Masterchef

About a week ago I searched online for a “kids cooking show”. I was thinking maybe I’d find something like the old Urban Peasant Cooking Show (from 20 years ago!) with a child doing some of the cooking. We’ve got a few eager cooks around here, so I was looking for a little inspiration.

My search led me to old Youtube episodes of Masterchef Jr.

Oh my.

I’ve been away from television for a very long time; this show is amazing.

The inspiration at home here is now over the top – the kids are loving the show and are eager to get cooking!

Sunny is charting out her menu plan for the week, and I am thinking I may have worked myself out of a job.

She is so good in the kitchen, and needs my help for very little now.

{And I am watching episodes after the kids go to bed, because, I am inspired!}

I watch those kids on the show and wonder at how much their parents must have included them and trusted them in order to be able to attain skills like that.

The messes involved in the process of learning to be skilled in the kitchen are likely beyond comprehension.

So, though I may have worked myself out of the cooking, I may be working myself into more kitchen clean-up.

But, I believe it’s all worth it; the mess now is part of the fruit to come.

Curriculum

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One thing I think a lot about is learning, how it works, what the optimal environment for positive growth is, and how as a parent I can best facilitate it.

I’m convinced that mandatory, committee-designed, imposed-from-the-top curriculum does not produce learners or a culture of learners.

My suspicion was confirmed last week as I read through the new Ontario Health and Physical Education curriculum.  Regardless of controversial content, I found the entire 8 years-worth of content overwhelming.

The kids and I wanted to critique our competency level according to the standards laid out by this committee-spawned wad of paper, so, as we prepared lunch in the kitchen one day I asked the kids, “Okay, who’s in grade six here?”

(No one knew, because, we don’t do grades.)

We figured that Dorian was pretty close, so I asked him if he could (reading from the curriculum), “[Do] Movement combinations – with/without equipment, in response to external stimuli [?]”

We all agreed that he was good at swinging a stick and dodging when a sibling was about to throttle him with a pillow. 

Check.

Next, as we considered Duke, we checked in on a grade eight requirement: “[Can he do] Sending, receiving, and retaining – in relation to others, in response to external stimuli [?]”

Yes, he too knows how to engage in pillow-fighting behavior.

Check.

Turns out home life is a great environment for learning!

At any rate, I had a far more stimulating read this morning as I powered through The Talent Code, by Daniel Coyle – great, great, motivating stuff.  He talks about remarkable talent not as something innate, but the product of deep practice, achievable by anyone.

“Deep practice is built on a paradox: struggling in certain targeted ways – operating at the edge of your ability, where you make mistakes – makes you smarter.” (p.18)

{Hmm… sounds like motherhood…}

“’Things that appear to be obstacles turn out to be desirable in the long haul,’ Bjork said.  ‘One real encounter, even for a few seconds, is far more useful than several hundred observations.’” (p.18)

Now that is content that jives for me; real life, deep exposure and connection producing real growth.  It’s not just a thick pile of politically correct indoctrination; it’s real life, robust in all it’s pain and glory.

Minding the Media

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Probably the loudest part of our day is after dinner; the big boys clean the kitchen in the evening and they like to crank the music loud and sing along while they work.

As these guys are getting older I’m increasingly finding the topic of media technology is a key issue that we have to discern and navigate as a family. How do we best establish the kids in good patterns of positive exposure and self-control, while restraining the negative aspects of a media saturated culture?

These are big questions and ones we can’t afford to back down from as our kids are going to live in an ultra-high-tech environment (and already do in many ways).

Anyway, one trend I am noticing amongst parents who are eager to activate unmotivated kids, or distract irritating kids, or advance bright kids is to turn to the computer.

There are incredible opportunities in these little boxes: brilliant coding courses for kids, excellent online math curriculums, perky phonics games, cool video editing tools, ad infinitum. It’s amazing and I am thankful for the good opportunities found on the web.

But, one of the questions I’m coming up against is this: what real things do we lose when we exchange real life experience, learning, exposure, and pacing with computer/online opportunities?

What are we exchanging when building up a primarily virtual world/experience?

There’s no doubt that learning is going on when the kids tap away at the computer, and I believe that a lot of it is excellent content, but I wonder: what does this ‘untouchable’ work do to our bodies and our souls as we sit and stare at the glow?

What’s a ratio of online/offline life that we can sustain healthfully?

Holding a pencil is an almost foreign experience these days; writing on paper is sort of cute and mildly archaic.

But, it’s real.

As I’ve been mulling through this stimulating blog, thinking of developing the kids’ passions, I’m struck with how easily I think of computer solutions to their developmental goals.

My knee-jerk response to instantly turn to the computer for solutions awakens a sort of disgust that I’ve already given in too much to this potential Trojan horse.

What of waiting?  Of pausing, or discussing, or praying before ‘Googling’?  (Random P.S.  I use Startpage.com to keep my online searches private.)

I want to tread wisely, and focus on building up a repertoire of real life experience that will fill the children with substance, presence and foundational skills that will not fail them in the real, interactive, life-paced world that their body touches.

Being a hot shot online/on the computer does not make a person more patient, or more adept at growing a garden, or washing the dishes for that matter.

And really, it’s all about the dishes.

Queen of All This

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After readying myself for the morning, I saunter into the vacated bedrooms of the children and pull up the blinds. The sun washes into their rooms and a new day begins.

Immediately it is clear that one bed needs new sheets and two little girls need a bath and a hair wash.

I start up the laundry machine. I sort out some diapers. I pour the tub.

As I lather up Snowy’s hair with my hands, the list for the day begins to form in my mind:

Fold clothes. Vacuum the family room. Clean the study room. Check the math books. Find the missing piano book. Tune the violin. Check in on the kids’ chore progress. Make something for supper. Don’t forget to read with the Littles. Make some tea, because it’s freezing. Oh yeah, call the furnace guy. Take out the garbage. Write that big idea in my journal. Change the baby. Wipe the little guy’s nose. Help the big boys strategize for their latest project. Read again the chapter that discusses some features of time that totally blew my mind; I hardly grasp it, so need to revisit it. Find a recipe for Sunny, etc…

And then, as I’m dressing Poppy, it hits me:

I’m the Queen of all this.

This home is my dominion, my expression and opportunity. This life in our home is my personal art, my ongoing experiment, my precious kingdom. These children are the princes and princesses of our love.

Each day, upon waking, I get to lend my hand to whatever God puts on my heart for the growth of this magnificent trust.

{Though the days are filled with a good dose of noise and problems, messes and pains, we know that life together is a gift, a blessing, a very good thing.}

I am no slave to duty; I am free to enliven souls with my attention and direction, to embrace their needs and serve them with willing hands, to dream alongside them, inspire them, to build them up and establish them in truth and in life, and to model for them self-control and love.

This is no sacrifice; this is freedom in it’s raw and wonderful glory.

Shop Vac

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Snowy (4), Tucker, (7) and Auden (3) thought this game that they made up was hilarious:

1.  Pull out the Shop Vac
2.  Pack popcorn into the hole that blasts out air
3.  Turn on the Shop Vac
4.  Watch the popcorn fly
5.  Repeat (again and again… and again)

My three attentive students just nailed hands-on science, nutrition and technology all in sixty minutes!

The only down-side to this educational hour was that the young scholars had to vacuum up their mess at the end.

Oh, but that tied in nicely tied with the character and responsibility aspect of their home economics curriculum (a new, hot-off-the-press unit study: how to vacuum the floor with a joyful spirit).

Oh my, there’s nothing like self-motivated learners ;)