Friday, February 25, 2011

Birthday Surprises!

This past weekend was Amy's 20th birthday followed one day later by Peter's 14th birthday. We -mainly Katie, Scott, Amy's good friend and I- managed to pull off not 1, but 2 separate SURPRISE parties!
For Amy, Scott built a bon-fire in the woods (the cover was that he and Becca were having a date night) and we had Amy's friends come and hide down there while she was out for dinner with my parents. When she returned we went down to "rescue" Scott and Becca from the little kids and "Surprise".
For Peter, we had his friends come over on Saturday for a paintball party while he was out "shopping for a present for Amy". The weather was wonderful - low 70's during the day which was perfect for paintball and then somewhat cool, but not too cold at night, which was perfect for the bonfire. Considering we were dealing with 2 older, rather nosy children and the plague was moving through the house, it all went off very smoothly and it was a wonderful weekend.

The Paintball Men

We did not get a picture of Amy's party, other than the bonfire above, so you will have to suffice with a picture taken earlier in the day when we managed to get her out of the house.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Travails on Ice

Our home school group went ice skating. My children, at least the middle/younger crowd, had never been ice skating. It looked to be a long day. Katie and her friend took Anna around the ice and she wailed the entire time (Anna that is, not Katie). Elizabeth was clutched onto my hand falling every few seconds, and every time I looked around for Matthew he was causing some sort of catastrophe on the ice.

Then things began to improve. We sat Anna out. Elizabeth decided she wanted to try it on her own, and it was like she was born in the North. She took off and hardly hit the ice at all.

I have to give Matthew credit for boldness - he got out there and kept skating, but unfortunately still managed to spend most of his time in the following positions.

Everyone else had a great time and they are anxious to go again. (Well except Anna - but I didn't think she would like it anyway, so it wasn't a big surprise.)

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Wonder of Imagination

I have been reading Anthony Esolen's book Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child. I am only on Method 4, but I am enjoying the book. One reason is that by God's grace I have basically raised my children according to what Esolen says aids the imagination. I like books that justify my choices! For example, when I send the children outside because they are getting on my nerves to play, Esolen says that I am aiding the development of their imaginations. I have always sent my children out often because they get on my nerves often because intuitively I knew that it was good for them to be outside. I even locked the oldest 3 out of the house one time because they did not want to go outside and so kept filtering back in. They stood with their faces plastered against the sliding glass door begging to come back in. I sat on the other side and ignored them. They resigned themselves to the fact that they were stuck outside and then went off to play. When it was dinner time they did not want to come in. They had built this whole little community underneath the trees lining our fence.

Another item of importance for Esolen is developing the memory for as he says "without the library of the memory...the imagination simply does not have much to think about, or to play with". This was a big Aha moment for me when I came to understand this. I was not just having my children memorize random things to fill up their minds, but things with which their minds could make connections. Again, by God's grace, we have always done a lot of memory work to develop these foundations. Ditto on Esolen's other building blocks of the imagination - don't supervise the child all the time, teach them to use machines/tools, and read fairy tales.

I thought at one time, like many people, that all children had imaginations. Maybe it is a part of each person's nature, after all God is certainly imaginative and we are made in His image; but imagination does not flourish naturally. How do I know this? Enter Anna. Anna came to us with an imagination that if it had ever been there had been destroyed. Typical of children who grow up in an orphanage (although certainly not all children) is a lack of imaginative play. When Anna arrived she did very well with structured activities - puzzles, card or board games, coloring (but only in a coloring book), etc., but had not a clue what to do if the other kids were engaged in some sort of imaginative play - dolls, blocks, stuffed animals, outside play etc. This was quite amazing to me that a child would not naturally be able to play imaginatively. Why is it important anyway? Well for one, imagination plays a big part in developing cognitive skills. But more important being able to think creatively and adapt to different situations can greatly impact a child's success in life. So how is Anna doing now? We are making progress. She sat down last night on her own and built a house and an airplane with Lincoln Logs. Not a big deal for most people, but for her a big step. Are most children going to be like Anna? Of course not. But do not take a child's imagination for granted. Go, find a child, and fan the flames of their imagination! (Or at least get them off the computer and send them outside.) Oh, and read the book - I think you will find it worthwhile.