I am writing an essay for a university assignment. On the essential characteristics of effective teaching.

And I’m arguing that one of the personal characteristics of an effective teacher is having a calling or vocation to teach. An old-fashioned term to some, but a description of the commitment, time, love, care that good teachers bring to their work. It invades every area of their life; they watch a movie and immediately see how they can share it with their students for example; they have joy and enthusiasm in their work. They couldn’t stop teaching any more than toddlers can stop learning. It’s about love.

While pondering this idea of vocation, I thought of Good Shepherd Sunday, celebrated recently. A time to focus on vocation in life and particularly on vocations to the priesthood and to religious life.

We could have heard this idea of calling during a homily.

Or we could have heard something like this:

“Vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life are born out of the experience of a personal encounter with Christ, out of sincere and confident dialogue with him, so as to enter into his will. It is necessary, therefore, to grow in the experience of faith, understood as a profound relationship with Jesus, as inner attentiveness to his voice which is heard deep within us. This process, which enables us to respond positively to God’s call, is possible in Christian communities where the faith is lived intensely, where generous witness is given of adherence to the Gospel, where there is a strong sense of mission which leads people to make the total gift of self for the Kingdom of God, nourished by recourse to the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and by a fervent life of prayer. This latter “must on the one hand be something very personal, an encounter between my intimate self and God, the living God. On the other hand it must be constantly guided and enlightened by the great prayers of the Church and of the saints, by liturgical prayer, in which the Lord teaches us again and again how to pray properly.” (Spe Salvi, 34).” Pope Benedict XVI on the announcement of the 50th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, 2013, full text here .

What we heard, however, went something like this:

” On Good Shepherd Sunday we look at who we are, and who we are in community with others.”

Which may have nothing wrong with it as a statement in, say, the book I am currently reading (Co-Dependent No More), but at mass, on the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, on Good Shepherd Sunday? Really?

There’s no mention of commitment. None at all.

When homilies mirror self help books, we know we have come a long way from the idea of vocations and callings, and especially from the idea of vocations to the priesthood. This depletes every other area of life in relation to understanding vocation , be it parenthood or nursing or teaching. If the priesthood is not a vocation , if there is no mention of commitment or of God, then it seems , too, that nothing is a vocation; it’s all just a job or season of life.

And society is that much weaker without this notion of vocation, love and commitment.

Families are weaker.

Schools are weaker.



Life, Unschooling

Unschooling resources

Most weeks, we talk about unschooling.  Me, my kids, my friends.

We talk about what how and why unschooling works.

And what we need to make it work.

Or what we did to make it work.

I think we are education nerds.

What is it that makes unschooling work?

I have talked elsewhere about time….how time is often the biggest factor in unschooling. Time for at least one parent to be with the children, to take less demanding career positions, to work part time, so that they can just simply be there for the children. You can’t both work in demanding positions that require long hours. One parent has to have time for the children and may choose a less demanding position or part time work or a home business.  Many single parents testify to the fact that this is possible. It may not make you rich but it is possible. (See Sequencing)

Time for the children to play, to read, to explore, to not always live a hurried and harried lifestyle. (The Hurried Child)

Time for the children to grow and mature at their own pace and in their own way.

But what else do you need to unschool?

MacBeth came up with an interesting post on her unschooling  “must-haves”.

I second the duct (masking) tape!

For me, for us, our must-haves included:

A library card –  where would we be without our public libraries? Games, books, CDs, DVDs, magazines, toys in some libraries, journals. Computers and free internet access. A place to go and hang out. Perusing a shelf has sparked many an interest here.

Attitude – what? Yes, attitude. A parent’s attitude.  A learning attitude, an enthusiastic attitude, an attitude that enjoys life and is curious  and interested, that enjoys children. For the most part. Because none of us are perfect and we all have our days or seasons of sorrow or despair or irritability. I am talking, however, of the big picture, folks!

Parks – time for kids to explore and parents to explore or read or talk. Time to practice masterly inactivity.  And nature study. In all weather conditions.

When I started my unschooling journey, I began on a budget. (What else is new?). I bought a scrapbook for each child ( yes, even the toddler), for their journal or main lesson book or record or portfolio …whatever it is that you like to call it. I bought a scrapbook for me, for a homeschool journal or log (we kept this online for awhile). I bought your basic stationery supplies…textas, some water colours, coloured pencils, glue, sticky tape, plasticene (or made playdough or salt dough) …and yes that masking tape! I saved boxes and wood scraps and material scraps. We cooked. We did chores together. We went to the grocery store together. We talked. We went to libraries and to parks. We wrote. We drew. We made stuff. We listened to music and played music (recorders).We went to free museums and art galleries.We organized get-togethers with other homeschoolers and friends from church or other groups.

My only main purchases were some maths books from a local educational supply store and some unschooling books for me. To educate me.

And now with the internet, you could get these  for free. Or do some printing at your local library. And I don’t even know if I’d bother with the maths books now. But they were there. As a guide.

And I would definitely second and third and fourth the resources and support and unschooling education for the parent.

Minimal must-haves. I think, I guess, because in unschooling, as is often the case in life and in education and in mothering, less is more.