SummaryGinny Seuffert knows how travelling, keeping the home ‘guest-ready’, and socializing can feel like too much work. Here are ideas to kickstart family fun!
I spoke to a Midwestern mom not too long ago who inspired me to write this column. This mom loves homeschooling and loves Seton, but she wishes she had more opportunities to meet and socialize with other homeschooling, or even just observant, Catholic families.
The conversation reminded me that many Catholics have not spent their lives near heavily populated major metropolitan areas.
For some families, it is too far to travel to a homeschool support group, and if a parish does not offer activities outside of Mass and devotions, a family can feel isolated from other practicing Catholics.
Often homeschooling moms, especially with lots of children, feel that it is tough to keep the house “guest-ready” on top of her other responsibilities. Should home educators just write off socialization as one of those sacrifices we need to make in order to have the time to teach our children at home?
Like bees and ants, God made humans to be social creatures. Our children need companions. In large families, their best buddies will be their brothers and sisters, but their lives will also be enriched by cousins and other friends their own age.
Children will naturally seek age-appropriate acquaintances on their own. Wise parents try to steer them towards pals from families with the same values, knowing they will enjoy peace of mind when the same principles of good behavior they try to instill are reinforced in the homes of friends.
Sharing good times with friends is something children eagerly anticipate, enjoy immensely, and remember fondly.
Adults, too, benefit from fun times with extended family and friends. In most parts of our country, being an observant Catholic is counter-cultural. Neighbors and acquaintances question—sometimes rudely—how we are called to live. Just ask parents with more than two or three children, how often they are asked, “Is this it?” when a new baby arrives.
Total strangers on the grocery store checkout line have asked me if I could give my children the “attention they deserve.” While we need bravely to live up to the demands of the Gospel, it is very relaxing occasionally to be in the company of adults who are not asking us to defend our lifestyles.
Of course, it is one thing to be convinced that sharing good times with like-minded people is important, and quite another to find some free time and make plans. Here are a few ideas that have worked for me and my friends.
1. Breakfast Club
A group of homeschooling moms formed an informal support group and met on the second Saturday morning of each month for breakfast. They chose a reasonably priced casual dining establishment so everyone could afford it. The only rule was that attendance was restricted to moms and new babies; the point was for moms to get away from husbands and childcare and have a few laughs.
This worked on several levels. First, Saturday morning was a good choice because most husbands were home, eliminating the need for childcare. Second, by meeting for breakfast, busy moms still had enough hours in the day to go grocery shopping and clean the house.
By making the breakfast a regular monthly occurrence, it was easy to remember. Because it was such an informal gathering, if only a few moms showed up, those few could still share a fun time.
Finally, these relaxed get-togethers were an ideal opportunity to introduce a mother who was contemplating home schooling, to mothers who were actually doing it.
A mothers’ breakfast club is economical, fun, and no one must clean her house!
2. Sunday Brunch
House cleaning is often put on the back burner during the week in a busy home schooling household; there are just not enough hours in the day. As many of us play catch-up on Saturday, our best shot for a clean house is on Sunday morning.
A very good way to take advantage of this occasional cleanliness, and a no fuss, no muss, social opportunity, is Sunday-after-Mass brunch.
Invite some nice families you would like to know, or like to know better, to your house after morning Mass. All you need is coffee, tea, milk for the kiddies, and some baked goods. My sister, my daughter-in-law, and I rotated houses for several years and it was very easy and low-key.
If you can make this a regular affair, have each family bring a box of doughnuts or bagels, and have the host supply the beverages and some fruit.
To save on cleanup time, use paper plates and cups, and move the brunch outside during the warm weather months.
3. Holy Day Parties
I am putting the finishing touches on this column on Fat Tuesday (or Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras). Tonight we have invited a few people over. I planned a dinner that can be put on platters on the table, and we bought some paczki, a Polish traditional pastry that gives one a little taste of Heaven before starting Lent.
Gathering together to eat fish on Christmas Eve or St. Joseph’s bread on March 19 reminds us of Catholic cultural traditions that have almost disappeared since the Second Vatican Council.
Try to plan just one event a year around a Catholic celebration: sweets on St. Valentine’s Day or a saint dress-up party for All Saints’ Day.
As a final thought, moms, do not be like the author of this column.
Too often, I turned down an opportunity to entertain because my furniture was threadbare, or the door was falling off the bathroom vanity, and I was ashamed for people to see my house.
I waited until we could save the money to make our house more presentable. Through the years I have learned that Catholics who are eager to spend time with like-minded families really do not care what your home looks like.
They just want some shared time and support.
You will never regret time spent with other Catholic families.