Category Archives: vocation

how to homeschool

How Do You Do It? Why God Made Me Home School

How do you do it? That’s the question you’re sure to be asked when you tell someone new that you home school your children. Be it the curious customer standing behind you in the grocery store line or cousin Ed at the family reunion, someone, or better yet someones, are going to want to know if you are actually sane enough to make such a choice and they’ll test your mental stability by asking for an explanation.

And, if one of your home schooled kids is in close proximity, the inquisitor will also quiz little Johnny on his ABC capabilities and his grasp of the American system of democracy. Be ready. Continue reading

Home school 101: Tips and Tricks of the Trade

easy ideas for home schoolers
Stumbling through files on my computer, I happened upon some notes I’d written for a talk on home schooling. While I’ve got twelve plus years on the job, know that I’m not a doppelganger for Mrs. VonTrapp, but I think I’ve learned a thing or two about what works in Brelinskyville.

  1. Without rehashing old posts, I have to say first and foremost that you need to prayerful discern God’s plan for your child’s education. Home schooling is my vocation. You need to discover if it’s yours as well. Days will come when you’ll second-guess your ability to endure one more minute as the ringleader of your 24/7 school house and knowing that you’re doing God’s work will give you the grace to continue the task.
  1. home school tipsEncourage your children to read, read, read. There are books on every imaginable topic, so if you can read, you can learn anything. An old friend’s daughter called home from college and thanked her parents for encouraging her to become an avid reader. She explained that college courses consisted of mostly textbook reading and so she had an advantage over some of her classmates, who didn’t like to read. 

    Honestly, I’m not very picky about what my kids read and I don’t have the time to preview their choices, so I’ve tried hard to teach them to recognize what isn’t appropriate. On more than one occasion, they’ve brought me a book and pointed out a “bad” word and they’ve agreed not to read it further. I’m okay with silly books for my younger kids, the boys especially, because for me the goal is to get them to enjoy reading and want to read more. Remember reading can lead to better vocabulary and spelling skills as well.

  1. Stick to a schedule. Children thrive on schedules and households are generally less stressful when everyone knows what to expect. I find it helpful at times to post the schedule, especially if I’ve made a change. This also prepares our children to be able to self-direct their studies as they get older and prepares them for schedules in the workplace.
  1. Flexibility is essential if you’d like to retain your sanity (or at least some portion of it), especially if your running a large household. As important as a schedule is, I think it is equally valuable to learn to make changes when needed. When we’ve had a baby, I’ve made a point to not get too attached to a hard and fast schedule for naps and breastfeeding. I nursed on demand and allowed my little one to sleep in my arms wherever we were and that philosophy carried over into all of our days. So, if the opportunity for a play date suddenly presents itself or a fabulous field trip is proposed, we can be flexible enough to take advantage of the blessing and make up the leftover work throughout the rest of the week. 

    I never “school” on the weekends, but occasionally when necessary I’ll add an extra week to our planners for the purpose of getting caught up. Perhaps, this is more of a personal preference, but I find it helpful to teach my kids to be able to “go with the flow” without falling apart.

  1. nurture your marriage while home schooling your childrenRemember to nurture and protect your marriage. When our children were little, we instituted Daddy and Mama Time which began at 8:00pm. I hold this time as sacred for both my own peace of mind and for my marriage. All of our children must go to their bedrooms at that time. The older kids are free to quietly play a game, read a book, chat with each other or study, but that must take place in their bedroom. It really helps to have this time to look forward to each day and it allows dad and mom the opportunity to focus on one another. There are days when 8:00pm can’t come soon enough! I think this also establishes a boundary for the children because they come to understand that dad and mom have a separate relationship (as opposed to just being dad and mom). A strong marriage makes for a stronger family which makes home schooling easier.

  2. Keep the house tidy and get dressed every day. While I wish that my house looked like those in Better Homes and Gardens, it doesn’t. Throughout the years and with the addition of children, I’ve had to become more Mary than Martha (and that is a HARD lesson). With that said, there are days when the beds don’t get made until lunchtime and there are school books still strewn on the table at 5:00pm. 

    Teach yourself and the children to tidy up throughout the day, so the house can be generally in order by the time dad gets home. For example, after you take a shower take the extra minute to hang the towels up neatly and pick up any stray items from around the sink. This way when you visit the restroom later, you won’t feel overwhelmed by “another mess.” Obviously, the house needs some serious cleaning, too, but I find it easier to pick one day a week for scrubbing and dusting. 

    Just as a tidy looking house helps to bring about a feeling of tranquility (just tune out the screaming children from this vision), a tidy looking mom will help motivate everyone. You are a teacher, an organizer, a motivational speaker, and a counselor, so look the part. Yes, the baby’s spit up may be on your shoulder and your pumps were traded in for flip flops, but you should still start every day by getting dressed, brushing your hair, etc. My grandmother and mother always “put their faces on” and “fix their hair” which is a good way to force yourself to look in the mirror for a few minutes every morning and recognize that you are beautiful and that you are YOU and not “just mom.”

  1. If something doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to throw is out or give it a rest. Maybe you’ve tried to implement a suggested schedule in your house and it just isn’t working; by all means, stop and find what works for YOUR family.

    Does that grammar book that worked wonders for your son, work as well for your daughter? If not, don’t be afraid to shelf it and try another route. I used to get up and stay up at 6:00am. For a time it was a great blessing, but then life changed and my needs changed and getting up that early led me to feeling tired and grumpy in the afternoon. I decided to give that schedule and myself a rest by sleeping until 7:00. 


    Throughout the years, I’ve implemented many chart/reward systems, and they usually start out well. My kids have seen behavior charts, time charts, consequence charts, privilege charts, chore chart, enough charts that they should be aces if they are ever called upon to give some big graphic presentation to a future employer. Oh, and that’s not to mention the ticket, treat and time reward systems that I’ve offered. In time, these become less effective because the novelty has worn off or the goal was reached, then it is time to give it a rest. 

     

  1. Consistency is key. Most parents spend a lot of time seeking the magic trick to get their kids to behave. We buy books and listen to tapes, hoping to garner the secrets to success. Dr. Ray Guarendi tells us wisely that consistency is the real key. Really, no matter what the lesson we’re trying to teach, we need to be consistent if we want the lesson to “stick.” Unfortunately, the child’s brain doesn’t come with settings, so it may require mom to consistently say “Clean up your room” one million times or more rightly to say “clean up your room” and then consistently enforce a set consequence if it isn’t done.

  1. Simplify your life and your household. Years ago I collected knick knacks, but today I just view them as more stuff to dust. As a family, decide on what your mission is and then set your priorities. Strip away the things that distract you, discourage you or handicap you (no, not the kids!). Don’t over-extend yourself with too many commitments or extracurriculars. When your children are all grown up, they will remember the times you shared together, the lessons you instilled, your examples of faithfulness and your love; when the days are hard focus on THIS.


  1. living your faith with your children in the home

    Lastly, live your faith in plain sight and love your children in the moment. All the lectures and book-work in the world won’t go as far as your example will (which your kids will be studying at every moment). Remember, this time with your children (while it may seem endless on the difficult days) will pass by before you know it, leaving you a clean house and an empty school table. Tomorrow they’ll be heading out the door to fulfill their own vocations, so enjoy this time and know that your sacrifices of time, self and sanity won’t have been in vain.

What’s Your Vocation?

Since we home school on a year-round schedule, now is the time of year our children rise to new grades. For my kids, this is a time filled with excitement and anticipation as the UPS man begins to appear in our driveway balancing boxes stuffed with crisp, new textbooks. And their enthusiasm peaks when the annual CAT tests arrive sparking a house-wide hunt for number 2 pencils and eraser remnants.


I guess I’d have to admit my own excitement at the realization that I’ve successfully completed another home schooling year with my sanity in tact (mostly). Although I might also be spied taking some extra deep breaths and wringing my hands as I navigate the half-opened boxes and packing peanuts strewn across the floor while administering 6 CAT tests simultaneously.


high school graduates need more than a job they need a vocationThis spring marks an especially monumental period of sorts. Our eldest son is entering his senior year of high school, followed directly behind by his little brother, the new junior. For the last year or so, in addition to the regular topics of conversation in our household (which span everything from what’s for dinner to the catalysts for the decline of the Roman empire), there’s been quite a bit of talk about vocations.

The dictionary defines vocation as:

  1. A regular occupation, especially one for which a person is particularly suited or qualified.
  2. An inclination, as if in response to a summons, to undertake a certain kind of work, especially a religious career; a calling.

the priesthood is a vocation that requires a responseWhile I would be overjoyed to supply the Church with more priests and religious (and I regularly pray that I will), our discussions cover a broader perspective. Too often, perhaps, the focus for young people in this age begins with a more materialistic vision. The first question seems to revolve around pay scales and earning possibilities. While it is certainly reasonable to ponder income potential, especially considering they may one day be providing for their own families, we are encouraging our sons to discerntheir vocations.

Sometimes Apples Fall A Little Further From The Tree

Unlike their dad and I, who were both like ready racing greyhounds when the the gate is lifted and the hare appears, our sons seem to be more relaxed and less narrowly focused in their career dreams. Current professed employment intentions have included a novelist, a millionaire (that one didn’t have a means, just a goal), a recruit in the Marines then the Army (sorry no sailors), a graphic artist, a boss (of what I’m not sure), a photographer, a con artist (hmm, maybe one of them is already trying that skill on for size now)…

My regular prompt for them is, “What does God want you to do?” I have known from the moment they came into my life that their Father had a purpose for each one of my children. Watching them grow and mature, I am privileged to see their unique talents and strengths, as well as their weaknesses.

At times, their dad and I have been inclined to recommend paths like the priesthood, military services, etc. And friends have taken the opportunity to share their advice. Talking from experience, we all want the best for their futures. We want to spare them the heartbreaks, failures and frustrations we may have weathered, but we are not God. We lack His wisdom, His understanding of the bigger plan, so our focus may be less vocational and more employment oriented.

St. Peter Julian Eymard says, “The man of the world does not wait for things to happen, but anticipates them and forces them into his service. The man of God waits for the hour of divine Providence, responds to the impulses of grace, devotes himself to the entire will of God, for the present and the future, and he does so with a filial self-surrender that leaves the whole care and glory of everything to God his Father.”

In my own life, Divine Providence has taught me time and again (because I’ve been too stubborn to listen to the first prompting) that God’s ways are truly far above my own. So, in this historic year in Brelinskyville, I’ll pray with extra devotion that my children will be open to the still small voice of their Father. And when they each prayerfully discern His call, I will rejoice in knowing that wherever their paths leads them, if it is God’s Path, they will one day matriculate to the heavenly roll.