A blog where families who love and live the Catholic Faith can share, encourage and support each other.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Something More Than Just Married

By Sarah

"Don't just get married - do something with your life!"

I think these are among the saddest words I have ever heard! It amazes me to discover how many of our young people (and I mean homeschooled, orthodox Catholic young people) regard marriage as the end of all fun. Marriage, if you talk to them, is a trap; and once you are trapped, that is it. You never enjoy yourselves again.

I wish they knew the truth. I wish they understood the wonderful liberation that marriage brings. To have someone who cherishes you above all others; who seeks your company before any other's; who supports you, is interested in you, talks to you, loves you... How magical that is! Yet so many young people talk of making sure you have fun before you get married, because (the implication is) you won't afterward. How has this sorry state of affairs come about?

Half in jest I told my children I'll write them a Guide to Marriage. I'll write for our sons, Shaun can write for our daughters. My part will be something like this:

Don't worry if your wife cries a lot. That's normal. But try to understand why; and when she feels insecure and unsure of your affection, it is genuine, so be re-assuring.

Tell your wife you love her. Every time you see her is probably often enough. And think it too, because the way you think and speak becomes the way you are.

Realise what it is like for her to be at home all day with only babies or toddlers for company. Be sympathetic and be punctual. If you say you'll be there at six, don't be surprised if she is an emotional mess if you arrive home at ten past six instead.

Ring her every day.

Pray together. Share your anxieties and concerns as well as your joys.

Be considerate. She's exhausted and sleep-deprived; whenever you can, in the precious spare time you have from working all day to provide for her, take the children. Do the washing up. Do the shopping. Hang the washing for her at the weekends. Help with the children and the housework. Cosset her; she's hanging on by a thread, so offer a lifeline.

Let her talk. It's something women do. Let her tell you every detail of every event. try to reciprocate, even if it's an alien idea. Try to add something about how you feel, not just a mechanical account of what you did.

Remember, your children are not your rivals. If it seems your wife always has her arms full of babies and never of husband, it is not permanent. Your children are a living embodiment of your love for your wife. Be patient and be tolerant. Be loving. Even if she's so tired that she can scarcely keep her eyes open, she does still love you.

Have fun. Go out together as a family. BUT ALSO GO OUT TOGETHER AS A COUPLE, even if it means shanghai-ing a reluctant (but of course reliable) friend or relative as a babysitter. THIS IS VITAL. Children are wonderful, a great gift, but they will grow up and move away and develop lives of their own. Your wife is there till death do you part. Don't forget it is she whom you married. (And grandmothers can put up with babies screaming for a couple of hours if needs be. When it's not your own baby it's not half as stressful.)

Money, pleasant as it is, is not everything, and God ALWAYS provides. I promise this is true, hard as it is to believe; I speak from experience. So, don't say you can't afford another child. You can never, ever afford ANY children. But children give you so much, so much precious love and joy that you will never receive in any other way. Children are a marvellous, wonderful gift. Be grateful and joyous. If you need a breather, sure, space them a bit; God never said married couples had to have as many children in the shortest space of time available; indeed, He may not even give you any. But never reject them.

Remember that as spouses, through the sacrament of marriage, instituted by God to give grace, you each work to the sanctification of the other. What a wise and unexpected gift that is.

Love your wife, love your children, be kind and generous. Make her laugh. Have fun. God bless you.

Perhaps they'll read it; but at least it is an attempt to share with them the truth about marriage! How could anyone do MORE than 'just get married'?!!

Photo: Wedding by Tom Clare/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Unwritten Love Notes

By Farmer's City Wife, our guest blogger from the Northwest, USA

Recently I had a sulk-fest when I perceived my husband had been slacking on the servant-leader front.

Sure he's working 90 hour weeks in the heat of a desert summer and sleeping an average of 4 or 5 hours a night. Sure he's brought me flowers and beef jerky (who needs chocolate when you can have jerky?). Sure he's never failed to water my chicks or take out the trash or even do a load of laundry (all without ever being asked), but by golly he's let my water cup run dry without re-filling it like he did when we were first married. And he's committed the mortal sin of only getting one spoon instead of two with the ice cream, and he's not immediately and emphatically commented upon how delicious dinner is like when we were first married.

My radar immediately went up and I went on the prowl, noticing every little thing that he "used to do when we were first married but doesn't do anymore." Sure enough, with great effort I came up with a list of 11 items.

I was feeling pretty smug and basking in the glory of self pity. "He doesn't love me like he used to! He's starting to take me for granted!" Boo hoo hoo.

Then, as an aside and fully expecting the exercise to show my superiority, I made a list of things I "used to do when we were first married but don't anymore." Within less than three minutes I had a list of 17 items. I could've easily kept going, but my pride wouldn't allow it.

So after having a good cry at my wretchedness, I set about to serve my husband instead of seeking to be served; to see in him the face of Christ and to serve and love my husband as though I were serving and loving Christ.

To take off his shoes when he comes home, to lay out his clothes and a clean towel for a shower, to visit him in the field and bring him dinner instead of griping that he comes home at an "unreasonable hour," to kiss him on the forehead "just because," to prepare desserts he'll enjoy, always to greet him warmly, to notice everything and thank him for it, to pray for him throughout the day, to keep his glass filled, to fluff up his pillows, to save the last bit of ice cream for him, to curl my hair and iron my shirt, to ask him about his day and listen and sympathize and support... a million little unwritten love notes.

It's amazing: when you actively look for ways to serve, suddenly the opportunities for love and joy increase exponentially. Love multiplies itself.

And since starting my Unwritten Love Notes Campaign, without ever mentioning it to him, I've had to strike 9 of the 11 items off his list.

Please share more of Farmer's City Wife's posts on her blog City Wife, Country Life

Monday, April 25, 2011

How Marriage Has Changed Me

I would like to welcome Farmer's City Wife to Australian Catholic Families, as our first guest author. I love reading FCW's writings on her blog City Wife, Country Life and she very generously has agreed to share a couple of her posts with us. FCW lives in the Northwest, USA. \

It's Sunday. I'm going to write more than usual... if that's okay :).

When we were huckleberry picking I had the chance to talk to
a cousin of ours. I enjoyed her company immensely and wished we lived closer to each other so I could get to know her better. Alas.

But during the course of our conversation she asked, "What's your favorite part about being married?" I listed off a few things, but I've not been able to stop thinking about that question. Several times I day I catch myself saying interiorly, "this is my favorite part" and later in the hour, "no, this would be it." Marriage, as God intended it, is just too wonderful!

I'll just take one "for instance."

I hate grating cheese. Passionately. I'll do just about anything to avoid having to do it (except
buying it pre-grated which costs $ and delivers dried-out cheese, or buying a food processor which is just another clunky appliance to wash and store). I feel the same way about washing lettuce and making ice.

But I've noticed a curious thing since getting married. Grating cheese is one of the sweetest moments of my week. Don't get me wrong... I still hate grating cheese, but I love doing it for my husband. It's a joyful sacrifice that doesn't even feel like a sacrifice because it's done with love for him. Lettuce and ice are the same way. If I lived alone I would never grate cheese, I'd eat salads but rarely and I'd probably live without ice. But when there's another person involved, a person I love, doing these things takes on an entirely different quality. It's a vocation that takes the focus off of me, my wants, my comforts, my selfishness and allows me to do for another. It's little things like this, done with love, that are part of why marriage is so amazing... it effects even the most mundane tasks and makes them worthwhile, meaningful, and acts of real love instead of drudgery. Each time I nick my knuckle on the cheese grater, instead of muttering under my breath I can rejoice that I'm finally able to prove with actions instead of words, in some small
way, how much I love my husband. (I know motherhood is the same way... making unpleasant tasks sweet because they're done with love. But I can't speak from experience yet.)

It's easier to do the big things, sometimes, that get noticed. Doing dishes, laundry, floors, making dinner... those things rarely go unnoticed by my wonderful husband and he doesn't fail to thank me for doing them. Great joy, though, is found in doing the things that go unnoticed... dusting places that you would never notice are clean but you'd sure know if they were dirty, sweeping behind the toilet, straightening the contents of drawers. Herein lies the housewife's ability for sanctity. Herein lies my joy.

This has, finally, shown me what my attitude towards God should be. Sure I've always done sacrifices... what cradle Catholic doesn't "offer it up?" But what was my attitude when doing them? Suddenly, not eating meat on Friday isn't an annoyance done because "good Catholics just do it"; it's a cause for joy, to show God I love Him. Praying on my knees without leaning my rump on the pew behind me and my elbows on the pew in front of me... holding my tongue when I want to give a sharp
reply... these are the "little things" which, when done with love, take on an eternal significance. And, when united to the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross, they have redemptive and salvific powers!!

Ah the holy martyrs. They would go singing?? Joyfully?? To be mauled to death by lions? To be shot by arrows? To be stoned? Drowned? Flayed? Burned? Shot? Poisoned? Hanged, drawn and quartered? How could they joyfully do something like that? ONLY with Love.

What is this other than St. Therese's "Little Way"? I guarantee she saw this spirituality (even at a very young age when her mother was alive) exemplified by her saintly parents, Blessed Louis and Zélie Martin. God grant us the grace to be like them (and to have children like her, hehe)!

Tonight we should have cheesy enchiladas, salad and iced tea :). Oh happy day!
Please share more of Farmer's City Wife's posts on her blog City Wife, Country Life

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spouse Time

By Michele

Many years ago, when we were newly-weds ourselves, we attended the wedding of friends of ours. At the reception we were chatting with the parents of the groom. He told us a very interesting story.

This couple had been blessed with children and the first decade and more had been taken up busily caring for the needs of these children and working hard to provide a roof over their heads. The children grew older and the day finally came when the father and mother could go out to dinner, for their eldest daughter was now old enough to baby-sit. Of course this was looked forward to preceding the event. Finally the big night came. They decided to make this night different by not talking about the children while they were out - just enjoying each other's company for the first time since they married. Guess what happened? They couldn't think of anything to talk about! The husband said, "Well, love, we can go one of two ways here. We can grow further and further apart or we can make an effort to grow closer." They decided to make a weekly date and grow close to one another.

This couple recognised the importance of spending time with your spouse to make a happy marriage. Later in our life when we had numerous little children and no chance of going out, a wise parishioner told me that when the children are little you put them to bed so you can get some time with your husband. When the children are older, this lady said you need to go to bed earlier so that you can get some private time with your husband. This is very true - as our older children stay up as late as we do, it can be very tricky managing to have some time to talk and enjoy each other's company as spouses.

A priest friend told me that the most important thing parents can give their children is a happy marriage. This means spending time together. I'm not meaning expensive dinners - although a nice night out is always fun. But a milkshake or a cappuccino and a walk in the park on a regular and frequent basis can go a long way to providing a happy marriage. Of course I do not believe these times need to have no conversations about the children - often it's the only uninterrupted time you have. However, it is good to also talk about hopes and dreams, projects that the family can work on, how to spend your free time in a fun way as a family etc... We are not abandoning our children or being bad parents if we leave them to spend short amounts of time with our spouses. We are making an investment in our marriage.

It is very easy, especially when you are busy homeschooling and your husband is busy trying to provide for the family, often on a single income, to begin to live separate lives. We must love and cherish our spouses. We must work on our marriages if they are to survive. We also need to give our children, particularly our older children, positive and attractive models of marriage. Just as happy nuns are attractive for religious life, happy couples are attractive for the vocation of marriage.

Let us ask God for all the graces we need to live in the holy state of matrimony and pray for our brothers and sisters who are struggling in their vocation at this time.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Morning Coffee Habit

By Leanne

Dermot & I are very Blessed to be able to share our Morning Coffee together. Dermot works from home, and has done most of our married life.

We started sharing a coffee as a form of chatting when the children were little, staying connected. We claimed it as our time. We even took the phone off the receiver in the early days. It was our special time alone together. No children allowed. The children knew this and would leave us alone for that time.

Sometimes on weekends they would come to the door. "It's been long enough." We would laugh, and probably it was long enough.

It is still our time. We continue to claim it as ours, but now we have invited another person to sit with us.

No, it is not a child....

We have asked God to come into our coffee time so we can hear his word, ponder on it, and share our insights with each other.

So every morning while Brid starts her school day, we sit down together, coffee in hand and we read to each other.

We read the reflection set out first. Then Dermot & I take it in turns to read each reading from the Bible, and it is always he who reads the Gospel. We have been subscribing to The Word Among Us for a while, but it is always very nice to share it together. We tend to find it opens up a conversation for us.

We have been sharing our morning coffee now with God since the beginning of the year and it has now become a habit.

Please share more of Leanne's posts at her blog Roses, Tea and Our Lady.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


By Gerard and Lisa

This article is about our daughter, Miriam, who was miscarried 8 years ago and what we did. We are writing this in response to the many people who have said to us ‘I wish I knew I could have done that’.

On Tuesday evening the 8th of April 2003 we were 12 weeks pregnant when Lisa started to spot. It stopped within half an hour. This does not always mean that there are problems but we were worried. We had an appointment to see an obstetrician that was still three weeks away. When the spotting began again in the early hours of Wednesday morning Lisa rang our G.P. He suggested ringing the obstetrician to get an earlier appointment. He also told us that Lisa would probably go on to have a miscarriage and there was nothing we could do. The obstetrician was unable to see Lisa but gave us a referral to have an ultrasound.

We had to wait until Friday morning before we could be fitted in for the ultrasound. The news was not good. Miriam had no heartbeat and judging by her size had probably died three weeks earlier. The obstetrician saw us and gave us the option of going to the hospital for a curette or going home to wait for things to happen naturally. We took the second option.

After the ultrasound Gerard went to see our parish priest, Fr Albert, to discuss funeral options. We knew from friends that we could have some kind of memorial service and burial. Upon reading the rubrics for the Requiem Mass Fr Albert, who never had experienced a case like ours before, found that there were prayers within the ritual for an unbaptised child. That afternoon we chose readings and prayers for Miriam’s Requiem Mass.

The next morning, at 4:45am, nature took its course and Miriam was ‘born’. After a conditional baptism we gathered her remains and wrapped them in a white hand towel, placed the towel in an ice-cream container and put it in the fridge.

Saturday was a busy day. We told the children as they awoke about their little sister and  answered the questions they asked as best we could. The funeral arrangements were finalised with Father and  it was set down for Monday. He also organised a child’s plot at our local Catholic cemetery.

Gerard went to the shops to buy a ‘coffin’ for Miriam. Where do you go to buy a coffin for such a small child? He finally found an appropriate box in a kitchen shop. It was a wooden box intended to sit on a kitchen bench. He then went to a hardware store and bought some nails. Flowers were also ordered.

Sunday was Passion Sunday and we spent it with friends performing in a Passion play. It was good to have the support. Afterwards friends helped us to dig the grave.

Monday morning consisted of getting everything ready for the funeral. We picked up the flowers and prepared the coffin. We placed Miriam in her white hand towel into the box with Lisa’s rosary beads. A Miraculous Medal and crucifix, which Gerard usually wore, were nailed to the top and a wooden crucifix glued onto the side. We then each hammered some nails into the lid to close the coffin. This was a very difficult and healing thing to do.

The Requiem Mass was beautiful with friends supplying the music and family and friends supporting us. Miriam was laid to rest in the adjoining cemetery with each of our other children participating by throwing dirt and flowers onto the coffin as it was buried.

Each time we drive past the cemetery, which is every workday for Gerard, we remember our daughter and sister.

We often say to each other that while what happened to us was sad, God was good to us in the way it happened. We don’t know why it happened but we continue to trust in God’s plan for our lives.

Each family will cope with a miscarriage in their own way. We hope that by sharing our story, others will learn of what may be some of their options.

Today is Miriam's birthday. Please pray for Gerard, Lisa and family

Saturday, April 9, 2011

My Granddad

By Veronica

George Randall

This is my Granddad, long before I knew him, but I can recognise him. There’s the pipe and the records and the mind that hair just couldn’t keep covered. He was a member of the Catholic Evidence Guild, though not big on public speaking. He loved music. He had elaborate speakers and wires set up and knew all about radios. He baked his own bread. He took his family from England to Australia in 1959. He settled down on a rather barren block of land not far from the Georges River. He loved bird-watching.

In the family he was the expert on the Catholic Faith. After Mass on Sundays I have memories of the discussions that would fly right over my head at their place. It was very interesting, but overall left me with the impression that there was a lot of stuff wrong about the Catholic Church today. Not that the Pope was wrong, but that Granddad’s descendents weren’t being taught the faith in their supposedly Catholic schools. That’s a handy thing to know, but by itself is only a negative sort of piece of information. If I can’t trust the school teachers, then where do I go?

The next piece of the puzzle came in 1988. I asked my mother a vaguely Theological question, the details of which have been lost. She took me to ask Granddad. He listened, probably asked me to speak up, thought for a bit and came back with a book.Theology For BeginnersTheology For Beginners by Frank Sheed. He told me to read it slowly and think it over carefully. I read the first chapter, then again in case that wasn’t slow enough. I think children have a great capacity to take on things they don’t understand and work around them. I didn’t get all the way through the book straight off, but eventually I did.

The book talked about how we can use reason to know about God. Rereading the first chapter brings back something of the longing for understanding. He talks about how he wanted to learn Theology, but the world seemed to treat it as a burdensome topic only for seminarians to endure. He stood up to the world – teaching from a soap box in Hyde Park – and found some people to listen.

One of the listeners was a man whose Portuguese mother had given him some idea of the Catholic Faith, but who was swayed by his father’s leanings to Communism. You can imagine the sort of background – the intellectual world scorned the pious faith that only served to prop up people who had no vision of the potential of mankind. Frank Sheed was different. He presented the intellectual foundations for all the Church teachings. He showed it wasn’t purely by blind faith in Revelation that we hold such beliefs, but by Reason informed by faith. That truth he did not invent, he didn’t have to, it was all nutted out centuries ago. The truth doesn’t change, only the lies that come against it.

So that man was my grandfather. He helped with Frank Sheed’s Catholic Evidence Guild, especially his book on communism.

There is some perception that to be Catholic you have to be dim. It’s all about switching off your brain and following the Pope. But the reality is that there are so many converts coming into the Church precisely because they are following Reason. The people who are active Catholics today have had to learn the Faith by effort – you can’t rely on Catholic schools when so many teachers there are not practicing Catholics themselves.

I remember reading a biography of Frank Sheed, written by his son. It was saddening because after reading Frank’s work, on fire for the truth, you see his own son didn’t quite seem to get it. It’s hard to say how he missed it, with his father doing lectures in the United Kingdom, America and Australia, his mother a prolific writer herself, together they ran the publishing house “Sheed and Ward”. But maybe that was it. His parents were busy and somehow underestimated the need to teach their son. They were out convincing the world, but missed their own domestic world.

I don’t know, it’s all conjecture, but it was a similar story with my Granddad. He was saddened to find that the Catholic schools he had entrusted his children to failed to teach basic truths like transubstantiation. Of course that sounds like a terribly complicated and obscure sort of word, but consider going to Mass every week. Surely you’re going to wonder about why people genuflect to a little box on the wall. If you haven’t heard about the Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist; that the bread and wine change – the very substance change – into Jesus, alive and real; then what’s the point?

We’re lulled into a false sense of security when we think we can just go about our own business and our children will pick it up as they go along. We need to teach them and test them to make sure they’ve got the precious treasure that we had to attend late night classes in the city to glean. We need to keep studying to keep ourselves on track. We need to keep praying to keep our souls turned towards God – because it is all by His grace that we get anything right at all.

And if we can give them a head start like that – a good grounding in the Faith from a young age – who knows what they might be able to do with it?

Please share more of Veronica's posts on her blog Veronica's Miscellany

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

In Defence of Barbie

By Sue Elvis

I have something rather shocking to admit, so I’ll whisper: my girls are Barbie girls. What’s that, you say: Barbie girls? Yes, I say, looking around to see who’s listening. My girls play with Barbie dolls. Well, now it’s out in the open. My reputation is probably ruined forever but at least we no longer have to keep the dolls hidden behind closed doors.

Barbie entered our home quietly without a lot of fuss. My eldest daughter, Felicity received a ‘My First Barbie’ as a third birthday present from her auntie. This gift brought back enjoyable memories of my own Barbie days and prompted me to dig out my old childhood friends. Before we knew it, Barbie games had become part of our girls’ recreation. Gradually however, we became aware that not all people are Barbie fans and that some folk even find this doll objectionable.

Once, one of my daughters wanted to give a small gift to her friend and without my knowledge, she photocopied some pages of her Barbie colouring book. She was most distressed when the pages were refused with the words, “My mum doesn’t let us have Barbies.” I explained to Imogen that some parents disapprove of Barbie dolls and perhaps we’d better keep the dolls to ourselves. If guests came to play, the girls were not to get them out for fear of offending anyone. They were to be an “at home alone” toy.

My girls don’t understand what is wrong with Barbie dolls but they accept that different families have different rules. I, also, accept and respect the decisions of other families. These differences in opinion have caused me to reflect on the subject: are Barbies harmful?

One objection that could be made is that Barbie has an unrealistic body shape and this may cause girls to have distorted ideas about their body image. Yes, Barbie is a strange shape but so far, none of my five girls yearns to be Barbie. I don’t think the younger ones attach much importance to Barbie’s fashion model figure. To them, she is just a pretty doll. But are they absorbing subtle messages? Our eldest daughter arrived safely at adulthood without acquiring the ambition to be a human Barbie and so did I, so I am not really worried.

“Let’s play Barbies,” one of the girls suggests and soon the bedroom floor is covered with a dozen or more dolls, a mountain of clothes, a car, a camper van and other Barbie ‘stuff’. It is amazing what the modern Barbie owns. She has numerous pairs of shoes including ice skates, roller blades, sandals, slippers, high heels and sneakers. She has an extensive range of personal articles like a toothbrush, a hairdryer and soap. Of course, she needs an iron, a camera, a kettle and many items of food including a box of six eggs to place in her very own fridge. Before you start to imagine we are victims of the Barbie merchandise machine and we are making Mattel a very wealthy company at a very rapid rate, I will add that all Barbie’s belongings have arrived in the same manner as herself: off the shelf of that wonderful shop, St Vincent de Paul (with the exception of a few gifts). Once a game is in progress it can last all day.

One of the attractions of a Barbie game is the opportunity to dress Barbie. Her clothes are changed frequently as the game progresses. I cannot deny that the average Barbie tends to enjoy parading about in skimpy little outfits. It seems rather miraculous to me that anyone is able to put together such small items of clothing using a sewing machine. Fortunately, our Barbie’s clothes budget doesn’t allow her to shop for off the rack clothes like those found in such glamour boutiques as Toyworld. She has to rely on her own dressmaker who designs pretty but decidedly less revealing skirts and dresses.  Barbie and Ken have inherited a few heirlooms from my own childhood. Imagine Ken in a seventies inspired flowered shirt, flares and leather fringed vest.

I have observed many Barbie games and witnessed many weddings between Barbie and Ken. Admittedly, the same Ken doll has married many different Barbie dolls but I think the problem lies in the unequal ratio of Kens to Barbies and doesn’t show a lack of appreciation for the sacred and eternal bond of matrimony. Barbie and Ken do their best to bring up and homeschool their children (the Kelly and Tommy dolls), ensuring they always say grace before meals and go to Mass regularly. I have never heard Ken and Barbie’s surname but by observing their lifestyle, it very well may be Elvis.

I have come to the conclusion that sometimes it is the game children play with a toy that is objectionable and not the toy itself. A few years ago, we lived in the same street as a non-Catholic homeschooling family. One day, seven year old Amy arrived on our doorstep with the announcement she’d come to play. On entering our home, she was delighted to discover that a huge Barbie game was in full swing. She helped herself to a couple of Barbie dolls and was soon directing the course of play. As I eavesdropped, I could hear Amy saying, “Let’s make Ken and your Barbie break up. Now Ken’s going out with my Barbie.” My girls looked rather blank not understanding the concept of “breaking up” and I was rather relieved when I heard Amy’s mother calling for her to come home. I expected Amy to be a regular visitor to our house now that she’d discovered our girls and their dolls, but she never returned. Perhaps she told her mother how Barbie and Ken went to Mass and this confirmed her mother’s opinion that we are rather a weird family.

We all know that Barbie has had many different careers: she has been a teacher, an air hostess, a skater, a ballerina, a doctor and even a scientist. But our Barbie, together with Ken, is a Catholic homeschooling parent. Her life is played out in our girls’ bedroom. I will admit that she is rather more physically beautiful than your average Catholic homeschooling mother. (Don’t I wish I looked so young and glamorous as I face the daily challenge of educating and raising our children?) However, it is this beauty which is the chief attraction of the doll. My girls love anything pretty; their favourite colour is pink; they enjoy all things ‘girly’. To me, possessing beauty and ‘girly-ness’ is a positive feature of Barbies. I like to see our girls being real girls. There are many games that are enjoyed by both girls and boys, but rarely have I seen a boy completely absorbed in a Barbie game. It is a truly feminine past time.

I once heard a discussion of how beauty is associated with good while evil has always been traditionally portrayed by ugliness. Movies like Shrek are very confusing because this association has been turned upside down. This is the reason I prefer Barbies to Bratz dolls. To me, Bratz dolls are unattractive with their heavy dark makeup and drably coloured clothes. I do not want our daughters to absorb the idea that ugly is really beautiful. It could lead to the thought that evil is really good and there is nothing wrong with sin. No, we’ll stick to the good old fashioned Barbie who won’t be seen with her face plastered with a thick layer of black and purple make-up. We’ll have a Barbie who never pierces any part of her body except for her delicate ears.

I guess I could be wrong. Maybe Gothic Barbie is out there somewhere but I have never seen her. Our trips to the Barbie aisle of the toyshop are so rare: I may have missed such a doll. But even if our girls were allowed to purchase any brand new Barbie still in her protective box, I am sure they wouldn’t choose Tattoo Barbie. Their first choice would be a Princess Barbie, maybe Swan Lake Barbie complete with her handsome Prince: a real fairy tale doll. To us, that is what Barbie is: a fairy tale who lives in a world where good is beautiful including hard working homeschool mothers.

Now many of you may disagree with these opinions. I am not out to convince you. I am no authority. Like everyone else, I am bumbling my way through the challenges of child rearing, trying to do my best to bring up our children the best way I can. So next time you see me, don’t give me a shocked look but be tolerant of this woman who has the courage (or folly) to reveal a controversial secret. Oh and by the way, if your girls are fellow Barbie lovers, please come and visit us. We’ll put the kettle on and enjoy a chat about homeschooling while we sew beautiful modest creations for Barbie, who no doubt will be in the middle of a homeschooling picnic with her husband Ken and their numerous children.

Please share my stories at Sue Elvis Writes

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Heart

By Leonie
I know nothing about education except this: that the greatest and most important difficulty known to human beings seems to lie in that area which deals with how to bring up children and how to educate them. Michel De Montaigne ( 1533-92)

And so begins the book The Film Club - a memoir of a father and son, growing together. The father, David Gilmour, a film critic, allowed his son Jesse to drop out of school at Year Ten, with two provisos.. that Jesse not do drugs and that Jesse watch three films a week with his father, the film critic father , three films of the father's choice...with discussion.

Reviewers of the book wrote...

A heartfelt portrait of how...in the midst of a family's confusion and ire, there is sometimes nothing so welcome as a movie...

..Gilmour's experience suggests that what really counts, for parent and child, is simply being together.

I read this book as a parent on the last legs, so to speak, of her official homeschooling adventure. Only two of the seven sons are now official homeschoolers, the other five having moved into university and work or both.

And next year, there will be only one official, registered homeschooler..Anthony, as Thomas will be at university too.

I read The Film Club, this book, and contemplate our family's homeschooling, unschooling adventure.

I think it is true to say that this adventure has been based on books and movies and on discussion..And on simply being together, through many moves, financial troubles, sickness, miscarriages, babies, toddlers, volunteer work, Mum's conversion to Catholicism, ire, arguments..joy, laughter, a weird sense of dark humour and sarcasm, a healthy dash of cynicism, fun, music, outings, people , friends.....masses and prayers, visiting priests and religious..technology.. work...and those books, movies and discussion.

For all of our life has become our education, our learning, and has made our family, as individuals and as a whole, who it is that we are today.

Someone told my son Jonathon recently that it was good for him to be away from his mother's presence and out of his shell..and yet, when I feel full of self doubt and ponder my inadequacies as a strong mum, Jonathon tells me heatedly, determinedly, that there is no shell, he is not disempowered by my strength of character but has a strong character himself. We all do, mum, he says,
we Westenbergs are all determined and hard headed .
Yes, I see that who I am, with faults and failings, has also been part of the children's education. We have not separated life and family and learning but thrown it all together, in a seemngly ad hoc way, to create a smorgasbord of education. people who love books, music, movies, talking, people..and their faith.

There is no dichotomy between education and family life.

Eucharistic spirituality must be the interior motor of every activity, and no dichotomy is acceptable between faith and life in their [ the lay person's] mission of spreading the spirit of Christianity in the world.

So I read this morning in
Heart of the Christian Life: Thoughts on Holy Mass ( Pope Benedict XVI).

Can I draw some parallels here?

There is no dichotomy betwen faith and life..we adore Christ, we receive Him and , after adoration, as we are filled with Christ's love, we take Him within us, share Him, to our communities..so, we love and live and spend time with our children and take this love into our activity, passions, our interests, our little interest driven explorations, our education.

Just as parenting, and unschooling, are not based on activity and busyness first but instead based on life and love and then, almost organically, a curriculum and learning emerges..Just as love is the centre of the unschooling form of learning..so, too, as the Holy Father says, we base our faith on love and adoration and, yes, acceptance of doctrines ( for, a church bulletin message was wrong; let me tell you, faith, yes, is built on love and trust but the Faith also involves an acceptance of doctrines, of Church teachings, based on this love..and not on feelings). Our parishes are not based on activity first, on lunches and jokes and clapping first, but on the Eucharist, the love of God for us, on adoration and contemplation..and then, the active life of the parish emerges...from the worship, not preceding the worship or instead of the worship.

Undivided love toward God and neighbour is founded upon the mystery of the Eucharist, celebrated and adored. Heart of the Christian Life.

People have sometimes asked me how to homeschool, how to unschool. And people at church have sometimes asked me how I get my teens and older sons to mass, to live their faith.

I don't.


I don't homeschool as an addition to our life as a family, I spend time with my kids, I share books with my kids, we watch movies, we talk non stop. And thus our unschooling education has emerged from these activities, has grown an education, covering outcomes in a real, relevant, manner.

I don't make the kids live their faith. I couldn't could I? But we live our Faith, I live my Faith, my struggles and joys, we go to mass together, we experience beauty.

The saint is the person who is so fascinated by the beauty of God and by his perfect truth as to be progressively transformed by it. Heart of the Christian Life

The heart of Jesus reaches out to us.

The heart of my family's unschooling rests on this, on the Eucharist; and on the heart of the parent; the heart of the parent reaches out for the child, to make the child a priority, to do what is in the best interest of the family and the child.

Education in real life, for real life, with books and movies and talking.

With Faith.

With the Eucharist, the Bread of Life.

Let us pray to her, our holy Mother, so that she may help is to open our entire being, always more, to Christ's presence; so that she may help us to follow him faithfully, day after day, on the streets of our life. Heart of the Christian Life

Please share more of Leonie's posts on her blog Living Without School