How to raise children like the saints:

Pray for their deaths, leave them in the care of others and join a monastery, leave THEM in a monastery..

and so on. 

Today (May 22) is the memorial of St. Rita, known for many things, among them, her clear-eyed view of her children’s lives, earthly and eternal:

Rita Lotti was born near Cascia in Italy in the fourteenth century, the only child of her parents, Antonio and Amata. Her parents were official peacemakers in a turbulent environment of feuding families.

At an early age Rita felt called to religious life; however, her parents arranged for her to be married to Paolo Mancini. Rita accepted this as God’s will for her, and the newlyweds were soon blessed with two sons.

One day while on his way home, Paolo was killed. Rita’s grief was compounded with the fear that her two sons would seek to avenge their father’s death, as was the custom of the time. She began praying and fasting that God would not allow this to happen. Both sons soon fell ill and died, which Rita saw as an answer to her prayers.

From The Church’s Most Powerful Novenas. 

Whether or not your faith can take you that far at the moment, it’s worth pondering, worth allowing your self-understanding as a parent  – or simply a person who is connected to others – to be jolted, challenged and questioned.

It’s worth pondering on what we really believe and what we really want and hope for others and what we really think would be the worst and best things that could ever happen to them.

Raising children to be fulfilled in this world, happy with who they are in this world, and helpful to others in this world is good of us, but it’s also very 21st century First World of us. Parental bonds naturally bring deep desires to protect our children from any kind of harm or suffering, and of course it makes sense to have our parental goal be that vision of thriving, successful adults. Who still call, of course.

But if we’re parenting like the saints, we’re nudged to consider different definitions and frameworks and paradigms. We’re sometimes even confronted with examples of what we’d today call bad – terrible – parenting.

That is not to say that we look to saints because all of their decisions were good ones. They weren’t and we don’t. It is also true that there is nothing much easier than using religion as a tool to manipulate others and escape responsibility. I’m really involved in church and God clearly has a mission for me that requires all my time there  can often be more simply translated as I’d rather not be around my family, thanks. 

But if we’re serious about the Catholic thing, we do look to patterns, and the pattern we see is that when the saints think about other people, they’re concerned, first and foremost, with the state of their souls.

Now, we’d argue that  – we are too! Because we can quickly direct our purported concern with “souls” into that “self-fulfillment” door that rules the present day. That is: your deepest desires, as you understand them at this moment, must come from God – because they’re so deep and you can’t imagine being yourself without them. So this is what God wants. What you want. And that’s: fulfillment, happiness and feeling okay about what you’re doing here and now. What more can we want for ourselves, for our children?

St. Rita offers….another paradigm.

And so does S. Marie de l’Incarnation – the great mystic and missionary to New France, died in 1672, canonized in 2014. 

Last year, I read From Mother to Son: The Selected Letters of Marie de l’Incarnation to Claude Martin.  It seems appropriate to talk about this fascinating relationship on the memorial of St. Rita.

Marie was widowed at the age of twenty, left with a young son. She spent years – not only working in a family business and supporting her son – but discerning. It was a discernment that led to her, at the age of 32, when her son was 11 – into joining the Ursulines, and, a few years later, heading to Canada, where she would live, minister, and eventually die, never having seen her son with her physical eyes again.

(She was beatified in 1980 and canonized in 2014) 

So yes, she left her son with relatives so she could join a cloistered convent then sail across the sea.

The argument is made that viewed in historical context, this decision is not as strange as it seems to us today. Families tended to be more extended, parents died a lot, one-fourth of all marriages in France during this period were second marriages, children were sent off to school, sent to live in better circumstances with better-off relations and so on.

All of this is true, but we also know from Marie’s story that her son did not cheerfully accept either of her decisions – he ran away and turned up at the convent gate, and so on.

But, as it does, life went on, and in the end, Claude entered religious life himself as a Benedictine, and he and his mother exchanged letters for decades – and he eventually worked hard to collect her writings and present them to the world as the fruit of the mind of a saintly woman. From one of her letters to him:

You were abandoned by your mother and your relatives. Hasn’t this abandonment been useful to you? When I left you, you were not yet twelve years old and I did so only with strange agonies known to God alone. I had to obey his divine will, which wanted things to happen thus, making me hope that he would take care of you. I steeled my heart to prevail over what had delayed my entry into holy religion a whole ten years. Still, I had to be convinced of the necessity of delivering this blow by Reverend Father Dom Raymond and by ways I can’t set forth on this paper, though I would tell you in person. I foresaw the abandonment of our relatives, which gave me a thousand crosses, together with the human weakness that made me fear your ruin. 

When I passed through Paris, it would have been easy for me to place you. The Queen, Madame the Duchess d’Aiguillon and Madame the Countesss Brienne, who did me the honor of looking upon me with favor and who have again honored me with their commands this year, by their letters, wouldn’t have refused me anything I desired for you. I thanked Madame the Duchess d’Aiguillon for the good that she wanted to do for you, but the thought that came to me then was that if you were advanced in the world, your soul would be in danger of ruin.  What’s more, the thoughts that had formerly occupied my mind, in wanting only spiritual poverty for your inheritance and for mine, made me resolve to leave you a second time in the hands of the Mother of goodness, trusting that since I was going to give my life for the service of her beloved Son, she would take care of you….I have never loved you but in the poverty of Jesus Christ in which all treasures are found….

More thoughts here.

It’s Tuesday, I’ll digest a bit, but know that life has changed. Everyone is home, around all the time, and my introvert brain is in shock, although it has no right to be. We knew this was coming. This is life from now on – for the next few years, with a break of people going to camp or something every once in a while. I’m going to have to force some changes – as in, using the early hours of the day to actually work. We’ll see.

Reading: I started Framely Parsonage by Trollope, but now I can’t find the silly book. I saw it on the floor yesterday, and now it’s gone. Where is it?

Also, for trip prep, reading The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise. 

I started reading Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age and did a lot of nodding during the img_20190516_082002-1first chapter. I had picked it up because even from the little I knew about it, I suspected that his take on modern life and faith might help me articulate my own inchoate intuitions. As I said, I did a lot of nodding and marking, but then I read this article in First Things and don’t know if I’ll do more than skim the rest. It’s not that I don’t want to confront different ideas – it’s that doing so for 600 pages involves a chunk of life and life is short. We’ll see. I just wish I could find that Trollope.

Also, Movie Son on what makes an “Important” movie. 

Watching: No, no – I didn’t watch Game of Thrones. I’ve never watched an episode, and wasn’t going to start now.

I did watch three episodes of Fosse/Verdon, which was interesting and impressive for Michelle Williams’ amazing performance as Gwen Verdon. I liked the time-jumping structure as well. I’m all for non-linearity in storytelling because that’s how I experience reality and consciousness, truly. I’m not sure if I’m in for eight total episodes, though. I’ll probably watch some more of it tonight.


In Our Time:

Excellent episodes on Frankenstein and A Midsummer’s Night Dream. 

Is Shakespeare History? The RomansAlso good (of course), and I was particularly interested in the observations of one scholar, Patrick Gray, who suggested that the ways in which Shakespeare adapted his sources reflect a conversation, as it were, with the Christian mystery play tradition.

I found a paper he’d written on the subject. Here’s part of his conclusion:

The critical problem of the “two Caesars” is not, then, an inconsistency to be explained away; still less, a product of ignorance; but instead, a revealing expression of a choice of allegiance. Shakespeare departs from classical sources such as Plutarch’s Lives in order to tap into the vernacular tradition of the mystery plays. Like the contrast between Christ and Caesar in the Gospels, or between Christ and a stage tyrant in a Corpus Christi pageant, his characterization of Julius Caesar is designed to foreground the contrast between divine power and human vulnerability. This gulf between God and man is reconciled and overcome in the person of Christ; for all others, however, human weakness is an insurmountable limit, dangerous to ignore. Differences between the two most developed extant versions of the medieval stage Caesar, the Chester and the Towneley, hinge upon their grasp of this fundamental truth about their own human nature: the fact that human “flesh and blood” falls short of divine omnipotence. Cox describes the medieval dramaturgical tradition as keenly interested in what St. Augustine calls potentia humilitatis: “the power of humility.” In their typology of Antichrist, however, medieval mystery plays also present what might be called humiliatio potentatuum: “the humbling of the powerful.” This dynamic is what Shakespeare moves to capture in his vision of the fall of Julius Caesar.

Start the Week – on Medical Controversies. 

Mostly taking on issues related to sex and racial bias in medical practice and research. Worth a listen in order to contemplate, yet one more time, how this type of conversation is going to run up hard, against RightThink on trans issues. For the conversation emphasized the distinctions between man and woman “down to the cellular level” and img_20190519_142645the failures of medicine to take them into account.


Attending:  Two more graduations! Eight grade and high school  – done and done. That’s three graduations (including the law school daughter) in the past two weeks, with a pre-K graduation to come this week in Charleston (unfortunately we can’t make it!). Photos at Instagram. 






Today’s the memorial of St. Bernardine (Bernardino) of Siena:

At 22, he entered the Franciscan Order and was ordained two years later. For almost a dozen years he lived in solitude and prayer, but his gifts ultimately caused him to be sent to preach. He always traveled on foot, sometimes speaking for hours in one place, then doing the same in another town.

Especially known for his devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus, Bernardine devised a symbol—IHS, the first three letters of the name of Jesus in Greek—in Gothic letters on a blazing sun. This was to displace the superstitious symbols of the day, as well as the insignia of factions: for example, Guelphs and Ghibellines. The devotion spread, and the symbol began to appear in churches, homes and public buildings. Opposition arose from those who thought it a dangerous innovation. Three attempts were made to have the pope take action against him, but Bernardine’s holiness, orthodoxy, and intelligence were evidence of his faithfulness.

General of the Friars of the Strict Observance, a branch of the Franciscan Order, Bernardine strongly emphasized scholarship and further study of theology and canon law. When he started there were 300 friars in the community; when he died there were 4,000. He returned to preaching the last two years of his life, dying while traveling.

I’m sure there are other collections out there, perhaps some with more contemporary translations, but this is one I grabbed from archive.org and perused yesterday and this morning. It’s worth your time. If I have time later, I might highlight some of his words on factions – they are very applicable to the present moment. But I’ll take the quick and easy way out this morning by pointing you to a less-complicated topic: vanity.

(I’ve embedded the book below. You can also go here – remember you can download these books as pdfs. The table of contents is at the back of the book.)

Sermon 28 is on vanity. It’s applicable to the present moment, perhaps not in every particular, since social morays and cultural expectations do change over time, but in the basic spiritual orientation, largely neglected today, even in the self-consciously Christian world. What’s deemed necessary and credible in “evangelization” is framed differently in an affluent, image-oriented culture.

This lengthy sermon goes all over the place and reflects, of course, his time – a time in which social and economic class and position were reflected in dress, sometimes by local law (called sumptuary laws). So there is a touch of that in this sermon – attempting to punch above your weight with your clothing is a manifestation of vanity – but just a bit. More important to Bernardine is the message that attempting to draw attention to oneself and using clothing as an indicator of wealth and privilege is vanity, and therefore sinful.

It’s also unjust:

The fifth sin and sign of the displeasure of God is injustice: and here we will pause a little, for if thou look well into this sin thou wilt see that of ten which thou dost commit, nine are comprised in this one. Thou wilt give thy daughter to a man as his wife; and neither he who taketh her in marriage, nor her father, nor her mother , doth consider whence come her possessions ; whereas if they were wise, they would have considered it their duty to think of this before all else : whence come these possessions, whence come these garments, of what is her dowry made up ?
For many times, and most times, it is made up of robbery, of usury, and of the sweat of the brow of peasants,, and of the blood of widows, and of the marrow of wards and orphans. “Who would take one ‘ of those petticoats and squeeze it and wring it, would see issue therefrom the blood of human beings. Woe is me ! Do you never think how great cruelty is this, that thou shouldst dress thyself in garments that this man hath gained for thee, who perisheth with cold? And thou sayest : my father stands well and is rich; he hath given me a very great dowry. And doth it not seem clear to thee that he stands well ? Yea, with his head down !  If the husband of a woman of this kind were to do that which he should do, things would go far better than they go now. Thou hast it that Christ was dressed in a purple garment, so that he should be held in derision, for they wished to mock  him; and yet it was suited to him, since that such a garment is the most precious one that can be found in this life; so that he deserved it well, since that there was never a creature more precious than Christ. And therefore, by the example of Christ, woman, this morning learn this. Every time that thou dost wear violet, which hath in it the colour of vermilion, if thou dost wear it when it hath been ill-gained, thou dost wear it in mockery of Christ. And you have five of them, now take thu other five.
The first of the other five is called superfluity: The first of the whereas you must reflect that when God gave the garment of skin to Adam, he gave it to him out of decency, and to protect him from the heat and the cold, so that it might be fitted to his needs, and in this all the holy Doctors agree; and he had one only and no more. thou who hast so many of them, and keepest them in a chest, see to it, forsooth, that they be not moth-eaten; see to it that thou dost put them out in the morning sun to air, and shake them well, and look to them often. And now weary thyself in such work as much as thou wilt, yet shalt thou not be able to hinder but that moths shall consume them, since that the garment which is not worn, is always spoiled; and that which is spoiled is a loss. Go, then, and give an account of this in the other life. And because of this said Saint James in the fifth chapter of his Canonical Epistle : Vestimenta tua a tineis contesta sunt Your garments are moth-eaten; and if they are not consumed by material moths, yet they will be consumed by spiritual ones.
Knowest thou what are spiritual moths ? They are cursed avarice. Tell me, whence cometh it, that thou dost weary thyself with so much work all the year for these, * and dost never wear them? Thou dost weary thyself all the year, shaking them and hanging them up on poles; and a poor woman standeth yonder and doth freeze with cold, because that she hath not even so much clothing as she hath need of. What thinkest thou that her shivering doth cry out to God in respect of thee ? ….And thou lookest on at the poor man who doth perish with cold, and thou takest no heed thereof. Thou dost not hear any sound of cries, forsooth. Knowest thou why ? Because thou sufferest not from the cold; thou dost fill thy belly with good food, thou dost drink thy fill, and thou hast many garments upon thy back, and ofttimes dost thou sit by a fire. Thou takest thought for naught else: with a full belly thou art comforted in thy soul. And how many shirts, women, have you sent down here to those unfortunate prisoners, eh ? 

7 Quick Takes

— 1 —

Alabama has, of course, been in the news. For a break from the tension, take a look at this Twitter thread – a challenge tossed out there by someone saying, Hey people who call yourself pro-life, tell me what you do about pregnant women and kids? 

The thousands – not kidding  – thousands of  answers will hearten you – and hopefully open some minds and hearts along the way. 

 — 2 —

Eve Tushnet has a great post on “A pilgrimage to hostage relics”

This past Saturday a small band of weirdos met in a park to practice our chant, then headed to the Cloisters to do some guerrilla venerating. Our pilgrimage made me think about relics; and about public witness, and the relationship between these two aspects of Christian practice.

The Cloisters, like many other museums, holds certain real relics, including a relic of the True Cross. First of all, relics should be venerated not merely appreciated; second of all, relics should not be paywalled. It costs $25 for a non-New Yorker to go and venerate these relics, which should be open to all. Did Christ give His life only for those with twenty-five bucks to spare? He did not.

So we went, and those of us from out of town paid our museum-simony, and we found the True Cross relic and began to quietly pray an Office. We were swiftly interrupted by a security guard, who told us that people had complained and were “offended.” (I don’t know if this word was theirs, or his translation of their concerns, or what.) Like a complete idiot I attempted some negotiation, which first of all wasn’t my place as I had no actual authority in this pilgrimage, and second of all was dumb because the safe employee-answer to any question of the form, “But can we…?” is, “You sure can’t.”

— 3 —

Also from Eve, an excellent article on complicated Catholic writer Antonia White, focusing on Frost in May (which I wrote about here) but going much further. Go read. Good stuff. And then find the books!

The heroines of White’s fiction, those rippling reflections of her own life, make their way in a world where Catholicism is beautiful and cruel, exotic and sentimental, willfully stupid and hauntingly otherworldly. These are women who have to earn their keep; for whom the nature of the world and of their own soul is never obvious.


From Reason (libertarians, btw) – 10 colleges where you won’t have to walk on eggshells. 

–5 —

This might be interesting: Lumen Christi Institute Podcasts:

On our podcast we will make available our many lectures, symposia, panel discussions, and addresses by the scholars, clerics, and public intellectuals who participate in our programs.

We also will make available interviews with our speakers and affiliated scholars. These interviews allow friends of Lumen Christi to speak to their personal lives and intellectual journeys, assess current events within and involving the Church, and discuss the work of Lumen Christi and their relationship with the Institute.

Here’s the link to that Soundcloud channel

— 6 —

Circling back to life issues, the response of the families that Pennsylvania State Representative Brian Sims harassed and doxxed in front of a Philadelphia Planned Parenthood has been wonderful, hasn’t it? USA Today column that, we can hope, did a tremendous amount in educating readers as to what “pro-life” means – and raising over a hundred thousand dollars for women and children in need:

And really – if you have people you know who are super upset about any new abortion restrictions out there, let them know about the local crisis pregnancy center where there are folks helping women and their families every day in countless ways, you know?


— 7 —


We have another award!


Books! Got to sell the books! They make great end of the year gifts for you local Catholic teacher and classroom. Help them stock up! 

I spoke to a local 2nd grade class who’ve just received First Communion and were each gifted a copy of the saints book. Here’s the cover of their thank-you card. Isn’t it sweet?


Writer son comments on GOT (which I don’t watch) and The Seventh Seal.

The movie ends with Jof waking up after the terrible night to find a beautiful day. He begins to pack up Mia and Mikael when he has another vision, the other famous image of the Dance of Death. Death leads the party over a hill, each hand in hand, and they dance behind Death who leads them on. Is Jof a crazy person who just sees things? Or was he divinely touched in a way that saved him and his family from the end the rest of the party shared?

Once again, it’s Bergman begging for signs from God he can interpret. It’s not a rejection of God, but a plea to hear something from the Supreme Being who treats him with nothing but silence.

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

Today’s her memorial. Let me pull something from a previous post about a link between her and Edith Wharton:

In an In Our Time episode on Edith Wharton, scholars mentioned that the Church had condemned or at least criticized Wharton’s work. The impression I got from the discussion was that any Church criticism must have had to do with sexually-scandalous material.

Well, the rabbit trails indicated that was only partly so.

The main critique is related to a poem Wharton wrote on Margaret of Cortona. You can read it here, along with an accompanying Howard Pyle illustration.

Reminder: Margaret of Cortona lived with a man outside of wedlock for nine years and bore him a child. The man was murdered, and upon discovering his body, she converted to a life of penance and charity, eventually becoming a Franciscan tertiary.

In Wharton’s poem, published in Harper’s Monthly in 1901, we meet Margaret on her deathbed, confessing to a friar – is it her son? I don’t know.

The gist of the poem, and what got Catholic readers up in arms,  is that Margaret is torn between her love of Christ and her love of her dead lover – and perhaps even not so torn, since she makes it clear that what she had found with the earthly lover seemed pretty close to heaven. Here on her deathbed, she has prayed and prayed, but has been met with silence, while she knows that if her lover were alive, at least he would respond to her.

I have lain here, these many empty days
I thought to pack with Credos and Hail Marys
So close that not a fear should force the door –
But still, between the blessed syllables
That taper up like blazing angel heads,
Praise over praise, to the Unutterable,
Strange questions clutch me, thrusting fiery arms,
As though, athwart the close-meshed litanies,
My dead should pluck at me from hell, with eyes
Alive in their obliterated faces!…
I have tried the saints’ names and our blessed Mother’s
Fra Paolo, I have tried them o’er and o’er,
And like a blade bent backward at first thrust
They yield and fail me—and the questions stay.
And so I thought, into some human heart,
Pure, and yet foot-worn with the tread of sin,
If only I might creep for sanctuary,
It might be that those eyes would let me rest…

You can see how this would make people unhappy. From an article on “The Catholic in Fiction” from a secular journal called The Reader:

It is incredible that a writer of Mrs. Wharton’s refinement and ability should have taken a canonized saint as the subject on which to exercise such an unseemly flight of fancy….Mrs. Wharton makes this holy woman, after years of repentance, avow on her death-bed a preference for her lover’s caresses and the comfort his impassioned ardor, to the divine love of the crucified Lord whom she had so diligently served for years. Mrs. Wharton is entitled to no consideration for this affront, unless on the ignoble ground of ignorance.

Of course, I understand this objection, but I did read the poem from a slightly different angle as well.  The contrast between Christ and the earthly lover is certainly the major theme – in which Christ comes out less favorably – but there’s also, it seems, some grappling with an irony of the spiritual life which must strike any thinking person: you might even call it the irony of conversion. She’s asking: if I hadn’t been living a sinful life, would I have met Christ?

As well as, in a general way, the questions all of us have about the direction our life has taken as we look back on it:


Ah, that black night he left me, that dead dawn 
I found him lying in the woods, alive 
To gasp my name out and his life-blood with it, 
As though the murderer’s knife had probed for me 
In his hacked breast and found me in each wound… 
Well, it was there Christ came to me, you know, 
And led me home—just as that other led me. 
(Just as that other? Father, bear with me!) 
My lover’s death, they tell me, saved my soul, 
And I have lived to be a light to men. 
And gather sinners to the knees of grace. 
All this, you say, the Bishop’s signet covers. 
But stay! Suppose my lover had not died? 
(At last my question! Father, help me face it.) 
I say: Suppose my lover had not died – 
Think you I ever would have left him living, 
Even to be Christ’s blessed Margaret? 
– We lived in sin? Why, to the sin I died to 
That other was as Paradise, when God 
Walks there at eventide, the air pure gold, 
And angels treading all the grass to flowers! 
He was my Christ—he led me out of hell – 
He died to save me (so your casuists say!) – 
Could Christ do more? Your Christ out-pity mine? 

No, the poem is not anything great, and I certainly understand the reaction against it, but still. There’s a glimmer of truth in there.

And here’s one of my favorite pieces from our wonderful (and free!) Birmingham Museum of Art – 

Who knew painted wood could look so real? But then, this was exactly the point. At the time this sculpture was made, artists aimed for the greatest possible lifelikeness. Most depicted Christ, his mother, and the Saints and were keen to show their suffering in the most realistic fashion. The viewer was to be convinced that the suffering for humanity of Christ, his mother, and the Saints was real.

A recent addition to the collection at the Birmingham Museum of Art, this sculpture depicts Saint Margaret of Cortona, who lived a troubled life in the late 1200s (1247-1297). At the age of 17 she ran away with a wealthy young man and became his mistress for many years. When her lover was murdered, she turned to Christ and dedicated her life to caring for the sick and poor. She founded a hospital and a Christian brotherhood to run it.

The sculpture shows Saint Margaret holding and looking at a figure of Christ nailed to the cross. Her emotional pain (look at her face!) while she is looking at Christ suggests she is contemplating his suffering for humanity’s salvation. Her deeply emotional response is conveyed by the raised eyebrows, lowered eyelids, the slightly opened mouth, and bowed head.

Spanish artists were particularly good at creating this astonishing realism and often used a number of tricks: resin tears, bone for tooth and fingernails, glass for the eyeballs, real hair for eyelashes. This sculpture and others like it were meant for contemplation and aimed to evoke an empathic reaction, and with their heightened realism, these works were particularly good at it.

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As I’ve noted over the past few days, Word on Fire is running a free online screening of episodes of Bishop Barron’s Pivotal Players series. I wrote the companion prayer book for the series, cleverly entitled Praying with the Pivotal Players.  I’ve been sharing excerpts from the book related to each day’s screening – I couldn’t find the book yesterday and had no archived images, so we skipped Chesterton, and move right on to Michelangelo.

"pivotal players"This was actually my favorite part of the book to write. I’ll admit that part of that because, in a  way, it was the easiest to pull together. Each chapter of the book is structured around a quote from one  the Pivotal Player’s writings, and since Michelangelo didn’t leave as much writing behind as, say Newman, it was not as daunting to sort through.

But, many are surprised to learn, he did indeed leave writings behind – letters and poetry. It was fascinating to read through them, and an absorbing, interesting process of thinking about his words, his work and Bishop Barron’s perspective and pulling it all together in ways that would hopefully help readers grow a little spiritually.


(Click on each image for a full, readable view)


As noted before, this is a fairly crazy time for us. We’ve done one law school graduation, cheered on newly minted JD beginning her summer of studying for the bar, we have 8th grade graduation this week, 3 AP tests & a weekend of high school graduation activities…

…and then…


With this last kid at home, we are homeschooling high school. At this point. It may all fly out the window by October, but we’re going to give it a shot. Kid #4 will be off at college, so it will just be the two of us.

I thought I’d do a quick post setting the stage and sharing what our thoughts are. Any input welcome! I know I have a lot of experienced high school homeschool parents reading this. I went into more detail on some our background and travel plans here a few weeks ago.

We’ve never homeschooled high school. In fact, we’ve barely homeschooled at all. Total of five years (grades 2-5, then 7) with this one and two (grades 6-7) with the other. But given the not-great high school options in this town – private and the areas for which we are zoned – we thought we would do it this way. Plus, the kid has not much interest in sitting in a classroom all day, and has strong independent interests.


We are starting up next week with Algebra II and Latin, with less formal Spanish review. The reason is that a great part of our regular school year will be spent traveling, and so he understands that if you’re going to be out on the road for three weeks in February or a week or two every six weeks, the price you pay is that you have to do formal studies year-round.

I’ll just list what we’re doing. Please remember that Alabama’s homeschool laws are very loose, and require nothing except attendance reporting – no curriculum submission, no grade reporting.

I will continue the method I started when this one did 7th grade: not much detailed pre-planning but daily, meticulous record-keeping, collated weekly. Here’s what I ended up after 7th grade. High school will look a little more transcripty, but the spirit is the same: big thinking ahead of time, research resources, but super-meticulous record keeping after the fact.

Note: He is a talented musician, but at this point, has no interest in pursuing it at a college level. He wants to be an anthropologist/archaeologist with a particular interest in Meso-American cultures. I don’t know how long that will last, but that’s where he’s been since about 5th grade, and he’s still there!


Math:    Saxon Algebra II/Geometry with a tutor. I’ve never used Saxon, and would prefer to do Art of Problem Solving, but the tutor we are working with uses Saxon with other homeschooled students, so we’ll do it. I have the homeschool kit, and on the advice of one of my friends, I also got this. I do have the AOPS Intermediate Algebra book as well, and he will definitely use the AOPS Cumulus online quiz system and Kahn Academy to supplement.

Latin:     Latin I with a tutor, using Latin for the New Millenium for Latin I & II. Hopefully he can get through Latin I by, I’m thinking, October.

We are starting both of those next week.

Spanish:  He’s been taking Spanish I in school. We had planned to employ his current teacher as a tutor, but she has taken a full-time position and can’t do it. So…we will rethink. It’s not as if there is any dearth of Spanish-instructional options in the world. He will do some informal Spanish engagement for a few minutes every day this summer (videos, etc.) and then come August, we’ll get more formal with Spanish II. Not this!!! 

Also, as part of our travels, at least once a year, we will make it to a Central or Latin American country or Mexico and spend a week in a location where he can do a language school in the morning and we can see sites in the afternoons.

That’s it for the summer.

Come fall:

Science: Biology at the local Catholic homeschool co-op, taught by a Ph.D.  He would do Algebra II there, but it’s taught at the same time as Biology – so we will work in regular tutoring sessions later that morning after she’s finished.

And in terms of formal classes/tutoring, that’s it – except for music, of course.

He won’t do online classes, except to watch – maybe through Homeschool Connections, Great Courses, Hillsdale or other online sources. I am just not a fan, and he doesn’t want to do online courses either.

He’ll continue jazz and pipe organ lessons weekly. “Regular” piano will shift in focus. We are still working that out with his teacher.

Now, other areas of interest:

History:  History will mainly be ad-hoc, related to coming travels and events and his own interests.  I am going to be intentional with him this fall about the origins of American government, the Constitution and so on. He has a high interest in those issues, so that will probably be a focus this fall, with video lectures, original source readings and so on. We’ll probably use CLEP study guides as guides for both history and literature study. Just as benchmarks, you know?

English/Literature  Same as above. I want to have one Shakespeare play going at all times, and I’ll probably make him memorize stuff.

Religion:   Mostly liturgical-year based, but intentional this first year with Scripture studies. Will be using a couple of basic intro-to-Scripture resources.

I am trying to figure out how to work on writing. He’s a good, natural writer, but it does help to have goals. I’ve purchased a couple of books – this one is one that I think he’ll work from without being goaded.

I also spent some time researching contests and competitions. It occurred to me that that might be a good framework for creating writing goals. There’s a lot out there – creative writing, essay contests and oratorical competitions. As I said, I’ve made my list and will be keeping my eye out for deadlines.

It’s unfortunate that there’s no way for him to participate in any academic team competitions around here. I’m pretty sure there’s not, anyway. He would thrive on that, I’m sure, but …ah well.

He is too young for most summer programs offered by good Catholic colleges, but that’s definitely a long-term goal – that in a couple of years, he’ll be able to participate in programs at Thomas Aquinas, Wyoming Catholic or Dallas. Although next summer he’ll be able to do a in-country program at Dallas and the Benedictine programs (he could have done the latter this summer, but we’ll be gone for a big chunk of the summer and he has a camp already scheduled.)

So…there you go! Any thoughts or suggestions are welcome!




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