homeschooling, homemaking, homesteading...home.

Friday, September 23, 2011

this moment: cousins

{this moment} - A soulemama Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.



Friday, September 16, 2011

A chill in the air

The nights are getting colder this week, so we put on some socks. Hand-knitted-by-Mom socks.



J has a custom-made pair too, but it was past his bedtime when the rest of us be-cozied ourselves. ;)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

C, Unboxed

There's an ongoing criticism of standardized testing that many of the questions are culturally biased...that children from less mainstream (Judeo-Christian, white, middle class?) backgrounds might not share the same frame of reference and therefore misinterpret the intended meaning of certain elements. I think the issue goes beyond testing, all the way to instruction...and it's based more on a personal level than a necessarily shared one.

C has been reminding me of this as we make our way through some practice worksheets. Case in point: we did a few worksheets on phonemic awareness yesterday, and because the materials are aimed at pre-readers, the clues were pictograms. When T saw this picture:

he interpreted "bib" and answered accordingly. However, C interpreted "apron" and answered based on that. They had different answers, both correct according to their assumptions; and yet going by a teacher's key, one child would certainly be considered "wrong".

But is it wrong? Frankly, that looks just as much like an apron as it does a bib.

It reminds me of something that happened to me when I was in Kindergarten...something that struck me as so unfair--and illogically so--that it got burned into my memory. We were doing worksheets on color. Each page had a number of line drawings. The idea was that the student should color only the pictures that were the assigned color. For instance, on "red" day one might color the strawberry but not the banana, and so forth. The assignment was blue, and I was told that my work was "incorrect" because I had failed to color the bird. I argued with my teacher that I didn't color the bird blue because MY bird was a crow.

Oooh, now I've crossed over to a slightly different issue...but I do think they're essentially the same. First, standardized materials and greatest-common-denominator instruction and grading/evaluation are flawed if the subject matter is in any way open to subjective interpretation. In addition, there's the creativity-and-imagination element that gets suppressed in the interest of matching an outside expectation.

Both of these things SUCK.

I've seen a lot of "alternative interpretations" from C as I try to guide him through more structured, traditional "learning" tools, and it's really opening my eyes. We've had a bit of a rocky time lately, me and him--with him asking to attend school and me scrambling to reconcile my desire to honor his interests with my own hesitations about the public schooling model. Seeing how my extremely bright child would quickly get hammered down as "wrong" for not fitting the mold has reassured me that my instincts are in many ways the right choice for him. Yes, he could learn to suppress his instincts and play the game by learning how to anticipate the desired answer. Many children do. But what are they compromising in the process? What are they losing?

I'm not sure it's an acceptable loss.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

In Which Popular Culture Makes Me Neurotic

I drafted this post eons ago. Well, *months* ago. And then I forgot about it. I was reminded of it as I walked down the stairs this morning without a death-grip on the handrail, and dusted it off. It's still relevant, I think. ;) Here's a little peek into the inner workings of my overthinking...a few of the ways in which media has shaped me into the mildly crazy person I am today. Such as...

GONE WITH THE WIND
I don't think I've watched this movie in its entirety since I was about 9 years old. I know everyone's (or at least us womenfolk) expected to luuuuuuurve it, but it's just never really grabbed me the way it's apparently supposed to have. At any rate, one image has stuck with me throughout my life, and as a result...every time I am pregnant, I become hypervigilant about using the handrail on staircases. Yes, I have this breath-quickening phobia of falling down the stairs and losing the baby. All because of Scarlett Freaking O'Hara.

CAT'S IN THE CRADLE
I've done a lot of pondering on parental guilt and it's a complicated beast...born of our own pasts (both personal and cultural) and fears and more. Every time my kids want me to play with them and I refuse because I have grown-up obligations to take care of and sometimes it really is more important for me to spend my time preparing a meal than pushing around Thomas characters...well, I feel guilty. Whether I cave and play, or stand firm and do grown-up chores, this little voice in the back of my mind whispers things like, "They'll only be this young for a short time" and "what will you regret more in the future: time lost with them, or a dirty house?".

Maybe mothers have always fought this battle, but it seems that modern mothers are far more likely to cave to the playmate role more frequently than our predecessors in previous generations. I think a big part of this is the song that was drilled into my psyche in my formative years (and then reinforced with a cover version right around my advent into adulthood, just in case the message hadn't gotten through). Thanks, Harry Chapin. And Ugly Kid Joe. My battle for emotional balance is SO much harder because of this song.

THE VELVETEEN RABBIT
This little gem screwed me up twice. It's a touching story of the power of love and loyalty. It's also creepy as hell. Seriously, re-read it as an adult...its harsh "way of the world" sensibilities are a bit horrifying. Devote your entire self to another and get rewarded with casual derision and a firey death!

Ahem. Anyway. The story of the sensitive little toy did two things to me. First, as a child, I was neurotically conscious of my stuffed toys and their presumed feelings. Although I secretly felt drawn to favorites, I carefully cycled which toy I slept with every night, lest the others feel jealous or unloved. The fact that I remember this speaks to just how long this process continued.

Now I am all growed up, I suspect that part of my difficulty in purging clutter comes from the lessons taught in this book. No, I don't think that the ratty old teddy bear has feelings. But when I look at items that have outlived their usefulness in our lives, I often have trouble parting with them because of the memory of a time when they were useful, and loved. I get nostalgic for the memory and cannot easily draw a distinction between the memory and the thing. As a result, I have a great number of things in our living and storage areas that really should have been jettisoned long ago.

So there you have it. Apparently I take in just a little bit more than I need to from entertainment.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

In Which Everything Changes

Sixteen days ago, my family welcomed its youngest member...a little boy, strong and healthy. And this change is changing everything else.

Because I have a newborn (and because I have been recovering from surgery), I have not been as available to my other children. I have not been able (at first) or as willing (later) to go on impromptu outings. My desire to start some more structured homeschool instruction? Back burner, alas. And blogging? Knitting? Sewing? Ha! I cannot plan my day, or commit to others' plans. My house is a disaster, I shower sporadically...ah yes, I remember how this time goes. My older kids are understandably a bit put-out, but I really have to give credit where credit is due. They both, at  only 7 and 5, have shown a great deal of emotional maturity in their patience with the baby and with me, and in their ability to articulate their feelings rather than just acting out. I'm awed...and grateful.

Because I have a newborn, I also have an overabundance of joy. Yes, this little bundle of needs is high-maintenance, but he's also just wonderful. I complain that I can "never put him down" and then the moment he falls asleep in my arms, I find that all I want to do is just gaze at him and nuzzle him and take in that new-baby smell. And the joy is shared and returned with interest. Every time my husband snuggles the little one, I fall in love with him all over again. Every small chore that my stepsons help with gives me faith that teenage boys may not be beyond redemption. (Sarcasm, people...don't get your panties in a bunch.) And ZOMG when T and C sing to their baby brother...my heart just about bursts from happiness.

The "wonders" in my life have just increased immeasurably. You just might not hear about them so frequently for a while. And that's as it should be. ♥

Welcome our newest wonder...J.