Tag Archives: family

Home Education: Galloping towards the new term.

P1110572There are three weeks before the new term starts. You may be wondering why I follow the term dates set by the Local Authority when I don’t have to. It’s because it sort of works for us. The children have schooled friends and it’s easier to have the holiday dates the same as theirs and as Al works with children, it suits him better to follow term dates (give or take). For me it works out pretty well as terms tend to be around 6 to 7 weeks. Occasionally there’s a longer one, but they aren’t frequent. When the term is too long I simply make the last week a reading week or, if required, a catching up week.

So as we gallop over the next three weeks to term I am getting everything ready and writing some lessons and some lesson packs.

I’ve just spent a scary amount of money on next years curriculum and I really hope to have the brain power, energy and time to write more of my own stuff because frankly I haven’t managed to get much for the money. (and that’s before the import tax is demanded). I think I need to find a balance between buying curriculum because I need something they can do no matter what I’m like on any given day, and making the most of no-brainfog days to write and produce stuff we can use.

I have overcome my Atos fear and decided not to spend even more money buying massively ahead in case I find myself unable to buy resources. I will trust that even if the Govt and Atos can’t be trusted Providence can.  It was quite a personal battle but I did it. lol.

I cooked the tea last night without doing anything ridiculous, forgetting to cook half of it or needing to sit down for long periods. Woo-hoo! I cooked one meal while we were away and it was a nightmare, so this was a lovely blast from the past when I used to be competent lol.

I am going to try and use the rest of the holidays to get some writing done if my brain can do it. I am wondering about typing up and formatting ebooks in the public domain that aren’t yet properly formatted and offering them for 70p or something. I think I could do this even in fog because it would be copying mostly. How this and writing lesson packs turns out will depend on how term goes.  I am hoping to sell some lessons over the next year alongside my freebies.

Heleyna has been reading to me most days and she’s coming on well. I think not letting it slide through the holidays was the right thing to do.

I am printing off lessons I’ve bought as downloads as well as freebies and setting up folders with lessons for each day. Let’s see if being really organised works. They will each continue with their learning boxes, but Ronan, and perhaps Avila will also have an Arch file with printables for the week. I’m also gathering free ebooks and looking at ways to make lessons with them. Leaning back to the Literature based approach of Charlotte Mason I think.

I think we will still be pretty eclectic over the next academic year with some Classical, Montessori and Mason all in the mix, but then the three younger ones are all very different in how they learn.

Heleyna hernia horse and cub camp

P1020713Iona, Ronan and Avila went off to Cub Camp on Friday and got back yesterday and Heleyna had her hernia op at the Children’s yesterday. So her dad did a Father’s Day special, staying with her all day. She came home a bit groggy but the scar is neat and her stitches should dissolve in a few days. We’re leapfrogging calpol-paracetamol with neurofen for pain. You can give both 4 hourly so by alternating you can give pain meds 2 hourly. A good reason not to by those combined children’s meds.

As Miss Avila got a little cuddly rabbit when she had her biopsy some years ago Biopsy Bunny; Heleyna asked for a horse to name Hernia Horse. He arrived just in time for her hospital date. She is very pleased with him.

Avila, who is reading Florence Nightingale’s Nuns at the moment has become a little Flossy herself.


Skin to skin and co-sleeping. My own story of keeping my daughter alive.

Taken just days before another hospt admission where things were really rough.

Taken just days before another hospt admission where things were really rough.

The “science” on sudden infant death has changed rapidly over the twenty-four years since I’ve been a mother. When my oldest was born I co-slept against midwife advice. By the time my now six year old was born the advice had gone from “no” through “yes” through “maybe” back to “no” to “definitely do it”. We are now back to “no” according to reports I’ve seen via the MSM. I don’t know what the latest study is based on and what variables were taken into consideration, but I do always remember the comment from one researcher some years ago who said, “Where there are no cots, there are no cot deaths.”

A recent story (and there’s been a few like this over the years) tells of a mother who held her still born baby skin to skin and the baby lived.

In light of this, and against the present advice, I thought I would tell you my story. I co-slept with all six of the children; some for longer than others. I did put the older three in a moses basket next to the bed fairly early on, but didn’t do that with the younger three. One morning I woke when Iona was only a few months old to find her lying in the basket, not breathing. I’m afraid I forgot I was a nurse and panicked. I confess, I slapped her and she started breathing, and crying poor kid. My GP was unconcerned and said this sort of thing happens occasionally. Really? Thankfully with Iona it never happened again.

With Avila, it was a different story. My, now 8 year old, daughter didn’t breathe through the night on a regular basis until she was just over 2 years old. I co-slept with her. There’s something in the wiring of a mother breastfeeding her baby that means we are very attuned to our baby. Every time Avila stopped breathing I woke up. There was a kind of silence that woke me and there she was limp and breathless. I would massage her and sit her up and lie her down, moving her around and offering milk until she took a breath. Some nights I would have to get her breathing again two or even three times. One truly awful night I was woken by her “silence” something like seven times.  Despite how sick she was and how much time we spent in the Children’s Hospt. I was never offered one of those “alarm” things. They don’t work with co-sleeping anyway so, in hindsight, I am glad.

One day I met a midwife who had worked in Russia during the depths of Communism when the health service was at an all time low. She told me that what I had done with Avila was something that in Russia they called Kangaroo care. They didn’t have NICU facilities, and babies kept dying. I don’t know whose idea it was, but as an extension of skin to skin, the Russian midwives encourages mothers to hold their sick babies close at all times; c0-sleeping. She told me this saved countless little lives.

I am convinced co-sleeping kept Avila alive and the fact that I breastfed her for so long also helped.  The time when she was tube fed and nothing was working, it was when I expressed and they gave her my milk, that at last, she started to show signs of making it.

I would do it again.

(In that photo she is just past her first birthday. We did a Christmas play with the HE group and then just after Christmas she was admitted, again, to hospital where we saw in the New Year. It was the most difficult admission she’d had. Tube and drip and being mostly unconscious or barely rousable. Nothing was working and I begged for a breast pump. Once I’d expressed the nurse came to see how a bolus feed would go. For the first time in a week a feed went down the tube and stayed there. A few days later she was awake and a few days after that, well enough to go home. There were numerous admissions after that – but none quite that scary).

On the desperate need for support for mothers with youngsters or a crisis.

I’ve been going on (and on and on) for some years about the terrible lack of support for mothers in today’s culture. Both the nuclear and extended family has broken down in many ways. Coupled with the lack of children born to many families over the last couple of generations – or perhaps only the last generation for those who held on to the Faith, means there isn’t much support for mothers, like there was in the old days.

It has been noted that one of the reasons young mothers in particular feel isolated with their new borns and toddlers is that they are at home in a ghost town. Every other person in the street has gone to work. They are simply alone and too often that can lead to post natal depression and anxiety problems.  Many mothers who would have chosen to be home and care for their children then feel forced back into the workplace.

The Anchoress writes on this suggesting that parishes need to set up some kind of network of older mothers, with experience and now less responsibility, could help the newer mums coming through. I think there is also an absolutely desperate need for parish support for families in crisis. I do know that thankfully a lot goes on under the radar.

Have a pray about this. Is God asking you to do more to support someone in your family or parish?

Dad’s need to be on the ball with this too. Adam’s role as Bridegroom and father was to care for and protect his wife and children.”Husbands love your wives as Christ loves the Church pouring Himself out for her” (Eph 5:25). That pouring out was His Passion (which literally means to pour out), where He poured out every drop of blood for us.

Dad’s need to be aware of when their wives are struggling and not expect her always to be able to give well thought out coherent instructions about what help she needs. When things get rough dad’s who have to go to work and leave the wife to it should be phoning around and asking for someone to help her.

The same goes the other way around. When I knew in advance I was going to be in hospital for a long while I phoned around asking people to help my husband with food and support while he was left caring for the children and still needing to come up to the hospital. It worked well. People really responded beautifully, making offers and accepting requests.

Having a parish based group of people who will help out, going over and spending time with a mother,  or reading to one child while the mum gets the baby settled., or even something as simple as holding the baby so she can go to the toilet ALONE.

It’s not just mothers with young children who need help. I was talking very recently with a mother who is in a long-term crisis situation. She desperately needs a fellow woman to just help with the children so she can get all things done and care for her husband. Her father is brilliant and does a lot, but taking care of teenagers is full-on parenting and just a second pair of hands could make all the difference to her.

We actually discussed the possibility of putting out a plea in her church asking if anyone feels God nudging them towards this sort of pastoral care.

There is also an absolutely desperate need for something like this to help those of us who have had crisis situations with seriously ill children. I wish someone could have helped me during all those times I was in the Children’s with a very sick child.  The experience has left deep scars I’m afraid. Ironically after one of the most difficult admissions with a very sick child, when I was pretty ill myself with a roaring chest infection, it was a fellow mother with lots of children who came to my rescue. After being told over and over by nurses that my fever was keeping my daughter’s fever high – what was I supposed to do!?! she finally became well enough to be discharged. We had been in hospital over a week. The following day my friend took me to the doctors. I was so very ill the doc said she was calling an ambulance to have me sent into hospital straight away! Thank God – and I do- my friend was there and she promised to take care of me; which she did and I escaped admission. She took us all to her house and kept me in a chair while she ensured meds and fluids were put into both my daughter and me. Bless her for that.

In Japan there was (perhaps still is) a system where relatives sit with a person in hospital to take care of their needs. It means that sick people don’t dehydrate or starve for being too weak to feed themselves. It’s a beautiful service that is an extension of the family cohesion found in the Shinto religion.

As Catholics we are called to this sort of thing. To be fair, while I don’t know about “official” parish programs, (which we do need) there is a lot of quiet support going on under the radar.  We are all called to be Simon of Cyrene at some point in the journey, and to accept a Simon when we need to. Maybe we just need to be a St. Veronica. Whoever we choose to be in the face of someone else’s suffering, let it not be Pilate.

On a slightly side note, I think the way home education works can offer this sort of support automatically. Those of us with older children will help out with younger ones in lessons or groups so that there is support. Perhaps some of the best home ed groups do work like extended families a little.

Marriage, oneness and sacrifice – from yesterday’s readings.

Yesterday’s readings were about marriage. I love the way the three readings went together so clearly. First we heard how God took a rib from Adam and made Eve who was “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” so that marriage from that day forward was that

a man would leave his parents and become one flesh with his wife

This is how God designed marriage. One man, one woman become one flesh.

The next reading was from the letter to the Hebrews and describes how Christ suffered and poured Himself out for the Church. As St. Paul teaches, Christ is the head and the Bride, His Church is the Body and they are “one flesh”. As the Bridegroom Christ gave every last drop of Himself for her sake.

Christ and His Church are One.

The final reading was from Mark’s Gospel where the Pharisees try and trick Jesus by asking about divorce. In this Gospel they ask if it allowed for a man to divorce his wife. St. Matthew adds the detail of “for any reason” as the Pharisees had apparently been discussing the teachings of Hillel the rabbi who allowed divorce for the most trivial reason (much like no fault divorce).

Jesus points out that Moses only allowed divorce in the second law he gave Israel (God gave the first law in the Commandments) because Israel was stiff necked and unteachable.

God says He hates divorce (Hosea??) and Jesus adds that God designed marriage from the beginning to be between one man and one woman and they leave their parents and become one flesh.

No valid marriage can be ended by men.  Marriage is a reflection of the Bridegroom Christ and His Bride the Church. It is why families are called domestic churches.

Those who have split Christ’s body have broken His command and forgotten His prayer that “they should be one.”

Jesus then goes on to welcome the children and insist that children should be welcomed.  They teach us to remain innocent for the Kingdom of Heaven.

In today’s Divine Office St. Paul points out that child bearing can help bring a mother to heaven.

When God calls two people to marriage, He expects them to accept His life in their life and all the little lives He might wish to send. He is life, not barrenness. Children are gifts even when they are part of our cross.

If you ever forget that love is about sacrifice and that it hurts, look at a crucifix. Even the “cleaned up” ones show Christ suffered for us. Thank God He will never ask any of us to suffer to the depth that He did.

And while I’m talking about Christ’s crucifixion; don’t forget to pray for those brave Catholic souls who have endured crucifixion over the last few weeks. There’s a photo going around of an unamed martyr crucified by “Islamists”.

Here we are again.

We are back from 2 weeks of rest and sunshine. Yes, we had sun most of the time. Amazing!

Ronan had a sort of right of passage in that he walked the causeway between Lindisfarne and Beal for the first time.  It took them about an hour and 20 minutes.

Met up with friends in Wales and saw kith’n’kin in Edinburgh.

There were sand castles and adventures for the children.

It’s good to be back. Lots of washing and unpacking to do and catching up with everyone again.

Avila’s First Holy Communion.

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Avila received her first Confession on Saturday and her First Holy Communion yesterday. It was a lovely day for all of us. Family and friends gathered to support Avila on this special day. Lots of home ed families joined us to celebrate and Father said some wonderful things about families educating their own.  It is good to have a PP who supports our decision to home educate and supports it openly.

Out ‘n’ About with transport problems.

We went to Think Tank today. It was a great day and all the children really enjoyed themselves. We managed to circumnavigate the school kids and found an empty area to have lunch.

I am however, faced with a few transport problems. We took a taxi and had to take my shove it wheelchair. I can’t find a taxi firm able to take a powerchair and the children. One firm offered me two taxi’s but the journey there would have been £24! Fortunately Think Tank is smooth and flat with big lifts. Alex came along and it wasn’t too difficult.

My next task is to try and get the powerchair onto a train. If we can get the hang of that – and I think we should be able to – then perhaps trips out will be less hassle and cheaper.  I am learning that being disabled with children is considered so rare that there is no set up for such an eventuality. I’ll let you know how we get on.

Meanwhile our car was nicked yesterday. Why anyone would want at 16 yr old Japanese import shed on wheels, is a bit of a mystery. But it’s gone. Someone, kindly, handed in my blue badge, so I can get that back. I am touched by the kindness of some people.

Happy Birthday Ronan

Ronan was 9 yesterday. We went out for the day but the place we had hoped to go to was closed. So we had a picnic in a park and ran through the rain to get back to the car.

In light of the non-happening of his day out, we went for a Balti in the evening. Ronan declared, as he tucked into a chicken tikka masala, that he was glad the other place was shut as now he was having a lovely time. He had handled the earlier disappointment with great maturity – as a 9 year old gentleman should.

He is now the proud owner of a camera, which has a better spec than mine!

Happy Birthday Ronan.

Marriage and weddings.

We went to a wedding on Friday which was really lovely. The couple are committed to Christ and to each other in a way that I am sure “shows” through how they took their vows.

I was listening to Catholic Answers the day before and heard Jason Evert say he had heard a priest preach on marriage. He had said that all marriages have three rings, the engagement ring, the wedding ring and suffering.

That suffering is part of life and in marriage it is part of the Sacrifice that the husband must make for his wife and she for him. St. Paul teaches that husbands must love their wives as Christ loves the Church – He was crucified for her. The word Passion actually means “to pour out” as Christ poured out Himself in His Precious Blood and the water that finally flowed from His Sacred HEart.

I have never head Ephesians 5 read at any wedding. It is usually avoided because modern thinkers don’t like the idea that wives should be subjects to their husband, but there is just as much avoidance of the role of the husband in the family as it is called (in Catholic tradition) the domestic church.

The vows however, are a reflection of the Gospel message when the couple swear to be married through sickness, health, richer and poorer til death parts them. They swear in God’s name to be faithful together.

The role of marriage according the Church taught from the beginning is that the husband and wife are to bring each other to heaven – dragging each other if necessary. The couple are to be open to life as God calls them and to take very seriously their vocation as parents, the primary carers and educators of the children God gives them.

Marriage is a public institution. Strong, healthy marriages are the root and foundation of a strong, healthy society. In marriage the children are taught how to be good people, offering something worthwhile to society. The Church is strict that a valid marriage is based on the choice of the couple to be married. It must be a choice freely made. Love itself is a choice, not merely a feeling. Each day, no matter how we might feel, we are called to love the other – pouring ourselves out for one another.

I went through a bit of a phase when I thought I would like to be a wedding planner. Then I watched a series on TV following the work of a wedding planner and I decided I couldn’t do anything so gruelling. I can’t remember if it was this woman or another planner who said she had met many women who were ready for a wedding, but few were ready to be married.

Al wondered if we were a bit of a ‘sign’ at the wedding. We have been married for over 22 years and it’s pretty obvious – what with the wheelchair and all – that we are doing it through the “sickness” bit. I hope that was, as he suggests, an inspritation rather than a moment of “I couldn’t cope with that!” (lol)

Fortunately for society there are people, like the couple we saw on Friday, who are ready for marriage and we hope and pray that as they pour themselves out in the marriage that it will bear much fruit and bring all in that family to heaven.


Home Education; grabbing time.

One of the little pits I have a habit of falling into, when it comes to the children’s education, is to ensure all the academic learning is done, and let the practacle and philosophical learning slide a bit – or a lot.

In the winter when it’s dark and cold, perhaps there is nothing much lost. But once the better weather arrives I do try and shift gears, so that more outside learning can take place, and with that comes more kitchen time.

In some ways, the holidays are the best time for lots of unstructured learning. Ronan loves to cook, and has had free range of the kitchen with Avila today, where they have made, iced and painted Josh’s birthday cake for tomorrow. They then set about properly clearing up after themselves, with pretty impressive results.

I stay out of the way unless needed for these cooking exploits. Ronan is very capable and thinks that if I am there (too obviously) that it means I don’t trust him to do things properly. ME?

My friend Deb who has been through so much recently, so that she has hardly time to blog, sent me a whole bag load of seeds! I have passed out packets to the mums and hopefully we will all have vegatables to show for it in the Summer. Keep her in your prayers, and her dad who died recently.

Iona took the children outside to dig over the bags and trugs, to add a bit more compost and to get some seeds planted. She will also be growing chilli’s again this year. Her crop last year was pretty impressive and she made a lot of chilli jam.

This week is “quiet time” week as much as possible. I am trying to plan next term, read a bit, write a bit and remember two of my kids have birthdays this week!

Yesterday was Heleyna’s 4th birthday! She had a lovely day with some friends, and will have an even louder day next week when her other friends are back from their hols. Why have a birthday when you can have a birth-week-month or so? IONA MADE THE CAKE. Go look.

Tomorrow Josh, the Bearded Wonder turns 22!  Ronan has made his cake :) His dad and I have decided to give him some money towards his bigger bike test. His rust bucket was stolen this week.  We have discussed cars but it’s just far to expensive to have one so it’s a bike.

So all you car drivers out there – drive carefully.  :)

marriage (part III) Mother, father and children.

The subject of marriage can and in fact does, fill many a tome so I don’t want to get too bogged down in a few blog posts. What I really want to look at is how marriage should be for a family who have chosen home education.  We acknoweledge that God must come first or else we will start putting ourselves and our own ideas ahead of Him and His commandments; but what happens after that?

For a home educating mother like me how do I order my responsibility to my husband and children? I think Therese nailed it in her comment on my first post

a family flourishes when the person who needs to be served is served. We all get something from looking after everyone in the family.

If God is first He can guide us in discernment when we aren’t sure who should get the lions share of attention, care and love. Obviously, Therese and I have had the experience of a very sick child and that tends to take priority in a very in-yer-face kind of way. But what about the everyday home education set up? How do we – or how are we supposed to balance the place of husband and children?

I remember listening to a whole load of lectures about the Proverbs 51 wife and thinking “I just can’t do that!” I can’t make sure I am nicely presentable and the house is beautifully clean for when my husband gets home. Certainly I was always trying to keep the house sorted and the children presentable for his home coming but by the time all that was done I had no time (nor inclination) to put on make up and change the baby-sick dress for a nice one. The challenge is made far worse by the fact I am ill – fibromyalgia sucks the life from me, so that by the evening I am just about functioning. This is not to say I should be let off the hook of being a loving and responsible wife and mother; but it genuinely makes the process so very much harder.

 I read something Rita wrote some time ago about how some men had never had to sacrifice at all in their marriages because the wife did it all for them. Then, when she was dead he was left in a right mess, having never had to cope with difficulties or even boiling an egg before.

What about Ephesians 5 then? It’s one of those Scriptue passages that has become notorious. “Wives submit to your husbands…” is the bit that gets the most attention, and thanks to this unbalanced approach t over the years it got rejected by many women.  Let’s face it, how can a wife submit to a husband who is disobeying the next line, “Husbands love your wives as Christ loves the Church.” He loved the Church by His Passion, the pouring Himself out for her.

In home education the most common stumbling block in families seems to be that one parent will not support the idea nor process of home education. Now, I have frequently heard advice saying, the parent who wants to HE needs to wait until the other parent is on board, especially if it’s dad who is resistive. However, for some that simply isn’t a sensible or safe option. If a child is in a terrible state in school then a decision to withdraw them has to be made. Is that putting the children over the spouse? Is that breaking the command of Ephesians 5? I think it can’t be because the parents have a responsibility to the education and welbeing of the children. If a child isn’t getting an education and is in seriously detrimental situation then the parent’s duty must surely be to remove the child.

When I first started home educating I found the adjustment really hard. I wasn’t well and I had a baby and then I had to pull my son out of school and soon had my daughter home too. One HE mum on seeing how utterly exhausted I would get suggested I needed to hand over more work to my husband, She said she had read of HE families where the wife didn’t cook the meals because her life was too full of children’s needs. So the husband had to cook when he got home from work. Now, as it happens I too know of families who don’t HE where the husband cooks after work and so on, but I just couldn’t do this. While I was never going to make it as Proverbs wife I was determined that the house would be presentable and the dinner cooked when he got home. That was part of my agape for the family.

As far as I can tell the Church does not teach that the wife must put the husband over the children; this is a view coming from other Christian communities. The Church teaches that the family is a domestic church, made in the image of God. A wife and mother puts her husband and children before other people and a husband sacrifices for the wife and children before others. In doing this there should be enough love, time and support for the needs of extended family and friends to be met.

If God is kept first then the other love should follow, as St Augustine said something along the lines of ‘love God and do what you like.” He didn’t mean you can sin happily, he meant if God has His proper place in your life, you will choose to do right as He guides you.

Home education and the parenting of adults.

You may wonder why Home Education is in the title – well, this is part of the education I am trying to give my children. They need to learn how to be parents whether they end up having biological, adopted, spiritual or no children.

There are not many aspects of life that are eternal. Marriage, for example is only “til death do us part.” The two aspects of life that are eternal are the priesthood and parenthood. Of course both of those things are about parenting. Being a parent is eternal, I assume, because God the Father is eternally Father and God the Son is eternally Son.

There seems to be a view even among Christians that being a parent ends at some arbitrary age of the child -16 seems to be the common one. After that the mum and dad can more or less shrug their shoulders and say, there’s nothing more to be done. As with all ideas that swing off badly in one direction there is the opposite bad swing in the other. So people phone in radio programs or talk among their friends about parents and parental in-laws who are too interfering and generally difficult to be around. I think I mentioned that trap in one of my brief thoughts on the order of marriage.

But if we accept that once we are parent then we are always a parent – what does that mean when the children are adults? I have three adult children aged nearly 22, 19 and 17. It is a terribly tough time in our culture to be those ages. They are adults who can make their own decisions, but their options are seriously limited by the economic climate and lack of opportunities. So, they must endure. But it also means they must continue to live at home. How then do we all adjust in the family home so that adult children can be adults, but parents are still parents? In some ways it seems to happen sort of organically. I think anthropologically we are designed to live in extended family situations. It is how so-called primitive people still live. In agriculture based cultures adult children were part of the running of the family lands. There were no “tweens”, “teens” or “emerging adults” back then. There were simply families with children and adults in them.

I assume there was some kind of shared responsibility for task, household and children, that made treating each person according to their needs perhaps somehwat easier.

There has been an unspoken “rule” that all children must be treated equally – meaning “the same”. I am not altogether sure where this idea came from, but it seems rooted in the ‘same-i-ness’ view that has taken over many institutions. By treating all men as equal, we must treat them the same. However, I am sure most parents when asked would acknoweldge that all children are not the same. They have different personalities, differnet needs, different developments. How then, can we treat them the same? Well, we can’t and we shouldn’t.

A few of us mums have talked about this issue  and how we have seen it play out in families.  We all have examples where treating children “the same” may have helped one child but enabled and given tacit permission to another to behave badly. For example; one adult child is struggling seriously with financies because of the current economy. The husband is doing his best to work whenever there is work – but there isn’t always work. Tbey budget sensibily and try to keep above water but it’s a shocklingly expensive country. So dad steps in and pays one of the scary bills.  The other adult child is in full time protected employment with a spouse who also works and loves to shop for stuff – lots of it. Does the parent of these adult children hand over the same money to them; knowing it will be misused?

In another situation a son went to his parents for help. He had the budget and they couldn’t afford to eat. Now, instead of handing over money the parents insisted they made some very stringent cuts to their lifestyle – no car for example. To an observer this looked mean. The parents had the ability to help and it looked at first as though they wouldn’t. However they knew their son very well and knew he needed to take full responsibility for his family before they would help – or he would simply sit back and let them bail and bail. In the end they did bail – but only when it was truly needed and the adult child had learned not to expect a certain standard.

In some cases giving “the same” to adult children would be impossible. My friend comes to her daughter and stays four days a week, travelling quite some distance to do this because her daughter is ill. My friend cares for her grandchildren and helps with household tasks (all made more difficult for her at the moment as she has broken her arm!) She has another daughter and grandchildren there. She couldn’t possibly do the same for her – and that is fine because that daughter doesn’t need the help.

I also know another grandma who spends far more time supporting one child’s family than any of her other children. Why? Becuase they need it.

But then, you might wonder, how do you prevent jeolousy, envy and resentment from the adult-children who are not getting the same attention or financial support?

I am aware that the future needs of my adult children and of course the little ones, could be very different.  My first admonition to them is that they should take care of one another. They are their brothers (and sisters) keepers. Now, don’t get the idea I am just trying to pass off my responsibilites as their mother. I’m not, in fact it is my responsibility to ensure they DO take care of one another. But they also need some discernment in doing so.

I’ll con tinue this later…

marriage (part II) Putting God First

It is generally agreed, even if only theoretically, by most Christians that God must be first in life and that means He comes first in marriage. But what does that mean? Well, I suppose on a basic level it means we do what He wants  us to do and so we had better find out how He sees marriage and what He expects married people to go.

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The order of marriage. (part I)

Listening to some of the homseschool workshops and to a recent Catholic Answers program I am interested by the reminders given out about the order of marriage.

The order of love in a healthy marriage, we are told, needs to be God first, spouse second and children third – anything else after that. The warning that is put out to us mums is to beware of putting the children first. This is a particular temptation to those of us who home educate- because we are with the children so much more than anyone else (including God).  The warning to fathers was to never put work first- which is a very common dad temptation.

Something not mentioned, but which does come up on a pretty regular basis on Catholic phone ins, is the business of putting the in-laws first. I think anecdotally this tends to be a problem with husbands and their mothers, although husbands with their fathers can also be a huge stumbling block. Less often, but often enough that I think it merits notice is a wife putting her mother or father above her husband and children. This often leads to terrible friction over how the children should be treated. All of these problems get mentioned often in Catholic discussions (Dr Ray Guarendi deals with a lot of this).

The order of marriage as God first, spouse second and children third is something I have heard from many Christian homeschooling mothers. However when the question of the order of marriage came up on Catholic Answers recently, it became apparent that the Church has not put this order in place in her teaching.

Certainly God must come first. Putting other people or things over God breaks the first commandment and will inevitably lead to the other nine getting compromised in some way.

But what about the order of spouse and children? The Church teaches that they come together. This interested me because I have to admit the “rule” that the spouse must come before the children worried me. Like many mothers I have had to deal with a very sick child on more than one occasion.  There was no other option, that I can see, than to put the needs of that child above the needs of everyone else in the family (including, in fact especially my own). The idea that on top of my own really bad health at the time I was supposed to take care of a dangerously sick little child and STILL put my husband’s needs above that strikes me as asking for more than is reasonable.

So I am relieved to see that the Church does not teach this order of marriage. But we must remember always to put God first. Only in this way can we hope to know how to live as a family. We have to know what He says and how He says it – and then we have to do as our Mother commands (at the wedding); “Do whatever He tells you.”

Marriage was elevated to a Sacrament so that in receiving grace from God we could love one another and our children even in the hard times – and we are to bring each other and the children to heaven.

The question then is, how are we to do this? In what way to we keep God first and how do we balance the needs of our spouse and children? Does home educating the children upset or improve that balance? And I think I need to look at that modern problematic business of authority and power – whose is the head of the family?

Next time…

Josh puts his foot in it (well under it)

It is quite important for father ans sons to have their male bonding times. This usually involves going to the gym or other such activities.

One fine winter evening Josh and his dad discussed their great plan to jointly invest in a two man saw.  This fine piece of man-bonding kit is still made in Sheffield. Very nice.

We have a lot of logs that need cutting down to size and so on Saturday afternoon the men went outside to deal with them.

Now, we all have a laugh about ‘Elf’n’Safety but ignore that Elf at your peril. So, somehow those steel toe cap boots were left to sit  in the cupboard and a great big log refused to sit properly on the saw horse and …

Josh’s toe is broken; shattered in fact, in three places. He is now on crutches and I have offered him a race. :) He had to return to hospital this morning to the fracture clinic but there’s not a lot they can do, other than strap one toe to another.

The poor lad has received giggling sympathy from family, friends, workmates and girlfriend.

So then you have been warned.

Iona has 20 Uni points now.

Iona got her Open Uni resilts today and she has passed with a good mark. So now she has 20 points at level 1.

So we can sort out her next course soon. If she wants to go on to do a degree at another University she will need 90 level 1 points or she could stay with the OU.

I think as time goes on more Universities will offer distance learning and online learning like the OU making things cheaper and more flexible all round.

The new student loan system is marginally better than the old one and certainly offers better grants and sponsorship but it doesn’t really cahnge the fact that students will have to work and study and distance courses have long been set up to allow for that. They also allow the student to pay per module, avoiding massive debt.

I have been a bit stumped by the anger over student fees. Certainly the debt will be higher but all of us with American friends know they’ve coped with this system. Also the payback system is much better raising the when to pay back earnings from £15 to £21 seems good and then having the whole lot written off after 15 years is brilliant. (If that bit stays).

I think the whole University sytem and culture needs massive overhaul and perhaps the anger stems from the rather odd way the Govt have chosen to approach the problem. But then it seems in politics they only see the money.

Alex wins a place in the Advent Calender

Alex entered the Adobe Creative Juices competition to win a place on the Advent Calender and made it for today St Nick’s day Click on the Calender and then click on box 6 to see his entry.

Home Education and the “socialising” of siblings.

I recently met with a  friend who has just about finished her long career in home educating her children, though of course she is still a mother.

In passing she commented on the way my children were playing together and how they get on well. I nodded, adding “most of the time.” Continue reading

The old dragon and her sphig.

Look at the cake Iona made me!  This is what she was  doing when I was being banned from the kitchen.

Of course she’s trying to tell me I’m an old dragon, but we’ll let that pass. :)

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Food is Love (and so is home education).

 I love my children. That should be normal for a mum, although I know only too well that isn’t always the case.

I don’t love them in a sloppy sentimental way; frankly that’s useless love. I love them even when it’s hard going and that often means when they are standing facing the front door or sitting on the stairs. That is love because although it means I am making them do something they don’t like, that they will learn from it, the easy way. If I don’t teach them how to behave they will find out the hard way in the big world.

It’s the same with food. I love my children enough to make sure they eat properly.  So yes, we have those traditional conversations along the lines of “If you don’t eat your greens you won’t get pudding.”

We are on a tight budget (like most one income households in the UK) so food does eat the budget so to speak, but I still try and make sure the children are eating good food and not junk. Anyway I am beginning to think junk costs more.

I have mentioned that Iona is doing THIS COURSE WITH THE OPEN UNI on Human Nutrition. It’s all very technical and has got her wondering around the house talking about “free radicals” and the best places to find vitamin B12, but it has also got her thinking more about food and how we eat and share it.

She told me today to get watching These Vids on Youtube wherein Jamie Oliver a Chef from the UK heads off to Huntington West Virginia to try and start a food revolution, much like the one he started in schools here. Now, I have to admit I have never been much of a fan of Mr Oliver, but these four programmes have given me a new respect for the man. But even more so, these programmes have really shocked me and left me gutted for some of the families and children in the programme. And knowing that things are only a short few steps behind on the slope over here, it’s just scary.

Huntington was chosen for Jamie’s revolution because it came top in some Government figures for deaths due to obesity.  Now this is a sensitive thing to do. Going somewhere because the people are eating themselves to death and trying to change things needs to be handled with some sensitivity, but also with realism. To be fair I do think Jamie tried that approach. He certainly won over one family who  ate rubbish until he helped them find a better way.

But I was absolutely blown away by the schools. I can’t imagine that many parents choose to homeschool because state schools are pushing the most horrible junk down their children’s throats, but if there are parents doing so for that reason, well, they are right.

Now, I let my kids eat junk now and then. But the whole diet in these schools and the extended community was the kind of food we would eat once in a while and some of it is stuff I would never feed my children. 

Jamie asked a class of 6 yr olds (grade 1. year 2) about basic fruit and veg. Not one child recognised even a potato!

I did a quick impromtu lesson with my children. I sent the three younger ones off in search of a potato. carrot, tomato, banana, pear and something else can’t remember. The three of them, aged 7, 5 and 3, all managed to come back with the correct items with no help and then sat and watched some of the programme while eating the pear, banana and carrot.

Meanwhile on the screen they watched as children their age and older were allowed to throw away most of the their dinner, no questions asked. This was both the yukky stuff and the stuff Jamie introduced against massive opposition into the school. 

This school had 400 pupils so it’s about the same size as most of the primary schools over here. When I worked in such schools it was normal for adults, teachers, assistants and lunch time supervisors to be with the children while they ate to ensure the children were eating properly and help them with cutlery. In fact it was a bone of contention that even hit the press that too many children come to school without proper table manners and that the schools are having to teach this. Nevertheless the idea that a load of very young children should be left to eat food without proper adult attention was not even considered.

The school sfaff seemed surprised when Jamie said that children wouldn’t be allowed to throw food away like that back home. The waste was utterly shocking and then they have the nerve to complain about school food budgets! Not that I blamed the children. The school served breakfast; get this: Pizza, sugar packed flavoured milk with a cereal covered in sugar loaded flavoured milk. Can you imagine giving that to your children?

Things happen in these programme’s that begger belief. The conversation about children in the primary (elementary) school using cutlery was …I was astonished. They couldn’t understand why Jamie wanted the children to use a knife and fork!! The grumpy woman even demanded proof that children in UK primary schools do use knives and forks!  Of course they do!

Things did begin to change, when even the school Principle (who I didn’t rate) got involved in helping the children learn what to eat and how to eat. But the battle will be longer and harder because so many of those children have never been taught how to eat good food around a table where there are loving adult role models. The added problem that they never get to use cutlery properly just makes the whole thing harder than it need be.

How we feed our families is, I truly believe,  a sign of how we love them. Having enough care to cook good nutricous food so our children can grow,  learn and be as healthy as possible is what we are supposed to do.  Part of that is teaching the children how to cook.  Otherwise the bad habits set in and it effects generations. We need to say no to the children at times and that’s just the way it is.

The family Jamie went to work with were lovely, but they ate unbelievable rubbish. The mum was horrified when she realised what she was doing and I think she did want to change, but it is a tough battle to change the habits of a lifetime. The fact that their son just heading to be 13 was already obese and on the verge of diabetes shocked the family-hopefully enough to help them really make the change.  I did get the impression, though I can’t be sure, that the adults really had not realised how much rubbish was in the food they were all eating. Somehow they had gone through school and never come across anything about nutricion.

They are members of a church where the Pastor is so tired of members of his congreation dropping dead that he now preaches about eating properly. Good for him, but how sad.

Jamie got the parents from the elementary school and showed them in no uncertain terms what was being fed to their children and they all said they didn’t want that. It’s a good start. I think he might have made better headway if he had started with the parents in the first place- over riding the rights and duties of parents is never a good plan and schools already do far too much of that.

In the High School he went to he got a lot more support from the kitchen team. That must have made things easier. He also put together a team of young people from the school and taught them to cook, and is setting them up as food ambassadors. The children had their own very serious reasons for wanting to be part of this. One girl had lost her dad when she was 13 because his obesity killed him. She had recently lost an uncle the same way and another girl was morbidly obese herself and discovered she had about 7 years left to live. She is just  a teenage girl and food is killing her.

While Jamie is campaigning in schools first I think it’s the churches and parent groups that need the attention. If parents are encouraged to take back their role, rights and responsibilites they will see that their children need to eat well. Then the parents can demand the schools change the food and maybe even get some parents in the schools to help make sure the children know how to sit properly and eat properly.

From there parents can start to ensure their children grow up learning how to prepare and cook good food properly.

There is an unhealthy view that learning to cook isn’t acedemic enough and so doesn’t matter that much. Yet when we look at a mother feeding boxed pizza and fries to her children all the time so that they are already obese before they hit their teen years, we surely have to rethink that. If those children live long enough to have children of their own (and it’s a big if) then how will they break the cycle without education?

We need our children to know about food, to prepare it well and to eat it properly. It means saying no to children sometimes and making them eat green beans and broccoli. That is love.

Confessions of a working mum

In the previous posts about the ‘cult of expert’ and away from the cult of expert we got talking about mother’s leaving their children in child care because they either have to or choose to go out to work. I don’t judge women who have to work- been there done that. It can become a bizarre trap.

I was still a student nurse when I got married and through a rather careless approach to being healthy (I was only barely Catholic at the time) I quickly became pregnant. Josh was born and six months later I had to return to work because I had to finish my training and there was no way we could pay basic bills on just Al’s newly qualified nurse pay. So I found a child minder and left my baby behind. It was horrible.

 The hospital were fairly accomoding and I was allowed for most of my third year of training to work 8 to 4 on a rehab ward. I learned a lot and think it was one of the best ways I had of picking up a lot of skills. But the child care situation was a nightmare. The childminder was one I had found from a social services approved list, but she was barely coping looking after her own kids and certainly could not cope with mine and another mother’s babies on top of that. I soon found I had to quickly find different care for him. I did so with another child minder, who had come recommended.

She was lovely. But to get Josh there I would get up every morning at 5:30 and get ready for work. Get him up and ready at just after 6 am and then walk to the child minders and drop him off at 6:30 and then rush to the train to get to work for 8am. I wouldn’t see him again until 5pm that night- presuming nothing bad happened and I could get off work on time.

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Did the cult of expert wreck families?

I was pottering around blogs t’other day and I came across THIS SHORT PIECE on child rearing 1928, which I just found heart breaking. I wonder how many mothers were taken in by this appalling advice. I find the piece interesting because it seems to me to be in direct contrast to the work of Charlotte Mason whose last books were written around 1923 just before she died and were especially popular around 1925. Her view of childhood and the love of the mother for the children is just so different to the writing of this Watson bloke. I also believe that G.K. Chesterton and his wife Frances who knew Miss Mason and supported the PNEU schools, had a different view of child care. They were never blessed with children which was a huge sorrow to them. Perhaps it was this heartache that meant the Chestertons had a better understanding of the true value and dignity of a child; tha,t as Miss Mason stated “Children are born persons.”

Perhaps the reason Miss Mason needed to make such a statement was because of the Watsons and their advice on treatment of children that undermined their dignity and personhood, as well as that of the mother. I know that Chesterton’s writing were often in reaction to the things he saw around him in the illogical and unreasonable climate that was growing in the mid war years.

We often get the impression from writing of the between war years that children, especially in middle class families, were shunted off to “nanny” and didn’t get much mum and dad time at all.  I read a long time ago that had Queen Victoria breast fed her children instead of doing the fashionable thing and passing their care to the ‘nanny’ she would never have had to suffer the health problems she did, from pregnancies so close together. 

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During a crisis is home education better, the same or worse than having the children in school?

In the little home education group I host we have gone through some seriously challenging times over the years. Two of the mums have faced cancer and chemo and I’ve gone through some pretty trying health times too both for myself and one of the children in particular. On the surface it may seem that when something bad happens that it would be better for the children to be in school, where they may at least appear to have been shielded from it all somewhat. But is that true in practice?

Serious illness in any family can cause stress and strain to the family set up. Is is worse, better or the same for those of us who home educate? It is not an area that has had  any research t that I am aware of. However from our own little bit of experience I will say this; I wish I had been home educating the children when I became seriously ill. I think they would have felt closer to what was happening and less confused about it had they not been shipped off to school each day. It might also have been less stressful for my husband making sure they got to and from school and then off to visit me in hospital each day. Not easy.

To make matters worse for one child in particular he was facing bullies each day and the concern of what was going to happen to me each evening!

For both K and J as they went through chemo their children were aware of what was happening and when. They had lots of extended family support although sadly K was not as close into a good supportive home ed group when she had her 12 sessions of chemo (pretty extreme treatment) and so didn’t get the support she and the children needed from the HE community. I certainly hope we can rise to the occasion if and when she faces the onslaught of her cancer again. One thing she says though is that while her children suffered seeing their mother so desperately ill through surgeries and chemo, they coped well. As it happened one of K’s friends also went through the same cancer and  similar chemo while her dd went to school. It was noted that it was much harder for that child to deal with. Whether this was because she was sent to school each day or whether it was because of the way different families deal with things is hard to say, but I think my children coped better with some of the really difficult times we faced over Avila’s repetitive hospital admissions and my own health problems because they were involved and not separated from it (artificially).

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those looooong car journeys.

“I need a WEEEEEEE!”

“I feel sick..bleurgh!”

“Are we nearly there yet?”

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