Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Baby Students...

I am feeling sad this morning after reading a post on the Sonlighter Club Forums from a mom with a 19 month old. She says that she started "Your Baby Can Read" with him when he was 3 months old and he had mastered the program by his first birthday. Now he has been working on letter names, shapes, colors and working on identifying the United States. She wants to know if he is ready for a kindergarten program.

What? I want to shake her and wonder what she is thinking? What is the purpose of this? Do we want him to be able to read War and Peace when he is six? Does she want him to go off to work with his little brief case when he is 12? Does she just like to have her son perform for Grandma and the neighbors?

When did we get to be a people who put so much emphasis on academics and so little on play and relationships and using imaginations? I heard a NPR story a couple of weeks ago about a country [Sweden?] which mandates full day school for children as young as 2! They interviewed some parents and they thought it was great that their children are getting professional teaching at that young age.

One mom cooed over her child who could spout off nursery rhymes by memory--as if that is a reason to send your 2 year old away for 35+ hours a week! The "professionals" and I use that term lightly, have convinced parents that they cannot possibly parent a child the right way. They need to pack Johnny off while still in diapers so he can be properly socialized and educated. You wonder how civilization managed to produce functioning citizens all these thousands of years when we didn't have preschool and 10 month olds who can read!

I know this lady is not alone. I have spoken to others like her--in fact I once spoke to a woman who was pregnant with her first child and was looking for curricula for that child because she knew this child was going to be very gifted. Not much pressure there. :) Honestly, I thought when most people are pregnant they were praying for a healthy baby and wondering what type of car seat to buy. It never occurred to me that they were planning academics and they were convinced their child would be gifted. That is a LOT of pressure.

I grieve for the children who lose their childhood to academics. I grieve for the pressure, the scheduled lives, the push, push, push to do better, learn more and the message that academics is IT. Where is the joy, the play, the snuggling on the couch, the imagining?

I love what the advice one mom gave to the mom of the 19 month old, "Also, keep in mind that academics aren't the end all of education. If you are not doing so already, you need to take things like fine motor skills (drawing, picking up tiny objects, using scissors) and following multi-step directions into consideration. Large motor skills (kicking, throwing, climbing stairs) are equally important, as are social skills such as speaking to adults, using polite words, and so on."

I wanted to stand up a cheer! YES! Academics aren't the end all of education or of child rearing! Imagine that. Before children can read they are very visual and notice everything. Did you ever notice how a child will say things like, "Oh, his car has the same hub caps as our car," and he is right? And you think, "Who looks at hubcaps?" Kids notice things. They can't read, so they pay way more attention to details and visual clues than we do. That is why when my nephew was 4 he could beat me in a concentration-type matching game 2 games out of every 3. He was more visual--I was more written word oriented. It is why I need words to figure out what burner to turn on my stove, not pictures. [And that is a whole 'nuther subject!]

I am not a language research scientist, but there has to be consequences with children learning to read before they have time to fully develop their visual observation skills. Surely God designed them to be so observant and to have such great visual skills to figure out their world for a reason. It has got to be a necessary foundation for higher level learning and if you short-circuit that in order to have bragging rights to the smartest child in town--what long range damage is being done?

While teaching children is admirable, I really think we should reconsider what to teach. How about sharing and getting along? How about compassion and loving your neighbor as yourself? How about doing acts of service within the family? How about developing the imagination by sandbox and outdoor play?

When did we get to the place that we think that children are like little pets that we should teach to do tricks so that we can amaze our friends? Maybe that is not what is going on here, but it grieves me to think that somewhere along the line we have failed new parents by letting them think that reading and academics is more important than relationships and imagination.

Take care,

You might want to read Play is Work or look at the side of my blog where the directory is, and click on play or playing, to read more along this line.

Photos are of my son Cris and granddaughter Elinor, and my daughter in law Jen with Elinor.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Welcome Allison Ann Evely...

Molly, 39 weeks pregnant
This is what Allison looked like last week--all wrapped up in her momma. Molly always has a big smile but I think she was getting pretty anxious. At the Friday appointment the doctor said that the baby had turned into a breech position, so a C-section was scheduled for Monday at noon.

Allison had other ideas. She decided to come on Saturday, so an emergency C-section brought Allison into the world.

Aunt Kari and Allison
For some reason I only have two photos, and they both show Kari holding Allison. I will go visit today and take some more. But you get the idea. She is perfect in every way, 8# 6oz at birth, 18.5 inches long and a bit of dark hair.

Molly and Chad are thrilled and cannot wait to get Allison home to her waiting nursery.

Life is very, very good. My first two grandchildren born within 3 months of each other. Who would have thought?

Take care,

Ahh, I just got a few more photos:Grandma Evely [Me!] and Allison

The two grandpas and the proud dad!

Uncle Scott-------------------- Uncle Dusty and Aunt Sharon

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Killing Mockingbirds is a sin...

Without even knowing that Sunday is the 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee I re-read this favorite book last week. I think it is my 4th time through it, but I am not quite sure. I read it the first time when I was homeschooling Scotty--he was in 8th or 9th grade. It is one of those rare books that has universal appeal, compelling with a great message.

This book has quite a few layers, speaking to topics of racism, small town justice and injustice, abuse, incest, fear, tolerance, fatherhood, growing up and the importance of family. Oprah W. says, "It's our national novel," and Laura Bush says, "It changed how people think."

I love Scout with her sharp mind and tomboy attitude. She is so real--if not precocious--and I love the scene where her teacher is all flustered because she starts school knowing how to read. How hilarious is that? The teacher tells her not to read anymore until she is taught the proper way! She can read at a high school level but the teacher wants her to go back to learning the sounds that the letters make. She was homeschooled by her father before it was fashionable and she learned to read by being read to. Imagine that.

If you haven't read this classic, and I hadn't until I read it to Scotty, pick up a copy. You will be spirited away to another time and place and become enchanted with this master story teller who makes us take a good look at society and at ourselves. I have vowed to finally watch the movie this summer--after all the years of reading the book, I think it is about time to see the 1962 film starring Gregory Peck.

Take care,

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Eating on Vacation with kids...

I have memories of traveling to Alaska, south Mexico, California and many more places [by car] with my family when I was a child. Now, granted, there were not the fast food choices that there are today, but in all our travels I think I can count on one hand the lunches we ate at a restaurant.

Mom always made sandwiches.

She kept the sandwich ingredients in an old blue steel case. I suppose it was an old draftsman case, but I am not sure. She kept bread, peanut butter, mustard, ketchup and lunch meat in there. What? Lunch meat?

Yes, that was back in the days where you weren't allowed to get food poisoning. Everyone at tuna sandwiches that had been in steel lunchboxes for hours and no one thought anything of it. We did not have frozen packs or insulated lunch kits--I guess we were made a stronger stuff back then.

I think she took the meat out of the fridge in the Airstream trailer we pulled in the morning and put it in the blue lunch case for later. I think she did this so that they wouldn't have to open the fridge when we were on the road because that would let out all the cold and since it wasn't plugged in while we drove, we didn't want that to happen.

At any rate, I hate bologna to this day because of being forced to eat a bologna sandwich with ketchup [I am not too crazy about ketchup either] for lunch on one of our trips. Maybe I was whiny, I don't know, but I wanted a PB&J instead, but I had to eat the bologna because Mom already made it for me and I shouldn't be so fussy. As a parent I understand that, but I never liked bologna and could eat PB&J every day for my whole life, so why did she make it for me?

When Bob and I traveled with young kids I vowed NEVER to have salmonella-in-a-box and to eat either peanut butter and crackers, cheese sticks [from a cooler], granola bars and that type of thing--or just stop at fast food. But, that can get expensive. So we found a solution that might help any of you who travel with children.

I would get a LOT of dollar bills and then when we stopped at a fast food place I would give each child $2.00 or if I had 5 dollar bills, I would give one to every two children. Then, they had to order for themselves and spend wisely. Since they always had some vacation money saved up they could spend over that amount if they wanted to supplement with their money, or if they ate cheap they could pocket the excess. The rule being, you must get full and eat something healthy--and no complaining about being hungry later.

It worked great. Basically everyone got water to drink, ordered off the cheap menu, shared fries and so on. Some splurged and got a shake occasionally, some pocketed spare change after every meal. It kept our costs down to a manageable amount and taught smart shopping and thriftiness as well. Plus, I didn't have to remember 7 different orders and then have to pray that the teen workers got it all right.

So, if you travel, you may want to use the suitcase method, or the $2.00 method [maybe up it to $3.00 now], or maybe stop at a rest stop and do some cooking [we have done that too]--but at least you have some options.

And, if I ever come to your house, please don't make me a bologna sandwich. UGH!

Take care,