Categories
Homeschool Maurisa Parenting

Are You Considering Homeschooling Next Year?

Planting the Seeds

Twenty-seven years ago I sat on a plane with my very squirmy 5 month old on our way to my hometown to celebrate my brother’s wedding. Blessedly, we sat next to a very understanding middle-aged woman who, unbeknownst to her, changed the entire course of my family’s life.

During the flight, she exposed me to the idea of homeschooling. At the time it was still such a new and radical lifestyle. She described how she and her husband worked opposite shifts—she as a night court judge—so that one of them could always be home with their 5 children and they could educate them at home on their own schedule. Their routine also included an elaborate once a month meal planning, cooking, and freezing schedule. She opened my eyes to the possibilities and beauty of having complete creative control over our children’s education. Being sat next to this remarkable lady had to have been Divine Providence, because it led to one of the best decisions and greatest blessings of my life.

The Current Crisis

Here we are now, in our 4th month of a global crisis—with no real idea of when it may end or what may happen next. I imagine many of our readers have now experienced a type of homeschooling and are possibly looking at needing to continue into the next year or maybe even indefinitely. Many are likely wondering if what they experienced of public education at home is what homeschooling is really like (it is and it isn’t).

Just days ago our family completed its 21st year of homeschooling. We graduated our 5th of 7 children. She was the 3rd graduated completely. We’ve had two graduate from alternative settings. The plan today is to educate our youngest two at home through graduation.

Veteran Homeschooling Advice

If you are forced by circumstances or freely choosing to homeschool next year, this veteran homeschool mom has advice I hope to be of value.

1) Put God first. Pray about this decision and put your trust in God’s Providence. This is a big step and not one to take lightly or as a knee jerk decision out of frustration or fear.

If your family does take this path, start every school day with prayer. This can take so many wonderful forms—a morning offering, attending daily mass, reading through the mass readings for the day, praying a rosary are just a few ideas. Our family prays the Angelus, Acts of Faith, Hope, and Charity, and a morning offering at the start of our day.

Make religion a focal subject of your homeschool. Read from the Bible, Church Fathers, and the Catechism as a family. Take this opportunity to put God back in school.

2) Spend time researching options and learn the laws regulating homeschooling in your state. Every state has it’s own laws regarding homeschooling. You can do an internet search for state regulations or use the information gathered by Homeschool Legal Defense Association.

3) Take the decision to homeschool or not year by year. Honestly, homeschooling is not for every family or every kid. Additionally, if 2020 shows us anything it is life changes very quickly and the choices we make today may not make any sense tomorrow. Finally, you may have access to something that fits your family’s needs better in the future. Kendra Tierney of Catholic All Year wrote an excellent article on how her family has navigated educational choices over the years. Our wonderful foundress, Martina, has also been very open about how her family has made schooling decisions from year to year and wrote about it here.

4) First year jitters can be eased by choosing a complete curriculum. There are a wonderful variety of full Catholic programs to choose from.

Seton Homeschool

Mother of Divine Grace

Kolbe Academy

Our Lady of Victory

St. Thomas Aquinas Academy

Angelicum Academy

Mater Amabilis Academy

Queen of Heaven Academy

Home School Connections
We started out using a pre-packaged program from Our Lady of the Rosary. After a year I found I preferred to pick and choose individual subjects from different curriculum and match them to each student’s individual interests and strengths.

5) Enlist support. You’ll need a cheer squad including your spouse, extended family, and other homeschooling friends. I’m not saying it cannot be done without support, but it definitely makes it easier if you have someone on board to help cheer you on during inevitable rough patches.

6) Do not stubbornly hold on to something that is not working. Every kid is different. Every year is different. The beauty of homeschooling is you can ditch what’s not working and try something else.

7) Embrace throw-away years. This is my own term for years when life throws unexpected wrenches into the works and homeschooling has to take a bit of a back burner. New babies, moves, family illness, pandemics (hahaha) can make sticking to hard core homeschooling extremely difficult. I discovered that if I focused on math and reading basics during a throw-away year our kids did not suffer academically and were able to catch up very easily the next year.

8) Nothing replaces a good plan. Plan out the entire year for each subject. Many curricula come with syllabi which can be very helpful in this regard and can do the planning for you. I use a two level system in which I plan out the entire year for each student and subject and then I write out a weekly plan for each student in their notebook over the weekend so they can see what is expected to be completed each day/week. Adequate planning keeps you on track and contributes to a sense of accomplishment.

9) To the extent that you are able, choose subjects and curricula that complement each child’s interests and strengths. One summer our oldest received a microscope as part of her online science program. Her younger brother was absolutely fascinated with the microscope and spent the summer looking at anything he could fit between the objective lens and the slide. I found a wonderful book on microscope science geared toward elementary school and we used that for his science curriculum that year. He loved it.

10) Enjoy this time with your children. Homeschooling is a lot of work and takes organization, time, and discipline but it can also be fun. If I’m completely honest here, I have not loved every minute of homeschooling, and our children will say the same, but I have absolutely loved the life.

Ten points doesn’t even touch on all you might need to know about homeschooling, but these are the things I feel to be the most important.

Are you an experienced homeschool parent? What would you add to this list? We’d love to see your ideas in the combox.

Categories
Allen Ink Slingers Perspective from the Head

What God has Joined Let No One Divide

scan3-77Your Family was started on the day you got married, and after you took your vows.
 The presider may have uttered words similar to the ones above.  It not only applies to you and your spouse, but also to your entire family.  The world many times seeks to separate what God has joined together.  

Living the Life

As our kids were growing up, we got involved in Church, sports and social club activities.  It got to a point that we were busy every night of the week.  I was a member of the church choir, my wife and I were deeply involved in building a Catholic School, three of our children were playing soccer and I was coaching them, and our daughters were members of a Catholic Girl’s club.  In addition to these church and family related items, I worked full time with a bit of travel and even took lessons to become a private pilot.  When a new opportunity for spiritual growth or volunteering came our way, our method of deciding whether or not to say yes was to take a look at our calendar and see if there was any spare time.  If there was, we said yes until every moment of our life was filled with activities.  IMG_2709
Each of the activities we were involved in were good, it was the sheer number of activities that was bad for us.  Looking back on that time in our lives, I don’t think we realized that this constant busyness was unhealthy for our family.  We were just living a full life, volunteering for every worthwhile cause and making sure that each of our children was able have all the fun a child should have.  We were on the road to burn out and to losing touch with our young family.
Then I took a new job and one of the highly suggested activities at my new company was to spend a couple of weeks at our corporate offices helping out in the technical support call center.  It was a great way for a new Systems Engineer to quickly learn the technical aspects of the products while helping out our short-staffed support team.  My wife and I discussed this extended business trip and we decided to buy an RV and make a family trip out of it.  When the planning was completed, I had arranged a trip to California and back that lasted just under a month with stops at customer sites, national and state parks, theme parks and visiting friends and family along the way.  I don’t know that I fully realized the immediate profound effect this trip would have on our family, nor the way it would shape our family life and rhythm for the rest of our lives.

RVLife Lessons from Living in an RV

When preparing to leave for this trip, we had to squeeze 10 people, all our clothing, bicycles, and any personal items we needed for a month into a 31 foot Class C RV with no slide outs and limited storage.  This was a serious exercise in detachment, not only from possessions, but from our normal routines.  I still did my work on the road, but pretty much everything else in our normal routine changed.  We didn’t have any sports, school, social or church activities, we left all that behind when we pulled out of the drive on our way to California, we only had each other.
Our commitments at home weren’t missed, we didn’t long for our things, we had a great time and really grew closer together as a family over the course of our trip.  We ate all our meals together, we visited shrines along the way, attended Sunday mass and an occasional daily mass together, met with friends in different cities, and we explored the beauty of God’s creation.  In summary, we retreated from the world, prayed together, played together and formed closer bonds with each other and with the Lord.  We emerged from our month long adventure a changed family with a renewed focus on what was most important in our lives.  

The Family Mission

God taught us that one of his greatest gifts to us is our family.  Each of our children brings something unique to our family, something we didn’t have before and something that makes our family unit better.  We learned that we really like our kids and they like us too. Our kids didn’t need to be kept busy with tons of activities, they were just as happy, maybe even more so, to simply be with us.  GrandCanyon
Unhealthy patterns had crept into our family, this RV trip was a good exercise which allowed us to take a step back and evaluate our lives and our family routine.  We began to regularly spend time in prayer as a couple and as a family, asking God what our family’s mission should be and where we should be spending our time and energy.  At times this exercise has resulted in minor adjustments, and sometimes  major life changes to our family routine to ensure that we meet our primary goal of leading our family to heaven.
Every family needs to retreat from the world on a regular basis, this can take the form of a family vacation, a family retreat, or just making Sunday family days.  But if you don’t plan for them, they probably won’t happen.  Your family is a great gift from God, be sure to nurture and care for it.  
Categories
Domestic Church Fatherhood Homeschool Ink Slingers It Worked For Me Marriage Matrimony Motherhood Parenting Prayer

A Call to Order: Strategies for a Fruitful Fall

I can count the number of pool days left on one hand. Already, I notice the dimming light of endless days of summer. If you are sending your kids to school, your calendar is filling up with open houses and orientations and your days are teeming with school supply shopping. Homeschooling families are opening boxes full of treasures, aka this year’s books, and unveiling a tidy, fully stocked classroom. There is so much to look forward to and, yet, so much to stress about. I’m hoping to avoid the anxiety and I have chosen four strategies:
1) Serious meal planning
2) Gathering the family for prayer
3) Walking for health and well being
4) Weekly family meetings

This meeting is called to order with prayer.

Today, I am going to talk about our experience with family meetings and how it ties together all strategies. We have a large family with kids who are all unique, passionate, and energetic people. I know some day, I will appreciate this. Right now, it feels like we are being pulled in all directions and that is a recipe for conflict and stagnation. Last year, we were contemplating a big change in our family life. We were overwhelmed at the prospect of the logistics. We did a lot of fretting and our tempers were short. Then, my husband decided that we needed to gather the family and conduct a formal meeting. This is something he does every day at work. I’ve been to my share of meetings and I’ve had to run more than a few myself. So, this was right in our wheelhouse.

The young kids were amused. The older kids were certain this was going to mean more work for them. And, while we had experience running meetings with other adults, we had not run a strategic meeting with distracted and defiant children. After a few disappointing attempts to implement the meetings, we took a break. Life got busy again. Then, the kids started asking, “When are we going to have a meeting?”

So, we decided that we were on to something and went back to the drawing board. We just needed to tweak it a bit. Our tweaks included: creating an agenda and providing a copy for each member of the family, setting ground rules, and providing art materials. Here is what we discovered to be the great value of weekly family meetings:

1) Open communication: The number one relationship problem is poor communication. This is true in friendships, marriages, and families. Families go through so many changes and this can be anxiety provoking for children. So, the number one goal of our family meetings was to make sure that we clearly communicated any upcoming changes and how it may affect each child and the family. Kids are not too young to understand financial struggles, challenges at work, health problems, and other “adult” concerns. It is important to be honest with your children without scaring them. So consider their age and developmental level when presenting information. For example, the economy has hurt so many families in recent years. Our family has been affected. This means we can’t spend freely, we need to save, budget,and avoid debt. Kids can play an important part. We tell our kids that they can help by turning off lights when they are not in use, not do the “gimme gimme” or say “that’s not fair” when mom and dad say “no,” and help with meal planning to avoid the need to dine out last minute. They are very creative and, if given the task, can come up with some creative ways to save. This open communication about finances decreases anxiety and teaches them good financial practices. As Catholics, we also want to teach our kids the dangers of unbridled consumerism. In that way, our financial struggles are a gift. Communicating this view empowers kids to take action and not feel like victims.

2) Goal Setting and Review: Here, we set personal and family goals. By writing goals and sharing them with each other, we are more likely to achieve them. Again, consider the age and ability of each child and help them to set measurable and achievable goals. Encourage creativity and personal challenge. These goals can be spiritual, academic, physical, or social. We encourage them to tell us how we can help them achieve their goal. This is a time when we can plan family trips or family goals. We also review achieved goals and this motivates them to set more goals.

3) Building strong relationships: Kids present us with so many opportunities to correct them. They are impulsive, forgetful, and messy. And, on busy school days, it seems the only interactions we have are, “Have you finished your homework?!” “Clean your room!” “How many times do I have to tell you not to swing from the curtains!?” Okay, that hasn’t happened in awhile but you get the picture. We try to gather each night for dinner. But, with tennis practice, wrestling, and gymnastics in a large family of growing kids with social lives of their own, the opportunity for a peaceful gathering is rare. Our weekly family meeting helps to reset any frustrations that have built up during the week. We can also strategize what went well and what we need to improve. Prayer is an integral part of the meetings. We begin and end with prayer and we make sure each family member has a chance to share a special intention.

4) Strong marriage: My husband and I have started daily walks outdoors. This is our time away from the kids each day. We plan our week and check in with each other. It has become the time to plan our family meetings and our time to simply be together. And, it is on these walks that I was able to identify the four areas that I think will help us have a fantastic fall.

At the end of September, we are making a pilgrimage to Philadelphia to attend Mass with Pope Francis. That’s our first order of business for the next meeting. We are excited and we will share our adventure when we return.

Categories
Domestic Church Erika D Fatherhood Homeschool Ink Slingers Motherhood Parenting Raising Saints Resources Your Handy-Dandy List

Creating a Monastery in Your {Catholic} Homeschool in 10 Steps

When I was in college, I prayed and discerned a vocation to become a sister or a nun.  I was enthralled by the Carmelite Sisters of the Sacred Heart; of which I had had the honor of

I wanted to be just like Saint Therese but God was calling me to be more like Blessed Zelie, her mother.
I wanted to be just like Saint Therese but God was calling me to be more like Blessed Zelie, her mother.

working with and for at a Catholic School in Florida.  Fortunately for me, I was assigned to work with Sister Maria Kolbe whom not only directed me and taught me her ways as a model teacher but, more importantly, she showed me the joy in following Our Lord Jesus in all we do.  I wanted that joy she had SO BAD!  But after years of praying, God told me He had other plans for me.  Years later, I married a man whom also discerned at vocation to the priesthood (to the Fraternity of Saint Peter), we met, fell in love, got married and five children and ten years later, here I am homeschooling.  I could not help but wonder what life would have been IF God had called me to become a Carmelite…you know, after all, the grass is always greener on the other side.

Since coming home to home educate our five precious blessings, I have struggled with many things and one of those was surrendering to THIS life, the life God had called me to.  Always looking to feed the ego, I wanted to be either an amazing teacher (to other people’s children, because society thinks it is more prestigious than teaching my own) OR become a sister in full habit, like the Carmelites. But nooooooo….God had other plans and I was being rebellious and fighting Him about it.  Now, I am not an expert at this at all, *even with* my teaching degree…homeschooling?  staying home all the time?  was He really serious???  So the whys and the tantrums that were going on in my head constantly were arguing with the shush I was yearning for in my heart.  UNTIL that is, last Friday when I went to Confession.  My Spiritual Director heard these words come out of my mouth, “I still struggle with being distracted, I yearn for the outside world, I miss my family, I want adult contact and I am so jealous of my husband who gets all of this!!!  It is not fair!”  Yes, my dear sisters, I was having a full blown toddler tantrum in the Confessional!  Dear Father P was so sweet, he stopped me with his gentle fatherly manner and said, “Dear child, the Lord has gifted you with your own mini monastery at home with your children.  He has entrusted you with five beautiful souls to form!  He has taken you OUT of the world and asked you to look inside of yourself and to create a monastic life for your children.  The spiritual life that will be ingrained in your children and will with them Heaven.  After all, is not that what you want for them?”  AND so it hit me, what I always wanted, to have a contemplative life like the Carmelites had been sitting in my lap all this time and I was fighting it!  Dummy!  {got hit by a 2×4 once again!} I wanted to be just like Saint Therese but God was calling me to be more like Blessed Zelie, her mother!

In the prologue of The Rule of Saint Benedict, the great saint states something that drew me even more towards craving this kind of life for my family, he said:

"The good of all concerned, however, may prompt us to a little strictness in order to amend faults and to safeguard love." ~ Saint Benedict
“The good of all concerned, however, may prompt us to a little strictness in order to amend faults and to safeguard love.” ~ Saint Benedict

Listen carefully, my child, to my instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from one who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice. Let us open our eyes to the light that comes from God, and our ears to the voice from the heavens that every day calls out this charge: “If you hear God’s voice today, do not harden your hearts (Psalm 95:8).”

Therefore we intend to establish a school for God’s service. In drawing up its regulations, we hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome. The good of all concerned, however, may prompt us to a little strictness in order to amend faults and to safeguard love. … But as we progress in this way of live and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love.

So in my quest for an authentic Catholic life for my children, I have come up with a rule of sort for mothers, on how to create a monastery in my Catholic Homeschool.  Since I need to keep it simple or I will set myself up to fail (my temperament), here they are in 10 steps. They are somewhat based on the Rule of Saint Benedict whom believed, also, in keeping it simple.

1.  Surrender to motherhood. This is the life God has called you to, embrace it with all your might!  This is YOUR duty, task, and job, that God has called you to, do it and do it well!

2. Keep outside distractions to a minimum. Turn social media OFF during the hours the children are awake, if possible, or at the very least once everyone is done with school and chores and has earn (YES earned) free time. Keep phone calls to a minimum.  Any electronic device that might distract anyone in the family should also be kept at bay.

3. Pray with your children and as a Family throughout the day.

Pray and learn about Catholicism as a family!  Pray the Rosary daily, your Blessed Mother's orders!
Pray and learn about Catholicism as a family! Pray the Rosary daily, your Blessed Mother’s orders!

Pray the Rosary EVERY DAY.  Say morning prayers, prayers before meals, prayers before bedtime. Make sure they see you praying to help them develop a relationship with God. Pray the Morning and Evening Office.  The family that prays together, stays together! Saint Benedict states that prayer was marked by regularity and fidelity, not mood or convenience. In Benedict’s supremely realistic way, the spiritual life was something to be worked at, not merely hoped for.

4. Learn about God and His Roman Catholic Church daily. Not just in Religion class but incorporate Catholicism in your History lessons, in your Reading lessons as well.  Our Faith is so vast and rich in so many areas, there is an inexhaustible amount of books and things to learn always.

5. Keep a balance in work and prayer.  But work is very important. Children need to work for the sake of the family and your sanity.  Chores are super important in developing character and virtues in the home.  Rotate chores so that everyone learns how to do them all so that when a brother or sister is ill and unable to fulfill their job, other children can jump in and help them.  I have even used this to discipline my children when they have been uncharitable towards a sibling and they had to complete the chores of the child who was hurt.  🙂  Manual labor is good for the soul and the child. Saint Benedict stressed the importance of work as the great equalizer. Everyone from the youngest to the oldest, should be engage in manual labor.

6. Silence is golden. Not just at the movies. Children need to experience some silence throughout the day.  Have an hour or so of quiet time.  Play chant or classical music, have the children sit in different parts of the room where you can see them.  They can sit quietly listening to the music, or no music at all.  Or they can bring a book on the life of a saint to read in their little corner of the room.  Even non-readers can do picture walks and just look through the images of books.

7.  Sleep is important. Children and parents need to sleep, the body needs to rest.  Children, depending on their age, need a certain number of hours of sleep per day.  Establish a solid routine, bedtime should be by a certain time, do it slow not rushed.  Keep bedtime routines and chores quick, simple, and organized.

8.  Meals are important. You are what you eat!  Keep meals on a schedule, breakfast, lunch and dinner should happen at about the same time each day.  Meal planning is helpful in being successful in this, if you can sit down, make a list of your family’s favorite meals and plan at least one week at a time.  Vary meals and introduce new foods so that your children acquire a palate for new tastes and start early.  Even if they only try something once, then wait a while and reintroduce it again.  Also, keep the amount of food your children eat to a minimum, not to overload the stomach and to teach your children moderation.  Snacking should be kept at a minimum and only healthy ones, keep junk food OUT of your house. Eat as a family. Creating a Monastery in Your Catholic Homeschhol

9. Discipline is key. Make sure that your husband and you are on the same page on discipline.  As the head of the house and a man, fathers are much more stern about things and this is okay.  Their role in the home is to lead and guide and discipline.  Mothers should complement these rules fathers have set and follow through with them.  Make sure that children have a clear understanding that disobeying and obeying a mother, means the same as a father and the same as God.  God has given parents the power over their children, so long as parents understand this and discipline like God does, sternly but lovingly.  Be fair and just.  Also, keep yourself disciplined and keep your home simple and organized.  As having order is important in the interior life.

10. Teach your children to have a servant’s heart. Service projects as a family are great but having a servant’s heart is much more than big projects.  Serving others, as Jesus Christ has called us to do, happens in the little everyday things we do.  How we treat our own at home, those we encounter everyday at the grocery store, and what we say or do for others.  Be an example of this for your children, this is how they learn best.  Volunteer at Church do teach CCD, or clean the basement after an event, but get the children involved as well.  Have them train to serve or sing in the Schola/Choir, or help in any way needed.

In the Baltimore Catechism we learn that we must Learn about God, to Love God and then to Serve God.  That is the basic rule in our home in building a monastery in our everyday lives.  We are a work in progress but it is my hope that this little list helps guide you as well as it is helping me in living a happy and holy Catholic life! After all if the only “monastery” we create is our children, let’s personally teach them to love Christ and His Church. If we do, the faith in our families will be a living water, another Holy well to last throughout generations.

Categories
Domestic Church Motherhood Parenting Prayer Rachel M Rosary

Rosary Walk

As a mommy in charge of 5 little souls, I often worry that we do not pray enough together. We  forget to pray before meals when there’s five demanding children at the table, we miss bedtime prayers when there are over-tired kiddos, the Divine Mercy Chaplet gets cut short by the trifecta diaper change. Life happens, and as much as I greatly desire to instill habits of prayer and make sure my children receive God’s graces, I mess up. My body is weak. But, I take heart in knowing that I’m in good company even with all my human flaws, as even Saint Paul himself struggled with this very dilemma.

“So, then, I discover the principle that when I want to do right, evil is at hand. For I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self, but I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Therefore, I myself, with my mind, serve the law of God but, with my flesh, the law of sin.” (Romans 7:21-25)

The days are getting cooler here, so when we were blessed with a temperate day recently, I decided to take the kiddos for a walk after lunch. While this sounds like an easy task, I will tell you it is in fact one of my more daunting mommy duties. Get everybody in socks, shoes, and coats. Put the baby in the baby carrier, buckle two toddlers in the wagon, get one preschooler in a bike helmet and safely on a bike, while the other rides the push car. Make sure everyone gets safely down our severely sloped driveway and then keep them alive and out of the street until we get home. Let’s just say we don’t go on walks without Daddy often.

Anyway, as I was saying, it’s a little stressful. But, I had committed to this walk and I wanted it to be calm and peaceful. So, both in an effort to keep myself in the right mindset and as a teachable moment for my children, we made our walk a “Rosary Walk”.

Our big little family rode through the neighborhood, saying the rosary as we went. Four little voices rang out through our empty streets praising God, and I tell you it’s the sweetest sound. We decided to choose a different person to offer our prayers for for each decade, and as we walked, the children took turns deciding who that would be. We finished the last prayer as we turned the corner of our block. It was perfect. How had I never thought of this before? Praying outside with my five precious children, on a beautiful God-given day, it’s a memory I will always treasure.

These perfect moments keep me going. I fail daily at being the perfect mom, and I know that I can always be doing more to help my children get to Heaven, but the moments when I get it right give me the strength and courage to keep on going.

What I realized is that this idea can be applied to so many of our every day tasks. Say a Hail Mary while you get coats on, a Glory Be while your child brushes his teeth, a litany on the drive to school. It’s such a great way to teach your children to pray always.

I think we may make the Rosary Walks a new family tradition, but maybe next time, Daddy will come too.