It's amazing how natural and comforting it feels to be back in a "classroom" setting. Alex and I have been taking a couple of "classes" over the last few months as we prepare for our marriage. I say "classroom" and "classes" in quotes because the courses are online, and they're definitely non-degree seeking, lol. Nonetheless, the courses do require "class time" and even "homework."
In August, we began a three-part NFP (Natural Family Planning) course online. The class was taught via web-conference, consisting of a teaching couple and two other student-couples. We met on one evening a month from 6:30 pm until about 8:30 pm. Though the course was offered online to meet our needs for being in separate locations, our series was actually taught by a couple in Natchitoches, Louisiana. It was almost as if we were taking the class in person, knowing our teachers really weren't that far away (and cheering on the Saints/Tigers was fun to share). Apparently, though, the other student couples were in several other time zones.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with NFP, essentially it's a course on fertility awareness. The idea is to gain a sense of awareness of one's personal fertility process (cycle) in order to avoid or achieve pregnancy. This means no artificial forms of contraception. On the flipside, it means we are saying YES to our health, yes to giving oneself completely to the other, and yes to living the way we were designed.
I must admit, the NFP course was more complex than I expected it to be. However, we're committing to it and with time (and practice), I have every bit of confidence in the process. By no means am I an expert, but I'd be glad to discuss or clarify what this all means if anyone is particularly interested. I'm sure I'll have another entry on NFP sooner or later. If anyone out there is practicing NFP, we really ought to chat (yes, Jen, I do mean you!). Drop me a line sometime. ;)
Our other course is an online marriage preparation course (catholicmarriageprep.com). For the same reason that Alex and I are unable to do marriage prep via a weekend retreat or through one-on-one couple mentoring, we felt it was best to sign up for another online course. The program in which we enrolled is approved as a valid form of marriage preparation through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (UCCSB). I was actually surprised to find out how many dioceses across the nation are using this program with their engaged couples.
I think we've both enjoyed this particular course a bit more than the NFP one, mostly because it's less scientific-based and more reflection-based. Essentially, the course is structured in an independent study format, with a teaching couple that provides feedback on the lessons and assignments as we work through them. There are nine lessons, with a minimum total completion time of one week and a maximum length of three months. While the course does take quite a bit of time (average 4 hours per lesson - 2 hours for the initial session and 2 more for the feedback/review portion), it's mostly interesting and definitely informative. We continuously comment on how much we have enjoyed sharing this "Bible study" experience with one another.
Needless to say, our studies have kept us quite busy over the last couple of months. Finishing up the NFP course earlier this month freed up one evening of commitments that was quickly replaced with study time. It can be difficult to get it all done, since we spend at least 2 (sometimes 3) nights a week working through our lessons, while allowing ourselves to enjoy one "fun" night a week together watching our shows. Even though we're not in the same room (or city, or state for that matter...), it is nice to know that we have "us time" set aside several nights a week. This is especially helpful when we're both busy with other commitments and Alex is traveling 2 nights a week. (When you factor in 2 nights for his travels, and 3 nights for class, that leaves 1 night for "fun" and voila the week is gone!)
In any case, we're still trucking along, making slow yet steady progress toward our big day. We're now past the 10 week mark (69 days to go!), and we're eagerly looking forward to all that is to come. Next weekend, I get to have my first dress fitting (eek!), and we're also scheduled for another meeting with the priest, as well as our engagement photos (finally!). Stay tuned as we inch closer and closer...