It’s OK if you can’t homeschool

RosalieContrite
August 29, 2017

Please be kind, and assume the best of my words. I fiercely love and care for both of my children with all of my being.

When my husband and I married, we met a vibrant and wonderful homeschool group and that has always been what we wanted for our family. I feared I wasn’t cut out for it, but we declared our plan early on in our marriage. That made my admittance that it might not be what was best for us even harder. It stunk of failure, of a lack of self-discipline. I thought, “if only I pray harder and bear my crosses better, then I will be able to do this.”

I struggled so much with what is right to do for our family and the decision of whether or not to send my five year old to a Catholic School this year over homeschool for a plethora of reasons: my health isn’t great right now, I want to get my masters, I don’t seem to be offering her enough mental engagement to keep her happy, and my two year old was really struggling. I felt like a chump who couldn’t handle being a full-throttle catholic, like I was a lesser mom. Maybe I am. *shrugs*

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School started last Wednesday, and ALREADY the special one-on-one time with my two year old is paying off in dividends. She was very prone to screaming and having outbursts under stress, which are normal for her age, though her older sister never had them. I chalked it all up to differences in personality and temperment. YES, I know kids are not all the same in one family. I assumed she simply had a shorter fuse. I was wrong.

Already, she has calmed down, talks more, and handles things better. Maybe its a coincidence, but I suspect that the special time together is the reason for the change. Just minutes ago, I laid her down for a nap and she blew me a kiss as I walked out the door, just as her older sister did when she was little.

 I feel so guilty that she may have felt unheard, even though we have well-spaced kids. I am even more heavily considering how soon the two year old would be ready to be de-throned as the baby. She needs this time and I won’t be talked out of giving her what she needs because people feel she’ll “be fine” or “she’ll live,” nor will I give her the short end of the stick because I simply want another baby. It won’t be popular for me to have said this, but it is the truth. Yes, we are always open to life, we follow the faith 100%, but we are also capable of planning and exercising self control, as un-fun as that may be.

Catholics are literally always thinking about when the next baby should come; it’s our hobby. (Someone would make a killing on a dice with TTA/TTC/TTW/Take a chance on it.) My oldest was three when the baby was born, and she was ready to be a big sister! She was so excited. I want that for my current baby.

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My mental health is so much better now, not that I was on the verge of a mental break. I just always felt like I wasn’t doing a very good job, even when others assured me I was. I constantly felt like I was going to cry any moment because I couldn’t manage all the tasks I needed to be managing with my sweet kindergartener underfoot. I don’t feel mentally out of breath. My oldest comes home tired, happy, and simply wanting to snuggle or talk about her day. She’s had her mind engaged, prayed, played with friends and I am much more patient and relaxed having gotten my day’s work finished. She and her sister are not jealous of each other now, but excited to see one another because they did not spend all day competing for attention.

I feel so right about this choice for our family right now, and want to tell other homeschool mommies, homeschool is wonderful and a gift but it’s OK if you can’t do it. It’s OK if it doesn’t work for your family. Don’t force something because of what others think or because you’re afraid of the effect of the world on your children. Both options are OK, and what is right for one kid may not be for another. I know that now. We may return to homeschool again one day if it is what’s best for our family, but rather than focusing on raising them a certain way, I will only be looking to do what is best whatever that may be.

It still bothers me that I can’t be the graceful, homeschool mother of nine that I envisioned before kids and marriage, but I think it’s a lesson from God. Even the image that LOOKS holy to you, that might not be where he’s calling you. You have to pay attention more and talk less.

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R O S A L I E    C O N T R I T E
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Why my dog is not a child

Recently while I was strolling for a family walk with our new puppy, a stranger remarked, “Three kids?! You must be busy!”

For a moment I paused, thinking this man knew something I didn’t. I quickly realized he meant that the puppy was my third child and a definite part of the parenting handful.

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Admittedly, I was once a person who thought having a dog was just like having a furry human baby. I honestly did. I wasn’t making a political or philosophical statement. I had even been a nanny. I just couldn’t have known what I know now. This shift in my mind about children and dogs post-parenthood has been on my mind, as we have added a bouncing, baby livestock guard dog to our humble home.

I’m 100% an animal person; I love them. I have a veritable menagerie! (#CatholicArk) Even with my great affection for animals, I still must relay what the experience of having a puppy and small children at the same time has highlighted for me. They are not even close to similar.

You cannot feed kids from a bag that requires no cooking or preparation, three times a day. Good luck cooking a meal and getting your toddler to eat it on a day they’ve sworn off eating. Or, to wear pants. To the childrens’ credit, I’m sure if I made the puppy wear pants he’d rip them off, as well.

More or less, the dog is super stoked to find crumbs on the floor. (As will be a child if it’s in public, only in public!) He never complains or gets picky, nor does he have special allergies that require hourly consideration and planning. It is frowned upon for you to put your children in a crate. It is also frowned upon to put them on leashes.

You cannot send kids to the family doctor when you want to go on vacation, and pay a nice, low, daily fee. I’m certain my family provider would break up with us if we tried this. Anyone want to try this for science? Let me know.

You cannot just give them something to chew on and leave the house anytime you want to go out with friends. You cannot watch whatever movie or say whatever you want around children. While the dog won’t repeat that you think Bob down the street is a “darned hippy,” your kids will. They will do it in front of Bob, obviously.

My puppy likes to drink out of the toilet bowl until empty or chew on a bone for extracurricular activities. His literacy prowess is not of concern, and worrying about his second language development is not high up on my list of concerns. If he understands “sit,” we will be doing well.

While the puppy may need a quick potty run in the middle of the night for a few weeks until he matures, the baby I had four years ago is still iffy on potty training some days and definitely, does not sleep in a crate, unable to wake me in the night with her concerns about unpainted finger nails or looking to be serenaded.

The dog also never says, “MOOOOOMMMMMMMM! WHY?!” 😂👏🏻

To some this will probably seem like I’m saying, have a dog instead of a child. That is precisely not what I’m saying. What I am saying is that the experiences are not interchangeable, and they do not fulfill the space the other leaves. Man’s best friend is not a human child, and a human child is not man’s best friend. They are both distinct and wonderful relationships worth experiencing. Dogs have been domesticated and bred to serve alongside man and to serve him loyally. Children are the absolute greatest good and the future of our species.

I hope this reaches someone who believes owning a dog fills this void or informs them anything about the life of a parent. It does not. It may be a nice appetizer to prepare you for keeping someone alive, but it is not similar.

The complex and natural, lifelong relationship I have with my children is completely indescribable and dissimilar to having a dog, no matter how wonderous your puppy may be. (Ours is THE BEST!) The love and joy I have found in motherhood is not something I can convey to someone who has no children. It is something that has to be experienced to understand. All I can do is try my best to explain that you truly cannot know what you are missing until you have a child. It is not something you will regret. You cannot know this level of fulfillment and joy until you experience it.

I know that sounds convenient, like we’re a child cult trying to convince others to join our misery, but surely there would be a whistleblower somewhere? Wikileaks? Bueller? Consider how many people there are who have only dogs that believe dogs are like children versus the amount of people who have both who believe dogs are like children. Would you trust a person’s opinion on two experiences if they had only experienced one? It’s like getting that annoying dating advice from Suzie who never has a boyfriend but totally knows all the answers to your relationship problems.

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A dog will never have my eyes or make the same strange gestures as me or laugh over shared memories at family holidays. He will never make me examine just how difficult I can be, by acting just like me. He will never make me relate better to other humans as I realize that everyone I encounter is someone’s baby. Ask anyone about feeling emotionally “re-sensitized” after the birth of their child. It changes you and for the better. I will never want to put my dog before myself and in doing so, become a more selfless person. I will not grow old seeing him flourish before me, because he will be in an urn in my library.

What am I saying? I’m saying I love dogs. Truly. They are helpful, joyful, excellent company, and loyal, but they are not even close to the experience of having a human child, another experience, I highly recommend. This juxtaposition of relationships begs the question,  if someone claims to want to be child free, why would this same person want to pretend a dog is a child. Doesn’t that defeat the child free plan?

If you need further proof of the trouble with pretending canids are hominid offspring, look to all of the dogs harmed by being treated like a baby. Forcing a dog to fill a natural human void, denies them their right to be a dog, something we literally created them to be. Instead of being lead by a strong master, they are left to mow over their owners and rule their homes creating anxious, insecure environments where they feel obligated to step in as alpha. Ask any obedience trainer what causes dysfunction in dog obedience and behavior. They need order, and above all, they need to be dogs. (See Cesar Millan)

Of course after a long day raising the future citizens of the world, it’s nice to snuggle a fluffy dog who doesn’t talk back and just wants a butt scratch. I highly recommend both experiences.

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This Catholic Life #12: Special Guest, Haley Stewart

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ThisCatholicLife

I was blessed to have Haley Stewart of Carrots for Michaelmas, on this episode. We talk about her life, liturgical living, tattoos, and being the person you are meant to be. The books mentioned in the show are available on her website. Recording was a blast, and I hope to have her on again, someday!

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Motherhood’s 7 Corporal Works of Mercy

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The following is intended to be comedic. Please do not take it too seriously. Enjoy!

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The Motherhood Corporal Works of Mercy:

  1. Give drink to the thirsty = Breastfeeding
    1. I don’t have to tell any mother that breastfeeding and rocking a baby back and forth, at all hours of the night, makes her some kind of martyr! From cracked nipples to plugged ducts to supply struggles, you have a lot of suffering uniting you with Christ, mama.
  2. Feed the hungry = Breastfeeding; Enduring kids begging, “can I have a snack yet”, approximately, 234134782193471280973489012 times a day.
    1. The breastfeeding is conveniently both, feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty, but it doesn’t end there.
    2. As a mom, you will be made a saint by enduring some broken record version of, “I’m hungry! I need a snack!” Maybe I should auto-tune them for fun? Imagine Akon harping after you, “I’m staAAaaaaaAAAAaaaarving, Ma!” On second thought, no.
  3. Shelter the homeless = Skipping the designer purse and shoes
    1. You give yourself a damn pat on the back! You may have to hold back the tears as you put that fancy, designer, leather handbag on the shelf whilst holding your stained and torn diaper bag, but you have allowed your children to keep their home by being a good steward of your family finances! Good on you mama. Offer it up, and enjoy the roof over your head with your beautiful children.cropped-img_16722.jpg
  4. Visit the sick = BOOGERS EVERYWHERE
    1. Have you met a toddler?! Adorable and comedic petri dishes of the booger plague, they are! This corporal work comes to YOU! Johnny may have just licked the floor in that public restroom or eaten m&m’s off the floor of the subway train, making that vein in your forehead throb a little, but don’t worry! You get to exercise this corporal work of mercy, soon! You needn’t  even go to the hospital.
  5. Visit the prisoners = Discipline
    1. Whether you had to take your teens phone and computer, making them feel like a prisoner 🙄, or you are sitting in front of a toddler preventing them from leaving timeout, you definitely got this one done.
  6. Bury the dead = Pets; Toys
    1. I recently attended a heartfelt burial at sea (the toilet) for our goldfish, complete with a loudly wailing child, music, and a eulogy. We have even had to say goodbye to a hedgehog. Don’t laugh. I deserve an Oscar for playing my part as funeral officiant and sad mourner. I did get choked up when we had to let a dog go as a family. Death is always hard on a family. Consider that lovingly attending to your children and getting this right means your kids will know how to cope later on in life. Your role is important, mama!
    2. I must periodically go through and find all the ‘dead’ or broken toys and take them to the dump. Is this a burial? I submit that it is!
  7. Give alms to the poor = Rice Bowl; Chore tithing
    1. Parishes nationwide participate in Operation Rice Bowl where people collect their change and money throughout Lent to feed the hungry. Do this with your kids. Try to give them an allowance, even just a quarter for ‘helping’ you clean. Explain to them how a tithe works and why we do it. This work is arguably one of the most important. Raising people who are in the habit of helping the poor is one of the best things you can offer the world and the church, as a mother!
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5 Ways being a SAHM transformed my faith

Preface: I want to be completely transparent and say that I do still contribute to my family income, albeit not near as much as when I worked outside the home. I, also, do not mean to denigrate or belittle those who must or choose to work outside the home or those who are well-to-do. I only mean to share my experience. I felt a strong call to go be at home with my children, and with that call, has come every grace that one could imagine. Pax Vobiscum. 🙂 #MommySolidarityNotWars

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The 5 ways in which being a stay-at-home-mom strengthened my faith:

#1. Reliance on God:
Nothing will make you pray quite like having a hospital bill arrive at the same time the car needs new tires and the toilet decides to irreversibly back-up, after a toddler threw some Legos in it. When I worked outside of the home, I had faith, don’t get me wrong, but now, I must put much more trust in the Lord. I have to believe that if I am living His plan, He will not abandon me.
We continually must turn to prayer and ask the Lord for guidance. I can no longer just buy my way out of every situation and sit smugly, knowing I can fix my own problems, completely of my own accord. Undoubtedly, I have a much greater appreciation for the Lord and how He cares for His flock. Time and time again, He has presented us with small miracles and clear paths. Thanks be to God! Matthew 6:25-34 is my constant motto!

#2. Reliance on the Christian Family:
Recently, my grandfather’s health took a turn for the worst. He lives far from me, and as it was somewhat unexpected, I need to round-up funds quickly to fly to visit him. When I was working, I would have just paid for overnight care for the kids, bought a ticket, and gone to visit him. Done deal. That would have been fine and good, but because of my situation, staying at home with the kids, our finances do not allow for impromptu splurges, no matter how necessary.
I took it to prayer, instantly. I talked with my friends about my internal struggle, and they prayed with me. As I shared my story with women close to me and we prayed together, no small miracle was granted to me. Many women who had heard of my sadness and plight, rounded-up funds, and they presented me with a paid in full, plane ticket. I weep when I think of the love and generosity that was shown to me that day.
I felt the true Christian spirit that day. I relied upon my sisters in Christ to hold me up when I was down, to pray together, to give to those who were in need, and I needed to be humble enough, not to deny this gift. I still weep when I think of the kindness of these women, many of whom, also, come from families with tight budgets. They did not cast judgement upon me, sneering at me for not making more money. They just loved me and were Christ to me. Again, I was reminded that He will never abandon us. I will never doubt God or His children, again!

The last picture I took with my grandfather before he passed, thanks to the women who cared for me when I was in need.
The last picture I took with my grandfather before he passed, thanks to the women who cared for me when I was in need.

#3. Money and marriage:
This is probably sounding a little redundant, at this point, but it’s important. Having a much tighter budget means that I MUST discuss purchases with my husband. I must get creative, and I must sort out what is truly necessary. My husband and I talk more than ever! If we need groceries, we can get them, but I must discuss with him what it is that he thinks is necessary and compare it with my idea of necessary.
This near constant finance dialogue may sound stressful, but it has actually been instrumental in reestablishing conversation. When I worked full-time, we both felt us slowly drifting apart. It wasn’t intentional, but it just happened. We simply did not need to talk as much, and so, we didn’t.
Now, we are a team; we are in this together. We are both called to this life by God, and as we live His plan together, He has showered grace upon grace into our lives through friends, gifts, peace, and love. I appreciate my husband as a reliable and earnest provider, and he appreciates me as a loving and caring steward of the home. We are definitely more in love, and communicating better than ever!

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4. Self-worth and value:
When I worked, I was definitely capable of much in my life. I am an intelligent, educated woman, who is good with critical thinking, with a love of science. I never felt very comfortable or sure of myself, though. I always doubted and felt the lesser party, in my marriage. I thought that would only get worse when I went home and quit my full-time job. I would be contributing even LESS, as I saw it.
I was so wrong! In order to make our budget work, I needed to become the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker. I learned to cut hair watching hours of YouTube channels, because paying for four hair cuts every six weeks was not in the budget. I learned to sew and to knit. I re-purposed my husbands worn out shirts into beautiful, one-of-a-kind dresses for our daughters! I learned to cloth diaper. I learned how to bake bread from scratch. I learned how to knit sweaters. I learned how to make everything from scratch because pre-made is more expensive. I learned to soak beans and to use them, instead of canned. I learned to can and to preserve. I found and drove to dent stores to buy discounted goods, and knowing what I know now, I would choose it all over again. I am so confident in my abilities and in God’s grace being sufficient, in all cases, now. I, also, think I would survive the zombie apocalypse, in case you were wondering….
I had no idea of what I was capable before, but I am, now, a woman comfortable in her own skin and capable of so much. Whatever my family needs me to be, I am confident I can become it, through the grace of God, if He be calling me to it!

My girls wearing some of those legendary, scrap dress. #HomemadeClothesFTW
My girls wearing some of those legendary, scrap dress. #HomemadeClothesFTW

5. Humility:
               I was blessed in childhood and young-adulthood, as I came from a well-to-do family with loving and hard-working parents. We had a lot of enviable and wonderful things in our lives.
As a stay-at-home-mom,  as an adult, given my husband’s single income, we are anything but well-to-do. I no longer have designer bags, shoes, or luxury cars. I don’t have fancy and restorative vacations. I don’t have new clothes. I don’t often get to indulge in splurges.
I must always be upfront about our means when we make plans with friends, about what we can afford. I have to be honest, and let go of my pride. So, Sally down the street knows that we aren’t swimming in money? Why does that matter? Admittedly, I thought it did at one point. I thought what I had was my status and my value. I was so wrong, and becoming a SAHM has lead me to that realization. I am not my bank account.
Our bank account does not determine our value before God. The billionaire and the beggar will both go before the Lord, equal in His eyes. I needed to let go of a lot of embarrassment and preconceived ideas about what was a NEED. Sadly, the latest Marc Jacobs bag wasn’t a need. (Le Sigh!).
This baring of self and honesty about our humble means, has lead me to a lot of personal humility. I am, now, a part of the league of the have-nots, and that’s OK, because, truly, I have the Lord. I can never be a have-not.

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