Posts Tagged ‘Joseph Dubruiel’

Time flies so quickly, doesn’t it?  Two weeks ago, I was getting ready for us to travel to Germany.  A week ago, I was in Germany, getting ready to leave, and now, here I am.

Traveling – hours and hours on the plane, the stress of making connections – gives us plenty to complain about, but I confess when I am in the midst of it, I try hard not to do so.  I’m still so bowled over by the reality of waking up on one side of the ocean and going to sleep on the other that in my soul, I really don’t think I have the right to complain (much) about an inconvenience here or there.

(And there were a couple…the lesson is, I suppose, with all of these code-shared flights now, just make sure, if there are changes made, that they are made across the board. What happened, in short, was that a couple of weeks before we left, I noticed that our final Atlanta-Birmingham leg had been changed.What? Why? I don’t know, but it had been changed so that we would be sitting in the Atlanta airport for SIX HOURS waiting to connect to come home. The original flight still existed and there were seats, but we weren’t on it anymore. Weird. . So I called Air France – which was where the communication on which I’d noted this change had come from – and it was changed back.  The customer service rep had no idea why my original reservation had been changed, and worked hard to fix it. All was well until we arrived at the Munich airport last Sunday.  I guess…we weren’t on the plane.  We were but we weren’t? I never really understood. For a few minutes it was iffy, but I wasn’t worried because, well, I knew we’d get home eventually, and if it was later…oh well.  I was curious as to why it happened though, and the explanation I got was that since the change had been made with Air France, it hadn’t gotten into the Delta or KLM system. That seems….odd. What are you supposed to do, call all three every time you need to make a change? Anyway, it worked out, and we got home just fine.)

Random notes:

  • The weather was great.  I had anticipated being frozen, and indeed, had inquired of a skiing friend here  about the possibility of borrowing some of her outerwear.  I’m glad I didn’t end up doing so, for in the end, what we had was more than adequate.  I stepped off the train in Garmisch, expecting to shiver, but the fact was, I had to take my coat off.  Immediately. The highs were in the 50’s every day we were there except for the last one, it never rained, – and yes, we froze in Munich, but again…we were in Munich!  And we could go inside when we needed to! No complaints.
  • I have never been a fan of German food.  I don’t hate it, but nor do I love it, and I wasn’t particularly looking forward to the food part of the trip, and, as usual, I wondered how the boys would deal.  Well, I should have remembered that every country seems to have its version of the “pounded, breaded and fried cutlet” so yes, it was Schnitzel almost every meal for them, and that was fine.  For our sit-down dinners, I ended up with an excellent pork roast once, a great salad one night and that lovely Turkish meal.  The other nights we ended up snacking on cured meats and cheeses, for the most part.  I had a good goulash soup for lunch in Oberammergau and for our first meal, my daughter took us to her favorite doner kebab shop in Garmisch.  At other meals, the boys had brats or pizza.  But seriously – schnitzel in Germany, chicken Milanese in Italy….they even unearthed it on a menu in this seafood place in Progreso, Mexico earlier this year – and loved it so much, they ordered seconds. (That was a crazy meal.  It was the best food we had in Mexico, and it was fantastic, and it was a lot, and I paid 14 bucks for it all.)
  • I have no background in the German language at all, and was mildly irritated by the fact that I couldn’t look at signs and such and sort out the meaning, as I generally can with Romance languages.  It’s just a whole lot of consonants to me.  Oh, I know, it makes sense.  Someone explained the logic of German to me – words are just added to in order to make new words? Or something?  I will say, though, that all those amusing videos about the purported harshness of German seem to me to be rather unfair now –  hearing it spoken all around me for a week, it came across as much gentler than I expected.
  • All the public transportation ran like clockwork.  We rode buses all around Garmisch – had a free traveler’s pass – and trains from Munich and back, and a train to Innsbruck. My daughter says it’s so prompt that if a bus or train is, by some chance, late, she gets worried that someone died.


Read Full Post »

Well, we’re back, and already super busy, so a quick wrap-up.

Saturday morning, we all (including my daughter) took the train up to Munich.  We’d be flying out on Sunday morning, she’d go back to her home in the south at the same time.

We arrived in Munich about 10:30, found our hotel, checked our bags, and set out into the very cold Munich morning. That day was the coldest we’d experienced – including our time on the Zugspitze, it felt at times. I didn’t have big plans for the day, which is good, since it was so cold, our program  quickly evolved into: Walk in one direction, duck into a warm place, venture out again, walk…find warmth. Now. 

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

What did we see?  The lovely architecture of the very clean city of Munich. Mobs of people.  By early evening, the streets were more crowded and challenging to navigate than Times Square.

The New Town Hall – with the glockenspiel wedding feast revolving at noon, and then carolers at 5:30.

"amy welborn" "amy welborn"

Christkindl markets everywhere. More sausages, schnitzel and gluhwein.

"amy welborn" "amy welborn"

The Medieval Market:

"amy welborn"

We eventually found our way to the Alte Pinkothek Museum, much of which was under renovation, but the open sections of which had some wonderful works of late Medieval and Renaissance art. It was warm, too.

The major task after that was to find Mass.  We would be leaving too early in the morning to go on Sunday, and I really didn’t want to wait until Birmingham at 6pm to go. I had attempted to find Saturday evening Masses in Munich before we left, but without real conviction, since I didn’t know the city and didn’t know where we’d be in the early evening.  I just rested my hopes on the fact that there are lots of Catholic churches in Munich, and the odds are that we’d be near one or two of them around 5 or 6 o’clock.

And we were – St. Peter’s Church, the oldest parish in Munich. 

Mass celebrated ad orientem, Communion at the altar rail – some received kneeling, others standing.  The music was marvelous.  A male schola sang, mostly a cappella. There was little chant and no Latin, but the music was solid, substantive German liturgical music. It just shows, I supposed, what “inculturation” can mean when there’s, you know, an actual culture to build on.

We got some pizza for the boys, and then headed back to the hotel.  My daughter and I would eat at the Thai restaurant I said I’d seen across the street from the hotel. What? No German food? Well….I’d been eating German food all week.  My daughter lives in Germany. I figured she’d appreciate a change, and she agreed.

Trouble was….it wasn’t a Thai restaurant I’d seen.  It was a Thai grocery.  

So now, at 8:40 pm, we are faced with the task of finding an open restaurant outside the city center. Not as easy as it sounds in Munich.  We walked down one street, then another, found a couple of Italian restaurants which didn’t interest us, passed another small Christkindl market, saw a McDonald’s in the distance, shuddered, and then, in the nick of time, found a tiny little Turkish restaurant called TuDoRa…and it was great. 

Marvelous server. Other customers who greeted each other warmly with hugs and great shouts of joy. A fellow who picked the lute on display off the wall and started to play.

The menu was in Turkish, so I asked the waitress to recommend something.  She asked me if I preferred meat or vegetables, and I said the latter,so she brought me a lovely plate of grilled and wrapped things, brought my daughter falafel,and it was all quite wonderful – one of the best meals I had in Germany.


We got ourselves up the next morning, arrived at the airport in plenty of time, took off at 9:45 am (Munich time), and were in Atlanta by 2 (Eastern) where we watched a drug dog at the Atlanta baggage claim dig into a wrapped-up box owned by a man who looked like a cross between Owen Wilson and Dolph Lungren and who told the agent that the box contained what everyone brings from Munich – herbal tea bags and whole chili peppers.

And then back in Alabama by 4, where we were driven home by a taxi driver with an 18-inch monitor propped up in the front passenger seat, on which he was watching the NFL.  While driving.

Welcome home!

Read Full Post »

The main activity of the day was a hike through, above and down around the Partnach Gorge. 

First, we rode the bus to the Olympic ski stadium  – Garmisch-Partenkirchen.  Hitler forced the two towns to consolidate in order to strengthen his bid to host the 1936 Winter Olympics in the area – there weren’t enough hotel rooms in either one alone. It worked.  The town was to host the 1940 Games as well, but of course starting World War II ended that idea.

"amy welborn"

You walk around to the right, and start walking up a road/path. Past goats.

"amy welborn"

Past this.

"amy welborn"

By then, you’re walking by flowing water, and before too long you arrive at a ticket booth, where you pay a few Euros, and start walking through the gorge, which gets deeper (or higher) as you go on.  It’s quite something, and I’d also love to see it in the winter.

"amy welborn" "amy welborn" "amy welborn"

Most people get through and then retrace their steps, but at my daughter’s advice, we took a rather strenuous twenty-minute hike up the mountain, where we stopped, had a snack at the restaurant up top, saw the hotel that’s being constructed, and then started back down another way that took us across the Gorge this time.

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

This picture cannot in any way do the height justice.  I’m usually pretty okay with heights, but this was a little….high.

"amy welborn"

Can’t capture the scale from this angle and with my camera.

And then back down, back past the goats, then back here to shop, pack up, eat, pack up some more, and get ready…..

"amy welborn"

Waiting for the bus at the Ski Stadium.

Read Full Post »

Today was Innsbruck day.  My daughter was working, and she’s already been once, so it was good day for us to go.

We originally thought we’d take the bus.  Daughter said it was cheap, faster than the train and there was free wi-fi.  But when I finally got around to looking up tickets, the soonest we could leave was noon.  It turned out that the train, while a little longer (about 80 minutes) was just a euro more expensive total, round trip for us.

So, after returning the rental car…

(what preceded returning said rental car? Well….getting car out of the overnight parking lot under a grocery store down the street, taking daughter to her workplace/residence, remembering…”OH! GAS!”…finding a gas station, figuring out the pump and what kind of gas, filling up, returning the car, walking back to the apartment, grabbing breakfast pastries….all by 9 am)

….we walked to the train station, bought tickets, found our train at the platform, and settled in.

So what to do in Innsbruck?

Yes, there are a few things to do – there are historic sites, nice churches, Olympics things (although the ski jump is closed for the season…not that we’d jump, but I guess you can go see it and maybe there’s a museum) and an Old Town section…the first thing on our docket was…

…the zoo.

I’d read about it last night, but not mentally committed to it until we pulled into Innsbruck.  I’d not mentioned it to anyone, either, until someone finally asked, “Hey.  What are we going to do in Innsbruck, anyway?”

So yes, there’s the difference between traveling with kids and without.  I just felt, at that moment, for that afternoon, the leg-stretching and freedom afforded by a zoo visit was important.

It’s the Alpenzoo, and it’s fairly interesting, the population being composed only of Alpine animals.  Plus, it’s built on the side of a mountain, lending not only authenticity, but…exercise.

"amy welborn"

The views were spectacular.

"amy welborn"

The structure to the left-center – the large cobra-like thing? The Olympic ski jump (1964 & 1976)

"amy welborn" "amy welborn"

You can get there any number of ways. It’s not far from the city, so you can certainly walk it, especially in this part of the world where people out for an evening stroll do so with walking sticks in hand. You can take the bus, but you can also take the funicular – so we did.

"amy welborn"

The funicular station as seen from the zoo entrance.

"amy welborn"

The funicular descending.

(The funicular continues up to the top of this mountain, and we considered doing that, but by the time we finished at the zoo, it was 3pm, we’d already done the Zugspitze anyway, so…nah.)

"amy welborn" "amy welborn" "amy welborn"

(Not shown: a lynx up in a tree, wolves, a bear, beavers, bison, otters, various other mountain goat creatures and lots of birds, newts, salamanders and such. Marmosets were hibernating.)

For the rest of our time, we strolled around the Christkindl Markets – Innsbruck has several, spread through the Old Town. The boys ate schnitzel, I had a cup of guhlwein, we walked.

"amy welborn"

I was intrigued by the juxtaposition of imagery…the Blessed Virgin , a steak house and Geox…

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn" "amy welborn" "amy welborn"

Part of the town was decorated with these rather odd, sometimes creepy and crudely-made fairy and folk-tale reliefs.  Along with light projections.

"amy welborn" "amy welborn" "amy welborn" "amy welborn" "amy welborn"

It’s a great atmosphere, although about 99% secular. I also learned that my expectations of finding unique hand-made items at a Christmas market were, at least in this case…way off.

"amy welborn"

But if I was looking for a cannoli-like thing almost as big as my head…they had me covered.

"amy welborn"

Read Full Post »

Now, I have no huge interest in the castles of poor mad King Ludwig II, but I thought…can we really be this close (30 minutes from Linderhof, an hour from the other two major ones)  and not see any of them?  I mean, didn’t almost everyone who knew we were coming this way ask, “Oh, are you going to see the castles?”

So today was the day.  The journey to see all three of them plus Oberammergau in a single day is beyond the capabilities of public transportation, so I began the day at the local Avis being nicely but firmly informed that I was very lucky they had a car in stock for me, and witnessing the most careful, thorough pre-rental vehicle inspection I’ve ever witnessed in the five countries in which I’ve rented.

But as has been the case in all of those countries, I drove away realizing that once again, I hadn’t bothered to glance at the “road signs” section of the guidebook.

"amy welborn"

So this was the route.  Doubled, because once we got down to Neuschwanstein, we had to return the same way.  There’s another route between that area and Garmisch, but it requires you to go through Austria.  Germany doesn’t require an IDP (International Driving Permit – easy to get at AAA, but I didn’t bother this time), but Austria does…so I had to stay away from Austria lest there be an International Incident.

First stop, barely 30 minutes from Garmisch, was the Ettal Monastery – an enormous Benedictine structure that now houses a boys’ high school.  Our first taste of some hard core Bavarian Baroque.

"amy welborn"

I particularly liked the images on the penitents’ sides of the confessionals, clearly meant to provoke thought and scrape consciences.  Now that I think about it…I wonder if there were also images in the confessors’ sections….

"amy welborn" "amy welborn"

Makes you think…..

The mist was rapidly thickening.

"amy welborn"

Not far from Ettal, we took the turn to Linderhof, which was Ludwig’s favorite castle and the one in which he spent the most time.  We took a tour, which was an excellent decision – the lovely older German guide shifted easily between German and English – plus we all had folders with details about the rooms written in our own language.  No photos inside, of course, but Ludwig’s obsession with the Bourbons comes through loud and clear in this (very) mini-Versailles.  No portraits of Ludwig or his family, but every room, in addition to crazy layers of gilted woodwork, thick, luxurious 3-d embroidery and porcelain..everything…featured portraits of Bourbons or images of Versailles.

"amy welborn" "amy welborn"

If we’d gone in the summer, we’d have seen the place in serious action, with fountains going and so on, but this is November, so….

….to Oberammergau, where…we hardly spent any time aside from lunch.  It was fairly dead. Yes, there were shops open, but most weren’t and neither the Passion Play museum nor one of the major woodcarving exhibits were open, and the one shop we went into had such crazy prices (30 E for a little owl I have no doubt took about 15 minutes to carve), I lost interest.

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

This was outside one of the shops, evoking, I imagine, the days when Oberammergau folk crossed Europe, selling their town’s work.

"amy welborn"

So it was on to Wieskirche.  

Plopped out in the middle of nowhere, and by the time we arrived, enshrouded in fog – to the extent that we didn’t even see it until we’d walked right up to it – it’s a pilgrimage church built around a statue of the scourged Christ that purportedly wept tears.  Another stunning example of Bavarian Baroque.

"amy welborn"

By that time it was three, and the mist/fog was obviously heavy.  Should we even bother with the other castles?  I was torn, the rest of the crew was good either way, so I thought, well, what else do we have to do?  So we ventured forth.

By the time we arrived, the last tour tickets had been sold, but we decided to hike up the hill anyway just to see what we could see.

"amy welborn"

You know? It was worth it.  No, it wasn’t that perfect Neuschwanstein image we all know and which supposedly inspired Walt Disney, but there was something about it, anyway.  There was something about the rather strenuous hike up the hill which we took while everyone else – mostly Asian tourists – were streaming down. And there was something about seeing what little we could make out – we could stll comprehend its massiveness, perched up there on the mountain, and having heard all about the sad, delusional king earlier in the day, we could connect some more dots and ponder once again the selfish folly that we humans are subject to..no matter who we are…building castles in the air…..why?

"amy welborn"

Read Full Post »

The highest point in Germany….
"amy welborn" "amy welborn"

When I got up and looked out the window, the mountains looked to be encased in mist, so I thought it would be a bad day for visibility. I was puzzled, however, by the fact that the webcams at the top of the mountain showed good visibility.  I decided to believe my eyes, so up we went…and what I’d seen in the morning became obvious.

"amy welborn"

Sledding."amy welborn" "amy welborn" "amy welborn" "amy welborn" "amy welborn"

Don’t forget to show that the dog was here, too.
"amy welborn"

A cross at the summit, as there often (if not always) is.

Read Full Post »

You know what’s nice about when your kids head out and start exploring the world?

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn" "amy welborn" "amy welborn" "amy welborn"

You can go visit them.

Read Full Post »

As noted elsewhere…we’re back. I hadn’t realized it had been so long since I’ve posted here. Sorry!

— 1 —

Reentry has been good.  My house survived and I’m actually sort of shocked about it..  I love my neighborhood, but it has its share of break-ins to both homes and cars. (And I don’t have a garage)  I’m on the neighborhood email list, and every morning while I was away, I would open the digest of messages with great trepidation, wondering if I was going to read one regarding that house on ______ …anyone notice how the front door’s been broken in? Isn’t anyone living there? And what happened to the car that used to be there?

Phew.  Never happened.

— 2 —

The question of continued homeschool remained open until the last minute.  My older son was firm about it. He was good with continuing at home.  The second grader was on the fence, however. The issue was sacramental prep.  He’s in 2nd grade, so it’s That Year, and he really didn’t want to go to PSR. (I didn’t feel the need to push, ‘I MUST HOMESCHOOL MY CHILD FOR FIRST RECONCILIATION AND EUCHARIST AND NO ONE ELSE MAY TEACH HIM ABOUT IT” at all. I mean – at all.  Our parish is very sound and the catechesis is good, and sacraments are about communion with, you know, the Body of Christ – the whole body.)  He didn’t think he knew anyone there, though, and it was all just new to him. So for that reason – and that reason alone – he was saying, “Back to school” for most of the trip. Until, of course, a couple of days before our return, seconds after I pressed “send” on the email to the principal setting up a meeting for his re-enrollment.  Of course.  I told him what I’d done and he said, all shocked at my cluelessness, “Oh, I want to keep being homeschooled.”

I gave him a couple of days – until our return – and he stayed firm.  He got a little nervous Sunday morning, but as it turns out, he did know a couple of children in PSR after all, and we also scored a spot in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd section – the “Atrium” – and since they do Atrium as part of religion class in school, it’s also something he’s used to.

So he’s good.

— 3 —

Still feeling our way on the homeschooling thing, though.  It’s going well (I think).  Right now, we are being pretty formal with math and grammar, as we have been.  History/science/art/geography have all been related to the trip and religion has been related to the trip and the liturgical year.  We’ll keep on that track for the next couple of weeks, but in January, I’m going to change it up a bit, since I know for sure we’re on this particular track at least until next fall and I have no need to keep up with or follow what the school is doing.  We will add more writing for both of them, more systematic religion and science and Latin.  I studied Latin through the second year of college, and I enjoyed it, so I’m confident about teaching it.  Famous last words.

— 4 —

While I’m not a true unschooler, I also know I could never, ever do a formal, complete curriculum, either.

Given Alabama state laws (very relaxed – all that is required is an attendance report – no testing, etc), there is no need, and for me, trying to live by one total curriculum would sort of defeat the reason for homeschooling.   In a way, as I said before, I almost feel as if I am cheating at this.  Other people – wonderful school teachers – did the hard work with these boys.  They taught them to write and helped them learn to read and taught them the basics of math and just…doing school.   I just strew interesting books around the house, work with them on math for a bit and help them find ways to get their zillion questions a day answered (Why did they build the Great Wall of China? How long is it? Where’s Luxor? What’s there? Why is it famous? What’s carbon monoxide?  Who’s the Greek version of Vulcan? What’s bedrock? – and that’s just from about fifteen minutes this morning.).

And they give me no problems at all about any of it. It’s too easy.

More famous last words.

— 5 —

So this week’s schooling has involved:

For the 6th grader: Reviewing math on his own.  He had worked through chapter 10 of his math book (the one they use in school, since he might be returning) by the end of October, and then took a break, since we were doing quite a bit of moving around in November.  At that point, I just sent most of the school books back with my Birmingham friend who had visited us in Paris, anyway.  So he’s reviewing a math chapter a day, supplemented by a few extra review worksheets per chapter.  He’s also continuing in his class’s vocabulary workbook.  He’s working on grammar using this book.  He’s doing a review/more intense study of Roman history to take him to the end of 2012, taking more time with Julius Caesar than he was able when we were over in Europe.

2nd grader basically finished the 2nd grade math curriculum back in early October.  So since then we’ve been introducing multiplication concepts and tables.  This week, I flipped through the workbook to see what needed reinforcement, so yesterday, we worked on basic fractions, first on paper.  Then I had him go get a bunch of Legos and show me whatever he wanted to about fractions using the Legos –  so ¼ of this set of Legos are gray and ¾ are brown – and so on.  Today we worked on time on paper, and then using this Ipad app.

(I wrote that yesterday.  Today was more of the same, plus him reviewing his 3’s & 4’s times table with ditalini pieces grouped on the table, and then all of the times tables up to 4 with flash cards and this app.)

He does grammar using this book for now, and is almost finished.   And then when he’s done with all of that, he goes and reads from the stack of thirty books on ancient history we got from the library the other day.

Next week, we’re going to start going through all of our trip photos and pamphlet/booklet type of materials I picked up along the way and do a “review” that will, I hope, reinforce the geography, history, art and religion we encountered along the way..that should take us till the end of the year..

— 6 —

Field trips!  It’s been beautiful this week, so once our couple of hours of school is done, there’s no reason to sit at home.  Tuesday, we went to the Sloss Furnaces. If you have ever even driving through Birmingham, you’ve seen the imposing stacks east of downtown – one of the first and most important iron-producing furnaces here, fundamental to the city’s origins, shut down in the early 70’s.   We drive by it all the time, but had only been there once before – to a performance of A Midsummer’s Night Dream there a couple of years ago.

"amy welborn"

It’s a fascinating visit, introduced by an serviceable  short (10 minutes or so) video and assisted by a helpful pamphlet, you can just wander amid the stacks and blowers and even in a tunnel and atop a train car.

"amy welborn"

Then yesterday we traveled a little further away – about an hour to Cherokee Rock Village.  It’s a very interesting formation of rocks, evidently and understandable popular with climbers.  It was good for wandering and exploring, although my daredevil’s daredevilishness made it unwise for me to just let them run wild.  He will be one of those rockclimbers someday, but not until he’s much older and when I don’t have to be around to watch him.

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

Birmingham isn’t Atlanta, but it is decent -sized, with a good cultural and natural opportunities.  One of my older kids, upon seeing my FB posts this week, said, “Why can’t you guys just stay at home?”  Well, we do.  And once school is done…and the weather’s nice…why not go out for a few hours??

— 7 —

…and there’s basketball and scouts and PSR and serving at Mass, so we’re busy enough. But, I’m relieved to say, not busy with meaningless crap and busy work. Let me amend that. At least any meaningless crap we do is my fault and my fault alone. As I “reasoned” months ago when I was inching towards this decision, “Well, if they’re going to waste time, they might as well waste time at home, and without me paying money for the privilege.”

There’s a sacrifice on my part. Not a huge sacrifice, but it’s there. For an introvert who’s accustomed to having her weekdays to herself to work, having absolutely no breaks is a sacrifice. I haven’t quite worked out exactly how I’m going to work, and there is work to be done. I used to be able to write at night, but I’m finding it more and more difficult to focus at night these days. I think I’m just going to have to do a massive shift in personal habits and start going to bed earlier and rising a couple of hours before everyone else. I never, ever thought I would say that – being a night owl and all – but the few times I’ve managed it the last couple of weeks, I’ve felt my former morning-phobic self slip away and I’ve actually gotten stuff done.

Read Full Post »

"amy welborn"

Promise and swear this isn’t staged.  I had the book in the backpack, and we took it out to review Clovis because there’s a statue of St. Clotilde in the Luxembourg Gardens.  M. grabbed it and walked along reading it. In fact, he got irritated when I took his photo. 

Side note/rant:  European children’s books are so much sharper, in general, than those published in the US.  Frustrating because they’re so nice, but we really do much better in English than French. 

So, yes, how is it going?

Fairly well, I guess, although not as organized as I had hoped.  Although it’s not over yet, so, there’s still time for reform.

We do math and vocab/spelling curricula from their school back home to which they may or may not return.  Thought it would be good to stick with those in case they do return. They are both way ahead of their respective classes in those subjects at the moment, and relish being able to forge ahead and work at their own paces.  We do this grammar.   For reading they, er, read books.

Science, art, history and religion are ad hoc, although the latter will get more organized soon.  As I indicated, it’s not as organized as I whole as I had hoped, and my hope for organization lies in my concern about retention.  Don’t tell me, “Oh, they’ll just absorb it all” – because, well, they don’t.  We don’t. You have to have a context in which to remember what you “learn.”  For most of us, it just doesn’t stick without some effort. Nothing sticks with me unless I turn around and teach it or I write about it.  So they journal.  Under duress sometimes, but it happens.  We have a notebook of “Saints of France” that’s growing as we encounter and learn.  We have this “History Through the Ages” notebook which is like the Charlotte Mason “Book of Centuries,” but prettier.   We’ve been reading through the pertinent parts of The Story of the World.  At every historical site we visit, I purchase a guidebook, and we read through it during and after the visit. Slowly, it’s all coming sort of, kind of together.

Every day is basically full of questions.  I bought an Ipad with a data plan specifically for this trip.  I find the thing useless for work myself, but it does come in handy – more than that – not only for Google Maps (no update to IOS6 for me!) when I’ve emerged from a Metro station, totally at sea as to what direction is where, but also for helping to answer the  429 questions a day that come up as we’re walking around.

  • How many kilometers are in a mile again
  • What’s 14 degrees celsius?
  • Why is it so rainy here all the time?
  • How do the Metro trains run?
  • Who was St. Clotilde?
  • What does Montmartre mean?
  • Who is this Clemenceau in this big statue?
  • What does “d’accord” mean? Why do people say it all the time?

And in the past few days, we’ve deepened our knowledge about Napoleon Bonaparte at Les Invalides, where we also saw so much armor, I have now excused myself from ever having to take anyone to a knights/armor exhibit ever again, anywhere.  Seriously.  It was ridiculous.  We’ve read about St. Vincent de Paul, St. Louise de Marillac and St Catherine Laboure – and prayed in the presence of their relics.  Today we stood in front of St. Joseph de Carmes, where scores of priests were slaughtered – the September martyrs of 1791.   (I couldn’t figure out to get in – but we will return. St. Frederick Ozanam is buried there, too.) Every day, the outline of French history gets a bit more filled in. Gauls…Franks…Charlemagne…monarchs…revolution…Napoleon…wars… We’ve seen – among others –  Les Nympheas, The Thinker, The Burghers of Calais, and a fantastic Soutine exhibit.  We’ve learned to ask for our hamburgers well done or else they might be a little, well, gooey in the middle.

Every day, we encounter new (to us) ways of doing things,  we discover that different is fine and interesting and that with a little bit of patience and attention, we can figure things out, no problem.

It’s something that we’re fortunate to be able to do right now, and I don’t take it for granted. Nor do I take for granted that it will all stick or that it’s sufficient. We’ll be back home eventually, and it will be good, with more space to be more organized about things like science and more disciplined about writing, reading more classical selections in a systematic way, not to speak of their own interminable building projects and Scouts and basketball and exploring more of our own area.  This? This is great, and I’m grateful to be able to do this odd kind of learning on the run that we happen to be doing right now.

"amy welborn"


Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: