Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My Girls

My girls have been a source of amusement to me lately, so I thought I'd share their latest antics.

Cassie, my youngest, is 6 1/2 and is lovable, cuddly and at the same time a wild gal. She is my jump roper and attends a class once a week to perfect this art. She climbs trees and ladders as high as she can go (much higher than mom is comfortable with). She can hula hoop and skip with a hoop and do other fancy tricks. She would rather teach herself how to jump backwards and do cross over tricks with her jump rope than to work on endurance techniques. She's six. She wants the fun stuff.

She is also incredibly perceptive and has a vocabulary far beyond her age. Once when she was 4 we were driving through a parking lot and some kids were playing in the parking lot area where cars were driving. Looking around she said, "It is very inappropriate for children to be playing here". All I could do was agree wholeheartedly. She is not afraid to speak her mind.

So yesterday, while I was toweling off after Water Aerobics, she said, "Mom, why do you exercise?"
"To get skinny" I replied.
She looked me up and down and then said, "Well, it's not working." I nearly died laughing. I could see this coming from a mile away.

My other daughter, Stephanie, is 14, going on 15. She is becoming an independent lady. She has been attending a youth group at a local baptist church for the past few months and is really enjoying it. Today she told me that they were planning a paint ball event soon. She actually expresses a desire to go!

I'm thinking to myself, "Is this really my daughter? Or is she my husband's daughter?" More like the truth. Thankfully she has a strong dad who isn't afraid of a little fun that involves running. I was never good at running......but this isn't about me!

So while pondering my daughter's courage, my husband pointed out to me an important fact I had not considered. This summer Stephanie is going to spend time with her best friend from 2nd grade, whom she hasn't seen for 6 years. She has some trepidation about this because her friend is planning all kinds of activities that sound a little more daring than my daughter's normal slow walks on the beach, and the occasional water park day. So my husband's premise is Stephanie wants to do the paint ball thing in preparation for her visit with her friend! Kind of a "gear her up and toughen her up" event. Aiy!

So here's to my two girls. So different from their mom. Yet with many great qualities. And they did inherit some stuff from me. Like writing and art.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Midnight Sun Critique

Just for fun I thought I'd jump on the Twilight bandwagon and do a mini-review of Midnight Sun, the online partial rough draft of a book that I pray SMeyers does not ever finish. First off, I need to give credit for the inspiration to write this blog post to Rachel of Rachel does a wonderful job of picking apart Twilight, chapter by chapter. Funny, inspirational, and well, fairly right on the mark.

I confessed in an earlier post that I have read Twilight. I've actually made it through New Moon and Eclipse but haven't quite gotten up the courage to shell out another $11.99 for the final book, Breaking Dawn. To be honest, they weren't as horrible as I had imagined, and made for a light read while doing laundry at the laundromat.

So...Midnight Sun. This is Twilight from Edward's perspective. I'm not going to attempt to do a chapter by chapter review, but just give my general impressions and point out some bloopers that really stood out to me.

First of all, what is up with the word "chagrin"? For some reason this word kept appearing over and over again. Miriam Webster defines this word as "disquietude or distress of mind caused by humiliation, disappointment, or failure". Bella seems to suffer from this a lot. I didn't count every instance of this word, but trust me, it made its way into every chapter, sometimes more than once. My favorite use of the word: pg. 144 Rosalie turned to glare at me, her eyes sparkling with chagrined fury.

And then there is the whole breathing issue. First of all we are told that as a vampire, Edward does not need to breathe. Okay, makes sense since technically a vampire is dead. Yet he does need to breathe in order to smell his prey, or Bella - even if he does do a lot of breath holding to avoid smelling her "delectable" scent. I just found it unnecessary to read about every breath he took. I found myself yelling at the computer screen (remember this is an online book) "He can't breathe!!!" every time I came across a reference to Edward breathing. eg. pg 72. Tyler was paying us no attention at all, but Carlisle was monitoring my every breath.
Uh why? Were you breathing too much Edward?

But it's not just the breathing issue that got to me. It seems that even though vampires are "cold ones" and therefore do not themselves have blood flowing through their veins, they still seem to be able to exhibit similar blood loss to their faces as humans do when confronted with a shocking situation. eg. p64. (ref. Carlisle) He jumped to his feet, his face paling to bone white. And how exactly is this supposed to happen? Humans' faces turn pale because the blood rushes away from their faces in times of stress or shock. Can you honestly say this would happen with a vampire??

In defense of Edward, Midnight Sun does a good job at addressing many of the creepy issues that are brought up on Rachel's blog. Like his stalking. He admits to being a stalking vampire. p.75 Like a stalker. An obsessessed stalker. An obsessessed, vampire stalker. Uh, good thing this is a rough draft 'cause obsessessed is not in the dictionary! I sure hope her editor would have picked up on this if it made it to print. Though I've read there is some question as to whether her books were edited at all.

I also found it funny to read from Edward's perspective how his attempts to be chivalrous just end up looking creepy. Friends who defend Edward remind me that he was originally from the early 1900's where chivalry was not dead. So his desire to drive, to carry Bella (since she is obviously too delicate to walk), and to open doors for her makes sense. I'm not convinced that Edward is as controlling as some make him out to be. He does get very frustrated that Bella will open the door for herself before he can do his lightening fast vampire walk around the car to open it for her. eg. p.178 She already had her door half open before I'd walked around the car - it wasn't usually so frustrating to have to move at an inconspicious speed - instead of waiting for me to get it for her.

For someone who has read Twilight, there are vast parts of Midnight Sun that make me want to pull out my copy and compare to see if the scenes match. I'm thinking it is a bit of a cheat for an author to pull a scene from another book, word for word. Putting in names for characters that are not mentioned in the first one just seemed unnecessary and lame to me, as well. Do we really care that Lonnie is the name of the guy who leered at Bella? And what's with the Ben scene? Are we really to believe that this Ben guy is so stupid that he would believe that Edward wanted to ask Angela to the prom? After the whole school has witnessed him eating lunch with Bella? These vain attemps at "plot" just don't work for me.

And that is the bottom line for this entire series. Plot is severly lacking. Sure there is a premise and interesting characters, but we are subjected to page after page of intense, mind numbing....drivel (for lack of a better word) that makes me want to scream "get on with the story will you!"

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A Day in the Life of Cassie

Yesterday was such a great unschooling day for Cassie, my youngest daughter, that I thought I'd share what she did.

Cassie woke up around 9am and immediately started to be bothered by her older brother Eric. Typical conversation emanating from their shared bedroom consisted of "Errriiiicccc!" and "Casssssssiiiiieeee!" as they greeted each other and complained about whatever the other one was doing. Not to be daunted for long though, Cassie bounced out into the living room where she gave her dad a very long morning hug. On the table she spotted her "passport" from the previous day's geography fair that she attended with the Guam Homeschoolers.

"Did you know I have a passport to go to the moon?" she asked her dad, then eagerly showed her the "moon" sticker she had in her passport booklet. Her dad was notably impressed.

Around 10am, I loaded the kids into the car to make the drive into town and to my driving school office. On the way, Cassie sat quietly in the back seat, looking out the window and singing along to the songs on the CD I was playing (Voltaire in case any one is wondering). I love listening to her sing to herself.

At the office, the usual "I'm hungry" complaints began, so I told the kids to make themselves ham sandwiches. I love that they are at an age that, for the most part, they can feed themselves. For the next three hours, Cassie contentedly amused herself in various activities. She found the Story time Felt dolls we had used the night before at our display of international costumes. So her first play involved these dolls and a felt board with a meadow and trees as background. For at least a half hour she occupied herself with these, singing, telling stories to herself, making up situations for the dolls to dress up in different costumes. I was busy inputting receipts and clearing out my inbox so didn't catch all that she was saying, but I could hear her little voice prattling away.

A while later I looked over at the table to see what she was up to and found her occupied with a microscope. She was intently setting it up all by herself (I had first showed her and her brother how to use this very cheap microscope about 3 weeks prior). She figured out how to shine the light so she could see through the lens, change slides and find things to look at. I wasn't sure if she really had it set up properly until she came over to me and said, "Did you know salt looks like a square?" She then bounced off to find more things to look at under the microscope. She even went out to the beach and brought in some sea weed, sand and other interesting items she found. Unfortunately Eric finally noticed what she was doing and had to get in on the action and refused to let her show him how it was done. The two of them are so different in this way. She is willing to listen and follow directions, and Eric is like a bull in a china shop, barging his way in, knocking stuff over and then wondering why it doesn't work for him, refusing to listen to any form of instruction. So after separating them, Cassie was able to finish up some of her experiments in peace.

Some other things she did included drawing pictures, looking at some scholastic book fliers and picking out books she wanted, making herself a bowl of oatmeal as an afternoon snack, riding her bike behind the building, and playing at the beach. She also played some on the computer, once Eric gave up his spot.

At home in the evening, after eating dinner, she practiced her jump rope, played with her hula hoop (where she has learned to hula for at least 6 or 7 turns now), watched a few episodes of Corner Gas with me (wonderful Canadian sitcom), and then fell asleep laying on top of me on the couch. It won't be long before she is too big to do this, so I treasure these moments.

And that was a very typical day in the life of Cassie, my 6yo.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Another reason for unschooling

This morning I was reading a Calvin and Hobbes comic in the bathroom. This is the preferred reading room in our house. I've mentioned before that Eric learned to read by reading Calvin and Hobbes comics so that is one reason this is popular bathroom reading material. Here is the comic that caught my attention.

Here is the crux of the problem in any school setting, even for those who choose to do a more traditional homeschool curriculum. What is being taught is not necessarily what a child is interested in. So how then can the child's attention be kept?

Look back at your own experience in school and what are the things you remember the most? If you are like me, the things I learned in school that I remember reflect those things I was interested in. If the subject matter did not interest me, I did not retain any of the information.

This is why I love unschooling. By catering to my children's interests I am guaranteeing that what they learn they will retain. This has been proven to me time and time again as my children come to me and spout facts they have learned or share an interesting tidbit they remember.

I know there are those out there who will cry "But what about learning things you aren't interested in? Isn't that just as important?" Sure, there are many things I have learned and am knowledgable about that were not initially in my "field of interest". I have learned them out of necessity in order to function in society. Like doing my taxes. Not very interesting, but a necessary part of life. The key, of course, is teaching your child how to learn, so that when something comes up that they need to know about, they have the resources, ability and even desire to learn about it.

Instilling a love of lifelong learning is my goal with my children. When they learn the facts is not important. How they learn them is. This is why we unschool.