Friday, July 29, 2016

Start a Moms' Group: 3 Easy Steps

You agree moms' groups are important. You might even agree that YOU need to be the one to get one started in your area. But you are skeptical on the amount of work involved, amiright? After all, we are all busy mamas with way too much on our plate to add one more thing!

I have found that getting a group started is the easiest part! And I believe that if the Holy Spirit is allowed to lead the group, keeping it going can be easy, too. Here is your homework assignment, if you feel called to lead your own group.

1. Choose a location.

2. Choose a date and time.

3. Invite women.

Yes, it is that simple. Do not overthink the location or date and time. Just pick something that works for you. After that initial gathering, you can change up both, because you will get plenty of feedback from mamas who want to come.

You do not have to plan a book study or schedule topics. You do not have to determine the format of your group or the rules or finances, if applicable. There will be plenty of time to do that after you have some invested women who will likely be willing to help make those decisions.

If you want some ideas on what locations, dates and times, and types of women have worked for the groups I have led in the past, I will share those soon. But your group is unique, and what worked for us might not work for you. So do not be afraid to take that leap of faith and send an email now to set up your first gathering. Say a prayer, click send, and let the Holy Spirit lead the rest!

Commit now to planning at least one gathering of moms and share your chosen location below!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

I Don't Have the [blank] to Start a Moms' Group

Excuses! I know you have them! You do not have time to do this. You do not know how to do this. You are not the right person to do this. A few days ago, I tried to convince you how important moms' groups are, especially for homeschooling moms. But if you need more convincing that YOU should be the one to get the ball rolling, listen carefully, and come back tomorrow for the 3 easy steps to make it happen!

1. Somebody has to do it. Really. We can all agree that moms need to get together and that we need each other, but unless we make the time and give the little bit of effort needed, it simply will not happen. We all have too much on our schedules for gatherings to happen magically or spontaneously. If we all act as if it is someone else's job, those moms who always do the leading will get burned out or it just won't happen.

2. It is an act of service to start a group. Many of us wish we could volunteer at our churches or soup kitchens and food pantries, but our primary vocation of mothers of small children often does not allow us the flexibility to do that. Being the one to pull moms together is a way for you to serve your neighbor and demonstrate to your children that it is important to always be a giver, not only a taker. (They do not see your service to them in the same way, although it IS service, of course!)

3. You will benefit personally. I always maintain that I host moms' groups, because I am selfish. When I am able to set the time, date, location, and format, I can choose what I know will benefit me rather than try to fit into someone else's plan. If there is a group near you that works for your family, be a supporter, but if not, even if there is a group right next door that does not fit your needs, start your own! My husband is grateful I lead these gatherings, because he sees a happier me after each one!

4. Starting a group is easier than you think. It does not have to be some formal, pre-set group. Just start getting moms together (I will tell you how tomorrow) and do not stop. A one time gathering is great, but for everyone to benefit the most, building relationship and community, you need to keep meeting. But all it takes is three things to start. It is not rocket science!

You, yes YOU, really need to prayerfully consider inviting some moms to meet. Be sure you have your husband's support and go for it! I bet you will find that as soon as you start, you will have more than enough support and additional help to keep it going.

What's your excuse for not attending and/or starting a moms' group in your area?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Catholic Homeschooling Mothers Are...Just...Different.

I shared recently how important community is to me and why I think moms' groups are just about the best thing since sliced bread! But, I feel the need to speak directly to my colleagues for a few moments. Catholic homeschooling mothers are the women I consider to be my soul sisters. We are choosing not just "the road less traveled by" but "the road [least] traveled by" (based on pure statistics).

And that is why we need to get ourselves together and talk. We can meet for coffee or margaritas, in a home or at a park, with or without kids, but I firmly believe it needs to be a priority for us. The simple act of getting together will benefit our family, our children, and our personal growth every single time. I guarantee it!

This "road [least] traveled by" is not only counter-cultural, like many Catholic families who strive to live authentically the vision of the domestic church, but it is also a choice to turn away from the model of education embraced by most first world countries. While being Catholic with a strong faith is often isolating, homeschooling can stop a casual conversation or end a friendship in a flash. A parent is usually immediately labeled as odd (or worse things) as soon as we admit we homeschool. (I admit we are odd, of course, but I would prefer people get to know me before assuming that.)

We have undertaken this monumental work of not only raising saints but also raising lifelong learners. Our choice to educate our children at home and not hand that responsibility to "professionals" is a heavy weight on our shoulders. When we get together, our conversation is inevitably going to turn to curriculum or lesson planning, as it should, because these are significant aspects of our daily lives.

As we connect with other Catholic homeschooling families, we create communities of learners and have opportunities to help one another through co-ops, tutoring, loaning materials, bringing meals, swapping babysitting, sharing advice, and more. The bonds that we form over math test woes and catechism lessons are just different than those with our friends from our family, church, or community who do not homeschool. In my experience, these Catholic homeschooling relationships are the friendships that go deep through thick and thin, because we simply understand each other.

The reality is when you are home with your children all day and are trying to teach them spelling, discipline has to look differently. The cute Pinterest ideas have a place but most likely not before reading lessons and handwriting. Even mundane things like cleaning and cooking are different in a homeschooling family, and so we need to talk about these things with one another.

And as I said about all moms, we need to pray together. Lifting one another up in prayer is the single most important thing we can do to help each other homeschool successfully, according to God's plan for our families. Honestly, this is the one act that slips my mind the most. I am so excited to be with my people that I forget to suggest, or sometimes am embarrassed to ask, that we pray together (even at a park day or moms' night out)!

So, please help me make up for that and stop the one whose goal is to distract us from God. Get together with other Catholic homeschooling mothers. We will talk practical ideas next. Then when you get together, pray together. I will do the same, and we will all be better for it.

How often do you get to visit with other Catholic homeschooling moms? What is your favorite topic to discuss?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Why YOU Should Start a Mom's Group!

Apologies to my friends pictured,
these were taken by my youngest child!

Yes, you. The one reading this saying you don't have enough time or space or skill. None of that matters. If you don't attend some sort of group for mothers to connect with one another IN PERSON, you need to just do it.

Why? I am so glad you asked. I have been leading various moms' groups on and off for over ten years in three different states, and nothing has been more encouraging and inspiring to me as a mother than sitting and sharing with other mothers who are in the trenches with me! Let me try to convince you why it should be you, and soon I will give you the practical how-to.

1. Catholic mothers, whether they work outside the home or not, are especially vulnerable to loneliness and isolation. Our neighbors' and family members' lives are often so far afield from our daily concerns that it can be difficult to even hold a conversation sometimes. We are changing diapers and teaching our kids how to make the sign of the cross, and to us, those are the most important parts of our days worthy of discussion, not the show on television or the latest neighborhood gossip. When we find our people, those striving for Heaven and trying to follow a similar vocation path, we realize we are not alone and that makes facing opposition just a little bit easier.

2. Mothering is a hard and never-ending job. The work is never done. There is always another meal to make and another load of laundry to run, until our children grow up and move away. It is crucial that we find ways to stop and refresh our weary spirits. Joining together with other moms for prayer, fellowship, study, and/or fun can be that pause in our repetitive days that allows us to recenter and remember the joy in all the drudgery!

3. Memes and viral videos abound on the internet about the Mommy Wars. We are constantly wondering if we are doing it right, whether that be cooking or disciplining or whatever. There is some truth to the African adage when spoken simply, "It takes a village to raise a child." We need each other and only recently in history have most mothers not had their mothers and/or mothers-in-law within walking distance to provide encouragement and practical support. Moms' groups foster unity despite our differences, just as the Body of Christ has many parts but is united in Christ Jesus.

4. Similarly, we need various points of view to properly reflect on our parenting and choose the paths best for our individual families. And reading those points of view on the internet only get us so far. Those opinions are not subject to our questions and personal circumstances like an in-person conversation might be. Most importantly, sometimes we need friends and even acquaintances with the same understanding of family life to challenge us and point out some flaw in our lives that we may not have eyes to see!

5. Most importantly, "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them." Matthew 18:20. We need Jesus. Therefore, we need to gather with one another as often as possible with like-minded women to pray and offer our thanksgiving and petition to the Lord, Who then will nourish our souls and draw us ever closer to Him. That is how we survive and thrive as busy moms on our way to Heaven.

There are many more reasons why to participate in or begin your own moms' group, but to me, these are the most significant. This topic is so dear to my heart that I will be writing more about what types of groups you might start, ideas to get things going, and troubleshooting common problems.

Are you a part of a moms' group? How has it benefited you?

Monday, July 25, 2016

What Will We Do Without You?

Moms' Night Out!

I like answering questions. Ask me a question, and 98% of the time, I will have an answer. I have no problem sharing my opinions or experiences when asked. In fact, like many, I enjoy speaking my mind. So you have been warned!

Last summer I responded here to How Do You Do It All? and more recently answered How Are You Doing? But the question I was asked by friends before moving across Texas about a month ago that has been on my heart lately is What Will We Do Without You?

At the time, I mostly shrugged off the question. It was a time of difficult goodbyes, and I knew people meant well. Inside, I honestly was bothered by the repetition of this question, though, and at one point I did try to articulate why. Since I am sure I did not communicate well in that moment, I thought I would revisit my answer.

For those of you that know me IRL, yes, I realize you probably asked that rhetorical question merely to express your appreciation for all of my contributions to our community. And I thank you for your kindnesses and friendship, but I do have a challenge for you. For those of you who do not know me, as you read the following response, I invite you to think about that homeschooling mom who serves your community. I have met these women and heard about these women, and I know some of them probably feel just like me.

When I feel called to serve outside of my family, my passion is to provide support for, connect, and encourage Catholic homeschooling moms. So, my answer to What Will We Do Without You? is to encourage (or beg?) you to provide support for, connect, and encourage other Catholic homeschooling moms.

It can be very simple to reach out to new homeschooling mothers. If you have been homeschooling at least one year, being present to another mom, in my experience, can mean the difference between peace and anxiety over her daily choices. Listen to her. Share your experiences, the good and the bad. Loan her books and answer her questions. Give her a call, send her a text, or invite her for tea!

If you are in a season of life where you are able to go a step further, I challenge you to get homeschooling moms together. This can be easier than it sounds and building personal relationships is crucially important to our Christian walk. A park day, a moms' night out, coffee, breakfast, whatever! It doesn't have to be a large event, strategically planned, or a long-term commitment. Just pick a date, time, and location and invite a few other moms, or your whole homeschool email group! (If you want a more formal event to nourish mamas, I highly recommend putting together a Grace Day!)

And if you feel like access to support and encouragement is as key to a homeschool family's success as I do, then volunteer as a leader for your local homeschool group, conference, or co-op. None of us have the time, but all those wonderful gatherings do not happen without time and talent. Many hands make light work. Etc. Etc. Please help! It might just be your turn to say yes.

Please remember one more thing about those mamas who seem essential to the cohesiveness and success of your homeschool group and community. They may do a lot and serve on boards or committees, and you have no idea how they do it all (most of us don't). But if they are anything like me, they do what they do because they need support and encouragement, too. Just like you, they regularly feel the weight of this homeschooling journey and are bolstered by their connections with you!

So, what can you do to reach out and fill the void this year? How can you serve your homeschooling community in some small or big way?