I have been taking a bit of a break from my blog this summer, but my experience at the Family-Centered Living Conference this past Saturday has given me a reason to return to the keyboard. Michele Quigley and Mary Ellen Barrett did a wonderful job in the planning and carrying out of the gathering. I know that tons of work goes into the planning of these events, and they are to be commended for their effort. The talks were chock-full of good information and ideas, so rather than go too much into their content, I decided to organize my own thoughts and share what tidbits I took home with me. Buy the CD's from Family-Centered Press (link at the end of this post) and see what helpful information you can take away for use in your own home!
So, in a nutshell, I will briefly describe the talks and what I learned form them. In the first of Alice Gunther's two talks, she shared how she incorporates the Liturgical Year into her homeschooling with her own children and the children of many homeschoolers who attend each of two six-week Little Flowers sessions at her home . I had always thought that bringing the Church Year into my schooling was an area I was lacking in, but after listening to Alice and thinking back over the year, I realize that I am better off in this area than I thought. What I would like to do differently is to be a bit more purposeful in planning activities. I tend to be more spontaneous in this area...now I must find a way to be purposeful, and yet not lose the spontaneity, which is one of the things I've come to love about homeschooling.
Next, Margot Davidson of Hillside Education beautifully shared some great ideas on literature study. I thought about my eight-year-old, and how our reading this year will not only be reading and comprehension, but also, given his improving reading ability, we will be able to enjoy more thought-provoking books that I hope will lead to some great literary discussions! I plan to implement her ideas on literary analysis with my eighth and tenth grade children who are no longer homeschooled but tend to be reluctant writers.
My secret identity, as the BFITW of Mary Ellen Barrett, is out! Many homeschooling moms read her blog and seemed to know who I was based on a few mentions of me over at the Bonny Blue House. I got a kick out of it and joked that I should put "Mary Ellen's BFITW" on my name tag instead of my own name! Mary Ellen's talk was entitled "Tending the Wildflowers in your Garden: Cultivating Love and Acceptance for Your Special Needs Child". Although I don't have any special needs children of my own, I think I can speak for all the women listening when I say Mary Ellen's talk touched the heart of all of us! Not only that, her practical advice for raising her special needs son applies to parenting all children... find and nurture their gifts. More importantly... live a life close to the sacraments, especially confession! Thank you Mary Ellen for some wonderful ideas on understanding better the "wildflowers" among us!
Meredith Henning's talk, "Bringing Sweetness and Light to Early Childhood Education" gave some terrific ideas for meaningful play and activities for the younger set. Sadly, as of this year, I no longer have any "preschoolers". However, one phrase which Meredith used struck me:" Try and be the "yes-mom". In other words, try and resist the impulse to say "no" whenever the children ask to do something. Many times we moms are tired and stressed and saying no is the easiest option at the moment. But I can say from experience ( I have tried to be a yes-mom to my own kids) that usually saying yes is not really that difficult. As a parent of three teenagers and one twenty-year-old, I have found that saying yes keeps them coming back . Have you ever heard a child say something like "Don't ask mom, she's just going to say no, anyway"? Unfortunately, this type of mom has closed a conversation before it even starts! When a child knows there is a good chance of a "yes", she'll keep coming back with her ideas. On the occasion when you do have to say no, discussion can be wonderful when you explain your reasons, and hopefully help the child to see your point of view.
I recently had a conversation with my brother on this topic. He said when he was a teen his motto was this: "It is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission!" Wow... he must have looked at our parents as no-parents! I don't want my children to adopt this type of philosophy. Meredith's reminder to try and be the "yes-mom" was just what I needed to hear!
Alice wrapped up the day with her talk on socialization and the homeschooling child. It was an enticement to buy and read her new book Haystack Full of Needles. I thoroughly enjoyed Alice's sharing of her journey toward homeschooling as I could relate to the reluctance she felt at the beginning. To her credit, she accepted her calling to homeschooling much more quickly than I accepted mine! I have known and enjoyed Alice's generosity for five years, but after hearing her at the conference, I now know a bit of her history with homeschooling which is something we don't always get to talk about when there is a large group gathering. A great bit of advice from Alice... socialization is as much about the moms as the kids!!
All in all it was a day well spent. I have returned home rejuvenated and excited for the upcoming school year. If you are a homeschooler who has never attended a conference such as this, the cost is worth its weight in gold. You get to meet and chat with other like-minded moms, you get to look at materials up close instead of in a catalog or online, you get to hear inspiring speakers and your family is thrilled to get back a mom who is refreshed and excited for the future! Everyone wins!
Here are some links to the speakers at the conference, as well as Michele Quigley's site where you can purchase CD's of the talks:
Michele Quigley http://family-centered.com/life/
Alice Gunther http://alice.typepad.com/
Margot Davidson http://hillsideblog.blogspot.com/
Mary Ellen Barrett http://maryellenb.typepad.com/
Meredith Henning http://happyheartsmom.typepad.com/