Archive for the ‘education’ Category

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"amy welborn"

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Homeschool boxing class was cancelled this week, so climbing with friends had to do as a substitute.

"amy welborn"

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That bare feet weather is going to end soon, I think. Freeze warning tonight.  Although even that might not last. I remember a few years ago, we spent the first part of Thanksgiving week in a rental cabin in the north Georgia mountains, and it was in the 80’s.

That was a great weekend, except for the dropping-the-phone-in-the-creek part. (And for the record, that time, at least the “phone in a bag with rice” solution worked.)

(This was the cabin – sigh. We need to go back...)

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Here’s your good education-related reading for the week. From the Atlantic, Explaining your math: Unnecessary at best, Encumbering at worst” 

Explaining the solution to a problem comes when students can draw on a strong foundation of content relevant to the topic currently being learned. As students find their feet and establish a larger repertoire of mastered knowledge and methods, the more articulate they can become in explanations. Children in elementary and middle school who are asked to engage in critical thinking about abstract ideas will, more often than not, respond emotionally and intuitively, not logically and with “understanding.” It is as if the purveyors of these practices are saying: “If we can just get them to do things that look like what we imagine a mathematician does, then they will be real mathematicians.” That may be behaviorally interesting, but it is not mathematical development and it leaves them behind in the development of their fundamental skills.
The idea that students who do not demonstrate their strategies in words and pictures or by multiple methods don’t understand the underlying concepts is particularly problematic for certain vulnerable types of students. Consider students whose verbal skills lag far behind their mathematical skills—non-native English speakers or students with specific language delays or language disorders, for example. These groups include children who can easily do math in their heads and solve complex problems, but often will be unable to explain—whether orally or in written words—how they arrived at their answers.

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About once a week, a “ridiculous” Common Core math problem is passed around Facebook, but the reaction to said problem doesn’t go much deeper than “Wow! So complicated!”  Although some of the article commenters disagree, I think this article gets to the heart of the problem with this new approach. Any of you who are struggling to help your kids with this new paradigm might benefit from reading the article.

Quick comment:

I am not a math person, but neither am I “math-phobic.”  I made A’s in math all through high school, but never took anything more advanced than Trig and what we called “advanced math” back in the day. It may have had elements of pre-Calculus, but I doubt it.

I’ve spent almost 30 years now helping kids with math homework and almost four homeschooling.  So I’ve thought through a lot of math and worked with non-mathy people in helping things make sense. (For the record, of the five of my kids, two are very mathy and so I never paid much attention to what they were doing).

The first year we homeschooled, which was three years ago, my older son was in 6th grade, and because we were doing our Europe thing and the question of returning to school in January was an open one, for math, we stuck with the then-school’s program, so if he did return, he would be on track. It was the Pearson enVision program, very reflective of Common Core principles in a way that was immediately discernible even to me, a non-math person.

And I have to say, as a non-mathy person, I didn’t hate it.  I thought it was sort of interesting.  What I liked was that it presented a number of different approaches to a topic, different ways of solving problems. I thought the emphasis on number sense was good.

"beast academy"(As you can see from the first quick take, I’m using enVision with John Cena the current 5th grader.  We bounce between it, Beast Academy and Khan Academy.  Thankfully the new Beast Academy arrived yesterday, so we can settle back into that for a while. It really is the best. Check it out!)

But here’s what I had a real problem with, and still do, as I read more about this approach in articles such as the one I have linked.

It is good to expose children to a number of different problem solving strategies, number sense, various ways of using mental math, as well as the ability to explain one’s reasoning (the subject of the article). But…the way it pans out in reality is that a student’s grade becomes dependent on the mastery of all of what I would call this “background” as well as – in terms of the “explaining” part – verbal expression.

It is insanely complicated and burdensome.  Grades are a contentious matter, but I have no problem with kids being exposed to all of this interesting mathematical thinking in instruction (if a teacher/school desires to go that way – imposing federal or even state standards of instruction is another issue. I’m against it, obviously.), but I think the making a final evaluation in math instruction at the elementary and middle school level dependent on comprehending all of it is idiotic and ultimately not helpful to students, teachers or schools.

(Which is one more reason it is unfortunate that the NCEA does not seem to be backing off from its embrace of Common Core – Catholic education should be in part about the dignity of the individual student and, as much as possible in a classroom environment, enabling individual student learning in ways that are attentive to individual differences and interests, and imposing standards that have evolved from secular interests motivated largely by financial gain stands in opposition to this goal. As I have said before Common Core is a money-making enterprise and, because just remember –  no one makes money when teachers are using older, non-revised textbooks and school districts don’t have to pay for consultants and workshops to bring everyone up to speed on constantly evolving pedagogies…sort of like the liturgical music scene, amIright?)

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Today! St. Frances Xavier Cabrini!

If you ever feel tired…read her story.

If you ever wonder how the Church can “go to the margins” …read her story.

If you are under the impression that before the last couple of years Catholics were unaware of the missionary call of Christ and spent their lives closed up in fortresses….read her story.

Here’s an excerpt from the chapter on St. Frances Cabrini from my Loyola Kids’ Book of Saints.  To reiterate – it’s an excerpt.  There’s more at the beginning at the end to relate her story to a younger child’s life.  It’s in a section called,“Saints are People who Travel Far From Home,” along with St. Boniface, St. Peter Claver, St. Francis Xavier and  St. Francis Solano. 

By the late 1880s, Mother Cabrini became interested in a new problem. Hundreds of thousands of Italians moved to America, seeking a way out of the poverty of their new land. Very few of these immigrants were successful right away. Most lived in worse poverty than they’d endured back in Italy. They lived in crowded and dirty apartments, lived on scraps, and were unable to find work. Sad stories traveled back to the home country, right to Mother Cabrini. So Mother "frances cabrini"Cabrini set out on the long trip to America.

Over the next thirty-seven years, Mother Cabrini was constantly on the move, starting schools, orphanages, and hospitals for Italian immigrants, and others in need. In the first few years she traveled between New York, Nicaragua, and New Orleans. After having a dream in which she saw Mary tending to the sick lying in hospital beds, Mother Cabrini started Columbus Hospital in New York City.

After she founded the hospital, Mother Cabrini made trips back to Italy to organize more nuns for work in America. Between these trips, she and some sisters headed south to Argentina. The sisters went by way of Panama and then Lima, Peru. They made the journey by boat, train, mule, and on foot.

Back in the United State, Mother Cabrini traveled constantly taking her sisters to Chicago, Seattle, and Denver. It was in Chicago that Mother Cabrini, at the age of sixty-seven, passed away. She’d begun her work with just a handful of sisters. By the time she died, fifty houses of sisters were teaching, caring for orphans, and running hospitals. Her order had grown to almost a thousand sisters in all.

Image source

“I will go anywhere and do anything in order to communicate the love of Jesus to those who do not know Him or have forgotten Him.

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Commercial time!

Advent’s coming! 

Catholic Advent Materials

Bambinelli Sunday!

"bambinelli sunday"

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

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The 16th-century reforming Archbishop of Milan, remembered today, November 4.

First, the text of Pius X’s encyclical on reform and St. Charles – Editae Saepe

Here’s Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, on the 400th anniversary of the canonization.  Very interesting insights on reform, something that we hear much about these days.  First, it begins with humility.

The time in which Charles Borromeo lived was very delicate for Christianity. In it the Archbishop of Milan gave a splendid example of what it means to work for the reform of the Church. There were many disorders to sanction, many errors to correct and many structures to renew; yet St Charles strove for a profound reform of the Church, starting with his own life. It was in himself, in fact, that the young Borromeo promoted the first and most radical work of renewal. His career had begun promisingly in accordance with the canons of that time: for the younger son of the noble family Borromeo, a future of prosperity and success lay in store, an ecclesiastical life full of honours but without any ministerial responsibilities; he also had the possibility of assuming the direction of the family after the unexpected death of his brother Federico.

Yet Charles Borromeo, illumined by Grace, was attentive to the call with which the Lord was attracting him and desiring him to dedicate the whole of himself to the service of his people. Thus he was capable of making a clear and heroic detachment from the lifestyle characterised by his worldly dignity and dedication without reserve to the service of God and of the Church. In times that were darkened by numerous trials for the Christian community, with divisions and confusions of doctrine, with the clouding of the purity of the faith and of morals and with the bad example of various sacred ministries, Charles Borromeo neither limited himself to deploring or condemning nor merely to hoping that others would change, but rather set about reforming his own life which, after he had abandoned wealth and ease, he filled with prayer, penance and loving dedication to his people. St Charles lived heroically the evangelical virtues of poverty, humility and chastity, in a continuous process of ascetic purification and Christian perfection.

And then it spreads…

The extraordinary reform that St Charles carried out in the structures of the Church in total fidelity to the mandate of the Council of Trent was also born from his holy life, ever more closely conformed to Christ. His work in guiding the People of God, as a meticulous legislator and a brilliant organizer was marvellous. All this, however, found strength and fruitfulness in his personal commitment to penance and holiness. Indeed this is the Church’s primary and most urgent need in every epoch: that each and every one of her members should be converted to God. Nor does the ecclesial community lack trials and suffering in our day and it shows that it stands in need of purification and reform. May St Charles’ example always spur us to start from a serious commitment of personal and community conversion to transform hearts, believing with steadfast certainty in the power of prayer and penance. I encourage sacred ministers, priests and deacons in particular to make their life a courageous journey of holiness, not to fear being drunk with that trusting love for Christ that made Bishop Charles ready to forget himself and to leave everything. Dear brothers in the ministry, may the Ambrogian Church always find in you a clear faith and a sober and pure life that can renew the apostolic zeal which St Ambrose, St Charles and many of your holy Pastors possessed!


St Charles, moreover, was recognized as a true and loving father of the poor. Love impelled him to empty his home and to give away his possessions in order to provide for the needy, to support the hungry, to clothe and relieve the sick. He set up institutions that aimed to provide social assistance and to rescue people in need; but his charity for the poor and the suffering shone out in an extraordinary way during the plague of 1576 when the holy Archbishop chose to stay in the midst of his people to encourage them, serve them and defend them with the weapons of prayer, penance and love.

Furthermore it was charity that spurred Borromeo to become an authentic and enterprising educator: for his people with schools of Christian doctrine; for the clergy with the establishment of seminaries; for children and young people with special initiatives for them and by encouraging the foundation of religious congregations and confraternities dedicated to the formation of children and young people.

Rooted in love of the Lord:

However it is impossible to understand the charity of St Charles Borromeo without knowing his relationship of passionate love with the Lord Jesus. He contemplated this love in the holy mysteries of the Eucharist and of the Cross, venerated in very close union with the mystery of the Church. The Eucharist and the Crucified One immersed St Charles in Christ’s love and this transfigured and kindled fervour in his entire life, filled his nights spent in prayer, motivated his every action, inspired the solemn Liturgies he celebrated with the people and touched his heart so deeply that he was often moved to tears.

His contemplative gaze at the holy Mystery of the Altar and at the Crucified one stirred within him feelings of compassion for the miseries of humankind and kindled in his heart the apostolic yearning to proclaim the Gospel to all. On the other hand we know well that there is no mission in the Church which does not stem from “abiding” in the love of the Lord Jesus, made present within us in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Let us learn from this great Mystery! Let us make the Eucharist the true centre of our communities and allow ourselves to be educated and moulded by this abyss of love! Every apostolic and charitable deed will draw strength and fruitfulness from this source!

Can this speak to young people?  All this old stuff, deep in history?  Of course…

The splendid figure of St Charles suggests to me a final reflection which I address to young people in particular. The history of this great Bishop was in fact totally determined by some courageous “yeses”, spoken when he was still very young. When he was only 24 years old he decided to give up being head of the family to respond generously to the Lord’s call; the following year he accepted priestly and episcopal Ordination. At the age of 27 he took possession of the Ambrogian Diocese and gave himself entirely to pastoral ministry. In the years of his youth St Charles realized that holiness was possible and that the conversion of his life could overcome every bad habit. Thus he made his whole youth a gift of love to Christ and to the Church, becoming an all-time giant of holiness.

Dear young people, let yourselves be renewed by this appeal that I have very much at heart: God wants you to be holy, for he knows you in your depths and loves you with a love that exceeds all human understanding. God knows what is in your hearts and is waiting to see the marvellous gift he has planted within you blossom and bear fruit. Like St Charles, you too can make your youth an offering to Christ and to your brethren. Like him you can decide, in this season of life, “to put your stakes” on God and on the Gospel. Dear young people, you are not only the hope of the Church; you are already part of her present! And if you dare to believe in holiness you will be the greatest treasure of your Ambrogian Church which is founded on Saints.

The whole thing. 

We went to Milan back in 2011 – I have no complaints about any of our travels, but I have to say, that was a great trip.  Partly because it was The Fare Deal of the Century, which always helps. Not kidding when I tell you that our airfare from NYC to Milan was $250 apiece. That has never happened since and will never happen again, I’m sure.

But anyway, in Milan, we did see St. Charles Borromeo’s relics in his duomo. No photos of that, but I here’s the roof.

And this post is about our daytrip to Stresa on Lago Maggiore, which was the site of the Borromeo family estates and, even now, the Borromean Islands in the lake – they were not “open” for the season when we were there (in March), but it was a great day, nonetheless. 

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Plenty of time to get your kiddos introduced to the saints. (And I’ll add that catechists and classroom teachers and parish/school libraries always appreciate gifts?)

You can find excerpts from these books scattered on this blog:

Peter Claver

Simeon Stylites

Gregory the Great

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As well as some at the Loyola Press site, for example:

Mother Teresa

Teresa of Avila

The Loyola Kids’ Book of Saints

Over 40 saints’ lives,written at a middle-school reading level.

I. Saints are People Who Love Children
St. Nicholas,St. John Bosco, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Blessed Gianna Beretta Molla

amy welbornSaints Are People Who Love Their Families
St. Monica,St. Cyril and St. Methodius, St. Therese of Lisieux,Blessed Frederic Ozanam,

Saints Are People Who Surprise OthersSt. Simeon Stylites,St. Celestine V,St. Joan of Arc,St. Catherine of Siena

Saints Are People Who Create
St. Hildegard of Bingen,Blessed Fra Angelico,St. John of the Cross,Blessed Miguel Pro

Saints Are People Who Teach Us New Ways to Pray
St. Benedict,St. Dominic de Guzman,St. Teresa of Avila,St. Louis de Monfort

Saints Are People Who See Beyond the Everyday
St. Juan Diego, St. Frances of Rome, St. Bernadette Soubirous, Blessed Padre Pio

Saints Are People Who Travel From Home
St. Boniface, St. Peter Claver, St. Francis Xavier, St. Francis Solano, St. Francis Xavier Cabrini

Saints Are People Who Are Strong Leaders
St. Helena, St. Leo the Great, St. Wenceslaus, St. John Neumann

Saints Are People Who Tell The Truth
St. Polycarp, St. Thomas Becket, St. Thomas More, Blessed Titus Brandsma

Saints Are People Who Help Us Understand God
St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Jerome, St. Patrick, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Edith Stein

Saints Are People Who Change Their Lives for God
St. Ambrose, St. Gregory the Great, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Camillus de Lellis, St. Katharine Drexel

Saints Are People Who Are Brave
St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, St. George, St. Margaret Clitherow, St. Isaac Jogues, The Carmelite Nuns of Compiegne, St. Maximilian Kolbe

Saints Are People Who Help the Poor and Sick
St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Martin de Porres, Blessed Joseph de Veuster

Saints Are People Who Help In Ordinary Ways
St. Christopher, St. Blaise, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Bernard of Montjoux

Saints Are People Who Come From All Over the World
Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, St. Paul Miki, Blessed Peter To Rot, Blessed Maria Clementine Anuarite Nengapeta

The Loyola Kids Book of Heroes

More saints’ lives, organized according to the virtues they expressed through their lives.

amy welbornI. Faith

  1. Introduction: Jesus is Born
  2. John the Baptist: A Hero Prepares the Way
  3. Early Christian Martyrs: Heroes are Faithful Friends
  4. Medieval Mystery Plays: Heroes Make the Bible Come to Life
  5. St. Albert the Great: Heroes Study God’s Creation
  6. Sister Blandina Segale: Heroes Work in Faith

II. Hope

  1. Introduction: Jesus Teaches
  2. Pentecost: Heroes on Fire with Hope
  3. Paul: A Hero Changes and Finds Hope
  4. St. Patrick and St. Columba: Heroes Bring Hope into Darkness
  5. St. Jane de Chantal: Heroes Hope through Loss
  6. St. Mary Faustina Kowalska: A Hero Finds Hope in Mercy


  1. Introduction: Jesus Works Miracles
  2. Peter and John: Heroes are Known by their Love
  3. St. Genevieve: A City is Saved by a Hero’s Charity
  4. St. Meinrad and St. Edmund Campion: Heroes love their Enemies
  5. Venerable Pierre Toussaint: A Hero Lives a Life of Charity
  6. Rose Hawthorne Lathrop: A Hero Cares for Those Who Need it Most
  7. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta: A Hero Lives Charity with the Dying


  1. Introduction: Jesus Strikes a Balance
  2. Peter and Cornelius: Heroes Love Their Neighbors
  3. Charlemagne and Alcuin: Heroes Use their Talents for Good
  4. St. Francis: A Hero Appreciates Creation
  5. Venerable Matt Talbot: Heroes Can Let Go
  6. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati: A Hero Enjoys the Gift of Life


  1. Introduction: Jesus Gives Us Leaders to Help us Make Good Choices
  2. Paul and Barnabas at Lystra: Heroes See the Good in All Things
  3. St. Jean de Brebeuf: A Hero Respects Others
  4. Catherine Doherty and Jean Vanier: Heroes Bring New Ideas
  5. Venerable Solanus Casey: A Hero Accepts His Life
  6. Blessed John XXIII: A Hero Finds a New Way

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How to evangelize and lead and serve and such:

Back in a parish of Catalonia, Claret began preaching popular missions all over. He traveled on foot, attracting large crowds with his sermons. Some days he preached up to seven sermons in a day and spent 10 hours listening to anthony mary claret antoniomi

The secret of his missionary success was LOVE. In his words: “Love is the most necessary of all virtues. Love in the person who preaches the word of God is like fire in a musket. If a person were to throw a bullet with his hands, he would hardly make a dent in anything; but if the person takes the same bullet and ignites some gunpowder behind it, it can kill. It is much the same with the word of God. If it is spoken by someone who is filled with the fire of charity- the fire of love of God and neighbor- it will work wonders.” (Autobiography #438-439).

His popularity spread; people sought him for spiritual and physical healing. By the end of 1842, the Pope gave him the title of “apostolic missionary.” Aware of the power of the press, in 1847, he organized with other priests a Religious Press. Claret began writing books and pamphlets, making the message of God accessible to all social groups. The increasing political restlessness in Spain continued to endanger his life and curtail his apostolic activities. So, he accepted an offer to preach in the Canary Islands, where he spent 14 months. In spite of his great success there too, he decided to return to Spain to carry out one of his dreams: the organization of an order of missionaries to share in his work.


On July 16, 1849, he gathered a group of priests who shared his dream. This is the beginning of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, today also known as Claretian Fathers and Brothers. Days later, he received a new assignment: he was named Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba. He was forced to leave the newly founded community to respond to the call of God in the New World. After two months of travel, he reached the Island of Cuba and began his episcopal ministry by dedicating it to Mary. He visited the church where the image of Our Lady of Charity, patroness of Cuba was venerated. Soon he realized the urgent need for human and Christian formation, specially among the poor. He called Antonia Paris to begin there the religious community they had agreed to found back in Spain. He was concerned for all aspects of human development and applied his great creativity to improve the conditions of the people under his pastoral care.

Among his great initiatives were: trade or vocational schools for disadvantaged children and credit unions for the use of the poor. He wrote books about rural spirituality and agricultural methods, which he himself tested first. He visited jails and hospitals, defended the oppressed and denounced racism. The expected reaction came soon. He began to experience persecution, and finally when preaching in the city of Holguín, a man stabbed him on the cheek in an attempt to kill him. For Claret this was a great cause of joy. He writes in his Autobiography: “I can´t describe the pleasure, delight, and joy I felt in my soul on realizing that I had reached the long desired goal of shedding my blood for the love of Jesus and Mary and of sealing the truths of the gospel with the very blood of my veins.” (Aut. # 577). During his 6 years in Cuba he visited the extensive Archdiocese three times…town by town. In the first years, records show, he confirmed 100,000 people and performed 9,000 sacramental marriages.

Here, at archive.org, is the text of his autobiography.

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What is “Southern?”

People work hard to come up with satisfying definitions, but to me, if you want to understand “Southern” – here you go:

A local bar that calls its special cocktail night “Church Night.”  Why?

One of the key figures in Birmingham’s booming cocktail scene, Angel Negrin runs a twice-weekly craft cocktail program at Lou’s, a Lakeview hangout for a loyal, mostly beer and mixed-drinks crowd since it opened in 1987.

It was pure coincidence that the bar shifts Negrin inherited at Lou’s in January 2013 were on Wednesdays and Sundays.

“As the pop-up became established, customers began asking when cocktails are available,” Negrin says. “To help them remember we’d tell them to think ‘church nights.’ We said it often enough and the guests thought it was clever enough it kind of became a thing. Only then did it get a title.”

Because, you see, down here, everyone knows Sunday and Wednesday nights are church nights, even if you don’t go yourself…yup…church night!

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Speaking of church night – one of my boys is involved at a Wednesday night activity at a (of course) Catholic church that meets (of course) on Wednesdays, and it coincides with RCIA on the same property as well as a couple of choir practices, I think.  I learned yesterday that the boys’ gathering and the RCIA gathering both close, together, with Compline in the church.  I plan to go early next week to check it out myself, but even without doing so, a scathingly brilliant idea struck me:

What if at Catholic churches, activities/meetings on weeknights were planned to meet at the same times and end at the same times, with all the groups then gathering in the church for Compline? Perhaps not every night, but in a large, busy parish, that actually might be the case.

One of my (many) hobbyhorses regarding pastoral ministry has always been to use what we have and be who we are as Catholics. Hence, my nagging about the popularity of “small groups” and how in a Catholic parish, “small group” stuff should flow from daily Mass, the original “small group.”

So it is with parish gatherings and prayers. Having been the victim of many a groovy, soulful composed prayer services with nice clip art at the beginning  or end of meetings, I have always wondered why leaders and planners don’t just depend on the prayer of the Church – the Liturgy of the Hours in some form or other.

— 3—

A week ago, the 10-year old and I headed over the the Moundville Archaeological Park for their Native American Days.  Moundville has an excellent little museum which we had visited before – a good thing because they were rationing out entry during the festival, and the line was quite long.

We enjoyed a bit of education about lighting fires and rifles and cooking, and hoop dancing.

My son asked the dancer afterwards if he got dizzy. The man breathlessly answered that no, he’d been doing it for 40 years, so he didn’t suffer from that.

Also, a local chapter of a Kateri Circle – I had no idea that this existed or that there was a shrine to St. Kateri at a (sort of) local parish.  We’ll have to go on a jaunt to check that out.

— 4 —

On  Sunday, we went up to Ave Maria Grotto, on the grounds of St. Bernard’s Abbey (and boarding prep school, grades 7-12).

If you have driven on I-65 through Alabama, you’ve seen billboards for it or pamphlets at the gas stations. It’s well worth the admission and 45 minutes or so of your time, if you ever need a break.  A true labor of love, an expression of a very profound Benedictine spirituality of ora et labora right there in found materials. from marbles to cold cream jars to roof shingles.

You might be going to Hanceville to the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament on the same trip, and you’ll find that interesting too, this big Catholic, Assisi-like church in the middle of nowhere, Alabama. I prefer the idiosyncrasy of the grotto, myself.

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As note before, I’m doing a 3-year anniversary travelogue of our European trip on Instagram – posting photos of what we were doing that day 3-years ago.  Follow me on Instagram here. 

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I do enjoy the category, “Two Monks Inventing Things” at The Toast. 

MONK #1: what was the birth of Jesus like
MONK #2: gold box
bunch of rocks
small roof, no walls, sad Joseph, curious twins
pretty basic
MONK #1: ahh tytyty


I think the first Toast piece I ever read was “All the Comments on Every Recipe Blog” which is  dead. On. 

“I love this recipe! I added garlic powder, Italian seasoning, a few flakes of nutritional yeast, half a bottle of kombucha, za’atar, dried onion, and biscuit mix to mine. Great idea!”

“Due to dietary restrictions, I am only able to eat Yahtzee dice. I made the necessary substitutions, and it turned out great.”

“If you use olive oil for any recipe that’s cooked over 450°F, the oil will denature and you will get cancer. This post is irresponsible. You should only use grapeseed oil you’ve pressed yourself in a very cold room.”

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Tomorrow (Saturday) is the feastday of St. Ignatius of Antioch.

Here is a link to his letters….plenty of time to read them.

I am writing to all the churches to let it be known that I will gladly die for God if only you do not stand in my way. I plead with you: show me no untimely kindness. Let me be food for the wild beasts, for they are my way to God. I am God’s wheat and shall be ground by their teeth so that I may become Christ’s pure bread. Pray to Christ for me that the animals will be the means of making me a sacrificial victim for God.
  No earthly pleasures, no kingdoms of this world can benefit me in any way. I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire.
  The time for my birth is close at hand. Forgive me, my brothers. Do not stand in the way of my birth to real life; do not wish me stillborn. My desire is to belong to God. Do not, then, hand me back to the world. Do not try to tempt me with material things. Let me attain pure light. Only on my arrival there can I be fully a human being. Give me the privilege of imitating the passion of my God. If you have him in your heart, you will understand what I wish. You will sympathise with me because you will know what urges me on.
  The prince of this world is determined to lay hold of me and to undermine my will which is intent on God. Let none of you here help him; instead show yourselves on my side, which is also God’s side. Do not talk about Jesus Christ as long as you love this world. Do not harbour envious thoughts. And supposing I should see you, if then I should beg you to intervene on my behalf, do not believe what I say. Believe instead what I am now writing to you. For though I am alive as I write to you, still my real desire is to die. My love of this life has been crucified, and there is no yearning in me for any earthly thing. Rather within me is the living water which says deep inside me: “Come to the Father.” I no longer take pleasure in perishable food or in the delights of this world. I want only God’s bread, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, formed of the seed of David, and for drink I crave his blood, which is love that cannot perish.

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

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— 1 —

Ah, finally In Our Time is back – my favorite BBC Radio 4 podcast.  They take a summer break, but have been back for three weeks now. The first topic –  perpetual motion – was not my favorite, and I’m not sure it was a great choice. The discussion seemed as if it would be about historical efforts to construct perpetual motion machines, but that petered out fairly quickly, and as I recall, attention turned to more general questions of physics. Meh.

But the following week – Alexander the Great – was better, and I’m looking forward to next week’s episode on Holbein and the Tudor Court.  It is invariably such a balanced, informative, non-PC, mostly unconcerned with modern pieties presentation. It’s refreshing and unlike anything you’d hear on American radio.

— 2 —

As an addendum to yesterday’s education post:

Made it to the Botanical Gardens (one of our great treasures here – free, as in no admission, just like our excellent art museum)  on Wednesday afternoon, then collected leaves in our own yard this morning.  We looked at diagrams of cross-sections of leaf structure, compared, contrasted, drew, and finally looked at our own samples under the microscope, as well as our prepared plant-related slides.

Our long-term experiments were not super-successful, though. A couple of weeks ago, we had performed two operations on a house plant. In the first, you were supposed to slather the tops of some leaves with Vaseline, and then do the same to the underside of some leaves on the same plant.  The second set was supposed to die, since the stomata would be blocked.  I guess we didn’t put enough Vaseline on, since all the leaves are still alive, although some in the second group do have brown patches, so maybe it did work, in a way.

In the other demonstration, we tightly covered a leaf with black construction paper. After a couple of weeks, it was supposed to have lost its color as photosynthesis was blocked. Well, it was still green, but definitely a little lighter shade than all the others.

So they kind of worked?

"amy welborn"

— 3—

Not to live in the past, but as I went through a mega-Instagram fit on Sunday, posting photos of our 2012 trip to Assisi, it occurred to me that it would be fun to finish up the trip. So from now until the end of November, I’ll be posting daily on Instagram with photos I took on that day three years ago, wherever we were in Europe at the time.

"amy welborn"


Follow me on Instagram.

(In case you are wondering, there are no big trips planned for the near future. My daughter is back from her year + in Europe, so that excuse is no more, and everyone has announced they are converging in this direction for Thanksgiving.  I hate travelling on planes at Christmas time, especially with a crew and with time constraints.  So probably no big travel until the spring. But that’s fine – there’s plenty to see around here!)

— 4 —

Finished a project! It’s not due until January 1! That truly is a record for me. Now on to the next one..which is due..er…December 15.

— 5 —

Reminder: I’ve mentioned this site before, but it bears a repeat.  If you are ever in need of seasonal or month-related quotes or poetry, this is a great site. I use it for copywork and just general reading breaks all the time.

— 6 —

I have been off on my days all week for some reason.  So last night, I thought today was the 9th, so I went all St. Denis on this blog…but..I was off a day.  Well, so you got a sneak peak? 

Today (really – the 9th. I’m sure of it)  is also the (optional) memorial of Blessed John Henry Newman.  Here’s a link to B16’s homily at his beatification:

The definite service to which Blessed John Henry was called involved applying his keen intellect and his prolific pen to many of the most pressing “subjects of the day”. His insights into the relationship between faith and reason, into the vital place of revealed religion in civilized society, and into the need for a broadly-based and wide-ranging approach to education were not only of profound importance for Victorian England, but continue today to inspire and enlighten many all over the world. I would like to pay particular tribute to his vision for education, which has done so much to shape the ethos that is the driving force behind Catholic schools and colleges today. Firmly opposed to any reductive or utilitarian approach, he sought to achieve an educational environment in which intellectual training, moral discipline and religious commitment would come together. The project to found a Catholic University in Ireland provided him with an opportunity to develop his ideas on the subject, and the collection of discourses that he published as The Idea of a University holds up an ideal from which all those engaged in academic formation can continue to learn. And indeed, what better goal could teachers of religion set themselves than Blessed John Henry’s famous appeal for an intelligent, well-instructed laity: “I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it” (The Present Position of Catholics in England, ix, 390). On this day when the author of those words is raised to the altars, I pray that, through his intercession and example, all who are engaged in the task of teaching and catechesis will be inspired to greater effort by the vision he so clearly sets before us.

While it is John Henry Newman’s intellectual legacy that has understandably received most attention in the vast literature devoted to his life and work, I prefer on this occasion to conclude with a brief reflection on his life as a priest, a pastor of souls. The warmth and humanity underlying his appreciation of the pastoral ministry is beautifully expressed in another of his famous sermons: “Had Angels been your priests, my brethren, they could not have condoled with you, sympathized with you, have had compassion on you, felt tenderly for you, and made allowances for you, as we can; they could not have been your patterns and guides, and have led you on from your old selves into a new life, as they can who come from the midst of you” (“Men, not Angels: the Priests of the Gospel”, Discourses to Mixed Congregations, 3). He lived out that profoundly human vision of priestly ministry in his devoted care for the people of Birmingham during the years that he spent at the Oratory he founded, visiting the sick and the poor, comforting the bereaved, caring for those in prison. No wonder that on his death so many thousands of people lined the local streets as his body was taken to its place of burial not half a mile from here. One hundred and twenty years later, great crowds have assembled once again to rejoice in the Church’s solemn recognition of the outstanding holiness of this much-loved father of souls. What better way to express the joy of this moment than by turning to our heavenly Father in heartfelt thanksgiving, praying in the words that Blessed John Henry Newman placed on the lips of the choirs of angels in heaven:

Praise to the Holiest in the height
And in the depth be praise;
In all his words most wonderful,
Most sure in all his ways!
(The Dream of Gerontius).

More of B16 on Newman from that visit.

— 7 —

The book Be Saints! was inspired by that 2010  visit – here’s the page which references Newman:

"amy welborn"

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

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There are people out there who homeschool loads of kids. I don’t know how you do it! I could barely do two at once, so…bow down to you all.

(I know someone who has, I think 12 or 13 kids she homeschools and they wear uniforms. When I first learned this, I thought it was a leetle over the top now. But when I actually contemplated the possibility of educating 12 children in my own one-room schoolhouse, I thought, well, yes, of course. Uniforms. It sends a message: “This is school time.” It’s cheaper. It makes for less morning chaos. Smart, in other words.)

But my almost-11 year old and I are (I think) enjoying our year, so I thought I’d do a quick “learning notes” kind of thing to catch you up – and help myself stay on top of things, as well.

(I usually do all sorts of links with these posts, but tonight, I don’t have time. Sorry!)

(Oh, and I started this last night (Tuesday) but now it’s Wednesday night. So I’ve updated a bit.)

  • Prayer: Our day begins with prayer based on some mash-up of the daily Mass readings and Morning Prayer. We use this book and this one to talk about the saint of the day – so, for example, yesterday, we talked about St. Bruno, which led to a little refresher on religious orders, monasteries and what reform of the Church means and how authentic reform happens and where it’s rooted.
  • This week’s first readings are from Jonah, so he just went ahead and read the WHOLE BOOK yesterday, and I encouraged him to be proud that he’d read an entire BOOK OF THE BIBLE in one sitting.  We talked about what the book meant, what it reveals to us about God and his mercy. We pulled out the atlas and talked about where these places were: Ninevah, Tarshish, and so on.
  • Since the Gospel yesterday was Mary/Martha, we also looked at some art related to that narrative.
  • Today (10/7), we talked about the Battle of Lepanto, read Chesterton’s poem, and prayed a decade of the rosary.
  • Copywork: The schedule, from M-Thursday is: Scripture, Literature quote, poetry, Saying/Aphorism/Proverb. Friday, he illustrates his copywork from that week in whatever way he chooses.  Monday’s copywork was the first couple of verses of Jonah, and yesterday’s was:  He was sounding the deeps of his nature, and of the parts of his nature that were deeper than he, going back into the womb of Time. From The Call of the Wild, which we read last year as a family. Today, the copywork was a few lines from Chesterton’s poem on Lepanto. 
  • Cursive practice. Now he prints most everything, but the goal is by early spring to be writing most of his work in cursive.
  • Language review. I use pages from Evan-Moor “Language Review” books, grades 5 and 7 – error correction, editing, etc. He does one “day” per day.
  • One “day” of math review, also from an Evan-Moor book, this one is grade 6, I believe.
  • All of that (from copywork through math review) takes about 15 minutes at most. Maybe ten.
  • Math: We have been hanging loose with Beast Academy, waiting for word that 5A was coming.  I saw on their FB page that they are finally sending it to the printers, so we are going to be starting up the last chapter of 4D (probability) this week. Up to this point we have been using the Pearson enVision program, grade 5, which I’m familiar with because it was used at their former school – I have some issues with some of it , which I’ll detail in another post – I think that as much as they trumpet being all about “number sense” (a good thing), they actually end up depending way too much on “number tricks.”  But it’s useful for just starting grade 5 math. We’ll be through chapter 5 this week. Then start back on BA, and have that done by the time the new book arrives.
  • Also working on Khan Academy Grade 5 at the same time. I like it, but I’m not sure how anyone could really use it as a complete curriculum, although I know some do. It’s a great supplement, though.
  • Working casually through Latin for Children I. Emphasis on vocabulary. Finished up chapter 9 today.
  • Poetry: We do random readings throughout the day from various poetry books. I have him read them aloud to me, as practice in, well, reading aloud.  He does great.  He also always has a memory poem in the works, and right now, he’s decided to go ahead and memorize all of Marc Antony’s speech from Act 2 of Julius Caesar  –  I had him memorize the first 6 or 7 lines or so, but he decided that he would go ahead over the next couple of weeks and try to memorize the whole thing.  (We’ve seen a production in Atlanta, watched the Brando version, a big chunks of the fantabulous RSC version set in a modern African nation.)
  • Adam of the Road.  This year, we will be doing a lot of novel reading  – aside from his already voluminous personally-driven reading. I want to do a bunch of novels that we can knock out in a week or ten days, max. We read this, as I mentioned before, and he has been doing comprehension/writing/reflection exercises from this study. We’ll finish that tomorrow.  Had a slight delay because somehow, the book got…lost ( hmmmm) and we couldn’t go on until we’d checked another out of the library.  As I mentioned before, it’s a very good book, and great for some interesting history and Catholic-y stuff. A glimpse into a time in which life was lived, not only be the earthly seasons, but the sacred seasons as well.  Not sure what we will do next – maybe The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. 
  • In addition, we’re doing this – Fable and Narrative from the Writing and Rhetoric program from Classical Academic Press.  At this point, I still like it quite a bit. The emphasis is on teaching how to both condense/summarize and then expand, and I think the approach is quite helpful. One chapter a week.  Today, he finished up lesson 2, which focused on the Parable of the Prodigal Son – the last exercise (he’s working on it as we speak) is to rewrite the end of the parable in the first person, from the perspective of the older son.
  • We’re up to New France in history.  We use the Catholic Textbook Project book From Sea to Shining Sea along with select chapters from Hakim’s History of US, as well as loads of supplemental library books. There’s just a lot of conversation and looking at maps and him telling me things he knows from other reading, which, when we were on the Spanish, was a lot.
  • History update:  Today he read the short sections on Henry Hudson from the Catholic history book, Hakim and from the Explorers book noted below. Tomorrow he’ll write a paragraph on Hudson based on all that. Writing Across the Curriculum! Sometimes.
  • Two books that we checked out of the library are these:

amy-welborn11 amy-welborn123

They are very good, and I particularly like the second. (Click on covers for links)   If you have a chance, see if your library has it.  The maps are different, the information is good and it would be a great book for any home, homeschooling or not. I like it so much, I might actually purchase it.

  • Science is botany. We’re pulling from this and this, as well as loads of library books and wandering outside and indoor experiments.  More on that later in the week in a dedicated post. There. If I say I’m going to write a post on it, that means it’s going to get done!
  • Keyboarding: He’s starting doing that – using some program we had around here.  Whenever he wants, he can go back there and work through the lessons.
  • Various videos from places like The Kids Should See This and Brain Scoop. We watch a few of those every day.
  • The first disc of Bernstein’s Concerts for Young People came this week, so we’ll be watching that over the next few weeks.
  • Boxing class on Tuesdays
  • Birmingham Zoo class on being a “Junior Zoo Vet.”  It’s a six-week class, and he’s enjoying it, although there’s not quite as much direct interaction with animals as he had hoped. They did see a blood draw from a goat today, though, so there’s that! (This class isn’t a homeschool class – it’s in the late afternoon.)
  • Piano. Here.
  • Thursday morning homeschool co-op class at the Cathedral – the two classes are drama and History of Science – he loves them both. So far, the science classes have covered Marie Curie and Newton, with Galileo and others unknown to come.
  • The missing piece, in my mind, is art.  He’s not taking any outside art classes at this point, and with the weather so great, once the school-ish stuff is over, it tends to be outside time. However, I realized just as I was typing that, he does go into the front room and draw every night – he is drawing these big landscapes of a fantasy world that he then spends ten minutes explaining to me.  He’s also started making a shield for his Halloween costume, which is going to be a Mayan something.
  • There are things coming up in the next few weeks at the various museums around town that I need to figure out and get organized for. I think there is camping this weekend. Maybe.
  • Teachable moments of the week:  The Nobel prizes in physics, chemistry and medicine – no, I don’t understand much of the research, but we dip in anyway and get a taste of what real research is all about and how it helps people.  Also the line-up of planets – will try to get up before dawn (HAHAHAHA) and catch it, and have been given orders to wake him up if I do accomplish this.
  • Why do I do this? Because I have a curious, open-minded kid who can get the basics in two seconds and flourishes when he’s challenged to discover more, talk about it, and write about it. And I’m at a place in my life at which I can do this. I would not mind more time to myself – not just to recharge, but also because I have work to do – but honestly – I’m 55, he’s my youngest, I have the means to give him this space to learn outside of a classroom, so no excuses.  Next year (6th grade) things might change. It’s up to him. If he wants to go to school, he can. If he wants to keep doing this crazy thing we’re doing, he can. It will be interesting to see what he decides. I’m fine either way.

So…what’s my assignment for the rest of the week? Get to the Botanical Gardens, at least once, maybe twice and be all intentional about the nature observation.

Update: We did it!  Got to the Gardens, wandered, talked about trees. Learned some things. 

Oh, here’s a pro tip: If you do a watch-beans-germinate-while-ensconced-in-damp-paper-towels thing, be sure you do your observation before the beans have started turning brown and, when cut open, have maggots wriggling in them. Or not. There’s value in that, too, I guess.

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