The Upside Down World

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Ups and downs

Someone seems to have erased all the cookies on our computer and it took me 2 days to remember my user name and password for blogger - so I've had an extra long break from blogging. I've had some really big ups and really big downs in the past week and a half. However, dwelling on the ups is almost always better for a gal than dwelling on the downs. Soooooo . . . let me share a couple of "good mom" moments I've been hanging onto to even out the down moments.

My 7 year old has been having a hard time getting to sleep since we moved into a new house a couple months ago and I sometimes pray with/over him to try and help settle him and calm him (and to call in the re-inforcements for help!). A couple of days ago he came and asked me to pray with him to help him get to sleep. As always as part of my prayer, I asked God to help me be a good mother to my son. When we finished Collin put his arms around my neck and said, "you don't need to ask for any help being a good mom for me, Mom." That's only because I ask all the time I responded :)

I've never actually made my 11 year old study history because he wasn't interested and I figured we can always study it all in high school anyway. However we have had some talks about various historical events and dynamics. I never know how much he's listening, however and know that I can kill curiosity by giving too much information at the least sign of interest. So you can imagine my delight when Noah explained the relationship between Hitler and Stalin in WWII, how the USSR ended up with half of Germany and Berlin, what the differences between a communist/socialist system and a democratic/capitalist system were and why the Berlin Wall was built when his father casually mentioned something about WWII. I guess that lesson stuck after all.

Noah used the word "non sequitur" in a conversation last week. The poor child's never going to be able to communicate with anyone outside of our family! :)

Collin, who has struggled with controlling his emotional outbursts has kept his cool pretty well for the last couple of weeks. When I mentioned that I had noticed this, he responded, "I just keep remembering that conversation where you explained about big things and little things and I tell myself 'this is just a little thing' and then I don't get upset over it."

Noah has always struggled with fidgeting and focus so when his karate teacher told him he could move into a more advanced class only if he could stop fidgeting and start paying attention, I wasn't surprised. I suggested some mental exercises he could use to harness his excess energy to his benefit in class (it had something to do with visualizing the urge to move as a color, storing it and releasing it with his movements while visualizing calming energies moving in as the energy was released. I don't really remember, I was kind of pulling it out of my belly button at the time.) He's done fine and has moved up a belt since then, but I had actually forgotten telling him this. However, the other day after class he mentioned using this technique (whatever it was) and how it's really helped him.

My kids have always been a little extra challenging and rarely seem to pay attention to what I say or even to the punishments which are doled out as a consequence of their refusal to listen to what I say (like clean your room, stop running, don't jump off the furniture, go to bed, etc), so it's always surprising and gratifying when something I say actually makes an impression on them.
So there are my "good mom" moments for the week. I hope your days are filled with such moments as well.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Children's Movies

This weekend, my husband took our boys, ages 7 and 11 to the movies. I was a bit surprised when my husband said he wanted to take the boys to see the new Jet Li movie "Fearless". He loves karate movies and thought the kids would be interested since they have been taking karate for a while now. But the movie is rated PG-13 and there was that new children's movie "Open Season" which came out on Friday. I didn't want to see "Open Season", but my husband doesn't seem to mind potty humor as much as I do and you never know what's going to show up in a PG-13 movie, so the children's movie seemed like it would be a better bet (or at least the least likely to do major damage). Fortunately, before becoming insistent, I looked up "Fearless" on the Focus on the Family's "Unplugged" website. (This is a great place to check before seeing a movie, BTW - they will tell you about minutiae like how many characters smoke, if wine is consumed, if anyone gets punched, how many times various foul words are used and any sexual innuendo. Some of the things they worry about aren't a big concern for our family, but it sure is nice to know what you're getting into.) You can read their review of "Fearless" here. Since the movie didn't have much of anything in the way of sex or language and the violence wasn't gory, I decided not to press the issue. The boys and my husband really enjoyed the movie and my husband said that it was a very moral movie with good, manly messages.
On the other hand, I happened upon this column by Fredrica Mathewes-Green about "Open Season" and I'm sure glad my hubby made the call and not me. From her column:

Sure, potty-talk has always been funny to kids. But grown-ups didn't teach it to them. They had something more significant to impart: stories to help children prepare for the world they were growing into. The best stories were complex and unafraid to deal with tragedy, like Hans Christian Anderson's The Little Mermaid, or Carlo Collodi's Pinocchio.
Earlier generations of parents complained that cartoon versions of such classic tales stripped them of all subtlety. The process has gone a step further in a movie like Open Season, where the plot presents only a starkly polarized pair of teams, good guys vs. bad guys, and then whips up a frenzy of vengeance.

Hmmm . . . I'm going to have to remember that next time I'm tempted to settle for the "least bad thing". (You really ought to read the whole thing as it goes much deeper than what I posted here. ) Whenever I see a movie like this, or the dreadful Shrek movies, I am reminded of something I read a while ago on the National Review Online. In an interview, Craig Good from Pixar studios says:

We don't make movies for kids. We make movies for adults, actually ourselves, and then just make sure there's nothing in them that the little ones shouldn't see. . . Two things are often forgotten about kids. One: They have no taste. They will watch just about anything. This is normal and healthy. Taste comes later. Two: They are not stupid! Kids are born intelligent, and there's no good reason to make dumbed-down entertainment for them.

Sooooo . . . this post really has no point except to say that my kids saw a movie that was good, even though it was PG-13 and children's movies are generally stupid and a sign of the degradation of our society (like that's never been said before!). Good day! :)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Wall of Taxonomy

Since my 11 year wants to be a herpetologist (reptile scientist), he decided he needed to get more serious about his science so we're studying biology right now. We've been looking at taxonomy (the classification of living things) and I came up with a fun activity I thought I'd share with you. It's basically just a worksheet on a wall, but my son enjoyed it.
In order to create our "wall of taxonomy" I started by creating a sketch of what the final layout on the wall would be. A taxonomy chart is a lot like a family tree where you start with great great grandma who had three kids who had a couple more kids each who had a couple more kids and so on down the line. The idea is that you start at the top with very broad classifications which split off into more and more narrow classifications. For example, kingdom animalia branches into phylum arthropodia and chordata. Phylum chordata branches into class reptilia, mammilia, amphibia, fishes, and ave. Class mammilia branches into carnivoria and cetecea. And so on until you get down to specific species of animals. I looked at charts like the ones found on this page or this page and mapped out how the classifications start at the top with one broad kingdom which gradually split into more and more narrow classifications all the way down to species. Once I had a map on paper of what the end product would look like, I started making slips of paper with the various names on them. The trick here is that if several animals share the same classification (class mammilia for example), you only made one slip of paper with that name on it. When you make the slips of paper, don't include the classification, just the name, BTW. So write "mammilia" not "class mammilia" for example. Once all of the names were on their own slip of paper, I made enough arrows to map the splits. Since my son is just starting this, I put the arrows on the wall where they should go to help him out. For example, on our taxonomy wall, Kingdom Animalia split into Phylum Arthropodia and Chordata, so under the spot where the piece of paper saying "animalia" would go, I put two arrows pointing to where arthropodia and chordata should go and so on.
Finally we're ready to go. To start, I had seven slips of colored paper with the seven classifications (kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus and species) used in taxonomy and had my boys arrange them in the proper order along the right side of the wall. I also made an additional slip which said "common name" to put at the bottom after "species" and made slips of paper with the common name of animals we were working with along with the names of their phylum, class and such. Then I gave my son the pile of (mixed up) slips of paper I had made with all of the various classification names on them. His job was to place them all in their proper spots. I had him start by spreading the slips out on the floor, picking out the things he knew to put up first and then grouping names which he thought went together. I told him he could use books to help him out, but he really tried to do it without looking for help. In the end, he got it all correct and we snapped the picture above before his little sister started trying to tear the pieces of paper off the wall (taking a picture of a wall in a hallway is pretty tough, BTW). One of the nice things about this activity is you can make it very hard or very easy. If you have a more advanced student, you may not want to put the arrows on the wall for him or her so that they will have to remember what the splits are without the help of hints. Also, you can do as many or as few organisms as you want and can use it to study groups of living organisms and how they are related. I'm afraid my explanation may not be that great and I probably made it sound harder than it was, but the prep time for this activity, including hunting down charts listing classifications which I link to above and cutting up paper (perhaps post-it note would have been a more efficient method!) was probably about an hour and a half. I think I got a pretty good bang for my buck. Anyhow, I just thought I'd share!

Unschooling Blogs
Previous | Next