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Books Ink Slingers Parenting Spiritual Growth Victoria K

“A Wrinkle in Time” Is Too Weird For Me (and that’s awesome)

So…spoilers.  You’ve been warned.

 

 

It’s too weird…

So I’m about to start teaching Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L’Engle) to my 6th Grade Language Arts.  I had never read it as a child, much to the chagrin of many of my friends.  It was lost in the phase of reading a certain boy wizard’s story over and over and over again and just missed it.

Reading it as an adult (I guess I’m an adult…I make dinner and buy furniture now) I have to admit…it is downright strange.  It’s super weird.  There’s parts of it that didn’t really sit well in my stomach—random old women transform in centaurs, there’s a profoundly wise like toddler, they travel through tesseracts, they eat bread and jam at midnight (well…that’s actually just my daily reality).

And it’s hard to encounter this strangeness.  The author (L’Engle) spends almost no time making the weirdness palatable.  It’s hard for me to enter into this world, and sometimes I’m not sure if I want to.

 

…but it’s awesome.

I loved this quote from the book: “I don’t understand it any more than you do, but one thing I’ve learned is that you don’t have to understand things for them to be.”

The book is filled with strangeness that I cannot even begin to understand.  And L’Engle doesn’t feel the need to explain it.  I love it, because it taps into the magic and awe that we find in faith.  We are overwhelmed by the “strange,” by the “weird,” by a whole manner of existence that we do not understand and will not understand until we meet the Father.

We don’t understand our faith.  We can begin to talk about it, but we will never fully, truly understand it.  We have to be comfortable with the strange.  We have to be comfortable with what is beyond us.

A Wrinkle in Time was too weird for me…but I need that.  I can’t let life be comfortable.  I need my sense of awe, wonder, appreciation for the “strangeness” of God.

 

Children aren’t allowed to be strange…

I want to bring this back to childhood. As a teacher, how these lessons apply to the kids reading them means a lot to me.

Sometimes I feel like with all of the phones, apps, and screens, our kids are being neatly packaged into tiny boxes of how to act and behave (and it usually involves a dull expression and eyes enthralled by the blue light).

Also, we’ve somehow decided that life works on a K-12 school schedule, perfect A’s, no-nonsense, filled to the brim with dance, soccer, violin, student council, honor society, college applications, the perfect college, the perfect High School photos, the perfect boyfriend, the picture-perfect Instagram life that really makes me scream in my mind.

There’s a perfect scene in A Wrinkle in Time that taps into this.   There’s a space neighborhood they travel to where all the children are bouncing the ball at the exact same pace, whose mothers call them inside at exactly the same time.  I just…how miserable.

…and that needs to stop.

I think we’ve forgotten just how beautifully strange childhood is.  Kids are weird.  Kids’ minds are beginning to make sense of the world.  Their brains are growing and wiring and re-wiring.  Nothing makes sense, and they use their imaginations and play to make sense of a strange world.

If our kids were allowed to have bold, free imaginations—just think of what the result would be!  I have so many students who aren’t willing to take risks in their papers, who ask me every step of the way, nervously, what’s right.

I leave this with a wonderful conversation between Meg (a teenage girl) and a mentor of hers:

“Meg, I give you your faults.”

“My faults!” Meg cried.

“Your faults.”

“But I’m always trying to get rid of my faults!”

“Yes,” Mrs. Whatsit said. “However, I think you’ll find they’ll come in very handy on Camazotz.”

God designed each one of us exactly how He wanted to.  He gave us unique strengths and limitations so that we could do His Will in the world.  Our faults, our oddities, our strangeness, our humanity, is a beautiful gift that we should cherish.  How else can we learn this unless we let our kids be weird?

Categories
Current Events Reviews Victoria K

Why I Binge Watch Black Mirror

Disclaimer

“Black Mirror” is a TV show filled with every “no” in the book: adult content and themes, violence, language, drug use. I would never, ever, EVER let my (at present, nonexistent) children watch it.  To be honest, I wouldn’t recommend it to some of my adult friends.  It’s a show that’s hard to stomach.  

With that rousing disclaimer, you may be tilting your head, thinking…how could she possibly love this TV show? Stay with me here.  I promise it gets good.

The Basics

We’ve all questioned the influence technology has on our lives. Does scrolling through Instagram lessen self-esteem?  Should Google really know my location at all times?  Does Facebook stalking help or hurt relationships?  Are smartphones re-wiring kids brains?

Over the course of 3 Seasons, “Black Mirror” explores these questions—and take them to the extreme.  It’s reminiscent of “The Twilight Zone.” There’s a new set of characters every episode.  It takes us into the future (or a different present), showing us how our lives might be…or already are.  

It’s hard to shake the feeling: “This could be us…”.  As their creator stated, it’s: “…all about the way we live now – and the way we might be living in 10 minutes’ time if we’re clumsy.” (Source below). The black mirror is put up to our faces—and we see what technology is/could be doing to us.  

 

Why I Love It

You might see now why I love it—our society (me definitely included) needs some serious introspection.  My love was cemented by two episodes in particular (my husband and I stayed up super late discussing them—SO.  GOOD.):

 

“Fifteen Million Merits” (Season 1 Episode 2)

This episode challenges the media, “reality” tv, online “selves,” and the impact these have on our “real” lives.  The main question it asks are: in a world centered on entertainment, are our lives cheapened? (Answer: yes).

The whole episode is great, but I love it for a particular moment—a seemingly small but SUPER profound moment (I won’t spoil it all, because the reveal is great).

The main character finally gets to vent his frustrations publicly.  One of the main “baddies” responds to the frustrations: “You are so articulating something we all…and I mean everyone in this hall, something we all agree on.  Even though we might not comprehend all of it, I think I’m right in saying we do feel it. Even me.  I know you’ve got me down as this creature.  But, you know, hey, I get where you’re coming from and I like your stuff.”

“It’s not stuff it’s…”

“It’s truth.  Am I right?  Your truth, admittedly, but truth nonetheless.”

HOLD THE PHONE.  The main character was standing up for Truth? The “baddie” was on the side of relativism?? I wanted to stand up and applaud.  Because I’ve never seen relativism attacked so outright in a tv show, ever.  

 

“Nosedive” (Season 3 Episode 1)

This episode really shook me.  It presents a world where everyone is addicted to their phones (so, not much different than ours, right?).  Their lives revolve around an app in which people are constantly rated (from zero to five stars).  Feels a lot like what Instagram might be two or three updates from now.

These ratings effect your jobs, where you can live, who you hang out with, what you can buy.  We experience this world through a main character (Lacie) who is sweet, funny, caring.  She’s obsessed with raising her rating…she’s a 4.3 and wants to be over 4.5.

What really spooked me about his episode?  Lacie. Is. Me.  Lacie longs for love, to be appreciated, to be liked, to be affirmed by others—and I long for that too, so much.  With Instagram and Snapchat, it feels like my life is constantly up for rating.  I hunger for the “5 star” rating that Lacie is searching for—even, at times, to the point of cheapening my authentic self.  

After the ending, I lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, seriously re-evaluating how I present myself…and what I look to for affirmation.

 

Black Mirror as Evangelization?

I heard about Black Mirror from some of my husband’s friends (they LOVE it).  Admittedly, they might be drawn to Black Mirror by the “bad” stuff (see disclaimer above).  But I love that they love it.  

Why?

These friends aren’t Catholic, aren’t practicing a religion, aren’t really concerned with living a moral life.  These are guys who would never read C. S. Lewis, Chesterton, or a Catholic Blog.  They might never enter a Church or encounter a priest, ever. But by watching this show, they’re facing questions about relativism, authentic self…the list goes on.  Maybe, just maybe, these questions might lead them to the Truth.

 

Source: Chalie Brooker, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2011/dec/01/charlie-brooker-dark-side-gadget-addiction-black-mirror

Categories
Christi Curriculum Homeschool Ink Slingers

Technology In the Homeschool for the Not So Tech Savvy Parent

Today I am going to share a little bit about technology in the classroom – the homeschool classroom that is. I think this is an area where some of us fall down – just a little. Have no fear – I will offer you a little insight as to how you might want to be guiding your children in this area. It’s not unusual, I know, for many kids to be much more tech savvy than their parents, so yes – they probably know how to access the iTunes store and can download a movie on the tablet faster than you can say jack rabbit.

BUT how good are they are using Microsoft Word? Do they know how to create a folder on the computer where all the pictures for the science project they are collecting can be kept? Or have you experienced that moment when you open the pictures file on your computer so as to choose a picture of the baby’s baptism to send to the grandparents only to find hundreds of selfies of the 13 yr old and thirty photos of the disappearing Bengal tiger your 11 year old is studying mixed in with the baptism photos….

What about PowerPoint – do you children know how to create a PowerPoint presentation? (For that matter do you?) Ok – so we have established that there is a good possibility that some basic technological expertise might be missing from your homeschooling endeavors; so what do you do?

A good place to start would be to search for your state’s educational standards for technology. For North Carolina they can be found here.  When you open it there are quite a few links on the page so I took a screenshot of the section you want to explore.  It looks like this:

You can open up the grade appropriate description as a PDF or a word document. And yes – it is a little intimidating when you first look at it.  Just take a deep breath and relax. Once you have scanned it over a bit you will begin to recognize a lot of what they are listing there and possibly realize you already do a lot of this already. (BTW – if you don’t want to go through the bother of determining what your state’s curriculum technology standards are, just use the ones I have linked to as they will be pretty much the same across the country. You’re welcome!) 

I realize that exploring these lists of technological expertise your child should have by graduation can be anxiety inducing. I am going to start you off with a simple list that you can use to jump start teaching technology to your homeschooler.

As I hinted above, your adolescent child, despite knowing how to operate your cell phone better than you, is quite likely lacking in some basic computer skills so here is the promised list you can use to take inventory of their skills (or lack of).

Are your students are already proficient in the basic skills of:

  • How to locate the document files and picture files on your computer.
  • How to create a folder and name it.
  • Learn how to save a document or picture in the folder of your choice.
  • Know to pay attention when saving a photo or document from a search so as to direct it to a specific folder as to avoid it getting lost within the downloads or a folder you did not realize was open.
  • Know where the download file is for when the above happens.
  • How to search for files on the computer you are using.
  • How to transfer documents and photos from one folder to another and/or to a memory stick.
  • How to write an essay with an office word document (or similar program), name it, and save it to the folder of your choice.

Once you are convinced your student/s know how to do all of this, you are ready for the next challenge – a PowerPoint presentation.

I know how to use PowerPoint because I am married to the guy who teaches technology at our local school and we both worked for six months creating a PowerPoint presentation about safety on the internet a few years ago. (I’m lying – it was almost a decade ago but moving right along…)

If, like many people, you have never created a PowerPoint presentation you can go here to view the internet’s free version of PowerPoint for dummies online.

Or you can buy a copy of the actual PowerPoint for Dummies. (I have never read this book so I cannot vouch for how easy it is to read and or to follow their instructions but they offer you a free sample if you want to check it out) I have glanced at the free 27 slide PowerPoint presentation on PowerPoint linked above and it’s fairly complete and should give you enough confidence to create a small power point yourself before getting your kids to do one on let’s say – the history of your state, your family, or the even the baby’s baptism. Creating a PowerPoint presentation can and should be fun. This year my youngest four students are creating their own presentations and we will be inviting guests for coffee and treats to enjoy while each child presents their provincial projects ala PowerPoint.

Hopefully this post has stimulated your imaginations and built your confidence in your ability to introduce technology to your home school experience. If you are already experiencing success in this area please share in the comments section what you have incorporated in your schooling, as well as any resources you have found online to help with this. For example have you found free typing classes online or instructional site or videos about different technology skills you have introduced to your children.

Last but not least – be sure to teach your children about internet safety and if you don’t already have one – create an internet safety contract that you and your children can sign and agree to abide by. Here are some sites where you can brush up on internet safety:

Netsmartz and safekids.com and here is a good example of an internet safety contract  for your younger children and here is one for your teen. Don’t feel restricted by these samples those though. We have actually had our older children write their own contracts after discussing what we need to do to stay safe online. 

(photo credits: kid with laptop  was taken from a post about setting technology rules for kids)