reflecting on ways to combat "cabin fever," I
remembered G. K. Chesterton's comment that the
extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man
living with a loving and ordinary woman and raising a
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
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
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.
I have heard the
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
second action is to feed our minds worthwhile
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
The mailbox often becomes
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
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
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
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
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
by Using Your
Sense of Humor
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
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
I am fascinated, too, by a
picture Chesterton paints of Jesus when relating to
"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,
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
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
Our attitude, then, is ultimately the key in
determining whether "ordinary" days
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
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