6 Rewards Schools Could Use to Motivate Introverted Kids

My son’s school offered a special incentive to encourage students to use their online learning program during the holiday break. There was a note in my Kindergartner’s homework folder that said all students who did 45 minutes per week during vacation would have a special lunch with the principals when school started back.
As an introverted adult who once was an introverted child, my first thought upon reading the note was, “Worst. Prize. Ever.” Regular school lunch was enough of a nightmare already with all the forced socialization, unstructured time, and eating in front of other people. And now that I’ve finally gotten into a workable routine after four months you want me to eat somewhere else, with different people, and in the company of principals? No thanks!
But, being the enlightened parent that I am, I tamped down my school demons and put on a good face for my son.
“Hey!” I said with an exclamation point for some reason. “This says if you do i-Ready for 45 minutes a week during vacation, you get to have a special lunch with the principals!”
“I know,” my son replied. “I don’t want to do that.”
What a relief. Don’t get me wrong, normally I would want him to do his homework, but in this case his take was objectively the right one, so it was hard to argue it.
It did get me thinking, though. What are some things schools could offer up to motivate introverted kids? I came up with a few ideas.

1 | Normal lunch

Since the school is looking for fun lunch ideas to reward participation, let’s start with the most fun lunch idea imaginable: normal lunch. This is lunch exactly as it is done every other day of the school year. Students sit in their same seats, next to the same people, eating the same foods. Bathrooms are readily available for hiding out if the noise level or expectation of casual conversation becomes too intense.

2 | In-school suspension

I’m not sure if this is still a thing, but when I was in school, one of the punishments for misbehavior was something called in-school suspension. From what I could gather, this involved sitting in a room alone quietly completing school work. Needless to say, I was always envious of the misbehaving children. How this came to be regarded as a punishment rather than a reward always confused me. It’s time to set things right.

3 | A big stack of worksheets to complete independently

See above. If a separate room isn’t available, quiet time with lots of worksheet doing and no talking would also be much appreciated.

4 | No group work for a week

Sold. 100 percent. In exchange for a whole week of not having to do group work or cooperative learning or whatever that stupid crap is called, we will do anything (that doesn’t involve talking, obviously).

5 | No games at P.E. that involve intense interpersonal interaction or solo performances

No kickball. No relay races. And for the love of God, no Red Rover! A nice anonymous activity like jogging around the track is just fine, thanks.

6 | No classroom games like “Heads Up, Seven Up”

These are supposed to be fun? Sure. If you like having to put your head down on the desk, hide your eyes, and stick your thumb up like a fool. And if that isn’t bad enough, go ahead and guess which person pushed your thumb down in front of the whole class so you can look like a complete idiot when you guess wrong. More worksheets, please.

11 Lovely Children’s Books on Love

Valentine’s Day is truly the perfect kid holiday. You’re not old enough to be jaded by the “most romantic day of the year” and you get piles of candy and actual mail. It’s cold out but you don’t care because you’re all sugared up and shuffling conversation hearts into phrases like a little homemade Ouija board.
Consider these 11 lovely books on love the nightcap to your Valentine’s Day.

Snoring Beauty

by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

Fractured fairytales are the best. They offer a refreshing twist on a familiar story. It’s what made “The Wolf Who Cried Boy” and “Wicked” and “Shrek” sensational hits. It’s also what makes this spin on “Sleeping Beauty” so hilarious.
It’s perfect for reading out loud, and you’ll love Mouse, the main character, who just wants the snoring princess to wake up already so he can get some peace and quiet on the night before his wedding. Prince Max is pretty entertaining, too.


Love Monster

by Rachel Bright

I dare you to stare into the eyes of the Love Monster and not want to knit him on a pillow. The goggle-eyed monster doesn’t mesh with the cuties in Cutesville, so he sets out on a journey to find his own version of love and end his loneliness.
Think of this one as the kid’s version of “Edward Scissorhands.” In fact, Time Burton should absolutely make a short of it.


The Velveteen Rabbit

by Margery Williams

Whatever you do, you have to buy the original version of this classic story with the illustrations straight out of 1922. The pictures are just as much a part of the story as the plot itself.
The forgotten and worn-out Velveteen Rabbit is about to be destroyed with all the other toys. His beloved owner has been whisked off to the seaside in the wake of scarlet fever and his hopes are almost up.
Then, a fairy appears out of his tears to carry him off to Rabbitland where he finally becomes the real rabbit he’s always dreamed of. It’s the ending you cross your fingers for with every forgotten toy.


Catching Kisses

by Amy Gibson

Even when my kids aren’t feeling especially “hands-on,” they’ll let me blow them kisses. Kisses in the air are so much more magical in their path from kisser to kissee. You never know where they will land.
That’s what this book is all about – the path a kiss takes from New York to New Orleans and across the country to the west coast and everywhere in between. It’s like a message in a bottle…in the air.


Paul Meets Bernadette

by Rosy Lamb

Paul is a fish who’s suffering the perfect millennial ennui. He’s circled as much as he can circle and flipped as much as he can flip in his bowl. He’s tired of his room with a view. Then Bernadette shows up.
Bernadette takes Paul on a tour of all the things he’s been missing. She’s the perfect guide to get your own imagination going on a wintery day. You’ll catch yourself reaching out to touch the thick glossy oil paint of Rosy Lamb’s illustrations.


Love Is

by Diane Adams

Just go ahead and cue up the tears for this one. A girl and her pet duck learn to take care of each other over the course of a year as they grow up and grow apart. But they never lose the love that knit them together in the first place.

You don’t have to dig too far into the metaphor to see the parent/child relationship in duck form.


In My Heart

Jo Witek

This book is the emotional equivalent of the doctor’s smiley face pain scale. It introduces the full spectrum of emotions and shows you how to pin them down. A heart can feel as shiny and bright as a star or as heavy as an elephant, but every feeling deserves to be felt.
The rainbow heart that spreads from page to page is the perfect visual for the hard-to-name feelings that can be so hard for kids (and adults) to name. Shyness isn’t so bad, and silliness makes sense once you can name it.


Roses are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink

by Diane deGroat

If you’re sitting at home cutting out hearts with your first-grader and covered in glitter and wishing Pinterest would stop already with the cutesy cards for classmates, this book is for you.
Gilbert isn’t sure he can write nice cards for the couple of kids who’ve made fun of him in school. So he writes a few not-so-funny Valentines instead. Feelings are hurt and everybody ends up coming clean in this most realistic Valentine’s Day story to date.


The Valentine Bears

by Eve Bunting

Two things make this book a must-read. Firstly, The the story is told by the epically-talented Eve Bunting, author of over 200 children’s books.
Secondly, the illustrations of Mr. and Mrs. Bear celebrating their first ever Valentine’s Day in lieu of hibernation are done by Jan Brett, the infamous illustrator of “The Mitten,” “The Hat,” and so many others. Her illustrations make every book a Scandinavian wonderland.


Love, Splat

by Rob Scotton

In the most hilarious love triangle between felines, Splat the cat is in love with Kitten who won’t give him the time of day. What’s worse, his arch rival, Spike, is after her, too. If the biggest and best Valentine card wins, Splat’s got no hope.
Lucky for him, Kitten is a little more high-minded. Let us all rise above the Spikes in the world, who think this is winning material: “You are so lucky that I like you.”


Love from the Very Hungry Caterpillar

by Eric Carle

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is in love, and he wants to tell you all about it. This book is the perfect gift for a teacher or kid who loves all things Eric Carle. Just like the original, it will make you happy, and hungry.
Here’s to keeping the magic alive on Valentine’s Day for kids and grownups alike. As everyone comes crashing down from that sugar high, read one of these and let love be as uncomplicated as ducks and rabbits and cats and caterpillars can make it out to be.

Fantastic Winter Books for Kids of All Ages

We find ourselves in the days when the holiday hustle and bustle is behind us but spring feels like it will never arrive. The days when daylight is still short and the windows are still closed. My favorite thing to do on those days is curl up with my little people to read great books.
Here are 12 amazing books to keep you and your little ones cozy this winter.

For the little littles

 
 

“The Mitten”

by Jan Brett

“The Mitten” is a whimsical, animal-filled tale that delights children. Jan Brett is masterful with her storytelling and illustrations, showing woodland animals exploring a child’s lost mitten in the snow. Funny and classic, this is a tale kids will love.


“Bear Snores On”

by Karma Wilson (Author), Jane Chapman (Illustrator)

“Bear Snores On” transports kids to Bear’s cave as his animal friends come to see if he is still sleeping for the long winter. No one is as surprised as Bear to wake and see all the commotion he has been missing! Charming and funny, kids will love pretending they are Bear, snoring for a long winter nap.


“The Emperor’s Egg”

by Martin Jenkins (Author),‎ Jane Chapman (Illustrator)

“The Emperor’s Egg” explores the incredibly cute world of the Emperor Penguin. It is full of amazing facts and illustrations about the animal while holding on to its cute, fuzzy, lovable nature. Telling the story of the father who sits determinedly on the egg for months while the mother goes out hunting, it is a wonderful way to talk about how animals, just like people, do so much to provide for the little ones.


For the school-aged littles

“The Snowy Day”

by Ezra Jack Keats

A perfect introduction to classic poetry, this delightful picture book captures a child’s day in the snow. With charming illustration and the beautiful verse by Jack Ezra Keats, the reader experiences the joys and wonder of “A Snowy Day.” This classic is not to be missed!


“Snowflake Bentley”

by Jacqueline Briggs Martin (Author),‎ Mary Azarian (Illustrator)

“Snowflake Bentley” is a true story of Wilson Bentley, a boy from Vermont that grew up seeing snowflakes as unique miracles. His scientific and artistic brain collided as he photographed snowflakes, capturing their utterly matchless shapes and designs. A delightful tale that is the perfect inspiration for making some paper snowflakes of your own!


“Winter Days in the Big Woods”

by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Author),‎ Renee Graef (Illustrator)

“Winter Days in the Big Woods” and the rest of the “My First Little House Books” are a beautiful introduction to the stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder. These stories of a cabin in the woods before there was internet or even electricity captivates kids for their simple beauty. Kids fall in love with these Wisconsin tales of Laura and her family, while parents fondly remember the original books and the joy they brought.


“Blizzard”

by John Rocco

“Blizzard” is a beautifully told tale based on The Blizzard of 1978 where the author’s small Rhode Island town received 53 inches of snow. As the boy watches the storm begin from his classroom window, the reader journeys with him through the changing landscape of his little town. As the snow piles high you experience the wonder of all he knows being covered in over four feet of snow! A perfect tale for a snowy day!


“The Story of Snow”

by Mark Cassino (Photographer),‎ Jon Nelson (Contributor)

The “Story of Snow” is a magical non-fiction that answers questions about snow in all of its amazing wonder. Written by a nature photographer and snow scientist, this book is full of fantastic photographs and scientific information perfect for kids. It even includes instructions for how to catch snowflakes! Perfect during a snowstorm or for kids who just wonder what snow is really like, “The Story of Snow” is beautiful.


“Mr. Popper’s Penguins”

by Richard Atwater and‎ Florence Atwater

“Mr. Popper’s Penguins” is an early chapter book that has been a classic for decades. As Mr. Popper longs for things he has yet to do like visit the North and South Pole, he receives a most peculiar gift: a penguin. A family with one penguin grows to 12 penguins and the shenanigans that ensue are hilarious. Kids love reading about the eccentric Mr. Popper and his band of penguins!


Finally, for those who deny they were little

“The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

by C. S. Lewis

Hands down my favorite family read-aloud, this book of fantasy and adventure takes four siblings to an enchanted land trapped in a perpetual winter. Narnia is full of talking animals, a witch, trees that whisper, and a Lion that changes everything. After their journey the children – and Narnia – will never be the same. A delightful tale of bravery, loyalty, and love, this book will enchant all who read it.


“Breadcrumbs”

by Anne Ursu  (Author), Erin McGuire (Illustrator)

“Breadcrumbs”  is a tale woven with references to classic fairy tales. Two friends are separated when one disappears into a forest with a mysterious woman made of ice. Will Hazel risk everything to find Jack? A tale of friendship, fantasy, and growing up, Breadcrumbs explores fairy tales from Hans Christian Andersen as well as modern stories to tell the story of Jack, Hazel, and a friendship that grows.


“The Call of the Wild”

by Jack London

“The Call of the Wild” has been famous for over one hundred years for its simplicity and raw story of a dog during the Klondike Gold Rush. The dog is sold into a life as an Alaskan sled dog where he learns to adapt to the harsh circumstances of the wild. Written with Buck the dog as the main character, this classic is hard to put down.
Take advantage of these colder days and snuggle up with a book. What are your favorites to read with your kids in the winter? Share in the comments!
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The New Research That Convinced Me to Become a Soccer Mom Dropout

Am I a horrible mother? The society-driven guilt part of me says, “yes,” but the authentic me says, “heck no!”

My oldest son is eight and one of the few in his class who is not involved in soccer…and never has been.
Gasp!
It hasn’t been an intentional choice on our part. He has never really shown an interest (for more than one day). Plus, I’m not ready to commit our precious free time after school and especially on weekends to sitting in the hot or cold or rain to watch him practice.
Am I a horrible mother? The society-driven guilt part of me says, “yes,” but the authentic me says, “heck no!”
Truth be told, I kind of like being a soccer mom rebel. I don’t enjoy always doing the expected motherhood thing, and my son isn’t one to just “go with flow” when it comes to activities like that. He has participated in certain activities from time to time – summer baseball (we missed half the season traveling), “ninja” gymnastics (right up his alley), and chess club.
Overall, however, I find that he does best just hanging out with his friends after school – the few who have also eschewed soccer.

What we do instead

The other day, I found my son and two friends making an “arcade” out of a bunch of huge cardboard boxes and some Nerf guns. I couldn’t have been more proud. They used their best salesmen techniques to try to convince some younger boys at the park to play for a fee (ha!).
They didn’t make much money, but they had a blast, and you could tell they felt empowered by their experiment in entrepreneurship.
I’m not against all organized activities. They have their place. But seeing the pride on my son’s face while planning and accomplishing his arcade idea reinforced my hunch that there is something to allowing kids to just do their own thing.
Plus, his behavior and mood improves when he has plenty of time to play with friends without an agenda. During free play, kids get the chance to release their emotions, pent-up anger, or anxiety. Think of how you feel when you’ve been stressed and then you go for a long walk or a strenuous workout. You feel de-stressed and cleansed, right?
This is what play does for kids. Without it, our kids’ emotions and frustrations spill out as misbehavior, whining, and overall crankiness.
This past weekend, for example, we were pretty busy. We went to an amusement park with some friends, my son sold popcorn for Cub Scouts, and we had church and a party to attend. We are not usually that busy on weekends, but it just ended up that way. By Sunday night, I felt a little spent but it seemed my eight-year-old was doing okay.
Guess what? Monday after school, he lost it. Total meltdown. He had not gotten enough downtime over the weekend. He had held it together at school all day and needed an emotional release. He whined and cried off and on, and then we talked for about what’s been going on at school and on the playground, etc.
Once his energy had been restored, my son became a totally different kid. The night before, you would have thought everything in his life was a disaster. The next morning, he was eager for school and ready to move on.

What does the research say?

Child development researchers are delving into this topic and trying to understand the relationship between structured activities and children’s development.
In one of the first studies of its kind, researchers at The University of Colorado looked at the connection between how kids spend their time (structured verses unstructured activities) and the development of executive function.
Executive function is one of the key regulatory skills that develop during childhood and is crucial to children’s success and well-being later in life.
Executive function includes things like:

  • planning ahead
  • goal-oriented behavior
  • suppression of unwanted thoughts or behaviors
  • and delaying gratification.

Do these sound familiar? They are typically all the skills that break down when kids are overtired or stressed and have been shown to predict children’s academic and social outcomes years down the road.
Researchers then analyzed the relationship between children’s activities and their level of executive function. The results showed a correlation between these factors. The more time children spent in structured activities, the lower their scores on the assessment of executive function. In contrast, the more time children spent in less structured activities, the higher their assessment of executive function.
So what does this all mean? Before you pull your kids out of their activities and turn to “unschooling,”  keep in mind that this study was small scale (70 children) and only correlational, meaning we do not know if structured verses unstructured activities cause a change in executive function, or if there’s something else going on here.
What this study does show is some relationship between these factors that deserves further study. What is it about unstructured time that might enforce executive function skills? Is there something about structured activities that limit executive function?
A study like this encourages parents to reassess the cultural norms and expectations we might be adopting. Are we involved in activities because our kids like them or receive some benefit from them? Or are we just doing “what soccer moms do”?
Activities can be great, but don’t feel like you must enroll your child in every enrichment opportunity out there because that’s what society dictates.

Being Direct With Your Kids May Be Their Path to Avoid Unhealthy Eating

It turns out, if you want your children to avoid the consumption of junk food, being more direct may be the way to go.

When I was a kid, my brothers and I would sprint through the door after school and head straight to the kitchen. Starving, we’d run to the cupboard to choose our snacks. Doritos, Oreos, or our mother’s homemade chocolate chip cookies were almost always in plain view.
My mother, who naturally has a healthy BMI, never lectured us on our eating habits. Instead, she taught us through her actions by cooking us healthy dinners. Now that we’re adults, I wonder if we would have a different relationship with food if she had talked to us more directly when we were children.
Although there is no conclusive research yet about how mothers should talk to their children about food, a new study does suggest that obese mothers speak more directly to their children. In addition, obese mothers were just as cognizant about their child’s junk food intake compared to mothers with a healthy BMI.
Further, their children did indeed listen to their mothers. It turns out, if you want your children to avoid the consumption of junk food, being more direct may be the way to go.
The study was conducted by the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and was summarized by Science Daily. Two hundred and thirty-seven women were studied as they were placed in a room with their child. The room had various foods, including chocolate cupcakes. The mothers’ communication toward their children was studied and found that obese women spoke directly to their children.
For example, they said things like, “Only eat one,” instead of a more indirect statement like, “You haven’t eaten dinner yet.” The children of the obese mothers tended to listen to their mothers fairly easily, too. Yet, expert opinion is still mixed on how parents should talk to their children regarding food intake.
There is some conflicting advice on the best approach. “On one hand,” Megan Pesch, M.D. said, “overly restricting food could backfire and actually lead to overeating. But parents also want to encourage healthy habits.”
She went on to explain that direct communication is typically easier for children to understand and follow, but there’s always that sensitivity factor when it comes to eating and weight.
The study also contested a nasty stereotype. There is often a bad perception of obese mothers and how they parent their children surrounding the topic of food. The stereotypical assumption is that they simply let their children eat whatever they want, whenever they want. The study, however, debunked this myth.
Pesch said, “The mothers we observed were on it. They were attentive and actively trying to get their children to eat less junk food.”
Judging a book by its cover in all areas of life, especially motherhood, should not be practiced. Regardless of the size of our bodies, we all want the best for our children and to see them choose a healthy lifestyle.
Whether you exercise direct or indirect communication toward your children and the food they eat, continue to have that open dialogue. Because a healthy life, without Doritos, will leave your children feeling satisfied.

Could Mothers Have a Hand in Influencing Their Teens to Take STEM Courses?

According to recent findings a mother’s communication with her children can increase the likelihood of them taking math and science (MS) courses.

It doesn’t feel that long ago when I sat in my trigonometry desk on the first day of school. As soon as that bell rang, the teacher handed out a worksheet. “Take a look at this,” he said. “If this seems hard to you, I strongly suggest you go see your counselor to drop this class.”
At the age of 17, I simply laughed and strolled out the door and never looked back. It wasn’t until I became a mother that that teacher ticked me off. Granted, I am a creative person, a writer and an English teacher, but who’s to say that I couldn’t have pulled a B in that trigonometry class with some hard work?
Instead, I dodged math and science in college like a bullet. Now, I hope to throw my kids at math and science as long as they’re at least a little willing. Research suggests that I do.
According to recent findings in The Journal of Research on Adolescence, a mother’s communication with her children can increase the likelihood of them taking math and science (MS) courses. Since President Obama launched the Educate to Innovate campaign, education in the United States has been slowly shifting toward STEM (science, technology, engineering, and technology).
The campaign urges teachers, parents, administrators, and policy makers to incorporate more STEM into their schools. As a mother who admittedly does not excel in math, it is going to be on me to encourage my children to waltz into those classrooms, even if their teachers don’t welcome them with open arms.
The longitudinal study conducted interviews with mothers and students at three points – after their ninth-grade year, during their tenth-grade year, and then during final analysis of their twelfth-grade transcripts.
The questionnaires analyzed 1) whether mothers were capable of discussing MS courses, 2) how well they provided guidance through personalized communication with their child, 3) if the mothers spoke differently with daughters compared to sons, 4) how frequently conversations about MS courses took place, and 5) whether they communicated about their child’s future connecting the enrollment of the MS courses.
The study demonstrated that the key for mothers is to make the MS courses personal to their children and to make connections to their future. Whether teenagers like to admit it or not, they still look to their parents for guidance, especially in the academic arena. So, fostering an open dialogue with some personalization proved to be imperative.
For example, when discussing a biology course with her daughter, one mother said, “She loves animals. So, I think that it would help you understand animals, living things…our own bodies. And maybe, if you want to be a veterinary assistant, it could be a real help in your career.” Her daughter was much more excited to take a science course when she could understand its connection to her future.
The study also found that mothers did not speak differently to their daughters compared to their sons in regards to taking MS courses. They didn’t speak to them any less often about them, either. This was surprising and pleasing news for the researchers, proving that the future indeed looks bright for our daughters and their potential careers in STEM.
The researches concluded that showing teenagers the great value in the MS courses was key. It made a difference when mothers discussed the courses with a personal anecdote and gave examples about how the classes could transcend into their careers.
The researchers, Hyde et al said, “Parents may even be more effective than teachers at making personal connections, because parents have much more detailed knowledge of their own child’s interests, experiences, and aspirations.”
Although I have little experience with advanced STEM courses, this research gave me hope. I was born a communicator, so if all I have to do is simply talk with my children about the potential of such courses and the paths that they may lead to, I’ll gladly do it.
And if a teacher gives one of my children the option to leave if a subject “seems hard,” they’ll be glued to that seat and won’t budge.

How Process Praise Helps Our Kids

To put it simply, process praise is praise that emphasizes the work, effort, or actions of the child.

A child’s first step, first jump, first song – each is a momentous occasion in a little one’s life that naturally elicits praise. Even eating all those peas (with a spoon, no less!) calls for a “good job.” Busy praising all those firsts (and seconds and thirds), we may have no idea how much our praise contributes to our child’s development.
It’s often said that young children are little sponges, soaking in their environment and learning from it. “Kids pick up on messages that parents are giving that parents may not even realize they’re giving,” says Elizabeth Gunderson, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at Temple University.
For instance, researchers found parents’ use of a type of praise called “process praise” with one- to three-year-olds predicted their child’s “growth mindset” and desire for challenge five years later. Gunderson is the lead author of the study, which was published in the journal Child Development
So what exactly is “process praise”? And why is a “growth mindset” so important?

Process praise

To put it simply, process praise is praise that emphasizes the work, effort, or actions of the child. When we tell our daughters “good helping” for helping put away toys or “good singing” for singing a tune, we are using process praise. Even a simple “good job” is considered process praise.
By contrast, when we say “good girl,” “big boy,” or “you’re so smart,” we are using person praise. Unlike process praise, person praise is praise that gives a fixed label to a child.  Consider the child who helps put away her toys or sings. Where process praise is “good helping” or “good singing,” person praise is “you’re a good helper” or “you’re a good singer.”

Growth mindset

Many of us are likely unaware when and why we gravitate toward one type of praise over the other. But those parents who use process praise are helping their children adopt a “growth mindset.”
Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University and author of “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”, has spent decades studying “growth” and “fixed” mindsets. With a “growth mindset,” people believe that basic abilities, like intelligence or talent, can be developed through dedication, effort, and hard work.
In contrast, with a “fixed mindset,” people believe those qualities are fixed traits (i.e., you’re only born with so much). A growth mindset leads to a desire to learn, embrace challenges, and persist whereas a fixed mindset leads to a desire to look smart and therefore avoid challenges and give up more easily.
There’s a lot of research showing the kids who have growth mindsets tend to do better academically, says Gunderson. For instance, researchers found that first and second graders’ growth mindsets at the beginning of the school year predicted greater improvement in math over the course of the year.
“If you believe that your intelligence is malleable and something you can change with effort, that tends to make you have a positive attitude towards effort,” she says, explaining that those with a growth mindset believe that intelligence can be improved with hard work.
If you have a fixed mindset, you may believe working hard is evidence that you’re not very smart, and that belief can decrease your motivation and drive. “In the real world, working hard actually does get you to better results usually, so having a positive attitude towards effort is really important,” says Gunderson.
Gunderson also notes, however, that having a fixed mindset isn’t necessarily a bad thing until children face some kind of challenge or failure. In fact, a fixed mindset can be motivating…for a time. “Thinking ‘I’m smart. I have a lot of intelligence’ can actually be motivating, but as soon as you face any kind of challenge or failure, it tends to be a much more fragile way of thinking.”
When kids who think they have fixed ability suddenly aren’t able to do something, they think they must not be that smart after all and tend to give up. Kids with a growth mindset, on the other hand, see challenges and even failures as opportunities to learn and improve their intelligence.

“Good try”

While praising effort is a good thing, telling children “good try” over and over again, especially when they aren’t successful in reaching their goal, can lead to overpraising.
As Dweck writes in a commentary for Education Week, “Too often nowadays, praise is given to students who are putting forth effort, but not learning, in order to make them feel good in the moment: ‘Great effort! You tried your best!’ It’s good that the students tried, but it’s not good that they’re not learning.”
As Gunderson explains, parents still have to consider whether the praise is warranted. “You don’t want to overpraise because kids are savvy. If you say ‘good try’ and they didn’t really try, then that’s not good. Or if you say ‘good try’ but they failed, then it’s like that’s a consolation prize and they know that.”
A better route is to acknowledge your child’s struggle or failure and encourage a positive attitude about it to help your child learn.

“Keep trying” or “try harder”

It’s also not helpful to tell kids “keep trying” or “try harder,” says Gunderson. “They could be spinning their wheels.” Adults need to explain the kinds of strategies that would actually lead to success. For instance, if your toddler gets frustrated because she can’t put together a puzzle, simply telling her to “try harder” or “try again” is not going to help. Of course, putting the puzzle together for your child isn’t going to help either.
Instead, you may ask, “Can you try it a different way?” and point out different parts of the pieces, like the straight edges and corners to instruct your child while allowing her to actually put the pieces together herself. If your child overcomes that challenge and is able to get the pieces together, a way to praise the effort would be to say “great job trying it lots of different ways,” or “I liked how you worked really hard at that and didn’t give up,” or simply “great work.”
In sum, when children are successful, the praise should be directed at the effort it took to reach that goal. Praising the effort shows children that adults value hard work. “The idea is that when [children] succeed at something, the praise about that should be directed at the fact that they worked hard to get to that success,” says Gunderson.

Talking about hard work

Process praise isn’t the only way to help your child adopt a growth mindset. Simply talking about the importance of hard work and how it leads to success can help. You can even explain to your child how your mind is like a muscle and you can always make it stronger, says Gunderson.
“When you feel like something is hard and you’re being challenged, that’s like the ‘no pain, no gain of exercise.’ When you don’t feel that sense of challenge, then you’re not learning.”

Seven Ways to Support Your Aspiring YouTuber

If your children want to create their own Internet videos for fun or for profit, here are seven ways you can guide and support their endeavor

In December 2017, the Washington Post ran an article on Ryan, a six-year-old boy who made $11 million in a year reviewing toys on his YouTube channel. The article went viral and sparked many conversations about YouTube as a way to get rich quick.
While most people on YouTube or other video hosting sites won’t earn that kind of money, making videos still has benefits. Young videographers and vloggers learn to tell stories, use editing software, and market their brand. They improve their communication skills and flex their creativity.
If your children want to create their own Internet videos for fun or for profit, here are seven ways you can guide and support their endeavor:

Talk about consent

Before you let your children upload their videos to the Internet, talk to them about the ways they need consent. Have an honest conversation about what they hope to film and what responsibilities they have with the footage.
When do they need to blur faces or leave out something they filmed? When do they need permission to film in a location or permission from a person? Talk about what they should consider when someone asks them to take down a video or delete their footage.
For older children, consider discussing “prank” videos, sensitive subjects, and the ways that they could be taking advantage of people or situations for their own gain. If you aren’t sure of an answer, have them research it.

Discuss Internet privacy

If your child is filming their own life beyond a single room, have a serious conversation about their privacy. These days, full names are often part of someone’s personal brand, but they can have a username instead.
Decide what information they should keep to themselves and what they should look for in their backgrounds. What should they do if a skateboarding video shows your street sign or house number? Is it okay for a “follow me around” video to show the name of their school? Should they call family members by their names, initials, or nicknames?
Safety and privacy are paramount when upsetting people online often leads to threats of violence.

Let them do what they want, within reason

You may be surprised to know which types of videos are the most popular online. Some people enjoy watching other people open packages. Other people can spend hours watching people play board games and video games. Some people like watching people watch other videos.
Let your child decide what kind of videos they want to make, even if you don’t like or understand their choices. Consider setting a few hard boundaries, or for younger kids, consider being the only one allowed to upload the final videos.
Learn to recognize the difference between a video that isn’t to your taste and a video that shouldn’t be public.

Make sure they’re doing it for the right reasons

Some YouTube stars become household names. With the top earnings becoming public every year, it’s easy for children to think it’s an easy way to make a lot of money and become famous. Of course, many video makers never gain a huge following and don’t make millions of dollars a year.
The ones that do work hard, putting out videos often or putting time and effort into fewer, high quality videos. A lot of them have teams working for them, too. Once they see the work involved, your child may quit, and that’s okay.
If they stick with it, though, make sure they know why they want to make videos. Maybe it’s fun or interesting or they love the small following they have. Whatever their reasons for making videos, figure it out and remind them of their reasons whenever they need it.

Be honest about career possibilities

Some people can still make a living from online videos. Others use their platform as a stepping stone to filmmaking, working in animation, creating their own product lines, or becoming spokespeople. Golden Globe-nominated actress Issa Rae starred in YouTube videos before producing and starring in her own show on HBO.
Still others make their videos as a hobby or a side income while having a full-time job. In 2015, many YouTube stars spoke about how they weren’t making enough to live off their videos, but they were too famous to have a job with the public. Make sure your child knows that it’s possible but unlikely to make a career from the videos alone.

Recognize the skills it takes to make these videos

Take the time to consider what skills your child has learned from making videos. If they make films, they’re learning about scripts, lighting, costumes, sets, and working with others. Do they make animations, add graphics, or generate effects? How much is involved in the editing process? Have either of you considered how much marketing knowledge your child has acquired?
Acknowledge how much they learn so they can see how far they’ve come. Recognizing their skills might also keep morale up if their videos don’t get as many views as they’d hoped.

Don’t let their education slip

While your child can learn a lot from creating their own videos, they need to keep up with their schooling, too. Don’t discuss their education as something they will need in case they never make it with their videos.
Instead, frame it as a way to get inspiration for their videos. Maybe their history class will spark a new movie idea. Maybe physics will give them an idea for a stunt. English, literature, and creative writing classes have obvious ties to the video industry, but the other subjects might just inspire a whole new series, as long as your child is still paying attention.

Yes, You Can Visit These Gatsbyesque Estates with the Kids

Skip your everyday playground and soak up some history at one of these gilded estates with kids in tow.

Picture a lush lawn, lined with perfectly pruned topiaries, bookended by fountains, and a grand white mansion beaming from behind a chauffeur’s drive. You can just imagine yourself reclining on the parlor’s divan, the wind rippling your billowing white frock as you sip a gin rickey.
Now consider you’re there with your three-year-old. Think you wouldn’t dare take a sticky-fingered preschooler anywhere near a gilded estate? Think again.
From Winterthur in Delaware to Hearst Castle in California, the American countryside is dotted with lavish country houses and gardens, once homes and playgrounds for the wealthiest of the wealthy. And many of these châteaux welcome families with programming specifically for children, even as young as toddlers.
So skip your everyday playground and soak up some history at one of these. Whether you’re looking for a spring getaway or planning a summer trip, you, too, can enjoy the sporting life (or at least pretend to) at the bowling alley or swimming pool of a regal abode and be borne back into a time of leisure.

Biltmore Estate (Asheville, North Carolina)

George Washington Vanderbilt, a grandson of industrialist and philanthropist Cornelius “The Commodore” Vanderbilt, opened this breathtaking 8,000-acre estate in the Blue Ridge Mountains to friends and family in 1895. With a colossal, 250-room French Renaissance-style château, it welcomes over one million tourists each year.
It now includes Antler Hill Village, complete with the Pisgah Playground and Farm, where kids can pet farmyard animals, explore and climb antique tractors, and take part in daily crafts, like churning butter or weaving baskets. At the Antler Hill Village Winery, kids can even try a grape juice flight.
Stay directly on the property at the family-friendly Village Hotel in Antler Hill Village and let the Outdoor Adventure Center outfit your family with bikes or set up fly fishing lessons and carriage rides. At the Biltmore House, kids can listen to an audio tour (geared towards ages five and up) narrated by the Vanderbilts’ Saint Bernard Cedric.
Says Allison, Indiana resident and mom of an 11-year-old, “Our daughter loved it and was able to learn different things than we did.”

The Breakers (Newport, Rhode Island)

Another grandson of Cornelius “The Commodore” Vanderbilt, Cornelius Vanderbilt II, whose family’s fortune came from steamships and the New York Central Railroad, built this ornate 70-room Italian Renaissance-style palazzo as his summer home.
The Preservation Society offers a Family Tour specifically targeted to children ages eight to 12. The house itself acts as the narrator, bragging all about its special features (look for dolphins under the staircase and dragons in the great hall).

Ca d’Zan (Sarasota, Florida)

Like an Italian palazzo on a Venetian canal, the 36,000 square-foot stucco and terra cotta Ca d’Zan, once home to John and Mabel Ringling, the circus king and his wife, overlooks Sarasota Bay.
Completed in 1926, Ca d’Zan fell into disrepair after John Ringling’s death in 1936, so much so that it was used as the location for Miss Havisham’s decrepit mansion in the 1996 film Great Expectations. But it underwent a $15 million renovation, completed in 2002.
The estate grounds are also home to the Museum of Art and the Ringling Museum of the American Circus (note that admission to Ca d’Zan is separate). Check out Thursday night Art-Making in the Visitor’s Pavilion, ROAR! (Ringling Order of Art Readers) storytimes for toddlers and preschoolers in the Education Center, and Stroller Tours, one-hour interactive tours for infants and caregivers, at the Museum of Art.
Stop by the David F. Bolger Playspace, a playground complete with hand-powered fountains. At the Circus Museum, kids can practice walking a wire and learn clown makeup artistry or play “I Spy” at the world’s largest circus model.

Hearst Castle (San Simeon, California)

There’s no denying the grandeur of this hilltop estate, a four-hour drive south from San Francisco. With 165 rooms and 123 acres of gardens, this “Enchanted Hill” retreat was the vision of William Randolph Hearst, the name behind Hearst Magazines and a media tycoon who, at one time, owned more than two dozen newspapers nationwide.
Older kids may enjoy playing “I Spy” with a junior ranger activity book, available at any ticket window or from the Visitor Services Office. Keep in mind that strollers are not permitted at Hearst Castle due to the number of stairs and terraces, but child-carrier backpacks and front-packs are allowed. The Visitor Services Office even has these available on loan for no additional charge on a first-come, first-serve basis.
 

Lilly House (Indianapolis, Indiana)

This 22-room Indianapolis mansion, part of Newfields, a Place for Nature and the Arts, was once home to J. K. Lilly Jr., a businessman, collector, and philanthropist whose grandfather, Colonel Eli Lilly, founded the pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly and Company in 1876 in the city.
Wander the Ravine and Formal Gardens on this 26-acre estate, then check out the “sensitive” Mimosa plant, whose leaves curl when touched, at the Greenhouse. During the summer, grab a glass of Riesling and a soft pretzel at the Beer Garden before heading over the Waller Bridge to the Virginia Fairbanks Art & Nature Park, which encompasses 100 acres adjacent to the Lilly House.

Pittock Mansion (Portland, Oregon)

On 46 acres, this French Renaissance-style château was the home of the late Henry Pittock, owner of The Oregonian newspaper, and his wife, Georgiana. Along with eight family members, they moved into their mansion in 1914. The last family members moved out of the estate in 1958, and the mansion fell into disrepair until Portlanders launched a grassroots campaign to save it.
The City of Portland purchased it in 1964, repaired it, and opened it to the public in 1965. Children under six are admitted free, and they can check out hands-on features of the permanent exhibit, like vintage stereoscopes, a popular home entertainment in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
In March, the Pittock Mansion hosts “Day Camp for Kids: Life in 1914,” where children ages eight to 12 can experience what life was like 100 years ago through hands-on activities.

Reynolda House (Winston-Salem, North Carolina)

Who wouldn’t want to splash in a mansion’s historic indoor swimming pool? That’s exactly what kids attending Summer Adventure camps at the Reynolda House can do.
This former home of Richard Joshua Reynolds, founder of the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, is now a 33,619-square-foot American art museum with a collection including works by Georgia O’Keefe and Grant Wood. Each summer, it welcomes around 200 students to attend art and creative writing day camps.
When Reynolds moved his family into the mansion in 1917, the estate, which totals more than 1,000 acres, also included a nearby village for farm supervisors, workers, and their families. Known today as Reynolda Village, it is full of restaurants and shops – a short walk from the Reynolda House and a perfect place to grab lunch during your visit.
In addition to hosting summer camps, the Reynolda House presents Reynolda Read-Aloud storytimes on select dates and, for preschoolers and their caregivers, Mornings at the Museum, which encourages kids to explore Reynolda through hands-on activities.

Shelburne Farms (Shelburne, Vermont)

What was once the 19th-century country home of Dr. William Seward and Lila Vanderbilt Webb is now a three-season inn and restaurant on the 1,400-acre Shelburne Farms – a working farm, forest, and National Historic Landmark.
Swim in nearby Lake Champlain and, from mid-May through mid-October, visit the Farmyard, where kids can milk a cow, watch the Chicken Parade, collect eggs, and check out the Miniature Sicilian Donkeys.
Each fall, Shelburne Farms hosts an annual Harvest Festival with children’s activities, music, and horse-drawn hayrides, and the McClure Education Center also presents craft workshops for kids. Shelburne Farms boasts more than 10 miles of walking trails, which are open year-round, weather permitting.

Stan Hywet (Akron, Ohio)

From April through December, this former estate of F. A. Seiberling, co-founder of The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, welcomes the public to tour its 65-room 1915 Tudor Revival Manor House and 70-acre landscape.
“We’re a very family friendly historic house museum and garden, and on any given day, there’s plenty to do for children,” says Donna Spiegler, Communications Manager at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens. Children ages five and under are free and won’t want to miss the Playgarden (open through mid-October), a 5,000-square-foot, interactive outdoor play area with activities that represent aspects of the estate.
The Tudor Revival Playhouse, for instance, is inspired by the estate’s Carriage House and includes a spiral slide and marble chase. The Bowling Lawn represents the bowling alleys in the basement of the Seiberlings’ Manor House and on the lawn outside the West Terrace.
Kids can pick up Explorer Backpacks, filled with tools like binoculars and bug collectors to use for a day in the Playgarden. Or, they can explore the gardens and grounds by following clues on a Quest! to locate a hidden treasure box.

Vizcaya (Miami, Florida)

When the main house of this Biscayne Bay estate opened in 1916, the owner, James Deering, hosted a party complete with gondolas and cannons. Deering, a bachelor and retired millionaire whose doctors recommended sunshine and a warm climate to assuage his pernicious anemia, built Vizcaya as his subtropical vacation home. His family’s wealth came from a woolen mill, land investments in the western United States, and the Deering Harvester Company, a farm equipment manufacturer.
A nearby village, completed in 1922, supplied the house with everything from fresh flowers and fruit to milk and eggs. The house is now a museum with 34 decorated rooms showcasing more than 2,500 art objects and furnishings and draws more than 200,000 visitors each year.
Children can listen to the 1917 Welte Philharmonic Pipe Organ on weekdays from 4-4:30 p.m., look for iguanas and butterflies in the formal gardens and rockland hammock, navigate the Maze Garden, or look for the “monsters” decorating the swimming pool.

Winterthur (Winterthur, Delaware)

Pronounced “winter-tour,” this 175-room childhood home of collector and horticulturist Henry Francis du Pont (1880-1969) is now a museum of American Decorative Arts with a 60-acre naturalistic garden.
Pick up an Activity Backpack and visit the Tulip Tree House and the Faerie Cottage in the Enchanted Woods, a magical children’s garden set on three acres of the Winterthur Garden. In the Touch-It Room, a playspace designed with a colonial-era kitchen, a 1750s parlor, and an 1830s general store, kids of all ages can learn about early American life through playing with tea sets, kitchenware, clothes, and toys.
For preschoolers, Winterthur also offers Wee Ones at Winterthur once a week (March through November), which includes storytime, a visit to the galleries, and a craft. For toddlers, Squeaky Wheels introduces toddlers and their caregivers to the estate with strolls through the galleries and into the garden. Don’t miss Truck and Tractor Day, a fall highlight.

4 Parent Myths About College Admissions

But there’s a few general parent misperceptions swirling about that are worth correcting.

If you have a college-bound kid, I know you’re feeling it. The anxiety. The competition. The intensity. The bombardment of well-meaning but sometimes conflicting advice from other parents. I almost lost my mind trying to keep up with the list of do’s and don’ts of college admissions.
The fact is, requirements vary radically across campuses. Some schools focus on the SAT, some on the ACT, some on both. Some want stellar essays, some really don’t care.
But there’s a few general parent misperceptions swirling about that are worth correcting.

Colleges want “well-rounded” students

They still do. But colleges prefer students who are a combination of “angular” (focused in one area) and “well-rounded.” Translation: “passionate.”
As a general rule, incoming freshman should have a number of extracurriculars (but not a ridiculous amount) that are somewhat related.
“Beyond the most selective colleges, well-rounded students are still being told that they are welcome, but they are warned not to get involved in too many activities,“ writes Fred Thys in his Boston NPR piece, “‘Well-Rounded Versus Angular’: The Application Colleges Want To See.”
I pushed my daughter Taylor to join a variety of clubs in high school to fill in her glaringly thin college resume. But college admission offices were probably more interested in her obvious passion: kids.
She took four years of high school early education classes (which included being a teaching assistant at the onsite preschool), volunteered as a camp counselor for three years, joined Best Buddies to assist special needs students at events, and baby sat for countless families.
It’s a good idea to encourage your elementary and middle-school child to try out a variety of extracurriculars to get a feel for what they like and don’t like. But once they find a passion, encourage them to join clubs and activities that are at least loosely related (e.g., 4-H science + engineering club + robotics competitions).
“My perspective is that there has been a shift from, ‘We want a kid who is so well-rounded they check off 25 boxes,’ to ‘We want to know what you’re passionate about,’” said Stephanie Bode Ward, mother of a senior at the Boston Latin School.

Lots of advanced classes are a good idea

Of course kids need to be challenged. Lost potential is tragic and gifted kids can fall through the cracks. But advanced classes – the wrong ones or too many – can backfire.
“If you are truly interested in the subject, there’s a good teacher and you’re surrounded by other motivated students, then you’re probably going to have a good experience from taking a more advanced class,” explains Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Education.
Pope reviewed more than 20 studies on advanced placement (AP) courses. “But if you’re pushed into it without good preparation and without a safety net in place at the school to help you if you get in over your head, then it may be more harmful than helpful.”
The second week of Taylor’s sophomore year in high school, she told me her AP American History was so ridiculously hard she guaranteed it would lower her GPA. So she dropped down to honors-level instead. Her work ethic has always been strong, so I knew she wasn’t just being lazy. She was being strategic to protect her GPA.
Encourage your kids to take advanced classes, but be sure they set themselves up to succeed. Trust their instincts. Feeling overwhelmed isn’t the same as being a slacker. An academic schedule that is unduly difficult might sabotage your child’s high school transcript, or worse, harm her emotional and physical well-being.
For some kids, taking all advanced or college-level classes is the right work load (if they don’t have a ton of after school activities). But for others, it’s a guaranteed recipe to lower their GPA and increase stress.
“Many high-achieving high school students are really stressed out,” says Pope. “They have a lot to do between extracurricular activities and homework and trying to get the sleep they need. They need to be prepared for what an AP course involves. The extra tests, extra homework, on top of an already demanding schedule, can be brutal. And a very low grade on your transcript from an AP course may hurt you more in the long run than not taking an AP in that subject at all.”

Skipping grades and starting college early is bad for kids

We all know children who skip a grade (or two). They leap frog over their peers and start college early. But is this a good idea? It depends.
“There are two sides to every coin,” says Susan Assouline, co-author on the report, “A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students”. “One side reveals that acceleration is the most effective intervention for students who are ready for challenge and advanced curriculum.
“The flip side isn’t as shiny. Students who are not challenged become disengaged from school and their joy of learning goes away. Skeptics would have us believe that acceleration is not good for students. They will have gaps in their knowledge, they won’t make any friends, they won’t be able to keep up, or it’s a very costly intervention. None of these reasons are substantiated by research; they are nothing more than excuses.”
Flash forward to what this means for college students, and it gets a little complicated.
A 2011 study out of Bocconi University found that younger college students did better than their older peers. The younger students were less socially active so researchers think they spent more time hitting the books. Good news, right? Well, yes and no.
The younger students got better grades, but earlier psychological studies suggest being the youngest in a group may slow the development of personality traits such as self-esteem and leadership.
Here’s how 16-year-old college freshman Petra describes her experience:
“In comparison to my educational experience, my social life dwindled through murky waters. After I had written my op-ed for my college paper (admitting her age), I felt as though all eyes were on me. I had many people come up to me while I was walking around campus, asking how I felt being younger than most, and if I felt the pressure to fit in more now than ever. Being asked that question made me feel intimidated. Because one of my greatest struggles has been fitting into the ‘crowd.’
“…By the end of my second semester, I no longer felt guilty about writing my article. I surrounded myself with people who encouraged me and accepted me for exactly who I was. Without the support of friends and family, I would certainly have not felt the enthusiasm and motivation to attend college this coming fall like I do now.”
The bottom line is that kids need to be challenged to a level that keeps them engaged. But when skipping grades translates into being the youngest in a college peer group, students may feel tremendous social pressure to act like someone they’re not – at least until they find their identity and footing.

Starting college “Undecided” is undesirable

My sense is high school kids today feel intense pressure to start college with a major and a career in mind. There’s a practical argument to support this. Colleges appreciate focused, passionate students.
Also, being “undecided” can get expensive. Dan Johnston, Regional Director of Pennsylvania’s Higher Education Assistance Agency thinks entering college without a major is a bad idea. Students might take too much time (and too much money) to figure what they want to do.
Johnston recommends kids explore careers during high school and occasionally audit college classes. This way they’ll be ready to declare a major as an incoming freshman.
But a 2011 study out of Western Kentucky University found that students who begin college without declaring a major (and choose within the first two years) have the best chance of graduating in four years. Students who waited until their junior year did the worst.
Researcher Matthew Foraker suggests this is because early undecided students took time to explore majors, gather information and choose a field that genuinely interested them. While students who declared a major right away might have done so based on poor or incomplete information, or parental pressure. Many then drop out.
So is there a compromise between declaring a major right away or being undecided for too long? Absolutely.
Incoming freshman can take the required general education classes alongside a variety of electives (this might mean taking one or two summer classes on campus or online). At the same time, they can strategically narrow down their interests. Being strategic means students complete several free or paid online career assessment tools and regularly meet with a campus career counselor.
After a couple years, most students get a pretty good idea of majors (and possibly minors) that genuinely interest them. From there, they’ll naturally narrow down related careers.
After my daughter finished her freshman year in college, three weeks into her summer job as a camp counselor she told me she wanted to drop her Education major. She was 100 percent sure she didn’t want to be an elementary school teacher anymore.
After she told me, I full-on panicked. I told Taylor she wasn’t allowed to graduate on the five-year plan. I told her she had better figure out a major where she could actually get a job.
I thought, she’s already behind.
But behind in what? Underclassman are supposed to explore what they like and don’t like. When I went to college, that was called going to college.
So I got a grip and told her it was okay and, in fact, better to decide now to switch majors. Students do it all the time. In fact, half of all high school graduates change majors by their sophomore year. It’s not the end of the world or a guaranteed pathway to delayed graduation.
There’s no question the college admissions process has become ridiculously intense. Parents and students lose sleep over it. But rest assured there’s a spot out there for your student. It might not be her first (or third) choice, but in time it will be the right choice.
The most elite schools aside, most colleges and universities simply want passionate kids with a track record of decent grades, a solid work ethic, and a mind open to exploring who they are, one day, meant to become.