Monday, March 27, 2006

And people say Baseball is boring!

We love baseball in this family, but there are some people we know (and you know who you are), who actually think that baseball is boring. All I can say is: you clearly have not been to any karate tournaments lately.

You would think that a karate tournament would be exciting. Lots of kids yelling and kicking. Well, I hate to ruin any fantasies, but I must. "A" really (reallyreallyreally) wanted to participate in the karate studio's annual tournament this weekend. It started at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. "C" and I brought him, figuring we could get a nice lunch at the pizza place next door when it was over, and then run A to his baseball practice and then C to her softball practice. It was the perfect plan--a busy day, but doable.

Imagine the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I found out that we'd be lucky if the tournament ended before 4:00 p.m. Picture my horror when I deduced that the karate studio was packed to the gills with parents and siblings who apparently think it is fun to spend an entire day in a hot, crowded room, sitting cross-legged on the floor, watching 50 or more kids each do the same darn forms one by one. Imagine, if you will, my despair when I realized that A has already taken all his stuff in the back to get ready and that I couldn't get him out! There was no escape for us. We were trapped.

This is how A's first (and probably last) karate tournament went: 2.25 hours of waiting. Doing his form in the largest division of the whole karate school. Doing a good job, but definitely not the best. Getting an honorable mention. (By the way, the girls that got 1st, 2nd and 3rd were amazing! I was glad to see them do so well; that was nice.) Waiting another 2.5 hours. 3 minutes of sparring. Losing 2 points to 1. Getting told that he might get a chance to spar again later if he wanted to wait. Realizing around 3:45 that this would never actually happen. A did not get to go to his baseball practice, and I think he wishes he had.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

My Own Blue "Belt"

A.'s karate belt test for the blue belt lasted over 3 hours. I tried to read, but just couldn't concentrate. It was a madhouse in the karate studio that day. So ... I finished my latest knitting project: the Vintage Velvet scarf from the Scarf Style book. Here is a close-up, showing the reversable cable in the center.

This may very well be the softest thing I have ever owned. I absolutely love it.

Feeling Flat

I am reading a fascinating book right now: The World Is Flat, by Thomas L. Friedman. My parents gave it to me for Christmas (and, yes, Mom, you can borrow it when I am done). The book discusses the major changes that have taken place in the world because of the incredible advances in communication technology. The author is trying to send a wake up call: America and Europe simply are not at the forefront of the global economy anymore, the author argues, and are in danger of being left behind by countries such as China and India. According to the author, as a country, we need to increase spending on science. As parents, we need to encourage our children to learn more about science. The book is both a fascinating read and a frightening one.

Last night, however, I encountered a paragraph that actually cheered me up:

When I asked Bill Gates about the supposed American education
advantage -- an education that stresses creativity, not rote
learning--he was utterly dismissive. In his view, those who
think that the more rote learning systems of China and Japan
can't turn out innovators who can compete with Americans are
sadly mistaken. Said Gates, "I have never met the guy who
doesn't know how to multiply who created software .... Who
has the most creative video games in the world? Japan! I
never met these 'rote people' ... Some of my best software
developers are Japanese. You need to understand things in
order to invent beyond them." (pp. 264-65)

I know it's not exactly the most gracefully worded paragraph in the book. But the last sentence really caught my attention. I am sure that neither Bill Gates nor William Friedman meant to compare the educational systems in China and Japan to classical education. They clearly did not have Latin or English Grammar in mind when praising the East's emphasis on teaching the basics of science and math to their children. Nevertheless, classical education is what I thought of when I read this paragraph.

My vision of classical education is that it is more than Latin and grammar. For me, it is a return to teaching the basics first.

Early on in The Well-Trained Mind, the book that first got me excited about classical education, the authors' emphasize teaching young children the basics before working on creativity:

Young children are described as sponges because they soak
up knowledge. But there's another side to the metaphor.
Squeeze a dry sponge, and nothing comes out. First the sponge
has to be filled. ... Your job, during the elementary years, is
to supply the knowledge and skills that will allow your child
to overflow with creativity as his mind matures. (pp. 21-22).

I love that quote. That made so much sense to me when I first read it. And that is what came to mind for me when I read Bill Gates' statement in the Friedman book: "You need to understand things in order to invent beyond them."

On the plus side, the book is a little less frightening reading for me now. I like to think that we are making sure the kids will learn the basics, so they will be capable of being active participants in the future "flattening" of the world. I don't think we will have any trouble persuading A. to pursue a career in science or engineering. But how do we convince C. that she should go into science, when she still thinks she wants to be a rock star?

Introducing "A"

This is A, posing in the "karate corner" of his room. This was in December, just after he had earned his green belt. He just earned his blue belt this month,, but I don't have a picture of him wearing it yet. A is 9 years old, and we are currently homeschooling him. A loves reading, math, geography, science, karate, baseball, piano, Civilization IV, and Calvin & Hobbes.

Introducing "C"

This is C, with the Samantha doll she received as a combination birthday and Christmas gift this year from Great Grandma A. In case anyone does not know, C is 7 1/2 years old. She loves animals (especially cats), soccer, drawing, Polly Pockets, the Magic School Bus, and playing with her friends.


I hate to say that I am jumping on the Blogging Bandwagon, but I guess I am. I cannot resist the temptation to have a place where I can talk about all sorts of things about our family or about what I am reading, with the hopes that some people will respond.

I am still a little confused about who my intended audience is. I think I am really aiming this blog at our extended family and friends. But, on the other hand, I fully expect that other folks may happen across it or even end up being invited to see it. So I am going to try to avoid using full names. Internet safety, right? Don't want my space to become as dangerous as So to speak.

But I am going with pictures, for sure. I've heard they can be worth a thousand words. This should cut down on typing for me.

The first picture above is Rudolph the Cat. Rudolph is the real boss in the family. How else can I explain why we happily buy him food that makes the whole kitchen stink and devote our entire day to constantly letting him in and out (and in and out ... and in and out) the back door?