Monday, October 5, 2015

What I Learned From Attending The Papal Mass In Philadelphia

Since we only live a few hours away, we decided at the last minute to attend the Papal Mass in Philadelphia.  Making an appearance with our kids to this event—no matter how historic--made no sense. 

We did not have tickets.

We have six children, one of whom is a toddler capable of shattering glass with his high-pitched screams.

Two million people were expected in Philadelphia so the likelihood of even catching a glimpse of the pope was slim.

Bathrooms and food vendors would be at a premium and the lack of facilities and nourishment would be both daunting and challenging with small children in tow.

The highways were shut down on Friday, making driving into they city almost impossible. 

And we knew that even if we made it into the City of Brotherly Love, we would have to stand around waiting for Mass to begin, rubbing elbows with complete strangers while the kids whined with boredom.

The entire experience didn’t seem appealing. 

At all.

But I was dead set on going.

I did not desire to attend the Mass because I’m heroic or because I’m some awesome Catholic.  

Read the rest at Integrated Catholic Life.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Playing For Keeps (Or In This Case, Snacks)

A few weeks before school started this past summer, I set up camp with my computer and check book so I could submit registration forms for the various and sundry Fall activities in which my older children would participate.  The kids were all milling about as I worked, reminding me of what shoes they didn't have and which sports uniforms I still needed to secure.  The boys had militantly decided they wanted to try soccer again this year and Meaghan and Mary had been begging for months to try a dance class at a local studio.

As I wrote checks and entered dates into our calendar, I realized Camille might be disappointed to watch her siblings go off on all sorts of sports adventures without being included in anyone of them.

My heart softened for a moment as I thought about how hard it must be to be the fifth child, to always have to watch the great accomplishments and activities of older siblings, so I asked her,

"Camille, would you like to particpate in soccer or dance this year?"

Admittedly, I was hoping she really wouldn't have an opinion; that she would say "No, I'm good, Mom," but that was wishful thinking on my part.

Everyone turned to look at her and she noticed the attention.  Camille is at her best when all eyes are on her, so she took her time with a reply.

She used her index finger to tap her mouth and she looked to the ceiling, like she was trying to figure out an answer to an existential quandary. Finally, she spoke.

"Question," she said, "will there be food at soccer practice?"

"Yes, there will probably be food after the games.  Parents might bring snacks and stuff like that," I told her.

A grin spread across her face and she nodded her head up and down.

"Soccer, definitely soccer."

I would love to tell you that love for the game or a desire to hone her skills motivated Camille to join a U5 soccer team this fall, but that would be a lie....

It was the promise of after game snacks of sugar-laden juice boxes and Twinkies that sealed her decision.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Seven Tips To Help Combat Those Moments When You Doubt Your Decision To Homeschool

*This post is adapted from a talk I gave this summer at my children's two day a week classical school.

In many ways, I think homeschooling is the ideal education, especially if classical in approach.  I love the way a classical homeschool education develops virtue and affords my children the opportunity to read great books and engage in great conversations.  I love that a classical education gives a student the tools of learning that are foundation to logical thinking and I love that it fosters an appreciation for goodness, truth and beauty within the student.  A classical educational philosophy and approach resonates deeply within me and I totally embrace it. 

What I don’t always embrace, however, is the daily grind.  The physical, emotional, and mental rigor required in home education, especially if you are educating a number of children at home.    
To me?  This is The Cross.

A second caveat:  This post is not dedicated to the parents who feel confident in all their parenting decisions ( and if you are one of those people, let’s meet.  I’ll listen and you talk because I want to know your secret).   

Nor is this post dedicated to the parents who are new at homeschooling and feel nothing but excitement and passion about the journey you are about to embark upon.  Rather, this post is for people like me; it’s dedicated to the parents who might sometimes wonder what they heck they are doing in raising these kids, who worry they might be doing it wrong or who continually find themselves wondering if there was a better way to approach this parenting thing, especially with regards to homeschooling.

For most of my life, I have operated by the notion that if you want to succeed and excel at something you put your nose to the grindstone and work.  I have applied this approach to almost everything:  education, exercise, and almost any extra curricular activities in which I’ve ever participated.  For the most part, this approach paid off because if I tired hard enough, I would experience a moderate to even great amount of success.

And then I became a parent…
...and whatever confidence I had in my ability to perform and work hard and apply myself in order to achieve success evaporated.

There is no manual on how to win at parenting.  (I know, because I’ve looked for them.) 

There’s no recipe for how to raise kids the right way—(which is unfortunate because I sure could use one) and there’s no guarantee that whichever avenue we chose to travel with these kids will result in raising well-adjusted, educated, and faithful children.

This lack of assurance in the quality of product I produce—raising good, faithful, educated kids—makes me sometimes doubt my method, it makes me wonder if homeschooling is really the best thing for all of us, especially since homeschooling demands so much from myself.

One morning last summer, I spent time compiling homeschool papers in order to prepare for my review for the 2013-2014 academic school year.  I was really late in getting this necessary work completed because we had and so a few weeks before school started, I found myself scrambling to get the stupid paper work in.

I hate preparing for my yearly review.

I spend the entire time doubting myself.

Why are we homeschooling again?

Is this academic work good enough?

What if the kids are not getting all they need?

I'm such a broken teacher.  My kids deserve better. 

Where do I fit in all of this?  How do I maintain my own emotional, mental, physical stability while educating and meeting the physical and emotional needs of my family?

This was my internal dialogue as I sorted and filed papers into some kind of order so as to explain what we do to the Homeschool Supervisor.

After I was finished all the paperwork, I felt exhausted.

I wanted to crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head.

School was set to start in just two short weeks and I felt overwhelmed and awash in doubt.

I couldn't shake the nagging feeling, the wondering if this is the best way.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Back To The Heart Of Catholic Parenting

 A few months ago, Erin Franco of the Humble Handmaid blog invited me to be a guest on her The Right Heart Podcast.  It  was such a pleasure to talk to Erin--she was warm and friendly and we chatted easily, like two longtime friends visiting over coffee.  The conversation (and her precious southern drawl) made me miss Louisiana so much!  If you are not already subscribed to her blog and podcast, do so right away.  She's got a lot of great Catholic content going on.

During the show, we discussed all things related to Catholic Parenting.

Monday, August 10, 2015

How To Manage Family Life And Writing...Or Not

I thought my summer was going to be different; I had lofty goals and plans for myself.

I was going to exercise more, take more pictures, teach a photography class and churn out some freelance articles.

I didn't accomplish any of those goals.

Mostly?  I tried to keep up with daily life.

I tried to keep the pool towels clean and the kids lathered in sun screen.

I tried to keep the television viewing to a minimum.

I tried to make sure we read books--the good kind from the likes of Lewis and Tolkien.

I tried to ensure visits to and from our friends.

I tried to maintain a slower pace, complete with lazy afternoons and "wasted" time.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

My Number One Parenting Tip

A friend of mine came to visit last week with her small army of young children.  We chatted while I slathered peanut butter and jelly on slices of wheat bread and threw them at the masses.  Every five minutes, we filled requests for cups of water and changed diapers and broke up scuffles over broken toys.  In between the commotion she asked,

“How do you discipline your kids?”

I paused because her question, while excellent, was a rather weighty one that I wasn’t sure I was prepared to answer.

I am not a parenting expert. 

I always joke that God gave me all these kids because he knows how stupid I am.  Some people learn important parenting lessons after one or two children, but God knew it would take me six to get even the basics down!

On top of being a slower learner, I also tend to be a reactor, which is a nice way of saying I’m a hot head.  I have a temper and I sometimes yell. 

And my kids? 

Read the rest at Integrated Catholic Life.

Friday, July 17, 2015

What Childhood Should Look Like

I found a handwritten schedule penned by 8-year-old Mary the other day.  Here was her agenda for the day:

1.  Say hi to mom.

2.  Kiss Eds

3.  Ride bike and pick berries

4.  Eat food

5.  Play with Camille

6.  Play with Legos

7.  Play with Eds

8.  Catch butterflies

9.  Eat snack

10.  Play with Eds

11.  Play with Pat and Meg

12.  Try and play with Chris

A perfect list for childhood, right?

I thought so too.

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