parents with young children. He said "Children will play with anything that is available to them. Play includes learning, imagining, pretending, competing, discovering, socializing, and almost everything that kids do; they are just interested in what is enjoyable and fun, without noticing that they learn from playing. They may have more fun with pots, pans, and a wooden spoon, than the latest hot toy or game. In a market sense, the words 'toy' and 'game' mean a plaything that an adult is willing to purchase, rather than just an item that a child wants to play with, which would include almost anything."

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Last Lecture of Randy Pausch

Professor Randy Pausch at the Carnegie Mellon University is terminally ill. He has done amazing work in virtual realty and has inspired and enabled many students achieve their dreams. In the lecture, he talks about his childhood dreams, his parents and the life lessons he left behind with his children. His talk is full of insights on how a successful person was brought up and how a good parent educates their children. His words are sincere and inspiring. If you can take away with one or two of his life lessons, the time is worthwhile. The recording is available at YouTube.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Washington "GET" is no longer a Good Investment

I just paid my son's first college bill. I withdrew money from his GET account opened two and half years ago. At that time, I purchased one unit for $61 dollar. I only got $62.9 per unit today. The return is about 1.2% per year. It is much worse than the standard CD rate of 5%. In addition, I paid $100 application fee, which cannot be recovered.

A GET's point payout is calculated by dividing one year of tuition at the University of Washington by 100. If you are considering buying GET units now, one point costs $74 dollar, but the actual value is $62.9 today. It is a 15% loss at the beginning of your investment. I was told that UW's tuition's growth will be capped at 5% per year. Starting from $62.9, after 3 years, it is about $72.8. This seems like a really bad investment to me.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

MathMovesU Scholarship

I am proud to report that my younger son is one of the MathMovesU scholarship winners. He would not show me his application essay, but he told me that it is about applying video games and fun into math learnings. I am glad that he creatively combines things he loves together.

The $1000 scholarship is sponsored by Raytheon and given out 3 times a year for middle school and high school students. His school will also receive a matching award.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Fun Things for Kids

I recently became a fan of the CNBC TV Show, The Big Idea by Donny Deutsch. In the show, Deutsch interviews entrepreneurs who successfully achieved their American dreams by running their own businesses. I learned about two products for kids from today's show.

The first one is a music series called KIDZ BOP, started by two former lawyers who are also daddies. The series is designed for kids who are too old for Barney but too young for Britney Spear. The music videos feature tweens and teens singing clean popular pop songs that the whole family can enjoy together.

The second one is called Graffeeti -- shoes which can be written, painted and drawn on. The idea promotes individualism, imagination and creativity. Too bad my kids are too old now, otherwise, I can see myself writing on their shoes :).

I think both products are very cool. Welcome to check them out!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

"Baby Einstein" No More!

Yesterday, I learned about a new research findings claiming that "Baby Einstein" videos may actually impede babies' language development. It is important to discuss the findings. They are done by the researchers at University of Washington and Seattle's Children's Hospital. Both are highly reputable research institutes.

They found that every hour infants 8-16 months old spent watching such programs, they understood an average of 6 to 8 fewer words than other infants who were not exposed to the videos. The videos had no positive or negative effect on the vocabularies of toddlers 17 to 24 months of age.

I wrote in this blog back in September 2005 that people can rent "Baby Einstein" series from Netflix. Now I think parents should just rent movies for themselves :)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Let's Respect Teens!

I read an interview with Psychologist Robert Epstein from the newsletter published by hand in hand parenting organization today. Dr. Robert Epstein is the author of the book "The Case Against Adolescence." He argued teens are far more competent than we assume, and most of their problems stem from restrictions placed on them. The interview article is titled "Trashing Teens" and it can be seen at Psychology Today.

It begins with "In every mammalian species, immediately upon reaching puberty, animals function as adults, often having offspring. We call our offspring "children" well past puberty. The trend started a hundred years ago and now extends childhood well into the 20s. The age at which Americans reach adulthood is increasing—30 is the new 20—and most Americans now believe a person isn't an adult until age 26."

The interview summarized the history how this development happened in the recent 100 years, and how more and more restrictions and in-school learning be forced on young people. It offers good reasons on why there are so many conflicts between parents and teens. Having two teens at home myself, I have to say that a lot of unconventional views in this article are actually consistent with my experiences. My boys are responsible human beings and they deserve being treated as they are!

Saturday, June 16, 2007


We attended my son's graduation ceremony last night. 357 students in blue caps and gowns received their high school diplomas in the backdrop of a beautiful Pacific northwest sunset. They are a great bunch -- fun, energetic, caring and highly accomplished. They are hopeful and confident about the different paths before them. For parents, it feels great to know that our children are ready to move on. It is sad to let go, but we are able to do it with a tremendous sense of pride.

They graduated from this very privileged public high school, ranked 33nd in the nation by Newsweek. They had been with an excellent principal, Mr. Bacigalupi. I am forever thankful for his leadership in making the school a great learning environment; not just academically but also prepare students for real-life challenges. The teachers and counselors are absolutely remarkable. Their dedications always surpass my expectation.

A few days ago, I read Bill Gate’s commencement speech at Harvard. He talked about how Harvard transformed him and what the privileged and the talented can do to help to solve the world's biggest problem. The graduates from my son's school are fortunate to have received a high-quality education here. I feel Gate's speech is fitting for all those to whom much is given.

Congratulations! Class of 2007. The world is now yours.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Book: Freakonomics

I picked up this book through a friend's recommendation. He told me this book, written by economist Levitt and New York Times reporter Dubner, has a unique way to explain the world by using data. When I got the book, I was totally surprised to find out there are two chapters devoted to parenting. The first one analyzed data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study done by US Department of Education in the late 1990s and the second one analyzed children's names from California since 1961. The conclusion challenges a lot of conventional thinkings on the subject. I enjoyed reading both chapters very much and I highly recommend the book to any parents who are in a quest of perfect parenting.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

College Admission III: MIT Dean Resigned

MIT's admission officer, Marilee Jones, just resigned, see New York Time article. The new admission officer may change how MIT evaluates new students. To make matters more complicated, Harvard and Princeton just ended early admissions. We might see a lot of changes in next year's college application process.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Learn To Read

This post is for parents of young children. My manager, a MIT graduate, told me about how his 5-year-old daughter learned to read. He and his wife read to her daily. Through that the child developed a natural interest in reading and wanted to learn more on her own. She visited the website and was able to progress on her own. Now she can read a lot of books. It is a wonderful example on how technologies being used effectively in education.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Gain Verbal Skills for SAT

I was told that students who read New York Times do well on SAT critical reading section. There is a nice feature on New York Times website. If you double-click on a vocabulary word, it will pop up its dictionary entry. It is very helpful for improving verbal and reading skills. It is worth a try!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Admission from MIT

Yes! While my son already got admission from Stanford, we were still very anxious to know the results from MIT since MIT is also one of his top choices. I am very pleased to know that MIT also offers him an admission today. Now a big decision for him to make!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Future of Education

I was very lucky to attend an event where Bill Gates and George Lucas discussed the future of education. Two smartest people at our time agreed that Internet plays a critical role in the future. Gates talked about he just took the best geography lecture through the web and he was impressed with the depth and quality. He also mentioned the MIT openware project that all MIT course materials are made available to everyone in the world for free. Lucas suggested doing project-based learning at school; to have students work on a real-world problem such as building a house or shooting a rocket to mars instead of just teaching abstract academic subjects. He argued that better learning is driven by the need to solve problems. Since all the knowledge is on the web, it is more important for a teacher to keep student motivated than to convey knowledge.

A few years ago, I was debating whether to send my kids to private school. The long commute to school has bothered me very much, so I eventually decided against it. But I was also aware that public school education may not always challenge my children enough. To address the issue, I searched and found many resources on the Internet to enrich their learning. As they get older, they are able to do it on their own. They have learned well and I am pleased with the money and time saved by not going to private schools. :)

Thanks to technologies, the cost of education has gone down and the trend continues. Schools are no longer the main source of knowledge. Parents have a lot of cost-effective ways to help their children's learning. I believe that children growing up with Internet will be more creative and have stronger problem-solving skills. The future of education is great.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Serious about Math Education II

My friend Stella asked me to add materials apporpriate for elementary school kids. Her sons Yoyo and Toto are at 2nd grade and kindergarden currently. They are very bright and ready to take on more challenges than their school curriculum provides.

When my boys were that age, I remembered that they used to play a PC software called Math Blaster. I am glad to find out that it is still available here. Also, they have worked on some worksheets from
A Plus Math Worksheets.

When my kids were at 3rd-4th grades, I found a math program is called Highline advanced math program. Look for Lessons, first year and second year. It is not an on-line class, but it systematically introduces a concept in every lesson. I printed out all the materials once and had them work on a sheet or two each time. I think very highly of this program and I do see good results from my own children's learning.

Additionally, my friend, Ann, told me about the Singapore Math website today at It is a lot more challenging than what US students normally have, but it is the level that I would have wanted my children to be at.

This post is an addition to my earlier blog entry Serious about Math Education. The earlier post covered more about middle school and high school math.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Early Acceptance Rate of Class 2011

Stanford 4644 750 16.1%
Harvard 4008 875 21.8%
MIT 3493 390 11.2%
Yale 3594 724 20.1%
Princeton 2276 597 26.2%

Next year, Harvard and Princeton no longer offer early admissions. The numbers of applicants to other schools will no doubt increase dramatically, thus the acceptance rate is likely to go way down.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Admission from Stanford

On Friday, December 15, 2006, the entire Puget sound area went dark due to the record windstorm in 100 years. We lost power, land line, cell phone reception in the house, and of course, Internet connection. The day was also the critical day that we have been waiting for -- a decision from Stanford.

Even Microsoft campus lost power. We were desperate to find a way to check my son's application status. Luckily, my neighbor's phone was working. I called and found out the my office, located in downtown Bellevue, was open and had power. Our whole family rushed to my office and checked the Stanford website.

An electronic version of the letter showed up. It began with "On behalf of the Office of Undergraduate Admission, it gives me very special pleasure to offer you admission to Stanford's Class of 2011. A hearty congratulations to you! ... "

I can't describe how I felt in words. It was a big relief after months of waiting. My colleagues congratulated us and it still feels surreal.

A few days later, my son received a package from Stanford. On the cover, it says "For all the times you stayed up late to get it right; practiced, rehearsed, and gave it your all; studied something because you loved it, not because it would be on the test; took a risk instead of following the easy path; volunteered your time, talent and energy; we applaud you."

I am proud of all the hard work my son has put in at this young age. Looking forward to his college life, I wish him stay true to his values, open his mind to new ideas and continue doing what he loves.