12/24/10

Letting go of the 'Holiday Shoulds' -take back your sanity!

I did not send out holiday cards this year. Sometimes juggling all of the "shoulds" gets a bit too much. I am trying to detach myself from thinking of it in a bad way. In fact, I think to be relaxed about it is a good thing for a change. Are those distant relatives really going to fall apart if I don't send them a greeting card this year? I am not that arrogant to think that.

I have not quite let all my holiday responsibilities fall to the wayside. I have been doing a pretty hefty load of holiday shopping these past few days, but not as frantic a pace as I've done in the past. What has changed?. I think what has changed is the way I look at gifts and my role as a gift-giver in general. I no longer feel the need to be the one gift-giver that gives out the 'best' or the 2010 year 'hit' gift. I now see gifts as tokens. I give 'tokens' now. Just a gesture of my appreciation, a 'hint' of my love and affection. It does not need to be THE gift that changes your life. I just love this new way of looking at gifts. It's taken a huge load off my back. I no longer NEED to find that life-changing, life-saving gift.

Today my hubby and the kids went shopping for gifts at the bookstore. My hubby and I felt it was a perfect place to get our kids to pick one small gift for each other (yes, a 'token'); a tradition I would like to instill in the kids, especially my son, seeing as most every man I know does not do his own holiday shopping. My husband breaks away from us and I notice him struggling to choose a gift for me. In the past years I would have interpreted his difficulty in choosing my gifts into a 'he-does-not-love-me-enough' issue and built all sorts of drama around the gift. But I genuinely felt his struggle and knew this should not be a test of his love or my worth. I decided to help him out by giving him titles to books I would enjoy, he was so relieved and I felt great.

So all this letting go of many of the 'shoulds' has allowed me to really enjoy the holidays this time around. I've been awakened to what the holidays can be really about. I don't need to send holiday cards every year, I don't need to buy an expensive gift to show love, I don't need to get a gift at all to know I am loved. More expensive does not translate to more love. Not sending that holiday card to a cousin I have not seen in years does not mean I am uncaring or lazy. Now, thanks to all my 'letting go' I have given myself various amazing gifts, the gift of time and peace and no drama. Time to chat with family, to read, to play with the kids, to eat, to go for a walk, and most importantly, time to really be present in every family moment.

Have a great holiday and take some time for yourself and stop running around like a chicken with your head cut off.

12/10/10

Peak at my new art series

Only in art can I explain the deep impact that trees and nature has on my soul and way of being. I have been working every night for a week now on my "root" series. The kids are of course doing their own art besides me. It's the only way I have found I can make art while aware and awake.
Close-up of my "roots"
This one is called, "The idea". I am fascinated by the concepts of nature versus nurture.
My son likes it better reversed, so it looks like a tree. Not bad. But I prefer it as a root.
Closeup look at, "In love"
Luke loves touching the art once dried. He turned this one around too to make it look like a tree. My kids and hubby are my toughest critics.
Nora working on her own "root" mixed-media painting. Chloe sits besides her....the cats make such sweet company. They love watching her draw too, and sometimes chase her pencils drawing lines.
Check back soon or sign up on your left to get e-mail updates. I will not show the whole series until I am done with 12 paintings. My New Years resolution is to get several shows in DC. I will post the kids' work tomorrow.

12/8/10

Ballet Dancer Drawings- done by a 3.5 year old

Nora, my daughter, is obsessed with all things "ballet". I love drawing with her on nights she has a hard time falling asleep. So we sit in bed and draw in our sketchbook. The latest drawings are of a ballet girl. I will post my sample tomorrow. But Nora did a fantastic job on her own girls. In fact, they are 100% better than I could ever draw them. There is just something so special about kids' drawings.


Open Letter to Arne Duncan

Dear Mr. Duncan,
I read somewhere that you want teachers to "rise to new levels" by using student achievement data in calculating salaries, and increasing competition and that you feel these strategies are not 'anti-teacher'. As an excellent teacher of 14 years and a mother of 2 very wonderful children, I absolutely disagree.

I ask you to look at these strategies and ask yourself how the strategies that you propose show respect towards teachers? How they show trust in us as professionals? Apply these so called 'reform' strategies to any other profession and you will clearly see the absurdity of them, yet for some reason when applied to educators it's okay. Why is that? Could you fathom rating doctors on the amount of obese patients they have?, or placing names of "least effective" doctors in the paper as some sort of public lynching? That would never happen, doctors have lawyers. Plus, teachers are not by nature political, we are mostly women, cannot afford a lawyer, and therefore the teacher bashing continues without much resistance.

It is true that in Finland only the top of the top graduates get to work with kids, yet, you failed to see the whole picture in this comparison. Once they are chosen to be teachers they are trusted to teach and left to teach. In other words, they are treated as professionals. In America, things are very, very different. To begin, administrators of education structures support programs like Teach for America which hire people who most often do not see teaching as a lifelong commitment or as a stepping stone to a 'higher calling'. The so-called "solutions" to fix education all come from non-educators who have never even been in a classroom, less taught in one and who come to education with preconceived notions about teachers, unions, about what teachers' roles should be and armed with oversimplified ideas of how children learn best.

As a parent and a teacher of 14 years I am more interested in quality of instruction than the quantity of facts my child can accumulate, yet there continues to be far too many standards in every grade ensuring that no subjects ever get the depth and time they needs to become meaningful to a child.

As a teacher I have personally experienced meaningful learning in my children when teaching using the arts, movements, experiments, singing, theatre. You experience first hand the validity and life changing qualities of this way of teaching. Yet, these ideas and concepts go in and out the ears of business reformers who would rather things be simpler, neater. Standardized tests and numbers makes sense to them, so they push and push with numbers. Never mind that the higher the stakes, the more teachers twists and squirm trying to juggle the craziness. The higher the stakes the more we need to narrow what we teach to ace the tests.

The solutions are out there and the only way to them will come by answering two questions. One, what ultimately is the purpose of education? Is it remembering facts? filling in bubbles? Or is it learning how to think and work with ideas. If it's how to work with ideas, is a standardized test aimed at assessing that? Absolutely not. Two. How do children learn best?The corporate reformers fill their speeches with reminders of how they are 'doing this for the children'. If that were really so they would not be pushing for more test. If they cared about the children whey would look at how it is that children learn best. Creating a punitive-style system that punishes teachers for not getting enough facts into our children and then expecting these lessons to be life-changing and engaging is plain laughable; the two do not go together, sorry. Facts alone do not make for a memorable lesson but if my work and wage becomes based on facts, you bet teachers will be teaching to the test. Creating, engaging, discussion and exploring make for life-changing lessons but this country's obsession with numbers is slowly squeezing good learning and teaching out of the classroom.

I will continue to urge teachers and parents to advocate against this growing madness of corporate school reform and advocate for whole child reform.

12/3/10

Homemade Christmas Cards

What do you do with all those unwanted catalogs you get in the mail? You make holiday cards from them, that's what.
Here is a pic of some of our cards laying out to dry.....
We used magazines like this to cut out any holiday-ish pics.
We glued each image in cereal boxes, let them dry and then cut them out. They look better than what you would get at the scrapbook store.
Nora gluing her images onto 5x7 cards.

A whole carpet-ful of cards.....
Other samples.
You too could make homemade cards....help save Earth and the trees. Will post individual images of finished cards when they are done.....they still have a lot of glitz-ing to go through.