Friday, April 24, 2009

Spelling Bee's

This past week, our oldest daughter competed in a community spelling bee. It was exciting for me because I believe my daughter is an incredible speller for her age. But I am about as biased as you can be in making this judgment, so I wanted to see how she'd fair in a competition.

But, our daughter loves to spell, and more importantly she loves to read. She reads books well above her grade level unphazed by hard words in those books. Its just something that has come naturally to her. So, I thought it would be exciting to see how she'd fare.

Also, homeschooling puts you in a precarious position. You're basically making the stand that you can do better than any possible school option currently available in the community. And you want to get this decision right, as a parent, you want your kids to have the best opportunities possible, right?

Anyway, the spelling bee matched all the kids against each other no matter what their age or grade level. Each child, though, received a word at their grade level. During sudden death, they would increase the grade level for each child each round.

What I was surprised by, was how incredible these kids could spell, especially the first graders. Our daughter got tripped up by the first grade word, "stir". Which is pretty hard word. Nothing about the word gives you a clue on the spelling, why not "stur", "ster", etc. You basically have to know the word, and our daughter didn't.

But there were three other first graders, that literally breezed through every first grade word they came across. Then the lightening round came, (every child was allowed to stay in the competition until the lightening round - they were nice). Our daughter spelled a second grade word correctly - vase, phew.. But these three first graders breezed past their second grade words, no problem .

Then our daughter got the third grade word - "fulfill", and she tripped up on it. Again, a hard word. Why one "l" in the first syllable and two in the second? But again those three first graders breezed.

On to the fourth grade words, again no sweat. Then fifth grade, I think one of them got knocked out. The other two kept going. Then sixth.. I think finally, they missed the words.

One of the families sat at our table. I looked at them in amazement... They were nice and congratulated our daughter...

But then, yesterday, I brought our kids to bring your child to work day. And before the activities began, I had a stack of books that my kids were reading while I sat in a meeting. One of my colleagues not yet four year old, pre-school education son, asked to read the books, which I let him do.. And he read them without any trouble.

What's happening in our public schools? Are they suddenly kicking butt? Maybe we need to re-evaluate this whole homeschooling thing.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

This Post Blew Me Over

I've been tracking this blog for a while, its my sister's friend who lives in Provo (I think). The postings are incredibly infrequent, but this last one is particularly good.

Please read it, it's right here. It details the author's experience serving in a branch at a mental institution.

Best quotes:

" Spirituality is not an extra. It's not superstructure. Spirituality is something that many of our patients crave in a visceral way. "

" I have learned that many of the formal aspects of the church don't matter that much, and that once those aspects are gone or are in flux, it can be very disorienting, yet liberating and uplifting. You get so that you focus on more basic things. I have been very interested as an artist lately in intimacy as a means to reach the unseen, as opposed to pageantry, which I think sometimes blinds us to the unseen by providing a kind of surrogate."

"I think the thing that I have learned most is not to judge other people. This is a hard fought lesson, because I have a problem with judging. This particularly comes up in the Forensics Ward where we have people who have killed people and committed sexual crimes. We also have people who have committed pretty minor offenses while a bit loopy, trespassing, petty theft, etc. Because of the unusual nature of our branch, we don't have disciplinary councils and we don't withhold the sacrament from anyone. At first it was a little strange, but then I came to find it very liberating and it helped me to realize that God is the only judge and that we don't need to worry about other people's worthiness."

"I think I replied that it was hard not to feel the spirit there. The people that attend the Forensics meeting are very humble and often want to bear their testimony and express their gratitude. They are reaching out for deliverance from pain, and, I think, struggling with complex issues of accountability relating to their own actions vis a vis their mental illnesses and mistreatment they have gone through as children and adults."

" It has taught me that, while obedience is better than forgiveness, forgiveness is more miraculous than obedience."

I must interject, I just thought that line: "forgiveness is more miraculous than obedience" was so darn beautiful and true it brought tears to my eyes.

"Wards are too big to really do the kind of service for their members that is needed. It is hard not to shake someone's hand in our branch. If you have something to say, you will get a chance to say it. If you have a concern, it will be heard and answered by a friendly, helpful person. All of the fancy programs that are enabled by the economies of scale inherent in large wards are of little benefit, compared with the personal interaction afforded by a small unit."

A little critique here, and I understand how impractical it would be to dissolve all of our wards into much tinier branches, but I understand the challenges being in a large ward is. Its pretty easy in our ward of ours, for example, to dissolve inside the shadows if you want to... Sunday School classes are large, and its tough sometimes to interject a comment in the discussion because there are so many people and so little time...

"Fast and testimony in any ward or branch is usually an opening for nuttiness. But maybe that's the way that God intends. Maybe the crazy run-on testimonies are what we need to hear. Well, as you can imagine, testimony meeting at a mental hospital is extra nutty, but I think it goes over the top to a new sort of transcendent level."

Its funny, in our ward, there is a lot of emphasis on short, concise testimonies and for good reason. But I know for myself, its just so easy to psyche myself out of getting up to share a testimony, or to censor myself too much when I do get and and share. And the constant harping on short testimonies ends up being a barrier of entry for me personally. I'm glad they do it, and its something I must overcome personally. But its nice to hear a perspective that "crazy run-on testimonies" are exactly the way "God intends" them to be.

On my mission, in our zone conferences, my first mission president would not limit our testimony meetings. He would let them go on as long as people were willing to get up. On a mission, we really emphasized testimony meetings. We would have them in every zone conference, and if I remember right in our district meetings as well.. They were extremely spiritual 100% of the time. Experiences I have not had to that level since.