Category Archives: burn out

Advanced Learners

This year we are doing first grade, but the public school would have him starting Kindergarten.  He is just too advanced to hold back.

Don’t hold him back academically, but I would encourage you to keep him in the proper grade for his ‘future self’.  Don’t dumb down his work.  Many K’s are doing 1st-grade work, but come 3rd or 4th (or sometimes 9th) it becomes too difficult and they totally lose their self-worth as being ‘so smart’.

Label him the proper grade per age (we do this for kids who are behind grade level as well).

Teach at the level he is (above, at, behind grade level).

Tell him what a hard worker he is (but not that he is ‘so smart’)

Understand that he is and will continue to ‘play’ school until age 7, 8, or 9.  Be a fun playmate!

When it becomes real and no longer play is when you want to make sure there are no emotional wobbles due to labels or how proud you are reflecting your advanced student.

Never keep him at full speed/challenged/at potential, but rather move forward as he sets the tone with precept upon precept and concept upon concept.  Imagine if your husband said, “You are such a great wife that I expect you to work at your very best Top Notch day in and day out.”  Exhausting.  Overwhelming.  Draining.

Usually, a child will continue to be ahead in some subjects and fall behind in others as the years go along.  This is perfectly fine.  Completing all subjects of a specific grade level does not give validation or credence to work accomplished.  A year of math is a year of math even if only a portion of the textbook was covered.  You will complete the rest of it next year (or over the summer if you school year ‘round- such a lovely and relaxing approach to schooling!)

We have always made age 6 our K year.  My husband teaches in a college prep high school with tons of really bright kids who have been pushed ahead.  They are able to compete in the classroom, but not on the playing field or leadership as their bodies and emotions are still at the proper age.  And, it’s nice to graduate a man who is a bit more mature in age and wisdom than his peers…and we have loved having the extra year with them.

Impact of our Differently Gifted Children

A Note to Parents of Special-Needs Children by Maura Roan McKeegan

Earlier this month, in a story called “What I Saw on Respect Life Sunday,” I wrote about witnessing the love between parents and their special-needs children at Mass. This past weekend, by God’s grace, I had the privilege once again to see this kind of love in action when I sat at Mass in the pew behind my friend Marybeth and her daughter, Emily, who is autistic.

I have written before about Marybeth and Emily, and about the experience of being at Mass with them. The love between this mother and daughter has taken my breath away for years, ever since Emily was a little girl. Now an older teen, Emily still brightens every room with her childlike spirit, and renders me awestruck with her heartfelt devotion to the Mass.

When this Mass began, Marybeth and Emily opened the missalette, and together they followed along with the readings and prayers, Marybeth pointing to their place on the page, for the rest of the Mass. They found all the songs in the hymnal (hearing Emily belt out the name “Jesus” made me feel like I had a front-row seat to a worship session in heaven). When she recognized familiar Scripture verses and liturgical prayers, Emily recited them ardently along with the lector, deacon, or priest.

Over the years I’ve known her, Emily’s enthusiasm for every word and prayer of the Mass has never waned. Neither has the outward expression of the love between Marybeth and Emily waned; the way Marybeth puts her arm around Emily, and Emily leans into her mother’s shoulder—the back-and-forth of holding hands, rubbing backs, and touching heads—is a dance whose choreography hints of the divine.

Though I’ve seen this before, it always feels new, and so for the second time this month, the love between a parent and a special-needs child at Mass brought me to tears.

Afterwards, I was thinking about Marybeth and Emily; about the families I described in my previous article; about the other parents I know who have special-needs children; and about the grace that overflows in their presence. And I wondered—do these people know how much their witness means?

In case they don’t, I want to write this for them.

To the dear parents of special-needs children: We see you. (I am going to use the word “we,” because I know there are more people than just myself who feel the same way.)

We see the way you care for your child, the look of love in your tired eyes, and the gentle touch of your weary hand. We may not see you during the hours and hours you spend tending to your child’s needs in your home, when no one is watching. We don’t see you get up in the middle of the night, or do the same difficult things day after day after day. We can only imagine how much strength you need.

But we do see you when you bring your child out in public. Sometimes it is an enormous task for you to bring your sweet child somewhere, whether it’s because of how much effort it takes just to get from one place to another or because of how worried you are that your child will make noise in a quiet place. (We understand why it might make you self-conscious, but the noise your child makes doesn’t bother us a bit —in fact, to us, it sounds like heaven’s song.)

We see you, and we are so grateful. If you didn’t bring your child, we wouldn’t have the chance to witness your kind of love. A love that gives when more giving doesn’t seem possible. A love that emanates when your child smiles, talks, laughs, makes noise, and even when he gets upset, needy, and agitated. A love that reminds us that Christ loves us when we smile, talk, laugh, make too much noise, and even when we get upset, needy, and agitated.

If you didn’t bring your child out among us, we wouldn’t get to see this living picture of the love of God.

And yes, we know you aren’t perfect, and there are times when you don’t love perfectly. (We’re in the same boat.) That inspires us, too, because you keep going even when it’s hard, even when you don’t feel like you’re doing a good job, even when you don’t know if what you’re doing is really helping. Discouragement is part of love, too, when we’re human and want to love better and can’t seem to get it right no matter how hard we try. Don’t think for a minute that your feelings of failure from time to time make you less of a parent. They make you more of a parent. They prove how hard you’re trying to do a good job. If you weren’t trying, you wouldn’t feel like you’ve failed.

You’ve succeeded in what matters most: you have been faithful to the call to love and take care of your child, God’s child. And all of us who see that are blessed.

We also know that you’re not doing this for recognition, and that an onlooker’s expression of gratitude doesn’t hold a candle to the blessings you receive simply from being the parent of your extraordinary child. But everyone can use encouragement sometimes, and we want you to know that the work of your life does not go unnoticed.

May God grant you renewed strength as you drink from the stream of the Living Water. We also pray that, when you need help, you will feel comfortable enough to reach out to us, and that we will be able to support you as the Body of Christ.

Your child is beautiful; the way you care for your child is beautiful; and it is an honor and a privilege for us to bear witness to that love. In your example, the words of Jesus resound: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you (John 15:12).”

Growing Alongside our Young Adults

Dear Friends,

As I wrote to a friend this morning, the email touched on so many tender spots that many of us face but few of us share.   If you are not yet at this point in growing up, please do not be dishearted.  The journey has been full of warm fuzzies, incredible highs, inexplicable joys, and many moments where I just knew that we had the world by the tail and were doing it all well.

Life is life, and just like when you share something difficult with a friend (or a stranger) to discover that they are or have dealt with the same issue- this is one of those areas.   I take heart that struggle simply means that God is not done with me yet!!

Life does just keep winding around and about.  We thought it was difficult with all of those little ones running about leaving us sleep deprived and on the go.

It just continues but the stressors and problems come from deeper places within requiring more of us which can only be found by digging deep within our own souls.  It is tough!!!!  And I am a step behind where you are, so it is obviously simply going to keep on and on.   My anchor that brings balance is vulnerability given over to Christ.  That willingness for pie in the face wed to trust that God will turn it all for His good if I but stay the course seeing only one footstep ahead.

You are such a steady daughter for your dad, mother for you children, and I am certainly hoping that transfers to your husband as well.  Can’t imagine it does not, but sometimes that is too tender a place to keep open when being ripped open from all other angles.  By ripped open, I do not mean in a negative manner although it certainly is not pleasant.  I mean like an infection needing to be opened in order to heal.  We were so careful to raise our children differently, spiritually, tenderly.  Yet, somehow, those seedlings of self will, our over powering wills, our lack of wills, –all of that- dropped in there and come forth at some time.  Walking alongside these growing adults is one of the toughest things I have yet to do.  Trying to give them knowledge and wisdom for them to take or leave knowing that it would/could make all the difference between a wise or a foolish decision.  And yet, in the end it comes down to what it always comes down to.  Faith.  Faith that being open and vulnerable is the only way to ever experience the opposite feelings of fullness and joy.  Faith that we are His daughters and sons and His love and plans far surpass our own.  Faith that Jesus never showed up against a lily-white back drop.  Faith that I have/am giving my all and will be gifted the strength (stubbornness) to continue one moment at a time regardless of full hearts, broken hearts, aching hearts, jubilant hearts.

Have courage!

Going Slow is Sometimes Like Medicine

Ponder the last time you spent a day or an hour or a moment purposely going slow. A mom wrote the above title to me the other day after she had watched a box turtle meander along and fireflies dance. These are reasons to homeschool, right?

How is it that we get caught up in completing one more task, creating one more organized space, engineering one more functioning schedule, and then decide that now that we have a well oiled machine, er schedule, er family/school unit, we should add MORE!! We could achieve more if we put our children on a yellow bus, yet we chose a path less traveled. One with lots of lovely bends in the road bringing who knows what or who around the curve. Do we make and take the time to embrace those lovely surprises or do we groan as they come along knowing that they either must be ignored, avoided, or allowed to topple our proverbial apple cart?

A homeschool life is such a wonderful journey. Not always amazing in ways that warm the cockles of our hearts, but amazing the ways that life is amazing–BECAUSE of its continuous ups and downs. You may be one that makes every attempt to straighten out the road so as to avoid unexpected surprises or you may be one that zooms down the road so focused and fast that the unexpected surprises simply blur into the past. Or are you one to round the corner, see a slow turtle, and allow it to stop you in your tracks for many moments of goodness, beauty, and truth?

After all, you were probably NOT drawn to homeschool for the exacting nature and pace requiring drill sergeant-like attention to detail, pace, and accomplishment. Quite the opposite. We innately recognize that we are fully equipped to lead, guide, and teach our children towards Truth. In that we study Beauty. Through this we find Goodness.

How was your year? Can you remember the times that you watched the turtles plod and the fireflies dance? If you are like me, you know that you did take a few of those moments, but can’t recall doing it as much as you would like. For my part, my morning cuppa will be spent on my backyard deck or wandering about my yard or peeking at my sleeping children. Dishes can wait, the house will always need a tidy up, and business hours need not be done away with simply because a laptop can travel far too easily.

Grass is Greener

The grass is always greener when seen from a distance.  My fellow homeschoolers all have it together while I still flop and flounder.  Or am I just looking at things from the wrong angle?  My side view shows beautiful lush green.  Step into the middle of that ‘grass’ and suddenly, as you look directly down and about, you see the bare patches and realize that much of the green is made up of weeds.    Perspective is a grand thing, but can only be attained if we get outside of our own safe world of opinions and judgements.

Once we realize this phenomenon, do we give others grace?  Or do we continue to berate ourselves as not having it all together because of X, Y, Z which ‘they’ obviously have and you do not have?  Let’s lay down our defenses and focus on the work at hand.  Then, when you look up, you will find yourself shoulder to shoulder with a friend helping to decide how best to improve or utilize your bare spots and weeds.

Curriculum is a Tool, Not a Goal

As we excitedly plan out our learning and lessons for next year it strikes me how the butterfly-joy welling up from within is based on the journey rather than thoughts of the completion of another year.  It feels like running into a dear friend who has been out of town for a while.

In the beginning, I thought it was about getting through a long list of requirements year by year.  The concept of being able to fall into a lesson of intrigue and remain there for as long as we wished is foreign- feeling somehow that it must be wrong, illegal, something.

After years of following my heart instinct, experiences have confirmed, in multiple ways due to various and sundry children’s testing, attending school, going to college, etc. that this method works.  But, it still feels confusing to educate in such a non-traditional manner.

We use books- many books but rarely follow one all the way through as we don’t believe that gives a worldview from which to platform discussions.  We learn how to learn traditionally because that is the world we live in.  However, day to day lessons are fluid, aimed at my children’s future selves, built toward their interests and gifts.  Rarely are two days alike.

There is rhythm to each day, there is sequence to our lessons, there is beauty as well as tears, and there is trepidation that I’m missing something, I’m doing it wrong, I’m fooling myself.  God is giggling right now as He whispers in my hear, “Katie, my beloved, that is faith.  Trust.”

Harmony- She is Illusive

Finding harmony based upon routine is one of a homeschoolers core daily struggles.  Even for those of us who are determined to maintain a fluid day, there must be some order.  When do the children wake, what lessons are the big slimy toads and need swallowing first, who needs what nutrition at what time in order to balance out minds and moods, do I answer the phone or pretend not to listen to the voice leaving a message, do I check emails or call it multi tasking as I take a potty break, and on and on.  So, fluid is wonderful, we strive for it, but what gives us the most harmony is doing as we ought to do based upon what routines we have put into place.  To let these go for a day, much less a week, means having to push start a solidly build iron caboose all over again.  Obviously we don’t relish that idea, so why not put it off for one more day, and one more day, and disharmony arrives without us even noticing.

Keeping motivated for our own chores, expectations, meaningful work etc. is only the beginning.  On top of this we must guide and encouargae our children in this same area- this same area that we so often stutter-start, falter, and fail in.  It is a constant seeking.  One that is most often just illusive enough to erringly convince us that it is unattainable.  —And then we grasp it; hold it for a few precious moments; become exhausted in the maintenance it requires; lighten our grasp– and out ‘she’ goes to be sought once again.  It is in the journey that we grow, not in the reaching of the destination.  That is the wonderful thing.  Enjoy the journey.

 

Considering Homeschooling- education vs. being educated

Homeschool is about creating a culture of education, daily devotion to curiosity, and practice of diligence toward discipline.  It is more about character and less about the completion of, or in some situations, the ‘experience’ of, material.  Homeschoolers use books to grow our children in the areas of faith and diligence.  An incredible academic education is almost a lovely side effect of teaching at home.

Consider the fact that one must be educated in order to truly understand, practice, and defend their faith.  To be diligent and kind one must understand the parameters and purposes of such acts; why they ought to be grown from within; why they desperately need to be practiced each day.  These acts are caught rather than taught.  Following goals of completing a book simply for the sake of checking off a subject in order to progress to the next book will be hard pressed to lead a child to faith and character.  Reverse that order and it is such a lovely and common sense approach for a person to use books, any books, to grow our children in stature AND education.

“The goal of education should not be the completion of a book, but, rather, the lighting of a fire.”  Some famous sage made this statement ages ago.  Wish I could remember their name for you, but I think those brain cells shrunk with baby #4 or was it #5?

When we school at home we have the time to model for our children.  We have daily pressure to walk what we talk rather than the need to preach into the void of time between school, practice, homework, and sleep.  We unlimited opportunities to socialize and learn alongside other children/parents with the same end goals rather than a wave in a carpool line and a hope that your child is no longer hanging out with (insert nemesis name here).  There is no need to undo 8+ hours of gunk build up in order to get back to an open and teachable attitude.  Instead, we must work on ourselves in order to know when to lead, guide, encourage, respect/love, chastise, or challenge.

Homeschooling mamas have such a desire to get to Heaven that we daily open ourselves up to sanctification through educating our children.    leap of faithWhen we school at home, we have the time to educate our child in a lasting manner that considers and encompasses their whole life rather than simply preparing them for college.  Education should be a lifelong quest.  Modern education stops between the ages of 18 and 24 with nary a book to be opened again.  Once they head out your door, the time for imparting faith, character, and kindness is over.  However, if they have been encouraged to find joy in learning, satisfaction in doing hard things, respect/love in following their curiosity, they are well prepared to learn anything they would like in college and beyond.

God can redeem all things,  Please do not read into this that I am discounting His power.  I rely on His power as mine falls so far short- and I seek this homeschool quest daily with a couple of decades of experience.

I can think of nothing more worthy of my weekdays than practicing and speaking consistent love into the hearts and minds of my girl-women, and practicing and speaking consistent respect into the hearts and mind of my boy-men– using books as one of my main mediums.  Our whole house becomes a part of our Culture of Education, lessons are taught and caught all day long no matter the location, the book, or the time.  It is who we are- people who are curious- people who learn- people who master- people who share with others.

Our whole house becomes a part of our Culture of Education, lessons are taught and caught all day long no matter the location, the book, or the time.  It is who we are- curious people, learners, masters, givers, etc.  As if there could be nothing better:  We share this gifted journey with a community of like- minded people who we can truly get to know during hours of socialization while we guide our children toward the common goal of educating the whole child.   Those who understand the difference between an education as something to worship vs. being educated in order to live fully as God intends for each and every one of us.

My prayer for this blippy blog is that you might haver a better understanding of the difference between an education as your end goal vs. education as a lifelong pursuit to live fully in communion with others- as God intends for each and every one of us- loving our neighbors as ourselves.

Have Your Standards Dropped?

As the year went along did your standards go along with it?  ….You may be a homeschooling mama if….. you are an idealist who cannot maintain her ideals because there are so many of them!

The year begins, you have your curriculum set, your daily master plan laid out, and your energy reserves on high.  This is going to be the best year ever!  I mean EVER!  THIS is the year for perfect penmanship.  Day one is a wake up call to tune of ‘nobody wants to do school’.  To be honest, neither do you.  Perhaps this is day two or three at your home, but at some point the rosy bloom fades as we (children, mom, dad) realize a root word of home school indicates entry into trenches of hard work.

How can this be with such incredible lesson plans, wonderful academic groups, stellar social outings?  Standards begin to slip with a lesson here and there under the daily duress caused by a little one waking with The Grumpies and derailing the day.  (*on my best days I remember to send this child back to their room immediately as this attitude illness is highly contagious)  We convinced ourselves that a once a week lesson in insert nemesis subject here is adequate and/or will be caught up on during insert holiday/weekend here. (*on my best days I remember to eat the slimy toad first)  Somehow said slimy toad does not make it back to the A List.

Fast forward a few months and the What-Did-I-Forget-This-Year joins the What-Did-I-Forget-This-Day going to sleep review.  …Never caught up in that subject ….forgot to add in this subject… did we cover enough in those subjects?  Realizing we dropped some subjects altogether we ask how and when this could have happened?  Looking back you find that your last check date was JANUARY THIRD???!!!!  Were we even doing school that near to Christmas?  Well, it is my handwriting, so we must have been unless another alien abduction occurred.

Is recovery possible?  Happily, the answer is yes–if you want to, if you summer-school, if you realize the subject was a much-needed-basic as opposed to a fun-sounding-filler.  What’s up with all these hyphens?!  If your subject of concern falls within the first catagory, the good news is that you can focus deeply on this area over the summer.  This includes high schoolers.  If you fall into the latter category, realize that some of what you placed on your child’s lesson plan was temporal busy work that you saw as ‘fun’ (worksheet worship) rather than eternal expansion that is often seen as ‘play’ (explore/discover/create).   In either case, you can lay down your guilt, and know that you will be wiser in planning and executing next year.  You have given your best and realized that, as always, you fell short of perfection.

You may be a homeschooling mama if…..you want Heaven so badly you are willing to submit to daily sanctification applied through your children.

 

End of Year Fizzles

What leads to burn out at this time of year? How can we instead be encouraged, or at least enjoy a motivated push toward the finish line? We have had lovely Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks, perhaps a Winter Break and a Spring Break, yet April and May are the times that, while life renews within and without, our home schooling days feel heavy. It did not used to be like this. We could complete our year focused on finishing well and spend the summer mulling over what worked, what we loved, and begin building our home school dreams & plans for the next year. April and May were times of wrapping up this year. It was a time of digging in and remaining attentive.

For those of you who know what next year will look like (and do not direct a program) you know what I am talking about. It is wonderful. For those who don’t it seems the final quarter of homeschooling becomes a burden rather than a joy and you begin wondering many less than positive things about yourself, your sanity, your children, their ability, and on and on. You must not go there. You must realize that it is the result of modern homeschooling. I love homeschooling in community, but it does come with a price. I feel the price is worth it, but would that I could discover a route that avoided springtime burnout.

My theory is that due to the many programs that require early registration our purpose of completing the current year well is derailed. Families are pressured to examine next year’s options while knowing that this year still needs tweaks. We spend hours mulling over the pros & cons, discussing the ifs & thens, we pray, we stress, we gnash, we groan, and, ultimately, we are driven mad to decide what is best for the future while the present is pending. — AND we recognize that our homeschool needs change day by day making it likely that a whole lifetime of change may occur between signing up now and beginning classes in the fall.

Handling these decisions while maintain the stamina of your current post-February-homeschool-groove that-probably-took-a-while-to-find-after-the-holidays is overwhelming. What is the solution? Perhaps we can approach our years two at a time. Plot a plan to include options we are drawn to, plot this year, and plot what might occur this year that would lead you toward another program for next year. Perhaps we could schedule it into our To-Discuss-During-Holiday-Travel time. By placing this decision making process into a time of rest and removing it from our time of work it may deflate the pressure that leads to spring quarter homeschool burn out.

With that decision out of the way and no suffocating feeling that we must make up lost time, we can take a Spring break or two focused on planting new seeds outside or new ideas within. We can close the history book early and decide that a road trip to a historic monument would better suit our euphoric sunny moods. We can observe the building of a nest rather than the ticking of a clock. We can focus on the present, on the season, on the beauty that is school at home.