Nobody scores zero

Has it come to this?  Are our children really that fragile?

My teenage kids competed in a homeschool invitational volleyball tournament over the weekend (okay, they participated in part of a tournament because the tornados touched down and it was cancelled, but that’s a different story…).  What is bubbling around in my head is the scoring system used for the pool play.

Instead of starting with a score of 0-0 and ending when one team reached 21, the games all started with a score of 4-4 and ended when a team reached 25.

Someone has waved a magic wand and eliminated the possibility of some poor athlete feeling sad if her team didn’t score.  Nobody can end the game with zero points!  Hooray for fake self-esteem.

Seriously, are our children that fragile?  They can’t stomach the possibility of not scoring during a game?

Also, are they that mathematically ignorant that they can’t figure out that if everyone starts with 4 points, then nobody has an advantage, and it works out the same as starting the 0 points?

Are they that easily fooled that if they end the game at 4 points, they don’t realize they didn’t score?

Are they that out of touch with reality that they don’t know that to score a point in a sport they have to actually score a point?

I can’t decide what it is about this “scoring” system that bugs me so much.  Maybe it feels like being overly politically correct.  Maybe it feels like feeding an entitlement generation who believe they “deserve” points just for showing up.  Maybe it feels like pandering.  Maybe it feels like being ridiculously overprotective.  Maybe it’s just dumb.

I totally understand not pushing little children into being too competitive too early.  I even understand when little leagues don’t keep score for the youngest athletes’ games.  But this was a tournament of teenagers.  Teenagers are mature enough to deal with the possibility of not scoring a point.

If they aren’t, then we aren’t doing them any favors by insulating them further.


Ask more questions

 What I love most about my kids’ new environmental science teacher isn’t that she knows all the answers.  It’s that she asks all the questions.  Even better, she encourages them to ask question.  As they hike down the nature trails, they stop to examine wildflowers, caterpillars, spider webs, whatever is on the frontburner.  She points out features and she asks them questions about what they observe, about form and function.  Then she encourages them to ask more questions.  Science is discovery.  Science is curiosity.
Their homework assignment this week is to find four native Texas plants, and ask four questions about each one.  Apparrently, finding the answers can be dealt with later.  Asking the questions is the key starting place.
This experience was on my mind when this quote and article were posted my way.
“Teaching is not about answering questions but about raising questions – opening doors for them in places that they could not imagine.” ~ Yawar Baig

The author of the article is Muslim and gives credit to Allah for nature, so clearly our religious beliefs differ exceedingly.  And he seems to speak to public school teachers rather than homeschoolers, so our situations differ as well.  It is his approach to teaching that appeals to me, his concern for sparking curiosity and encouraging a love of learning.  This much we have in common.

Dropping Eggs

We didn’t dye a single egg this Easter.  Didn’t put candy inside any plastic ones, or search for cleverly hidden ones.  My “babies” are too old.  Sigh.  I did purchase a few bags of candy and throw them at my teenagers, if that counts.

So today…we dropped eggs off the roof instead.  All in the name of science.

My youngest (14) is totally enraptured by the whole idea of an egg drop competition.  He researched online, consulted multiple family members, and brainstormed multiple designs, each more complicated than the last.  The prospect of climbing on the roof each time to test a new design holds a certain appeal as well.

Our particular contest doesn’t limit the types of construction materials for the egg drop container, but it grades on a formula that rewards light weight and few parts, as well as a bonus for accurately hitting a target.  So complicated designs are out.

After a few unsuccessful design attempts, this morning Sean stumbled upon the perfect design which requires only one piece: his pajama pants.  No kidding.  He wrapped his pj pants around an egg and used the attached tie to fasten it.  Perfectly accurate.  Lowest possible pieces.  Not overly heavy.

Sometimes, science is comfortable.

Bonus, I let him climb the roof again.  Why not?


Monoculture – how do I define diversity?

Monocultures don’t exist in nature.

Last week, my kids tramped through the freshly blooming trails around Lake Arrowhead conversing with the guide about animal trails, searching for hollows in trees, and teasing one of their friends about falling into the snake holes.  They’ve joined a Texas Junior Master Naturalist class arranged during morning hours for homeschoolers.  The guide was describing a small clump of plant and insect life interacting when she made that statement which caught my attention.

Monocultures don’t exist in nature.

She was explaining how different species both support each other and also keep each other in balance.  (Strains of Lion King’s Circle of Life ran through my head…I’m sorry, I couldn’t stop them!)

But her statement sent my mind meandering down a different path.  Homeschoolers are often accused of trying to create monocultures for their families, for sheltering their children from anyone who thinks, acts or looks different from them.

Just how different does someone have to be in order to be of a different “culture” and help keep us in balance?  Does putting my kids under the tutelage of a woman who adores science and nature count as a different “culture”?  Clearly, she’s providing some balance to my weak area.  What about encouraging my previously uncoordinated child to play tennis and volleyball?  That’s adding balance to his weakness.

The group of kids standing around the guide were all homeschoolers whose families profess some form of Christianity.  Does that make us a monoculture?

Some of the kids have different skin colors – a testament to their ethnic background.  Does that alone make us diverse?

One boy there had been born in Germany and raised in Europe by military parents, returning to his “home” country of America only last year.  Sure he looks just like us, but he was raised on a different continent.  His experiences are probably much more distant from ours than the dark skinned girl who grew up in our hometown.  Does that make him diverse?

My kids’ friends from church and the community theatre attend public schools.  Is that diverse?

I once read an article which contended earnestly that all textbooks sold to homeschoolers be required to include information about a list of minorities which he deemed important for diversity.  I laughed at the very notion we could achieve “diversity” by forcing everyone to read the same information.  Apparently the irony was lost on him.  Besides, his list of minorities didn’t include interacting with Native Americans and studying their culture and history or immersing oneself in the study of ancient cultures (two things my own children spent massive amounts of time doing).  Who decides which diversity is best?

I don’t have answers.  I just ask the questions.  Time will tell how successful the culture is that we have created.

Performing, performing, performing

My kids are constantly performing.

And while performing for mom at home will do in a pinch, they actively seek bigger audiences.  Life would be easier if they were content to be properly unsocialized homeschoolers.  I had the joy of watching two of the three wrap up a learning/rehearsing/performing project this week.  The oldest opened the show Into the Woods at our community theatre, playing Jack (climber of beanstalks, slayer of giants).  It’s his lead role in a play that was NOT an all youth production.  Friday night was 18 years in the making and worth every moment.

My middle girl filmed her second ASL music video.  ASL is her passion (not the big stage like her brother), and one of her favorite ways to learn is by interpreting songs with friends.  The 4-H Has Talent competition is the impetus for completing this videos, but I think she’d make them anyway (eventually…) even without a formal deadline.  The deadlines help, though. 🙂