A day in the life of… An answer to those who asked how Unschooling looks for families with teens.
5.44 am Mobile phone alarm beeps. I jump out of bed to grab the phone and switch off the alarm because I can’t bear the noise and don’t want it to wake the family. Then, because it’s cold and wet, and because I went to bed at midnight doing work for Kumon, I take my phone back to bed with me for ten minutes. I say a few Hail Marys.
6.05 am Doing a Taebo workout in my room. Time for a half hour workout today… Total Body Blast, kickboxing and light weights. Go Billy Blanks!
6.40 am Getting dressed for work at OOSH. I lay my uniform and jeans and Converse out the night
before so I don’t have to think in the morning. Because I took those ten minutes in bed there is no time now to wash and dry my hair so I put it in pigtails.
6.50 am Leave for work… Running a bit late.
7.00-9.30 am Work as a co-ordinator at an out of school hours care centre. Set up dominoes and tristar games and pet portraits, chat to children and parents and staff, do paperwork, plan afternoon activities.
While at home, builders arrive to fix the termite damage in our rental home. Jonathon and Alexander in Madrid for WYD (lucky things!) and Greg is home for a week before going to the US for postulancy and novitiate. So Greg, Anthony, Thomas get up, workout, tidy, talk, pray, breakfast, computer, errands
9.40 am Home from work, talk to a Kumon parent on the phone, say hi to builders and sons, check email on my phone. Anthony makes a pot of tea and we try to find a quiet builder free area to talk. Can Anthony’s friend come over? Will Greg proofread Anny’s report on Sir Robert Menzies? We all talk, look up movies online, go on Facebook, Thomas writes a blogpost.Anthony puts on a load of laundry and we laugh at how much less washing we have with two away.
About that report. A couple of weeks back it came to me that we were inadvertently studying Australian history this year ( see my post on Inadvertent Homeschooling). With trips and outings and books that came our way. So I suggested to Anthony that he write a report on a famous person in Australian history.. And this he finished yesterday.
About that blog post. A long discussion in Melbourne , about writing and commitment and self discipline and a friend’s blog, encouraged
Thomas’ blog, Life as a student.
10.10 I go to finally wash that hair, reading a bit of Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain ( that modern spiritual classic) and the beginning of Run Your Butt Off (an introduction to running as a workout and sport) on the way. Anthony and Greg play a video game with Anthony’s friend , David. Then David and Anthony play some piano.
10,55 Say goodbye to the builders… They should be finished this weekend and painters in next week! Yay! Kids drop me off to my eye specialist appointment and they head off to the shopping mall. In the waiting room I start to blog, watch the news, read parts of the aforementioned books. This is my rest! Or at least how I look at it… Not boring waiting time!
I look at my To Do list… Is there anything I can do while in the waiting room? I pray the prayer on the holy card I use as a bookmark.
I download some songs on ITunes and field another call from a Kumon parent. While the boys visit the shops and library.
Does it seem like I am filling in time??
I pray for the pilgrims in Madrid.. That plenary indulgence you know!
1.20 pm Finally texting Greg to pick me up… Waited two hours for a six minute consult!
1.49 At the food court for lunch. Lentil beetroot fetta salad! Anthony and his friend play with Bucky Balls, beads with which they make creations. Greg goes to the orthodontist and Thomas to work as an assistant at a nearby Kumon centre. I talk, text, catch up on email. With a skim chai latte!
2.53 pm Rushing to work, late again. Anthony with his friend David at home, playing games and music and reading. Greg will take Anthony to piano lessons at 5pm while I plan indoor activities for the kids at OOSH on this rainy, windy day.
6.05 Walking in the rain, waiting for my lift home from work. Then we leave a car for Thomas at his work, so he can drive to youth group in our parish after work. Home to say hi to dh, home early from work interstate in Canberra. Anthony tells me about music lessons. Builders have finished and gone! I dry my hair and we go to mass in our parish and Anthony then to meet Thomas at youth group.
We talk about St Louis of Anjou, the first Franciscan bishop. And hear from our pilgrims in Spain… It’s amazing!
I get to pray the Morning and Evening prayers of the Office before and after mass ( yay! But hangs head in shame re catch up). Then home to pick up dh … Just we three, Gerry, Greg and I for dinner, some time to chat before Greg goes away.
Where shall we eat?
8.44 At a local Thai restaurant. Thomas and Anny still at youth group. Hearing all about WYD from pilgrims and about studies in the US from Greg.
9.48 Meet T and A at McDonalds for coffee and chat about youth group. Still cold. Pouring rain.
Discuss tomorrow’s plans.
Discuss items in the newspaper.
And talk about writing. And blogs. And personal culpability. And mental health problems.
10.48 pm Home . Very , very cold. Anthony does more laundry. I tidy up. We pray and get ready for bed. I make a To Do list for tomorrow, adding the many things I didn’t do today.
An early night.. We were going to watch an episode of Numbers (Maths and crime!) but we are oh so tired after a busy week… So bed and reading for us all ( and blogging for me!)
And so.. Why not visit theUnschooling Catholics blog?
And do some strewing yourself…..strewing conversation, as I talk about in the post above.
Love and commitment
You know, when you read those How To Keep Your Marriage Alive books, the one thing they tell you to do is communicate.
You know, when you read those How To Keep Your Teenager Close books, the one thing they tell you to do is communicate.
But.. Well… sometimes communication just doesn’t cut it.
Sometimes you don’t even like each other that much.. At the moment. And the thought of communicating , of working on the relationship, is almost like pulling teeth.
Actually, you would rather have your teeth pulled than work on this together.
And, you know, that’s okay.
Because, contrary to the advice in the popular self books, communication is not the most important tool in the relationship box.
Commitment is the most important tool.
It’s when we make a commitment to a relationship, be it marriage, parenting, that special friend, it’s at the moment of commitment that we hold in our hands the most effective tool for the development of the relationship.
For love is commitment.
We commit to that relationship .. Regardless. There will be problems, there will be times when you annoy or hurt each other, when you feel all is lost, when you want the other to leave or the teen to grow up and away or the friend not to call or text.
In these times, it is your commitment to the relationship that makes a difference.
Commitment makes a difference to you. Because you don’t give up on the relationship. Even when you want to.
And commitment makes a big difference to the other. The spouse, the teen, the friend. That know , deep inside, even when they don’t consciously recall it, even when all seems lost, they know that, in spite of hard and horrible times, there will be good times and that you will be there for them . Always.
“The future starts today, not tomorrow.”
— Blessed John Paul II
It does. It starts today with relationships built on commitment.
I’m quoting British PM David Cameron here.
His phrase, in reference to the British riots and to a loss of a sense of right and wrong, of values, has been our driving-in-the-car discussion.
Because, sadly, I see this poverty of culture with many children. They are materially comfortable but culturally, aesthetically, spiritually poor.
Our culture has let them down. We have sunk, many times, to the lowest common denominator in our entertainment, in our books, our television watching, to whet our baser appetites for more. As in that Merton quote.
We have dumbed down our curriculum. Made it politically correct. Taking away all the study of beauty, of art or of poetry, any study of art and poetry for their own right, to reduce it to study for outcomes. Be introduced to genre. Learn to write an exposition. Learn an art
technique, study the theme of revolution in poetry…not poetry for enjoyment. Watch what amounts to political propaganda for religion. And
do all this to achieve the outcome, to fit our current ideologies , not to see the beauty of the written word or of the artwork. Not for enjoyment. But for utilitarian purposes.
The same could be be said of the Christian world or of the Church. In an effort to be relevant, the Church has lost its sense of the sacred in many places and in some liturgies. Christian art and Christian music is often banal and pop culture driven. The children , the young people
don’t come to church, to worship, in an atmosphere that inspires awe. They come to be entertained, to see friends, because they should .
And when that fails they often leave. They don’t see anything in Church that the world can’t offer.
And don’t give me the old tired statement that children nowadays aren’t interested in the sacred, in beauty, in being brought out of themselves and their utilitarian media and consumer driven culture.
I work with kids. And when, for example, instead of self-centred morning news at OOSH, I introduce discussion on a staff member’s trip tp World Youth Day and Spain, are the children bored? To the contrary. They tell me what they know of Spain, they ask questions, we discuss
the Spanish culture.
Or they look at the artwork on my IPad when I take it in for use on “lazy day”. Who’s that? Mary. A painting by Raphael. Who’s he? An artist.
And they are interested. They look at the colours, at other paintings.
And the children in catechism class show a similar interest and thirst. Not for the curriculum of “niceness” but for something that inspires. We talk about WYD, we look up Spain on the map, we discuss Spanish food and icons. I talk about St Ignatius of Loyola and St Mary of the Cross, recent feast days, and the boys’ eyes light up when they hear about St Ignatius being a soldier. They ask questions about what he
read to make him want to be a priest, about why Jesuits often had to smuggle into England to say mass during the Reformation and post-
Reformation, they ask about living a life for something and not giving up. “Oh, like when you told us fortitude! ” Yes, when we talked about
the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Wow, they remember. They understand. They have a thirst for real knowledge, for visions, for dreams, for the
sacred, for things outside of themselves or out of the ordinary.
After Mass on Sunday night, a mother came to me with her son, I said hello as I teach this little boy in Catechism. She said yes, all he
could do during mass was keep pointing me out, telling his mum the things he had learned in class. Now, I am not saying this because I think it is admirable for children to talk in mass. Or because I want you to think I am the world’s best teacher. I am sharing because this incident illustrates my point. That these children can understand beauty and the sacred, can be interested in that which is good and true.
We just have to feed them the right stuff. Give them the beauty. Encourage awe. Give them a sense of the sacred. The truth. The higher
We have to create a culture of value. Not a poverty of culture.
Thomas Merton was converted to a life for God in part by the beauty of sacred art. Surely our children deserve the same opportunity for conversion?
“We live in a society whose whole policy is to excite every nerve in the human body and keep it at the highest pitch of artificial tension, to strain every human desire to the limit and to create as many new desires and synthetic passions as possible, in order to cater to them with the products of our factories and printing presses and movie studios and all the rest.” Thomas Merton, Seven Storey Mountain
And yet, when I sit in adoration of Our Lord, in church , I am drawn apart from this tension. I am with God.
So this is my answer.
In Adoration, I am taken out of self, away from desire. I am with God.
A bit of a through-the -Stargate -experience, for those fans of the science fiction television series Stargate. For I am out of my world, my noisy busy world, and I feel alone with God. Sometimes praying. Sometimes just being. Sometimes laying down all my thoughts and prayers and concerns for others, for this busy world .
“To visit the Blessed Sacrament is . . . a proof of gratitude, an expression of love, and a duty of adoration toward Christ our Lord.” (CCC 1418)
Inadvertent. Not resulting from deliberate planning.
There are times when our Homeschooling looks almost unintentional. Inadvertent even.
Where learning and activities and themes just seem to happen, to arise from the dust and, like a Phoenix, to arise in glory.
I call this inadvertent Homeschooling. Where themes and connections appear to happen almost inadvertently…without deliberate planning. Just by being and doing.
The old maxim fail to plan, plan to fail does not consistently apply in Homeschooling. There are times, many times, many seasons, where deliberately choosing not to plan but to mosey along is the right path. Leads to learning.
And to our inadvertent themes.
Not themes of work planned and implemented and tweaked as we go.
But themes that must happen…so that one day, filling out our journal or log, talking, thinking about an outing or a book, we realize that there has been a theme and connection in our life and learning. Looks good on paper. Our thematic learning. Post and not pre-programmed. Recognized and written in our log after the fact.
Like our Australian unit this year.
Who knew we were going to get into Australian history?
Yet, looking back on the months so far of 2011, I see a theme, placed inadvertently amongst a visit to the King Tut museum, to trips to Melbourne, amidst some Maths and Physics and Latin and debates on liturgy.
We moved house. In the unpacking, Anthony rediscovered the My Story books, novels set in differing periods of Australian history. I began to find these left on a chair or a sofa, as he reread .
Looking for a post Easter activity, I remembered a reasonably local museum. So off we traipsed and learned about local Australian history and geography.
Awhile later, we were discussing church architecture and Anthony mentioned that he had wanted to visit the crypt of St Mary’s Cathedral. Another outing, this time just we two, And a visit to the crypt told the story of colonial Sydney. Which made me drag out our copies of The Pictorial History of the Catholic Church in Australia.
Then, I found a leaflet about the Rocks Discovery Museum…the early settlement of Sydney Town. With wandering around the Rocks and Sydney Harbour and pancakes for lunch to follow.
Now if someone asks what-we-are-doing-for-school, we can say Australian history. Inadvertently.
Who knew that 2011 would involve Homeschooling with Australian history?
We deliberately failed to plan but no, we haven’t failed. We have learned. We have had fun.
The learning inadvertent to life and fun.