Archive for April 2008

The things that pass for knowledge, I can’t understand…

April 29, 2008

Well, last week I had someone “test” one of my daughters for the first time. The woman is a preschool teacher whose son plays t-ball with my older daughter. So we’re sitting there watching practice and my 2 1/2 brings her ball over. The woman starts asking my little one what color her ball is and what shape. When she gets the responses she was looking for, the woman smiles and says, “I can see your mom has been doing her job.”

I knew exactly what she was doing when she started asking questions. She was testing my daughter because she knows we homeschool. It’s hard to describe which emotion I felt first. There was the smugness when my little one answered correctly. There was the disgust at the audacity of this woman testing my child; would she do that to a child that she knew went to preschool? (Not to mention that my little one isn’t even old enough for preschool yet.) There was the embarrassment of being given credit for something that I am not sure that I deserve. There was a certain pride in hitting a homeschooling milestone, even if it is a ridiculous one.

I wonder how many more times my kids will be tested in this manner by skeptics as we go through our homeschooling journey, and I wonder if they will “pass” or “fail”.  I know that schooled kids get “tested” regularly, but they are always told before hand what will be on the test.  (That in itself makes one wonder if learning retention is truly being measured or just study, memorization, and testing ability.)  What if my daughter doesn’t know the names and order of every President of the U.S. or a million other little “facts” that her random tester thinks that she should know by a certain age?  “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?” just proves that the things that pass for knowledge in school do not always relate to one’s ability to function in adult life.

And I have long held the belief that there is a thin line between genius and stupidity as well as genius and insanity.  Living in an Honors dorm in college I saw a lot of very “brilliant” people who could barely function in society (and none of them were homeschooled).  So, I don’t strive to turn my kids into geniuses.  If they happen to be geniuses, well, I don’t know if I would deserve the credit or not.  I figure as long as they can read, write, and do basic math everything else is will fall into place.  It’s much important to me that my children develop critical thinking skills than rote memorization skills.

Anyways, most people today are judged by their knowledge of pop culture rather than their knowledge of history or science.  I sometimes think that people worry about “poor little homeschooled kids” because they might be missing out on the latest fads at school rather than the actual content of the text books.

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CFC: Section III The Blessed Trinity

April 28, 2008

Section III of the Catechism for First Communicants ( p. 7 & 8 ) discusses The Blessed Trinity. It tells us: “There is only one God. In God there are three Divine Persons. The Father is the first Person. The Son is the Second Person. The Holy Ghost is the third Person. The Father is God. The Son is God. The Holy Ghost is God. The three Divine Persons are one God. We call the three Divine Persons in God the Blessed Trinity.”

Well, talk about something that is both clear and confusing. St. Patrick totally deserves credit for his shamrock analogy. It’s easy to see how people could misconstrue this basic Christian doctrine. It could appear that Christians worship three Gods (, and some like to incorrectly suggest that Catholics worship the goddess Mary, too). And it may be slightly blasphemous (what can I say I am a Monty Python fan), but I just envisioned in my mind that the Blessed Trinity is kind of like Siamese triplets. Three distinct personalities who share one body. Of course, that also kind of sounds like Sybl; except she had more than three personalities. I’m just saying that this is one of those things that can kind of strain your brain to understand.

There are a few sects that don’t recognize the Trinity at all, but I can’t think which ones off hand. It’s times like this when I wish I wasn’t too lazy to go upstairs and root through the closet for my copy of The Joy of Sects. And then some denominations put more focus on one part of the Trinity over others. For instance, Pentecostals seem to put a lot of emphasis on the workings of the Holy Ghost, aka Spirit. Scott Hahn, the great Catholic convert and theologian, wrote something to the effect that the biggest problem with Protestants is that they tend to put too much emphasis on Jesus, kind of forgetting sometimes that there are two other members of the Blessed Trinity. Growing up Catholic I felt I had a pretty healthy understanding of God the Father and Jesus the Son. It’s only recently that I feel that I’ve begun to understand and appreciate the Holy Spirit. That’s pretty sad since I supposedly received the Holy Spirit at Confirmation; of course, back then the teachers were emphasizing that Confirmation made us “adults in the Church”.

I have other thoughts about each member of the Blessed Trinity, but *spoiler alert* the CFC goes more in depth about each member in the next few sections. The end-of-section prayer reads: “By the sign of the cross we please God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. I will often make the sign of the cross.” Non-Catholics are often intrigued by the sign of the cross, especially the baseball fans. Sometimes I think they see it as some sort of secret handshake. It’s really just an acknowledgment of the Blessed Trinity. Although, Scott Hahn goes in depth about the solemnity of the sign of the cross in his book Swear to God, which is one of his better books in my opinion. May have to pull that one back off of the shelf sometime soon.

How I Came to Love Buffy

April 28, 2008

If you had told me in 1997 that I would one day cite Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series as my favorite show of all time, I would say you were crazy. You see I had absolutely loved the 1992 movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was one of those cult movies that seeped into the vocabulary of young teens, like Valley Girl (1983), Heathers (1989), and later Clueless (1995). Just like “gag me with a spoon”, “I’ve gotta motor if I’m going to make to that funeral”, and “as if”, the Buffy movie was full of great lines like “All I want to do is graduate high school, move to Europe, marry Christian Slater, and die.” That was my philosophy around age 14 when the movie came out. So in 1997, I could only view the television series as a lame attempt to cash in on the success of the movie. (Of course, I did not realize at the time that the movie had been universally panned by critics, hence its cult classic status.)

The premiere of the Buffy television series also occurred during my Sophomore year of college, and I really wasn’t watching much television in college. It wasn’t until a year after I graduated that I discovered syndicated episodes of Buffy on FX. I would come home from my crappy, first post-college job and vegetate in front of the television watching reruns while I ate my dinner. I was intrigued, but I wasn’t hooked yet.

I decided to start watching first-run episodes a few episodes into Season 4. At first I was shocked, because in the first new episode I saw Buffy had sex with some guy she just met at college. I didn’t expect such an “adult” situation. Plus, I am a little prudish (or just smart) when it comes to the issue of premarital sex. I was less shocked after seeing that episode in context with the rest of the season and series, although I am still not a big fan of gratuitous sex on television.

As I watched more and more Buffy, though, I was struck by it’s complex use of characters, plot, metaphor, and humor. In almost every episode there was something with which the viewer could sympathize. And the writing was just excellent from start to finish of the show. They also made excellent use of the show’s history and tried to incorporate a few shout outs to the movie that I fell in love with as a teen.

Is Buffy something I would necessarily allow my kids to watch? Not anytime soon. Despite being initially marketed to teens, I don’t think it was ever really a show for teens despites it’s “high school is hell” metaphor. I wonder, too, with my children being homeschooled if they will be able to relate to it the way I have. I really have enjoyed Buffy, though. Part of me is so glad that they stopped making new episodes before they jumped the shark, but part of me also misses it. I still have my DVD’s, though.

Meet the Munchkins

April 25, 2008

I love my kids. I mean it. I LOVE my kids. They crack me up at least ten times a day each. (They also drive me crazy about ten times a day each, but that’s another story.) And while they have certain things in common, they are both very unique people. Every night when I’m lying in bed and my younger daughter is quiet and sleeping next to me, I think about how lucky I am to have my girls and I thank the Lord. So, I’ve been thinking I would tell you a little bit about these two special little people.

My older daughter is almost 5 1/2. She is intense. Her intensity used to drive me completely crazy until I realized that she is what is known as a “spirited” child. That explained why she would have meltdowns over little things, like her socks, and continues to test me on everything over and over. And they are emotional meltdowns, not tantrums; although she has had tantrums, too. So now I watch her triggers, and I keep her personality traits in positive perspective thanks to the book Raising your Spirited Child. She’s not loud; she’s “enthusiastic and zestful”. She’s not argumentative; she’s “opinionated and strongly committed to her goals”. She’s not nosy; she’s “curious”. She’s not explosive; she’s “dramatic”.

I assessed her learning style last summer (I can’t remember which book I used), but it said that she would do well using computer games. She does learn a lot from playing on the computer and watching television. She plays a lot of pre-school/kindergarten websites, but for someone who can’t really read yet she can also navigate herself around ones for older kids like Club Penguin and Barbie Girls. She has an excellent vocabulary, and she’s doing pretty well with addition of small numbers. If she were going to school, she would be eligible for kindergarten this coming fall, but I think academically there’s a good chance she would get bored. She has a low threshold for tedious repetition, which schools are full of.

Words that I use to describe her include: passion, trickster, tender, and assertive. She is so full of passion. She has high highs and low lows. It’s that passion that makes her so decisive and argumentative-I mean, “opinionated and strongly committed to her goals”. If she can learn to respectfully channel that passion, I believe that it can really take her far in life.  She is also a trickster; she wants to play practical jokes on people all of the time. Although, she is better at dishing it out than taking it. She is very tender with children smaller than her; she’s like a little mommy. She wants to take care of them, especially when they are hurt or upset. She will often extend that same tenderness to the adults in her life. And my oldest dear daughter is very assertive. Once she gets to know you she will talk your ear off, but even if she doesn’t completely know you, she is not a crowd follower. When she was in her first gymnastics class at age three, the teachers asked her to do something with which she wasn’t comfortable. She looked at them and politely said, “I think I refuse.” Recently, at t-ball practice her coach asked her to yell and scream on her way to home plate, and she promptly told him “I don’t want to”. She is not disobedient about the rules (at least in her classes), but she is not afraid to stand up for her concerns, either.

My younger daughter is just shy of 2 1/2. Her two mottoes are “I want to do it myself” and “I want to be naked”. She is very independent, and pretty much all of her tantrums revolve around her independence being thwarted. She is also generally pretty obedient; she may pretend to test me sometimes with a little grin on her face, but she rarely actually disobeys. She is also the most self-aware child I have ever encountered. Since she was about 18 months old she would tell me when she was ready to go to bed at night. She’d say, “Mommy, nap time.” At first, I thought it was a scam, but then she would put on her pajamas and go through the routine without a fight and be asleep within fifteen or twenty minutes.

She does not like receiving affection, though. She will give hugs and kisses on the cheek or nose (not the lips) when she feels like it, but she gets angry when people try to give her hugs and kisses without her permission. It is so hard because she is just so cute and kissable. The only one who can consistently get away with giving her affection is her big sister. She also still gives her big sister the most affection. Although, lately the baby in my belly has been getting a lot of kisses.

Her vocabulary is outrageous for her age. A few weeks ago she used the term “culinary” while playing in the toy kitchen at her granny’s house. At her two-year check up when the pediatrician asked if she was starting to string a few words together, we just laughed because she was already making short sentences. She’s also know all of her colors and shapes since before she was two (at Christmas she surprised us by knowing a trapezoid). She can count amounts up to about three or four, but she can’t recognize written numbers yet. She can recognize most of the letters of the alphabet, though. In the past few weeks, she has figured out how to use the mouse on the computer by herself which has opened whole new avenues of fun and learning.

Words I use to describe her include: focus, jokester, and spunky. From the time she was a baby, you could hand her a toy and she would proceed to examine it from every possible angle. She still has the same focus. Her ability to focus makes her appear very coordinated for her age, as she doesn’t usually make a big mess when she eats and she can already whack the ball pretty well off of a tee. She loves to make other people laugh; that’s why she is a jokester. She is always using funny voices and making funny faces, intentionally. While she pretty much goes with the flow most of the time, she is nobody’s doormat. She does not hesitate to stand up for herself or retaliate when she thinks she has been wronged. Other than working on the retaliation a bit, I am glad that she has such spunk.

Both of my girls enjoy dancing, singing, songwriting, the Beatles, SpongeBob SquarePants and playing sports with their Daddy.  They are both outgoing and make friends easily.  Then they have their little differences.  The older one dislikes talking on the phone and tomato sauce (except on pizza).  The younger one loves talking on the phone and dislikes hamburger.   It’s all a part of what makes them special.  So, if they ever ask me which one I love more, I can honestly say that I love them for the unique person each one of them is.

Now I can’t wait to meet this new little one and see what kind of person she turns out to be.  I wonder what characteristics she will share with each of her big sisters and which ones will be all her own.  I try to imagine what she will look like when she is born and as she gets older.  And I really can’t wait to see her with her big sisters and see her big sisters with her.  I love my kids.  I mean it.  I LOVE my kids.

Disclaimer:  I do not claim to be “Super Homeschooling Stay-at-Home Mom”.  I make lots of mistakes and like most moms there are things I want to do better.  I just want to share that I really LOVE my kids, and I love that I get to be home to see all of them all the time (except for those times I wish I could run away).

Baby Junk

April 24, 2008

What is it about having a baby that gives one the overwhelming desire to buy things that they really probably don’t need? This is my third one; you’d think by now that I wouldn’t be sucked into it anymore. At the start of this pregnancy I was all set, though, to get a new infant car seat (since now the fancy ones hold up to 30 lbs of baby) and a double stroller. After a week of looking at all of the seats we already owned (two Britax convertibles and a another brand of booster with a removable five-point harness) and their expiration dates (7 years from manufacture due to plastic corrosion), I realized that the most cost efficient option was to buy a lap booster for $25 for my older girl, move the younger daughter into the booster with the five-point harness, and use the last year of one of the Britax’s for the newborn. (The other Britax is already expired.) So I’ll spend my big bucks on a new car seat when the new baby hits one-year and moves to forward-facing, preferably one that holds up to age 8 so I won’t have to buy anymore car seats.

I also gave up on the double stroller. Our old beat up big stroller and our little umbrella will just have to do. My two-year-old usually prefers walking anyway, and she is pretty good at taking direction. If I have a hard time wrangling her and her big sister in addition to a single stroller, I may revisit the double stroller idea. I figure I also have my Maya wrap to carry the new baby in.

The latest thing I’ve been drooling over is a new diaper bag. I’ve been thinking less in terms of what I need to lug around for the new baby and more about what I need to lug around for all three kids. I really like the look of the Urban Backpack at One Step Ahead, but I haven’t been willing to pay $80 plus tax and shipping for a diaper bag. I was considering a different diaper bag at my local Carter’s Outlet for $50. But I really wanted one that I thought would hold two water bottles or two bottles with straws without spilling water all over everything. Finally, I realized that I’m probably best using a cheap black backpack I bought for traveling. It holds two water bottles in netting outside the bag and has tons of little pockets and pouches for storing little items. I bought a portable changing pad to throw in there. I’ll probably get another free bag in the hospital from one of the formula companies anyways.

Then I started thinking about the baby items I had bought in the past that I would skip if I could go back in time.

1. The netting to go over the pack ‘n’ play bassinet: it never discouraged the crazy cat we used to have from jumping in the bassinet.

2. The glider rocker: It gets progressively harder to nurse your baby in it as your baby gets bigger thanks to the high and hard arm rests. I should have shelled out the money for a real rocker/recliner, and maybe that crazy cat wouldn’t have used the cushions as a scratching post. Plus glider rockers really collect dust underneath.

3. Any sleepers that do not have snaps on the inside of both legs: If there are only snaps on one leg than you basically have to take the entire sleeper off to change a diaper or risk breaking your baby’s leg that is trapped in the snapless side.

4. Ear thermometer: The fancy one we bought with our first child required two hands to operate. You had to stick the thermometer in the ear with one hand and pull on the child’s ear lobe with the other. And with your imaginary octopus arms you had to keep the baby completely still during this uncomfortable experience in order to get a reading. Now I just do the thermometer under the arm.

Then there are the items that I was never tempted to buy like a diaper wipes warmer or tennis shoes for a child under the age of 1. (In fact, I don’t buy any hard-soled shoes until my little ones insist on walking outside all of the time.) Then there are the items that seem like a cool idea but are really unnecessary or can be made less expensively at home (like knee pads for crawling babies). I am still undecided on the nasal clear. It is either complete genius or completely ridiculous.

CFC: Sections I and II

April 22, 2008

In my continuing series on the fourth edition of the Catechism for First Communicants (copyright 1944) I’ll look at sections I and II on pages 6 and 7.

The first section is entitled Why We Are On Earth. Remember that this book is set in a question and answer format. The answers tell us, “We are on earth to be good and to go to heaven. To go to heaven, we must do what God wants us to do. God wants us to know Him, to love Him, and to obey him. If we are good, we shall go to heaven when we die. If we are bad, we shall go to hell when we die.” This all seems pretty straightforward if possibly a little simplistic. This book was written for six-year-olds, though.

My dad loves this beginning section, though; he talks about books like The Purpose Driven Life and laughs that the purpose of life was spelled out to him in this book when he was six years old. I had no such luck in my shoddy religion classes. My husband, who attended a Southern Baptist church as a child, is kind of surprised how little hell was emphasized in my religious education and church. We were aware of what hell was (you’d have to live under a rock not to since the concept permeates society in general), but it wasn’t used to frighten us into obedience a regular basis. I don’t know if that’s just the “kumbaya” Catholicism again or a real difference between Catholicism and some Protestant denominations.

The prayer at the end of section one reads: “Our great work on earth is to be good, so we can go to heaven. Dear Lord, help me to be good!” Some Protestants might misconstrue this prayer, or even this whole section, as meaning that good works equates going to heaven. You’ll note, though, that the work that God wants us to do is “to know Him, to love Him, and to obey Him”. Being saved is often described as “accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior”. Is there just a semantic difference between the two? Can you “accept” Jesus if you don’t strive to know Him, love Him, and obey Him?

Section II is entitled God, such a simple title for such a limitless subject. “God is the Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things. We cannot see God with the eyes of our bodies. God sees us and watches over us. God knows all things, even our thoughts. God is everywhere. God had no beginning. God will never come to an end. God can do all things. God is all-good. God loves what is good and hates what is evil. God rewards the good and punishes the wicked. God always forgives our sins, if we are sorry for them.”

Prayer: “God knows everything we say, think, and do. He will reward us, if we are good, and He will punish us if we are bad. I will never say, think, or do anything bad.”

Again, most of this seems pretty straightforward. Explaining God’s omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence can be tricky with children who are still thinking in very concrete terms. At least by this age, children understand object permanence, but it can be a little confusing when the object is invisible.

I can see where the whole reward/punishment thing could be confusing for a little kid, though. It’s not uncommon for little kids to be punished for things they say or do, but what about for the things they think? We all think things that we wouldn’t say or do. For kids the punishment needs to happen as soon as possible after the offense. Would it shake a little child’s faith to think a bad thought and not receive any punishment? And what about when they happen to get away with being disobedient other times? Then there is the tricky concept of innocent suffering, which many adults have a problem with. A kid could get a complex thinking that their mom got cancer because of a bad thought they had last week that appeared to go unpunished at first. Maybe I am just over-thinking this one.

At the same time, these passages reminds me of Jimmy Carter’s statement that “I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times”. He was referring to the same concept that our thoughts can be as sinful as our actions. This idea obviously isn’t just a Catholic thing.

The Year’s at the Spring

April 21, 2008

The year’s at the spring, And the day’s at the morn;

Morning’s at seven; The hill-side’s dew-pearled;

The lark’s on the wing; The snail’s on the thorn;

God’s in his heaven-All’s right with the world!

-Robert Browning

Spring appears to have finally sprung in the Chicago area. Hallelujah!! Most of our afternoons have been in the 60’s and 70’s, even the overcast ones. The grass is finally turning green, and the trees are starting to bud. We may have a few more cool snaps in the next few weeks, but hopefully we have seen the end of the snow until November.

We’ve already taken our first walk to the “duckpond”, and now our village has even built a second duckpond with a walking path down the street. Older dd has her first t-ball game tomorrow night, provided that the predicted thunderstorm doesn’t muddy the fields too much. And I am really hoping that two weeks from now I will be home from the hospital with a snuggly, pink bundle.