Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Saint Anne Homeschool Support Group

My time online these past several months, aside from emails and the time vulture others call Facebook, has been creating and filling our local homeschool support group's website. You can check it out here if you want - We are especially proud that we are trying to connect the many local Catholic homeschooling support groups in one place and post links to Catholic curricula options.

Saint Anne Homeschool Support Group was started as a nonprofit by my friend, Margaret, and me in order to launch an independent Catholic homeschool conference here in San Antonio. We ran three successful conferences and decided to take this year off, as our volunteer team was stretched too far the previous year.

The year off has resulted in a couple of wonderful things and other ways for me to spend my time in service to others. You see, I love connecting Catholic homeschooling mothers. As I mentioned yesterday, I think that women need to connect with other women in real life, and especially homeschoolers need to support one another. A dear friend recently quipped, "I have never worked as hard in my life as I do now as a homeschooling mom!" We need to be around others who understand that while we work harder than we could have ever imagined, we choose this vocation.

So, inspired by Maureen and Michele's Grace Days initiative, I coordinated a Day of Grace for Catholic homeschooling mothers at our beloved Mission of Divine Mercy. The day in late April was a mixture of prayer and fellowship and a fantastic success to push us forward to finish out the academic year with grace. It was such a gift to myself and the other women that I am already planning our second Day of Grace to be held in San Antonio in early August to start off the school year.

Because we did not host an independent conference this year, IHM Conferences came in and hosted a half-day conference of their own. This ministry, funded primarily by Seton Home Study School, is a generous outreach to Catholic homeschooling families. Saint Anne's participated through a book sale and providing local volunteers, but I feel very strongly that IHM Conferences only present one style of Catholic homeschooling. Being a universal Church, there are endless styles, methods, and curricula a family can combine to be successful homeschoolers.

Therefore, I created the Saint Anne Summer Series. We are meeting once a week for six weeks and offering free discussions on topics related to Catholic homeschooling for parents. I will post more details about our topics and how this worked another time, as we have only had one session, so far, but our topics range from why should we homeschool to what curricula options are out there to housework while homeschooling.

As you can see, I am keeping busy with Saint Anne events, and this is yet another reason I have neglected this poor ol' blog, although I love writing and sharing with you!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Friendships for the Lonely Homeschooling Mama

This debate roams the Internet on a daily basis. How much time do we invest in online relationships versus how much time do we pour into our IRL friends and family? For homeschooling mothers, it really is a delicate balance, because we are, in many ways, isolated from the opportunities most other women have to nourish friendships. And it’s one of the reasons I am intimidated to intentionally create community here on this oft-neglected blog.

We all need friends. Period. The end. If you say you don’t need friendships, you are wrong. Our husband should be our first and best friend, but since as women we were created with different gifts than men, women need women. Girls need girls. A man can do his best to try to understand our thoughts and emotions, but ladies, they just aren’t built the same way. It’s important to remember that Christians are not meant to live in an inward-focused isolation. Our Catholic Church is an invitation to live in Christian community with one another, in service and in love. How do we do that when we are at home most of the time in order to homeschool?

This generation has a tremendous gift in the web and social media. We can make and nourish online friendships in a variety of forums from blogs to Facebook, from Twitter to hangouts, from email to Instagram. Online relationships can be convenient for busy mothers, because conversations usually happen outside of set time frames. You often don’t have to be in the same place at the same time to enjoy one another’s company. I also find that online friendships work for both extroverts and introverts, because you decide how much you talk and there is a layer of protection between a shy individual and her keyboard.

But we still need the flesh and blood interactions, too. A hug from another woman, a smile, even a raised eyebrow and a snarky chuckle are essential to our humanity. IRL friendships with faraway friends are often inevitably converted into online relationships. I propose we need to be more intentional about nourishing our nearby IRL friendships and maybe step out on a limb to make new friends or deepen existing friendships in order to grow in humility and holiness.

Years ago, most families didn’t move from state to state, following jobs and dreams, over and over. Consequently, we often don’t have those tight-knit life-long friendships or nearby extended family that our grandparents enjoyed. The internet allows us to keep in touch with IRL friends from far away and to find friends who share the same values and mesh with our lifestyle even if they live far away.

A skill we might be losing, though, is how to make friends with just about anyone. If we are only making friends with people like us, which I have deliberately chosen to do in certain seasons of my motherhood, we cannot truly be open to the prompts of the Holy Spirit to influence change in our lives or to be an instrument of change in the lives of others. Stepping out of our comfort zone at the park with moms who are “strangers” or joining a new group to meet new women can give us that shot in the arm we need.

I also believe that online interactions can be key to filling our emotional tanks as homeschooling mothers. We need a sense of community that, perhaps, men don’t need as much as we do, and it’s very hard to find the time to meet with local friends with nursing babies, teenagers in transition, math lessons, soccer practices, cooking, cleaning, shopping, and everything else. It’s hard enough to find time for the occasional date night with our husbands. Being online can mean the difference between surviving and thriving in this 24-7-365 vocation we have chosen!

Still, I also believe we need to nourish those friendships we have with women nearby, even the ones that seem to take more work than we are willing to give. We were created with a need for one another. Couldn’t you use a real human hug more often than not? To ignore that desire, is to ignore how God created us.

Saint John Paul II said both, “The feminine foundation is relational and other-focused,” and “Friendship, as has been said, consists in a full commitment of the will to another person with a view to that person’s good.” Surely, it is putting our femininity to good use by developing friendships and nurturing other women both online and in real live.

How can you reach out today to a friend IRL? Can you call or text her? Stop by with a plate of cookies or flowers from your yard just to say hello?


Thursday, April 30, 2015


I have been reflecting some on what it means to be busy and whether it is a good thing or a bad thing or neutral. I am definitely a busy person. I like being busy. I make myself busy whenever I can. I often take on too much to keep busy.

But my real internal debate is what it means when someone says, "How are you?" and one responds, "Busy." Is that a complaint? Is it a boast? Is it simply the truth? It could be all of the above.

I feel that if my life were not busy, I would be sad. I want a full life, and I enjoy the busy that comes with being a homeschooling mom of four. I even enjoy the busy that comes from serving others outside of my home, particularly serving other busy, homeschooling mothers.

Now, the trick, I think, is to be sure the busy is God's will and does not prevent us from stopping to smell the roses, so to speak. I must constantly guard against my busy causing stress and negatively affecting those I love. I have to temper my desire to "do it all," because I can't. Some days that's easier than others.

In truth, on the days it works, it's not that hard. I just keep repeating "Jesus, I trust in You." I take the time to listen to my children, read with my children, go outside with my children, love on my husband, and everything else seems to fall into place. God is good that way.

Because really when our busy is serving the Lord, it is a blessing. It means we are giving Him everything we've got and holding nothing back! I have to constantly remind myself to turn back to Him over and over and that all I do is to glorify Him. Then, He gives me rest when I am weary and reminds me that the worry is pointless, enabling me to relax into the busy and find peace despite the rapid pace of my days.

What keeps you busy? Are you good busy or unhappy busy?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Why join a peg doll saint swap? - Top 10 Reasons

During Lent some friends of mine (and their friends) joined together for a peg doll saint swap. If you haven't heard about how it works, basically each family chooses a saint to paint and paints multiple copies of the same saint. Then, we get together and swap to get a finished set of diverse saints. I figured I could get 20-30 families together, and we could create a set of saints as Easter gifts for our children. In the end, much to my surprise 47 families joined, mostly from Texas but not all from San Antonio. I just couldn't turn anyone away! Here is our almost-completed set (a few families fell behind on their timeline, and that's okay in my swaps!):

So many of us enjoyed the swap and had so many friends and family members asking about how to do it, that I am coordinating another swap this summer. This one will have several options, subdividing families into groups based on if they participated in our Spring swap or not, quantity of saints they are willing to paint, and even some Old Testament figure swap groups!

Why did we enjoy adding one more thing to our plate during Lent, especially those of us who are less than artistically gifted? After talking to several of the moms over the past couple of weeks, I have compiled the top ten reasons I have heard from our swappers for participating in such a swap. Lacy has a great list of reasons, too!
  1. It was time well spent! There are many things we do that, in the end, are not really worth the time we invest, but both the process and the outcome were so fruitful that it was a good use of our time.
  2. It required sitting down! Or at least remaining still for relatively long periods of time. Our lives as moms are busy, and we always seem to be moving. Focusing on painting our saints was a gift to our weary bodies.
  3. It provided time to think and pray! Many of us stayed up late at night to paint when our little ones were in bed, and it gave us quiet time to ponder our own thoughts and spend time in prayer with our saints and the Lord.
  4. It was affordable! Except for the women who lived out of town and had to pay postage to ship their dolls, each family paid around $40 for the materials for a set of 48 saints. One saint on Etsy, while definitely painted by exceptionally talented individuals, runs about $30.  
  5. It resulted in a finished product! Most of our work as mothers is undone just as soon as we do it (think laundry, cleaning, cooking), but standing back and admiring our saints has been quite gratifying.
  6. It forced us to be creative! Being creative has been linked to all kind of therapeutic benefits. Those of us who aren't naturally artistic were still able to create saints with unique personalities, even if some are much simpler than others.
  7. It brought beauty into our homes! These are wooden toys, which are solid and beautiful. Beauty truly brings us closer to God, the source of all beauty, and our children are drawn to them.
  8. My little children love them! To see their little hands grasp these saints and for them to choose their favorites for play is remarkable. They are a great size for little hands and inspire them early to make friends with the saints.
  9. My big children love them! Not only do they study them and name them and ask about them, the bigger children even want to paint their own, releasing their creativity and cultivating craftsmanship.
  10. My husband even loves them! This is a totally personal note. My husband hates clutter and knick-knacks, but even he is proud of our collection, allowing them to be prominently displayed in our home.

So if you are interested in joining us this summer or have any questions about how to organize your own swap, let me know in the comments below! I'm not going to post links to our guidelines and sign-up form, because I do need to know a bit about you before you join us, to make sure you're legit.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Best Easter Gift Ever!

I'm nearly exploding with enthusiasm over here, and I'm terrible at keeping things from my kids. My husband would not truly appreciate my level of excitement over my plan. So, I'm here to share it with you! Aren't you lucky?!

A few months ago, thanks to Sarah's glowing recommendations, I read aloud The Green Ember by S.D. Smith to my children. It's tagline is "A new adventure with an old soul," which is right on target. We are on a Read Aloud Revival (episode 12) inspired streak, and the big kids and I have only missed one day of reading aloud together for pure pleasure (not for homeschooling purposes) in 172 days (and that includes our three-month trip to Virginia and back). When I say that we loved The Green Ember, that's putting it mildly.

I was overjoyed, seriously, to find a modern book with such value for my family. It's well-written compared with most. The vocabulary is excellent. The characters are relatable (blogger tells me that's not a word, but you know what I mean) and somewhat complex (for kids). The plot is full of adventure, mystery, love, family, good guys, bad guys, suffering, and joy. And the lessons! Oh my! Teaching my kids about courage and loss, trust and deception, leadership and faith, this book is a gem.

Need I say more? Okay! I will.  #rabbitswithswords - truly the best element! The book began as a story S.D. Smith told his own children and developed from there. You can hear his story about how the book came to be on Read Aloud Revival Episode 21. My children are doodling rabbits in the margins of their math books! It's an adventure story, a page-turner, and we never wanted to put it down! Back to my super secret plan...

I have created a #rabbitswithswords Easter gift basket for my kiddos! It includes:

The Green Ember in paperback (we read the Kindle version)
The Green Ember audiobook
4 sets of rabbit ears found at the Target Dollar Spot
4 swords found at the Dollar Tree

Ssshhh! Don't tell! They're going to be SO excited! Those of you who have read the book, am I missing anything in my gift package? Maybe a bunch of carrots? :) Now, as Sarah says...
I’m going to be crazy bossy here and tell you this: if you read nothing else to your kids this year, read The Green Ember. This is a book that will steep your family’s imagination in the good, true, and beautiful. The characters encounter tremendous difficulty and face them with indomitable courage. You will laugh, cry, and find your heart racing. You will wonder if you could possibly live up to the nobility and fortitude Heather and Picket.
You will, in short, fall down a rabbit hole. :)

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