I’m Sorry To Tell You…

…but this is not Michelle writing but her daughter Iona.

Unfortunately my mum passed away on Tuesday night. As most of you know, she had experienced a long eleven year struggle with a complex illness that even I could not start to explain, and I feel she was ready to go home. She never made it to the hospital, but died at home attended by paramedics who did a wonderful, sensitive job. The cause of death is known, but as yet has not been properly explained to us by her GP, so I cannot give you any real information on that.

The family has come together and the children are coping as  well as they can, we hope you will have us in your prayers for the coming days and months, and as mum once wrote ‘if you don’t have a God, borrow one’.

I know that she appreciated the love and support she found from her internet friends and so we all thank you for any advice, kind comments and the faithful readership you offered her in her life.

Love,

Iona

x

Home ed happens anyway.

It’s been rough recently. For dysautonomia awareness month my dysautonomia is making me very aware of it.

This week is a quiet week for home ed. I’ve set music, reading, finishing off work including the Archimedes pack and we’ve started an artists lapbook.

I had a doctors appt to get to today. I was gone a long time. When I got back the children were doing some cooking with Iona. They had finished off all their lessons and watched an episode of SALSA (which they love) before starting some cooking.

It’s really heartening to see how they just continue to do their learning no matter what’s going on around them. They were pretty proud of themselves too :)

The plan for me is that I am to go back to the doc on Thurs if I’ve managed to stay out of hospital until then. As it happens half term is coming up so hospital wouldn’t effect things so much anyway. We’ll see. Hospital is no place for sick people – but I am running out of excuses not to go in.

Montessori; body, mind and soul.

P1000158I sometimes think our culture hasn’t so much embraced dualism as a kind of tri-ism. While the dualists liked to separate out the things of the body from the things of the soul, leading to some heresies where a “Christian” was told he could either do as he liked with his body, or must ignore it to death. But now we have separated out body and mind and ditched the soul. Montessori is a breath of fresh air in that she sees persons as whole; body, mind and soul. One interacts with the other.

P1000129In her education the child is not reduced to some one sitting and learning aurally by hearing the teacher and visually by watching the teacher – all very passive, but participates in his own learning and discovery by doing things, touching, manipulating, tasting, smelling and trying things out. I wish I had read her books while I was still doing my MA. It would have helped me a great deal.

I did my MA dissertation on how to bring children with various severe learning difficulties (especially autism) to the Sacraments. Montessori’s philosophy was rooted in three things (as far as I can see), her work with children with learning and physical disabilities, her Catholicness and her degree in engineering. At first sight you may wonder how they connect. Well, as I see it, Montessori learned a lot from the children she worked with in the hospitals. In my experience such children have amazing compensatory coping skills so that they can get a great deal out of life.

When I worked in a children’s hospice we had, what was called a “multisensory room”. Through light, sound and texture we could arrange the room to suit the child. Sometimes it would be warm, darkish and low stimulation, and at other times the children liked the music, bubbles and coloured lights. The walls were white so that they could be anything from low to high stimulation. Many children with autism in particular need low stimulation. There’s some evidence that children with ADHD cope better with it too. Montessori didn’t have to deal with the fall out from the over bright, shouting, busy stimulation directly aimed at children that we have today, but she understood children needing to learn through the experience of their whole body.

Montessori’s degree in engineering definitely influenced her brilliant idea to introduce geometry as a sensorial activity with very young children. It was a particularly brilliant plan in light of the children who first attended the “Children’s Houses”. While Charlotte Mason had the children under her care learn about the world around them through sensorial experiences with nature, the children in Montessori’s schools were in the slums of Rome. There wasn’t a lot of nature to be had. Even so, Montessori records how they found a piece of dump-land near the flats that the children turned into a little garden. Children feel and run their fingers around the shapes and edges whether of the items in the geometric cabinet or leaves and sticks from outside. The lessons introduce the names of the shapes and the children draw them, touch them, make them fit into place and so their whole selves get to discover the shapes.

So, how does Montessori’s Catholicness fit this? In my dissertation I wrote about how a church can be a multisensory room. (Putting aside the stuff that happened in the ’70s where churches became boxes with benches in them). In a church there are stain glass windows, statues, candles, marble, stone and wood. There is the smell of old incense – and at Mass the smell and sight of new incense. All of the P1010039accoutrements of Mass or the church when empty, are one big multisensory experience that does not require the participant to grasp spoken language (although that helps) or to be able to see (that helps too) or even to truly “get it” on a theological level. While the Mass has it all there for the Phd Professor- so everything is there for the severely disabled person. The Church knows that we need to have a relationship with God that is whole. We pray with our bodies, minds and souls just as children need to learn and form their relationships body, mind and soul. Montessori got this. In a nutshell I would say that Montessori produced a method of education based on a philosophy that we all need to interact with beauty.

Being Catholic in a nutshell: Why go to Mass every Sunday? (or every day even!)

I’ve decided to write some short answers to the stuff even Catholics don’t seem to know the answers to. I hear these questions a lot. So here’s the first one:

Why do Catholics have to go to Mass every Sunday? What is the Sunday obligation all about?

It’s like this. On the night He was betrayed Jesus took bread and wine during a liturgical meal (a Passover) and said, “This is My Body” and “This is My Blood” and then “Do this in Remembrance of Me.”

He didn’t finish the meal but went out to the Garden of Olives where He was betrayed and arrested. He was put through trails and torture before taking His cross and completing His Passion – a word that means to pour out – on Calvary, where He was crucified and died.

On the Third Day He rose.

Every Mass is a re-presentation (meaning to make present again but not a re-sacrifice, as that’s not possible or warranted) of that once and for all Sacrifice made by Jesus for us and our Salvation. When we go to Mass we are in a way actually there with Him as He offers His Body and Blood and then we can go forward and eat His Body as He commanded in John 6 so we can have Life in us.

Knowing that at each Mass we are drawn into participation with the Passion and can receive Him in His risen self; Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity then we are automatically obliged to do so under the First Commandment. We must put God first.

So, those who think doing something else is more important than being with God in such a profound way are making something else more important than God.

That’s it in nutshell.

Hospital Appointment – larynx/throat speech specialist

I’m sorry to write two medical posts one after the other but I had my hospital appt yesterday and thought I’d tell y’all about it.

I saw a speech cum throat- especially larynx specialist. I had been referred to her by my Respiratory Consultant who suspected that some of the asthma and other breathing problems may be Vocal Cord Dysfunction.

She took a very thorough history – I was in there for an hour – on NHS time!  We went through the different breathing problems; some obviously asthma, some orthostatic, some being something else. She was interested in the problems I’m having with swallowing and eating – without immediately jumping to daft conclusions.

Then she stuck a camera up my nose and down my throat. This is just the sort of thing a good Catholic girlie can “offer up” :)

From this delightful experience she told me straight away that my throat was “cherry red” and otherwise a bit of a mess. So I now have a dx of Vocal Cord Dysfunction (VCD) and EERD (a form of reflux)

In her talk about how VCD works she spoke of it as a spectrum disorder. On the mild end are those who have what I suppose sounds like voice strain; teachers, soldiers and opera singers being the most common patients. (As my Resp Con is a Colonal in the army I wonder if that’s how he guessed so quickly what was happening to me).

On the rough end come those of us with severe asthma and autonomic nervous system problems. She hadn’t heard of dysautonomia as hyperadrenergic POTS or IST but she really quickly grasped the ANS dysfunction side of things for me and how that kicks in with VCD.

I’m to start therapy which will be around breathing exercises and voice control. There’s no cure as it’s obviously ANS related but it can be better managed – which I’m all for.

THIS PAPER IS A VERY GOOD OVERVIEW

Since the TIA last week I’ve had some problems with being upright and breathing. Needing to lie down more often and the bloomin’ stairs are a killer. I’ve set something off that I can’t get on top of right now. What a shambles.

Chronically ill mother’s homeschool approach.

dys mumI’ve noticed that sometimes the question of homeschooling while chronically ill is lumped in with pregnancy as if they are the same or very similar. They aren’t. Even if (like me) you have the joy of nine whole months of throwing up left right and centre with some “mummy brain” thrown in – pregnancy is different in one very vital way. No one is pregnant for years on end, and many of the more yukky sides of pregnancy are both treatable and manageable. It is also silly to try and lump pregnancy as an “illness”. It is’t, even if the culture of medical elitism tries to tell us it is.

Chronic illness can be neither treatable nor, at times, manageable – and is way more unpredictable. When you plan home ed through a pregnancy you know there’s a point in which you can pick up again. When you plan through chronic illness it’s a whole different set of challenges.

So, what are the things that you can do if the Boss has called you to homeschool and He’s called you to carry the chronic-cross too? You can tell Him what you think of His plan :) – and then you have to get on with it.

First things first. You see that big pile of guilt you’ve got building up over there. Deal with it. Sort out the fake from the real. Bin the fake and get yourself to Confession for the real stuff. If you are too sick for Confession (and there’s nothing mortal lurking about) you can pray a lot. He’s merciful like that. (even when you’ve told Him how you really feel).

Once that’s done (and yes I know it keeps rebuilding, but keep kicking it down) then you can move on to priorities. Prayer first. You’ll get nothing done without help from Upstairs. He has a lot of friends and relations who can be relied on to keep praying for you too. (Where would I be without St. Bridget of Sweden?) One of the wonderful things about the saints in heaven is that they can still pray, even when you, in fog, confusion and befuddlement can’t. Also we are fortunate that God, who is all wise gets a prayer of “Dear Lord, urdle, flurble mup.”

This little conversation is a good illustration of chronics homeshooling.

An article here asks a mum considering home education when she has chronic illness to think of a few things. It essentially says, pray, have a good husband and get some good fellow home ed mums on board to help out. It’s a good plan.

Yesterday a fellow home ed family came over. I’m still pretty crashed from the mini-stroke last week (TIA) but the mum of this family is completely relaxed around me no matter how wrecked I seem. She makes no fuss and simply does her bit around me. She takes the mic and allows me the space to do stuff when I think I can give it a go. Friendships like this are rare and to be treasured (so thanks Jo!)

This is another excellent article looking at a number of seriously chronically ill mothers coping with home ed

Then you must trust. While riding the trust you can plan for what curriculum you need to buy because you aren’t well enough to make it, teach it or organise it. All I can say on this is God Bless America! The UK has a shorter history of home ed (although it’s been around over 25 years) and has almost nothing of quality home ed resources sadly, (I think the awful national curriculum bares a lot of the blame – thanks Maggie Thatcher!). So, look at the American stuff. There’s a lot out there and yes it’s expensive (compared to making your own) and yes, most of it needs shipping and therefore costs are even higher and add the recent sneaky tax on educational materials in the UK and you’ll be in debt – but God never said debt was a sin; whereas not providing the best education you can for your children can be. You do need to plan your debt so you can pay it off, but I haven’t found a way of importing stuff without needing time to pay it off. It’s still a good option done with prayer, discernment and care.

Find ways to make resources do more than one job. Find ways to make cheaper resources when you’re well enough.  One of the things with most chronic illnesses and even acute ones like cancer, is there are good moments when you are more capable. Use them as best you can. I use those times to make and plan stuff that when I’m too sick I just can’t do.

But wouldn’t it be easier to sent them to school?

Not necessarily. First of all you would need to have a school that meets your children’s needs so you don’t have to undo the damage and do the home ed after school because not much ed has taken place in school. (Been there, done that; don’t fancy a repeat) Then  you’d need the energy to take and collect the children every day and cope with whatever fall-out the day has in store for you. That was hard enough when I was well!

Giving your children the best education you can give them is worth a lot and not having to undo stuff from school is a blessing.

Finally, all you can do is plan, pray, trust and take it one day at a time. I know more than one chronically ill mum who home educates children with some serious educational needs such as severe autism. Let them be an inspiration- not a moment of “Yikes! Why can’t I be that good?”

Language Arts Beginners Lesson Pack download

Birds lang arts

click picture to go to lesson pack

I have set up a 60 page language arts lesson pack for children aged around 6 to 7 or slightly older. It incorporates Arabella Buckley’s Bird’s of the Air as a listening and basic comprehension lesson. Listening is an important skill that children need to learn to be able to learn other things. Charlotte Mason used “living books” such as those written by Buckley to read to children and have them narrate back in their own words. In the lesson pack there is room for doing that but also simple question and answer format for early writing practice.

I’ve included an introduction to Montessori grammar with cut out sentence strips and cut out symbols at the back.

I’ve tested the pack on my youngest and she did well with it. She is very dyslexic so it does seem to suit children who may have

P1000151

extra challenges in learning. I do have the proper grammar symbols and Heleyna loves using them, but you don’t absolutely need them.

The set only costs $2.75 so it won’t break even the most frugal budget.

It introduces nouns, proper nouns, articles and prepositions – which sounds like a lot for a 6 year old, but the visual and manipulative approach with the symbols seems to work remarkably well.

Click on the picture above to buy and the sig below to see everything.

Sign