This past year has reinforced an idea that I have grappled with for as long as I can remember: we retain what we have learned by putting our learning into practice. We are not doing any service to God or neighbor when we hide our lights. We must communicate our learning. We must apply our learning. We must share our gifts.
***Years ago my friend, Mary-Gay, introduced the children and I to Sculpey. It is a polymer clay that is available in a wide array of colors. You mold it and bake it, and it comes out of the oven beautifully glazed. We buy it from time to time and alot of Sculpey dabbling gets thrown in the trash, but, this year, the kids started making fake food out of it. Then, while Maggie was hitting the books, the two younger children came up with an elaborate game with the Sculpey food. They created two restaurants, various menus, and role played a variety of scenarios with interesting customers and employees. I was often a customer at "Elizabeth's Deli and Bakery" and the food and service was lovely! We discussed the other customers who frequented their businesses. The bills were elaborate and, of course, you could pay by cash, check or credit card!
I am going to cut this post into my homeschooling journal which I started last August. It really is a tricky business balancing the planned work with what Elizabeth Foss (click on this for more info: Real Learning) and others call "rabbit trails". A huge bonus to home education is all the real-life learning that goes on. You can surround yourself with the finest music and literature, the most rigorous and logical math, science and history. Grammar, reading and writing (and pre-writing) can be bundled into role play, notebooking and, yes, even housework and play time. We get outside alot which is something we have loved all along.
Someone told me that home educators who use various curriculum are called "mixers". I thought this was funny as I was a bartender in Nashville, Tennessee, when I was in graduate school. The analogy is good. You can get too much of a good thing both ways; and, one goal for me is to strive to pray harder for my children so that I strike a good balance between planned work and "rabbit trails". Discerning their gifts and talents and encouraging them to pray is something that must be budgeted in to the work week. We enjoy praying together and do it throughout the day. We pray with Dad when he comes home. When I remember, we ask Dad to pray with us in the morning.
Like an oreo cookie, we are the filling and prayer is the two pieces of cookie. We sandwich our efforts in prayer and the good Lord and His most Blessed Mother will iron out the kinks. That has been my experience for years now, not just in homeschooling. I am not in charge of the vocations of my children. God has this in His loving care. I am an instrument to be used. I must be willing to do as John the Baptist did; I must be willing to decrease my ego and my life so that the young may flourish in the working of the Holy Spirit.
***My last reflection involves the role of the Sullivan family in our parish community and larger society. This needs prayer and attention. It is hard to balance all the needs and goals here at home with what must also be done outside the home. In my experience, homeschooling families are gems when it comes to lovingly reaching out to their neighbors (We were encouraged to "take the leap" in good part due to other hschooling families -- Alleluia!). We carry Christ Jesus in our hearts, and He encourages us to reach out. We did this, by the grace of God. I know He blessed and increased our small efforts. I also know that the harder we strive to do God's will, the harder the bad angels pummel us. This is a mystery of faith and has to do with the fact that much has been given to us so much (battling) is expected of us. We Catholics possess the weapon against the fallen angels, the world and our own sinful flesh-- and that is the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the summit, the peak of God's saving Love, and the other 6 sacraments are fully intertwined in the gift of Jesus's Body and Blood.
Dear Jesus, be with us this summer as we make our preparations for the coming year of living, loving and learning. I ask this through the intercession of the most Immaculate Heart of Mary. All praise be to Him who started a good work in all of us and will give us the grace we all need to live out our vocations on earth. Amen