Understood Betsy

Dorothy Canfield Fisher

Understood Betsy is not a new book, but the themes are current and the messages and wisdom expressed are timeless. The book is worth reading for the story alone. Betsy is being raised by a doting aunt after her parents died and learned helplessness and fear are being nurtured by this fragile individual. Due to an illness in the family, she must be sent to relatives who live on a farm in Vermont. Betsy has been indoctrinated to understand that these relatives are not nice people and that this would be horrible for her. As soon as she arrives, her experiences appear to verify her expectations. She seems to be disregarded and expected to do things far beyond her abilities. Despite her expectations, she is surprised to discover that she has abilities she never knew that she had. She gradually experiences self-discovery through doing, by mastering useful skills while developing the confidence to face challenges and be responsible for herself and others. She starts to think for herself and model her decisions from what she has observed of her aunt in Vermont who she fears at first. She develops grit and the self-assurance necessary to be able to think of others and to care and help others.

The apparent clarity of explicit teaching can deceive us and cause us to forget the timeless power of stories to teach by example. I especially recommend this book to parents. It is a wonderful book to read aloud and share. It was written just over 100 years ago. Concerns about raising happy, competent children are not new. The world was also changing rapidly at that time as people were moving away from farms and nature due to industrialization, perhaps as dramatic a change to adapt to as those that we are currently experiencing. School was becoming industrialized instead of the interactive, personalized education of the one-room school house with a core message, continuity, and community. I enjoyed reading the book at least as much the second time.

More about reading:

The Enchanted Hour Part 1

Reader, Come Home

The Neural Basis of Reading

Superforecasting The Art and Science of Prediction

Philip E. Tetlock and Dan Gardner

We cannot avoid forecasting. Everything that we do is based on what we expect the outcome to be. Some forecasting is short-term and primarily preconscious such as planning a movement while taking into consideration the positions and movements of others around you. We have been making these kinds of predictions for millions of years and we apply the same processes to skills for which we have not evolved such as driving. Continue reading

Risk Savvy: How to Make Good Decisions

Gerd Gigenerzer


We make many decisions every day. There is no data for most of the decisions that we make and when there is, there is a good chance that we interpret them incorrectly. Because important decisions about health and healthcare are made based on statistics, it is important to understand relative and absolute risks and what the numbers really mean. Here is what the author has to say…. Continue reading

Rethinking School

How to Take Charge of Your Child’s Education

Susan Wise Bauer

Susan Wise Bauer is qualified to write about school and education. She is the author of 13 previous books and co-author of another, all on learning and education. She was home-schooled and home-schooled her children. She has practical experience on how educational systems work. If you and your child are struggling within the system, Susan Wise Bauer has practical recommendations to improve the fit between your child and the system. As she states: “Schools exist to serve children, not the other way around.” She also shares recommendations on homeschooling if that is your choice. Continue reading

The Blessing of a Skinned Knee


Wendy Mogel

Times change but basic human needs remain the same. While parenting needs to adapt to changes over time, such as smart phones, it also needs to remain unchanged in its fundamentals. While western society is more focused on the individual than traditional eastern societies, children need to learn to grow up within a community and be able to contribute to that community. Continue reading