Friday, January 14, 2011

Getting Over the Free-Range Chicken Syndrome (Part I)

For me, home schooling was about pride for a long time. We were going to do everything differently from schooled children, every day, and all the time. There was no way I was going to teach my children like school systems teach or keep such a tight schedule. We will school in our pajamas and we will wake up when our body is ready to wake up! We will go on field trips at least once a week! We will do arts and crafts every day! Free range chickens vs. those chickens in those super crowded, mega sized coups. We are free range chickens!!! At least we were until I realized that we are not.

The Ortizes have needs that free range chickens don’t have. By the Ortizes, I mean the mother hen (the rooster kinda goes with the flow most of the time when it comes to home schooling issues. He mostly steps in to discipline when called upon by a frantic mother hen). Two years ago I gave in and took another look at my Free-Range Chicken Philosophy. Even though we were getting all our schoolwork done, there was an overall feeling of chaos throughout the day. From meal planning to lesson planning to crisis management, it was all improvised.

Realizing I have three girls who changed outfits at least three times every day and, later, a son that actually required changing outfits at least three times a day forced me take another look at the Freedom of Attire Policy in our home. Having four children wake up at different times of the day meant they would get hungry at different times of the day so the Letting Your Body Wake Up When It Is Ready Policy started losing popularity. We were struggling with diligence and willingness (with a good attitude) so the Get Your Chores Done Any Time Before Bedtime Policy got sent to editing. Spending one whole day out of the house every week started to mean spending one whole day packing and preparing for the next day, so the One Fieldtrip a Week Policy got in line for the axe.
At about the same time, a dear friend kept saying that we must train our children’s will so that they don’t have the same internal struggles that we do. Another friend, kept mentioning the importance of actually being at home. I tended to agree with all they were saying and yet, it just did not occur to me that these were essential for a joyful home schooling environment in my Free-Range Chicken world. Then one day, it did and the idea of a big modified and highly efficient coup for my free range chicks started to grow on me.
I started looking at what other people were doing in their homes. Two of my closest friends, Mimi and Christine, had just come home from FPEA with Accountable Kids’ chore tabs which the children switched from one wooden peg to another as they completed them. I thought they were amazing! Another friend, Theresa, had passed out a list of age appropriate chores at one of our mom meetings. I was awed by what she proposed little ones could and would do.
At our Little Flower’s meetings lead by the most awesomest ( yes, that is a world if you really mean it) LF leader on earth (yes, you are Jenny) the kids were learning about self-motivated industry, humility, love of neighbor, love of God and many other great virtues. The wheels started turning in my head: How can I implement all these great things without sending my free-range chickens into shock?

Tabs would never work in our home because I have seen what they do with the loose parts of toys and games. (I mostly find that they don’t survive the washer and dryer.) I had a lot of questions desperately needing answers, like:
  • What to do about all those outfits the girls seem to need to change into every day?
  • How does one train a will exactly?
  • How do I get them to want to do the things that I have to repeat thirty times a day everyday like it was the first time I said it to them? (Yeah, because Catholic home schooling moms never yell and never lose their patience…when strangers are watching!)
  • How do I reinforce everything they are learning at Little Flowers at home, constantly?
I am a definite visual learner and suffer from very acute CIADD (Child Induced Attention Deficit Disorder) so if I was to stick to a new plan, it needed to be on paper, a big colorful paper.....

[Stay tuned for Part II of Getting Over the Free-Range Chicken Syndrome....]

In the meantime, did you have an epiphany about the need for an organized Domestic Church/Homeschool? If so, what triggered it for you? (just don't tell us what you did just yet - save that lovely comment for Part Deux of this post)...come on, don't be shy!


  1. my big "Aha moment" came after I got my hands on A Mother's Rule of Life...but I was so frustrated!!! Where did I begin? How was I going to function in such a confined schedule? I am a night owl, you want me to go to sleep early and wake up at what time? (LOL, still working on this one as you can see the time stamp for this comment). Lovely topic, Cristina, can't wait for Part Two!

  2. Mine was back at our old house when the cellar flodded (again) after a week of frantic last minute meals.

  3. This is great, I will come back and read more! Thanks for including me in your "lovely blog" section ~ what an honor :)