Sunday, April 29, 2012

Education vs. Schooling: a homeschool mother in crisis

If there are any readers still out there, not completely turned off by my neglect of this space, I will continue to offer a few words here and there.  Not that any of you are hanging on my words, of course.  And I offer little excuse, other than there are times when my attention is needed elsewhere.   And I hate technology.   And all of its drama.   And complications.  I think I was born in the wrong century.  Yet, God has placed me in this time for a reason, and so I carry on.  Which brings to mind the term 'carrion', "dead and putrefying flesh, unfit for food."  Seems I am in the mood for dissecting words this evening.  Forgive me if perhaps my words are not fit for consumption, as I am sure they will offend some.  At times they are just the train of thought that whistles its way down the tracks of my mind, and perhaps should not always be shared with others.  They are what they are, take them as you will (or not).
I have spent much of my life in what many would call "the field of education."  I was home schooled (third grade to graduation), and so self educated myself in a number of subjects through high school.   I went to two liberal arts colleges and came out with a language degree as well as certification to teach.   Throughout college, I tutored elementary students and graduate students.  I taught night classes at a university for extra income.  After college, I spent three years teaching in a Catholic school.  I came home to raise children, and am now teaching them.  Every part of my life has been touched by "education."  And yet,  I constantly ask myself, "am I educating my children?"   Seems this time of year I always battle with the self doubt.  One reason attending the St. Emmelia conference is such a great boost of encouragement, and I am feeling the effect of having to be absent this year.  "Educating my children."  What does that even mean?  What do we mean when we say we want our children to receive "a good education."   Ironic really.  I have a piece of paper with a state seal on it that says I am qualified to educate other people's children.  And I am still asking the question "what is a good education?".  If you ask most, the answer usually is to equip them with the skills needed to get a job.  Utility.  Practicality.    We can thank (or perhaps condemn) John Dewey for revolutionizing our understanding of education in America.  For Dewey, education equaled utility.  The goal: preparing citizens to be put to use in society.  Pragmatism.  Or, as Dewey preferred it, instrumentalism.  That which is most useful, most instrumental for society.  A skill.  A way to be valuable to the whole.  Which could lead us into a whole other topic concerning the value and worth of a person in this type of society, the type of society we have rapidly become, but I digress.

My other specialty: language (BA in Spanish, with a minor in English).   As a lover of language and words (thank you Professor Leslie  for introducing me to the OED, I am ever grateful for your infectious love of words and their true meaning), I understand the value of tracing a word to its origins.  Education.   From the Latin, educo.  In Spanish, my particular field, "educado".   In Greek, "paidea".  What does it mean?  Knowledge?  Facts?  Information? Skills?  Well, yes, they are a part.  However, we have lost the true meaning.  "The process of nourishing or rearing a child or young person."  The bringing up of a child. In Spanish, a child who is "mal educado" is one who has been poorly raised, not one who has been poorly schooled.  It is about the formation of character.  The raising and nurturing of a child.  Forming, uplifting and recognizing the nature of the human being, reaching the soul.  Are my children receiving that kind of education?  Or have I allowed the focus to become utility, practicality, how is this child going to fit in, to become useful to society in the future?   Even worse, how is this child going to be successful (that is, wealthy, famous, recognized, appreciated) in this culture?   It is easy to forget that schooling and education are not equal.

As I am struggling for answers, where do I  turn?  To the church.  And where do I get the best guidance in the "education" of children?  With the wisdom of Bishop THOMAS resounding in my head, I must remember what my goal is.  Remember why I educate my children.  And so, when those seeds of doubt creep in, when the voices whisper that I don't have time to go to services during the week,  that attending liturgy for St. Anthony - a model for humility as wisdom -  is not as important as studying Latin, I must remind myself of that goal.   And to comfort me, to remind me of my greatest desires, I turn to the Akathist to the Mother of God Nurturer of Children.  Every month our parish offers the opportunity to pray this Akathist as a community.  If I honestly wish to pray those prayers, then I must accept the words which it declares.  And so, it has become my home school manifesto.  My mission statement.  My reason for "educating" my children.  And what does it say?

"Raise my children to be earthly angels, wise as servants but innocent as doves, to have knowledge of good but not of sin, to be meek that they may inherit the earth, pure in heart that they may see God, the light of the world that their light might shine before men.  To order their lives wisely, following the example of the saints.   To seek first the Kingdom of God, to be the least of all, that they may be great before God, to deliver them from falsely-theorizing orators, to strongly oppose atheists, to run from the world and the delusion of the world, to serve Thee in obedience and chastity, to stand before Thee with reverence, to bear good fruit, to live in a holy manner, to be made worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven and make them heirs of eternal blessings.  What more could a mother hope for, that her children be made worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven, to make them heirs of eternal blessings?  Only that she herself may also be made worthy of those same blessings.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


Here is our team of fellow catechists in training and formation leaders, minus Donna Turner who was behind the camera.

We received our certificates for level 2 this afternoon!  The beautiful Good Shepherd medallions were gifts from our formation leaders and came from Rome.  And, only a catechist would get excited about this, but we each got a beautiful candle snuffer and a box of beautifully covered matches  :)

And to go with our celebration cake, we all sipped on a sparkling white wine, appropriately named "Sofia".

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sunday, April 22, 2012

St. Thomas Sunday, or naming our firstborn

I love this particular Sunday of the year.  It was 13 years ago on this Sunday that my husband and I were "discussing" possible names for our first child who was due in 2 weeks.  We didn't know if we were having a girl or a boy (gotta have a few surprises in life, right!), and we were going round in circles over possible boy names.  We had settled on one we both could agree on as a first name.  It was the middle name that was giving us trouble.  I wanted to use my husband's middle name.  He wanted Thomas.  Why?  Why would you want to name your child after the apostle who is best known for his lack of faith?  There was no family connection with that name.  I didn't understand.  I didn't want it.  And that Sunday morning, as I sat in church listening to our priest offer up a beautiful homily on St. Thomas as a role model, my husband gently nudged me in the arm, more than once.  After church, he just looked at me.  But I wasn't convinced.  That night, about 11pm, I woke with a knife pain in my back, the beginning of back labor.  My contractions started at 7 minutes apart, and my water broke 2 hours later.  We were still "discussing" the name Thomas in the car.  Between pains in my back, I kept saying no.  Guess I was pretty stubborn.  That morning, Monday April 19th, our son arrived.  Our families had all travelled several hours to be there for the appearance of their first grandchild.  One of the first phone calls my husband made was to the priest from the parish where we met.  The priest who married us.  The priest who married my husband's parents.  The priest who along with 6 other men in the 1960's and 70's embarked on a journey to discover the true church of the apostles.  The man who led my in-laws and countless others into the Orthodox faith in the 1980's.  The man Metropolitan PHILIP told, "welcome home", when he and others went to the archdiocese to ask to be received into Orthodoxy.  The man responsible for giving my family the nudge when we were standing at the brink of Orthodoxy but not quite able to step in.  After telling Fr. Gordon Thomas Walker the news of the arrival of our healthy (not so) little boy, my husband leaned over and informed me that our son had been born on Fr. Gordon's birthday. It was at that moment that I gave in, realized Thomas was the name our son was meant to carry.  So, happy birthday and feast day to Fr. Gordon who celebrated his 80th birthday, and happy feast day to my son, who turned 13 on Thursday!  I am officially a mom of a teenager.  I am not sure how I feel about that yet.  But I love the name Thomas.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Hymn of Kassiani

An angelic voice from last evening's service.  Took my breath away.  Brought tears to my eyes.  Enjoy this bit of heaven on earth as we reach the midway point of Holy Week.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Pace Quickens.....

......laundry is caught up has been swapped for warmer days

.....dresses are laid out is clean, hopefully hearts are as well

.....Easter baskets are prepared

.....plastic eggs are filled with chocolate treats

.....refrigerator is bursting

.....cherries are soaking

.....full egg cartons are stacked 5 dozen high, enough for the whole church

.....months worth of onion skins are ready plants are patiently waiting

.....wheat berries are cooking

.....hearts are filling

.....cares of the world marked off the calendar

.....excitement is growing

Lazarakia is rising.........the marathon is once again reaching the finish line.........

.......Mile 22 begins tonight!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A few more Holy Week Learning Boxes

I have a few more boxes prepared, if you are interested in purchasing one for your family this Lent, I have just listed several in the shop.   Items may vary slightly from the photo above (I have added a few items as well), but you will receive a box of items pertaining to the services of Holy Week.  Again, please remember that some of these items are not appropriate for a young child, and you should use your own judgement as to which items you allow younger children to handle.

If you want more information on these boxes, how to create your own set, or how our family uses them, you can visit this post with detailed photos, explanations, and links to suppliers.

EDIT:  All boxes are currently sold out.