Archive for the ‘education’ Category

This was this past weekend’s estate sale find.  The sale was in a big old frame house near the Vulcan that seemed to have been part antique store, part attorney’s office.  I usually don’t look at books at these things considering I’ve spent much of the past ten years purging them.  But this was just sitting on a table. It was fifty cents.  I’m posting a couple of images up here, then the rest below the fold. This isn’t the entire book – I might post the rest later, a few pages that are specific to various liturgical seasons and feasts.

It’s pre-Vatican II, obviously, mid-1950’s, of Belgian origin. I’m struck by the simplicity of the vestments – perhaps an expression of where the Liturgical Movement was in Europe by this point?

I offer it because I know I have readers who, like me, are interested in historical catechetical and devotional materials, and also to remind us that the most important stated purpose of the pre-Vatican II Liturgical Movement was to deepen the individual’s understanding of the Mass, and this effort was, outside of academic circles, commonly expressed in terms of encouraging frequent Confession and Communion and catechesis to help develop personal liturgical piety. Not that changes to various aspects of the liturgy weren’t discussed, and in some contexts even practiced, but it wasn’t the pastoral emphasis.  And there were lots of materials with that purpose produced during this time, materials that were lovely, simple and solid, and not at all sentimental.

(You can click on all images for a larger version)

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"amy welborn"



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Late last week, I decide that we’d take a little road trip.  Camps were done and over, Scout trip, Florida & South Carolina family trips are around the corner and here were these few days….

Let’s go!

We have read a lot of Twain this year.  Joseph read “The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” and The Prince and the Pauper on his own and we’ve read Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn as read-alouds.   I’d never been to the Twain boyhood home in Hannibal, it’s not horribly far…

Let’s go!

We have been to St. Louis (Hannibal is about a hundred miles north of St. Louis) before – a couple of times, but they were both pretty small, and neither remember a bit of it.

(I was telling Joseph today about his first trip to St. Louis.  It was 2001, He was about two months old, and I was speaking at the St. Louis Archdiocesan Eucharistic Congress.  As per usual, we decided to take in a sporting event.  In this case, we walked into a Cardinal’s game the very moment Mark Maguire hit (I believe) a Grand Slam (or at the very least a regular home run…but I do think it was a Grand Slam).  The place erupted, there were fireworks, and poor little tiny Joseph lost it…and still is not a baseball fan to this day….)

We left Sunday after Mass and were in St. Charles by 6.  Joseph slept all the way through Tennessee and most of Kentucky. I had “St. Charles” and “picturesque” associated in my subconscience for some reason, but what I didn’t realize was that it was the actual starting point of the Lewis Clark expedition, marked by  many plaques and a super-sized statue, with dog.

"Amy Welborn"


"Amy Welborn"


"Amy Welborn"

Missouri River




"Amy Welborn"

A bonanza of toads in the tracks.



A nice evening at the Missouri river-front park, although I can’t say much for the absolutely mediocre and fingers-drumming-on-table- slowly-appearing meal at the Trailhead Brewery.  Strike one for meals!

Up early to head up to Hannibal.

A librarian friend of mine asked if it was “touristy.”  Well, every other business is “Mark Twain” this or that, but is that surprising? Other than that, it doesn’t have a touristy vibe at all.  The little riverfront main street, while as typical as you’d expect isn’t a developed as the St. Charles equivalent, with far fewer restaurants and shops.

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"amy welborn"

On “Lover’s Leap” – name comes, of course, from Romeo and Juliet-ish myth with a Native American setting. Hannibal and the Mississippi down below.

We hit the cave first, though.  I didn’t know how admission to the cave worked, how the tours were timed or how busy it would be, so I wanted to get it out of the way so I wouldn’t be wondering about those issues all morning.  We arrived just as a tour was getting started – we missed the movie, but go the rest of the tour.  It was your typical cave tour, with scripted corny attempts at humor and the ritual pointing out of formations that seem to resemble animals.

While pricey, it was worth it if you’re interested in getting a better sense of Tom Sawyer – for this was the cave Twain based the story on, with several landmarks, including the cross that marked the treasure spot, clearly seen.


For his illustrations, Norman Rockwell came to Hannibal for research.  He was struck by the cave, for all other illustrations up to that point, had depicted a cave dripping with stalactites and so on – it’s not the case. It’s a mostly dry cave marked by stack-like formations of rocks and narrow passageways. 

Now back up to town.

The museum “complex” is well-done.  You can read about it at the link, but in essence what your ticket buys is admission to several small houses   – the Clemens home, Becky Thatcher’s house, Judge Clemens’ office, Huckleberry Finn’s house – and two museums – one close to the Clemens home, the other, larger one, down on Main Street a couple of blocks away.

(Of course when we say “Becky Thatcher” we mean Laura Hawkins, the real person who inspired Twain.  Some with Huckleberry Finn/Tom Blakenship)

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The Clemens home is on the far right, mostly hidden. On the left are the Becky Thatcher home and the law office.

The museums were very good, with lots of photographs and quotes from Twain’s work offering a full sense of his childhood in Hannibal and his family’s background.  It was very interesting to see the connections between Twain’s life and his fiction.

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Kitchen in the Clemens home.

The larger museum was more clearly set up for school groups, with five large interactive areas, each based on one of Twain’s books. The second floor of this museum holds the originals of Norman Rockwell’s paintings for special editions of TS and HF, and a small, but decent collection of personal memorabilia – including a sad little death mask of Twain’s only son, who died when he was 19 months old.  He had three daughters, only one of whom outlived him.  She married and had a daughter, but that daughter had no children, so there are no living descendants of Mark Twain.

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"


The first attempt at lunch was at a place along Main Street where we waited for ten minutes to be seated in a restaurant where there were four empty tables, and then were brusquely told upon placing an order for a hamburger, “Oh, we’re out of hamburgers.”  Thnx Bye.

So we left and walked down the street to the place that the nice lady in the Becky Thatcher house had recommended in the first place – a cafe in the back of a Christian bookstore, called, not surprisingly, Christian Ambiance.

In spades.

Christian ambiance, indeed.

Very good food – homemade bread, included – served with interest and warmth.

This day revived my interest in Twain.   I’ve enjoyed reading through TS and HF with the boys, but had to remember today, as they played around in the interactive Connecticut Yankee section of the museum, intrigued by the premise and expressing interest in reading it, of that book’s strong anti-Catholicism.  It was, in fact, Twain’s disparaging remarks about Catholicism in Innocents Abroad that turned me away from him for decades when I read them as an older teenager. But I do think I’ll take a shot at Roughing It and Following the Equator.

Then back down the state highway, past this giant statue of Twain with tiny hands.  We arrived in St. Louis (proper) about 5, settled into the hotel, and then headed east to…



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…of course.

They’d been up it before, and Joseph had probably been 4 at the time, but he still had no recollection.  We arrived about 7, and didn’t have to wait at all – it seems to be a good time to go.

Such a fascinating structure.

More meal disappointment – returning to the hotel vicinity around 9:30, I pulled into a highly-rated diner that I could have sworn I’d checked out as advertised as open 24 hours.  They guy poked his head out the door and drew a line across his throat.  I assume that meant he was closed, although perhaps he was communicating me that he was in great danger and I missed the rather obvious signal?

(Checked the website when we got back..yup…supposed to be open 24 hours…)

All in all, a very satisfying 24 hours.  Low-stress learning and exploring, with the centerpiece being seeing with our own eyes what we’d only read about.  Seeing where Lewis and Clark began their journey and walking along the same river from which the pushed off – to me, that kind of experience is so helpful.  I loved taking the boys to Hannibal.  It was great for them – us – to immerse ourselves in this great – not perfect, but still great – writer’s childhood and, through the excellent exhibits, his creative process.  We could situate the Tom, Huck, Jim and everyone else in this small town on the river, we could look out and imagine that raft out there, be chilled in the darkness of the cave.  It shows the boys some truths about the creative process, which is certainly a mystery, but not magic, either.  Mark Twain’s stories came from a place, a time, and experiences. In addition, and of great interest to us,  Twain, like so many of the great American creative and accomplished minds, had relatively little formal education – that is – he didn’t go to school for very long.  So wandering around Hannibal on this very hot day, we can experience that truth one more time:  Living in a creative way in this fascinating, crazy world is about keeping your eyes and ears open and working hard – maybe even out of desperation sometimes  – to give that world something new.  School might be a part of that, or it might not, but learning, growing in wisdom, and bearing good fruit from it is what we do all the time, everywhere, because we can.

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Well, shoot.  I had this local speaking engagement last night…but then Southeast Snowmaggedon 2 happened at just about the same scheduled time, so we cancelled…at since it was part of a series of speakers, I don’t know if and when it will be rescheduled.

So I have books!

"Amy Welborn"Here’s the link to the bookstore.  As I say on the page, all prices include Media Mail shipping.  If you would like them more quickly, let me know, and we can arrange it.  I really would prefer to ship only to the United States, but if you are outside the US, and have a burning desire for a book, again, email me and we can figure it out.

The only books I don’t presently have on hand are the three children’s picture books, but I’ll get some more of them presently.

So yes…books for your RCIA candidates, your confirmation candidates, your graduating seniors, your moms, dads, First Communicants…..etc.  



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— 1 —

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At the Moss Rock Festival.  Death by Mallet.  Death, as in Dyeing, that is.

Still doesn’t beat the Best Ever Arts Festival Activity for Kids.  It was in the Tampa Bay area ages ago, when a couple of artists had a booth for children to do the traditional Japanese art of using a whole fish for printing.   Super popular, really different….and something I’ve never seen again at one of these things.


— 2 —

I’m so glad Pope Francis’ dramatic gestures are (seemingly) getting the attention of non-believers, but (you knew that was coming) – honestly.   Right now, there are countless Christians around the globe embracing the outcasts and protecting them against the Machine that would like to see them dead and out of sight.   Since Jesus, this is what Jesus-followers do.  I hope that Pope Francis’s actions work to call us (aka me)  to do more and to be more, but also that it jostles the conscience of the nonbeliever to look around, look through history and see the truth about what Jesus-followers do and have always done.  Right now, those works of mercy are being lived in pretty dramatic, sacrificial ways.

— 3 —

As I noted earlier, we took a slight detour on the way up to Huntsville earlier this week.   We turned off 65 around Cullman and drove west about 25 miles, turned a couple more times up country roads and ended up at the Jesse Owens Memorial Park.  

Owens was born in Alabama, and the family moved to Ohio when he was 9 as part of the Great Migration.  It was there he went to high school, then college, breaking records and heading to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

This park is just that – a large park (I believe high school track and field events are held here occasionally) with a tiny museum at the top of the overlooking rise.

It’s a nicely done little space, with warm and friendly volunteers – you need to stop at the vistors’ center at the gate, as it were, to tell them that you’re here so they open up on these slow weekdays.  There’s not a lot to it – most of the items inside are replicas, and since we’d prepared so thoroughly before coming, none of the information presented was really new.

There was, however, a broad jump pit (see photo in previous post) in which you could test your, um, skills, against Owens’, and a replica of the three-room sharecropper’s shack he and his 8 siblings and parents lived in down the road.

— 4 —

Before going, we read a couple of books and watched this American Experience profile of Owens, which was very good.  This kind of schooling works for us because in learning about Owens, they also learned more about Nazi Germany, the Olympics and segregation in the United States.

— 5 —

Speaking of which, it’s worth noting that when Owens was a student at Ohio State in the 1930’s, he was not permitted to live on campus nor patronize many restaurants around campus.

In the South, segregation was enshrined in law, but it’s useful to remember that de facto segregation was a fact of life in a lot of places, not only in the South.

— 6 —

A half mile down the road from the Owens park are some Native American mounds – these.   (A larger area is not far from Tuscaloosa – we will go there eventually)  Not a whole lot to it, but the educational building/museum had probably thousands of arrowheads and other tools on display, and is clearly set up to receive school groups – there were lots of animal skins, work tools and musical instruments to touch and use.

Both the Owens museum and the Oakville mounds were free admission, so there you have it:  just a little ways from home, a morning of history, and all it cost was time.


— 7 —

Reading:  I’m about finished with this, and we are reading Oliver Twist aloud.  I usually don’t like to edit, but I admit that this time, that’s exactly what I’m doing.  There are big chunks that are of little interest to the boys.  Example – chapter 23. I summarized most of it (Mr. Bumble visits the matron and courts her after a fashion) and read the last two pages (the dying old woman reveals something about Oliver’s mother).  Oh, and I also admit that I’m not going to say “the Jew” every five seconds – which is how Dickens refers to Fagin about 89% of the time.  So I substitute “the old man” or “Fagin.”

(As for expanding the context of Oliver Twist, we’ve read a couple of biographies of Dickens for younger children, are going to watch this BBC program - The Children who Built Victorian Britain , and of course, this)

(Don’t forget – order your copies of Bambinelli Sunday!)

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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Prayer Corner

We are all about rocks here – well one of us is all about rocks here – so we spent some time this evening reading about – and more importantly – looking at photographs of – the astonishing Cave of Crystals in Mexico.  

I thought this one was good for this space.

"amy welborn"


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We are currently at the beach, but since school started for most of our friends back home, and since we are going to be travelling through much of the fall anyway, we might as well get used to this roadschooling thing, eh, what?

"amy welborn"

Drawing and labeling a crab.

I’m going to talk about our crazy home/road/not-really-un/schooling-at-all-let’s-face-it  journey here and there not because I’m super proud of what we’re doing, because I’ve no idea what we’re doing, but more for the sake of hearing what you’re doing and benefitting from your experience.


  • Since we are still in a bit of a transition, we’ve started with easy stuff – for all of us.  That is, we’re not getting hardcore on our  history/culture/art/science/language – all the focus of the fall – for a couple more weeks.  Too much going on, too many in-and-outs, here-and-theres.
  • So, “easy” means getting rolling with math and some language arts, first.
  • After much dithering and input from lots of good people, I decided to just settle in regard to math and stick with their school’s curriculum, which is the EnVision program.  Sort of controversial in some circles, with a unique pedagogy.  I wasn’t crazy about it last year (the first year it was used), but it’s slowly growing on me, and I actually find working with the material one-on-one with them sort of interesting.  Yes, I considered Singapore Math and feel like a slacker for not going with it – my boys are both good in math and enjoy it, so no excuses there.   But given the built in challenges and priorities of the fall, it eventually hit me that it would be fairly insane to plunge them into a completely different and more challenging math program at this point.   Especially since (as I keep repeating) they might be returning to school in January.  So for now -Envision.
  • Over the past two days, we’ve used what we’ve seen and experienced to talk about (and hopefully learn about): crabs & other crustaceans (read about them on the internet, and they drew and labelled a diagram), dolphins and other cetaceans (same kind of study before we went dolphin cruising today); sand dollars (Michael found  a live one yesterday, and we looked it up to see the difference between and live and a dead one, and to learn how they eat and such. Have you ever held a live sand dollar? You can actually feel the little fuzzy..things..move about); the differences between oceans, seas & bays (explaining Mobile Bay); the Gulf Stream; Fort Morgan – especially the famous Civil War battle that occurred there – we visited the Fort today.  (Tip: If you go in the summer — maybe don’t go in the summer. ); some constellations (standing on the beach in the dark last night with my Google Sky app on the phone); the Assumption of Mary; regular geography check-ups (“which way is north?” “what state is directly west of where we are?” ); estimating time by the position of the sun; what a “dauphin” is and subsequent to that, rehashing our understanding of the French presence in the area  – since there was much confusion today over the fact that as we stood at Fort Morgan, we could see Dauphin Island, and later we were going dolphin watching.  I suppose that whole episode also counts as enunciation lessons for everyone, as well.
  • And they’re reading, of course.  J: an Artemis Fowl  book and M an abridged version of Journey to the Center of the Earth, which he assures  me is nothing like the movie.
  • Oh, and J also has this book on the physics of football, which he’s read through twice since yesterday and continues to glance over.  I have a couple of football/math books at home which I’ll pull out when we get back.  I had thought about letting him do a fantasy football team (it’s actually done in some schools as a part of math programs), but honestly, that would then necessitate him spending far more time on the internet than he does now – which is basically none, except occasional supervised forays onto Lego.com.  So not yet.
  • I’m getting this for myself, and have become an instant fangirl of Quinn Cummings. 

So my smallish question for today:

Who uses (or makes their own) Book of Centuries? 

I’m thinking about this.  It seems to fit our style. Tell me about it, or anything similar that you do.

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Yes, we are still doing the home/road/unschooling thing.

School starts up here next week – their Catholic school friends will be back in the classroom on Monday, their public school buddies  a week later.  This past spring, the Alabama legislature passed a law mandating that public schools start back no sooner than 2 weeks before Labor Day. The change would give the opportunity, it was argued, for more tourism dollars to be spent. Fine, except passing the law after school districts had already set their 2012-2013 calendars was….let’s say..typical.. Catholic schools may or may not conform to that law – ours aren’t.

Doesn’t matter though, because we’re just still hanging out.  Not worried about uniforms or meetings or schedules.  Ees very nice.

As I’ve said before, I am not sure where we’re going to fall on this homeschool spectrum.   I am philosophically almost 100% on board with unschooling, with two caveats:  First, there are subjects I believe should be directed and planned – math, grammar, other languages. (So, I guess that probably takes the “almost 100%” claim down to about 82.5.)  Secondly, you can’t just take children and a mother who have been involved in institutional schools forever and step right into unschooling.  None of us would have any idea of what to do.  So, a period of “deschooling” is probably required.

The other factor keeping us in suspended animation is the question of how long this will last.  We have never done this before, we will be doing it under rather unusual circumstances over the next few months, and it very well might be that one, or perhaps both of them will vote for returning to school in January.  Or maybe I will vote for it. Who the heck knows.  For that reason, at this point, I think it’s wise to keep them on track with their school curricula. Not slavishly, but just generally – at this point.  So I’ll be meeting with the principal tomorrow to get a sense of scope and sequence and so on – and then we can proceed full force with our weird mix of “what Mom thinks is important –  today” “What we want to learn about” “What the moment is teaching us and inspiring us to learn more about” and “What we need to know so we’re not too far behind if we go back to school.”

So, we’ve been doing a little bit of this and that by way of math skills reviews, and this:

"amy welborn"

Last week (was it just last week? Yes…sheesh)..on our quick trip to DC, we went (of course) to the Air & Space Museum.  They have a really fine Wright Brothers exhibit, so inspired by that, as well as by the also good children’s-science-museumy hall of “How Things Fly”, we returned this week to build on all of that, being all respectful of varied learning styles and all.   Just a little bit every day – their independent reading, drawing, studying those four forces of flight, and doing some simple experiments.

a.  One of the library books on flight we checked out. I thought this was the best. 

b. They each had their own Wright Brothers book (again, just checked out from the library) appropriate to their reading level.  For Michael (age 7) - a DK Reader. 

c.  For Joseph (age 11) this one.   I had seen a copy of this in the Museum Shop, and was impressed by the depth of the text – just right, not overwhelming as well as by the attractiveness of the layout.  It seems to be a good series of biographies – Sterling is the publisher. 

d. There is no dearth of online resources on flight (or anything) but I finally settled on this site from the FAA to reinforce the concepts.  It’s simple and clear and makes so much sense, even I now understand that flying is not magic.

e.  Again, no lack of “how to draw aircraft” books – but many are rather complex.  This was simple enough for both boys to use. 

f.   Kid-made quick sketch, demonstrating the four forces.

g.  Better drawings.

h.  Not than anyone around here needs an excuse to make a paper airplane.   But this one was made with the back reinforced by layers of tape so it would be strong enough to launch with a slingshot (fashioned from a forked stick and rubber bands) to give it more (class???) thrust.

Not pictured above.  Umbrella and crumpled papers used to understand drag.

"amy welborn"

We’ll probably hit this place in the next couple of weeks, too – it’s five minutes from my house, and we’ve never been there.  Shame on us!

So that’s it for the um-that’s-really-not-UNschooling part of our program.  Right now, they really are unschooling as they try to figure out what the baby lizard they captured will eat.

"amy welborn"

They have settled on roly-polies and observed that the lizard seems to eat out the innards and leave the exoskeleton.  Good for them.  They can unschool in that fashion all they want.  I’ll be in here.

"amy welborn"

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