Thriving on a love for learning – for life!

Monthly Archives: February 2011

 “Intuition will tell the thinking mind where to look next.” Jonas Salk, Scientist

It’s amazing to see how the experience of defeat has affected most of our family this weekend.  As more and more things seem to suddenly get in our way and create a lot of unnecessary stress, I called out in prayer for help as I was nearly pinned down during a wrestling match with defeat on the ski hill.  It was then that the notion of defeat as the teacher came to me.  This insight, if you will, helped me shift from a “poor me/ why me” attitude, to okay, now what?  Perspective is powerful.  I chose to go to gratitude right away – and that helped everything look better, too!

On the chair lift upwards, I surrendered and prayed for clarity on the lessons defeat had for each of us – and for myself as a parent and coach.  On the ski hill I spoke with other parents whom I greatly respect.  There was a lot of wisdom to be found, too.  The dad with the professional football team experience framed our defeat in sports analogies that made sense – we have to pull together our strengths to win, not compete against each other.  A mom whose also a nurse pointed out that it’s better to not win on an off day than on a good one….and other encouraging views.

So we have one child who had to overcome a lot of unexpected defeat to just get down the hill.  He did the dance of crying and saying he didn’t want to – after he took quite literally what one adult said to him. Fortunately, there was a grain of hope in him still, and he did ski down the hill – well for himself. And he was so satisfied with himself when he completed the run!  On the second run I skied with our son and he beat his score by 2 seconds – and felt like a champion for doing so.  Now, had he been on his younger sister’s team, or the novice team his peers are on, our son would have won a medal. But as it was, the “expert group” he was part of, was a league of its own, and he did not win a medal. However, at the end of the day, our son was satisfied with the knowledge of his personal best – and he was able to put it in the framework of the competition.  He learned determination to do his best and to be happy for others.

We have another child, Little One, who loves most to ski with the top two skiers of the group.  Even though she’s 6 and they’re 13, they ski together.  Well to Little One’s benefit, they agreed to ski down the hill with her on her race, and she beat her first race by seven seconds.  When Little One placed “third” in her category, she graciously received her medal – but then later wished to offer it to her brother.  This act of kindness showed me that she cares more about her brother’s heart than about her medal…she learned humility and compassion.

Then we have child number one, our oldest, whom we’ll call Sunshine.  She did her personal best – and got the same score on both runs. She knew her team-mate beat her by a second, but felt she could still win a medal. When Sunshine learned that she placed 7th (out of 14) she cried so hard that she wanted to hide in the car – until she got an invitation for a play date and a sleepover.  Talk about a paradigm shift – suddenly Sunshine saw her true reward – caring, comrade with a peer.  When I saw Sunshine congratulate others on their winning, I knew the lesson she learned, too was compassion – and humility.

Surrender and determination are the lessons I have learned from my own experience with defeat this week. Seems more like an oxymoron, to put such words together – yet they fit remarkably well. Somehow it’s in the surrendering that I regain my ability to dig in deeper and recommit to my determination for the goal. It’s here, too, in surrender, that I reevaluate my goal, and seek for new ways to approach it – with freshness.  In surrendering, I also give myself permission to simply rest and let go in trust. It’s here that the energy comes to finish the race.

 I firmly believe that when we choose the “what” in our life, God will manage the “how” when we seek it in communication with Him. Sometimes getting out of our own way is one of the biggest obstacles to winning, too.  That’s true irony for a type A personality – that’s a lesson only defeat can really give me, as well.

Today (on Sunday) there is a two-hour slalom practice. Our children say they want a day off and not to ski.  The last two weekends we’ve taken them – and pushed them hard to practice, only to receive their tired, resentful response.  Defeat tired us all out enough that I am willing to let go – and let ourselves get refreshed.  Besides, there’s more to life in winning, isn’t there? Yes, defeat is a powerful teacher that helps us connect with ourselves, and our humanity more deeply.  I am grateful for these grounding lessons, for they make us better human beings in our victories, too.

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”Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning…They have to play with what they know to be true in order to find out more, and then they can use what they learn in new forms of play.” – Fred Rogers (“Mr. Rogers’s Neighborhood)

Today is “Fun Friday” the day we officially pull out the games for school.  We get excited about this day – for there is nothing more fun in school than playing together!  Now the kids are at the  great single digit age in which they can understand and enjoy playing most games.

Ah, but the challenge is giving myself permission to play…because there always seems to be so much more to do.  I think this overwhelming sense of relentless responsibility developed when I was in my early teens, surviving the loss of my family through divorce and of my father.  In all the crisis, there was always so much work to do and seldom time to play.  Thankfully my brother and I had two sets of healthy, retired, and wonderful grandparents within 30-minutes of our home who were willing on most visits to play games.  I attribute my passion to playing games greatly to our fine grandparents. Gosh, I only wish I would have learned bridge from them, too.

Playing fun games together seems to have a way of stopping time and creating a uninterrupted space to be simply be present to one another – in laughter, in challenges, and in sheer delight.  Our children are as motivated by the promise to play a game together as they are to eat ice cream – they just love it!  So “Fun Friday” provokes motivation to complete school work – and reinforces the joy of learning together, too.

Our school games today have been “Math Bingo”, “Vowel Zoo” and a computer game called “Magic School Bus – science”  “Math Bingo” is fun to do with food as markers at snack time. Today we used square Cheezits.  The kids showed progress in their ability to compute varying math problems – which proves that this game helps!

During the games I’m often struck by how much more willing our students are to work for the right answers – especially when there is a prize involved.  Of course, as my son said today, “Don’t I get a chocolate, too, since everyone wins in this house?”  At least my response is predictable – yes, he got a chocolate, also.  I like to point out that we all are winners for different reasons. During the “Vowel Zoo” game, our son was honest about an incorrect play – that would have otherwise won him the game.  It was more important to reward this correct behavior, than to have him feel left out because his sister won the game according to the printed game rules.

“Vowel Zoo” is a file folder game I’ve had this entire school year – 21 weeks into it, and we just played it for the first time . As the children asked to play again (even though it was too easy for one and just right for another), I thought to myself, “why did you wait so long to play this one?” 

What I know for sure is – playing requires time….time to be free from external obligations of coming, going, and have-to’s, time to read the directions and figure it out, or time to just do it (and believe/trust) that everything else is secondary at that moment.  Ironically, although it’s in the playing that I feel some of the greatest connections to true, uncomplicated joy, some how in my brain (maybe the Scottish work ethic genetics playing out here) seems to think that I need to/want to justify my time with concrete engagements and tasks.  It certainly feels like a message we get from our American culture – the sense of needing to push onwards for one more goal, one more accomplishment, one more task.  And we’re passing this down to our kids as a culture – by over scheduling our children, minimizing face to face family time, and allowing their “down time” to simply be electronically entertained.  So when is it real play time?

We’re in computer lab class now – with permission simply to play the learning computer game of choice.  The kids have discovered “Magic School Bus” on-line – and love it!  This is a medium for play and learning I sure didn’t have as a child and still don’t utilize enough for our family.

The real lesson is for me today is in gaining greater clarity on the true value of play time and the need to make it a daily priority – right up there with daily exercise and praying.  Thank you, kiddos, for reminding me of what matters most! “Play is the highest form of research.” Albert Einstein (scientist)

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Blog on 2/23/2011  Living in Alaska has given us an entirely new appreciation for theAmerican idiom “eagle eye.”  Not only is it an “Eye Spy” game and a childhood vantage point (living closer to the ground provides unique perspectives), but it’s become a special, albeit sacred, part of our daily life!

“God loves us!” said our son excitedly as we were being pulled up the tubing hill by a tow rope on New Year’s Eve.  You see, during an Advent devotion we were challenged to choose one of God’s creatures as a symbol of his love. Our children naturally chose the bald eagle.

This morning at 10AM we saw over ten bald eagles just hanging out in trees – over houses and over businesses…with cars whizzing by!  To simply sit and study these exquisitely handsome creatures in their habitat of choice, is inspiring.  The white of their heads and tails always stand out from their wide 5-6 foot wing span (about that as most adult humans’ arm width interestingly enough).  Watching them fly over us – is so awesome that we all exclaim “EAGLE!”  For I understand what our children know, that the eagles are sacred animals.  I always feel protected when one is flying above me. And I say silently, “Thank you God for being with us.” 

Seeing eagles along our daily paths has conditioned us to look up, to pay attention, to respect the gift of their company, and to slow down to watch them soar.  There’s a touch of grace in each visit – wherever we happen to be, at home, on the ski hill, driving on the interstate, or doing business in town – it pays to have an eagle eye!

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” – Isaiah 40:31

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Wow. Today we showed up at dance class – ready for dance, so we thought. Suddenly our 6-year-old daughter decided that she wanted a new pair of dance shoes – like her friend was getting. She came up with her plan to lobby – or hold out until I would say “yes” as a bargaining plea.

“Little One” as I like to call her, even went so far as to loan her ballet shoes to someone else in her class – and she didn’t know who it was.  Upon suggesting using a spare pair of ballet shoes from the teacher, Little One professed, “I don’t like those – I won’t wear them, and I don’t want to dance because I’m tired.”

My externally calm response was, “we’re here and you’re completing this – with or without shoes.”  She grabbed me and refused.  The fabulous dance teacher came to us – and said, “I won’t talk to you when your face is in your mother’s belly.”  At this point my nerves hit the roof and I thought to myself, “what now, I can’t believe this is happening.” 

I called my own time out – in the bathroom.  I knew there had to be a way to deal with this that was constructive and helpful – I just didn’t have a clue how to get there.  By the time I finished three deep breaths with the Holy Trinity, I came out to find a dear, smiling mother, Barbara, helping Little One get on a spare pair of her daughter’s shoes.   And with great quickness, Little One was on the dance floor – skipping for true joy. 

Whew – what a process this dance is between child and mother.  We move two steps forward and one step backwards, or at least sideways, regularly. Thank you God for dear caring parents in our village who are willing to assist us when we feel like we’ve run out of tools.  Thank you for the answered prayer…for help, for a gentle solution, for an effective dance class and for a surrender to the dance of power.

Ah, the dance we do. It’s a lot more fun when we share it!

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Happy Birthday George Washington, our first president in the United States.  Studying General Washington’s life is truly inspiring!  He certainly honored the enormous calling on his life for the good of our nation.

While there are many admirable character traits our Founding Father embodied, prudence is the quality that we looked at today.  “Prudence is seeing what is likely to happen and taking careful thought acting and planning. It means you try to look ahead so that you can avoid problems and create good opportunities by being aware and taking appropriate action.”-Winter Promise materials.

This sounds like parenting to me – and certainly like a homeschooler parent’s outlook on life.   Instructing our children to be prudent in their choices is an enormous task.  With our crew still in the single digits, lessons in right and wrong seem to dominate.  However, when possible, we do choose “our battles” and encourage our children to make a choice between good, better or best.

As Hebrews 12:1-4 illustrates, choices often don’t win a popularity contest. It’s tough. But, the benefits of prudence so outweigh the cost of it.  Today our seven-year-old initiated following through on making a wrong – right. He had spent change from the car’s change purse on air hockey – thinking it was just “free” money. When I explained it was for parking the car, and not for his use, our son got it – and apologized. After hearing his piggy bank rattle, he came running to me in a sleepy state with his money to repay the car kitty.  Knowing that he was taking action on what he understood was the right thing to do gave me a sense of joy.

These are life’s little teaching moments that will develop our son to be a person of great personal integrity such as our great leader, General Washington.  I pray now that we’ll be guided to teaching prudence with the topic of saving money to buy the DS games….

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Having just written about the power of gratitude in our own home, it was interesting to hear a sermon based on it. 

Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed?  Where are the other nine?  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner? The he said to them, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” – Luke 17:17-19

Tonight we heard a powerful message about the need to be obedient, to be faithful – and to show gratitude when it’s appropriate.  The pastor challenged us to consider what does modern-day  “Leprosy” look like in our lives, in spiritual terms? Where are we not showing gratitude?

Indeed,  gratitude in of itself, does posses a remarkable healing quality.  In fact, one of the best ways to shift the negatives in the day is to focus on gratitude…even if it’s basic.  In   “The Hiding Place” Corrie Ten Boom tells a story of how her sister believed in what the New Testament said, and used gratitude to tolerate the fleas and lice in the dormitory of the concentration camp they were imprisoned in.  Through their faith – and gratitude, they were even able to find the blessings of those horrific circumstances (the fleas kept the violent guards out of the dorms – giving them some solace).

It has been said that one of the best prayers are simply “thank you.”  Indeed, as we close the day, I give thanks to our family, and to our God for His tremendous blessings.  As we do this daily, it is my hope that our children will grow with hearts of gratitude for what is good in our lives – healthy bodies, a safe house, a warm bed, full bellies, clean water, flushing toilets, hope for the future, freedom, purpose, friends & family that loves them dearly and so much more. With gratitude there is peace – this is a gift God gives us where ever we are.  It’s time to rise and go in gratitude!

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As I shift laundry around and iron items that have been put away for almost a year, my 6-year-old daughter says, “Mom, thanks for helping me make this doll house.”  I smile brightly and joyfully say, “You’re welcome – I had a lot of fun doing this with you.”

Together we realize it’s been too long since we’ve been alone and just had fun. So much of our lives, maybe too much, is spent on coming and going and we seem to be in the midst of agendas with timelines..  Today we have had the unexpected gift of a free morning.  Little One had just received a toy set of miniature bunk beds and two bunnies. When she asked me excitedly to play with her, I hesitated on the inside thinking to myself, how do we do that? 

Then I got the idea to read some Beatrix Potter stories that we could act out with the bunnies.  Little One bought into this idea, so we headed to our home library and began our playing. Ms. Potter’s funny creative spirit stirred mine and the next thing I knew, Little One and I were creating our own bunny house with left over boxes, fabric and a glue gun. She was thrilled and I was amazed to see Little One create and problem solve so well.  She also said, “Mom, I like you. Thank you for spending time with me.”  To hear our child, who is often remarkably – and loudly, demanding, articulate genuine appreciation for the delight of being together is the greatest gift a mother could receive.  To know that our daughter has the ability to understand gratitude – and to verbally articulate it, is to know our daughter is getting our lessons!

While I haven’t gotten as much “done” as I intended today, the memories created together – with Beatrix Potter’s stories, the bunnies, and the hand-made doll house will forever stand in our hearts’ history. And, in sharing this open-ended, uninterrupted time, I also got to walk back into the magic I knew in my own childhood – with my daughter. In giving her my undivided attention, she has given me the gift of her sweetest, brightest self, too. The peace that comes from today, shines a light on what is to come – and it’s good:). 

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” –Chinese Proverb

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