Catholicism, Life

Save me from pop psychology

Save me from pop psychology.

You know, the quick, superficial advice given in agony aunt columns or in twenty dollar books found in the motivation or self help section at Dymocks. Say affirmations, be affectionate, put it out to the Universe.

The suggestions may be helpful ( though I am a bit dubious about putting it out to the Universe!) but they are superficial;  band aids that seem to apply to every situation and to promise a fix…when in fact,  the band aids apply to very few situations – every situation is different, there is no one fix, we should look for principles and reflection, for  band aids can end up masking a problem.

Ask me how I know.

Save me, especially  from pop psychology masked as a homily. That one chance per week, for many people, to hear the word of God and to have a connection made with the Divine, should not be marred by popular psychology and tips on family life that can be gleaned from the latest self help and family books and that are devoid of any depth.

We could hear about the Divine, about devotion to the Holy Family.

Or we could hear the latest popular thought on families , out of the latest parenting and family advice book.

Guess which is the most appropriate for Holy Mass.

Guess which one we will not hear elsewhere. And why it is so important we hear the Scriptural message, not the current popular superficial message, at Holy Mass.

And ask me how I know.

 “Our continuing catechesis on prayer leads us, during this Christmas season, to reflect on the place of prayer in the life of the Holy Family of Nazareth. In the home of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, we learn to contemplate the mystery of God’s presence and to grow as faithful disciples of Christ. The Gospels present Mary as the supreme model of prayerful meditation on the mysteries of Christ’s life; in praying the Rosary, in fact, we unite ourselves to her contemplation of those mysteries in faith and hope. Saint Joseph fulfilled his vocation as the father of the Holy Family by teaching Jesus the importance of quiet fidelity to work, prayer and observance of the precepts of the Law. Jesus’ unique relationship with his heavenly Father was reflected in the prayer life of the Holy Family and stands at the heart of all Christian prayer. May the example of the Holy Family inspire all Christian families to be schools of prayer, where parents and children alike come to know that closeness to God which we joyfully celebrate in these days of Christmas.” The Holy Father, Feast of the Holy Family, 2011.

Life, Unschooling

The Conscience Pudding

“If Mother had only been away for a little while and not for always, we shouldn’t have been so keen on having a Christmas. I didn’t understand this then, but I am much older now, and I think it was because everything as so different and horrid we felt we must do something, and perhaps we were not particular enough what. Things only make you much more unhappy when you loaf about than when you are doing events.”

And so begins The Conscience Pudding, by E.Nesbit, and one of the books in our basket of Christmas books.
I have always loved the Bastable family, after being introduced to them as a child through E Nesbit’s books. I loved their unity and the fact that they were unorthodox and that they pulled together through trials.

I loved their adventures.

This Christmas was a Conscience Pudding Christmas for us. Things were different and yes, as a mother, I knew that we should not merely loaf around.

Our Conscience Pudding Christmas had us participating in Midnight Mass at a convent and not in our parish.

Our Conscience Pudding Christmas had us sharing chocolate and fruit for breakfast, giving each other, warts and all.

Our Conscience Pudding Christmas had us playing a “band”, of wind instruments from our Christmas crackers, performing carols amid yells and shouts and chaos and jokes.

So, it was a different Christmas but not a “plain old pudding” Christmas, to quote Oswald Bastable.

And it brought home to me the importance of both flexibility and ritual, of celebrating change, of parenting and of Stephen Covey in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: “Empathy takes time, and efficiency is for things, not people.”

Education takes time, mothering takes time, relationship takes time, healing after feeling broken takes time…and Christmas takes time.

Not efficiency.

That has been our Conscience Pudding realisation.

Life, Unschooling

Worth it?

Now, I don’t want to make this into a soppy post.

Like Dimsie, in the Dimsie books of my childhood, I don’t do soppy.

However, going through many hoops of late, trying to translate homeschooling into traditional terms, trying to find a way to support the family and looking at my patchwork of part time jobs and businesses and work here and there that I have undertaken on putting family first and career second, realising that it is harder for the older me to return to full time work and earn enough while having career satisfaction, realising that had I worked more or full time or planned my career better, I wouldn’t be in this position, being told that  unfortunately my years of homeschooling and working part time don’t easily translate into traditional formats, being told that I am” too old and will never get full time work and support myself  and sons”…well, then, I have been forced to look, really look, at my choices.

If my kids had been in school, if I hadn’t done less paid work and less study  during my child rearing years, things would be a little bit easier now.

Yet. Yet.

Singing out loud with four teen and young adult sons, belting out “Total Eclipse of the Heart’ in the car when the song comes on rotation on the iPod, makes me smile.

Having sons give me money upon my meeting friends for dinner,  with strict instructions to “eat something decent and don’t look at the cheapest item on the menu”, as I would usually, makes me feel wanted. Cared for, even.

Talking and talking with the kids about gun laws and Dr Who and education and philosophy and wine and memories makes me see our connections.

Yes, they grow and leave.  But they do so with my happy blessing, the older sons lead their lives and I lead mine; they also leave, however, with my quiet inner assurance that homeschooling was the right choice, perhaps not for you or for everyone. But for us.

I may have to jump through more hoops now, I may have to settle for second best in my career, I may never own my own home, but I know, deep down, that the boys and their education and their sphere of influence, who they are and what they do, is a direct result of the effort of building family, of quality and quantity time, of homeschooling.

And I wouldn’t trade that for the world or for acclaim.

Maybe I will never reach my full career potential…but I would still, without a moment of doubt or without a  glimmer of hesitation, recommend this act of love for family to a young mother.

It works.

It is a career in and of itself.

Worth it?

You bet.


Mathematics and the high school unschooler

How do you teach maths as an unschooler…don’t they need Maths in high school?

The short answer is both yes and no. They do and don’t need Maths.

Of course, everyone needs maths in every day life and some of my sons have had a natural ability or interest in all things mathematical. Maths for them, has meant higher maths, whether through books like The Joy of Mathematics, texts by Saxon, Kumon maths or the ilk.

For others, higher maths has not been of, well, higher interest. Maths in every day life, maths journals, some text work to meet proficiency has been just right.

Entrance to university? Proficiency in Maths is sufficient for the SATs or STAT. Open Universities here in Australia offer first year university Maths courses or UniLearn courses for those wanting to do degrees with Maths requisites.

It’s been an individualised, teen led approach.

A friend on Facebook recently quoted me, something I’d written  thirteen years ago ( thirteen years! Oh my gosh!) on a homeschooling email list. It related to late readers and children learning to read. But it fits just as well for Maths and learning Maths, in my experience.

“They learn to walk at their own speed and to potty train at their own speed……why can not learning to read be expected to happen in the same way….”

Learning Maths in their own way in high school unschool.