Monday, November 30, 2009

Cultivating Thankfulness

Middle got to have a lesson with her Grandpa Bjork on Saturday. It was fun to watch, and fun to be the practicing parent for the day, instead of the teacher. Middle absolutely glowed--she was proud to be working with Grandpa and proud to display her new skills.

My favorite part of the lesson was when, after working with her on loosening up her thumb at the neck of the violin, he had her ask me to help her work on it at home. After having her repeat after him, "Will you please help me work on my thumb?" he said, "Now what do you say when somebody agrees to help you? You say thank you. Your mom has a lot of things to do, but she takes the time to practice with you, too, so you need to thank her."

Now it's always nice when someone acknowledges the sacrifices I make as a mother. But the really beautiful point here was that in learning violin my daughter is the beneficiary of something valuable. Her role as a violin student isn't about consumerism or slavery. She is a participant in her own education, with the emphasis placed on the value of that education--it is a gift of which she is a grateful recipient.

Education is a gift. Now I know firsthand it doesn't always feel like that for the people involved. My children often feel put-upon to do things they don't want to do (like practice, or do math, or learn cursive, or even brush their teeth) and I often feel like a prison guard making sure they do all these thtings. But keeping in mind that it is an honor and a blessing to be able to partake in education (and fluoride) can help us take a longer view of these things. We're working on it, anyway!

So how can you cultivate an attitude of thankfulness? Better yet, how can you cultivate an attitude of thankfulness without lecturing or preaching?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Loneliness and Books

When I read a good book, one of two things generally happens (and if I'm lucky, both): 1) I gain a new understanding of something or somebody, and 2) I find that I am not as alone as I think. What better way to reach out into the world than to hear somebody else's story? To hear and listen, and bring what you've learned to bear on your own life? To find out that the world---or adventure, or knowledge or faith--is at once larger and closer than you ever imagined?

In her essay, "Up from Elsie Dinsmore", in Gates of Excellence: On Reading and Writing Books for Children, Katherine Paterson writes about how the isolation of being a "weird little kid" drove her to seek company in books, and how those books shaped her as a person. I was a shy kid myself, and I made friends in books too, getting to know all sorts of people with whom I would have been too timid to strike up a conversation. In getting acquainted with these people I found out that my fears and thoughts and hopes and dreams were not so strange after all. I found company in every book, met kindred spirits, experienced the world through different eyes, and was challenged to reach beyond myself.

So I'm curious. Were you a reader as a kid, and if so, were books more than just entertainment? What books took you beyond yourself to new ideas or new friends? Do you have the same experience with books as an adult?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Write What You Know

Write about what you know and what you love. I'm starting this blog to do just that--to write about music, education, children's literature, and family, and hopefully to meet you where those things intersect.

I'm a homeschooling mom, violinist, violin teacher and book lover. I'm not very good at making my life about just one thing. Rather, I think all my different interests feed into and off of one another. And I'm sort of a dreamer who wants to connect with other dreamers, through books, music, and whatever else.

A dreamer is a great thing to be, even if it makes everyday life a bit of a challenge. My kids are dreamers, too, each in their own way. Ask any of us what's rattling around in his or her head, and you could get a very long, involved answer. Ask any of us where we left our shoes, or what we just went upstairs to get, and you could very well get a blank look. But there is purpose in all those dreams, and I think part of my job as a parent and as a teacher is to provide new material for children to work into their repertoire. So my goal is to look into ways of doing that, and hopefully we'll all learn something along the way.