Monday, April 20, 2009

Prayer and Planning

On this thread on planning with a large family I posted a link to my Considerations which I wrote out a couple of years ago and use for planning for each child for each year.

I also linked to the Mercy Academy quiz on what type of homeschooler you are. I THINK I linked to it before on here, but it's worth reconsidering. I wrote over there,

To measure what I as mom am prepared to do, I take this Mercy Academy New Homeschooler Test every year or so. It pinpoints your teaching style -- whether you're a "design your own" "tweak someone else's" or "stick like glue to a planned curriculum" type person. I find that sometimes I come out as someone who wants to mostly design my own and some years I come out as someone who wants to take something pre-made and tweak it just slightly. I've never come out as a "stick like glue"
If you just have a clue what kind of teacher you tend to be it's easier to search out resources and know what will work and what won't. A person like me could not easily "stick like glue" to a programmed curriculum. The only exception would be if my husband REALLY thought that was best or if I had some legal issue that required staying with the letter of the curriculum.

"Considerations" is consciously Catholic traditional language in mental prayer. I find that Catholic spirituality is often based very acutely on human psychology, though I want to make the point that in spite of what some Jesuits and others seem to imagine nowadays it has NEVER been thought to be CENTERED on human psychology. There is a difference as vast as the one Chesterton describes by picturing the ball and the cross.

But that's not the point here. The point is that I find that sometimes I can take methods from spiritual practices, like those of St Ignatius and St Francis de Sales, and employ them in my vocational life. That is because they are sound and effective and also, I find, using them in my quotidian life reinforces my habit of operating that way in my devotional life and helps me integrate the two. Homeschooling planning becomes, as it should, infused with prayer and search for God's will. I sincerely hope it is not an irreverent use of the hallowed practice of prayer; Ignatius used a mixture of practicality and spirituality in his exercises, for example. As he said -- Everything for the Greater Glory of God.

After Considerations come Affections and Resolutions. I try to do something like these in my homeschool planning. After thinking about the child I try to make my considerations accessible to my whole being, my heart as well as my mind, in light of that child's importance as a unique individual made in the image of God. Since I find that I follow through on things much better and they are more likely to truly be effective if they are lit up to me personally rather than just dry "shoulds".

The Catholic Encyclopedia article on prayer says that the considerations and affections lead naturally to resolutions.

The conviction that we need or should do something in accordance with our consideration begets in us desires or resolutions which we long to accomplish. It we are serious we shall admit of no self-deception either as to the propriety or possibility of such resolutions on our part. No matter what it may cost us to be consistent, we shalladopt them, and the more we appreciate their difficulty and our own weakness or incapacity, the more we shall try to value the motives which prompt us to adopt them, and above all the more we shall pray for grace to be able to carry them out.
So once I have considered the child and the situation and pictured how our individual family might work with his needs, I try to write down some specific things to put into place. Not necessarily books and page numbers at this point, just a few ideas of things to put into place or to watch out for.

Finally, St Francis de Sales suggests taking a "nosegay" from the meditation, sometimes also called a spiritual "bouquet".

As a means of keeping in mind during the day the uppermost thought or motive of the meditation we are advised to cull a spiritual nosegay, as it is quaintly called, with which to refresh the memory from time to time.
Leonie's idea of "mottoes" comes in handy for me in this "culling" process, both in my devotional life and in my vocational life of homeschooling. If I can distill the "Considerations-- Affections -- Resolutions" process into a few mottoes or maxims, even a mental image, then this becomes a peg that helps me retrieve the whole thing instead of tucking it into a closed drawer in my mind and completely forgetting about it. You could think about it in terms of the memory mansion idea. Charlotte Mason says that an association brings up the whole chain of ideas which was submerged in memory like a bucket and rope in a deep well.

Finally, all the spiritual authors recommend that a method be used only insofar as it is fruitful. Everyone's prayer life is unique, because it is based on a personal relationship with God. And everyone's homeschool and family dynamics are unique for the same reason.

Ignatius recommends that if you have a meditation "plan" laid out and find unexpected richness in one meditation, that you should stay there mentally and gather fruit in that rich area. If a method, however admirable, is not working for you, change it so it does.

I find something similar to be true with homeschool planning. I have the "considerations" listed in order to inspire thought and creativity. But whenever I try to follow the whole thing as a system, creativity is lost and I become bored and overwhelmed. It might be different for someone else (which is where that homeschooler-type quiz can be handy, again -- it tells me that I do best when I have a system that is organized but easily flexed). But I've learned I do better by dwelling on something that seems to me particularly significant or fruitful.

I hope some of this helps someone besides me ;-) but anyway, writing it out helped me think this through before I actually start going through the process.

1 comment:

Susan said...

I didn't know about that test from Mercy Academy, Willa, thanks for linking to it. It turns out that I should use a curriculum and bend it to what suits our family's needs. Good to know...