Saturday, January 29, 2005

What is education?

As I read and contemplate what my vision is for myself and my family, one of the questions that I felt that I needed to answer was "What is education?". Our society has such a broad spectrum of personal definitions of this question but what is it for me? As a mother and an Orthodox Christian how do I go about defining this term and applying it to my life and vision? defines it as:

  1. To develop the innate capacities of, especially by schooling or instruction. See Synonyms are teach.
  2. To provide with knowledge or training in a particular area or for a particular purpose: decided to educate herself in foreign languages; entered a seminary to be educated for the priesthood.

In St. Theophan's "The Path to Salvation" he devotes an entire chapter to St. John Chysostoms thoughts on education. (Chapter 9 Lessons By Our Holy Father John Chrysostom on Education) He emphasizes "educating our children's hearts in virtue and piety". Numerous times throughout the 26 page chapter he quotes Ephesians 6:4 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.

I found another noteworthy quote from this section of book that I feel should not be ignored.

“If a child learns a trade, or is highly educated for a lucrative profession, all this is nothing compared to the art of detachment from riches; if you want to make your child rich teach him this.”

Note the word “art” in this quote. I found that very interesting.

In the The Handmaiden, Fall 2001, I quote Kathleen Lewis:

“Jonathan and I came into marriage at 22 years old, knowing few life skills. It has taken us 12 years to get even the basics learned, and the lack of knowing them caused conflict in our early years. We hope to give our children the skills necessary to run an efficient home.” She goes on to write out a very thorough list of goals for their family home school education. I like it:

q Cooking, meal planning

q Cleaning a home properly

q Car maintenance

q Home repair

q Laundry

q Money management

q Sewing, handiwork

q The three R’s

q Time management

q Organizing their tasks

q Setting goals

q Parenting skills

q Art

q Church History

q Lives of the Saints

q Church Feasts and Troparia

q The order of services

q Memorizing the Psalms

q Love and devotion to God’s word

q Heart of service to others

q Works of mercy

q Daily exercise (prostrations)

q Yard work, gardening

q Animal car

q Appreciation of beauty

q Classical music

This is a pretty extensive list and as I have chosen to send my children to public school I might feel defeated in thinking that I could even touch a small portion of this list. But I feel strongly that if I can accomplish what it is that I endeavor to do that my vision will lead me to use my time that I do have with my children very wisely. The times before school and after school and into the evening can be very wonderful and loving teaching moments. Learning about organization, cleaning, meal preparation, memorization, the Saints, etc. And the number of days throughout the year that they do not go to public school is numerous! Summers are full of lessons in gardening and canning, home maintenance and fishing.

“Orthodoxy spread by example” (and the love for God –added by me), writes Alvin C. Currier in his self-published, lyrical book, Karelia. “It always arrived being lived out and practiced by a person. It never came as a concept or an idea.”

An article from the Orthodox Family Life called Reinforcing Religious Education in Family Life says:

“Religious instruction was not something understood as an optional addition to a secular education—as it is today in our society. Rather the entire process of education itself was seen as something intrinsically divine because it dealt with all dimensions of life in an integral way: ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge but fools despise wisdom and instruction.’ Proverbs 1:7”

So what is MY definition of education for MY family?

Ephesians 6:4 which says “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” Coupling this with teaching my children skills for life and the “art of detachment”.

I need to add a side note of this and how I plan on handling “adding” to my children public education. Alana brought up the question: “What is my role now that they are all in school? Is it still worth it to the family to have me at home?” I answered her briefly in a “comment” reply but feel this is a very important question and needs addressing as I try and determine my vision for my family. While my children are in public school my hope is that they will begin a cooperative education next year in where parents are required to put in 80 hours a year to help out. These are mostly worked in the classroom but there are other ways to help. When you have a classroom full of students whose parents really do care about their education and want to be involved I think it really changes the atmosphere. I will be very involved in their secular education. When they are at school and I am at home my hope is to become very diligent in my prayers FOR them. My hope is that my prayers offered up FOR them more often and more consistently will help to make the road they travel more bearable. Some may say, “why aren’t you praying for them now?” but my only reply would be that I am but it’s far more difficult to do the amount of prayers that I really wish I could do when there are yet two very young and active little boys in the home. I try to do my best and I try to whisper the Jesus Prayer throughout the entire day but I would love to be able to pray the entire Akathist to the Nurturer of Children EVERYDAY. Can I do that now? No it would be unrealistic of me to even try. Bits and pieces here and there float up to our Awesome God, but oh how I wish for more. “In time” is what I’ve heard from others who’ve been where I am now.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Homemaking and Motherhood II

I just read an article in The Handmaiden by Fr. John Mack. It was a question/answer style article and the question asked was "What are the problems causing the breakdown of marriage today? Has that changed from, say, fifty years ago?"

His reply:
"I've done a lot of thinking about this one, especially as I talk to couples. I really believe that the number one problem today is the fact that most of us live seperate from our extended family. We live in a world in which the family unit, the nuclear family, is very often isolated from an extended family, from a community. We don't see our extended family often, we don't even know our neighbors. We're so busy going back and forth to work that there's not a sense of community. What has happened is that the individual relationship between husband and a wife has to be so much more than it was eighty years ago. When I talk to people who have been married 50-60 years, they have a realistic attitude about their marriage--'My husband is wonderful, but there are some things that he doesn't do well.' But most of those people lived in the context of a larger family or community in which they never expected their husbands or wives to meet their every need. Thus they were able to support each other and receive from each other, without demanding that the marriage be everything.
It seems to me in our modern day, when we're so isolated from our extended family and community, there's so much more pressure on the relationship. Especially when you add kids. In the old days, when your child was driving you nuts, you could say, 'Would you go across the street and spend some time with Aunt Jane?' You could pass your child off and have some time to reflect. Now, in most families, we live in our little houses. We come home and we're tired from work. The nuclear family has to do everything. God never intended the nuclear family to be everything. I often say to husbands and wives that there is no way that one person is going to meet all of your emtional needs. It's not possible. We have to live our marriages out in light of a larger community."

This short paragraph speaks VOLUMES! (The bold within the quote was my emphasis.)

And makes me wish even more desperately for the gap of 1700 miles to close between my extended family and me.

Homemaking and Motherhood

I've been thinking for quite some time about my "job" as a mother and homemaker. I struggle almost daily with thoughts about what I am to be doing day in and day out. In 8 years of being a mother and homemaker I still have not really figured out how my day should run. I know there are certain things that ought to be accomplished such as dishes and laundry and general cleaning, but I do spend a great deal of time feeling overwhelmed with thoughts of "where do I start?" and "what do I do next?" Fifty or more years ago our families had the help of their extended families.
(I want to share something I just read about extended families a little later.)
If you didn't have your extended family, even as little as 30+ years ago, you had community. People knew their neighbors! They helped one another. Our extended families not only helped us with our families, but they taught us! Children were taught from an early age to do things around the house. As they got older they were then given responsibilities, not because it was good for them but because it was expected of them. EVERYONE helped. They were taught how to cook, clean, milk, sew and garden. They helped with younger siblings. It wasn't a burden to have a big family but actually helpful because they typically had so much more to do in a day. They did not have all the modern conveniences that we do which, in my opinion, leaves us with so much time on our hands (wondering what should be done next). The we fill our time with empty activities; tv, computer, extracurriucular activities. We feel like we must 'entertain' our children rather than teach them to take care of themselves AND others. They have PBS and Noggin as early as two and three-years-old. The finger is pointed directly at me for I am the perfect example of one who uses the black box way too much!

As this has been on the forefront of my mind the las few weeks and as I've also been thinking a lot about my children and the world that they must face, it's come to my attention that I have no vision for myself or for them.
I know that this is the most important job I could ever have. I know that I want to raise my kids love and obey God and so much more, but what does this all really mean? I think that if I plug along day in and day out but have no vision for myself or my family then I am really missing out on a lot. If I were to create a vision, it would create a path for me to follow, it would turn on a light.

What is my vision for my family? To know the answer to this question I think I'd like need to understand the following a bit better:
-What does it mean to Love?
-Why do "idle hands make mischief"?
-What is orderliness? and why is it so important?
-What traditions are important to me?
-What is education?

I hope to answer these and more in future posts. My goal is to develop a vision in order to help better prioritize my tasks and responsibilities.

Now, I must run to clean up lunch, vacuum and fold laundry.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

My thoughts overflow....

I really need to get on here more often and write! My thoughts are just overflowing with jibberish stuff.

We woke up to snow today!!!! It was SO wonderful and beautiful and pure! The snow cleansed my yard with beauty once again. Charissa woke up about 630am and I drag myself out of bed....I did NOT want to get follow her out of the bedroom. We walk into the dark dining room and passed the slider, she stops, yells "MOM" and points out the slider where the porch light is shining on a beautiful layer of snow. Her jaw dropped to the floor she melts to her knees. She stays there for quite awhile talking about how beautiful it is as if she is in love. It was angelic! Well worth dragging myself out of bed way too early.
My kids love the snow so much they spent a great deal of the day outside building snowmen...i think there were 4 1/2 total by the end of the day. And they spent a good deal of the day talking about wanting to live in MN or AK and I kept telling them Grandma Faith (who lives in MN) didn't even have snow.
Later in the day on the way to Great Vespers Kelsey's eyes were glued to the thermometer in the car as we drove....34*, 33*, 34*, and every time it dropped she'd squeal and every time it rose she'd moan knowing that if it went to 32* it was freezing and more snow could come. I had to keep reminding her we needed moisture too. On the way home it hit 32* and she squealed with delight, laughing and giggling. It was sooo funny.
Presently it is 31.5 degrees and there is a slight chance of precipitation. I would give anything to be dragged from my bed again at 6:30 tomorrow morning to squeals of delight!