"Intellectual distinction is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for election to a Rhodes Scholarship. Selection committees are charged to seek excellence in qualities of mind and in qualities of person which, in combination, offer the promise of effective service to the world in the decades ahead. The Rhodes Scholarships, in short, are investments in individuals rather than in project proposals..."

Monday, August 25, 2008

He's done it and I'm so proud...

My dear husband has done it! Tonight is the last night of his MBA classes and I'm so very proud of him.

He started this endeavor in February of 2006. Our fourth child was 7 months old and our oldest was, at the time, only 7. In April of 2006, his job was eliminated at Best Buy and he spent the next 6 months working tirelessly to find a job AND still work on his MBA. He was back to work in November of 2006, but not in an ideal situation, so he was continually looking to improve his situation and kept pursuing other opportunities while still working on his MBA. In March of 2007, our 4th child had surgery and our 5th child was born and with him came some difficulties. The next month, my mom was diagnosed with a terminal illness that took me away from the family quite a bit. Still, he endured. He hung in there until September of 2007 when she finally got better, praise God. But, until that time he worked full time, came home and helped take care of the house and kids and a very sad wife AND worked on his MBA. He allowed me to take on things that he knew were important to me, like running our homeschool co-op for two years and pursuing this crazy thing called TJEd. He counseled me when difficult situations arose. And, he kept on being a Cub Scout leader for my oldest son's den. Life kept happening. He kept enduring.

He is an amazing man. He does not give up and he has patience. He has to in order to be (and stay) married to me ( a will-of-a-wisp). He endures. And most importantly, he succeeds. I am just so proud.

God bless you, my loving husband. I know that all this hard work WILL pay off and we will see the fruits (although I think we have seen many along the way). Thank you for all your hard work.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A little more about me and the family...

An article written for the Holy Family Newsletter:

Moving Forward in Faith

If you had told me on our wedding day that we would have 5 kids AND home educate them, I would have laughed. After all, I was a successful career woman who would have two kids that would go to daycare and private school! While both of us were Catholic, we were just slightly more Catholic than the cafeteria kind. We went to church most every Sunday mostly because we were involved in the choir. Faith was important but it didn't define us like it does now.

After two years of “infertility of unknown cause”, we conceived our first baby, a little boy. He was a miracle because we were told we would NEVER have a baby. We were humbled by the awesome gift God had bestowed upon us. After quitting my job in a New York minute and moving to a smaller home, we became a family. Our little boy was followed by our second “one-in-a-million” baby, a little girl. We were told not to expect more. Anxious to get back to my career, I actually went back to work, teaching night school at a local technical college, sure that we were done having children. God knows better. Three and a half years our second child, a beautiful little girl followed and I again ended my career. Two more little boys came along after her, totaling five beautiful kids in less than ten years. We look forward to meeting our three other beautiful children waiting in Heaven that were lost in miscarriage.

Just after our third child was born, I started saying the Rosary every day and saw many fruits from my prayers to the Blessed Mother. I especially needed guidance on raising these little souls He’d entrusted with me. Having no brothers, understanding my busy little boy was very difficult for me. The book Bringing Up Boys by Dr. James Dobson introduced me to the concept of home education. Thank goodness, Dr. Dobson also convinced me that boys are supposed to be rambunctious. My husband read the book as well, confirming the assertions about boys made in the book and agreed to home education for our children. It made sense to school our son at home where he could be a little boy. He also had some vision and motor processing issues that led us to believe he was better off with an education delivered by someone who knew and loved him. We didn’t want him labeled. With lots of hard work, those issues have mostly been resolved. Our older daughter also has a life-threatening allergy to peanuts as well as other less serious food allergies. She stopped breathing at 17 months of age when a friend gave her a cracker with peanut butter. She reacts even if she touches anything with peanut residue or even smells peanuts on someone’s breath. Clearly, she wasn’t a very good candidate for school, either!

I was still nervous about our decision. Given the advice to pray, I again went to the Blessed Mother asking her intercession. Before this time, I thought I didn’t know any home educators. I believe she led me to families that home educated their children. A former Catholic coworker introduced me to his wife who home educated their children and we became fast friends. She has been a source of support and wealth of information. Through the local Couple to Couple League, we met a wonderful couples that homeschool their children. One woman was the membership coordinator for a Catholic homeschool support group. She sent me a registration form for the group, we joined and we were hooked. Having more than fifty Catholic families that were home educating their children to tap for information, support and friendship has sustained us in our journey.

Finding materials that worked for our kids was the next challenge. A boxed curriculum didn’t seem to fit our family. Having some special needs to address, I wanted flexibility to adjust the levels as necessary. A friend introduced me to a syllabus that was easy to follow, adjustable and beautifully Catholic.

In 2004, my husband and I attended our first Catholic Home Education conference while we only had three kids. It was life-changing for us. We had previously decided we were done having kids because of some challenges we faced with our other children. We came home called to be open to life, to expand our prayer time and to make our home more Catholic. Every subsequent conference has moved us forward in our faith life.

The topic of the 2006-2007 school year kick off speech for our homeschool support group was about raising leaders. Our priest expressed concern that the youth of today are not motivated and aren’t ready to be the leaders needed for the twenty-first century. He called upon home educators to raise leaders. At the end of that school year, Andrew Pudewa of the Institute for Excellence in Writing spoke at the Minnesota Catholic Home Educator’s Conference. He talked about a book called A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver DeMille. The topic of the book, leadership education, was just what we were seeking for this part of our children’s education. It’s not a curriculum, but a set of principles. This book outlined a model that resonated with both of us: use of the classics and strong self motivation which leads to strong leadership through inspiration. It all begins with the parents setting the example. The principle encourages the family to start with Central Classics: the family source of truth, which for us are the Bible and the Catechism. These are the classics on which our day is built. Then mentored education in classic literature, following the model used to educate our founding fathers supplements our regular subjects. I have spent the last year researching, reading and using this method with our Catholic curriculum. It's a lovely combination for us.

Along the way, I’ve been introduced to so many wonderful people. In our support group alone, I have personally gotten to know so many beautiful Catholic families. I see Mary in every mother. One wonderful mother of nine kids, told me that home educating her kids turned out to be just as important for her as it was for her kids. She swears God needed to change her and it was through homeschooling that He was doing it. I see Joseph in the fathers. Knowing they are the defender and supporters of the family, they go off to work every day. When they come home, they are leading their families while fighting the dragons of society, those things that tend to draw us away from Christ and the domestic church. While my husband has had less opportunity to spend time with dads of families that home educate, he believes they have had a significant impact on him as a father and he agrees that home educating has led our entire family further along in our faith. What is most inspiring to me is how, whether it be a blessing such as a new baby, or a tragedy such as a cancer diagnosis, the friends made in these support groups step up and fill in where our own extended families may not be able to support us by bringing us meals, taking our kids to activities or just visiting when we’re down.

The faith development that I was called to bring to my children through their curriculum, the inspiring examples I had witnessed of truly Catholic families living out their faith within our homeschool support group, the Minnesota Catholic Home Educators Conference and the Sacrament preparation program at our parish sent me a real wake up call. Despite the fact that I had attended Catholic grade school, I realized I knew very little about my faith. Home educating my children has led my entire family closer to Christ. When it really hit me how little we were living out our Catholic faith, I read everything Catholic I could. I joined a Familia group. Familia gave me a renewed love for JPII, a better understanding of my role in my vocation as a wife and gratitude for his teachings on the theology of the body. As a family, we became more involved in our homeschool support group. Both my husband and I prayed more, independently and as a family. My husband began going to Adoration, thanks to a friend from our homeschool support group who introduced the concept to him when my husband was looking for guidance about a career change. Going to adoration gives him strength and direction. Relevant Radio also plays a large part in our catechesis. Now, nightly prayer and rosary are part of our bedtime routine. I expect that as my younger children start school and my older children move forward, home education will continue to lead us all closer to Christ and his beautiful Blessed Mother.

Planning my upcoming school year...

I've bought the books, made my library lists and still I can't get anything down on paper! I think I've finally succumb to the only plan one week at a time. Have you (before TJEd) sat down and planned out a whole semester?

Here's my confession. I'm so good at the planning part. I have done it just about every year before. What I stink at is execution! After reading _A Mother's Rule of Life_ by Holly Pierlot, I both cheered and cried. I can easily make a FABULOUS schedule for my homeschool. I just can't stick to it.

What is it? I can plan book clubs and have no problem executing them. I can plan meetings, and they run well. I can plan meals. I think the problem is that I was requiring and not inspiring my kids, so we would get hung up on "getting the page done". I'm not kidding. There were times we would be doing Math all day because I THOUGHT they needed to finish the page.

So, here's a look into my days (as I'm planning them ;-). Check back with me once we start up whether I stick with it. I'm printing it here to make me a little more accountable:

7:00am - Everyone up.
7:30am - Everyone dressed and at the breakfast table
8:00am - Chores (make beds, daily chores)
8:45am - Readings of the day, Religion and Catechism OR Daily Mass
9:30am - Kidschool
(Monday - Writing/Spelling/Phonics/Math)
(Tuesday - Science/Latin/Math)
(Wednesday - History/Geography/Math)
( Thursday - Creative Thinking/Spelling/Phonics/Math)
(Friday - Art/Music/Spelling)
12:00pm - Lunch
12:30pm - Clean up lunch, school supplies, etc
1:00pm - NAP TIME for little ones and self directed learning for older ones which will include: Mom reading a classic aloud, listening to a classic on tape or CD, reading to oneself, working on a project of interest, practicing instruments, learn a new language,
(Tuesday - Gym and Swim)
(Friday - book club(s))
3:30pm - Check in with Mom (Tell mom what you did and write it down in school planner)
3:45pm - Tidy up the house, snack, set the table for dinner, do any afternoon chores
4:15pm - Free time (Mom makes dinner)
6:00pm - Dinner & Clean up
7:00pm - Family Time (Read classic aloud, play games, watch a family movie, go for a bike ride or walk, visit a park, work on a project, attend Cub Scouts, library night, etc)
8:30pm - Everyone gets ready for bed
9:00pm - Bed time for kids

We don't do sports programs, usually and we tend to not do a lot of extra curricular activities or outside classes unless 2 kids or more are participating (to cut down on the running around). This keeps us at home mostly.

Stay tuned for a status report...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

What have we done to the teenagers?

This post digresses from normal TJEd conversation only slightly...

After reading this article by Holly Pierlot (_A Mother's Rule of Life_), it made me think of conversations I have recently had with people about the book I'm reading right now by John Taylor Gatto (_The Underground History of American Education_). Teenagers. Adolescence. These are all words that didn't exist before the 1900's.

The American Education model has created this artificial stage in development between childhood and young adult. School has become a detention center for youth under the guise of education, higher education, but what are we really teaching? Sex, drugs and rock and roll? Or, is it texting, peer attachment, and, well, sex, drugs and rock and roll.

One hundred years ago, 16 year olds were getting married, having children, settling down and supporting themselves. All of that has been extended in the name of "education". It affects us as homeschoolers, too. We are required to teach our children to 16. Now, don't think I'm ready to kick my 10 year old out the door. I know many 16 year olds (and adults) that won't/don't need college because their mission is something else - plumber, electrician, nanny. Those jobs are best apprenticed and why can't that apprenticeship take place starting at 16? Thank goodness for the PSEO option in Minnesota.
PSEO offers high school juniors and seniors (whether currently in public, nonpublic, or home schools) the opportunity to take courses at eligible post-secondary institutions. Students must meet the admissions requirements of the post-secondary institution, but do not pay for tuition, fees, or books. They earn high school credit courses and, if students continue their education beyond high school, colleges or universities may choose to transfer their completed coursework through PSEO as college credits. More than 7,000 Minnesota students were in the PSEO program last year – including 321 students from private high schools and 700 students who were in home schools.
So, all hope is not lost...

Now, do I want my kids in a post secondary institution at 16? Well, probably not, but at least we're not stuck waiting for 17 or 18 to start college if they are ready. I know a boy who was homeschooled. He did full time PSEO (the limit allowed by state law). He's in pre-med. He will have earned his Bachelor's in 2 years Post Secondary (out of high school) and will be moving into med school by the time he is 19. Good for him!

At the turn of the 20th century, America was short on cheap labor. Child labor advocates were decrying the horrors of sweat shops. The solution? REQUIRE public education from K-12th grade. It keeps the kids out of the sweat shops, trains the masses for following directions and submission. It also makes full time jobs available for moms because they have state funded day care. Think how better educated our founding fathers were with MUCH less school. Ben Franklin only had a couple of years at most and he even escaped a harsh apprenticeship with his brother. And, with the masses thinking they can't be do anything but work a 9-5 job somewhere for a company or shift work at a factory or hospital, they won't be inclined to come up with new ideas, inventions, improvements or innovations. We leave all that to the "well educated people". My son comes up with a million new ideas a day. If he were in school they would have told him to be quiet a long time ago. I think my son has it in him to create some great new things and he's not afraid to fail.

And, I think this extended childhood leads to many other problems such as gangs (did those exist before all this), high school shootings, grade school shootings, 20 somethings that don't know what to do with their lives. I think we need to be thinking about and working with our kids on their missions very early on in life.