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Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

  • We finally moved past that last chapter – on logic – in Beast Academy 4B4C arrived and we are now comfortably sorting through divisibility rules, with factorization on the horizon today.
  • We’re tracking well with the release of new volumes in the Beast Academy series. If they keep up the present pace,  M should finish up 5D right on time to begin the Art of Problem Solving Pre-Algebra in 6th grade.  That sounds early, but it’s the way the program is being planned, and having worked through the AOPS pre-Algebra with my older son, I can see how the foundations are being laid in Beast Academy, and very well.
  • Speaking of Beast Academy – it’s alluded to in this excellent article from Wired about techies homeschooling their kids. 

And yet the boys were focused on what I soon learned were math workbooks—prealgebra for Parker, a collection of monster-themed word problems for Simon.

The Cook boys are homeschooled, have been ever since their parents opted not to put them in kindergarten. Samantha’s husband Chris never liked school himself; as a boy, he preferred fiddling on his dad’s IBM PC to sitting in a classroom. After three attempts at college, he found himself unable to care about required classes like organic chemistry and dropped out to pursue a career in computers. It paid off; today he is the lead systems administrator at Pandora. Samantha is similarly independent-minded—she blogs about feminism, parenting, art technology, and education reform and has started a network of hackerspaces for kids. So when it came time to educate their own children, they weren’t in any hurry to slot them into a traditional school.

“The world is changing. It’s looking for people who are creative and entrepreneurial, and that’s not going to happen in a system that tells kids what to do all day,” Samantha says. “So how do you do that? Well if the system won’t allow it, as the saying goes: If you want something done right, do it yourself.”

  • A bit on prayer, and I’ll go a little off-topic here.  As I’ve said, the basics of our daily prayer are a mash-up of daily Mass readings and Morning Prayer and maybe the Office of Readings if it’s understandable in any way to a 10-year old.  We use Universalis most of the time, and Magnificat when I can find our copy.  I have written many times, even in book form, in defense and promotion of centering one’s prayer life around the prayer of the Church in whatever way one can. As Flannery O’Connor said as she was recommending A Short Breviary to a correspondent,  “So many prayer books are so awful, but if you stick with the liturgy, you are safe”
  • So while our solipsism and self-centeredness tempts us to put ourselves first when we pray and to fashion our prayer around our own perceived needs, centering ourselves on the prayer of the Church, we are forced, first of all, into the proper stance for prayer which – as Jesus teaches us when he’s asked how to pray – puts worship of God first in our hearts and on our tongue.  Secondly, our prayer for ourselves and others are directed in ways that we might not consider, but probably need, and in ways that plant seeds for the day:
Help us to keep your commandments;
  so that through your Holy Spirit we may dwell in you, and you in us.
– You are our Saviour and our God.
Everlasting Wisdom, come to us:
  dwell with us and work in us today.
– You are our Saviour and our God.
Help us to be considerate and kind;
  grant that we may bring joy, not pain, to those we meet.
– You are our Saviour and our God.
  • If I were running a Catholic school, I would immediately ditch every prayer source that’s “written for kids” and especially those that are written by kids…and immerse them in this, every day.
  • (I am not sure how my list dots are getting messed up, but I’m in too much of a hurry to fix it. Sorry.)
  • Since Genesis 1 was started yesterday for the Mass readings, that became the focus of religion instruction. Today, more of that, plus St. Scholastica and her brother.
  • Science: I wanted to write a whole post about science instruction and explorations, but that’s probably not going to happen.  So for now, I’ll just say that we’re using a regular 4th grade science textbook and workbook as a “spine” – (as they say in homeschooling) and just enriching and experimenting all over the place, as one does.  Last week was sound, which we had studied earlier in the month just because music is such an important part of life around here, but we threw in some demonstrations we hadn’t done before.  This week is light.   This website will come in handy: Optics4Kids.
  • There are many great YouTube science channels, and I’ve mentioned some of them before, but I discovered this one last week, and it’s good: Physics Girl. She has a degree from MIT and has very clever, understandable way of explaining things. 
  • What I wanted to mention were some of the best printed resources I’ve found. There are plenty of books on individual topics, but I wanted to highlight two books of experiments and demonstrations that I come back to again and again.
  • First are any of the Janet van Cleave books.  I resisted these for a while just because of the cover art and titles – I didn’t think they were serious. But I was wrong! They are great , and in fact I just ordered most of those we don’t already have.  Each book is a course on the topic at hand, arranged in lesser to greater levels of complexity and the demonstrations are doable with materials you probably already have on hand.
  • "Amy Welborn"Also well-worn by this point is this Hands-on Physical Science Activities for Grades k-6. Written for classroom educators, most of the activities are, again, doable at home, and the explanations and process are excellent. 
  • On tap today? Prayer, copywork (probably a line or two from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, which is currently being memorized.  Yesterday was Genesis 1:1 (see how it all fits together?), tomorrow copywork will probably be a short, amusing poem (last week was a John Ciardi poem).  Then a couple of lines of cursive.  Then prime factorization, then Latin, then science, then probably time for him to just read some of the science/nature/history magazines or library books that interest him. Then the weekly…homeschool boxing class…watch out! 
  • More good reading: This heartbreaking article from the AtlanticCatholic schools take note:  the more you thoughtlessly follow secular trends and the “needs” of students as defined by this culture, albeit with Catholic Schools Week slogans cleverly affixed, the further you walk away from filling  the yawning, tragic void described in this article – a void that you are uniquely poised to fill:

I get it: My job is to teach communication, not values, and maybe that’s reasonable. After all, I’m not sure I would want my daughter gaining her wisdom from a randomly selected high-school teacher just because he passed a few writing and literature courses at a state university (which is what I did). My job description has evolved, and I’m fine with that. But where are the students getting their wisdom?

One might argue that the simple solution is religion—namely, biblical texts. The problem, though, is that I doubt religion is on most kids’ minds. When I recently shared a poem that included the phrase, “Let there be light,” hardly any of my students, who are high-school juniors, could identify the allusion. As a staunch believer in the separation of church and state, I don’t feel comfortable delving into the Bible’s wisdom. Even if I did, the environment is far from conducive to these discussions—students are generally embarrassed to reveal their spiritual beliefs. A fellow teacher recently cited a biblical reference in a standardized test as “evidence of institutional bias,” and the community was generally shocked; some people, meanwhile, were outraged a few years ago when a valedictorian’s speech personally advised his peers to “love God above self.”

With all this in mind, I recently read the line “Fools will be destroyed by their own complacency” in The Book of Proverbs, and I thought of my students at the cusp of young adulthood. I considered how deeply profitable this kind of advice could be for those about to be on their own—and I don’t mean profitable in the way that the advocates of “career readiness” generally conceive it. I’m not saying teachers should include the Bible in their classes in any way, but it feels strange to bite my tongue and instead teach simple skills like “interpreting words and determining technical meanings.” Meanwhile, research suggests that asignificant majority of teens do not attend church, and youth church attendance has been decreasing over the past few decades. This is fine with me. But then again, where are they getting their wisdom?

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Here are links to a couple of old columns I wrote – probably for OSV – on life issues.   Old, as in probably 14-15 years ago. They, along with many others,  were stuck in the caverns of my website, so I just cleaned them enough to make them presentable. In other words: forgive the very basic formatting.

We can send a man to the moon….

Mysteries…

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(I got this graphic years ago from a pro-life website/group that no longer exists and the name of which I don’t remember.  So…thanks whoever you are…)

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But even so…even that….

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…you can’t take it with you.

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Continuing my series on books and other materials I’ve published that you might find useful in your home, parish or school.

Previously:

Adult Faith Formation/RCIA books:

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Children’s books (with more to come tomorrow)

Today – some of the devotional and parish resources I’ve published.  Some are more timely than others, but just so you can see, and in case anyone still wants pamphlets on Pope Benedict XVI!

First, A Catholic Woman’s Book of Days – published by Loyola.  This was probably the hardest book I ever wrote.  I mean – it "amy welborn"was endless.  Just imagine, if you would, reaching the point where you’d written two hundred short devotions. You feel pride. You’ve achieved something.  Then you realize, “That means I have 165 to go….”

Yeah, that was a challenging road.

But I finished! And I think it’s pretty good!  Since it’s designed to be used in any year, the entries can only get so specific.  So for the non-moveable feasts like Christmas and the Marian feasts, the entries are set.  But since the liturgical seasons are moveable, what I did was to make the late February and March entries Lent-ish, the late April and May entries Easter-ish and the December entries Adventy.

I’ve written quite a bit for Creative Communications for the Parish – which is a great company providing affordable, quality materials.

Of course, I contribute 6 devotions to every quarterly issue of Living Faith. There are print and digital versions.

Also:

This Lenten devotional:

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Do I Have to Go?  – a little pamphlet on helping children get more out of Mass.

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This year, I have a new family Advent devotional:

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Currently out of print is a small booklet I wrote on St. Nicholas.

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Also currently out of print, but I understand, coming back into print for Lent 2015 is the young people’s Stations of the Cross I wrote:

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Okay…moving on to OSV:

(more…)

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Today is the feastday of Pope St. Gregory the Great.  Some links:

Fr. Steve Grunow on the saint:

As a culture we labor under the assumption that a vocation is best illuminated as a kind of decision, a choice by which we decide for ourselves who we are and what we should do. On the surface, the pretense of this might console us and make us feel that in a world that is so evidently outside of our control, at the very least we can forge for ourselves a personal destiny. However, authentic vocation is not so much about our decision, but God’s. It is only when our lives are in conformity with God’s will that we truly learn who we are and what we must do.

Pope Benedict XVI had two General Audiences on the saint back in 2008.

Part 1:

Notwithstanding the very difficult conditions in which he had to work, he gained the faithful’s trust, thanks to his holiness of life and rich humanity, achieving truly magnificent results for his time and for the future. He was a man immersed in God: his desire for God was always alive in the depths of his soul and precisely because of this he was always close to his neighbour, to the needy people of his time. Indeed, during a desperate period of havoc, he was able to create peace and give hope.

Part 2:

He was a passionate reader of the Bible, which he approached not simply with a speculative purpose: from Sacred Scripture, he thought, the Christian must draw not theoretical understanding so much as the daily nourishment for his soul, for his life as man in this world. For example, in theHomilies on Ezekiel, he emphasized this function of the sacred text: to approach the Scripture simply to satisfy one’s own desire for knowledge means to succumb to the "amy welborn"temptation of pride and thus to expose oneself to the risk of sliding into heresy. Intellectual humility is the primary rule for one who searches to penetrate the supernatural realities beginning from the sacred Book. Obviously, humility does not exclude serious study; but to ensure that the results are spiritually beneficial, facilitating true entry into the depth of the text, humility remains indispensable. Only with this interior attitude can one really listen to and eventually perceive the voice of God. On the other hand, when it is a question of the Word of God understanding it means nothing if it does not lead to action. In these Homilies on Ezekiel is also found that beautiful expression according which “the preacher must dip his pen into the blood of his heart; then he can also reach the ear of his neighbour”. Reading his homilies, one sees that Gregory truly wrote with his life-blood and, therefore, he still speaks to us today.

 

….

 

Above all he was profoundly convinced that humility should be the fundamental virtue for every Bishop, even more so for the Patriarch. Gregory remained a simple monk in his heart and therefore was decisively contrary to great titles. He wanted to be – and this is his expression -servus servorum Dei. Coined by him, this phrase was not just a pious formula on his lips but a true manifestation of his way of living and acting. He was intimately struck by the humility of God, who in Christ made himself our servant. He washed and washes our dirty feet. Therefore, he was convinced that a Bishop, above all, should imitate this humility of God and follow Christ in this way. His desire was to live truly as a monk, in permanent contact with the Word of God, but for love of God he knew how to make himself the servant of all in a time full of tribulation and suffering. He knew how to make himself the “servant of the servants”. Precisely because he was this, he is great and also shows us the measure of true greatness.

 

Link to Gregory’s Pastoral Rule at New Advent

 

 

 

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— 1 —

We returned home from running errands and dinner, and we could have hunkered down for the evening inside, doors closed, air conditioning humming, but instead we drifted outside.  For our trouble we saw huge lovely woodpeckers and a slew of bats sweeping overhead and I heard a steady stream of most interesting information on members of the animal kingdom who dwell from the deepest points of the ocean to the most arid desert.

— 2 —

The boys watched Napoleon Dynamite for the first time  a couple of weeks ago.  I hadn’t seen it in years, and of course it lost none of its oddness during that time.

Nor had it lost any of its quotability.  Every day, I hear at least one ND callback:

Make yourself a dang kay-sa-dilla, Napoleon!

IDIOT!

How long did it take you to grow that mustache? About 2 days. 

They don’t, however, quote my favorites, which are:

Do the chickens have large talons?

and

I caught you a delicious bass. 

 

— 3 —

As I mentioned on Twitter, we watched North by Northwesthe other night and I’d forgotten how racy it is.  Awkward!  Love the Van Damme house in all its Mid Century glory.

Not complaining about Cary Grant in that towel, either.

Aside from the greatness of the film itself, what I found fascinating was the snapshot of American style, from New York westward, in the late 50’s.

But the greatest, most mesmerizing scene has nothing to do with constructed style – it’s those minutes in the midwestern (actually California) cornfield – and not just the iconic Cary Grant-chasing-crop duster.  From the moment the bus drops him off..watch the whole scene.  A human being alone, without any of the resources his position and status might afford him.  He’s dressed, but he’s stripped and he’s alone in that expanse, in the world.

What will he do? What can he do?

 

 

— 4 —

While I was in New York, I saw A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which one the Tony for Best Musical this year, and is based on the same early 20th century novel as the Alec Guinness classic, Kind Hearts and Coronets.  For copyright reasons, they can’t make any sort of connection between play and film explicit though.

It was enjoyable – if nihilistic, but of course, we can’t blame that on the 21st century because it’s in the source material.  The main attraction, as it was in the film, is the fact that a single actor plays all the murder victims, in this case, the amazing Jefferson Mays, who was quite entertaining to watch.  If we are going to compare film and play, well…the play wins for having a far more compelling actor to play the murderer, but the film wins for the ending, which I much preferred. In both productions, the villain, it’s clear, will not get away with his crimes, but in the film it’s a subtler and grabbier, if that’s a word, which it isn’t, but too bad.  I was told, however, that in order to make the distinction between play and film quite clear (again, for copyright reasons), the endings couldn’t be the same.

— 5 —

Hmmm…about that novel.  It’s called Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal and what intrigues me is that is seems to be, in part, a satire of Edwardian anti-Semitism.  Looks like I may have to add it to the list…..

If I EVER finish No Name.   It’s FREAKING ENDLESS.  But  – I must say..I am enjoying it immensely.  It’s definitely a page-turner, and I will report when finished.  So set your calendars for March 2015.

— 6 —

Last Thursday morning, in my NYC wanderings, I wandered Chelsea.

My hotel was on west 37th – just a couple of blocks from Penn Station – and for some reason I had it in my head that Chelsea was down in Lower Manhattan – even though I’ve walked the High Line before and done some gallery strolling with Ann.  But when I was trying to figure out how to structure that day, I finally came to some comprehension of basic Manhattan Geography, and saw that I could do some Chelsea wandering, return to my hotel, check out, check my luggage with them, and then go down to lower Manhattan for the rest of the day, and make it work.

I had done a bit of research as to what was happening in the Chelsea galleries and saw that the installations at the Pace Gallery might be interesting.

They were.

Tara Donovan is the artist. 

Now, first.

I am interested in all sorts of art, from any and every era and perspective, because I’m mostly interested in human beings and the world.  I’m interested in what the world really is and how human beings live in that world, perceive it and navigate it.  Art is an expression of that, and it is what it is.  We who live out of a spiritual context might look at much of contemporary (the last century or so) art and scoff because it seems so shallow to us, so superficial.  And perhaps it is (or isn’t).  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t attempt to understand it or we should close ourselves off from.  On the contrary. If this is how people think, so be it, and we have to understand it – or at least try.

All that is to say…if you make it, I’ll look at it, and try to understand it, and perhaps take a shot and understanding you in the process.

So that Thursday morning, I walked into the Pace, greeted the Straight-From-Central-Casting-Gallery-Vassar-Grads in their black shift dresses, then walked into the first gallery:

 

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I was mesmerized.  They are constructed of note cards, they are supposed to make me ponder issues of accumulation, and they did, but they also reminded me, quite strongly, of the tent rocks and hoodoos of New Mexico. 

And then you turn the corner into the next gallery and:

 

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It was the most astonishing sight.  The sculpture is made of thousands of acrylic rods, but the effect is…fuzzy.  Isn’t it?

I stayed for a while, me and the two chatty security guards, but I could have stayed longer, thinking about why spend so much time, piling up tiny bits of life in order to make something else, and how beautiful those things can be.

Why indeed.

— 7 —

My daughter is living and working  in southern Germany for a while.  She bought a drindl because, as she says, you see them everywhere.  She sees women wear them to Mass and at the festivals (which are frequent), not wearing one pretty clearly marks you as a tourist..and we can’t have that!

 

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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At the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis.

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