5 Keys to Reimagining School

I taught a FREE webinar this past Friday, February 7th.

It is called the 5 Keys to Reimagining School. This webinar is all about to gaining peace and clarity! 

Let’s stop the mommy overwhelm together!

I was invited to speak at the Refresh 2020 Winter on-line Conference. Yay!!! REFRESH! is an Annual Virtual Conference for you to get inspired – with 100% free content – provided online by Homeschool Connections to grow your ideas and grow your family’s strength.

Don’t we come into homeschooling with a vivid picture of school that often little resembles reality. This vision is born from what we are familiar with, that of our own educational experience or those suggested by others we have read or seen.  Home schooling looks nothing like that.

When we try to be at peace with this disconnected vision, we become overwhelmed and believe that we are “not enough for our kids.”

What is the solution?

Simple. Let go and re-imagine school. 

In this webinar I discussed the 5 Keys to Reimagining School:

  • Prayer: the cornerstone to peace
  • What is essential in education: Tapping into your WHY
  • Planning backwards
  • Golden opportunities outside the “classroom”
  • Connecting with a “Titus Woman”

Just click on the image above and scroll down to the talks including mine, Reimagining School, to get clear on what is critical and how you can put my time-tested tips into action in your own life.  

One last thing…

I know that it is only human nature to listen to talks and soon after forget what was said and what you learned.

So with that in mind I created a companion workbook that will guarantee you remember and put into action what you learn!

Got any questions for me? Feel free to leave a comment here!!

Is Homeschooling Your Kids a War?

During my kids homeschool high school years, I remember the scene in Shakespeare’s Henry V movie and play when the king rallies his tired and battle-weary men to fight for just one more day in the unavoidable Battle of Agincourt. 

One of the rousing pleas he uses is the line, “…men will think themselves accursed that they had not fought in this battle when in years they talk of the day, they will roll up their sleeves and show their battle wounds…”

Yes, war stories, from acts of courage, trust between the troops and passion towards a cause. 

I like to think that those of us who have, whether knowingly or unwillingly, chosen to home educate have our own war stories.  Moms gather around the playground or the church hall after a homeschool groups’ First Friday Mass or co-op and swap war stories

These usually begin with the war stories of childbirth, and as such serve to initiate a tight bond between homeschooling moms.  We all have a story to tell and share. 

As we hold close to us the “result” of the latest war story, we smile at each other knowingly. There is no way that you forgot the pain of childbirth but instead you plunged ahead in spite of it, in the face of it, to reap the beauty in its sweet reward, a new baby in your family!

So, am I suggesting that homeschooling is a battle front, a war, then?

Many of my fellow homeschooling moms would say YES, heartily.

The battle begins with the first cry from the troops, “I can’t find my books mom, can I skip Math today?”  Then it is carried through the day when meals ensue, and chores have to be done.  The battle weary general retreats to the comfort of her computer screen to seek respite and solace in the latest Facebook group, or perhaps she secretly seeks solace with an episode of her favorite TV show, one she would never dare to watch with the kids.

But I say homeschooling your kids is not a battle front, it is not a war.  It only becomes that when the world inflicts its preconceived ideology of what education is, and what it looks like.

Does it take courage, trust and passion? Absolutely!  However, there is no enemy in this “war”.

I suggest we concentrate on education rather than school.

Can we focus on the individuals entrusted to our care? Do we entrust our homeschooling to Jesus? He the best leader, a perfect leader in the battle of humanism, materialism, secularism, hedonism running wild in our culture.

Yes! I recommend you begin by really trying to paint a vivid picture of what education looks like and sounds like and feels like for your particular family.   Note, I did not say school.  That is not education. 

Wait before you begin let’s take a short side trip…

Webster’s dictionary defines school as “an institution for the teaching of children.” You and your family’s homeschool are NOT an institution and thank God you are not. 

In turn, here is Webster’s definition of an institution:

“A facility or establishment in which people (such as the sick or needy) live and receive care typically in a confined setting and often without individual consent.”

Okay maybe I need to get rid of my copy of Webster, but the point is that an institution often has to be regulated, and self-serving to continue to exist. 

Families and individuals do not work that way, especially when we talk about education. Schools came into being to regulate the masses, to teach job skills in an increasingly industrial world, with little focus on the individual.

Interesting enough, if you also look up the definition for education in Webster, you quickly determine that there is no real definition…here is what is says:

“The action or process of educating or of being educated.” 

Wow…I didn’t think that was allowed, defining a word with a form of the word…

So next I looked up “educated”, and I got the following: “having an education”.

It’s not just me, right?  But are we going around in circles?

To get to the heart of education we instead have to ask ourselves, “What do we mean by education?” 

Paint a vivid picture with your spouse, by praying together first and then really take enough time to write down, in detail, what you mean by education. 

For my family, education is a process, a life-long pursuit towards acquiring intellectual curiosity and a sense of wonder.

You still have to choose a curriculum, and tools to get towards your meaning of education for your kids. However, all too often when we begin to choose curriculum, we all succumb to peer pressure, in our case “adult peer pressure.”  We look around us, play the compare game and lose the courage to put out into the deep. Don’t!

Put out into the deep!

“Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.’ Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” – Luke 5:3-5

I love Simon Peter, such a real guy!  Immediately he obeys BUT his first impulse is to question Jesus! 

Wow, imagine that! We all have seen this scene played out in our very own homes, every single day!  We give direction to our children, determine their lesson for the day or chore, only to have our kids question it immediately!

But take heart…

If we go further on to the end of Luke’s chapter 5:

“When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, ‘Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.’ For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon.

Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.’ When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.”

Go back to that painted picture of what you mean by education. Know that it will create a huge net full of overflowing “fish.”

Yes, your life overflows with so much responsibility, so many daily, monthly and yearly decisions and tasks that you easily become overwhelmed.

Why?

Well, simply put, deciding to home educate, because it best matches what we mean by education is without a doubt “putting out our nets into the deep.”  Jesus fills our nets to almost tearing…he stretches us…and this is when fear sets in and peer pressure and doubt creep in.

But what does Jesus do for us?

He says, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”

Dear sisters in Christ, do not be afraid!

Venture forth with the knowledge that you will be successful in your “catch of men.” You are planting seeds, but not alone. You work with the Master of the harvest, Jesus!

The focus is on Him, and the gift of each precious child He has given to you, so trust in Him! 

Pay attention to the individuals He has placed in your life and forget what the world tells you…forget what school is supposed to look like.  Design your own, build it with your kids, with the knowledge of what you mean by education.  Get help from loving mentors, research on your own, pray and be silent in Adoration. 

Then forge into the daily battle, by following Jesus as your leader and guide.

Have assurance, the battle is won, the victory is already ours!

What are your definitions of school and education? Do you need to break free? What’s holding you back?

Is God asking you to Homeschool?

Do you ever feel like Jonah?

If I really am honest with myself, I know what God is asking me to do.

But like Jonah I run the other way.

I hide myself, escape by hopping aboard the boat of distraction and otherness. As a busy mom (and grandma) I have plenty to keep me distracted from what God is calling me to do.

AND just like the story of Jonah, when I ignore the call of God, chaos ensues.  The storm hastens and throws my ship, my family, into a tumult.

Are you feeling this way right now too?

You accepted or even willingly signed up for home education, yet there is this nagging tug to run and hide.

To continue with the Jonah analogy, the sailors asked Jonah to pray to His God to quiet the storm:

The captain approached him and said, “What are you doing asleep? Get up, call on your god! Perhaps this god will be mindful of us so that we will not perish.” -Jonah 1:6

They threw Jonah overboard as Jonah knew he was the cause of the storm.  He immediately recognized the consequences of ignoring his responsibility and calling from God.

But the LORD sent a great fish to swallow Jonah, and he remained in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Jonah prayed to the LORD, his God, from the belly of the fish:

God answered.

He was swallowed by a whale. Then he prayed…

Out of my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me; – Jonah 2:2

Jonah prayed a prayer of thanksgiving.

Like Jonah I pray in thanksgiving as I homeschool my children.  I may feel scared, alone, abandoned, and try to run away, but God shelters those who He loves and who He calls, and gives them NEW LIFE.

In this way I try to remember that I am a sinner, I have free will and I am not perfect.

Yet, God calls me.

And He hears my voice in my distress and answers me.

God gave you the children you have in the right time and at the right sibling order.  He calls you to do the unthinkable, to manage your home and to be primary teacher to your children.

You know it is a call.

More than that, God is concerned intimately with me. Yes, little ol’ me.  He is concerned enough with my care and my happiness.  He, however, wants me to humble myself just like he asked the Ninevites. 

…the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small,* put on sackcloth. – Jonah 3:5

The Jonah story ends with another lesson.

Remember how the King and all of Nineveh repent?

When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out. -Jonah 3:10

BUT Jonah is NOT HAPPY!

Instead, he sits under a gourd plant expecting death and destruction to befall the Ninevites?

When nothing happens to the Ninevites Jonah actually grows angry with God for choosing mercy!

Ha!

When will we ever learn?  Ah, the Story of Jonah is indeed a cautionary tale for us, for certain!

Stay the course, know you will NOT do it perfectly, you will fail and fall, undoubtedly.

God hears your voice in your distress, loves you and your children infinitely more than you can imagine, and shows mercy when we least expect it!

I am praying with and for all of you as we plunge into this new year.

How do you respond to His call? Please comment below…

I just did a podcast with practical tips for those times when you feel like running and hiding! Here is the link:

Curing Mommy Overwhelm

I was so honored to be invited to the Homeschooling Saints Podcast. This was my very first podcast. I was super nervous, but Lisa Mladinich, the show’s host and a fellow homeschooling mom made me so comfortable! It was such a pleasure to talk about this topic which is the number one topic I cover with hundreds of homeschooling moms over these past 20+ years!

This episode will help you get clear on what is critical and how you can put my time-tested tips into action in your own life.  Here’s a sneak peek of what you’ll learn…  

  • How playing the comparison game does not work for your unique family (myths, get ready to be busted!).
  • Why it’s especially important to ground yourself in spirituality, and define with your spouse what educational success looks like.
  • Educating the whole child to feel a real sense of success by aligning your curriculum to each child’s strengths.
  • The importance of “Less is More,” stopping the pressure of thinking you “are not enough” or that you will “mess your children up.”
  • How to celebrate the wins, glorify God, and acknowledge your wins!
  • My real family examples and suggestions to focus on strengths, including time management tips for teens.
  • How to honor the dignity of each child, recognize the importance of self-knowledge, and follow the call to holiness.

 Before you make yourself a cup of java or tea and put your headphones on, do me (and yourself) a favor to get the most out of this episode.  Pull out a notebook, I want you to get clear on something vitally important…  

Where are you now? Where do you want to be? What is standing in the way?

Sit with those three simple, but essential, questions and jot down your answers.  Because the precursor to curing mommy overwhelm is knowing what your goals are.  

Okay, all set?

LISTEN NOW….CLICK ON THE IMAGE

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO LISTEN NOW – CURING MOMMY OVERWHELM

The secret to homeschool success!

Want to know a secret? Sure you do!  Drum roll pease…

Homeschooling success comes from setting just one goal per child per year!

Yes, that’s it! 

At present, I am in the middle of personally designing curriculums for many of my homeschool, coaching clients.

Feeling overwhelmed by all the umpteen choices you are contemplating right now?

Dare I say, you may even be rethinking homeschooling altogether, or how many courses you can outsource or hand-off. Right??

The thing is, trying to be all things to all your children, for all subjects, is crazy busy and overwhelming!  It just is!

That is why, long ago I retrained myself to think small.

Yes, to think, one goal, each year, per child. 

Consequentially, if you simply reflect on the past school year accomplishments you will notice a subject or skill, that your child needs help with to feel real success.

Does this mean you forget the rest of the subjects?

NO! The other subjects are subordinate to the one big goal. 

You have to first and foremost respect the dignity of each unique child. 

Each child has a unique set of strengths and challenges. To foster these, by making them the one goal for the year, lays the foundation to real sustained growth. There is plenty of help to do this too!

Here’s an example:

My daughter was nearing nine and was struggling with reading.  She had very real, vision issues that made reading laborious and exhaustive.  Naturally, she had strong resistance to her reading lessons that year. Additionally, she had (still has) a vivid imagination. Quite frankly, the simple Dick and Jane type of readers did not hold her interest. The stories she had created in her head, through her imagination, were far more captivating.

The truth is that real success in reading, real enjoyment in reading, lays the foundation for everything else.

That year, I planned her curriculum with one goal; have her feel real success with reading beginner chapter books.  Every other subject played second fiddle to this.  This subject took priority in everything I choose for her for that year!

I mean everything!

Nothing was added to her curriculum that would curtail her ultimate goal, reading success.

To illustrate; we kept math work to mainly hands-on fun we did no laborious workbooks. I had no worries here, because I knew math skills would come in time. Indeed, at the right time for her to truly master them. Science was accomplished family-style, with weekly read aloud, and fun experiments with her siblings.

I had on hand many games and puzzles to help her strengthen her eye muscles for focusing. We used the library often in search of topics she loved for read aloud time and reading practice.

Fast forward 15+ years to today.  She just graduated Christendom College this May with honors, and get this, she is pursuing a career in copyediting! 

Really awesome, right!!

I have taught this methodology and practice to hundreds of families too!  It works and sets the stage for your child to feel a real sense of success.

I designed some handy reflection worksheets for this process in my popular FREE Planning Guide, call Get Ready.  Did you get your copy?

Catholic Homeschool mom

Share in the comments below, what has been the cornerstone of your homeschool journey.

Ready, Set, Go, Homeschool Mom!

I love this saying as it evokes a clear image for me!  It is the image of a runner at the starting line of a race. They have been preparing for months to run this race.  The runner is eager to begin and give their very best effort to run the race.

catholic homeschool mom

In my mind, I can see that this runner is different. She does not run for personal gain but for a higher reward.  This reward is priceless. This reward is satisfying on such a deep level that the runner draws strength, her energy and perseverance from the mere thought of obtaining it.

What does this have to do with homeschooling?

I see the runner as a mom who homeschools her children.

I work best visualizing images, making movies in my head of the life I want to lead. Being fed on a steady diet of old fashioned black and white movies from the 30’s and 40’s, I was drawn to the messages told in a story. There was always the hero and his journey towards some good for himself or humanity. I find that the best books I cherish have strong hero stories!

It is no wonder that I was drawn to the ultimate story, the very best hero tale, when I was invited back home to the faith of my birth. This story is the one our Lord has told through His Word and through his Apostles and Saints, handed down through the ages.

This ultimate story is the center of my family’s homeschool journey.  It is the energy my family drawns upon to direct each day. 

It is all that matters in the end. 

Catholic Homeschool mom

A little while ago I wrote a guide called, Get Ready. This handy little guide I developed as a starting point for anyone who wants to begin their family journey towards an authentic and doable Catholic homeschool.  In it, I introduced the PRRR method, (a silly acronym, I know). Firstly you start with Prayer, then you go through the next steps of Read, Research, and Reflect. In addition, there are helpful suggestions and worksheets to guide you through this EASY process.

“Get Set, Go!”

Above all, what I learned after 25 years of homeschooling and consulting, is that you “Set” your life first, then layer in school. I know that seems unfamiliar and maybe even confusing at first, but think about it for a minute. The only way to find balance, to have enough time for all your roles, as wife, mom, and teacher is to SET LIFE and fit in school.

To do otherwise is a certain recipe for overwhelm.

Consider this…would you buy a car without thinking of who is going to drive it and be a passenger in it?  Would you make dinner by never looking at the ingredients you are adding to the dinner, let alone open the fridge?

In other words, when you choose to homeschool, to do something extraordinary, you have the opportunity to personalize and tailor the education of each and every child in your family.

However, can you possibly teach so many different levels with so many different personalities and learning styles?

It is possible! I have personally witnessed many, many families do this. Ordinary people with an extraordinary desire to challenge the status quo of education. You have already begun, when you decided to take on the primary role of educator.

How? You are a parent.

catholic homeschool mom

Two powerful passages come to mind that speak volumes:

Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. (CCC 2223)

The home is the natural environment for initiating a human being into solidarity and communal responsibilities. Parents should teach children to avoid the compromising and degrading influences which threaten human societies. (CCC 2224)

Relax, over the next few weeks I will be introducing practical techniques that help you SET YOUR LIFE.

So, go ahead and spend time first in getting to know what is in your fridge BEFORE you make dinner….spend time this week getting to really know your kids interests and talents.

Comment below what you “found in your fridge”…

3 Tips to Overcome the End of Year Struggle

The struggle is REAL.

Do you ever feel as though you are not doing enough for your homeschooled kiddos?

Or you are not sure if what you are currently doing is the right thing? 

Do you ask yourself, “Am I ruining my kids for life?  Am I setting them up for failure?”

This time of year, which I call “the struggle is real” is rife with second guessing, dwelling on what never got done this year or what still needs to be done. Couple that with summer vacation and end of the school year fast approaching  and you have a recipe for disappointment and overwhelm.

homeschool mom struggle

Dear homeschool mom, this would happen to me every single year, both in the early days as well as my veteran homeschool days.

Why?

We all take our role as “Parent as Primary Teacher” very seriously.

We constantly give ourselves a non-stop performance review in our heads.  In other words, we let this really critical boss tell us we are not doing enough, that we could be doing more and that the kids would be better off in a different situation.

YES, even when our hearts are saying homeschooling is the best education for our precious kiddos!

Here are three tips I use to get that pesky, finger-pointing boss out of my head and begin to follow my heart!

Love always wins.

Jesus the source of LOVE. Replace that critical self-made boss immediately with the image of our Lord Jesus.  Visualize Him, and most importantly stop whatever you are doing and be present in His Love. If you can, go to Adoration, even for a quick visit. It literally changes everything.

I could not always get to daily Mass or Adoration when my children were little, so I made a spiritual communion, a desire in my heart to be one with Him.  Vinny Flynn in his book 7 Secrets of the Eucharist , in his last chapter, talks so beautifully about this tremendous gift, spiritual communion, Jesus is always available!

Make a List.

Writing things down always brings clarity. Period, end of sentence.  I know that it is so tempting to just let those self-defeating thoughts roll around in your head. Better yet it is super tempting to call a friend and complain. 

Now don’t get me wrong, it is a good thing to vent your frustrations to get the struggle out of your head. BUT writing down all those thoughts truly helps to put clarity into the big picture.

If you think you did not do enough this year, write down what you think you can reasonably finish in these last few weeks. It instantly makes you get outside your head and feeling productive. Forget the past, it is done and over with. Just move forward. Make a list.

Plan a celebration.

You are amazing and serve your family with your whole heart and soul. Please remember that!!

There is no doubt that even though you may feel your homeschooling came up short, there is without a doubt some wins!  Did one of your kids learn to read? Was there a sacrament received by one of your children this year? Did you learn more about one of your children’s interests/strengths?

Celebrate the good stuff that happened this year. There is sooooo much more to homeschooling than accomplishing the academic achievements.  It truly is about forming the people in our care in an environment of love and truth.  That is something to really celebrate!

Now it’s your turn, what do you do at the end of school year to finish up on the upswing?

Please comment and share, I’d love to hear your suggestions!

One Thousand Gifts and Easter Joy

Having a thankful heart. 

I recently picked up Ann Voskamp’s best selling book, One Thousand Gifts.  I was familiar with it in that I had often read quotes from it in the Magnificat daily meditations. They were always profound, on target, so naturally I was curious. 

There is another connection I have to that book’s author, Ann Voskamp. I found out that she wrote a geography book, published by Knowledge Quest whose owner is Terri Johnson.  I have long admired and worked with Terri and have come to know her as a soul sister with a generous heart and immense clarity.  Neither one of these women are Catholic but they live out, in clear definition, their Christian beliefs both in their writing and lives.  Both have six children, home school and both write about their lives and homeschooling products. I had to make time for this book.

Yes, the book is a best seller.

As a book store owner, I often feel skeptical with best sellers, knowing full well that only a few, the chosen few, get marketing dollars and publicity to raise it to the top, like cream in a bottle of milk.  Someday I will research this one, how it rose to the top. 

It definitely stands out from the usual big sellers, its overtly Christian. It is told in the first person, is very introspective and full of Scripture passages, not the usual making of a best seller. Yet it is, and yet passages found their way into my Catholic realm of spirituality, into my meditative reflections for Easter!

I must admit that when I first picked up Ann’s book, I began it with an expectation of being lifted, transformed, touched and moved by her inspirations.  However, the book begins with a bit of strangeness, dreams and flashbacks that conjure up a tragic accident of a little girl, her sister. I was taken aback and closed the book.  I let it sit for three weeks. Since I had borrowed it from the library, I renewed it to avoid forgetting to bring it back during the Easter Triduum holy days.

Then I found myself celebrating a rather quiet Easter Sunday at home.  We had gone to the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, our grandson was just born so they did not travel to us and my brother’s family canceled at the last minute. Therefore, I had plenty of time to make dinner, go for a walk and relax with a book.

I picked up One Thousand Gifts. 

This time, I opened the book in the middle, remembering the disturbing opening passages, and I began reading.  I read pages of deep reflection, full of emotion written in a free form style that encouraged me to read more.  So, I ventured back to the beginning of the book, thinking maybe I had put it down too quickly, maybe it wasn’t too hard to read. 

Wrong! It was hard! 

The memories Ann shares of her baby sister’s death are haunting and tragic. Yes! And yet, I realized that this stark vulnerability she shared was actually a gift. We are invited to enter into her pain, and through it receive ultimate personal growth.

I had just experienced the gift of the first Eucharist (thanksgiving) at Holy Thursday’s Mass of the Last Supper, cried my way through the Passion and Death of Jesus at the local Via Crucis on Good Friday. Then waited with eagerness towards the Easter Vigil to emerge from darkness into LIGHT!

Easter Joy! Alleluia!

Through tragedy springs hope, through pain and suffering we grow!  We are reborn with a thankful heart!

God was ever present for Ann in her daily life but Ann failed to notice, failed to give any thankfulness for the awesomeness of the simplicity of it all.  Her life, one of a farmer’s wife, is simple, yet profound.  It is dictated by the whims of nature and life in its purest form.  It is a seed bed, ripe for planting and ripe for growing. She knows this firsthand and showed me through her writings that life can be taken away in an instant, just like the life of her sister. 

Anne started a list.  A list, of one thousand gifts, and in that process her transformation began. The result became a book to share and remind me that Eucharist, thankfulness, is a precious gift Jesus gave to us for our pilgrim journey of life.

We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song!

Easter is a reality, a victory over the darkness of sin.  It is HOPE and LIFE! May I remember that, may I have a thankful heart. 

How are you moved by Easter JOY??

Please share and comment….

Catholic Kids, Easter and Holy Week

Did you wear pink or rose colored clothing to Mass for Laetare Sunday?

I did!

Okay, I have to confess, it was totally by accident, haha! When the kids were little, I was much more on top of the liturgical colors and the upcoming liturgical seasons.

Why?

Well, because I made it part of my curriculum. Just like we teach our children the seasons of the year, as a Catholic mom, I taught the Liturgical seasons. These seasons guided the rhythm of our daily lives including what I taught. Not only that, but I have seven kiddos and there are just so many hours in the day to get in everything!

Incorporating lessons pertaining to our liturgical seasons and faith make it possible to involve everyone in the family!

BUT, it was hard to find meaningful and faithful items each year…

That’s why I put together my favorite, family-tested ideas into packets around the Catholic seasons and feast days and used them as our school work.

I absolutely love the build up of Holy Week as we journey towards Easter.

Holy Week

To share this love, I want to firstly foster a sense of reverence for this most Holy Season. and do so together, family style.  Hands-on projects, such as the Jonah Project, Resurrection eggs, and Pascal Candle do just that. They connect Scripture, God’s Word, with physical activities the kids create. We dive into the story of Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection as they unfold throughout Holy Week. We add another lesson each day!

I promise to write soon about the benefits of making mini-books, which is such a powerful method of creating sustained learning!

But I will tell you that my kiddos benefitted greatly from making mini-books! So I made them templates to use for Easter and Holy Week. For example, we made mini-books to learn what are the real symbols and true colors of Easter. If it involved some writing, I had the older siblings help spell words for the younger guys. Sometimes they just made them together. My little ones practiced handwriting skills making these mini-books. My older ones used beautiful Easter notebook pages for journaling and taking notes during the week.

The art of letter writing and handwriting!

I didn’t get around to sending Christmas cards this year! How about you?

I found if I added Easter Cards as our school work this week, it was actually easier than during do so in the Christmas season. It brought back the art of letter writing to my kids. I made printable cards with blank inside for my kids to write personalized messages. I also made some with lines, to make it easier for the little ones. This definitely counts as handwriting practice!

It is always such a delight to see the Easter cards we made each year, not to mention the awesome THANK-YOU’s from our neighbors, friends, and family! Easter cards remind our loved ones of the awesomeness of Christ’s victory over Death, especially those family members who have fallen away from the faith, or need a gentle reminder that you are praying for them!

A few days ago I bought the same Easter Egg dye kit we use every year. I also picked up bags of grass, the paper version, as we have a dog who eats everything, haha! But as always, it is virtually impossible for me to find beautiful faith-filled Easter stickers to decorate our dyed Easter eggs.

So I made Easter sticker sheets too, featuring the real symbols and true colors of Easter (see them in the group photo above). I researched the symbolism and made up info sheets for reference. The kiddos use them to learn, take notes, or add to a mini-book!

With Holy Week and Easter just around the corner, I better start printing up these activities for this year, as I do every year! Better make two sets, to share some of these traditions with my grandchildren!

Visit my Easter Pinterest Board I put together with a bunch of ideas too!

My hope is that I can also save you some mom prep time and inspire you to add these type of activities in lieu of your regular schooling.

It truly is my all-time favorite time of the year! Do take time as a family to contemplate this most glorious season!

Please share, comment your favorite Easter traditions, and “count it as school.”

Discipline: Where does it come from?

What we do is never about us…

I was praying the joyful mysteries at Adoration. As I prayed, I was struck by the fourth Joyful Mystery, which is the Presentation in the Temple…and the fruit of this mystery, which is obedience!

Santa Maria della Salute (Venice) – Presentazione della virgine al tempio di Luca Giordano 1674

Earlier that day, I had received an email from a homeschool mom asking for advice about disciplining her children, having them listen to her, helping siblings to get along with each other, and dealing with family anger issues. 

In other words, she really asked about obedience!

However, why does obedience have such a nasty taste in our mouths?

Your kids taste it when you ask them to do their school work or chores, without complaint.  You taste it when you have to make dinner or plan a curriculum, or deal with siblings fighting, for the umpteenth time today!

But why does obedience have such a nasty taste when it is so closely tied to LOVE?

We all want and crave the good feeling of getting along and peace in our homes!

Furthermore, we are all wired for connectivity, and as such God placed us in families. 

On purpose, He placed us with the exact people in our unique family.  Without that beautiful desire to love each other, to want to get along, we would not know dying to self. He knew that suffering comes from love and we poor creatures have a really hard time making that connection. 

Back to that meditation…and the question:

Why is obedience the fruit of the mystery, the Presentation of the Lord?

Looking closely at Scripture, we see that it was out of obedience that Mary and Joseph brought baby Jesus to the Temple. It is the fulfillment from the prophet Malachi.

“Now I am sending my messenger— he will prepare the way before me; And the lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple; The messenger of the covenant whom you desire—see, he is coming! says the LORD of hosts”. Malachi 3:1

Similarly, in St. John Paul II’s REDEMPTORIS MATER, which is about the Blessed Mother and the life of the Church, he describes how the entire passages of Jesus’s announcement and birth, through to the presentation, is the story of Mary’s “obedience of faith.”

Simeon’s words seem like a second Annunciation to Mary, for they tell her of the actual historical situation in which the Son is to accomplish his mission, namely, in misunderstanding and sorrow. While this announcement on the one hand confirms her faith in the accomplishment of the divine promises of salvation, on the other hand it also reveals to her that she will have to live her obedience of faith in suffering, at the side of the suffering Savior, and that her motherhood will be mysterious and sorrowful.” 

I find that super hard to read and much harder to live!!

However, God gives us the answer!

Your family is the haven of peace and obedience He created. Let us begin to think of our homes as the domestic church God gifted us with and in it dwells LOVE, the author of LOVE, and the Mother He gave us to guide us.

Finally, St. John Paul II goes on… “The Mother of that Son, therefore, mindful of what has been told her at the Annunciation and in subsequent events, bears within herself the radical “newness” of faith: the beginning of the New Covenant. This is the beginning of the Gospel, the joyful Good News.”

Of course, we all want peace in our homes, and dare I say even in our homeschools. 

We desire obedience from our kids.  We set boundaries and hand out a family rulebook, BUT we need to do this only through LOVE and continually asking ourselves:

“What kind of obedience am I asking of myself and children?”

If it is to be an obedience of faith, like Mary’s, then expect to walk side by side in suffering.  Misunderstanding and suffering does exist in families.  We all want to do what we want, when we want! Yet, we all know, all too well, that for the good of others we love, we cannot get what we want, when we want it. Period.

Does this mean, there are no practical tips for gaining obedience?  Should we just suffer and give up? Absolutely not! 

When my kids were very little, we surrounded them with love and as such surrounded them with the love of Christ.  He is the center of our home and sits at our table for all our meals, guides our speech towards each other. We offered our day through petition at the beginning of each day by reading the gospel of the day, singing a hymn of praise and offered contrition and thanksgiving in each night’s prayers.  We immersed ourselves in the lives of the saints and lived the liturgical year. 

Were we perfect in our desire to live this Christocentric life?  Heck no! 

I lost it with my kids, slammed doors (broke that habit – thank God), and fought with my husband.  However, we had TIME…yes, TIME to work all these things out because we homeschooled our children.  We had to live with each other on a daily basis for many hours, learn from each other, and get along for the sake of the family!

The peace beyond all understanding.

There is no magic pill or miracle tip that will make it all better.

Yes, you should expect kindness.  Yes, you should expect immediate obedience (no counting to 3 please, it just delays obedience). Remember to be patient, as we are all a work in progress.  Be gentle with yourself, if you are often not patient or kind with family members. Sometimes it is best to remove yourself from the room, take a deep, long breath, and pray!

Recently at confession, our pastor said a lovely thing to me, “Leave the past to God’s mercy, and do not worry about the future, as it has not happened yet. Be present in the moment and give it to serving and loving Jesus in your family.”

Great reminder, right?

Here is another gem, a favorite verse that helps me refocus…

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, shall guard your heart and mind through Jesus Christ.” Philippians 4:6-7

Thank you homeschool mom! You share your heart with your family each and every day, giving that LOVE of Christ to the precious ones in your care. Keep Jesus close because He will take your crooked lines and make them straight!

May God bless your family abundantly! With love ❤️ Paola

Now it’s your turn. Comment below to share with us your thoughts on obedience!

Got a friend or fellow homeschool mom who can use encouragement, who would feel loved and supported by this message? Please share this post!

Top 3 Tips: Homeschooling when sickness hits!

I bet you can relate to this scene!

You are nursing full time to the sick kiddos in your home, so you get derailed from teaching the kids not sick. Then when the sick ones get better, the healthy ones get sick! This can go on for several weeks, one sick kiddo at a time!

Then you get sick.

What can a homeschool mom do?

You could just be sick and skip school, right?

“Plug-in” the kids with a few documentaries and viola it counts as a school day, right? BUT you have already missed so much time with them…

Or you could do these TOP 3 easy things that actually still get school work done while you are in survival mode.

Over the past 25 years homeschooling my seven kiddos, there were plenty of times that I actually never got sick, call it mom-immunity!! But there were also plenty of times that I too got whatever was running through my family!

I do not live near any of my close relatives and most family is about two hours away. I had to learn early on how to manage without much help!

They say necessity is the mother of invention and I truly believe that! More importantly, I do believe that God’s grace is sufficient. All too often I was way too hard on myself and expected way too much!

Having mom or the family sick brings with it amble opportunities to really focus on the overall important things of life.

Tip #1: Mandatory Quiet time

This tip is especially helpful when you have kiddos all under the age of 8. During this time of my life, I would gather every, single one of us in my bedroom and close the door. Heck, I got my cold from them so we would just plop on my bed in one, giant, sick bundle.

My family LOVES to color and this really was a salvation. I would always keep on hand imaginative, coloring books such as the ones from Dover Publications. This publisher is a fantastic resource because of the enormous wealth of coloring book choices with excellent and informative illustrations. To make it count as homeschooling, I chose coloring books correlated with our current school work in history, science or literature! The company offers free samples, you can just download now. They often have free shipping too. My best bets are the history coloring books, or the nature coloring books, something for everyone at different ages!

Tip #2: Reading aloud

Having sickness in the house, whether it is just the kiddos or includes mom, is the perfect opportunity to have read aloud time take over most of the homeschooling day. Count your sickness as a blessing to get you started in one of the most profound experiences in your child’s development, reading to you or listening to others read aloud! There are so many benefits to reading aloud, from the practical, such as language development, knowledge gained and shared, literacy skills, brain development to the spiritual and so much more!

I did a post: How to Make Read Aloud Time Work, with helpful tips and book recommendations. Read together from the couch or bed! Pick important stories too, that infuse virtues into your homeschool! Love this quote…

“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”

GK Chesterton

I have plenty of book reviews here on the BLOG. And I keep adding more weekly! These are book reviews culled from my 25 years of homeschooling and running our family business choosing the best books!

Tip #3: Play with Games and Toys

Yes, I did say play with games and toys and I mean for it to count as a homeschool day! However, not just any games or toys. I do not mean computer games. There are plenty of them, and free ones too BUT when you are sick or the kids are sick, it is so easy to lose track of time. Even if you set a timer for the kids to limit computer time, survival mode is not the time to monitor their computer usage. The result of which would only cause you to spend time trying to undo the damage of brain fatigue with crabby kids!

kids with tangram

It is really important to have on hand games and toys that actually teach important skills, such as spatial relationships, math skills, reasoning, color, matching, sequencing, timelines, communications, creativity, etc. Do you see where I am going with this? No babysitting by using TV and the computer!

Here is a handy list of my best games and toys that count for homeschooling:

  • Tangrams or Pattern Blocks- spatial relations, color recognition, patterning
  • Lacing and Tracing Cards – fine motor skills
  • Puppets – ones they make from a kit or animal and fairy tale figures (for storytelling)
  • Beading and laces – for patterns, colors, sequencing
  • Double-sided Geoboards – basic geometry of squares, rectangles, triangles, polygons and symmetry
  • Puzzles – letter recognition, spatial relations
  • Scrabble or Hangman – spelling practice
  • Two-sided counters – practice math facts

BONUS Tip – for your older kiddos

Chances are the older kiddos can manage most of their assigned work themselves for a few days, with no great loss. They most certainly should be able to read all assigned work. They can write down all their questions, or jot the pages from their workbooks that gave them trouble while you were down and out. I often found that without relying on my constant presence they could do a heck more than they realize. All too often they know how to do just the minimum which includes asking mom for the answers. Here is their chance to stretch themselves and you.

Give the big kiddos the chance to shine and be the family hero by asking them to teach their younger sibling a subject, be it math or spelling or something they love and excel in. Teaching younger siblings reinforces already learned concepts and skills with the added benefit that the repetition reinforces and strengthens it.

Be gentle with yourself! Rest, and get better homeschool mom!

What are your survival mode tips? Please comment below! The best tips come from those of us in the trenches!!!