Catholic Homeschooling

Building a Culture

My life seems like a complicated musical composition sometimes.  Themes rise and fall then are repeated again and again with subtle variations.  One of the themes that keeps repeating is that of “building a new culture”.  I hear it strongly at times, then it fades to the background.  It is the answer to questions of my life “Why classics?” or “Why theology?” or “Why Catholic?” and even “Why homeschool?”.   There are many answers to these questions, but one of the answers is “I am helping build a new culture.”


I read this article today by Andew Klavan and it fits with this theme of building a new culture  that is playing so loudly  in my world at the moment.  I am also reading “The Restoration of Christian Culture” by  John Senior, planning next year’s homeschool lists,  we recently watched “Prince Caspian”  and I have found myself in some really interesting conversations lately which all bring this theme to the fore.

Andrew Klavan does a good job of making a very breif case against Holliwood culture, but he stops short.  I do not think the case can be made against the culture without including the education system that feeds it and I don’t think a new culture can rise until the education of the next generation is wrested from the current intreanched intrests that dominated it.

Our schools are turning out vast numbers of adults who are taught to base their judgements on how something makes them feel.   This is why homeschooling becomes so important.  Parents have to be responsible for their children’s education.  We need to produce children who can think deeply and understand new concepts within a context of history and culture.  We need to raise children with attention spans that are longer than the average insect’s.  We have to step off the cultural treadmill and not be afraid to be very, very different.  From this we will inevitably see new art, music, and literature flow.    Then we can hope to sway culture back – or we will at least be out of the que when the lemmings go off the cliff.

My world

Act of Contrition

Hannah’s first confession is on Saturday.  This is a big event for her and she is excited about it.  She worked very hard to get her Act of Contrition memorised for CCD yesterday.  Nothing like waiting to the last moment to push things into high gear, but she did it.  Christopher was the ideal big brother working with her in the car all the way from here to Holy Rosary.  He would read it slowly and she would say it back.  He was patient, kind and supportive – can I cross my fingers and say that he might be maturing a wee bit?


The Simple Woman’s Daybook – April 20, 2009

The Simple Woman’s Daybook
is hosted by Peggy at The Simple Woman’s Daybook

Thank you Peggy.

FOR TODAY : April 20, 2008

Today is a beautiful spring day.  The sky is  blue, the air is warm,  flowers are blooming everywhere. The cherry tree is in full bloom.

Outside my Window – The cherry tree is in bloom, Ashley mowed the grass Saturday so the lawn looks nice.  We had a fire in the fire pit last night.

I am thinking – Mostly about plans for next year.  I have Christopher’s curriculum laid out and I am putting books in.    I think it will be a good year.

From the learning rooms – This week for me is planning for next year.  For the kids it is the  usual week.

I am thankful for- Our zoo membership.  We had a lovely day at the zoo last Thursday.

From the kitchen – Taco casserole for dinner.  I need to go shopping again.

I am reading – I  am sort of dead ended right now.

I am hoping – That I can get this week refocused from the last few weeks.

I am creating – Hannah’s first communion dress.  This is the big project for the next week or so.

I am hearing – Nothing except the hard drive hum.

Around the house – This weekend I planted some flowers.  I have some more work to do outside.  I need to do some reorganising.

One of my favorite things – My new bike.  I am still really fond of my bike.  It is a lot of fun.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week – I am still playing catch up in so many ways.  maybe I will just stop calling it catch-up.  Catch-up implies that I think I should have more done, and while I do I am not sure I want that extra pressure.


I Dreamed a Dream

This is all the rage on the internet.  I saw it first on a friend’s Facebook page and then spent the rest of the afternoon listening to, reading about, and just being in awe of Susan Boyle.  (you really have to click through to listen to this if you haven’t already — embedding is disabled for the YouTube vids of her.)

I wasn’t going to blog on this, but then I read a little more about this lady and was given a reason.  She is the youngest of nine children.  Her own dreams were set aside while she cared for her ill mother.

From the news:

As details of her life emerge, Boyle’s story only becomes more unlikely. The youngest of nine children, she lives alone with her cat, Pebbles. She spent years taking care of her mother, who recently died, and she lives in a government-subsidized home. She always wanted to sing in front of a large audience. but mostly she just sings in church.

On Easter Sunday, the day after her television debut, Boyle – dubbed “the woman who shut up Simon Cowell” in one headline – received a standing ovation when she went to Mass.

“We let out a wee bit of a cheer for her. We are quite proud of her,” Boyle’s parish priest, Ryszard Holuka, said in a telephone interview.

He added that Boyle is a “quiet soul” who doesn’t “flaunt herself.” He described her as “understated” and never “pushy.”

“At gatherings and anniversary parties, she’d stand up and give a song,” he said. “She never flaunted her voice; this is the first time it’s been publicly recognized.”

From all the accounts I have seen she is just a quite person who has led a quiet life.  Apparently she made a promise to her mother to try and do something for herself, and that promise and the urging of friends led her to do the unexpected and go onto a TV talent show.

The song she selected to perform was I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserables.  It is a haunting piece, regrets of dreams lost and the cruel inevitability of the passage of time.  It was almost like she (or the producer that selected the piece, I have no idea how the show works) was creating the perfect set-up for the judges and audience.

You can seen in the judges’ and the audience’s  faces that they were full ready to heap scorn and ridicule on this frumpy old spinster who dared to dream of being as famous as Elaine Paige –ironic that more Americans now know Susan Boyle than knew Ms Paige four days ago.   Then she began to sing and by the end of the third line the house was standing.    They wrongly judge her.  Her talent so far exceeds her appearance that it was shockingly unexpected.   This is a rather sad comment on our society, but Miss Boyle takes it in stride (from the WaPo again) ” “Modern society is too quick to judge people on their appearances,” she said. “There is not much you can do about it; it is the way they think; it is the way they are. But maybe this could teach them a lesson, or set an example.”

This realization combined with this beautiful voice gives a heart pulling tug that knocks you to your knees.  Every one assumed that since Miss Boyle was lacking beauty and glamor that she couldn’t possibly have anything of worth.  Like  Grizabella’s  ( And who would ever suppose that that -Was Grizabella the Glamour Cat!)  plaintive reflections in Memory from Cats.   “I can smile at the old days –  I was beautiful then”.  Beauty and youth so worshiped and so transitory, the real beauty is the soul and the song and they only becomes more beautiful, more real and more  powerful with age.   The overwhelming interest in this woman and her moment in the spotlight is driven by more than the fantastic performance, while her voice is really termendous, I think the shame and hope we simultaneously experience in her performance is the real force.   Shame for understanding so well the harsh judgment of her appearance and hope that we all can have that moment where we are judged on something more substantial.

For now Miss Boyle is enjoying her success,  she has gone home and the children of her village cheer for her in the street and her parish (yes,  a Catholic Parish  — had to toss that in there) gave her a standing ovation when she came to mass this past Sunday.   I hope like Grizabella,  Susan Parker is chosen as “the one” —  that she wins her contest and sees much success in the future.

OMG it isn't that bad

Crazy stuff

Some people just have no sense, or at least they have no sense of humor.

If you came here recently because you were:

1. Shocked an appalled the two religious denominations would argue a doctrinal point on their reader boards.

2. Horrified that some Catholic Parish out there is teaching that animals have souls.

3. Confirming your opinion that all Catholics are nuts as is proven on a parish’s reader board.

4. Led to believe that all  Presbyterians are cruel and heartless because they think animals don’t have souls.

or you if otherwise have your knickers in a bunch over this old post, let me help you out.

First off the entire thing is a JOKE (you might need to acquire something called a sense of humor to get this. Shocking but true, even us wacky Catholics have a sense of humor).

The signs in question aren’t even real.  You can make your very own reader board signs here.  No, I did not make those they were sent to me by a friend.

Secondly, no, the Catholic church doesn’t explicitly teach that all dogs go to Heaven,  but there is a definite theological reason to believe that all creation, including all animals and rocks will exist in the fullness of time.  I wrote a while back when asked about a Catholic grieving a pet:

If you look over at Catholic Answers there is a pretty good answer. The short of it is that we just aren’t sure what happens to animals. While we know they have spirits, animus, they don’t have the indwelling spirit of God, a soul. An animal acts on nature and instinct, they do not have a moral sense. Animals can’t sin, they therefore can neither deserve hell nor merit heaven, but they are part of creation destined to be renewed in the world to come.

I like the CCC quote from the Catholic Answers article: The visible universe, then, is itself destined to be transformed, “so that the world itself, restored to its original state, facing no further obstacles, should be at the service of the just,” sharing their glorification in the risen Jesus Christ

Finally, I have no idea what Presbyterians actually teach about animals in heaven.   Either way I wouldn’t think they were crazy or even wrong… I suppose a very good argument could be made for either case.  I just can’t see it as that big of a deal – I doubt anyone is going to hell because they think Fido will be going to heaven and likewise I don’t think belief in an animal afterlife is listed as a required tenet of anyone’s faith.    So serriously lighten up.

My world

Noticing small things

Picking Blossoms - Emily Claus
Picking Blossoms - Emily Claus

This has been a very unusual spring, a very derailed Lent, and an almost overshadowed Easter.

Yesterday the weather was dreadful, there was heavy rain and hail, deceptive sun-breaks and then more bad weather.   Today the weather has been slowly lifting and the sun is creeping out from behind the clouds and tomorrow promises to be a fine day.  Spring has snuk up on me.  The little blossoms have been there, the snow drops and the crocuses and the daffodils and the tulips have all had their turn.  My favorite lilacs are just starting to appear.  It is in these small,  little things that the truest beauty is.  These little treasures are so easy to miss  when the weather is foul and things aren’t going well, but they are always there just the same.


On Parenting: Consensual Living

Last week I looked at a parenting style called Consensual Living.  I began by going over the points that I agree with.

Zwei Kinder - Eugene de Blaas
Zwei Kinder - Eugene de Blaas

Now to the points that I disagree with.

Children are not always reasonable and sometimes can not be reasoned with. Anyone who has ever had to deal with a small child who refused to go to bed because something exciting might be missed can attest to this point.   While one of Consensual Living’s principles is that “children can be trusted to know their own minds and bodies” this is not always the case.  Not at any age. Heavens, adults have a difficult enough time telling their real biological needs from their wants.   This is equally true from the nursing infant who can’t decide if he is more sleepy than hungry to the teenage daughter who can’t tell her hormonal drives from real affection.   Many times a parent’s superior experience is invaluable to children in guiding them to do what is best when they are willing and compelling them to do it  if they become unreasonable.
Discipline is very important.  I am not meaning in the “do as I say or else” sense of the word, but in the “do hard things” sense of the word.   Self discipline is not natural to a child, it is learned.   Concepts like delayed gratification, fiscal discipline, healthy living, self-moderation are all integral to happy and harmonious life.  I find it very ironic that a parenting style which displays, especially in the early years, a great deal of self-denial and dedication on the part of the parent seems almost designed to produce adults who have little to no familiarity with the concept.

A child who is in the perpetual habit of always negotiating every point to which they disagree is in for one heck of a shock when they have to interface with the real world.  Not everything can be compromised, at times you have to buckle down and do things you don’t like, have no interest in and sometimes can’t even see the point of doing in the first place.  Children who do not learn this will be less capable of doing the “hard things” in life that make them successful in reaching their own goals, or even having a job.  No teacher can negotiate 30 sets of rules, no police officer is going to accept that you really are the world’s best backwards driver, no boss is going to renegotiate a deadline because you really need to enjoy a nice spring day.  In the real world compromise is not always part of the deal.
Children are not developmentally prepared for the responsibility of being equal partners in running the household I am in no way against letting children have some say in the running of the home, especially when something is affecting them directly, but they don’t have equal say because they don’t have equal responsibility.   Now I don’t really fault anyone who misses this point, because society at large seems to miss it, but every right has a responsibility attached.  My three year old doesn’t want to have her hair washed.  According to Consensual Living I should rethink the basic idea of “have to”.  Why should she “have to” have her hair washed.  It is after all her hair and she can (according to Consensual Living) determine her own needs.  So what difference does it really make if she has gross, matted, dirty hair?  But it is also my responsibility to make sure her basic needs are met, including being clean at times this can go against her wishes.

Boundaries and rules are not bad things – in fact most children thrive within them and are lost without them. I am a big proponent for “that’s just the way it is” parenting.    Bedtime is 8:30pm, you have to brush your teeth, you aren’t allowed to play if you start hitting people– that’s just the way it is.   Having an autistic child taught me the value of schedules, rules and expectations.   When family life predictable everyone benefits.
Teaching children to respect authority, respect other people and instilling in them a sense of duty is important. I suppose it is a bit old fashioned to talk about respect and duty, but I firmly believe that they are things we need to be teaching our children.   Consensual Living hopes that by modeling empathy and concern for others children will follow that example and from natural good will begin to act in a manner that will reward the parent in producing a child who is sensitive to  other’s wants and needs.  Never mind that all  historical and experiential evidence claim that that less likely than more to happen.

Consensual living is not the only way, nor necessarily the best way, to achieve harmony in the home. Certainly leaving behind rules, “have tos”,  and any form of discipline will led to less conflict in the home.  If you allow your child to wear the same cat costume day after day there will never be a fight over clothing,  but the same can be achieved by simple and consistent routine.

Years ago I remember reading in a parenting magazine about a mother who avoided those “getting dressed” struggles because her daughter insisted on wearing only purple.  The mother bought her little sweety a completely purple wardrobe and all tension of getting dressed in the morning ceased.    I remember being amazed that such poorly thought out advice ever managed to be published… but there it was.  How did a mother ever managed to get herself into such a loosing position that she would have to be arguing with a small child about what to wear?

Preschoolers are notoriously fickle and distractable.  Even if mother had to physically stuff her little dumpling into a yellow frock the entire incident would have been forgotten by her child by the time mother had finished reading a story or driving to a play date.   I can think of almost nothing more damaging to the long term happiness of a child than teaching them that the world will and should bend to their whims.

The harmony achieved by never enforcing any expectation or rule is very dearly bought and I can not help but believe that it is bought at the expense of the child’s long term happiness.

Children learn from more than just example. I have touched on this previously, but this concept deserves a more explicit treatment.  Consensual Living hopes that children will follow their parents’ example and learn the positive lessons of  empathy and concern for the needs of others and follow it.   Children do learn through example, but I fear that there is little native incentive to learn such things within Consensual Living if it is practiced to the letter.    What appears to happen in reality is that parents eventually break the Consensual Living philosophy of no manipulation and create a very manipulative environment where the parent is set bargaining with the child in order to get the child to do what the parent wants to child to do.

I am afraid that in practicality it is inevitable that a system that naturally rewards the one who is most stubborn in their wants is not conducive to teaching a child how to put the wants of other’s before their own.

When it comes to the tasks of daily living Consensual Living’s precepts are not designed for success.   A young child who is in the habit of having mother or father do everything for him is not going to suddenly turn around as an older child or teen and “get” that mom and dad would like help with the household chores.  They might be encouraged to do some work to get something they want, but altruism of the type that Consensual Living depends on is not best taught by this model and hope method.

A gentle but firm method of teaching a child directly how to do the simple tasks of daily living coupled with a predictable schedule and age appropriate behavior expectations is much more likely to produce children with the knowledge and experience they need to be successful in life.


On Parenting: Consensual Living

While reading around earlier this week  I stumbled on something new:  Consensual Living.   The basic philosophy seems to go something like this:   All members of the family have equal say and all decisions that aren’t obviously life or death type things get negotiated until everyone is happy with the solution.  No “rules”, “chores”, or  “authoritarian limits” everyone’s needs and wants are weighed equally in the decision making.  Parents need to think through even a nonverbal child’s emotional reactions and find empathetic solutions. Rules and limits, requirements, chores, grades, behavior expectations…. normal life or an authoritarian regime forced onto children making them nothing but soulless automatons, cogs in mindless wheel.  Consensual Living questions just about every supposition about what it means to parent you can think of.

The Fisherman's Children - Jules Bastien-Lepage
The Fisherman's Children - Jules Bastien-Lepage

As with most parenting fads this one has a core of good idea wrapped in an idealistic layer and dipped into a complete lack of common sense.   There is nothing wrong with wanting your child to be an active participant in the family, there is nothing wrong with listening to your children’s thoughts and opinions and teaching them positive conflict resolution.  But Consensual Living takes it too far.

So, giving this parenting style its fair shake I will look at the good things first:

Children can (at times) be reasonable and reasoned with. Children do have the ability to reason and understand.  If your take a few moments to explain in simple, straight-forward language why your child must wear sun-screen or a bike helmet you may find them completely co-operative.   Children also respond well when you take the time to let them explain their feelings.  Sometimes what I have thought was a problem turned out to be a misunderstanding.   My 3 year old is absolutely terrified of having her hair washed, if we tell her she has to take a bath she will say “No, hairwash”, if we agree and say “No hairwash tonight” she is more than happy to hop into the tub.  Her problem is not with the bath itself, only with the hairwashing.

Treating children with respect is important. Children are human beings with the right to be treated with dignity and respect.  Shaming or embarrassing a child is almost never acceptable.  It is especially important when children are communicating their needs that they be listened to.   I witnessed an extreme example of this when I was a teenager working in a children’s clothing store.  A young girl, maybe four, was in the store with her mother.  The girl told her mother she needed to use the restroom.  The mother at first ignored the girl.  After repeated requests the mother began to grow impatient with her daughter.  The situation deteriorated to the  point where the little girl was doing the “potty-dance”,  so I informed the woman that we had a restroom in the rear of the store that she was welcomed to use.  This offer was declined and the woman continued shopping.  After a little while the mother brought her selections to the checkout and while I was ringing them up the little girl wet herself.  The mother lost it at this point and scolded the girl, complete with a swat to the tush, for soiling herself.  The only thing that kept me from flipping out at the mother was my utter shock that this was taking place at all.
Teaching problem solving skills is very productive. I agree with the consensual living idea of learning problem solving skills and interpersonal negotiation techniques in real life situations.  Children who can learn to express their needs and wants and compromise to find a productive and workable solution have a valuable life skill.    My children have to learn to compromise in many areas, that is one of the realities of living in a large family.   They have to compromise on what story they have read, what movie they get to watch, which outing they go on.   Frequently we add a bit of incentive by explaining that if they don’t agree to one thing we won’t do anything.   They also have to learn to express their own needs and listen to what other’s are saying in a respectful way.
A peaceful non-confrontational home is a benefit to all family members. I completely agree that peace and harmony are, if not necessary, highly desirable in a home.  A family who lives in a constant state of disharmony can’t be satisfactory.   The Consensual living advocates also seem to recognize the blessings of quiet time.   I am also picked up from reading on their site a recognition that most families are over-scheduled, over-worked and just basically so drained by their busy lives that they barely have the energy to interact sensibly, much less have the ability to create a peaceful home atmosphere.  When too much of a families energy is directed to outside pursuits the outside pursuits come to dominate the energy inside the home as well.    I can see this being a huge drawing point for overworked parents and their over-scheduled off-spring.
Children naturally learn from their parents example. Modeling the behavior we wish to see in our children is the best way to ensure that children learn this behavior. Actions speak louder than words is rock solid truth in parenting.  No matter how much we want to raise kind and gentle children our children are not likely to be kind or gentle if we are harsh and aggressive.    With something like smoking I could see not being a good example doing just as well being a horrible warning,  but for things like temperament modeling the best behavior is almost the only way to ensure that a child will incorporate that behavior in their own lives.

Next… the not so good


Agnus Dei

I turned on the radio this morning and heard Barber’s Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God set to perhaps my favorite music of all the Adagio for Strings Op. 11.    It is a very intense and emotional piece, as though grief was distilled into music.  It is piercingly beautiful and perfect for Holy week.

Simple Woman's Daybook

The Simple Woman’s Daybook – April 6, 2009

The Simple Woman’s Daybook
is hosted by Peggy at The Simple Woman’s Daybook

Thank you Peggy.

FOR TODAY : April 6, 2008

Today is a beautiful spring day.  The sky is  blue, the air is warm,  flowers are blooming everywhere. And this is probably the most depressing Daybook I have ever written.  I promise I am usually not so morose.

Outside my Window – The plum tree has exploded in fluffy, white blooms. Ashley mowed the lawn this weekend so the yard is starting to look like “summer”.    I am looking forward to dinners outside and lazy lunches – the children call them picnics – where I make up some sandwiches and fruit and send them outside to “have a picnic”.

I am thinking – About  Holy Week.  There is a beautiful  juxtaposition between the beauty of spring and new life coming from death and the cross.  Winter gives way to spring.  Nature reflects the realities of liturgical calendar.

There is an extra sadness right now.  Last week’s miscarriage still seems unreal and yet it is very heavy on my heart.  Christopher isn’t feeling well which gives me an excuse to hide out today.   I have flowers to plant and things to do and I want to be happy, but I feel rather numb.   Everything feels very unreal not just the loss of the baby, but the whole world, like nothing I do matters, like I am reading a book or watching a movie and I am not really part of it.

From the learning rooms – Last week was a total wash.  So last weeks plans become this weeks plans.

I am thankful for- The absolutely wonderful support from friends and family.  Monday I left from CCD for the ultrasound and met Kyle there.  When we learned the bad news I went home and he went back to the parish.  Several people offered to bring the children home so Kyle could come back and be with me.   On Wednesday I was bleeding very heavily and had to go into my doctor’s office.  My father came over to watch the children.  My mother joined him when school was out, they got us dinner.  Kyle’s work has been very accommodating and everyone has had kind words and prayers for our family.  For all this I am very thankful.

From the kitchen – Tonight we are doing easy salad and bread sticks.

I am reading – I have the next Honor Harrington book on my nightstand, I still need to start it.  I picked up my Jane Austin and am almost done with S&S.  Lord only knows how many times I have read it, but I was in the mood for it.   Elinor is like a reflection of my own mind.  Set in a different society, but still so much the same.  My own mother has a tendency to be very emotional and doesn’t understand or even appericate my more resevered way of dealing with the world.  But to my mother’s credit she has been very kind this week, without inflicting that overindulence of sentiment on me that drives me so batty.

I am hoping – There is very little that I am hoping right now.  I want to hope, but I am afraid that my hopes will be thwarted and that I won’t ever hear what I want to hear.  Sometimes hoping can be a painful thing.

I am creating – Hannah’s first communion dress.  This is the big project for the next week or so.

I am hearing – The children in the backyard.  Hannah is singing and planning some “spring play”.  Sarah is digging and Josh is a “ranger”.  They are happy children.

Around the house –Considering what a wash last week was this week has to be a bit of catch-up.

One of my favorite things – My new bike.  I am so happy to finally have a new bike.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week – I want to catch up on everything I am behind on.  I am not sure that is realistic, but I can at least start on it.