Monthly Archives: September 2009

Sickness, burnout and Home Education.

One of the recurring themes for many home education sites is how to avoid or get over burnout. The day to day of home education and parenting can be exhausting and I think it is fair to say that many mothers get so tired they put their children into school because they think it must be easier.

exhaustedThere are a number of ways to avoid burnout or to at least mitigate against it’s effects. The best way-but it seems the hardest to get organised, is to have ‘mum time’.  This can take a number of forms; get a bit of time to read or just do nothing with a cup of tea. Get a few minutes while the children are otherwise occupied to blog a bit. (The incredible luxury of time to think up and write a whole post in one go may be a dream too far, but a few sentences at a time can be achieved).

Sickness is a tough one. I have realised that I need to be able to be flexible with the children’s learning when I am not well. The last week or so has been very hard going thanks to some kind of relapse in my disability that going by another home ed mum’s experience may be some kind of virus. In order to keep the education going I have needed to get the children to do some work more independently. There are some really good websites that will guide children in their learning and allow them to explore even if the parent helping is a witless blob for the day or even a few days. It doesn’t hurt that we spent a bit longer on the sofa while the children drew and read and looked through books on the human body.

The main problem most of us have when we are ill is there is simply no time to recover so it takes so much longer.  It doesn’t matter how chilled the educational side gets, toddlers in particular still need care and the fact is, even with a bit of a curriculum melt down, most of us don’t want to let the educational side of things go completely no matter how bad things get.

A friend of mine kept going through chemo! And I’ve had the children bring work to hospital to show me. We’re a weird bunch.

Most of us will look out for one another in a crisis but I do believe most of us mums need some time that is just for us, or burnout will become inevitable. Sadly I just can’t find out HOW to do this on a regular basis. Usually I have reached complete exhaustion before I get a break.

Most homeschool advice columns will point to dads and grandparents as a good way of ensuring children are out of the house for a day or two so mum gets a break. Sometimes this is possible, but for many of us dads work long hours and grandparents are not always an option.

So what do I suggest?

Be realistic- nobody is Supermum and there will be times when you need to let it ride and leave everything alone for a day. DO that. Worksheets, websites and just playing can be fine for a short time.

Ask for help: I have always found this one difficult to do. The hostility towards home education that I faced at the beginning has left me feeling that a lot of people would think “you’ve made your bed…” However I have found that there are people who recognise the massive commitment of home education and will be there if you ask them. DADs too can be asked to help. Some of the best help you can get of course is fellow home educators-who are already wearing the t-shirt.

Don’t CARE so much about what others think: The important thing is your children are happy, learning and doing fine.  You are doing this for them not other people. Constantly hoping for approval and support from those who will never give either is self defeating-leading to stress, doubt and burnout. Let it go.

Alongside this I think we need to beware of looking for solutions on places where they don’t exist. Don’t forget to pray-after all He really does have the solution and will give graces for each day.

MUM time. I really think this would prevent a lot of tired, fed up and irritable mothers. I am working on this one and I will let you know when I find a solution. I keep saying I am going to do this-but haven’t worked out how. If anyone has good ideas I really am interested.

Charlotte Mason Home Education: Autumn Wk 3

On Sunday there was Beavers, Cubs, Scouts and Explorers Parade at Mass followed by a trip to Cosford Air Museum. We went there as a family in the hols so for Ronan, Iona and Alex this was known territory.

P1000709 Narration: I’ve been using the set stories from the Ambleside Online curriculum for Ronan’s narration.  We’ve been trying to take it slowly but this week I felt we were hitting a wall on this one. Ronan is 6. The stories from Our Island Story and Fifty Famous Stories Retold can be quite long and complicated and Roni simply isn’t getting to grips with them. We have decided that narration will be from Aesop or other shorter stories for now and he can simply answer a few questions about other stories. Hopefully this will build up to fuller narrations and better memory and retention skills as he gets older and more practiced. To help he is going to draw a picture of some aspect of each story.

Poems We are changing between R L Stevenson and A A Milne but I am also using poem time to do some simple songs with all three of them.

Heleyna and Avila have spent some time with the songs on MoreStarfall. (I have payed $35 for a years membership) While I’m talking about MoreStarfall I would like to mention that Avila enjoys sitting with Heleyna and teaching her about colours or the movements for the songs or reading her a story.

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When and how children learn to read.

Very interesting lecture on when and how to get children reading from a Montessori point of view by Margaret Homfray. Some of the stuff she says is just good old common sense, but she also makes some very interesting observations about how literacy levels have dropped over the years despite the reduction in class sizes.

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Ed Balls can afford Home Education reviews, but not teachers or University fees!

In the “You couldn’t make it up” category we are greeted with the astounding fact that as the great Home Education Consultation continues, costing masses of undisclosed tax payers money that Ed is out to get rid of head teachers and Universities want students to get into even more debt for a degree that doesn’t even guarantee a job!

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Charlotte MasonHome Education Autumn week 2

After Week ONE I don’t think I need to write everything we have done this week. Most of the regular stuff is the same as last week.

On Tuesday the Geography lesson was about weather temperatures. The children got to have a look at my jam thermometer and then we recapped about how the sun warms the land and makes the wind. There was a great experiment to do making a thermometer out of coloured water and a straw and then setting it into boiling water. Well, the children had great fun making the thermometers but sadly we couldn’t get them to work. I did wonder whether we should have used vodka instead of water as alcohol is more temp sensitive.  Anyone else done this?

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Should Mothers be close to their older children?

Mother_and_DaughtersFor some reason there seems to be a new understanding of the relationship a mother is supposed to have with her daughters. It is fine, apparently, for mother and daughter to be close  while the child is younger than about 12, but after that mum (and I assume dad) is supposed to almost back out of her daughter’s life.

There are those who think and openly say that a parent who is closely involved with a teenage daughter’s life is simply a bad parent; interfering; over the top; too involved; controlling. I am unsure how a mother is not supposed to be involved with her own daughter’s welfare and upbringing.

A friend of mine has been criticised and laughed at because she gets on well with her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend (my son) and worse still, in their eyes that she spends time with them. They were astonished to learn that she has bothered to meet and get to know the family of her daughter’s boyfriend. They were pleased to announce they had no idea who their own children met up with or presumably what they got up to.

I don’t have many friends with teenage children, and none with teenage daughters, but the ones I have whose children are close to the teen years are strongly in favour of ensuring they have close relationships with those children no matter how old they are. I am not convinced this is a simple case of home ed families are closer than families who send their children to school. Certainly schooled children do have a tendency to fall into peer groups with all its pressures and anti-parental culture, but I have come across even home ed mothers who don’t have a close relationship with their older children and seem to have no idea what they get up to. I saw a doctor the other night speaking with bewilderment about the number of children she has seen seriously ill thanks to alchohol and parents insist their child doesn’t drink.

A close relationship between mother and daughter was once considered a precious thing. God given. I find it astonishing that so many mothers are prepared to shrug off this gift and not only leave their young daughters to date secret boyfriends and spend all hours with unknown friends, but  mock those mothers for whom the relationship is still important.

I know many women whose mothers were too self absorbed, cruel or just too busy to spend time with them; who were never there to talk to and to learn from and they swear they will not do that to their daughters.  I believe my friend is a good mother who is ensuring her children’s welbeing and she has every right to know who her daughter sees and when. As it happens her daughter and my son are happy to be around both families. It’s simply part of life to them.

I have been reading some MSM stuff on home education and I am beginning to feel that the only articles that are getting published are those that imply home ed parents leave their children to their own decvices to the extent of neglect. No doubt this is trendy-where the children get to ignore the parents, but it is NOT what most home ed families I know do and I am glad to say many of my children’s school friends to do have this separation state either (although sadly some do).

Family life is important-let’s protect it a bit.

Not Back to School Picnic

Went off into Birmingham town centre to join the Not Back To School Picnic today. A good time was had by all I think. We blew bubbles and handed out some leaflets.

Absolutely shattered now.

Butternut Squash and Apple soup with mixed flour soda bread.

For the bread:

4 oz buckwheat flour

4 oz whole meal self-raising flour

 8 oz white sr flour

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Shh! Quiet time for Mum- A Charlotte Mason Mother Culture moment.


“Mother Culture” is a term many Charlotte Mason mums will know. It was apparently coined by the author going by the oddly mysterious name of “A” who wrote on this subject in the Parent’s Review Magazine in 1892. It is an idea picked up by Susan Wise Bauer when she wrote Stop Cleaning the Kitchen and Read a Book. Essentially what these and other women are saying is, take some quiet time each day if possible and recharge your batteries, or else you will quickly become neither use to man nor beast.

For those of us with younger children finding any kind of uninterrupted quiet time can be almost impossible and so we have to be a bit canny about how we go about getting some. Being exhausted is a dreadful feeling that hurts your bones and needs to be avoided as I (like far too many mums) have learned the hard way. It is also wise to have quiet mum time, just to make you a nicer person to be around. Just as Charlotte Mason insisted that all children are persons, well, so are mothers. It isn’t selfish to need just a little time to yourself-it is a way to make sure you still have enough of yourself to give to those around you who need you. It’s time to re-charge the batteries so you can keep going.

So, there we are, acknowledging that a mum needs some time to herself for reading, prayer, writing or just chillin’-the question is HOW?

I have decided that from this year onwards I will make every effort to have some quiet mum time- to increase my mother culture. I willFragonard,_The_Reader1spend the time reading, not just for the sake of the children but for my own sake too. There will be writing time; who knows I might get a whole blog entry written in one uninterrupted go! I think a relaxing cup of Earl Grey will always be part of my Quiet Mum Time. As Mrs Bauer points out, for home ed mums we need to be reading to help educate our children. Quite often we need to read ahead any books we are thinking of letting them read to make sure they are appropriate

I am telling the children that this is my Quiet Time and I want them to respect that. They are doing quite well with this-even Heleyna is getting the idea that during Quiet Time I want to be, well, quiet. None of them have quite got the idea of what is a good reason to interrupt mum time, but I am hoping practice will make perfect on this. I am aiming at half an hour a day and about 2hrs on some Saturdays if their dad can take them out for a while or play with them.

While I don’t go through the same levels of daily pain that I used to (thanks to the wonders of the chiropractor) I do still have this to deal with and on top of the business of the average day I can often feel really horribly drained by the evening. Cooking the evening meal is often quite an ordeal. So. I need another plan. Iona cooks on a Tuesday night and she often comes and gives a hand on other nights too. She does the light tea on a Saturday evening for the kids.

I am thinking that I would like to buy some bigger dishes-like roasting tins and cook huge two night meals now and then so that I get an extra free evening. At the moment I am not quite sure how to work this, but Wednesday and Friday nights need rearranging somehow. I noticed from some of those big-family-TV-programmes that some mums do cook in advance and I thought there must be some way I could do this. I’ll let you know how I get on with the master plan – or should I say mother plan?

I’ll post tonight’s recipe in a mo.

Charlotte Mason Home Education: Autumn Week 1

I am going to try and write up a general overview of the week at the end of each week with info on books and events just in case this is of any use to anyone.

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Home education can look good!

HomeschoolingWorksI have to admit that those of us who educate our children at home tend to be a rather defensive lot. The main reason for this of course is the shocking amount of times we find ourselves having to defend our choice to home educate.  Parents who quite willingly send their children to be battery farmed all day with a shallow, boring and meaningless curriculum are not made to defend themselves. While children tell of bullying, class disruption, porn handed round and far too often teachers who don’t know the subject they are teaching, parents who send their children into these environments are considered fine.

It can seem to us who choose to home educate that it is downright perverse that we are constantly judged and criticised by people who neither know, nor more often than not, want to know what home ed is all about.

It is a lovely breath of fresh air then when someone says something utterly positive about the whole thing.

A friend of mine popped over today for a coffee just as we were finishing off the mornings work. She came fully armed with a sand and water play table, which made her extra welcome Smile.  The children were keen to tell her all they had been learning about and show her some of their work. To my surprise she pointed out that what they had done this morning would probably take about a week in school as there were so many children in the class who would all have to be brought up to speed. She should know as she works in a school. She was (I think) genuinely impressed by what they had done and by their enthusiasm for what they are learning.  She said they would never be able to do what they are doing in school. Even the small fact that Ronan had made a ‘house’ under the table to work in this morning, she pointed out would never be allowed in school.

It is rare that someone who is not themselves a home educator shows genuine interest and appreciation of what the children do and learn. It is good when it happens. I know, I know, it shouldn’t matter what other people think or say-but those of you doing this too, know that just sometimes it is nice to have someone tell you your kids they are doing well.

Charlotte Mason Carnival

 Hedgehog   The Charlotte Mason Carnival is being hosted at JIMMIE’s COLLAGE. Go take a look at the great posts he has linked.Butterfly 3Squirrel

Home Education with a tornado toddler.


was the first day of term today. Ronan was pleased to be getting back to a more structured approach and Avila was very proud to be officially learning with Ronan. She has been doing a lot over the last few months to be honest, but she enjoyed the fact that today she got her learning box and file and was able to put her work in it.

Heleyna is just under 2 and a half. The sudden change in routine disrupted her view of the world considerably and she was quite cross about it. At first she was loud and clingy and cried at any given opporunity.

Josh was around so he kindly took her off for a distraction time for a while. Even so I needed to find ways to help her adapt to the change in routine and join in with Ronan and Avila, so she could feel part of the process without disrupting the children’s learning time. She settled into her chair to play with the Math U See manipulatives while the other two finished off their work. She had paper and pencils while we worked through chapters of Faith and Life and while the children did a little penmanship. As the morning went on Heleyna was happy to find things to do herself and by lunch time was more or less settled. She had some time singing songs with me and her singing teddy (see photo-that bear has saved us from many a toddler tornado).

I usually try to find a small activity for her that is similar to what the others are doing as she likes to think she is learning too. Sometimes however she just needs to be doing something else entirely.

After lunch she chased bubbles dutifully blown for her by Ronan and Avila and then went to play outside with them.

I am hoping she will be more settled tomorrow. Things were made slightly more complicated by the fact we are potty training her at the moment as well! Getting bottoms on potties while teaching Latin is a novel experience!

During storytime (Caligula and Caractacus from Our Island Story) Avila kindly moved off my lap to let Heleyna sit there. We had a quiet time with the story and although we had a discussion about it I didn’t ask for narrations today. The children have to be patient with Heleyna as she can be fidgety and loud but by making sure she got lots of time for her things haven’t been too bad.

We saw a rainbow


It was across the trees outside our back door.

I thought it was rather lovely.

It didn’t last long-but it was good while it did.

Year of the Priest: Solomon-Priest and anti-priest

I suppose I should have posted about the Golden Calf Incident before coming to this, but I’ve blogged about it before. To nutshell; Israel turned from the God of true freedom and went back to the Egyptian god of slavery (to money, sex and power). The sons of Levi stayed true and when Moses returned from the mountain and the Face of God they drew their swords and killed all the apostate priests-father’s and first born sons, of the other tribes. With the blood still wet on their swords they became the priests of Israel. On entering the Promised Land the Levites were not allotted a portion of land as they were to live among the other tribes who invited them “be to us a father and a priest.”L45-Solomon

The priesthood of Melchizedek, the priesthood of father and son was therefore put on hold as only the fathers and sons of the tribe of Levi were now priests, until David came along. King David was of the tribe of Judah but as King he was also ordained (by Samuel) as priest and could make the sacrifices. It was a special honour. David was a type (or shadowy foretelling) of Christ in that he was a Priest and King and through his psalms we also see he was a prophet. Solomon on being made King was given the blessing and birthright of a first born son even though David had other sons who were older.

Solomon’s priesthood was not automatically conferred. It is up to God who should be ordained and Solomon was supposed to wait for the prophet to anoint him with oil-but on one occasion he did not have the patience to wait and took upon himself the right to make the sacrifice. This may well have been the act of pride that began to see his loss of that great gift of Wisdom. He should have understood that it is God’s place to decide on who will be a priest. No one can take that on for themselves. (Which is why popes can’t cave on ordaining women).

As his reign continued Solomon’s wisdom became nothing more than cleverness in political games. Having build the stunningly beautiful Temple as God had requested he turned to other gods to please his political alliances made through marriage.  (A man who doesn’t respect his priesthood doesn’t respect marriage either).

From being a type of Christ -prophet, priest and king of wisdom and righteousness (like Melchizedek) Solomon became a type of anti-Christ, burdening his people with heavy taxes and caring only for his wealth and power which he thought he could find through other gods.

It ended badly. The Kingdom was split and then overcome. Even the Levitical priesthood was scattered among the nations and the Temple was destroyed. The promise that both the throne of David and the priesthood of Melchizedek would be renewed seemed utterly impossible. But of course, nothing is impossible for God.

The 8th Commandment gets ignored a lot.

I was listening to something on the radio t’other day and the speaker said he thought the main commandments that Christians want to ignore these days are the 6th (against adultery) and the 9th (against envy of another’s spouse). The laws on chastity, he believed, are the ones most Christians would like laid aside. Certainly he has good reason to say so, but I couldn’t help thinking that the 8th gets short shift among Christians too. It’s not just that people love to gossip and the 8th gets in the way of that, it is the way Christian’s try to put forward their arguments for what they think God should think and how His Church ought to be, by misusing the words of saints, popes and worse still Scripture. Surely this is baring false witness. Far too often Christian’s speak out very publicly-or write in their books things which have been stripped of all context in order to try and be right about something (they are probably wrong about).

I have just finished reading The Quiet Light about St Thomas Aquinas and there is the quote in full context of when he refused to write any more because what he had written seemed as straw compared to what he had just seen and experienced. He had just been through a deeply mystical experience getting so close to Christ and His Heaven that he longed to be there. Obviously no one, not even someone with the genius of St Thomas could write in such a way as to show Heaven for what it truly is. In comparison to Heaven all is straw. It should be easy to understand that and yet so many Christian’s have misused the saint’s words to make out that he was denying the truth of what he had written in the Summa or other documents. He never said anything of the sort and it is totally dishonest to suggest so.

The number of times Church documents have been used out of context to support some dodgy idea or to make out the Church was backward and silly is staggering.

It seems to me that a person who has something truthful to say, can say it. If there is something about the Faith that needs extolling then it can be done without recourse to twisted texts and obfuscation.  The best way you can convince me that what you have to say is worth hearing is to tell the truth.

St Thomas Aquinas seems such a simple man because that is all he did.