Category Archives: parenting

Ronan cooks his first meal.

Ronan wants to be a baker. He can already bake some pretty good cakes and I have to confess his gluten free productions are better than mine ever were. He is definitely the lead gluten free chef in our house. He has been asking for a while to be allowed a night when he cooks.

P1020718Iona is the cook now. I can’t stand up long enough, or remain safe, to cook a meal any longer. Ronan has asked for Wednesdays to be his night. He cooked his first full meal for five. He made sausages, potatoes and beans. I didn’t help at all. I only went in to the kitchen now and then and made suggestions. He did all the work.

This was more impromptu than planned, but I think we could do some menu planning and he can have a go, choosing his own recipes. His knife control is pretty good – needs some work – but good enough.

He can learn menu planning, budgeting and nutrition  as we go along.

This is a very important skill. It’s one Iona has learned as she went along and one that stands Alex and Anna (his wife) in good stead now that they are making a home for themselves.

It’s sadly rare these days that youngsters can cook, and shamefully more studies are showing that children don’t even know what basic foodstuff is. Learning about food and cooking has to be one of the most important life skills we can offer our children.  They love it.

Unto the third and fourth generation; what are we doing to our children and grandchildren?

In the UK now something like 1 in 10 children are dx with a mental illness of some kind. The problem for what is labeled generation Y, is so great some have suggested it has reached beyond crisis to a state of emergency. The figures are pretty stark even if you take into consideration the shocking over dx and overuse of prescription medication for children.  These are the children of my generation. Those of us born in the early to mid sixties are the first of Generation X coming after the baby boomers, who are now in their late 60s and 70s.

There’s a separate but linked issue with the dx of ADHD and ADD which I might look at later but not in this post.

This confessional article on the way love was ditched in the search for so-called free love in the ’60s, tries to shine a spotlight on why love was ditched. Jermann writes;

My generation made a mess of love. We lost its very meaning to an emotionally appealing ersatz replacement based on a self-congratulatory “I’m okay, you’re okay” mentality, even as the growing debris of dying human relationships proved otherwise.  We have left our children so deep in the muck that they no longer see a sky blue but accept a dull overcast gray as the normal light of day

The comments expand on the article pointing out that it wasn’t just the hippies seeking “free love” who turned away from real love, plenty of otherwise descent respectable folk did the same. I have been surrounded by so many people of about my age who were either abused, neglected or basically ignored by their parents.  Even in families that on the surface looked in tact and functioning I have heard stories of confusion, distant relationships and deep loneliness from the now adult children.

Most of these people (myself included) never saw a baby, and so when we had our own. we were left to struggle and work out by ourselves how to deal with having children of our own.  For so many of my generation the only guide was “I wont do it like my parents.” But as my generation have bought into the idea that what adults want is way more important than what children need, the lovelessness goes on.

Adults have been so stunted they have no idea how to maintain loving relationships with one another, and can’t face the demands of dependant children. Even otherwise good parents will allow their children to behave in self destructive ways simply because they don’t know how to stop them.

There has to be a solution as we face the curse of the grandparents visiting the third and even fourth generation. And there is.

In the cultural desert, hard working and genuinely loving people have set up little oasis of hope. One comment under the article is from a man who teaches Bl. Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body to teens. He says they are enthusiastically taking it up. They know they have to shun the sexual example having suffered the results themselves.

The knowledge and willingness of couple,s of many Christian couples – not just Catholics – to embrace an open to life marriage, using NFP when serious reasons require it, is spreading like wild fire.

More and more women in particular are sick of the damage to health, particularly breast cancer, to marriage and the water supply done by contraception and they are turning back to natural methods that respect women’s bodies and the family unit.

There’s a growing number of mothers who are practicing what has been termed “attachment parenting”. Now, the pendulum can, and always does, swing too far the other way. The media doesn’t help. I have rarely seen a TV programme about normal attachment parenting, it’s always the extreme end, with as weird as possible families.

Ignoring the mainstream media, (something I highly recommend), there are plenty of stories out there of families who are finding a better life by conforming to the natural law and especially in treating women as wives and mothers with the respect due their human dignity and role.

marriage and children: claiming it back for this generation

For forty years this generation wearied me, and I said in My heart they do not know my ways and they do not follow My path, and I swore in My anger that they would never see My place of rest”

Those of us who made it to adulthood through the Catechism-free-timezone of the ’70s, ’80s and much of the ’90s have been left with a very poor understanding of Faith and basic truth.

The results of the lack of faith formation and conscience formation are pretty awful. Marriage has taken a real battering because of it. We were taught that we should “do whatever feels right” and that contraception was fine really because the document Humanae Vitae isn’t really infallible. The fact that this is only one document among a host of others dating back to St Paul and the Didache was never mentioned.  We were fed the idea that God wants whatever we want.

Meanwhile some vestages of what I suppose was the pre-Vat II beliefs among some Catholics still prevailed. God was a mighty and angry judge who made up rules that He had no intention of letting us know or understand, just so that we would break them and He could have the malicious pleasure of sending us to hell.

It’s hardly surprising that navigating through such waters has caused many of us to get a bit lost. Thankfully with the internet and access to a more honest catechises many of us are finding the way home.  But in the meantime marriage has taken a battering.

One of the major criticisms of the Catholic Church in America is the astonishing number of marriage annulments that have been granted. This has prompted some observers to say that these annulments are nothing more than “Catholic divorce”.  Those who work on the panals for annulments insist this is not the case and that they are very careful in judging the validity of a marriage.

Two other explanations for the number of annulments are offered. First that it shows Catholics in America care about marriage enough to seek annulments rather than simply divorcing and trying to remarry. That seems a fair point to me. Listening to Catholic Answers over the years many people phone in with questions about annulment having made a mess of things and now being in the process of returning or converting to the Church.

The other very important observation is that far too many marriages are entered into invalidly. I think many of us can probably think of at least a couple of marriages that could easily lead to annulment. That is a tragic situation and it urgently needs bishops and priests to work out some way of properly preparing couples so that those who are heading for invalid marriages can be warned and helped – before they embark on the road to divorce, by getting pseudo-married.

As many people of my age and older have no clue what marriage is all about because no one ever taught us, we are producing a whole generation of children who reach adulthood with even less understanding than we were given.

We need to start educating ourselves so that we can help our children make good choices and so that we can pass on an understanding of marriage and life’s vocation. Better late than never.

Marriage and children: claiming it back

Catholics, both Latin and Eastern and Orthodox have a massive advantage over most other Christians in that marriage is a Sacrament. Not only do we have all the graces God gives in that but the other Sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist through Mass or Divine Liturgy gives even more grace.

This is not a magic potion to make marriage “happily ever after” however. The graces God gives in the Sacraments are tools we can use or discard. If we choose to use, gratefully, that which we are given it will certainly make marriage easier, but there will still be challenges, hard work and bad times to get through.

So let’s start with the Catechism:

1601 The matrimonial Covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole life, is by it’s nature ordered towards the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children; this covenant between baptised persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a Sacrament.”

So what do we see?

First marriage is a Covenant not a contract.  A Covenant can only be given freely and we see that the man and woman bestow the Covenant and therefore the Sacrament upon each other.

Second marriage is for the good of the spouses and the ultimate good of any person is making it to heaven, so spouses are to mutually assist one another on that journey.

And third; marriage ordered through nature and natural law to having and educating children.

Both spouses are supposed to love and educate the children. That means mum and dad need to be there. To be there, the couple many very well have to struggle through some horrendously difficult times and suffer because of the responsibilities and commitments that come with marriage and family life.

Believe me, whether you intend to or not, all parents DO educate their children, either for good or ill.  In order to educate our children for good, we need to love them by doing love even if that means saying “No” rather a lot (to them and to ourselves).

All the research, even that which comes from secular sources, show that children need a mother and a father, both girls and boys. It shows that children who grow up without a parent because one parent has died, find life harder, but children who grow up without a parent because of divorce or abandonment, do far worse, educationally, socially, emotionally and mentally over all. The exceptions in no way disprove the research.

As adults we are to protect the rights and needs of the children we are given. We are to sacrifice things we want for what they need.  It might mean small sacrifices such as giving up those toxic TV programmes that we’ve been having on in front of the children.; taking the TV, games console(s) and computer out of the their bedroom and guarding their dignity and innocence.

But there’s a lot more…

The moral minefield of being a mum

From the moment that extra line appears on the dipstick a mother has decisions to make about how to best take care of her child. There are some moral absolutes in there, but many decisions about how best to be a mother fall into the prudential judgement area, and that can be more difficult. Starting with what you put into your body. It is obvious that ingesting some kind of poison that will be detrimental to the baby is bad – but then is drinking any alcohol really bad? Or should all pregnant mothers really avoid soft cheese and prawns because some minor studies say so?  Once you have tiptoed through that little minefield and the baby has arrived, what about breast feeding?

Is breastfeeding a moral issue? In some ways yes, but again it’s in the prudential judgement area. Putting aside for one moment the obvious non-moral case of a mother who can’t breastfeed thanks to medical problems faced by her or her child (reflux, tongue tie, needing very strong meds such as chemo etc) there is still the question of breast verses bottle and how long to do what. I have seen some people make the strong sweeping statement that bottle feeding is immoral. But it isn’t intrinsically immoral, any more than needing a wet nurse is.

This is followed by what has been dubbed the “mummy wars” where a row breaks out over what is best, stay at home or work outside the home? If a mother has to work outside of the home, what is she morally obliged to do with her children?

Then there’s the education war between home education and send them to school. When, if ever, is it morally right to put children into institutional education? Is there ever a time when it is immoral to home educate?

Among this comes the question of when or whether to have the next baby.

We also are called to guide and teach our children to live good moral lives and that means using discipline. So what kind of discipline should be use?

When there are so few absolutes in being a mum, where do we turn for guidance, truth and strength? Is there a design for the family that we can try and follow so that we offer the best for our children growing up, while retaining some level of sanity?

Lots of questions. Now I have to try and work out some answers…

Are Stay at Home Mothers wasting their education or using it to the enth degree?

This article in the Daily Mail was brought to my attention. One of the mothers mentioned is home educating her children. There was a time when such a deeply stupid question would never have been asked, but we have sunk so far from the days when motherhood was regardless as a great calling, a great vocation, that mothers who do not hand their children over to institutions or strangers soon after birth must defend themselves.

There are a number of strange issues with the article, not least the fascinating way the photos have come across. The first two mothers look happy and settled, attached to their children, while the woman in the red dress looks like she doesn’t want to be with her son. She in fact is the one who astonishingly said she is bored “watching Cbeebies all day.” I bet her son is bored too! If someone who is supposed to be highly educated thinks being a parent means sitting in front of the TV all day, what is the definition of “educated” I have to ask?

It’s a sad fact that the culture today has so massively undermined the important role of motherhood, and almost eradicated the role of the father, that this question is asked as though it is a sensible question. It seems to me this is all part of the undermining of the Sacrament of Marriage that began in the early years of the 20th Century.

Mothers and fathers who stay home and don’t put their babies and toddlers into institutional care are trying to ensure their children have a healthy attachment which will mean they have the opportunity to acquire language and then learn it fully; to learn early social skills while being happy and safe and are then in a good position to better cope should they go to school and have better life outcomes in general and especially mental health. Those of us who are doing this with and for our children are not wasting our education, we are using and fulfilling it.

I did face the “But you’ll be wasting all that education and all those skills,” mantra when I began the process of giving up nursing to try and be home more, because my children needed it. I was even shunned. I remember being at the park with the children with my husband when someone who knew us both met us. On learning that I was now a stay home mother he simply ignored me for the rest of the conversation. No eye contact – nothing.

If I can teach my children not to treat other people based on their job prospects (as Jesus actually demanded) but to treat all people with respect, I will have done something good!

Our children are the future of the country we live in. Even from a purely political point of view, well brought up children who are able to hold down a job and show a sense of responsibility has to be worth something to the economy.  The fact that Mrs Thatcher didn’t want to support stay at home mothers is indicative of the astonishing shallowness of thought and economic understanding of politicians.

There has been plenty of written reports from as far back as Victorian times that show the importance for child development of a bonding between babies and their mother and having a mum and dad around for you. Mothers in particular were recognised as having a fundamentally important role in the forming of children so that they could grow healthy as possible and able to attain their potential in adulthood.

Back when I had to work for money, it was very difficult to be there for the children whenever they needed me. It was very difficult to be there when they were ill and I was constantly torn between my responsibilities to my children and the responsibilities at work. I really don’t envy any mother who goes through this – and I would seriously wonder at the conscience of a mother who isn’t pained by these situations.

We really need to fight for a return to the proper respect for mothers, especially those who also care for elderly or vulnerable relatives. Margaret Thatcher’s refusal to support such hard working, solid women, without whom this country would have collapsed a long time ago, is simply a sign of how uneducated she was (and most Oxford grad politicians are no better).

Home Education habit training – listening.

Ah it’s lovely to go back to a bit of Charlotte Mason approach. Today we had another family join us and we spent some time making lapbooks about Australian animals, particularly the platypus (proof it seems to me that God has a silly sense of humour). I have 30 days free trial for Sylvan Dell Publishing so we used the story Kersplatypus with the teachers and creative minds pdf resources to make the lapbooks. (I’ll do a proper review of Sylvan Dell soon).

We have an inflatable globe and the children found Australia and the equator and tropics. We discussed the seasons there compared to here and then we got out some of the Ozzie animals Heleyna got for Christmas which included a platypus and a wallaby but no Kangaroo. The lack thereof prompted her to ask me the other day whether kangaroos actually exist. You see she told me “I go and look for nature most days and I never see one.” I explained that they live in Australia and while there are wallabies at the local nature centre there are no kangaroos. She then asked if we could go to Australia that day to see some real kangaroos. She’s 4 – geography and scale are not yet her fortè.

The children had a great time and learned something (I hope). They all sat around while I read the story with the computer attached to the TV so they could all see the lovely illustrations and follow along as I read.

Making the lapbooks needed some instruction so the children had to listen to what they were told either by me or one of the others who had already done part of the book.

As Avila had practiced her keyboard skills with the others gathered around her “Listening” became a bit of a theme for the day.

J came up with the idea that we help teach the habit of listening in the children by having a little talent show where each child does something they are good at, such as Roni’s little magic show.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin...

I remember watching an episode of the Duggars (some number and counting) in which Michelle Duggar had the older children playing their instruments and she made the younger ones sit quietly and listen. This is a great habit training approach in which the younger children are taught to sit still and listen to someone else for a while and to have respect for their siblings and other people. The emphasis on read alouds in Charlotte Mason is also a great way to teach children to listen.  Apart from the books I read them there are a great number of audio stories free online.

There’s quite a lot of the “old fashioned” homeschool books out there in which teaching children manners is part of the health side of the curriculum. Miss Mason believed that training in good habits was the foundation of a good education. A child who cannot sit still, watch and listen isn’t going to learn very much.

I have spoken to more than one school teacher who tell me they do not believe in the dx of Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder, or just ADD – or if they grudgingly accept it might exist, insist it is far far rarer than they are being led to believe. Children are simply never taught any manners. They are not around adults enough to learn to sit and listen. Few have a bedtime story or sit at a table with their parents for meals and most have been institutionalised from a very early age.

Human nature is of course fallen- a bit like a shopping trolley it wants to steer off in the wrong direction and needs someone to help steer it straight. The role, right and duty of parents is to steer the child straight until they can do it themselves. We mustn’t lose sight of how human nature works.

education for a life – being isolated parents

Friends came over yesterday for our Friday joint history and art lesson day. Having spent some time looking at the 14thCentury Black Death that killed so many people it changed the way the world worked, K and I somehow got on to the subject of children and “stuff”. The plague effected the way people behaved. Our culture effects the way people behave too.

Iona mentioned she thought there were parts of the Sherlock Holmes film she has been to see that would be disturbing for children under the age of 12 or even slightly older than that. The rate is 12A and she has seen much younger children in the cinema and wondered why the adults were not more cautious about it.

Avila has come home from something and told me one of her friends has five TVs in their house and there are only four people. Avila was a bit taken aback that her friend has a TV in her bedroom.

K pointed out that as her children attend lots of groups in her area (which is a pretty wealthy area) that there is pressure on her to provide “stuff” because “everyone else’s children have it.” And this in turn leads to “but everyone else is allowed to do this,” conversations.

Iona mentioned watching a programme about Amish youngsters and how they worked really hard doing labour and housework. There were visiting children from the Uk (I think) who couldn’t even imagine having to do housework every day and actually getting satisfaction from the repetitive work of it.

“We learn patience this way,” one of the Amish children had explained.

I note that it must be much easier for Amish parents to bring their children up with a good understanding of their responsibility and having to work for what they have, as they are all doing it.

The biggest problem parents like K and myself have is we are surrounded by a culture in which parents wouldn’t normally dream of saying “no” to their children for anything. Little ones watch appalling TV programmes because the parents wont say no, and of course, wont turn the machine off.

It is so much harder to parent our children against the prevailing culture.

Even among home educators – especially in the UK I think – there is still the culture of “give ’em what they want when they want it” and don’t expect much from them as far as responsibility and solid moral behaviour. It really makes being a parent so very much harder than it would be if their was more mutual moral support.

In an interesting twist I think the internet actually helps with this. Knowing other families around the world who share the same moral underpinnings as we do can be a support in a difficult time. But also I think home education itself is as massive step forward in helping to keep a good deal of the toxicity of the cultural norms away from our children while they are developing as people.

It’s just a bit ironic sometimes when the “S” question gets asked and we are not really considered polite when we say how poorly socialised schooled children are. There is a bizarre acceptance, even expectation among parents that at certain ages children will behave obnoxiously and that’s all there is to it. In fact I wonder if parents are so convinced that nasty attitudes and behaviour are “normal” that they encourage it as they don’t want their children to stand out as “different”.

One of the major aspects of Amish life that I think the editors of TV programmes probably miss, is that their family centred lives have a purpose. The children might work much harder than the average Western kid, but they are part of a family structure that respects them and values them as people.

We really need to turn our culture around, and I think the first thing we need to do is respect our children and love them enough to say “no” as often as it needs saying – and especially when it’s just so hard to say it.

On parenting and no guarentees, and something Dr Ray Guarendi said.

Dr Ray Guarendi voiced his concerns t’other day, that parents can be led to believe that if we are good and holy in bringing up our children, then they will grow up to be good and holy too. He mentioned (and I have noticed this too) that even Catholic radio people have sometimes given this impression, with a “Do it my good and holy way and saintly kids are guaranteed” approach.

The fact is, as Dr Ray points ou,t that all our children have free will and God respects free will. It is an added burden I think, to expect all Christian parents to bring up lovely Christian children, and adds to the guilt and sense of failure if one or more of the children go off the rails.

Perhaps we should remember the anguish St. Monica went through over her son Augustine’s behaviour. Her grandson was born out of wedlock and she suffered and prayed for many years before her son became one of the greatest Catholic saints.

St Bridget of Sweden had an even harder time when her son Karl hurtled into sin and danger with his affair with Queen Joanna of Naples. If even saints like Bridget can have troublesome children, the rest of us are surely not exempt.

I have seen a couple of major problems with the way some parents think on the behaviour of their children. I knew one Catholic family who did not seem to feel the need to do the every day discipline with their children, but if something happened that was big enough to gain attention they were sent to Confession – not as a Sacrament (although I think they believed it was a Sacrament) but as a sort of Father will parent and God will dump grace on the child and they wont do it again. We can sit back.  I can tell you it didn’t work., and I was really put off by what looked like a misuse of a Sacrament.

The Sacrament of Confession is a vitally important one and we should be grateful Christ gave us such a gift. But we must do our part too. We are supposed to be sorry when we tell the priest (in persona Christie) what we did or didn’t do. We are supposed to have, with the Act of Contrition, a firm committment to amend that sin, especially if it’s habitual. Sending a child off to tick a box is not using the Sacrament or the grace it can deliver properly at all.

The other thing I have seen – and this again seems to be a Christian pitfall – is the No Tech= good kids idea. It’s the view that if you do not have a TV and do not allow your children near a computer that they will be lovely children, having no influences from the “tech world”.  Therefore when they are behaving rudely, spitefully, or other childish naughtiness, it doesn’t need dealing with, because it can’t be happening if they haven’t watched the telly.

Sadly, one parent I knew who had this parenting technique would get really upset when family members complained about her children’s unruly behaviour.

One of the difficulties I think many of us face is the question of discipline in public. Two of the home ed families who come to my house on a regular basis have no embarrassment at all about putting their children on the “naughty step” or making them stand by the front door. In fact for K  I vaguely remember a day when her and my children were all in various places around the house studying the front door, the back door and the stairs.

I cannot begin to express how much easier it is to parent children when fellow parents have the same standards on behaviour and how much more difficult it is when they don’t. It also makes it easier if the family are on board. My FIL is fine about me putting the children in time out at his house if needed. I haven’t had to do it very often, and that’s partly because they know I will if I have to 🙂

One thing that makes the more public parenting of bad behaviour more difficult is when someone else tries to make excuses for your child while you are setting them straight. If you are tempted to this, resist the temptation.

There are families that I have simply distanced us from because I couldn’t cope with the children’s awful behaviour.  It is isolating for the children as many families will react as I have done, but our children have fallen human natures too, and we mums frequently talk about ways to protect our children from being dragged the wrong way by their peers. Those of you who have children in school have an even harder task.

St Monica and St Bridget ora pr nobis.

Home education; sex ed – things that can not be avoided.

Yet again the government is trying to squeeze through some educational legislation that will enable strangers to talk about sex with very young children, whether the children are ready to have the information or not, and riding over the role of parents again.  But unless parents pick up the baton on this, forced sex ed will happen sooner rather than later.

So what about home education and sex education? It seems to me that sex needs to be taught on a firm foundation of virtue and that there is a kind of natural order to how children will ask and learn about it. In home ed circles whole families interact with each other so all the children see mums expecting babies and babies when they arrive. They will ask questions about how a baby grows in a mummy’s body and as they get older they ask how the baby got there in the first place.

We cannot necessarily “pretty” it up, for want of a better word. They will see mothers who are not married, or who have difficult pregnancies and will ask around those questions too. We answer with gentle but truthful answers that are not overloaded with details a child should not be expected to carry.

What we really must ensure is that our children grow in understanding of their own dignity and have self respect. This will guard against a lot of self destructive behaviour later on. This will grow as part of the parent and children relationships. More and more research is showing that children need a close relationship with a mother and a father.

But even this organic learning will have to have additional learning at some point. I must teach my children about marriage; how God has designed marriage and why. There’s all the interesting biology and chemistry that goes with that too and of course teaching girls to be aware of their own fertility and health with Natural Family Planning.

But there are also the really difficult areas of sex education that need to be faced and tackled. I don’t know many parents who are comfortable with discussing pornography and masturbation, but if we want our children to have a chance of a happy, healthy marriage and family, or vocation to the priesthood, religious or single life, we had better face these topics.

We live in a culture soaked in the message that all sorts of sexual practices harmful to both body and soul, are perfectly acceptable. If we, as parents, don’t tackle these things with our older children, then we can be sure those around them will tackle it for us and with horrible results.

It’s a much more difficult world for our children than for us, but how do we tackle it?

First, I think, we need to have our own eyes open. There’s no point in ignoring what the mass media puts out and pretending our children don’t see it, hear it or have it forced on them, from toddlers upwards. We need to have a sensible approach and a close, loving relationship with our children. This is a good starting point.

I know a mother who undoubtedly protected her pre-teen daughter from rape because her daughter was able to tell her about the man who was grooming her and what he was saying. It’s a horrible thing to have to deal with – but not dealing with it leads to worse horrors.

The statistics on divorce in America show that over 56% of divorces sight pornography as a reason for martial breakdown.  I would add to that the fact that if you spend any time with rape victims you will soon see that pornography has played a strong role in their attacker’s lives.

The way I have tackled this is to teach children from an early age to see all their fellow men as persons with dignity, made in the image of God and with a human connection as we are all children of Adam. This then, leads to reminding older teens that the people who get involved in the porn industry often have had horrible lives and are needing respect and prayer. If it was their sister or brother posing like that, they would be heartbroken. The person IS their sister or brother in humanity and there’s nothing sexy about handing over dignity.

I have also encouraged the older three (aged 22, 20 and nearly 18) to say a prayer for anyone they come across who is doing this. Fortunately I began these “lessons” early enough as one of my sons told me that porn was easily found on the internet on school computers by some of the kids who bypassed the controls. He said teachers did not supervise closely enough.

But it’s easy enough to come across by accident when searching the net – especially, I have found, if I am searching for Biblical themes. Be very careful!

A strong prayer life is vitally important. I also encourage the children to keep holy pictures near their computer screens. It is far less tempting to click that link when the Pantocrator is staring at you, or the Blessed Mother.  🙂

Chastity rings have been another great help for us – an outward sign of the prayed for grace. It’s a little reminder.

Tackle alcohol consumption properly. Don’t turn a blind eye when your teen comes home drunk. Don’t pretend you haven’t noticed. Drinking too much leads to all sorts of other sins and problems.

What if your child/adult fails and sins? Then make sure you are willing to listen or even challenge them. Forgive them and help them get back on the straight and narrow. Make sure they can get to Confession and to a different priest if they are chicken about confessing those sins to the parish priest who knows them.

Those of us who home educate have a somewhat easier time of it than parents whose children are in school. We see our children more closely, simply because we are with them. They tell us more, because we are there. Parenting schooled children is much harder and often we don’t get the pertinent information until well after the fact. Pornography is in schools, brought in on mobile phones and other gadgets. Do not naively believe your child wont see this stuff. In fact, if you are trying to bring up a good kid, they are likely to be targeted by those who carry this stuff around.

Finally I would say this. The culture is toxic in the extreme. As parents we have  much more difficult task these days than our parents or their parents had. But we must face it and do it. we must be aware of what our children are doing. Nevertheless, if you listen to Dr. Ray Guarendi long enough you will hear good parents who have genuinely tried their best, phone in about children who have seriously gone astray. It does happen. I saw it in my professional days too. Free will is just that, free will, and no matter how much we offer our children, there may be one or even two who go wildly astray. We must face that head on too, if it happens.

NFP and some interesting science on sexual maturity.

I have been listening to past programs from the Catholic Lab Podcast where Mr Maxwell goes through the science of the Theology of the Body. There’s some fascinating research going on at the moment, which is going very far indeed to vindicate the prophetic words of Pope Paul VI, who of course was only reiterating 2000 years of teaching. Truth doesn’t change.

Anyway one area of research I have been interested in is the research on early menarche and it’s causes. THIS is a short pdf summary of some of the research. More and more evidence is building up to show that girls need a good close relationship with their father for them to have periods at a healthy age, and remain healthy. There is evidence that girls who grow up without a father or with an emotionally distant father will start their physical sexual maturation much earlier than girls in healthy relationships with their father.

It has been found that in the 19thC the average age for a first period was around 16, nowadays it is 13 and girls with absent or distant fathers start much earlier. Evidence is building that shows girls who start earlier will often start sexual activity earlier too and are at a very high chance of teen pregnancy.

Other views about the increase in early menarche link it to environmental factors such as hormones used in raising beef and dairy cattle, and the fact that chemical contraception leaves synthetic estrogens in the water supply. Going by how the research is going the “absent/distant father” factor looks strong, but as life is always more complicated than that there is probably some factors that include food and the concerning problem of artificial estrogens being pumped through the water supply.


On a slightly different note this article and discussion on whether NFP can ever be equated with what has been called “contraceptive mentality,” is very good.

Are working mothers making their children sick?

I worked when the older three were little. At the time I really thought, and still think to be honest, that I had no choice. I spent most of my working life trying to find ways not to work, but for a while I was the main breadwinner, so it certainly wasn’t easy.

I have been listening to various podcasts and do love the Catholic Laboratory Podcast. I think it was one of those podcasts where Mr Maxwell talked about the research into children’s physiological reaction to being left. There is good research (which I already knew about) that shows that the stress hormone cortisol is raised in babies and toddlers who are left in nurseries or with other carers without their mother. This stress hormone reaches a peak around the age of 5 when these children are put into school and it seems these children have reached the limit of their stress. The obvious long term effects for mental health problems are there. I assume there will be follow up research to see if this answers some of the questions about the exponential rise in serious depression and even psychotic illness in children.

More research has shown something else. Children who are put into care as babies are at a far higher risk of failure to thrive. This is where children are generally underweight and ill despite a normal healthy diet.

My oldest had failure to thrive. I spent a lot of time taking him to peadiatric appointments where he was put through a gammit of tests for various serious illness. Every time he ate he was violently sick, to the point where he became nervous about eating at all.

The doctors had no idea then why such as thing as failure to thrive existed. But she told me that children always seem to grow out of it around the age of 4. Sure enough just after turning 4 Josh was discharged as he had finally put on some weight and stopped being sick. It seemed there was nothing to worry about and yet here is now at age 22 with type 1 diabetes. Is there a link? I don’t know, but as more research comes out showing how bad it is for children to be removed from their mother so young – we’ll have to see.

When the other two were younger I was able to be around a little more when they were little, although I did go through a patch of working very long hours when they were older.

Even then, when I worked in CAMHS, we were seeing much younger children who were floridly psychotic. It has been shown by study after study that children have increasing levels of depression and self harm. Families are disintegrating – and there’s a lot of fall out from that.

I hope as this information becomes better known that other families will be forewarned, and will not fall into the horrible trap. There simply has to be a better way for families, a way to allow the bills to be paid while living on one wage.

Listen HERE and HERE

Mums need help and should not feel guilty for it. Some responses.

There were a couple of responses on the mums need help blog that I thought were pretty worrying. One woman, who presumably is in a comfortable, financially secure situation, with all the help she needs and no seriously ill person to mess things up, insisted that mothers should never have to work because a sensible woman would not marry a man until he could show his ability to provide adequately for a family. Now, I think I get where this view comes from. A man should be working and have a living wage before he can marry However we now live in a situation in the UK and increasingly in the USA  I believe, where having a wage that can support  family is very difficult indeed. Having any job at all is getting harder and harder. Many of the dads I know who have been providing the single income for their families are either now out of work, or facing impending unemployment. One comment on the blog pointed out that her husband had become disabled at work and now she was the bread winner. These things happen.

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Mum’s need help – and shouldn’t feel guilty for needed it.

This blog post by Jennifer Fulwiler , which I read ages ago and am only just getting my act together to blog on, says, with much better grammar, something I’ve been saying for a looooong time.  In the comments thread someone else says something I’ve been saying for just as long – that until very recently mothers with young families had that help and didn’t have to feel guilty. It was pure coincidence that I saw a report from the UK a couple of days later, that said stay at home mothers are more depressed than those who go out to work and the reason – according to this report – was that SAHMs are left all day with little children and no adult company. In other words they have no support of any kind.  I also wondered how many of these depressed stay at home mums had husbands who worked such long hours they were essentially single mums, and how many had no dad in the home at all – but it didn’t say.

The comments on Jennifer Fulwiler’s blog post show some of the problems all of us mums at home face. First of all, far too many mothers have no immediate family support. The days when families lived and grew together are long gone. Most adult children live quite some distance from their parents and so the old-fashioned support of a mother to her daughter when the babies start coming, just isn’t there for many. On top of that is the very real problem that far too many couples beginning family life have come from abusive and chaotic childhoods where even if mum did live round the corner, you wouldn’t want her near you or your children.

The other big problem that is newer, is that many SAHM find she is the only mother at home with her own children. All the other mothers are out at work and the children out at nurseries or child minders. For some of my friends this means that working mums think they are the fall back child care. This can happen even when the family are in crisis – but the neighbour wants her kids picked up from school anyway.

It was picked up on that in the past, before the end of the Second World War at any rate, even fairly poor families could afford a servant to help with housework and child care. In fact I have been reading the story of Ven Anna Maria Taigi and I was surprised to see that even though they were dirt poor, they still had a servant. Even people like us, who are not on the bottom of the financial heap can’t afford regular help these days.

One way I think that overcomes some of the problems, apart from shunting aside the guilt for needing help, is to form communities that will work together. In the UK I don’t think home educators are that good at mutual support over all, but if you can form a little group of mums and children who will share lessons, and help each other out in emergencies, it can take a lot of stress out of life and make the business of being at home with the children less lonely and frustrating.

A cultural shift in attitudes towards mothers who dare to care for their own children might help too, but in the meantime, we mums need to stick together.

Home educators, even in this country, seem to have more children on average than other families. I think as the children grow older and having been at home together, learning together and forming closer family relationships, that as they reach adulthood, they will more naturally look out for one another. I certainly hope so. I want my children to support one another through the rest of their lives, to be the good uncles and aunts to their nephews and nieces, and be close enough to us that we can be proper grandparents (God willing).

If you don’t have family, then you need to make an alternative family. Close friendships in HE can make that work.

There are a couple of items that came up in the comments of Jennifer’s blog that I want to return to. They seem to reflect a certain cultural understanding that seems to me directly opposed to a Christian worldview and I was a bit shocked to see them written ostensibly by Catholics.

Over a nice cup of tea – mum conversation.

My friend J came over yesterday with her children. While all the children went off to play we had some mum and a cuppa time. We had a quick chat about starting term and as her oldest child and my youngest are about to begin their Home Education “officially” we talked about how or whether to mark their first day of term.

I have bought a pencil case set for all three of the younger ones so that they will start term with a sort of freshness. As it happens both Heleyna and E are already used to the learning business as it happens organically in a home education setting. It’s what Charlotte Mason describes as “education as an atmosphere.” Even so we want to make the first week special for the girls.

J then went on to tell me how a Sky salesman had come to her door trying to sell her the Package. She declined as they have their phone and internet set up thank you. He asked about her TV package.

“We don’t have TV,” she explained.

He was stumped and seeing she is pregnant asked about children.  He noticed the other three coming into the hallway behind her. He then asked her what she would do with her children without a TV. His parting shot to her as he left was that she would find things hard work.

The upshot of this strange little tale, seems to be that the gentleman from Sky believes that parents must have  TV to put their children in front of or else life will be “hard work.” The definite view that adults should be free to do as they please unencumbered by responsibilities towards their own children.

On the same theme really she noted that many parents are longing for the beginning of term so they can finally have their lives back when their children go back to school. I have come across this attitude a lot over the years and I really don’t get it. I have been there when a mother said how much she didn’t want the summer holidays and how the schools were unfair to expect parents to “entertain” the children for 6 weeks. She said it all in front of her children.

I vaguely remember hearing something about a poll of parents over TV. A shocking number of parents said they thought letting their children sit and watch TV for hours was good for them.  I am afraid I think they meant that leaving their children in front of the TV was good for them-that is for the parents. Let’s face it – they are not fighting (unless it’s over which channel) and they arent making a mess by playing, and sitting on the sofa ticks all the ‘elf’n’safety boxes. A modern dream.

Now, that’s not to say there are not genuinely good things to watch on TV. We have one, in fact we even have Sky (the bog standard, no extra’s package that they have finally given up trying to get me to improve). But it’s not the baby sitter and I am very strict about how long the children watch it and what they watch on it.  I am still horrified by the memory of the 4 and 5 year olds sitting in the hall of the middle class school I worked out and nearly everyone of them said they watched the truly nasty soap Eastenders, which is frankly unsuitable for adults let alone children.

One major advantage of home education is that most of us have a grip on what screen time and content our children have. When they all get together there is no peer pressure or isolation because one child doesn’t watch the trendy, but toxic programmes or play the right console games.

I am not saying the HE community is full of perfect parents with perfect kids. Far from it. But the imperfections and difficulties are not made worse by the culture, because we do tend to shun it. That doesn’t mean (sadly) that all HEd children grow up to be good adults. We have been burned by bad HEers. But overall, we are up against far less pressure and as we are with our children, who are with each other more often, bad influences can be mitigated.

Enabling versus love

The three cardinal virtues St. Paul tells us are Faith, Hope and Charity (agape) and the greatest of these is charity or agape-love. A very old saying is that charity begins at home. Perhaps because I’ve been writing about AA and Al Anon and because of a call in to Dr Ray I listened to recently and another peice of research about family life I heard about this morning I am wondering more how we as parents tread that fine line between a thoughtful love (as Miss Mason would have us give) and an enabling but ultimately destructive ‘love’ that isn’t really love at all.

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Home education; teaching about alcohol

Two days ago it was the feast day for the Ven. Matt Talbot, who along with St Monica is the patron of those who have problems with alcohol and alcoholism. He was himself a serious alcoholic who found redemption in his Faith and through that grace of God stopped drinking.

Back in my college teaching days I was booked to teach a whole lot to youngsters about sex and drugs but I never got asked to teach about drinking. This is odd really, when I look around and see that I have hardly met anyone whose life is destroyed by drugs, even in my nursing days (although there were a few certainly) but I have seen sex destroy people and so so many get destroyed by drink.

I still miss a friend who died at the age of 39 and can’t help but remember him telling me twelve years earlier that he didn’t expect to make it to see 4o.

The misuse of alcohol is so pandemic I wonder if any of us have families where no one has a drink problem. When I think about my family and friends I know so many who either are working their way up AA twelve steps or have been doing so.

It’s a disease (and I think I can use that word) that the NHS just doesn’t want to deal with. While huge amounts of money has been pumped into “stop smoking” campaigns complete with glossy pamphlets and expensive therapies, alcoholics can’t even get help with the DTs these days.

Meanwhile even the media has noticed that children are becoming alcoholic at horribly young ages, aided by marketing of kiddy vodka bottles.

The problem we parents have when teaching our children about drinking and how and when and how much, is that although it can destroy lives when misused, it can be fine and even healthy when drunk properly. It’s not like crack or porn where it should be avoided all together.

It’s something that comes up with us home ed mums when we are sitting together with a cuppa. We all know or are related to someone who hasn’t been able to drink properly. For some the problem isn’t just “they drink too much really,” it’s life destroying alcoholism and we are grateful for AA.

We tend to conclude that overall sensible drinking is caught rather than taught and certainly stats would suggest that those who end up drinking to self-abuse levels have lived with people who have done the same. But many of us know or are related to alcoholics who began drinking for other reasons in families where alcohol abuse wasn’t an issue until they did it. So, we conclude, just drinking sensibly ourselves isn’t the answer. For those who have a parent with a drink problem, just drinking sensibly is not an option as alcohol can’t be in the house.

What then are we, as parents, to do, to teach our children?

I’ll come back to this….

Home Education; teaching children how to be married.

I’ve got a half started post sitting in drafts about teaching sex education in home ed. But reading a few things recently has made me realise that it’s not sex education children need, it’s marriage education. In fact, looking at some of the more traditionally based curricula, I see things that lend itself towards forming children in such a way as to make them good parents when they are old enough. This learning also lends itself to making good priests and religious. In fact I remember Mother Angelica saying (and she isn’t alone in this view) that a woman who has never felt the desire to have children, will make a terrible nun or sister.

The reason I’ve been thinking more about preparing children for marruage, and the discernment of their vocation is because there is yet another bunch of statistics that show annullments in the USA are epidemic, and I am going to assume the problem is nearly as bad, or worse even, here in the UK. From vague memory, I don’t think Australia or Canada are doing well either.

As a whole, Christian marriage is in a mess, as more and more demoninations cave to the culture on divorce and remarriage. The Catholic church still teaches the Biblical law on marraige and still maintains it sacemental nature, but the shocking number of annullments granted begs a few questions:

Have annullments become Catholic divorces? That is, are ‘pastoral’  concerns over-riding truth and validity of marriages? And is this at the expense of children?

Or are these marriages really invalid? In which case an awful lot of people are entering into marruiage without the proper standards and freedom to do so.

Ot is it, as I think is most likely, a messy mixture of the two?

Whatever the root problem, there are some serious problems that need addressing urgently, to try and prevent more broken marriages and destroyed families. The Holy Father has already asked priests to be more aware of who they are marrying, because if these annullments are legit, then a lot of people are coming to the pastors and asking to be married when they have neither the knowledge or freedom to do so, and the pre-marriage preparation on offer at parish level is neither long enough, nor deep enough to root out those who are not validly entering the Sacrament.

Parents, as the primary educators of children, have a “right and duty” to educate our children for their adult life. It’s up to us, first and formost, to ensure out children know what marriage is, how to prepare for it, and what constitutes a valid marriage. And we have to face the fact that the biggest lesson our children will learn on marriage is from their parent’s marriage.

As both Pope Benedict and John Paul II pointed out, a man having a “mid-life crisis” and committing adultery is not grounds for annullment. The adults need to take responsibility for what is happening, and make valiant attempts to protect the children.

Jesus was firm that divorce was not acceptable to God (in fact the OT has the words from God “I hate divorce”, which I think is in Hosea) and Moses had only allowed it thanks to “hardness of hearts”.  Jesus said marriage is for life, unless it has been cotracted in “pornaea”.  A lot of English translaters put this down as “adultery,” but scholars understand Jesus didn’t mean adultery. He meant illegal marriages such as the pagans got up to, where siblings married or some other forbidden set up.  St Paul allowed divorce for those unevenly yoked – that is a Christian to a pagan who might otherwise hand them over to the authorities. This, today, is called the Pauline Privalege.

A marriage is valid when a man and a woman enter into it, freely, in understanding of the nature of the covenant and oath they are taking and open to children. They need to know what the vows mean and they need to know what it means to make a covenantal vow in God’s Name to receive the Sacrament and the grace that goes with it. If someone is standing in the face of God swearing in His name to take that other person til death do them part, and to be open to the children God wants to send, but has no intention of doing either – they are lieing in a very serious manner.

The sad, and scandelous information is that many people have no real idea what marriage is, when they enter into it – and that is what is getting them annulled. And  while it is certianly true that children retain legitimacy, the damage and pain to children in these situations is just as devastating as divorce.

I want any child of mine to first discern what life they are called t,o and if it is marriage to have a full understanding of what that means. There are times to talk and for questions to be answered. They must understand the nature of marriage and the dignity of the person. They must learn about service to others and putting the needs of another ahead of their wants and even needs at times.

They must learn to be responsible and independant, to have life skills and to have such a deep understanding of family life that they can “do family” themselves when the time comes.

I have not, at this point, bought any books or curricula on this, although my older ones have taken a great deal from the talks given by Jason and Chrystalina Evert: there are some good youtube vids which I think I may have posted here some time ago.

I haven’t even mentioned the horrible Wedding-consumer culture. That is truly yuk.

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 continued…

So, where was I? Ah yes, how to avoid the problems of jealousy among siblings if you, as the parent, give more support to one child than the others.

I think part of this is to do with the family culture. Part of it is also the personality of the children.  I think I have been very blessed that none of my children have (as yet) shown signs of jealousy towards a sibling. So, unlike some parents, I have been let off the hook somewhat in having to deal with it. I am grateful. When Avila was born she was ill and continued to be very ill for over three years. She and I spent an inordinate amount of time in hospital away from everyone else.  It was terribly hard going – so I am grateful I didn’t have jealousy to handle too.

I assume that if all the children know they are loved, they accept more readily that one child or the other may have more need of parental time, energy and material support than they do. It might also be a good way of showing them that should they ever be in such need they will be supported to the extent that they need it.

To be honest, I think the parenting decisions over adult children when they are sick are easier to make. If your child, no matter how old they are, is ill, you would automatically want to support them. So my friend spends all that time with her daughter’s family because her daughter is ill.  A couple of friends of mine have even moved house and one of those gave up her vocation to religious life to go and live near sick adult children to help care for them and the grand kids.

But what about the more difficult choices we might be – and many are faced with. Anyone who has anything to do with people  with addictions will know that there is a fine line between support and enabling. It is very destructive, of course, to enable an addiction – but many parents are faced with the awful emotional blackmail of bail me out because you should attitude of the addict.

Fortunately, at this stage of my parenting journey I am not faced with many very difficult decisions. The most difficult times have been when a child was seriously ill. When  Josh became seriously ill, I was in the fortunate position of having him still living at home, so while he had got gradually sicker and not realised how ill he was, I was able to spot it and take him to get medical help.  His dad and I were there when he was very unstable (the first year of type 1 diabetes) and helped keep him just about well enough to stay out of hospital. We hardly need to help it at all now – he is an adult who has taken over care for himself.

One aspect of having adult children, especially those still living at home, that many parents struggle with (it seems to me) is how to hand over more and more responsibility and autonomy to them as they get older.

I think this is where home education has a massive advantage over schooling. Home educated adults begin to take more control over their own learning from early teens onwards. As they are very much more part of the family than a schooled child who is away all day and then has a pile of homework each night – home educated adults get to take more responsibility for their own life skills. For example, while I am aware that nearly all the schooled peers of my children cannot cook or budget a meal, nearly all home educated young adults (that I am aware of both around here and from online) have been cooking family meals since their mid teens and are very aware of the cost of food and how to budget.

The other mine field that we have to face as out children become adults is sex, relationships and discernment of vocation.

Next time…

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…

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…

Charlotte Mason says…

Charlotte Mason went to Bradford to give some lectures.  I am reading those lectures. I have to say, so far, there is hardly a wasted word. She makes a statement that many HE parents have made that there can not be a one size fits all approach to education.

In hardly two households would the same plans be practicable; but every mother may stike out a course for herself, including what seems to her “the best” as her circumstances admit of: “What else am I for?” said a wise mother with reference to her duties in the education of her children.

She also has something to say about the business of handing children over to strangers for care and education. (This is something John Taylor Gatto speaks against too)

[You] must see the folly and wickedness of leaving children to the care of ignorant servants and vulgar companions at a period when impressions are most indeliable – a period when as we know, the germs of the future character are inherited.

So much of what she said and wrote (and Maria Montessori) is echoed by Gatto and others who point at the shockingly awful results of institutionalised child care and education. How slow we are to listen.

Home Education and working children.

The idea of children working in any way other than by sitting in school strikes a cord of Dickensian moral outrage at child labour. But in normal family life, most of us recognise that children taking part in the everyday chores that keep the home ticking over, is a necessity. It’s not just that the parents in the house want the help (although we do) it is part of children learning to manage every day life and recognising they live in a family, not a hotel.

One of the things that has changed over time is our view of what a “child” is and what an “adult” is and what should be expected of each. Our strange modern culture doesn’t seem to know what to do with children. So while five year olds are to be subjected to “sex education,” twenty year olds (and older) have no idea how to cook good food, what good food is, how to manage a budget or what it means to clean a toilet.

Now, obviously I am not advocating going back to the days of putting children down mines, or into mills and sweatshops. That is no way to treat children (it’s no way to treat anyone).  But why have we gone so far in the opposite  direction, to the point where many teenaged youngsters have no idea what end of a vacuum cleaner is what and have never worn rubber gloves?

I am reading “See I Told Me So,” the free book download I mentioned last week. it’s a fascinating set of stories from veteran homeschoolers. One story from a mother who uses a wheelchair and antother (I’m reading now) from a mother who nursed her own mother as she died of cancer and then was diagnosed with MS. She has managed to continue to have her children home, and did not cave and send them to school. Part of the reason she has managed is because her family are so close knit and because her children had learned to be capable. So capable that she was able to take two children with her to live with her mother (900 miles away) leaving her husband and two other young children in the care of her 15 yr old daughter. Was it easy? No, of course not, but the girls had grown up in a home environment where  they had learned what I suppose should be called “housekeeping” and how to give of themselves within a loving, God centred home.

I have come across young people (usually girls) who were the primary carer for the family, thanks to serious illness or the death of one parent (usually the mother) and the work committments or just absense of the other parent (usually the father). It was not always good for the carer, but often it did allow them to be adults and very capable ones. Instead of the professional pity that was heaped on these young adults, they were deserving of great respect.

My own children have had to deal with some pretty difficult situtions and my dd says she believes it has made her a better person. On one occasion, they had been in the difficult situation of having to call an ambulance for me and take charge of the younger ones. Later that day they came up to the hospital to vist. I was in a room shared with another lady. Duringt he visit we had talked about the plans for what would happen while I was stuck in hospital. This included completing the marmalade making, organise food and see to their learning.

When they had left the lady in the bed opposite confessed that she had overheard the conversation and she was astonished that two teenagers could be so easliy trusted to do all that we had discussed. She had two step children of similar ages who couldn’t boil and egg and would never be able to take over the running of the hosue while she was in hospital. In fact, as she was, it was a very difficult situation, requiring outside help.

Children need to be able to learn from what life throws at them. Constantly hiding them away  from reality (in school usually) is denying them a substantial aspect of life skills and coping strategies.  I always laugh when I see those comments about how home education is “sheltering children from real life,” LOL! It’s school that does that- and the results can be very damaging indeed.

When did it become “normal” for children to be tired and miserable all the time?

Most mothers I come across love their children and want the best for them. Not all, of course, but most. But over and over I am finding myself in conversation with mothers who are telling me how difficult life is for their family because life is just so demanding and difficult for their very young child or children. I am talking about children as young as 5,6,7 here. The thing that is making life so difficult, producing tired, miserable and even frightened children is school.

Mothers speak in tones of shrugged powerless shoulders as they explain how their child has been bullied, has to face (at the age of 6) that he isn’t good enough at something and must be thrust with strangers for the morning. The same child having just about adjusted to this change is thrust into the exam fever as SATS approach. He is SIX!

Mothers tell me how they must rush hither and thither dragging tired and disgruntled little ones with them to fit school, afterschool and extra stuff into their evenings. Clubs, groups, events getting later and later so that rest and even getting food become a major obstacle.

It seems to me, from outside this lifestyle now (thank God) that we have made child misery “normal”. These mums don’t want this for their children. Who would? But they are part of the great “groupthink” that expects this and must have it.

Things aren’t that easy in my world either. But I tell you, something absolutely drastic would have to happen before I would allow a child of mine back into that life of school, misery and exhaustion. Especially as so little actual learning takes place.

I am normally very careful about not being too critical of sending children to school. I am well aware that most people think it’s the best thing to do. I am also well aware that far too many of us made that decison with no understanding and I am very aware that school is rarely the best place for a child whatever their age. But I am left shaking my head as mothers tell me how miserable they and their children are- and tomorrow they will do it all again.

I’ve been listening to HS through the hard times today. Get it while it’s there and check out the book download too. There is some great insights and she even mentions a HS mum who uses a wheelchair (so I’m not the only one). One part well worth hearing is about how she began to HS her nephew. Her experience of him just out of school rang very true for me. I remember the same problems when I pulled Alex and Iona out. Enjoy.

All I can say to parents who are unsure is, think very hard before putting your children into school.