Please Pass the Cradle

Twenty years ago, when our first child was born, my mother gave our family a pine cradle. Our daughters each rocked and slept and dreamed in it for their first few months of life. After they had outgrown it, we spent the next several years moving the cradle from room to room in our house, seeking a convenient place to store it.

When our new neighbor mentioned that they needed a bed for their newborn baby, we loaned them our cradle and began a tradition—the “neighborhood cradle.”

Up to now, fifteen babies have used our daughters’ cradle. The couples who have borrowed it have reglued it, refinished it, and furnished it with a new mattress, sheets, and bumper pads.

We now have the joy of knowing that our cradle has been well-loved and useful to many, and we don’t have to worry about where to store it while it awaits our daughters’ children.Kristin E. Litchman, Albuquerque, New Mexico

“Got Any Homework?”

“Hey, Mom/Dad, can you help me with my homework?” Sometimes these innocent words make parents around the world cringe inwardly. Too often they are completely bewildered about how they can best help their children study more, or better, or study at all.

In my twenty-two years of teaching, I have discovered that children learn in many ways. Following are some suggestions of ways parents can help their children study more effectively.

Senses. Children learn through their senses, so use as many as possible in getting a fact or two into Junior’s head. Have him write down what he has learned in big letters; have him say each letter and/or word as he writes it; then let him trace the writing with his finger. As he says the words, he is “tasting” them; when he writes them, he is using his sense of touch. His eyes look while his ears hear what he says.

Repetition. Up to a point, repetition of a fact or concept will help your child learn. But the brain does tire, and subtle signs (restlessness, fidgeting and looking away, deciding she is hungry) will let you know when she needs to work on something else. Switch to some other activity, and then come back to the learning. Five two-minute learning activities may do more good than one ten-minute session.

Role. Teachers who use older students to teach younger ones know who learns the most—the one teaching. So let your child teach you the lesson. Play the part of a fairly slow learner; let Junior work to get the facts to you. Ply him with a host of questions: “Why is that number there?” “How do you remember what that means?” “How do you decide which … ?” “How do you know what to … ?”

Timing. If you can catch your child for some first-rate help while she’s poised between one activity and the next, it can pay off in productive learning. Give her a choice: “Would you rather help me clean up the kitchen, or shall we work on math for a while?” A reward for a difficult job well done might be in order, also, but use this only for special occasions: “Let’s learn to spell these words, and then we’ll get a cookie.”

Bulletin Boards. Hang a bulletin board somewhere in your home and put your child’s best work—especially his afterhours work—up for all to see, with some parental compliments tacked on. Show everyone’s work in turn. If one child makes great progress, give him top billing.

Enthusiasm. Your attitude toward learning is your child’s best friend—or worst enemy. If, to you, every fact and concept learned is a triumph to be savored, she will want to improve and share her victory with you. But if you have the feeling that her studying is useless, that you don’t really want to be bothered with helping her, your child will pick this up, too. Be sure that you are enthusiastic about her learning before you sit down with her.

These principles may seem simple—but try them. You and your child may get some surprising results!Elisabeth J. Hall, Pleasant Grove, Utah

How’s Your Spiritual GPA?

For many students, going away to college is their first experience of living away from home. The sense of freedom this brings is immense, and the temptation for indolence and indulgence can be great. New ideas, not all of which agree with gospel principles, will come from both lectures and fellow students. In addition, time, distance, and lack of money and transportation may make attending church difficult for some students.

In such a situation, it is vital for students to ask themselves important questions: “Am I easily influenced by what others think? What problems, if any, do I have in living the gospel?” If students are honest with themselves and learn to avoid situations in which they know they will face great temptations, they can participate in college or university life and still thrive spiritually.

When your daily life is one of study, it may be tempting to neglect religion with the excuse that your brain is saturated. But, as a student, I found it important to begin each day with half an hour’s institute study, which not only helped me learn more about the gospel, but also improved my self-discipline—which, in turn, helped me with my classwork.

Regular prayer is another great source of help and strength—not just at the beginning and end of each day, but whenever necessary. I found it particularly helpful to offer a prayer just before attending a class in which controversial ideas might arise.

One year while I was attending a university, I shared a room with an LDS student from a nearby college. We organized a home evening group for fellow students in the area—which proved to be a great help to many of us who were away from our families.

Being away from their parents’ and other family members’ influence and guidance may well provide the first opportunity young LDS students have to test their faith. But prayer, gospel study, and activity in Church programs will enable students to pass that important test and continue learning and living principles of the gospel.Rosalie West, Ilford, Essex, England

Escape from Your Plastic Prison

Are you always at your maximum limit on your credit cards? Do you pay the monthly minimum on your statements—and never pay off the balance? Because credit cards are so easy and convenient to use, do you regularly overextend yourself?

If you answered yes to these questions, you may be over your head in consumer debt. Here are nine ways to help you get back in control.

  1. 1.

    Stop using your cards immediately. If you have the willpower, keep them to use for emergencies only; if you yield easily to temptation, get rid of them altogether. If you do keep your cards, make it inconvenient to use them. Leave them at home in your dresser drawer.

  2. 2.

    Change your lifestyle. Stay away from places where you use your credit cards.

    Deny yourself something that you want to buy on impulse. Incorporate more low- or no-cost pleasures into your life. Go for a walk in the park—instead of in the mall!

  3. 3.

    Remember that having credit cards doesn’t make you rich—eventually you will have to pay off the balance. Since credit cards charge substantial interest, don’t use them for borrowing money.

  4. 4.

    Use psychology to your advantage. Visualize yourself paying for things with cash. Imagine how good it feels to be out of debt.

  5. 5.

    Develop a plan to pay off your debts. Make a chart listing your credit cards and their outstanding balances. Decide when you will have the balances paid off. (Be realistic. You probably won’t be able to do it in a month.) Post the chart in a prominent place; then work at making your plan a reality. Once you have paid off your cards, keep them paid off.

  6. 6.

    Don’t count on future income (such as your anticipated tax refund) to solve your credit card problems. Most people plan ways to spend windfalls three or four times before they actually receive them.

  7. 7.

    Develop a budget. Be realistic and flexible. You won’t stay on a budget that is too restrictive and doesn’t allow for an occasional splurge. (Just don’t use a credit card for that splurge!)

  8. 8.

    If needs be, get professional help. See a financial counselor or contact your national foundation for consumer credit.

  9. 9.

    If you have found that you are able to manage and use credit cards to your advantage, shop around for credit card bargains. Look for the lowest annual costs and interest rates. They do vary!

Sound hard? Of course! But look at the benefits: You will be in control of your financial destiny. You will no longer be a slave to banks and credit card companies. No longer will you pay extremely high interest rates. And you will know that you are acting responsibly with your finances.Sally R. Lester, financial planner, Lakewood, Colorado

[illustrations] Illustrated by Scott Greer