Archive for June 23rd, 2007


I remember when I was a child and I did something to anger my father, all he had to do was to point his index finger in my direction and I would diminish myself into fits of remorse and tears.  My little sister, who never knew when to stop misbehaving, got very mad at me one day. 

She said "Why is it that you never get punished and I always do?"
I thought about it and stated in a very intelligent 7yo voice, "It is because I know when to stop and when I tell you to stop, you should!"

Now, I was not being the bossy older sibling.  I just saw that she had difficulty perceiving from her environment  when  her actions needed to stop.  This is the same child who always had trouble crossing the street and I wanted to help her.   

It was actually a revelation to me at the time and  I couldn’t believe that,  without knowing, I had figured out what other children longed to know…how to avoid the dreaded punishment..or did I?    I had NO CLUE that I was not receiving some kind of correction in the same way as my sister.  The reality of it was,  following all those times when my parents caught  misbehavior, I "disciplined" myself and my father was wise enough to see that in me.  I was so respectful of my father and in my mind he was an all-knowing powerful man (in a godly way) and that to truly disappoint he or my mother was too much for me to bear.   I made a firm purpose of amendment many a time.  So, I guess that makes me strange, but I just felt I had a mission to learn all I could that was good…I did not want to fall prey into anything that wasn’t good.  I guess I still feel that way.

I was reading that in Italian,  the verb meaning  to teach  is "insegnare"  which literally means "to indicate or point out something".  As it says in Sofia Cavalletti’s book, The Religious Potential of the Child: 6 To 12 Year Old , "The adult must "indicate" or point out reality for the child.  Reality itself will then engage them in a profound educational process."

This lead me to remember what I wrote above and I then thought forward about 30 years and thoughtFavoritegift_jim_daly_3

about my role as a director here in our little homeschool.  How can I point out what needs to be done without getting in the way of the work.  I know that sometimes I literally sit on my hands to keep from correcting the children. Most of the time, they need my hands to be off their work.  I know they don’t need me moving things around while they are concentrating on them or clean up their work for them….it is their workthey will clean it when they are through!   I also have to speak less and listen more so they can finish their thought processes.  I don’t want them to lose their concentration and any kind of interest, much less, diminish any sense of awe and wonder they are experiencing by my meddling. 

I brought up this topic when Lori from Montessori For Everyone was posting on the 4Real board

I know in difficult situations or situations I want to "over control"  I try this little mind trick…I imagine myself literally standing behind myself so there is a barrier between me and what is going on in front of me so I can be more objective.  It may sound funny, but I found that it worked…to imagine me putting myself in the way so I would not get in the way.

I also am thinking of short phrases I can give myself to keep my mind on task and open to the child even amidst the distractions…like the phone ringing and the mailman’s grand arrival (which is like a great celebrity event here)  These things interrupt our work cycle…I try to plan around them.

I am also contemplating how to have the older ones mentor the younger ones…have them "point" the work out with out them frustrating each other.  Each of the children have strengths and weaknesses that when they really do work in a spirit of co-operation they seem to teach each other in a way that is deep and lasting…but getting to that point and keeping that point is what I am trying to observe in them now…and yes, I am keeping a journal

Lori said, about the subject of mentoring, that it was like siblings without the rivalry, which she saw in a class that visited hers from another school.   

"The director at my last school was friends with the director there, and we did this school swap where all of their kids came to our school for a day, and all of our kids went to their school for a day. Carmel is a school/farm, with an Erdkinder (high school) program like Maria M. outlined but is so rarely seen.

Anyway, when they came to visit us, we were totally taken aback at the way the older kids took care of the younger ones. They held their hands, carried them, helped with shoes, wiped noses, etc. It was like a sibling relationship without the sibling rivalry. We were in awe, and felt like our own school hadn’t done a very good job of cultivating that kind of closeness.

Doing it at home is probably even harder, because of the sibling rivalry dynamic. I would suggest that the older one be given certain specific tasks to help the younger ones. It can be a presentation (a puzzle, or bead stringing – something simple), and/or ongoing tasks like helping with coats or shoes."

So on it goes with my mentoring ideas.  I have been trying to  cultivate this selfless attitude which needs to be "caught" by them by repeated exposure to what is good and right in action and judgment.  It is hard for the children to let go of selfish attitudes at times, but when they do, they feel such a sense of deep well being that seems to foster even more learning/teaching moments amongst themselves.

The children teaching each other presentations is a new baby of mine.  I have been using this approach with one of my eldest(s) (twins) dd#2.  She is a bit delayed in Math and she has a wonderful gentle way with the younger children.  She has been learning the beginning maths presentations and sharing them with the little ones.  They are all learning a lot…and the younger is cementing the ideas in the older and the older is lending support and an eagerness to learn more in the younger.  Wonderful the way families work together when they live their divine mission, isn’t it?  What is our ultimate goal, our point, in education anyway?

I think this whole process reminds me of the " Civilization of Love" that John Paul II talked about in his Letter to Families :

"The gospel of love is the inexhaustible source of all that nourishes the human family as a "communion of persons". In love the whole educational process finds its support and definitive meaning as the mature fruit of the parents’ mutual gift. Through the efforts, sufferings and disappointments which are part of every person’s education, love is constantly being put to the test. To pass the test, a source of spiritual strength is necessary. This is only found in the One who "loved to the end" (Jn 13:1). Thus education is fully a part of the "civilization of love". It depends on the civilization of love and, in great measure, contributes to its upbuilding."

The Church’s constant and trusting prayer during the Year of the Family
is for the education of man, so that families will persevere in
their task of education with courage, trust and hope, in spite of difficulties
occasionally so serious as to appear insuperable. The Church prays that
the forces of the "civilization of love", which have their source
in the love of God, will be triumphant. These are forces which the Church
ceaselessly expends for the good of the whole human family.

First and foremost we must pray and keep on praying for our spiritual strength and direction…the rosary, morning and evening prayer, prayers to the Holy Spirit for guidance, and our Guardian Angels and St. Michael for protection,  and Holy Mass whenever we can…and of course Confession!  ( I know if I slow down in this area, I am sunk! 😉

Homeschooling is not just a set of subjects or boxes that need to be checked off everyday.  Homeschooling is a holy mission and a journey, and a family-centered way of life…a life in a domestic monastery.   I know that to live in fullness of this holy mission we need to constantly be lifetime learners with a can-do attitude, kicked up a notch with stick-to-itiveness.  We need to grow…stretch ourselves a bit in selfless ways..helping each other along the way, and that growth takes time, courage, and confidence in the one who believed in us enough to call us to this work in the first place.  He didn’t just call ME to teach an education.  He is calling US to live it.

Image: Jim Daly Favorite Gift and Flying High

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