Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Simple & Rich, all in one...Looking Back at our Homeschooling Journey

Looking Back
Just last Friday, as I finished planning the last Trimester of our second year homeschooling, I can't help but think back of our homeschool journey thus far. I have to admit, our lives have changed drastically. There were a lot of adjustments in our daily schedules, our lives in general, and the way we viewed homeschoolers, education in general, and me. Coming from a, mostly, public school upbringing, I went to college to study elementary education, while in college I taught CCD, ran Youth Ministry at two different parishes, and then three years later returned to attain a Masters in Reading Education...in essence I lived and breathed and was all things education. I had a couple of friends who homeschooled and I looked up to them but I had no idea, really I didn't. People (including myself) made generalizations about what homeschooling was all about and truly, I had not a clue! :D

Home All the Time
I am going to be perfectly blunt here, I have had the most change, not necessarily my children. I had to deprogram my brain (and still am)...first at the idea of being home 24/7. I remember a time when my good friend Laura was on maternity leave and I said to her, "are you ready to come back to teach?" and she said, "no, I love being home." I thought she was mad! LOL...really, I did! I thought, could I be home all day long and not have any adult interaction? and further thought, "would there be meaning in my life without a J-O-B?" Clearly then, I thought, "no way!" Now I'm not so sure, I think then I had no life. I said my good-byes to my babies early in the morning, got to sneak out during lunch to come home and nurse, then I would see them again at about 4:30PM. I would come home hold them for about 15 minutes and I would start cooking, cleaning, and really my household was not organized. I thought it was then, it wasn't really. Once supper was done, it was cleaning again, and bath time, get them ready for bed and they were asleep by 9PM, how long in total did I really spend with my children? Probably a total of five waking hours a day, in a 24 hour period, that is pathetic!  Mathematically speaking that was about 23% of the day!  :(

A Leap of Faith
So my husband and I took a leap of faith, when we found out he was being laid off, we moved out of Florida (too expensive) and moved to North Carolina (a little less expensive-but enough for me to stay home). My first year was an adjustment year, it was rough, to say the least. I had a lot of trouble (in my mind) with the idea of being home and not "making a difference in the life of a child (my students)." Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed my kids and being home with them but I didn't realize the richness in it all, not then at least. It was a hard year for me. People's comments didn't help either, "you are wasting your Masters degree by being home!"; "will people hire you in the future after not teaching?"; "Don't you miss teaching?"; "Maybe you can just do this for a year and then come back?" It was hard to say the least.

The Tug-of-War
Not only did I leave my teaching career "behind" but now Todd and I had to make the next decision.  Guillermo, our eldest was entering middle school o.O - yikes!  and Josef was turning five = kindergarten time!  What were we going to do next?  We began researching the idea of homeschooling.  On paper it looked pretty good (I had no clue) and easy (totally not a clue) and thought if I can manage three preps and 150 middle school students (essays and all) I can do this!  {Boy was I in for a big surprise!}   But the fear of not socializing my children scared me (bare with me here).  So I thought, "there is strength in numbers" so I began to look for Catholic Homeschoolers in the area, I did...more than I thought were actually out there - "whoo hoo!  I can do this!"  After a couple of Yahoo Groups joined and back and forth e-mails between my new friends, the one e-mail that changed it all came.  "Are you joining our Co-Op or are you still on the fence about homeschooling?" were the words I read one day from my friend Katie.  This was decision time!  Todd was all for it!  I had that hurdle won!  So what did I have to loose?  My mind, that's all?, lol, "We aren't on the fence, we are in!" I typed back one afternoon in 2009.  There it was, little did I know what all that meant!

"Hindsight is 20/20"
Almost two years later, was I right?  Nope, not even close.  Was it hard, yes!  Has it been worth every minute, absolutely!  Would I do it again, you betcha!  I have learned many lessons along the way, read a gazillion (is that a word?) books about homeschooling, home making, the vocation of motherhood, prayers, lives of saints...and the journey has been arduous but joyful at once.  Is life perfect?  No way!  Do I love the life we lead?  Yes!  Is there room for growth?  Always!  Just today, I saw my youngest, and fifth child, take his first steps while I was preparing supper and where were the rest of our family?  Four kids and dad tilled the soil in our garden in anticipation for planting.  {In our garden, designed and planned out by our 13 year old son!}  Totally priceless!

Wearing Homeschooling on our Sleeves
So it turns out, Laura was right, being home with my children is amazing!  99%  of their time awake, I am with them.  It is my vocation, as a mother to raise my children and instruct them in the ways of the Lord, and through home educating, I am able to give them the best possible way to get to Heaven.  Are they learning? TONS, and so am I along side them.  

When we decided to homeschool our children, never in my mind, did I realize that we were making a life altering commitment.  It has been something that has become part of our way of life.  We are homeschoolers, we are constantly learning, we are homeschoolers, we are constantly growing in faith, mind, and body - WE ARE HOMESCHOOLERS and we love it!  There are so many advantages to homeschooling but I think that if I had to pin-point you to the one thing that has made a change in our family life, it has to be the quality of life that we lead.  Our home is Christ-centered!  All of our decisions are based on His holy will.  We are living and breathing our Catholic faith - how beautiful is that?  We definitely cannot say that when our children were in school and we were running around "living life".  We NOW are living life, the life the Christ has called us to live.  All because of homeschooling?  You betcha!  We wouldn't trade this life for the world.  Love its simplicity, yet richness!!  

Thank you, Lord for allowing us to home educate our children!

Hope you enjoyed my little flashback.  If you have your story to share, please remember to link up to this post!  Love to read your homeschooling journeys!


Monday, March 21, 2011

Kathleen's Catholic: "Your Kids are Stuck in the House All Day." Reall...

Gotta Share:
One of our lovely Raising Little Saints readers, Kathleen shared this great post, it is just lovely and I bet many of you homeschoolers can relate, so go get a cup of coffee and click on:

Kathleen's Catholic: "Your Kids are Stuck in the House All Day." Reall...: " by Kathleen Blease We had just finished dinner and the dishes were in the dishwasher when there was a knock at the front..."

Thanks, Kathleen, for sharing this with us!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick Feast Day Celebration & Link Up

When I think of St. Patrick I think of three things:


the Holy Trinity

A friend of mine e-mailed me this little remembrance of this wonderful saint:

We thank you, gracious Father,
For St. Patrick, our dear friend
Who brought the Catholic faith
To the folks of Ireland!

If not for dear St. Patrick,
Heathens we'd still be-
Prayin' to false gods
Instead of the Blessed Trinity!!

Happy St. Paddy's Day!!

It's March 17th already, can you believe it? St. Patrick's day is here!  This is a special day at our home because our little two year old's middle name is Patrick and we like to celebrate the feast of the saint they were named after in a simple, yet special way. In what ways?  Well we try to incorporate it to our entire school day by learning across the curriculum.  Here's what we plan on doing tomorrow:

First we read the following book together:

After reading this book, we (of course) will eat apples as our snack to explain the book and how there is one apple but three parts, just like the Holy Trinity!

Next, we take out the St. Patrick's Day costume that I made for my 13 year old when he was almost six years olf and participated in a Saints Day Parade in the first grade (our Catholic School days) and the boys get a turn trying it on (miter and all).  Here is a picture of him all dressed up (he was so little!):

Third, we plan on showing the kids this adorable video by Brown Bag Films:

Of course, the day would not be complete without watching the Veggie Tales's version of St. Patrick (4th):

Our fifth activity will be in Science (and art) we plan on doing this carnation experiment but plan on splitting the carnation at the bottom and using yellow and blue food coloring to create the green as well as using the green coloring straight up.  Here's a video to help you conduct your experiment:

Our Social Studies (6th) activity will including mapping Ireland and coloring their flag.  =)

Then we usually do a simple craft but this year we have been invited over our friends' house for a St. Patrick's day party! Whoo hoo! ;) That lovely friend would be our very own RLS contributor, Kristy, so you know we are going to have yummy food (which reminds me we had a Mardi Gras - Catholic style with them as well and need to share it with you). We can't wait to see what Kristy has in store for us tomorrow.  I will take pictures of tomorrow's festivities (no idea what Mama Kristy has planned for us).

Our culminating activity in celebrating this feast day will be to watch a program on EWTN on the saint.  I have set our DVR to record Lives of the Saints: St. Patrick at 3AM (no worries, EWTN will also show it at 6:30 PM ET) to watch with Dada in the evening.  "This program discusses the life and times of one of the most beloved saints: Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland." At the end of the day we also will pray the Litany to the Holy Trinity found on the EWTN website (thank you Mother Angelica).

Pray for me as we have a very exciting (but active) day planned ahead!


We are also participating here:

Join US:  St. Patrick's Feast Day Link up! 
 Share what your family is doing for this feast:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My First Review @ 3 Boys & a Dog

I'm so excited to share with my Raising (& Teaching) Little Saints readers that I have posted my first review over at 3 Boys and a Dog! It is a review on a book which is both ecologically & Bible friendly! Go on over and take a peek (and also take part in the give-away!).


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lent from the Heart

This year, Lent has a special meaning for me. I have heard our parish priest (back in Miami, our beloved Fr. Omar Huesca) tell us about prayer, fasting and alms giving many times. He always reminded us that fasting is not fasting if you don’t feel hunger. Fasting is not fasting if you don’t feel deprived of something. “Fast until it hurts in your stomach!”, he would tell us. He would follow it by reminding us that alms giving is not alms giving if it doesn’t hurt. If it is too easy to part with that amount, give more. “Give until you feel like it is too much, then you are truly giving alms”, he would say. And then he would remind us to pray with our families. Pray with fervor and devotion for those who have no one to pray for them. Pray for your children’s vocations. Pray for your spouse, for the poor, for the ill, for the weak, for the greedy…The list went on. This year, however, I am so far away from Fr. Omar that I have to make the effort to make sure we are fasting and praying and giving alms…until it hurts.

Lent’s sacrifices, as he explained year after year, are supposed to take us away from those bad habits we have allowed into our lives. They should, by the end of Lent, have become things of the past. And so, the sacrifice should become a regular practice for the rest of your life. So giving up chocolate, Facebook, sweets and things of that sort, while forcing us to restrain ourselves for a bit, don’t really habit train us. Come Easter Sunday, there is a mound of chocolate sitting at the table ready for consumption. Facebook has so many updates and new posts that the next three days are spent in seclusion catching up. And all the weight that was lost in the self-denial of deserts for 40 days (more if you still abstain on Sundays) finds its way back in a week’s time. We are called to challenge ourselves to lead better lives and be better examples of Christ’s love for us. In giving up detrimental behaviors, unhealthy foods or adding to our life of prayer, donating more of our time to charities, paying more attention to the needs of others over our own needs, we chisel away at those imperfections that keep us from full Communion with Christ. If we then continue these practices for the rest of our lives, every Lent we get the opportunity to chisel away at something else. Imagine how many great changes we can make within ourselves and in our parish or community over a life span!

This Lent, I am making sure I give up some of those really bad habits that have found their way into very prominent places in my life. I am also guiding my children to do the same. Using our religion portion of our homeschool day we are really diving into what it means to fast, pray and give alms. Taking this time to train ourselves to do better and be better for the greater glory of God provides us extra mental strength for the battle. You see, it is Lent, we are expected to give something up and keep giving it up for the entire season. So the external pressure to commit and see the sacrifice through is more present at this time of the year than any other. What is more, to do it with a higher purpose, not just for our own sake but for obedience to the Church and for the salvation of souls, well, that is just a great gift our Faith affords us.

From our family to yours, have a deep prayerful and selfless Lenten Season. May your journey with Christ bring you closer to Him and your loved ones. We pray for many graces to fall upon you over the next 40 days.
God bless,

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Need a 2011 Planner?

Need a planner? Looking to get organized? Family-centered Press (Catholic) has their 2011 Planners on sale!!! Look how lovely the covers are:

Their normal price is $25 and they are on sale right now for less than half the price at $12!! I just ordered two (one to share)...if you need a planner or aren't happy with the one you got (like me), this is a great deal!

Enjoy! (no I did not or do not receive anything for sharing this, lol)


Monday, March 7, 2011

Liturgical Activities for Children: Lent

It's hard to believe that Lent is basically at our door!  Just like Advent, it's time to get our ducks in a row and plan the 40 days out for our family and homeschools.  Seems like everyone has been busy looking for Lent activities these past few weeks as it has become the most popular post here on Raising (& Teaching) Little Saints!  If you missed it, here is last year's post on Lent Activities for Children.

In addition, I found some new ideas from other Catholic Blogging Mamas that you might be interested in:

If you have a post on your blog and would like to share it, please leave a message here!  I'd love to do an updated post with more ideas from our readers.

Blessings to you all,

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Guess What?

I'm so excited to share that I've been selected to be a contributor over at 3 Boys and a Dog...my first post was today, my profile!  Go on over and take a look my friend!  Oh and  leave me a comment, I love comments!  <3   ;)