Friday, July 29, 2016

SFL Series: Get Outside!

I've been thinking a lot about slow family living (SFL) since I posted the first article in the series, and I've felt overwhelmed considering all of the potential topics. Where to begin? Well, I am sitting on my front porch right now, something I haven't done in awhile due to the high temperatures and humidity. Today is cooler, there is a breeze, and it looks like it's going to rain. How I love a summer storm! It's one of the simple pleasures of life.

Even though I haven't enjoyed porch living as much as I would like to lately, I've still forced myself to spend a few minutes outdoors on a daily basis. Sunshine is vital to our mental health and proper working of the circadian system, which promotes good sleep. It's also necessary to get 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure daily, without sunscreen, to insure that our bodies get enough vitamin D. Fresh air is important, especially if the windows are closed up and you have the air conditioning running day and night. I feel depressed if I am cooped up in the house all day.

Naturally it makes sense when it's very hot and humid to get outside either early in the mornings or to wait until evening. These are also the ideal times to water your garden. I have several container plants and a vegetable garden, so caring for those gets me outside. We also walk our dogs daily. Sometimes I join my daughter at the swimming pool. I like the evening hours best. There are fewer children, so it's easier for a grown up to swim laps. Incidentally, these outdoor activities can be family oriented, a time to enjoy being together while going about the regular routines of life.

My family volunteered to water our parish Rosary Garden every other week, so we often ride our bikes to do that, which provides us with family time, service work, exposure to the beauty of the natural world, and exercise all at once! Time outdoors can certainly be spiritual. It's easy to pray the Rosary while going for a walk.

You don't have to go somewhere special to get outside. Occasional trips camping, going to the beach, or visiting the zoo are nice, and I do recommend them. But try to focus on the simple pleasures of daily life. Create beautiful outdoor spaces where you can eat your lunch, meditate, read a book, even sing! Explore your own neighborhood and say hello to the people you meet. Walk around your yard and pull a few weeds. Take your compost bucket out to dump in the heap. Fill up the bird bath and feeder. Soak in the scent of clover. See what is growing. Cut a few blooms that are fading and make a pretty bouquet in a Ball Mason jar vase.

I have a wonderful upstairs balcony with tree branches so close they almost touch the house. Here I can listen to church bells and watch the birds going about their business.  A little nature goes a long way. We need to find the balance between doing and just being. Spending time outdoors for both can help us to find the center of things.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Fall 2016 Belly Dance Class

La Paloma Gypsy Dance (women ages 15 & up, all body types):

     Join instructor Rita Michele for the art of belly dance, with a Persian and Mediterranean flair! This “Skills, Drills, & Combinations” class is perfect for beginners as well as challenging enough for more experienced dancers. Belly dance is ideal for improving core strength. It tones the entire body and provides a low-impact aerobic workout. Students should dress in comfortable clothing and may dance barefoot or wearing ballet slippers. A scarf tied around the hips is helpful.
     A full warm-up and cool-down is included with every class. Enhance your grace and beauty, and discover the dancer in you!

Classes will run on Thursday evenings for 8 consecutive weeks and will be held at the Community Center on Buffalo Rd. in Bryan, upstairs. A minimum of 6 students is required to hold the class, so please pre-register with the Parks & Recreation office to reserve your space: 419-633-6030.

One session only:
Begins September 29, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Fee is $60.00.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Slow Family Living (SFL): Series Introduction

The increasingly popular slow movement began in the 1980s in Italy with the concept of slow food. This was, as you might guess, a revolution in reaction to the fast food culture. Slow food is prepared using fresh, local, sustainably grown ingredients. Slow food meals may come from your own kitchen or from a restaurant, and they are eaten mindfully and savored. Slow foods are whole foods rather than the standard American processed fare. The sharing of a meal is an intimate act. Food is not meant to be wolfed down on the go.

From slow food, the revolution has grown to include other areas of life, such as slow travel, slow exercise, slow education, and slow family living. The slow movement is the antidote to the modern busyness addiction and plugged in state of affairs. In the spirit of the slow movement, I'm going to keep the posts in this series short, so that you may experience slow blog reading. I hope to chronicle the small steps I am taking toward a simpler, more mindful and meaningful life a little at a time, as I try new things and take the time to see how they work. To simply observe.

The first thing I have done is to deactivate my Facebook account. Yes, again. I have already experienced a profound difference in myself. Maybe it has to do with less screen time. Studies show that too much screen time causes depression. Even if you don't deactivate, try to limit yourself to checking your email and FB accounts only once a day. Dial down your number of groups to as few as you really need to belong to. Shut off your notifications. Pare down your friends list, and stay off the news feed. If you can, take a week totally off Facebook and other social media to detox. Then re-evaluate what you think you can live without.

I hope you will join me on this journey. Simply beginning it has already given me great hope. I ordered a book from the library that I highly recommend--The Lessons of St. Francis: How to Bring Simplicity and Spirituality into Your Daily Life, by John Michael Talbot. I invite you to join me in a slow movement conversation in the comments. We all need a sense of like-minded community. It's best to have this in person, but the internet can be a valuable tool for filling in those "real life" gaps, so let's talk!

Monday, July 4, 2016

A Mother's Master Book

What is a mother's Master Book, you are wondering? This is an idea that was inspired by Colleen Billing at the IHM Catholic homeschooling conference I attended in May. She showed us a 3-ring notebook that she basically uses to organize her life. Inside the front pouch was her "inbox" for one week. She recommended using lined post-it notes for to-do lists. In this book she had a file for each of her children which included medical information, personal documents, savings accounts, birth certificates, etc...

This is a great idea. However, if you are designing a notebook that is potentially going to leave the house with you, it might not be wise to keep very important family documents in it, in the event that you could lose it. I would personally keep those types of things in an accordion file at home, designating a pouch for each child (and each parent). Either way, I agree with Colleen that a great filing system for your home office is mandatory.

My notion for the Master Book is a little different. I really like Colleen's inbox idea, so I adopted that. Incidentally, I put my book together this evening using supplies I already had around the house, and some of it came from having cleared a great deal of clutter in the Terrible Room I mentioned in a recent post. Most likely you will not need to go shopping to create your own Master Book. 

In the left pocket I have my loop schedule for the 1st term of the upcoming school year, as well as my curriculum outline for the year. I tore out the page for July from a calendar. Since I had no lined post-it notes on hand, I slipped in a pad of lined paper. 

Though we are not doing formal lessons for summer, I do want to keep a to-do list for each week and begin to implement my system. For example, I want to go on some nature walks and start keeping a nature notebook for summer. Mother needs to have her own nature journal along with her children, so I have included mine in the back pouch of the Master Book.

The Vera Bradley pouch that you can see in the picture at the top holds drawing pencils, a sharpener, an eraser, a pen, and oil pastels. I know that Charlotte Mason favored dry brush painting for the nature notebook, and I do plan to try that, but for portability the oil pastels are more convenient. 

I have included basic tab dividers and notebook paper for record keeping of our daily lessons for each term. I figure I will begin by taking some notes of summer activities. Even if you don't do formal lessons, much learning still takes place in summer and can be included as part of the year's curriculum. For example, your child may participate in a gardening program through the parks and recreation department (science), take swimming lessons (phys. ed.), or take an art class at the library.

I will periodically post updates on how my Master Book idea is panning out. I'd love to receive feedback from readers in the comments, and please share any similar ideas you have for organizing your homeschool!