I love anything that makes my kids' brains -- and mine -- stretch in new ways. Because while it's fun to know factoids and useful to absorb information, it's the thinking part of learning that is exciting. I want to raise thinking kids. More than that, I want to raise a thinking me.
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No matter what my primary interests may be, tangental and seemingly unrelated ideas are often surprisingly helpful thought-fodder. Last year when I read Gawande's book about checklists, it seemed to have a ton of implications for parenting. Reading up on how we make choices has affected my faith and everyday life.
The times I grow are usually correlated to when I'm given a jolt from an unexpected direction. Which is why I've tried to develop the habit of reading books on topics I know nothing about, watching lectures by people I've never heard of, and occasionally even opening -- and reading and thinking about -- links supplied by my other-end-of-the-political-spectrum Facebook friends.
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One day I had to go down to the ballet studio, and while I was there I read Twyla Tharp's fabulous book, The Creative Habit. A couple of moms wandered over -- one is a pediatrician, the other a professor -- and asked about it. I raved about what good ideas it has about how to be consistently creative. They looked at me blankly.
It took a while to dawn on me that these moms don't think of themselves as creative people. I was shocked. I mean, what's the alternative? To simply consume? To exist? To plod? We're all creative. We have to come up with solutions to problems, no? We're all part of creating a better community, creating ourselves into better people, creating lives of worth and meaning. Which means it behooves us to think about what we can do to become more adept at all those things. Maybe TED talks aren't the entire answer. But I daresay they help.