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Domestic Church Homeschool Ink Slingers Martina

Homeschool Moms Share the Best Advice They Ever Received

HomeschoolMoms

If you are discerning homeschooling, this post is for you! On Facebook, there is a crazy big homeschooling momma group that gets some of the best conversations going. One day, Bonnie Landry asked moms to share the best advice they had ever received about homeschooling. The following is a collection of those responses:

  1. Our number one job as parents is to help our kids get to Heaven….to me it puts all our homeschooling efforts into proper perspective.
  2. Strive for mastery learning. Stay on something and keep teaching until he/she gets it; otherwise, why not just send him to public school if we can’t teach to the mastery level as homeschoolers? My husband said this, and I’ve been less interested in hitting deadlines and more interested in my son getting the information completely.
  3. Take each year at a time…that helped me make the original decision to homeschool. Also, that your child’s religious formation is the most important and they wouldn’t get what you are giving in school.
  4. Never make a big decision in February. It tends to be among the worst burnout months when we are trapped inside because of the cold and illness and lack of sunshine makes everything seem so much darker.
  5. ‘No one is watching.’ Meaning, no one is keeping tabs on every little thing you do throughout your homeschooling days. Feel free to do as your heart and soul leads you with your precious family!
  6. I don’t know if this was intended to be advice but looking back, I totally think it’s shaped my home schooling. When my now 15 year old was about 3 or 4, I thought I had to get involved quickly. I joined a co-op that did art projects once or twice a month. I met some great ladies, but I remember them basically saying that it was okay for me to join but to keep in mind that my daughter was young and I really didn’t have to. I really think that has shaped a lot of who I am as a homeschooler. I really think we push kids way too young. And that includes the five year old or six year old who can’t read yet. Many of our kids are just not developmentally ready for what we think the schools would force them to do. And that is a big reason why we homeschool.
  7. Two things–daily Mass if at all possible and remember that life sometimes gets in the way of homeschooling. That was great advice for me as we had our seventh child when we started and continued to have a baby every couple of years and it was necessary to take some time off with each baby. It is amazing how much learning gets done in the unstructured time if you are reading good books.
  8. Don’t try to make your homeschool like public/private school…make it your own.
  9. Your first priority is their soul.
  10. Don’t do kindergarten.
  11. I decided early on not to buy anything until I knew we needed it. Money was tight, and this saved money as well as made it so we did not try every new thing that came along. The best advice I ever got…choose a curriculum that works for you the parent. You can tweak anything to better suit your kids but if it doesn’t work for you it will be very hard for you to teach. That changed the way I looked at curriculum and eliminated my own frustration with using programs that just weren’t my style. My kids all have different styles and I’ve been able to tailor what works for me to work for them in their own ways.
  12. I loved doing school on my bed while nursing a newborn several times per day. When I needed to nurse, we did more school! It was great! I miss those days! It seems like we got more school done then than we do now that she is one!
  13. Nursing the baby has always been my excuse to sit: I figured I could use that time to read to the kids or have them read to me.
  14. Breathe more. And you’ll never teach them everything they need to know. It’s okay.
  15. You are the captain of your own ship…you don’t have to keep up with public school or any other homeschooling family.
  16. Love before discipline. Go on field trips and enjoy yourself. See the world through your children’s eyes. If you want to prevent your children from being passive aggressive, make sure they exercise daily.
  17. Relationships trump academics. Always.
  18. My son was having difficulty because of epileptic seizures, his online teacher told me, “Forget what the state thinks he should know, as long as you are seeing improvements year to year, he is doing fine.”
  19. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
  20. What are YOUR reasons for homeschooling? Write them down and put them on the fridge. Look at your list on the ‘hard’ days. Put things you need (for your life to be balanced) in place to avoid ‘burnout’. If you burn out, there’s no homeschool so taking care of yourself is of primary importance. Do you need weekly adoration? Dates with your spouse? Mom’s Night Out? Do you need books each year to encourage you as a teacher? A vacation (with kids/without)? A get-a-way? Do you need quiet time for you? A regular gym time for you? To splurge on yourself once in a while? Daily Bible reading? You HAVE to take care of YOU – or you won’t be any good for anyone else.
  21. Best advice…take a breath, drink some tea and customize it to fit ‘your’ family. After I did that, it all fell into place.
  22. It took me FOREVER (like 10 years) to figure out that I could make our school week “start” and “end” on whatever day fit us best for that year. We have a co-op that meets Wednesday for scheduling, but it actually winds up and “ends” our school for the week. And I suck at grading things on Fridays, so I have them turn in spelling tests, math tests, papers, etc on Wed. Then we “start” the week (new chapters, new spelling words, etc.) on Thursdays. I’m so much more likely to get grading done on a Wed afternoon (or Thursday afternoon of a bad week) than a Friday night when I forget until Monday morning and am stuck with trying to catch them up from last week!
  23. Don’t just copy “normal” school at home. Make it what you want. That’s the beauty of homeschooling. You are in charge of directing your family life instead of the world revolving around a school schedule. I just came up with this one this summer for myself: “If you are going to laugh about it in 20 years, you might as well laugh about it now.” This usually applies to baby and toddler messes, preteen weirdness, schoolwork freak outs, messy house but fabulous homeschooling weeks, sickness when everybody is puking and you wish you were in the Caribbean, etc. We are like teabags, fellow homeschooling moms…the more hot water we get into in this crazy journey of homeschooling, the stronger we get. Do what is best for you and yours, and don’t compare anyone to anyone else.
SOUND OFF
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about homeschooling?
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Ink Slingers Motherhood Parenting

Career or Kids? What’s a Girl To Do?

happy-momThis amazing article is the best one that I have ever read about the dilemma women face when choosing between self-fulfillment through career or self-gift through rearing children. It is an incredibly difficult choice for women and one that impacts others beyond us–our husbands, our children, society, the different fields (medical, educational, etc). As author Elizabeth Corey writes:

“Modern women are right to think that both the pursuit of excellence and the desire to care for others are part of a fully flourishing life. Excellence in a particular field requires persistence, self-confidence, drive, courage, and initiative. These are eminently admirable qualities. On the other hand, serving or loving another requires the even more admirable qualities of attention, focus, care, patience, and self-sacrifice. The accent we place on them, and the way we put them into practice, is a matter for all of us to figure out for ourselves.

But we must not deceive ourselves. We cannot happily harmonize these two modes or pretend that they are somehow the same in kind. The disharmony is most apparent at the extremes, when we observe the two modes collapsed into one sphere of activity. We have all seen, for example, the driven mother who can talk of nothing but her own successes and those of her brilliant offspring, or the woman continually distracted by her iPhone, unable to focus on her children as she waits for the next important message to come in. Something is profoundly disordered.

At the other extreme, we probably know many women who have chosen not to pursue their own excellence. Of course there are better and worse reasons for this decision, the most admirable of which is devotion to nurturing others. Yet this also comes with costs.”

Saint Teresa Benedicta tells us that women have an innate knowledge of how to foster self-fulfillment, as well as to how to bring to fruition the gifts of those in their care. That’s why women make excellent mothers, as well as excellent teachers, doctors, managers, and so forth. Women, by virtue of being women, are mothers. No matter what she does, no matter if she has birthed children or not, a woman has a feminine nature and that, in turn, entails maternity. Woman are ordered toward the bearing and nurturing of life, whether physical or spiritual.

The dilemma, comes, of course, when a woman who has a flourishing career in which her spiritual maternity is fruitful (such as teaching) is then blessed with physical maternity. Suddenly, this woman has to choose–will she leave her students to rear her baby? Or, will she retain these spiritual children by seeking the help of other caregivers for her own child? Many women are faced with this predicament and must choose.

woman-and-careerThe Church gives no clear answers about what women should do, offering only general principles regarding the dignity of women, the high value of maternity, and the right that women should have from pressure to return to their careers when they decide to rear their young children at home. The Church also defends the right of women to equal pay and safe workplaces; it praises women who bless society through applying their feminine genius to their careers. Pope John Paul II’s Letter to Women offers a balanced and positive perspective on women’s contributions to the family and society.

Society needs saintly women everywhere! We need holy women in the medical field, where weak, small, and voiceless humans are disregarded. We need well-formed women in education, where hurting children need a teacher who can also be a mother and authority figure. We need prayerful women in government, where the feminine gifts of communication, synergy, and a good moral sense are desperately needed. Imagine how transformed our society would be if saintly and well-formed women filled key roles in shaping economic policy, city planning, international relations, and the academy.

We also can’t ignore the reality that some women absolutely must work to help meet their family’s basic needs. We ought never to malign the efforts of our sisters who have no choice in whether they will stay at home to raise children or work outside the home. But too often, society encourages women to look to a career as their primary source of self-fulfillment, when the fact is, women are designed by God to thrive on relationships, not recognition. And there is no more intimate and fulfilling relationship than between a mother and her child.

Our children need us, especially when they are tiny. Mother’s intuition tells us when our babies are sick, even before the thermometer registers. It tells us that our child is not having a selfish tantrum, but actually is just tired and hungry (or reacting to that red dye in her Popsicle). Consider, too, that we seem to need our children as much as they need us. Women are not able to compartmentalize in the same way that men are, which is why we can’t focus on work when we know we have a child sick at home without us. We miss our children and ache to be with them and we can’t turn it off.  

 

Corey acknowledges that full-time motherhood is incredibly difficult: “Although the rewards of caring for children are great, motherhood can also be tiring and frustrating, not to mention lonely. A woman must be extraordinarily self-assured to withstand the self-doubt that might cause her to wonder at times whether she has done the right thing.” Especially when children are very young, there is little time to pursue enjoyable hobbies or intellectual pursuits; most days are counted a success if everyone is fed, clean, and safe. Some days with children are extremely demanding and I know I can feel like I’m running a marathon, trying to stay ahead of my children as the day goes by. For those women who forgo a thriving career to raise children, it can help to remember that this demanding season of life won’t be forever. Children grow up quickly and the years come just as quickly in which a mother has more time to pursue her own interests.

“We are limited, embodied creatures,” Corey says. “These limits mean that we cannot do everything to its fullest extent at once, and certain things we may not be able to do at all.” She is right. As a full-time mother, I cannot excel as an astronaut, nor will I be named department chair at the UT School of Music. Such elevated positions require single-minded commitment and expertise in their respective fields.

But I can earn my Masters in Theology through a distance-learning program while the children nap. And I can live on a farm and keep sheep. And speak at Catholic women’s conferences on weekends and pursue my dream of starting my own clothing line after the kids are in bed or having time with Daddy. These ways of using my unique, God-given talents are still available to me even when raising children full-time. By prioritizing according to our vocation and the will of God, we can both lay down our lives in self-gift to our families AND be fruitful in ways that promote our own self-fulfillment. It’s that paradox laid out by Our Lord: that only in giving of ourselves can we find ourselves…only in offering ourselves totally can we be truly free.

Achieving this balance is no easy task and it is only accomplished when we constantly seek direction and grace from God. Every child deserves parents whose actions prove he is wanted and valued and every woman deserves the chance to express her own unique gifts to the world. Let us pray for one another, as we discern how best to love those placed in our care. Whether called to physical maternity or spiritual fruitfulness, a rich life of love and legacy, more beautiful we can imagine, awaits us.

 

Categories
Faith Formation Ink Slingers Martina Motherhood Vocations

10 Things You SHOULD Say to a Catholic Mom

As I wrote about 10 Things You Should Never Say to a Catholic Mom, I knew the companion piece would need to come shortly after. In this article, I once again asked friends to help me compile a list of things we’d love to hear from strangers, friends and family. It’s always easier to point out the things we don’t like to hear, but I thought this piece would offer some phrases that are almost universally accepted as welcome, helpful, and appreciated with Catholic moms. If you have any others to add, along with your own experience of hearing it {or the desire to hear it from strangers, friends, and family}, please share with us in the comments below!

10ThingsYouShouldSaytoaCatholicMom

§ What a beautiful family! You are so blessed! 

§ I hope you do, too! {in response to “we hope to have more children”}

§ Can I help in any way?

§ Your children were so well-behaved during Mass today! 

§ You’re going to have so much fun for the holidays when they get older and have their own families!

§ You’re having another baby? CONGRATULATIONS!

§ Thank you for your positive witness to life.

§ When I get married, I hope to have a family like yours.

§ May I watch the kiddos so you and your hubby can go out?

§ You’re doing a great job.

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