Thursday, April 4, 2013

Best of Last Week and question for readers

Hi everyone! In addition to collecting my favorite articles, I have a question for you (read on).

I recently discovered Lizzy's darling blog and one post especially resonated with me—this lovely one on the importance of parents showing affection for each other and building good habits together. Very inspiring! And speaking of parents staying in love, I just adored this post on "Date Night" from the always delightful Verily magazine.

I have a lot of interest in natural and home births (although I know natural/home births are not for everyone—each mother has to choose what's right for her and her child). I was very inspired by Courtney's at-home birth story and I love Stephanie's beautiful account as well.

So imagine my excitement when I found out that a pope in the early 1900s wrote a letter especially to midwives. I haven't read the whole thing yet, but I'm glad to know it's out there. I found the link in this great post by Andrea explaining why she and her fiance have chosen not to learn or use NFP. Thanks, Andrea (and hurray for Awesome Family Planning)!

Have you heard any of the commotion over the pope's actions on Holy Thursday? In response to the uproar, this post from The Anchoress is just everything good in this world.

Ok, now for my question! Were you ever homeschooled? What was that like? Frank was homeschooled until high school and he really liked it, and he says it's a great way to save money. I was never homeschooled and I have a lot of reservations about it—not about socialization (my homeschooled friends are all super popular and outgoing) but because it seems like so much work for the homeschooling parent (which in our family would be me). So I keep saying "I will never homeschool" ... and then I come across an article like this. And I second-guess everything. What are your thoughts and experiences on homeschool vs. traditional school? I would love to hear your stories!

Finally, an article on one of my favorite topics—getting married young. Lots here to ponder and enjoy.

And happy Thursday! Hurray for being almost through the week!


  1. I could literally write a book about homeschooling (heck, maybe I will someday!). Johnny and I were both homeschooled (me K-12, him grades 5-12) and we both loved it. His family used a system where all of the lesson plans are already done and shipped to the family, and (I believe) they grade papers and tests and then send them back. So really, parents do the actual sitting down and teaching, but there's someone else who's doing a lot of the planning. My mom used a combination of different curricula, and we had a great time with it. I'm sure it was more planning for her in some ways, but at the same time there's a lot of flexibility that you can have. You can figure out and evaluate what works best for your kids on a day-to-day basis, but also on a larger scale (my youngest brother was born in Dec. '95, and that year we did school all through the summer and then took our big break after he was born). I also credit my love of reading and writing to the fact that if I sped through my math lesson every day, I could spend the whole afternoon with a book (blank or otherwise).

    In short (okay, too late for that), we both had great experiences with it and are hoping to do it with our own kids. If you ever have any questions, let me know! I'm a ready apologist!

    1. Holly, thank you so much for your thoughtful response! Don't worry about writing a lot, I absolutely adore long comments and this one gave me so much to think about.

      I see a lot of positives to it, like the ones you mentioned, but then I'm also so interested in certain alternative education methods (namely Montessori) that I don't know which would be better... I think this is going to be a long process of discernment for me, probably one I'll go through anew with each child.

      We should definitely get together in person some time to talk about it—I'd love to hear more about your experiences!

    2. I have one more quick thing to add (naturally). My mom just sent me a link to this site, which is a huge list of free educational resources. It just goes to show that the internet really has made homeschooling so much easier (the idea of doing this pre-internet is crazy to me). I love the idea of "curating" my kids' education from lists like this, although I can definitely see where people get burned out from trying to do too much.

      And now I'm off to comb over that list and figure out what to teach myself! ;-)

    3. Pinning that list to my "mothering" board on pinterest right now! Thanks Holly!

  2. Great round up of articles! Andy and I read the article on homeschooling too and found it pretty convincing. We both went to public school for all of our primary education (excepting K for me at a Christian school), and had planned to send our kids to public school because we feel like we turned out pretty well (lol), but after thinking about it and hearing others' experiences we are reconsidering. We have (for now) ruled out private schooling as an option and would just be considering homeschooling vs. public schooling. We have both said that if we can't do homeschooling well/aren't able to give it the time it deserves, then we'll send our kids to public school and be ok with it. It seems that the biggest influence on a child getting good education is parental involvement whether that's home/public/private school, whatever.

    So far, we've just decided that we'll take it as it comes, but homeschooling has become a serious contender for us which I think is a surprise to both of us!

    Although part of me wishes that every time we thoughtfully consider something family related that we wouldn't end up convinced that the right thing to do is what culture thinks is weird (i.e. NFP, Homeschooling, etc.). But I guess that's what we should expect as Christians.

    1. Hahaha! I love that last thought—it's so true, and I honestly think that's one of my biggest hang-ups about homeschooling—my future family is already going to be so "weird" (hopefully lots of kids, Catholic, hopefully natural births, etc.) that do I REALLY want to add another unusual element to the mix? This is where that whole "live and let live" principle comes in—hopefully people will be as respectful of whatever we decide to do as we will be respectful of them.

      You're so right that what matters most is parental involvement. I was pondering this whole education thing recently, stressing myself out about it (I know, ridiculous, I'm not even married yet) and I thought, "What's the real purpose of my kids' education? To become saints." And then I thought about how Thomas Aquinas and Therese of Lisieux and Elizabeth Ann Seton and a ton of other saints I admire just went to normal school (and in fact the first two were bullied) and they went on to become great saints. So really, God has it all under control no matter where they go to school.

      But yes, agreed that homeschooling is a compelling option, although very unexpectedly!

    2. Yes, many saints went to school, but I believe that most of what is wrong with school has happened in the last 100 years. (Morals have just plummeted!) Also, St. Therese couldn't abide school so much that she begged to be taken out, and then Pauline homeschooled her! : )

    3. Good point—in Thomas Aquinas' day, schools weren't this Protestant factory system imported from Germany to make all kids conform to a uniform model. This system really is something new, and you're right that we can't compare school in an earlier day to modern American school!

  3. Hi Tess! Thanks for linking us! :)

    I once heard a Catholic priest say that homeschooling should only be a temporary situation until the parents can find a good Catholic school for their kids. I had never heard it put that way before.

    The thought of homeschooling overwhelms me too.

    So I think our plan will be to situate ourselves near a good Catholic school if possible. If we can't, then we'll do the homeschooling route...

    1. I'm very curious, did the priest have a reason for why homeschooling should only be temporary?

      (P.s. this is Frank, Tess's fiance ... yes I read her blog too ;) )

    2. I think it was due to the fact that we should be supporting Catholic education as much as we can and taking action to build a strong Catholic community. My fiance went to a really great traditional Catholic school in Idaho and he said it was really helpful in showing him that his Faith wasn't something his family just did in the home. It put it more into the context of the world.

      I think it is a beautiful thing to be taught by religious. I love the idea of priests playing basketball outside with the boys or girls being able to interact with nuns in day to day activities (I always loved the nun teaching boxing in Bells of St Mary's). It puts the religious on a more human level and I think it gets kids discerning their vocation at a younger age.

      Interestingly, I grew up pretty much in public schools as my parents thought the Catholic schools in the area were more likely going to cause someone to loose their Faith than to build it up (a bit more of a liberal area). However, I would never put my own children through public schools due to some of the garbage I encountered (and I know it's getting worse.)

      In any case, I guess I can only speculate the priest's reasoning. And like I said, it was the first time I had heard it mentioned.

      What was your parent's reasoning for homeschooling? I'd be interested in knowing! Thanks!

    3. Andrea, thank you for sharing this interesting story and point of view! I hadn't heard that argument before but I definitely agree that it's so important to build up our Catholic communities, and what a great example priests and nuns can be to the kids they teach and serve!

      Your point about showing kids that the Faith isn't just something within the family is also a great one. Especially in those crucial teen years, kids really need religious role models besides their parents. Of course, those role models can be found in places other than a traditional school setting, but obviously that's an easy way to find that support, especially if you find a good school.

      I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels a little overwhelmed at the thought of homeschooling! :)

    4. Andrea,

      Sorry, I took so long to reply - Its been a busy week. That is interesting ... I think the reason my parents chose to homeschool was a combination of a desire to bring my siblings and I up in a good religious environment and a desire to give us a good education. Public school was never an option since, as you pointed out, its generally hostile to religion and full of exposure to so much trash. Christian school was very expensive and there was no way my parents could have afforded to send us all to private school so homeschooling it was.

      As for the religious aspects - I think that the most basic building block of society is the family, and that faith starts there - within the family. Homeschooling lends itself well to instilling the faith in children in a unique way since the children are educated within the home. There is not the division between faith and school (which is present in public education) It is not to say that instilling faith within the family cannot happen if kids go to school, but it is certainly done in a different manner and there are outside pressures parents must deal with.

      And on the education front - homeschooling has as a rule produced excellent academics who excel - this certainly cannot be said of the vast majority of public schools and many private schools (including Catholic schools). I think part of the reason for this is that homeschooling is a one on one education (even if you have several kids, most likely each of them is in a different grade) system that allows the parent to craft the education to the child's interests and more importantly their needs. Also, you can make sure your children learn things that you think are important - like the classics of western literature! (which most high school students have never even read)

      Obviously homeschooling is not for everyone. But I think it is a very good system that is certainly superior to public education. As for Catholic education - I think its very hit or miss - some schools are great, some not so much.

      I will say, I don't buy the argument that we should send our kids to Catholic school, just because we have to support Catholic Education - but like you said, that might not have even been the reason he had.

    5. Thanks Frank! Great points!

      Well, since my fiance and I will be in the same area as you all, maybe we can get together a good Catholic co-op for homeschooling :)

      Best wishes on the move and the wedding!

      I look forward to reading about your and Tess' adventures! :)

  4. I also feel overwhelmed at the thought of homeschooling! I just have a rambunctious one year-old so far, but it takes my whole day to get the dinner made and the basic chores done around the house. I'd really like to see a homeschooling family in action and figure out how they do it all.

    Homeschooling is really compelling to me, though. My husband and I bought went to public school in a reasonably affluent area. We were never challenged at all, or in harder classes like physics and calculus, we somehow got an A without truly understanding the material. I like that homeschooling allows kids to work at their own pace and really focus on understanding the material. It also doesn't hurt that all the homeschoolers I've met plan to do the same for their own children!

    On the other hand, our parish school is really great and pretty affordable. I do agree that we have some sort of obligation to support good Catholic schools. The Catholic high schools in our area are prohibitively expensive (like $25,000 a year)so that's out of the question and we worry about public school since we live in liberal Seattle. I don't want to homeschool just for high school though.

    One thing about NFP: I would try to take the most charitable view when the various groups involved in premarital counseling push NFP classes. It's so much easier to learn when you are not married yet and have somewhat regular cycles. You don't want to be in the situation where you've just had a baby with major complications and everything is out of whack. You're freaking out because the doctor is telling you that if you get pregnant again right away, both your and your baby's health will be in danger. That is not the best time to figure out NFP, trust me. You don't have to use it right away and maybe you'll never have to, but if the time ever comes, at least you will feel somewhat confident about it if need be.

    1. Wow... 25,000 per year... that's kinda crazy! But I've heard of situations where they give either payment plans or discounts to those who cannot pay the full tuition. Maybe that could be an option.

    2. Caitlin, I totally agree that NFP is a useful thing to learn, and I didn't mean to disparage it! I have friends who are NFP-trained nurses and I've been so, so impressed by their professionalism and good sense on the matter.

      What bugs me is people who think you're a bad or irresponsible Catholic if you don't use it; Andrea linked in her original post to a story about a woman who was so indoctrinated in this point of view that she felt she had to go to confession when she stopped charting! That, to me, is crazy and kind of sad. As important as it is to promote NFP instead of birth control, it's also important to remember that we don't HAVE to use it to have a healthy marriage. :)

      It's so interesting to hear your point of view as someone who actually has a little one at home. I also would like to see it in action before making up my mind! I'm glad to hear the parish school is an option—in the decision of where and how to educate your kids, it makes such a difference to have a good school nearby. Seattle can be a tough area for the high school stuff though. My good friend Patrick (who sometimes reads this blog and emailed me after seeing this post) grew up near Seattle, and his parents homeschooled him through high school for precisely this reason. Good luck making your decision (and happily it's still a good many years before you have to)!

  5. I'm just about to graduate, and I have been homeschooled my entire life. It has been an AMAZING experience. Yes, my Mom has had a big job with me and my seven (eight very, very soon) siblings, but she also chose not to use a pre-designed curriculum, and I know there are a lot of programs out there that can take a lot of that load off. Also, as soon as me and my siblings have reached high school age, my mom outsourced many of our classes. We take quite a few online and some from our homeschool coop.

    I think a important thing to note is that the ultimate goal of homeschooling is not to be a school at home, but to give a rich education in everything that a child needs to be an adult. I'm not sure if I can get exactly what I mean across the internet in a little box, but I'll give it a shot. : )

    Most of the people I've talked to who think it’s a ton of work to homeschool are daunted by the thought of replicating an eight hour school day at home, but that’s not the way we do it at my house. Almost up until eighth grade, I didn't have formal 'classes' in any subject other than math and grammar. The rest of my education came in the form of great literature I read in my free time. This worked out really well, as I learned a LOT without ever killing my joy of learning. A memory of a conversation I had with another homeschooled friend when I was only about 10-12 years old sticks out at me. She was telling me how much she HATED history, and I could not understand at all, because to me history was curling up on the couch with a book for hours on end.

    During my time at home I raised 2 clutches of blind and featherless baby parrots the size of golf balls (they needed to be fed with a syringe five times a day), developed great cooking skills, knit up a storm, (see http://sarah.frederes.com/2012/12/26/finished/ ), ran my own pie baking business, became a ballet teacher, and built relationships with my siblings and my parents. Looking back, I don't think I could have done any of those things if I had spent almost three-quarters of my day in a school.

    I am certainly homeschooling my future children, and I would really recommend it to anyone. I don't think that it is as daunting or as overwhelming as many think.

    Hope this helps, and I'd be happy to answer any other questions you have about homeschooling!


    1. Sarah, thank you for sharing your story! I have so many friends who were homeschooled and they have shared great experiences along these same lines—fantastic opportunities for learning and extracurricular engagement that wouldn't be possible in a traditional school setting. This is also the kind of thing Frank points out that he really enjoyed about his homeschooling experience!

      p.s. Your knitting skills are incredible! I adore that picture of the little one in his knitted outfit. Impressive work! :)

  6. Tess, it's kiiiiind of insane how well our interests align. I didn't have a homebirth (my student doctor husband forbade it!) but I had a lovely natural birth in a hospital setting. it was actually really fun to see the look on my doctor's face when he walked into my labor room and saw me, my doula, my husband, and my nurse hanging out on the floor while I labored. his jaw dropped and he was all "are you... on the FLOOR instead of in bed?" yup.

    as for homeschooling, I've recently converted Brendan to the dark side. he went to Catholic school K - college (he was in your ND class I think!), minus one year that his mom homeschooled. I was a public school brat for most of my life, including college. his perception of homeschooling was tinged by the idea that all homeschoolers are "weird" or "awkward" or socially inept. ha! but we've both since done a lot of research into the pros and cons, read the same article as you linked to, and basically came to love the idea of classical schooling. plus, we just looked up the tuition at B's high school alma mater and it's $17k a year. that's a lot of money! and we want a large family!
    something's gotta give, and we love the flexibility and creativity of the homeschooling community. I think what finally swayed B's opinion was three-fold: the fact that we can really craft our own firmly Classical curriculum, with an emphasis on history and great literature; the ability to tune into our kids' unique interests and talents; and this one was huge- the support homeschoolers have now via rapidly-growing homeschool co-ops.

    anywho, I love love love your new blog and am waiting with bated breath to read about your wedding! :)

    1. Sarah, it really is! I love finding kindred spirits (as Anne would say) over the internet. :) LOVE the story about your birth—I would have died laughing at his reaction.

      hahaha... the dark side. School tuition has also been a huge factor for Frank and me in these conversations. There are some genuinely excellent schools out there, and then you look at the price tag! Classical education has also been a huge factor. We both wish we had been exposed to the great books in junior high and high school instead of waiting to encounter them til college. Homeschooling is such a great way to introduce your kids to these fantastic topics on their (and your) own pace. Love your point about how rapidly homeschooling is growing. That's also a big factor in my thinking too.

      So glad you like the new look and I can't wait to share the wedding photos/stories on here! :)

  7. I was homeschooled 5-12 and used to think that I would never consider it.n Shane was homeschooled K-12 except for a little bit around 8th grade or so. I think for us it would really be a matter of cost/expense. It's not like we don't know of schools with good teachers. *ahem* (Shane being a teacher and all...) And, depending on what sort of curriculum you go with, there's more or less work for the homeschooling parent. I honestly don't think there's much more labor involved than taking care of little kids--seems like going through that instead of day care is a much bigger commitment than homeschooling.

    The more I think about education, the more I like the thought of parents who are qualified to teach going with something closer to unschooling. That approach doesn't work for everyone, though. Just a couple of thoughts before my sleepers wake up and I have to fix dinner with them both looking for Mommy's undivided attention.

    Also--received a lovely bit of mail today! Thank you!

    1. Hurray, so glad you got it! I hope I'll get to see you and your lovely family again before I move. And I still need to return Jayber Crow!

      Interesting point of view that homeschooling isn't more work than being a stay-at-home parent; I think that at the least, having the kids out of the house for a big chunk of the day would make regular school easier than homeschool or just taking care of the kids, even aside from having to plan lessons and be teacher as well as mom. But like you said, the difference probably isn't very substantial for the younger ages and grades. What a nice benefit it is for your family to have a great school that your husband teaches at nearby! To me, that would make the decision a lot easier.

      I don't know a whole lot about unschooling, although it sounds quite revolutionary. :) I'd love to hear more!

  8. Taking a break from studying to comment over here!

    Oh my goodness, I sent both the homeschooling and getting married young articles to my sister before I even saw them posted on here. Such good articles!

  9. And I love reading birth stories as well! And I just love the idea of having a home birth. It all sounds so beautiful. But after my labor and delivery clinicals, I just don't know if I could ever do it. I have seen so many births go bad so quickly. One minute everything was fine and the next moment we're rushing someone to the OR to save the mom and baby's life.

  10. fFor someone who talks about the Church's teaching being distorted, Andrea does a bit of it herself.

    Suggesting that it's "planning" a family interferes with God's plan or is morally sketchy in and of itself is providentialism, an approach to family embraced by many fundamentalist protestants, but not the Catholic church. Humanae Vitae specifically discusses how a responsible parenthood can involve spacing and limiting children. Even when talking about the decision to welcome a larger family, it is in the context of a choice, not a default, suggesting a forethought and a real agency and forethought on the part of the parents.

    Choosing not to learn NFP to births is not just "leaving it up to God," anymore than not pursuing a job offer is just leaving your family's finances in God's hands. You're making a choice on how to arrange your family life in both cases, very possibly the right choice, but a real choice nonetheless. God is not hindered in his providence when we order our affairs, including using our knowledge of His design for our amazing reproductive systems (I have always found it beautiful and amazing that He designed women's fertility to be cyclical and allows us to cooperate so intimately with him in the building of a family) : indeed He endows us with great responsibility for them. There's nothing in Church teaching to suggest that "planning a family is God's job!"

    Marriage is certainly ordered to procreation, and a couple who intended to never have children would contract an invalid marriage. But it is an unjustified logical leap to say, if marriage is by nature ordered towards procreation, then babies should generally come as soon as possible! The one in no way implies the other, and it is Andrea, not the Church, making this argument.

    Humanae Vitae uses the word "justae," which can be rendered several ways. The latin implies more a sense of just or right, not a sense of unusual urgency or peculiar necessity. Serious might work as a translation. Grave is probably a little too much, and "serious and grave" together certainly is.Again, the Church's teaching is not "do nothing to regulate your fertility unless you really really need to, and then try NFP", it's "responsible parenthood can comprise both welcoming a large family if possible or deciding to space or limit children for a variety of good reasons, as long as both are done in a way that respects the dignity of human sexuality."

    Speaking of which, the picture of the baby saying "I was supposed to be number 8!" is a joke as far as I can tell, but the idea it references, that couples who do not try to conceive are denying the llittle soul God planned to send them a body, is not only completely wrong (human beings do not exist prior to conception; one cannot wrong a non existent being), it also instrumentalizes men and women and perverts the dignity of the sexual act, making sexual love a means to procreation rather than procreation the intimately connected fruit of real sexual love and responsibility.

    Choosing to welcome a large family, if possible, is NOT irresponsible. And if you've chosen that, you probably don't need to learn NFP right now, and you should not be shamed into it! I sympathize with anyone who has read the nastier things Catholics have written about couples who forgo NFP (John Zmirak comes to mind). But the way to combat that nastiness is not to cast aspersions on the legitimacy of NFP and the framework in which thoughtful, orthodox priests and couples teach about and practice it.

    1. Hi Clare!

      Glad I stopped back over here to see your comment!

      Promise we're not interpreting NFP for our own purposes, but rather trying to understand it in the context of Church Tradition and the Church history :)

      No nastiness nor judgement intended.

      Best wishes and God bless,


  11. As a young Catholic who was home schooled for elementary school I would highly recommend it to someone. I wish I could have been home schooled for a longer period of time, not only does it bring fantastic values, morals and work ethic but it allows us to think for ourselves. In Nova Scotia we don't have public Catholic education, so this was how we received our Catholic education it was fantastic!