Posts Tagged ‘7 Quick Takes’

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Here’s a fun website I just discovered – “fun” being defined as a geography/nature-oriented site that my youngest loves.  Amusing Planet – sort of like Atlas Obscura, but less complicated and more focused.  I like it. We like it.

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Speaking of such things, check this out:

"amy welborn"

A cache of bound National Geographic magazines from the late 70’s, snagged from the “FREE” bin at our local 2nd and Charles – a used book/CD/DVD/Game chain that’s an offshoot of Books-A-Million (HQ here in Bham).

It pleased my youngest, who was thrilled to get a subscription to NG three years ago, but has of late soured on it, remarking that it is “too political and boring.”

I’m sure there is no scarcity of never-looked-at bound magazines out there, collecting dust in stacks and warehouses across the land before they are pulped.

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This is from last summer, but in the great tradition of “OMG AUDREY HEPBURN DIED” Facebook posts, just came across my feed this week.

Babies on display: When a Hospital Couldn’t Save Them, a Sideshow Did.

Close to a century ago, New York’s Coney Island was famed for its sideshows. Loud-lettered signs crowded the island’s attractions, crowing over tattooed ladies, sword swallowers — and even an exhibition of tiny babies.

The babies were premature infants kept alive in incubators pioneered by Dr. Martin Couney. The medical establishment had rejected his incubators, but Couney didn’t give up on his aims. Each summer for 40 years, he funded his work by displaying the babies and charging admission — 25 cents to see the show.

In turn, parents didn’t have to pay for the medical care, and many children survived who never would’ve had a chance otherwise.

Lucille Horn was one of them. Born in 1920, she, too, ended up in an incubator on Coney Island.

“My father said I was so tiny, he could hold me in his hand,” she tells her own daughter, Barbara, on a visit with StoryCorps in Long Island, N.Y. “I think I was only about 2 pounds, and I couldn’t live on my own. I was too weak to survive.”

She’d been born a twin, but her twin died at birth. And the hospital didn’t show much hope for her, either: The staff said they didn’t have a place for her; they told her father that there wasn’t a chance in hell that she’d live.

“They didn’t have any help for me at all,” Horn says. “It was just: You die because you didn’t belong in the world.”

But her father refused to accept that for a final answer. He grabbed a blanket to wrap her in, hailed a taxicab and took her to Coney Island — and to Dr. Couney’s infant exhibit.

Dr. Martin Couney holds Beth Allen, one of his incubator babies, at Luna Park in Coney Island. This photo was taken in 1941.

Dr. Martin Couney holds Beth Allen, one of his incubator babies, at Luna Park in Coney Island. This photo was taken in 1941.

Courtesy of Beth Allen

“How do you feel knowing that people paid to see you?” her daughter asks.

“It’s strange, but as long as they saw me and I was alive, it was all right,” Horn says. “I think it was definitely more of a freak show. Something that they ordinarily did not see.”

Horn’s healing was on display for paying customers for quite a while. It was only after six months that she finally left the incubators.

 — 4 —

Since Thursdays have been short, I’ve been tossing the  Daily Homeschool Report   for that day here. Short not that much longer, however, since yesterday was sadly the last day for the homeschool sessions that have been meeting at the Cathedral – major props to the mom who has organized and managed these mornings.  M has really enjoyed these six weeks of drama and science classes – the sessions ended with every group doing a performance, from the youngest singing and reciting the Hail Mary to a group recitation of “Casey at the Bat” from my son’s group performing a short play – Bean Soup. 

— 5 

We did squeeze in some more school in the afternoon. Fractions using the EnVision 6th grade book – as I mentioned, I have the text and CD with printables from my older son, so we are just going with that.  Finished up the War of 1812 with workbook pages from the text and some discussion of the experiences of soldiers in the war from the book of primary source material.  I know there were rabbit trails, but it was almost 24 hours ago, so I unfortunately have forgotten them!

— 6–

The Writing and Rhetoric chapter ended with an exercise in ordering paragraphs of an essay on the hardships the Pilgrims experienced, and I was pleased because it was actually more challenging and subtle than such exercises usually are.

Then a good practice – he has this sonata competition on Saturday, and although we might be a little tired of this piece, in a strange way, we are not – he is really discovering how interesting digging deep into a piece of music can be.

Speaking of music, our Cathedral music director has begun putting the Orders of Worship on line: Check them out, especially the “About Today’s Music” at the end of each one.  It’s just excellent catechesis.

— 7 —


Speaking of books…order some from me!  Signed editions of any of the picture books at 8 bucks a title.  Big orders for your entire First Communion class welcome!

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

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As per usual, Thursday school is short, so I’ll just offer that report in this space.  Thursday homeschool class at the Cathedral.  Today they apparently rehearsed the play they are doing for the drama class, and talked about Mendel and Galileo in history of science.

Once back home, we just did some more of those puzzles from Beast Academy.  Lunch, reading, practice piano, then off to piano lesson…etc.

— 2 —

Bill is coming to the US!

bil the movie

Bill is about, in case you didn’t guess, Bill Shakespeare. It’s a comedy made by the Horrible Histories people, released in the UK last year, but of course not on this side. I was waiting until the DVD came out to order (I have a cheap region 2 player I bought specifically for Horrible Histories sets that had not come out in US versions or were not yet streaming at the time.)

Well, Fathom Events, that does those one-(or) two – off movie theater events like The Wizard of Oz  is bringing it over and showing it on April 11 (April being the month of Shakespeare’ birth). Check here to see if it’s playing at a theater near you. 

I’ve joined their mailing list because I am always hearing about these showings the day after they happen. I mean – they showed the Maltese Falcon last week, and I had no idea.


Well, that Popesplaining post really blew up, didn’t it?  The ironic thing is that I didn’t even try to make it blow up – didn’t promote it in any way.  I just had to get the stuff in my head out there, basically because I have work to do and all of these issues were like the Borg and taking over my brain, and I couldn’t think.

And just to clarify – my sense of what popesplaining is is the reflexive reaction that a critic of a critic or questioner of any pope (like this one) to blame the questioner: “Well, that’s awfully Protestant of you!” “Don’t you have any faith in the Holy Spirit?” “You don’t understand what the Pope is trying to do.”  “Try not listening to what the MSM says” or, in the case of some commenters, immediately whipping out the “Francis Hater!” and “Greatest Catholic of All Time!” accusation, attempting to shut down discussion and lazily shoving people in boxes.

It is entirely-totally, and absolutely like the tactics pro-abortion debaters use of answering pro-lifers’ concerns by saying, “You just hate women, that’s all.”


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Currently reading:

"amy welborn"

Notice that it is a real, actual book.

— 5 —

I have a like (not love)/hate relationship with e-books.

I much prefer to read non-fiction via print. I have a bad memory, so when I read non-fiction(mostly history for me), I must constantly flip back and forth to remind myself of who did what and when. It also just feels more solid.

I do appreciate digital books for what they are able to bring me from the past. I am a library rat, and could live in the stacks, so having the Global Stacks From the Beginning of Time at my fingertips is a joy.

But I do love a real book. I really do believe the research that is showing our retention is better when we read from a book – the totality and concreteness of the experience aids memory (how many times have you been able to recall a factoid or aspect of what you’d read by remembering where it was on the page?) I am deeply unimpressed by schools  and systems that brag they have gone “all tablet” or “all digital books.”  That’s not good for learning.

Plus, there’s this.  While I am pretty strict on screen time, they do have it. They don’t have phones, but they have Ipods and use of my Ipad.  (Btw, they are generally only allowed to use either in public spaces in the house, not in their rooms). I give speeches daily on the matter.

But then I started to feel a bit bothered. A great deal of my own reading was happening via my Kindle App on the Ipad. We’d all be in the living room, I’d order screens put away, then I’d take out the Ipad to read. They’d give me the side-eye, I’d offer an excuse.

What was I modeling?

And I also just started to experience a need to resist the screen culture in general.  I don’t have an Iphone, and am not attached to my phone as others are, but still…it’s like a reflex, isn’t it?  Bored? Waiting? Whip out the phone.  It really started to get to me – to see a table full of people at a restaurant, everyone looking at their phones.  Kids coming in to wait on their piano lesson, and the mom immediately handing them each a tablet for the wait.

I do it too, and I’ve decided to try to stop.

So the other day I was waiting for one of my sons to get out of a class at the zoo. There were a bunch of us standing around outside waiting, and every person was on a phone. My hand instinctively went for my jeans pocket. Nope. Don’t. 

It was hard. I studied the trees. I looked at the clouds. I read a few signs over and over. And I kept saying to myself, “Don’t take it out. Don’t take it out.”

Even if I had Tolstoy on the Kindle App (I didn’t), I wanted to leave it be and just be.

The point being, I can’t be an effective witness against screen time if I’m on a screen, even if it is reading a book.  It’s the sign value of the thing.

So yeah, I found a version of Cakes and Ale online (it’s still under copyright, but there was some weird edition that someone had put up legally), and started reading it there, but then when we were at the library the other day, I grabbed it, and well…isn’t it sad that I’m feeling victorious, virtuous and counter-cultural just for reading a real book? 

Like I said…Farenheit 451 was prophetic.


— 6–

Speaking of real books, I have put the picture books on sale – eight bucks apiece, and that includes shipping.  I just have too many, and need to clean out the closet.  So go here and get that First Communion shopping done….or buy gifts for teachers and classrooms…

— 7 —

It’s Friday. Stations day.

A Stations of the Cross for teens:

"amy welborn"

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.

"amy welborn"


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


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Ahhh…one of those weeks.  I never wrote any Daily Homeschool Reports because there was so little “schooling” happening, although plenty of education.  The craziness continues on Friday, but things will calm down next week. So to make up for it, most of these takes will be homeschool-related.

— 2 —

Monday, of course, there was no school of any kind, just playing around here at home.  Tuesday was pretty insane. We started out early, with a two-hour session at a pipe organ, with an organist to introduce M to the instrument to help him discern if lessons are something he’d like to do.  I much prefer piano repertoire to organ, but I nonetheless keep pushing the “When you’re 17, playing a wedding or filling in at Sunday Mass will be a more interesting way to make money than bagging groceries” angle.

We popped home for a bit, did the only book-school-writing stuff of the week – mostly math, as I recall.  Then it was off to boxing. Then a new zoo class – not a homeschool class, but for kids in general – on night zookeeping.  He loved it. This week they took care of the goats. I’m thinking, “Kids on a farm  clean up after goats  without their parents paying for the privilege,” but that’s okay. He adores animals and all he gets to take care of at home is a snake, who is lazy and undemanding, so this is good for him.

Then basketball practice.

Wednesday was an all-day activity, and today was…

– 3—

Comedy of Errors!

The Alabama Shakespeare Festival (located in Montgomery) brought a touring production of an abridged version of the play up to the Alabama School of Fine Arts.  They are performing Friday evening, but did two school performances this week, and we attended on Thursday.

It was a fun production. Set in a jazzy late-40’s/early 50’s world, the plot was slimmed down, but the language wasn’t. A small cast traded off roles, but managed to keep the confusing plot pretty easy to follow. We’d done just a bit of preview beforehand – not as much as I had hoped, but as it turned out, there was really no need.

After the 90-minute performance, the cast gathered on stage to answer questions from the kids, and as usual, it is so heartening to see and hear children and young people enjoy, discuss and draw meaning from Shakespeare – or any challenging work.

Tomorrow is the symphony – some Schubert and Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto.

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Many thanks to the wonderful Kris McGregor of KVSS in Omaha and the Discerning Hearts apostolate, who is doing a daily podcast during Lent in which she reads selections from The Power of the Cross.  OSV took this book out of print not long after Mike died, unfortunately, but Kris, like many others, has found it to be a valuable resource – I’m very grateful to her for sharing it with listeners during this Lent.

As I said, the book is out of print, but you can grab a free e-copy here.

— 5 —

Homeschool article of the week: this very fair and straight-up reported, rather than opined piece in the Christian Science Monitor.  It’s actually on unschooling:

But if the perceived educational advantage of unschooling is one draw for parents, there is often also something else. Many of the parents who decide to home-school want a different lifestyle, one that is not only free of what Holt described as the “factory school” and its perceived shortcomings, but one that rejects all of those 9-to-5 obligations that just make life less fun – and, unschoolers would say, less meaningful. 

This is what Jamie MacKenzie felt not long after her son, Noah, was born. She remembers watching other parents in her well-off town of Andover, Mass., rush from activity to activity, event to event, with both kids and grown-ups overbooked and overstressed.  

“I just knew that wasn’t what I wanted to do,” she says. “As our parenting journey continued, I realized that a lot of our decisions about our values, our health, just the flow of our life, didn’t fit into a normal Monday-through-Friday routine.”

She decided not to return to her well-paying job in education, and instead began a home business with a flexible schedule, selling essential oils. She also decided to keep Noah, now 7, and then her other two children out of school, even though the local school district is considered one of the best in the area. She says her family mostly leans toward unschooling.


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It’s nice to be Catholic and not be bothered by things like this, and in fact, be determined to dig out a  metaphor.

"amy welborn"

Corona…crown. Saints in heaven. Maybe?

It’s not impossible!

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Oh, speaking of books, here’s a short interview I did with Pete Socks of the Catholic Book Blogger on JPII’s Biblical Way of the Cross.

"amy welborn"

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

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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.”

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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:

"amy welborn"

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.

"amy welborn"

There’s also a digital edition in app form.

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


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

"amy welborn"

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

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"amy welborn"

— 2 —

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

"amy welborn"

 – 3—

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

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

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

— 4 —

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

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

— 5 —

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

Quick comment:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— 6 —

Today! St. Frances Xavier Cabrini!

If you ever feel tired…read her story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image source

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

— 7 —

Commercial time!

Advent’s coming! 

Catholic Advent Materials

Bambinelli Sunday!

"bambinelli sunday"

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— 1 —


almost got away without doing pumpkins this year.  I just didn’t mention it, and I also sort of forgot about it, and then Friday evening I started feeling guilty, so I posed the question, “Um…do you all want to carve pumpkins?”

Tragically, they nodded.

So Saturday morning, I set out to see what I could find.  Wal-Mart was all Christmas, with not a pumpkin in sight. Nothing at Aldi. Then I swung by a local super-cut-rate grocery store that I drive by all the time, but have never actually entered – saw a box full of pumpkins outside the door, grabbed three, went inside and found that the store was actually pretty nice. So. There’s that useful discovery.

We don’t have an ample front porch, so someone came up with the genius idea of perching them in this tree-that-should-probably-be-cut-down-before-it-falls-on-my-car.

"amy welborn"

Then trick-or-treating in the rain – one Indiana Jones, one Mayan warrior king.

"amy welborn"

Lots of candy.


— 2 —

Last Friday, Homeschooled 10-year old and I headed back over to Atlanta. The main objective was a Shakespeare for Kids performance of some iteration of Macbeth.

I had, if not high, then at least not low hopes for this, since I’d been told it was geared to K-5th graders.

Well, when we arrived, they announced from the stage that they were psyched to present this for an intended audience of K-3rd graders. Which was too bad, since most of the audience was definitely older than that.

Oh well. It was amusing, although my 10-year old who saw not one but two productions of Macbeth last year on stage (one at this theater, the other in town at Samford University) was obviously a little insulted at being talked down to in such a manner.

Then afterwards to the Aquarium, which…damn. Why can’t I ever remember that the Georgia Aquarium is really not a good value for the $$$$$$$$$$$$ you pay?  I don’t think I’ll forget now – but remind me in three years when I start thinking we should go again.

(If you are aquarium-hankering in the Southeast, go to the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga instead.  It has a lot more exhibits and is far more educational – in a painless way – than that obviously tourist-baiting Georgia place is. Even the Charleston Aquarium is better, I’d say.)

Well, I do like ginormous sea anenomes, so there’s that.

And then some time in Centennial Park.

 "amy welborn"– 3—

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about some of the interesting concerts happening around here – OF COURSE I didn’t make it to any of those (I almost got to the pop-up-opera-at-the-brewery thing but one of my older sons called just as I was circling the block looking for non-existent parking, and so I kept talking to him as I circled and circled…and then finally gave up and went and bought tissues and toilet paper at the Dollar Store.)

But this week I did make it to a performance of a new local early music group called the Highland Consort. 

The performance was free, and held at the Episcopal Church of the Advent downtown.


The program was a November-suitable, requiem-ish, All-Souls-reminiscent program of pieces including “When David Heard” by Thomas Tomkins, Burial Sentences from the Book of Common Prayer composed by William Croft, “O Quam gloriosum” by Tomas Luis de Victoria and the Missa pro Defunctis by Eustache du Caurroy. The last was composed in 1590 for the funeral of Henry IV of France and then performed for the next two centuries as the official Requiem for the kings of France. (from the program notes).

highland consort birmingham

It’s super great that now we can fully, active, and consciously participate now and sing Gather Us In instead.


— 4 —

There are lots and lots and LOTS of homeschooling blogs and pages and thoughts out there.  You really shouldn’t read too many of them, or else you will end up feeling very badly about yourself.

One of the few exceptions to that rule that I’ve made is the Libertarian Homeschooler – there’s not blog, but “only” a Facebook page, and it’s great.  The posts are well-written and deeply considered, as, you can tell, has been the family’s entire homeschooling experience.  This is the sentence that made me go “yes!” today, related to a search for a perhaps-transitional-to-college-school:

“I think they would do very well but I don’t think I could do it to them. Giving them a superficial glance after we’ve spent so many years digging deep. We have tailored their experiences to meet their interests, needs, and capacities instead of state standards and grade requirements.”

If you want to understand the homeschooling movement, and why it’s taking off, especially in the context of test and achievement-obsessed schools….read this. 

— 5 —

In honor of today, November 5, Guy Fawkes Day…here’s a related book review I wrote ages ago for First Things:

As Hogge traces the slow, agonizing path by which the Jesuits were unjustly implicated in the Gunpowder Plot—a path strewn with seemingly minor decisions like hearing a confession, writing a letter, or delaying a journey—the question of equivocation came to the fore. This was the point at which the government’s case against the Jesuits gained its popular force: the accusation that the Jesuits advised and approved the art of “equivocation,” answering questions in a way that would satisfy interrogators but at the same time preserve interior honesty. Being asked, “Are you a priest?” one could answer “No,” meaning, in one’s own mind, “No, I am not a priest of Zeus.” Equivocation was debated among moral theologians, and Garnet himself wrote a treatise in cautious support of it.

The question, answered equivocally or not, that caused the most problems was one that came to be known as the “Bloody Question”: If the pope were to invade England, whom would you support, the pope or the queen? Over time, the Bloody Question took slightly different forms, but the essence remained the same: Whose side are you on?

The truth was that most English Catholics wanted to be on both sides. They were loyal to their country and their monarch, and they also wanted to practice their religion in peace. In the sixteenth century, this was not thought to be possible, of course, as religious toleration was the ideal of neither Church nor state. But as the decades progressed, it became the last best hope of English Catholics. James I manipulated this hope in his effort to cement his succession—and then dashed it with even fiercer enforcement of the Penal Laws, a frustration and turnabout which ultimately inspired the Gunpowder Plot.

— 6 —

Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, who likes Flannery O’Connor and is great for other reasons as well, delivered a brainy speech on religious liberty this evening at Notre Dame. Y’all should read it:

The Church cannot abide quietly while the eclipse of man is presided over by an impoverished temporal order. Thus, the Church understands that the divine mandate to teach includes a service to a society that has shoved aside its own best moments. Put another way, the divine mandate includes a mission to defend the prerogatives of reason, including speculative and contemplative reason. This is a service to reason and to the human person and thus to society, that the Church must, by divine mandate, render. What is needed then, is a robust philosophical discourse fully informed by the theological sources that prevent the reduction of man to product and producer. 

— 7 —

Commercial time!

Advent’s coming! 

Catholic Advent Materials

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

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— 1 —


Here’s an article on the small Charlotte Mason-based private school in our neighborhood that is one of the two schools in town I might be tempted to send my 10-year old to.

I wish all  Catholic school administrators and pastors would read this article and understand that Catholic education could look like this, too. WHY DOESN’T IT. There is a  sizable potential student population for this type of school, Catholic classical schools,  Catholic Montessori schools and so on.  Some of which exist, scattered about the country, but which, in general, are too far outside the box for your basic Catholic school superintendent or pastor to take seriously or not be threatened by. Many people are staying away from Catholic schools, not only because they are open to life, having large families and can’t afford tuition, but also because what they see around them are schools all striving after the same goal: the achievement-oriented Blue Ribbon school with lots of computers and a winning sports program.

Well, guess what. There is an another way..lots of different ways and it is too bad that mainstream Catholic education can’t or won’t see this. The lack of imagination and courage in the Catholic education establishment is discouraging, if not surprising.

A Facebook friend linked to my post on this article and someone wrote on her post that she was sending her child to a local alternative school because all the parish school was doing was bragging about how much homework the kids would have at night.


Family Life?

Maybe we need a ……SYNOD to deal with this!

— 2 —

Formal schooling gripe of the week – and not just mine (for those catching up – I homeschool a 10-year old, older kid is in  HS) , but shared by others whose kids are in other schools as well:

Some of us work really hard to restrict screen time at home.

You’re not helping when the assignments you give necessitate screen time in either the research, the composition, the presentation or the submission.

But…It’s what they’ll need to know in the workforce! 

Nonsense.  They won’t be in the workforce for ten more years, probably, and who knows what they’ll need to know then – and whatever skills specific to their job they’ll need to know? Yeah, they’ll be taught on the job or what they need to know will be transmitted through the diodes fixed in their scalps by the actual office drones.   What they need to know is how to think, how to read and write, and how to problem solve.

Three more years and three quarters to go…..

I might have written last year – not that you remember – about going to an open house at the monastery boarding school up the road. Unfortunately too far for us for day school, and no way we’re doing boarding school – I’m not interested in my 14-year old moving away yet.

Anyway, there was a mom and daughter  at the open house who had traveled from Missouri, the main reason being that they wanted to switch schools now because the school the girl was attending at the moment had gone all I-Pad for all texts and all work.

They knew that wasn’t right.  They knew that wasn’t the best educational practice.

And they wanted to switch…now. 

Research is starting to bear that out – which doesn’t surprise me.  Back when I was in the classroom, ages and ages ago, not a few of the interminable in-services we had to attend concerned differing learning styles, and it was continually emphasized to us that learning happened best when as many learning styles as possible were engaged, including kinetic – that is, learning styles which find physicality helpful.  And so we are learning, it is true – the act of holding a book, turning pages, associating the information on the page with a physical place in the book, in the universe, is helpful.  The act of writing, for whom that act is not burdensome (and it is for some, I know, and for them keyboards are a Godsend), helps reinforce retention and is an aid to creativity.  More and more  professors are banning laptops and other electronic devices from the classroom not only because their absence (not surprisingly) helps their students be more engaged, but also because physically taking notes, and the synthesizing that that process requires (as opposed to the taking-dictation-mode that a decent typist can bring to the job) helps, again, in retention and understanding.

So no, don’t tell me about your high-tech school …

— 3—

Oooh! The Gif posts were popular !

Well, I was going to follow up on Monday, but I was so exhausted – in every way – by the whole wretched Synod Scene and a super fast trip back and forth to Charleston that I easily found better things to do with my time.

"amy welborn"

When you don’t feel like a miserable failure of a homeschooler because your son thinks it would be amusing to leave this in a dresser drawer in the hotel room. 

Speaking of Charleston (where we have family), this time we discovered the very small, but FREE Mace Brown Natural History Museum.  It’s on Calhoun Street, just a couple of blocks down from King Street, on the second floor of a College of Charleston building.  As I said, it’s small – really just one quarter of a floor – but it’s got a lot of good fossil specimens and situates them very well in the context of the Southeast.  So if you are in Charleston, especially with kids, consider it – it’s open 11-4 during the week, but check the hours before you go.

"amy welborn"

— 4 —

The main “better thing” is a project, and yeah, I indeed need to be working on that instead of scouring the Internet for amusing Veep gifs that match up to the irony of bishops who are Supposed to Be Smelling Like Their Sheep in an Environmentally Responsible Creation-Lovin’ Way instead burning carbon credits like crazy on flights to Rome and spending a month away from their Sheep in order to vote on a document that says “Families Are Good” and “Families Need Support.”

But -hey, Sheep – they’re back!

 Introducing Selina’s running mate and the new Veep,  Mr. Hugh Laurie.

So we’re good!

— 5 —

Oh, wait! Did I overstep my boundaries? In talking about that Synod thing?

Because I only have an MA in Church History so that means I sure don’t have a Ph.D. or STL or what have you, so I probably should just shrink back into my proper place.


Eh. It’s not the New York Times here, so no one w̶i̶l̶l̶ ̶b̶e̶ ̶j̶e̶a̶l̶o̶u̶s̶ ̶o̶r̶ ̶r̶e̶s̶e̶n̶t̶f̶u̶l̶  cares.


— 6 —

But do you know what? Here’s the thing.

I have been writing these book things for fifteen years now (The Loyola Kids Book of Saints and Prove It! God were the first two, written in 2000), and most of them, with a couple of exceptions have been assignments.  That is, a publisher has contacted me and said, “Hey, we need a book on >>>>>>>. Would you write it?” (The exceptions are Here. Now. and The Words We Pray).  Almost every time I’ve said yes, because what I have felt is that in request from a publisher, God is responding to me.  Every suggested project has been on a topic that I needed to be exploring at that very moment. My research, the process of writing, the reflection on that given topic seemed to answer the questions central to my life at the time.

So it is with this current project, which, among other subjects, involves St. Catherine of Siena.

Okay. Thanks, God!

Really delving into her life and writings in a way that I never have before is giving me the opportunity to make some connections, to think in honest, tough and critical ways about the current modes of thinking and discourse prevalent in Catholicism, as well as the chance to reflect on the crazy, curious history of the Church and the role all of us  – lay, ordained and religious, educated or simply wise and experienced – have to play in that history.

— 7 —

Commercial time!

Advent’s coming! 

Catholic Advent Materials

Also…All Saints’ Day…are you ready?

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

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