Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Why I suck at homeschooling

I am an incredibly half-assed homeschooler. By all measurable standards, I really suck. I have no curriculum. I have almost no lesson plans to show, the ones I do have I didn't follow. I don't have a pile of completed work sheets or cutesy everyone-made-the-same snowman/butterfly/Dr. Suess item. If I was a public school teacher, I would be fired. Most days we have no set schedule, no plan, no action items to cross off a list. We drift, dig, sing, smash, color, exist, clean up and do it all again the next day.

I read about my friends/blogs I stalk and how excited they are to get a brand new set of curriculum for next year. I get my hopes up and click the inevitable link to the site and imminently feel the too tight itchy wool sweater feeling. I want to like a prepackaged set of learning materials, it would be so neat and all linear and such...but instead it just feels contrived and claustrophobic.

While I suck at home schooling, it isn't due to lack of opinions on children and education. Dogs bark, cats ignore you and children, by nature, learn. Most children, as with most people, don't learn best with a "fill in the blank" let me tell you what your supposed to learn type worksheet. So why bother? I hate work sheets. Elie can do them quickly but retains none of the information. The only thing a pre-fab craft teaches you is how to follow instructions, no creativity needed. I believe children learn because they were created too, nothing contrived needed. I believe children learn by using there senses, the more the better. I believe spelling is more fun when learned with finger paint, that math should be done with chocolate chips, and science is waaaaay cooler when you can see the explosion and hear it.

So we spend our days playing in the sand. We watch the bird outside the window build a nest and guess how many eggs. We write stories on our white board and paper. We read good books. We squish playdough. We carry, sort and fold laundry then put it all away. We sweep and mop and keep an eye out for ants. We take the dog to the vet and talk about heart worms. We play card games. We play paper dolls and doll house. We tell stories of Grandpa getting chased by wart hogs in Africa. We don't rush any where. Most days we are in pj's until at least 10. We watch Animal planet and Discovery.

Despite my crappy teaching, I have really enjoyed being a "homeschooler". I have to put it in quotes to keep from offending the real homeschoolers who spend hours a week on lesson plans, sitting at the table with children doing real work. Eliana doesn't seem to have suffered from my neglectful teaching and seems to flourish under the free reign approach. One of my favorite quotes I remember, ironically from college, was that when we teach a child we have robbed them the joy of discovery. I love that.

So here is to all you other half-assed, crappy home schooling mothers. May we find joy and contentment in the opportunities to lead a child into discovery, fulfillment in fostering a love of learning. May we give ourselves grace on days when we are sure our children learned nothing more than how to annoy the snot of their sisters. And God, have mercy on our children who were blessed with mothers with free spirits!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Not my fault

The other night we had company for dinner. I had 3 dessert choices, which Matt said was excessive. Whatever. It isn't my fault that he doesn't like cherries and so I had to make flourless chocolate cake with almonds and ganache for him. The baby wanted black forest brownies and I just happened to have blueberry cheesecake on hand from the day or two before. Anyway, our guest was expecting too, and twins at that!

It isn't my fault I burned my tongue on the hot-out-of-the oven pina colada cake. It smelled soooo good and the baby said he needed a bite RIGHT NOW. And who am I to say no to a little guy who is just trying his best to grow and get fat? What kind of mother would I be?

I spend a majority of time in yoga pants, which I should not be blamed for. After all, if the makers of maternity clothing understood how hard it is to keep pants on a round belly, maybe they would be a little more innovative. And my pants always feel tight...maybe it is the dessert options at my house.

It really isn't my fault that your feet stick to my floors. You see, it is getting really hard to mop them. And mopping takes time and I am currently spending every moment sans children (read: nap time) sleeping. Or finding things to eat. Just keep your shoes on and you will be fine.

All the half completed project around my house? Well I keep waiting for this nesting thing to kick in but seem to loose motivation about half way through. And Matt keeps going to work instead of following me around and finishing what I start like he does on the weekends. So really, I blame Samsung.

Eating jello salad straight from the pan? The baby made me do it. Sleeping in until 9? The baby's fault. Convincing Eliana it is her job to take her baby sister potty? Totally her brothers fault, I just can't hustle to the bathroom like her fast little 6 year old legs can. Hours spent pinning random crap on Pinterest? Well, for that I blame my friends. If they didn't have good taste I wouldn't feel the need to see what they pinned. So you see, it isn't really my fault.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

God Talk

I am a firm believer that God uses whatever He deems necessary to help us grow. Have you ever noticed today's Christians dependence on the bible and other church programs for growth? But if you look in the bible, none of those guys had the bible to grow with, they were forced to keep hearts and mind open to hearing God however He spoke into there lives. Yes, I know they had the old testament, but very few had written copies and the fact that women were completely illiterate and rarely tough didn't keep God from using them. Sometimes I wonder if we are a little too dependent on showing up to a nice, air conditioned building, sitting in our cushy chairs and listening to a guy who has boiled down all the biblical knowledge he decided we need to know into a nice, neat 3 point outline or fill in the blank workbook.

I don't go to church. Not here in Jersey. Sure, we could "church shop" until we found a "fit" but I hate that consumerism to the point I just can't bring myself to do it. Eliana and Addilyn go to AWANA at a baptist church that also has a school we may send Elie to next year. We get a discount if we are church members, my husband, slightly tongue in cheek, said he would rather pay more. I agree. Anyway, I can't be a baptist, I just made my first jello salad ever yesterday.

So we seek connection in other places. I talk to people at karate, the park and through school. Matt has coworkers he is befriending. The connections are not "christian's", at least not all of them. But they are organic, community based. I learn from the people in my life, though they may never went to bible college and don't have the paper that says God talks to them in special ways and that I should sit at there feet and listen. These people come into our home, play with our children, eat our food, do life with us. It is messy but real. There are no work books or outlines. Just connections and growth.

I have been following the research of Brene Brown, not a Christian, but I LOVE her stuff. It is powerful and moving. It touches on the heart of so many things I believe are important; relationship, connection, believing ourselves worthy.If you have only a few moments, read this. If you have about 20 minutes, watch this. If you have more time, look at this. This is the kind of stuff God bring across my path, challenges my heart with, pushes me outside my world view and convicts me. I am still processing all of the above, but I will be talking about it more when I get it a little more neatly organized in my brain.

Please don't don't read this as a "Gretchen is bitter and hates church" kind of post, because it isn't the truth. This is much more of a "I think it is cool that God meets me where and for who I am" kind of post. Church and workbooks with bible studies works for you? Awesome. So glad God is meeting you where he has you.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Girl Power

"No Way!"

The look of shock and awe on their faces was priceless. I had just told my babysitter and her friend that the baby-in-belly would wake me up at night with his hick-ups. Here stood two beautiful girls, with bodies of women, who in some parts of the world would be mothers instead of high school students, completely unaware of what it means to have a person growing inside you.

I can home that night and talked with Matt about the experience, trying to figure out why it left me feeling sad. Matt, though admittedly out of his range of expertise, listened with the heart of a man who has daughters. And this is what I came up with; we lost it somewhere. We lost the magic, the power of what it means to be a woman.

Are little girls told what amazing things their bodies are? My body has the ability to grow a whole person from just a few cells. This person has a heart beat, arms and legs, can swim around in my belly, all before anyone in the outside world would know they exist. When this child comes into this world, which is an amazing feat of its own, my body will sustain them. The curve of my hips, the shape of my body has the power to attract. My body possess a brain equal to any mans. I can be hard nosed or soft hearted. My body is an amazing thing, capable of things a mans could never do. But with great power comes great responsibility and this is where we fail our women.

What would happen if we accurately explained to a girl, yes GIRL, what happens when a baby grows inside her body? What if we explained the hormones and cycles, without judgement and embarrassment? What if we captured her heart and her mind with the power her body possesses? Would she still choose to have an abortion if she had full understanding? Or, back it up, would she allow a man to treat her body with disrespect, to use her and leave her? Would she dress her amazing body in a way that said she believed it was the best thing she had to offer the world?

This year many states have made an ultrasound mandatory before an abortion. While I can certainly understand what they are trying to achieve, I find it to be too little, too late. Not to mention I am, on principal, against the government making any rules regarding my body. Showing a woman an image doesn't change the terrible position and choice she has in front of her, she needed the information when she had power over the choice.

The church has made an effort to talk to girls about bodies too, but so often it is dealt with in a shame-inducing method or completely un-sexualized, which sell a woman, who is a sexual being, very short. They are told about "purity" but amputated from the power. It doesn't help that the bible was written in a very patriarchal society and time and pretty much disregardful of a woman's ability to lead, develop, and disciple.

And then there is our culture, who has pretty much boiled our girls down to boobies and booties. Pakistan has more female representation in its government than we do. Where are the female role models for my girls? The ones that show them that powerful women are not the ones who are half dressed, searching for princes to rescue them, or all around just bitchy?

So I am not sure where that leaves me. I desperately want to raise girls who have a full appreciation of the awesomeness in which they were created. I want a "rite of passage". I feel like my voice in my children's ear falls so short when contrasted against the media message in which they are surrounded. How do I teach them that the ability to grow people is a huge responsibility that shouldn't be taken lightly when they see all these women who chose to disrespect it? How do I share with them that the secret of birth is not that it is painful, but that women are amazing and strong? How do I let them know that the beautiful, rounded curves of their body can be used for good, not evil?

Once again I find myself on my knees, a problem bigger than just me and the girls intrusted to me. I pray they are surrounded by amazing women who show them as much as tell them. I pray that my words are those that empower respect and awe, not preach. I pray protection of hearts and bodies. I pray for something bigger than I can do.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Book Review- Monique and The Mango Rains

Just finished reading this (side note: LOVE the Kindle app on my phone. It lets me read my book anywhere I am and I can switch to reading it on the ipad and it remembers my place. And Matt and I can read the same book at the same time!)

If you have ever been interested in the peace corp or Africa or midwives or just like good stories, I enjoyed this book immensely. Not a hard read and it keeps my life in perspective!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

20 Questions

Life at the Crocker house has been plugging along nicely. Matt didn't travel hardly at all in February and it was so nice to have him around. And then his boss quit. Oy.

As often as not, my husband is now coming home frazzled, stressed, overwhelmed and feeling like he just can't keep up. He is doing the work of several people, basically managing 1 billion dollars of business. His travel schedule is now booked from now until this baby shows up and he still is going to be behind. Maybe even another trip to Korea. The guys is stretched thin.

When he comes home from work, the man is mobbed by small females who are pretty sure he hung the moon. My girls LOVE daddy time and Matt usually manages to rise to the occasion. By the time the girls are in bed the guy is done. It would be so easy to turn on the television and ignore each other for the rest of the night until we stumble into bed. And sometimes we do.

Some days we can rally. Matt brews a pot of decaf, I bake some cookies, we sit and have a real conversation. By the end, we feel more refreshed and connected than if we had vegged out in-front of the boob tube. I try to remember this on the hard days, that it is worth working to make our relationship work. Yes, it is hard at the end of the day when I have nothing left to give, but I chose to spend the rest of my life with this man and I don't want him to become a stranger. I came across this list (did I steal it from a friend? Can't remember) and it helps on the nights we are tempted to just sit and stare at each other.

20 Good Date Questions for Married Couples to Ask Each Other to Ask Each Other

1. What are four or five things which attracted you to me before we were married?

2. What "bad" thing has happened to us that we have laughed about later?

3. What is one of the most romantic times we have had together?

4. What are a few of the most romantic things I could ever do for you?

5. Tell me a time when you really felt close to me. What made you feel that way?

6. If walls could talk, what would ours say?
7. If you could keep just one memory of some past event or period of time, which would it be?

8. If we had two days alone together, what would be your idea of how we could best spend the
time? Why?

9. What could I do to best help you in the next 30 days?

10. What do I do that makes you feel really loved?

11. If you could change anything about the way I treat you, what would it be?

12. If you were to take your first name and make an acrostic describing your life’s purpose, what
would each letter represent?

13. In what simple way would you like to see me grow personally in the next 12 months?

14. What two or three problems, if solved, would make the most positive difference in our

15. What things produce the most stress in our lives?

16. What’s the What’s the greatest stress now? How might we overcome it?

17. If you had just six more months to live, how would you spend them? What would you
do? Where would you want to go?

18. How would you describe an ideal day? Weekend?

19. What would you see as my three greatest strengths?

20. What are the three most important things we could do with each of our children in the next

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