St Gabriel Windows

St Gabriel Windows
Photocopy c. 2013 Jamie Laubacher

Friday, November 19, 2010


Dear Sisters,

As we approach a day of Thanksgiving, we can reflect and recall the times that perhaps we haven’t been very quick in being thankful, perhaps taking things for granted. Maybe we take certain people for granted, maybe family members; perhaps we expect too much and are not grateful for what these people do bring to us in this earthly life. Maybe we take comforts, or our husband’s work, our own work, or food for granted ….have you ever been hungry?….truly hungry….wondering where your next meal will come from?....or going without your real needs, real necessities being met day to day? We may be made to feel uncomfortable on occasion, but for us it may be fleeting and moments of discomfort or hunger are soon satisfied. But for countless others discomfort and hunger are a daily occurrence.

Recently, in talking with a friend, she reminded me how the holidays are hard on some children in our nation, because when they are sent home from school on break, they encounter days of either very minimal food or no food. I recall my niece in her first year of teaching having a student in upper middle school who dreaded the holidays for precisely this same reason: home without food for several weeks. My niece’s heart was broken for him.

I have found that home schooling families are usually so generous about giving of their time and resources - in helping out in their churches and communities regularly. I am grateful to be part of a community of educators that strive to live the gospel message and impart this message to their children. Our values become our children’s values when we not only preach them, we act upon them (and in some cases “enforce” them). When we talk honestly to our children…and as home educators we have them more hours in the day to do so……we are able to imprint a Christian value system within them. We can integrate Christian principles throughout our curriculum and we can join with other families that respect what we are doing and know and appreciate the energy and circumstances involved in our commitment to home educate.

During this season of Thanksgiving, you could reflect on how we are a pilgrim people, in a sense, exercising a freedom to include God in the education, formation and rearing of our children. If small pockets of pilgrim people continue to rise up among society and form generations that are self-less, intelligent, God-fearing and hard workers….think what good will be spreading throughout our nation.  While home education has certainly gathered more publicity and interest and colleges recognize the students as ready and able….it is still seemingly a rare person these days that recognizes the sacrifice of home education and yet home schooling is a common good to society.  Think about that for a while:  Home schooling works for the common good of society.

While we might not be able to change the entire world, or even our own town for that matter, we can make a difference one person at a time. We can bloom where we are planted. What a comforting thought! Perhaps that one person might very well be your own child(ren) witnessing how you act upon God’s commandment of loving neighbor, feeding the poor, clothing the naked.. “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers…that you do unto me…” (Matt. 25:40 or the entire passage: 31-46)

During this season of Thanksgiving strive to grow a little closer to your family in gratefulness; do more with love as your guide and not just “it has to be done” repetition. Perhaps there is a more challenging child in your home that needs more of your time and care, with their school work, with the daily grind, or just coping with life. Include your family in doing something that will benefit others who are less fortunate and light a spark in your children that they in turn will do the same and take that message with them for the remainder of their lives.

Be grateful, praise God. Thank Him in every way, every day.
 Happy Thanksgiving

Lord, take away my bitterness and pettiness, fill my heart with your grace and gratitude.  Help me to see all the ways I am blessed, and appreciate the many ways I am undeservedly blessed. Cause my heart to overflow with gratitude and praise for you!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

I think I can!

"Yes, indeed!" said this little steam engine. "I'll be glad to help you, if I can."
So the little steam engines started back to where the train of cars had been standing. Both little steam engines went to the head of the train, one behind the other.
Puff, puff! Chug, choo! Off they started!
Slowly the cars began to move. Slowly they climbed the steep hill. As they climbed, each little steam engine began to sing:
"I-think-I-can! I-think-I-can! I-think-I-can! I-think-I-can! I-think-I-can! I-think-I-can! I think I can - I think I can - I think I can I think I can--"
And they did! Very soon they were over the hill and going down the other side.
The Little Engine that Could – 1930
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Nov 11, 2010
Dear Sisters,

How I recall being pregnant with my third child and truly feeling the weight of the pregnancy, pushing myself through the days. I remember the overwhelming tiredness while sitting alongside my second-grader and taking him through his math lessons and listening to my kindergartener recite poetry. I remember how I’d stand at the kitchen sink washing dishes, all the while gazing outside into the yard at the change of seasons, thinking and talking to myself:…”you can do this, you can do this…you can and you will….many women have done this, …you can do this!” Ah, I was so much like the little engine that could! personal pep talk kept me moving through the day caring for my children and the tasks at hand. I would occasionally smell the invigorating essence of peppermint oil that sat on my kitchen windowsill, say a quiet prayer and remember, ‘I can do all things through Him who strengthens me’ (Phil 4:13)….I’d take a deep breath, exhale, thank God for my blessings and continue on. I admit, it was during these days I questioned our home learning lifestyle…did I have what it takes to see it through? What was I to do?...pregnant and tired and letting a lot of “schooling” go by….would they be behind?..would we ever get caught up? What would others say? There’s so much we feel we have to prove in the early days to friends and family who challenge us at every turn of our home schooling decision. They seem to be watching our every move….what?..having another child?…how is she going to home school ALL of them? It was that big hill in front of me, staring me in the face…challenging me. I kept in mind, this season would pass and there would be many other seasons of life. I kept my focus on the big picture ahead, rather than the bumps and detours in the road at the time.

I knew also that many other home schooling moms had raised even bigger families, teaching them all at home and I took strength in that fact. It was through this experience that I also came to realize several enlightening features about home education. First, don’t sweat the small stuff...second, it’s really ok to chill-out …and third: RELAX! One of the finest blessings of home schooling children is that our children are allowed to be children a little bit longer than what our culture dictates is the norm these days. This brings with it flexibility. I found peace in letting go and letting the children play to learn on tough days, knowing they were still benefiting in a home learning environment in so many ways. Whether they learned to read right now, or a little later made no difference …in the long run, I knew that studies shown children that read early would even out with children who read at the average ages, somewhere around grades 4 and 5. Structured education didn’t have to begin at age 3 like the world out there seemed to push -- education for the little ones could be play and imagination and having the freedom of not having to sit still, but be active, …and the comfort of home to do so. A learning environment in the home could easily be enriched with baskets of good children’s literature, music, educational toys, puzzles, art and pastimes.

Soon enough our children will be grown with a world of responsibilities in a grown-up world; precious childhood will be gone and our time with them is fleeting. How wonderful to let them live in the moment of their young lives, innocent and secure and free to play and learn by simply being allowed to be children. How sad to realize the institutional modes of education seem to push the children into too much too early and too fast, from the weight of heavy learning to the weight of early boyfriend-girlfriend relationships…setting many of them up for quick burn-out at very early and tender ages. In the earliest years children really benefit from being grounded in security and acquiring a formation for future learning that comes from home and family, childhood play and simply being a child in a safe and loving learning environment.

It is no surprise that many home schoolers are counter-cultural; in many ways, it is our statement of rebellion in a positive and good way of course. We are taking back our children (or keeping them) and taking control, being thoroughly engaged at all levels with the raising and educating of our children in healthy ways, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Well, fourteen years into our home schooling lifestyle and four children later, I still often feel like that little engine that could….facing that train of cars on an uphill push and pull, attempting to get up enough steam and strength and conviction to get up over that hill…..and even though we have home schooled one into college already and another on their way, doesn’t make the job easier…but it does make it possible. When we focus on all that is “right” in our home education we give ourselves the steam we need to get up that hill…..and when we remember to reflect often on the precious words of scripture, ‘I can do all things through Him who strengthens me’ (Phil 4:13)…we fortify ourselves for the job. We pay no attention to the naysayer or what the “experts” say we should be doing with our children at all ages; “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31) Place your trust in this truth, and you too will be the little engine that could!


I think I can - I think I can - I think I can…

Your Sister in Christ,
Denise Laubacher

Thursday, November 04, 2010

A New Commandment I give to you

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34

Nov. 4, 2010

Dear Sisters,

We have made it through September and October in our home teaching lifestyles! We deserve a pat on the back by now  At this time we might be taking inventory of where the children are in their lessons, what they have accomplished (what we have accomplished!), what is working and what is not working… and when we will break for the holidays ahead. Perhaps the last couple months have gone by uneventful, consistent and fairly smooth in our home schooling…or perhaps not. But do not fear, even the most seemingly haphazard schooling years, interrupted by a lot of “life events”, still seem to turn out good students. Many life events are opportunities to learning as well.

Home school lives are busy lives indeed – moms wear many hats – as teacher, supervisor, coordinator…domestic engineer, and those duties alone take up a good chunk of the day; add in working outside of the home whether through employment or volunteerism along with domestic responsibilities and home education and well…you may have one determined, but sometimes exhausted mom at the helm. I have been there!

October has always been my favorite month; with the beauty of nature and the change in routine. Yet, many Octobers I have felt crushed by a heavy relentless schedule. Growing tired and weary is not my idea of enjoying autumn. And the more worn-out I become the less I seem able to be patient and gentle with those around me. I am ashamed to admit it, but sometimes I have patience for everyone but my own family members. Maybe it’s the fatigue or stress that’s striking, lessening my ability to be charitable; maybe I’m feeling overwhelmed with the tasks at hand, the unbearable schedule, the long list of things that need to be done other than our usual home schooling; it seems like everything becomes an obstacle to Christ’s commandment of love.

Realizing home schooling families are together – A LOT – adds challenges of its own. For all the right reasons, the children benefit in a home environment which allows them to be raised daily by people who know them the best, imparting Godly authority and character building of Christian principles and virtue. On the other hand, the children raised by peer-mates all day year after year, may display different characteristics that are not in accord to Christian values and Our Lord’s laws of love and respect. So, we must practice what we preach within the home-front...we must attempt to rise to the challenge of taking our weary selves to a high level of patience and management in the home where we are among our children, teaching them, leading them, loving them unconditionally, day in and day out.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said: “It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home, for this is where our love for each other must start.”
I fall short so many times, letting the weight of the world and daily affairs overcome me…and yet, each year I find I catch myself and am reminded that I have accepted this role of wife and mother, teacher and homemaker, volunteer. I said “yes” to being engaged thoroughly in the upbringing and education of the children God has blessed us with. God has led me to this place and I know deep in my heart, that He will not and has not abandoned me – and because I am His, I know His love is unconditional and I can say I have done wrong, I am sorry and I will improve with your help Lord.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matt 11:30)

Yes, Lord YOU have the answers and the fuel we need to refresh and recharge – don’t we make things so burdensome without you first in our lives? Help us to love one another above all things – help us to show love and be love in our own homes.

It is a good time to think about what causes the lack of charity we might display. Why are we falling short in love, kindness and gentleness toward our family? What is irritating us? Where can we make changes? Where can we adjust our schedule, including sleep, errands/shopping; how can we fit everything in, and still place school as a priority in our homes? How can we recruit the help of the children in our daily grind in loving and acceptable ways? I know we will find answers and make for smoother days and be much more charitable living up to Our Lord’s laws of love. Just take time to think this through and ask for help from both God and man (and woman!) We know with God all things are let’s remember to include Him in our plans every day...We know He has included us in His!

May God bless you with all you need!

Your Sister in Christ,
Denise Laubacher