I am equal parts star struck and feeling like I have an old friend on the blog today (ok, let's be real, I'm like 90% star struck and 10% giddy that a long-time friend crush and role model is blessing this blog with her wisdom.) Lindsay has been on my rotation of blog-reads for as long as I have known about blogs and my appreciation for her has continued to grow as I have started attempting to school-from-home. She is mother to 9 children on earth, at least 6 of whom are school-aged. She is an incredibly inspiring writer, and has a beautiful devotion to the Saints, (which is evidenced by her many amazingly wonderful name choices for her beautiful children) and her approach to homeschooling (read on to see what I mean about that). If you've never read her blog, My Child I Love You, then you are missing out. Her blog manages to be adorable, entertaining and spiritually enriching almost every time you read it, and her photography skills are stellar. Or maybe her kids are just incredibly photogenic. I think it's both.
Dominic // Lillie // Rose // Zellie // Vianney // Clairaux // Damaris // Kapaun // Lourdes
Best names ever.
I honestly think I should read these questions daily for the rest of my life, so so good.
1: How have you handled pregnancy difficulties and homeschooling. How much expectation adjustment do you do for yourself and school time. What are some tips and tricks for dealing with morning sickness and home school.
I try to view our school year in a 12 month period adjusting each year according to morning sickness, when the new baby is due, and post-partum time. We "roughly" school year round basically going 6 weeks on and 1-2 weeks off. Sometimes, one week isn't enough for me to accomplish all the chores I've neglected during school time i.e organizing, sorting clothes, cleaning the garage. After nine years of homeschooling, this rhythm has been the most successful. At the beginning of August, I assess our family and adjust according to baby's arrival and morning sickness. If I know that I will be do in April, we hit school hard BEFORE the baby is born so we can go light AFTER the baby is born.
We do math year round. With that said, I adjust the "amount"of math depending upon which cycle of life we are currently experiencing. For the first three months after a baby is born, we do a slow and steady couple of math pages a day. Once I get my feet under me again, we return to the regular math period. We do just enough that they don't forget the lessons and also just enough that it doesn't overwhelm me when I am not sleeping much at night.
Regarding morning sickness, I have taught many lessons from the couch or will wait until John is home to teach. My stamina during the early months of pregnancy is ZERO so I need every ounce of will-power to teach effectively. Waiting until John is home for the subjects that require the most teaching allows me to focus solely on that task and not get so distracted with the non-school age kids. Mostly, I know this period is something I have to endure. John helps a ton during this time with checking math lessons and helping write papers.
We stress over and over that nothing is more important than human life. The focus of our family is always the smallest and their well-being. We try to do this beautifully so not to make their lives seem any less important just merely that our whole family must pitch in to help mama right now as she cares for the smallest, most vulnerable. I apologize to them A LOT for my face being smashed into the couch cushions during the months of morning sickness. Honestly, I think what drags mothers down the most is the guilt of being grumpy and short-patienced. If I can avoid grumpiness during this time, I have noticed that their attitude of service and compassion soars and my self-doubt lowers immensely.
As C.S. Lewis said, "We need to teach far fewer subjects far better." It is not the amount that we get down that matters. We have a very simple curriculum that we try to do very well and very thoroughly in the attempts to teach them to master the art of study.
We have to remember that the ups and downs of our days are just part of the whole picture. In any vocation, there are the highlights and there are those thing we take to the confessional. That is just part of the calling.
2: How do you handle interruptions from the littlest ones during your school time with the older ones. What are some tips and tricks to keeping them occupied for the maximum amount of school time.
The non-schooled kids are so use to our routine that they really just play during school hours really well. They spend most of the morning in our backyard. I feel as though we are at a stage that the interruptions can be handled pretty swift and effectively. Besides Math, most of the subjects haven't required huge blocks of time from me. I can introduce most lessons and each child can work independently after which allows me to address the little ones requests. Most days, I do feel like I am juggling with many balls in the air. Most days, I can keep the balls going, but there certainly are days that most balls fall to the ground. It isn't the norm though. Each day certainly feels like I am running a race and I just have to keep moving. I don't think it is accurate for most temperaments that the days going seamless and each schedule is followed perfectly. The years that were hardest were those I over structured. You have to allow for some elastic in your day as a mother.
The most challenging for me is the baby stage. Our babies are pretty grumpy so I save the subjects that need my attention most to when the baby is sleeping during her morning nap. While she is up, I focus on the subjects that allow me to teach with a baby in my arms i.e. Circle time, current events, morning prayer, handwriting.
My spiritual director told me to try to spend ten minutes FIRST thing in the morning with each child. The time invested first thing in the morning can set the tone and eliminate that guilt that they've been shoved aside all day because of schooling. The time spent with them can be very simple. I try to hold one of the littles during morning prayer on my lap. I try to bathe them also each morning and look at that time as our time together. Damaris loves her morning bath and putting "curl cream'' in her hair after bath. We have our little games during bath time that they love. I make it a point to read to the little ones every day, several times a day. This is usually accomplished right before nap and right before bed at night. Every nap and night, Damaris (3) pretends I am a horse. She rides on my back around the room twice. I crawl on all fours and listen to her squeals of delight. We stop to look in the mirror each time and say the same things every time. She loves that time. Don't neglect how much the little things mean to them. I would encourage you to develop these small wisps of love with each child that they look forward to in your days together.
3: What are your top 3 favorite resources of all time for home schooling?
1. Classical Conversations
2. Phonetic Zoo Spelling
4: What is one thing (or many things) you wish you hadn't done in your first years of home schooling?
It is so important to remember that this is their FIRST time learning material that you've known for years. It is all new to them. When we started homeschooling, I told my mother-in-law we were going to take it year by year. She homeschooled for many years and is such a wise resource. She encouraged me to change my mindset to a more permanent one because judging if we are called to homeschool after our first year or a bad year might not be an accurate assessment. It could simply have been just a bad year. Like most of life's new adventures, the first years provide many difficult learning lessons. Imagine if you judged your ability to be a good mother based on your first year of mothering. Imagine if a doctor based his competency as a physician based on his first years of practicing. No. As the years go on, you learn more and more. You learn what is essential. You can learn what needs to change and what doesn't. I have tried to have an open heart to suggestion and simplicity. Ultimately, aren't we all after the heart of our child? Aren't we spending this time together to stay close as we journey our way towards heaven together? Like most things, it gets better with time. If you are just beginning, try to do simple very well.
Also, NEVER EVER make your husband the problem to your homeschooling anxieties. When we were first homeschooling, I asked my seasoned friend if we could meet to discuss curriculum. The first thing she asked me was, "How does John feel about homeschooling?" We talked at length about how important it is for me and him to be on the same page regarding homeschooling. It is not an easy undertaking and you will need your husbands FULL support when the going gets tough. She encouraged me to also remember that we took vows FIRST to our husbands: to love, honor, and cherish them. I must remember that if He is being kicked to the curb BECAUSE of HOMESCHOOLING, something needs to change, as I think any academic accomplishments you may achieve will be negated by a struggling marriage.
My friend also suggested to"Fly under the radar." Meaning, do not go around telling everyone you are homeschooling. Don't announce it everywhere. Don't explain it everywhere. Don't complain about it. Don't make excuses about this or that that doesn't get done "because you are homeschooling." Just do it. If someone asks what grades the kids are in, tell them their grade.
My aunt (who homeschooled for about 30 years) said never be afraid to seek outside help for a child who is struggling beyond your capabilities. It is not a measure of failure, you simply need further assistance. Lillie went to speech at the local public school for a couple years. It was wonderful for her and her speech teacher previously homeschooled her own children, it was a good fit.
5: With all of the craziness of homeschooling and how much demand there is on moms physically, mentally and emotionally during the day, what are some tips for making sure your spouse and your marriage isn't getting overlooked?
Like I said above, NEVER make your husband the problem. We took vows to them first. We didn't take vows to homeschool. John thrives on us being on the same page, he would crumble if I ever made him the problem. He knows how stressful being a mother is and teaching all day. I have cried many times to him, BUT I NEVER make him the problem. For us, that mentality accomplishes much. He is my superman. For him, it is not how much I do for him, but more of what I don't do to HIM. Don't blame him. Don't dump on his efforts. Don't accuse him of not helping. Don't nag him to help out more. John loves to run. I encourage him to run everyday and that helps him help me.
Before we were married, we knew together we could accomplish more for Christ and His Church than if we were apart. We have to have a missionary zeal inside our homes. We have to have sacrificial hearts to keep giving everyday. Homeschooling is a vocation. It is a tool that God uses to lead ourselves and others closer to his heart. Our marriage must reflect that zeal and missionary spirit. When we start counting the cost, we are losing our focus of heaven and our baptismal calling to go out to all the world and spread the good news.
If you find yourself turning inward and getting overwhelmed, I have found it helpful to read the lives of the missionary saints i.e. Issac Jogues, Fr. Kapaun, Maximillian Kolbe, St. Therese. Their hearts yearned for Christ. Homeschooling is our mission field, FIRST: for our own sanctity, SECOND: For our marriage and our domestic church, THIRD: for our children and their souls, FOURTH: the rest of humanity.
Thank you so much to Lindsay, I am thoroughly inspired!!
Click here to read the first installment!