Can beauty save the world?

Now THIS is a book I want to read. I am so intrigued by the title alone and the concept is something I have been thinking about for months now. Not really that EXACT concept (saving the world and all) but mainly that art, in a variety of its forms, and the dignity of beauty for beauty’s sake are slowing dying in our Western culture, being replaced by stoic ideologies and political blah, blah, blah. I have been thinking tons about education since….another drum roll….we are sending the boy back to school again this year (more about that later) and as Matt and I have been considering the environment which he will spend a good portion of his day (another topic I have LOTS of opinions on) we have researched school after school. The one we are sending him to has a strong focus on nurturing the arts and literature in little kids while most schools these days are freaking out that our kids are failing math and science. “We’re behind China for the love of GOD!” We also only speak one language by and large so sorry, researchers, we’re behind on languages too.

I’ve been thinking a bit how science is not separate from art and math is an art in itself rather than a series of absolutes that must be memorized and regurgitated in order to make it into a good college. I have a lot of great talks with Naomi about college and education and the empire it’s become. We shed sad tears that apprenticeships are a thing of the past. But there is just something about the arts that cause us to ponder, to ruminate (one of my favorite words), to create solutions for difficult problems and there’s a place where we experience the dynamics of faith in the presence of the arts. Faith isn’t just a set of ‘things’ that you do or that we are, it’s beauty, fluid and graceful. It’s profound and transforming and because we are all so wildly unique, faith really is swooning with beauty.

Lately I have been too worried about how my kids are going to turn out based on the education I will provide for them (homeschool, private, public) and it’s just driving me crazy.  Even my own life has been wrought with stress because I feel such a pull towards justice and it’s killing my insides to think of all that things to be done alongside with everything I’m not able to do right now, or will ever be able to do. But there is something calming about fixing the worlds problems through civility and creativity, through beauty. Yes, I believe it but I am trying to slow down and live like it’s true.

If anyone has already read this then I would love to hear a review.

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A lil’ inspiration

Since our movie-fast I’ve found that there are days the kids really don’t know what to do with themselves. It’s gotten easier as we’ve been doing this longer but there are days where they are incredibly bored and unable to create fun for themselves. Today there was a lot of naughty behavior (I think it was due to boredom) and I needed to help get them started on a project. This is the biggest way that I’ve had to engage in being a mother. I’ve had to help get them jump started on games, projects or imaginative play when they seem bored. After I provide a bit of guidance they usually take the idea and run with it.

Today I built little cubes out of play dough and they’ve been making stuff out of them ever since. I’m amazed how the little things make a huge difference for our kids. Sometimes you just need to show them how to draw a new sort of tree and then they will draw an entire forest. Kids are so creative on their own but they long to be introduced to new ways of doing things. I think of my own creative process and how I have these abilities to create all within me but it’s through others that I find more inspiration, rather than a stifling of my process. Lately I’ve been reading Robert Frost to the kids and I’m finding that I want to write more. It’s not that I want to write LIKE him, just that I want to use descriptive words more as I read his colourful language. His work is inspiring me!

I’ve found that there are times where my kids need to be left alone to create and explore but there are also those times where they really just don’t know what to do with themselves and they need a lil’ inspiration.

Here’s to inspiring our kids!

Reading to my children

I stop by this site a lot mainly because I love to read and I zealously read to my children. I consider this a part of our homeschooling. Books, books, books. I take them to the library a few times a week at least and my son got his first library card  last Spring. Granted he still runs straight for the computer and the DVD section but I still stock up on the books and I make reading a part of our daily routine.

Steadymom always has great ideas for books and I love her site because I get so many new suggestions on what to read to my kids. She does the research and I get the benefits. This is the beauty of blog sharing. So stop by and peek at her ideas for Thanksgiving books to check out, or purchase, for your children. Incidently, I have learned so much by reading short and colourful biographies from the children’s books collection. Schooling my kids teaches me a lot!

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Chloe reading

Three cups of tea…. for two little kids

I found a treasure amidst the piles of children’s books sitting on the shelves of the library where the tellers know me as the ‘bag lady’. I come with my kids, sometimes several times a week, and fill up at least one bag of books for the ninos. The other day I found a hidden jewel among books with titles like Biscuit Walks To School or The Very Long Legs Of Daddy Longfellow. On the cover of the rectangular book there was drawing of children wearing burkas and it distinctly caught my attention. I’m always interested in cross cultural books for the kids unless, of course, they are just stupid and weird. Let’s face it, there are some children’s books that are poorly written and the story doesn’t go anywhere. I have found myself closing a book mid read and apologizing to the kids because I just couldn’t finish it. It is rare but it does happen. Why continue into the iron maiden of the imagination if you can close the torture devise and read something else? That’s why I say, anyway.

The green and yellow burkas on the children stuck my attention and the title was intriguing; Listen To The Wind. I looked further and found that it’s the story of Three Cups Of Tea, written by Greg Mortenson as he traveled to Pakistan and began to open schools for children in very poor and illiterate mountain regions. I’ve read some of the book but each time I checked it out from the library life got the best of me in terms of busyness and chaos and I had to take it back or risk outrageous fines due to the high demand  this book holds on the wait list.

I am very familiar with the story. This is the type of work I LOVE to hear about. My heart sits in my throat as I imagine the practical gospel being planted in the hearts of young children who are given dignity and honour as they learn to read and write. Education is empowering and motivating and I’m a bit partial to young girls being given an education in Muslim countries. It brings communities a sense of worth and value knowing that they too can read the stories of their own history, read poetry that saciatiates the hunger for words and descriptions,  add, count and barter in the town square; to understand the pull of the moon and how it affects harvest time. I believe Jesus cries tears of delight when communities are upheld in their manifest dignity.

I read the simple, sweet words of a children’s story that is based on these events and my throat closed up while I read to Oliver and Chloe. It was shakey and uneven as my eyes filled with water. I read in sensative amazement as I thought of men and women crossing a bridge that they had to make just to bring supplies across a deadly chasm in order for a learning house to exist. The way the entire community came together to give, build, sweat and, likely at times, doubt in order for this school to come into being was very moving in my opinion. I guess I love when the unnoticed are noticed by someone and that someone pours muscles, sweat, money, sleep and personal demons of fear and insecurity into a project that awakens the human spirit.

My children still have no idea I was crying as I read to them. They don’t understand the depth of sacrifice and the beauty of the cost of a story like this. Someday they will. Someday their hearts will see the injustices and imbalances in the world and they too will ache and hurt as they observe. I hope they are ones who will sweat alongside the dirty and illiterate to learn from them and love like them. Even if they never write the book or they disappear into obscurity; if their love reaches the depths of their own children or the neighbors children and not the vast and rocky mountains in Pakistan. I love for them to hear these stories and ask the questions that follow. We talk about what love and dignity is as we read colorful and creative books from the library. Someday they will understand even more.

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The Cowboys of Cardomom Town

Oliver has fallen asleep while listening to a book on tape. I placed an ipod in his room with little speakers that held downloaded stories of Sassafras Springs by Betty G. Berney. We put our TV downstairs a few months back because 1. it was an eye sore sitting like a dunce in the corner of the room. This box had no friends and was unwanted so we sent her into a room where she could sit alone in her shame. And 2. we never used her. She was unloved and we were uninterested in her. We put her on a wooden plank, covered her with a cloth so dust wouldn’t spoil her inner workings and we forgot about her. We don’t miss her at all, except that I can’t see Oprah anymore. I dig Oprah! Unashamedly I can say, “she’s my girl!” That’s another post!

The real reason we put her downstairs was because I was tired of waking up every morning to hear, “Can I watch Sesame St? Can I watch a movie? I want to watch PBS kids”. I think PBS kids is better than most of the base and glamourous television out there but I was kidding myself in thinking because they were watching Word Girl instead of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Brats that they were actually learning something. I am someone who goes about the house “doing” things (cleaning, remodeling, gardening, baking) and as my kids get older I see the hunger in them to learn and devour information. They want to hear stories that burst their little imaginations. I have been getting books from the library for Oliver since he was crawling and after he was walking I was hitting the libraray weekly. Lately we go every few days. He’s still not super interested in hearing stories; the TV or computer is much more appealing to him. I have to say that laziness and passivity is much easier than engaging your mind. I know this from personal experience. I grew up on cable TV and wasted my middle school and high school years in front of reruns of Growing Pains or Perfect Strangers and movies that rock like Ferris Bueler’s Day Off. I’m not downplaying entertainment. I/we all need those moments of rest. But the average child watches not 2 or 3 but 7 hours of TV a day. That’s not including the newest addition to the 21st century, social networking!

I don’t know what our children are going to end up like. There are so many variables and we can’t, as parents, make them be who we want them to be. But I have decicede that I will read to my kids! I want them to engage their imaginations (which happens when you speak, read, and verbalize to them in a variety of forms) and to enjoy or welcome silence in our home. The constant of noise is overwhelming. Noise, noise, noise. I long for peace and laughter in our home. We hear and feel it but I want more. I want space, smells, lulling sounds rather than thunderous noise. Calm. Laughter. Singing. Playing. Reading!

I read to my kids all the time. It’s lucious for their brains; candy, honey, warm cider! They devour images, adjectives, stars and moons. As a writer I desire communication in our lives and creativity to come out of who we are. My kids won’t find their niche as they are passively led by a box who screams, “Buy this, indulge in that. Sex me up and cuss me out!” I don’t feel this deeply out of a church backed initiative. I feel pasionately as a mother who loves her kids and wants beauty to fill their minds with words that describe and communicate life in all of it’s splendor, colorfulness, pain and ugliness that real people experience. The actual world is not lived in Friends or Lavern and Shirley (shows I still laugh hardily at)! The real world is lived in Sassafras Spings and The Boys of Baraka. Here is where wonder is free to roam and the imagination is unleashed in the minds of little humans.

Chloe is often playing with her fingers, pretending they are little people. I hear her speaking lines out of stories I’ve read to her and I hear Oliver quoting passages from books he’s heard or making up the same characters from a story I’ve read him. We have many moments of ‘story time’ during the day and Chloe eats it up. Oliver is still balking every time I say, “Ok, let’s hear some stories!” but when I read he’s locked in. We read at night and all through the day. I’m also reading a book about reading to your kids. It’s silly to read a book about reading but it’s super insightful. I’m more convinced that we’re investing into our children by opening pages of new worlds that they can become lost in.

Read to your children!

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Oliver's first library card

Oliver's first library card

Day 20: Higher Education, for free!

Today I was listening to a podcast on TED about creativity and children and how to stimulate that process within them. I listen to TED a bit because of the short talks on profound subjects like education, science or technology and ideas shaping culture. It’s very inspiring. I then walked to the kitchen to retrieve my copy of Ode magazine which borders on similar subject matter as TED yet it’s rather diverse. Most of the speakers for TED have higher learning degrees and most people they interview for Ode are your neighbors with names like Doug or Jan. For some reason people with degrees prefer to go by Douglas or Janice.

When the kids nap during the day I often listen to a podcast while I do a bit of at home yoga or I read something in the short window of uninterrupted opportunity. I’m finding that I am learning more and receiving more education than I have in a long time. I’m certainly learning more than I did when I was in high school, but that’s another story. It’s hard to learn in school with you aren’t interested in ANYTHING!

Now, I’m no expert on any subject except the subject of raising a highly energetic, spunky, at times annoying, yet incredibly bright four year old boy. I will have to take credit for learning almost everything on the subject of ‘the difficult child’ and how to nurture their little spirits so as not to break them in two. But this may be my only expertise and even then, he’s only four for another six months….they just keep changing! But I see how I”m learning more about politics, public health, writing, Nelson Mandela and the history of apartheid, what type of race cars go ‘really, really fast’ and other subjects that are covered on the NPR international news hour. I’m being educated at home, for free!

I guess this is my season of being at home with wee ones during the day, not having the time to go back to school or work and not always being able to meet up with friends on short notice. But this has been an amazing season of self directed study. I take my kids to the library at least once a week to get books for them (Chloe wants to read about princess dresses and Oliver wants to read about bugs and cars) but I feel like being in the library is crack for me as I walk through the aisles. Sometimes I check out four books at a time, even though I can’t read them all at once. I’m addicted to learning and it’s amazing that I have resources all around me. There’s no teacher chiding me for not raising my hand and Bubba won’t be copying off my paper during finals week. Finals week! Ugh! So glad I don’t have to deal with that right now. Sorry Danielle and David!

I’m thankful for this season of life (even if I’m simultaneously anxious at times) where my mind is getting the food it needs. My brain candy today has been a child’s book on Poems about George Washington Carver, a TED podcast on the creative process in writing and my new friend who has spent a lot of time in my bathroom, Ode!

What are you thankful for?