Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Making memories

The day we moved into our "new" house.
        A long time ago, back when there was only one little child running through our house, we used to do lots of fun things.  Not that we don’t do fun things now, but back then, in those early years of parenting, we did things like go to Disney World, go on trips across the country, and go out to dinner all the time.  Money was tight but we were able to find enough to treat ourselves fairly often.  The other night, Tim and I were talking to our oldest child.  Our first born was the only one to ever have our completely undivided attention for years, the only one to know the joy of being the center of our world, all alone in the limelight of parental love.  Its been a long time since she’s had us all to herself, but for once, we let her stay up late without her siblings and it was sort of like going back in time for a minute.  Somehow we started to reminisce, reliving those old days of her infancy and early toddler years.  I asked her what her earliest memory was.  She thought and thought and had trouble remembering anything from her only-child days.   She remembered pre-school, but by that time she already had a little brother and a little sister.  The first early memory she had was the time we brought her best friend a fortune cookie to try.  We had to give it to her friend’s mom in the morning before school because there was a rule against sharing lunches.  As she thought some more, she remembered one little thing from before the other kids came along.  She vaguely remembered laying on the couch in our kitchen while we moved into our house.  We moved in when she was 2 ½, just a few months before she became a big sister. 
    It is so funny what our kids remember.  She does not remember going to the Pacific Northwest and seeing Mt. St Helen’s and the Pacific Ocean.  She doesn’t remember meeting Mickey Mouse at Disney World or her first birthday party with the whole extended family in attendance.  She remembers the fun of watching t.v. in the kitchen because the house was a mess of boxes and disorganization.  She remembers sharing a cookie with a friend at school.  It makes me wonder why we, as parents, bother making fancy plans and doing big, exciting things.  The moments that stand out in our children’s minds are those simple things that we don’t even really plan but just happen in everyday life. 
    A few of my friends and I were recently discussing that old debate about quality time vs. quantity of time.  We all agreed that the idea of quality time being enough was a little bit of a delusion on the part of super busy parents and child-rearing “experts”.  In our experiences, as home schooling mothers, many most of the quality times with our children come in the midst of our long, busy days, completely unplanned and unexpected.  Quality time comes out of a quantity of time spent together, and only out of quantity.  It cannot be planned, it cannot be forced, it cannot be manufactured.  I don’t doubt at all, that once my children are all grown and on their own, they will remember the simplest and most ordinary days much more vividly than the vacations and trips to amusement parks.  It is in the ordinary days, we build memories that are not artificial but real.  We have fun that is not planned out and organized ahead of time, but spontaneous and natural.  We seem to laugh so much harder and act so much  sillier on our ordinary days than we ever do on vacation.  It is in the everyday that we build memories of being together and talking together and living together, sharing our lives and our time and our love.  So, though my daughter’s earliest memories were not what I would have expected, I cherish them as she does, for they are the memories of what life was really like when she was little. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Chocolate-covered Saturday

    Hershey’s, Godiva, Ghiradelli, Wonka, Cadbury, Nestle-- all this and more, laid out before me for my tasting pleasure.  No, it wasn't a dream, it was school.  Really.  A few weeks ago I asked what my children most wanted to learn about this school year and my younger children all answered with subjects they knew I planned to cover.  I heard, “astronomy,” “writing,” and “reading.”  Then, I turned to my oldest for her answer.  She smiled and said, “Chocolate.  I want to learn about chocolate this year.”  She may have been joking at the time, or testing to see what my reaction would be, but who am I to stand in the way of my children’s academic interests?  If the child wants to learn about chocolate, then let her have chocolate…. 
    I told her she would have the wonderful privilege of diving into all things chocolate and leading her willing, anxious (and, very possibly, salivating) family along the sticky, sweet path along with her.  She was to put together a unit study on chocolate.  I wanted to know the history of chocolate, the science of chocolate, the geography of chocolate.  I wanted to see her reading chocolate literature and writing essays about chocolate.  She has happily taken up the challenge.  First, we scoured the library shelves checking out books with titles like Chocolate: A Sweet History and The Official M & M’s History of Chocolate.  She has taken notes and made fabulously delicious discoveries and some not-so-appetizing ones as well.  Did you know the first chocolate consumed, was in a drink that was thick and bitter? 
    As part of her research, she insisted we had to have a taste test.  Yesterday, I took her along on my weekly shopping trip and together we picked out 10 different types of chocolate.  As long as we were going to sample chocolate all evening, I figured we might as well make it a chocolate themed night.  So, we also picked up some mole, a Mexican sauce made of unsweetened chocolate, and the old Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory movie.
    Once home,  my daughter sat down and wrote out a survey for us all to fill out as we taste tested all the wonderful chocolate.  With her dad’s help, she created an Excel program to tabulate the results.  After our lovely dinner of Chicken mole, which all the kids (but the ever-picky littlest one) enjoyed, we turned the kitchen table into a market research facility and commenced with the sampling.  I went first and was surprised by the difference in flavors and the ultimate results.  Who would have thought I’d like the plain old Hershey’s milk chocolate bar better than all those fancy expensive ones?  The whole family took their turns eating chocolate and filling in their paperwork, and the results were processed.  Then (after a quick family walk around the block to promote a healthy balance in life), we sat down to watch our movie in a state of chocolate bliss.  Here are our final overall scores:
     She has just begun her unit study on chocolate but already my daughter has learned so much.  She has collected information, organized her plans and ideas, and conducted a well planned research project.  She has learned about the Mayan and Aztec cultures, read about the first explorers to visit South America, found out about rain forests where cacao trees are native, the difficulty of growing the fragile trees, and the challenge of introducing them to different parts of the world.  She has read about the process of turning the bitter cacao beans into sweet, rich chocolate, and found out the countries that produce the most.  She has sampled the wonderful results of the long process of chocolate production and shared the yummy-ness with her family.  And, I’m pretty sure she has learned that education can be a deliciously rewarding process.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Practically the same

    Tim’s 1st week of teaching!  So far, he loves it.  Our 2nd week [of our 7th year] of home schooling.  So far, so good for us, too.  For the first time ever, Tim and I are spending our days in similar fashion.  So I was thinking about the things that are the same and the things that are different....

    Tim teaches middle school, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade, at a Catholic school.
    I teach multiple grades too, 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, and a toddler, who though she may not have a corresponding grade level is learning a whole bunch right along with the rest of us, at a home which strives to be authentically Catholic in all we do.

    Tim works long hours, getting up at 5:30 am, driving 45 minutes to school and not getting home until after 4pm (when he then heads to job #2 for the evenings).
    I put in lots of hours too, getting up a little later but spending all day with my “students” and not getting “off duty” until around 9:30 pm, that is assuming there are no bad dreams, no little voices crying out in the night, no illnesses etc…  that require me to “work late”. 

    Tim teaches religion, passing on the truths of our beautiful faith.
    I teach religion also, but not always out of a textbook.  We pray through math, spelling, history, etc…. relying on God’s grace and strength to make it through each and every crazy, chaotic day.

    Tim has to deal with distractions like: the bell ringing before he is quite done with a lesson, fire drills, and disruptive students talking in class.
    I have very similar distractions-- like the phone ringing, diaper changes, and disruptive children laughing, crying, or even climbing on the table spilling crayons and screeching, “done, done, done!” (that would be my 2 year old)

    Tim has to shift gears going back and forth between the various lessons for each grade level. 
    I have to shift gears constantly too-- slow down enough to sit and read with my 1st grader, be quick enough to grab the glue stick out of the 2 year old’s hands before she decorates the wall with glue or sticks all the pages of our books together, wrack my brain to figure out how to solve pre-Algebra equations with my 7th grader, explain sentence structure to my 3rd grader, discuss once again why playing Legos cannot constitute an entire curriculum, even though it could possibly encourage a future career in architecture, to my 5th grader.

    Tim has to attend open house tonight, meeting his students’ parents and going over his plans for the year.  He will have to have parent/teacher  conferences throughout the year, as well, keeping them informed of all they do in the classroom. 
    I had to attend a meeting for our umbrella school last night, making sure I know how to stay on top of record-keeping and learning about tons of great resources at my disposal.  Throughout the year, I constantly question and re-assess my teaching methods and parenting abilities especially when the atmosphere of the classroom is somewhat akin to the monkey house at the zoo.

    Tim is excited about his year.  He has a great group of students and the support of his co-workers and principal.
    I am optimistic about our year.  I have the very best students in the world, who I love more than words can express.  I have the support of many great home schooling friends and, of course, my fabulous husband who understands what I deal with now better than ever…….

Sunday, August 21, 2011

An answer to prayer: a rich young me?

    Tim and I have been a part of “Teams of Our Lady” for about 7 years now.   It is a wonderful faith sharing group for Catholic couples.  Last night we had our monthly meeting for August and somehow during the meeting, in the midst of discussing the convenience of following the teachings of the Church and whether or not we allow selfishness and misunderstanding to cloud our relationship with Christ and our spouses, the topic of Facebook came up.   I have had a love/hate relationship with Facebook since joining the sight in 2008.  I love that it connects me with friends I would otherwise not ever hear from, and I love peeking at it throughout the day when I am feeling bored or lonely.  I hate that I feel the need to peek at it throughout the day when I am feeling bored or lonely and that it seems to stir up feelings of inadequacy quite often as I see what is going on in everyone else’s life as I am feeling bored and lonely.  Anyway, I was sharing my internal emotional battles concerning Facebook and one of the members of our group, who incidentally is not at all involved in Facebook, asked me if the positives were really as positive as they seemed.  “Are you really connecting with others?” he asked. 
    After the meeting, Tim and I always continue the discussion.  So we drove home, once again talking about the pros and cons of social media.  I decided I really needed to just pray about it.  In all my stressing over whether I was keeping my internet usage in perspective and had a healthy balance in life with it, I had never really asked God what he wanted from me.  When I sat down to pray last night before bed, as I always do, I just ask God to enlighten me.   “Help me to know what you want for me concerning Facebook, God”  It was a strange prayer, I suppose, but one I think He has been waiting to hear.  I, then, looked down at the list of scriptures given to me by my spiritual director and opened up to the next one on the list.  Mark 10:17-22.   Now, God does not often answer my prayers so definitively or so quickly but the Bible reading was about “The Rich Young Man.”   The story tells about a man who comes to Jesus asking Him what to do to gain eternal life.  Jesus answers that the man must give all he has to the poor and follow Him.  The man leaves sadly, not willing to make the sacrifice.  He is too attached to his worldly comforts.  I’ve read the story many, many times and it is one I really like.  This time, it spoke to me even louder than ever.  God was clearly asking me to sacrifice my Facebook usage because somehow it was keeping me from completely following Him.  I knew I had to quit.  I went to bed resolving to deactivate my account in the morning. 
    I did not sleep well.  Somehow in my sleep, and the waking moments in between, I was thinking a lot about giving up Facebook.  I kept thinking about all the good things.  The friends who I only ever communicated with through the internet.  The ones I had found after losing contact for years and years.  The encouragement I sometimes got, or gave ,when life was hard and struggles were shared through status updates.  The joy of seeing new babies and wedding announcements and milestones in life on Facebook.  The cool videos and pictures and website links I had learned about.  Did I really want to give it all up?  It certainly wasn’t all bad.  But, in my heart I felt like the rich young man.  Jesus had told me what to do, after I had come to Him asking, and now I had a choice to make.  Would I go away sad, or would I leave it all behind and follow Him? 
    I woke up in the morning to a list of notifications on my Facebook page.  People had responded to things I had shared and said nice things to me.  Yet, with Tim’s help I deleted my account.  I did not just de-activate, with the option of logging back on at anytime I wanted.  I deleted.  The account is gone, with all the cute little pictures of my kids, all my status updates and message history, and tagged notes, and videos, and friends list and more.  Instead of feeling relieved or spiritually uplifted. I felt sad, like the rich young man, even though I did what I felt like I was supposed to do. 
    In my sadness and unsettledness I went back to the Bible story.  I just needed a little reassurance, and since I could not put it on Facebook and get the feedback of my friends, I went to the scriptures for the comfort of my Lord.  I re-read the story.  It says, “Jesus looked at him (the rich man), loved him, and said to him, ‘You are lacking one thing.  Go, sell what you have, and give it to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven;  then come and follow me”  (Mark 10:21).  I read it more carefully and noticed, Jesus loved the man.  Before He spoke and asked the man for his sacrifice, He loved him.   He said to the man, you will have treasures in heaven.  Jesus was not asking the man to make the sacrifice as a test or as a punishment.  He loved him and wanted what was best for him.  Jesus knew the earthly treasures, though they in and of themselves were not bad, were not what was best for the rich man.  The treasures in heaven would have more than made up for the sacrifice.  He wanted the man, and me, to sacrifice the good things in life for the better things Jesus has to offer.  It is never easy to sacrifice, at least not for me, or apparently the rich young man, but it does allow God to fill our lives with better things.  So good-bye Facebook, if you need me you’ll find me right where God wants me, trying to follow His Son, Jesus, without my earthly treasures….

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Just dibby dabs....

    My mom has a language all her own.  Growing up I, of course, did not realize that many of the words we used at home regularly were not, in fact, words in the English language at all.  It was strange, the looks I got when I said something was pa-cucked, or someone was acting nerky.   Apparently my friends had never used such phrases, never even heard them.  Dibby dabs was another one.  On leftover night at our house my mom would lay out the dibby dabs of this and the dibby dabs of that and we would finish up what was left.  In case you, too, are unfamiliar with my native language, dibby dabs means little bits of things. 
    Today, I thought about dibby dabs and how, now that we are back to schooling and I am consumed with academic endeavors and educational pursuits again, my blogging is probably going to be reduced to dibby dabs.  As we have been absorbed in our busyness this week, my mind has been composing lots of long fascinating and meaningful blog posts.  Now that it is Saturday, and we do not have school work to tend to, I would love to sit and write all day.  But, of course, there is grocery shopping to do, bathrooms to scrub, floors to mop, laundry to catch up on, and countless others things that also fell by the wayside this week.  So all that is left for blogging is dibby dabs.
    So, with not much time left for writing, here are the dibby dabs from our week:

    Tim started his teaching job on Monday.  It was “teacher work week” so he did not have any students yet.  He came home from work feeling a little overwhelmed and a little lost.  He asked my opinion on decorating bulletin boards and classroom rules. That was certainly a first.  On Friday, the kids and I went to see his new school, which is about 45 minutes south of us.  He did not happen to take my advice on the bulletin board design but....still, his classroom looked great, all ready for school to start on Monday.  The smell of the buildings reminded me so much of my own first days of school so many years ago…..
    My oldest daughter started a co-op type math class this week.  A wonderful friend of mine, out of the kindness of her heart, offered to teach pre-Algebra to any student in our home school group who was interested.  Math is not my strong point, and my daughter and I struggled a lot last year trying to make sense of the numbers and formulas in her textbook, each of us as confused as the other.  My friend’s offer was truly a God-send for me.  My daughter was not feeling as blessed though.  She was a little nervous.  She has not had a “classroom” class, or been taught anything besides art and church history from someone other than me since kindergarten.  She came home on day one smiling though and has not had any trouble with math yet.  Of course, it is only week one but it looks like this is going to work out really well….
    My littlest one got a potty.  Again, thanks to the kindness of a friend, whose three year old was finished with it, a nice shiny plastic potty was dropped off right in time for baby’s 2nd birthday.  She is having such fun with it.  She sits on it whenever anyone is in the bathroom.  Usually fully dressed, though she inevitably asks to be “nake, nake”.  If her 8 year old sister happens to be the one currently using the bathroom, she can usually get the help she needs removing her shorts or if she happens to be wearing a dress when the desire to sit on the potty strikes her, she has discovered the joy of pulling off her own diaper.  I keep looking up and seeing a little tushy (is that a mom word too?) running down the hall and a little voice saying “pee-pee potty.”  She has not peed on the floor during these little escapades….yet. She has also not succeeded in peeing in the potty at any point.  I have come to realize that though she may think she is ready for potty training, I know I most definitely am not.  Maybe around Christmas break.  In the meantime, I might start using duct tape on her diapers.  I‘d like to see her rip that right off...
    So much more in my head….but no more time, the cleaning and errands await…..

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pictures of my Scholars

I had so much fun participating (and browsing through the other participants entries) in the NOT Back to School blog hop over at Heart of the Matter.  This week is student photo week.  I do try to take pictures of the kids on our first day of school every year but, for the blog hop I decided to try something a little different.  I wanted to see my children as they see themselves.  So, I ask them to make self portraits.  Each of them sat down in front of our full length mirrored closet doors and drew themselves as they look at the start of our 2011-2012 school year.  The results turned out super cute, as cute as any photo I could take. I also asked each of them the following three questions.
  1. What are you most looking forward to this year?
  2. What is your favorite subject?
  3. What are you interested in learning about this year?
Their answers follow their pictures..... 

1. park days with our home school friends.
2. art
3. chocolate :)

1. writing a novel at Nanowrimo young writers program
2. writing 
3. astronomy and moor hens

1. journals
2. writing
3. the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, MO
1. park days
2. reading
3. astronomy and science
I admit, this is not a self-portrait of my 2 year old. I drew it, but the hands are hers.  She loves to have her hands traced and we have little outlines of them on every piece of scrap paper all over the house. :)  I guess that is what she is most interested in these days?!?!?!?

Wishing you all a joyful and productive school year!

Birthday Fun!

    So what have you been busy with this hot August weekend?  We have been celebrating.  No, not the start of school, although our first day is tomorrow.  And, not the start of Tim’s new job, though his first day is tomorrow, too.  We’ve been celebrating our baby’s birthday!!!!  Yes, though I still refer to her as “our baby,” she is two whole years old already!   On Friday, her actual birthday, we had a family party.  My parents came to party with us and we had pizza, “ducky” cake, and loads and loads of presents.  The house looked like Christmas morning with wrapping paper and toys everywhere.  On Saturday, we headed to the zoo for more family fun.   We rode all the rides, saw all our favorite animals, and got soaked in the fountains.   All in all it was a great weekend of fun and a beautiful way to celebrate the blessing of our youngest little gift from heaven.  Now, to gear up for all the firsts on Monday…..

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Money matters, but not THAT much

    Tim and I got married young.  Neither of us had graduated from college.  Neither of us had much experience living on our own or supporting ourselves.  (I had had my own tiny apartment for a few months and was sort of making ends meet, if you don’t count unpaid credit card bills.  Tim lived with his parents until the day we married, except of course, for a year away at school and a year and a half in the seminary).  Neither of us was anywhere near having a career.  We were probably very naïve about the realities of adulthood and the cost of life.  We started our family less than two years into marriage.  We had another little mouth to feed.  Still, neither of us had a college degree.  Neither of us had what you could call a career yet.  I quit my job right away, but really, I wasn’t making much money anyway.   Tim went back to school when our first baby was 6 months old.  He was still working full time to support us, so finishing school took a while.  He graduated with his bachelor’s degree literally weeks before our second baby was born.  Our story sounds very irresponsible, I guess.  And, maybe from a financial stand point, it was.  Tim has struggled to support our family over the years and has worked two jobs for four years, at least, in order to allow me to stay home.  His jobs have always sort of played second fiddle to our family.  They paid the bills but were never our focus.  For that reason, the jobs never really provided much more than what we needed to pay the bills.  We’ve never had a lot of savings.  We’ve never had a lot of luxuries in life.  We’ve never had many extras.  That has really been okay.  Of course, there have always been brief moments here and there when we have wished for more money.  But, overall, I don’t think we regret any of the choices we’ve made. 
    The economy is bad now.  Everyone knows that (well, except the politicians and the mainstream media).  We have seen friends struggle.  We, too, have been are being effected.  In many ways, we’re better off than others though, not because we had more to start with or because we’ve had something to fall back on but because we didn’t and we haven’t.  We were already used to a simple life.   We’ve always made sacrifices.  We’ve always had to have priorities.  There have always been things we couldn’t do or couldn’t have because they just didn’t make the cut on the final budget.  That’s the way our life is and it is a life we are very content with. Sometimes I wonder how some other people do it, really.  I hear of people who claim to be in dire straits financially but their lifestyles don’t seem to change.  Now, obviously it is none of my business where and how people spend their money but sometimes I feel bad as I see people struggle yet see them still feel the need to keep up with others, or with the life they used to have.   I wish I could say, “It is okay to do without.  Your kids will be fine without art camp or dance class or ice skating lessons or _____ fill-in-the-blank.  Your kids will survive without organic foods.  Your family’s peace is what matters.  Trust God to provide but be willing to suffer the consequences of living within your means.  It is not so bad. “
    There are blessings in doing without.  There really are.  Tim and I have built a life together.  We have always strived to live within our means and we’ve really done pretty well with it.  We have been creative and frugal and we are proud of and grateful for what we do have.  It is not fancy but it is ours and it was earned and it was bought without putting ourselves into major debt.  Our children do not expect to have everything they want in life.  They are content with what they have.  They can see that God’s blessings are not bought at any store and that, though their friends have a lot more toys and are involved in a lot more extra-curricular activities, they have a strong family who loves them and a ton of joy and fun in their simple lives.  They do not feel they are missing out, though they do, in fact, miss out on certain things in life.  (We don’t have a Wii or any Nintendo DS’s or a flat screen t.v. or memberships to any pools or organic food in the pantry or any extra-curricular activities currently or etc….)  Our family really and truly is our focus in life and that is something we would not change for the world.   
    They say money is the root of all evil.  I am not sure that is really true but money certainly can have a greater control over us than it should.  Money can change our focus, change our priorities, change our values if we let it.  A lack of it  can fill us with worry, anxiety, and fear.  A little financial struggle in life can do wonders for our perspective.  It keeps us humble.  It keeps us grounded.  It keeps us grateful.  I’m not sure why the economy is as bad as it is (nor do I even care to find out) but I do know God is using this as an amazing opportunity to teach us so much about life and about Him and about what is really important in this world.  Lessons that will benefit us so much more in the long run than big bank accounts ever will….

Sunday, August 7, 2011

My Classroom

There once was a classroom in Clearwater,
It was much loved by my sons and my daughter(s),
They would go there each day,
Make a mess with their play,
And never clean up like they ought-er.

So, I went there to plan for our year,
And I could not believe all their gear,
It was scattered around,
Oh, the stuff that I found!
It would never come clean was my fear!

Still, I jumped in with both of my feet,
I cleaned up until it was neat,
I worked very hard,
While they played in the yard,
And now I deserve a big treat!

School will be starting in one week,
The classroom? I won’t let the kids peek,
It looks really great,
But they’ll just have to wait
“Cause if it gets messed up now, I will freak!


I am linking to the "Not" Back to School blog hop at Heart of the Matter.  Be sure to head over and check out lots of other classrooms too!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Monkey see, monkey do

    I’ve spent a lot of time this summer reading about educational theories and philosophies.  I have spent a lot of time learning about how kids learn and thinking about how kids think.  I have discovered, in my extensive reading, that most of the popular and not-so-popular educational philosophies out there start from the same point.  Every “expert” acknowledges that lots and lots of learning happens way before the traditional school age of 4 or 5 years old.  They all seem to agree that children learn naturally in the early years, that children are curious beings capable of taking in and processing enormous amounts of information and stimulus from their very first days on the planet.  From there, the experts go in a million different directions.  But in the beginning of life, most experts admit that children learn an awful lot by observation and imitation. 
    Now, as I read all this this summer, the truth of it was blossoming right before my eyes.  My youngest child, at nearly two years old, is displaying a learning phenomenon my mother always referred to as “monkey see, monkey do”.  I’m sure the experts have a much more clinical term for it.  My mom’s terminology fits well though.  My adorable little genius has been watching all the “big people” around her and has become a perfect little mimic of it all.  When I talk on the phone, she has to talk on the phone.  When I cook dinner, she climbs up on a chair next to the counter and stirs and chops with her little plastic spoons and forks.  When her 6 year old brother plays with his action figures, staging elaborate battles between the “good guys” and the “bad guys”, she grabs a “man-man” (her name for any plastic man toy) and makes him yell and pounce on the enemy.  When her 8 year old sister plays baby dolls, she will run to get a doll of her own, wrap it up in a blanket, and feed it with a plastic baby bottle.  When her 10 year old brother goes outside to ride his bike, she wants to follow.  She knows to put a helmet on and buckle it under her chin, then she will sit on her little push along bike and head off down the sidewalk after big brother.  When her 12 ½ year old sister curls up with a good book, she will find a comfy pillow, pull a board book off the shelf, and bury her nose in it.  She tries jumping when they jump, she sings all the silly little songs I sing to her, she repeats everything she hears.
    It is all so cute, and so frightening.  Watching my little one copy everything she sees reminds me, over and over again, of how impressionable our children are.  How observant they are- they don’t miss a thing, and how, at least, in the early years, they look to us as the experts.  The beauty of it is we are able to pass along our values, modeling a Christian life and imparting beliefs and virtues we want our children to have.  The fear-inducing reality is, of course, that we also pass on our areas of weakness and our vices. 
    While the youngest is just now picking up all sorts of fun new skills.  Her siblings have already learned a lot in life.  Unfortunately some of the things they have practically perfected are a tendency towards minimalism, negativity, and impatience.  I can’t help but recognize my own struggles in them.  They learned many of their bad habits the same way their little sister is picking up her ever-growing vocabulary and her ability to quote movie lines so well.  They watched the “big people” around them, and I, the most prominent “big person” in their lives, tend to be a little minimalist, a little negative, and at times, a little impatient.
    Now, I may not be an expert with my own educational philosophy but I can’t help but wonder if God is using my children to teach me (again!).  It seems He has been sending me a message this summer, a little reminder, of how important it is to strive each day to walk closer to Him and to fight the temptation to sin because little eyes are always watching…..watching and learning. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A life of purpose

    A few weeks ago, my girls and I watched "The Sound of Music".  We love that movie and have watched it together countless times.  Even after viewing it so many times though, there was something new that struck me this time.  Captain Von Trapp, while talking to his new fiancée, the Baroness, says, “Activity suggests a life filled with purpose.”  That Captain is as wise as he is dashing!  He is explaining why he attends party after party in the city when he is really much happier out in the country in his own home.  I could relate, not because I have a beautiful estate out in the country where I like to relax after weeks of partying but because as I look around me at other people and their busy, seemingly exciting, lives and I compare them to my own life of changing diapers, refereeing childish arguments, and trying to stay on top of the inevitable messes in my house, well… I can see his point.   I’ve been pondering the Captain’s bit of wisdom for weeks now, looking at my life.  I have to remind myself, often that God has blessed me with this life, with a vocation to marriage and motherhood and that this is what my life means.  This is where I serve God and find holiness.  It may not be exciting, but it does have meaning.  It is in wiping the table over and over that I learn persistence.  It is in changing diapers that I learn selflessness.  It is in sacrificing salon trips and manicures that I learn detachment and gratitude for what I do have.  It is in refereeing my children’s disagreements that I learn patience and mercy. 
    I continue to struggle some days, wishing the activities of my life suggested more meaning, but at the same time trying to find peace in the purpose my life does have.  My husband says, "Sometimes activity distracts one from their purpose in life."   Maybe he is even wiser than the good Captain in "The Sound of Music".  For, it is a life of repetition and monotony that all great holy monasteries and convents encourage.  It was lives of sacrifice and uniformity that led some of the greatest saints to heaven.  Perhaps my life of monotony and repetition will lead me there as well...

Monday, August 1, 2011

School Year's Resolutions

    Last weekend I was blessed with the opportunity to attend the Immaculate Heart of Mary home school conference in Tampa.  A good friend of mine was one of the organizers and she had expressed the desire to schedule the conference earlier in the year next time around.  Ideally, March or April, at the very latest June, to give us all the chance to plan ahead a little more.  I, for one, thought the timing was perfect though.  I was glad to have the inspirational and encouraging words of all the talented speakers so close to the start of our school year.  It was just what I needed to give me the confidence and motivation to begin another year of teaching my kids. 
    One thing that came up in the talks was the idea of setting goals.  I have done that the last few years but this year I decided to try a new approach to goal setting.  All of my goals in the past have been for my children, things like memorize the times tables, master long division, or write a report a month on a different saint. This year, I am going to make a list of goals for me, as their mother and teacher.  A list of “school year’s resolutions” for our upcoming year.    So here goes:  This year I resolve to:
  • Read aloud to the children everyday without fail.
  • Make our learning space a place of beauty with great religious artwork, classical music, more poetry, and, most importantly, a peaceful, patient attitude.
  • Take the children to daily Mass at least once a week.
  • Spend more time talking to my children and listening to them, and less time worrying about providing perfectly planned out lessons and fail-proof curriculum choices.
  • Focus more on what my children are learning and less on whether they can get perfect scores on their workbook pages.  I’ve noticed the two are not synonymous, often my children will ace a workbook activity only to be clueless about the skill it meant to impart. 
  • Let my children make mistakes and try new things without feeling the need to step in, remembering they will learn from their mistakes and even more so, from the opportunity to work things out in their own way.
  • We started out last year with critical thinking activities every Wednesday.  By the end of the year the kids called it “game day” instead of critical thinking, whatever it's called we will continue our Wednesday activities.  Teaching my children to think is the best thing I can do.  BTW, they, scored off the charts for research skills on their annual testing- game day worked!
  • A few years ago, before baby #5 was born, we used to take nature walks once a week.  We did not keep journals or take notes along the way we just walked and talked and enjoy the scenes around us.  Sometimes we stopped to watch an animal or listen to a bird, but there was nothing formal about it.  Weekly nature walks are back this year!
There may be more but for now…that’s a start…


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