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Archive for the ‘Saints’ Category

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. 
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  • 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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— 1 —

Again with the  Daily Homeschool Report thing – and the short Thursday report.

  • Another class at the Cathedral for homeschoolers – his grade does drama one hour and then history of science the next. Today, the science focus was on Anton van Leeuwenhoek and his very early microscope.
  • Back home noonish – lunch.
  • We did some Beast Academy  – learning about like terms and combining terms. (5th grade, remember).
  • Then there was something else. What was it?
  • Typing this well after midnight after a 3-hour “book group.” Fill in the blanks.
  • Ummmm….
  • Nope. I actually think that was it.
  • Piano practice.
  • Off to piano lesson.

— 2 —

“Mr. R. did something really cool in my lesson today.”

“What?”

“He took the ‘A’ section of the Joplin and played it like a Chopin nocturne……

(pause)

……I want to be able to do that…”

*thank you*

 

– 3—

Movie report from last weekend:

  • The Ladykillers. What a fantastic film. We continue the Alec Guinness trend – partly because he was great and partly because his presence makes an old movie a more acceptable choice. And all the more intriguing because in every film of his we’ve recently watched, he plays such varied parts – I mean, compare him in Great Expectations, Bridge over the River Kwai and The Ladykillers. Fascinating.
  • (I have never seen the Coen brothers remake)
  • Here’s what is odd. See if you can work this out with me. We live in times in which popular culture is odd and inhumane, superficial and ready to expose and exploit whatever.
  • But does anyone think that this film – as an original – could be made today?
  • Yes, there was the Coen brothers remake which stayed faithful to the body count, but it was a *remake.*
  • It wouldn’t happen. There’s a kind of post-war awareness and acceptance of darkness and the quiet, persistent force of good that can knock it out – and does – that wouldn’t find its way to film today.

— 4 —

Guess what, I said. It’s the feast of St. Blaise, I said. We’ll go to Mass and have our throats blessed with candles, I said.

Okay!

So yes we did go to Mass. And the priest announced he’d be doing a communal blessing of St. Blaise at the end of it.  No sacramentals for you, suckers!

— 5 —

It looks like I’m going to be at NCEA in San Diego in March – for just a day – so if you are one of those teacher types, see if you can find me, and say hey.

— 6

My Goodreads widget over there says I am currently reading Trollope, but it has started to bore me just a bit – and I have started J. B. Priestley’s Good Companions. The first chapter was full up with dialect, which was a bit rough but necessary I suppose. The second gives me a break on that score, and I just might be able to stick with it. We’ll see.

Look for posting of a review of that Bouyer memoir later today (Friday).

— 7 —

Reminder – if you’re teaching First Communion prep…maybe consider this book?

Also, my bookstore is open – I don’t have everything in stock, but I do have lots of the picture books. If you are an administrator or pastor or otherwise generous person and are interested in some sort of bulk deal, let me know at amywelborn60 – at – gmail.

In less than two weeks…Lent.

Time to order your parish/school materials – even if you want to order some for a group of friends or a class…here you go!

A Stations of the Cross for teens:

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Biblical Way of the Cross for everyone:

For Ave Maria press, we wrote John Paul II’s Biblical Way of the Cross. The current edition is illustrated with paintings by Michael O’Brien.

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There’s also a digital edition in app form.

Reconciled to God – a daily devotional. Also available in an e-book format. Only .99.

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Looking for a book study for a group? How about Matthew 26-28: Jesus’ Life-Giving Death from Loyola. 

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

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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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First off, I have today’s Living Faith entry:

 

At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face.

– 1 Corinthians 13:12

My son recently got glasses, and his subsequent experience of unexpected clarity brought back memories.

If you’ve ever had corrective lenses of any type, you know how it goes. You get the glasses, or perhaps an updated prescription, and the first time you look through them, you’re amazed. You knew your eyesight was a little off, but what a surprise to find out how off it actually was.

Quite often, my time on this earth is marked with the same certainty that everything is just fine, that I’m seeing life with absolute clarity, and I must be on the right path because, well, it’s the path I’m on. No other reason, really.

If you’d like to read more of these type of brief reflections, check out The Catholic Woman’s Book of Days or, if you’re thinking, “Gee, I really want to have the Best! Lent! Ever!” try Reconciled to God, also published by Creative Communications for the Parish. 

Today is the memorial of St John Bosco – superseded by Sunday, yes, indeed, but let’s talk about him anyway. The old Catholic Encyclopedia entry is a good place to start.  Another good intro at the EWTN site.

I wrote about him in The Loyola Kids Book of Saints.

(You can click on individual images to get a clearer view.)

 

 

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  • Prayer: Catching up on 2 Samuel. Bathsheba story is sort of awkward, but ah, well. It’s the truth, so go on through. We read tomorrow’s as well, which finished this narrative with Nathan’s parable and David’s response. Read the Gospel, prayed intentions and Lord’s Prayer. Had him, after, recite the names of the books of the OT through 2 Kings. To learn them in bits like this makes the task not difficult at all.
  • (I’m an advocate of having kids memorize the names of the books of the Bible. I had to do it in Catholic high school, and I had my students do it. They just need to know that when someone says “Isaiah” they think “Old Testament” or “Philemon” they think New. Did I ever tell you about the time I was teaching 9th grade theology to kids who’d been through 8 years of Catholic grammar school, and I was dramatically retelling the story of Cain and Abel and the class gasped when I said, “And then…Cain killed Abel.”  I don’t think it was because of my dramatic skilz, either. In fact, I know it wasn’t, because I was stopped short and asked them, “Wait..did you guy really not know how this was going to end?” Nope, they didn’t. But they knew God loved ’em and that Jesus was nice. Had that down cold. Winning!
  •  Friday, as you might remember, is the day he illustrates copywork instead of writing it. Trobert hooke fleaoday, he asked if he could finish another drawing – the instructor of his homeschool history of science class had taught them about Robert Hooke week
    before last, and this week, as a continuation, given them a copy of his flea drawing from Micrographia, and then a copy with only the front half copied – their task over the week being to sketch the back end themselves. So, sure!
  • By the way, this collection of e-books at Adelaide Unversity is quite interesting and beautifully presented. If you click on a book and go to the first page of said book and scroll to the bottom, you can see links on how to download and do so for the Kindle or Kindle app as well. Today’s great discovery!
  • A tiny bit of math – reviewing multiplying fractions and then finishing up Beast Academy on integers. Those were tough ones, as per usual. Next week: expressions and equations.
  • I realized that although we had been all about the worms for the past week and ah a half, we hadn’t actually been very intentional about invertebrates. So I printed out a couple of handouts – this one was a good, basic chart – and then we read through the intro to invertebrates in the fantastic Animal book. He’s pretty familiar with most of the information, but I tried to be more systematic – he has to have the six invertebrate phyla memorized by Monday, correctly spelled, with an example for each. Spent some time looking through the book, talking about sponges and coral and such.
  • Looked over the worm jar and saw how much they’ve mixed the soil – quite a bit in just a few days. We’ll set them free tomorrow.
  • Constitution time: read the chapter “What is a Constitution?” in The History of US, then the matching section in From Sea to Shining Sea. Went over the basics several times, just in conversation.  He did one of the workbook pages for the text. And yes, we watched the Schoolhouse Rock Preamble segment – which didn’t impress him, sorry kids of the 70’s.
  • Finally, some writing – the Writing and Rhetoric exercise asked him to rewrite the G. Washington/cherry tree thing in the first person from his father’s perspective. This child appreciates a strong narrative voice more than anything else in the novels he reads, so first person composition is right up his alley. Mr. Washington was not pleased.
  • Then what on a Friday afternoon? I had a couple of ideas, but I asked him. “How about we go see the new dinosaur at McWane?” (news story here). So, sure! We’re members so there’s no admission.
  • Note: Always go to the science museum in the afternoon after the field trips have left or are on their way out. We drove up at 1:30, saw scads of buses outside, but knew, given the time, that they were probably loading up for departure.
  • Well. We arrived at the museum and I noted, to my dismay, that the Body Worlds Rx special exhibit had, indeed begun. I knew it was coming, but in my head I had it opening early next week. Nope.
  • He saw the signs and asked what it was.  I said (brilliantly) that it was a special exhibit about the human body. Interestingly, the museum has a FAQ handout at the ticket counter, clearly anticipating questions, although I have to say, there’s been not a peep about this. Remember when these exhibits were controversial?
  • So we went and saw the dinosaur bones and a few other things (we know the place by heart by now..it doesn’t draw us the way it did when they were younger) and he said something about the Body Worlds…and I took a  breath.
  • I said…well, I’ll let you decide if you want to go, but to tell you the truth, I don’t like this exhibit, and I think it’s unethical and I’d rather not. He asked why, and I told him the history and the questions raised about the sources of the bodies early on. The FAQ for this exhibit says that the bodies and parts are all donated by consenting individuals, I told him, but that doesn’t quell my unease, for “consent” doesn’t equal “right.” Anyone can consent to something that’s wrong. I said that an exhibit like this objectifies the human person and deprives the dead of their dignity. But if you really want to…
  • He shook his head. Firmly, I might add. No, he didn’t want to. “I’m more interested in zoology anyway,” he said as we went downstairs to the aquarium.
  • I was relieved. I had wondered, this time around, if I was overreacting. I got home and read the Family Guide and decided I wasn’t. 
  • As we drove home, I was thinking: What if the children’s science museum announced, that for science, they were putting eleven human cadavers on display – you know, just laying them out, maybe some opened in the abdomen, others with the top of the skull removed, others with the heart and lungs exposed. They’d be under glass and preserved in whatever way cadavers are, but there they’d be, just lying there the way, say, medical students would encounter them. We’d probably be horrified and think it was weird and hardly any of us would take our kids to see that type of display.
  • But this plastination process distances us from the reality of the person, even as it reveals their bodies more intimately.  I think that’s a metaphor for something, or maybe I’ve just read too much Walker Percy.
  • Timeframe without museum: 10-12:30. With, 10-2:30. With library 10-3.

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— 1 —

You know, I’ve been doing this Daily Homeschool Report thing – our Thursdays tend to be shorter, so I’ll throw the Thursday report here. 

  • On Thursday mornings we head downtown where he participates in a couple of classes for homeschoolers – his grade does drama one hour and then history of science the next. Today, they rehearsed a play they’ll be performing and then learned about Galileo – he was full of fun facts afterwards.
  • Then home, where we did one page of math review (reviewing fractions now) and the next-to-last page of the Beast Academy workbook page on negative and positive integers.
  • Then I said….read, draw or play outside or whatever. Just no screens and no Legos. So he went off and read a bit and is now drawing. He wanders in every now and then to tell me things: why he likes Tolkein’s description of Smaug and (I thought this was interesting) his idea that in school, Show and Tell shouldn’t end with little kids.  Older kids should have a chance to bring in and talk about what they create and treasure, too.
  • In an hour it will be time to practice piano and then off to the weekly lesson. After that, pick up brother and then this one is going off to watch a basketball game at another school with a friend.
  • That’s why Thursdays are short.

— 2 —

Watch this video! It’s a beautiful video about St. Bernard’s Abbey, located north of here in Cullman. It’s good not just because of what it says about monasticism, but also, if you think about it, about Christian discipleship, period.

Argh, I wish they would open a Birmingham satellite of the school…..

 

– 3—

Movie report from last weekend:

  • Got in Bridge over the River Kwai. It’s long, but they endured and were about 80% engaged through most of it – the Alec Guiness factor helps. What struck me this time (which might as well have been a first time, considering it’s probably been thirty years since I saw it last) was the ending. The author of the original novel and one of the screenplay authors was Pierre Boulle, a French writer who also wrote the novel Planet of the Apes was based on.  Everyone knows the ending to that film, and the end of Bridge is strikingly similar – the doctor, the sole voice of morality and reason throughout all the insanity, sees the destruction and death in front of him and declares, “Madness! Madness!”
  • Boulle, who had been a POW in Southeast Asia during the war and had seen the worst that human beings can do to each other and to their world, obviously had a them going.
  • We then tried some Harold Lloyd – they’ve seen Chaplin (Gold Rush and a couple others) and Buster Keaton (The General  – at our local glam-movie house a while back), so it was time for Lloyd. We watched The Freshman which was amusing but did not exactly make them converts, I don’t think.  The most interesting element to me occurred at one point when, at a college mixer, the tailor who has come along to fix Harold’s barely-basted-together suit in secret has a dizzy spell which he says can only be alleviated by having a drink. So Lloyd dances in the crowd, flipping up coattails, searching for a flask – of course, because it’s Prohibition!
  • Don’t be super impressed with our Film Culture ways. Over the past couple of weeks, they also watched both Bill and Ted movies- but hey, I made them watch the chess season from The Seventh Seal before Bogus Journey so they’d get the reference. Does that count for something?

— 4 —

Speaking of Alabama Catholic stuff, the youngish rector of our Cathedral is heading to Rome to work in the Congregation for the Clergy. Under his leadership, amazing things have happened at the Cathedral – the renovation and the magnificent music program being just two. The parish, which is downtown and not in a residential area, is growing, not least by increasing numbers of younger families drawn to straight-up, solid, beautiful Catholic liturgy with no fear of cringy lameness. If you are ever in town, come visit.

Anyway, here’s an article from the local paper about the move:

“The Lord was preparing me to be moved,” Bazzel said. “It’s been a tremendous grace for me to be here at St. Paul’s. The parish is an incredible, growing, giving family. It’s hard to have a downtown parish. People here are really engaged. It’s something I will miss tremendously, having been here the last nine years.”

— 5 —

There were many great stories to come out of the March for Life – we all read about the Mass by the side of the road with the snow altar. Here’s another one – from St. John Cantius in ChicagoSt. John Cantius in Chicago. The group of young people and their chaperones was a wonderful witness to life and discipleship during the three days they were stranded in Pennsylania: 

That evening at Mass, Fr. Nathan Caswell, SJC preached a sermon that hit home. “We all want to go home, but heaven is our real home. And this is something that we can only do together.” Suddenly homesickness became a spiritual longing. That was it. In that moment, everything was offered.

Robert White, a young student from Rockford, reflected on this lesson, “When I was stuck in Pennsylvania, all my thoughts were on home until that last sermon on Sunday. It did something to me; it awakened some other part of me I have never seen before, the realization that we are all in this fight together, the fight for life. If we try to look after ourselves, we will never find life, we will only find death. To find life you have to go out of yourself.”

Kate Brown wrote “It was nice to see how people offered it up when they remembered the whole reason for the trip. If it takes being stranded in Pennsylvania to raise awareness for the pro-life movement, then it will all have been worth it.”

Angelica Kowara wrote, “It was hard being optimistic the whole time, and to be honest, I wasn’t. I doubted God’s plan. I was mad. I wanted to go home. But I realized, heaven is the real home I am trying to reach and being with the Crusaders for so long brought me one step closer.”

— 6

Recent reads:

  • Scandal by Shusaku Endo. (I’m trying to read what I can of Endo before the film Silence is released – I’m guessing this fall maybe. )
  • Pierre et Jean by Guy de Maupassant.  I was just poking around, looking for a short novel that I could knock off in an hour or so, and this was one someone’s list. Somewhere.  I can’t say a whole lot about the plot, for there’s an element on which the whole thing hinges that you really shouldn’t know going in, although you will probably see what’s coming fairly quickly. Although I tire of 19th century earnestness and verbiage and the absence of bite in the prose, the ironic force of the story is still strong: the shallowness of the bourgeoisie and the ill-effect of inherited wealth.

An hour well spent – better than an hour on Facebook!

  • Read about half of The Memoirs of Louis Bouyer this evening, which is far more than I had intended. (It’s not long, so don’t be impressed). His account of his childhood in and around Paris is quite evocative and charming, and although what follows is more head-oriented and a great deal of “I was influenced by X, and then influenced by Y,” it’s still interesting.

— 7 —

Reminder – if you’re teaching First Communion prep…maybe consider this book?

Also, my bookstore is open – I don’t have everything in stock, but I do have lots of the picture books. If you are an administrator or pastor or otherwise generous person and are interested in some sort of bulk deal, let me know at amywelborn60 – at – gmail.

In less than two weeks…Lent.

Time to order your parish/school materials – even if you want to order some for a group of friends or a class…here you go!

A Stations of the Cross for teens:

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Biblical Way of the Cross for everyone:

For Ave Maria press, we wrote John Paul II’s Biblical Way of the Cross. The current edition is illustrated with paintings by Michael O’Brien.

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There’s also a digital edition in app form.

Reconciled to God – a daily devotional. Also available in an e-book format. Only .99.

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Looking for a book study for a group? How about Matthew 26-28: Jesus’ Life-Giving Death from Loyola. 

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

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