Sunday, July 28, 2013

I doubt that Fr Z, Mark Shea or Simcha Fisher cry themselves to sleep...

Yes, this is going to be one of those blog posts, a post where the blogger tells a story about why blogging is getting to be a major downer. She decides to take a step back from blogging because the blog is not what she wants it to be. She, trying to be anonymous so she can represent generalities, hurts someone in the real world with her written words. 
Remember my blog post "My Feather Pillow" where I wrote about someone hurting me without confronting me directly? I finally left a message on this person's phone. It took me months to get the courage to try and talk. A week later, there is no communication between us, but I am happy that I tried to make peace.

I am pathologically afraid of confrontation. I cannot think of a time when I have said to a friend, "It hurt me when you said people who eat hamburgers are killing the planet when you know that I like a burger now and then. It seems like you were making a personal dig at me" (see- I can't even write a decent possible example of a mature disagreement/discussion!). 

Well, I wrote something lately that hurt a friend. It probably wouldn't have hurt this friend if I had confronted the person directly with what was hurting me, but I chose to hide behind this blog and process something that was bothering me. 

I guess this is why I preemptively put that clip art of 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner,' knowing that writing anything on an open blog is going to reveal me as a hypocrite. 

So, yes, I am going to be taking a step back. This blog cannot be an interesting expose of the life of a priest's wife because there isn't that much to say and I need to preserve his dignity as a Catholic priest (I do beg forgiveness when my humanness has gotten the better of me). And it won't be and hasn't been an intellectual exercise in educating the world on Catholicism and Eastern Christianity. I don't have the education and the time to write well-documented and intellectually-stimulating posts. For that purpose, you will find some efficacious links at In Union with Rome. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

How does Priest's Wife homeschool all those kids? 7 Quick Takes

1. Well, I only have 4 kids and the baby is 4. 

2. I use a crock pot a lot. 
3. My husband is on board even if he doesn't do much of the formal educating. I know some moms with husbands who teach the kids a lot, but not us. By the time papa gets home from the hospital, we should be done with schoolish things so that he can take them swimming!

4. We use the computer. Try Khan Academy and Starfall. We use local libraries a lot for books and educational videos. In general, we steer clear of conventional television (except the kids are watching 'River Monster on Netflix with their dad right now- come on, it's summer!).

5. We are lucky to have a strong local homeschooling community. With my son being in first grade and in need of consistent 'boy time,' we will be committing to a weekly park day and some other activities for him especially. If we went to every opportunity on my various email lists, we would never be home! It is a balancing act, giving all the children and me what we need to thrive. This year, I hope to be a bit more exclusive with my time, especially since I teach part-time four evenings a week at the college (hence, the crock pot).

6.  I go to websites for inspiration, support and ideas. Simple Homeschool is a great place to start. And as always, Like Mother, Like Daughter has some much great information on homemaking and child-raising; it is not just a homeschooler's blog, but it does develop the important philosophy on why many of us choose to educate non-conventionally. 

7. We use a public homeschooling charter school. Personally, a 'middle way' works for my family and me, but I know that many, many homeschoolers would not even consider us homeschoolers because we report to the state and do state testing. It is controversial, but my children are able to do Shakespeare, choir and ballet because of the charter school. 
thanks for hosting, Jen!

How can parents be the "primary educators" of their conventionally-schooled children?

It is within the family where children are raised and formed as human beings.  The parental role in this human formation is governed by love, a love which places itself "at the service of children to draw forth from them ("e-ducere") the best that is in them" and which "finds its fullest expression precisely in the task of educating." (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church, No. 239)  That is why the family may be called the "first school."

The parental duty to educate their children comes tied to a right.  Parents are the "original and primary" educators of their children, and their duties as well as their rights are "irreplaceable and inalienable." (Compendium, 239)  The duty is non-delegable.  The parent is ultimately responsible for his or her child.  Though the parent may obtain the help of other persons or institutions, these always remain in loco parentis, in the parents' place. Importantly, this is a task shared by both parents, and so "the role of the father and that of the mother are equally necessary" (Compendium, 242).

I agree completely.

So, having that out of the way, I do not believe that all parents should keep their children out of conventional school. 

I think my parents did a great job of being our "primary educators"; we five attended public and Catholic schools. All of us have college degrees with three of us (so far) having post-graduate degrees. We are all married in the Catholic Church (no pride, just facts) and follow Church teaching. How did my parents 'succeed' in raising us? By God's grace and....

--- Our parents went to parent-teacher conferences and checked our homework. They walked the halls and knew who our friends were.
--- None of us attended sex education classes in public school. Yes, I was the one kid in 9th grade who sat in the library and wrote a paper on dolphins or something. 
--- My parents limited television and other media.
--- The library was our go-to entertainment, especially in the summertime.
--- We consistently ate dinner and worshiped together.
--- There were lots of books in our house. We saw our parents read and they also read aloud to us.
--- We saw our father studying for his Bachelor degree that he completed when he was 40 or so.
--- My parents weren't afraid to change schools for various reasons. This can be a hard thing (especially for the extreme introvert I was and am); I attended different schools every year from 5th to 10th grade. yes, that is 6 schools in 6 years. But my mother had her reasons. The funny thing is, I recently visited my hometown where my parents still are. I visited only 2 friends. One was a high school friend, but we became friends when we taught together in Slovakia. The other is a friend from 7th grade (if anyone knows any amazing Baptist man 35 to 42 or so, I would love to make a match for her- she is a lovely woman...)
--- They even opened our lockers!
--- They supplemented our public school education. I took a bit of ballet, voice, violin, and piano lessons. But we weren't crazy-busy (hence, the time to eat together as a family)
--- We were blessed to have room to play as children.
--- We were blessed to have an intact family. But even if you are doing it yourself through divorce or widowhood, it is still possible to be a 'primary educator.' You need a 'village.' Yes, it does take a village to raise a child, but it is the parents' right and responsibility to choose the inhabitants of their children's village.
Please add your ideas on how to be a 'primary educator' in the comment box!

Why is homeschooling blamed if a kid goes wrong?

If one blames homeschooling for the bad, shouldn't they give homeschooling credit for when things go right? But it doesn't seem to work this way in normal life. Homeschooling gets blamed if a person is socially-awkward. Well, I am still socially awkward and I went through conventional school as all normal people do and public universities. Homeschooling gets blamed if a kid cannot rattle off their multiplication tables in the coffee and doughnut room after church services, but I have yet to see a person demand multiplication tables from a conventionally-schooled child. 
I'm sorry for this 'vent.' It was my intention to write a breezy little missive on some nice educational activities for parents and children, homeschooled or not, but I keep running into comments like this one on a news article about a child at a public school, an article with no mention of schooling alternatives:
"And I applaud them for sending their children to a school rather than homeschooling. The interaction with other children their ages aids in making them well adjusted, helps with social skills, gives them a chance to be children with other children rather than growing up in an adult atmosphere 24/7."
Okay. I see no solution here. Homeschoolers are a minority, and it is usual for minorities of all categories to be disrespected, mistrusted and pushed aside.
I promise promise! Breezy missive coming tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Why is homeschooling so offensive to some? plus our 2013-2014 semi-homeschool plan

"I am a public school teacher, and have seen many students who are home schooled. There is nothing wrong with homeschooling, but do not homeschool your children every year. Learning to socialize with others is very important to becoming a good citizen.
The US Marines will not accepts any recruit who was home schooled or attended a charter high school. Harvard also does not accept students who were home schooled.."

Someone in my 'Byzantine Catholic' group on Facebook wrote this when I asked a question about latinization and someone commented that they use a certain book series to teach catechism to their children. So, the teacher felt the need to warn Facebook about home education even when education wasn't the topic at hand. Strong feelings. why? 

I don't discuss the negative aspects of my public education or recent test scores in public education unless someone asks my opinion directly. I hate confrontation, and anyway- I am not the authority on their life! But there is something about homeschooling. Perhaps we are offensive against the collective.

There is just something about homeschooling that gets people irritated and nervous. Click on the 'homeschool' label below for my other posts on homeschooling. It really bothers many people that my children are not obsessed with 'One Direction'- and next year they will be annoyed that my children are not obsessed with whichever group is popular. 

Last week, an older acquaintance asked me if my children were "in class with lots of know...because you used to homeschool...." And I just said yes. He has no right to personal information and my children are in (supplemental) classes (and park day and church services and choir and dance) with "lots of children." We were in a crowd, and I really didn't feel like divulging the ins and outs of each child's education plan. 
I'll share it here because my readers deserve the truth! (these are my children's middle names...pronounce every letter Italian-style...)
Maria- 14 years old, 9th grade- public high school connected to local community college, weekly meeting with 'mentor teacher' required, mostly independent work at home, required to take one college class each semester. Fall semester, she will take 3 hours of college intermediate ballet and 3 hours of college level choir weekly. She'll continue 2 hours of contemporary ballet and Shakespeare class every week outside of 'school'
Carolina- 13 years old, 8th grade- charter school/ homeschool, monthly meeting with mentor teacher, independent work at home, This will be a simple year for her with just 2 hours of ballet, 2 hours contemporary and a Shakespeare class outside of the house
Grigore- 6 years old, 1st grade- charter school/homeschool , monthly meeting with mentor teacher, etc, etc...I haven't decided on his outside activities yet
Georgeta- 4 years old, preschool- independent work- tap class- folding dish clothes
All four children will have a weekly 'park day' to be with friends as well as church activities Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. I'll be teaching 4 evenings a week at the college. Our life is busy! 

But I didn't explain all this to the acquaintance  After I let him think that we will school traditionally, he breathed a sigh of relief  Even though he thinks my children are delightful and intelligent, he also thinks that homeschooling will leave them closed off from the world. They "must be OPEN to the world!!!" he exclaimed. His only child, recently out of jail, was conventionally-schooled, so he must be an expert. 

There are no guarantees with raising children; I just am curious why homeschooling is such a target. Heaven forbid if I judged anyone on conventionally-schooling their children!

What does Amanda Bynes have to do with homeschooling?

Amanda Bynes, successful television comedienne and now very troubled and under a 5050 hold after setting a fire at a retirement home in Thousand Oaks, California, is the daughter of one of my mother's best friends from high school. They have kept in touch. Mrs. Bynes is a good woman and had been an involved, loving mother.
as a young teen headlining a Nickelodeon show
troubled in 2013
Now that Amanda is getting professional help, I pray that all will be well. I made the mistake of reading some comments on an article about Amanda's latest troubles and most of the comments were railing against her parents. "Where are the parents? They must have really screwed their daughter up!" No, Mr and Mrs Bynes never forced her to be in show business and they struggled with maintaining a normal life. In any case, she is not a minor. 

What does Amanda Bynes have to do with my experience with homeschooling? Well- many, many people have preconceived notions about what homeschooling is. I say "homeschooling" and people imagine my children are incarcerated at home all day. People who have any connection to Amanda Bynes can ask her parents directly for information. Everyone else should realize that they have no idea if her parents dropped the ball or not.

We can only judge when we have all the information, and usually, there is no reason to spend time judging those we don't know.

We need to be judgmental within our own family, however. I have made a judgement that for now my children will be homeschooled. It is this strong feeling that gives me the strength to oversee my children's education and to get in the car yet again for their many supplemental activities. 

But just because I have judged what is best for my children right now, this does not give me the right to judge another family's intentional choice. There are pros and cons to everything in life. School would make certain aspects of my life easier. If I hadn't judged that homeschooling was best for the children right now, I wouldn't be doing it. 

and like Amanda Bynes' parents, we cannot judge them when we don't know their reality.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

eating a wee bit better- 7 quick takes

Paleo, gluten-free, vegan, meat-free, food sensitivities- it all seems a bit 'First-World Problem,' doesn't it? I can't open Facebook without feeling a wee bit guilty that my children have some fat in their diet that isn't coconut-based. It seems luxurious to insist that all our food is local, organic, really is enough to drive me crazy. And then- put my lupus (no tomatoes!) and chronic fatigue (no fat!) into the mix as well as Eastern Christian fasting (no meat!) I'm just going to 'eat a wee bit better' and we'll see where that takes us (if you click on my 'food' label, I am probably repeating and/or contradicting earlier posts):
1. One example of eating a 'wee bit better' will make all those foodies out there in internet-land cringe. I had a box of cherry jello. Yes, jello. A healthy mama would throw it out, but I decided to use it. I dissolved the 'devil's powder' with two cups of boiling water like the instructions say. Then, I added two cups of plain whole yogurt instead of two cups of cold water. I added a large carton of hulled and quartered strawberries as well as a pint of blueberries and two bananas. Because I didn't add sweetener to the fruit, the dessert was just sweet enough. I made some real whipped cream, barely sweetened but with extra vanilla (of course. I usually triple the amount). It made a fine dessert to celebrate our first daughter's 14th (!) birthday.
2. I think I have written about this...but I have gotten a lot of success with getting my young children to eat raw vegetables (cooked vegetables of all kinds have never been problematic) by dicing and grating the ingredients into a salad. They eat a lot more of the veggies than when I used larger pieces. Using cute, small bowls is also helpful. I dress salads immediately before serving with a simple homemade dressing of olive oil and lemon juice. I would like to get more ambitious with my dressings; does anybody have some winning recipes for a blue cheese dressing?
3. We recently visited my parents for a little summer vacation. Besides her large kitchen and my dad's delicious morning coffee (I don't bother to make my own at home...there is something about me that makes lousy coffee...I just drink black tea in the morning), I drooled over their refrigerator with the freezer on the bottom. This means that the fridge stuff- that you use much more than the frozen portion- is at eye level. My mom's fridge is so clean and it seems that nothing goes to waste. My next refrigerator is going to be like this! I'm sure that actually seeing what is available to eat would make our family eat a wee bit better.
4. I don't have any kombucha in the house, but I do gravitate towards a 'Nourishing Traditions' style of eating...except who can eat so much liver? I have begun soaking my beans, oats, rice and quinoa overnight as a nod to this great cookbook. Baby steps...and I have upped my consumption of apple cider vinegar.
5. I'm sure I have recommended these books before, but Love Soup and Twelve Months of Monastary Soups get me through the fasting times. I just cannot live on peanut butter and jam sandwiches...also- I can't get enough of Trader Joe's low sodium Garden Patch (V-8) juice...
6. My super-big goal in terms of food? I would love to purchase a Vitamix blender and a small freezer for the garage/homeschool room/family room
7. I also get my local CSA fruit and vegetable box every week which forces me to be original and flexible in my cooking...this is a huge help and I encourage anyone with a similar possibility to sign up!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Are You God? ---post by Ric Ballard

Throughout the Philokalia we are instructed that we are becoming gods by grace. More specifically, it teaches us that we are gods not in the sense of those to be worshiped but those who are being made immortal and incorruptible because of the indwelling presence of God. However, I think for most modern Christians hearing something like this for the first time might make them uncomfortable. In fact, it was too long ago that someone from my own church thought I was promoting something from the New Age movement. However, the doctrine of divinization is something very central to Christianity. It's mentioned throughout the scriptures and is even taught in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. For example, the following scriptures say Genesis 1:27 “we are the image of God”, Psalms 82:6” we are gods”,  2 Peter 1:4 “share in God’s nature”,  1 John 3:2 “we will be like God” and in the Catechism (par.460) "men will be made god". It might sound difficult at first but to embrace this vital truth can reveal to us one of the greatest acts of God’s love.

In my opinion what makes divinization difficult to grasp is how many have come to understand their soul. The common understanding of the soul is that it is immortal. Even though this is true the way the soul has immortality is normally not understood. A more complete understanding about the immortality of that soul, and every part of us, is that we are “made for" immortality instead of being immortal by ourselves. Being made for immortality instead of being immortal is a big difference and demonstrates that we only become immortal by the grace and goodness of God. Most often when you have the first position to hear about divinization sometimes makes you feel like the next step in your immortality is to take the place of God. However, the more complete understanding demonstrates that immortality is something only proper to God and if the soul is made for it then it involves participation in what God is or an act of divinization.
When it comes to understanding divinization, the Holy Scriptures teach us that unlike any other creation man was made to be what God is. This is also seen in many teachings of the early Church fathers who would often reference Gen. 1:26, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness", to show how we become God. For example, St. Columbanus of Luxeuil writes: “God bestowed upon man the image of His Eternity, and the likeness of His Character”. In showing that we have this ability many of the fathers demonstrated that the natural state of man was literally to become what God is through obedience and love. It was through obedience and love that man was given the opportunity to grow in his experience of the presence of God that was in him. So you could say that man's deity status was dependent upon the measure he was grated to experience what God is. Unfortunately, man was tempted to become a god in another way by the devil, which led to the fall from our original state. As a result, the ability to become what God is became obscured and it would not be completely restored until the time of Christ. 
As the early Church fathers taught, God became man so we could {again} become what God is. Not to go into great detail but Christ by his whole life returns us to what we are called to. He gives us again the ability to participate in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) in a complete way or to become gods by grace. He does this first and foremost by giving us the gift of the Holy Spirit through life in the Church, which is to say that now in our bodies dwells everything that God is. Having everything that God is, we can now give every part of our lives to Him, allowing Him to eternally transform us. So it really isn’t a strange thing to think of ourselves as gods as it says in Psalms 82:6. No, we are not God Himself or an extra version of the Trinity. Rather, we are just sharing in what He is through grace, which is what we are designed for. 

When it comes to how we are designed I think a good analogy is to understand how a light bulb works. A light bulb is not light of itself but depending upon its wattage it can become light. We are very much like light bulbs but with an unlimited wattage. A light bulb can only become light based on its watts but there is no end to the amount of divinity that we can contain. If you think about this level of intimacy that God offers us by divinizing us, it is breathtaking. He loves us so much that he lets us experience everything that He is and this is unending. From now until all eternity, we will continue to become what He is by grace. Sometimes not having this understanding of divinization leaves people with the notion that what God offers just happens after we die. This of course could not be farther from the truth. Today is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2)! This is the time that God has called us to the deepest intimacy with Him and it only gets better each day. Everything of God is in us and God has called us to make it our own. As St. Athanasius proclaimed “God became man so that we might become God”. 

If Walmart does it, why not small businesses?

I know a husband and father of more than four young children who works in construction and carpentry. He is an artist and a good worker. Perhaps he doesn't 'fit in' with the rough men he works with; they certainly don't listen to Gregorian chant and Greek language lessons on their mp-3 players. My friend, working full-time with a local company and on-call for when more work needs to be done, recently asked for a long deserved raise from his employer. He cited his reliable work, the months he has been in the company without a raise and the fact that he is supporting his homeschooling wife and four+ children.

The boss then stated, 'but don't you get food stamps and section 8? That should be enough." No, this family does not look for every social program that might be available to them. The father prefers to support his children himself with his hard work. In fact, they don't even avail themselves of the public school system, preferring to educate their children themselves. 

Now, I would be okay if the boss had said, "There is no money in the budget for raises this quarter, but I'll keep you in mind for overtime." But no, like Walmart and other big-box businesses, the employer wants his dedicated workers to be subsidized by the state. 

What is a family to do? I suppose the 'solution' is for the children to be in state daycare and public schools and both the mother and father should work full-time outside the home. The family I am writing about will not do this, so they will continue to live a simple life together. They refuse to sign their domestic church over to state control.

Priestly Celibacy in a United Church

Can East and West coexist regarding married priests? Certainly, the relationship between the Eastern and Roman Catholic Churches on the issue of married clergy has seen an improvement over conditions that obtained throughout most of the 20th century. Still, there are many questions that remain that prevent a clear answer if conditions are such that West and East could peacefully live together with these two traditions in place.

Why must Eastern Catholics still live with restrictive rules regarding ordaining married men in many countries which have a large Roman Catholic presence? Would Orthodox need to live similarly in a reunited Church?
In a reunited Church, would the Latin Church feel a need to ask for special cooperation from the Eastern Churches on this issue? For example, would future candidates for ordination from Eastern Churches in a reunited Church need dispensations from Rome, thus ensuring, for example, that men from Western parishes weren’t going over to the East to get ordained?

Would ordinations of married men in Eastern Churches need to be done quietly? Or, could both Churches (West and East) live side-by-side with the differing traditions without any restrictions?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Almost Time to Go Back to 'Real Life'

We've enjoyed three weeks with grandma, grandpa, and most of the cousins...almost time to go back to 'real life.' While it will be nice to sleep in our own beds, we will sorely miss being close to family who have to love you no matter what!