Monday, March 15, 2010

Wise Little Flowers

Now that I have changed our meeting schedule to get done before Baby is born, things are moving more quickly, and this post got lost in the shuffle. Finally, it is finished!

We had our meeting on Wisdom last Friday. After our typical opening prayers, I talked with the girls about the virtue. First, we remembered that Wisdom is part of Prudence, our last virtue, and the girls remembered that Prudence is about thinking wisely, deciding carefully, and acting appropriately. Wisdom is a huge part of the thinking part.

Some people confuse Wisdom with Knowledge, so to simplify it for the girls, we said Knowledge is facts about things and Wisdom is understanding about God and life. With Wisdom we must acknowledge that we can never know everything. We discussed having Wisdom without Knowledge versus having Knowledge without Wisdom. I gave the examples of St. Rose of Lima and Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha who were wise enough to follow a path to Heaven with no formal education.

These ideas were developed by me for my local group and are not a part of the official Little Flowers Girls Club ® created by Rachel Watkins. To purchase the excellent materials and begin your own local group, please visit

Wisdom is a gift from the Holy Spirit that we receive at Baptism, but like any gift, if we do not use it, it goes to waste. We can also gain Wisdom from the Bible, the Church, the saints, our parents, etc... I stressed to the girls that I want them to focus, for now, on gaining Wisdom from Scripture and from experience. To illustrate how we gain Wisdom from experience, I pulled out a hula hoop.

The girls all stood in a circle holding hands and had to pass the hula hoop all the way around the circle without using their hands. Most of them had never done this before, so it worked really well in demonstrating how the experience taught them something new they might be able to use again in the future. Indeed, many of the girls at the end of the circle had an easier time moving the hoop than those in the beginning.

I reminded the girls that we can only gain Wisdom if we are open to God's teaching. I held up a sponge and a rock and asked them which is the type of heart we need to be open to God and why. They clearly understood that we must be soft like the sponge and willing to learn. I explained that God often teaches us through other people, like our parents, so it is important to receive their instructions with a spongey heart!

Then, I read the girls this version of the "Very Wise King," King Solomon. I stressed that Solomon was open to learning from a tiny, insignificant bee. Holding up a silk iris, I explained that the purple iris has long been known as a symbol of wisdom. I also shared that the word Iris means "rainbow," which reminds me of God's covenant of love, His promise to always give us what we need, including Wisdom.

Our craft for the day was to make bookmarks, and I chose these beautiful ones from Oriental Trading Company at Jessica's suggestion. The mothers had to bend the wires for most of the girls, but the girls were very pleased with their creations. Knowing this would not take much time, I asked the girls in advance to bring a book or story that has taught them a lesson to share with their rose groups. So, as the girls finished stringing the beads and waited on the mothers to assemble the bookmarks, they talked about the books and stories they brought and what they learned from them.

After our snack break, we played a simplistic version of Jeopardy to see if the girls had grown in Wisdom regarding our Little Flowers virtues. I split the girls into two teams and had five questions that applied to the first four virtues we studied in this wreath: Mercy, Courage, Joy, Generosity. Each was worth a different amount of points. The teams chose the question, but I chose the virtue for which they would give the answer. Here were the questions and points offered:

What does the virtue mean? 100
Give an example of living the virtue. 200
Who is the saint for the virtue and why? 300
What is the flower for the virtue and why? 400
Sing the Scripture verse song for the virtue. 500

The girls had a lot of fun, and it was a very close game! When I split the teams, I made sure they had similar numbers of girls from all ages, and I specifically asked the older girls to be sure to include the younger ones. It was so cute to see the older ones whispering answers in the younger girls' ears to tell me!
Then, I shared with them about St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, also known as Edith Stein, the saint for Wisdom. I told them she was born in Germany of a Jewish family but became an atheist at age 13. I explained she was very intelligent and studied under many famous professors, receiving a doctorate in philosophy, and being well-known as an intellectual.

She became Catholic after reading St. Teresa of Avila's autobiography, which devastated her Jewish family. When the Nazis came to power in Germany, though, she was persecuted as a Jew, based on her heritage. She entered the Carmelite Monastery and was sent to Netherlands to avoid such persecution, but when the Germans occupied the Netherlands, she was arrested. They sent her to a concentration camp where she was sent to the gas chambers to die along with her sister, also a convert and Carmelite nun.

The girls then worked on their virtue pages. Since the color for this virtue is silver, I decided to use a white background and give them aluminum foil to add the silver. They turned out nicely.

We closed with our Scripture song and closing prayers, and then I distributed their patches from previous virtues along with their Patch Project Sheets and Practice Pages seen below (if you can't download these, let me know; Scribd has been acting funny). It always gives me such joy to see their pride in receiving the patches for spending time practicing the virtues.

Per the request of the official Little Flowers Girls Club ® I have removed the downloadable patch project sheets and practice pages. If you are interested in learning about how I used these documents in my group, please contact me directly.

Monday Motivator for Moms - Joy

What brings you joy?

What robs you of joy?

This weekend I was blessed to discuss these two questions with a group of faith-filled Catholic homeschooling mothers! Inspired by resources like the Fall 2008 issue of mater et magistra, Rachel Watkins's talk titled "Joy for the Asking, Joy for the Keeping" given at the Family Centered Learning Conference last summer (her notes here and mp3 of talk here), The Joyful Home Schooler by Mary Hood, and some wonderful ideas from a recent 4RealForum thread, we shared breakfast and conversation about finding and maintaining joy in our homeschooling lifestyle.

The first part of our conversation focused on how to find joy in our lives. We ranged from the basic understanding that joy is a gift from God to how to have fun with your children. The virtue of joy is available to us "for the asking" from our Baptism. Only God can bring true joy into our lives. Of course, the type of joy God gives is not the same as the type of happiness the world promotes, that which mostly comes from a result of sensual satisfaction. It is, instead, an internal joy, resulting from our faith that the Lord knows what is best for us and is with us, even in our darkest hours.

External joy is also important but is only a result of internal joy. Perhaps more aptly called cheerfulness, this includes smiling, laughing, and maintaining a positive attitude. Sometimes this is not appropriate, and often it is not easy. But, as mothers, it is something we must strive to model for our children, even when we do not feel like it.

Apparently, the world is so obsessed with being unhappy that a Harvard professor created a "science of happiness and potential" and offered a course titled - "Positive Psychology," which was the most popular freshman course in 2006. You can read more here and watch more here. He asserts, "You can absolutely teach people to be happy," and I agree. As Catholic homeschoolers, this must be part of the character education we provide for our children.

Of course, you cannot teach someone without some background of knowledge, and the best way to teach joy is to possess it. The rest of our breakfast conversation focused on what things steal our joy from us and how to avoid them, protecting the gift God has given us. It might be piles of laundry that rob your joy. It might be a husband who always comes home late. It might be a child who only does things halfway. Regardless, mothers must guard our joy, finding practical ways to overcome those challenges (i.e. hide the laundry piles, schedule a family night once or twice a week, invest the time to make sure the child does a particular chore correctly).

We also shared some of the sorrows that can come from burnout and a lack of joy, like anger, which can both ultimately lead to depression if we are not careful. The tissue box was passed around, and most of us admitted we sometimes get tired of homeschooling and more often scream at our children. If you struggle with burnout, there are wise words in Elizabeth's chapter on burnout in Real Learning (currently OOP but a new printing has just been ordered) and some simple advice from Sarah here. My favorite book for mothers on managing anger is She's Gonna Blow!

Some excellent suggestions on ways to preserve joy are to create a gratitude journal like Ann by listing the blessings in your life or a list of things you can do that bring you and the children joy like Elizabeth suggests to prevent or overcome burnout. These things do not have to be complex. It might be as simple as letting your children paint all the fallen coconuts in your yard (if you live in South Florida!) or keeping a chocolate stash just for mom.

Most importantly, throughout our entire conversation, I realized that it must be a conscious prayer to accept the joy the Holy Spirit gives freely and a deliberate decision to protect that joy in our everyday lives, especially if you have melancholic tendencies like me. So, what is it that brings you joy? How do you find that crucial internal joy in the Lord? And, how do you share your joy with others on a daily basis?