October 30, 2010

Lessons from the Pool Deck

Maria is starting her third season of competitive swimming and we spend a lot of time on the pool deck as a family - she spends even more there on her own.  Sitting at her meet last week I could not help but reflect on some of the unique things swimming has brought to our family and specifically to Maria.

I could not be prouder.  Swimming takes a lot of guts, determination, discipline and hard work.  Like any sport it requires commitment and a ton of practice.  Hours and hours spent staring at the line on the bottom of a pool, swimming lap after lap to improve your technique.  Then standing up on those starting blocks in front of sometimes hundreds of people at meets, putting yourself and your best out there for all to see. It takes courage.

I did not know much about competitive swimming before the Olympics Michael Phelps won 8 gold medals but something led me to watch that part of the Olympics faithfully with the kids and we watched every race he won together, even waiting up late with the kids.  Something turned on inside of Maria who was 9 years old - she said to me "You can swim in competition not just for fun?" and I saw her start a dream.  She was persistent and kept at us until we found a program she could compete in.  We knew nothing of swimming as a sport beyond swim lessons and swimming laps or for fun.  She joined a small team at our local health club that met twice a week and after a few weeks she realized she wanted more so we joined a local swim club and she was content to be swimming 5 days a week and competing on weekends.

Joining the swim club made us realize many of these athletes had moved right from swim lessons and started team swimming at 6 or 7 years old and she seemed far behind the curve and like hockey in Minnesota you wonder if they will ever be able to catch up.  This made me wonder if swimming was long for my daughter who is fairly competitive.  Swimming though is a uniquely individual and team sport (much like track) where they are continually improving against themselves and trying to better their own scores.   Swimming is set up with tiers so they can compete against kids in the same place they are and as they improve move up and compete against kids who are still in the same swim time range as them.  This set up helped keep her motivated and reward her individual successes and allow her to contribute to her team points as well.  She feels small and big victories both for herself and for her squad.

This swimming structure has also helped her set individual goals for herself and work hard to achieve them.  These goals and motivation have brought out amazing discipline and character in our daughter.  I watch her make many different life choices about her nutrition, exercise, sleep patterns and free time. and see her find a healthy balance between school, swimming, friends and general life.  She has developed short term and long term goals for herself and for swimming and is working on a plan to get there.

It is inspiring to me to watch my child go through this process and handle it the way she does.  It is encouraging to see there is definite balance and still being a kid and swimming is not taking over but keeping a healthy place in her life.  It is fun to watch my kids cheer loudly for their sister when she is in the water, even though they know she often can't hear them - it does not stop them.  It shows a commitment from all of us as a family to her when in the Minnesota winter we get up early, brave the cold and drive to spend our day on a pool deck to watch her swim for just a few minutes.  It shows her character when at the last meet she turned to each of us, parents and siblings, and said "Thank you, thanks for doing all of this for me" She was showing her appreciation and understanding that each member of the family is giving up something for her to be where she is doing what she loves.

I know any sport can lead to these sorts of results.  Any child's commitment to a sport often leads to these results and I know I am having a brag on my kid moment :)  That is all part of being a parent, a good healthy part.  Sports, if kept in check, lead to so much benefit in a child's life.  My husband worked for an employer who prefers to hire people who balance a college sport with their studies, believing this shows a lot about the individual's character and discipline and work ethic.  I would not have chosen swimming as a sport, mostly out of ignorance, but I love it for my child and it is clearly a great fit for her.  I hope she continue to swim for many years and that my other kids consider it as an option for themselves.  To all the other swim parents out there - see you on the pool decks or camping in the gym.  To my dear Maria.  I am so very proud of you, swim on.

October 22, 2010

"I like reading now because it puts my brain to a hard task."
The words of my 7 year old.

This has been the year of reading for her so far in school. We are working on building confidence in her capabilities. Today she read me The Giving Tree, one of her favorite books and she was so excited that she only needed help with one word. She is reading Magic Tree House for school now and for fun Maria is reading The Tale of Emily Windsnap together with her. Sirah can't read too long on her own but they take turns reading every other page and it is so special to her because it is special time with her big sister. I am so proud of how far she has come during just this year. We started school just 6 weeks ago and so much progress iit seems amazing. I treasure each of those lightbulb moments.
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For My Friend on Her Birthday

You are beautiful
You are wise
You are a gift from God

You are strong
You are humble
You are faithful

You are patient
You are kind
You are loving

You are gentle
You are peaceful
You are calming

You are brave
You are passionate
You are a quietly fiery

You are easy going
You are funny
You are an example to us all

You are a good friend
You are a confidant
You are some one I am proud to know

You are born today
You probably would prefer I not mention you by name
You know who you are

Be blessed today my friend
May those around you bless you
Even more than you bless each of us

Your Friend

October 18, 2010

Hunger Games Essay Questions

Here are some essay or discussion questions we wrote to review some of the central themes found in The Hunger Games trilogy.

Pick one of the following themes of the Hunger Games Series and discuss it in a 1-3 page paper.

1)  The Hunger Games series shows how old habits die hard.  People will continue old traditions even though they know that they are unfair and unjust. Discuss how the people in the different districts and the capital felt about the hunger games.  Why did they continue to participate?

2)  The Hunger Games series shows that good people can be especially cruel and violent if the situation allows for it or even demands it.  The Hunger Games and then the civil war required some incredibly violent actions by people who were not "bad" people.  Discuss your thoughts on if and when violence and cruelty is OK.

3)  The Hunger Games shows that the ends justify the means and that if the final outcome is good, that makes the strategies, tools and actions getting there OK.  The final tactic that won the civil war was the dropping of bombs on the civilian shield around the presidential mansion.  We don't know who ordered the attack.  If it was the rebels, was this OK?  Was it worth the price of those who died to stop the war and even more kiling?

4)  The Hunger Games shows that good leadership often requires morally questionable decisions and actions.  Discuss 3 specific actions that the rebel president did or that Katniss did over the course of the books that was morally questionable.  How did these actions contribute to their leadership?

5)  The Hunger Games shows that television plays a very important role in society.  Discuss how the televised games were received in the Capital.  Discuss how the televised games were received in the Districts.  How did people's actions change because they were going to be on TV?  Did it make them try to be more "sensational" than they would otherwise have been?  If so, was it really "real" or was it a simulacrum?

6)  The Hunger Games Series shows that honor is sometimes assumed where it is not warranted and found where it is not expected.  Who was the most honorable in the book and why?  Who was the least honorable and why?  Who was assumed to have honor but demonstrated a moral and ethical ambiguity when it came time to act on that honor?  Who is more honorable at the beginning of the series Gale or Peeta or Haymitch?  How did this change by the end of the series?

October 4, 2010

Homeschooling Sick

Homeschooling when sick is not really fun but it is workable, especially since we are rarely all sick at the same time.  We just tend to put everything else on hold and cocoon together and get our work done.  Occasionally a person gets an entire sick day with nothing to do, though it is fairly rare since most of them can still read when they are sick.  Last week we had a few true sick days and it was hard to keep the other kids on task when one spent the day watching movies and napping.  Then of course they suddenly feel to terrible to school themselves, or so they say.  Then I have to decide who is really sick and who is trying to get out of school, all while I don't feel great myself.

This week we are slowly getting back on track to a regular schedule.  All of our activities have started so our evenings are full as well.  We are still on track - moving into 5th lessons after 4 weeks of schooling - so that is good overall.  Overall I try to plan for somewhere between 30 and 35 weeks of lessons per subject.  Some years we do a few more and some years we do a few less.  Some weeks we double up on lessons and other weeks we take off, in the end it all seems to work out.

I do have to admit I enjoy this time of year when we still feel on track.  I do know we will be off track not that far into the future but I try not to think of it as a track because Jan-March is when majority of our schooling takes place.  After all what else is there to do in the cold of the Minnesota winter and snow?