Tag Archives: mum time

Home Education: Quo vadis mater?

I don’t know exactly, is the answer to that question. Where am I going with this?

I started home educating about 8 to 9 years ago and did so because I was cornered. My son’s education was failing him so spectacularly, I had to do something. Feeling that I would never be able to get to grips with home education I read everything I could lay my hands on. I fell in love the work of Charlotte Mason and her gentle art of education with it’s Classical foundation that didn’t destroy a child’s natural love of learning, but on the contrary, cared for it so that it flourished. I also loved her love of books and insistence on good literature and no twaddle.

I heard about Dr, Maria Montessori along the way, but didn’t read much about her.  Now, as I read her work I think there’s more than just a physical likeness between the Northern English school teacher and the Italian doctor. (And you must admit, they do look alike).  They both base their educational philosophy on the solid rock of the child as a person, made in the image and likeness of God with inherent dignity and deserving of deep respect. They are both very Christ centred in their philosophy, which gives the firm foundation to the method. Neither women saw the child as a blank slate for the teacher to write on, nor a machine to be programmed; they understood the child’s personhood and soul.

I began to see that my youngest needed a more hands on, manipulatives approach to education. She learned best when she could touch it, move it around and build it herself. Book learning was proving very limited for her. She wasn’t interested in paper work and I was worried she was actually being put off learning by the method I was expecting her to use.

If she could touch it, smell it, rattle it and run after it, she was happy to learn about it. She has a rather chaotic, leapy-abouty approach to life, which can be a bit wearing at times.

So I began to look at the Montessori method and read her books, and get to grips with her philosophy.

I bought the first set of Montessori materials and found that all three of the younger children took to them immediately. I also began making some of the things Montessori recommends. Using large wooden trays to contain the work has calmed Heleyna down a little in her work. We’re working on this to try and increase her concentration span.

The change over however, feels very rocky for me. I was set up with the CM approach and fed in a classical and workbook side of things without making too many waves, but the Montessori Method is very different and I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed at times.

Yes, the approach works very well with my children, but the equipment is very expensive. A lot of Montessori homeschoolers make their own equipment out of wood, clay or by getting hold of wholesale supplies of beads.  But the fact is, this would take up a lot of time and energy that I don’t have.

In reading of the Casa Bambini’s what I find is children who are enabled to independent learning from quite an early age. They explore, self correct and learn using the carefully chosen and designed resources Montessori provided.  As I get sicker, this looks like the perfect solution, at least I hope so. If I can get the children to a point of using the equipment and books themselves, self motivated learners and discoverers, it will matter much less how ill I get. Most importantly I want them to know how to learn and how to discern truth.  I want them to understand that seeking truth is the most important role of education.

I am hoping I have bought all we will need for Montessori lessons, and the rest will be makable or do-withoutable.

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…

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.

Lesson for home education mum: know your limitations.

THUD! That was the sound of me metaphorically hitting the brick wall. Time to step back and sit down methinks.

I feel  a bit like St Barnaby of Compiegne having just dropped all the balls. (Tomie dePaola re tells the story beautifully in his book The Clown of God- without mentioning the saint by name though).

I think I’ve been trying to keep too much going for too long. We are, as I’ve mentioned before, financially stretched to the utmost, so like the eejit I am I thought I had better find some way to earn money. Now I home educate full time and there has been rather a lot of ‘other stuff’ to handle over the last year or so, but that didn’t make me see sense.

Then something else happened recently that made me think I could start to solve the financial stuff side of things-only it was here one minute and gone the next. Did I wonder what God was trying to say? No, I was too busy.

So in my busy-silly state I thought I could write a book. You see it would solve lots of problems- I would be writing my own Language Arts curriculum which could be used with the children AND I could sell it so I could afford other stuff curriculum wise. Aha! So then there was the small, but rather important factor of TIME. I don’t have any spare. In fact I am so tied up time wise that my elderly friend can’t even get a phone call from me when I was supposed to give her one and I ended up sending the photos I promised her via Josh. So.

Yesterday-having not stopped to think this over much- I decided that the afternoon would be curriculum and book writing time. As it happens it is nigh on impossible to write a book or anything very coherent when stressed out and surrounded by questions such as;

“Can I have a drink please?” ” I can’t reach the book” and “I need a WEEEEEE!” (trans. put me on the toilet I’m too small to get up there myself).

Now I know there are homeschooling mums out there who manage to write, publish and sell books, but I just can’t for the life of me see how they do it if they are surrounded by their children (especially a 3 year old). Any ideas?

Then I spent some time teaching Josh -who wants to be a paramedic- how to take blood pressures the old fashioned way without batteries, and we discovered my BP is 165/120  Whoops! It was still like that the next day hovering around 170/110 and  more. Of course if I hadn’t been teaching Josh I wouldn’t know this and would probably continue being an eejit.

Right then. Decision time. I wont be writing a book. I’ll do the worksheets for That Resource Site and their brilliant blog- but no book writing.

I’ll concentrate on home edding with whatever I can and forget buying other books for a long time. We’ll have to manage without. Anyway I would have to fall a long way before the children were getting a worse education than a school can offer.

I am going to try and go back to the promise I made myself ages ago (that disappeared) that there will be Mum Time at least once a week where I sit quietly with a book and no interruptions for 15minutes.

And I will learn-slowly probably- to be a bit more realistic about what I can do.

Home educating the children is important and it means I have to be with-it to do it. So. Time to get to grip with my limitations so I can juggle those balls again without dropping them.

St Barnaby say a quick one for me 🙂

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.

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.