Monday, October 10, 2011

How is public school so far?

Today Todd and I had 3 conferences at our public elementary school to go over the progress of our kindergartener, 3rd grader, and 5th grader. I was able to breathe a huge sigh of relief: my kids have adjusted back to school well and my 2 older ones are excelling in the specific areas we worked to improve last year- reading for Chloe and math for Ellie. Mom feels good about her year of homeschool!

What I am really impressed with is the overall approach towards learning at our public school. It has become very Charlotte Mason! One of the teachers explained that research shows students' reading is best improved when there are less interruptions through questions and unnecessary fact checking, so they are no longer using that approach for guided reading. This is exactly what we tried to follow last year in the Charlotte Mason method. Reading should be something that we foster in children as a lifelong habit, not making them dread reading in order to answer 10 questions. Comprehension can be checked through discussion and narration, which they will do at home with the parents. There will still be focused assignments on certain skills like finding the main idea, sentence structure, comparing and contrasting, but that will not interfere with their daily reading which is meant to nurture their love for books!

In 5th grade, the teachers have really focused on personal journals in science, social studies, and English. The students write their understanding of the new concept or time period, and they use their own information in these notebooks for any written work or tests. The better they can explain to themselves what they know in their journals, the better they will do on their evaluation. Amazing! This is basically written narration, which is truly one the best ways for anyone to learn.

Here's the best part: at curriculum night a few months ago, one teacher said that as a team, they don't believe in doing unnecessary projects or dioramas as a measure of evaluating success in learning. They will not be doing anything that can't be worked on in class with other students and the teacher. Incredible!! Working on busywork projects was what I dreaded most as the kids returned to public school, and I couldn't be happier to know that we agree on the futility of these assignments!

Overall, I am grateful to have the girls at a school where the philosophy of learning has some similarities to Charlotte Mason's. (It is interesting to note that Charlotte Mason did teach in a classroom with a group of students- her philosophy isn't limited to homeschoolers, although her approach does help homeschoolers and all learners thrive.) With teachers who are perceptive, thoughtful, patient, highly skilled, and caring, I know my girls will grow and accomplish many things this year.

Only once have the girls said that they wish they could stay at home again. When I asked them why, the answer was, "So we can sleep in longer!" I laughed. It's true- who wouldn't want to start their day a little later? Especially for a mom who is the real night owl! However, getting back to a schedule has been really good for us as a family. We can't make any more excuses and we need to have a strict bedtime and morning routine. For us, that works. Having a few days off here and there (like Columbus Day today) gives us a nice break too!

This is also the first time in 10 years that I have had time fully to myself from 7:30-2:50 every day. EVERY DAY!! I cried hard for the first day of school when the house felt so empty, but then the next day I realized that I had been given this precious gift of time. Time for God, time for myself, time for others. Time to try out new recipes, time to practice piano and violin for fun, time to listen to what I want to listen to on the radio, time to read books I haven't read, time to nurture the person who I was (and am) before kids. Whether you homeschool, work full-time, or stay at home with young kids, every mom knows how limited that time is! I am trying to take advantage of this new season of life and take time to enjoy every minute. So far so good!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Life as a 10-Year-Old

Yesterday my oldest daughter Ellie asked me, "Mom, what was your life like when you were 10 years old?"

A simple question, but I couldn't give her a simple answer. I really hadn't thought much about my life at 10, but I know there were a lot of things that raced through my mind as I ventured to think that far back. I want to give her a full answer, so I've decided to write down my thoughts before I share them with her.

If you were to look at my life from the outside, you might have thought that my life at 10 was absolutely a dream. In many ways, that was true. I lived in a beautiful house at 3256 Montlake Drive in Spring Lake Estates, a nice neighborhood in Rockford, IL, with a private lake and large parks. Our house sat on a cul-de-sac, walking distance to the tennis courts, lake, and park. As a homeowner now, I see that it was an ideal piece of property!

My room was an explosion of Pepto Bismol pink; my mom allowed me to choose my colors so I had pink carpet, pink valances, and a pink comforter. I sprinkled a few black accents too, with black pillows, a black bean bag, and a painting of a black vase with pink flowers. I loved my room; it was my safe place. I could look out the window at an old oak tree that almost engulfed our house, and I spent hours watching the rustling leaves and the beautiful clouds. In my room, I had a bookshelf full of my favorite books, including Nancy Drew, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and the Sweet Valley Twins; you could usually find me on any given day nestled in my bean bag reading.

I remember the feeling back then that I could do anything and be anybody. I really wanted to be Haley Mills from the Parent Trap; I practically memorized every line from that movie. I also idolized Julie Andrews as Maria in The Sound of Music; I would say her lines over and over, singing the songs all over the house, especially "My Favorite Things." I decided that I wanted to be a writer, an actress, and a professional roller skater, since those were all of my favorite things.

My life was busy, not because of social plans, but because my mom had a schedule for me from the minute I got up to the minute I went to bed. I was taking 2 music lessons per week for each instrument and practicing hours a day. Not on my own volition, of course. This was dictated to me and I was to do as I was told. The consequences of bucking the system resulted in no dinner or some other form of punishment, followed by a verbal lashing. I also received weekly tutoring for math, reading, and writing since my parents were worried that their broken English would hinder me from learning the language properly. As for math tutoring- there must be a manual somewhere that mandates all Asian parents should force their kids to excel in math. Unfortunately for my parents, math was always my worst subject; I was much more interested in reading, writing, and the fine arts.

I attended a private Christian school with a class size of about 50 per grade level. We had wonderful teachers, and my 5th grade teacher, Ms. Stadel, was certainly one of my favorites. She was a beautiful, petite lady with a warm smile and sing-songy voice. Her golden brown hair was perfectly coiffed each day, and I never saw her in a bad mood. If the class got out of hand, she would take a piece of chalk and rap it under the chalkboard tray sternly, but with a smile. Everyone would automatically stop talking or horsing around; no one wanted to disrespect Ms. Stadel. She would read to us from a book called "The Grandma's Attic Storybook" by Arleta Richardson, and I fell in love with the heartwarming stories from a time and place that I was completely unfamiliar with- the early pioneer days. It's a book that I read to my older girls this year and I think they enjoyed it as much as I did.

Sundays were spent almost entirely at church. Why? It was a Korean church, and after services, it was an important social gathering for all the immigrant adults. At first we kids were forced to endure the entire adult service preached in Korean, with the adult choir singing several special songs and elders' prayers that seemed to last for days. I wondered if there was a secret competition amongst them to see who could give the longest, most passionate prayer, with at least a few tears. At every service, I wanted to shrivel up and disappear out of severe boredom. Finally, they hired a youth director and we were able to attend a Bible study during the adult service. That was better, but with such a huge age gap in children and teens, I always felt like I was playing catch up with the older kids in their answers during class.

My dad owned a restaurant at the time, and no, it was not Chinese. It was actually American cuisine: breakfast food, sandwiches, soups, etc. The only thing I enjoyed on the menu was the special teriyaki kabobs because it came with rice. Not just white rice, "Rainbow Rice!" Oh, my mouth waters to think about it now! I would beg my dad to bring it home each week, and it was such a treat to have it for dinner. My mom is an extraordinary cook, so on the other nights, we would have incredible meals that would put all Korean restaurants to shame. It was not unusual to have squid, fish, crab, ox tail soup, toasted seaweed, marinated beef, kimchi soup, and all kinds of pickled vegetables for dinner. Definitely no chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, pizza, tacos, or anything close to what I serve my kids because I have absolutely no clue how to make the foods she does.

One thing that made me feel out of place was my nationality. I knew I was different and I felt it. On numerous occasions I would go to a store or a restaurant, and kids would tease me about my slanted eyes. One person actually asked me if I only saw half of the world since my eyes were so small! Ridiculous, I know. But 1985 was a totally different time; Asians were not as mainstream as they are now.

Even though my life did have all the components of a happy childhood, I still felt lonely at times. I didn't know exactly who I was and who I wanted to be. I felt misunderstood in my home and not completely accepted at school or church. The only place I felt safe and known was in my writing- through journaling my thoughts in prayer form. It was something that came naturally for me, and I started every day's journal with "Dear God, this is what happened today." It was a way for me to start a dialogue with God that later grew to be a real relationship.

I do remember that I was full of questions, mostly about the future. What will I do when I get older? Who will I marry? Where will I live? What will my life look like? I would daydream about being a journalist someday in New York, coming home to my apartment and going out with friends at night. Interestingly, I never ended up with that life. I got married straight out of college at 21 and had Ellie 3 years later. And this sweet girl wants to know all about me. She reflects a part of me and yet is becoming her own person. I wonder what she will share when her daughter asks what life was like at 10!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Homeschooling or not, I'm still a mom!

For those of you who thought my blog would remain all about homeschooling, I apologize that I have to make this announcement: We are sending the girls to public school next year.

Why? After all you've researched? After everything you've written about? After the incredible year you've had?

Yes. It has truly been the most wonderful year, the girls have grown immensely, we have bonded with each other, and I will never regret our decision to homeschool this year.

Here's the big "but." When we decided to homeschool, we had 3 main objectives: Ellie needed to get a better foundation for her math skills, Chloe needed to become a better reader, and Sophie needed some more time with her sisters. I am so thankful that we accomplished all of those objectives this year, and that all three girls began to see learning as a lifelong endeavor, not an 8-3 chore. Homeschooling has changed the way we all see education; it is about connections. Can I make a connection to what I just read or learned to something else? Can I attach meaning and significance to it, whether it is history, reading, science, spelling, Shakespeare, math, or the Bible? If so, I've just made it my own and it's become part of me. I credit Charlotte Mason and her philosophy of education for the huge perspective change that I have and that my kids now have too. (Well, maybe not Sophie yet, but for sure Ellie and Chloe!)


So why send them back to the evil public school where they will lose all that?

Here's where I disagree. I don't think public school is evil and will make them lose everything. Sure, they won't get what they got at home. Everyone knows that a student gets more out of private lessons than group lessons! But for our family's purposes, we did not commit to homeschool through graduating high school. I believed that re-entry to public school was going to happen eventually. So in order to prepare for that, I really wanted to take a year to do everything privately, to give them a better foundation, to change their thinking, to broaden their understanding of history and time, to strengthen their character, to get to know them better as people, and to give opportunities to do things they hadn't done before- in order that they might be better suited for what comes when they enter back into the world of public school. I wanted them to have a new mind and change in attitude when they returned.

You may disagree with that objective. Why homeschool if you're going to send them back anyway? What's the point?

All I can say is I have no regrets. I am 100% convinced that I was supposed to homeschool this year. How? Prayer, confirmation through circumstances, asking for wisdom from God, and seeing the blessings of my girls thrive. It was the best year and I can't think of one thing that I would change! Their knowledge and understanding has exploded, their faith has grown incredibly, and their love for one another is stronger than ever. Who knows why God chose this year for me to keep them? Who can explain the mysteries of what might have happened at school had they gone, or what complexities there are in each of my girls' personality and character that they needed that extra year of secure, foundational love from staying home to become more of the people they were created to be?

So you have to believe me that when I say we are sending them back to public school, it is with that same conviction, though the specifics remain a mystery to me. Who knows how God might want to use my girls at school? Who knows what relationships He wants them to have, or how they can be a blessing to others as they are a blessing to me? Perhaps His purpose for them is to grow them in a new and challenging way through public school?

I can only take things a step at a time. Though these are the next steps for us as a family in the coming year, I firmly believe we are walking with God's protection and guidance.

Let me just say that if you are a homeschooling mom, I respect you immensely. I know you are doing what you are doing with great conviction and great love. I admire your dedication, patience, and drive! And if you are a public or private school mom, I respect you just the same! I know that you love your kids immensely and you are equally dedicated to your kids with passion and drive. I implore all of us moms not to be divisive and judge each other for our decisions regarding our children's education, but to support each other in continuing to do the hardest but most rewarding job on earth- being a mother. With Mother's Day around the corner, I say with my whole heart that I am honored to be a mom and travel this road with all of the other moms I know. We all share the same innate love for our kids that no one can quite understand unless you are one of us! So whether or not I'm a homeschool mom, a public school mom, a good mom or a bad mom, I am still a mom, and that will be a title that I will cherish forever.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Miracle of Growth

'Tis the season for gardening! I am doing it for the first time, thanks to our study of botany through homeschooling. It is a great hands-on way for the girls to observe the miracle of growth, and it truly is fascinating! If you stop to think about it, the fact that you can put a tiny seed into the ground and watch it grow into a sprouting plant is beyond incredible. How does that really work? Yes, of course we know there is a scientific answer behind it, that you need a combination of good soil, sun, and water to start the process of sprouting, but who came up with that process? Who decided that life can be contained in a tiny seed? Who created the soil of earth that is rich with possibility and full of life? Who chose to reflect humanity through the metaphor of gardening, that a person's heart needs to have good soil that is soft and teachable, and that it's necessary to take out weeds of bitterness and anger in order to truly grow and bear fruit?

Gardening is a reflection of the creativity of God. It points to a Creator with purpose, with goodness in His heart, and with a love for His creation. I am reminded of this every day when I look at my garden and see more growth. Only He is the author of life in all its forms, and the fact that He can orchestrate my little garden to grow gives me a huge measure of peace and joy. (Another bonus is getting to eat fresh basil and cilantro with all my meals! Still waiting to see how the peppers do. . .)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Radical Statements about Love (Day 2 of a Marriage Conference)

The 2nd day of the marriage conference was even more challenging than I expected. Ideally I would sit down with you to explain in more detail each of these thoughts, but since that's not possible, I can at least give you a taste through this new list of quotes from Paul Tripp's marriage conference entitled, "What did you expect?" I've divided them into a few sections. I know it's a lot of information; trust me, we were completely exhausted after the conference was over and my hand was cramped from writing so much! So if you can't get through it all today, just read the first section on "Needs" and the last section on "Rooted in Worship." They were the 2 most important concepts with the most impact for me during the entire weekend.


NEEDS

1. The word "need" is one of the sloppiest words in human culture. The vast majority of what we say we need we actually don't. As soon as I name something as a need, I think I'm entitled to it. Then I think it's my right to demand it because it's a need, and then I'm anxious until I get it. Lastly, I will define the love of my spouse by their willingness to deliver my need.

2. What are the things in my life that I think are my rights that define for me the love of my man/woman? What am I anxious about not having?

3. A need is defined as something that is essential for life. Are your needs really needs, or are they wants?

4. We don't define our needs well. We should defer to the Creator of life to know what's essential for life. Some of us judge God because we think He hasn't delivered on our needs, when it's never something He promised to give.

5. Wives, you do not need a husband who loves you. It is not something God promises you. Is it something you want? Yes, but it is not a need.

6. Husbands, you do not need a wife who respects you. It is not something God promises you. Is it something you want? Yes, but it is not a need.

7. My definition of need causes me to be unloving. I turn a blessing into a demand, and try to recreate the person God has created, which is a marital disaster.

8. Some of us are convinced that "I can't do what I'm supposed to do because the man/woman I think I need I haven't been given."

9. It's not ok for your spouse to be irritable, insensitive, or unloving. But the minute I name something as a need that God has not promised me, I turn a blessing into a demand and bad things happen.

10. If all my hope is wrapped up in that someday this person will be everything I think I need, I will be paralyzed in the marriage. The combination of convincing myself that I can't live without these needs causes me to be stuck.

11. You CAN be the wife/husband that God calls you to be without the love or respect of your spouse. We're not as poor as we are acting; we've been made rich in Christ, but we believe we're poor and we don't change.

12. The turnaround is not for me to re-create the man/woman I want, but it's to seek God's kingdom first for my marriage.

13. "And which if you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?. . . Therefore, do not be anxious saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6: 27-33)


MARRIAGE IS WAR

1. Marriage is war: the kingdom of self against the kingdom of God. It is a daily battle between indulging myself or serving in love.

2. Kingdom of self = driven by my selfish desires. I try to coerce you into serving me in my kingdom. I reward you when you do what I like, and punish you if you don't do what I want.

3. Indulge = going wherever your appetite leads you

4. Kingdom of God = motivated by a desire to minister, encourage, help the other. Serving in love and moving toward your spouse when he/she hurts you.

5. Galatians 5:13-15 "You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather serve one another in love. The entire law is summarized by a single command; 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other."

6. It's amazing that Paul the apostle writes that the entire law is summarized not by loving God the most, but by loving your neighbor as yourself. Who is your closest neighbor? Your spouse!

5. It's only people who love God above all else who can love their neighbor as themselves. If God is in his proper place in your life, your spouse will have the rightful place in your life.


TRUE LOVE

1. Do you know your definition of love? Where did you get your definition? I get my definition of love from the event of the cross of Jesus.

2. Love is willing self-sacrifice for the good of another that does not demand reciprocation or that the person being loved is deserving.

3. There is no such thing as love that doesn't require sacrifice.

4. 1 John 4:7-11 "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. . . this is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us this way, we also ought to love one another."

5. In God's love of me, I receive the power to love. I don't have to hope that I'm able to love. Christ has made it possible for me to love.

6. Gratitude is the best soil in which love grows.

7. To the degree that you are forgetful or ungrateful for the love you have been give in God, the easier not to love your spouse.


A BETTER WAY

1. You don't fix your marriage horizontally first- (between you and the spouse), you fix it vertically (between you and God.)

2. You must surrender your throne if you're ever going to love your spouse as you should.

3. The fabric of marriages can change with a deep conviction to be kind. Hurtful comments build up.

4. Be patient. You never yell at you. You never have trouble waiting for you. Waiting always reminds us that you are not in charge.

5. Become a student of your spouse; look for specific opportunities to concretely bless him/her.

6. Beautiful relationships always overlook minor offenses. Commit to peace and enjoy unity.

7. Galatians 5:22-23 "But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law."


ROOTED IN WORSHIP

1. If I'm going to be thankful for you and love you, I must first worship the One the created you.

2. Do you celebrate the Creator in the hardwiring of your spouse? Or do you fall into thinking that you would have been a better creator? If so, you will disrespect your spouse and harm your marriage.

3. Do you worship God as sovereign in weaving your story and your spouses story? If so, you will see that the mess of your marriage is not in the way of God's plan, it IS the plan.

4. Do you think you are a better Savior to your spouse than the Savior himself? If so, you think it's your job to change your spouse.

5. You are not the 4th person of the Trinity. Don't try to be God; be His instrument of grace to your spouse.

6. No one is more committed to change than the Redeemer who defined change and made transformation possible.

7. Celebrate God's work in each other and seek to participate in His ongoing plan.

____________________________________________________________________________________

What timely words for me in my marriage. God knew exactly what I needed to hear, and I am so grateful for His guidance through this conference.

Friday, February 11, 2011

What did you expect? (Day 1 of a Marriage Conference)

Todd and I are spending Valentine's weekend going to a marriage conference on Friday and Saturday at Prestonwood Baptist in Plano, TX (a.k.a. "Preston-world" because of its immense size.) It even has a Starbucks in the church! I have to say I've been a bit skeptical of these types of conferences where several hundred married couples get together to hear someone pontificate about the perils and joys of marriage.

This one is different. It's called "What did you expect?" by Paul Tripp, and it is all searing truth; my mind is spinning. Thank you, blog, for being an outlet for me to process the information tonight so that I can fill my mind again tomorrow for Day 2. I have listed below the many statements tonight that struck me. I don't go through and explain each of these concepts- you'll have to attend a conference to get the finer details! I hope that perhaps just one of these nuggets of truth will spark something in your heart and mind too.

(Quotes from Paul Tripp)

1. The character of a marriage is set in the thousands of little moments- in the kitchen, in the living room, in the car. Those little moments of your marriage are profoundly important, and it's the character developed in those moments that help you make it through the big moments, not the other way around.

2. The man/woman I dated was a fake. The man/woman I married is the real person.

3. Romance is not a sturdy enough foundation to go through the struggles in life. Romance is not a cause, it's a result.

4. All marriage problems are heart problems.

5. The heart is the causal core of my personhood, the control system. Whatever rules my heart will shape my words and behavior. My words and behavior reflect what's inside of me rather than what's outside of me.

6. Luke 6:43-45 "No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks."

7. We are always giving our hearts to something. We attach meaning, purpose, and significance to something. That thing we focus on will become the central focus of our heart.

8. A marriage of unity, understanding, and love is not rooted in romance, but in worship.

9. Marriage is one flawed person plus another flawed person in a fallen world, but with God, it can work.

10. Worship is first your identity before it's ever your activity. Worship is one of the most formative functions of the human being. It's only when God is in the rightful place in my heart that my spouse will be in the rightful place in my love.

11. Sin causes us to shrink our lives to the size of our lives.

12. Sin causes me to be in the claustrophobic confines of my needs, my wants, my feelings. "It's all about me."

13. I wasn't meant to shrink my life into something so small that no one can move in my world except myself.

14. Sin, in its fundamental form, is anti-social. I was meant to live outwardly toward God and others, but sin turns me towards myself.

15. Sin will cause me to dehumanize the people in my life. No longer are they the objects of my affection; they are either vehicles towards what I want or obstacles from getting what I want.

16. I carry something in me naturally that is destructive in my marriage. I have an inertia toward selfishness.

17. Selfishness: It's not so much that I want you to love me, it's that I want you to indulge me in all of my wants, and when you do, then I will love you too. If you don't, then I threaten, manipulate, and bring guilt.

18. Why do we all argue over the little things? It's because we are so full of ourselves, so focused on my rights, my wants, my pleasures.

19. When we are full of self-love, we have very little time to love another.

20. Jesus came to rescue me from me. I am the greatest danger to my marriage.

21. My weakness never gets in the way of God's work, but my delusions of strength do.

22. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 "For Christ's love compels us because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again." The purpose of Christ's death was to save me from myself.

23. How much of my anger towards my spouse has anything do with God's law? How much of it has to do with my own law that I've composed about marriage?

24. God will never call us to a task without enabling us to do it.

25. This life is not my big party. It's not about me, and it will never be about me. It's about Him, and it always has been about Him.

26. If you want lasting change in your heart, in your spouses heart, and in your marriage, you have to be needy. You have to know that you need to change.

Is your mind spinning now too? I am so humbled by these statements. Wow. I will post more tomorrow at the conclusion of the seminar. . .

Friday, February 4, 2011

Do Homeschoolers Get Snow Days?

A blizzard swept through the nation this week and the Frisco Independent School District was forced to shut down school for 4 days straight due to icy conditions and inclement weather.

Technically, we could continue school at home for those 4 days without interruption. However, since my husband couldn't drive into work, we decided to take the snow days and enjoy the unexpected holiday.

You might think that it was easy for me to take time off from school and work, but it was actually very difficult. I'm starting realize how programmed I am to achieve, to accomplish, to check off the boxes. I grew up not being allowed to waste a minute, accountable for every hour at home, and expected to show results daily in practicing my instruments as well as schoolwork. I see value in some of the ways I was raised, but I also recognize that a part of me tends to look at play time as wasted time, even though I know it's not true. Just because I didn't get any down time as a child doesn't mean my kids have to grow up that way! And yet I was surprised at how much I struggled to be at peace with the world coming to a stop for a few days.

After I let my girls go 2 days without practicing and opening a book, I started to feel anxiety. What if they forget everything? What if they get behind on their work? What if I'm teaching them that they don't need to be disciplined in life? It was all I could do to force them out of their Polly Pocket/Barbie/American Girl doll playtime and make them get back into the routine.

I had to remind myself that the goal of their being at home this year is not just about knowledge, it's about character. My character flaws are many, and the first is perfectionism. I want the perfect day, the perfect schedule, the perfect results to my hard work. It's so unrealistic and yet so ingrained in my psyche. The snow days this week challenged me to let go of perfectionism and let my girls be who they are- kids. Kids who love snow, who love to play with daddy when he gets to stay at home, who enjoy games with the whole family and creating magical worlds with each other with their dolls. I don't want to teach them that they can't relax and enjoy a peaceful day of rest, and I don't want them to struggle with perfectionism like I do. I want them to have memories that mom allowed for fun and even encouraged it, but that she also challenged them to strive for excellence rather than perfection. It's a hard balance between being pushy and being passive, and I pray for immeasurable wisdom to walk the line with gentleness and integrity!

So yes, we homeschoolers did take the snow days this week, but it was in the absence of teaching that I learned one of my biggest lessons!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Why Asian Mothers Are NOT Superior

If you haven't heard already, the Wall Street Journal published an article with the headline "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior" which has generated much controversy. The article is an excerpt of a new book called "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" by Amy Chua, a professor at Yale Law School and author of "Day of Empire" and "World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability." Chua's new book gives an account of what she believes are superior parenting tactics according to her strict Chinese upbringing.

As a 2nd generation Korean, I saw many similarities with my childhood in Chua’s article. However, I have come to a different conclusion from my past, so here are my top 3 reasons for “Why Asian Mothers Are NOT Superior.”

1. The word “superior.”

Some Asians tend to have a superiority complex. The fact that the whole essay is about superiority rubs me the wrong way. Is that what life’s all about- who’s better than the other person? I grew up being compared daily to other Asian kids all my life, and it bred nothing but perfectionism, egomania, self-loathing, and impatience for others. Why would I want to pass that down to my kids? Do I want to turn all my friendships into competitions to see who wins? No thanks.

2. The ends justify the means

No amount of shaming, manipulating, screaming, threatening, punishing, and comparing justifies the so-called “superior” status. So your kids end up as math whizzes and music prodigies, but what did you destroy during the process? An actual relationship with your child?

The “tiger mother” is focused on one thing alone: superiority. With that kind of obsession, there is no time for self-reflection or consideration of the child’s feelings. It will hopefully be forgotten during the 3-hour practice sessions and the effort to complete multiple worksheets to raise up the 97% score in every class.

Don't get me wrong, I do believe in having goals and being disciplined, but I constantly have to ask myself why I am doing what I’m doing. I do not want to be a crazy Asian mom who verbally abuses my kids to get them to perform and be my puppets. I already know that my kids have significance and value outside of myself, so I don’t need them to do anything to prove it.

3. All or nothing

In the Asian community, losing is getting 2nd place or a 99%, not 100%. For Westerners, that doesn’t even compute. How does it even make sense to try to be the best at everything? It is already a losing battle. There needs to be a safety net, not stress when things go wrong, which is inevitable. Getting a low grade or losing a competition sometimes even becomes a life or death issue, as seen through many Asian suicides in college. All thanks to this “superior” extremist way of life. I am determined to celebrate the process of learning and growing with my children, and I don’t care if Chua thinks I’m a softie.

I could go on and on, but basically, I think life is much more than trying to be superior. Too much focus on self makes an isolated caricature, not a human. At the end of my life, I don’t want to be known for the fact that I was superior; I want to be remembered for how much I loved others. I don’t think you have to be Asian to do that.