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Daily homeschool report. A distracted day on my part mostly because I kept thinking about  how next week, there are going to be about 5 hours available for “school.”

  • Prayer: Mass readings, discussion of the meaning of the first – what true fasting is, what God is telling us through Isaiah. Intercessions, Lord’s Prayer.
  • No copywork, and no drawing of past copywork either. For writing he did an exercise in Writing and Rhetoric, which asked him to expand a paragraph and make it into a tall tale of sorts – the Legend of Sleepy Hollow was the central story of the unit. They had three different paragraphs to do, and I had him choose one. He mentioned that he would think an invention that would take his voice and turn it into written words would be cool. I said…er…voice recognition software is a thing. We looked it up, and it’s in Windows. The reason he’s interested is because his handwriting can’t keep up with his ideas, and his word processing skills aren’t there yet. Sii
  • Then a lot of math. I had said I was going to let this new section wait until next week…but then I realized Monday was a holiday, and that would give us Tuesday as a beginning…and then I realized that big chunks of every day next week would be taken up with Other Stuff. So might as well get this going. And once we started going, it became clear that in order for it to stick, we needed to keep going. The subject was simplifying equations with variables.  The first chunk of reading is here. 
  • Yeah, that took a while. But I will say, I thought the methodology was ingenious. You can catch a bit of it in the linked pages. It begins by giving a “problem” – if you have a number, take away 3 and then divide by 4, what do you have? Well, you figure that out by working backwards and doing inverse operations. Master that concept and then moving on to actual equations, you see that when you isolate the variable by performing the same operation on both sides, you are essentially doing that work backwards thing but in a different way.
  • At this point – noonish – it was time think about heading out to run some errands before fetching the brother. We needed to go to the library to get the new Bosch book (they had it and it is a lot shorter than the others he has written – I think he had it half finished by the time we got home), we needed a few groceries, he needed new jeans and I wanted to look for whole frozen squid to dissect.
  • So with that in mind, we did one more unit – science. Which was the new OKGo video and attendant educational resources.  
  • I mean…zero gravity is science, right?
  • Then we watched a video about the big gravitational wave discovery. Whatever that is! But he’s studied Einstein in his history of science class, we’ve talked about it, and it’s just valuable for him to see people REALLY EXCITED about scientific discoveries – it matters, it’s interesting, and it’s about the world God made. So yes to gravitational wave frenzy.
  • The next video on the Kids Should See this page was a delightful and creative piece of animation – a guy creates animation cels on transparencies and then uses his IPhone to create stop motion films.  They’re funny and inspire a kid to think…hmmm….I could do that.  Or, if you can’t or don’t want to do exactly that, simply to think of your own creative inklings and think of  yourself as part of an endlessly creative group called the human race.
  • He mentioned that what he liked was how the animator superimposed his cells on everyday objects and brought them to life.  I began a lecture reflected on how he probably did this by simply looking and contemplating the world around him, which leads to something his one-time art teacher used to tell them “Most of art is not in doing, but in looking and seeing.”  “Oh, ” he agreed, “She said that all the time.”  And so we continued the conversation about this animator and the kid’s own creative efforts (mostly writing) along those lines.
  • Book checked out. Non-hormonal milk purchased. (I am indifferent to organic but think hormones in meat and dairy are bad and have probably brought much as-yet undiscovered harm). Squid sought – at Whole Foods, big Hispanic supermarket (I looked there because they carry a lot of Asian foodstuffs as well), Asian grocery. Fail. Many squidish rings and other pieces, but no whole squid.
  • It looks like the world’s squid are safe from our dissection skillz. Probably just as well. My older son said the ink sac smells bad when you break it open.
  • Next week will be weird and busy. Starting with tomorrow, which is about a basketball game, serving Mass at the convent, then a birthday party.  No school on Monday, but I am going to try to set up some science demonstrations and experiments to gestate over the weekend – they actually like that sort of thing as a leisure activity, believe it or not. Who knows.. Maybe cooking will be the only scientific endeavor that happens over the weekend. Tuesday is a music thing in the morning, then boxing, then a new zoo class late afternoon, then basketball practice. Wednesday is an all-day activity out of the house and then basketball. Thursday is  a break from Cathedral class, but there’s a school theater performance from a touring troupe from the Alabama Shakespeare Festival that we’re attending, plus piano lesson. Friday is a school music performance of the Alabama Symphony (I think – I haven’t bought tickets yet, but it looks like there are still a lot of empty seats), then Saturday is basketball and a piano competition/performance thing (I’m really not sure what it is).
  • #unsocializedhomeschooler

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(Originally posted, in part, three years ago. Some additions.)

Finally, some more Vintage Catholic for you  – a 7th grade textbook published in 1935 by MacMillan, part of The Christ Life Series in Religion.  Authors are the famed liturgist Dom Virgil Michel OSB, another Benedictine, and Dominican sisters.

Note the tone.  It treats the young reader, not as consumer or client to be served or pandered to, but as a part of the Church with a vital role to play and a spiritual life capable of “courageous penance.”   I really love the paragraphs on p. 146 that set the global scene for the season.

On the eve of Septuagesima, with Vespers, the solemn evening prayer of the Church, all the members of the Mystical Body of Christ, bidding farewell to the Alleluia, suggestive of the joys of the Christmas Period, turn their steps toward the mountainous paths which lead to Easter. Thousands and thousands of people upon the stage of life are adjusting themselves to their roles in this drama—this drama which is real life. Old men are there and old women, youths and maidens, and even little children. From all parts of the world they come and from all walks of life—kings and queens, merchants and laborers, teachers and students, bankers and beggars, religious of all orders, cardinals, bishops, and parish priests, and leading them all the Vicar of Christ on earth. All are quietly taking their places, for all are actors in the sublime mystery drama of our redemption. We, too, have our own parts to play in this living drama. And there is no rehearsal. We begin now, on Septuagesima, following as faithfully as we can the guidance of the Holy Spirit, which comes to us particularly in the Mass and the sacraments.

If you click on the images, full-screen, readable versions should come up. 

"Charlotte Was Both"

"Charlotte Was Both"

 

What is also missing is that contemporary pervasive, nervous, anxiety-ridden definition of Lent as essentially about helping you feel a certain way about life and yourself, and if you follow these steps, it’s going to be a super dynamic time for you and give you a fabulous sense of purpose. None of that.  Just a sense of respect for each person’s capacity to respond to God, and trust that God is drawing each one to him.

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We have several of his Lenten homilies – I can’t find them all in English translation online, but what is there…is linked here. I think 49 is my favorite.

Reading these excerpts – or better, the entire homilies (it won’t take long – good Lent prep!) I’m struck, once again, by the continuity of human experience and, consequently, the continuity of the Catholic spiritual tradition which reflects that experience in dialogue with God and what God has revealed. “… for it is equally unhealthy to languish under empty delights, or to labour under racking anxiety.”

No less true today than it was 1600 years ago…

Sermon 39:

Relying, therefore, dearly-beloved, on these arms, let us enter actively and fearlessly on the contest set before us:  so that in this fasting struggle we may not rest satisfied with only this end, that we should think abstinence from food alone desirable.  For it is not enough that the substance of our flesh should be reduced, if the strength of the soul be not also developed.  When the outer man is somewhat subdued, let the inner man be somewhat refreshed; and when bodily excess is denied to our flesh, let our mind be invigorated by spiritual delights.  Let every Christian scrutinise himself, and search severely into his inmost heart:  let him see that no discord cling there, no wrong desire be harboured.  Let chasteness drive incontinence far away; let the light of truth dispel the shades of deception; let the swellings of pride subside; let wrath yield to reason; let the darts of ill-treatment be shattered, and the chidings of the tongue be bridled; let thoughts of revenge fall through, and injuries be given over to oblivion. 

40

Let works of piety, therefore, be our delight, and let us be filled with those kinds of food which feed us for eternity.  Let us rejoice in the replenishment of the poor, whom our bounty has satisfied.  Let us delight in the clothing of those whose nakedness we have covered with needful raiment.  Let our humaneness be felt by the sick in their illnesses, by the weakly in their infirmities, by the exiles in their hardships, by the orphans in their destitution, and by solitary widows in their sadness:  in the helping of whom there is no one that cannot carry out some amount of benevolence.  For no one’s income is small, whose heart is big:  and the measure of one’s mercy and goodness does not depend on the size of one’s means.  Wealth of goodwill is never rightly lacking, even in a slender purse.  Doubtless the expenditure of the rich is greater, and that of the poor smaller, but there is no difference in the fruit of their works, where the purpose of the workers is the same.

42

Being therefore, dearly-beloved, fully instructed by these admonitions of ours, which we have often repeated in your ears in protest against abominable error, enter upon the holy days of Lent with Godly devoutness, and prepare yourselves to win God’s mercy by your own works of Leo the Greatmercy.  Quench your anger, wipe out enmities, cherish unity, and vie with one another in the offices of true humility.  Rule your slaves and those who are put under you with fairness, let none of them be tortured by imprisonment or chains.  Forego vengeance, forgive offences:  exchange severity for gentleness, indignation for meekness, discord for peace.  Let all men find us self-restrained, peaceable, kind:  that our fastings may be acceptable to God.  For in a word to Him we offer the sacrifice of true abstinence and true Godliness, when we keep ourselves from all evil:  the Almighty God helping us through all, to Whom with the Son and Holy Spirit belongs one Godhead and one Majesty, for ever and ever.  Amen.

46

We know indeed, dearly-beloved, your devotion to be so warm that in the fasting, which is the forerunner of the Lord’s Easter, many of you will have forestalled our exhortations.  But because the right practice of abstinence is needful not only to the mortification of the flesh but also to the purification of the mind, we desire your observance to be so complete that, as you cut down the pleasures that belong to the lusts of the flesh, so you should banish the errors that proceed from the imaginations of the heart.  For he whose heart is polluted with no misbelief prepares himself with true and reasonable purification for the Paschal Feast, in which all the mysteries of our religion meet together.  For, as the Apostle says, that “all that is not of faith is sin933,” the fasting of those will be unprofitable and vain, whom the father of lying deceives with his delusions, and who are not fed by Christ’s true flesh.  As then we must with the whole heart obey the Divine commands and sound doctrine, so we must use all foresight in abstaining from wicked imaginations.  For the mind then only keeps holy and spiritual fast when it rejects the food of error and the poison of falsehood, which our crafty and wily foe plies us with more treacherously now, when by the very return of the venerable Festival, the whole church generally is admonished to understand the mysteries of its salvation. …

Relying, therefore, dearly-beloved, on so great a promise, be heavenly not only in hope, but also in conduct.  And though our minds must at all times be set on holiness of mind and body, yet now during these 40 days of fasting bestir yourselves938 to yet more active works of piety, not only in the distribution of alms, which are very effectual in attesting reform, but also in forgiving offences, and in being merciful to those accused of wrongdoing, that the condition which God has laid down between Himself and us may not be against us when we pray.  For when we say, in accordance with the Lord’s teaching, “Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors,” we ought with the whole heart to carry out what we say.  For then only will what we ask in the next clause come to pass, that we be not led into temptation and freed from all evils:  through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns for ever and ever.  Amen.

49

For as the Easter festival approaches, the greatest and most binding of fasts is kept, and its observance is imposed on all the faithful without exception; because no one is so holy that he ought not to be holier, nor so devout that he might not be devouter.  For who, that is set in the uncertainty of this life, can be found either exempt from temptation, or free from fault?  Who is there who would not wish for additions to his virtue, or removal of his vice? seeing that adversity does us harm, and prosperity spoils us, and it is equally dangerous not to have what we want at all, and to have it in the fullest measure.  There is a trap in the fulness of riches, a trap in the straits of poverty.  The one lifts us up in pride, the other incites us to complaint.  Health tries us, sickness tries us, so long as the one fosters carelessness and the other sadness.  There is a snare in security, a snare in fear; and it matters not whether the mind which is given over to earthly thoughts, is taken up with pleasures or with cares; for it is equally unhealthy to languish under empty delights, or to labour under racking anxiety.

And so, that the malice of the fretting foe may effect nothing by its rage, a keener devotion must be awaked to the performance of the Divine commands, in order that we may enter on the season, when all the mysteries of the Divine mercy meet together, with preparedness both of mind and body, invoking the guidance and help of God, that we may be strong to fulfil all things through Him, without Whom we can do nothing.  For the injunction is laid on us, in order that we may seek the aid of Him Who lays it.  Nor must any one excuse himself by reason of his weakness, since He Who has granted the will, also gives the power, as the blessed Apostle James says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, Who giveth to all liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him949.”  Which of the faithful does not know what virtues he ought to cultivate, and what vices to fight against?  Who is so partial or so unskilled a judge of his own conscience as not to know what ought to be removed, and what ought to be developed?  Surely no one is so devoid of reason as not to understand the character of his mode of life, or not to know the secrets of his heart.  Let him not then please himself in everything, nor judge himself according to the delights of the flesh, but place his every habit in the scale of the Divine commands, where, some things being ordered to be done and others forbidden, he can examine himself in a true balance by weighing the actions of his life according to this standard.  For the designing mercy of God950 has set up the brightest mirror in His commandments, wherein a man may see his mind’s face and realize its conformity or dissimilarity to God’s image:  with the specific purpose that, at least, during the days of our Redemption and Restoration, we may throw off awhile our carnal cares and restless occupations, and betake ourselves from earthly matters to heavenly.

V.  Forgiveness of our own sins requires that we should forgive others.

But because, as it is written, “in many things we all stumble,” let the feeling of mercy be first aroused and the faults of others against us be forgotten; that we may not violate by any love of revenge that most holy compact, to which we bind ourselves in the Lord’s prayer, and when we say “forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors,” let us not be hard in forgiving, because we must be possessed either with the desire for revenge, or with the leniency of gentleness, and for man, who is ever exposed to the dangers of temptations, it is more to be desired that his own faults should not need punishment than that he should get the faults of others punished.  And what is more suitable to the Christian faith than that not only in the Church, but also in all men’s homes, there should be forgiveness of sins?  Let threats be laid aside; let bonds be loosed, for he who will not loose them will bind himself with them much more disastrously.  For whatsoever one man resolves upon against another, he decrees against himself by his own terms.  Whereas “blessed are the merciful, for God shall have mercy on them:”  and He is just and kind in His judgments, allowing some to be in the power of others to this end, that under fair government may be preserved both the profitableness of discipline and the kindliness of clemency, and that no one should dare to refuse that pardon to another’s shortcomings, which he wishes to receive for his own.

VI.  Reconciliation between enemies and alms-giving are also Lenten duties.

Furthermore, as the Lord says, that “the peacemakers are blessed, because they shall be called sons of God,” let all discords and enmities be laid aside, and let no one think to have a share in the Paschal feast that has neglected to restore brotherly peace.  For with the Father on high, he that is not in charity with the brethren, will not be reckoned in the number of His sons.  Furthermore, in the distribution of alms and care of the poor, let our Christian fast-times be fat and abound; and let each bestow on the weak and destitute those dainties which he denies himself.  Let pains be taken that all may bless God with one mouth, and let him that gives some portion of substance understand that he is a minister of the Divine mercy; for God has placed the cause of the poor in the hand of the liberal man; that the sins which are washed away either by the waters of baptism, or the tears of repentance, may be also blotted out by alms-giving; for the Scripture says, “As water extinguisheth fire, so alms extinguisheth sin.”  

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So are you sick of these yet? Well..don’t read them then!

A reminder of why I do this daily update thing, and will for a while: Dissatisfaction with education grows and grows. More folks who once may have said, “I could never…” are contemplating the possibility of homeschooling. There are loads of different ways to do it – here’s ours. No boxed curriculum, no online classes, a touch of unschooling (not as much as I had hoped, I admit), a few texts, a lot of ad hoc. And every great while, the teacher is a little hungover from book group. So.

  • Prayer: We missed the daily readings yesterday because we had to dash out of the house for the Cathedral class, so I caught him up on David today – told him about Absalom, read about the death of Absalom, and then the death of David.
  • Today’s first reading was Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) which was a summary of David’s life, accomplishments and character.  We read it – I read half, he read half – and then after we read the Gospel (death of J the B) and prayed, I swung back around to the structure of the Old Testament – had him recite the books he knows in order (now through 2 Chronicles), then I explained the different types of books: Torah/Pentateuch, historical, Wisdom, Prophets, and in particular the nature of Wisdom books.
  • Usually Friday is illustrate-one-of-your-copywork-entries day. He didn’t feel like drawing, so we just hit the dictation (see Wednesday for explanation).
  • Oh, then we looked at a February calendar and talked about the month’s big days: Chinese New Year, Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, Lincoln’s birthday, Washington’s birthday, Presidents Day or whatever it is.
  • 2 word problems for Math revew.
  • Beast Academy  – defining coefficient and variable, combining like terms. A couple of pages of “corralling like terms” puzzles and then simplification with problems like these. 
  • Page of Latin review, which involved once again going over various sentence structures: Subject-Predicate nominative; subject-predicate adjective; subject – direct object. And some vocab and imperfect of sum. 
  • Writing and Rhetoric – summarizing a story – an exercise which builds on the careful method of learning how to summarize that this curriculum teaches. Since it’s a workbook, it involves crossing out inessentials, circling important details and main points, and so on. Very helpful.
  • Look at the material on insects in the Animal book –  keep recommending it to you, and I mean it. If you have a child interested in zoology, this is the book to get. It is chock full of great photos, but more than that is actually a comprehensive presentation of animal life organized according to phyla, with loads of solid information – not just cute pictures.
  • Grasshopper time.  Time to dissect the grasshopper specimen I had purchased from Carolina. It’s big. He studied this worksheet as well as the instructions included with the kit, and went to work.  First examine the exterior of the bug, identify parts – then cut off legs and wings, cut through the exoskeleton to get to the innards. I had watched a couple of videos to prep. 
  • "amy welborn"
  • Next week: crayfish.
  • Story today was “The Lady or the Tiger?” He read it, and then looked over some study questions to prepare for talking about it. His opinion was that the tiger was behind the opened door. The focus of the discussion was on what either possibility would say about the princess, as well as the power of an ambiguous ending. He admitted that he was frustrated by the ending, but on the other hand, if the story did have definite closure – if we did know which door the poor man opened – it wouldn’t be a story anyone would really care about.  It would be just about the princess and what we learn about her through that revelation in a way that puts a lid on further contemplation, rather than encouraging it.
  • (Does none of that make a lick of sense? Well read the story!)
  • So the focus of lit discussions this week has been irony and the impact of a story’s ending. It’s been interesting.
  • And that’s it. Brother had a slightly earlier day and had to be fetched. Piano practice after that, then a couple of hours outside with the neighbor friend.
  • Timeframe 10am-1.

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In the leadup to Lent, and probably throughout at this rate (I had intended to get this up on Tuesday….)  I’m going to posting some links to and excerpts from various sources.  There is valuable contemporary material out there, but it seems much of it, even the Catholic stuff, neglects some important aspects of Lent.

Perhaps it comes down to this. It’s the difference between understanding Lent as a particularly listcicle-friendly (40 days! 3 disciplines!)  opportunity for an individual’s spiritual growth and understanding it as the entire Church’s solemn call and responsibility to do penance and grow in faith.

Are those different things? Yes.  Think about it. Not in tension, not opposed, but slightly different roads and paradigms.  The first is centered on pleasing ourselves, the second on pleasing God.

It is the distinction highlighted by Francis’ last of three pointers for a good fast: fast to please God alone.  To many of us, this sounds odd, since we have been formed to believe that we need to nothing to please God other than accepting ourselves as we are, haven’t we?

For what happens in modern spiritual discourse is that we have collapsed the two – we please God most of all when we are ourselves and are content with ourselves.  When you dig deeply, that’s true – when we are the selves God created and that above all brings us contentment and peace. But what our spiritual wisdom has always admitted is that to get to that point requires stripping and sacrifice and a hard journey – not simply acceptance of the Good News that we are God’s creatures and loved by him. It is complicated, yes, but the bottom line seems to me that when you remove penance and the organic nature of fallen creation and the role of our fallen selves in that, you really are just left with individuals on a journey to feel okay about themselves, and not much more.

It is the distinction highlighted by Francis’ last of three pointers for a good fast: fast to please God alone.  To many of us, this sounds odd, since we have been formed to believe that we need to nothing to please God other than accepting ourselves as we are.

It’s an intriguing distinction. As an amateur student of the strangeness of modern Catholicism, I am most often struck by the sharp ironies and waves of unintended consequences that mark our slice of history.

We post-Conciliar Catholics were formed in a way that emphasized both individual spiritual freedom yet also the greater weight of  community, perhaps best encapsulated by the sense that no, Mass is not the time to come and focus on God’s presence as an individual. Rather, it is the time in which individuals freely come, but not to pray individually, but rather to do “the work of the people” in liturgy.

(This is why some liturgists think the worst sin one can commit during Mass is to kneel and pray quietly after receiving Communion instead of standing with the group and singing that you are bread ready to be chewed for justice or some such. We are here as the people of God, by God.)

The irony to me is that when you consider pre-Vatican II materials, the sense of communal identity was actually much stronger in those bad old days when (we are told) indvidual piety was emphasized above community.

So why is it that now, we are continually having to be told that we are community, experience community-building experiences and asked how we would like our parishes to create stronger communities?

Part of it is simply cultural and social.  “Community,” period was stronger, sometimes to oppressive extents.  You didn’t have to build community, you were born into it, you lived in it your entire life, and perhaps woe to you if you attempted to crack those walls.

Double-sided and full of shadows – that’s everything, that’s life.

But you see it in older treatments of Lent.   If you read pre-Vatican II popular and catechetical works on Lent, you encounter an unmistakable sense of the season being about the entire Church – the community – engaged in a journey – being willing to sacrifice in order to form itself to be more like Christ, in gratitude for all God has given, in sorrow for sin, with each individual’s efforts being a part of that greater whole, and being important because of it.

But today, we are on our own. Lent is about you and your walk with Jesus and making that better. It’s ironic. Matthew Kelly’s “Best Lent Ever” marketing campaign is the pinnacle of this sensibility: it’s all about Lent as a peak individual consumer experience – like Sandals for the soul.

As an aside on the “best Lent ever” slogan…I’m reminded of the more traditional way of inspiring spiritual fervor during the season, something an older priest up in Indiana used to regularly pull out and that I’ve heard on retreat…not make it your best Lent ever but a reminder that we should approach the season as if it were our “Last Lent ever.”

(The same template might be used for Advent or even about Sunday and reception of Communion….receive Communion as if it might be your last..)

Dire, yes, but as the kids say, you’re not wrong. 

Because it could be, indeed.  Both “best” and “last” indeed center us on the self and the needs of the soul, but with different orientations and expectations. 

And then there is penance.  Fasting serves many purposes, as St. Francis de Sales will tell us. But at root, it is a penitential act, not simply one to help us to “grow in faith” and find peace and joy and focus.  Yes it does, indeed do so, but it does so, Catholic tradition has normally held, because, among other things, the penitential act of fasting is part of the process of ridding our lives of sin and its effects – a process which  of course brings us closer to Christ. Not just because it’s fasting and giving stuff up, but because it is penitential.  I’ll let St. Francis de Sales explain.

 

To treat of fasting and of what is required to fast well, we must, at the start, understand that of itself fasting is not a virtue. The good and the bad, as well as Christians and pagans, observe it. The ancient philosophers observed it and recommended it. They were not virtuous for that reason, nor did they practice virtue in fasting. Oh, no, fasting is a virtue only when it is accompanied by conditions which render it pleasing to God. Thus it happens that it profits some and not others, because it is not undertaken by all in the same manner.

We find some people who think that to fast well during the holy season of Lent it is enough to abstain from eating some prohibited food. But this thought is too gross to enter into the hearts of religious, for it is to you I speak, as well as persons dedicated to Our Lord. We know very well that it is not enough to fast exteriorly if we do not also fast interiorly and if we do not accompany the fast of the body with that of the spirit.

 

The first condition is that we must fast with our whole heart, that is to say, willingly, whole-heartedly, universally and entirely. If I recount to you St. Bernard’s words regarding fasting, you will know not only why it is instituted but also how it ought to be kept.

He says that fasting was instituted by Our Lord as a remedy for our mouth, for our gourmandizing and for our gluttony. Since sin entered the world through the mouth, the mouth must do penance by being deprived of foods prohibited and forbidden by the Church, abstaining from them for the space of forty days. But this glorious saint adds that, as it is not our mouth alone which has sinned, but also all our other senses, our fast must be general and entire, that is, all the members of our body must fast. For if we have offended God through the eyes, through the ears, through the tongue, and through our other senses, why should we not make them fast as well? And not only must we make the bodily senses fast, but also the soul’s powers and passions — yes, even the understanding, the memory, and the will, since we have sinned through both body and spirit.

How many sins have entered into the soul through the eyes, as Holy Scripture indicates? [1 In. 2:16]. That is why they must fast by keeping them lowered and not permitting them to look upon frivolous and unlawful objects; the ears, by depriving them of listening to vain talk which serves only to fill the mind with worldly images; the tongue, in not speaking idle words and those which savor of the world or the things of the world. We ought also to cut off useless thoughts, as well as vain memories and superfluous appetites and desires of our will. In short, we ought to hold in check all those things which keep us from loving or tending to the Sovereign Good. In this way interior fasting accompanies exterior fasting.

This is what the Church wishes to signify during this holy time of Lent, teaching us to make our eyes, our ears and our tongue fast. For this reason she omits all harmonious chants in order to mortify the hearing; she no longer says Alleluia, and clothes herself completely in somber and dark colors. And on this first day she addresses us in these words: Remember, man, that you are dust, and to dust you shall return [Gen. 3:19], as if she meant to say: “Oh man, quit at this moment all joys and merrymaking, all joyful and pleasant reflections, and fill your memory with bitter, hard and sorrowful thoughts. In this way you will make your mind fast together with your body.”

This is also what the Christians of the primitive Church taught us when, in order to spend Lent in a better way, they deprived themselves at this time of ordinary conversations with their friends, and withdrew into great solitude and places removed from communication with people…….

 

The second condition is never to fast through vanity but always through humility. If our fast is not performed with humility, it will not be pleasing to God…..

But what is it to fast through humility? It is never to fast through vanity. Now how can one fast through vanity? According to Scripture there are hundreds and hundreds of ways, but I will content myself with telling you one of them, for it is not necessary to burden your memory with many things. To fast through vanity is to fast through self-will, since this self-will is not without vanity, or at least not without a temptation to vanity. And what does it mean to fast through self-will? It is to fast as one wishes and not as others wish; to fast in the manner which pleases us, and not as we are ordered or counseled. You will find some who wish to fast more than is necessary, and others who do not wish to fast as much as is necessary. What causes that except vanity and self-will? All that proceeds from ourselves seems better to us, and is much more pleasant and easy for us than what is enjoined on us by another, even though the latter is more useful and proper for our perfection. This is natural to us and is born from the great love we have for ourselves.

Let each one of us examine our conscience and we will find that all that comes from ourselves, from our own judgment, choice and election, is esteemed and loved far better than that which comes from another. We take a certain complacency in it that makes the most arduous and difficult things easy for us, and this complacency is almost always vanity. You will find those who wish to fast every Saturday of the year, but not during Lent.{2} They wish to fast in honor of Our Lady and not in honor of Our Lord. As if Our Lord and Our Lady did not consider the honor given to the one as given to the other, and as if in honoring the Son by fasting done for His intention, one did not please the Mother, or that in honoring the Virgin one did not please the Savior! What folly! But see how human it is: because the fast that these persons impose on themselves on Saturday in honor of our glorious Mistress comes from their own will and choice, it seems to them that it should be more holy and that it should bring them to a much greater perfection than the fast of Lent, which is commanded. Such people do not fast as they ought but as they want.

There are others who desire to fast more than they should, and with these one has more trouble than with the first group.

The glorious St. Augustine, in the Rule that he wrote for his religious (later adapted for men religious), orders that one follow the community as much as possible, as if he wished to say: Do not be more virtuous than the others; do not wish to practice more fasting, more austerities, more mortifications than are ordered for you. Do only what the others do and what is commanded by your Rule, according to the manner of living that you follow, and be content with that. For although fasting and other penances are good and laudable, nevertheless, if they are not practiced by those with whom you live, you will stand out and there will be some vanity, or at least some temptation to esteem yourself above others. Since they do not do as you do, you experience some vain complacency, as if you were more holy than they in doing such things.

Follow the community then in all things, said the great St. Augustine. Let the strong and robust eat what is ordered them, keeping the fast and austerities which are marked, and let them be content with that. Let the weak and infirm receive what is offered them for their infirmity, without wishing to do what the robust do. Let neither group amuse themselves in looking to see what this one eats and what that one does not eat, but let each one remain satisfied with what she has and with what is given to her. By this means you will avoid vanity and being particular.

 

The third condition necessary for fasting well is to look to God and to do everything to please Him, withdrawing within ourselves in imitation of a great saint, St. Gregory the Great, who withdrew into a secret and out-of-the-way place where he remained for some time without anyone knowing where he was, being content that the Lord and His angels knew it.

 

This is all that I had to tell you regarding fasting and what must be observed in order to fast well. The first thing is that your fast should be entire and universal; that is, that you should make all the members of your body and the powers of your soul fast: keeping your eyes lowered, or at least lower than ordinarily; keeping better silence, or at least keeping it more punctually than is usual; mortifying the hearing and the tongue so that you will no longer hear or speak of anything vain or useless; the understanding, in order to consider only holy and pious subjects; the memory, in filling it with the remembrance of bitter and sorrowful things and avoiding joyous and gracious thoughts; keeping your will in check and your spirit at the foot of the crucifix with some holy and sorrowful thought. If you do that, your fast will be universal, interior and exterior, for you will mortify both your body and your spirit. The second condition is that you do not observe your fast or perform your works for the eyes of others. And the third is that you do all your actions, and consequently your fasting, to please God alone, to whom be honor and glory forever and ever.

Lent 2016

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  • ANOTHER short day!  Well, we will try to cram as much as we can in…
  • The reason it’s shorter is because it’s the feast of St. Blaise, and we want to go to Mass at the Cathedral at noon.  That doesn’t mean we absolutely can’t accomplish anything this afternoon, but the chances of getting out of Mass, shrugging and saying “Eh, let’s just call it a day” are pretty high. So..
  • Prayer was just a Hail Mary and some intentions – safe travels for a family member, healing of various ailments, comfort and healing for all the sick, especially children.
  • (No readings because we would be going to Mass)
  • Mixing up the usual order of things, I had him read today’s short story first because I was going to take the copywork/dictation from it and didn’t want to spoil it.  “The Lumber Room” by Saki – a great story. Pair Nicholas with Shirley Jackson’s “Charles” and you’ve got a couple of kids who could easily rule the world. Discussion of the story centered on irony (the punished kid has the Best Day Ever and the rewarded kids have a miserable time) and what the story says about children having to maneuvering to nourish their imaginations in face of the restrictions that adults are constantly putting on them.
  • Copywork /dictation:The dramatic part of the incident was that there really was a frog in Nicholas’s basin of bread-and-milk; he had put it there himself, so he felt entitled to know something about it. 
  • Remember what dictation is: He copies the sentence one day, and then the next, I dictate it to him and he writes it correctly. This one has an interesting spelling word (incident) and just a bit punctuation to note: the use of the semi-colon and the commas.
  • Come to think of it, let’s go ahead and read “Charles.”  The conversation was on the humor in the story, but also on the way it ends.  Why, I asked, would Jackson not end with an explanatory sentence like, “Now I understand what Laurie had been up to all this time…”  We talked about why an abrupt ending was more powerful and fitting – it condenses the darkish irony of the story into a single sharp sentence uttered by an oblivious observer. I mean, he didn’t say that, but he knew, instinctively, that too much explanation ruins things.
  • In the process of digging up stories, I discovered that the Library of America has a fantastic “Story of the Week” site. 
  • Cursive. One sentence from the work book.
  • Math practice – more word problems from the Evan-Moor book.
  • Beast Academy: Practicing order of operations with these pages. 
  • Looks hairy, but it’s not. Just keep in mind that problem-solving mindset: break it apart and apply the rules – and it’s fine.
  • A bit of paragraph unity work from Reasoning and Reading:  crossing out sentences that don’t fit, and then adding a sentence to an incomplete paragraph. There were three exercises in the latter, and I just had him pick one of them to finish.
  • Writing and Rhetoric – just a bit on run-on sentences – which is the bane of my writing-with-kids existence.  I swear. I ultimately resorted to “Long sentences are your enemy.”  Keep them short and they might be boring, but at least they probably won’t be run-ons.
  • Back to invertebrates for a bit.  He recited the names of the 6 invertebrate phyla, spelled each correctly, gave an example and major characteristics – using this chart.
  • Then we went through the intro to arthropods (since we did worms last week) in the great Animal book and read about that…will go into more detail on insects tomorrow and  try to dissect a grasshopper on Friday, then crayfish next week.
  • With just a bit of time left, we looked at the Classics for Kids site – a great music site. We’ve listened to many of the composer broadcasts, but today we looked at musical definitions and instruments and listened to examples.  Talking about how the first violinist tunes the rest of the orchestra led us to talk about Beethoven’s 9th – in which the opening of the first movement echoes that exercise – then to listen to a bit of it, which then, as these things do, led us, for the second day in a row, to Mr. Bean.

 

  • Off to Mass!
  • Timeframe 9:45-11:50.  2 hours.
  • (and for the record – after Mass: lunch; get rat for snake; go home feed snake, discuss snake, clean snake habitat, practice piano during which the idea for a composition evoking battle of snake v. rat was floated and demonstrated – not by me, just to make that clear.)

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Time marches, rushes, races on.  Let’s squeeze the last two days into one entry.

  • Prayer: Good feasts.  Monday, Conversion of Paul: read accounts with map in hand. Pointed out Tarsus & Damascus. Reviewed order of Gospels and what Asolipsisiticcts is. Looked at a couple of paintings, including Caravaggio, talked about God using anyone to fulfill his purposes.  Tuesday: Timothy & Titus. Looked at the letters in the Bible with a detour to Philemon – remarked on because of its brevity. Read about them briefly in this book.  Both days: prayed Morning prayer petitions and Lord’s Prayer.
  • Detour:  If you look at the petitions on any day, they are a sure-fire way to situate you properly for the day. What they do is place our efforts and encounters in the proper perspective. Any teacher looking for prayer to open a day or class period should begin with the prayers of the Church – they lessen solipsistic temptations and place the day’s endeavors in the context of humility, service and glorifying God.
  • In other words, kid-composed prayers are usually a bad idea. Instead, teach children and young people that their personal issues and struggles are of a piece with the greater stuff of life, all known by a loving God.
  • Copywork: Monday (Scripture day)  was  Acts 9:4 . (in cursive). Today (poetry day)  was the first chunk of “All the World’s a stage” from As You Like it. 
  • All the world’s a stage,
    And all the men and women merely players;
    They have their exits and their entrances,
    And one man in his time plays many parts,
    His acts being seven ages.
  • Math was review of long division – which can be a struggle, but was survived. Then Beast Academy, moving to exponents and positive and negative integers. Again, a challenge – not your typical 5th grade math. But I trust them!
  • Now I’m going to start to get confused. I know I’ll forget things. Sorry.
  • Monday history was starting the Articles of Confederation/Constitution. The chapter in the text actually begins with Shay’s Rebellion, so we read that over together, then flicked on the television to watch some Hip History – Keith Hughes is really great – the videos are clearly intended as Regents/APUSH test prep, but that is just fine. He hits the high points in a way that is perfectly understandable and interesting to an 11-year old. We watched the videos on Shay’s Rebellion, the Articles of Confederation and the Northwest Ordinance. Then he went and read the text section on the Articles and did the workbook pages.
  • Tuesday history was a bit of a break – something I’d intended to do last week – we read this web page on the function of the fife and drum in the military generally, and in the Revolutionary War specifically, then watched a couple of videos, including this one. The point being, in case you didn’t know, that fife and drum were not simply about accompanying marches – they were a way of communicating using instruments that might actually have a chance of carrying through the din of battle.
  • He then read the chapter on Thomas Jefferson in The History of US. 
  • Then read the poems “Benedict Arnold” and “Thomas Jefferson”  in this great little Stephen Vincent Benet collection.
  • Latin: I detected that we need a bit more disciplined review of conjugations and declensions, so that’s what’s up with that this week. I printed out blank templates, and he’s just going to be practicing – he conjugated a verb (sitting here at Chick-fil-A while he is at boxing, I can’t remember which one) on Monday, and then declined verbum, deus and puella today.
  • Writing and Rhetoric was about replacing boring verbs and nouns with more vivid words. Some practice on that, which always yields humorous results.
  • Stupid worm. Still didn’t get to the dissection. This has to happen on Wednesday.
  • Watched a few science related videos:  on the purported new for real planet, on bacteria in the NYC subway system, on learning to drive a Model T (rabbit hole, but not really – a little bit of history of automobile manufacture and then searching for the answer to the question “When were the first limousines made?”) and why cats meow – the last of which led to several other related videos from the same BBC program/series, and then tales related about his neighborhood friend’s cat.
  • Piano practice during the “school” day on both days. Joplin (“Elite Syncopations”) will be performed in a recital in less than two weeks, so the pressure’s on!
  • After brother returned from school, in the evening, we continued our learning by breaking out As You Like It. We will be seeing a performance later this week, so we’ll be skimming/talking about it before then. Monday night I outlined the plot, drew a diagram of the major characters, and we read snatches of the first act, with them being Oliver and Orlando. Tonight (Tuesday) we’ll do act 2 and probably go ahead and watch the BBC animated version. Maybe. Basketball practice is happening, so maybe not.
  • Oh, Johnny Tremain. Friday, he had finished reading and looked over the study guide. Monday, we talked about the questions he’d read, he told me about his favorite parts and what he thought the book was about. I was going to have him writing something, but we were both ready to be finished with the book, so that didn’t happen.
  • He’s been asked by a friend’s mother to contribute a letter in honor of friend’s birthday. That was part of the writing curriculum today.
  • Varied rabbit holes: a tracing/drawing break of Sly Cooper, a video game character, atop the Eiffel Tower.
  • The declaration: “I think I want to read Common Sense.” Okay! I got it up on the internet…he kept scrolling and scrolling and scrolling and discovered that “pamphlet” might have meant something different in the 18th century than it does today. Not fully defeated, we read the first three paragraphs and talked about the distinction between society and government.
  • FYI, current leisure reading: Terry Pratchett’s Wee Free Men.  Christmas gift from sister.
  • Homechool boxing, church basketball. Worm in jar still resting on shelf.

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