Thursday, January 28, 2010

Of Visions and Foundations...

In educational and parenting circles we often talk about laying a good foundation for learning, but that is not the first step by any means.

We are in the beginning process of building a cottage on our farm. [see the pink line representing the position of our cottage/retirement home?] Well, we not building it ourselves, but are having it built according to our dreams and specifications. And guess what? We have already done a lot of the leg work, and the pouring of the foundation has not even begun! We have gotten the building permit, the septic study is done, the electricity ordered, our funding lined up, a construction drive/road has been put in, and last night we staked out the actual location of the cottage. All this had to be in place before the builder can get the walk-out basement dug out--AND then he can pour the concrete foundation.

But before all this was done, we had to have a vision of what we wanted. We had to have a plan-a goal-something we were aiming for. Without the vision of what could be accomplished with the funds we have, we could not have designed a floor plan and without the floor plan we could not get a building permit and get the idea.

I started thinking about parenting and homeschooling in this light. We can't really lay a good foundation if we don't have the vision and goals for our kids. I mean, if we don't have a target goal how do we know what we are aiming for? We can't really lay a foundation until we have an over-arching goal for our kids and our families.

I guess what I am saying is, what is your goal? Do you know? Have you thought about it, or are you just sort of camping out on the hill with no thought of laying a foundation?

Goals can change over the years, but I found that if you deliberately choose a goal, write it down and aim for it, it is much easier to lay a good foundation. You might wonder what kind of a goal I am talking about. The one that I wrote down and kept close to my heart as my kids were growing up was:

"We desire that our children grow in wisdom, and in stature and in favor with God and Man."

Short, sweet and perfect for our vision. Once we had that as our goal, then it was easier to decide what things were important to support that goal, and what things took us away from that goal. It served as that target to aim for when sometimes it seemed that daily survival was all we could see.

In the midst of training children, sometimes it is hard to see our ultimate goal and we get lost in the immediate [laundry, meals, medical, dishes, housework, schoolwork, lessons, church, clubs...].

I have known many parents who want to keep their kids happy, or want to be their kids best friends, or want their kids to have a worry-free childhood. This might be nice in the short term, but usually these techniques do not produce children who have a good self image or are prepared to assume adult responsibilities when their time comes or who put others first. If the parents of in these families had had the goal of:

"Raising children to be capable adults who use their gifts and talents to help others and society,"

they may have made other choices as they were raising their children. The foundation these children had would have been very different.

I am not trying to tell you what your goal should be, but I am encouraging you to write out a thoughtful, carefully expressed goal for your family so you can see where you are headed. Then you can made decisions that will help you reach this goal. Once you have the vision, then you can build the road, lay the foundation and build the type of family you have dreamed of.

Take care,

[Both pictures are of the laying of the position of the cottage. The builder had it in a little different place at a different angle, but because I had the vision of how I wanted it to look, we pulled up the stakes and then put them in right! To follow our building project you can check out my other blog: Bluegrass Moms Perspective.]

Monday, January 25, 2010

Illegal punctuation...

I have a friend who has taught English at a Christian school in Haiti for about 9 years. Since the earthquake she and her two children have been evacuated to the US while her husband remains behind overseeing the use of the school building which is being used for disaster relief.

At any rate, she enrolled her children in our local schools. They are in 1st and 6th grades and have always attended the school in Haiti where both their parents work. So, for the first time last week, they got on a big yellow bus and went to public school in Kentucky. It is quite a change for them, but they seem to be adapting quite well.

The daughter is in middle school and is academically ready for community college. Her vocabulary and critical thinking skills are amazing--way beyond a typical or even bright student of her age. She is really loving school, except for English class.

Now in all fairness, her mom was her English teacher in Haiti, so that may play into to it some, but basically she is being taught a very formulaic writing, with lots of rules and boundaries. She is being taught things that she has probably known for years and years; as this child is quite a writer.

At any rate--she was told--she could not use dashes in her writing! Never! When she asked why, the teacher said, "We don't use them in this country."


As you can see I am probably flaunting the law because I LOVE using dashes in my writing. It is what sets us apart from the animals--well maybe not that dramatic--but they are a very useful type of punctuation.

The daughter of my friend said, "That's OK, I will use parenthesis," but my friend and I really laughed about this. Here is a kid who is an amazing writer, has just been evacuated from the devastation of Haiti, leaving behind her father as well as her friends and her whole world--and the teacher won't let her use dashes!

I am reminded that people who actually follow all the writing rules rarely write anything worth reading. It is the writer who dares to break some rules, who dares to be brave enough to try something different, who dares to make themselves unique and vulnerable in print--that is the writer who writes things the rest of us want to read.

If we want dull and uninspired writing all we need to do is go into a writing class where everyone has to write the same way about the same topic at the same time whether they are passionate about it or not. That is not really writing, it is just passing time and not really profitable to the writer or the writee [spell check did not like that word, but you know what I mean].

In writing, more than anything else, we need basic tools to work with, but then we need to let the writer interpret and bend the rules so they can engage and inspire the reader.

NO Dashes?-- Banned Punctuation?-- What is this world coming to?

I mean, come-on! [Can you hear my voice? I think it is the dashes that help you hear what I am saying, don't you?]

So, this is for Susanna-------------- Use parenthesis for a while if you must but don't lose your dashes. Don't lose your creativity, your passion, your gift. Be a writer who isn't afraid to break the rules and tell us what you think. We need you and your talents--dashes and all.

Take care,