Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Sick of Healthcare Premiums? Samaritan Ministries Has a Better Plan for You

I am not a paid advertiser for Samaritan Ministries and the opinions/experience 
I put forth here are my own. If you choose to become a SM member and you offer 
my name as a referral, my family will receive a credit that reduces one month's share on our account.

About three years ago I was working hard to save my unborn baby. Part of that work required me to have a couple of ultrasounds performed during the first trimester. Since we had standard medical insurance at that time, I simply agreed to use the doctors' referred sonographers.

The first exam was a great experience. The technician spent thirty minutes or more exploring my womb and the surrounding organs. She explained, as well as showed us, everything. The cost for that ultrasound rang in at just about $350.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

An Open Letter to the Lady Who Thinks I Have Too Many Kids

Dear Lady Who Thinks We Have Too Many Kids, 

Rounding the back bumper of our 15 passenger van, we began our routine for loading up the crew. The chatty teens readily made their way to the rear seat while our younger daughter buckled in the toddler. Dropping the stroller down to the closed position, my husband instructed our 9 year old ball of boy energy to move the bottles of water and take his seat next to his 7 year old cohort. While our feet were dog-tired from the full day of walking around the fairgrounds, the kids’ energy levels seemed to be drawing off of some endless reserve. We were putting the finishing touches on our Blue Ribbon day at the State Fair, loading up our big, church-sized vehicle to head over for dinner.

There we were happily filling our van with coats, a stroller, goodies, and children (6 of our own and 2 substitutes pinching-hitting for our missing young adult offspring) when a comment was launched, like a fragmentation grenade, in our direction. A mother, her two elementary-aged children in tow, uttered with audible disgust, READ the rest here

Monday, October 12, 2015

Thinking Outside the Box: Why We Home School Year-Round

One of the many blessings of homeschooling is that it allows families to think outside of the box. Whether it be an un-schooling approach or a non-traditional method for inspiring learning, homeschooling parents have a wide latitude when it comes to finding the best fit for their individual family.

Growing up, I attended both Catholic and, later, public institutions of learning. While there were definite differences in the subject matter being taught, as well as the environment I was being taught in, all of them followed the same calendar model: the school year commenced in September, ended in June and was followed by two solid months of summer break.

A Less-Conventional Path

When I began homeschooling fourteen years ago, I decided to forge a less-conventional path. Our school is in session year-round, and my children rise to their new grades every spring, instead of fall. We try to adhere to a nine weeks on, two weeks off pattern throughout the grade year.

I’d like to say that I chose this plan because I am exceptionally wise and had the foresight to discern all the advantages such a schedule would afford my crew of eight children. I’d like to claim that status, but really it was more a matter of Divine Providence.

To begin with, I had three rambunctious little boys who needed consistent structure in their days. With the oldest reaching school-age and the next just eleven months behind him, I was eager to get started.

Budgetary constraints affected the timing of our ability to invest in educational supplies. So, when we received a decent-sized tax refund that first February (14 years ago) it seemed appropriate to purchase curriculum before planning a trip to Disney.

Beginning in the Spring

That first spring when those beautiful, new, shrink-wrapped books began arriving on our porch, it was hard to contain my son’s excitement, so I didn’t bother trying. We delved in as soon as I was able to sharpen the pencils.

Psychologically, beginning our new grades in the spring has continued to be a great benefit in our household; just about the time that the winter doldrums set in for most homeschoolers, we are finishing up a grade year.

Then a short time later, as the warm weather returns and the windows get thrown open, crisp new textbooks appear on our doorstep. And excited by the prospect of reaching another rung on the educational ladder, my kids eagerly tear into their new studies.

Not taking an extended break between grade levels also means greater retention of the material. My students usually sail through the earliest lessons in their new books because they haven’t had the time to forget those multiplication tables they just learned.

I suppose that is in part why they look forward to the beginning of each new grade level, because the review work is easy for them.

9 Weeks On, 2 Weeks Off

Sticking to a nine weeks on, two weeks off pattern also has ample advantages. It’s amazing how quickly a nine-week quarter passes when you know a two-week break is on the horizon. In practical terms, we log-in roughly the same number of educational days as do traditional institutions, which leaves extra weeks available.

Rather than organize those extra weeks into one long break, I intersperse them throughout the year as needed. That means we occasionally take a three-week break instead of two or we stretch out the nine-week quarter over ten or eleven weeks. On a side note, I plan our calendar one quarter/break period at a time.

Another benefit to this plan that I discovered back when I had only three little balls of energy is that keeping a generally consistent schedule means a more harmonious (mostly) household. When my boisterous brood has unlimited amounts of unstructured time, chaos reigns.

Our year-round pace also allows for life to interrupt without throwing the whole calendar into a tail spin. I saw that clearly when my family endured a two-year period of suffering. I miscarried four babies, my husband lost his job, and depression sunk me deep into its pit.

Some days it was all that I could do to get up out of bed and go through the motions to keep the children safe and fed. Knowing that we had the wiggle room to stretch out some of our weeks or take mental health days without completely realigning our ending date for the grade year relieved a great deal of stress for me.

As painful as that episode was, it reinforced the wisdom of setting a schedule that fits your family’s needs and goals. The heart of schooling in the home has to do with developing each member of the family. Yes, it’s about teaching kids to read and write and work within the framework of societal norms, but more than that it is about teaching them how to live, and sometimes living life to the fullest requires us to think outside of the box.

This post originally appeared on Seton Magazine.

How Do You Do It? Our Home Schooling Story

How Do You Do It? The Brelinsky Family Story - by Tara Brelinsky 

Whenever I tell someone new that we homeschool, I take a deep breath and wait for the inquisition. Inevitably, they ask, “How do you do it?”

Be it the curious customer standing behind us in the mega-store line or that distant cousin at the family reunion, enquirers have probed my mental stability to be making such a choice by asking me for an explanation. Should one of my students happen to be in close proximity, the investigator often feels compelled to quiz little Jude or Malachi on their ABC capabilities and grasp of the American system of democracy. I’ve learned to be ready.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Homeschooling on a Schedule

A Homeschooling Schedule: How We Made it Work - by Tara Brelinsky 
Milling around the home school bookstore with no clear goal in mind (which is generally a BIG mistake), my eyes were diverted this way and that by all the shiny, new text books and hands-on learning tools. Titles, promising the perfect solution to every dilemma home schooled students can muster, sucked me into the fantasy that my house could run like a well-oiled machine if only I would invest in the recipe divulged between the book covers.

Friday, September 11, 2015

9/11 The Day the World Kept Turning

Twin Towers missing from NJ sky

Heavy with my fourth child, I remember the phone call that alerted me to turn on the television. With my college roommate on the other end of the long distance line, I sat on my bedroom floor staring clueless and confused at the screen. My three little ones (at 5, 4 and 2 years old) were carrying on around my perimeter with business as usual, completely unaffected by the troubles of the world.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Think You Want to Home School? Think Twice

So, You Think You Want To Home School? Raleigh Moms Blog 

School is back in session which means my social media feeds are wallpapered with snapshots of grinning, backpack-toting children posed next to miniature backboards that note their new grades. The school year starts out for most with grand expectations for growth and achievements. Perhaps, this is the year your son will master phonics, memorize those multiplication tables or excel in chemistry. Maybe over the next nine months, your daughter will learn her alphabet, make the team or tackle calculus. 

But what happens if your child’s days don’t progress as planned? What happens if the bullies aren’t converted, your convictions are undermined or your child’s learning style can’t be nurtured? What if the tears don’t stop falling beyond the first week, the stress leads to stomachaches or grades don’t improve even though you know your child is capable of more? 
Read the rest HERE at Raleigh Moms Blog

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sharing Sadness to Spread Hope

SHARING SADNESS TO SPREAD hope raleigh moms blog 

I was five or six months along in my first pregnancy when a co-worker, Patti, divulged her past to me. Standing there near her desk in the small insurance agency, we were talking about babies and the joy of parenthood when she shared her story of loss.

For all appearances, Patti was the proud mother of an only son. Pictures of him decorated her desk and stories of his latest basketball achievements were regular topics of conversation around the water cooler. But on this day, she told me about her other child, the one missing from all those snapshots. Little Richard was not really an only child, he’d had a sister born into the world, but due to complications her time on earth had been short lived.

Listening to the details, I felt shocked and overwhelmed and then a bit put-off. Why, I wondered, would my co-worker saddle me with her sad history?

READ the rest of the story HERE at Raleigh Moms Blog 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Secret to Raising a Saint

how to grow vocations in the family

When our friends' son entered seminary right out of high school, I considered that they had some recipe for raising such a faithful young man. And when their daughter gave serious consideration to joining a religious order, I was convinced that our friends had stellar parenting skills and a formula for holiness. Those friends had a secret, I was sure, and I wanted to know what it was.

Whenever I had the opportunity, I watched them. Intently, I studied their pious mannerisms when we joined them for adoration and I kept a mental account of everything they did when we ran into them at social gatherings.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Second Chances and False Mercy: Why Rules Need to Be Followed

ticket system for inspiring obedience in children

Recently, I implemented a reward system in our household. I've been down this road before (many times in fact) with my older boys, but it seemed a ideal time to re-institute a temporary system of clearly defined rewards for obedience and self-control as well as an equally unambiguous list of punishments for bad conduct. Honestly, I didn't add anything new to the roster of expectations, rather this was simply an attempt to reorder that which had become chaotic around these parts. A rude comment here, an insult there, a push, a retaliatory shove, some name calling and lots of chores left undone, our home was becoming a battleground of wits, wills and whining.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Day 9 of Novena to St. Paul for Conversion

you must be like little children to enter heaven
 Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Day 8 of the Novena to St. Paul

driving in the early morning hours

When we left in the wee hours of the morning for the 2014 March for Life in Washington, DC, the world looked dark and gloomy. Heading down the highway, we could see only as far ahead as the reach of the van's headlights. The snow dusting the ground was a bitter reminder of the previous year's March for Life which had been a miserable and harrowing experience.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Day 7 of Novena to St. Paul for Conversion

If you've been following along with this novena, I apologize for the delays. The residents (my family) here in Brelinskyville have all been battling some illnesses which have required my attention.

St. Paul in your heavenly glory you are completely free. Chains can never bind you. Pray, however, for our freedom. First of all pray that we be delivered from the slavery of sin and vice. Next we ask you to intercede for so that we might obtain the freedom that comes from faith, hope, charity, courage, prudence, temperance and a knowledge of justice. Finally, give us a prayer life that embraces the entire world and goes beyond our own immediate needs. Unite our prayers with yours, as together, we plead for an enslaved and struggling humanity. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Day 6 Novena to St. Paul for Our Political Leaders

2015 March for Life Washington DC

Some days I get weary listening to the political spin from both sides of the aisle. Every year since Roe vs. Wade was passed, hundreds of thousands of Americans have marched on Washington in the harsh January weather, seemingly to no avail. It would appear that a bad situation has become worse in spite of our efforts to break the chains of injustice for the weakest members of our society: the unborn.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Day 5 Novena to St. Paul for Conversion

darkness cannot drive out darkness 

When my now 18 year old son was little, he owned a book of Bible stories. It was a favorite of his for a while and one day we forgot the book while volunteering at the local food pantry. I was concerned about getting the book back and told him that I would call the director first thing on Monday morning in order to ask if it had been found. My little son looked up at me and said, "Don't worry, Mom, maybe it will be like a mustard seed and teach somebody else about Jesus." Such a seemingly inconsequential thing (forgetting that book) could, as my wise child pointed out, change the course of a person's whole life. 

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