Avoidance

Posted Tuesday, November 24th, 2015 @ 4:49 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Education, Humanities, Journal, Recreation

Here is my self-talk: “I’m done. I’m done with so many books on my shelves that I’ve owned for decades and not read yet. Done with books I’ve read once and have no intention of reading again.”

I’ve purged two grocery bags of books from my shelves. I engage in a little dance with the books that remain, telling myself that some of them I will probably use sometime (they number in hundreds). It’s an interesting experience to look at a book and decide whether it departs, and why.

Books represent security to me — the idea that if I read enough, learn enough, I can control life. I can create safety. The idea that I don’t know enough, and that words and ideas will impart wisdom. I’m not judging myself for having spent the money on the books. They will find their homes. Yet it is time — Life is telling me — to interrupt this impulse and learn to BE with whatever arises that makes me uncomfortable.

Sometimes I tell myself I need to purchase a book because I cannot borrow it from the public library even via interlibrary loan (I like to read somewhat uncommon titles). At the root of this story, however, is again, the reflexive movement toward the familiar role of student. I delay action and avoid discomfort by returning to a role I know so intimately.

When I moved from Syracuse to Austin, I owned a personal library of 800 books. I couldn’t afford to move them all. I culled them severely and shipped only the books that generated the strongest connection within me, about 100. Over the years I’ve had the space and means to accrue more books. I want to engage with life differently. I own 1,311 books. It’s time to unburden myself.

Nobody Knows, But…

Posted Saturday, October 17th, 2015 @ 12:31 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Journal, Spirit

Love this. I have always loved Patty Griffin.

Link is this.

It Had to Happen Sometime

Posted Saturday, October 17th, 2015 @ 12:22 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Arts, Journal

Earlier this year, my husband and daughter joined a program sponsored by the YMCA, called Adventure Guides. It’s a father-child activity. In this case, it’s fathers and daughters. They have meetings, do crafts, play games, and go camping.

Right now, for the first time in eight years, I am at home — alone. For two nights! I’ve been away for a couple nights before, and that’s great and all… but being able to stay home uninterrupted for 48 hours is a luxury. So, what am I doing with this time? Creating. More specifically, I’m playing with acrylic paint and various techniques. It’s bliss.

alonetime

Using the floor! Gettin’ down!

autumn trees

Autumn Trees / 18″ x 24″ impasto acrylic on stretched canvas

greenabstract

Green Abstract / 18″ x 24″ impasto acrylic on stretched canvas

paintplay

In progress

Recent Art

Posted Wednesday, October 14th, 2015 @ 5:54 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Arts, Journal

I’ve been playing with paint the last few days. Here are the results. I do love the way I feel when painting, how place and time disappear.

Bandwidth

“Bandwidth” / 12″ x 24″ acrylic paint on canvas

shattered

“Shattered” / 14″ x 18″ acrylic paint on canvas

And Time Flies

Posted Tuesday, October 13th, 2015 @ 12:56 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Arts, Journal

Has it been a month since I last posted?

I’m getting ready for Halloween these days. Claire wants to go as a wolf. I’ve decided to be a national park ranger. Did you know that you cannot purchase the badge (or the hat) unless you can prove you are an employee? So I’ve made my own. Not an exact replica, but pretty respectable!

National Park Service Badge

Sometimes You Get What You Need

Posted Monday, September 14th, 2015 @ 10:52 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Journal, Motherhood

Sometimes when you’re eight, and you’re worried about people you love dying, and you feel small and vulnerable, and you’re congested and tired and not quite SICK sick but not feeling great, you start Monday saying, “I’m not ready for school! I can’t face it.” And sometimes Mommy listens to her intuition, and instead of worrying that she’ll set a bad example by saying yes to a day off, she decides instead to give her daughter a day of her full presence. To fill her bucket with cuddles on demand, silly hand games, book reading, exploring a tree in the front yard, and whatever she wants for dinner. And at the end of the day, when the girl turns out to have a low-grade fever, the mom feels vindicated for having followed her wisdom.

Priority

Posted Saturday, September 12th, 2015 @ 11:41 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Journal, Nature, Spirit

There is a vibrant core of intuitive sacredness in me; when I pay attention and listen to it, and move in collaboration with it, I live in wholeness. My actions are true. I find myself more patient, receptive, loving. When I allow my mind to come in, thinking about all the things I could or should be doing to make my life unfold — then I get distracted, and my living becomes disjointed and fearful. It’s becoming clearer that the priority above all else is to stay connected to that core of sacred presence.

Still

Posted Friday, September 11th, 2015 @ 9:51 am by Kathryn
Categories: Journal, Quotes, Spirit
old homestead

And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

–Max Ehrmann

How to Handle Worksheet Homework

Posted Thursday, August 27th, 2015 @ 9:38 am by Kathryn
Categories: Education, Journal, Motherhood

When your child greets you at the end of the school day crying, “I’m stressed! I have yesterday’s worksheet to finish and today’s and the spelling homework! I hate school!” — that is disquieting. After six hours of sitting (with 35 minutes of total recess) and doing what one is told, to end the day with anxiety is a recipe for learning to hate school.

I did not push Claire to do the worksheets, but she decided to complete them. They were easy — tracing and printing the letters C, D, E, and F, on two sides of a paper. Could that time have been better spent? Could she have played, or helped make dinner, or gone for a walk? Yes, but Claire was worried about submitting blank sheets. I asked more about how homework is collected. In past classes, all the folders were put in a bin, and a parent helper or the teacher looked at it. In this year’s class, the folders are kept on the students’ desks. At mid-morning, a student helper collects the pages from each student to bring to the teacher or adult helper to review.

This requires producing papers on the spot, in front of everyone; it will be obvious when a student has nothing to turn in. So, I created a document that we’ll staple to any worksheets, and Claire will have something to submit. (To save paper, there are multiple forms on one sheet.) We’ll circle all the applicable activities for that day.

Worksheet Alternatives

This post is also related to yesterday’s post, To Do Homework, or Not to Do Homework?

To Do Homework, or Not to Do Homework?

Posted Wednesday, August 26th, 2015 @ 11:16 am by Kathryn
Categories: Education, Journal, Motherhood

It’s the beginning of the school year. Several friends on Facebook posted laments about homework and their children’s resistance. So I thought I’d write my thoughts down. Some of these were extracted from a letter I saw on someone’s blog awhile back. But first, our history of homework:

In TK, the teacher assigned two double-sided pages of worksheets each week: a total of 4 pages weekly. Students took them home Monday and submitted them Friday. I stood over Claire’s shoulder and made her do them. This was a struggle. They also took home picture books to read and were required to do something creative (a drawing, a re-telling) for class. Claire did those willingly. We had to keep a reading log as well, which I managed.

In Kindergarten, the teacher sent worksheets home daily, two double-sided pages, Monday through Thursday: a total of 16 pages weekly. The teacher never looked at it, because I and other parents did homework check-in and corrected it. Claire resisted doing homework, and I began to question its necessity. By December, I decided I was sick of the fight and of being the bad guy, so I stopped pushing her to do it. Her learning didn’t suffer. The teacher chided her for not doing it, but I no longer felt a responsibility to enforce it. There was also a book project similar to the one in TK, which she enjoyed, and a reading log, which I filled out.

In 1st grade, on Tuesdays her teacher sent home a packet of 12-13 double-sided pages, which were due the following Monday: 24-26 pages a week. I told the teacher my position on homework — it’s unnecessary and busy work. She accepted that. However, I wanted to be a good class parent, so I started the year by pushing Claire to do it, and if I sat with her and scribed, she would. But there were still fights. About a month in we stopped doing it. Twenty minutes of reading daily was expected (but not a reading log), and Claire did this, as well as an online reading program called Raz Kids. With Raz Kids, her reading took off. She loved earning points to decorate her Raz Rocket, and that love flowed over into regular books.

This year in 2nd grade, Mrs. L sends home one double-sided page Monday through Thursday: so far, 8 pages a week. If there is class work that is not completed in the alotted time, that is sent home as well. Claire has done them willingly, without prompting or help. They are “busy work” sheets — tracing and printing letters, simple math, connect the dots. Teacher also sends a spelling word list with a menu of activities to do with the words to help them learn. I like the menu: there are options to write stories using the words, spell them with scrabble tiles, cut out letters and tape them, write the words with your finger in rice, etc. We’ll see how the homework progresses through the year. There will be a reading log, which I have decided to let Claire manage as well. If Claire begins to get frustrated and not want to do the worksheets, I’m inclined to let it go, unless she is struggling with the material.

I’ve become aware of something: parents have power and choice. Just because the teacher sends homework home (in the form of worksheets), doesn’t mean we have to force it. No one will give us a failing grade as parents; it won’t go down on our permanent records. And our children won’t fail, either. As long as they are making progress with what’s being taught in the classroom, there is no need to add to the school day with more worksheets. Enough is enough.

And here is the body of the letter I have at the ready, just in case. Feel free to adapt and use this.

Dear Teacher,

My daughter is excited to be in your class. She loves learning and looks forward to what the year holds. Each school year brings new routines, and I’d like to address homework. I’m reluctant about its use in elementary school for a number of reasons.

  • From the reading I’ve done, for young children (under around age 14-15 years) there is no scientific research that supports the inclusion of homework in their extra-curricular activities. Indeed, “there is no evidence that any amount of homework improves the academic performance of [primary school] elementary students” (Cooper, 1989, p. 101). Cooper (one of the most respected homework researchers in the world) indicated that while he was personally pro-homework, there appears to be no academic advantage for children to do homework. In many studies the relationship between homework and “learning” (often defined as grades or standardized test scores) is negative.
  • My child is involved in a number of after school activities — chorus, art, and swimming — that enrich her life, teach skills, and generally make for full days. I would prefer she do these activities after a six hours of didactic learning and not stress over additional homework. We also believe that playtime and outdoor time is a form of learning and very necessary.
  • We have found that homework in the form of daily or weekly worksheets is a source of stress and strife in our home. Since she does worksheets at school, as long she is making progress, we haven’t pushed this. I have not seen evidence to support the belief that homework helps students develop the characteristics it is often suggested will be useful, such as ability to organize time, develop good work habits, think independently, and so on.
  • There are two types of homework we do encourage and require. First is daily reading. We read daily as parents to Claire, and Claire reads on her own. We don’t require a minimum time limit on the reading or dictate the number of pages to be read. This removal of autonomy turns reading into a chore rather than a pleasure. Nor do we push for her to record pages read or summaries of what she read. Reading is for leisure and enrichment.
  • The other form of “acceptable” homework is related to projects from school that interest Claire. We actively encourage research, projects, writing (stories, poems, essays, and speeches). This helps children in information gathering, critical thinking, logical formatting of content, and presentation skills. Plus it gets them actively “discovering” in their learning, and sinks much deeper than much other “busy” work.

We hope you understand that our position on homework is meant to encourage our daughter’s love of learning. Let us know how we can support this process at home.

Sincerely,

For a suggestion on how to handle worksheet homework, read this post as well.
============================

From this:

reading brown bear brown bear

To this!

more reading