Friday, February 29, 2008

Cabin Fever

Well, I do believe that cabin fever is alive and well and dwelling securely in our house. On top of that, it is Lent, when the best of sibling rivalry seems to shine forth. I cannot believe the amount of skirmishes I have had to throw myself into the middle of these last few weeks. Most of the time they have been over very nonsensical things, such as toothpaste or plastic doll house toys or things like that. I cannot wait for the warm sunshine, growing grass and singing birds. The picture here is of my parents who are right now relaxing in 80 degree weather in sunny Arizona. Thought I'd throw that in there just so we can dream about all that green and blue and warmth!

This morning's "In Conversation with God" entry was about Love of God. The author states, "Love for God is necessarily shown in love for others. The way we love God is shown in the way we live charity with those who are beside us in our day-to-day lives." At that point I wondered what that meant for my family??!! Does being cooped up with the same people every day for two months enter into that equation anywhere? No, probably not. Of course, if we are to grow in holiness we need to look at these times of being cooped up as tremendous opportunities to practice virtues. Maybe I'm not the only one feeling this way because just today a friend of mine emailed me these quotes that point us towards the remedy for this dreaded disease called cabin fever.
"If you wish to go to extremes, let it be in sweetness, patience, humility and charity."
St Philip Neri

"The highest degree of meekness consists in seeking, serving, honoring, and treating amiably, on occasion, those who are not to our taste, and who show themselves unfriendly, ungrateful, and troublesome to us."
St Frances de Sales

Don't you just love God's timing? I think I will make a poster out of that last quote and hang it in my kitchen for the rest of winter!!

God Bless!
P.S. I just looked and if you click on the "On a Wing and a Prayer" link and then click on their link for their online store, you can order "In Conversation with God", either as a seven volume set or each volume individually!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Read Aloud Time

Today we'll visit a much lighter topic! I remember when we had a few young children and the evening culminated with the much awaited story before bed time. As those few kids grew older, we decided to delve into more challenging reading, such as the year it took us to read the entire Little House series outloud! I think it was somewhere between baby four and five that the reading aloud dissappeared. By then we had some independent readers and quite frankly, by bedtime my husband and I were just too tired to read aloud anymore.

It was about two years ago when we rediscovered reading aloud. Now we incorporate it into our daily school schedule. After lunch everyone gathers around and we read a chapter or two from a novel. We try to tie the book into something we are studying in school, or the book we are reading may lead us into studying some new topic. I personally like to pick novels that have movies that were made of them so that we can watch and compare them to the original book. Most often we are quite dissappointed. The first book we read aloud was "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" by C.S. Lewis in anticipation of it coming out in the movie theatres. Even though many of the kids had already read it on their own, everyone still looked foreward to that daily time. (This time we weren't disappointed by the movie!) It still amazes me that I can capture the attention of everyone, from my highschooler to the youngest toddler, just by reading out loud. The one rule we have is that no one, not even me, can read ahead. Let me tell you, that has been hard to do at times!

So, if you are interested, here are some of the books that we have read and the subjects that we have tied them into. If you also read aloud as a family, please feel free to pass any of your ideas on to me so I can pass them on to others. If you don't yet do this, or if it has gone by the wayside, I would like to encourage you to start. It has been a great experience for our family.

U.S. Geography - "The Captain's Dog: My Journey with the Lewis and Clarke Tribe"; World Geography - "Around the World in 80 Days"; Civil War unit study - "The War Within"; Survival Unit Study - "My Side of the Mountain", "The Other Side of the Mountain" and "Frightful's Mountain".

God Bless!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence

Today I am going to take a bit of a side track and tell you about the book that I've talked about here in the last few days. The book is called "Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence: The Secret of Peace and Happiness". The first part is written by Fr. Jean Baptiste Saint Jure, SJ and the second part is written by St. Claude De La Colombiere, SJ. This book is about how we need to put all of our trust in God alone and realize that whatever happens to us, whether it appears good or bad, is the best thing that could happen to us at that moment. It also shows us that if we surrender our will to God's will, we will find true peace and happiness (joy!). I would like to tell you a story about this book that brought it all together for me.

I have a friend, Anita, who owns a religious bookstore called "On a Wing and a Prayer" in Plano, IL. She also runs a little venue called "Daniel's Den" that is attached to the store where Catholic and Christian singers and bands can come and perform. She was telling me recently that she had owned the "Trustful Surrender" book for about five years, and when she first picked it up and tried to read it, it wasn't making much sense to her, so she put it down. Well, just before this past Christmas, she picked it up again and read the whole thing. She raved about the book to her husband Dave, so much so that when they left town on New Year's weekend for a long car ride, she brought it along to read out loud to him. She read the entire book on their way down to visit his relatives, and they discussed how wonderful and how simple this concept sounded. They discussed how total trust in the Lord and surrender to His will were so crucial to a peaceful life.

On the trip home, Anita said she started to read aloud another book that she had brought with, when her husband said that he just couldn't get into it. He thought she should read the "Trustful Surrender" book again so that they could burn it into their brains. So she read it out loud again, making this the third time she had read it in about one month. Well, it was one week later that her husband wasn't feeling very well, and as she was driving him to the ER, he died. How incredibly good our God is that he began to prepare Anita ahead of time for the surprise death of her husband through this book. As you can guess, she highly recommends it to everyone she meets and still uses it as a source of meditation and reflection. She said that at times she will open it and read a part she has highlighted, or she might just open it and see what it is that God wants to show her.

So if that story isn't enough to get you to order a copy of this book, I don't know what is! Speaking of ordering a copy...Since Dave died, Anita depends solely on the bookstore to sustain her. As you can imagine, it is a tough road, one that requires complete trust in God. In an effort to help her out, you can do one of two things. First, if you live near Plano, you can stop in the store and buy a copy of the book from her. Or, if you don't live near there, you can check out their website where you can click on the link that says "Online Catholic store". At this site, you can find "Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence" for $7. Anita receives a percentage of anything you buy through this link. It looks as if it might take a week or two before you would get the book, but you sure would be helping her out. I have a link to her website on my side bar so anytime you need a Catholic item, consider purchasing it through there. She also asks that you pray for her and the trust that she will need to follow God's will for her life.

God Bless!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


I happened to catch a few moments of Dr. Ray on Relevant Radio one day last week when a new homeschooling mom was wondering what she should do about her daughter who never seemed to want to complete the work that was given to her. The mom said that she would tell the girl, who is 8, what to do and then would have to leave the room for a bit, but when she would come back, the girl would be off building a tower for her brother or doing something else other than her work. Boy, doesn't that sound familiar. Of course, Dr. Ray made it all sound so simple. Just explain to her that she needs to complete the work that you give her and if she does not, she will not be allowed to do anything else until the work is done. He went on to talk about his wife who has successfully homeschooled ten kids and has used this method with great success. There would be times when the guilty child might have to take his school work out to dinner and work while the family dined, or to a party and finish the work while all the other kids played. Well, I realized, this is probably why he is a famous radio Dr. and I am not. He made it all sound so simple, but what he is not adding into the equation is the ability to actually remember which kids haven't done their work, or even what their work is, or the ability to remember what their punishment was going to be; you get the idea! How many times have I realized an hour later that the child sitting so nicely on the floor playing with their paper dolls is the one who was told to finish their math now, or else. I know the kids realize that I don't remember much of what I say and take advantage of that! How dare they take advantage of my failing memory, my over-taxed brain, and my inability to keep track of everything that is going on!

Accountability is such an important thing for children to learn, because if they can't be accountable to their parents, how will they ever feel accountable to God? What is a tired mother with a half-fried brain to do? There have been times when I have resorted to sticky notes on the kitchen cabinets so that I could remember what I told to who (or is it whom?). I have noticed that the less I am trying to run in five different directions, the better I am able to keep track of everyone and what it is they are supposed to be doing. Of course, I also noticed that the more I have been praying, the better my memory seems to be. In those kind of ideal circumstances, it might only take me 20 minutes to realize that the offending child is not where he/she is supposed to be!

Through much discernment time at my
silent retreat this past summer, I realized that I do have to step back, pull out and slow down in a lot of ways because I only have a short period of time to teach my children so many important things. It is so much easier to let the many infractions of the day pass by because I am too busy or too tired to deal with them. It is after hering a conversation like the one on the radio that I realize that accountability to a higher authority (in this case me, or my husband) has to take a high priority in our daily learning. So even if I am tired or stressed, I have to remember to take those few precious moments and follow up on whatever it is someone is trying to get out of! Because if I don't, am I really being accountable to my higher authority?

God Bless!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Homeschool or School at Home Part II

I have to say that when I originally wrote the part I post on Friday I had no intention of there being a part II post, however, God has shown me that there is more to write. He showed me this by way of my husband, who, now that he has finally read my blog, can actually have some input. Friday evening he happened to be reading from a book that (now that I am trying to find the exact title, I can't) was written by Father Jean Baptiste Saint-Lure and said, "Oh look, here is more fodder for your blog!" This tidbit comes from the third section of this book and it is entitled "The Practice of Conformity to the Will of God" and so I am throwing it out there for you all to chew on. (Dear friend who sent me this ebook, please tell me where we can get a hard copy of it because I would like to pass that info on to everyone else!!)

"To obtain the help of Providence it should be your aim to cooperate, as it were, with the Fatherhood of God and bring up your children as He would wish them brought up, especially by showing them good example. Have the courage to lay aside all other ambition and let this be the only object of your care and desire. Then, whatever the number of your children, you can rest assured that their heavenly Father will provide for them. He will watch over them and dispose all things for their happiness and welfare, and the more unreservedly you entrust their future to His hands, the greater will be His loving care for them."

So, while I am sure the author is not advocating that we sit back and not teach them anything (for that would not be setting a good example), I think what he is trying to tell us is that we need to have our priorities straight when it comes to the education of our children. Kind of like going back to that Heaven or Harvard thing. Sure it would be great if because of their education they could go on to a good University for further education, but I think that should not be our primary focus. I gather from the above quote that we need to bring our children up with a good Christian example and let God direct the rest. Maybe your children are called on to higher education, but maybe they are not. Are we to let the pressures of family or of society dictate this or should we try our hardest to resist that and just put as much trust as we can muster in God and rest assured that somehow God will take care of them, even if we think we have done less than a stellar job in educating them (trust me, I am including myself in this, too!!!)?

God Bless!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Recipes - Saturday's Format

Since Saturday's tend to be busy days, I thought it might be kind of fun to use Saturday's post to share recipes with all of you (this way I don't have to think so hard!!). I love to make desserts, especially chocolate ones, but since it is Lent, I will refrain from sharing any of those with you. I hope that if you have a recipe that you really like and think others would like it too, that you would send me a comment with your recipe in it and then I can share those. Afterall, a new, tasty recipe can bring joy to any day!

So here is the first one. It comes from my husband's aunt who got it from her aunt. It is easy and can be upsized or downsized depending on the size of your family. Best of all, it was very good. Hope you enjoy it, too.

P.S. If anyone out there knows if it is possible to just put a link to a file that could be downloaded, it would make this much easier to print out. If you know how to do this, please let me know. Until I find out, I guess you'll just have to copy, paste and print it out.

God Bless and have a peaceful, restful Sunday!

No-Peek Stew
2 lbs beef stew meat
1 stalk celery
4 carrots
1 medium onion
1 - 24oz. can tomato juice
1 c water
4 potatoes
3 tbl. tapioca
1 tbl sugar
1 tsp salt
In a 9 x 13 in. casserole, combine all ingredients. Cover tightly with foil. Bake at 250 degrees for four hours. DO NOT PEEK! Enjoy

Friday, February 22, 2008

Homeschool or School at Home?

I believe that there is a distinct difference between homeschooling and simply bringing the school into your home. When I first started homeschooling, I was very much into the excitement of bringing the school into my home. I loved school, especially the beginning of the new year with all that new stuff. I wanted my daughter to feel that same excitement, except in our home, not in another building. The things I required of that poor kindergartner, just because I wanted to play school again! As children were added to our school, I still persisted in that school in the home mentality. I do tend to have a very, lets call it structured, personality, so all those workbooks just seemed to fit well. Then the time came when I had too many students and too many workbooks to keep track of. It was then I realized that I was simply a traffic cop, not a teacher. I realized that I needed to make a change in my philosophy and it was at that time that I think I really began to experience homeschooling. You might be wondering what I mean by this. What I mean is that I started to take a less structured approach to learning. We now do a lot more of our work together in a group. We tackle a topic together and then each child will take off in a direction suitable for their age. We read aloud together, we discuss things more. In short, we are having a lot more fun and actually learning - and remembering - things. (Although don't get me wrong, I still do use a few workbooks and I think that they do have a place in homeschooling.)

At first this was a very hard shift for me mentally. I no longer had all that tangible evidence that my children were learning something, or so I thought. What I reallized was that most of them really weren't learning, or at least remembering, all that much. They were simply completing workbook after workbook - some of them through many tears. I still have moments of insecurity when I wonder if my children are really hitting all those important benchmarks that society dictates. Are they on track with their peers in reading and writing? Are they as smart as all of the other kids sitting in all of the classrooms around the country? It is moments like this when I have to step back and ask myself a question that I of course read somewhere else, but can't remember where: Are you educating for Harvard or Heaven? It is sometimes hard to keep that focus when you look around at what other people's children are doing or when you get caught up in what society is telling you your children should be doing. I think that by following the homeschooling way we can take the time to focus more on Heaven. I also think that now my children are learning how to learn, and having a more enjoyable time doing it. Maybe they won't remember everything we talk about, but if I can teach them that learning is fun, then I think they will be okay. Since my shift in mentality we have had a much more joyful homeschool, so I have to believe that God is leading us down the right track, no matter what society might be trying to tell me.

God Bless!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Heroic Minute

God willing, it happens every day: You wake up. At that moment you have one of two choices. You can groan, roll over and say, "Just a few more minutes" or you can get up out of bed and offer your day to the Lord. This is how Blessed Jose Maria Escriva describes it, "The heroic minute: it is the time fixed for getting up. Without hesitation: a supernatural reflection and...up. The heroic minute: here you have a mortification that strengthens your will and does no harm to your body. If, with God's help, you conquer yourself, you will be well ahead for the rest of the day. It's so discouraging to find oneself beaten at the first skirmish." Again, this is something that sounds so simple, but how many times do you find yourself saying, "just a few more minutes". In fact, it happened to me today. Just 15 more minutes and I will still be on time. Unfortunately, it was actually an hour later when I woke up and then I was under the gun to get going. It seems to take so long to recover from that, too.

I have to say that my natural inclination is to stay up late at night and sleep in a little later. My husband is the exact opposite. Over the years, however, he has convinced me that it is far better to be up early and be ready to face the kids and the day prepared (prayers said, body showered and dressed!) than it is to be rolling into the kitchen at the same time as they are. I still miss staying up during those few hours after the kids go to bed and the whole house has that peaceful silence about it, but I have to agree that my day goes much smoother if I get up at my specified time and stick to my routine.

In addition to getting up at your specified time, without hesitation, Blessed Jose also recommends taking that moment to tell the Lord that you want to serve Him during the day. He says, "Renew your decision each morning with a very determined 'Serviam' - I will serve you, Lord. Renew your resolution not to give in, not to give way to laziness or idleness; to face up to your duties with greater hope and more optimism." We can then follow up this heroic moment with our Morning Offering which will dispose us to listen to the Holy Spirit and help us to heed the many inspirations and graces that the Lord sends us throughout the day.

God Bless!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Jesus, help me!

I open my eyes this morning before the alarm goes off, cool. Since we have some family members who have succumbed to illness, I do a quick check of how I feel to see if I have become the latest victim. No, I feel okay. Next, a quick check around the room assures me that everyone slept in their own bed last night. Great, 3 for 3, we are off to a great start. Prayers go well, the water in the shower is hot - this is going to be a great day. And then it happens, I run into another human being who, without really meaning to, says something that just rubs me the wrong way. This, of course, starts the ball rolling and within an hour I find that I am cross with every human being that crosses my path. WHAT HAPPENED????? I did everything right, I lived the "heroic moment" (that's tomorrows post!), I said my prayers, I even looked presentable. Who knows WHY it happens (although being a female, you can always blame it on hormones!). I suppose that isn't even the most important question to ask. What I have to remember when it does happen is "How am I going to continue to respond to it?" There are many times when I just give in to it and then spend the whole day barking at anyone who looks at me. Usually on those days it is sometime later in the evening when I think to myself, "Why didn't you just take five minutes and go into another room and try to recollect?" Unfortunately that thought isn't the first thing to cross my mind. I get so caught up in being grumpy that I don't even want to think about how to get out of it.

Fortunately, today, something (my guardian angel perhaps) made me stop and ask myself why I was behaving this way. Was there really any reason? Did anyone do anything that bad? Have you ever noticed that your mood can set the tone of the whole household? What a responsibility. Thankfully today was a good day because grace prevailed and my disposition towards everyone improved. I have to remind myself, when days or moments like this strike, that there are things I can do to stop them in their tracks. I can go off by myself for a few moments, say a few prayers, pray a spiritual communion, even just say "Jesus help me". Easy to type, hard to remember. I do remember a story I read about Noah Webster's mother. She had a lot of children (can't remember the exact number) and when she would get frazzled and had nowhere to run to, she would put her apron over her head and pray!

A friend sent me a quote which I think is appropriate for the post today, and one that I know I would do well to remember. As St. Dominic Savio said, "Here we make sanctity consist in being joyful all the time and in faithfully performing our duties." Do you think he REALLY meant all the time???

God Bless!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Sorry, but today I have a severe case of writers' block so here is one of those cute moments courtesy of my four year old daughter.

We invited our new parish priest and my parents over for dinner one Sunday. During dinner the kids were torturing Fr. Ariel with the same old knock-knock jokes we told when we were kids. Mary didn't want to be left out so she started, "Knock Knock". Fr. Ariel replied, "Who's there?" Mary said, "Little ole lady". Fr. Ariel, "Little Ole Lady Who"? to which Mary replied "Grandma!" We all got a good laugh out of that one, although Grandma wasn't sure if she should be offended or not.

Please pray my block is lifted soon!
God Bless!

Monday, February 18, 2008

How to Organize Your Laundry

Well, it's Monday again. Time to face the mountainous pile of laundry. I used to dread laundry day. It seemed as if I could never even get the clothes sorted let alone washed, dryed and folded. Then, one day, I came across a tip that revolutionized the laundry chore for me - hire someone to do it. No, I'm just kidding. What I did find was a recommendation to get one tall laundry basket for each of the loads that you normally do. That meant I went out and bought four bins, one each for light, dark, towels and cold water laundry. It took a while to train the kids (and even my husband) which basket to put what laundry in, but once I did, it was so much easier to approach laundry day because the laundry was already sorted. All we have to do is grab one basket and drag it to the laundry room. It also makes it easy to see when one load is getting really full and might need to be done ahead of schedule.

As you know, every year circumstances and family structure change and so do a lot of other things, including how we handle our chores. Now that I have older children, I assign one child a year-long tour of duty to learn how to wash the laundry. We wash one type of load each day: Monday is light, Tuesday is dark, Wednesday is towels, Thursday is cold water, Friday is work clothes and Saturday is sheets and blankets. The child in charge of washing is responsible for starting the load and changing it over to the dryer. Three other children are each assigned a load that they will fold (even the little kids help with this by folding towels, washclothes and underwear). I would like to tell you that each load is folded and put away the day that it is washed, but I can't. Instead what usually happens is that by Wednesday night we are all clammoring for more socks and underwear so that is the night everyone sits down with their respective bin and folds the clothes. The folding child is also responsible for placing everyone's folded laundry on their respective beds. At which point I would like to tell you that the person whose clothes they are immediately puts them away so as not to confuse clean from dirty laundry, but I can't. (Okay, I know I'll get grief for that one: two of my kids put their clean stuff away, the other five do not!)

Even if you don't have kids old enough to be in charge of washing and drying and folding, I found that splitting it up like this does make it much more managable. Having a set day for each load makes it easy to make sure that no one runs out of anything important. I'm rarely behind on my laundry and I never have to face a mountain all in one day. For now, this system works very well for us. Hopefully it will help someone else, too.

God Bless!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Simonetta - Faith on my Sleeve

I would like to take the time today to recommend a CD that has just been released by Catholic recording artist, and friend of mine, Simonetta. We have all waited anxiously for the past few years for her to finally get around to producing some new music. I mean really, between homeschooling, being a mother to 5 and then adopting another child, writing, choreographing and producing one outstanding production after another, you would think she would have time to write and record a new CD:) Well, I got to listen to my free copy today and it was worth the wait!

I would highly encourage you to go to the St. Philomena Foundation and order your own free copy. While you are there, feel free to check out the information about donating to the St. Philomena Foundation so that they can continue to produce and distribute more free music.

If you are interested in more of what Simonetta does, check out the link to The Little Flowers Catholic Dance and Theatre Troupe. Their upcoming performace will be held on March 15th and 18th and will be The Seven Last Words of Christ. It will include the original music by Theodore Dubois sung by the Most Blessed Sacrament Choir and the Passion Choir. The choirs will be accompanied by professional musicians and, for your visual pleasure, a silent portrayal of the passion of Christ will be performed by The Little Flower Catholic Dance and Theatre Troupe, choreographed by Simonetta.

So what does this have to do with homeschooling with joy? Well, listening to Simonetta's music will make you feel peaceful and close to God so that, come Monday, you will greet your students with a heart full of joy! Really, you will! Order your copy and see for yourself!

God Bless!

Friday, February 15, 2008

What are we to learn, Lord?

This is what I was pondering last night after hearing about the horrible killings at Northern Illinois University. Add to that the random shootings in Tinley Park a short while ago and my first inclination is to ask "Why, Lord?" to which we may never know the answer. The next question I asked is, "Okay, Lord, what is it You want us to learn from all of this?" Immediately into my head popped the question "How many of those people were ready to meet the Lord?" I obviously don't know the answer to that question, but it sure got me thinking that maybe that is something we need to really take to heart when we hear about tragedies such as these.

So, how do we get to be ready to meet the Lord, which we know can happen at any moment? I like to think of that time as if I will be finally getting to see someone that I have known for a very long time, like a long time pen-pal (or maybe prayer-pal would be more appropriate). A lot of people dread the thought of meeting the Lord when they die. Hopefully if we have a solid prayer life it will be more like meeting a friend than a judge. So, I guess yesterday's thoughts can also apply to today's post.

Another way that we can be ready is by taking time, especially during this Lenten season, to go to confession. In "In Conversation with God" they have a quote from Pope John Paul II about confession. He says, "Lent is a particularly appropriate time to awaken and form the conscience. It is precisely at this time that the Church reminds us of the overwhelming necessity for sacramental Confession, so that we can all live Christ's resurrection, not only in the liturgy, but also in our own soul." And just to keep with the joy theme, the book goes on to say that "The sincere confession of our faults always leaves great peace and joy in the soul. The sadness caused by sin and a lack of correspondence with grace turns into joy."

Hopefully if we are faithful to our prayer life and frequent confession, we will be prepared to meet our Lord at any moment. Let us pray that all those who lost their lives in these two shootings were also ready.

Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord; and may perpetual light shine upon them. And may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen

God Bless!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Importance of Prayer

I mentioned before how important it is to have a firm foundation of prayer in your life, especially if you are taking on the additional role as homeschooling mother (or father). If you have a large family (meaning more than four children now-a-days), you will recognize the following conversation: Computer lady comes into my home to see why my computer is moving so slow and notices all of the children around. After mentally counting them in her head, she says, "You have how many children? I don't know how you do it! I only have three children and that is enough for me!" One day I would love to respond: "Yes, I have seven children and the only way I do it is by praying all the time. It's not only me praying, but I try to encourage other people to pray for me, too. Quite often I even pay people to pray for me!" (I've lost track of how many religious orders and groups that I have sent donations to that I have asked to pray for me.) Quite honestly, I know that that is the only reason why I am able to get up every morning, do what I have to do and remain reasonably sane. To the last part of the computer lady's statement, if I had the nerve, I would love to ask her how much she prays. Chances are, not enough. I know when my kids are driving me crazy, it all stems back to a lack of prayer on my part.

The Miles Christi priests (remember the silent retreat?) encourage you to spend 15 minutes of quiet time each day in meditation. They recommend finding a good spiritual book, reading a snipet or an entry of it and then spending the time trying to listen to what God is saying to you. They also encourage you to journal those thoughts. Some books they recommend are "My Imitation of Christ" by Thomas a Kempis and "Life of Christ" by Bishop Fulton Sheen. If you have never read "In Conversation with God" I would highly recommend it. It is a series of seven books that cover the entire liturgical year. For each day, there is a wonderful meditation based on a topic covered in the readings of the day. Another great prayer resource is the "Magnificat" magazine. If you read that each day, you get a meditation, info about a saint and you can cover your Bible reading time, too.

To leave you with, here is today's entry from the "Magnificat" that is listed before the Mass readings.
"Queen Esther prostrates all her majesty before the Lord and prays, 'Help me, who am alone and have no help but you.' There is no more perfect human gesture than such authentic prayer. Even in our wickedness we know how to give good gifts to our children. Which means that the inclination to pray is something as natural as our heart. Christ tells us to be true to our inborn need to depend: 'Ask, seek, knock. You will find."

Happy St. Valentine's Day!
God Bless!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What is education?

Really, what qualifies as education? Ask three different people and get three different answers. I'm thinking of this topic this week because this is one of our crazy weeks. We have three days filled with co-ops and clubs. There was a time when I was in full workbook mode that these type of weeks would drive me crazy. I mean, let's face it, workbooks are designed into nice 36 week, day 1, day 2 formats. Throw in a club day or a co-op day (or worse yet, more than one in a week), and now that nice little organizational scheme is out the window. I mean who can be doing day 1 on a Wednesday? Aren't day 1s for Monday? Fortunately I've chilled out a bit since then. What was once viewed as an intrusion is now looked upon as a wonderful opportunity of learning. Really, a lot of the events that intrude upon our perfect homeschool week, if looked at hard enough, can be seen in an educational light. So, don't get discouraged when the week you planned turns into the week you didn't plan. A lot of learning is still taking place. Try to think on the fly, too. If an unplanned event pops up, take a quick look at how you can throw some learning into it. If nothing else, add a few laps around the parking lot and consider it a good gym class.

One homeschooling mom I know employs the three week on, one week off schedule. This way she plans all of her activities or appointments for that one week off and can use the other three weeks to focus on book learning. We tried this one year and it really worked well for us; and it saved me from a lot of frustration.

Another thing I have to remember is not to get involved in too many things so that there is no opportunity for scheduled learning and downtime. I find that there are so many good, fun, wholesome, holy, inviting things to be involved in that we could literally be running every day of the week. It is hard to say no to a lot of these, but I found that our family operates much smoother when we aren't out there burning rubber day after day. Well, I've digressed enough for one day. Hope your day is going well.
God Bless!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ringing the bell

A few years ago I was on a mom's retreat that was held at the Community of St. John down near Peoria. While we were there, we got to eat lunch with the brothers. This was the first time I had ever experienced a silent lunch. The food was fabulous, but you couldn't tell anyone that. If you wanted seconds, you had to patiently wait for someone to happen to pass the food to you. We've tried silent dinners at our house, but usually they end up in everyone trying to come up with a new form of sign language to communicate their desires, which creates more of a distraction than the usual noise does! The one thing I did bring home from that luncheon was the image of the items that were on the table in front of the head brother (I can't think of his correct title!). On the table were a candle, a crucifix and a bell. I liked the idea of having those on my table, so we added the candles and, in lieu of a standing crucifix, we have statues that reflect the different times of the liturgical year. Then I got to thinking more about that bell. I reflected upon all the times I would hear the nuns at the Poor Clare monastery walk the hallway ringing the bell five minutes before prayer or dinner time. Since we live in a rather spread out house on five acres, you never know where you are going to find children hiding. I knew I was tired of yelling for everyone at every meal, so I decided to try the bell idea and bring a little bit of the monastic life into our home.

Now before every meal, instead of yelling inside and outside, I just get to ring the bell. It sounds quite delightful compared to my blaring voice, especially at 7:00 a.m. when everyone is still asleap. Today, though, I threw everyone for a loop and I rang the bell at 10:00 a.m., a time that no one is used to hearing the bell. And do you know what happened??????? Absolutely nothing. Everyone knew it was not time for food, so no one came running! What if it would have been a fire alarm, or something serious or something extra delightful? Guess it didn't matter, it wasn't the usual bell ringing time so they all figured it must not be important.

This all coincided with a reflection that a friend sent to me that I actually had time to read today. This excerpt comes from Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI:

"All monasteries have a bell. St. Bernard, in writing his rules for monasticism, told his monks that whenever the monastic bell rang, they were to drop whatever they were doing and go immediately to the particular activity (Prayer, meals, work, study,sleep) to which the bell was summoning them. He was adamant that they respond immediately, stating that if they were writing a letter they were to stop in mid-sentence when the bell rang. The idea in his mind was that when the bell called, it called you to the next task and you were to respond immediately, not because you want to, but because it's time, it's God's time. For him, the monastic bell was intended as a discipline to stretch the heart by always taking you beyond your own agenda to God's agenda."

Well, it appears as though we have some work to do in that area known as right-away-obedience! I have to say, though, that overall the bell is a nice, pleasant addition to our family life. I'll just have to keep trying those bell-drills! St. Bernard, Pray for us!

God Bless!

Monday, February 11, 2008

How To Get Organized

Finally, something you can sink your teeth into! I hope for this to be the first installment in an ongoing series of posts on how to get organized! Organizing is one of my favorite hobbies. I love bins and binders and cute storage things. Unfortunately things like price sometimes get in the way of my ability to put everything into a nice little package. Let's face it, if you're going to homeschool joyfully, you have to have some semblence of organization. It is really hard to teach if you can't find your books, or if it takes you half the morning to organize the lessons for the day. So today I am going to tell you about one of the things I learned that has helped to keep our little world organized.

A number of years ago I got myself a sturdy 2" binder and some dividing pages, even a few with pockets on them. In the first part of my binder is our calendar. On one side of the page is a place for notes and phone calls, the other side is divided into seven rectangles (yes, one for each day of the week). If I knew how to put PDF files on my blog for you to download, I would put my example here. Since I don't know how (help!), just use your imagination and see if you can create something on Excel, or send me a comment and I can try to email you a copy. I try to write all the important information from phone conversations on here, too, so that I don't have a bunch of scrap pieces of paper floating around. After that, the binder is divided into various sections. The first is where I keep my pre-printed grocery list (you guessed it, that's another post), next I have a section for all those nifty lists you get in the email with all those tips that you want to remember (like how to get sticky stuff off your carpet). Next is a section for flyers and info that pertain to the adults in the house (like flyers about Miles Christi RETREATS) and after that section comes the biggest: All the newsletters and schedules for all of our homeschool activites. This way I can always locate the information about the next meeting without having to look at the newsletters all the time. Actually, the possibilities for sections are endless. It all depends on your family structure. Think about things that you always seem to be misplacing and make a section for it. This binder stays right by the phone and everyone knows that this is the place to look when they need to know what is going on.

Well, dinner is calling. Hope that helps! God Bless!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Watch what you say

I was reminded of a very important lesson last night and that is that GOD HEARS EVERYTHING YOU SAY! I was telling my husband that I would appreciate it if he would not wake me up early today since I was very tired and really did not want to get up at 5:30. I asked that he please not talk to me until at least 6:30. Well, God had his radar on and thought, "HMM, a chance to help her to work on those selfish tendencies a bit, I think I'll take advantage of it!" Within a half hour of going to bed my youngest son woke up with one of those horrible croupy coughs. Well, after two trips to the "steam room", two bouts of throwing up and a few hours of restless fever it was 5:30 and he was finally settling down. Oh well, my husband was kind enough to shut the door and let us sleep until we woke up at 8:00. I should know better than to think about sleeping in, especially during Lent. Have a great weekend!
God Bless!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Homeschooling, anyone?

Since it is my sixth day of blogging, I thought it was about time that I at least mentioned something about homeschooling! Really, though, a lot of what I have been writing about is directly related to how joyfully your homeschooling day runs. I don't know about you, but I have discovered that whenever something is not going well, whatever it may be, it somehow always comes back to me. I gave up trying to pin the blame on my curriculum, my schedule, my children, my husband. No matter how hard I try, 99% of the time I can find the problem somewhere within myself. For that reason, I try really hard to keep up some semblence of a prayer life, get to mass as often as is possible (more about that some other time!), go on RETREAT when I can, read A LOT of books and tweak my schedule and ways that I do things so that I can at least quickly pinpoint which flaw it is that I can blame and work on that one right away. I don't care how you homeschool; whether it is with Seton, or doing unit studies, or unschooling, if you, the teacher, don't have a solid foundation to come back to, you probably won't be able to say come June, "That was a really good year!"

Over my homeschooling career there were two very distinct times when I knew it was time to make major changes in order to save myself and my family. The first time the beacon that lit my world came in the form of learning how to schedule my day. The second time was when I took the dive into unit studies. I could spend hours (and I have!) talking about each of these subjects. Like I said before, I hope to put together an e-book about why I think unit studies are a great way to go and how to break free of clinging to workbooks and make the jump. Please keep this edeavor in your prayers as I try to figure out when I have time to do it!

As an end note, a friend brought up something the Pope said in regard to Lent that I thought was worth passing on. The Pope said that we should try fasting from words and images and bring silence into a more important place in our lives. Doesn't that sound wonderful? Of course, that would mean that I probably shouldn't be "talking" so much here! HMMMMMM....

God Bless!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Retreat, Retreat!!

Today I thought I would tell you about a secret treasure. It's a way to re-energize your battery, jumpstart your life and help you to set some priorities. It is a silent retreat that is based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. The retreats are hosted by priests of the Miles Christi order out of Michigan. It just so happens that there is a women's retreat coming up in Lent, the weekend of March 7-9. What a great thing to do for yourself and for your family this Lent. I can't begin to say enough about this experience. It can definitely be life changing. Of course, if you really want to treat yourself, ladies, wait until the women's retreat in July. This retreat gives you an extra day of that golden silence. There are two men's retreats scheduled for this year, also. One in April and one in October. Just think of the impact it can have on your family if both husband and wife attend. I know that when my husband and I both went last year it had an incredibly positive impact on our married and family life. Try this link if you want to get more information, or if you want to register for the upcoming retreat. Last I heard, there was still room.

If you are not sure of the direction your life, your marriage, your homeschool should be taking, this is a great opportunity to spend a lot of quiet time thinking, praying, reflecting and planning your future direction. Just in case you haven't picked up on it so far, I really think this is something YOU should do!
God Bless!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

It's Lent

The time of year that brings fear to my heart because I'm never quiet sure what methods God will use to get me to grow! I know I shouldn't view it that way, but I also know that I am not the only one out there who does! Lent is a time for simplifying your life so that you can spend more time praying and reflecting and repenting. It seems that our Lenten simplifying always revolves around food. A few years ago we decided try something different in the food area and we picked six meals that we would serve all throughout Lent (with Sunday being a free day). For example, this year we picked a baked chicken dish to eat every Monday, tacos to eat every Tuesday, etc. We found that this did a couple of things. One, it took away some of the focus and importance on what we were eating. Two, it made shopping and cooking much simpler, and three, by the end of six weeks we were pretty sick of those meals and had a new appreciation for variety in cooking! I have friends who have gone completely meatless for all of Lent. That wouldn't work in this house because I am not that friendly with beans and would end up cooking pasta for six weeks, thus causing my family to become addicted to carbohydrates.

I think the most important thing that I have learned about Lent is this: go ahead and make your plans, decide what you are going to give up and what you are going to do better, set aside more time for worthy projects, but in the end, don't be surprised when God throws in His idea of what your Lent should be like!

God Bless!

P.S. One of the things I like about Lent is the curious stares you get from people when your kids yell out "Mom, Grandma said the A word!"

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


I ran into this word a few times yesterday, so I guess I must need to write about it. How can we find joy? Better yet, once we find it, how can we hang on to it? The first time I ran into joy yesterday was when I was looking at the blueberry muffin recipe I was going to make. The lady who submitted the recipe said "It's a joy to set out a basket of these moist muffins!" Sounded good to me, so I made the muffins and tried to have joy in my heart as I set the muffins before my hungry brood - even though it was Monday, we were already an hour behind schedule and kids were griping because they don't like mushy blueberries. Well, at least they were moist!
We next ran into joy when Bob and Larry (you know, the tomato and cucumber) were talking about joy at the end of one of their videos. According to them happiness that lasts is called joy and we have joy when we use the gifts and talents God has given us the way God intended us to use them.
So, if we are in the midst of a severe trial, be it health, financial, death of a loved one, etc., how do we keep our joy? Well, according to a book I was reading by St. Claude de la Columbière entitled Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence, "...whatever the manner of our life we should always accept adversity joyfully." Easy to agree with, hard to live. He goes on to say that adversity purifies us and enables us to acquire greater merit. Later on in the book, he outlines a way of praying that just never occurred to me. It's easy to remember to ask for trials to be removed, but he is suggesting that we go one step further and ask for joy whether the trial is removed or not. Here is what he has to say:

"Let me show you a good way to ask for happiness even in this world. It is a way that will oblige God to listen to you. Say to him earnestly: Either give me so much money that my heart will be satisfied, or inspire me with such contempt for it that I no longer want it. Either free me from poverty, or make it so pleasant for me that I would not exchange it for all the wealth in the world. Either take away my suffering, or -- which would be to your greater glory -- change it into delight for me, and instead of causing me affliction, let it become a source of joy. You can take away the burden of my cross, or you can leave it with me without my feeling its weight. You can extinguish the fire that burns me, or you can let it burn in such a way that it refreshes me as it did the three youths in the fiery furnace. I ask you for either one thing or the other. What does it matter in what way I am happy? If I am happy through the possession of worldly goods, it is you I have to thank. If I am happy when deprived of them, it gives you greater glory and my thanks are all the greater."

Wow! This book is quite a treasure. Since a friend gave it to me, I will try to find out where to get it and let you all know. So, as we head into Lent, hopefully we can remember to ask the Lord to keep joy in our hearts in the midst of whatever Lenten trials He wishes to send us.

Happy Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Paczki Day and Fat Tuesday!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Things are not always as they seem!

It was at a pro-life mass a few years ago that our family had been asked to bring up the gifts. We made sure that everyone was neat and clean; we even had color coordinated outfits. We carried the gifts up to the front in a nice orderly, controlled fashion. Afterwards, a friend of mine who had four small children at the time commented that she wished her children would behave that well so that they could do something like that. I laughed heartily and told her what it was she DIDN'T see. When we had arrived at the back of church to get organized, my oldest son decided to start throwing a fit because he didn't get to carry up what he wanted to carry. He threw himself down on the floor and refused to cooperate. At this time, we were under the gun to get organized, so my husband pinned him up against the wall and told him in no uncertain terms that he was going to walk with us up to the front of the church. This was all going on while I was trying to organize everyone else and keep quiet the smaller kids who were also beginning to fuss while we were standing right next to the video camera, all the while praying that no one would turn around and witness all of this.

So, what's my point? When you see a family, whether it is large or small, and you begin to wonder why your family can't be like that, or how come your kids aren't that talented, or how come you can't sing, dance or build intricate machines like that family can...remember that things are not always as they seem. Those people are human, too. I always try to tell this to moms of young families who are getting discouraged because they are comparing their family to another. Don't let what appears to be a "got-it-all-together" family get you down. Just keep chuggin' along, appreciate the gifts and talents your family has and try to follow the path God wants you to be on.

On the flip side of that, I have to remember that God is trying to tell me the same thing about my own family. It never fails: We are in a public place and I'm just about to string one of the kids up by their toes for their behavior, when right in the middle of my "why can't you behave better..." speech some nice old lady comes by and tells me what a beautiful family I have. Those are the times I have to pause, catch my breath and say "Thank you for reminding me".

God Bless!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Welcome to my blog!

No, my name is not Joy, it's Laura. Quite frankly, there are many days that "Homeschooling With Joy" doesn't even describe our homeschooling experience. Maybe something like "Homeschooling with Tears" or "Homeschooling with Threats" might be better. Oh well, I've picked this title for my blog for a few reasons. While it may not accurately describe our experience every day, it is what we stive for. I am constantly looking for ways to bring us closer to that goal. Since homeschooling is not just something we do between the hours of 9 and 3, but a way of life, those necessary changes might come in the area of prayer or discipline or organization. Anything that will help our day run more smoothly, make us grow and bring us to that Joy that we all long for.

So, my hopes for this blog are that God can use me as a channel to bring ideas, suggestions and challenges to blog readers everywhere so that we can all experience the joy that, really, can only be found in Him. I also hope that you, the readers, will become active participants in my blog. Share your comments, positive and negative (go ahead, I have the final say on what gets published anyway :), your suggestions, your questions...whatever. Let's talk about homeschooling ideas, unit studies (My brain has begun to work on an e-book about the hows and whys of unit studies. Hopefully my hands will start soon!), schedules, organizational tips, discipline, prayer, discernment, submitting to your husband...I plan on sharing things I've learned about all of those areas and I hope you will share what you've learned so that we can all grow. Even if you don't homeschool, or even if you aren't Catholic, don't be afraid to join in!

I'd like to end this first entry with a quote from "In Conversation with God" that I read this morning. "Coincidentally" it has something to do with joy.

When joy is lacking, may it not be because at that moment we are not really looking for Our Lord in our work, in the people around us, in the vicissitudes of our day. May it not be that we are not yet detached from everything?
God Bless!

P.S. So you might be wondering how you can leave a comment?! At the end of this post you will notice where it says "1 comment". Just click on that and it will bring you to the comment screen. Follow the directions and then send it off. If you see a confirmation message, then you will know that your comment got sent to me to review and then post. I promise to be fair and post all comments, even the negative ones. Just, please, be nice!!