Monday, February 20, 2017

Giving Up Distractions: Homeschooling Resources

Today we are continuing the series on giving up distractions for Lent. In the last post I discussed the distraction of researching homeschooling methods and advice and recommended paring down your membership in Facebook homeschooling groups and the general online searching of blogs and the like. I emphasized choosing a method and sticking to it, pulling focus and buckling down. Proceeding with confidence.

The reason that I want to touch some more upon this topic is that a few days ago I received Seton Home Study's catalogue in the mail. I am on their mailing list because we use some of their books. The catalogue was glossy, colorful, and oh-so-enticing! I started to fantasize a little. How easy it would be to switch entirely to Seton, maybe even get the lesson plans. Wouldn't this be so much simpler than creating my own Charlotte Mason curriculum and schedule? My friends, the grass always does look greener on the other side.

Then I started thinking about Catholic Heritage Curricula, and how their program is a more "gentle" approach and can be used in the CM style. At least that's what they say, but I have my doubts about the reality of using an open-and-go program in its entirety while authentically adhering to the CM philosophy. I went online to find discussions comparing Seton with CHC and which program people like better. Was this helpful? Of course not. Everyone has an opinion, a preference, or really no idea what they want to do. But maybe I should pick up a spelling program, the devil on my shoulder whispered. I looked at the spelling book samples at the CHC website, as I have done a number of times. Each time I decide that, no, this is not going to be helpful. We just need to keep following CM's method for language arts consistently, as it does work! Sure, we can use a few carefully selected books from Catholic homeschooling publishers within our CM curriculum, but we can't have our cake and eat it too.

It is so tempting to add just one more thing, and sometimes there is indeed a gap that needs to be filled. However, could you fill it with a library book? Or maybe you already have a book in your home that you can use. For example, we've been using the Nature Anatomy book that Beezy got for Christmas. I found that it does not give enough breadth of information, so we need a second resource. I've used both Anna Comtock's Handbook of Nature Study and A Story Book of Science (Fabre), which we own. Another great book that I forgot we had until today is a Reader's Digest publication, ABC's of Nature: A Family Answer Book that I picked up at a library book sale. And of course you can always find great science stuff for kids online.

All of this is to say that we have to stop trying to reinvent the wheel. We need to give up this distraction of self-doubt when it comes to homeschooling, and this addiction to unnecessarily acquiring curriculum books and resources. Sometimes we just need a refresher course on how to approach a particular subject. Since I was feeling "wobbly" today about science, I went to the cabinet in which I keep my homeschooling resource books and pulled out Real Learning by Elizabeth Foss and reread the section on science (nature study).

These insecurities and impulses to assuage them will come up. Don't beat yourself up over it. Stop and reflect upon the root of the problem. Why are you doubting your chosen method? Why do you think you need another book (or to do yet another online search), either for yourself or for your child's curriculum? Perhaps you simply need to go back and revisit a topic or subject, remember why you chose to do things this way in the first place, and figure out what information you may need to proceed in the right direction.

For instance, in the Nature Study example I gave, I have just been feeling like I want it to be more vital and living. Soon the weather will allow for more nature walks, and there will be all kinds of new growth to observe. Since The Story Book of Science's selections lead into each other, it is difficult to choose a particular topic at random. Therefore, I'm going to proceed in it from where we last left off and use Nature Anatomy as a supplement, which contains lovely illustrations and succinct bits of information.  I want to have more drawing incorporated into Beezy's nature notebook, and Nature Anatomy has selections for use in this area as well. So this is how I want to pare down our nature studies, though of course I can use one of the other books as a need arises. I want to relax and allow for schole, the classical concept of learning as leisure.

And as for that lovely Seton catalogue? Before it could drive me crazy, I tossed it into the recycling!

Remember, whatever our grand plans, we can only carry them out one day at a time. Just do today and let tomorrow worry about itself.  From Matthew 6:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a]?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Giving Up Distractions--Homeschooling Methods/Advice

I know I'm not the only one for whom homeschooling methods and advice are distractions! A primary indicator that this is a widespread problem is the activity I see on Facebook. FB itself will receive treatment as a separate distraction, but I'll deal with the overlapping issue here.

How many homeschooling groups do you belong to? Count them up. I spent some time this morning leaving several FB groups, the majority of them relating to homeschooling. I was shocked to discover the number of groups I had completely forgotten I had joined! I am the administrator for two groups, and one of them is very small and inactive, so likely I will dismantle that group when I focus specifically on the FB distraction. Then the one group left will be the only one that I belong to. Could you pare your membership down to no more than three, prioritizing those which are most helpful to you and in line with your personal beliefs and educational philosophy?

I see many of the same people who belong to all of the same groups that I did, so I know I'm not the only overloaded home educator out there. Some of the groups focus on the same method, while others feature a combination of methods. Sometimes the combination is composed of diametrically opposing educational philosophies. Talk about a crazy-making influence! If one is dealing with all of the questions, information, and advice flowing into, say, 10 groups, one is highly likely to become distracted, side-tracked, worried, and confused. I even get really annoyed with some folks. Why do we feel it is necessary to run all around the internet to ask the advice of hundreds, and even thousands, of people?

In addition to Facebook, there are myriad blogs, websites, and articles to be found on homeschooling methods. There are podcasts and youtube videos as well. And how about all the books? Ebooks, books from the library, books purchased at Amazon and Ebay. Yesterday I got an email informing me that a homeschooling book order I had made was cancelled due to the book being out of stock. I was relieved. I saved myself $15 and the distraction of reading yet another person's advice.

When we allow ourselves to be distracted this way, we lose time that could be spent on actually homeschooling and creating an atmosphere and lifestyle full of truth, goodness, and beauty. We can't get down to the business of diligently teaching our children (and from a state of rest at that) if we are constantly doubting ourselves. And we probably aren't praying and relying on the guidance of the Holy Spirit while we are desperately searching for the "perfect" curriculum, method, or combination of methods.

I'm reading one book right now about home education. One. It's volume 2 of Charlotte Mason's homeschooling series, Parents and Children. I'm a Catholic mother first, and a CM educator second. One Church, one method.

Sure, now and then I look around for a book that will fill a need in the curriculum, or for one good idea that I can implement for a particular subject, such as writing. And of course when you are new to homeschooling, you need to do some research on methods and find a place to start. For awhile you may not settle upon any one way. But eventually it really is necessary to make a choice and stick to it. Avoid hopping all over God's green earth to make sure you and your children aren't "missing out" on another approach. My motto right now is this: Pull focus and buckle down.

Could you do this--find one FB group, one blog to follow, and one book to read about homeschooling? Could you commit to giving up a good portion of your distractions in this area? It's time to get unstuck and move forward with confidence. Clear this clutter and set yourself free!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Giving Up Distractions for Lent (series introduction)

I have decided to give up distractions for Lent. Ash Wednesday is not until the first of March this year, so we have three full weeks before Lent begins. But a productive Lenten observance is more likely if we have thought about it ahead of time and prepared. For example, if you want to give up coffee, it would not be advisable to go cold turkey. You would first want to cut down the amount you drink over a period of time, so you don't suffer massive withdrawal symptoms. I may or may not give up coffee, but if I decide to, giving up distractions would facilitate the process. How?

Well, I have found that distractions rob me of sleep. Worrying distracts me and can cause insomnia, making it difficult to fall asleep, to stay asleep, and/or to go back to sleep when I awaken too early. When I don't get enough sleep, I drink more coffee. Caffeine can contribute to insomnia as well, and in my case it also causes stomach problems. An upset stomach, in turn, can lead to insomnia and is an additional distraction. So you see the cycle. If distractions which cause insomnia are eliminated, then I will sleep better and hence need less coffee, and my stomach will thank me! Ultimately I have to reduce the number of things which cause me to worry, feel stress, and make me lose my focus. Before determining what you will give up for Lent, think about going deeper spiritually and rooting out the underlying reasons for your stumbling blocks. Then formulate your plan.

Today I made a list of my top 5 worst distractions. One of them is physical clutter, which has sub-categories to be tackled one at a time. I consider distractions themselves to be a form of clutter, either mental or emotional. Even if giving up distractions will not specifically be part of your Lenten practices, many of us would have a better quality of life if we worked on pinpointing and reducing those things which worry, aggravate, and deplete us, ultimately preventing us from finding true joy, meaning, and purpose. They keep us focused on the wrong things, and we leave important things undone. We become scattered and lose our serenity. As home educators, there is no way we can effectively teach from rest if we fritter away our time and energy on distractions.

I want to have my project for giving up distractions well under way by the time Ash Wednesday arrives. This was the day to take the first step of making my list, and in fact I am already tackling one of my key distraction areas. If you want to join me, make your list soon and start thinking about how you will accomplish your goals. I will cover each of my items in a series of posts titled, Giving Up Distractions. So stay tuned, and let me know how your process is going!