Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sede Vacante and A Papal Lapbook Plan

I feel a connection with our now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI that is a little hard to understand.  I've received quotes from his various speeches and writings in my inbox for years, thanks to the work of the Benedict Everyday website.  I have a little picture of him in my kitchen that makes me smile every time I see it.  I've read some of his writings and always appreciated his wisdom, humility, great intelligence and kindness.  I've used some of his quotes for copywork, and others I have copied into my own commonplace book.  I have several quotes waiting in my inbox for copying.  Here's one, picked at random:  "We often recognize what is good without doing it.  With prayer we succeed in doing it."  And another:  "It is precisely in prayer that we become ever more aware of Jesus' presence with us and in us.  The more and better we pray, with constancy, with intensity, the more like him we shall be, and he will truly enter unto our life and guide it, bestowing upon us joy and peace."  He's the only Pope I have known as a Catholic.

And now he's no longer the Pope, no longer the Papa.  And I feel his absence at the helm, I feel the empty chair of Saint Peter within me.

And I have the privilege of sharing this time with my children, watching the footage of his last appearances, his helicopter flight from the Vatican, praying for him and for the Cardinals as they gather to elect his successor.  It is also a great opportunity to dive a little deeper into what the Papacy is, who the Pope is, and how the Conclave works.  Jessica at Shower of Roses has created a marvelous lapbook and unit study to help children explore these topics, and I am thrilled to use it.  We will begin on Monday, starting with an exploration of Saint Peter and the Basilica that bears his name.  We'll be reading, narrating, and working on several of the mini-books together.  I've rearranged our schedule to give us an hour each day to delve into this topic, and I think it will be a wonderful and enriching experience for us all.  Yet another reason I am so thankful that we homeschool!

In case it helps anyone else, here's how I broke down the first unit.  We'll probably do the fourth unit the following week, since that one is about the Conclave, then we'll complete the second and the third.  Next week is a little short, with our science lab, dentist appointments, and religious education all on Tuesday and an event on Friday.  But still, I think it will work well.  I'm also planning on reading St. Peter's Tomb later in the afternoon or evening as well.  I'm hoping to finish it that week.

Read Lost in St. Peter’s Tomb
Research St. Peter’s Basilica online
Make St. Peter’s Basilica pop-up book

Read Lost in St. Peter’s Tomb

Read St. Peter’s Story
Complete the page about St. Peter in the “Some Special Popes” book
Make St. Peter’s Keys (in the afternoon)

Thursday Read Lost in St. Peter’s Tomb
Read about the Primacy of St. Peter (My Catholic Faith)
Primacy of Peter Copywork
Picture Study - Christ Handing the Keys to Saint Peter

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Lenten Daybook

The Journeying into Lent Daybook
February 25, 2013

Outside My Window
A cool, dark night with an almost full moon glowing brightly in the hearth room window.

I am Listening to
The crackling of the wood burning stove as the metal cools.

I am so Grateful for
This nice, new, comfy couch.  

I am Pondering
“What temptations do I find hardest to resist?  How might this reveal God’s intended purpose for me? ... Learn to see in your temptations a perversion of God’s plan for you.  Try to discern what it is that God might be calling you to do by looking at the areas of your life where you are most tempted.”  The Power of the Cross, p. 23

I am Reading
Oh, goodness, lots of books.  Too many, probably.  The Power of the Cross, Northanger Abbey, some time management book of which the name escapes me, a book written by a teenage family friend, and, oh, about 15 books for the kids’ school - either aloud or reading ahead so I can better discuss them with Emma.  

I am Thinking
I’ve been thinking a little about the next school year, and changes I might make.  I have a draft of a blog post about that, perhaps I’ll get it edited and posted later this week.  

I am Creating
Oh, not too much right now.  I’m trying to make a knotted rosary, but I had to pull it all out because I ran out of cord prematurely.  I’m very slowly working on a headband, a scrubbie, and the swatch for a pair of socks.  

Towards a Real Education
I am really happy with our school year for the most part.  I decided to make our morning time a little longer and start a little earlier in the morning, because I realized that what we do in morning time is so enriching and vital.  So far, so good!  Now we get to read Shakespeare, listen to Handel’s Messiah, read Longfellow’s Hiawatha, sing, and read our world history read aloud every day!  This is in addition to our prayer, Mass readings, decade of the rosary and recitation. The kids and I are very pleased.  It takes about an hour and a half, in case you’re wondering!  But well worth every minute, even with a squirmy toddler and sometimes disruptive four year old.

Towards Rhythm and Beauty
Trying to get everything going at 8 a.m. is trying.  But worthwhile, extremely worthwhile.  But exercising, eating, showering, and making sure the kids are all ready to go is sometimes challenging.  I no longer read at breakfast (a bad habit anyway), the breakfast dishes are sometimes waiting until lunch, as is that first load of laundry...  but I think those are reasonable trade offs.

To Live the Liturgical Year
We are well into Lent at this point, and all is going well.  The children are going strong on their Lenten lapbooks and our Jesse Tree turned Lenten Countdown Tree is gradually becoming more bare.

I am Hoping and Praying

Around the House
Matt installed thresholds in all the upstair doorways recently, along with some trim on the stairs and in the open area.  It looks good!  

What do you mean, we're waiting until Sunday to have more birthday cake?
From the Kitchen
Trying to keep things simple, make sure I use up whatever is in the fridge, and just trying to be mindful of the season.  In our family, this means more leftovers for dinner, more soups, and more bean and rice dishes.  It also means oatmeal for breakfast five days a week - a particularly painful practice for Nathan.  Each morning he reacts with new shock and dismay, even though we keep reiterating that we’ll be doing this for all of Lent.  Time is still such a nebulous concept at four.   I find it funny how each kid is like this at four.  When they are younger they don’t mind, but at round four oatmeal becomes the worst thing ever, then they go to either not minding or even liking it.  

A Few Plans for the Rest of the Week
Orthodontist appointment, religious education at the parish, a visit with friends, and a much anticipated overnight trip for Gregory and Emma to my parents' cabin!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Our Lenten Lapbook

 In my family I like to have mixture of activities the kids can count on year after year and new activities that may or may not become yearly traditions.  Two years ago I came up with a simple Lenten lapbook, and it has become a welcome family tradition.  The lapbook isn't so much for learning about Lent, like the much more involved one from Lapbooks for Catholics, but rather it is a way for the kids to keep track of their Lenten promises and to make it easier for them to conceptualize the length of Lent.  This lapbook, along with our manzanita branch turned Jesse tree turned Lenten count-down tree and our alms box, form the physical backbone of our family's Lenten practices.

The lapbook is simple.  In the center panel I have the Lenten countdown calendar from Catholic Icing.  One side panel has this file, where children can record their Lenten promises.   The other side panel can be used for attaching a Stations of the Cross book and a little place where they can draw or write about special Lenten activities we do as a family, things like praying the Stations of the Cross or making pretzels.  The cover is a coloring page, cut out and mounted and carefully cut down the center so the folder opens nicely.  We always make these on Ash Wednesday, generally after we come home from the Ash Wednesday Mass.  Then, most mornings during Lent, the children take a couple of minutes to color in the day's square (or maybe more than one, if we forgot for a morning or two!), check off their boxes for their promises, and maybe draw a little something in their drawing space.  Simple to make, simple to use, and meaningful for the kids.  What more could I want?

In Pursuit of the True, Good and Beautiful

By the time Emma was three, my husband and I were quite certain we would be homeschooling.  It could very well have been earlier, as I do not remember a definite point when we decided this was our direction.  Certainly by the time she was three I was already reading homeschooling blogs, homeschooling books, and pondering deeply what it means to be an educated person.  I was fortunate to find some wonderful homeschooling blogs and to fall in with a group of intelligent homeschooling mothers who met regularly at a park.  Here I listened as moms chatted, helped each other, and thoughtfully considered various educational ideas, materials and opportunities.  I was edified and encouraged in my pursuit of the true, good and beautiful, challenged, as the saying goes, to light fires rather than fill buckets.  

And then I moved.  

I still had all my wonderful blogs, but I became acquainted with a different type of homeschooler.  The focus for this type of homeschooler is to just get stuff done.  Follow a program, fill out the pages, and get it done.  No pondering resources, designing and tweaking programs, trying to choose just the right book for a time period or subject...  all those conversations and thoughts I love.  Granted, this type existed where I lived before, but since I was so immersed in the other conversations, I never really took much notice.  And don't get me wrong - some of these families have become friends, good friends even - and I am not trying to denigrate what they are doing in their families.  But it is a method I cannot embrace because I do not think it brings my family closer to the true, the good, and the beautiful.

Cindy Rollins recently tossed off a wonderful tip on her blog that encapsulates how I feel about this approach.  As a long time homeschooler with a number of homeschool graduates under her belt, she can look about her and speak with wisdom and courage.
Here is a hint for homeschooling: Only use workbooks to save time for better things.  Workbooks should buy you time; if they do not, get rid of them. They are not worth it. Do you want your child to build up moment after moment of workbook pages over the course of their short time at home or moments of the true, good and beautiful?  It is appalling for me to see that whole methods of homeschooling are built around filing workbook pages for the year.  Here there be dragons.  Efficiency is not your friend and never will be if you are pursuing a classical, Christian or Charlotte Mason education.
This is why I spend hours reading out loud to my children every day.  (Have you listened to Andrew Pudwea's talk, Nurturing Competent Communicators?  If you haven't - do it now!  It is excellent! - follow the link, sign up for a free login, and go to their free downloads page - or go here to listen in the browser)  This is why we read only good books and we spend a lot of time in narration and discussion.  This is why we don't do canned and formulaic writing assignments.  This is why we have a morning time filled with readings from all sorts of wonderful sources - from the Bible to poetry to music - as well as recitation.  I want those short moments to be filled with living ideas that spark living thoughts and living connections, not read this dull paragraph, fill in the blank, finish the sentence, and circle the right answer.  

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Well-Read Mom

I opened up my new issue of Mater et Magistra (a great Catholic homeschooling magazine, by the way!) and my eyes immediately fell on an attractive ad for something called "The Well-Read Mom".  It is, as the ad explains, "a network of book clubs to encourage, equip, and educate women through literature from the Western and Catholic Tradition.  These groups are a way for women to reclaim time to read the best."

Marcie Stokman, the creator of The Well-Read Mom, adds this on the website:
Many women understand the value of quality literature for their children’s moral growth, yet they lack a seriousness when it comes to the education of their own hearts. What does a woman’s commitment to her own growth have to do with Pope John Paul’s prophetic charge, “Women will increasingly play a part in the solution of the serious problems of the future…in a way which favors the processes of humanization which mark the ‘civilization of love”? Through personal stories and gentle humor, women will be encouraged to see their pivotal cultural responsibility and be encouraged to read more and read well.
I find it amazing how often I come across women who are so concerned about what their children are reading, but pay little to no attention to what they are reading - if they read anything at all!  How often do mothers perpetuate the "do as I say, not as I do" sort of attitude by insisting that children read good books, but then read bubble-gum for the brain magazines and books themselves? Yes, perhaps it sounds like just one more thing we need to do, but yet the rewards are so rich and invigorating.  And the gains are not just for ourselves, they are for our children too.

I feel pretty certain that it would be hopeless to try and start this around here, but I hope Marcie's idea catches on and spreads widely.