Yahoo Groups – NOVA Homeschooling Edition

I just want to give a shout-out to all the Arlington Homeschool Families I met at Lacey Woods park yesterday. It was neat to participate in our little flashmob of the playground and to meet all of you and your beautiful children. I’ll warn you in advance that I’m terrible with names, but I hope to see many of you often enough that I’ll eventually learn.

I was notified of this get-together because I sat down one night and subscribed to a bunch of Yahoo discussion groups that focused on homeschooling in Northern Virginia. All of them subsequently had a ton of useful information and conversations, and it’s already become routine for me to skim through the daily digests of each to see what’s new (there’s lost of cross-posting).

Blogging 101: Hello World

I signed up for WordPress.com’s Blogging 101 course because why not.

Assignment One: Write and publish a “who I am and why I’m here” post

Wow. I hope the assignments get easier than this.

Okay. My name is Tom Kim. I used to teach Humanities in middle school, but now I’m a stay-at-home dad, and I’m homeschooling my kids. This is a big ol’ experiment, so I’m documenting my efforts and reflections on this blog, which I used to use as a more shaggy personal blog and then later as a teaching portfolio.

I also am the education director for a small children’s ministry at my church, so I’m also posting thoughts specifically on spiritual education and how my faith informs my parenting.

I’m mostly just doing this for myself, to habituate some regular rumination, but I hope my thoughts would be interesting to others, maybe families in my church, friends and extended family, maybe even others who homeschool, whether they share my faith or not, heck maybe even some parents-in-the-DC-metropolitan-area or parents-in-general or whoever. I’ve been told that it’s tough to pigeonhole me, which may mean there’s no audience for my thoughts–or perhaps the obverse.

Anyways, welcome. Hope you find something you like.

Sunday Catechism: Before and After

Kate Wilson, Pastel Drawing, Exhibition 2007

Q: What are we specifically taught in the first commandment by the words “before me”?

A: The words “before me” in the first commandment teach us that God, who sees everything, notices and is very offended by the sin of having any other god.

Sometimes when we consider the first commandment, we mentally interpret “You shall have no other gods before me” as a matter of hierarchy or priority. As we say, God should be number one, in the driver’s seat, first in love, etc. etc.

Here we are told that it is not a matter of having other items of worship in their proper place, secondary to the Lord of Lords, but that any worship at all not to the true God, our God, is an egregious offense. “Before me” is not a matter of hierarchy, but a matter of visibility, visibility before an omniscient God, one who sees even what is invisible, hidden, or private. It indicates the comprehensive absoluteness or absolute comprehensiveness of this commandment. Any unfaithfulness is a blatant one; any falter is done in the hothouse spotlight center stage before the Lord of hosts. No sin is secret; no disloyal thought is not shouted out.

The omniscience of God is a terrifying notion to some kids; as well it should be. It should be a terrifying realization to all of us as sinners, and we have dystopic nightmares about lesser powers that hint at this kind of surveillance. Of course these fears are compounded with a fear of injustice if the authority can be in any way imperfect, but even with a perfect judge like God we know how we cannot bear such vulnerability and scrutiny.

And yet, to us on the other side of salvation, that watchfulness, once oppressive, is now extremely comforting. It is the eye, not of the judge and jealous God, but of the shepherd and father. Our sin, even though it is committed again and again, is forgiven again and again, none of it not unnoticed and none of it not redeemed. And even as we flail within the entrapments of misplaced worship, we are sure to be rescued from them by that same watchful God.

Let us teach our young ones that we see, and yet we forgive, we know, and yet we let, to allow growth, to permit experience, to reach deeper in love. And our heavenly Father above sees more, and suffers more, and allows more, and saves more, to those before Him.

Peter Pan 360

We bought tickets to the ThreeSixty production of Peter Pan, currently playing in Tyson’s Corner until August 16.

In preparation, I slotted J.M. Barrie’s novel (written after his play) into bedtime reading. I know there are elements of the story that are not politically correct, but his writing is knowing, even sardonic, and plain delightful.

I don’t know whether you have seen a map of a person’s mind. Doctors sometimes draws maps of other parts of you, and your own map can become intensely interesting, but catch them trying to draw a map of a child’s mind, which is not only confused, but keeps going round all the time. There are zigzag lines on it, just like your temperature on a card, and these are probably roads in the island, for the Neverland is always more or less an island, with astonishing splashes of colour here and there, and coral reefs and rakish-looking craft in the offing, and savages and lonely lairs, and gnomes who are mostly tailors, and caves through which a river runs, and princes with six elder brothers, and a hut fast going to decay, and one very small old lady with a hooked nose. It would be an easy map if that were all, but there is also first day at school, religion, fathers, the round pond, needle-work, murders, hangings, verbs that take the dative, chocolate-pudding day, getting into braces, say ninety-nine threepence for pulling out your tooth yourself, and so on, and either these are part of the island or they are another map showing through, and it is all rather confusing, especially as nothing will stand still.

Our library copy was illustrated by Michael Hague, and his illustrations wonderfully evoke the wildness of Peter and Neverland.

We did NOT watch the Disney movie, though I suspect we will, probably sometime soon.

The ThreeSixty Theatre performance was great! Let me note a couple of things, as a parent. The performance is in a large tent pitched maybe two blocks away from Tysons Corner I. Unless you want to pony up for $25 parking next to the tent, you’ll have to park in the Tysons Corner garage (free) and walk. The tent is nicely air-conditioned. There are restrooms of the portable variety—but of the upscale kind, with running water and whatnot. There is a souvenir stand and a concessions stand, both of which are priced outrageously ($7 for popcorn). There is also quite a lot of youthful ushers and support staff, all of whom were nice, helpful, and understanding.

You will have to pay for your tickets in advance at Ticketmaster. It’s a small theater and a 360 degree stage, so most seating is pretty good, although I’d probably try to avoid, to my squinting eye, what looked like seats behind tech consoles.

Threesixty_Theatre_layout

Although upstage center is probably Section C, and we were on the opposite side, in Section F (Row F, Seats 1-4), we still had a wonderful vantage of the performance. (I took a few illicit blurry images).

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The performance itself seemed to hew pretty closely to the original J.M. Barrie play, so the language is a little heightened, which made me glad that we read through the novel first. There’s plenty of spectacle, of course, though, so even youngsters new to the story will find much to be enthralled with; it merely might be a little clearer if you read in advance even an abridged or digested version of the story.

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There’s a lot of novel production touches, like using projected images on the tent to simulate not only setting changes, but movement and flying; having aerialists as mermaids; and using puppetry for Nana, the Never Bird, and the Crocodile.

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The performers all seemed appropriately game and energetic, and even managed to rouse the audience for some interactive bits (“I do believe in fairies!”). I must commend the Lost Boys especially for their athletic acting.

The Tiger Lily problem was a little cringe- but not shudder-worthy in this performance. I don’t think she’s ever referred to as a redskin, and they avoid most of the blatant Native American tropes, but she’s still mostly speechless, with an agency that’s mostly in the service of Peter, and there’s an aura of Orientalist exoticism to her. It’s a tough role to redeem if you’re not given much to go on.

Still, this was all above the head of my 7-year-old son, who just loved the revel of imagination and play that is Peter Pan. My two-year-old daughter, on the other hand, had a hard time with all the loudness, intensity, and visual overstimulation, and asked several times to go to the bathroom, mostly, I think to just get a time-out from the play. I might wait until your child is at least 4 or 5 to bring them to this production. In putting together this blog post, I happened across this other review at TechSavvyMama that also looks helpful.

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In the meantime, I’m going to keep Peter Pan in the conversation at our household, mostly because I am very much looking forward to this:

Reviewing Camp Pokémon

So having Biggie write a sentence-a-day journal has been going fine, but I’ve been looking for more ways to get him to write. I wish writing is like what reading is for him now: pleasurable, meaningful, easy, and constant.

So I’ve had two ideas. One is to write letters, to his cousins, to pen pals, to an “authentic audience.” I haven’t been able to implement that consistently yet—that’s still on the drawing board.

The other is to blog a bit. We have a shared blog—tomahto.wordpress.com—where I’ve mostly just been posting our daily journals, but last week I told Biggie that I was going to load a game onto the iPad for him to play… but only if he was going to write a review of it.

Red (Pokémon)

Of course, he agreed, but then, of course, we ended up having major fights over his drafts. It’s not easy being an early writer; writing is hard. It’s hard physically—you’re still developing the musculature and coordination to do it in your hand. It’s hard linguistically—you’re trying to express complex thoughts with a limited sense of syntax and vocabulary. It’s hard cognitively—you have to think about your overall idea and what you want to say next while tediously putting down your current sentence. It’s hard emotionally—writing is personal and expressive, and it’s frustrating to not have your work match your intended meaning.

I try to be sympathetic, but Biggie and I are both stubborn, arrogant, risk-averse, lazy,… and loud. JB sometimes makes herself scarce when our editorial staff meetings turn into shouting matches. I swear we both must grind our teeth at night; I know I do.

Finally, this week I stopped trying to give him reasons why he needs to take his audience into account. I said, “Listen. It’s going to boil down to this: I’m not going to publish this unless I think it’s good enough. This is not good enough, and I’ve given you some suggestions about how I think you can make it better. You can take it or leave it, but you’re not getting another game on the iPad to play until I think you have something that’s sufficient.” It felt kind of Tiger Mommy-ish, but it worked, at least this time.

Here’s the final review. I bet Biggie would be chuffed if you, kind reader, posted some encouraging comments.

Just Eat It

I’ve recently introduced Biggie to Weird Al Yankovic and Tom Lehrer, and apparently they are perfect for certain boys of age 7.

I must admit that I’ve been, at times, assertive at trying for some early cultural indoctrination. With some mixed results. The Ramones blasted in the car nearly as soon as he could tolerate it, but I consequently heard Biggie yell at a daycare teacher, “Hey! Ho! Let’s go!” I was (and let’s face it, still am) disappointed that Shel Silverstein and Calvin and Hobbes left him cold while he gravitated towards Garfield and Heathcliff. Once, I think out of spite and vinegar, I led him to Garfield minus Garfield.

Garfield minus Garfield

But he’s graduated from first grade now, and I’m noticing that all sorts of things are hitting with him. He now devours Silverstein and Watterson (phew!). His new favorite thing is Yotsuba&!. He’s just finished Harry Potter, is starting to watch Avatar, and is now really enjoying Peter Pan as bedtime reading. I feel like he’s entering into a golden age of childhood culture appreciation, even if I still don’t consider him to a particularly “literary” kid.

Yotsuba

Weird Al is all kinds of perfect for him. I was privileged to witness, through the rearview mirror, his dawning reactions to “Yoda”—from “Hey, what’s up with these lyrics?” to “OMG PLAY IT 50 MORE TIMES.” Weird Al lyrics are not elliptical; they always tell a very clear and understandable narrative or point-of-view. The music is impeccably performed and very catchy, and its glossiness buttresses the song’s satirical irony. At his age, irony is a quickly developing concept, and the smarminess of musical satire hits the bullseye of Biggie’s current understanding of humor and critique. And Mr. Yankovic isn’t necessarily subtle, but he is a wordsmith; his songs are so popular and singable because he pays attention to things like alliteration, assonance, and meter.

Of course, the other benefit of Weird Al is that he’s a touchstone for all kinds of nostalgic pop music, and it’s been fun for the two of us to do side-by-side comparisons of “Beat It” and “Eat It,” and then surf over to the music video for “Smooth Criminal,” and then Alien Ant Farm’s version, and so on. Nerd nirvana.

Yotsuba pumpkin