Rev It Up!

VBS this week; Pookie and I are in the nursery, taking care of the littles whose parents are teaching, preaching, and leading.  It’s a full-day VBS, which was new to me, but it’s so gospel-centered that its worth the extra effort.

Two of us working in the nursery, eight kiddos: 4 two-year-olds, two crawlers, two newborns.  Moms in and out to nurse.  Babies up and down for naps.  Coloring and snacks at the table.  Lots of poopy diapers.

Back to books next week…if I get enough sleep by then!

A Gripe

I raved earlier about Cinderella Ate My Daughter, a book about the girlie-girl-ness of being, well, a little girl today and all the implications that may or may not have.  I enjoyed the book, it made me think, and it changed the way I look at certain aspects of princess play, Barbies, etc.

So I was really excited to pick up Orenstein’s previous tome, Schoolgirls, taking the same sort of approach to girls in middle school.  Though it was published in 1994, the girls Orenstein writes about could very well be your current neighbors: they struggle with eating disorders, sexual harassment, the constant urge to look desirable while being told that they’ll be considered sl**s if they actually feel desire.  Their tales are gripping and eye-opening, but I’m struggling with Orenstein’s main thesis.

Her premise is that girls are taught to be docile, “sweet”, to play the rules; meanwhile, boys are taught those things with words but their outbursts are tolerated and even coddled or pushed aside as “simply boys being boys.”  The author comes to the conclusion that we should be pushing girls to be more aggressive and outspoken.

As a Christian, I feel that Orenstein–and perhaps a lot of other feminists and women’s issue writers–has pinned down the wrong problem.  I think we need to teach our young men to be real men.

I worked in a public school before Pookie was born.  I spent full hours searching the halls and grounds for sixth grade boys skipping out on math–hours when I should have been tutoring kids in multiplying fractions. Why is this tolerated?

Boys were loud and obnoxious in class, but the repercussions were never much.  Why is this tolerated?

A boy in the lunchroom had smeared ketchup (accidentally) all over a bench.  Other kids told me and pointed it out; the boy was embarrassed and refused to clean it up.  Instead of lecturing, I appealed to his masculinity–but the real kind, the gentlemanly, chivalrous kind: “I guess somebody’s just going to have to be the hero and clean this up.”  He blinked while my words soaked in, wiped up the ketchup, and tossed away the dirtied napkins with a big grin.  It became my go-to tactic, to ask boys to be heroes.

Sorry, this post is disjointed and not entirely well-written…I’m just trying to work through my thoughts on the issue of boys and girls and discipline and what’s truly the matter with how they act, because I’m certain it has less to do with a need for female dominance than feminists want us to think.

Care to chime in on the subject?  I’d love to hear other experiences or opinions!

Buccaneering

I told myself no more library books until I felt “caught up” on the reading I’ve already got going.

But I just can’t help myself.

Really it’s the Professor’s fault: he had to go into lab for a bit on Saturday and the only way to park free downtown is to check something out from the library and have them stamp your parking ticket.  And somewhere in between, a half dozen books followed me home…

When we arrived and Pookie was down for a nap, I dove right into this one:

 

I’ve read other accounts of self-educated folks, people who’ve followed their passions rather than just following the crowd.  James Bach’s story is a bit different in that he lived entirely on his own at age 14 (though mom or dad took care of the motel rent and gave him $25/week for groceries).  He dropped out of school, spent all day making computer programs, and eventually started earning money for doing what he loved.

Fast forward and the guy somehow made it to Apple and is now sought after to give lectures and write articles.

I’ll admit, when I read stories like this, I’m both intrigued and put-off: “Yeah, that worked for him, but it won’t work for everybody,” “Well, why can’t it?  Not everybody has tried,” etc.  I also find these stories aren’t written as well as I would like and include cliches and heavy-handed hubris.

But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t enjoyable.  It was fun, fast, and humorous.  It even contained some really great self-learning nuggets:

 

“A buccaneer-scholar is anyone whose love of learning is not muzzled, yoked, or shackled by any institution or authority; whose mind is driven to wander and find its own voice and place in the world” (9).

Mmm…that sounds good.  And that sounds a lot like what I did during college: sure, I studied my course work and got good grades, but my spare moments were spent devouring books on Christian education, homeschooling, and theories of learning–and I found it far more engaging than my regular classes and prescribed syllabi.

“To learn something valuable, you may have to work at it.  It may be hard work.  For me, it has to be fun, too.  Or else forget it.  The secret to my success is this: I found something that was fun for me, I learned all about it, and now I get paid for fun things I do with my mind” (4).

I love his reply to a teacher who said a lecture he gave was “dangerous,” that students might choose a nonconventional path based on his speech:

“So what if they do?…This is America.  They probably won’t starve.  They probably won’t be eaten by wolves.  If they don’t care about education, they may be forced to work at low-skilled jobs they won’t enjoy, such as fast food or house cleaning.  However bad those fates may sound, they are neither fatal nor permanent.  Or perhaps they will accidentally educate themselves by starting a new business, building things, or doing theatre, music, or sports.  Are you worried they’ll turn to crime?  Then show them more options, not fewer.  They will learn and grow from anything that happens, unless they believe there is no hope.  Your job is not to make them huddle quietly in a corral, but to help them get out there and seek their fortunes.  Show them a way!” (6)

Preach on, brother!  Makes me want to become a schoolteacher.

{Well, someday.  I’m going to focus on schoolin’ my own youngin(s) first}

“Knowledge is part of my education only if it changes me” (8).

“If I make a careful plan at the beginning of my journey, and stick to it, I may miss out on a lot of learning.  The beginning is a terrible time to plan.  it’s the moment of greatest ignorance.  In self-directed education, a lot of the value comes from exploiting opportunities that arise well out to sea, once I’ve seen some things and begun the learning process.

“In buccaneer learning, wandering is a necessity, not a luxury.  To wander effectively I need disposable time.  That means time I can afford to waste.  I’ve found that by giving myself permission to pursue things that might not come to anything valuable, more often than not, I eventually discover something really valuable” (41).

And about why he didn’t do homework:

“I was already busy at home.  I read fantasy novels.  I made technical drawings of imaginary spaceships, stargazed, tramped around the forest that surrounded my home.  I collected rocks and tried my hand at bird taming.  I watched a huge amount of television.  But whether my use of time seemed worthy to someone else hardly mattered.  I believed my time belonged to me.  Compulsory homework was theft of my time” (61).

Bach also goes over the methods he uses when educating himself about a new topic, such as “scouting” by skimming through all sorts of resources (books, Google searches, websites, etc.), experimenting with it, even leaving it alone and forgetting he even studied it for a time.

If you have an afternoon and are curious about self-education, this would be a fun read.

Gates of Gold

I have finished my first American Girl “Girls of Many Lands” novel (the one I mentioned here).

And I truly enjoyed it.

Sure, the prose came off as too didactic at times, but overall the story was engaging and the history it detailed informative.

Gates of Gold follows a young girl, Cecile, as a right-place-right-time events plucks her from peasantry to a position at the court of Versailles.  Cecile cares for one of the courtiers dogs and curries favor with the prince and princess’s small boys.  She acts out of turn according to the rules of court on several occasions, but only because her conscience begs her to do so; the internal dilemma of right vs. protocol shows that Cecile is a thoughtful, well-intentioned girl–an excellent role model for any young girl who might read the book.

Cecile acts out against the court doctors in order to save the life of the princess’s toddler, despite the fact that she could be banished…or even sent to the Bastille.

Overall, a believable, moral heroine; I hope one day Pookie will look up to her and any other girls in this series.

And the historical details were so fun!  The wigs, the dresses, the lavish furnishings–and after the story there were several pages of historical notes and tidbits that I greatly enjoyed.

I think I may even pick up another when I’m next at the library!

Do you enjoy children’s/YA series?  I’d love to hear your recommendations!

Wordless Wednesday :: Birthday, Birthday!

Bookish things will be back tomorrow…once I recover from the cuteness.

Nooooooooooooooooooook!

Well, I should be writing about American Girl and the fun new books I’ve found from that series…but I got my birthday present early from the Professor yesterday.

And I cannot take my eyes off it.

Needless to say, I’m a bit busy.  Plus I’ve got to bake a bajillion cupcakes, clean my house, pack our bags, and get ready for a birthday-and-fireworks-packed weekend away.

Have a terrific Independence Day (and long weekend)!

American Girl, Unplugged

Last week, I happened upon a new blog: Unplugged Sunday, a blog about a family that…well, unplugs on Sundays.  They swap iPods and wifi for books, hikes, and cooking together.

 

 

 

 

Doesn’t that sound phenomenal?  The Professor and I were talking about how recently our computer/TV/screen-in-general time had seen a dramatic uptick, so we decided to dive into our own unplugged Sunday.

Were we successful?  Sort of.

It wasn’t idyllic, there was no hiking, no gourmet dinner.  Pookie whined all day with teething/growing/I-hate-being-weaned pains.  We didn’t even make it the whole day: we turned on the computer sometime after 6PM to listen to some sports talk radio (a station we can’t get on the actual radio) and to print a journal article for the Professor.  That led to fantasy baseball team-checking, Tetris playing, and so on.

But.  We played together on the floor.  We had a nice library outing.  We talked more about the Sunday sermon than we otherwise would have.  During Pookie’s nap, the Professor and I played Kings in the Corner and Go Fish while laughing our heads off.  We read in bed and turned out the lights early.

Not perfect, but good enough to try again.

How does that relate to American Girl?  I’m glad you asked.

After reading Cinderella Ate My Daughter and the author’s account of the American Girl store, my love for the American Girl books was rekindled.  I remember reading Meet Felicity, Meet Addy, Meet Molly, and the like in my grandmother’s basement when I was a little girl.  The books portray history (think the American Revolution, the Civil War, WWII, the Depression, etc.) through the eyes of relatable, strong, moral, dynamic young girls–the kind of girls you want your own daughter(s) to be.

So for my own reading and nostalgic pleasure, I browsed the American Girl section at the library, brought how a few of the classic Felicity books, a Felicity mystery (more of a novel length book), and a “Girls of Many Lands” book–a novel-length story that follows a girl named Cecile as she serves at the court of Versailles in 1711.  I haven’t finished any of them (see the teething/growing/I-hate-being-weaned note above) but plan to finish and write about them Thursday.

What’s your take on American Girl?

No Books but Plenty of Wailing

Crying Out Loud by macfrancis_12
Crying Out Loud, a photo by macfrancis_12 on Flickr.

So, I have a summer cold. Also, Pookie nursed for the last time last night, is cutting teeth, has growing pains, and has separation anxiety about trying to walk on her own.

Needless to say, my mood isn’t fantastic; I won’t be winning any awards for Christ-likeness this week…though I think awards for such a thing would be counterproductive.

See how my brain can’t focus?

Maybe I should have just stayed in bed…

P.S.  The library sent me an email to inform me that the Mary Lincoln biography I’ve been { s l o w l y } enjoying is two weeks overdue.  Grr…

Abomination & Barbie Dolls

Sherri Early of Semicolon wrote recently on her blog about the need for light and darkness in novels, particularly as this pertains to Christian literature: how dark is “too dark”?  Can Christian books make mention of occult things, sinful things, dark things while still edifying?

While I love Amish/plain living romances, sometimes I feel like something more…meaty, if you will, but I haven’t had much luck finding Christian fiction that isn’t clunky, one-dimensional, or underdeveloped (my budget has me strapped to the library, so that may be part of my problem).

So I approached Abomination by Colleen Coble with some trepidation; I haven’t read a thriller in quite some time and never one labeled as Christian.  I worried I might have found a clunker.

I was wrong.

Abomination opens with a woman who has been attacked and stabbed but cannot remember how it happened, where she is, who she is, or why the little girl in the back seat calls her mama.  From other characters’ POVs, we learn that the amnesia-ridden woman is being hunted by a serial killer, plus her worried ex-husband (who happens to be the police officer investigating the serial killer).

Twists and turns abound, and I gasped when I learned who the killer was…not who I was expecting, which is always a nice surprise.

{There were a few unfortunate bits, mostly editing: the main character’s true identity is given away too soon because of a typo, sentences that don’t work, wonky speech patterns, repetitive word choice…but that might be the OCD editor in me.}

The balance of light and dark was quite good; perfect, actually for a dreamer like me.  When I was younger, I got so wrapped up in The Face on the Milk Carton that I worried I might have been stolen from my real parents, even though I look just like my mother, I talk just like my mother, I act just like my mother, and I probably even chew gum just like my mother.  So, I have a history of allowing the story to take me in too much.

But that didn’t happen this time around; I had a moment in the dark of my home where I thought of Gideon, the serial killer in Abomination, but then my thoughts turned to Christ.  It was like he said, “Hey, that’s just a story…aren’t I bigger than a story?”  And He is.

So maybe I’ve grown up or maybe Colleen Coble hit the right balance of dark and light; I’ll let you read it and decide.

Also, I devoured a book a few weeks ago called Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein.  I wish I had it in front of me so that I could talk about it better, but if you have a young daughter, it’s worth the read.  It’s also worth asking the questions the book raises, like how does princess play affect our daughters?  Is Snow White really a good role model if her single greatest quality is her looks–I mean, what else does the girl do?

Orenstein looks at girlhood critically with all sorts of facts and statistics, but she also approaches the subject from a mom’s perspective, thinking of and writing about her own little girl.  At times the book is terrifying, as I don’t want to think of Pookie being marketed to constantly with pink or pressured to look “hot” when she reaches third grade or spend her teen years confused by the world’s message that she should looking desirable is good but feeling desire is bad.

The book is secular, so Orenstein and I disagreed on certain things (sex before marriage as an example), but it was a fascinating look into the marketing machine and the new world of girl in today’s society.  Again, a must-read for parents of young girls.

Well, could those titles have been any more different?!

I also found myself relating to a lot of Orenstein’s theses, thinking, “That’s exactly what happened to me…that’s how I felt/thought/acted.”

Simplicity Parenting

Subtitle: “Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids”

And that sounded good to me.  As I read, I realized that I already knew (and planned to do) a lot of these things, but the affirmation was terrific.  Our society presses for–as the author says–“More! Faster! Earlier!” it is difficult to fight the tide and choose less.  Less scheduling, less events, less stress, less hovering.

If you’re looking for affirmation that you, too, can jump from the bandwagon of hyperparenting and overscheduling, I highly recommend this book…though the prose is choppy and commas are waaaaaaay overused, which slowed me down and annoyed me, so beware of that.  Still, the content is worth a bit of struggle.

And now, I’ll let some of my favorite bits speak for themselves (starting with one I shared in my last post) :

“Books offer such delight and satisfaction to children, conjuring magical worlds and bringing the wonder of our own right into their hands.  How could it be possible to have ‘too many’ of such good things?
It is a bit easier to imagine the ‘too much of a good thing’ principle with books when our children have entered the ‘series’ section of the library or bookstore.  A child is racing through ‘Number 23 of the Magic Tree House Series!’ in a rush to pull ahead of their friend is not reading so much as consuming  When a desire for the next thing is at the heart of an experience, we’re involved in an addiction, not a connection” (87, emphasis mine).

“That’s it!  Enrichment.  As parents, we’ve discovered fertilizer.  And we’re applying it by the ton to childhood” (138).  This comes after a description of a girl doing handstands, playing a blade of grass like a kazoo, daydreaming about the ice cream truck…moments and hours and lazy days that kids need rather than constant “enrichment” through classes, clubs, and sports.  These things can be good, but when they push out the unstructured joy of childhood, they can be damaging: “Too many scheduled activities may limit a child’s ability to motivate and direct themselves” (138).

“After all, as a society we parents have signed on to be our children’s lifelong ‘entertainment committees.’  We’re unpaid performers, that’s for sure, but performers nonetheless.  And we take it seriously.  As such, we’re accustomed to seeing our children’s boredom as a personal failure.  A break in the festivities…and we are liable to jump up and dance.  No wonder we’re exhausted” (143).

“Physicians are accustomed to being ‘on call,’ but now we all are: twenty-four hours a day…So when our cellphone rings just as we’re trying to squeeze onto the off-ramp…physiologically we go from moderate to a hyperarousal state quite quickly.  And we have a hard time returning to a calm state.  Sorry to say, this is a symptom of high stress.  We could all use more ‘moments of Sabbath’ built into our lives” (147, emphasis mine).

“When we allow this ‘on-demand’ mentality to color our children’s perspectives and schedules, then they lose the gift of anticipation…Do you remember yearning for summer?  Literally counting down the days?  When you back off the treadmill loop of planned activities, you make room for pauses, you make time for anticipation and reflection” (149).

“We often bathe our children in words.  By keeping a running commentary on everything they do, we mean to assure them that we’re noticing. Yet the more we’re talking, the less we are really noticing” (185, emphasis mine).

“In a noisy world, quiet attentiveness speaks louder than words, and it gives a child more space for their own thoughts and feelings to develop” (187).

“When you act to limit what you don’t want for your family, you clarify what you really do need, what is important to you.  Your values clarify.  Simplification is a path of self-definition for the family” (215, bold emphasis mine).

Our Christian faith defines our core values (worship of Christ, loving our neighbors, etc.), but we choose smaller things as a family.  After reading this book, I plan to simplify Pookie’s toys a bit further (at least taking some out of rotation for a while), be more consistent with our daily routines, try to give her more independent play time (though as we’re weaning she’s rather clingy), and keep the TV off while she’s awake.

Here’s a question: Have you wanted to simplify in your home?  Have you taken any steps to do so?  I’d love to hear about it!