I’m a recent convert to homeschooling, and by recent, I mean I pulled my kids out on March 21st, with only two months of school left.
Trust me – I’ve heard it all – Why didn’t we start with the new school year? Don’t I feel my kids needed the closure of the school year? Was there some major issue at school, like bullying?
Did I think of some of your questions? Oops, I forgot – Don’t you worry your kids will be socially awkward? How are they actually going to learn things? Will they be using textbooks? How will you do it; won’t you go crazy having your kids at home all day? Are you also going to start churning your own butter?
That set of questions is at least the tip of the iceberg as far as the questions both my family and strangers in line at the grocery store have come up with.
Here’s my shot at answering them:
We had decided that homeschooling would be the best fit for our kids; why would I keep them in class for two more months if I was going to pull them in August? They had the closure of Spring Break to end their time at school. My children’s teachers each made a big deal out of them leaving and they celebrated both my children in class that day. Would they have gotten that same celebration if they just “weren’t coming back next year?”
There was no bullying happening but the learning environment just wasn’t allowing my children to flourish as much as I would have wanted, although they had wonderful teachers and great school full of nice students and hard-working administration. The problem was there were 20+ kids in each class, and while that’s a low number (for California), it was too many for my preference.
My kids are not socially awkward. They have more play dates now than they did while they were in school. They enjoy spending time with cousins, sports teammates and friends while not worrying about rushing home to finish their homework.
We are actually learning, thank you very much! I am a multi-subject CA credentialed teacher so the state would trust me with those 20+ classroom students. I do NOT believe you must have a credential to teach your own children at home; I know plenty of amazing homeschool parents who are not credentialed teachers but are wonderful teachers to their children. Remember most parents teach their infants/toddlers everyday, starting with mimicking sounds and actions to teaching the abc’s, numbers, colors, etc. A credentialed teacher does not know every subject for every grade, perfectly, but instead knows how to read the teacher’s manual which breaks down the teaching points and steps for each lesson.
My children are using textbooks for some of their learning in Math and English Language Arts, while their richest subjects of history and science have been taught through museum visits and exploration. So far my children have been to more museums in the last 2 months than perhaps in the last few years.
We learned about ocean life from hands-on activities in Santa Barbara. We accompanied my husband on a work trip to Ohio where we hit a variety of museums to learn about the Wright Brothers and the history of flight. We read books in preparation for the trip and once there, stood looking firsthand at the places we’d seen photographed in the books.
We visited the home of Paul Laurence Dunbar (an African American poet who inspired Maya Angelou). We also visited the largest plane museum at the National Museum of the US Air Force. We saw over 300 planes, including a Stealth Bomber and rocket ships.
We visited the World’s Largest Children’s Museum for some fun and educational adventures. Most recently we learned about CA history and the Gold Rush at the CA History Musuem and topped it off with a visit to the State Capital to support a music educators rally, my husband was involved with. We even headed into an assemblywoman’s office to petition the cause. I think you’d agree that my children are learning things.
It is a constant daily struggle to keep my patience and we’re all learning how to work through the daily struggles and tantrums we all want to throw at home. What’s really exciting is being able to help my children learn how to push through the temptation to give up or pout when things get hard–a lesson they had yet to learn. As first and second graders toward the end of the year, they were unable to finish a worksheet page without being put back on track or encouraged to keep going. My daughter now reads directions for herself and figures out what to do instead of being told what to do!
I’m not perfect! I lose my cool more than I’d like to admit but I’m trying. I do need breaks and I work with my husband to make sure I’m getting my time alone or away from the house.
The coolest part, for me, has been sharing my love of learning with my kids. I taught my son how to sound out words and watched as he realized when you sound out each letter and put them together you can read! I’ve taught lesons and later, at a museum, my children have been able to recall the information when asked.
I have yet to churn my own butter and would say I never will, except fourth grade history will be here soon and I’m sure there is a butter churning lesson in there with the pioneers.
I don’t eat all organic, although I’d love to. I own a TV although we don’t have cable and usually each shows like Wild Kratts online. I’m a “normal” person who while I thought might die from headbutting if I homeschooled my children, instead found that I am loving being home to learn with my children!
How you can you beat learning about the Capitol by visiting it and watching firsthand as bills are passed?
What are some questions you’ve always wanted to ask a homeschooling parent? Let me see if I have an answer to your question!
Copyright 2016 Courtney Vallejo
The image that you see of a crazy kitchen, that’s what I woke up to this morning. Admittedly I left that mess on my countertop last night. I was just too tired at the end of the day to clean. My husband had worked late and I thought it would be a good chance to get to bed early. I had thought maybe he’d come home and do the dishes. Really, what was I thinking? He’d already worked late, and I thought he was going to come home and start doing dishes!
Does anyone remember the story of the Elves and the Shoemaker? Every night the elves would sneak in and make shoes for the Shoemaker to sell. I guess I was just hoping the elves showed up! They didn’t. So when I went to start my day, this is what I woke up to. It made me think of all those Pinterest images with the cute signs saying things like “Ignore my mess, my children are making memories.” My sarcasm came out and I just wanted to write on the wall – “Mom’s too tired. Waiting for elves.”
We’re almost to the end of September and I feel like my family’s schedule is just way too booked up. We go from one event to the next and I don’t usually think about dinner till 4 PM as I stare sadly into the fridge, hoping the elves also left a home cooked meal. I know I just need to be grateful my family is healthy and that my children are safe. And I try to think about that, when I step on a building block at 10 PM on my way to bed. Some days it’s just harder to see past the foot pain or my covered counter tops.
I don’t desire the time of life when my counters are clean because my children have all grown up; I miss them just thinking about that. I know they can help me clean, but sometimes it takes more work just to get them to help. We are getting there! They unload the dishwasher and they’re starting to load the plates now; I still do the glass pan scrubbing. I just wish I at least had a clean frying pan to make breakfast!
How do you balance cleaning and enjoying your family?
How do you balance cleaning and stopping to enjoy your children?
Copyright 2016 Courtney Vallejo
Often times I get overwhelmed because in the mornings I pray to be a better, calmer parent and spouse and by 7:07, I’m already being short with everyone. I find myself trying to control every situation and especially my children’s reactions to situations. I find myself thinking, if only they would follow my directions, I wouldn’t lose my patience. It’s like I expect perfection. I expect that when one of my children calls their sibling a baby face, that they’ll handle their irritation by using their words and expressing their dislike for being called names. Now back in reality, I realize that I have young kids and that is nearly impossible, so I’ll chalk it up as a goal to shoot for.
When I lose my patience, I think, “God why are you not making me more patient? Why aren’t you fixing everything?” Then he reminds me, that “I am. I am fixing you and I am working on you but all this will take time. Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
In these moments I need to stop and look back at where I’ve come from. I started as a non-religious high school student, who on the first day of Catholic high school when the student body did the sign of the cross in unison, thought I had entered the Twilight Zone. I was convinced these kids were brainwashed and now, here I am teaching my own children how to do the Sign of the Cross.
So I’m living proof to myself at least, that he is working in me. I’m such a whiner, so he has to spoon-feed me and make me take baby steps of growth. But in those moments of reflection, I have a renewed sense of hope and encouragement that if I keep seeking Him and His wisdom and guidance, that he’ll keep chiseling away at me, like an artist working on his masterpiece. He will take my stubborn rock attitude and make it into a beautiful work of art like the statue of The Thinker. With each chisel of the hammer, Auguste Rodin got closer to his vision of The Thinker. With every brush stroke, Van Gogh worked to create The Starry Night. Neither of the works of art started out as a masterpiece but rather a blank canvas and a large rock.
God reminds me that He is working on me + that I need to be patient + let Him take the time.
I remain then, hopeful, that the author of life is working to create me into the masterpiece I was made to be, even if it will take my whole life!
Copyright 2016 Courtney Vallejo
My husband and I are adoptive parents, as I’ve mentioned in previous articles. We’ve been praying about adopting again and just recently we’ve been blessed with a new addition to our family.
As with any family, bringing home a new addition is a time of transition. We are blessed with a wonderful community who is supporting and encouraging us in our parenthood. Many have asked how they can help and it’s made me stop to think. While bringing home an older child through adoption has a different set of challenges from bringing home a newborn, many of the supportive roles of friends and family can remain the same I think.
I’ve come up with a list of ideas of ways to help new foster/adoptive families. Again, I am beyond grateful for all the love and support we’ve received during this process and I can really see and feel the impact it’s having on our growing family!
1. Set up a meal train for the family. It’s so helpful to have time to bond without worrying about what’s for dinner.
2. See if the new children need clothing or shoes. Foster children may not come with anything or they may have clothing that doesn’t fit.
3. Ask if they need age-appropriate toys. This can include puzzles and games but also bikes and outdoor toys. Remember used items are still considered a “new toy” to these children.
4. Offer to take other kids already in the home out for play dates so they can get extra attention too.
5. Call to check in and really listen. Sometimes parenting adoptive children can be the same as parenting birth children, and sometimes it isn’t. Adoptive parents, like anyone, sometimes just need to vent.
6. Please don’t ask for details about the new child’s life; it’s their story to tell when and if they choose to share.
7. Offer to help clean the house or fold the laundry – again, who has time or energy for that when you’re bonding with a new child?
8. Offer to help get the room/house ready for the child. Sometimes foster/adoptive families get only a few days to prep before the children are brought home. We’ve had as little as one day to buy and build a bed and dresser as well as prepping the house. My husband’s friends came and did it in an evening and it was so helpful.
9. Everyone loves a rocking chair; perhaps you have one they could borrow to see if they child enjoys it before they purchase one.
10. Finally, a simple smile and hug can go a long way with any tired parent.
No matter how children come home, there are periods of transition, sleepless nights, and beautiful moments of bonding. Prayers are always appreciated as families grow and develop together!
Copyright 2016 Courtney Vallejo
My husband and I have made what is apparently still a countercultural decision; we’ve decided to homeschool. I have had a variety of interesting conversations with parents recently when they find out about our decision. The most interesting, I think, is when they tell me there is no way they could homeschool. It’s interesting to me, because in each time I hear this I stop and ask myself, “Did I ask you if you would ever want to homeschool?” The answer is usually no, and I’ve concluded that people just need to say that in order to clarify to me that I’m either crazy or they have some need to explain themselves and defend why they don’t homeschool. Either way, I’m not concerned with what my neighbors’ schooling choices are, as I’m too busy trying to figure out my own.
So far we’ve homeschooled for about a month, one week being Spring Break and another being an out-of-town work trip for my husband on which we tagged along. So I’m sure we haven’t really experienced “real life” as a homeschooling family.
I’ve created an ongoing mental list of pros and instead of cons, just things I still need to figure out. Overall I’m so grateful we’ve made the choice to bring our kids home, even if I spend half the day trying to figure out how to convince them that they do actually have to do their assignments and no, I can’t send them to the principal’s office.
The beauties so far:
Some things I’m still trying to figure out:
I’m sure it’s a work in progress and hopefully I’ll have years to perfect it. Until then, I’ll just keep working to figure this whole life change out. I’m grateful to my local homeschooling moms who have reached out to offer their guidance. I am constantly reminded that it takes a village to raise a child.
Copyright 2016 Courtney Vallejo
So I had my article all ready to go for this week’s post. I was going to tell you all a funny story about my cat, which I’m sure I’ll share with you another time but something else happened this morning which I feel compelled to talk about. It was one of those mornings in my house where we were running late for school, getting dressed was taking an extra amount of encouraging (sometimes I feel like it would be easier to dress zoo animals.) My children nicely asked if they could have cereal instead of the eggs I had already made and since they actually used their words to express their opinions I was trying to honor that by pulling out the bowls and stashing the eggs for later. I was planning to write my article about the cat while sitting in the school parking lot this morning and so with 5 minutes left until the time we leave for school, I was in the garage trying to get my black cat (which looks like a shadow in the dark garage) to pose for his profile picture for the article. And let me tell you, that this was somehow easier than getting my kids dressed!
When we finally got loaded in the car I noticed I was running 8 minutes late. Sure you can laugh that I actually counted minutes but for those of you with the morning drop-off duty, you know the exact time, to the minute, that you can leave your house and still be on time to school without having to walk into the school office with your head held down in shame to tell the nice office staff you’re late, again.
So I was a little nervous about my 8-minute issue but luckily I’ve left cushion time in my schedule and based on yesterday’s commute I figured we’d be fine. I was sitting at the stop light trying to decide which way I would go today. It really is like the 2 roads diverged in the forest poem. I’m trying to find the one less traveled because I know that will make all the difference! There are schools on nearly every street which I can choose to drive down and so it’s a matter of winding back and forth to miss the school traffic. I saw the traffic up ahead but still knew that going straight was faster. The street usually doesn’t have traffic and so I assumed the brake lights didn’t mean anything. I know, brake lights mean stopped traffic but I just figured it would be fine!
As I sat at the stop light, I began organizing my center console in an effort to try to feel cleaner and I still had papers in my hand as rhe light changed. As I drove through the intersection I noticed all the cars had moved to the right and as I started to realize what was going on, I saw it – a car completely upside down on the road. The air bags were deployed and it was facing another truck. I was shocked and time seemed to stand still as I tried to figure out how the accident had happened. I surveyed the scene to figure out if the driver had been able to get out of the car. I saw an older gentleman on the side of the road, visably shaken up and a young girl further up on the phone, her face red from crying.
I was absolutely paralyzed by the sight of the car and did my best to just drive through. I started to call 911 but remembered the girl was already on the phone. The response vehicles were already coming down the street at that point. And it was then that I realized it couldn’t have been more than a matter of minutes since the accident had happened. And assuming that the emergency response time is quick because I live in a small town, I started to try to figure out how long ago it happened.
Then it hit me. I was running 8 minutes late and if I hadn’t been running 8 minutes late I would have been at that intersection sooner. Could I have been in that accident? And so just for this morning at least, I’ll be glad my kids took too longer to get dressed and that I desperately needed a picture of my cat. Those “inconveniences” may have just saved our lives.
In a matter of moments those other people had their lives changed forever. You’ll have to wait to hear my cat story but I’ll leave you with the encouraging words that next time you’re running late, take a moment to count your blessings – it may just be a gift from God!
Have you ever had a moment when you saw God’s grace protecting you?
Copyright 2016 Courtney Vallejo
I was recently given the privilege of watching the film Yellow Day, which is scheduled to release on Christmas Day. The film is a beautiful journey both spiritually and cinematically. I really felt like there were 2-3 story lines depicted in this film, but the story weaves together to show how various people’s paths cross.
The film combines live action with a mystical cartoon, to tell the story. It begins with a cartoon fairy tail about a man and his search for love. Upon finding his love, he suffers great loss and darkness but finds light and grace through turning to the Lord. The man chooses to honor his love by opening a camp for children who have endured or are enduring suffering in their lives. The story behind and about the camp could have been a story in and of itself, but again it’s woven into the journey of characters from other story lines. The movie also takes us on a journey of “A Good Man,” as he’s referred to by the narrator of the film, who has various encounters with a young woman and upon forming a relationship with her, quickly loses her. The Good Man begins a search for his love which takes the moviegoer in and out of reality and the mystical cartoon fantasy. I found the cartoon parts especially powerful in telling a story and at bringing the audience into the emotionalness of the situation.
As I have a Master’s degree in Film Production, I sometimes find it hard to get sucked into a film, as I’m too busy critiquing the production level and quality. While some of the acting left me unsatisfied, the various story lines and crossover between live action and mystical cartoon kept me hooked and wondering what would happen next.
The film is rated PG and because of the references to darkness and the suffering endured by the children at the camp, I would recommend it for a more mature audience. That said, the story of hope, grace and endurance is well worth the viewing of Yellow Day. I highly encourage our readers at catholicmom.com to make sure they don’t miss this beautiful film. Opening Christmas Day, this film will provide a heartfelt testament to the power and grace given to us by the Lord.
Copyright 2015 Courtney Vallejo.
As a parent, I always think I’m the one who is supposed to be the teacher in my household. The other day, I was reminded that my children can teach me just as much, if not more sometimes, as I can teach them.
Yesterday morning was less than delightful in our home. Nothing too amazing, just a typical tantrum over the frustrations of getting dressed. It was silly, really! But I realize looking back that while I might have thought it was silly, for my child, it was huge. I get so wrapped up in trying to teach them what matters and what doesn’t in the grand scheme of things, that I forget that they don’t always see beyond each moment. Maybe they’re better at living in the moment than I am? Maybe sometimes I need to stop and realize that for them, this is a defining moment. The moment they need to be given the help they are asking for or shown the compassion and empathy they are seeking rather than being told “It’s fine,” or “Just let it go and move on.”
Looking back at the tantrum, I had wished I hadn’t tried to use it as a teaching moment, teaching patience or perseverance through struggle. I wished I had just shown my daughter that I am there for her and if my children ask for help, I’ll come if I can.
Later in the afternoon, while driving home from school, I pointed out some of the ways the tantrum had affected the whole family. As I was making the comment I even wondered what my point was in sharing this information and again, wished I had just let this tantrum go. When we got home, my daughter, handed me the note you see in the picture. “We are sorry about what happened this morning. Can you please forgive?” As I held back the tears I thanked her for the note and asked her to forgive me too. I couldn’t believe the power of seeing that apology on paper. I was taken aback at how it impacted me so much more than a verbal apology. On top of that, she wasn’t asked to say she was sorry, she wrote this letter on her own accord.
So, I’m left learning the power of forgiveness from my daughter. I’m left with the impression on my heart of the impact of a hand-written apology note. Hopefully I’ll take this lesson as a teaching moment for myself and remember this as an option next time I need to ask someone for forgiveness.
What are some lessons your children have taught you?
Copyright 2015 Courtney Vallejo
Photo Copyright 2015 Courtney Vallejo. All Rights Reserved
Have you ever had a time in your spiritual journey where a topic or thought comes up about God and then suddenly every day there seems to be some sort of mention about it, whether in Scripture or a conversation with a friend, or even in a song on the radio?
For me, the concept of a loving God who sees us as His masterpiece and simply cherishes us, has been on my heart. It’s not an easy concept for me as I’m a very action/consequence person. If you mess up, there will be a consequence and people may hold a grudge. I find it hard to wrap my head around the idea that God just loves. I do understand that God can be whatever He is, regardless of what I think He is. That while I sometimes associate the human response of disappointment, with Him, I know factually, that that isn’t true. While we as humans have the struggle of being disappointed in people and situations, I know that God loves us regardless.
As I’ve been pondering the idea of a loving father, who just adores us, God has given me a variety of ways to see it and be reminded of it. I got in the car yesterday after a women’s group that of course was about the topic, and I started singing a song when I got in the car. I hadn’t been listening to the radio in awhile so I actually caught myself singing and found it strange. I wondered where the song had come from, so I sang the line again, “and just be held.” Wow, what a concept huh, so then I got curious and wondered why was I singing this song, what was the Lord showing me something? I tried to remember the rest of the song, and I could only remember the part before it, “Stop holding on and just be held.” At first I thought this was a weird concept, why would I stop holding on? I had found myself recently clinging to God and what I had heard in my women’s group that night reminded me that while I’ve been clinging to Him in the hopes of being close to Him and relying on Him, perhaps I was living in a state of petition. My thoughts were constantly of prayers to get me out of each situation, and or fix stuff quickly. Our leader reminded us that we can also live in a time of constant thanksgiving, and how that might create in us more of a state of joy. She brought up the idea that our state of prayer life can show perhaps where we are in our attitude for life. As I pondered on the song more and wondered why it would be telling us to stop holding on, I realized that the answer came in the next line, “And just be held.” I admit I was a little taken aback in my car and I realized that in my “holding on” I had been trying to control things. If I just took a second to let go and let the Lord just hold me, I could relax in His love. Holding on and clinging take so much effort, but resting in someone’s arms can soothing, relaxing and rejuvenating.
I then pondered on visions of my son. The night before all this happened, he was having a really rough afternoon full of anxiety and as he got ready for bed I told my husband how he was struggling and I thought bedtime would be hard since he had so much pent up energy. My husband went in his room and just picked him up and held him. I could visually see my son’s body relax and he just fall against my husband’s chest. It was an image that stuck with me and I saw the soothing power of touch. Even though my son is older, I thought maybe this would be a night to sit with him in the rocking chair and again I found myself just holding him and he quickly relaxed and started to fall asleep. He just needed to be held. And so I find myself back at the song lyrics, “Stop holding on and just be held.” My challenge for myself is to try a new season, where instead of trying to control things even by the effort of clinging on to the Lord. I realize that I cling as a way to stay close, fearful that if I let go I’ll slip away, but I’m realizing that in being held, I’m not letting go of Him, but instead resting with Him and being held by Him. Maybe next I’ll learn to let Him take care for me, love me and be in control of my life. Knowing He has me, means I can relax in my father’s arms, as my son relaxed in my husband’s. “Stop holding on and just be held, just be held. just be held.”
Copyright 2015 Courtney Vallejo.
Photo copyright 2015 Courtney Vallejo. All rights reserved.
It’s been the typical run-of-the-mill week at my house, nothing out of the ordinary to report, but it seems like a lot of little things have added up to a feeling of despair.
Although everyone is healthy and we have food on the table, I’ve noticed a negative undertone this week in the way I speak to my family. In trying to encourage my family in different endeavors, my words of encouragement have seemed to come out as negative and critical. In a cry to God, he blessed me with of messages of hope, thanks to Christian radio. He reminded me: “His Grace is Enough” (Matt Maher) and that in times of trouble “You’re the anchor of my hope, the only one whose in control, I will cast my cares on you.” (Finding Favour).
Then this morning in a despairing mood, I skipped morning prayer and after another one of those unhappy conversations with my family, decided it was time to sit down with my prayer book. God spoke again. In the Liturgy of the House, Volume 4, Week 1, Friday Morning Prayer, the reading is from Ephesians 4:29-32. It says,
“Never let evil talk pass your lips; say only the good things men need to hear, things that will really help them. Do nothing that will sadden the Holy Spirit with whom you were sealed against the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, all passion and anger, harsh words, slander, and malice of every kind. In place of these, be kind to one another, compassionate, and mutually forgiving, just as God has forgiven you in Christ.”
WOW! I swear I’ve NEVER read that Scripture! So today, instead of responding in anger I will attempt to control my own mouth so that evil will not pass over my lips. I will remember that regardless of what others say to me, or how they treat me, that I must be in control of my own reactions and responses.
What Bible verses has God used to speak to you recently?
Copyright 2015 Courtney Vallejo.
Photo copyright 2015 Courtney Vallejo. All rights reserved.