Focus on the basics: relationships, priorities, gratitude

by Carolyn on May 7, 2011

donaghey family picture

The Donaghey Family

“What can I share with Mary Ann’s audience that would be beneficial?” I asked myself.  As a ‘Spark Station’ newbie and a 51 year old mom of three kids, 26, 23, and 8, (and a grandma of one), I find myself still  striving for consistency and presence, two vital ingredients to the 5 Rules of Engagement.  Perhaps sharing one of my little battles may encourage someone else. Sometimes I forget to focus on the important things, relationships, priorities and gratitude.

Maybe like yours, our daily family and educational life together is far from perfect, and life keeps throwing obstacles that make consistency a challenge.  Here are some of our present circumstances:  We are living with 4 major areas in our home torn up due to immediate repairs that begged for attention last month.  Our 23 year old daughter (who currently lives at home) is finishing up college courses and working full-time, while getting ready to move out of state in three weeks to start her graduate studies.  We operate our Mold Inspection and Remediation business from our home.  These scenarios equal mental confusion for me which causes our daily routine being absent at worst, and spontaneous at best. This environment doesn’t fit my (perhaps unrealistic) ideal of order and predictability, and my mind starts to congeal.

braille alphabet picture

Gracie studying Louis Braille’s life

It finally dawned on me this week how Gracie, the 8 year old, really loves to play and learn all the time; even if the house is torn up and I am overwhelmed.  The mental fog that descends on me does not seem to dim her brightness!  Take Monday for example- during what should have been SFLT (structured family learning time), I was standing dazed in the kitchen and Gracie brought me a stack of magazines with pages marked and said, “Mom, look at all these cool things we can do together!”

I asked her to decide what she would like to do first, so we read an article on Louis Braille.  His life story of tragedy and struggle, coupled with his passion to read and learn, were definitely inspiring!  We used the Braille alphabet in the article to write our names and in the process Gracie discovered a mistake: two letters were the same.  After finding an online Braille alphabet we corrected the letter in error.  Then we started thinking of blind people in history that we had read about and decided to figure out when they lived in comparison to Mr. Braille: Mary Ingalls and Helen Keller, for example.  Since both of these women lived several decades later, we thought about how his work benefited them. Although nothing was planned ahead, we just made up a Louis Braille lesson plan in the moment.

When Dad came home that afternoon, Gracie was excited to share the article and her name written in Braille.  Dad also read and found the story of Louis Braille very interesting and shared it with Alicia (big sister) when she came home.

smiling lady pictures

Alicia – When a small child learns, a family learns!

  • None of this was planned before time (at this point in time, I don’t ‘consistently’ achieve Rule 5. Weekly planning 🙂 although I do try to keep interesting resources on hand.  This realization has been a great comfort to me and prompted me to think about what all Gracie does of her own volition.  I read back through my family journal and thought about all the imaginative activities she engages in:
  • Making furniture, home decor, clothing and accessories for her dolls
  • Playing with cars and blocks on the city mat
  • Pretending to teach children, school and Bible class
  • Pretending to teach piano
  • Pretending to perform: singing, ballet, piano, public speaking
  • Building dog and cat houses out of boxes
  • Pretending to read aloud- one of her favorite activities
  • Playing office- making appointments and sales
  • Playing ‘old days’ under the trampoline outside and gathering ‘ingredients’ (rocks, dirt, weeds), then cooking and serving        the meals

    girl playing in mud picture

    Gracie playing “old days” under the trampoline

You may be wondering how this relates to my struggle for consistency and presence.  It encourages me to:

  • accept each day as it comes and focus on the basics: relationships (being present) and priorities (be consistent with what’s important)
  • to be grateful for what I have, for the real treasures that surround me.

Submitted by Carolyn Donaghey – Carolyn home schooled her two older children for nine years, 1st through 9th grade. She began homeschooling their youngest, Gracie in second grade and was introduced to TJED about a year ago. They are privileged to live in a rural area. She and her husband have had their own business for most of their marriage. Mom, dad and Gracie spend extended family time together often and eat their meals together. Carolyn  enjoys home making, cooking, organizing, and some sewing. She loves reading, working outside, walking, and being with her family, and worshiping her Lord. Oh yes, she is learning to play the piano (again) too. : )



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