Friday, January 30, 2015

Seven Odd Things I've Come to Appreciate About Homeschooling

I've written before about why and how we homeschool. But, recently, as we go about our daily routine, I keep noticing odd little things that I really like about homeschooling.

I don't think any of these would be a very good reason to have decided to start homeschooling. But since we were doing it already already, I figure it would be okay to share them with you.

1. Everything is School

Before we started homeschooling I thought of school as a place I sent my kid, and something he did while he was there. There was school, then there was the rest of our family life. After "school" there were chores and family outings and entertainment. But once "school" WAS our family life, I realized that learning wasn't confined to lesson time. Cooking, cleaning, conversations in the car, trips to the grocery store and the beach, all became learning opportunities. Now everything is school. Maybe you didn't have to start homeschooling your kids to figure this out, probably you didn't. But I guess I did.

2. There's No Such Thing as PRE School

And now that school is our family life, and everything is school, everyone in our family is in our school, no matter how old they are. That's not to say that Frankie doesn't get banished outside sometimes . . . because. He. Does. But also, sometimes, he sits in on our spelling lessons and gleefully shouts out the names of phonograms that may or may not have anything to do with the letters I'm showing them. And Anita, our Kindergartener, is Chief Officer in Charge of Reminding Everyone What the Next Line of His Poem Is (from memory). We all listen to chapter books together, and they're not usually aimed at little kids. But that just means that sometimes Anita and Frankie will be in the playroom playing My Little Pony or Superheroes and sometimes they'll be under the table playing War of the Worlds or Robinson Crusoe.

3. There's No Such Thing as Sick Days

The problem about deciding if you need a sick day, is that you usually have to do it at 7:00 in morning. I remember many a day of my own traditional school career when I would be convinced upon waking up that there was no possible way I could go to school and that I was certainly very, very sick . . . only to rebound by 9:45 and spend the rest of the day driving my mom crazy. Now that we're homeschooling, my kid can wake up feeling crummy, stay in his jammies, but still probably get most of his regular schoolwork done. If you're going to read a book, it could be your science book. If you're going to watch a show, why not have it be your Latin lesson? If you're going to lay on the couch, you could lay on the couch and listen to a history lesson. And if it turns out he's feeling better by lunchtime, he can get dressed and even get his math lesson done. I mean, probably he won't. But he could. Theoretically.

4. It Doesn't Require Special Food

I used to have a real problem with letting leftovers go bad in my fridge. But with eight people at home eating lunch every day, that is no longer an issue for us. I don't have to buy juice boxes, or prepackaged baggies of anything. We just eat the food that's in our house for lunch. Sometimes it's sandwiches, sometimes it's veggies and crackers and various things to dip them in, sometimes it's a big dish of spaghetti with a bunch of forks in it, on a chair, on the front porch. Because we can.

5. We Get to Be Friends With Whomever

My kids are friends with kids of a very wide age range. Just by the nature of traditional school, I tended to hang out only with other kids just my age. And certainly not my own little sister. How embarrassing. But at our classes and field trips and weekly parkday, my kids are able to hang out with whomever they like. To my great delight, that usually includes their siblings. Even though there are almost six years between Anita and Betty, they are both a part of the sweetest group of girlfriends. One of my sons happens to click best with a boy a couple of years younger than he is. And my second grader is my jock, and spends parkday playing pickup football with the middle and high school kids. And it's all good.

6. Nothing Depends on How Tall You Are

When I was in school, I remember it being a HUGE deal how tall everyone in the class was in relation to one another. We lined up to go inside by height. A big part of a kids' identity seemed to be wrapped up in whether he was a tall kid or a short kid. But my kids don't really think about whether they're tall or short at all. Since they hang out in groups of kids of different ages, there really isn't one height that everyone is supposed to be. No one seems to notice.

7. We Get to Like What We Like

Maybe this has more to do with my own particular neuroses than with traditional schooling, but I remember feeling a lot of pressure to like the same things and listen to the same music and wear the same types of clothes as my classmates. My kids don't seem to be facing that at all. They usually see their group of friends twice a week (at a class we host and at our homeschool parkday) but as far as I can tell, their friends don't seem to have any expectation that they'll all like the same things. My daughter, who is about to turn eleven, still likes dolls and dressing up, one of her best friends hasn't liked those things for years, but no one seems to mind. The kids at our parkday dress differently, and have different family rules for screens and entertainment, and like different sports teams. And I can't remember it ever being an issue. Sometimes there are tears at parkday, but usually it's because somebody accidentally whacked somebody else with a fallen tree branch. That's easier to recover from, somehow, than it becoming common knowledge that you like Olivia Newton John and not the Beastie Boys (ask me how I know).

And, hey, that's seven. So I'm linking it up with Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum for Seven Quick Takes.

Betty and I have been busily planning her birthday party, which is on Saturday. I'm planning a blog recap, as usual. Along with a defense of our theme . . . since, all it took was this on picture on Instagram for the finger-waggers to come out. <sigh>

But it's going to be great. I wish you could join us. Have a lovely weekend!


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Are Older Siblings Overburdened by Responsibilities? Or Are They Empowered by Them?

I have a backlog of great mailbag questions I got during and since the ol' hiatus. So, here's another one. The idea that I might be overburdening my kids with responsibilities around the home is something that I have definitely worried about myself, but, so far, what we're doing seems to be working well for us.

Hi Kendra,
First, thanks so much for your blog!  Although I only have an 8 week-old son, I make mental notes from almost every one of your blogs for the future when, God willing, we will have a house filled with kids like you:)  Here are the questions I have for you:

How do you respond to people who criticize you by saying that your older kids are raising your younger kids or imply that your older kids are missing out on their childhood by being responsible for taking care of younger members of the family?  How do you balance the need for your older kids to have fun without their younger siblings while instilling in them that they are, literally, their brother's keeper, or is that even something you worry about?  I hope those questions make sense and if not, feel free to ask for clarification;)

Thanks in advance!

Thanks for your question. This isn't a criticism I've really faced in person, or even on the blog that I can recall. But it is something that I have personally worried about from time to time

My kids' childhoods look a lot different than mine did. They have a lot more responsibility than I ever did. All of our kids (except Lulu) have daily chores, plus they are expected to do whatever jobs I assign them as they come up during the day. They earn money for a few specific jobs, but most of them they do just because they are a part of this family.

Our three to six year-olds can throw away diapers and other trash, they can gather and put away shoes, they can help set and clear the table. They can empty little trash cans and put toys away. They can get themselves cold cereal for breakfast in the morning.

Our seven to ten year-olds can do the above plus feed and water the chickens, and collect the eggs. They can put leftovers away and load the dishwasher. They can read stories and put little kids down for naps. They can cook eggs or oatmeal for breakfast, prepare simple lunches, and make leftovers for dinner . . . and clean up afterwards. They can empty the dishwasher and they can take out the trash and sort the recycling. They can get the baby up in the morning and change her and feed her breakfast.

Our ten year-olds and up can do the above plus cook simple meals and clean up afterwards. They can do laundry and clean bathrooms. They can ride their bikes to the store to buy a backpack full of groceries, or to the library to check out or return books, or to their daylight sports practices. We will, of course, evaluate each child individually based on their temperaments and maturity levels, but so far we have felt comfortable trusting our kids older than ten to babysit their younger siblings while mom and dad are away from home. This includes mealtimes and bedtimes.

My kids have a TON of responsibilities. Really, they do. But, mostly, they don't mind TOO much. Here are some of the keys, I think, to why it's working for our family so far.

1. They Know That the Reason We Are Different, is Because We Are Awesome

It all comes back to Family Culture. My kids know that not all families are like ours. They know that, in fact, the vast majority are not. But we experience our different-ness not as weird, or a hardship, but as . . . awesome. 

Yes. They have a lot of little brothers and sisters to look after, but they also have a lot of people to play with, and a lot of little people to love and hero-worship them. Yes. They have a lot of responsibilities, but that's because they are given more trust and more opportunities than other kids.

Also, my kids know me well enough to know that I always mean what I say, and that Tierneys don't complain. Those two policies alone, really cut down on the majority of grumbling. We've all mostly figured out that if we all just do our parts cheerfully, things go a lot more smoothly.

2. We Try to Play to Their Strengths

I read once that Daniel Boone grew up in a big family, and that his main family chore, even as a young kid, was . . . hunting. He loved it, it was something for which he had a natural aptitude, and, clearly, it was hugely beneficial to his family. It really got me thinking about all the chore charts and chore wheels of the parenting world, and how those focus on "fairness" and "equal division of labor" rather than on what kids like or are particularly good at.

I know that between the husband and I, I'm better at some things, and he's better at other things. So, I do almost all the cooking and event planning, and he does almost all the schedule keeping and going to Costco. Because things work out better that way.

We have enough kids that we can mostly do the same thing for them. 

For in-the-moment chores, I tend to assign them to whomever I see first, but the kids have regular daily chores, and those are assigned by aptitude. So my oldest (and most Daniel Boone-like) does grocery shopping and other errands. He much prefers it over other chores, and I really love that I can realize that we don't have any cream to put in the soup I was planning to make for dinner, go take a nap, and wake up to find that there's cream. Everyone wins.

As far as sibling-centered chores, those are all assigned as-needed, and they are actually very sought-after. Mostly because after lunch and dinner, I hand out chores to everyone, and all the big kids would much rather get a little kid in pajamas and read a story than work on the dishes.

3. We Don't Have an Expectation of "Fairness"

We don't do chore charts, we just do chores. I found that, for us, having systematic division of labor in our home created an attitude of entitlement in the kids. They thought they had "earned" such and such a reward by doing their daily chores and, therefore, it was their due. So, we quit doing that.

Now, my kids know to expect to do things to help our family throughout the day. But it's not always "fair." People get assigned jobs because they're not doing anything else productive at the moment, or because they've been driving me up the wall, or because I think they'll do a better job than anyone else. It's not always predictable. It's not always equal. But it is just.

4. More Responsibility Equals More Privileges

One of the things I say most often each day is, "What are you doing to help our family?" Everyone pitches in around here, or things just don't get done. But, obviously, the older kids are going to have to pitch in more than the little ones. I occasionally remind them that if they have a problem with their birth order in this family, they'll have to take it up with God. I wasn't in charge of that.

But still, it's a valid observation. The way we handle it is to make sure that our kids that have more responsibilities also have more privileges. The big kids do more work, but they also get to stay up later at night. That often means they get desserts and screen time that the little kids don't get. I make sure that they have more privileges and that they realize that they have them.

I'm also aware that if I'm going to ask my big kids to look after their little brothers and sisters, I need to not undermine their (reasonably used) authority over them. So, I back the big kids up whenever possible. One of our family rules is that little kids listen to what big kids tell them to do. I've sometimes had to rein older kids in a bit, but mostly, having a hierarchy works. And if I want to be able to go to the dentist without bringing seven children along with me (and I do want that, I really do) I need to reinforce the hierarchy.

And, really, seeing the way they interact with each other is SO sweet. The little kids drive the big kids crazy. Sometimes. But they also love their older siblings so, so much and think they are SO cool. I never knew that kind of blindly adoring love until I had children of my own. But my big kids have it every day.

5. They Can See That They Are Actually Useful

This is the part of giving my kids actual, real responsibilities in our home that I love the most. Okay, that's not quite true, the part I love most is not having to do All The Things myself. But a very close second, is the fact that I have children that aren't having to have their confidence propped up by participation trophies. They have the REAL confidence that comes from being actually useful and accomplished.

I could not run this house on my own. I couldn't. I need their help. This family could not run without the help of my big kids. That's something they can feel. They know how to cook food and do laundry and take care of other human beings, all things I didn't learn how to do at all until I went to college, and didn't learn to do with any skill until I was already married. (I did learn other useful skills like sewing and how to use power tools, but not cooking or cleaning.)

My nine year old can make pancakes, scrambled eggs, and bacon. All by himself. He takes a lot of pride in it.

That's the GOOD kind of pride -- based on hard work, and serving others -- that I want my children to have. And it's by giving my children real responsibilities and expecting a lot from them, that they are able to find true self-esteem.

That's what I'm hoping anyway.

Some other posts you might find interesting:

Encouraging Independence in Children: How We Roll

Can't Buy Me Love? Not For Chores Anyway.

Expect Great Things (and you just might get them)

Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, nor am I an official spokesperson for the Catholic Church. (You're thinking of this guy.) If you read anything on this blog that is contrary to Church teaching, please consider it my error (and let me know!). I'm not a doctor or an expert on anything in particular. I'm just one person with a lot of experience parenting little kids and a desire to share my joy in marriage, mothering, and my faith.

If you've got a question, please send it along to catholicallyear @ gmail . com . Please let me know if you prefer that I change your name if I use your question on the blog.

P.S. A big BIG thank you to all of you who voted for this blog in the Sheenazing Awards.

I am honored to have been named Best Lifestyle Blog and Best Looking Blog this year. And I'm maybe even more excited to have been named runner-up Coolest Blogger to my friend Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas. You guys got that one right for sure. Haley is TOTALLY cooler.

Blessed Is She won for Best Blog By Multiple Authors . . . also very cool!

Head over to A Knotted Life to read about all the winners. And, you should definitely check out the most recent post from this year's runner-up for Most Under-Appreciated Blog. Molly from Molly Makes Do has done a recap of the little-known Cultural Showcase portion of the Sheenazing Awards. It's, um, hilarious. You guys won't BELIEVE what I'm wearing.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Bless Me Father, for I'm a Catholic on a TV Show

I have mentioned that I have watched quite a bit of Netflix streaming during this blah part of my current pregnancy. I didn't set out to find Catholic characters on TV shows or anything. My very scientific method of selecting series to watch is to just click on shows that Netflix suggests and hope for the best, mostly. But there they were, three shows in a row with Catholic main characters and recurring Catholic themes. After exactly none that I can remember in anything I've watched before that (not the major focus, anyway).

On the one hand, it's nice to see familiar and comforting sights like Catholic Churches and confessionals on television. It's nice to feel represented, somehow, in our popular culture. But on the other hand . . . boy, howdy, do they ever get us mostly wrong. They get us mostly wrong in quite various and varied -- although not necessarily UNENJOYABLE -- ways. Let's take a look, shall we?

1. Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries

This mystery series set in 1920s Melbourne looked like a good fit for someone on (as Haley and Christy would say) "TV shows about dresses" withdrawal. Which I was, after Gran Hotel ended so abruptly on Netflix with no English translation of the final season in sight. <shaking fist>

Overall, I really, really enjoyed the first two seasons. Phryne Fisher is smart and cheeky and charming and generally awesome, if rather lax in the, um, personal moral compass department. But her dalliances are kept almost entirely off-screen, and the acting, writing, and dresses are, for me, all top notch. Detective Inspector Jack Robinson reminds me an awful lot of the fella I married, so I like him too.

And then, there's Dot, Miss Fisher's lady's companion, who is a devout, practicing Catholic. She's a really likeable character, but she's definitely portrayed as naive and silly compared to the sophisticated, worldly Miss Fisher.

The fact that the main character gets it wrong on issues like abortion and chastity (and communism!) doesn't really bother me that much. She's completely uncatechized, but she means well. But the fact that Dot is scared to answer the phone because her priest told her that the electricity in phone lines might cause an explosion . . . um, what?

Dot's love interest in the show is a Protestant constable, which causes some tension. In the first two seasons we never really see Dot abandon her values, she's just not particularly respected for them. Which is too bad.

Still, I'd watch season 3.

2. Murdoch Mysteries

When I ran out of Miss Fisher episodes (there aren't many), I decided to give Murdoch Mysteries a try. It's another detective show, set at the turn of the twentieth century in Toronto. And, hey, ANOTHER Catholic character, the MAIN main character this time. It seemed very promising, but I found it to be mostly a disappointment.

The dresses are pretty good, but why in the name of all that is holy is Detective Murdoch wearing guyliner? WHY?

It seems like he's supposed to be this genius detective a la Sherlock Holmes, and I think he's meant to be socially awkward, in the tradition of geniuses. But, he's not. He's just this conventionally handsome guy solving mysteries by using modern technology that he conveniently invents. In guyliner.

And then there's the Catholic thing. We are told he's a devout, daily Mass-going, frequently confessing Catholic, and that, in a Protestant town, his career is suffering because of his stubborn insistence on being Catholic. That's great, right?

But he keeps getting it really, really wrong.

I only watched maybe five episodes, but in two of them, he violates major tenants of his faith. In one episode, he believes that a medium has given him a message from his dead fiancee. I kept waiting for him to have been faking it, and cleverly expose her as a fraud, buuuuut, he didn't. He just rode off on his bicycle, happily having violated the first commandment. In another, a murder investigation takes him into the secret gay underworld of 1900s Toronto. He's full of doubt about his beliefs on the subject, and the episode finishes with him appearing to conclude that all it will take to change the Catholic Church's position on same sex behavior is enough time.

Phryne Fisher believes that as well, I'm sure. But that's not nearly as problematic for me. She's not supposed to be a devout Catholic. There are many seasons of Murdoch Mysteries, and I have no idea how his faith is handled in later episodes. Maybe it all turns out okay . . . maybe he gets a backbone, and a catechism, and some makeup remover. I quit watching, so I couldn't tell you.

I didn't find the content of the show objectionable. As far as I saw there's no onscreen funny business, and very little gore. But it felt like I was watching a character journeying in the wrong direction, and I'm not much interested in doing that.

3. Bones

I'm really not sure HOW I picked this one. I pretty much never watch American TV shows. (Except for this one.) But, I ended up watching it somehow. At first, I was just intrigued by the fact that two of the first three episodes featured Catholic characters, even though those characters were a crazy stalker guy, and a murdered altar boy. But I kept watching, and it turned out one of the two main characters is a Catholic himself.

Bones, the forensic anthropologist, and Booth, the FBI agent, are played against one another as the brain vs the heart, and reason vs faith. I'm finding the show very enjoyable, if occasionally frustrating.

Considering that the show is about a team of forensic anthropologists and an FBI agent who solve cases by examining the remains of murder victims, there really isn't much gore or violence. I also appreciate that the cases themselves aren't salacious, as is often the case in crime-based shows. And while there is some hanky-panky, it's all been off screen.

I'm only in season two of ten, so I know there is plenty of character development left to come, but I like this show, and I find Booth very endearing, even with his shortcomings.

He tells a nun that he goes to Mass every Sunday, but he also has a son out of wedlock and keeps falling into physical relationships with his ex-girlfriends. I know all of that happens, I just wish the writers didn't portray it as completely to be expected, and no big deal.

Still, I love how open and matter of fact Booth is about religion. It is a huge theme of the show. It comes up almost every episode, and Booth consistently defends his faith, even if he doesn't seem to quite understand all the nuances of Catholic doctrine. Unlike Dot in Miss Fisher, he's not set up as the silly butt of the smart kids' jokes. The writers treat the perspectives of both Bones and Booth with respect. And unlike Murdoch in Murdoch Mysteries, Booth doesn't appear to have been made Catholic so we can all watch him learn important lessons about how wrong Catholicism is.

Sometimes they give Bones the last word, and she gets a zinger or two in against religion in general, and Catholicism in particular. But Booth has some profound everyman insights into his faith. He's a good man and he seems to want to be a good Catholic. And, at this point, that seems very refreshing.

And that's my honest opinion, but this is a sponsored post.

Okay, your turn. There must be other TV shows out there with Catholic main characters and Catholic themes. Actually, I KNOW there are, because I already asked this on the Catholic All Year Facebook page. But, let's talk about them here. Are there any mainstream TV shows that feature a Catholic main character who gets it right? Or someone who goes from not particularly Catholic to devout Catholic, rather than the other way around?


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

My Five Favorite Things About the Sheenazing Awards

Can you believe it's Sheenazing Award season again!? Time really flies, 'eh?

Anyway, I am honored to have been nominated in a few categories this year, alongside some really terrific blogs. And Blessed is She was nominated as well! Please head over to A Knotted Life and check out all the nominees and vote, vote, vote! But only once per person. Rules are rules.

And now, I'd like to share my five favorite things about the Sheenazing Awards!

1. The Sheenazing Awards Define Our Community

"The Blogosphere" is a big, untidy, nebulous thing. It can be unkind, and NSFW. Even some of the Catholic parts. But WE have a nice part. We have a part that's supportive and encouraging. We have a part that encourages healthy debate and friendly disagreement. I love our part. And, to me, our part is the Sheenazing part. This award defines my internet comfort zone. All of the internet that I know and love is here. I sometimes explore outside its cozy borders, but I'm never surprised when there be dragons out there.

2. Getting Nominated for One Was Kind Of My First Big Thing

I had been blogging for one month when I received my first Sheenazing nomination. And God bless whoever it was who nominated me. I think at that point you only needed one nomination to make the ballot, I can't imagine I had more that. When I started this blog, I did it the way I do most things, with a lot of confidence and very little planning. I had no idea there were other bloggers like me out there. But there were. There were bloggers out there doing the liturgical year, and homeschooling, and fashion, and photography, and media, and pop-culture. And in most cases, they were doing it better and with more love. I've found so much inspiration from reading these other blogs. I've learned to be more careful in how I word things, and more cognizant of the fact that two people can do things differently from one another and still both be good Catholics and good mothers. And I learned that from other Sheenazing blogs.

3. The Sheenazing Awards Help Blogs Grow

I didn't win that first Sheenazing Award. But I did win one the next year. And a big part of the difference was the new blogs I found to read, and the new readers who found my blog, all because of my nomination. These nominations and awards are Catholic blog outreach, helping new blogs find readers, and helping tiny blogs get a little less tiny, and helping little blogs become pretty big (in their own tiny little niche of the internet).

4. The Sheenazing Awards Encourage Bloggers and Blogging

I love that these awards exist at all for us. Most of us bloggers spend a LOT of time on our blogs, and most of us don't make much (if any) money doing it. We do it for the community, and because we love writing. But, even so, it's pretty awesome for someone to say, "Hey, good job." That's what these awards do. I even love that there's no prize. It doesn't need one. It's just special because it's special. And I love that Bonnie's blog isn't some official "Catholic Blog Conglomerate." She's just one of us.

5. I heart Bonnie

Speaking of Bonnie, I honestly can't remember how she and I blog-met. I'm assuming I started following A Knotted Life after my first nomination, then we had the whole Silver Linings Playbook thing, which I could have handled better, but she was really sweet about. Then I commented on one of her posts that summer and she invited me to come over, and I was in Chicago, so I packed up the kids in my in-law's minivan and I did. And now I've been out to see her a TON of times considering that I usually live in Los Angeles. And she is a very dear friend.

She puts in hours and hours of work on these awards out of the goodness of her heart all just so we Catholic bloggers can have some fun and meet new blogs and get a little recognition for what we're all doing to make the internet a little nicer place to be in. She makes all of that happen for us. It's pretty great.

So, please, vote. And give Bonnie a little love, too. She won't win a Sheenazing Award, but she's the MVP of this whole corner of the blogosphere.

I have yet to cast MY votes, so if you have a blog and are nominated, or you are especially fond of any of the nominees, especially in the Underrated or Non-Papist categories, let me know in the comments!

And, I'm linking up with fellow nominee Jenna of Call Her Happy for #5Faves today. Head on over there to find out what else folks love today.


Monday, January 19, 2015

How to Teach Catholic Kids About Creation and Evolution

More from the mailbag! This time it's a homeschooling faith vs reason question I received on the Catholic All Year Facebook page from reader Karen.

We are new to homeschooling and love your blog! We are starting our journey through the history of the world . . . we have found wonderful resources but I continue to struggle with how to teach creation in align with our Catholic faith. How old do we believe the world is? Do we think that creation really was over seven 24 hour days? And when really did those big dinosaurs roam the earth? How about the theory of the continental drift? What do I believe as a Catholic? Do you know of any text that address this at an elementary level? Our beloved pastor has told me that we as Catholics are free to believe good science as long as it is all from God. I know we did not just show up here. I get that, but still find some unanswered questions when attempting to teach it to our children. Any possible resources would be much appreciated. I do have the catechism and have read the section on creation. Thanks!


Hey Karen, I went through this EXACT SAME THING when I first started homeschooling my oldest son. He's really into science, so it came up early. I didn't know the Catholic teaching about creation either, I just had this vague sense that "Christians think evolution is bad."

When I did finally look into it, it made me so proud of our rich Catholic faith that loves both faith and reason, both religion and science. Some of the greatest scientists in history (including Father Georges LemaƮtre, who first proposed the Big Bang theory) have been devout Catholic priests. And it's not just history.

Some (not all) Protestant Christians have painted themselves into a corner with the sola scriptura thing and can't believe anything that isn't literally in the Bible. That's not how we view it. We view the Bible as, not a book, but a whole library, full of different genres, some of which are meant to be taken literally, and some of which are not. So we Catholics have the freedom and confidence to follow scientific exploration wherever it leads us.

We aren't scared of science because we know that good science is the pursuit of truth and ALL truth leads to God.

So, what does that mean for kindergartners? Well, mostly, that Adam and Eve were real people created by God, and that we are all descended from them. God made all creatures and all creation, but we don't know exactly how, or on exactly what timeline. It's possible that it happened exactly how it is in Genesis, but that doesn't look like the most likely explanation now. And we are truth seekers, so we want to know the truth and that will point to God.

It looks like there has been evolution, at least on a small scale, and that just means that was God's plan, and how he decided to make things work. The truth of large scale evolution, where one species turns into another is less clear. Could be true, could not be true, we just don't know yet. IF (big if) someone were ever to prove that humans were descended from apes somehow, it would mean that Adam and Eve were the first to be truly human, and the first to be endowed by God with immortal souls.

Fortunately, homeschooling moms do NOT have to have all of the answers. Sometimes it's good enough to just have the right questions.

I hope this helps, and I hope you'll encourage your little scholars to love science and truth. We need a new generation of faithful Catholic scientists to help us sort all this out! Catholic Answers is a really good resource for more detailed answers to Catholic science issues. I've never found a Catholic science book I like for younger grades. We use Mother of Divine Grace, and Mother of Divine Grace uses Abeka, which is Protestant, but it's fine, as long as YOU know how to steer particular conversations.

Good luck!

Here is some related reading . . . 



And now it's YOUR turn. Any one know of any good resources for Karen?

Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, nor am I an official spokesperson for the Catholic Church. (You're thinking of this guy.) If you read anything on this blog that is contrary to Church teaching, please consider it my error (and let me know!). I'm not a doctor or a child psychologist or an expert on anything in particular. I'm just one person with a lot of experience parenting little kids and a desire to share my joy in marriage, mothering, and my faith.

If you've got a question, please send it along to catholicallyear @ gmail . com . Please let me know if you prefer that I change your name if I use your question on the blog.


Friday, January 16, 2015

little kids & BIG CHANGES: how much help does an older sibling need when a new baby comes along?

What do you do when you want to blog, but you ALSO really, really want to take a bath and hit the sack? Why, fish something out of the mailbag of course. It's already written and at least one person in the universe is interested in the answer.

Today's question is from reader Sarah . . .

Hi Kendra!
I could really use your advice. I read your blog religiously and look at your parenting advice and experience as highly as I would my mom's. However I've never heard you address this issue and it is killing me.
I had a daughter 2 months ago, when my son was 23 months old. My son is the sweetest, most adventurous, spirited, independent, mama's boys boy around. Obviously I'm crazy about him. But ever since my daughter was born he is clearly struggling. He gets very overwhelmed easily. Hits angrily constantly and just has a very different spirit about him. We still have lots of special alone time. I have to get this hitting and misbehaving under control.
Any thoughts/advice on discipline and helping him!
Thank you!
Prayers for you and your beautiful family

Dear Sarah,

Thanks for your kind words and congratulations on your new baby!

As to your question, as always I can only answer based on my own particular experience with my own particular kids, BUT . . .

I would caution you against attributing your son's behavioral changes to becoming a big brother. He's two. He's just BARELY two, he's MOSTLY one. Little dude was always going to find something to be upset about. It just so happens that there's also a new baby in the house.

Personally, I would be really careful to not suggest to him that he's upset about the baby or about less time with you. I'd subtly but often reinforce how lucky he is to have a new sister, and I'd make sure to never associate in his mind any of his outbursts and general two year old behavior with his sister.

His behavior is his behavior, and it just gets addressed as such. I'm careful to not say things like, "I know you are tired but you can't . . ." The same thing applies to "hungry" or "sick" or "jealous" or whatever, because I don't want to give my kids excuses. We're all sometimes tired and sick and whatever, (and *I* do take that into account myself when I'm dealing with their behaviors) but it's still not okay to behave badly. We still all have to try to control ourselves. So I try not to give them excuses for their behavior. I just address the behavior.

Most importantly, I would just reassure YOU that you have given your son a great gift in giving him a sibling. Yes. Babies change things, but it's for the better. Your son will have an extra person to love him and pay attention to him HIS WHOLE LIFE. He'll learn to share and to compromise and to entertain himself. He'll learn to run and get a diaper for you. He'll try to sing to the baby to comfort her in the car. He'll feel useful and helpful. It's all, all good stuff. There are no negatives for him in this situation. You love him and are taking the very best care of him. It is good!

Of course that's not to say his behavior doesn't need to be addressed and dealt with. It does. You're already doing the most important stuff, like spending time with him and loving him. Other than that, I don't think it requires special parenting techniques. It hasn't in our house. Just the same old being the boss of a one year old and always meaning what I say kind of stuff.

Here are the links to some of those other posts.

This is how we prepare kids before the new baby is born:


And how we deal with discipline, in general:
And how we deal with toddlers, specifically:
Everything in parenting is a season, this too shall pass. Congratulations on your lovely little family. I hope you're getting some naps. I need naps.


Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, nor am I an official spokesperson for the Catholic Church. (You're thinking of this guy.) If you read anything on this blog that is contrary to Church teaching, please consider it my error (and let me know!). I'm not a doctor or a child psychologist or an expert on anything in particular. I'm just one person with a lot of experience parenting little kids and a desire to share my joy in marriage, mothering, and my faith.

If you've got a question, please send it along to catholicallyear @ gmail . com . Please let me know if you prefer that I change your name if I use your question on the blog.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Posts I Loved (but maybe you missed?) in 2014

Hey, I've (finally) got my first OB appointment today. Who wants to guess how far along I am and how many very small people are in there? *I* think twelve weeks and one person, but I really don't know for sure. I wasn't charting. I'm against charting.

And now . . . I already did my Ten Most Popular Posts of 2014, and it turns out maybe people don't love recap posts. But I'm doing another one, because I already made this graphic. And I like it.

Plus, I feel pretty good right this second, but that might change.

AND Haley did one of these, and I want to be like Haley. So, here it is: My ten favorite post of 2014 that just didn't have the legs I hoped they might. I loved these, but not everybody who reads my blog now saw them. So here's another chance. Click on the title (not the photo) to read the post.



This post is really long, and even *I* get exhausted reading it. But, almost a year later, it's still pretty accurate. Lulu still often sleeps in until ten, because she's really, really nice. But now it's in her own bed. And I get to nap all alone. Three year old Frankie is a lot like two year old Frankie. But I do sometimes get to go to the bathroom alone.


If I ever write a parenting book, this post is going to be the heart of it. But I keep thinking probably I shouldn't write a parenting book until I have at least some grown kids, because I don't want to jinx myself. But still, I think this post is the key to successful parenting as I know it. Figure out what works for your family, and OWN it. Be awesome. Your kids will get on board with it.



This post, and the lessons learned that allowed me to write it, really do make a big difference in my state of mind and my effectiveness as a wife and mother. ESPECIALLY when I'm feeling barfy and exhausted like I have been the past few weeks. If I make myself get dressed, I really do feel a bit better than if I look schlubby all day. I can't guarantee that it will work for you, but it works for me.



This post was actually pretty close to making my top ten most popular for the year, but I'm including it here because it was a post that really came to me all of a sudden, and then basically wrote itself. I love those. It also links to my first appearance on Kristin's This Inspired Life podcast. I've been on two episodes so far, and really enjoyed both. If you'd not familiar with Kristin and her blog or podcast, you should check them out!



I loved this post, which originally appeared on my friend Mandi's blog. And not JUST because it allowed me to disagree with Frozen. I'm a big fan of marrying young and marrying quickly. It sure worked out well for us. I would have gotten married even younger and even faster, if only we had met earlier. That is the main limiting factor for this philosophy. :0)



Oh Cranky Frankie, how I do love thee, and your hilarious grumpy resting face. I was going through my pictures from the neighborhood parish carnival, to choose one to put on Instagram, and there was just no way. It was impossible to choose. I had to share them all. So I started a blog post. But then they were just so good they deserved captions. So I had to do that. And this is the end result. I still can't scroll though it without snickering out loud.



Just when I thought Frankie was going to be the first failure of the Three Days or Bust method, he pulled it together on day three! Actually, it always kind of seems like it's not going to work with any kid, then somehow, it does. I mention in this post that day potty training is different than night potty training, and that has really, really been true for us. I've had to keep day and night training completely separate. We have had some success with night training as well, eventually, but with a completely different system. Stay tuned for more details in a future post. It's on my list.



The topics I cover on this blog are varied to say the least. I write about family and parenting and homeschooling and Catholic life, because those are the things that are most important to me. But I also write about backyard chickens, and Netflix, and zombies, and biathlon because I'm pretty passionate about that stuff too. I try to just write what comes easily on that particular day, no matter what it is, because I want this blog to have an authentic voice and really be ME. And, since that's the case, I try not to have expectations about how popular any one particular post is going to be. I wrote it, because that's what *I* was feeling passionately about in that moment, but that doesn't mean other people will share my passion. Still, I was shocked, SHOCKED, when this post making fun of soccer wasn't more popular.



This post published on a Saturday, which isn't a great day for blog hits. And it was the day after Halloween, so there were fun-sized candy bars to think about. Plus, the title was kind of a bummer, so I'm thinking a lot of people avoided it even if they did come across it in their feed readers. Still, it's one of my favorite posts I wrote all year. I do try to be funny most of the time, but this was something I was glad to have put out there.



Speaking of titles, I really blew it with this one. The original post title was "I Want it All: a Nourished Baby and My Dignity (Also Superpowers)." Almost always, the title of a post is the first thing that comes to me, and this one was no exception. I watched the video I mention in the post, of a woman breastfeeding her son, in a way that felt very exposed, on live television. The thing that came to my mind was that it was a lovely thing to do but the way she was doing it didn't seem to show much respect for how her body was being exposed, and to whom. And, in that moment, to me, it seemed undignified. So that's the word I used. 

But it wasn't the right word, because even though that was how I perceived her actions in that moment, breastfeeding is the right and proper use of breasts, and therefore cannot be undignified. Upon further reflection, what is was, for me, was not good manners. Which, is of course, a much less grave thing to say about another person. 

The original title really informed the very spirited comment discussion that occurred all day on the post. I was really impressed with how polite everyone was, when clearly there were strong feelings all around. But, really, I think much of the disagreement was a product of my having prejudiced readers for or against the content of the post with an unnecessarily provocative title. 

Then again, maybe it's just breastfeeding. The first "controversial" post I ever wrote was about breastfeeding. People have strong feelings. Maybe I'll learn. But probably not.

Okay, I'm off to get some sleep. I'll update this post this afternoon once I know the particulars of the OB appointment.

I'm back! There's just one in there. (Whew!) And it looks like my guess was pretty good. The ultrasound date is 12 weeks 4 days, which means July 25th, and I was guessing July 27th.


Monday, January 12, 2015

The Top Ten Posts of 2014

So, this pregnancy has been a more-sick-than-most pregnancy, and I'm still feeling pretty dead to the world in the evenings, which have always been my prime blogging hours. BUT. I don't want to just disappear forever. I have about a zillion things bouncing around in my head that, hopefully, will get written up in the relatively near future. But, until then, I'm going to throw together a couple of quick best of the year posts.

I know, I know, most people do those in December. But, hopefully, most people didn't barf as much as I did in December (or yesterday).



This was far and away the most popular post of the year on this blog. It's my most popular post, all-time, in fact. It was linked to all over the place. And, as much as I recognize Lent as a challenging season, I love that it's something we Catholics do together. Even Catholics who aren't quite on board with ALL the Catholic things, mostly give up something for Lent. It's nice to be in this one together.



I have to admit that most things I write just pop into my head and I type them up and send them into the blogosphere. Usually I ask the husband to tell me if he thinks very many people will be offended by them, but then, off they go. But this post was different. I really wanted to say this right. This post went through many versions, and was proofread by friends and approved by the sister and sisters-in-law I mention therein, before I hit publish. So, I really did hope it would be well-received. But the success it found exceeded my greatest expectations. If you only ever read two posts on my blog, I'd want it to be this one, and Hey America, Pregnancy: You're Doing it Wrong.



Folks have strong opinions about Santa and how he does or does not factor into their family celebration of Christmas. And that's okay. I support people having their own family cultures. This post was MY strong opinion about Santa, and a description of how he fits into our family Christmas.



I wrote a handful of posts this year that required a follow-up post. But this one took THREE! In the end, after reading encyclicals, and consulting experts, I stand firmly behind the content of this original post. But the whole thing was certainly an interesting exercise, and one I won't soon forget.



This is the post that started a movement! Dozens of you have written to me to say you were letting your hair go natural. Now that I think about it, I actually haven't heard back from anyone on how that went, either way. So, I'm just going to assume the best and figure you all love it. Anyway, if you've ever wondered why I have GRAY hair, this post will explain why.



If you're new to the blog, I should probably just get it out of the way and tell you now that I have this thing where I don't like the movie Frozen, but I can't stop writing blog posts about it. Seriously, it kind of kills me that this review of Frozen is still getting hits. And the Melted Olaf Snow-globe I made for Anita's birthday party gets pinned all the time. I feel like I'm just enabling you guys now.



Some folks pointed out that my response to what the president said in that speech of his, wasn't in fact a response to what the president was actually talking about in his speech, but rather to what members of the media willfully misrepresented him as having said, by taking one line out of the context of his entire speech. To that I say: perhaps. But he DID say it. And I thought MY response was way more fun than any of the other responses out there.



This post got me a guest spot on Jennifer Fulwiler's radio show which was pretty great. Getting to the point where I could write it -- and mean it -- though, was the work of many, many Christmases, and many, many great toy clean outs. And even though it wasn't a perfect success, it's what was right for us this year. I look forward to heading into Christmases-future confident that it's okay to make decisions for that year based on what will really benefit our family, not on what "everyone" says we need to do for Christmas.



I am proud and happy to be in any way associated with this fabulous YouTube video created by SoulPancake and featuring my real life bestie, Blythe Fike.



This is another one I was really happy to see make this list. It's a lesson that was a long time coming for me, personally, but that I'm so happy to have taken to heart. I had the idea for this post three days before it needed to post, and all of my contributors really stepped up. Reading it again as a currently-pregnant lady, it gives me such comfort.

So that's it. The ten most popular posts of the year. Thanks to each of you who read and commented and shared these with your friends, and helped me and my blog grow this year.