Thursday, March 27, 2014

homeschooling: 7 things I've learned lately

1. Last Saturday, my Catholic homeschool email list/park day organized a homeschool support day. It really was a full-blown conference. There were 4 speakers and 40 parents. This was the first year we did this. I volunteered my big girls to babysit for the day because only babes in arms could attend. They babysat 7 extra children. The topics of the talks were: Why & How to start and stay homeschooling, Daily Schedule & Organization, Homeschooling the Sensitive/Difficult Child, More on Methods, How to Have Fun, and The Classical Homeschooler....& Did I mention that the keynote speaker was Laura Berquist? I was inspired and learned/remembered...
2. I have got to start the day strong. I think this is hard for a lot of homeschooling parents. We don't want to stifle joy and creativity. How can you tell your lovely children to stop playing nicely together and hit the books? The big girls have no problem getting down to business, so it really is the barely 7 year old 1st grade boy that can be a challenge. I've been writing some sentences (the night before) on the whiteboard. He copies these sentences and draws a picture during breakfast, so he is starting his school day at about 7:30. This has worked well; I use high-interest words that emphasize the past days' work. It might seem silly- or tiring- to start schoolwork at 7:30, but dad gets to see Boy's work before he leaves for the day.

3. We have got to start the day with formal prayer, preferably before dad goes to work. We pray a short morning prayer and light some candles. We are praying for specific person every day in addition to our typical intentions. I want to start singing a hymn every morning, teaching the children a new one every week. 

4.I have got to simplify. These are our out-of-the-house activities right now (it isn't always this bad, but it is always pretty bad) (not including dad's extras after work at the hospital): 
Monday- college ballet & choir, high school school meeting & testing (girl 14) tae kwan do (boy) teach college class (me) 
Tuesday- guitar (girl 13) Merry Wives of Windsor musical (girl 14, girl 13, boy with me as class parent) teach college class (me)
Wednesdaycollege ballet & choir, high school testing (girl 14) Lego engineering (boy) Presanctified Liturgy (all)  teach college class (me)  
ThursdayLego engineering (boy) Guitar (girl 13) College speech class (girl 14) teach college class (me) 
Friday- tap class (girl 4 and boy) Tae kwan do (boy) Shakespeare combat (boy) high school testing if needed (girl 14) 3 hour ballet/jazz (girl 14, girl 13)
Saturday- tae kwan do (boy), church Sunday- church  
I think that is everything...
5. You really never know what is going on with someone unless they are open about it. In the past two weeks, I've learned that two friendly acquaintances have been suffering from depression. I have known them for years, but I guess I really didn't know them. One friend confessed her depression on her new depression/crafting blog. She has been really open about it, inviting real life friends to read her writing. The other woman with depression talked about her struggles at the end of the homeschooling support day that my group had. She just started to talk about it. She said that her depression would manifest itself as anger, but her husband didn't take her depression seriously. She went to confession to an Opus Dei priest, and he asked her if she had ever used medication. She said, "no, my husband doesn't believe in it." So, the priest compassionately told her to tell her husband that he said she should see a doctor. The husband relented from his stubbornness, she is on medication and doing well. It was a great thing that she did, being open about her problems. I suspect that some other moms will have the courage to get information on depression because of her talk.

6. Listening to these 2 moms, I was praising God that I don't have depression. I have other struggles, and right now, we are dealing with some very depressing stuff going on, but I am able to get out of bed, do my work and then smile at the end of the day. 

7.  During the conference, it was clear: we all love our children, feel called to be active in all aspects of their lives, and see the value in using alternative educational methods for our children. I might wonder if I should try a more classical approach with my children...but how can I bypass Romanian and Spanish for Latin and Greek? We are all making different daily choices with how to educate our children. Personally, I am grateful for the support of the homeschool charter school we use, but many people do not want to give up their freedom. And yes, if my children are mandated to take standardized tests, we are losing freedom even if I chose the curriculum and method and delivery system. We are a small minority even if it seems like all Catholics are homeschooling (nope- we are in the minority) and we are loud and proud, so it is wonderful to have this group of committed home educators.

Simcha Fisher inspired search term 'poetry'

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Byzantine wants to kneel

fear not little flock blog
fear not priest's wife

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how are parents primary educators to children
is it reverent to have loud noise in church

cute small animals
a friend telling u a secret that's shocking
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small babies crying abortion
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movies for 12 year old girls

fear not

Thursday, March 20, 2014

7 Quick Takes, randomly yours...

1. Big girls are singing "Just you wait, 'enry 'iggins" from My Fair Lady while playing a geography board game with dad. I am blogging. The little ones are sleeping. We live a wild life. My girls are convinced that Eliza Dolittle would have done better with Fred than Henry Higgins. 

2. Have you ever watched 'Horrible Histories'- irreverent, but with a British accent that makes everything so much more elegant! 
3.  Please pray for the Lewis family who lost two daughters- Olivia and Emma- in a car accident this week. Their father is a professor at Wyoming Catholic College. I don't know them, but their story is heavy on my heart.

4. Brilliant lifehack from my brother-in-law...use a coffee filter as a plate/napkin for those small snacks for the kids- some apple slices, a few crackers. If you use unbleached filters, you can throw it in the compost pile!

5. Boy at Lego class on Thursday morning the first week of the Great Fast- he doesn't always get a bath! We had planned a Pre-Sanctified Liturgy for Wednesday (Byzantines start Lent on Clean Monday two days earlier), but the schedule got mixed up and a visiting Roman-rite priest celebrated a Mass and distributed ashes. It was packed! Why is it that more people will come for ashes than will come even for Easter?....
6. A reader asked- "What is the problem with Eastern Catholics 'borrowing' from the West? As a Latin-rite Catholic, I like to borrow some spiritual practices from the East...."
As you can see from the photo above, we also 'blend' our spiritual practices quite a bit, but we try to make our Byzantine rite the 'first stop' in our spiritual journey. Why? Well, I can already see my children being influenced by the majority culture in some ways. Let's take language. Their Romanian is not very good and neither is mine. Why? Well, we live in the United States. Most of the people we know are bi-lingual, so it is easier for them to speak in their accented English than for them to decipher our accented Romanian. Their father is working a lot and also in the habit of speaking English most of the time to them. Plus, English is just easier- at least when it comes to grammar.
I can see the same thing happening with the Byzantine rite. It is more difficult to be Byzantine than Roman-rite. An Akathist to Mary takes double the time that a rosary takes to pray. The culture-at-large knows little to nothing about Eastern Catholics, so we don't get even a little corporate nod like McDonald's fish-on-Fridays sale. We are much, much smaller, so it can just be next-to-impossible to find a Byzantine parish to attend! Or, if you have a parish less than an hour away, it will probably have only one Divine Liturgy on Sundays. You don't have the choice of the 6:30 AM or the 'last chance Mass' at 7 PM.
And then, there is our history. We are in a golden age of understanding between rites, I believe. This was not always the case. The Eastern rites' traditions were suppressed in the United States. So, we tend to get a little squirrely when someone suggests- just put your kid in the (Roman-rite) Catholic school! Just say a rosary! Bless us O Lord! Where's your scapular? Is that a Muslim prayer-thing on your wrist? It's Friday! Let's go out for fish sandwiches! Roman-rite spiritual practices are holy, just as Byzantine ones are, but there is only so much time in the day. If we take up Western practices, we probably will abandon our Eastern ones.
image: fox news

pretty happy funny real: food, flowers, & Shakespeare

pretty- after a 6:30 AM Mass, dew still sparkling on the flowers
happy- an old photo from St valentine's Day. The big girls always make us a balcony dinner because I teach evenings. Now that it is Lent, my mouth is watering looking at the cheese and meat plate!
funny- My parents visited us to see the big girls in Two Gentlemen of Verona and husband and I in the adult class playing some scenes from Much Ado About Nothing. My mother treated the girls to a blended drink with some coffee in the big (14 & 13) girls' drink! This is the same mom who cried when she saw my older sister drink some coffee when she was 18 years old! Times have changed, haven't they? (yes- baby girl has a sometimes lazy eye...advice?)
real- Boy has been taking some Lego 'engineering' classes courtesy of our public charter homeschooling program. He was very excited to show his friends and teacher the William Shakespeare Lego mini-fig (I know all the lingo now) he received from his grandparents for his 7th birthday. One of the parents, watching Boy's enthusiasm for Shakespeare, said "he is an interesting boy." What does that mean? I don't want to dampen his love for atypical activities or his natural exuberance. Somehow, I am raising very social, empathetic, creative and extroverted children. I felt bad that Boy is already weird- even among homeschoolers.   
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