Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Creativity - The Right Wall and Mechanical Rabbits

I want my children to find the creative genius inside of them.  Like I mentioned in my first post about this - I know it is there.  I have been pondering about this a great deal lately.  I mentioned in my last post that I would talk about what I think helps us see the possibilities around us and how we make the connections in the truth we see.   I mentioned that by answering this, we would know how to truly develop the creative genius in each one of us.

To be honest, I am just beginning to understand.  I don't have a full grasp on this yet, but I am anxious to learn more.  Right now, as has been obvious in many of my recent posts, I am working on making sure that our creativity ladder is leaning against the right wall:

“ ‘There are many who struggle and climb and finally reach the top of the ladder, only to find that it is leaning against the wrong wall’.  How can you ensure that your creative ladder is leaning against the right wall? Heavenly Father’s purpose for the artist (and there is an artist of some sort in each of us) is to use his or her creativity to help to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of his children." -Russell M. Ballard
I was reading a wonderful talk the other day.  He mentioned a news article in which some dogs that learned to chase mechanical rabbits.  Are we often chasing mechanical rabbits?
“I assume most of us here today are “good people” and doing reasonably “good” things. I fear however, that we may not be ordering the better things from the good things in our lives --- especailly in our marriages and families. We are busy --- most of us with good things. But in reality we may be chasing things that will not (cannot) build homes of Zion.

Elder A. Theodore Tuttle told of a story about greyhounds in Britain who don’t know a real rabbit when they see one. These hounds had chased a mechanical rabbit around the recetrack for so long, that when a real rabbit bounded across the track, the dogs didn’t even give it a second look. Of this experience, Ashely Montague wrote:

‘Stupid, eh? But sad too, this perverting of the natural instincts....We chase mechanical rabbits, too. We chase paychecks, and don’t give a second look to the glint of the rising sun on a snow-topped peak. We chase our way through the appointments of a crowded desk calendar, and fail to take time to chat with the next-door neighbor or to drop in on a sick friend. We chase social pleasures on a glittering, noisy treadmill---and ignore the privilege of a quite hour telling bedtime stories to an inoccent-eyed child. We chase prestige and wealth, and don’t recognize the real opportunities for joy that cross our paths...

‘Race on, you poor, blind over-civilized hounds. You’ll never catch your rabbit until you learn to recognize a genuine one. But, you’ll have company in your race; the company of unnumbered men who’ll never catch the joy they chase until they, too, learn to recognize a genuine one.’ ” -Mathew O Richardson

I recently remembered a book that a friend of mine recommended a couple of years ago. (It's called Arm the Children: Faith's Response to a Violent World by Arthur Henry King. Thank-you to Greg for recommending it!) I read it then, and liked it, but I must admit that a lot of it went over my head. I wasn't ready for it yet. As I've been focusing on teaching my kids to look for the real around them, I remembered that this book had something to do with that. I picked it up today.  It turns out that this book has everything to do with it.  It's about how to teach children to discern truth and the real. The foreword is written by one of my favorite authors/philosophers of our time - Terry Warner. This foreword was packed full of the things that I have been trying to express (of course he does it so much better).

He used an analogy about ordinary light - it is energy radiated in random frequencies and phases, the pulses bump into and interfere with one another and it quickly dissipates. However, it is possible to amplify light by coordinating it's phases and frequencies. This results in a powerful laser. This laser can slice through metal, light a spot miles away, and perform precision surgery.

I loved how this applies to getting rid of the distractions in our lives. The distractions are what defuse our energy, keep us running to and fro wondering what to do, keep us from being in the reality of the moment, keep us from living!

Terry Warner went on to explain,
Using the metaphor of the laser, we might say that when we receive the light of truth, when we are in tune with it, as it were, there is nothing in us that duffuses or obliterates it. Instead we resonate with it. To the degree that we do, our eye will be single to the glory of God. Our whole bodies will be filled with light. We will be yielding ourselves to his law, his power, and his love. Instead of merely receiving information (what a parltry conceptions this is!), we will, quite literary, be informed: we will in other words be taking on the form of the truth, coming under the formative influence of the Being who is its source, changing so that we are more like him, more "of the truth."
Isn't that what we want for our children? For ourselves? Why do we worry so much about filling their heads with information - when we should be leading them to flow towards truth - to see it, to feel it, to want it.

What video game, movie, toy, silly book, or other distraction is worth giving that up for? I am excited to re-read Arm the Children and get a better idea about how to inspire this longing and search for the true.

In the mean time, I will continue to get rid of distractions, experience things with the children (more on this later) and expose them to truth and beauty (more on this later too).

In case I didn't put enough quotes into this post, I have to add one more:
"Since all truth comes from God, when we celebrate truth in creative breakthroughs, whether in new understanding of molecular structure or in the beauty of new sculpture or a new painting or new poetry, we are acknowledging the resplendent order in God’s universe.

....[Enoch] trusted the Lord and went on to become the greatest city builder in human history. His city-state was the only instance in recorded human history when the righteousness of a people did not relapse. But he began by feeling inadequate and wondering aloud what the Lord had for him to do. Yet, most importantly, he trusted the Lord and aligned himself with the Lord. Then his creative genius and gifts were given special expressions, and many were blessed!" -Neal A. Maxwell
Oh, and in case everyone thinks that I am totally anti-movies, I thought I should add that I saw a new and popular movie on Monday night that I liked (The Blind Side). I'm not recommending it or anything, but it's good to know there are still uplifting ones out there!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Creative Genius in Us All

I mentioned in my last post, that there is something that we need, besides skill, to be able to express the creativity that is within us. Well, I take it back. That statement doesn't make any sense. You can't express creativity. What in the world does that mean? I should go back and change my post. What I meant to say is that there is something that we need in order to be able to creatively think and to express ourselves.

Hmmm. Come to think of it, maybe that is what crafts are for - expressing creativity - to show that we can create! But what's the point of expressing creativity anyway? We all have it. I think what we are really looking to do is to creatively think and express ourselves.  Right?

I hadn't put much thought into it before, so I have to clarify it in my head before I can go on.

So here it goes:

Creativity - bringing something into existence
"we take unorganized matter into our hands and mold it into something of beauty...Creation means bringing into existence something that did not exist before" - President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Creative Thinking - taking thoughts and feeling and organizing them into something of beauty or truth.
"Creativity has been defined as seeing ideas in new relationships, as discovering or producing something new through one’s own thinking. All creativeness lies within the creator, for creation is a qualitative experience of the highest order, and it brings into activity the whole person." -Mabel Jones Gabbott
and so...

Creative Expression - Sharing those ideas in a way that will allow others to experience your unique perspective (through art, music, words, experiments, actions, etc).
"The artist expresses himself or herself in universal symbols, images, sounds, and feelings. The spiritually successful artist has the unique opportunity to present feelings, opinions, ideas, and perspective of eternity in symbols that can be universally understood. Because all things are spiritual, only the process of obedience, prayer, and inspiration can yield sufficient guidance to make a difference in whatever creative method or opportunity is available to us. Inspired art speaks in the language of eternity, teaching things to the heart that the eyes and ears can never understand." -M. Russell Ballard
I think maybe now I can get to my point.

Like I said before, we need skills in order to share ourselves in a way that people will understand what we are sharing. However, we also need the ability to make connections in the truth that surrounds us in order to put our unique spin on what we see.
Thus creativity involves both a process and a result. It springs out of our seeing possibilities that we have not seen before and out of seeing connections between patches of truth and beauty and responding to them in ways we have not done before. Feelings that lead to poetry, mental imagery that leads to painting, and pondering that gives birth to prose are but examples. -Neal A. Maxwell
Several people see a cloud pass by. Someone stops to look and is inspired by a connection that she sees. She wants you to stop and notice so she writes:

A Cloud withdrew from the Sky
Superior Glory be
But that Cloud and its Auxiliaries
Are forever lost to me

Had I but further scanned
Had I secured the Glow
In an Hermetic Memory
It had availed me now.

Never to pass the Angel
With a glance and a Bow
Till I am firm in Heaven
Is my intention now.
-Emily Dickinson

Several people walk by a pond, too busy to look. Someone stops and notices the light and sky reflected in the water. He wants to share what he sees.

And then we stop our busy lives to reflect.  We catch a glimpse of the truth surrounding us.

Galileo watched the stars, then he learned of an eyeglass maker who put two glass lenses in a tube to see things farther away.  He took this new technology, improved it and saw the moons of jupiter.

How do we see these possibilities? How do we make these connections?  By answering this, we will know how to truly develop the creative genius in each one of us.

What do you think?  I have taken too long writing this post and I need to get ready for church so I'll have save what I think for later.

In the meantime, here is another great quote for you:
"When by wise self-management we are creative, then we mortals taste what Pascal called “the dignity of causality,” the capacity to cause that which had not existed in quite that way before! Something pertaining to truth and beauty occurs that would not have happened quite that way without us! Thus as “agents unto” ourselves we use the power that is in us to do good, but also to do it well, whether our creativity involves the use of our voice, our hands, our muscles, or our conceptual powers.

True creativity, as it reflects our capacity to see or to produce something in a new way, represents a restructuring that carries our individual imprint and uniqueness. Such can be equally true of the inventor and the painter, of the pianist as well as the poet." - Neil A. Maxwell

Friday, April 23, 2010

Do Crafts Foster Creativity?

The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before -Dieter F. Uchtdor
I completely believe that statement.  I think every single person is creative by nature.  Of course we are!  We are children of the Great Creator - made in His image.  We have that creative drive in our souls.  I do not think that we teach anyone creativity.  We don't need to do brain exercises to help us be creative.  We already are.  We do, however, need the skills and wisdom that will help us express our inner creativity in a way that will be beautiful and true.
It is confusing when people say that we need to foster creativity in our children.  The creativity is already there.  I think what they mean is that we need to make sure they see the joy in expressing that creativity so that they will be motivated to learn the skills required to express that creativity well.

I think this is what people mean when they say that doing crafts or playing with legos and art materials will "foster creativity".  As a child creates something new (a craft, structure, picture or anything else) they will feel the thrill of creating and will want to create more.  There is truth to this - but the problem is that they won't necessarily want to create something better.  

Of course a child's first attempts at expressing creativity are not going to be of great quality.  The fear that many have is that if a child finds that what they create does not bring joy  - they might stop trying to create or give up trying to improve.

There is also a danger, however, in giving a child a false sense of achievement when they are merely making "little junks only a mother would love" as Keri Tibbets puts it. The danger here is that they will get plenty of satisfaction from their haphazard efforts and will not see the need for putting forth the real effort required to gain the skills needed to make something of real beauty.
"Creation brings deep satisfaction and fulfillment. We develop ourselves and others when we take unorganized matter into our hands and mold it into something of beauty.
We were created with the express purpose and potential of experiencing a fulness of joy.   Our birthright—and the purpose of our great voyage on this earth—is to seek and experience eternal happiness. One of the ways we find this is by creating things." Dieter F. Uchdorf
So, if a child needs to feel the joy of creating, but they don't have the skills to create much - what do we do to encourage them, without giving them a false sense of achievement?  Praise them on their effort?

This is what schools often have to do - grade according to effort.  It seems like a plausible solution.  It gets tricky though.  How are you supposed to know how much mental effort a child put into something and how much of it was skill (or lack of)?

It seems like this would be easier if you are a parent and you are familiar with what your child is capable of, but there's an inherent problem with this as well.  All of your child's creations require some effort.  How do you know how much effort is worthy of praise and how much is not?  I never knew.  I just praised any effort in order to keep encouraging effort.   The problem with this was that I did give them a sense that anything goes - it doesn't matter what you make - it's all good - so why put in the extra effort?

I think there is a different way.

We were reading about Monet the other day.  In his time, paints were very expensive.  Artists often had to make their own paints - this was difficult and also costly.  When an artists painted a picture - he tried very hard to make it nice and not waste his resources.  Was it always a success?  Of course not.  Artists paint a lot of pictures that they are not happy with.  Is this a waste of resources?  I don't think any of us would say that the pictures Monet painted, and discarded, were a waste of resources.  They were an important part of his becoming a great artist.
This is why I am no longer giving my children loose paper to waste to their heart's desire.  I am also limiting their art supplies.  Keri gave the example of a child with lots of smelly or glittery markers.  The child spends their time making lines to see what the marker does.  In contrast, if a child is given a few crayons and some paper.  They will draw something.  Then, they will draw something different because it would be boring to draw the same thing again.  After a while - they learn to draw!

So how do I keep up their enthusiasm for creating when they do not get the immediate satisfaction of giving it away or of experimenting with what all of the different art supplies can do?  I don't have to.  They keep their enthusiasm because they see themselves improve!  They are able to draw things that they couldn't draw previously.  I don't need little gimmicks to trick them into thinking they are good at something.   They will feel the real joy of actually becoming better.  They will improve much more quickly if they don't have all of these distracting things to experiment with and a ton of resources to waste.

I have a wonderful book called Drawing with Children.  The author suggests that children learn to draw with nice pens so that they can not erase their mistakes.  What is the purpose of this?  To teach them to be careful and to draw slowly from the beginning.

Anyone who has learned to play a musical instrument knows that practicing a song very slowly at first and then speeding up, yields faster results than practicing the same music wrong over and over again.  This is the benefit of limiting resources.  A child will be much more careful with what they are given.
This analogy can be applied to all other areas of life.  Creativity is not limited to the arts (thankfully!)  I would go more into this, but my original intent for this post was to write about what we actually need, besides skills, to truly have the ability to create real beauty.  Most people know that mere skills will not be enough for someone to be able to express their inborn creativity.  There is something else.  However, this post is getting long enough so I better save the rest for the next post.
Gospel gladness can give us a precious perspective about all things and can spur us on to share that beauty which God helps us to create. It is a process that should not trouble itself over much, initially, with questions of originality and utility but, rather, with quality and excellence. - Neal A. Maxwell

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Happy 4th Birthday Bazinks!

How did my baby boy turn 4 in a blink of an eye?  I don't know, but I hope the next four years won't go quite as fast, although I have a feeling they'll probably go by even faster.
Bazinks - I love the creative ways you play.  I love hearing all the different ways that you find to get out of bad situations in your pretend world.  Good guys come and give you medicine, sometimes bad guys come and give you medicine, sometimes you turn into a different person, sometimes you have a magic sword that shoots out medicine or healing powers. I love to hear the things you come up with!
I am also fascinated with all the different weapons you make - a gun that shoots out gum, strawberries, bullets, or whipped cream depending on the hole; a sword with a gun on the opposite side; a sword that shoots out bullets.
I loved it the other day when you decided to be General Grievous and you took four light sabers (one under your chin, one under your arm, and one in each hand) and tried to fight me - until you decided that was a bit tricky so 2 of your arms got chopped off and you were left with only 2 light sabers (one in each hand).
I love it when you cuddle me at night when I sing you your bed-time song.  I love how your burst out laughing every time I read you Winnie the Pooh, especially the part when he jumps in the water when he sees Piglet's bottle and he thinks it's a honey pot!
You are learning to take care of your baby brother as you get older.  You used to like to push him and squeeze him too hard, but now you try to help him when you see that he is sad!  You are getting to be so kind and brave and helpful.

I love it when you sing me the alphabet or count for me - I love all the different tunes you have made up to go with counting your numbers.  I think you are so smart to be adding your numbers!  Not too many little boys your age can do such tricky things!  You are so good at figuring things out!
I love your big, sweet eyes.  They just melt my heart whenever you look at me with your happy looks or even your sad, pitiful ones!  No one can stop themselves from smiling when you pull out one of your happy smiles - they light up the whole house!

I thank Heavenly Father everyday for you!  Thanks for being my sweet, cuddly little guy.

On Bazinks' birthday morning, we brought him his presents in bed (tradition).  He was so excited to get a pack of M&Ms, Skittles, gum, and his own flashlight.
Later, we took him and his friends (really, only one of the "friends" was his age, the others were his friend's siblings, but they all play together often so he calls them all his friends)  to a "bouncy place", as he calls it.  We ate hot-dogs before we left and we ate cake while we were there.  He had an M&M cake again (same as last year - why change a good thing?)  and played hard.
After the "Bouncy Place"  he got to go to his friend's Star Wars party.  All of the kids went.  At the party, they got trained to be Jedi and, at the end, they had to fight Darth Vader (the boy's dad - dressed up - with fog all around him - in the garage).  Some of the kids cried and ran away, but I heard that Bazinks was brave and went forward with courage!  A proud family moment.  Although, I must admit, I was a little surprised :-)
When the kids got back, they found my parents at my house, ready to give Bazinks a birthday hug.  Just when he thought the day couldn't get any better!

As we were getting the kids ready for bed, they mentioned that it was such a wonderful day and that they were sad it was over, never to be repeated.   I tried to assure them that they would have other highlights in their lives.  I'm glad he had a nice birthday.

I sure love that little boy.
Some other family events last week:

After forgetting about a tooth under a pillow for four nights in a row, I decided it was time to tell Spice about the tooth fairy.  Granted, she is 10, and she had her suspicions, but we had never brought them out into the open.  I handed her the money, and told her I was sorry for forgetting, and that she had probably figured out by then that it was me all along.
She said she had thought it probably was and then she asked me about Santa.  I said, "Oh.  Do you really want to know about Santa?"  She said, "I think I already do."

"You're right."

At this point she looked like she was getting tears in her eyes and I wanted to take back everything I had already said.  Then she asked,

"Even the Easter Bunny?"

"Yes, but those are the only things I've tricked you about.  It's just a fun game that parents do with their kids for fun.  I wasn't sure if I wanted to do it because I felt funny telling you stories, but I did try not to lie about it, remember when you would ask 'do you believe in Santa?' and I would say, 'I believe in the Spirit of Santa' and then you'd ask me how presents would come if there was no Santa and then I'd make up silly stories? "

"Yeah.  I wondered about that."

"You'll have to decide when you're older if you want to play that game with your kids.  I chose to do it because I remembered it being so fun and magical when I was a child and I thought you might like it too."

"Yeah.  It was fun.  But does this mean I won't get presents anymore?"

"No, you'll still get presents, but you'll get to help me as we plan the presents for everyone else.  You'll be in on the fun."

"Okay!  But what if I accidentally say something, or if I give them a look and then they know?!"

"I'll try not to look at you when we're talking about it so that we don't give each other any looks.  Are you okay?  You look kind of sad.  Maybe I should have waited to tell you."

"No, I'm glad you told me.  It wasn't as fun for me when I was suspicious and I think now it will be more fun.  Now I'm just thinking about some of the things my friends have said about it that made me suspicious."

She hasn't mentioned it since then then and she has been fine and happy so I don't think it was too traumatic.  :-)
Bud participated in his first pinewood derby yesterday.  He spent Monday sanding and painting and then yesterday he painted some details.  He and his dad made a fun car.  They did several races so all of the cars would get a chance to race each other and he got 1st, 2nd, 2nd and then 3rd.  He got the award for the "Coolest Paint Job".  He and his daddy did do some interesting thing with some netting and spray-paint, although you can't quite see it in the picture.

Baby Ray is beginning to crawl a little, but he still prefers the army scoot as a way of getting around.  He's starting to say, "Ma ma ma" and "Da da da" and "Bu bu bu" pretty often.
Little Miss started piano lessons.  I worried that she was too young for them, but she has been asking for them for several months so I thought I would let her try them.  The older kids play the piano for fun, but they are not interested in lessons.  Little Miss' piano teacher has a great love of music and since we all go to watch Little Miss do her lesson, I'm hoping that some of his enthusiasm will rub off on them.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

About Your Concerns

"Our society provides so many distractions that unless we make the time and effort to extract ourselves from them, the voice of the Spirit may not get through to us." -Yoshihiko Kikuchi
Some people have expressed some concern for my children regarding this "minimalist" lifestyle that we are trying to pursue.  I have been involved in some conversations in person, in a homeschooling yahoo group, on facebook, and here.  I am grateful for your comments.  I am learning a lot from people's wonderful examples and insights.  I am also really grateful to the people who expressed reservations about it, because I know they are expressing them out of genuine concern and love.  If they were not, they would just have fun talking about my craziness to others.  Through these conversations, I have realized the need to clarify a few things that I wasn't very clear on.  Also, since I really do want what is best for my children, I would love to hear what it is, exactly, that people are concerned that my children will miss.  If you respond, please be specific.  I don't want to hear things like "Being in the real world" - instead, try to say what specific part of "being in the world" that you think they are missing and why you think it is important that they have it.

I think I will copy and paste some of the concerns I have heard and some of my responses and insert some explanations, but first of all, I would like to clarify something important:

I do not think that all recreation and every activity we pursue needs to be religious.  I can see why people thought I felt this way when I said,

"The fact is that everything does serve a purpose - whether we recognize it or not.  Everything that we do brings us closer to truth or distracts us away from it.  Some activities can do either, depending on the state of our heart.  Recreation has a purpose.  Is what we are choosing to do for fun distracting us from God or leading us closer to Him?"

It would be a bit fanatical to say that we must only do religious things.  What I meant to say was that we should do things that are real.  But real things lead us to truth, which inevitably leads us to God.

What do I mean by real? Real things are those that help us see ourselves as we really are,  those around us as they really are, and our environment (God's creations) as it really is.  In this I am including all things that help us find that truth - religion, science, mathematics, philosophy, relationships, art, music, history, etc.
As we consider various choices, we should remember that it is not enough that something is good. Other choices are better, and still others are best. Even though a particular choice is more costly, its far greater value may make it the best choice of all.

Consider how we use our time in the choices we make in viewing television, playing video games, surfing the Internet, or reading books or magazines. Of course it is good to view wholesome entertainment or to obtain interesting information. But not everything of that sort is worth the portion of our life we give to obtain it. Some things are better, and others are best. When the Lord told us to seek learning, He said, “Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom (D&C 88:118)" -Dallin H. Oaks
That being said, what we do for fun CAN be real. It is either real, or it is a distraction from the real. Do you see this? Let me explain it a little better.  I was ragging on movies earlier because it is hard for them to make a lasting effect on us (they are too easy - we are spoon-fed the message, and often we don't take time to discuss it and internalize it.  Also, they often bombard our senses with stimulation which can desensitize us to the more subtle messages around us) However, sometimes we do not have the mental or physical energy to pursue something more difficult (and subsequently more rewarding and of greater value) so we sit down to enjoy a good, uplifting show together...

Is this real? Yes! We are experiencing something together - so we bond - and RELATIONSHIPS are REAL. What if we are watching it on our own?  It can also be real because, if it is uplifting (and, by the way, that can include happy, funny or sad movies),  it is causing us to look inward and want to change.  It would be even more lasting and meaningful if we could sit down to read a good book together... but I'm getting off my point here...

How do I know if an activity is worth mine or my children's time? How do I know if it is real? Real things will get us to look inward at our character or to look outward at our relationships - including our relationship to God (that is where finding the truth about our environment fits in - He created it).

SO... what I am trying to do in my home is to remove the stuff that I put there that distracts us from the real, or that creates an artificial gain with no work involved.
"We need to make our homes a place of refuge from the storm, which is increasing in intensity all about us. Even if the smallest openings are left unattended, negative influences can penetrate the very walls of our homes" -L. Tom Perry
Snow barricade last week (it's a beautiful spring day today)

I hope I have cleared up what I was trying to say.  Let me know if you don't agree.  Now for my comments about some concerns and questions (some of these questions were general ones to a group, I'm posting my responses here in case anyone has a similar question or is interested):

It seems like you are trying to create this unrealistic ... or maybe even an unreasonable bubble for your family. One that isn't preparing your kids for the real world. They aren't pioneers. And someday they have to move out of that bubble. Then what? You guys are great parents and are doing an awesome job of preparing them for heaven, but you also need to prepare them for the world they live in. Let your kids be kids :)

My Reply:
I brought things into my home to keep my children entertained (even though most of that entertainment was supposed to be educational) and those things distracted them from finding the real things that they love and are passionate about. As I remove those things, they are starting to fall in love with real beauty and happiness.  I think when they go out into the world, they will recognize the artificial for what it is - I know I do - and the artificial is not even tempting to me, now that I've had a taste of the real type of happiness.

I think this "bubble" we're living in IS the reality and the stuff the "real world" is focusing on is the artificial. I'm trying to give them enough of the real so that they won't be fooled.
Is there a generation today that needs to be superficially entertained? What is the prospect of a young man sitting in a dorm on Friday evening to read a great book and be thrilled by the music of the masters? Is Friday evening a frenetic flight to see where the entertainment and action will be? Could our society today produce an Isaac Newton or a Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart? Can 85 channels and uncountable DVDs ever fill our insatiable appetite to be entertained? Do any unwisely become addicted to computer games or Internet surfing, thereby missing the richer experiences of great reading, conversations, and enjoyment of music? - Douglas L. Callister

Kids do need to play and they do need a few toys, but we, as a society, have really gone crazy with the things that we think we need to have - and often we think they are good for us when, really, they are wasting our thoughts, time and space.

I don't think my kids are going to be ruined if they get a little Wii time or play with mindless push-a-button toys, but I think they will be free to experience better things if I don't put these things in their way.

Also, I can not completely shelter them from the world. They do get out and see what is out there. We discuss a lot of sad things that have happened in the world and how people came to make those choices. They understand that there is a lot of "fluff" in the world - they see it all the time, but they know that there are better things. My hope is that they will always know it, and I think they'll have a pretty good chance if their foundation is based on reality.

Keri says she is making her home real, but really she is just making it so boring that the child is forced to read a book.

My reply:
The difference between "making a home real" so that children can see and feel the beauty that surrounds them vs. making a home so boring that the children have nothing better to do, is that the distracting things we put in our home were not part of the children's natural environment in the first place.  Again, we are really only getting rid of distractions - or obstacles to learning and growth - that we placed there. Realizing this made getting rid of things easier for me.

I know the reasons why screens are harmful to children (and adults), I totally believe in no screens and yet I'm not living that life. Will someone please encourage me to just cut it out totally? Or at least go back to just watching a little on the weekend?

My Reply:
"We need the slower and more lasting stimulus of solitary reading as a relief from the pressure on eye, ear and nerves of the torrent of information and entertainment pouring from ever-open electronic jaws" -Douglas L. Callister
When my older kids were in school, a couple of years ago, I let my little ones watch TV while I got the work done.  When I look back on it, the real reason I turned on the TV was because I felt guilty about not wanting to give them all of the attention that they wanted from me.

I would do things differently now because I now see that there is nothing wrong with letting them be bored and finding something to do without me. In fact, it's good for them. You don't have to entertain you children all of the time. We live in a world where we think children need constant stimulation, so we buy all sorts of things to keep them entertained and educated, but we're going about it all wrong. They need to be bored so that they will look inward and find the creativity and inner drive that is waiting for them there.
Little Miss - thinking of something to do

Spice - building a barricade
All things in moderation... I understand the ideas behind all of this, just realize is seems that it is becoming more and more extreme. And that is what has me worried. I feel that one of these days I will read to find that you have all decided to quit celebrating holidays, birthdays,... no sports, no movies, no technology!! haha Ok, Ok, so maybe not technology...

My Reply:
This is interesting because I think what I am striving for is moderation. It seems that we, as a people, have become so extreme in the amount of stuff we own, in how often we seek entertainment, in how much we waste, that real "moderation" now seems extreme. Even though I am not planning on living in a Quaker style - I do think that those Quakers build some pretty solid characters :-) Our current society fosters weak and flimsy characters that feel entitled to "stuff" that they don't work for. I think you sort of just have to be weird in this day and age if you want something different.

I smiled when I saw the remark about holidays because, in truth,  I have been thinking about how to make our holidays more meaningful and not about the stuff...

Why no craft room?

My Reply:
I will write soon about the reasons for not allowing my children to waste resources and what I have seen that my children are becoming because of it.

So now after reading the article, (which I really liked by the way) I’m curious to know specifically what were the changes you made and the results you saw.

My Reply:
(This reply might cause some more concern, but I'm going to post it anyway, I'll highlight, in bold letters, what it was that got me to make some changes - because when I read this through, after I wrote it - I saw a pattern)

I heard Keri Tibbets speak at the TJED forum.  What she said rung true to me, but seemed little extreme. I went home and got rid of all of our battery powered toys and several more. I wasn't about to get rid of the legos or the loose paper though.

The kids didn't notice things looked different (they didn't play with those battery toys much anyway). For free time, they chose to make "cards" and used lots of sheets of paper. I wasn't really at peace with this use of their creative energies. I didn't see a whole lot that they were learning. The next day, I got rid of loose paper. They got out their sketchbooks and started drawing nicer pictures because the pictures felt more permanent (they aren't allowed to tear the paper out either). I decided I would let them make cards on special occasions, but not just for fun.

Another day, the boys played with their nerf guns for most of their free time. I didn't quite feel peaceful about that either. I realized that we really didn't need most of the toys in the toy room, so I had the children pick their 10 most favorite toys and we got rid of almost all the rest. I felt so liberated and peaceful. I couldn't get rid of the legos, but I put them and the nerf guns in storage to get out on special occasions - out of sight, out of mind sort of a thing.
Resting before they go to war

The next day they played "French Revolution"in the back yard with sticks and snow-barricades. I don't know why, but I felt very peaceful about it. The following day, my oldest asked me for cursive lessons (she doesn't know some of the letters), and my 6-year old daughter asked me for drawing lessons, I told them I would set up a time to have them. Then they wrote in their journals and sketched some pictures. The boys played Stratego.

Stratego felt like a distraction, so a little later, I put the games in a closet in the basement to be used on some evenings for family time (except Chess, Grammar Punk, and Balderdash because those are hard enough that they don't get a thrill with no effort). The next day, my oldest directed a play during free time and they all participated. I'm not sure why, but I felt peaceful with this also. I was also happy with the quality of the play - their plays are not usually so well planned and executed.

That is about where I am with it now. The next day, my 8-year old son picked up the Encyclopedia of World History, that has been in our bookshelf for years, and looked up all he could about the French Revolution, he also read a book about Gettysburg. My oldest daughter read Where the Sidewalk Ends multiple times wrote a few poems.  My 6-year old read Winnie the Pooh to her 4-year old brother and then they made a fort in the play room and played.

It's hard to explain how peaceful my home feels now. Things just feel right. That's why I wanted to share it.
Did you see the pattern in that last reply? I know, dumb question. I'm noticing that I need to trust my feelings when something doesn't feel quite right and then change it.  I'm not saying that everyone has to get rid of the same things I am getting rid of, but I think we could all benefit from looking at our lives, finding things that are distracting us, and removing them (or placing them in a proper place in our lives).

Remember how I wrote about how I was feeling like I was in a rut a little while ago? That is because it was time for a change! As soon as I started making the changes I needed to make - I felt alive and energetic again. I'm learning to just trust my peaceful and anxious feelings.  Bonus:  Those feelings are becoming more clear now that I am getting rid of distractions....

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Going off the Deep End

So, in my last post, I mentioned that I am finding most movies and all mindless entertainment to be a distraction from reality and truth. I also mentioned that distractions are not good. Actually, I think I may have gone as far as to say that they are bad. I also said that all "fun", or recreation, always has a purpose.

Not too long ago, I would have thought such statements sounded prudish and too serious. I'm wondering if those of you who read my post agree with what I said, or if you are too polite to tell me that you think I've gone off the deep end, or at least that I'm getting a little far-fetched...

I've been having debates in my head about this (don't you debate with yourself in your free time?), but I keep coming to the same conclusion. Namely, what I said before, which is this:
If [recreation or entertainment] is distracting us, then it is a fleeting "fun" that will whisk us away momentarily from the joyful path we could be on, and drop us further away from it.  Then we have to try to get back on it, or find another distraction to make us forget that we are so far from where we want to be.  How exhausting.

If we are choosing fun, or entertainment, that leads us closer to truth, closer to God, then we are living in true joy consistently, basking in light, and feeling real feelings that are so much deeper and richer than the fleeting, fake, so-called fun.
I'm wondering what people think of this. I think it must be true because I have never been more at peace with my family and home since I decided to get rid of distractions in my house and in my life.  My kids are also so much more at peace, so kind and obedient (yes, they still have their "moments"- we all do). Everything feels more real, including our relationships.

What do you think? Are there things that you think are distractions, but still worth your time?  I'm still watching Lost until the end of the season (we watch it online) - I have to admit that I like it and it does make me think. Honestly, though, I wouldn't say it leaves me feeling joyful and happy like so many other things in my life are doing. I think I'm done with TV shows.... at least as soon as Lost is finished :-)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Plays and Movies and Fun

As I keep making changes, I find more and more things that I want to improve.  Remember the project room I posted about on Sunday?  I'll be tackling that one next (once I get over the initial shock of clearing out the toys), there are plenty of things we don't need in there.  A lot of the clothes are gone.  I'll be going through the games as well.  Games are hard for me - so are books.  I'll save the books for last.  I'll keep only the ones worth reading again and again.

I loved what Julie B. Beck said during the last LDS general conference:
"There is much distraction and not enough peace and joy [in our lives]...Being in the right places allows us to receive guidance. It requires a conscious effort to diminish distractions, but having the Spirit of revelation makes it possible to prevail over opposition and persist in faith through difficult days and essential routine tasks. Personal revelation gives us the understanding of what to do every day..."
She quoted Eliza R. Snow:
 "...and the greatest good we can do to ourselves and each other is to refine and cultivate ourselves in everything that is good and ennobling to qualify us for those responsibilities."
Diminished distractions - peace and joy - understanding - refinement - that is what I am working to create in my home.

My friend, Lara, recently recommended an article.  It's called Our Refined Heavenly Home by Douglas L. Callister.  Have you ever read it?  I read it about a year ago and I loved it then.  I printed it off and read parts of it to my kids and husband so that they could get a vision of what our home could be like.

I reread it yesterday and I loved it even more this time around!  It's going on my list of talks to read over and over.  It reaffirmed that we are doing the right thing in our home by getting rid of distractions and seeking things of higher worth.  I love reading the comments on here about the changes others are making as well.

But what about just plain fun?  Isn't it okay to have things in our home that are solely for entertainment and fun?  Does everything have to have a purpose?

The fact is that everything does serve a purpose - whether we recognize it or not.  Everything that we do brings us closer to truth or distracts us away from it.  Some activities can do either, depending on the state of our heart.  Recreation has a purpose.  Is what we are choosing to do for fun distracting us from God or leading us closer to Him?

If it is distracting us, then it is a fleeting "fun" that will whisk us away momentarily from the joyful path we could be on and drop us further away from it.  Then we have to try to get back on it or find another distraction to make us forget that we are so far from where we want to be.  How exhausting.

If we are choosing fun, or entertainment, that leads us closer to truth, closer to God, then we are living in true joy consistently, basking in light, and feeling real feelings that are so much deeper and richer than the fleeting, fake, so-called fun.

I like what Lara said about it on a recent post:
"The difference between art and entertainment is that art strives to interpret God and entertainment merely over stimulates and deadens true feeling, just like candy will deaden your taste for real food.  One is nourishing and one is not."
The experience we've had with plays and movies (not all plays are good or all movies bad -just stay with me), illustrates what I mean.

We went to several plays recently.  We saw The Taming of the Shrew, A Little Princess, and Les Miserables.  Rock and I also saw some movies in between the play-going.  We saw The ProposalNew Moon and Avatar.  Maybe the contrast between the plays and the movies wouldn't have hit me so strongly if the movies hadn't been what they were, but nevertheless, the contrast hit me pretty strongly.

To be honest, I was almost insulted as I watched The Proposal.  "Really?"  I wondered, "Do our film writers really think so low of us that they would expect us to think all of these lame jokes are funny?" New Moon wasn't quite as silly as The Proposal, but pretty silly nonetheless.  Avatar was a little better - it was very pretty and it made me want to go and do something, I just can't remember what it was...

I really enjoyed the plays.  "What was the difference?" I asked myself, "Both of them were made to entertain me.  We saw both for fun.  Why did one succeed so much better than the other? " I came up with several things.


After seeing the Little Princess, the children and I were inspired to be better people.  It probably had a lot to do with the fact that we had read the book so we had assimilated the meaning behind the play and the play reaffirmed what we had learned.  It was specially good for Bud because we had the following conversation that morning after he had "tackled" his younger sister (yet again):

I gave him the usual shpill about how boys don't hit girls.  He, again, replied that it wasn't fair.  I asked:
"Bud, you know how you like to play with guns and swords?"
"You know that Heavenly Father gave you big muscles and fast legs?"
"Girls are not usually as strong as boys and they don't like to play the rough games as much as boys.  Have you noticed that?"
"Can you think why that might be?"
"No, how come?"
"Heavenly Father made boys like that so that they could protect the ladies, the older people and babies....  Do you think He would like it if you used those muscles to hurt them?"
A look of understanding lit up his face, "No!"
We then went to see the Little Princess and we talked about how special Heavenly Father's little daughters are.

We did not read The Taming of the Shrew before we went, but we did read the children's version.  I don't think the kids got too much out of it, except some comic relief since they understood the storyline.  I also didn't get as much as I could have, but there were several lines that made me pause and consider.  I had to look inward to see where I stood.  I had to evaluate my beliefs.  Every time I do that, I am changed.  I'm sure there would have been many more lines like that if I had made the effort to read it ahead of time.

We listened to the entire play of Les Miserables before we went to see it.  I explained the history to the kids, we talked about the different personalities in the play and what kind of characters they had.  We had SO many great discussions about life, the impact that one good person can make on so many, what really makes a person good or bad, judging, I could go on and on.

The children loved the play.  Bud has listened to it many times since.  I like that he is hearing powerful and beautiful language, but it's a little too much thrill for not much effort.  I'm having to set limits on listening to Les Miserables now 8)  Rock was a little concerned about his son walking around singing "show tunes", but I assured him that he wouldn't like it quite as much if it weren't for all of the war :-)


I've seen good movies that make me feel like I want to be better.  I must admit that they are rare, but they are out there.  I wonder how long their impact lasts.  I wonder if I paused the movie pretty often and encouraged discussion if the impact could be greater.  I would probably just end up with a frustrated family though :-)  When I read something, the thoughts and emotions are slowly assimilated into my mind.  I get the opportunity to evaluate my opinions and shift my perspective.  Plus, I am able to stop and think and ponder.  I change.  That is much harder to do with a movie.  The emotions and thoughts come so quickly that I hardly have time to process them before they are gone.  I like this quote from Keri's (author of the headgates ebook) Q&A site:
"We would rather sit down to a great book than a movie because the movie evokes no lasting change in us. It just gives us a quick story that feels powerful and lasting, but because its plot and teachings do not escort our current beliefs and paradigms into unknown territory, no lasting change ever occurs. In order to really experience lasting growth, we must consider new ideas that we have not hitherto considered, and then discuss them with friends and family. Once solidified we write our new beliefs down in our journals to document the process and the growth.

If you have read TJed, you will recognize this as "read, write and discuss" in the scholar model. This process is so delicious to the whole soul, that once you taste it, movies just become second-rate. When this happens to the parents, it is not hard to decide about movies for the kids because your example rubs off on them naturally. They do not see you saving movies up for a "special treat" that they only get to have semi annually. This would make movies seem like they are extremely special, almost like Christmas."
Maybe that is what is happening - maybe movies are becoming second rate.  Or maybe I just saw three really bad movies :-)

I am learning something though - a refined home has the BEST in "fun", it is simple and pure and lasting.  I would caution people to be careful though... I am starting to find that once you taste of it, the rest really does become second-rate.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Pioneers - A Simple Life

I went to a class on "Unit Studies" about a week ago.  Since we are no longer "wasting resources" (see the article) or doing little crafts, some of the unit study ideas did not pertain to us.  However, I did get some good ideas about how to inspire learning activities during free time.  I'll write a different post about all of that, this post is about our current "Unit Study" - the pioneers.
Remember how I got rid of 5 garbage bags worth of toys in our toy room?  Well, I realized recently that it wasn't enough.  Keri's article recommended that a home have 10-15 toys total (not per child).  I can't go that far yet (baby steps!), but I did ask the kids to pick out their 10 most favorite toys and we would get rid of all of the rest.

Little Miss cried at first.  She didn't want to keep only 10 toys!  There were just so many cute stuffed animals that she loved.  I told her I would work with her and if there were certain things she couldn't part with, we could talk about keeping them.
Here is where our "Pioneer Unit Study" comes in.  I've mentioned before that we've been reading the "Little House on the Prairie" book series for the last several months.  My children were delighted when we would read about the Ingalls' Christmases and how happy they would be to receive a pair of mittens or a piece of candy in their stockings.  They loved the part when the Ingalls' were able to get glass windows for their little cabin.  There were so many times as we read that the kids and I would realize how many things we take for granted.

After the Unit Studies class, I decided to do a little unit study on pioneers.  A unit study is when you take a theme and do your "school" around that theme (read a book about it together, field trips, activities, math that pertains to it, etc.)  I didn't realize it before I went to this class, but that is how I teach my kids already.  The class did help me clarify a few things about how to do it though.

There are several things I wanted to incorporate into our pioneer unit study (things I've been wanting to learn, like to cooking outdoors - we're making a fire pit in our backyard, sewing bonnets, book binding, etc), but among them are: simplifying our things and planting a garden.  Isn't it convenient that it just so happens that we were going to be doing those things anyway?  Having a "theme" just makes it a little more fun :-)
Anyway, reading the Little House books has helped my children "catch the vision" of living life without so many distraction in the way.  As they were looking through their toys to find their 10 most favorite, they called each other Laura (Spice), Carrie (Little Miss), Almanzo (Bud) and Cap (Bazinks).  Ray was Baby Ray (The Ingalls had a Baby Grace - so my kids thought of calling our baby Baby Gray, then they realized Gray rhymed with Ray - "Hey Mom, that what you call him on your blog!" and so he became Baby Ray).
Here are some of the comments I heard as we were tossing things into the D.I. bag:
Spice: "Our life is going to be so nice now! We can be happy with just some mittens for presents - I do like clothes." (I think she was trying to express that they'll appreciate what they have a lot more).
Little Miss (smiling - she enjoyed herself once she got in the spirit of things) "Laura just had one baby doll."
Bud: "We won't have a big mess to clean up now when friends come over!"
Bazinks: "Wait!  Don't give that one to D.I.!"  (He hasn't caught the vision yet :-) )
We couldn't quite narrow it down to 10 things each, however.  In addition to the 10 items, I let them pick their most favorite dress ups, a couple of doll houses, and puppets.  I also allowed a couple of sets to count as an item, in other words, one set counted as one item (Bud kept a set of dinosaurs for one of his items and the girls kept a set of baby items - blankets, bottles, clothes for one of their items).

I must admit, that it was harder for me to part with some of the things than it was for them.  I knew how much they cost!  They wanted to keep a $1 stuffed animal, but were willing to let go of the $50 Bitty Baby!  I made myself stay quiet and let it go.

Here are the 10 times that they kept:
Girls: 2 baby dolls each, a few stuffed animals, baby things, trolls (?!?)
Boys: Light sabers, cars, airplanes, dinosaurs and a few stuffed animals (Bazinks is attached to Care Bears).

I also kept the blocks, ropes, blankets, tinker toys, shopping register, and the bins the toys were in (they love playing with those bins!).

I couldn't get rid of the legos, but I did put them, and the dart guns, in the storage closet - to be taken out on special occasions (like when they want to have a dart-gun war with their dad or they feel the need to build something).

Once I got over the initial anxiety, it felt so nice to be rid of all those "things" cluttering up our lives.
Another thing I have done is that I made two rooms in the house "off-limits" to the children.  They are not allowed into the "Project Room" (it used to be called the "Craft Room", but I had to change the name since we no longer make crafts ;-) ) without an adult present (this is where I keep the sewing things, beads, loose paper, paint, play-dough, advanced art supplies, science things, and such).

They are not allowed in the computer room either (they were attracted to photo shop and all the loose paper).

Things are so much simpler.

Life is so much more peaceful.

We seem to be able to see each other more clearly, and the truth around us, without all that stuff skewing our view.

*We went to "Baby Animal Days" last week. The children got to pet many baby animals and then Bud decided to participate in a "Muttun Busting" event.  The kids were placed on top of wild sheep that tried to buck them off.  I'm not sure why we allowed it, but Bud had a great time.  He won first place.  He stayed on for close to 8 seconds!  He was very proud when the announcer announced "And first place goes to.... Wild Bud!"  Here are the snap shots:

That's my pioneering cowboy!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

New Guidelines for Family Work

I've explained before why I feel so strongly about family working together.  Among the reasons are: we love those we serve, we practice doing hard things ("discipline muscle"), bonds are forged as we talk while we work, problem areas in relationships usually surface and we can work on the solutions, it keeps us humble, it helps us appreciate each other and those around us, we build our characters, etc.

I also remember how incredibly important my college professors said it was for a family to work together.  According to research, it had some pretty important outcomes.  I remember thinking then that when I had a family of my own, we would all work together often.

If you've read my posts on "Teaching Kids to Work" you know that I've been working on this and that I've set up systems to help us accomplish it.

I ran into a few problems though.  It was pretty easy to get the children to do their individual chores (once they were used to the routine), but it was a lot harder to get us all to work together.  I started doing a "family project" time so that we could benefit from working together, but in the morning everyone did their individual chores so that things could get done.  I just didn't think I had the the energy to do all of our work as a family.  Besides, I reasoned, children should learn to be responsible for certain things without my having to be right there all of the time.

Family project time was great.  We all enjoyed working together much more than working apart, but it was often one of the first things to go when we were short on time.  It just wasn't as efficient as giving out assignments. Several things would happen too - I would gather all of the children and we would start working together, and then some children would scatter and I'd have to reign them back in - this took quite a bit of energy, and then some would get distracted and start to play.  They knew I was working with them so the work would get done no matter how slow they were.

To be honest, family work just took so much energy!

However, it has been working beautifully lately.  I can't tell you how much I love it now that I've figured out what went wrong before.  The reason that it was so hard to keep reigning them in was because I allowed distractions.  They would naturally drift away and I had to keep gathering and gathering and vying for their attention.  Here are our new guidelines for family work:

1. We all work until the work is finished.  There is no more "I'm done with my jobs can I ___ now?"  The result is that they now come to me and ask, "What can I do now?"

2. (This is what has made all of the difference) No toys, books, writing utensils, computer (for me), or activities until the work is done.

This was kind of hard to decide to implement because the kids liked to lay in bed in the morning and read which gave me a little extra time to myself.  I figured that they were doing something educational so it was okay not to interrupt them.  I finally realized that during family work time - anything that is not work is a distraction from work.
They were also a little sad when they realized that this meant that they couldn't hold a sword while they made their bed, or cuddle a stuffed animal while they swept.  I know it sounds harsh, but I wanted them to see that play and study are privileges to be enjoyed when work is done.

The only exception I made is when Spice asked me if she could still read her scriptures in the morning.  Scriptures and journal writing is allowed before work time, but they should be done by 8 am.

Now that they have nothing else that they can do, they stay around me much better.  They ask what else needs to be done, and they work at a faster pace, yet we have fun at the same time.  The bottom line isn't efficiency - I'm not running a business, I'm nurturing children!  I haven't given them a time limit so we're not rushed and frantic, but we want to get done so that we can enjoy our free time later (more on free time later)
That being said, when the the kids are tired, sometimes they would rather sit around and let everyone else do the work even if that means that there is not much free time later, so I do have consequences if they are not working.  I talked about this on a different post, but basically, if I see that they are not contributing, then I give them an extra chore to do when the family work is over.

I should add that this doesn't mean we are all working on the same thing, at the same time.  With 5 little kids - that would make for a claustrophobic experience.  What I've been doing is putting down on a notecard the things I want accomplished that morning and then we all pitch in to get it done.
It used to be hard for me to think of ways to help everyone be involved, but I have found that it helps me to remember that Bud and Spice, being 8 and 10, are capable of doing anything I can do.  They often just need a little guidance in the beginning.  Sometimes I have to be more creative with the younger children, but Little Miss can do almost anything as well, and Bazinks hangs around and helps here and there.   Bazinks is much more willing to help now that there are no distracting toys around to keep him occupied.  He wants to help everyone to get done as well, and he likes the environment.  There's something unifying and peaceful in working together toward a common goal and he naturally wants to be a part of it.
Here's what we have done  for family work so far this week:
Monday: Unpacked from the weekend away from home
               Washed and put away the laundry from the weekend
               Picked up anything out of place throughout the house
               Emptied, cleaned, and reorganized the drawers and cupboards in the upstairs bathrooms
               Cleaned out the car
               Made bread dough
               Dinner and Lunch prep
               Picked up anything out of place in the house

-We got finished at 4:30 pm!  It was only 2-3 hours worth of work, we did go to a piano lesson in between, but everyone just worked really slowly.  I was tempted to take a couple of items off the list, but I wanted them to learn that we will work until the work is done regardless of how long it takes.  We enjoyed working together, but there was not much free time that day.
Tuesday: Cleaned, wiped out and organized every kitchen drawer and cabinet
                Baked Bread
                Dinner and Lunch prep
                Picked up anything out of place in the house

-This was actually more work then on Monday because we have a lot of kitchen cabinets and drawers, and they were pretty messy.  I spent the whole time on two drawers and two cupboards (where we put all of our stuff when we don't know where else to put it).  The kids did all of the rest.  And they did it well.  We were done at 11:45 am.  I heard these comments:
Spice: "We better get done fast so we can have a longer free time!"
Later on:
Bud:  "Oh, I get it!  The faster we get our stuff done, the more free time we have!"
Apparently, it didn't register when I had mentioned that exact thing the day before :-)

Wednesday: Cleared the chairs out of the dining room
                    Cleaned every "nook and cranny" on the chairs and table
                    Cleaned and polished the piano
                    Cleared out, cleaned, and organized the front room coat and shoe closet
                    Vacuumed the front room and the living room
                    Lunch and Dinner prep
                    Put away laundry
                    Picked up anything out of place in the house

-We got finished at 12:00pm.  The kids did drag a little on this day.  Spice earned a consequence for dawdling and reading from a book that she was supposed to be putting away (She vacuumed the stairs).  The "newness" of the new schedule was wearing off and they weren't quite as efficient as Tuesday, but they worked hard and got finished in good time.

Another benefit I have noticed is that they have placed a higher value on their free time.  The have earned it.  Bazinks asked a couple times when he could read.  They are beginning to see the truth that play and study are a privilege.  I think this truth has been largely lost in our society.

I don't think this would be going so smoothly if I hadn't established the work habits that I blogged about before.  We took it one step at a time.  This was the outcome I was aspiring to.  I'm glad I now see the final key to helping it all come together.
There is SO much peace and joy that comes from working together!

As I was putting Little Miss to bed on Tuesday night I asked, "Did you have a good day today?"
"What was good about it?"  (I was expecting to hear something about the huge snow "barricade" they built in the back yard).
"Cleaning out the kitchen cabinets with you."

You know what the funny thing is?  That was my favorite part too.