August, 2011

He Has Something to Love

August 21, 2011
posted by Tia in Learning

A couple of days ago I read this great article over at http://www.tjed.org/ and I loved it so I wanted to share. It made me think about my oldest son, Captain.

This article is entitled “Something to Love“, and it is written by Oliver DeMille. He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education, among other books. Here are a couple of great quotes from it:

“Give the student something to love. This is essential to helping them fall in love with learning and, later, hard study. The learning environment matters. . . .

Moreover, when a student is deeply in love with one thing—from a sport to a topic like math or Shakespeare, to a club or genre of books—it is easier to help inspire her to excellence in other arenas.”

Read the whole article. It’s great food for thought.

I don’t think Captain was even two years old when he first asked me to read St. George and the Dragon to him (the one by Margaret Hodges and Trina Schart Hyman). Now, this is a long book for such a little guy to sit through. So, at first I just told him the story using the pictures rather than reading the actual text. However, Captain kept bringing me that book to read to him, over, and over, and over. Finally, I decided that I would just read him the full text in the book…yes, to be quite honest…in order to perhaps discourage him from picking this book so frequently. (Couldn’t he pick something a little more fun to read, like One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss?)

But my plan to bore him with the book failed. He loved the whole story, and after that wouldn’t even let me get away with just telling it to him in my own words using the pictures. Pretty soon I had a little two-year-old who would tell me, “Mommy, I’m fighting a dragon, grim and horrible!”

Pretty soon he discovered swords. Then armor. Then knights in shining armor. For his third birthday, we got him a play suit of armor and matching weaponry, as well as a homemade shield crafted by a good friend. And we kept reading that book to him, and he never got tired of it.

Boy, did he have something to love. And this love has branched out, just as Dr. DeMille said that it would. As Captain got older, his interest led him to other books about knights, into medieval history, then ancient history, and then modern. He wants to know about all the wars, the strategies and weaponry used. He’s enthralled with samurais, revolutionary war heros, zulus, and the nations of Greece, Rome, and Britain—among others. Captain asks me to read him history stories every day. Tales of heros and warriors every day. I could go on.

Of course, he’s only scratched the surface of all of these. I mean, he’s only seven. But. He has something to love. And just so you know, it works, because it’s given him a whole world of things that he wants to learn.

It may start simple. But it works! If it’s a wholesome topic, don’t discourage them. They will branch out, and they will have a passion for learning.

What do you love to learn?

3 Comments

Creative Parenting

August 18, 2011
posted by Tia in Living

Remember how I mentioned that I’m not creative? I’m ready to modify that a little bit.

It goes like this: I do have limited creativity, but when my life is in a complicated state, I use all of my creativity maneuvering through it.

For example, a new baby. I love babies. Babies are darling, I could just eat them up. They are worth every bit of work they take, and then double that. But, you have you admit that they can often be complicated. Especially if there is also a toddler thrown into the mix.

Many days, I find that it take every drop of creativity in me just to figure out how to get both the crying baby and the screaming toddler to sleep at the same time. (Because you must realize that if they do not fall asleep almost simultaneously, the still-crying one will wake the other one up. This job is no small feat.) I’m happy to report that I have managed this.

More than once.

I tried to find pictures of other daily, creative accomplishments that I manage. Like, encouraging the older kids to do their chores as fast as childly possible without hollering at them. Or, making dinner from scratch with the last three things left in my fridge before a farm day or a shopping trip. Or how about loading up and buckling four children into the car (over and over again) because I have to take all of them with me to run errands.

But, it seems that the only creative moments in which my hands are free enough to take pictures of my accomplishments are when I’ve just managed to get the babies to sleep. So, here’s one more picture of it, just for good measure. Just to prove that I have moments of creative genius daily.

I love this talk by Elder Uchtdorf. He talks about creativity and how it’s not all about music, art, and crafting. All of us have the power and opportunity to be creative, in one way or another. He speaks of creating smiles, of writing thank-you notes, of nurturing children. That’s not a cop-out, people. I’ve found that it takes a lot of creativity to get out of the ruts we sink into in every day life. It takes creativity to stay calm in moments of chaos or crisis. To guide or teach children in ways that we were not taught or guided ourselves. It takes creativity to make yourself be more than you feel like you can be when you drag yourself out of bed at 6 am in the morning.

Here’s to creativity. In all of its many forms.

How were you creative today? Come on, you can think of something—be creative. 🙂

One Comment

To be, or not to be . . . comfortable. That is the question.

August 16, 2011
posted by Tia in Living

A couple of years ago, a general authority from my church came to our stake conference and spoke to us. Something that was said has stuck with me—the concept it taught, if not the exact wording. The idea was this:

Most of us tend to try too hard to become comfortable here on earth. We are not here to be comfortable. This is not our home.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about that.

It was pointed out that most of us measure “good” as in “I had a good day” by how comfortable we have been: I have felt well. It was not too hot, or too cold. I didn’t have to do anything too difficult, nor too challenging. My children were easy to get along with today. My throat wasn’t hurting like it has been for the past week. Etc., Etc.

This is such a natural way of judging our experiences that it’s hard to step away from it and look at the bigger picture.  The eternal picture.

We are here to do our best, to prove what we are really made of. We are here to serve, to learn how to put others’ needs before our own, to live as Christ lived. Our primary goal in life, or even for a good day, should not be to be comfortable. There are much higher goals to be aiming for. Our Lord, of course, puts this best:

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

“But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” (Matthew 6:19-20).

Can I just point out one thing that I find really interesting about that scripture? The word “treasure.”  I tend to think of treasure as a really worldly thing. Kind of like comfort. But Christ refers in this scripture not only to worldly treasure, but to treasure in heaven that we should be focusing on. Interesting.

C. S. Lewis’ classic essay The Weight of Glory (found in his book by the same name) comes to mind. I love this essay. If you haven’t read it, you should; it will give you a remarkable paradigm shift. If you are already a fan of C. S. Lewis, you will understand me when I say that I cannot possibly do justice to his point by writing a few lines of his essay here. If you are not yet a fan of C. S. Lewis, read this essay through two or three times, that you may become one. 🙂

In this essay, Lewis speaks of how Christians are taught to desire the rewards of heaven. But what are they? We hardly know. So how then are we to desire them? Lewis suggests that this desire is already manifested in us, we just don’t realize that it is heaven that we are yearning for. Perhaps we remember a time where we think we had momentarily obtained ultimate comfort, beauty, happiness or inspiration. But even in trying to recreate these experiences, we never…quite…are satisfied. Lewis tells us why:

The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited” (C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, Harper Collins 2001 ed., pp. 30-31).

He goes on a little later to say: “A man’s physical hunger does not prove that man will get any bread; he may die of starvation on a raft in the Atlantic. But surely a man’s hunger does prove that he comes of a race which repairs its body by eating and inhabits a world where eatable substances exist” (Ibid, p. 32).

So first, here is the bad news: the ultimate comfort, the ultimate beauty, the ultimate fulfillment that we all seek for, simply does not exist here. We may get glimpses, but they will be gone in a flash and we will always be left wanting more.

But the good news is that what we want does exist. What’s more, we are supposed to be yearning for it, and seeking for it. The reason that we are not supposed to focus too hard on being comfortable or perfectly happy or satisfied here is that we cannot be. And the only way that we can be, someday, is if we give up these moth-eaten earthly treasures to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven—the real, lasting, incorruptible treasures. The ones that we were created for, the ones that we already feel the ache for.

For people of faith, this is the great motivating force for all the good that we do. Take up your cross and follow me becomes an attainable goal when we remember that we are following our Master to the only place where all crosses will finally be laid to rest, and where we will be eternally happy in ways that we have only yet glimpsed or dreamed about.

So don’t lay too many treasures up here. There is much more to life than being comfortable. But remember, we are on our way.

What scriptures or other inspiration helps you to stay focused on an eternal perspective?

2 Comments

Music in our Home

August 11, 2011
posted by Tia in Learning, Loving

I have this 20-year-old memory of my mother which I found recently, tucked away in a far and dusty corner of my brain. I remember hearing her play the piano.

Us kids were already in bed and the house was pretty quiet. I can’t remember whether I was lying in bed or whether I was staying up late to read or write (most likely the latter). I just remember that everybody was in bed, and in the stillness of the house upstairs, my mother was playing hymns on the piano.

I remember picturing her up there, sitting on the bench, playing. It isn’t my only memory of her playing, but it’s one of a very few. She knew the piano well enough that she could play church music, but I think that was about it. I wonder now why she was playing on that particular night. Had it been a really good day? Or a particularly difficult one?

I loved the piano, and I wanted to be able to play it so badly when I was young. I don’t remember if that desire started at that particular moment, or if this only fueled a fire that was already burning. But one thing is for sure: my desire to play the piano, and my love of beautiful (and especially religious) music, is bound up tightly with this memory of my mother playing.

I begged my mom to teach me to play. She taught me to play in the treble clef with my right hand, and to play basic chords to accompany the melody with my left. When I was nine, my sweet grandmother offered to pay for me to have piano lessons in exchange for my help in cleaning her house. I gleefully accepted, and began what turned into three years of lessons before my family moved to another state. I didn’t love my teacher or her methods; I hated being asked to play scales; and I always felt like the music we worked on was much more basic than what I wanted to be learning. But I loved playing the piano, and nothing ever dampened that.

Fast-forward about five years. I’m off to college. After self-teaching myself on the piano for a few years I’d had an additional year of music lessons with a wonderful teacher before I left home. But now I had moved again, and the curriculum at the school I was attending didn’t include any type of music.

The best it seemed that I could do was to join the Institute Choir. Since I loved singing next best to playing the piano, this worked out just right. In more ways than one! Turns out my future husband was in that choir, singing tenor as I belted out my best soprano.

Fast-forward a few more years to married life with kids. Music, we’ve decided, is important to us, and we want it in our home. Neither of us are overly talented—perhaps about average and with rusty skills—but that doesn’t matter. You don’t have to be talented to pass on a love of music.

As our kids started getting older (the put-him-in-lessons-now-in-case-he-is-a-prodigy age), we began to wonder what to do. We knew families that had been very successful in giving their children consistent musical training from a very young age. After looking into it, it just didn’t seem right for us. Both of us had picked up music of our own initiative, and were content to have it be that way for our children. Our most important job, we’ve now decided, is to inspire them.

How? Well, that’s when I began to remember that night that I listened to my mother playing. The memory is so sweet and moving that it often brings tears to my eyes. If I could be that inspired from hearing my mother, just that once, then all I need to do is to play and sing music. This isn’t too hard for me, as I have a piano always standing at the ready, calling to me. Also, since we’ve had children I’ve consistently had a music calling of one sort or another at our church. James finally took the plunge and decided that, decade old skills or not, he was going to pull out the old trumpet and join the community band. And then the orchestra. He’s only third trumpet, but he’s playing. And he loves it.

And the kids see it. And hear it. And love it. They know that music is beautiful, and that it is an important part of their home and their parents’ lives. And for now, that’s all that they need to know to get them started on a life-long love of music.

Thanks, Mom. I hope the beautiful notes you played in that moment of musical inspiration will continue to resonate throughout generations.

What is something that you have been inspired to pass on to posterity?

One Comment

Back on the ole’ School Schedule

August 4, 2011
posted by Tia in Home Schooling, Living

Look! It’s all four of my cute kids up early in the morning.

I’ll just tell you right now. I am not, by default, a morning person.

When evening has come and all of the kids are (sometimes finally) all tucked away in bed, the nighttime hours seem to stretch before me filled with endless possibility. I could stay up for hours, virtually undisturbed, doing whatever I want. Even my husband is a morning person, and is guaranteed to wander off to bed long before I’m out of steam.

I figure that my default sleep pattern is simply obedient to the first law of physics: Things like to keep on doing what they are already doing. If I’m working on a project at night, I like to keep projecting. If I’m sleeping in the morning, I’d like to just keep on sleeping, thank you. 🙂

That being said, I like myself much better when I get up early in the morning.

There is a scripture that I believe very much in that says, “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19 in The Book of Mormon).

Another scripture in point: “Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary, arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:124).

That natural man in me really puts up a good fight, but early mornings do invigorate me, there’s no doubt. If I don’t arise early there’s a very small chance that I will get any personal, alone time for reading scriptures during the day. Or praying. Or exercising. Or showering. (Or going to the bathroom, for that matter.) Only when I am up early with my family (and ideally up a little earlier than my family), do I feel like I begin the day in a way that sets us up to be orderly, productive, and peaceful.

Since Sunshine was born, I’ve slacked off a lot. I’ve stayed up late, I’ve slept in most mornings, I’ve napped with the baby in the afternoon. At least it was summer. But this week, we’re back on track. I’m heading to bed earlier, I’m up early in the morning with the family before my husband leaves for work. We haven’t officially “started school” yet, but we’ve got our schedule ready for it. I’m putting off that natural man again. Hard work, that!

I am a morning person. But not by default. By choice.

Are you a morning person? If so, is it by default? Or is it by choice, effort, and battle with the first law of physics?

2 Comments
 

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