Thursday, November 12, 2009

My Style Workboxes

This post is for those of you who know a little about workboxes but are overwhelmed by the thought of putting them into practice or having all those boxes around!

The idea of workboxes appeals to me, especially the part about how independent it makes your children and that they gain ownership of their schoolwork. The practicality of having that many boxes in my living room, which is where we homeschool most of the time, does not appeal to me. So, this summer I wanted to see if I could simplify the idea to work for me. My only rule was not buy anything, so if it did not work, I would not regret it.

To assemble one set of workboxes, I took one of those plastic milk crates designed to hold hanging files and nine hanging file folders. I labeled the folders one through nine. I printed out a table from Word that I created with the numbers one through nine. I put a small post-it note in each hanging file with a fun sticker on each note. Then, each evening, I filled the folders with work and activities for the children to do, attaching a larger post-it with instructions when necessary. That's it!

Admittedly, we only used the folders for a week or two, because our summer schooling got derailed several times. But, the children did enjoy them. They liked being able to rely on themselves and knowing what comes next. We mostly did the folders in order, but sometimes the children were allowed to skip around (like when an activity required Mom's help and Mom was busy or when both children were supposed to do the same thing but one was not finished with another work). I enjoyed having everything set out the night before, since I am not a morning person, as well!

This school year has gone really well for us, all things considered. I have felt like our short lessons, Charlotte Mason style, with tons of living books have really made learning meaningful for all three of us. Recently, though, I have not been feeling well and have had a hard time getting moving in the morning. We also have had some discipline issues, and so, I resolved the children needed more responsibility and more structure.

I brought out the crates again on Monday, and while it has not been a perfect week, for the first two days both children began schoolwork before I even asked them to get started! Filling the folders (we are using twelve, now, instead of nine) has forced me to find work the children can do independently, so they are not relying on me for every single folder. Instead of post-it notes, I printed out some fun number clip art I found in Word, floral numbers for my girl and walking numbers for my boy. The children know they must finish their first eight folders before recess and do the remaining four before lunch.

I would post pictures, but the crates are not really that attractive. Like I said, I used what we had on hand. I feel like this is a good level of commitment for me. I can use the folders when I feel we need them and put them away if they do not fit our style of schooling at that time. I am not sure if we will use them during Advent, since our schooling is so different during that season. But, I can imagine pulling them back out in January to motivate all three of us to keep going and avoid burn-out.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Avoiding Action

Dryness. It happens to us all. Something happens in our lives, whether good or bad, and we fall away from prayer. We forget the spiritual progress and vision of holiness and become dull. It has happened to me before. It is happening again. And, every time, I must be the one to take the first significant step back towards God and let Him do the rest.

When we are dry, wandering aimlessly, moving through days in a fog, how is it that we can begin again? I spent days pondering this thought, noticing my quiet time with God had evaporated into moments here and there, between movements from one chore or task to another, getting into bed, getting out of bed. And even then, my prayers were either a determined "I will praise matter what" (as if I was trying to convince myself rather than actually do any praising) or a whining "Lord, help me!"

I realize that many saints have experienced a dark night of the soul, but I distinguish dryness from this in that dryness is due to my failure to act. While I do not know much about those dark nights, I have read a little and have seen that those saints stayed faithful and kept praying and hoping even when they felt abandoned. So, that is why I distinguish the two; I might be wrong.

Anyway, I am not known for being very decisive. I can be opinionated, yes, but when it comes to making simple decisions about which I do not have strong feelings or the choice isn't really important, I am not your gal. Remember sitting on a curb in summer with your best friend in junior high? --- "What do you want to do?" --- "I don't know; what do you want to do?" --- That's me!

But, I have been asking God to help me here. There is so much going on in my life that I know this dryness will not be overcome by indecision, and it is too easy to just let it be. And, of course, He has given me a few ideas. Here they are, in no particular order. Writing them might just help me choose one and act, since any one would be a significant step, at this point. Warning - you're about to see the cynic in me.

1. Go to Confession. I have lots of excuses for this one. No mortal sins. No time. No good priest. Not convenient. Children.

2. Go to Adoration. I am avoiding this, because I am pretty sure I will just cry, and I am so tired of crying. I do not want to whine to God, and when I do that, I feel worse rather than better. Silly me.

3. Read a spiritual book. Most of the books on my "to read" shelf are spiritual in nature. None of them appeal to me. It's like I just don't want to hear it, right now. So, I'm reading the Lord of the Rings. Talk about avoidance!

4. Resume a daily Rosary. I already say a decade a day with the children. The Rosary has never really been my thing; I've always prayed it more out of duty. How can that really help?

5. Journal. I abandoned my journal months ago, because it was all about me whining to God. I'm not sure what to write or say to Him at this point.

6. Pray for others. This one is the best option, I think, but it seems like slipping in the back door, avoiding the real issues. What do you think?

In sharing these, I realize that my real problem is that all the words I want to say/pray to God are whiny, and I am terrible at being silent. Now, I know there are more baby steps I could take. Can you give me some more ideas to make my decision even more challenging?!

The bottom line is that God and I are in a stalemate. He is waiting for me to act. I am avoiding Him. That can't be good. Please pray for me and feel free to tell me what you think I should do. If you're in a similar spot, let me know which one you did or will do soon!