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Elle Stone Ink Slingers Saints Spiritual Growth

When Work Sucks  – Bringing St. Augustine into the Workplace

 

October Blues

October has been…a tough month, sisters.  I think it’s awesome that the world is stuffed with tiny gourds, pumpkin spice lattes (pumpkin spice everything, really), and window stickies of witches on broomsticks, because this is such a great escape for me from how tough October really has been.

For us that work on an academic calendar (students, teachers, youth ministers, moms with school-age children), September was magical.  The world was new. I was filled with hope for the new year.  Everything was possible, all doors were open.

By October, the grind got me down.  Reality made an extremely unwelcome appearance.  The challenges are stacking up. Our resolve, although it’s made a good show, is more and more falling short.

Recently I’ve been talking with dear girlfriends of mine, truly holy women of God, who are falling to the October blues.

One’s a third grade teacher, whose students are struggling to learn discipline.  She’s being tough but fair, and…parents are enraged. They’ve basically started a vendetta against her.  That’s…that’s rough.

Another is a family member who works for the church.  Her program is on FIRE. It’s awesome. But she’s surrounded by coworkers who do less than nothing.

A third girlfriend of mine is a mom whose son is exuberant and energetic.  His pre-K classroom is inhibiting, lacking time for play and exploration. His teachers want to get him tested for ADHD because he can’t sit still.

Finally, I have a dear friend who’s lost all motivation in her classes.  She’s just…thrown the towel in. The professors are sending her to the moon and back over things that have little to nothing to do with her path of study.

 

ANGER

One thing that is so interesting about these women is that the October Blues don’t have them sad, miserable, or dejected.

Instead, these things have made them ANGRY.  

I talk with these holy women, and I’m hit by the force and power of their ANGER.

At first, this was odd for me.  Anger doesn’t feel like a holy response.  Anger feels like we’ve taken our calling to bring Christ into the workplace and shoved it into the trash bin.  It feels like the devil has already won, pulling us into these dark places.

Not so!  At least, if we do it right.  

 

Daughters of Hope

I found awesome insight from St. Augustine of Hippo.  He has such a crazy great quote for these workplace dramas.  Take a minute to read it a couple times, let it sink in:

“Hope has two beautiful daughters: their names are anger and courage.  Anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”

We come into work in September, full of this HOPE.  This excitement, this joy. Then we’re surprised in October when all we feel is anger.  St. Augustine, man, what a smart guy. This anger is not IN CONTRAST to the hope we felt before.  This anger is A DIRECT RESULT of our hope.  We come in with hope of being a good teacher, of having a strong church staff, of a great school year for our kids, of invigorating classes.  And then we see how flawed things really are—and we are filled with a holy, righteous ANGER.

 

Stuck

Although this anger is good and right, we do risk falling into the devil’s trap when we get stuck in anger.  Hope moves to anger, but if we don’t move out of anger we fall into a cycle of bitterness and resentment.  

St. Augustine calls us to a next step—a really terrifying step, actually.  He calls us to move from anger to COURAGE. We must have the courage to change things.  Instead of just staying angry forever, we have to change what we can.

And whoa man, this is BOLD.  There is so often at work that I try to stay under the radar, not causing waves.  Being the “yes woman” or the “nice girl” on staff. Sometimes this is out of genuine kindness, but TBH, a lot of the time this is because I’m not brave enough to go against how things are.

 

How do?

So, how do we foster this courage, and how do we live out true hope in the workplace?  Here are some ideas. I have very little work experience, but I am blessed to be surrounded by holy and experienced working women.  They have given me these amazing tokens of wisdom that help me navigate the toughest work situations.

1. Pray for discernment.  Get digging!  Before you do anything to change things at work, you need to get to the root of the problem.  Your coworker annoys you—why? But really, why? Don’t just say it’s because they steal the stapler, because that’s not good enough.  A huge part of this is you need to open yourself up to the possibility that you might be the problem. At the same time, don’t beat yourself up for things that aren’t your fault (I feel like us women fall into this ALL THE TIME).

2. Tackle personal failings in confession.  So, some things were your fault.  Take them to confession. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.  This Saturday. Go. Make a commitment to change, and pray for God’s grace to do so.

3. Take responsibility.  Although some things might not be your fault, you can still take responsibility for improving the situation.  Your child might have a horrible teacher, which is not your fault. But you can take responsibility—you can make the commitment to supplement your child’s education, you can meet with the teacher, you can request a new teacher.

4. List five tasks/goals.  Delineate your five central goals or tasks at work (or at school/with your kids).  These are the five things that constitute you doing a good job, the five things that will mark your success.  Have your boss, your spouse, or a college mentor sign off of them. Your hope will THRIVE off of having tangible ways of measuring success.

5. ID Breaking Points.  At the end of the day, there will only be so much in your power to change.  But you need to decide what is going to far. Maybe your boss loads you with more tasks in a week than there are hours in year.  Maybe your professor is genuinely impossible. Maybe a teacher is killing the resolve and the joy of learning in your child. These are breaking points, and you know when these pop up, you need to act.

6. Increase the amount you say “no.”  This ties in directly with points #4 and #5.  Once you have your tasks/goals and breaking points, you need to say no to that which goes beyond them.  Practice saying no, even in silly situations. You’ll find a balance. I feel like we women feel like saying no is unkind—that we’re denying others our help when we say no.  However, if we’re aware of our limits, then there is a humility in accepting our limits and say “no.”

7. Make a plan for honest communication.  Spend a day and listen to how many times you hear yourself say that “everything’s fine” at work when it’s really not.  I do it ALL THE TIME. This is another thing that I need to practice, like #6. When someone asks me if things are fine, and they’re not, I have to work on saying the words to express that.  When someone offers to help, I have to practice accepting that help. I was amazed by how much my workplace changed for me when I started honestly expressing my needs.

8. Kill with kindness.  This one is a bit of an aside, but it has worked for me so well that I have to share it.  That angry parent? That nasty coworker? That inept teacher? Send them a thank-you note.  I’m serious!  Find something honest for which you can thank them (don’t thank them for their smile if all they can do is scowl).  You’d be amazed at how much relationship building you can achieve through a surprise (almost sneak-attack-style) dose of gratitude.

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Christi Curriculum Homeschool Ink Slingers

Diary of a Homeschool Mum part 4 – BURNOUT

homeschool-burnout-fire-1I know I began my portion of this homeschool series as a diary of memories and I promise I will continue to add those, but this month I feel inspired to share about burnout.

Yes, after 25 years of homeschooling, I feel qualified to write about burnout and how to cope during episodes of it. I say episodes because in my opinion burnout comes in various forms. There is the true burn out when you just can’t face the idea of homeschooling anymore and you and your children are equally sick of homeschooling. That moment calls for a ‘PTA meeting’ with a review of why you are homeschooling and if those reasons are still valid or if it’s time for a change.

If you decide that yes, you are still called to homeschool your children despite being so mentally exhausted you just don’t feel you can pull together another lesson plan to save your soul – what do you do?

In today’s world of the internet there are so many solutions that were not available when I started out on this journey. Dealing with a period of burnout in its many forms can be more easily overcome than ever before. Sometimes it is not burnout that causes the disruptions. Oftentimes life itself interferes with your attempt to educate your children and causes a layer of guilt in your conscience. As the guilt mounts and mounts you may find yourself ready to line the kids up and put them on the first school bus that passes by the next morning.

Have you just had a new baby? Or maybe you have a child recuperating from a lengthy illness or you yourself are recuperating. Maybe you are caring for an elderly relative who is going to pass within the year or a spouse has lost his job and the new one requires a move several states away. There can be so many reasons which might percipitate a lengthy interruption that erodes your confidence that homeschooling is the correct choice at this time in your life and yet – the alternatives are much worse for you – so you soldier on.

Here is my sage advice.

There are two basics that really need to be carried on daily as best you can- math and reading. When we are facing a difficult time period, I try to make sure the children are doing math every day. This might mean completing a lesson in the course we are using or it might mean doing math drills online for a minimum of 20 minutes on the days when we can’t get to the math books.

Reading is relatively easy to accomplish by having each child read a good book appropriate for his or her age and reading skill. By varying the content of your book choices you can actually dip into some other subject areas. Choose interesting books from the library in astronomy or pick a historical novel and you are covering science and history. Add in a biography of a famous musician written at your child’s reading level and you have fine arts covered. Or you can choose to read books of a higher skill set than your children are at and the whole family will benefit from extra knowledge that they might otherwise not have experienced. Of course, with the advent of the internet, books are no longer the only alternative that we can use to get us through a difficult patch.

I’m going to simply list some online resources (arranged by subject covered) I have used or that I am familiar with as a means of inspiring you to do the same.

Phonics

If you have a non-reader or a weak reader and you want to make sure some progress is happening during this difficult time, in addition to getting older readers to read to this child, you can also use some of these FREE online programs.

ABCya  My older children, (as in their double digits) have complained that this site is not as good as it used to be but my 7 yr old has really made a lot of use of it. It does have ads though – so please keep that in mind.)
PBS Between the Lions The Quiet Machine 
Reading Bear 
All About Reading has a FREE app that can be downloaded onto your phone or your desktop and is a great way for your child to practice phonogram sounds including blends.

There are many more phonics resources out there but those are the few that we have made good use of.

Science

This has to be one of the biggest challenges of homeschooling I have heard mums talk about the entire 25 years I have been teaching my children at home, regardless whether a parent is going through burnout or not. These different online resources can also help the reluctant science student become more enthused about science.

Youtube videos: there is an incredible selection of videos available for a variety of ages. BUT please be wary of allowing children to search alone and be sure to turn off the option of youtube being allowed to play the next video it has chosen for your “viewing pleasure”. Also, familiarize yourself with its restriction mode so that you can keep youtube as safe as possible. 

Youtube will remember your viewing history and make suggestions based on this. Please just be careful because while youtube is a great resource – it also has the potential to be a very negative experience. That being said click here to see a sample of the type of science videos you can find on youtube. 

Bill Nye the Science guy  currently has videos available online through youtube. I believe he may hold some controversial views regarding science, climate warming, and the like, so click through his videos and be sure you are comfortable with his videos before letting him loose within your homeschool.
Crash Course Kids is another science channel filled with interesting videos. We have not worked through them all so again – take care please and be sure that you are happy with the content before putting in the hands of your kids.

Brain Pop – this site’s science section is filled with free activities and videos but requires a fee to be able to avail yourself to all of their resources. Up to now we have just used the free curriculum. If you check them out you will notice that they cover all subjects so their entire site might be an option to cover several subjects in a pinch. 

History and Fine Arts

There are so many documentaries available online. John Adams is currently available on Amazon Prime but you don’t need to belong to a paid subscription to enjoy great documentaries.

We are about to begin watching Origins, a history of Canada, found on youtube and is free. You need to poke around search and you can find a number of interesting videos. I have found a few about Jane Austen and have been enjoying learning about this great author’s life and writing career.

If you belong to Netflix you can watch documents through their streaming subscription or you can subscribe to their DVD rental service. Over the years I have noted that a number of DVDs have become unavailable and no longer subscribe to Netflix for a variety of reasons. Still – they are an option you can explore and there are blogs out there with curriculum outlines based on using Netflix.

You can also find some wonderful ballets either through youtube, or through various subscription services and through these add a little fine arts to your ‘burnout recovery’.

But who says these have to be reserved for burnout mode? Some of these ideas can just get us through a bad cold circulating the family or a week when we have so many dental check-ups scheduled that we despair that nothing besides sitting in waiting rooms will happen this week. They can even be used to supplement your regular curriculum. However you decide to use them, I hope that you have found this post useful. If you have some secrets up your sleeve that have gotten you through a difficult time, I hope that you will share them in the comments below.

Until next time – God Bless!

(PLEASE NOTE – THE VARIOUS LINKS I HAVE PROVIDED MAY OR MAY NOT LINEUP WITH YOUR STYLE OF EDUCATION OR POINT OF VIEW -THIS POST IS INTENDED AS A SPRING BOARD TO HELP MUMS DEALING WITH BURNOUT DISCOVER ALTERNATIVES TO WHAT THEY ARE CURRENTLY USING.)

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