The Patron Saints of Evacuation Academy

It is fair to say our first formal year of homeschooling began under adverse circumstances. Our house flooded in a bizarre, historical monsoon. We evacuated our home and bounced around landed at my parents for a few months before squeezing into the too small FEMA trailer we are in now.

Shortly after the rain stopped, we began Kindergarten.

To say those days were saturated with prayers would be an understatement. So much was uncertain and I spent many nights awake worrying about the kids. We had two opportunities to send Evangeline to traditional school and we deliberated a long time about what would be best. We had planned to home-school and had most of the materials, but would going to a structured new place be better for our anxious blonde little ball of nerves?

Ultimately, we kept Evangeline home and started home-school a month earlier than planned. There seemed to be a consensus among child psychologists and my own mommy-intuition of the benefit of resuming structure and schedule in our day. Even though we were living in unfamiliar places and moving often, at least the kids would know we do math after breakfast and reading before nap time and science in the afternoon.

I took comfort from two stories during this period: The Holy family’s flight to Egypt and Sts. Ursula and Angelia Medici.

Maybe comparing our flood evacuation to the plight of the Holy family from Harod’s sword is hyperbole but it brought me great comfort to think of the fear Mary must have felt and the grace she was granted nonetheless.

Saint Ursula’s story is pious fiction; what is known is that sometime in the 4th century in Cologne the Huns killed a group of Christian virgins. The story has evolved to include Saint Ursula as their leader. She a Christian princess sent to marry a pagan prince, killed in her travels along with her exorbitant number of ladies-in-waiting. For her position as protector of young Christian women, Ursula has been named the patron saint of school girls. Her name was used by Saint Angela Merici in the 1500’s who established the Ursuline monastic order dedicated to educating young girls and women.

This is the same order which sent nuns over perilous seas to the recently settled new world to educate women. Their involvement in establishing cities and clinics in unsettled lands cannot be over stated. Without their aid and support many areas, including New Orleans, would have succumbed completely to disease. Schools in the Ursuline order continue today.

It was with these examples in mind that I set out to start Kindergarten during the most tumultuous time of our kids’ lives. Evangeline has such a sensitive spirit and is so easily put out of sorts. Living somewhere new in uncertain times, she didn’t know what to do with herself. I prayed for the same grace God gave to Mary, to St. Ursula and St. Angelia Merici to educate my whole child: my daughter, my 5 year old, and my refugee.

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Saint Ursula Icon

I’ve kept Saint Ursula as our patron saint of Evacuation Academy. Each time I find myself frustrated I try to call to mind the importance and sensitivity needed to educate my young girl. I was given a most beautiful painted icon of St. Ursula by a friend and I cherish it most dearly. It is so precious I won’t let the kids touch it. Once we are settled back in our house, I plan to set it up in a place of prominence.

Our months of homeschooling have gone well. At least we haven’t given up completely. Few things have given me as much joy as teaching my daughter to read. She has an encyclopedia she carries with her everywhere to look up all the things that pop into hear head. She’s desperate to know every addition fact known to mathematicians the world over.

I am glad of our decision to keep her home. I of course don’t know what would have happened if she went to school each day, but I do know that I have been given opportunities time and time again to calm her anxious spirit and inspire her wonder about the world. For that, I am grateful to homeschooling.

What Has Happened Since

It has been a month and a half since our house flooded and quite a lot has happened since. We are still waiting for FEMA housing; we were assigned a trailer in an existing lot that unfortunately is on the complete opposite side of town and would be at least an hour commute. I am hoping FEMA allows us instead to be placed in a lot nearer to our house. In the meantime we are, again, staying with my eternally generous parents.

Our house is gutted from the waist down and we are waiting (and waiting and waiting and waiting) for the studs to dry out enough for us to put the walls back together. That will be step one in the very long process of fixing the house. The large debris pile outside our house was finally picked up this week; it looks like our house again! The full street hasn’t been picked up yet but the lower and lower the piles get the closer to normal it looks.

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We powered through and started homeschooling Evangeline. She finished her first full month today! It has certainly been an exercise in patience for me. The structure of day and the newness of the lessons go a long way to engage Evie. She is our most sensitive to change; this whole experience has affected her the strongest. I know doing our lessons are beneficial to her but I also know when her attitude changes any further attempts to teach will be futile. I’ve come to embrace the phrase “why don’t we finish this after a 5 minute recess?” Some days we just don’t make it back to the school books.

I am proud to say though, that we have only taken two days “off”. Each week we do math and phonics, handwriting, catechism, science and reading. I actually cut one book we were doing because she just hated it and it wasn’t worth fighting with her every time. That’s a personal achievement for sure! All illusions of picture perfect homeschooling went out the window with the flood water and now I’m trying to find our new normal.

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This month and a half has been a lot of work, personal growth and quite a few tears. We have seen such generosity from family, friends and strangers though — money, lodging, food, mattresses and oh so many diapers! It goes against our nature to admit we do need help, but as soon as we do, the response is incredible. I’m only able to blog (my personal public therapy) because amazing friends gifted me a laptop! We know this is going to be a very long road and we won’t be back in our home soon, but the love and kindness of so many people gives us hope and strength.

We’ve been able to squeeze in some fun too, in between the work, schooling and crying. We always love an afternoon at the library and park, we’ve had some birthdays and Evangeline, and I were invited to a local production of one of my all time favorite musicals

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We have bad days but they seem to be fewer than our good days. Keep us in your prayers if you say them. We have so much on our horizon and the weather has started to turn cool; we are surrounded by reasons to be optimistic. I leave you with some cute pictures of the kids doing cute things.

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So, That Happened

When I posted last, I was a week away from meeting my one month goal of regular blog posting. That was 18 days ago. Normally, I’d say there’s no real excuse besides life, but this time I think I do have a pretty good reason.

 

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We live in Baton Rouge.

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Our house took three feet of water and we had to evacuate Saturday August 13 as southeast Louisiana began the flood of a century. We are thankfully not without a place to go; we’ve been bouncing between my parents’ house and a condo we have access to for the next week.  We are knee deep in the insurance and FEMA claim process and hope to be granted temporary housing soon.

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We were able to save a lot of our furniture, but we did lose a bit too. Right now we are focused on what we need day to day. It kinda sucks trying to cook real food without my fully stocked kitchen. The kids don’t really know what to do with themselves being outside their normal environment and routine.

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Despite hell and high water, homeschooling starts tomorrow. Originally, I planned to start after Labor Day, but I think the structure and work of homeschool will be good for Evangeline. She seems to be the most affected by all of this. Of course our cute homeschool area and the so so cool desk we made for her are gone, but we still have all her books. I’m replacing supplies as we go, but we are going to make a go of it this week.

So this is just a quick update to let you know I haven’t given up and our homeschooling adventure just got more interesting.

 

The Decision to Homeschool

We have a busy, hectic home. It is loud and there is a lot of unsolicited nudity.  At a time when many parents look forward to sending their children to school, we are keeping ours home. We may be crazy, but we have thought it out.

It is a real blessing to have so many options available to us to educate all of our children. Having so many options also creates a lot to consider. We’ve found many reasons that make us want to homeschool. There are practical concerns as well as educational ones.

156599We are dissatisfied with the structure of a child’s day in the classroom. I understand many parents are – this is nothing profound. The expectations of a child to sit still and focus for extended periods of time is unkind. The limited time now given to recess and unstructured-play is unacceptable. Young children don’t have long attention spans, their day should be spent mostly in free-play pandering to their imaginations. This is the time when their senses are filled with all the things that will later fill their minds.

The simple fact of classroom management makes field trips and projects much more difficult. Lesson plans are rigorously planned and can’t be changed without consequences. Ryan already works long hours teaching at a local high school. If the children also spent the majority of their day in school, used the evenings for homework and weekends for projects our family life would take a huge hit.

In these regards homeschooling has so many advantages. Lessons can be tailored to our child and their attention span. Lessons can be scrapped or switched easily to fit a child’s interest or simply because of environmental factors (i.e. it’s storming, let’s talk about how lightning works).  At home, we can spend most of the sunlight hours outside at parks or visiting family rather than spending hours at a time indoors in structure and control.

These classroom and scheduling problems are also major complaints of many parents and parents work very hard to combat this. Homeschooling is a viable option for us, however, to avoid this common struggle.

Schools are full of educated and caring teachers, people who’s profession it is to impart learning to students. Well-meaning as I may be, I am not professionally trained. But, unlike teachers in the classroom, I do not need to know how to simultaneously teach 25 children to read; I just need to teach my child at home, in their most comfortable environment. The student to teacher ratio alone gives us an advantage. There is a wealth of knowledge and support as well to homeschooling parents to fill in the gaps of our own education and help us become better capable of teaching our children.

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We have looked at a few different homeschooling programs, I even tried my hand at putting together a curriculum myself. We really want to use a classical method and we’ve settled on The Angelicum Academy for this fall. The classical method uses the syllabus and structure based on the Medieval model of education. A child’s education is divided into three phases roughly coordinating with their natural development: Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric.

A child first learns, essentially, everything they can, both in their bodies and in their environment. Gymnastic play and dance are important elements to introduce the child to the abilities of their own body. They experience as many different environments and are encouraged in unstructured play to interact  with as much of the world around.  Taking advantage of their natural curiosity and sponge-like minds, they are taught to memorize as many lists, facts and poems as their mind can absorb.

From this stage, the child moves into the Logic phase. This is roughly around the ages of 10-12 when the child can begin to use reason. Now they start to apply the knowledge the have learned and begin describing the world. The goal of this stage is to understand and comfortably use formal logic. Their reading becomes more advanced as they seek to expand on their elementary knowledge of various subjects. They begin to explore all sides of things, taking advantage of their natural argumentativeness.

ta-logoThe final stage, Rhetoric, corresponds roughly to the mid-teen years. The student understands much of the world, as well as how to discuss and explain it. They are now ready to delve into philosophy and speak of truths and un-truths. They understand language and the ways in which it is used to impart truth as well as misconceptions. They understand also the theoretical knowledge of those subjects they have chosen to study more closely. They can now express themselves clearly and logically. They can put forth arguments and dissect fallacies. This ability can be applied to any area of study.

The ultimate goal of classical education is to produce a well-rounded, educated adult capable of complex thought. A successful classical education builds a firm foundation for future learning.

This is what we want for our children and we hope homeschooling will help us achieve just that. This fall will be our first real step into teaching. If you think of us during the day, say a prayer for us, will you? We are jumping into the deep end teaching Evangeline with three smaller siblings at home. Below is a list of books we’ve read that have helped us to understand and choose both homeschooling and Classical education.