Why I Don’t Homeschool (version 3256)

Okay, a lot lately I’ve gotten emails, fb messages, texts etc asking me why I don’t homeschool. Particularly, why I don’t homeschool Shelby.

Taking Shelby out of the equation for a minute: I’m a lousy teacher. There, I said it. I mean, don’t get me wrong I’m great at teaching my kids their faith through application, teaching them how to be decent human beings and allowing them to *gasp* actually be children but reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic? No. Just no.

I was educated in the public school system from kindergarten through college. I thrived educationally in public education, socially it was good for me until high school. Actually, probably before then but I loved middle school and despised high school except for my teachers and actual course work. A lot of my education was direct instruction but I was blessed to know how to thrive in that environment and a brain that WANTED to learn.

My boys (again Shelby is a special case) are both very different learners. Joseph is self-motivated but also craves praise. He likes to do work-books, for fun! He is super-reward motivated. Joseph is more along the line of a direct instruction model student. But he handles more creative and organic learning experiences very well. William, on the other hand. He’s not self-motivated except for what he wants. He will sometimes want to do work if Joseph is doing it, is what it amounts to but that’s a sometimes. He is not motivated by praise or rewards, in fact sometimes praise has made him break down in tears for reasons we  can not figure out. Of course he will willingly do whatever is asked of him by someone outside of the family but us, it’s a no go every.single.time. William is also a discovery/inquiry learner and prefers learning in organic situations.

So, I know all this, I should be able to do it, right? But the idea of not just two different curriculums but two different instructional methods is paralyzing. I realize there are pre-made curriculums out there but to have to purchase them and then figure out 2 different ways to teach them? Joseph will sit and do worksheets all day, William will argue about doing one.

Then there is the fact of me. I am an impatient teacher. I don’t remember what it was like to learn something for the first time even though it still happens. I want my kids to sit there and do the work and not to do it right the first time but I don’t handle consistent repeated mistakes well. And when I considered being a teacher in college I knew I couldn’t do the amount of work required in “off hours” planning, shopping, meeting, learning new education laws etc. I realize a lot of that is avoided in homeschooling but the level of planning and work I know so many mothers do, it’s just NOT in me. I spent a good part of this year trying to create a schedule and studies for William and it crashed and burned irretrievably after a month. I wasn’t cleaning my house or making dinner, that was the extent of how bad it got trying to create this for him.

Then there’s my personality. If I were a good teacher in direct instruction or in guided discovery and chose to homeschool, well, my kids would be hermits. Unsocialized hermits. Because I just don’t do people. Period. I would never join a co-op or other “learning adventure.” I would also never leave the house. Ever. There would be no field trips even just the 3 of us. Because I just don’t deal with people. Weird, I know, but I’m an introvert through and through and social situations make me nauseas. Period.

I’ve given up feeling guilty about it. Common core and all. Where I live it’s not actually catching on so much and my kids have great teachers so I am going to relish in that. For now anyways. Joseph is showing wonderful progress this year and William in his 2 hours of BSF has made great strides to prepare him for kindergarten, so I’m good. Middle school and high school are concerns but a lot could change by the time we get there. And like everyone else, schooling, for me, is a decision we make based on what our options are but also what our circumstances are. If things change, our decision may change as well. Nothing is forever.  Except salvation. And we got that covered.

Learning the difference between sympathy and empathy

Empathy and sympathy are both feelings and emotions we experience as human beings but there are distinct differences attached to these two states of emotions. Sympathy is a feeling of pity you have for a person without specifically understanding the emotion they are undergoing. In most cases you may not really understand the other person’s predicament but are aware of his plight and discomfort. So you feel sympathy for the person.

On the other hand when you are fully aware of the experience that the other person is undergoing, you feel with the emotion the person is experiencing. In short you feel empathy for the person. It is a state where you can literallyput yourself in the other person’s place and understand their plight. The feeling of empathy thus implies an active involvement with the person concerned.

Click on that link to read more.

This week I clicked on a link on facebook that linked to a blog post of a mom of many who was admitting she did not find her recent pregnancy news to be good news, necessarily. While she was grateful to have a new life, she dreaded her upcoming pregnancy and sleepless nights with a newborn.

There was lots of “here, here”-ing in the comments. But one stood out. A woman said she had recently been holding her son in her arms as his wife went through her fifth miscarriage and their family would be willing to take the blog writers infant if she so desired after birth. Someone, not the blog author, had responded angrily to this comment when I read at the time (more could have responded by now this was a little over a day ago).

Both the commenter and the responder demonstrated a lack of empathy. Surely they both pitied. One pitied the author and was, in her mind, proposing something that would help everyone. The other pitied the commenter by not understanding the pain going on in her family.

I have endured primary infertility, miscarriage, a rush of births in a short period, and secondary infertility. I understood the author’s pain, but I understood the commenter’s pain too. I’ve lived both of them. It’s upsetting to find yourself in an unexpected pregnancy when you had been trying to avoid for a variety of valid reasons but it’s also devastating to want a child in your arms and be denied and then hear someone else complain at what sounds to you like hitting the jack pot.

The simple truth is, unless you’ve lived the trials another is going through, you cannot possibly empathize with them. And it’s a severe lack of empathy that causes people to tell women who’ve miscarried that their lost child “had something wrong with him or her.” A woman whose been there can tell you that it doesn’t matter they wanted him or her. Or to hear, “well, at least you know you can get pregnant.” A lot of good that does if you can’t carry the baby to term is what I know I’ve thought as well as many moms with babies in heaven but none on earth have told me.

It’s also a lack of empathy that causes sufferers of multiple miscarriage or unexplained infertility to lash out at writers of posts complaining about “yet another baby” or make the misguided offer to adopt the child when clearly that’s not what the author was asking for.

Like I’ve said, I’ve lived both those lives and am currently in a state to where my heart went out to both the commenter and the author for their plights. Neither cross is easy to bear, much less kiss. For each of these people, they bared their souls and someone misinterpreted this.

So, now I know, how do you support someone you have no way of empathizing with? Well, let me tell you some of the nice things people have done for me. At the time of loss just simply hearing: “I’m so sorry. I’m praying for you and Jeff and your little saint.” were far more comforting than anything else. Those of us who have been abundantly blessed usually benefit by being gently reminded of our blessing “Congratulations” is often sufficient and if we express thoughts of dread or just plain exhaustion validating our feelings is always a great thing. And by validating don’t say “I understand” if you don’t (some moms of many are overjoyed with each new positive pregnancy test) but it’s okay to say, “You can feel that way, it’s totally valid.” Or something like that. But mostly, just listen. Listening is one of the greatest gifts you can give to anyone facing these kinds of pains. Because inherent in both is a sense of shame and often guilt. “If I could have done this or that baby might have made it.” “If I hadn’t taken such and such medication 10 years ago, I might be pregnant now.” “I am a terrible mother for thinking these things.” I’ve heard them all. Is it any wonder Sarah laughed when she heard the Angels and then immediately lied about it?

Doubt and pain are not things that make us bad people or even bad Catholics or bad Christians. In fact, they are things that help us grow has humans and Christians and Catholics. They give us the opportunity to more fully rely on God. We cannot underestimate the gifts they have the potential to become even if we can’t see it that way in the moment.

The doubts and pains of others also are opportunities to show our love and compassion with others even if we cannot empathize with their particular struggle. Pity is often not what others need and if we cannot understand their pain or comtemplate it, we should prayerfully ask God how to love others where they are at from where we are at so we can all become more Christlike in our love for one another.

Hell in a Handbasket

This is not a post about gender roles, sexuality or anything like that. It’s not a post about equality nor diversity. It’s a post about how we’re raising our kids. Or raising them wrong.

Okay, so I’m sure any of you who watch mainstream media have heard about this story. If not, I’ll recap. A little boy in NC got a My Little Pony lunch box, got bullied and the school basically told him, “Tough shit kid, get a new lunch box.”

Greyson’s mom isn’t the one raising him wrong, nope, not at all. No, I’m gonna hold with it’s the school and the parents of the bullies, not to mention the bullies themselves. And I’m not the only one saying this. Here’s where they all failed: they are teaching children how not to be bullied. They are NOT teaching children not to be bullies.

We have an epidemic of poor parenting in this country. We have parents determined to be their children’s best friend and so they have no discipline plans. We have parents who coddle their children and make them believe that they cannot and do not ever do anything wrong. We are so desperate to have children worship at the altar of self that we abuse them by not teaching them there is something higher, something better.

We are not teaching our children how to be kind, compassionate human beings. No, we’re teaching our children to lash out at those who are in any way different. We are teaching them that they have to step all over people and hurt them in order to prop themselves up and make themselves feel better. We have total tolerance for abusive behavior and zero tolerance for those who attempt to stop it. This is why so many good kids stand by and allow their peers to be bullies even when they know it is wrong. And teaching our kids to fight back when they are bullied only plays into the bully’s hand. Bullies are not kids or adults who feel so bad about themselves that they have to make someone else feel lower. Not anymore. Bullies today are kids and adults to torment others for fun because they know they can get away with it. And the kids who are bullies today, are going to grow up to be civil servants, business leaders and political leaders tomorrow. You think we have problems with people in leadership now, just wait.

And it’s not just in traditional “bullying” that we’re seeing this trend of failure parenting. Moms of girls, what do you teach your daughters about rape? Do you teach them to carry a whistle, a gun? Do you teach them self-defense? Do you teach them to only dress a certain way, to not go out at all at night, to always travel in groups of five or more? Moms of sons, what do you teach your sons about rape? Crickets. We are so busy teaching our daughters how not to be raped we’ve completely ignored the fact that our sons should be being taught NOT to rape. And if you think that’s not true, have you ever listened to a defense attorney at a rape trial? Have you ever heard the victim being accused of bringing it on herself? And what of the rapists who are getting parental rights over children conceived in the course of their crimes?

We’ve stopped teaching our children how to be good and decent human beings. As Mammon takes over our culture and our parenting, we’ve become permissive in the worst possible of ways. We’ve forgotten that Jesus says blessed are the meek , for they will inherit the land and blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy and of course, blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matthew 5:5, 7, 9). We prefer our kids here “blessed are those who get theirs” and “blessed are those who don’t get caught.” And that sounds like Satan has a distinct edge.

But it doesn’t have to be so. It just doesn’t. How do we start to change this? Well, first off, we educate our kids at home. And we don’t tolerate that kind of behavior from visitors to our homes be they adults or children. And if we find that programs in schools are ineffective, we work to change them too but we cannot count on them to do the work we MUST do. We must become parents and take back teaching values from our society and teach our own children.

The problem isn’t Greyson and it’s not a My Little Pony lunch box. The problem is we’ve de-railed in teaching our kids to be Christ-like. And until we stand up and make those changes in our own homes and communities, it’s not going to get better. It’s just not.

For whose glory and honor?

A couple of years ago, I volunteered with a national non-profit. Part of my volunteering involved monitoring their facebook page and also responding to emails/facebook messages. I will never forget one I received. It was an indignant facebook message. The woman’s father had just passed and she had provided envelopes at his funeral for donations to be made in his memory to the organization and it was also listed in his obituary. Her child had participated in our program. She was incensed that she had not received a formal acknowledgment or thanks from our national, but small organization. In our defense, her father had died less than a week before and our phone and email systems were not working properly (she said she called and left a message and emailed). I forwarded her information to our founders who contacted her and I responded via facebook my condolences and thanks in a lot more gracious mood than I felt at the time.

I thought of this incident last week while at Bible Study Fellowship where we had studied the 23rd chapter of Matthew and specifically verses 4-12 where the Scribes and Pharisees are called onto the carpet for their behavior meant to draw attention to their own piousness. It happened to also be the reading for today’s daily mass.

We Catholics (in the Latin rite) begin Lent with being marked by ashes. And we view this time as prayer, fasting and almsgiving in preparation for the death and resurrection of Christ. And we run into that great, great paradox. Chapter six of Matthew’s Gospel excoriates those who ostentasiously give alms, pray and fast. Christ tells us that when giving alms even our right hand should not know what our left does. When praying we should be in an inner room where no one can see. And when fasting, we should not look gloomy but to wash our faces, anoint our heads and not appear to be fasting. We are told that those who call attention to their donations, prayers or fasting have “already received their reward.” And yet here we are walking around with a big splotch of ashes on our foreheads and giving things up that can sometimes lead to awkward interactions with neighbors, co-workers and general public. I’ve been stopped in Wal-Mart and asked about my ashes and, in truth, I was embarrassed someone noticed, not to share why I was wearing them and evangelize though so I guess they served their purpose.

It occurred to me as I was reading about this year’s #ashtag controversy that motivation play a whole lot into this conversation of whose glory and honor we do things for. If others see us to be holy it shouldn’t be because we’ve called attention to ourselves in our good actions. Our BSF teaching leader gave the example of the person who complains of being SO tired because they: took their elderly neighbor who couldn’t drive to the doctor and then went to volunteer at the nursing home then went to this or that and it was amazing they made it to choir practice?! And so, those who put  up sullen faced #ashtags are calling attention to their holiness much more than those who make goofy faces in their pics and are simply trying to show solidarity. And the curmudgeons criticizing all #ashtaggers are themselves guilty of flaunting their own piousness. Because guess what, you can do what Jesus said to the letter but if you’re doing it that way to be noticed or brag on it…you’ve received your reward.

Eastern Rite Catholics do not being Lent with ashes. But read that post further, there are other ways to draw attention to yourself on that side of the Church as well during Lent and some people are REALLY good at it.

Pride in our faith is one thing. Pride in our hearts wanting others to “look and see how holy I am!” is quite another. When I read the facebook messages of the woman demanding an acknowledgment, immediately I thought, “wait, was this to honor your father or to get recognition yourself?” And so should we view our prayer, fasting and almsgiving this Lent. Is it for the Father? Or is it for our own petty desire? Who are we giving glory and honor to?

Grief

Back when I worked in corporate America, I had a friend. She and I weren’t “normal friends” we shared a bond. That bond? Infertility. We endured many grueling rounds of “trying” I ended up in surgery, she was trying Clomid and all it’s lovely side-effects.

No one was more excited than she was when I got pregnant with Shelby and it “took” (we were also no strangers to miscarriage). She was always ready with a ginger ale or piece of hard candy while I endured HG. She was a stylist and would massage my scalp to relax me on breaks. And when I had a bleeding hemrrhoid toward the end and was on blood thinners, she told my supervisor I needed to go to the doctor and I shouldn’t come back til after the baby was born.

I had 3 children in 3 years. She and her husband remained childless but once I had kids, it didn’t stop our bond. Together we held hands waiting for every test result she had. When I left the company, we connected on facebook. She left the area last summer for a better position in the company. She enjoyed her new job. And around Christmas, great news. She would FINALLY be a mom.

Here she was, a beautiful person who deserved all of life’s happiness finally getting to be a mother! The baby was due in June. It was a boy! I was getting ready to send her a care package in April since I could not attend her baby shower in her new state. I had sent her little “love notes” as she had sent me during my pregnancies. I would often come back from a bathroom break to find a note saying, “You look beautiful!” or “Your baby is so blessed to have you!” I sent her emails and facebook messages.

Today I got a facebook message from Joseph’s Godmother that said, “have you heard?” When I said no, she replied with our friend’s name at first. My heart sank. No way, no, she couldn’t have lost her baby boy! Nothing so bad. I was right, it wasn’t so bad, it was worse. Details are slow in coming as some family members are still being notified but there was an emergency. Her son was delivered early. He did not make it. Neither did she.

In these days of technology and safety, a mother and baby were lost. It makes no sense to most. But God must have a greater plan. He must. So many of us are heartbroken to lose her. Heartbroken for her husband who will bury his wife and son. Heartbroken for the extended but close family she was part of who cannot fathom losing her. Her kindness was legendary. Her smile beautiful. I have spent much time in prayer today for her and her son’s souls. I will never forget her. She was an unexpected friend and sister-in-struggle God gave me to help me through rough times. I hope I was able to help her as well.

God, thank you for the gift of this friend and her friendship. RIP sweet girl and baby boy.

Forgiveness, Mercy, and Confession

So, just as in Advent, at Easter, many dioceses are offering more opportunities for the sacrament of Confession. And lots of people will go but not nearly as many (everyone) that should.

In becoming a more “Biblical Catholic” (I guess there is such a thing, at least, I’m told there is) I am busy reading my way through Bible and studying Matthew. Chapter 23 of Matthew ends this way:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling! Behold your house will be abandoned, desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ” Matthew 23:37-39

As a fellow member of my discussion group intimated, I read this not as “Jerusalem, Jerusalem” but as “Kristen, Kristen.” And He calls me to Confession. He yearns for me to go. I yearn for me to go. We have a need and a deep desire to confess our sins to our God and receive his abundant forgiveness. For we know  David said in the Psalms:

As far as the east is from the west, so far have our sins been removed from us Psalm 103:12

And we know that grace is God given when we leave Confession to complete our penance. I know I feel like suddenly I can breathe again. As though my sin has dragged me down under the water and held me there to drown.

We know how powerful God’s forgiveness is. We know that in His mercy, forgiveness is given freely. And yet we dread Confession we avoid going. We find excuses. It’s not available enough, it’s not at a convenient time, it’s too late in the day…and most of us end up like me, being forced to try and made it during Lent or Advent and sometimes failing even at that.

Why? Well, it’s true what they say, our sin separates us from God. But not only does our sin separate us from God in and of itself, our guilt over our sin drives us even further away. Sin is the gift that keeps on taking. And it’s not just the guilt, it’s the fear. Although we know of God’s forgiveness, we somehow cling to this notion of retribution and grudge that simply does not exist. And this has always baffled me, particularly as I struggle though it.

Then, yesterday, I got the concrete, crystal-clear reason. We were getting ready for dinner and I had been outside pushing William on the swing. I came in and was looking for Joseph because I saw a toilet plunger in one of the toilets and he’s been known to try and plunge himself. I found him in his room. He was sitting on the floor crying. Around him were the shattered remains of William’s Angry Birds “piggy bank.” Before I could fully comprehend what I was seeing he said, “I closed the dresser drawer and it just fell.” I don’t doubt that story in the least because things fall off their dresser all the time when drawers are shut. It had fallen and hit an open drawer on the way down and busted. I went over and made sure he wasn’t hurt at all and asked if it scared him. While I was hugging him he said, “I was afraid I would be in trouble.”

It was one of those parenting knifes through the heart. Kids have accidents all the time like this. And sometimes we punish them, they shouldn’t be so careless, so clumsy. As I picked up the shards of ceramic, I realized how often I do it. Way more than I should. And these are punishments (be they harsh words, spankings, time-outs whatever) for something that was unintentional. Something done with no malice at all, no ill intent at all.

We cannot conceive of God’s forgiveness and mercy fully because we’re conditioned to expect man’s version, which is obviously less than perfect. We know God’s mercy and forgiveness because we’ve received them through the sacrament, but our flawed human condition does not trust that they will always be there because we’ve experienced time and again man’s failure at these things. We’ve apologized profusely and heartfelt only to have people turn away from us or shut us out. And sometimes it’s for things we did not do intentionally or did not realize the hurt they had the potential to cause. Sometimes we had no way of knowing someone would be hurt or in pain from our words and actions and it is an accident and forgiveness is with-held even when asked for. Or forgiveness is given but later a grudge is formed because forgetting is so much harder. As my pastor has said, “forgiveness is an act of will, forgetting is a biochemical reaction.” Our minds simply cannot conceive of a God who can and ALWAYS will forgive when asked for forgiveness. And He will not suddenly decide that we are still accountable for our old sins, no, they are done and over with. No matter what man thinks or tells us, God has forgiven. We, as humans, demand justice. God, in His infinite wisdom, spares us judgment and condemnation and extends forgiveness and mercy.

Even in reading that passage from Matthew, yes, Jesus is telling of horrible futures for Jerusalem, but he’s not doing it out of malice, he’s mourning it. He is saddened with the choices people made. He wants to protect them but knows they have to want to be protected.

I don’t know that there is any solution to the whole “dreading confession” thing. I don’t think we can ever “train” ourselves out of expecting human reactions from God. However, I can recommend reading scripture to remind ourselves of the truth of God’s mercy and forgiveness. And making that trip to confession no matter what dread lies there.

Maybe it’s just me but I don’t think “bossy” is the “b-word” we need to worry about

****Trigger warning: I will use “that word” in this piece.****

Maybe you’ve heard about Sheryl Sandberg’s new campaign to ban the word “bossy” in reference to little girls/young women.

I’m here to tell you it’s a load of horse hockey. And if you don’t believe me, check out this great article at Forbes.

While I agree with the Forbes writer that the timing of this campaign is unusual and that the term “bossy” is gender neutral, not to mention the description of being “bossy” doesn’t denote leadership or leadership capabilities, I think the bigger point here is that if you’re after empowering women, there’s a bigger word-fish to fry.

“She’s such a bitch.”

It’s lobbed at women arbtrarily and frequently. While bossy may be the word that struck Sheryl Sandberg at a young age, I am sure she’s been called a bitch far more often than referred to as bossy both personally and in the work place. And the fact that she appears to be ambivalent of it is even more troubling.

It’s used by men and women alike. It’s used to refer to women who are leaders and assertive be it with their children at home or in the workplace. It’s also used toward little girls to demean them if they show any type of opinion. And it’s used to emasculate men. A word once exclusively used for female dogs is now lobbed casually even between friends. What was once a low and mean insult is sometimes used (abused?) as a term of almost endearment which doesn’t rob the word of its negative connotations, if anything, it magnifies them.

When one describes a friend as a “bitch” in a “loving” or “joking” manner, what he or she is doing is actually defining their friendship with this person as someone they consider lower, subservient even, to themselves. It is to look down on their “friend” in condescension not love. It does not take away the sting of the word, if anything, it makes it more cutting.

But why should Sheryl Sandberg choose to ban “bitch” instead of “bossy?” Because women in power, whether as mothers, teachers, or executives (or anything else) are almost always referred to as bitches when they simply employ leadership skills even if it’s not done in a “bossy” way. When a woman executive makes a decision to cut staff or redirect funds in a company and does so without an overt emotional message, she is often considered a “cold-calculating bitch.” When a mother decides that she doesn’t want her child playing with the foul-mouthed peer who lives down the street she is considered an “uptight bitch.” If a woman asks rather than demands her co-workers to help her on a project she is a “helpless bitch.” If a woman in any position of authority asks those working below her to buckle down and get their work done, she is a “bossy bitch” (see what I did there?).  And most disturbing, little girls who show genuine leadership potential (decisiveness, rational thought, level-headedness etc) they are often considered “bitches-in-training”.

Sheryl Sandberg is worried that little girls will not live up to their potential if she is told she is bossy. Perhaps, however, Sandberg, in an attempt to empower girls is ignoring will-fully that, if approached correctly, a little girl who is called out on over-assertiveness could learn even more important leadership skills, perhaps, how to listen to others and consider worthwhile ideas that she herself did not generate. But what she has failed to consider is how the perceived notions of women in power being considered “bitches” has stunted the maturation of women. Not only are women not reaching higher in the workplace, we see mothers obsessed with the notion of being their children’s friend and so worried that their child won’t like them that they fail to instruct a child properly. Women are so afraid of being disliked by their own children, by fearing their children will call them bitches one day, we have an entire generation of “mothers” who allow their children to run their homes. And a mother who dares to correct her child for back-talk, rudeness, or misbehavior is vilified for teaching her child how to be a productive member of society. Who wins when this kind of parenting goes on? When we allow women to be referred to as bitches for living out their vocation whether in the domestic or workplace vocation, we force women to aim lower or not at all.

And clearly trying to sanitize the word is not working. So, how about this, let’s ban the word “bitch.” Let’s not use it in anger or casually. Let’s teach each person to live up to his or her potential and not demean others by name-calling when he or she reaches higher.