Wednesday, March 16, 2011

It's Positively Balmy!!!

We don't have flowers, but we do have this to show that spring might actually be on it's way!

Our little dachshund was outside basking in the sunlight on the deck.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Prayers for Japan

Please join me in praying for the Japanese people.  The devastation from 3 closely spaced earthquakes, tsunami and all the aftershocks is horrific.  The tiny quake our family experience in Lima doesn't begin to touch the terror Japan must be feeling right now.

Mother Mary, please cast your mantle around the people of Japan.  Help those who desperately need relief.

Fresh Snow

I wrote in my last post about being in Calgary last weekend (March 4-6).  Right before I left Tom was concerned about water in the basement because of predicted rainfall.  It almost appeared that the snow season was winding down.  Not so.  After a rainy Saturday they woke up Sunday morning to at least 5" of new snow.  By the time I landed at 4:30, most of it had melted.  In fact, after the -20C in Calgary (where it was so cold the ground didn't crunch, it squeaked) it felt down right balmy.

Yesterday it rained in a slow, steady, cold drizzle all day.  Our evening wound down with a cold fog descending on everyone.  This morning Tom looked out our bedroom window and said we had a lot of new snow.  I thought he was just joking (which he has been known to do.)  Well, he wasn't.  (But I wish he had been.)

Notice how weighed down our trees are.

The height of the shovel was how much snow was on the back deck when Peter started shoveling.

Jess, our dog, loves to be in the snow.  Well, actually, I just think she loves to be where Peter is.

As I'm typing, the snow is continuing to fall, the stick and mortar schools cancelled bus service, but not classes.  (March break begins this weekend so everyone is happy.)  We've cancelled our trip to Michigan, and I'm about to ask Peter to start a new fire in the fireplace.  The snow has helped displace the clammy cold of yesterday.  Every cloud has a silver lining.  I'm not distressed (but it would be nice to finally hang up those shovels for the year.)  The way it is going, we might have another white Easter, even though Easter isn't until April 24!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

And so it begins ...

Lent .. I plan, trust and hope that this Lent will be vastly different than past Lenten seasons.  The past week, I've been blessed with plenty of road signs directing me in a new direction.

So, some signs:
1)  Last Friday I flew to Calgary to attend the first Canadian ENDOW conference.  Beautiful women surrounded me.  They befriended me in ways that hasn't happened where we live now.  In addition, I was able to listen to some incredibly gifted speakers, speakers who spoke directly to my heart.

2)  I was invited to observe a True Beauty Revealed retreat being given to senior high age girls.  Wow!  So much to absorb, but the one thing that still rings in my memory are all the stories the presenter shared with the girls.  May I never forget John 10:10.

3) Adoration .. while there I stopped in for a short visit to the Adoration chapel .. and it rose in my heart that I had forgotten ... may I have the grace to remember.  In the business of life I had forgotten that He is always waiting in the tabernacle.

4) Mass on Saturday morning .. After the altar was reverently cleared, and before the final dismissal Janis Clark (you have go to find out about her ministry ... beautiful voice, beautiful woman) sang and lead us in a very beautiful Alleluia.  She had rehearsed with all of us prior to the rosary that preceded Mass.  That is when the tears began.  Again .. I had forgotten .. my own participation in the Mass had become routine.  We had just received our loving Lord in the Eucharist, He was intimately communing with each of us.  Allelulia!  Yes!  I had forgotten that mystery and blessing .. make me aware!

5) Confession ... a young priest with wise words.  I deeply felt the burden of sin, sins I didn't recognize until my heartfelt examine the previous evening, lifted from my soul.  Tears, again, of both repentance and thanksgiving.  I received a very apt penance .. to pray a rosary, and to name what I was thankful for before each Hail Mary.  Wow!  50 things/people/events.  I have been so blessed, and I was so unthankful, choosing to dwell on what "I wanted", what "I needed", what "I lacked" that I was running over some of those blessing and treating them as burdens.

6)  One of the speakers reminded me that we are each called to more ..  "If we stop at choosing the good over the bad, we miss the best."  The best is what we are made for.

7) Mass on Sunday evening ... Because of my flight schedule we were at the Sunday evening Life Teen Mass in our parish.  This is not my chosen Mass in part because it is a struggle for me to keep my mind from silently criticizing.  Father Tom'a homily reminded me that we are all called to live holy lives, and that unless we turn in prayer and ask for grace, we risk missing out on what our lives are meant to be.

8)  Loss of desire for many of those idle pastimes I had previously planned into my day.  Nothing sinful ... I enjoy doing logic puzzles, reading news, researching various passions ... all of which aren't bad, but they aren't the best, but they had come to dominate my mornings, as a compulsion I had failed to recognize.  Much, I imagine, the way alcohol can rule an alcoholic's life.  The world distracts me in so many ways, and I honestly don't have a moment to spare for nonsense.  This life is too short, and I need to use it wisely, to prepare for eternity.

9)  This post  The Lenten Thing

10)  Reading in the March Magnificat the Meditation of the Day "The Graces of Lent" by Father Vincent Nagle, FSCB.  He addressed the difference between the good reason we do things (religious practice so that God will be pleased with us) versus the real reason (religious practice so that people will think me faithful and charitable).  If the two aren't the same reason, our hearts are divided.  We only deceive ourselves, as "the Father who sees in secret will repay us in kind."

11) A reminder of how deeply I need to approach Lent this year  ... to truly reorient my life to God ... not just to satisfy the little checklist I had cultivated over too many years, trying to verify that I was "practicing my faith."  Instead help me to simply practice my faith, beginning inside (with prayer and contemplation) and working out  instead of working from the outside (gesture) and hoping it would change my heart.  Instead of me doing it on my own (which hasn't worked out so well, go figure) I'm asking (begging, really) God to help me.

In years past I have written about being in the desert falsely thinking that a dryness I felt was the same as what John of the Cross, or Teresa of Avila referred to.  It made me feel righteous.  Shame on me.  What I was in wasn't a desert,  it was more like riding in the air conditioned car through the desert.  I could see it, but I didn't experience it.  My world was still securely wrapped around me.  Oh, occasionally, I might have stopped and stepped outside for just a bit.  But, when it was too hard, I'd climb right back into my comfortable life.  Another sign was, again, found in the March Magnificat:

Intercessions ...
Lord Jesus Christ, in you dry bones are raised to life:
-- renew all those whose lives have grown dry with sin (raising my hand)  I wasn't in a spiritual desert through sanctity .. I was cooperating with sin and that sin had cast me from the conscious presence of God
"O God, be merciful to me a sinner."

Lord Jesus Christ, in you parched hearts find living water:
-- refresh all those whose spirits are parched form lack of prayer.  (waving my hand)  Yeah, about that prayer thing.  Feeling very convicted, especially since this weekend .. 
"O God, be merciful to me a sinner."

Lord Jesus Christ, in you the hungry feed upon the word of life:
-- nourish all those who have fed on words alien to the Gospel.  (crumbling into tears)  So many books, movies, television shows, shopping trips, music on the radio, all appearing to be "good" but in reality immersing me in a sludge, blinding my eyes ...
"O God, be merciful to me a sinner."

Convicted, sentenced, forgiven ... pray for me and know that I pray for you...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Perspective on Homeschooling

I'm now an official veteran of homeschooling.  Way back when we began our adventure, it never occurred to me that I would be one of the women that I turned to for support and information.

The following are simply my personal observations, based on homeschooling and shepherding our five children.  Our oldest three daughters are beyond our walls.  Our youngest two are in high school studies.  The choice, for us, to homeschool was natural, given our inclination to be independent.   So, here are some of those observations ... not listed in any particular order of importance, just as they roll into my almost 55 year old brain. :-)  Oh, and don't look for a grammar perfect essay.  That isn't my purpose in writing.  Tenses will be messed up, as well as several phrases will be marked as sentences.  Just consider that I am talking to you, in my own unique way.  ;-)

1.  Homeschooling really began before each of our children were born.  Not that it had even entered my radar back before our oldest was born.  While I listened to good music, sang songs (even badly) and  read passages of classic books and thought provoking articles aloud to my husband (when he was willing to listen) our children were learning.  The last might be a huge reason I love homeschooling.  I have had a captive audience to share with when I read something so good I can't keep it to myself. 

2.  Little ones benefit more from being in their home than being in a classroom.  Their natural rhythms aren't interrupted to fit into someone else's schedule.  They love to imitate mom's daily routines, and those in turn become beautiful learning opportunities.

3.  The realness of life is the best teaching moment.  When our children helped sort clean socks, they learn about sets, like/un-like.  When they set the table they learn about order.  When they put cutlery away, they practice counting.  When they listen to nighttime stories, they can ask all the questions they want.  They learn to trust when we love them for who they are.  When tantrums happen, and they do!, we can love them back into life, instead of having them disgraced with time in the corner, or having to have mom and dad called into the school.  When they go shopping for groceries with mom, they learn about interactions in the real world.  They learn how to discern, how to be frugal, how to have the occasional snack, how to pay for things, and finally ... that you can't have everything you think you want.

4.  Curriculum need not cost a lot of money.  In our own beginning, the public library (most were very small) provided wonderful resources.  In our present times, the internet has opened up vistas and opportunities that will expand your world beyond our borders.  (caveat ... you need to be completely aware of where you and your children are surfing .. it is also not a very nice world in many corners)

5.  The savings in not having to have our children tempted to dress in "the latest style", or to have plenty of clothes to wear more than helped us purchase books that we deemed worthy of keeping.  Same with fundraising~

6.  For each of our children, they were able to try out a huge variety of interests.  As each child discovered their unique likes/dislikes we were able to support them.  One of the first authors I read when discerning how we were going to approach school was John Holt.  That lead to John Taylor Gatto, Cafi Cohen, to name only a very, very few good mentors.  In our earliest years Mothering magazine introduced us to an alternative way of parenting our children.  Association with La Leche League, our various parish communities, and a myriad of other sources all contributed to what became our unique way of home educating our children.

7.  We tried on various curricula over the years.  Some years I wanted structure, then discovered it wasn't what I wanted.  So, I learned with our children (as did my husband).  Each of our children's final high school years benefited from using American School for their core, coupled with expanded reading and discussions to incorporate our Catholic faith. 

8.  Afternoon tea time is precious!  Mass, Adoration and family prayer are even more precious!

9.  We never had to ask permission for any child to stay in bed because of feeling unwell.  We never had to ask permission to take off on an adventure, whether a quick trip to the local park for a picnic, a drive to see a new exhibit somewhere, or a long distance drive to be with an ill relative.  Nor did we need permission for any of our moves or our 10 month adventure living in Peru.  We didn't have to convince a new school of the "worth" of our children's education (not even for University admission.)

10.  We learned to trust ourselves, as well as our children.  Children are hardwired to learn, you can't stop it.  By home educating we were able to maximize their time learning and exploring, and minimize their time waiting for learning to begin.

11.  Motivation to learn, never a problem.  Exposure to too early sex education, never a problem.  Protecting innocence, never, ever a problem.  Teaching by example our faith, never a difficulty.  Coping with teenage angst, well, that sometimes was hard, but we have managed to come through the first 4 pretty well.  Still waiting for our youngest one to emerge from her cocoon!

12.  Having like minded friends is very, very important.  It is nice to have extended family on your side, but if they aren't now, they will be.  Speaking from personal experience, with neither of our own parents being fans of our initial choice.  It was a bit long in coming, but each one has in turn expressed amazement at the beautiful people our children are.

I could go on and on.  I do hope anyone who is reading this can understand that how each family approaches homeschooling is as unique as each child in the family.  Will you make mistakes?  Probably.  Will you succeed?  Most definitely.  The one motivation that homeschooling families have is we want our children to grow into whole humans.  People who know how to think (as opposed to just what to think.)  People who feel free to make mistakes, and to learn from them.  People who contribute to the world, making it a much better place by their presence.  For parents, the sweetness comes when you watch your well formed children blossom into beautiful adults.  Adults who are eager to leave the nest, to try their wings, and to soar among the heavens.  How much I often wish our grown children were always right here so I could continue to share with them on a daily basis.  So, it is bittersweet.  Our blessing comes with listening to each of them in turn pursue their lives, listening to their challenges, their failures, but also their triumphs.  

Don't be afraid to homeschool.  Discover your own style, and be prepared to switch horses midstream if you need to.  Your time with your children flies by, without any of us realizing how quick it really does play out!  For us, handing our children over to others to form wasn't an option.  I am so very grateful that I have been blessed to watch over, guide and prepare them for the big world, and hopefully guide them in my small way toward an eternity in heaven.