On boys (Or more reasons why we homeschool).

Boys do not need to be rescued from themselves. They need to be boys and be nurtured as boys. If that means running and screaming and getting dirty at recess, then get out the Band-aids and ready the Tide. Boys need nurture just as much as girls, but often it is a different kind of nurture.” (Borgman, 2005)

My son was in trouble at school a lot.  I’m not saying he didn’t deserve some (or even most) of it, but he was in trouble for something or another just about every day.  Now, academically he has always done extremely well, but, you see, he just couldn’t sit still.  And being able to sit still while in public school is pretty much a requirement.  But what if boys aren’t really meant to sit still?

In an interesting book I’ve been reading called “Wild at Heart,”  the author addresses that very thing.  There are truly some major differences between boys and girls and how they learn and what levels of activity (or inactivity, as the case may be) they are capable of sustaining.  I also really think that the largely female staff at most schools often just doesn’t really know how to handle boys and their energy…

And the punishment of choice at the school where my kids were?  Taking away or shortening recess.  Making them sit still. Talk about shooting off your own foot.

Here at home during the school year, we try to begin our day with exercise in addition to our morning devotionals.  And then, once we finish our school day, it’s outside they go, for bike riding, zip-lining, trekking around the woods- whatever.  As long as they’re outside moving their bodies.  My daughter did occupational therapy for a while to help manage her ADHD.  One of the things they had us doing every morning as part of her therapy was a series of exercises.  She had to wheelbarrow walk around the house, jump up and down, and then spin around in circles an equal number of times each direction, to name just a few.  It sounds silly, but the therapist explained that engaging those large muscles sort of activates the brain- sets it up for learning.  Let me say that again:  sets it up for learning.  I kind of think all kids could use this sort of thing, not just those dealing with ADHD.

And especially boys.  I’ve noticed with my own that on days when he can’t get outside and get out that energy, he will not only be rather awful, he also won’t be able to go to sleep at night.  We’ve had constant rain here in Georgia for what feels like the entire summer, and it’s been hard to get him outside some days.  Believe me, we’ve all felt the pain of his lack of outdoor activity!

At the school where my kids used to be, during standardized testing time they have all the kids go outside onto the track and run or walk laps in the morning before the school day begins.  My question is this:  why do they only do this during testing time?  Why not all year?  Most of the year, before school the kids have to sit at desks and do “morning work,” otherwise known as busy work.  And then the bell rings at 8 for them to start their day of real work.  Meanwhile, the nation wrings its hands about childhood obesity and how many kids are on medication- come on!  What about just letting them get outside and run around a little?!  I’m not saying it will solve all kids’ problems, by any means, but it sure wouldn’t hurt!  And it wouldn’t cost us a dime in taxpayer money.  After all, fresh air is free.

Borgman, L. (2005). Girls excel, but boys need nurture, too. MENSIGHT Magazine. Retrieved from: http://mensightmagazine.com/Articles/Borgman,%20Lori/2006/022006.htm

Eldredge, J. (2010).  Wild at heart: Discovering the secret of a man’s soul.  Nashville, TN:  Thomas Nelson.

Texas, Blessings, and Grandparents.

This is a photo of my grandfather in March at our family golf tournament in New Braunfels, Texas.

So, last week I was feeling loving towards my home state of Texas.  This week, not so much.  I had to go back in order to get my kids from their week at camp in the Piney Woods of East Texas (beautiful and peaceful), and then a family emergency forced me to have to travel into Dallas- and I mean the depths of downtown Dallas- to Baylor Hospital (neither beautiful nor peaceful).  This hospital is located in an absolutely awful area.  Crime-ridden, poor, and completely concrete.  Not a speck of real greenery in sight, beleaguered landscaping aside.  Yuck.  And did I mention that it was about a thousand degrees, even in the middle of the night?

Of course, having to go the emergency room because of a beloved grandparent in the middle of the night could spoil the loveliest of places.  But this place didn’t need much more spoiling.  Now, don’t misunderstand me- Baylor Hospital itself seems to be a good place, as hospitals go.  I even hear that it is in fact state of the art.  But what would the opposite of connecting with the land or with nature be?  Because that’s what this part of Dallas felt like to me.  Maybe barren is the word I’m looking for. Concrete and impermeable, all of it, which, if you know anything about cities and watersheds and all that, are bad things.  And they are certainly things that I don’t like.

However, it was also a place to count blessings.  Wow, am I lucky.  My grandfather  is going to be okay, even though he gave us all quite a scare.  He’s a tough old guy, and I REALLY hope I’ve inherited his genes!  But standing in the hall of that ER, I saw bits of humanity that were not as fortunate as I.  I saw an old African-American man, naked except for a filthy cloth around his middle, being wheeled along on a stretcher.  He appeared to weigh about 80 pounds, probably homeless…  I am blessed.  I saw another family the next day in the ICU where my grandfather was taken for observation leaving in tears because their loved one has been taken off life support.  I am blessed.  Outside the hospital I saw poverty and homelessness- again, I am blessed.  My own grandfather is out of ICU and into a regular hospital room, to be released in a few days, back to cracking jokes and giving everyone a hard time.  I am beyond blessed, because if there’s anyone that I adore it’s him.  And we get to keep him around.  We are all so, so blessed.  Thank you, God.  I don’t deserve these blesssings any more than His other children deserve their homelessness or poverty, and yet, there they are, while here I am.

Okay, so I know that not all of Dallas is an urban-sprawling, heat island, impermeable, concrete desert that is designed for machines and not humans, or at least I’m told there are nice parts, but I’m having a hard time thinking of its redeeming qualities right now.  Except that, oh yeah- family is there.  And that alone makes it a pretty okay place to be.  For them, I will brave it and leave the damp lush greenness of what has become home, because they too are home to me, and always will be.

Isn’t it the oddest things that make you realize truly how much your cup runneth over?  Of course, I also firmly believe that to whom much is given, much is expected.  Which must mean He expects an awful lot from me.

More from the golf tournament, which we hold every year to raise money for a scholarship in honor of my cousin who died in an accident several years ago.  Speaking of blessings, this golf tournament is one of them.  Makes me (almost) wish I liked golf.

Connecting to the land.

Well, last week was extremely busy around this house, and then this week has been eerily quiet.  The kids are at camp, you see, in Texas.  Which is home to me, and which is where we spent this past weekend: at my family reunion out in the far reaches of Texas.  Since we don’t live in Texas anymore, I had this brilliant plan that it would simplify our lives if we scheduled camp week immediately after the family reunion, so we would have to fly out only once.  In the long run, it has worked out nicely.  But there was that brief period of complete insanity of trying to get ready both for a weekend at the lake and a week at camp AND get on a plane to Dallas with all that stuff, traveling standby of course.  I pulled it off- I’m not sure how, but I did!

Anyway, last weekend, I was out in West Texas.  Go to Dallas, skirt around Fort Worth, and then keep going west for another 2-plus hours.  You’ll go through towns that look like they got stuck in some sort of time warp, and through one that has an incredibly beautiful old courthouse smack in the middle of a town square  (Texas is known for its fancy courthouses in these little towns).  You’ll pass through Mineral Wells, which used to be a destination for its mineral waters and baths.  It has this amazing old hotel that is now just languishing- check it out here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Former_Baker_Hotel_in_Mineral_Wells,_TX_Picture_2224.jpg  This old place makes the Historic Preservationist part of me want to cry- anybody got a few million they want to throw at restoring it to its former grandeur?   But then, you stop going through towns- it’s just trees and hills and more trees and hills.  The trees, of course, aren’t really trees- they are mostly mesquite and cypress- which means they are short and scrubby, and it was just as hot and dry as you’re probably imagining. Fences mark where people’s ranches are, and I saw a couple of places that actually had REAL longhorn cattle!  If you just keep driving through that wilderness for a while,  you’ll eventually come to Lake Possum Kingdom.

I love it out there.  I’ve been going out there since before I can remember.  We’ve had our family reunion every year  at Lake Possum Kingdom for at least the last fifty years, and you see, it kind of feels like home to me.  I think it’s important to have that kind of connection with place, and so does the author of the book I’m slowly working my way through, called “The Last Child in the Woods.”  The author talks about his own attachment to the land in Southern California.  As he says, these places enter our hearts.  And it is important for our children to have places that enter their hearts as well; as he puts it so beautifully:  “…children need a quality attachment to land not only for their own health, but in order to feel compelled to protect nature as adults, not only as common sense conservationists, but as citizens and voters” (Louv, 2005, p.155).  I believe that.  My parents gave it to me, inadvertently, when they moved our family from super-urban Houston, Texas, to a small town in East Texas.  We were outside of town, and though it wasn’t totally rural, it felt like it to me.  I had complete freedom to roam the woods and hills outside our house, and my brothers and I did just that.  We built tree forts and climbed stuff, and got really, really dirty just staying outside all day long.  I knew every trail, tree, rock, and hill by heart.  I collected frogs with abandon.  Talk about a quality attachment.  I doubt my parents knew they were growing a future environmentalist/conservationist by letting me keep amphibians in my bedroom overnight.  Actually, I don’t even think they know I did that (sorry, Mom!)

I do worry that my kids aren’t going to have that kind of attachment without me really working at it.  They love to be outside, but where they can go and explore is pretty limited here in our suburban neighborhood, and I have a feeling that our HOA would frown upon tree forts (though I encourage them to do it anyway! Small rebellions!)  That makes me a little sad.  However, it’s worth it to me to try- part of our “curriculum” last year were regular nature walks, and we will continue that.  It’s part of the Charlotte Mason philosophy after all, and, as I’ve pointed out before, she really knew what she was talking about.  We take it to the next level by hiking the mountains as much as we possibly can.  Hopefully, my husband and I will help them to form their attachment to the land here in North Georgia, and by doing that, we will shape them into future conservationists.  They will come to love the mountains north of Atlanta just like I love the hills of Texas.  I believe, just like the author “Last Child…,” that it is critical to both their health and to the health of our planet.

And, I think they are forming an attachment to Texas as well.  After all, it’s the place where a lot of happy things happen for them: Family reunions! Camp! Grandparent visits!  I shudder to think of how filthy the two of them are right now, as they basically spend the entire week outdoors in the East Texas heat (thank you, God, for camp counselors.  For so many reasons).  Actually, I hope that they are learning to love it.  Texas is and always will be home to me, even though I haven’t lived there for years and probably won’t live there again, not for a long time anyway.

Okay, just writing this all down has me feeling better.  Maybe they are learning to love nature and the land as much as I do after all.  Even here in the suburbs.