Archive for the ‘Tending to Virtue’ Category

Sorry for the choppiness of my last post.  DS(14) Young Edison does have a lot to share, but it is so hard to post some days .  He is very excited about his work and what he has done in the past and what he wants to demonstrate to the younger ones now.  He is becoming a great teacher. He works slowly with them and lets them wonder about what they are doing and come up with their own solutions to scientific problems..etc. It is so nice to watch.  Can you see me beaming?  A lot of work has gone into this young man.  I am astonished to see what and who he is becoming.

I am nearing the end of my first trimester…yippee!  I have been feeling so GREEN but not getting sick.  Which means I have been putting on weight…ick.  I know that will work itself out once the GREEN period passes and I can be more active again.  I plan on stepping up my walks to 2X a day.  Preparing for Labor and Delivery after all of these pregnancies/  is akin to training for a marathon.  I plan on doing as well as I can with a minimum of interventions!

Slowing down lately has given me plenty of time to think about what school looks like to us.  I have become much more comfortable running my 10 ring circus, highschool is looking so much less intimidating and my 14yo ds is doing more chores with noooo complaining….woo-hoo! We made a deal…he works on something resembling laundry and the dishes and I will bug him less and give him quality time with dh and the twins(16) after the younger kiddoes are in bed…whether that be playing a game, or watching old movies or just talking…it is so nice having a male older child.  Did I tell you that I am proud of this young man?

Because Young Edison is helping me out more, I gotta tell ya…what a load of stress off of me.  The twins run circles around me and with him pitching in….sweeeet is a good word.  Things are still hard but much,much more tolerable.

Well, I am off to shear another son.  Young Edison has a head of brown wavy hair that any woman would kill for….and it takes quite a lot out of the life of the clippers…LOL  Before I took the barbering home, the barber told me that it was like 3 boys worth of hair on the floor, and I can believe it.  Clipping his hair is a wonderful way to spend one-on-one quality time with any of the children.  I really look forward to our special times together.  Someday I have to get a picture with me doing it.  I know it will be one of the things that the children remember most about childhood….time spent with mom while she made them more handsome in the bathroom…sigh…TIME…goes waay fast.  It is worth all the aggravation. …remind me this next week, will ya??

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And so we begin another school year. It is chaotic…there is a mess in neat little piles everywhere…books, papers, school supplies…

even though we try to keep up with the dishes, the meal times seem to come on us faster and faster and we just can’t keep up! the kitchen could use a fire hose cleaning… got a hose I can borrow??    I guess it would help if I had a drain in the floor….

I am very visual and clutter drives me nuts…especially when my arms are too short to reach the kitchen sink with any degree of comfort, not to mention that I have to do all my cooking on the back burners of the stove to prevent accidents and a burnt pregnancy belly….short arms hinder there too.  Trying to get the kids to do their chores without evaporating into thin air is a challenge, (they can smell weakness) and I don’t know how so much stuff seems to collect on the floor…  where does it all come from?! I can’t reach it. Dh has joked about putting a nail at the end of a pole to help me…

but! somehow we are doing it. 10 ring circus style…and the more we do it the better we get at it, but we have to be willing to have all we know turned on its ear for awhile until it finds its own level of normalcy… (the mysterious element of life that has no definition really, it just is an imaginary goal of mine…)

As for school…

I so much want to form connections with the children in all subject areas. I want to help them bookmark in their brains the things we are covering. I want the precious time we have together to count.  I don’t want to waste anything.  I want it to MEAN something to them. The funniest times I have with the younger set are when we attempt to give them a grasp of things, most specifically  the passage of time.  Sometimes this works…sometimes it doesn’t…

Yesterday we were covering the beginnings of Salvation History with the 8 and 9yo…. When trying to elicit the response to the question “Who was it that was the father of many nations?” I got the answer:

“OOh! I KNOW THAT one! Abraham Lincoln!

gulp. ok…time to add pictures… lol

I am trying to get my 8th grade son and twin 9th grade daughters to be more independent. I want them to polish their writing and communication skills in oh so many ways. I find that the largest success comes from letting them choose their time to study any given subject area and I try to get them to write about the things they are engaged in and not be afraid of having to polish and re-work things a few times to accomplish a well written and well thought out piece.   I don’t mind if they do a weeks worth of American History at once and just a few other subjects in any given day as long as they are spending that time in concentration and not in idle exposure. For my one dd in particular, this has proven to be a great antidote for her retention issues. She really needs to immerse herself in only a few things every day to do them well instead of spreading herself so thin that she gets overwhelmed with the workload.

They have discussed ‘pegs’ on the 4Real board and on sweet Melissa’s blog many times.  Great idea! It is working.  I find myself musing about them in a different way though…. I think the best peg to pin my sons to lately is the one that attaches to the seat of their pants and hooks them to a dining room chair so they will not flee in fear from the gray substance that comes out of the center of those sharpened wooden sticks they call pencils and forces them to actually START to scribble  on pages of paper that are much too white and daunting.

This has got to be the hardest year yet.  Maybe it is the thought that I have older children that will only be with me for a few more years.  I have a baby coming in 5 weeks.  My house and my budget are too small for all of my wonderful ideas.  Who knows why, really.

and yes, I am praying, a LOT!

…For God’s balance.  …His kind of connections and ….His Wisdom in everything.

My puny wisdom doesn’t stand a chance around these children, their being made in God’s image and likeness and all… otherwise I just feel like a sitting (very pregnant) duck.

His is the only force that will reckon with them.  Good thing HE is perfect.  at least I am willing to keep on trying to steer this ship anyhow despite my limitations and hormonal weaknesses…lol!

I believe they call this the beginning of spiritual growth….

I haven’t had any good chocolate in months.  I am feeling its loss…

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I have been thinking a lot about who we are as a family. I really do think that each family has a unique charism. It seems to be a theme that has been coming up so much that I am starting to take notice…like the Holy Spirit is tapping me on the head…

I really do think our unique charism is a homeschooling one.. one where we live a Eucharistic-centered family-centered existence in which we participate in life’s events in a wholistic way. We involve everyone from the 3yo to the 14yo twins….mom and dad too. the more we do this the more we learn and grow and glean from each other. We learn so much more from this environment than when we are segregated into age-appropriate peer-centered groups. Life seems more balanced and more interesting to say the least…lol.

I mean, think about it.

We eat together, play together, pray together, learn together…. and all that we do when we are together is the best that we can do…we eat holistically using living food…we read living books,…we make the best use of our time that we can..even when relaxing. we have found that our experience as a family to be a richer deeper version of the lives we lived before we started this magnum opus of a homeschool family. The kids ‘get’ things that dh and I were clueless to at the same age. They are well grounded. They have a deeper sense of who they are and what they are about. They, in general, go deeper with many things…live more on-purpose than we ever did at that age. they know and love and learn more about their Catholic faith than we EVER knew at their ages. They are pretty good barometers when it comes to “fluff” …I have heard more than once…”Mom, we could do this BETTER”…

I see much much good fruit here and much food for deeper thought….peeling back the layers (ok bad pun) we found that there is something in front of us that we are still trying to understand. There is a force at work when we work as a UNIT that dh and I just don’t seem to get yet. I like what I see. I am ever seeking the definition of it. We compliment each other well. We balance each other out. We each have a unique contribution to make….not that all we do is perfect, but our time together is always a good opportunity to work out whatever kinks we have ;o)

So then we reach out to our local parish. We attend Holy Mass. We are the altar servers, we volunteer for seting up and cleaning up after various events. We are the faithful ones that show up. We kneel down when everyone is making the mass-exodus from the church to say a few prayers of thanksgiving together… just to spend a few moments more with the God we love and love to serve. We are instrumental in planning, and running our parish picnic. No half-stepping here. We love being family-centered and volunteering in a family-centered way.

We don’t participate in CCD…

We felt so out of place with their “confirmation prep

and now there is something else that the 3 eldests and I have been mulling around in our heads and it involves our newly established youth group…

For the first time in a long while we have a youth group at our church for jr-sr high. I have 3 children that fit into this age group so I decided to attend a meeting with them…I told them that the kids were coming and btw..so was I…

The general format was ok…kinda..
they were given a pocket bible that was a poor translation that had my kids rolling their eyes in my general direction and they used this bible during a discussion of who they were. The theme of the night was “who am I”. It was ok but felt too …dunno…dumbed down? On the plus side, after this evening the girls spent the weekend with this bible open and compared and contrasted its content with our bible at home…made for some very interesting discussions…

it had its good moments…the kids played together. some of it was a bit hokey…
the plus was that over 1/2 of the kids there were our homeschooling friends so we kinda converted the place into an interesting social event.

They were told that each time they met they would learn a new song that was like pop Catholic music. After listening to one song the leader said “Isn’t this a cool song? I mean this would be GREAT to hear in Mass!” I interjected …nooo…I really don’t think that would be a good idea…
She asked why not…
I said, because Holy Mass is something so very special and sacred and God deserves music that goes deeper than this does. and I did mention that this kind of music is great for a campfire or a dance or something..it had its place but Holy Mass was not one of them.
So we agreed that we disagreed…

I don’t know how comfy my kids feel about going. There are good points…but why do I feel so weird about this? I know they want to do good service type projects. I don’t think they will end up doing anything that we wouldn’t be doing with our local homeschool community though. We live such a meaningful existence when we homeschool…when we play…when we pray. I know we are not “better” than anyone…but we do choose to live deeper. I think we found this get-together to be strangely wanting of what it could have been. The kids feel a strange nagging feeling and we still wonder…is this something that should be worth our time? It is so hard to find good groups to belong to. Maybe we should start something on our own??

and then my parish priest asked me what I thought.
after my encounter with the parish over the weird confirmation retreat I was wondering if he really wanted to know or not…I have a tendency to be the orthodox meter as of late….lol what a distinction…sigh.

What is the push lately for each INDIVIDUAL to be more involved with “parish life” …kinda like that children’s liturgy thread at 4 real….golly i loved what Macbeth had to say on page 2…my feelings exactly!! Mentoring through mass…expose the children to things bigger than themselves…the Holy Mass is bigger than all of us!

what about Christ-centered things that are not dumbed down that suit the family as a whole instead..could that be a do-able thing?

I like to live on-purpose. I like meaning…I love going deeper. so do the kids. When things tend to be wishy-washy I feel like I have no time for them. Life is so short. I would much rather do one thing really well than stretch myself and my family thin doing some things that are moderately ok.

The family that prays together stays together. Just because the child receives the Eucharist at 8 doesn’t mean that NOW he should be attending mass….we always attend the ENTIRE  Mass together because it is the essence of who we are and what we are about.   Just because a child recieves Confirmation doesn’t make him an adult either….we are always learning and growing and celebrate each sacrament as a sacred moment in that journey… they are steps on the journey and we celebrate them with the child as a family …these sacred moments are moments that we cherish in the heart of our home. What about the men being the spiritual head of their homes? doesn’t this translate well as he leads them into worship in church and volunteer life within the parish? St Francis said preach and only when necessary use words…random thoughts but the same theme keeps popping into my head…we allll have a contribution to make. I really like the fruit of being family-centered…we all have something to offer.

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“Remember that education is a difficult art, and that God alone is its true Master. We will never succeed in it, unless He teaches us the way. While depending humbly and entirely on Him, we should try with might and main, to acquire that moral strength that is a stranger to force and rigor. Let us strive to make ourselves loved, to instill into our pupils the high ideal of duty and the holy fear of God, and we will soon possess their hearts. Then, with natural ease, they will join us in praising Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Who is our model, our pattern, our exemplar in all things, but especially in the education of the young.”

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The holy wars are erupting…

it has been too cold or windy as of late to spend any real free and unbridled time outside….in this house of too many chiefs and not enough Indians this scenario translates into lots of missed moments to love. How best to handle this…all of this in the way God is calling me while in the background there are the call to arms to fight for the next “cause”…theirs not mine ;o) I hope God calls me using His “outside voice” because it sounds like a zoo in here…as the old line goes…”it is so crowded in here (read with noise) I have to go outside to change my mind”!

It seems to me that God is the only one who knows exactly what kind of love we need and the expression thereof. He has planted within our lives moments to love in the form of seeds. But like anything I do, slow and steady growth and pruning isn’t as gentle as I would like it to be…it feels more like a holy war. In this garden weeds need to be pulled up too. Who likes to get their nails dirty…again?…didn’t I just do this a thousand yesterdays ago?! When we learn that a bit of good clean dirt can lend itself to a cleaner heart and a greater portion of peace, I don’t think we will mind so much the process by which it came there…self-sacrifice….but wasn’t “I” dirty enough for the last thousand yesterdays?…”I” thought so… and maybe I should concentrate not so much on the denial of things and appetites but more like the steady promotion of the quiet and the sweet and the lovely things…but it is so noisy!…did I make that grand breakthrough yet?

The sweet and the lovely…like smiles when you really would much rather yell…I can say, that one is hard for me…worse than giving up chocolate (when pressed hard enough, that is ;o) Some times I just feel as if I am in God’s holy wine press….if you can stand the pressure the fruit is pretty good…

I really need to slow down and allow God time with my heart…I need to pray more and allow it to become good habit that will lend me more than a good portion of peace with plenty to spare for my neighbor. I need to slow down and find meaningful work in my prayer life and do it all slowly and deliberately…even cleaning the table or scrubbing a floor as a prayer does much to stretch my heart to love others…especially when you know that in five minutes the floor may become muddy again or the table will have peanut butter or craft supplies on it at any moment…(maybe both at the same time…mixed wih milk!) But this is not just for ME…it is for THEM… What them?…those them…see? the them lurking behind me as I am on the computer… If I am not mistaken…I think they are suiting up to do battle over some lost cookie dough…heaven help us…”the cooked cookies are better” vs “the cookie dough is much better crowd”….

I am preparing the environment of my home and heart at the same time. I long for the children to do the same and have it in the front of their minds and hearts…what a challenge! I am a facilitator to inner peace when I clear the way for more love. I really feel more like the most delicate way to do this would be with a bulldozer…get it done all at once and for all…do you think that would work?!

I loved reading this article today! I love this quote:

If you haven’t yet discovered the true beauty and comfort of your own home, there is buried treasure waiting for you. All it will take is for you to decide what it is you want your home to be, and then work towards that. It won’t happen overnight – this is slow process and, like housework, it will never end, but making a real home is another one of those valuable things that will serve you as much in the journey as in the destination.

Here I am losing heart in these cold days of early winter…trying to stretch the family budget (such as it is) to meet the needs of my loved ones…cooking, cleaning, teaching, learning (as a good teacher is also a student) trying not to get so full of myself that I get in the way of ministering to my home and my loved ones in the ways that Our Lord has commanded me to love.

A few months back when I went to confession I was sure that my dear priest was commanding me to love more…and boy did I feel a bit at a loss as to how to accomplish that. Instead he said something I didn’t expect….

Aah…so much consideration we must have for the expression of love. How to teach this to the young ones? Modeling this is a good start…but how do they handle their frustration when the days are cold and long…? Must pray…must pass out Hot Chocolate….I just HAVE to make our precious moments count.

God knows exactly what kind of expression of love my neighbor needs even when that need is not communicated well to me. …i.e. cranky whiney child may need a hug or an early lunch or a long walk with Mom… I have to use my God-given seedling imagination more…When I get to involved in the “I” or”me” of the day and the other little ions running round this home catch the same negativity…we miss the good stuff.

We miss moments to love all of the time here when our personal agenda’s are running full tilt to the point where there is no room in them for improvisation and/or interruptions. No matter how good they look on paper or sound in conversation if I can’t see my way around them to the real life happening in every moment they would be better off not being written in the first place. I almost missed something special with my toddler…I missed a quick moment to be quiet and sit on my hands (so to speak) and watch and listen to the toddler explain why the penguins got to the zoo…even though we heard it a thousand times and know how the story ends up…to her it is fresh and new. It hasn’t lost it’s appeal. When I talk to her I listen to her with the eyes that see HER not the impression of the story that my ears have heard a thousand times. Since repetition is her best friend, I would be missing a very important part of my day if I didn’t stop and laugh with her and share her giant hug at the end of her tale…after which she skips off with joy in her feet. If I had too much “I” in my eye I would have turned around 3 minutes ago and finished washing down the counter and missed all the good stuff. Maybe that board is named “I” …an “I” for an eye perhaps? I’ll let you decide.

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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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Try reading this article…I wish I could have read this the very first time I had difficulties with on the job discouragements! (you know, when the kids are driving you nuts and you are driving you nuts too?…ever have one of THOSE days?)  I say the very first time, because it would be best to read this only after you have been challenged a bit to know that you need divine guidance in the first place!

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