Categories
Bible Discipleship Ink Slingers Maurisa Prayer Reading Spiritual Growth

Battling Acedia

Battling Acedia

Anxiety, depression, listlessness, sloth, apathy—those are just a few of the emotions I’ve experienced the last year. Let’s face it, 2020 was rough and the pessimist in me is feeling 2021 doesn’t look much better. Sitting and stewing in negative emotions is not where we should be and certainly will not change the world around us. What is a faithful Catholic to do? If you have heard of Saint Benedict’s motto: Ora et Labora (pray and work), what I propose below will seem fairly familiar and may assist in overcoming the malaise of 2020.

It is proved by experience that a fit of acedia should not be evaded by running away from it, but overcome by resisting it.

Saint John Cassian

Physical Health

The “Covid-19” weight gain may be something we all joke about, but I have been truly guilty of neglecting my health the last several months. One way for us to combat lethargy and malaise is to take care of our physical health. I’m not proposing we all go on strict diets and start exercising like maniacs, but I am encouraging us all to take a look at how we are neglecting our health by eating poorly and by not moving our bodies in some way. It is a medical fact that physical health is very closely linked to mental health. For a good start, try cutting sugar, alcohol, and processed foods out of your diet and make sure you’re eating nutritiously dense foods including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Make sure you are staying adequately hydrated (think 8 glasses of water each day).

Very few of us are employed in manual labor as Saint Benedict’s monks would have been in his day, but physical activity is an integral part of physical health. Move your body. Start slow and easy if you’ve been neglecting regular exercise. I count a good house cleaning or weeding in the garden as being physically active. Grab a friend, a child, or your spouse and go for a walk. Getting your activity out of doors is a huge plus as adequate “sunny” vitamin D is also linked to improved mood.

Idleness is the enemy of the soul; and therefore the brethren ought to be employed in manual labor at certain times, at others, in devout reading.

Saint Benedict of Nursia

Intellectual Health

Mindlessly scrolling through social media, bingeing on Netflix, anxiously watching or reading alarming news accounts can all be huge contributors to general torpor. Set time limits for yourself or avoid these activities altogether and instead focus on something that will improve your mind. In his holy rule, Saint Benedict encouraged his monks to read selections from the Holy Fathers to grow in virtue and knowledge. Read a great book, play games with your family, work on brain teasers or puzzles, learn a new skill; anything that takes you out of yourself and causes you to engage your brain in a more challenging activity. Cultivating an intellectual life will be time well spent leading to much less time scrolling mindlessly through social media.

Spiritual Health

Acedia is primarily an issue of the spirit. Squandered time and can rob us of hope and joy. This is where the battle is most importantly focused. If you’ve been struggling or have given in to listlessness take it to confession as soon as possible. Repenting of the sin of sloth is probably the most important step in overcoming acedia. Next, you must take active steps to combat this sin in your spiritual life.

Pray for guidance and help from the Holy Spirit. Start spending more time in deliberate silence, prayer, and spiritual reading. Set a goal of devoting an hour a day in prayer and/or spiritual reading. Divide that time into reasonable parts throughout the day. Try to cover the ACTS of prayer: adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, and supplication. Read from the Bible everyday. The readings from daily Mass are a great place to start. Read encouraging and good spiritual works that will help you grow in holiness. 

Anxiety is the greatest evil that can befall a soul except sin.  God commands you to pray, but He forbids you to worry.

Saint Francis de Sales

Three Hours

We are given the gift of 24 hours each day. What are we spending those hours on? Obviously, adequate sleep is important, but are we making the most out our waking hours? It may seem pretty difficult to devote an hour a day to each of the three: physical labor, education, and spiritual works. We are a busy people but it is not completely impossible. Start with a shorter length of time for each or combine two. You might listen to a podcast or pray while you exercise or clean the house, for example. The world seems to be in a real downward spiral. If we do not pull ourselves out, how can we ever hope to change it for the better? Called to evangelize the world, it is time to cast aside our inactivity, pull up our sleeves and get to work. Who’s with me?

Resources:

How Mental Health and Physical Health are Linked

How Fit Are You?

The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had

Daily Bible Reading with the Church (takes you through the entire Bible in 2 years)

USCCB Daily Readings

Divine Intimacy

The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Imitation of Christ

Sayings of the Desert Fathers

An Introduction to the Devout Life

The Noonday Devil: Acedia, the Unnamed Evil of Our Times (ebook)

Categories
Allison Faith Formation Homeschool Ink Slingers Motherhood Parenting Raising Saints

13 Years of {Catholic} Homeschooling ~ 13 Simply Great Ideas

Thirteen Years of {Catholic} Homeschooling ~ Thirteen Simply Great Ideas

My firstborn graduated from a high school course of study accepted by the state of Alaska and is now attending college (paid for by the state because of good test numbers!).  Thirteen years of homeschooling now and I feel properly disposed to present some great ideas.  In no particular order they are:

1One hour a day “alone with your thoughts.”  Not a nap.  Never call it a nap.  This sounds a little fruity, I know, but the real reason is for me to get reacquainted with my thoughts, changing this . . .

into this . . .

2. Family newspaper.  Two or three times a year, we hunker down and assign articles to every child for the Howelling Herald, printed on that longer-sized paper.  We do recurring features such as Outdoor Odysseys (excursions around), Family Accomplishments  (from black belts to potty training), History page (reprinted assigned paragraphs), and Classifieds (from lost cufflinks to cheap plastic crap for sale).  Smaller people just color stuff, which I scan and add right in, along with witty commentary.

3. Cheap ziplocs, tape, bandaids, and paper clips as toys.  Dump onto the floor and watch them get all MacGyver on you.  Amazing creations.

4. A time line made of 3×5 cards stuck to the top of the wall where a wallpaper border would be.  Helps to consecutively organize discombobulated reading selections and also helps to place into perspective things like an 8 year old’s obsessesion with ancient Greece and an 11 year old’s love of Scottish fairy tales.  I point to the section of the wall where it fits; they draw another 3×5 card with a minotaur or a fairy ring ~ bingo!  School.

5. Lots of reading and lots of legos makes an excellent curriculum.  Corresponds nicely with:

6. Pair up older children with a younger sibling for a half hour blessing (I call it a spiritual word because it guilts the big kids.).  This means that young teens can play forts and legos without embarrassment and little kids get to hang out with cool teens.

7. If there are male children, you can create an entire curriculum around battles. Choose 6-ish important battles to read about.  Read all about the country/ies and the reasons (social studies).  Recognize and dig into a relatable science topic.  Then write about it, play-act it, draw pictures of it (language arts).  An easy example is Gettysburg.  It’s fun to recreate the battlefield in your yard or living room with small soldiers.  There are strategy books for older kids and picture story books for younger kids.  Watch it , if they are old enough.  Science is battlefield medicine, which is pretty gruesome, which means they’ll love it.  Actually, my daughter did, too.

8. An IV in a kid’s arm that needs to be flushed and run through with antibiotics is great science.  If you don’t have someone with cystic fibrosis in your family, sorry.

9. Pet care = science.  But only if you make the children do the care and then draw pictures of things like the creepy rash on the dog’s belly.  Extra points if they mix up tea tree oil and warm water and bathe it.  If you make them write about it all, you’ve got language arts; if you make them do graphs of information like weight and amount of food and exercise, you’ve got math.

10. Boxed curricula works just fine and may be exactly right for whatever season you’re in.  So does unschooling.  

 

11. Elizabeth Foss’ book Enough said.

13 Reasons to Homeschool

12.  My shelf.  The red basket squares hold, from left to right, science equipment, math manipulatives, and art supplies, with books on the bottom corresponding orderly.  I love my shelf.

And my 13th great idea ~

13.  We stuck with it.  With all the stress and wondering and trouble and comparisons, we did it; for there is also fun and learning and companionship and education.

What ideas have worked in your homeschool? What would you add to this list?

Check out our Homeschool, Homeschool Curriculums, and Homeschool Resources boards on Pinterest, too!

Categories
Charla

On being a Catholic school teacher

classI have been in Catholic education since 1996– actually since 1977, when I started first grade at St. Mary’s Catholic School and continued to graduate from high school and then back again in graduate school. I taught elementary school one year – first grade: I can teach anything to anyone now, middle school for one year– sixth through eighth: I shaved years off Purgatory, and the remainder of my time has been spent teaching high school. I definitely found my fit and I feel blessed with the students with whom I have been entrusted.  The highlight of my job is my students, and I love teaching literature, so I feel I have been even further blessed. There are great things about teaching on a Catholic school and these far outweigh the difficulties.

The best things about my job are:

  • I get to express my Faith openly. I pray with my students and going to work involves Mass and Adoration. What could be better?
  • My students are well-mannered, mostly, and kind and really want to learn. They have been raised with values, mostly, and I get to not only teach them, but I get to love them too.

However, there are many trials that we Catholic school teachers face, and I think it is important for others to understand these challenges:

PARENTS

  • I am one, so I fully understand the position. Parents are generally cooperative and supportive, but there are those few that make it difficult. The hyper-vigilant, helicopter parent is always going to exist and as long as you have their child’s best interests at heart, those parents will support you. The “more Catholic than the Pope” parents pose a challenge.  I teach everything from a faithful Catholic perspective, even the questionable stuff; I find it my duty to help my students navigate the waters of life and anything they might encounter along the way armed with morality. These teens are not sheltered and they need to know how to deal with the harsh amorality of the world using their Faith.
  • A frustration also lies in the parents who do not reinforce the Catholic Faith we are teaching.  They do not facilitate or encourage their children to go to Mass on Sundays, nor do they attend Mass regularly themselves.  We are expected to fully catechize these students with no support at home.  There are those parents who outright defy what we are trying to get across to the students.  I had a graduate tell me her mom said, “Well, I don’t really believe all that stuff.  It was a good education for you and a nice environment.” This discussion was all in the context of her mother encouraging her to abort her unborn child at the age of nineteen, which sadly she did. There are also those parents who profess Evangelicalism and do not take their kids to Mass, but rather they attend “praise and worship services” where they hear rock bands and play at the skate park at their church instead of receiving the Sacraments.  These are difficult pills to swallow for someone who is trying her very best to convey the Truth to those in her care.

SOCIETY

  • These students nowadays so belong to the world instead of to God. Issues such as same sex relationships, premarital sex, and divorce, among others, affect these students who are innately loving and accepting of people. Society has convinced them that in order to love people, they must accept their sinful behavior. If they do not condone or encourage “happiness” for others they feel badly.  It is a difficult thing to comprehend the Spiritual Works of Mercy.  The tangible, concrete Corporal Works make sense to them and they perform these willingly with a joyful heart.  The Spiritual are most perplexing because they involve taking a moral stand that they do not have the courage to do, up against a society that tells them not to be “haters.” As well, these kids have people in their lives, whom they love, whose lives or behavior do not reflect Catholic moral teaching.  This makes it extra difficult and they are internally conflicted.

The other challenges inherent of the teaching profession fade in comparison to the benefits of being a teacher at a school that encourages community and service and goodness.  I truly feel God is at the center of everything I do.  It is also a great responsibility.  I must strive to be extra moral and maintain a virtuous lifestyle.  Eyes are always watching and taking in my example.

csI love Catholic education; that is why I have devoted my life to this vocation.  I truly believe God has called me to strive to be not “of this world, but in this world” in this way. I am afforded an opportunity to strive for holiness every day.

Categories
Homeschool Ink Slingers Mary P.

Back-to-School Reflections From a Homeschooling Mom

The school year began in the local public schools last week. As I watched the bus drive down the street and saw all the back-to-school photos that my friends put up on Facebook, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad. My kids are homeschooled. There is no big yellow school bus for us. There’s nothing extremely ceremonious about our first day back to more formal learning (though we do take a “first day of school” picture). Sometimes, I worry that my kids are missing out… like maybe I’m depriving them of something important by keeping them home. I get this feeling not just in late August when the buses start coming around again, but at various times throughout the year. I often ask my husband, “Are we doing the right thing?”

Reading bookAt those times, God tends to remind me of the reasons why we made this decision, and confirms for me that it’s definitely the right one for us. But in reality, my kids are missing out on some things. We are not duplicating the school experience at home. Downstairs in our little basement schoolroom, I can’t give them everything they would experience in a regular classroom setting. I have to accept that. But on the flip side, I don’t want to duplicate the school experience. Homeschooling is not meant to be “school at home” (unless you want it to be – but even then it can only be a vague imitation, not an exact replica, of traditional school). There are many facets of school that I’m glad my children are “missing out on.” And the kids who are getting on that school bus every day are missing out, too. They are just missing out on different things. Their teachers can’t give them everything they would experience in a homeschool setting.  

Like many choices in life, choosing a type of education is a trade-off. There certainly are benefits to homeschooling. But there are also benefits to the typical school model. And there are drawbacks to both.  Anyone who says otherwise is not being honest. Just because there are benefits to the choice we did not make, does not mean that the choice we did make was wrong. Just because someone else weighs the benefits and drawbacks differently than we do, and decides to make the opposite choice, does not mean their choice is wrong either.  

What it comes down to for me, ultimately, is not just a cold cost-benefit analysis, but a process of discernment – seeking God’s will for my family. God has called us to homeschool (at least for now, and I suspect we’re in it for the long haul). None of the benefits of a given option mean anything when stacked up against God’s calling. And, while this may come as a shock to some homeschoolers, God does not call all parents to homeschool (just like he doesn’t call all Catholic parents to send their kids to Catholic schools, as some anti-homeschooling Catholics say).  There was a new family in my homeschooling community last year who decided to send their children back to “regular” school this year. The mother told me that she felt that God had closed doors for her to homeschool her children, while opening them for her to send her children to one of the public charter schools in the area. God often speaks to us in the details of our circumstances, and I believe this mother when she says that this was God’s hand and God’s will for her family. Who am I to think otherwise?

I used to be a lot more– what’s the right word? —arrogant about the fact that I was homeschooling. I said that I would NEVER send my children to public school. Part of that was just defensiveness. People who have no real experience with homeschooling tend to be pretty negative about it, so I felt like I always had to appear uber-confident about my decision to homeschool. I wanted everyone to know that my kids were going to thrive through home education, and there was nothing a2011123225holy_family_4_insidebout traditional school that would be missed by us.

At some point, I realized two things: 1) that attitude likely was hurtful to my friends and family who send their children to school, and 2) just because I’m proud to homeschool and think it’s the best choice for my family doesn’t mean that I have to pretend as if sending them to school would spell unmitigated disaster and misery. Overall, I enjoyed going to school when I was growing up. It’s okay for me to admit that to myself, and to acknowledge that traditional school provided some positive experiences that my kids won’t have being homeschooled.  And, if your kids go to school, it’s okay to admit that homeschooled children might have some positive experiences that your children won’t have.   

We named our homeschool Holy Family Academy. My husband and I are Mary and Joseph, and we have a priest friend who refers to us as “the Holy Family.” The name just seemed to fit for our school. I pray that we can imitate our namesake in their humility and obedience to God’s will. As long as that is my goal and my prayer, I can have confidence that I will not deprive my children of anything of real importance, no matter where and how they are educated.

 

Categories
Amy M. Domestic Church Faith Formation Ink Slingers Parenting Vocations

Our Catholic School Family

As Catholic Schools Week approaches in our diocese, I find myself reflecting on how we ended up choosing Catholic school for our children.

jack

Catholic school was not really on our radar when we started our family. My husband and I both grew up going to large public schools and did “fine.” When we bought our house, we made sure we were in a good school district and fully intended to send our children there eventually. Then the time came to send our oldest to kindergarten. Full of energy and with a love of story hours, our teacher and librarian parents strongly encouraged us to consider sending him to our parish school as it had full-day kindergarten. Great reason to pick a school, right? We knew we liked our parish, so we decided to try the school. We enrolled our son in kindergarten and our oldest daughter in the nursery school. Soon it was time for the first day of school. We barely knew anyone at the school, save for the few families we had met through church functions and common time spent in the crying room during mass (we had three children with one on the way at the time).

 

Grace

One of the first experiences that solidified our decision being the right one for our family was the first day of nursery school for our daughter. She was only three and cried when we got to school. Her teacher reached out and took her from me and carried her into the school. I took a deep breath and walked out of the school. I didn’t cry until I got to the van. When I picked them both up from school that afternoon, they asked me to pull forward to cone “0” for my daughter. Uh-oh, I thought. But no, her teacher met me at the van, carrying her. She had fallen asleep while waiting in the car line. I took her back from her teacher and buckled her into her car seat. She woke up and exclaimed, “Mommy, I LOVE school!” From that point forward, she jumped out of the car eager to learn and was sad on days she didn’t have school.

 

 

We quickly found that St. Mary’s, both church and school, was a second family to us. Through the years, the reasons have multiplied. Being in a Catholic school, the children attend from nursery school until eighth grade. The older ones look out for the younger children.

high five picbanner

The eighth graders walk the kindergartners to their classroom each day. The older grades “buddy up” with the younger grades; the classes interspersed at school mass. Oh, and school mass. The songs fill the air. The homilies bring out responses in the students. My first-grader comes home telling me who wrote that day’s gospel and what the lectionary is. They often talk about the saint of the day. Their conversations at home build on what they’ve learned at school and vice versa.

Our eighth graders have been playing basketball together for four years now. They have had enough players to have two teams of ten boys. The teams have been approximately the same for all four years. As the years have gone by, the boys have gelled as teams do. Watching them grow and become young men. They have been blessed to have coaches who care about helping them develop life skills as young men in addition to their basketball skills.

20150103_141348

Today we had three basketball games. At the first game, my first-grader was helping me video my fourth-grader. I suggested that she could help with her brother’s game next. She informed me that she had people to see when she was at school. The cheerleaders are very accepting of her and our preschooler and let them cheer along with them.

teampic

The basketball tournament started this weekend for our boys. The two teams played back-to-back with many of the boys and their families staying for both games. Classmates and fellow students also came to cheer everyone. The whole gym cheered as each of our ten players scored in today’s game. The comradery is unmatched by anything I’ve ever experienced. I know that these boys have each other’s backs regardless of social status or level of coolness.

With an almost two-year old, I spend much of my time chasing my  toddler up and down the bleachers and out into the hallway. Out in the hallway, some of the students were talking. They all stopped to play with my toddler, who ate up the attention. One of the players from the other team saw me coming in and out of the gym, trying to catch a glimpse of the game but make sure the toddler was safe. He told me not to worry, he would watch my toddler so that I could see more of the game. As he said this, the four other students made the same offer. These kids could have easily been bothered by this little brother running around where they were talking. Instead, they were quick to offer to help.

When someone is sick or hurt or in need, the whole school quickly steps up to help in whatever way is needed, praying, bringing meals, offering rides, anything. It is just one way we can open our arms to serve others, bringing God’s Grace to everyone around us. The faith-based education allows our children to pray in school, go to church and participate in the sacraments with their peers.

When we started out, we were looking for a sound academic foundation for our son in full-day kindergarten. We have not been disappointed with that. Our son is currently taking classes two years ahead of his grade level, an opportunity that may not have been available to him in a different school. What we have found in addition is that our children are also receiving a strong expansion of their understanding of our beautiful faith through the integration of faith into each of their subjects. We teach and try to model the faith at home and love that these ideals are being fortified through their learning at school.

Faith, Academics, Life Lessons, and Compassion are the reason Catholic school education has remained the best decision our family has made.