Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Carnival of homeschooling

The Carnival of Homeschooling is up at Under the Golden Apple Tree, a new blog for me.   I haven't had a chance to check out the posts yet; I'll be going over in a little while.  I love the simplicity of the carnival this time.  I know the carnival hosts put a lot of effort into creating themes and adding photos and other extras to the carnival. I appreciate that, but I had been wondering lately about that trend.  I wouldn't have the time or ability to put such a carnival together!  So I'm happy to see a simple, straightforward carnival full of good reading.

Some people

A young woman posts a picture of herself and her husband on her blog.  They  have just come back from vacation and she's sharing a few photos.  She and her husband happen to be wearing shirts with name brands on them.  Hers is from a company that has been criticized for racy advertising. 

Oh, did I mention that she runs a Christian Bible study website and has written extensively on modesty?

A few hours later I see via facebook that she has removed the photo and is apologizing for offending people. Someone, somewhere, was upset by seeing the brand name on her shirt.

The photo wasn't inappropriate in any way.  She wasn't wearing skimpy beach clothing.  She and her husband weren't engaging in private behavior.  It was a beautiful photo of a happy couple on the beach.

Don't you just love people who have to complain about petty things?

I don't wear brand-emblazoned clothing, and I don't buy it for my kids.  The idea of spending money to advertise a company seems ludicrous to me.  I also don't shop in certain stores, including that one.  (I hardly shop at all, anyway.)  But there's no reason for me to be offended by someone else wearing it. I guess I might tsk-tsk at a kid wearing a shirt advertising beer or something like that. But, why even that? What do I know about it?

Do I know that the shirt isn't a hand-me-down or a gift?  Do I know if the person has limited money for clothing and  this is what was available at the thrift store?  Do I know that the wearer didn't borrow the shirt because she was cold?   Do I know that the person didn't buy the shirt years before the questionable advertising started?  Could it be that she just liked the shirt when she saw it in a store? 

Do I know anything about the person's motivation for wearing a particular article of clothing?

If a person writing about modesty continually posted pictures of herself in inappropriate clothing*, I might question the value of her teaching.  I might decide she was a hypocrite who, for some reason, writes about a way of life she doesn't even agree with.  (Must be for the big money Christian bloggers make.)  But one photo in a shirt consisting of block letters shouting out a name brand that is available in every mall in America? 
People, take care of your own families.  Watch what your children are wearing.  Teach them to be discerning about the message they send with their clothing and the money they spend.  Don't follow leaders who espouse a lifestyle that is wrong.

But don't go picking on someone for a single photo in a shirt from a store you don't like.

*This would include revealing clothing but also clothing designed to call undue attention to the wearer.  A woman can be perfectly covered with her clothing but if it is too tight or has inappropriate wording on it (such as "modest is hottest"), she is not dressing modestly.

What do you think?   I know this is an area where there are strong opinions.  Am I too easy-going?

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Ready to homeschool again

As I've said before, I haven't been enjoying homeschooling lately.  We've had a difficult time with motivation - mine and my students'.  I found myself getting frustrated too often.  Frustration shouldn't be associated with homeschooling in the kids' minds!.  I want them to have good memories of these days.  I don't want them, as adults, to think back and remember a tired, nasty Mom.  I'd been forcing pushing encouraging my kids toward more independence, and greater responsibility for their own educations.  We've had mixed results; change isn't always easy.

But I think we're coming out of it.  Things are looking better.  I'm looking forward to homeschooling again! If you are suffering from homeschool burnout, or frustration, or whatever you want to call it, you might try the following steps:

1. Sign up for a free Netflix trial.  (If you already have Netflix, skip to number 3.)

2. Fill up your instant queue with documentaries, old tv shows, and Dr. Who episodes.

3. Get your entire family, except yourself, sick for a week or so.  Not too sick!  We don't want doctor visits interrupting us. We don't want people to be miserable.  Just sick enough that hard work is out of the question. It's helpful if they have no appetite and food doesn't taste good - meal planning is much easier when buttered pasta and Gatorade is about all anyone wants to eat.

4. Let your kids read and watch documentaries and old tv shows much of the day. Watch some of the documentaries with them, preferably while knitting. Then talk about it all at mealtimes.

5. Spend that empty time reading novels, blogging, immersing yourself in a new Bible study, going out for coffee with friends in the morning and cocktails with friends in the evening, and doing a little homeschool planning.

6. When your kids are not watching tv and you're not reading novels, read something exciting yet schoolish to them, such as The Odyssey.  (Which is pure pleasure to read aloud; not difficult or tiring at all.  It's almost as if it was written to be spoken, not read silently.) Discuss.

Tomorrow is the start of a new week.  My family is getting over their sickness. I'm getting over my feeling of not wanting to homeschool.

None of the problems that caused me to stop loving homeschooling have actually been solved.  I still  have work to do, on myself and my kids.  But this break, though unplanned and not exactly fun, might have been just what I needed to get my perspective back.  I don't know if my kids are bored enough yet to get their perspective back.  I'll find out tomorrow.

Update:  It's tomorrow.  Kids woke up reasonably early, tired but healthy.  (They did need a little help to wake up. The dog is always happy to oblige.)  We discussed their assignments, then I left for a meeting I'd forgotten about.  When I got home, the work was mostly done.  One person expressed a need for help with something.  Piano practice had been accomplished.  Some creative writing had too.  Everyone seems happy, for the moment, to be back into a normal(ish) routine.  

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Sad and happy at the same time

Today I've spent a good amount of time going through books.  We have more books than we can fit in our house; much of our collection is stored in boxes in our dungeon (crawlspace).  They are all inventoried so if we need something we can find it, but it's still not convenient to have 50% (or more) of the family books packed away.

Many of those books are really not needed anymore, but we all have a hard time getting rid of old books. A couple of years ago I went through a period when I refused to get rid of any good books at all. I was afraid that everything decent is doomed to go out of print.  I have calmed down a bit since then, but I still plan to hang on to the best of the bunch.  But, we still have books that, while good, are not classics that must be preserved.  I am getting better at letting go.  The kids, not so much.  (I leave the seminarian out of this.  He never gets rid of anything.)

From time to time I will get out boxes of books from early in our homeschooling days and ask if there are any we can give away. The answer is almost always no. 

Today was different.  The kids were ready to get rid of some books!  Most of our medieval history was wiped out - at least those books for the 10 and under set.  Books on knights and castles - all going.  It's sad in a way. Those were well-loved books. But they aren't going to be re-read by my kids.  And they aren't such classics that we need to hang on to them for the next generation.   They were good books, but not great books.

It's kind of funny to see a boy saying "I don't even remember that book" about one he said he adored and could not bear to part with just a year ago.  But, that's what growing up will do for a guy.

We are keeping plenty of books.  There will be good storybooks for the grandchildren.  But we don't need to keep it all.  

It's a little sad, but it's nice to move some things out of the house.  I feel a little less burdened with every bag that goes to the library, or to a friend.  If we move, we'll have that many fewer boxes to load onto a truck.

And, it's nice to see my kids growing up. They have plenty of books ahead of them.

Two books

A couple of weeks ago I started reading two books.  I'd heard so many good things about both, and started them at the same time.

One was fiction that read like a memoir. It was beautiful and sad.  The other was a true memoir that seemed more like the story of every dysfunctional family you've ever heard of, rolled into one.

I gave up on The Glass Castle after a while.  It was riveting, but in the way an accident scene is riveting.  You feel like you shouldn't look, but you can't help it. It consisted of episode after episode of abusive parent stories. I don't mean to trivialize the author's experience.  I don't wonder, as others have, if it was really true. She had a horrid life. But I couldn't keep reading it.  People have told me that the book is really worthwhile as the author shows how she and her siblings overcame their early lives.  But I just couldn't get that far.

I'm glad I started reading The Distant Land of My Father at the same time.  This is a beautiful family story, though there is much dysfunction in it.  It also has rich historical detail that I find so appealing in a novel.

Anna is born in Shanghai in the early 1930s.  Her parents are American; her father, the child of missionaries, was also born there.  Her mother, Eve, moved from California when she married Joe.  Joe is a businessman who loves his family, but he loves business and Shangai more.  Eventually Eve takes Anna to California to escape the war.  Joe is supposed to follow them after finishing up some business, but... he doesn't come for a long time.  And when he comes, he doesn't stay.  He can't give up Shanghai.

The story moves effortlessly between Anna's life after leaving Shanghai and her father's story as he stays behind.   He is imprisoned twice - by the Japanese, and later by the Communists.

This is ultimately a very satisfying story of love and forgiveness.  Maybe all good stories are about love and forgiveness.

Here is a passage I found particularly sweet. Anna describes her feelings after her mother dies.  It perfectly describes the way I felt after my own mother's death: 
With her death, a part of my life just disappeared.  Many times a day, I picked up the phone and put it down again, remembering too late.  Over and over, I thought to tell her something, or ask her something, or see if she'd like to do something, and over and over, I reminded myself that she was gone - a fact that never made any sense - and the dull ache inside me would start up again.
I am looking forward to Bo Caldwell's next novel, City of Tranquil Light

The evolution of Saturdays

Some time ago, in another life, Saturday was the day to sleep in.  Sunday was too, I think.  In those days before marriage and kids, when going to church didn't seem very important, when Friday night was for staying out late, weekends were for doing... not much of anything.

That time seems awfully far away now.  Sometimes I can't even believe those days existed.

Today I think I achieved my as-close-to-perfect-as-it's-going-to-get  Saturday morning:

Up early, about 6:30.  Some of you are snorting in derision; 6:30 is early enough for me, right now.

The internet.   I admit I start my day by checking email, facebook, the weather...  I might catch up on a little correspondence. 

A cup of tea.  I like coffee in the morning, but when I'm up alone tea is easier and quieter.  Our house is small, so I need to be quiet on my Saturday mornings. 

My Bible and notebook. I've been playing catch-up with the James Bible study that is almost over at Good Morning Girls.  I don't know if they will be starting a new study later this month, but I want to be ready if they do.   Also, I'm enjoying it so much - it's just exactly what I need right now - that I don't want to slow down.  I rely on Monergism for commentary and sermons if I want more help with a passage of Scripture. 

Other books, if there is time.  I'm starting to read Desiring God, thanks to this discovery yesterday.  Or maybe a good novel.

Music, usually via Pandora radio.   I have a chamber music station that I can play softly while I read.  

Unless there is some activity for which I need to get my family up, I usually have 1 to 1/2 hours on my own.  If I use this time well, I am very satisfied and content and happy to see my family when they get up.

If I don't use it well - if instead of reading, I randomly mess around on the internet, reading too many blogs and blog comments, checking out youtube videos or reading news stories that are irrelevant to me, or if I just stay in bed too long and get a late start - I am annoyed by my family's rising.  I hear their footsteps above me and grumble inside my head. 

Which way do you think is the better start to the day?

This morning I was happy to hear the seminarian getting up.  We enjoyed a nice breakfast together and let the kids sleep.  

A few months ago I started trying out a regular Saturday post, my Saturday morning journal.  I took a blogging break and gave it up.  Maybe I'll start again.

How is your Saturday going?

Friday, April 01, 2011

Five Minute Friday: Favorite Things

This week's Five Minute Friday writing prompt is all about favorite things.


Of course, my husband and children are at the top.  Do they count as things?  For this they do.  When I think of what my life would have been like if they hadn't come along... oh.  Oh no.

Reading to my kids has always been one of my favorite ways to spend time. We have read so many books together, and now as they enter their teens we are still doing it.  Sharing The Odyssey with them right now.  Wow. What a privilege to get to share great literature with my kids.  I'd love a little more time to read on my own, but, maybe that'll come later.

Cooking for my family and others is also a favorite thing.  I love to please people with delicious food.  Most people enjoy food and are easy to please.   Homemade bread is probably at the top of that list.

My firm faith in our sovereign God is one of my favorite things.  I don't  know that I could go on, sometimes, without that.

Fabric, yarn, embroidery thread and cloth... favorite things I don't get to play with much these days.  But my stash will be here when I'm ready.

Books and music.  The tulips that should be blooming soon.  Old friends who stay in touch with me when I seem to want to fall out of touch with them.

Stop.  That was five minutes.

Share yours or read others at The Gypsy Mama

Oh no. My kids will be so mad if they ever read this... I didn't list the dog!  .