Q. Tell us about your family and how you came to be a homeschooler.
My husband and I met in high school and have been married for almost 19 years. We have five children (on earth). They are all unique; Liam 17 (the historian), Kiernan 15 (the piano man), Adria 11 (the happy socialite), Brigid 8 (the lovebug), and Margaret 5 (Miss Dimples, who takes care of everyone).
My husband is an environmental engineer and is the director of public works for our city, Holyoke, MA. He's been in that position for the past couple of years after many years in a corporate job. I am a stay-at-home-mom, and yes, we homeschool our children. God kept nagging me to do something, so; I had to give in. We had initially thought we would send our kids to the nearby Catholic School, but somehow it just did not seem like the right fit. We absolutely loved the Waldorf school nearby, but the cost was prohibitive, and we would still have to supplement at home for Catechism. Then we met some homeschoolers, and I thought, "People actually do that?" As we investigated the possibility by going to conferences, meeting more homeschoolers and their children (both Catholic and not), and doing lots of reading and a ton of prayer, we grew to know that these were our people, and this is where God was calling us. My husband didn't think I was crazy, and I have had such peace.
There are abundant options when it comes to homeschooling, and we can integrate both our Catholic faith and the Waldorf method. We have participated in cooperatives. The older children take online classes, and we are also blessed by a sweet little school that allows us to come for some classes as needed for our high-schoolers. Our oldest has also done a few courses through dual enrollment at our local community college and Holy Apostles. We have enjoyed the flexibility to go camping in the offseason, with our school work coming along with us. Or being able to drop morning school to help dump maple sap buckets with my uncle and have school in the afternoon and evening. We get to go to museums and libraries when they are not so busy, and the docents have plenty of time for us. Our flexible schedule allows for getting appointments in during the middle of the day when, otherwise, there aren't openings. I had thought we would do this for a while and then go back to school at some point, but we are having so much fun Homeschooling does have it challenges, but overall, we enjoy it!
Q. Have you always been a Billings couple, or did you use another NFP method prior to Billings?
When we were engaged, there was an ad in the bulletin about NFP. The local gal taught Creighton, and she was very patient and kind. Then, someone suggested that I should teach NFP as the lady we had learned from was no longer teaching. As it turned out, the diocese didn't have anyone else teaching for the past several years. Well, I thought, "Maybe someday, but not while my kids are so little." But I prayed on it and kept hearing this, "Well, then, who is going to do it?" I said, "God, you want me to do WHAT?!" So, I asked my parish priest. He said, "If God is calling you to do something, you should do it yesterday, not tomorrow."
When I suggested the cost of Creighton training the priest said NFP is so desperately needed in today's world that the parish would pay for it if needed. I forged ahead but found that I was not truly qualified to teach Creighton because I had no nursing or medical background. But, I was told they could make an exception. Also, if I could just get a few more ladies who would be willing to go through the training, they would host a training at my parish. My pastor was also excited about this idea. I called some ladies I thought might be interested and one said, "Sorry I cannot teach Creighton when I use Billings." This opened my eyes to the possibility of other options.
Interestingly enough, at that time, I was unaware that other methods even existed. Between my friend and her referral to Eileen Wood, I was convinced that this was the best way to go. There were so many similarities, but oh so much simpler. The clincher for me was that the cause for sainthood was open for Drs. John and Lyn Billings who developed this method. Billings has been so much more natural and not so technical that it fits my temperament. Yet, I can still offer plenty of science for the friend/client who needs to know all the technical stuff.
Q. Having gone through a Teacher Training led you becoming a board member. How has that experience been? Is it what you expected?
I'm not sure what I expected. I am not surprised that I feel ill-equipped and humbled by this whole experience. However, the goodness, patience, and charity shown by all the other members, both new and experienced, have felt very much like a group of good friends working on a serious project together. We all want to make the Billings Method more known and accessible, and it has been very exciting. I have learned quite a lot and when I don't understand some technology like Zoom meetings, or the "why" a certain decision was made in the past, or if there is a difference of opinion on a current idea, there has always been time taken to explain it. This experience has pushed me past my comfort zone in many good ways. Being on the board has sure been a good character-building thing for me.
Q. During our board calls each month, you are probably our most creative board member, always "thinking outside the box." In fact, those who donate monthly have received a Christmas ornament these past couple of years that were personally made by you, using a kiln in your home. How did you end up with a kiln? You're probably the only Billings teacher in the world who has a kiln! What is the process for making the ornaments?
Thank you, that is nice of you to say. I might be more artsy than some, but the ideas that other members have are also very creative. Anyway, my grandmother had a ceramic studio in her home since my mom was young, so I grew up with it. When my grandmother passed away, my mom and one of her sisters decided to split the business. They each took one of the three kilns, selling the third. They split the plaster molds, etc. Throughout high school and college, my mother and I went to seminars and workshops to be certified in the use of different product lines of glazes and brushwork classes. In the summers, we ran week-long kids painting camps, and all year my mom still holds classes three days a week. We joked that the classes just funded our addiction/hobby.
When my aunt downsized, she gave me her kiln which is very old now and needs new heating coils. So, the ornaments were fired in my mom's newer Skutt kiln. Most of what we do is hobby ceramics, which is pouring liquid clay into plaster molds that then form into the vase or plate or figurine. My second son has been more interested in hand building pottery and for his birthday last year got a pottery wheel. That is now in our basement where he has his own space, and the little girls like to watch him. He has even harvested and cleaned his own clay from our stream bed.
Last year, when I made the BOMA ornaments, I put a crochet doily down and rolled the clay onto that into a pancake, cut out the snowflake with a cookie cutter, stamped in the logo, and lifted carefully to drill a hole for the ribbon and allowed it to dry. Once dry, in a few days, we sand them and smooth the rough edges before they are fired (not an oven at 500 but still considered low fire at 1930 degrees). I used a translucent glaze and fired again at a little lower temp.
Q. What other creative projects do you work on throughout the year?
I do like to make things. In fact, I am the handwork teacher at our homeschool co-op. This year we made little notebooks and sewed a book cover. Some of the kids got as far as embroidery on the cover. We made wooden butter knives carved with really sharp knives. We made footstools all cut with a hand saw and manual hand drill and upholstered.
All my children know how to knit, and that is always the first thing that I teach. For small children, it is important for building those brain synapses before learning to read, and there are so many articles about how important it is to use both hands for brain functions. Knitting is my go-to, as it is easily transportable. It is calming, and I end up with something practical or giftable, so I feel I am not wasting time.
I have a sewing machine and like to fiddle making wool pants for my little ones or upcycling some old husband clothes into something cute for my girls. We had an angora bunny for a few years and now have plenty of wool for spinning on drop spindles or treddle wheels. With being on the board, I have had to travel for a few meetings and have taught myself how to crochet so that I don't freak people out with big knitting needles. That has been fun.
Of course, homeschooling presents itself with many opportunities for experiments: kids who want to learn to use the band saw, or painting or drawing about Vikings in the main lesson book, or sewing Laura Ingalls' sunbonnet. Soon we will be spending quite a bit of time in the veggie garden.
Q. We're approaching another board election, what would you say to someone who is considering being on the board?
Well, if I can do it, then no one else should be worried. We are a team, so where I lack someone else has the rest. And, where someone else has the "what if," maybe you have the idea or the know-how to bring it through. It is not a one-person show. I have learned so much about BOMA and also about the people. Here in Western MA, I am the only Billings teacher and one of three NFP teachers. We feel very alone and sometimes out of the loop. Since being on the board, I have met others who are equally concerned for marriage in our time. People who live real lives in the real world, who may have a different approach that helps us all grow, not only as an organization but as a person. There is usually someone who says "wait we need to pray" or someone who just is not sure about a quick decision that encourages discussion, and a new better plan comes up. I have been "stretched," no question, but in a good way. I have learned more computer skills that others seem to have already. I think if you have a unique perspective, which we all do, then maybe you should prayerfully consider being a part of the board.
BOMA-USA provides education and training for The Billings Ovulation Method® which is a natural method of fertility management that teaches you to recognize the body's natural signs of fertility.