Friday, August 29, 2014

What We Do Is Hard + Solutions

The Cathedral of St. John Lateran

I hosted our August monthly potluck Catholic Homeschooling Moms' Breakfast this past Saturday. As always, it was a blessing to be with so many women striving to love their families through homeschooling. I try to take notes for those who are unable to attend that particular month. Here are the notes:

Today, I chose to share something that has been on my heart this summer. Then, we opened it up for questions and shared some wonderful encouragement! Thank you, as always, to those who came and shared and prayed and listened.

  • Our opening prayer was to reflect on the Gospel of John, chapter 21 where Jesus fills the disciples nets and then prepares them breakfast. John 21:1-14
  • I had everyone write on a notecard one of the challenges/fears they are facing this year of homeschooling, pointing out afterwards that no one seemed to have any trouble thinking of something, just trouble putting only one thing.
  • Fun quote from Danielle Bean’s new book Momnipotent - “I have a friend who likes to tell her husband in the morning before he leaves for work: ‘I can do two out of these three things today: homeschool, keep the house clean, or make a good dinner. Which two would you like?’”
  • I shared that I had attended The Edel Gathering, a conference for Catholic moms, this summer, and that the closing talk given by Jennifer Fulwiler of Conversion Diary and Something Other Than God was something I felt called to pass on.
  • You can listen to the entire talk (and the other three) here. Marion’s is particularly good!
  • Jen started by saying, “What we do is hard.”
  • For my blog readers, here are a few other highlights, but Jen's talk is short, only 15 minutes. You should listen to it all! This is a really poor summary of a fabulous message.
    • Being a Catholic woman in the world today is hard.
    • The most difficult part is feeling isolated.
    • It's really hard to carry a cross when you feel you're the only one carrying that cross.
    • We wonder if we are the only Catholic woman out there struggling with that cross.
    • Nobody sees, but God sees. And you think, great, but I'm still alone in the cathedral.
    • Our Catholic Church teaches us that God loves to show His concern to us through other human beings (i.e. Confession, Mass). We are called to be together.
    • You are not alone. Throw open the doors of the cathedral and flood it with workers.
    • The outside world simply does not care about the struggles of Catholic women, but look around you. These are fellow workers.
  • My hope for these breakfasts is that we can join together as fellow workers and share tools and encouragement, reminding one another that we are not alone.
  • My rules for our breakfast are as follows:
    1. Do not compare. While we are together to share ideas and advice with one another, we should take it all in a spirit of discernment. There is no one way to be the perfect Catholic homeschooling mother, and that’s not our goal anyway. We should imitate Christ, not one another, and we should prayerfully consider all recommendations in light of our unique family situation.
    2. Be positive. While I want the group to be a safe place where we can share our struggles and help one another work through them, we have to be cautious not to let our conversation drift into a complaint session, especially if we are grumbling about our family, children, or husbands. We should always be charitable and especially respectful of marital intimacy.
    3. Be open. Our breakfasts are open to anyone who homeschools, has homeschooled, or is considering homeschooling. There will be many ideas and many ways of living out our vocations shared. I invite us to accept one another and also to accept the guidance others offer. Be a listener, and truly consider the suggestions others may give. Who knows when the Holy Spirit may speak.
  • Question: What about merging kids for certain subjects? It’s easy to do with RC History, for example, but can I do it for Saxon Math?
    • Yes. You can always try anything and see what happens. That’s the beauty of homeschooling.
    • Perhaps you can still level them by going slower with the younger one and having her do fewer practice problems.
    • If husband isn’t sure, tell him you want to try it for one month and then reassess.
    • With math, the attitude of Mom is key.
    • When you combine, you actually build confidence in the older ones.
    • If they already know the material, you can skip problems or whole pages. It’s up to you.
    • If something is too easy, you don't have to keep doing it.
    • If they hate it, you can slow down, especially in the early grades.
    • We have to balance our schedule with our children’s desires.
  • Question: How can I create a joyful learning environment and avoid “I hate school,” especially with a struggling reader?
    • Read books together. Model reading with him.
    • Have him read aloud to younger siblings to help you, not as school, but pick the books you want him to read.
    • Do your work with your struggling reader when you know you’ll have enough time to focus on him and not be rushed to get to the next thing.
    • Go slower and be at peace with that.
    • Some children read later, boys especially.
    • We are not naturally wired to read and write.
    • Investigate if there is some assessment to determine if a processing disorder or other struggle exists.
  • Question: How do I avoid trying to fit too much into our school day to get done to do other things?
    • Determine how much time you have to dedicate to school each day. Then, plan which subjects you will cover, allowing one hour for every 45 minutes of work.
    • Try looping. Explained here.
    • Try a four-day school week, so you can save the other things for a separate day.
    • Try some form of Sabbath-schooling, school for 4-8 weeks, then take a week or two off, all year round, possibly with a 6-8 week break in the summer.
    • You might not finish the third grade book at the end of third grade. Just carry it over to fourth grade.
    • Once the bulk of your work is done for the year, take a few more weeks to finish up anything you don’t want to carry over to next year.
    • Try doing science one month, history the next month, creative writing the next month, then back to science, history, etc. They can go deeper with the material and not jump around so much from subject to subject.
    • Use unit studies to combine subject areas.
    • Take breaks, for the kids and mom. When they get frustrated, a break could help.
    • As an example, work 15 minutes on math, take a 5 minute break, work 15 more minutes on math, etc. If they don’t come back from the break on time, they shorten the next break.
    • Charlotte Mason's philosophy encourages short lessons, no longer than 15-20 minutes on one subject at a time.
  • Question: How do I deal with my son who screams whenever he gets frustrated?
    • There is biology that shows the hormone that is created when we are angry or frustrated is actually released from our bodies in sweat and tears. Get him active.
    • Scream together to distract him.
    • Keep him active on a regular basis. Kids who need exercise will show behavior improvements when they get enough.
  • Question: How do I cope with a strong-willed, constantly-debating-me child for whom many things result in high drama and meltdowns?
    • It could be the age. But you shouldn't just wait it out, because it could be personality.
    • Children with this kind of passion are needed to change the world (i.e. end abortion).
    • Take it one day at a time, one moment at a time.
    • Physical activity does help.
    • Remember we are teaching our children self-discipline, and that is a hard, life-long process. Adults still struggle with self-discipline.
  • Question: What curriculum should I use, leaning towards Montessori but hearing you all use a more standard curriculum?
    • Only one mom uses a boxed curriculum and enrolls (Seton). Only one buys the whole set and doesn't enroll her kids (Mother of Divine Grace). The rest of us use an eclectic mix of what works for mom and kids.
    • It’s good to do lots of research and know what you enjoy.
    • It’s typical to constantly change curriculum and adapt as your family changes and grows.
    • Not one mom said she has it all figured out.
    • Pick something and do it for a while. Then, discern if you feel change is needed.
    • Changing materials or approaches is not going to mess up your kids, but if you are constantly searching for the next-best or perfect thing, you will drive yourself crazy.
    • Don’t compare yourself to others. Decide what works for you.
  • Question: Will you pray for me to find peace with the household stuff?
    • Absolutely!
    • Try to figure out what small things will make a huge difference in the way you feel about your house. Is it just putting away the stack of papers or cleaning the toilets, etc.?
    • Pray. Just like we make a school plan, you also need a spiritual plan.
    • Yes, your husband wants to see a joyful, peaceful wife, and we must ask for the grace to give him that gift.
    • Post Scripture and prayers/images around your house to remind you.
    • Make a tangible plan, also, to get one chore done each morning before school and one during your school break, etc.
    • Give your kids more responsibility. They can and should clean, do/fold laundry, and help prepare meals.
    • This is Jenny adding to this mom - find some ways to feed your needs, too; a kindred spirit to chat on the phone or over coffee regularly, an Adoration hour each week, exercise, proper nutrition, good sleep, etc.

 What other advice can you share?

No comments: