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?