Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Too Much Homework? Bahhhhhhhh!



Are you a parent that feels your child has too much homework to do?  Does your child feel they have too much homework?  Let's investigate this a little bit.  Help me out here by answering a few questions. 

Is your child in school? 
-----Well, they should have homework.  The teacher can't possibly help them learn every concept in the short time they are together at school.  Thus, HOME WORK. 

Do you want your child to succeed in life? 
-----You should pray that they have homework.  How can a child who doesn't gradually do more and more homework as they progress through school ever have a chance at earning a college degree?   We all know people that graduate from college have more success in their careers.  What about a graduate program?  More homework! 

Is it really that the child has more homework or is it that the child wants to waste their time on their phone or other device?
-----We all know that children don't play outside anymore, so what are you taking them away from by asking them to do homework? 

Do you have your child in every single activity that has ever been offered to mankind and that is why homework is a problem? 
-----Here is a solution.  One sport and one other thing.  Your kid is not going to be good at the 20 activities you have him or her enrolled in because there is no way one person can be excellent at so many things.  Pick one or two things, that they can be good at, and that they love.  That is plenty, believe me.

Are you really invested in being a good parent? 
-----Sorry, I had to say it.  But, step back and ask yourselves.  Is it YOU that doesn't want to read with your 6-year-old?  If so, aren't you setting a bad example?  Is it really YOU that doesn't want to go to the store so the poor kid can get poster paper for his country report?  When you signed up to have a baby, you signed up to help your child succeed. 

I don't believe kids have too much homework.  There is a study that showed that homework amounts have not changed in 30 years, in fact.  What I do believe is that some kids naturally work harder than others and there are some parents who push.  Personally, we have had to beg our kids to take a break from studying once in a while.  But there are also parents who are lazy and thus produce lazy kids.  I also know that some teachers are better than most and have meaningful homework, while there are others who do expect the child to learn some things on their own. 

There are a lot of things that need to change with education in America.  We are being outwitted by students in other countries because their education system is better.  BUT, my point is that, if your child is in school, then as a parent you have a responsibility to support YOUR CHILD.  If the project assigned is lame, it is lame.  Sorry.  Part of being a mom or dad.  I don't think we want to raise children who are disrespectful of authority and teachers because their parents complain about them.  This is about supporting our children and helping them succeed in the environment they are in.  If you can move in order to put your child in a better school, then do it.  If you can give up one hour of watching Downton Abbey to help quiz your child on chemistry, then, please do it.  

Our kids are in college.  Our son will graduate this spring and our daughter will graduate next spring.  They have a lot of homework.  My daughter has three math classes per semester, plus she takes upper division English classes for fun.  My son has so many Spanish and science classes with labs that he leaves at 6 a.m. and comes home at 10:30 p.m.  Then, they both study on the weekends and at night.  That is what a lot of homework looks like.  They both manage to have active social lives and work part-time jobs and serve in our community and church on top of it all.  But, I am convinced that the reason they seem to thrive in this environment, and can handle the really tough classes with all the demanding research is because of one thing:  We supported them in their homework when they were younger.  We didn't complain or gripe about the teachers.  True, there were favorite teachers, mostly in junior high and high school, that pushed them to the brink with meaningful, investigatory assignments, and there were others that were draining with the endless worksheets and such.  But we emphasized the good over the bad.  Tried to learn something along with them.  Encouraged them to talk about what they were learning at school during dinner.  And clapped and whistled when the good grades and scholarships came rolling in.  But, good grades and scholarships don't roll in.  They are earned by a lot of sacrifice, blood, sweat and tears. 

As I think about our kids graduating from college and going on to graduate school and professional careers, I often wonder what it is that made them be able to do it.  I think the answer is easy.  We were excited about learning at our house.  The kids wanted to tell us what they learned.  They still do.  It's funny now to have my son try to explain deep organic chemistry principles that are far over my head, or listen to my daughter explain in an 8-page paper "why zero is zero" for her Foundations of Algebra class.  But it makes me happy that they love learning.  They are smarter than we are and isn't that the point?  To make each generation better than the one before it?

A big payback at our house has been that because our kids have always loved school and learning, and also spent many, many hours learning and practicing music, they never have grown attached to the X-Box or Wii or Playstation.  They don't care about their smartphones.  They only use their laptops for homework.  When they are finished studying, they don't want to see another screen.  They are playing their music, out with friends, playing basketball, or skiing.  They have learned to work hard at their jobs and earn their own money. 

I do not profess to have all the answers about raising children and I would never pretend to understand all the ways we could improve the education system.  But I do know that raising children to be excited about the world around them is important and teaching them by example to respect teachers and other authorities is critical. 

Our daughter will be a junior high or high school math teacher in a year and a half.  She has studied and worked hard to achieve this dream of hers.  I hope she is prepared to encounter parents and students that are whining about too much homework so they can play video games or participate in 12 different sports.  My daughter's whole dream of becoming a math teacher is to help our world be a better place.  She believes that if more people could get over their math phobia during those critical years and learn to love and succeed at math, we would have more engineers, more scientists, more doctors, more inventors, and a stronger economy.  She remembers the hours we spent with her to overcome her fear of fractions and will tell you herself that this one thing, getting over her fear of fractions, helped her to love math.  We did that, not her teacher.  I know she is excited about being a teacher.  My biggest fear for her is that she throws in the towel after a few years and joins the private sector where she can earn a far greater salary, just because all her efforts and passion are not respected by lazy complainers.  Please don't do this to my daughter.

I know every child is not cut out to be an engineer or a doctor or a lawyer.  Please don't write me and tell me that.  I know it.  I know every child has challenges and weaknesses and strengths.  My own kids do.  Please don't misunderstand.  I just want us as parents to step up to the plate and give it all we've got.  The world is in trouble.  It needs our kids.  It needs them to be strong and smart and wise.  It needs them to be prepared to be engaged in solving its problems.  They can't do this without homework.  Even if gluing cotton balls on poster board seems meaningless, and maybe it is, it is teaching our kids to sacrifice for education, for the greater good of becoming smart.  So they can be leaders and explorers and writers and teachers, and maybe even President. 

Ghandi said, "Be the good you wish to see in the world."  When it comes to this topic, we as parents can be the good.  Be a good example.  Teach your kids that it's okay to do the homework, to read the books, to make a poster.  Teach them to want to make the world a better place.  They have the power to do it, but they need inspiration.  They need us to help them.  And, if it keeps them off smartphones and video games and out of bars and jails and off drugs, then why complain about homework?

A little update.  Both of our children graduated Magna Cum Laude in Mathematics and Spanish/Chemistry.  Our daughter is now a junior high math teacher and our son is in his first year of medical school.   I'm glad they learned to love homework because they'll have it for the rest of their lives.  ☺



Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Why of Becoming Cream



My husband is behind me writing this blog.  "Write it!" he said.  I finally understood it was something I had to do.  I hope it is of some meaning to someone. 

In searching for a name for the blog, I wanted it to be symbolic of what I was trying to say--that we can be beautiful, smart, creative women that can stand up and go against the grain of society.  That we don't have to be like everyone else.  That we can find the light and the joy and rise to the top of wherever we are.  We can be our best.  It's okay to be our best.  We don't have to step on others to do it either.   And, it's okay to be beautiful and talented and smart and not apologize for it.  I wanted it to be a metaphor and yet be a real example from my real life. 

I searched for weeks and weeks for a word or a phrase that meant something deeply personal to me.  Then it hit me.  Cream.  Let me tell you about my experience with cream. 

When I was in sixth grade, my parents built a new home on an acre of property far across town from where I had always lived.  It was strange moving out there where people had horses and cows and there were tractors in the alfalfa fields.  Where people actually wore cowboy boots and overalls.  It was in the late seventies and the energy crisis was hitting us hard.  People were doing everything they could to save a dollar.  My parents bought a Jersey milk cow that we named Lady.  At the time I actually thought it was a terrible idea.  Lots of chores for a young girl that was just trying to fit in to a new school.  The last thing I needed was manure on my shoes.  My dad built a small barn with a milking stall and a nice fence around it.  Every morning and evening he would milk the cow and bring the warm milk into the house for us to take care of. 



At the time the milk and cream responsibilities fell completely to me and my younger sisters.  It wasn't that it was hard work, but it was a pain in the neck for kids who didn't want to be bothered.  It's funny that now when I think about it, I can remember it like it was yesterday.  I can see it, smell it, taste it, everything.  I guess it really did leave an impression.  My sisters and I would take turns since it had to be done morning and night, no exceptions.  Dad would knock on the back door and leave the large bucket waiting.  Our job was to carry it into the kitchen, remove the lid and pour the hot, steaming milk through a paper filter to remove any dirt or hair or other debris.  It was amazing how warm that milk was when it was so fresh.  I hated the way it smelled though, and often had to keep myself from gagging.  I'm not going to lie.  I hated that job and everything that went with it.  I hated fighting with my sisters about whose turn it was and who did it last and who did it better.  After straining the milk we poured it into a clean, stainless steel canister that was part of a pasteurization unit.  This unit then fit down inside another stainless steel canister that was larger, which was filled with hot water.  After the lid was secured and the machine was turned on, the milk was slowly heated to a certain temperature and then slowly cooled back down.  This was to kill any bacteria and thus pasteurize the milk. 

The miracle happened during the cooling process.  After the pasteurization was complete, the inside canister was placed in the fridge to chill completely.  After several hours of being chilled, the beautiful cream would rise to the top of the milk.  When we would remove the lid there would be a very thick, butter-consistency, plug of thick cream.  After pulling it off, we would skim the top surface for large pieces of cream left behind and save it for making butter, ice cream, and whipping cream.  The milk went back into the fridge to be further chilled.  In all my life I have never had milk so creamy, delicious, and silky smooth as that milk and, I don't even like milk.  Those years that we lived in that house and had our cow are the only years I remember in my life that I ever enjoyed milk.  It tasted so wonderful!  It was smooth and creamy, sweet and full.  Natural is really the only word for it.  I know now that it is because it was not homogenized.  It was pasteurized to make it safe, but it was truly the way nature intended it.  Sweet and pure, creamy and beautiful, with the best of it, the cream, allowed to rise naturally to the top, where it could be saved for better and more valuable things. 



You've heard things like, "the cream always rises to the top," and "the creme de la creme," and "let the cream rise."  It's a natural and scientific phenomenon.  The cream MUST rise to the top.  It has to because it consists of lighter, fattier material.  It must rise due to its lesser density.  There is nothing that can stop it from rising.  It absolutely has to rise to the top.  Even cream when poured into coffee or whipped cream put on top of hot chocolate will rise to the top or sit on top.  This happens when the milk is left undisturbed.  The cream, being lighter, will separate itself from the more dense milk, the heavier liquid, and work its way to the top.  In a sense, it is freeing itself from the weight of the heavy milk.  It's like it knows it is the most valuable substance, worthy of being lifted to a higher plane.  Cream is a more valuable and expensive commodity than milk.  It is no surprise that it is richer and used in creating delicious desserts and sauces.  For something to be made with real butter or cream gives it a stamp of authenticity.  The finishing touch on anything is what?  Cream on top?

Is this not a metaphor for our lives?  It certainly has been for mine.  The best cannot go unnoticed for long.  Love, right, and truth will always prevail, coming out on top.  A courageous heart, a brave soul, a loving example of service will always win over the evil in the world.  The sad part, for me, is that homogenization, or the world, is what keeps us down, trying to make us all the same.  How homogenization works is actually a really horrifying process.

Pasteurization is just a gentle and slow heating and then a slow and quiet cooling.  But, homogenization is high pressure and high heat.  Intense heat and horrific pressure.  Lots of it.  The milk is pushed through a fine filter at rates of 4000 pounds per square inch.  This actually tears the fat globules of the cream into tiny particles, which then disperse evenly into the low-fat milk.  The fat globules, or the beauties that make up the silky cream, are made smaller by 10 times or more.  By being made to be so small, they are thus evenly dispersed in the milk.  Permanently.  So they can no longer rise.  This prevents the separation of the fat, and prevents the rising of the cream.  It prevents the separation of the best from the good, the lightest and most valuable from the heavy and less precious. 



The interesting thing is that when homogenization was first introduced, back when milk was sold in glass bottles, people wouldn't buy it because they couldn't see the creamy plug at the top.  People loved to scoop that out very first and save it to put on fruit or dessert.  It was a treasure.  When it was gone, everyone thought something was wrong with the milk, probably because there was.  Hence, after World War II, the introduction of the opaque milk cartons so nobody could see what they were buying.  Homogenization ensured smoothness, even-ness, and equality.  Sameness.  Boring-ness.  But at what price?  The actual chemical make-up of the milk was forever altered.  It would never be the same.  It is a fact that milk that is homogenized is actually digested differently than milk that is not.  Interesting, right? 

So, you wonder, why a blog about faith, family, lifestyle, and maybe even a little beauty and fashion named after something to do with milk and cream?  Because we are supposed to be free to be the cream!  We are supposed to be able to rise to the top if we want to, to free ourselves of the heavy, binding, lower-quality milk and go on to better and higher-quality things.  We are the cream.  At least we are supposed to be.  Maybe we don't know it yet.  Maybe no one ever told us that.  Maybe we don't believe it or we can't see it.  Maybe we won't admit it to others out loud, but we know it's true within ourselves.



We are women.  God created us.  We are meant for great and beautiful things.  We need to come to know that we are the cream and if we don't feel like we are the cream now, then say that we are working on becoming that cream, working on rising up to the top of that sparkling crystal pitcher where we can reach our true and real potential.  We need to be examples of all that is right and good and smart and virtuous and show the world that we want it to be better than it is for our children and our grandchildren.  It might seem silly, but we can become the cream every day in our actions, in our thoughts, in our prayers, in our choices, in our associations, in our service to others, in our endeavors to seek learning and education, in our desire to make our homes beautiful and safe, in the pursuit of developing our talents, in presenting to the world our best selves in the way we dress and act and speak, and in the way we contribute to the world around us at work, in raising our families, and in serving in the community.  Wherever we go, whatever we do, let us be the cream. 

I invite you on this journey with me as we explore the hows of Becoming Cream.  Becoming our best selves and help each other along the way. 

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