and what we wish they were

Monthly Archives: February 2014

Yesterday I posted a little about YPS, today I wrote an entire post about it over at my other blog. Check it out!

LC Hanby Hudgens, writer

Last weekend I took my daughters shopping. It was one of those glorious February days when God gives us a little sneak preview of what is to come. It was sunny and 70 degrees, and everywhere we went people were in shorts, t-shirts, and flip flops. They were riding bikes and eating at outdoor cafes. Everyone seemed more alert, happy, and hopeful.

Well, that is everyone except me.  The sudden onset of warm weather and the realization of impending swimsuit season forced me to face a difficult reality. Charming Friends, I suffer from YPS.  Yoga Pants Syndrome  is a serious  condition that affects millions of women each year.  YPS primarily effects women over the age of 30. School teachers, stay-at-home moms, and women whose jobs are affected by the weather are most prone to YPS; however, it can strike at any age regardless of occupation.  This heartbreaking problem is caused…

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Today is the day!  Seven Posts in Seven Days!  When I read about Jen Fulwiler’s link up extravaganza, I was so excited! My blogging has been a bit sluggish lately, and I’m sure this seven day link-a-thon will be just what I need to get going. But the thing is, I’m not going. At least not on blog posts, at least not yet.

My weekend did not exactly go as I had envisioned it.  After giving my family the heads up about my need for some one on one time with my computer, I had high expectations for a little ME time. (Their blank stares should have tipped me off.) In my mind I would spend the better part of the weekend indoors reading and writing, with the only the faint sounds of my children playing outside and the soft tapping of my fingers flying across my keyboard to keep me company. I envisioned take out food and and my husband peeking his head into the bedroom door every few hours to say, “How’s it going, Hon? Can I get you anything?”  It was a nice dream.

But instead my weekend, as usual, was not my own. (If only I could have seen that coming.)  As I lay awake last night trying to decide if should get up and write instead of just tossing and turning, I thought about what I did do all weekend. What really kept me from writing even a single post or reading more than a few pages from the book I hope to review?  I once heard that people trying to lose weight keep of journal of everything they eat to try to track patterns and motivations for their eating habits.   Maybe this same technique will work with distractions.  Here are just a few of the high priority tasks that threw me off track this weekend.

I shopped for throw pillows.  Don’t judge.  At the time it seemed crucial. My daughters are 12 and 15, and about the only thing they agree on lately is that their room is boring and babyish. Fair enough. So when a little rearranging of the furniture and packing up the American Girl dolls and stuffed animals didn’t have the transformative effect they were hoping for, I agreed to buy them a few new accessories to punch up their room. I thought some funky new throw pillows would be an inexpensive and easy way to do the trick. I was so,so wrong. Have you shopped for throw pillows lately!  Unless we wanted pillows that looked like we won them throwing darts at the county fair, I had to let go of a little more cash than I had planned and the girls had to break open their piggy banks.  The girls also had to engage in their traditional arguing and bargaining before they could agree.  Also, since the nearest cool pillow store is an hour away from our little farm town, this outing took the better part of the day.   Oh well at least I was able to kill two errands with one 120 mile round trip.

So, I also shopped for crickets too.  And I guess I did my good deed for the day too.  Frank the Gecko will not die.  Not on my watch!

I returned a goat.  Several weeks ago we borrowed a goat.  Without going into all the details, I will tell you, boy goats stink.  They stink real bad.  For this reason we don’t keep one on the farm – except for when our gals are, shall we say, receptive.  In December when it seemed as though the time for romance was upon us, we borrowed Cosmo, the stinky boy goat, from some friends.  Then it snowed and snowed and snowed and snowed.  And we’ve been struck with Cosmo, the stinky boy goat, for weeks. On Sunday when it was sunny and warm, I jumped at the chance to return him to his rightful home and to try to start fumigating the goat barn.

I scoured Pinterest for low carb, healthy recipes.   All that shopping I did with my daughters on Saturday was a grave reminder to me that swimsuit and sundress season are just around the corner. And I am unfortunately suffering from a condition known as YPS.  YPS is a serious and debilitation condition caused by wearing yoga pants (not the same pair) during all of the 18 snow days we endured here in Arkansas.  Yoga Pants Syndrome prevents its victims from realizing the effects of baking cookies and eating popcorn all winter.  Within weeks sufferers from this condition find they can wear nothing but yoga pants.  It’s time to change my ways.  Past time actually.

I ate everyting in our house containing carbs, sugar, and excessive amounts of fat and calories.  That’s what you’re supposed to do before starting a diet right?  Purge.

I watched Downton Abbey.  I CANNOT BELIEVE CARSON AND HUGHES HELD HANDS!!!

I looked for that quote by Saint Francis de Sales about how distractions and frustrations can make you a saint.  I can’t find the quote, but, to paraphrase, he says that all of life’s little frustrations (a bore stops you, a child interrupts you, you burn dinner) do not require a saint, but they are certainly enough to create one.  Lord, please let life’s minor snags make me a saint.

Well, what do you know! Day one of seven done, and with a couple of hours to spare.  Of course tomorrow will have it’s own frustrations and interruptions, but with the help of Saint Francis de Sales, I hope to meet them with grace AND to get a second blog post finished.

 

Shared atThe Prairie Homestead Barn Hop


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Recently I came across this article by Anthony Esolen in Crisis magazine.  I was impressed with the author’s impassioned explanation of why we read to children. He shares with us a letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Kenneth Grahame, author of The Wind in the Willows, in which Roosevelt thanks Grahame for his delightful book.   And that is the point.  The book is a delight to the Roosevelt children and even to the president himself – which is, of course, exactly what a book should be.   When my children were small, I sought out books that would be a pleasure to read, not only for them, but for me as well. That weeded out a lot of what early 20th century educator, Charlotte Mason called twaddle.   However, we were left with a treasury of wonderful works of beautiful literature. Fortunately,  the list of  Common Core Exemplar Texts contains some of these great works (for the paltry 30% of fictional reading the standard allows).

Unfortunately, the CC approach to reading will likely make reading these great literary works a soul-sucking drudgery.   Take for example the 3rd grade standards. They seem fairly simple and age-appropriate.  Children are expected to recount stories and key detail of stories from a variety of genres and cultures.  Among other things, they are expected to articulate the central idea or moral of a work and to describe characters and their actions.   All of this sounds like it could be achieved by an engaging reading followed by a lively discussion and maybe some fun activities.  But nooooooo. Here’s an exerpt from the website Achieve the Core.  This is the objective for a 3rd grade (3rd grade!!!) lesson on Grimm’s The Fisherman and his Wife.  

Learning Objective:  The goal of this five-day exemplar is to explicitly model the process of searching for and interpreting intra-textual connections. In this lesson sequence, the teacher poses an analytic focusing question and then guides students in gathering and interpreting evidence from the text in order to come to a deeper understanding of the story. Simple word play and art activities give students practice in closely attending to language and word choice, and in visualizing and recording their interpretations. Discussion and a short writing exercise help students to synthesize what they have learned. 

How’s that for psuedo-sophisticated language!  But wait!  There’s more!  After five days of reading and re-reading the story and picking it apart to make intra-textual connections,  students are asked to complete a writing assignment.

Writing Task: As a culminating activity, students synthesize their findings in an opinion paragraph, using specific references to the text. In this lesson, writing helps the children to organize and make sense of their thinking. For most third graders, writing is a relatively new tool for processing thought and one they will need to learn to use. Therefore, this task is highly guided and instructional, providing a model that can be used more independently on subsequent writing tasks.

Fun huh?  I’m not suggesting that school children not be held in some way accountable for what they’ve read.  But since 70% of their reading is what the CC calls “informational texts,” one would hope that what little fiction they are allowed not be ruined over-intellectualization and joy-killing assignments.

As Esolen so brilliantly points out, the whole point of reading should be for pleasure.  When we rob children of that pleasure, we kill their love of reading.  And when we kill their love of reading, any further attempts to encourage what Common Core calls a “close reading” will be fruitless.  By high school, their eyes will glaze over, and they will see very little point in Shakespeare, Austen, Keats, or any of it.  I know this because I see it now.  Of course the current group of high school students wasn’t raised on Common Core, but they were No Child Left Behind kids.  And where NCLB perhaps watered down their readings, the CCS hyper-intelleculizes them.  Different standards, different vocabulary, different texts, but in the end, both NCLB and the CCS have the same goal – to create good test takers.  The best way to insure children will score well on the test is to train them to get the right answer.  Sadly, this training often comes at the expense of a greater outcome – a love of stories.

So in a perfect, untested, non data-driven world, what would else could children gain from stories besides pleasure?  Well, nothing if pleasure is lost, but children, and people in general, who love books are graced with a world of gifts.

A LOVE OF LANGUAGE

Children who read The Jabberwocky  or hear a heartfelt reading of it might not be able to tell you what a stanza is or identify the rhyme scheme, but they know that it is fun to say jubjub bird.  They will shout, “Calhooh Callay Frabjous the day!”  They will experience the joy of nonsense and the fun of things that mean nothing but sound funny.  In time, when they write they will naturally want to use language  that captures the imagination and delights the senses. And they will know how.

On the other hand children who study The Jabberwocky are apt to say things like, “This is stupid.”  “This doesn’t even make sense.”  “What’s the point of this, anyway?”  How sad.

KNOWLEDGE

I never set out to teach my children about bull fighting in Madrid or about the life on the Yangtze River, but thanks to Ferdinand and Ping, they not only learned about these things, they wanted to know more about them.   Johnny Tremain introduced them to our founding fathers, and Laura and Mary showed them what it was like to live off the land.   Funny, we never did a single worksheet or critiqued a single passage.

IMMAGINATION

Fairies.  Knights.  Dragon.  Talking pigs.  Little boys who never grow up.  Little girls who grow to be the size of a house.   Flying monkeys. Giants.  Castles. Worlds of Ice.  Wicked queens.  Christmas Ghosts.  Is there really anything Common Core could or should add to these wonders to make books any sweeter?  Of course not.

ATTENTION SPAN

I haven’t gathered any data to prove it, but I think I could walk into any 1st grade classroom at story time, and tell you, with a startling degree of accuracy,  which children have been read to since birth and which have not.  I could do it again in 10th grade.

FRIENDS

Anyone who has ever been sucked into a story knows what it is to cheer with our heroes’ victories and cry at their defeats.  I earnestly hope our school children aren’t so busy picking apart the “texts” that they don’t have time to make friends with the characters.

I have always read to my children and will continue to do so as long as they’ll let me.  I won’t test them or require them to defend their opinions of a story in writing (although there is certainly a place for that in the upper grades).  I will simply laugh with them and cry with them and wonder with them and pray that all children are given this same great pleasure in life  – the pleasure of reading for the sheer joy of it.

Linked at Mostly Homemade MondaysThe MaMade Blog HopPretty, Happy, Funny, Real