Monday, July 28, 2014

Yes, I Wrote a Post About Homeschooling

Its not like anyone has requested a post like this, ha! My little blog is just not that popular (which is really perfect). Its just that time of year, you know, where you think about the fall and the upcoming school year. I have been rummaging through the used bookshelves of our local homeschool office and I can't believe the high I get when I find used curriculum I need! I start shaking.

I don't want to write about curriculum on here though...its something I like to verbally abuse my closest homeschooling mama friends with...so I won't share the love here.

However, there is this young mommy group that has been meeting at our Church and one of my best friends, Jennifer, keeps telling me there is a mom who wants to talk to me about homeschooling. I will get to chat with her at length tomorrow, and lucky for her (and you) I have been thinking of some things.


BUT....I do get this knot in my gut because I think...umm...mommies don't talk to ME about homeschooling...I AM the one still observing and listening and reading about what I want this whole "educate your children at home" life to look like.

Yet I'm also inclined to think...what A BLESSING...to talk about some of the basics I use right before my own year technically starts (really we have been schooling ALL summer). Something about the impending fall season gets your school gears going.



So, for this young mommy I think I would start with some of the reading that influenced me:

A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver DeMille (suggested by a sweet homeschool mama, Brenda, in Connecticut)

The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease (suggested by my friend Melissa)

Real Learning: Education in the Heart of the Home by Elizabeth Foss (Suggested by my literary friend Suzanne)

Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv (not sure where I got this one from)

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen (Like Mother, Like Daughter blog)

Leisure: The Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper (also on the Like Mother, Like Daughter)

Parenting with Grace by Gregory and Lisa Popcak (Angela & Janet)

Any book or article related to Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, this is not so much homeschool but more orienting your relationship with children.

Other Websites (I've tried to sum up what they are about): Think ScholarThink Nature Walks and ClassicsThink Experience Cultivated Mom with Large Family
I would start reading one of the books above and then, I can't believe I'm going to suggest this to a young mom, but along with one of the above START READING CLASSICS right away. I have come to realize that if I want a learning home, I've got to be learning myself. You will say...my house looks like ________, I'm drinking from a fire house!!



Do it.

Sneak sentences, paragraphs, chapters in...be a reading family. Keep your classic in your purse or keep it where you nurse your baby. 

Start with any Jane Austen novel(ha...I crack myself up...but you know you want to)...and it might take you years to finish one classic but they change your life. It took me a year to finish Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. It is taking me a year to read Dante's Divine Comedy

Perhaps this young mommy is already extremely well versed in the classics, that is awesome...but...alas...I guarantee there is still more out there she could read. Find them and read them. Be a voracious reader. (This is soooooo good to remind myself!) Let your child see you with a fat classic in your hand not a lame i-phone.

OK....calming down a bit...

So making a habit of reading, the good kind of reading where you sink in for awhile and go where the author takes you, requires a certain amount of attention. Attention not only on your part, but your child must have some kind of attention span, or start to have one.

One of the BEST bits of advice I ever received about discipline and attention span in children was in a well written post that I can't find now from a blog somewhere in the web about limiting screen time (real helpful right?). YES, I know that there is tons floating around about it, but we actually have to implement it in our own homes.

Yes, I know this is more work on our part...you know...to be engaged fully with our children..or I don't know even (gasp!) allowing them opportunities to be bored. I think working hard on this in the beginning pays off later...but I'm not an expert remember, my eldest is only eight and some change. 

Ah! But.. build attention span in your children by turning off screens and then... reading aloud. Start with very small easy chapter books...a picture on every other page, and then gradually build to....TWO pages of just words! This is SOOOOO hard for some of them at first, at least for those wiggly four year olds.



 Maybe this doesn't work in every home but now at eight years old my eldest is listening to my husband read Uncle Tom's Cabin aloud at night as she falls asleep (this is how I get his classics in). I am reading the Betsy-Tacy series and Little Women aloud to all three of the girls depending on the mood we are in (while my son throws toy cars around) and they love every bit.

Betsy-Tacy 
I wanted to start by mentioning this classical reading thing because, for me, if all else fails in our "planned school day" we are at least in the presence of the masters and good literature and I believe that's good enough.

Also, if homeschooling doesn't end up being something this mother is called to....a family who shares a love for learning and reading will enjoy being together!

Wow, so you are reading classics everyday in your home Stephanie? You are amazing!

No.

Even if we fail to crack open a book in a homeschool day, God has given me the grace to really love this whole Curriculum of Life.

Curriculum of Life???

Oh! You know...when you just live life together!

Lesson 56: How to clean out a garage and the awesomeness of shop vacs....


Lesson 78: How to attach a piece of wood to a fishing pole and pretend its a "Hammer Shack"


Lesson 105:  Make dinner for a family that just welcomed their fifth child! A daughter!


Lesson 106:  Go with mother to this family's home and hold the treasure...


How blessed we are to be able to just live out life together. Its so simple I want to pinch myself.

I believe this particular mommy has younger, not even school age, children so I feel like before I bombard her with things like making sure her home is in order or carefully discerning activities that take place outside the home (ha! I struggle with BOTH of these). What I want  is for her to value the role God gave her in unfolding the hours of this present life with her children. 

When you keep your children with you, there is the potential of a very intimate relationship that is built, it is yours to take! God sent these littles to you for YOUR VOCATION and you must trust that if He calls you to homeschool as part of it, He will provide.

Wow, so that is my advice to this young mommy. Read (err..and cultivate an attention span) and live life.

I probably won't write about homeschooling again, at least not until I'm certain that based on the happiness and over all mental stability of my own children, that it was something I did well. I wanted to have a place for some of those book titles so that those books can do more of the delving in and then I can send this link!

If there are other homeschool books that hit a home run for you, please feel free to comment. I WOULD love to read them myself!

God Bless!

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*I would like to add that a great litmus test for books, blogs, mommy articles is to ask yourself about the experience of the mom writing (my wise friend Angela is nodding her head). Is it even a mom/dad, is it a psychologist? Really ask...Who are these people?

I stopped a couple of pages in while recently reading a particular homeschool book because it was written by a mother with one son about nine years old. It really wasn't because she had one child, although I am a tad bit partial to larger families only because I have a feeling that's what I have....its more that her son was nine when she wrote it. I'm not looking for parents with Harvard grads but I would like to see some TIME under the author's belt (the great irony is that I DID just write a post about homeschooling with only an eight year old as the guinea pig...but that's me branching out of my comfort zone, you are so kind to stick with me xxxooo).







Thursday, July 24, 2014

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real & Closer to God's Word

Praise God! I say this after reading Chapter Six of The Little Oratory...because this little chapter is filled with the rich message of GIFT.



Our Father, the Beggar of Love who knocks at our door (St Therese), gives us total gift in His Holy Scripture.

Pretty

He is serenading us with Gift everywhere,


  the abundance is without measure..


"Reading God's word is a way to pray, to speak to God and hear what He has to say to us. Reading Scripture is an encounter with God."




Happy

I always have an agenda it seems. Perhaps this stems from the the craving I have for order in the day. I like the secure feeling I have in my illusion of control or at least when I have even a vague idea of what will happen NEXT. To be honest...when I approach Scripture, there is a pride about me that wants a "happy" feeling, a nice warm and fuzzy to happen. If I sit down and read this parable, I will surely gain something. 

It is exhausting to always be searching for results. 

What a nice reminder throughout this chapter that the Holy Spirit works slowly.

"God will speak to you. Little by little, you will become aware of a whisper or an inner certainty. It may not be at the very time you are reading, but it will come."









Funny

And even if the work of this little whisper and inner certainty is slow, what we need to realize is that it wasn't by our "working" and "reasoning" that fruit comes from it. God sees to when the Gift happens, which the authors point out is especially true in contemplative prayer. 

Funny how we could even begin to think we could "get" results with our own efforts.

"It (Contemplative prayer) is passive only in the sense that it is a state of mind that is 
given to us as a gift."




"As a gift from God, it is given to whomsoever He pleases and 
for reasons beyond our understanding."

Peanut butter and fluff face
"We cannot draw conclusions about how well we've prayed or our level of spiritual development. God either gives or He doesn't. Contemplation is not a reward...

Blueberry face

...it is something that simply either happens or not, and over which we have no control."



Real

I truly believe in the the purposeful background work of the home and as my family grows and grace flows, I appreciate the fruits of the slow background work. 

Even just to have dinner for the newlyweds who are back from honeymooning in Rome, to have an atmosphere conducive to sharing and laughing takes a fair amount of background work.

It is humble but I was quite pleased with it.
The Liturgy of the Hours and engaging in God's Word is holy, grounding background work. The background work that makes the mustard seed grow into a large solid tree. The background work of the yeast that bids the bread to rise.

"Good things may be happening without our awareness, just as we see that children's bodies grow without their knowledge of the process."


I wish the littles were looking at pictures from Italy but
 they were googling baby duckling images and cracking up.
Slow.

Slow background work.

She said, "Look! I'm the Phantom of the Opera."
In our achievement oriented society, we like instant results, we're antsy for things to happen now...and usually to happen OUR way. Do I really demand from the WORD OF GOD to be immediately enlightened?(I want to wear glasses that make me look really smart and sip my coffee mocha chai tea and say things like, "profound" and "insightful,")

"The worry might be that sometimes we don't seem to have drawn profound lessons or thoughts to react to. A wise monk of our acquaintance offers the salutary advice that quite often this happens to him; he doesn't think it is anything to worry about. 
He simply praises God for his chance to hear His Word."

When we receive a GIFT like...oh maybe a moment..a chance...in our day when we can actually sit with His Word. WOW! As I said, "PRAISE GOD!" how thankful I am to just be given a prompting to just sit and listen to what He has to say to me. 

Thank you for reading and be sure to head over to Like Mother, Like Daughter for more PHFR and more on The Little Oratory.

God Bless!



Thursday, July 17, 2014

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real July

Pretty



The girls and I had an afternoon of painting together this week at a friend's studio from our church. We enjoyed painting these butterflies. We are not sure what to call a gathering of butterflies...a flock? a swarm? a family?





Happy

We survived the jokulhlaup of 2014! The glacier behind our home has a lake in its mountains called "Suicide Basin." It released in 2011 and reached its peek level again this year breaking and flooding. Jokulhaup is an Icelandic word for "ice jumping," it was all very exciting...the campground owned by the US Forest Service was shut down in our backyard and we would head down and check the lake levels regularly. 
We are HAPPY it is all over.






Funny

I love when the girls have their "fashion" shows. 





Real

I do try to let my kids have their freedom and somehow that always means getting our boots and socks soaked....leaving little bodies very cold (that IS glacier runoff).



The only way I can get littles out of the water is through bribes of kid coffee and popcorn (kid coffee is coffee creamer and warm milk).




Love the fullness of it all. Thank you for stopping by! Check out more PHFR here.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

God Bless America....with lots of Littles!

I loved our Independence Day this year. I have some pictures I wanted to share but also some thoughts on how being open to life is being patriotic.



When we first moved here my husband had a conversation about our family with another lieutenant on a visiting cutter. This gentleman was working on his masters in his off time and reading a lot about how declining populations were going to have a significant impact on nations. He said we were true patriots for having so many children.

Wow? Really? Patriots?

In my fourth pregnancy, I heard it straight from a nurse midwife's mouth that she believed we should only replace ourselves.

And it's her belief! Really it is, and isn't that what is so great about being Americans, is that we can have these differing opinions?

However, being called "true patriots" for having so many children was a first for Justin and I.

patriot: one who loves and loyally or zealously supports one's own country (Webster Fourth Edition)


Fireworks start at 11:59 p.m. on the 3rd of July...because that's when it is dark enough to see them here in Juneau!

That is a huge nun buoy in front of where we were sitting on the Coast Guard pier.


Do you see my son covering his ears?


Patriots, of course, aren't only those called to have a large family, that is so limiting and it is a vocation we are called to in a particular way. What is great about being patriotic is we can be this in every vocation (and in every political party)....

because we can ALL BE OPEN TO LIFE.

To be open to life is to be patriotic because in its essence is a deep love for our fellow countrymen, our neighbor, and the profound realization of how desperately we need each other.

Our country needs her littles. Lord, we pray that you keep sending them...



They pass these mining hats out every year.

When we accept life in front of us in all its forms and mess, we are the ones changed. Every time we give ourselves to our fellow countrymen, in our parish, in our neighborhood, in our schools, in our womb....we are building up our country and promoting a culture of life.

Yes, little ol' you and me.

We should have this prayer for citizens in all countries, that we all have such an ardent love of our country and the life in that country, that we empty ourselves to serve each other.




I hope my own children don't learn to be patriots because their parents just so happen to both serve as commissioned officers in the Coast Guard.

I want them to see us daily serving, opening our hearts to others, right here in this little home in the 49th state of the United States of America.

My dad, a retired Naval officer who served on submarines during the Cold War was very taken aback a few years ago on the phone...or I think it might have even been on the front porch of his home...when I said I identified more with being a Catholic then I did with being an American.





I see now how very much I don't have to rank one over another, labels are so dangerous in this way. Above all we are children of God, I just so happen to be an American Roman Catholic. And more than just saying "we need each other" or "our country needs littles" it is this truth alone, that we are His children, which takes us to the even more beautiful Patriotism...love of and zealous support of a Heavenly Kingdom, where Freedom does truly reign! Oh friends, its going to be AWESOME.

God Bless America...with more littles!







Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Little Oratory: Chapter 5 Thoughts

I am still participating in The Little Oratory book study for the summer.


Summer in the Little Oratory



I know a few of you have been doing some good liturgical work in your own homes with the help of this book. I really enjoyed chapter five, On Learning to Pray With a Breviary.

Chapter five starts with a summary of the precepts as laid out in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but what I really liked was that with these precepts:

"Each of us will develop a personal plan, often called a rule of life, with this foundation."

My husband entered the Church seven years ago, the year that he and I, by the grace of God, were united in following the Church's teaching on being open to life. The Church is so rich and full and colorful in her many paths she gives her children to follow, I started to see the community of the Church differently once we were shown the way of following life giving love.

Mother Church is so diverse. She offers so many personal paths for us to live out our faith. She really asks: What is the face of God this child of mine needs? And this face could be one face that we see throughout our whole lives or we can change yearly or weekly!

About two months ago I was reading about Mother Teresa, and this holy woman was exactly who I needed right about two months ago. This summer...the face of God I am seeing...the Liturgy of the Hours!



I am grateful that Chapter One centers the reader by sharing that the Liturgy of the Hours is an extension of the Eucharist in our day. I will admit that I have tried to pray the Divine Office before but I can see now it just wasn't the season in my life for it.  I think that the Divine Office is fitting in so well now because it satiates a desire I have for attending daily Mass. It is just not happening with the littles...err...mostly a two and half year old little...


Praying the hours is not exactly in full swing like I want it to be, but how nice to be reminded:

"We must start from where we are, spiritually, and anything new should be introduced gradually with all our duties (including all the time and energy requirements of our station in life, such as the care of young children) in mind. So don't try to do everything!"

 I have tried so very hard to balance community with what needs to happen in here, in this home. I feel a tremendous pulling in as I await this fifth little and yet, I can't help with each time we say evening prayer being pulled out in balance with the Church at large.

What I truly love about the Liturgy of the Hours is that I am participating in the prayer of the universal Church. This little domestic church is unfolding the hours with others in this world in a way that the so called globalization of our times can't even come close to.

"We know from history and from Scripture that our Lord Himself prayed the Psalms as an observant Jew. We know from the Acts of the Apostles that His disciples continued the practice. Thus, the Divine Office has always been part of the worship of the Church in some form."




Which reminds me....

I am in my usual literary...I have way to many books going on at once...mode. In the classics realm I am stuck in Purgatory. No really, I am in the ring of envy as Virgil and Dante are making their ascent. I was struck though, really, when I read the following:

That hour had fallen when the sailor bends 
his yearning and his softened heart toward home...

When I began to let all sound slip by
 as I beheld one spirit rise and ask 
attention, with a gesture of his hand.

He joined his palms together, raised them high
as if he prayed, "I have no other care,"
fixing his gaze upon the eastern sky.

"Thee Before Nightfall" so devotedly
came from his lips, with notes so sweet, they made
me move beyond my mind in ecstasy,

While all the rest with sweet and pious love
followed the soul in singing the whole hymn,
holding their eyes upon the wheels above.

My friends, these souls in Purgatory were praying the hour of compline! Translator Anthony Esolen, in his notes, wrote that this is the closing hour of the day...and that "time in Purgatory harmonizes with the canonical hours."

I just fell in love even more. We are praying WITH the dead. We are praying with the WHOLE Church. 



I really want to mark time even more...but a gradual start....very gradual.

The authors write, "So during the learning period, don't despair. As G.K. Chesterton said, if a thing's worth doing, it's worth doing badly."

Amen.

How BEAUTIFUL our meager efforts look to our Lord, He just loves that we TRY! And remember what FR Killian, a wonderful Benedictine priest said, "If we are doing what we are supposed to be doing...we share in the prayer!"

Thank you for reading! God Bless!


* I forgot to add my links! See my Little Oratories here on Like Mother, Like Daughter and listen to the podcast for the summer book study!