Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

Are You, or Your Children, Addicted to the Net?

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

Newsweek ran a very interesting article recently: Is the Onslaught Making Us Crazy? Tony Dokoupil examines the growing body of evidence that the internet is changing the way we think and feel. He writes,

The current incarnation of the Internet – portable, social, accelerated, and all-pervasive – may be making us not just dumber or lonelier but more depressed and anxious, prone to obsessive-compulsive and attention-deficit disorders, even outright psychotic. Our digitized minds can scan like those of drug addicts, and normal people are breaking down in sad and seemingly new ways. . . . In less than the span of a single childhood, Americans have merged with their machines, staring at a screen for at least eight hours a day, more time than we spend on any other activity including sleeping. Teens fit some seven hours of screen time into the average school day; 11, if you count time spent multitasking on several devices. . . .More than a third of users get online before getting out of bed.

Dokoupil goes on to describe the way heavy internet users’ brains begin to resemble those of drug addicts, and that even when people state that they want to withdraw from such constant use of the internet, they find it almost impossible to do so. Part of the issue is that a great number of us are connected to the internet for work reasons. One spends all day online for work, and then goes home and spends time online for pleasure.

Smartphones contribute to the problem as well. It used to be that you actually needed to be near a computer to connect to the internet. Today, the internet travels with us. People text and surf and post photos while pushing children on swings, or while watching a soccer game, or while out to dinner with friends. It is never-ending.

Among teens, there used to be a break between the world of school and the world of home. Now, whatever social problems a teen may be having at school follow them wherever they go. There is no escape. Everything is about the social image one projects. One teen quoted for the Newsweek article states: “It’s a nervewracking learning curve, a life lived entirely in public with the webcam on, every mistake recorded and shared, mocked until something more mockable comes along.” At the same time, these teens live in fear of missing out on something should they disconnect for a while.

The internet has brought much good into the world and I wouldn’t want to return to the pre-internet era, but as with any good thing, it has the potential for abuse and overuse. I don’t have a smartphone and I only go online for a few hours a day while I am working, but I’ve noticed that even given my limited exposure, my focus isn’t what it used to be.

Even while I was working on this article, the internet was calling to me. I feel like while the internet is up, I need to be checking my email, Facebook, and Twitter every few minutes to see what is going on in the world. Like the teens interviewed, I fear missing out on something. There definitely is an addictive quality about it.

As parents, we need to be proactive about limiting our children’s screen time. For better or worse, they are growing up in a world dominated by interacting with computers. They need to learn how to make responsible use of the technology. But at the same time, they need to learn how to disconnect as well. In-person relationships need to be cultivated. Books need to be read. Skills need to be learned. There is a whole lot of life to be lived away from a screen. Perhaps we parents can set an example by limiting our own screen time as well.

Can You Homeschool a Child with Autism?

Sunday, June 10th, 2012
In some ways I was fortunate. We received the diagnosis that my son has Asperger’s Syndrome, a high-functioning form of Autism, after we had already been homeschooling for two years. Therefore, I never had to wonder if I could homeschool a child on the autism spectrum – I was already doing it! A diagnosis merely gave me more understanding and tools to work with. 

For those considering homeschooling a child with autism for the first time, however, I can certainly understand how the thought of taking on such a challenge could be intimidating. Making the decision to take the path less traveled and homeschool a “normal” child can be scary in and of itself. Homeschooling a child with special needs definitely adds some complications, but it unquestionably can be done, and in many cases, may be the best parenting decision you make for your child. 

Homeschooling the Child with Autism: Answers to the Top Questions Parents and Professionals Ask (Jossey-Bass Teacher)is a very helpful book for anyone considering traveling down this road. Written by Patricia Schetter and Kandis Lighthall, two teachers with Master’s degrees and expertise in special needs, explore the positives and negatives associated with this decision (the positives vastly outweigh the negatives).  A general discussion of homeschooling is included, as well as an exploration of different teaching strategies, transitioning back into a traditional school environment or into college and preparing for life after school. They also offer suggestions for dealing with executive functioning difficulties and managing meltdowns. They also interviewed several parents who are homeschooling children on the spectrum.  Schetter and Lighthall write:

Autism impacts a child’s ability to think and learn in a typical way. A host of challenges present themselves in a traditional school program, including sensory, social and communications challenges, along with struggles accessing the necessary academic accommodations. . . Families indicate that homeschooling decreases the external stressors the child is exposed to in traditional school settings, and it relieves much of the anxiety . . .Homeschooling allows parents to directly address the core deficits of communication, social skills, social understanding, and organizational thinking, while providing functional academics that are real-world and experientially based. 

Those who do choose to homeschool will most likely need outside help of some type – whether that be behavioral counseling, speech therapy, physical therapy and/or other needed assistance. Every child is different and the needs are different. It is possible to get the help needed and to incorporate it into one’s homeschool life. My own son has been receiving behavioral counseling for over two years and it has made a tremendous difference in his behavior and ability to function in the world. 

 It is also possible to arrange for appropriate social interactions – whether these be with other homeschoolers, who are usually very tolerant of children who are different in some way, classes at a library or community center, or other extra-curricular activities. Of course, there are also the very important social interactions that take place within a family, especially if there are siblings and grandparents involved. 

An educational program can also be devised that meets the particular strengths and weaknesses of the child involved. Those on the higher end of the Autism spectrum may need only minor modifications to a traditional academic program, while those who suffer with more advanced communication challenges may need to focus on practical life skills. The beauty of homeschooling is that there are an infinite number of options as to how an academic program and schedule is constructed. It can truly meet the needs of the child. 

Deciding to homeschool a child on the autism spectrum can be a difficult decision to make, and it isn’t for everyone. But, if it is something you are considering, it definitely can be done and done with remarkable success!

Book Review: The Aspie Teen’s Survival Guide

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

The Aspie Teen’s Survival Guide: Candid Advice for Teens, Tweens, and Parents, from a Young Man with Asperger’s Syndrome
by J.D. Kraus
Arlington, TX: Future Horizons, 2010

I picked up The Aspie Teen’s Survival Guide: Candid Advice for Teens, Tweens, and Parents, from a Young Man with Asperger’s Syndromeby J.D. Kraus because I have an eleven-year-old son with Aspergers. As we start to navigate those challenging tween and teen years, I need all the help I can get!

I read the book first with the intent of deciding whether I would let my son read it. In the end, I chose not to have him read it. This is because he is still very young in the whole tween/teen age range and much of the information does not concern him yet – he suffers from high anxiety as it is and doesn’t need to start stressing about issues that are still a few years away. Also, the author is on some medications to help with anxiety and depression, and he discusses this. While they have proved helpful for him and I know that they certainly can be of use in certain situations, I’m trying really hard to not go that route with my son, focusing instead on counseling and behavioral therapy. Lastly, Kraus is very intelligent in all his academic subjects, whereas my son has some definite struggles and I think he might feel pretty badly about himself if he compared his academic life.

However, that being said, as a parent, I found this book to be incredibly helpful and I would recommend it highly to any parent with an Aspie kid as well as any teachers who work with these children. It is always good to have these first-hand accounts of what it is like to live with this brain difference. I can’t be inside my son’s head, but books like this give me a window into his world.

A large portion of the book deals with school-related issues. After reading this, I’m more thankful than ever that I chose to homeschool. Bullying (by both students and unsympathetic teachers) is a major issue and Kraus covers it well, offering suggestions on how to cope and report issues one may be having.

The chapter that interested me most was the one on driving. I really wonder if my son will ever be able to drive a car. Kraus explained well how he tries to limit the stress involved in driving, and gave me some hope that my son may indeed be able to manage this with the proper training for unexpected circumstances. The chapter on dating was interesting as well.

Overall, I found this to be a very informative book. Kraus is a young man, so he doesn’t have the perspective an older person might have, but what he does bring to the table is the immediacy of having just been in these situations. His memories haven’t had time to be softened. This world is as real to him as it is to our own children navigating it. Anything that can help us understand how our Aspie kids see that world is of tremendous benefit.

The Truth About Life with a Huge Student Loan

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

One of the issues of this presidential campaign as well as of the recent Occupy movement is the cost of higher education and the burden of student loans. I’ve heard some people remark that people who complain about the cost of student loans are “whiners” and that they should have realized what they were getting into and acted more responsibly. Others trot out the old maxim, “I worked my way through college – today’s young people should do the same.”

I would like to start this article by saying that I am not, in any way, whining. I merely want to share some facts, including real dollar and cents information, on what life is like with a huge student loan and why something truly needs to be done about this growing problem.

I was very fortunate. I received a large scholarship for my undergraduate education, and my father generously covered the small percentage that we needed to pay for. I attended graduate school one class at a time which was paid for by the college since I worked there full-time.

My husband was not so lucky. He came from a poor background. After high school, he worked for several years and helped support his family. He returned to college in his mid-twenties. By attending a community college and a four-year institution at the same time, he was able to complete his undergraduate degree in three years. He then went on to law school – working full-time and attending school part-time in the evenings. In 2001, he graduated the month after our first child was born with $111,000 in debt.

That first student loan payment came due that November. Even with consolidating loans and the thirty-year graduated payment plan, the bill was for $800. It could have been a million dollars. The reality was, we simply didn’t have the money. We firmly believe in paying our bills, but there was no way we could pay that one. We worked with the Department of Education which holds the loan and were able to obtain a forbearance. We would pay $300 a month. It was a stretch, but we were able to pay it. I believe we paid that for two years. We then went up to $450 a month and $600 and finally the full amount which we have been paying for several years now. We currently pay $860 a month – more than we pay for our mortgage payment.

The issue is that during the years we couldn’t pay the full amount, the interest kept accruing. At its highest point, the loan reached $130,000. We have now been paying on this loan for over ten years. During that time, we have paid $73,964.98, yet the principal amount is still $126,082.58. I will repeat that so that it can sink in – we have paid over seventy thousand dollars yet the amount we owe is still fifteen thousand dollars more than we started out owing! Can you understand why this can make people throw up their arms in frustration? As much as I would like to honor this debt and pay off this loan, pending an unexpected financial windfall, we will most likely die before it is paid off.

Meanwhile, it has impacted every financial decision we have made. It affects our ability to save for our children’s education and retirement. Plus, there is the psychological weight of knowing that we owe this money.

I stated in the beginning that I was not whining and that is true. We have been blessed. We are able to make the payments. My husband’s education allowed him to pursue a career which gives him fulfillment and allows me to work part-time from home and home-school our children. Plus, at least he received both an undergraduate and graduate education for the amount we owe. Today, that amount of loans can easily be accumulated simply obtaining an undergraduate degree. If both a husband and wife have this amount of loans, the result is truly financially crippling.

Unlike home loans or car loans, which are based on income and what you are buying and can be made as prudent financial decisions, student loans are based on hope – the hope of future earnings. I know that when we were signing for these loans, we knew the amount was large, but we had no concept of what it would take to pay them. We certainly didn’t have the money to pay for the classes out-of-pocket. They were necessary for him to obtain his education. We simply hoped it would all work out.

Today, as a parent, I don’t know how to advise my children. I want them to be able to fulfill their potential and obtain a higher education if that is what they want. At the same time, I know the reality of living with large student loan debt. Something must be done about the high cost of higher education and the burden of student loans. This is a very real issue that isn’t going away anytime soon.

Coping with Sibling Rivalry

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

If you have a sibling or more than one child, chances are that you have dealt with the ugly green monster that is sibling rivalry. In a perfect world, children born of the same parents or adopted into the same family would always love, honor, and respect each other. They would share without complaint, applaud each other’s successes, and be happy to not be the center of Mom and Dad’s attention all of the time. But, alas, this is an imperfect world, and sibling rivalry has existed since the days of Cain and Abel. We aren’t going to be able to root it out completely. So, then, our only hope is to attempt to minimize it.

Truthfully, my two boys get along well most of the time – emphasis on most. There are certainly times that one or the other or both have wished (loudly!) that they were only children, but usually they are content to enjoy each other’s company. They are close in age – a mere nineteen months apart – and share many interests and friends which is a blessing. Lately, however, we have been dealing with a serious case of sibling rivalry.

The two of them are taking acting classes at a local drama studio this year and they both love them. When auditions came for the first big play, they were both eager to try out. I hoped beyond hope that they would both either get a role or both get rejected. What happened? You guessed it – my older son got a role and my younger one did not. While it was fortunate that it was that way and not the opposite situation, it still made for some considerable gloating and jealousy.

While David had the opportunity to go out night after night for rehearsals, Isaac was stuck at home. While David got to perform in a large downtown theater five times and get catered meals, Isaac was relegated to the audience. I did try to mitigate the issues as much as possible. I reminded David that talking about the play incessantly, no matter how excited he was about it, was not being kind to his brother. I reminded Isaac that there would be other plays and he would most likely get to be in one that David wasn’t in. I also tried to spend some extra time with Isaac, doing things that he enjoyed while David was out of the house. Still, the hard feelings continued.

As a parent, I was torn. It was wonderful to see David blossom and find something he truly loves and could be good at. As some of you are aware, he has high-functioning autism. Life is hard for him. He struggles academically and socially and athletically. One of the reasons I signed him and his brother up for acting classes is that the school said that they welcomed those who were different. They said it was a place where anyone could excel. That has definitely proven to be the case. The child who fears every new situation has been excited to go to rehearsals and the performances every single time. That, in itself, is amazing.

At the same time, I did feel badly for Isaac. He wanted a part every bit as much. As much as I know that learning to be happy for someone else is an important life lesson, it still hurts to be left behind. He is the younger brother, if not by much, and most of the time he has to wait a year to do the things his brother can do. It isn’t a fun position to be in. In this case, I can’t even guarantee that he will get a role the next time. That is up to the directors and age has nothing to do with it. I can only hope.

Yes, sibling rivalry is alive and well in my household. The play is behind us now and hopefully life, and their relationship, will return to normal – at least for a while. I know, though, as they continue to grow and carve out their individual places in the world, that rivalry will continue. Despite my best efforts, I can’t eliminate it completely. My job in all of this is to continue to emphasize their respective talents and give them the parental attention they need, and hope and pray that their love for each other outweighs their need to compete with each other.

For some good suggestions on dealing with and helping to prevent sibling rivalry, please see this article from the University of Michigan Health System: Sibling Rivalry.

Reconciliation: Maintenance for the Soul

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

How do you think of the Sacrament of Reconciliation? If you are like most Catholics, you probably think of it as little as possible! Or, perhaps, you think of it as something good to have available in the event you do something really, really wrong, but not something you need to concern yourself with otherwise. Or, maybe, you go every year during Lent as part of your Easter duties. You feel it is good to get that fresh start once a year.

As hard as it is to believe, the first Sunday of Advent is right around the corner. The start of a new liturgical year is a good time to take stock of one’s spiritual life. What if, this year, you changed how you think about going to Confession?
I have been reading Seven from Heaven: How the Sacraments Can Heal, Nurture, and Protect Your Family Today, a soon-to-be-published book by Elizabeth Ficocelli. She discusses many reasons why the Sacrament of Reconciliation needs to play a more important role in our spiritual well-being.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation a sacrament of healing. When we are sick, we seek out a doctor to help us. When we are spiritually ill due to sin, going to Confession helps to heal our soul. It helps to restore our relationship with God, other people, and the Church. As Ficocelli rightly states, “What we do (or what we fail to do) affects the entire community of believers, as well as the spiritual well-being of the Church.” There is no such thing as a “personal” sin that hurts no one but the person committing it. All sin has a communal dimension.

We don’t only go to the doctor when we are sick, however. We also go in for periodic check-ups, just to make sure everything is working well and that there are no underlying issues lurking under the surface, waiting to cause problems. So it should also be with taking advantage of going to Confession.

None of us is perfect. We always have some sins on our soul. If left untended, those “minor” issues can lead to bigger problems. Reconciliation can help us keep those habitual sins under control. It provides us with God’s grace to do better and root out the sources of sin in our lives. Ficocelli encourages us “to stop thinking of the sacrament as something reserved for grave situations, and begin regarding it as an important source of grace to help us avoid sins and grow in holiness.”

Many years ago, it was a common practice for families to go to Confession every Saturday. Ficocelli shares a wonderful story of such a family. It happened that every Saturday the mother did the laundry and washed all the sheets. When the children came home from getting their souls cleaned, they were able to climb into fresh, clean beds. “The children equated Confession with the feeling of being washed clean and starting the new week fresh and new, just like their bed sheets.”

Perhaps for this coming year, you could start making going to Confession at least once a month a family affair. Children need to go to Confession regularly just as much as adults do. They need the help that it provides and it is good for them to be in the habit of going to Confession for when the more serious temptations and sins of the teen years come into play.

Yes, going to Confession can be difficult. It is humbling and forces us to face our own weakness, but I have generally found that the more frequently you go, the easier it becomes. You start to look forward to that periodic soul cleaning. Attending the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly is an important part of keeping one’s soul in good working order. Don’t neglect this essential maintenance tool.

The Cure for Your Child’s Boredom?

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

It’s back to school time, which often means it is also back to a frenetic pace of extra-curricular activities. We want our children to be well-rounded and well-educated and so we sign them up for all sorts of things: sports, dance, scouts, library programs, etc. There isn’t anything wrong with any of those things, but I’ve heard of children’s schedules that make me exhausted just listening to them. I know with many families having two working parents, after-school activities are necessary to make sure children are safe and occupied after school. However, our children need down time as much, if not more, than we adults do.

Imagination can only be truly cultivated in childhood. The ability to be creative and come up with new ideas and new solutions to problems (all valued in the workplace) depends on imagination. Developing imagination requires time to simply be and do one’s own thing.

There is a nine year old girl who lives next door to us. An only child who lives with her grandparents, she has spent most of the summer at our house playing with my children and just hanging out. She is a lovely young lady and I have enjoyed her company, but I can’t tell you how many times she told me she was bored this summer. I had never really thought about it much before, but that isn’t something I hear from my children or their other homeschooled friends very often. I started to consider why that might be.

The simple fact is that, in general, homeschooled children are left to their own devices much more than traditionally educated children. Homeschooling doesn’t require as much time on task as a traditional education so these children have more free time in which they need to occupy themselves. They are not told what they need to be doing or should be doing every minute of every day. They are used to amusing themselves.
Therefore when faced with a bulk of unoccupied time, they have no real problem finding something to do. In fact, their lists of what they would like to accomplish often exceed the free time that they have. When they get together as a group, they often create elaborate imaginary games which entertain them for considerable amounts of time.

So, then, could the cure for your child’s boredom actually be more unstructured time? I realize not every parent can or should homeschool, but a concerted effort can be made to allow for more free time, at least in the evenings. Perhaps limit extra activities to one per semester so that every night isn’t occupied with something to do and someplace to be.

If your child is not used to it, they may find the unplanned time “boring” at first and will complain, but in time, their ability to use their imagination and fill that time with activities of their own choosing will develop. Soon, you may not hear them complaining about being bored anymore, and instead hear them complaining of not enough time to do all that they want to do!

A Parenting Question

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

Usually, I use this column space to reflect on scripture or other spiritual reading. Other times, I share some hard earned wisdom culled from this school of life. Today, I am using it to ask for help from those of you farther on the parenting journey than I. How do you raise your children with a firm understanding that premarital sex is seriously wrong while remaining staunchly pro-life?

The national percentage of out-of-wedlock births is currently about 40%. In the city where I live, that rate is much higher. My children are growing up in a world where having children outside of marriage is considered normal. I try to impress upon them that this is not the way it should be.

At the same time, I am staunchly pro-life. I am thankful that these mothers chose to have these babies. I know that they could have made a different decision. Each child is a gift from God. A child born as a result of premarital sex is an instance of God bringing something good out of something wrong. Recently, we have faced this situation in my own family. My grandniece was recently born to my nephew and his girlfriend. The baby is beautiful and we love her. I still want my children to wait until they are married to have sex.

I grew up in a very authoritarian household. I knew that if I was ever unmarried and pregnant, I shouldn’t bother coming home. While fear of my parents wasn’t the only reason I waited to have sex, it was certainly part of the equation. Yet, I know the strength of emotions and hormones and that things very easily could have been different. I’d like to think that if I ever did find myself pregnant, I would have had the strength to carry the baby and not resort to abortion, but, honestly, I don’t know what I would have done. I know that I would have been very scared.

I don’t want my children to feel that way. I don’t want them to feel that if they have committed a sexual sin and are facing the consequences of that, that they are unwelcome or that I won’t love them anymore. I don’t want them ever to feel that abortion is the appropriate answer to that situation.

What is the answer to this? I can preach about self-respect and respect for members of the opposite sex. I can stress that premarital sex is a mortal sin and a one-way ticket to hell if they don’t have the opportunity to go to confession before they die (this was a fairly strong motivator for me). I can emphasize that having a child out of wedlock will dramatically alter the course of their lives – that they will be facing a responsibility that they are not ready for. And, they may still find themselves in a situation where they give in to their desires and face an unplanned pregnancy.

I’ve often heard the argument that you shouldn’t tell your children, “If you are going to have sex, I want you to protect yourself by using a condom,” because you are giving them permission to have sex. You are supposed to hold up the high standard and trust that your children can live up to that. Is saying, “If you ever find yourself in the situation where you are facing an unplanned pregnancy, you can come to us without fear,” the same thing? Do I simply tell them, “No matter what you do in life or what circumstances you find yourself, we will always love you?”

So, I turn to you, and ask you to share your wisdom. How have you walked this line of taking a strong stance against having sex before marriage while being pro-life and supporting those who have children out-of-wedlock?

Are You Thinking About Homeschooling?

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

Even though September seems a long ways away, this is the time of year when academic decisions for next school year are often made. Are you considering homeschooling next year? Perhaps it is an idea you have been considering for a long time, or maybe you recently met someone who homeschools and you want to know more. How do you know if homeschooling is right for you?

Why Decide to Homeschool?

People decide to homeschool for many different reasons. According to a study put out by the National Center for Education Statistics, “the reason for homeschooling that was most frequently cited as being applicable was concern about the environment of other schools including safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure. Eighty-five percent of homeschooled students were being homeschooled, in part, because of their parents’ concern about the environment of other schools. The next two reasons for homeschooling most frequently cited as applicable were to provide religious or moral instruction (72 percent) and dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools (68 percent).”

Think about the reasons you are considering homeschooling.

When Should The Decision to Homeschool Be Made?

Some people make the decision to homeschool when their child is still safely in the womb. Others make the decision when their child is three years old and expected to attend preschool. They decide they can teach them themselves and then, when faced with the decision of attending school for kindergarten, simply decide to keep going. Others decide at some point in their child’s academic career that traditional school is simply not the best option and pull the child out of school.

There is no one right or wrong time to homeschool. It can be done from birth through high school, or for part of one year. Each year the decision can be reevaluated depending on life and family circumstances.

How Can I Possibly Spend 30 Hours a Week Teaching Each Child?

Homeschooling is like having a private tutor. Much of the time spent in school is not spent on direct instruction, but rather waiting for others or doing “filler” work. Homeschooling is much more efficient. It will not take you thirty hours a week to cover the material. It will take far less. Also, children of different grades can often be taught much of the same material. Homeschooling provides a great deal of flexibility.

What About Socialization?

This always seems to be the question well-meaning people ask most. Family and friends and even random strangers will ask: “How will your children learn to get along with different people if they don’t go to school?” There are many articles and books on this topic, including Home-Schooling: Socialization not a problem from the Washington Times.

Children who are homeschooled have many opportunities to interact with people of all ages, thereby helping them be more comfortable talking to adults, not just their peers. They are also able to develop friendships and take part in activities with other children. Homeschooled children take part in many of the same extra-curricular activities other children do, such as sports, dance classes, scouting programs, and Church programs. In addition, there are many homeschool groups that meet on a regular basis.

How Can I Possibly Teach Algebra?

This can also be considered, the “How can I teach high school?” question. Many parents feel that they can adequately teach the basics of reading and writing and math, but things like algebra and high school biology or chemistry inspire fear in many. The good news is that there are many on-line classes high school students can take. Older teens can also often enroll in basic classes at a community college. Finding a tutor can also help the process. If parents want to homeschool for high school, there are many ways to accomplish that goal.

What Will I Have to Report to my City?

Each state has its own rules regarding homeschooling. Within states, different cities may interpret those rules differently. Talking with other homeschoolers in your area can help clarify what you need to do. The Home School Legal Defense Association can also be a very good resource if you have specific questions about what is required in your state.

Where Do I Learn More?

Your local library may have books on homeschooling or information on a homeschool group in your area. There are also several magazines and websites dedicated to the subject. If you have a specific question, you may want to do an internet search for that particular topic. Any situation you are facing has no doubt been contended with by someone else. As a general rule, homeschoolers are happy to share information and advice.

If you are considering homeschooling, I would recommend that you pray to make the right decision for your family. It can be scary to step off the well-traveled road of traditional schooling to embrace something new, but if it is the right choice for your family, it can be a beautiful way to live.

There is More than One Way to Be a Good Mom

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

The word vocation means a “call.” In Catholic circles, it refers to a call from God. Many women receive a call from God to motherhood. It is a noble call, a challenging call, a call that will frequently bring a woman to her personal limits and to her knees in prayer. Yet, it has immense rewards. Those of us who have been called to this life should be both thankful for and humbled by it.

Given that it is such a hard job, motherhood should be supported by all of us, in all its forms. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. While the outside world may be very supportive of working mothers, in Catholic circles, it is often seen as a “lesser” choice.

If a mother “needs” to work, then it is acceptable, but even then I’ve heard other mothers say that they feel sorry for these mothers. The woman who chooses to work? She is frequently portrayed as selfish and not putting her family first. It is as if there is one version of motherhood that is held up as the ideal – the stay-at-home totally dedicated mother (if you managed to nurse exclusively for at least a year, homeschool your children, and have four or more children, you get extra points) – and all the others fall a little short.

As a homeschooling stay-at-home mother, I am begging people to reconsider that position. I believe that I have been called to my current way of life for this season of my life. It certainly wasn’t in the life plan that I had for myself. Rather, God led me here. I am very fortunate to be able to work part-time from home. My situation was different in my past, and it may be different in my future. I hope to always do what God wants from me.

Is it then possible to believe that others are called to different forms of motherhood? I would argue that it is. Learning about St. Gianna Beretta Molla (1922-1962) expanded my own understanding of the vocation of motherhood. She is a patron saint of working mothers. She was an accomplished physician who loved her work. She truly felt called by God to be a doctor. She continued to maintain her own practice while having three small children.

St. Gianna would ultimately give up her own life so that her 4th child might live. That child followed in her mother’s footsteps and became a doctor herself. On the subject of vocation, St. Gianna wrote “What is a vocation? It is a gift from God, so it comes from God. If it is a gift from God, our concern must be to know God’s will. We must enter that path: If God wants, when God wants, how God wants.” God called St. Gianna to be both doctor and mother. She served God completely in both roles.

On a related note, Pope Benedict XVI recently stated that “it is necessary to concretely support motherhood, including guaranteeing professional women the possibility of balancing family and work. Too often, in fact, women are put in the position of having to choose between the two.” He encouraged governments to support maternity rights, including child-care centers.

God calls mothers to different forms of motherhood. Women should always pray to do God’s will in their lives. At the same time, all mothers should be supported and encouraged in their vocation, whether that vocation involves being a stay-at-home homeschooling mom, working full-time outside the home or any of the variations in-between. There is no one right way to be a mother. The only right way is what God is calling a mother to do at a given moment of her life.