Making Ordinary Days "Extraordinary"

By Dianna Meinecke

Our Lady doing the work of an "ordinary" mother.


 On this page:

Those Heroic Moments

Nutrition for the Soul and Mind

Support from the Group

Keep a Light Heart

This article reprinted from the Spring/Summer 1995 issue of

The Catholic Family's Magnificat! Home Education Magazine

Copyright. All Rights Reserved

Upon reflecting on ways to combat "cabin fever," I remembered G. K. Chesterton's comment that the "most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man living with a loving and ordinary woman and raising a family together."


There is the presence of the sacred in the ordinary parts of our lives, as well as in the peak events like wedding and births. In fact, our liturgy tell us this, as a greater part of the church year is composed of "ordinary" time. Just as we continue to meet Christ at Mass during those parts of the liturgical year, so can we also meet Him in the ordinary times of our lives.


Hardly any time is more ordinary than these months wherein the first blush of enthusiasm for the school year has long since faded, yet a summer break is months away. The question is - how do we redeem this time, persevere through it, and make it valuable?


Although we may not be "happy" with some particular circumstances as the months drag on, we can know the joy of obeying God in bringing up our children in the way He desires. We homeschoolers try to meet that commitment as much as is humanly possible.


Those Heroic Moments


I have heard the "the heroic moment" described as that time upon first awakening when we decide whether to get up and pray in the morning or stay snuggled under the covers a few more minutes. Yet those days when I have been "heroic" have also been the days when I have been more in communion with God, have thought of Him more often, and have tried consciously to please Him. God's mercies are new every morning, and although when I have had infants nursing round-the-clock, and I could not get up at dawn for prayers, there is such a blessing when I could meet Our Lord and experience that mercy from daybreak onward.


Praying the Morning Offering every day unites our work to Christ's because our offerings help redeem souls, and makes ordinary days extraordinary. Then we can ask, "Lord, what do you have planned for us today? How can I do Your Will? How do I grow in love for your today?" which will help give us the right perspective and zeal for upcoming events, even if the rest of the day does not go as expected.


Nutrition for the Soul and Mind


A second action is to feed our minds worthwhile ideas as consistently as we feed our bodies nutritious food. This is Charlotte Mason's great insight and perspective into providing a true education for our children, and it is equally essential for adults as well.


The mailbox often becomes a lifeline at this time as it bring materials containing stimulating ideas right to our homes, especially appreciated when we cannot leave the house for days or weeks at a time. Letters from friends are so uplifting. Homeschooling and spiritual newsletters and magazines (like Magnificat!) serve to keep up interest and enthusiasm during those difficult times. Books, especially biographies of the saints, are a great defense against any tendency to self-pity as they present ideas on how others have overcome everyday struggles and carried their crosses. Tapes of pro-family or homeschooling conferences or Catholic studies are another treat that can come through the mail and keep our minds engaged. Listening to them sure makes the time spent folding mountains of laundry more enjoyable!


Reading books together with dad in the evening is an enjoyable activity that uplifts and nourishes everyone's minds. This is such a nice way to spend time with each other. Series like The Little House books or The Chronicles of Narnia are especially good choices for their appeal to a broad range of ages. Series also provide the added benefits of building familiarity and allows practice in sustaining attention and concentration on characters as they are followed from one book to another. Narrative poems are great for family reading, too, such as "Paul Revere's Ride" and "Casey at the Bat." We spent one enjoyable evening have each of my girls act out the latter poem.


Exercise is another way to battle cabin fever. I have found exercise videos palatable enough to use, because I can stay at home and choose the best time for our family. Another advantage is that special equipment is not generally needed. The children can join in, too, which develops good habits in them and also burns off some pent-up energy. Strangely enough, this is one activity in which I can always rely on my husband to watch an infant!


An occasional break in routine is a good antidote to the doldrums. If the house is a disaster, take a day (or several) off to clean and catch up. This can help us return to concentrate more fully on the schooling later. When my house gets too disorderly, I eventually am besieged by a vague sense of anxiety that is only alleviated by restoring my home to order. Completing at least one or two tasks that are a major source of irritation also creates a sense of accomplishment.


Support from the Group


One homeschool support group to which I belonged broke the routine of the third quarter with a Skills Day. Parents would volunteer to teach a subject, ranging from computer story writing to kitchen science, to drama and the more traditional arts and crafts activities, like finger painting with pudding and cookie decorating. Several valiant families who lived close together volunteered the use of their homes. Some moms took nursery duty, while others escorted children from class to class or house to house. The children could pick between three to four classes, which ran an average 30 minutes. The teens had fewer, but longer, classes.


Elementary Skills Day took one entire morning. A small fee was charged, when necessary, for materials. Every child who participated had a parent who did so, too. Each child received a form with all the classes offered for his or her age, and marked four or five classes in order of preference. Then some extremely well-organized and dedicated mothers, with true servants' hearts, fit the children into available slots, giving each child and adult a schedule of where to be and when. This was an uplifting day of camaraderie and learning which also injected variety in our curriculum.


Keep a Light Heart

by Using Your Sense of Humor


Finally, keeping a sense of humor can really lighten our spirits. In addition to the doldrums, the pervasive decay in our culture and world, of which we must be aware to defend our families, can sadden us. Because of this, it is worthwhile to seek out humorous movies, magazines, and books, or to look at the funny side of family fiascoes. I admit to deliberately scanning publications for their wholesome and, at times, corny humor. The Anne of Green Gables books have terrific underlying threads of humor in their gentle portrayals of human foibles, as do the Winnie the Pooh books.


I am fascinated, too, by a picture Chesterton paints of Jesus when relating to humor:


"Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian….The tremendous Figure which fills the Gospels towers in this respect, as in every other, above all the thinkers who ever thought themselves tall. His pathos was natural, almost casual.


The Stoics, ancient and modern, were proud of concealing their tears. He never concealed His tears; He showed them plainly on His open face at any daily sight, such as the far sight of His native city. Yet He concealed something.


Solemn supermen and imperial diplomatists are proud of restraining their anger. He never restrained His just anger. He flung furniture down the front steps of the Temple...yet He restrained something. I say it with reverence; there was in that shattering personality a thread that must be called shyness. There was something that He hid from all men when He went up a mountain to pray. There was something that He covered constantly by abrupt silence or impetuous isolation. There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth."


Could it be this mirth with which He lifted His own human nature when circumstances were trying? I enjoy pictures showing Jesus laughing although, as a friend commented once, they do at times seem almost blasphemous. This is because we are not generally encouraged to think of God as mirthful. Yet, surely because a human being is the only creature in all of creation that can laugh, must not this be a reflection of the image and likeness of God in us? God, in fact, tell us in Proverbs 17:22 that "a joyful mind maketh age flourishing; a sorrowful spirit drieth up the bones."


Our attitude, then, is ultimately the key in determining whether "ordinary" days are merely endured or are profitable for our souls and those of others. This really applies to every aspect of our earthly lives.


Can we accept and submit joyfully to all the Father wills, knowing He only desires abundant life and eternal bliss for us? We must desire, above all else, to be His handmaids, as the Virgin Mary is. If we use these challenging times to grow in holiness, drawing closer to Our Lord, this season of our lives will be, as Chesterton said, a time for the extraordinary that comes from the quite ordinary.


Dianna Meinecke and her husband David reside with their three daughters in Borden, IN. At the time this article was written, they had been homeschooling for five years.


Back to Articles

See our Flash News

Back to Home Page

LinkExchange Member