Homeschooling

A New Year of Poetry: Bearing My Fardels with a Bodkin

Now that we’re traveling into week 3 of school, I’m just starting to get a rhythm down.  I think in a week or so, I’ll post my new schedule for those of you who are curious.

But onto a specific question, what are we memorizing?

We began the year with Psalm 23, The Good Shepherd.  “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”  That should give you a good look into the state of my life right now.  (Oh the agonies of buying and selling a house.  I wish it upon no one.)

I chose this Psalm to begin the year with because a.) the children already know it, b.) the children really like it, and c.) I think it’s important to start the year off with something easy and familiar.

After two weeks of that, we have moved on, however.  My eldest is now memorizing Hamlet’s famous To Be or Not To Be soliloquy.  It’s probably a little morbid for an 11-year-old, but the language is beautiful.  We had to look up a few words like quietus and bodkin and fardels*, but in all, we’ve really been enjoying it, even if we don’t understand everything Shakespeare is trying to say.  That’ll just have to come later.

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Here’s the first part.  On the next page, it goes on for another 29 lines.  I’m glad Hamlet’s conscience wins out in this speech…

The little children have returned to my favorite piece of poetry for the fall: Robert Louis Stevenson’s Autumn Fires.  It is the cutest little poem.  If you have small children, I recommend this one every single fall.  Rake yourself a big pile of leaves, play in it, then have a big bonfire and belt out Stevenson.  Here’s the ending of that little poem:

Sing a song of seasons!
Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer,
Fires in the fall!

 

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Here are two books you might consider owning.  A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.
*Quietus, bodkin, fardels – death, dagger, burden
Homeschooling

The Story of Civilization

Tan Publishing just released volume 3 of their Story of Civilization series.  Are you familiar with it?  No?  You’re missing out!  Mine just came in the mail a day or two ago.

Click HERE for volume 3 at Tan, The Making of the Modern World.

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Love their pictures.

Top Ten Reasons Why You Should Own All 3 Volumes

  1. This history requires no work from me.  It’s so good, I just put the audio version from Audible* on, and the children fight over who gets to read ahead in the “textbook.”
  2. In this series, the Catholic Church isn’t ignored or misrepresented.  This is a miracle.
  3. The guy in the audio version does voices.  And he’s good at it.
  4. I wish I grew up listening to this history.  (Or reading it.)  My children are spoiled.
  5. In addition to the book with sweet pictures, I buy the Timeline.  I don’t do anything with it, other than tack it on my wall.  The children then reference it when they want.  And I feel proud because I decorated my home.
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The timeline isn’t too big, which makes it manageable.  The pictures correspond to the ones in the book.
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Close-up of the timeline.  Sorry about the quality of this photo.  It’s early in the morning, and my cup of coffee isn’t finished yet.

6.  I have a friend who buys the activity book.  She says, “I love the activity book.”
7.  My husband thinks it’s so great that he listens to it in his car to and from work.
8.  There isn’t any other history book like it.
9.  Did I mention that the Catholic Church isn’t ignored or misrepresented?  Miracle.
10.  The other two volumes are awesome too.  You should own all of them.

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Volumes 1 & 2   (Volume 4 is scheduled to come out next year and will be American History.)
*I would buy the CDs from Tan Publishing, but I’m afraid I’d lose them all.  It’s a far better option for me to own it on Audible.  Although, Audible doesn’t have volume 3 yet.  I’m hoping in the next week or two, however, they will.
Homeschooling

My Hydra-Yucca-Plant: A Tragedy

This summer we’ve been studying biology and botany.  Well, sort of.

You see, I have a yucca plant that won’t die.  In fact, it only multiplies.  So my husband and the children have been experimenting with different Killing Methods.

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Here it is.  Thriving.

Ever since we moved out here, in the country, we’ve had a yucca plant problem.  The previous owners of our place willingly (and stupidly) planted this horrible, indestructible thing.  So the first and second year we just hacked the thing off at the ground, naively hoping it would disappear in the spring.  And it did no such thing.

The third year, my husband got the spade out and violently slashed at the roots and wrenched out big hunks of that deplorable plant.  I was quite hopeful that it would be gone.

Alas.  My hopes were in vain.  The thing only multiplied; thus receiving it’s new name The Hydra.  (You are familiar with Hercules and the Hydra Dragon?  You cut off one head and several more appear.  Unbelievable.)  This Hydra-Yucca-Plant is threatening to take over my whole garden.

Last summer, I gave the 8-year-old twins a tank of extra-strong, undiluted Round-Up and a sprayer.  Their job was to kill it.  Hence, botany as summer school – good idea, right?

Well, the twins failed and through no fault of their own.  It just kept popping up all over the place.

This summer the twins have been giving me reports on It.  “Hey Mom, do you want us to pull Those Plants out?  Or should we get the Round-Up?”  And, “Mom, there’s more of ’em!”    And finally, “Mom, you wouldn’t believe it, but now they’re popping up on the other side of those railroad ties!”

And so, I give up.  This year, the Hydra-Yucca-Plant gets to live.  It’s a tragedy.

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Here it is in another spot.

The picture below is a full-grown yucca plant in the wild, where it belongs.

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This picture was not taken by me.  It was taken by Forest and Kim Starr.

P.S.  This is such an ugly plant.  It belongs only in deserts.  It’s pretty much like a worthless cactus anyway, with it sharp spears.  And ugliness.  No offense to anyone out there who actually likes these indestructible things.  For I suppose they do offer a little green to an otherwise brown landscape.

Homeschooling

Summer School

We never actually quit doing school; we go all year round.  Why?

  1. The children get a little bored in the “off” months, and it gives them something to do.
  2. I get a little bored in the “off” months, and it gives me something to do.
  3. It’s fun to learn new things with zero pressure.
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These two love Summer School.  They just show up and look cute.

What do we do for Summer School?

There are a few things that never go away, no matter what the season, which I call Early Morning School, Morning Time, Piano, and Mid-Morning Prayer Time.  These things work well for our family and provide a nice structure to the day.  That’s not to say that we can’t break from them if something comes up, but rather, they are there to guide us.

Early Morning School is that time before breakfast wherein the children will just pick on each other if there’s nothing to do.  So the night before, I lay out a math facts sheet and a handwriting sheet for my 2nd and 4th graders.  My 6th grader gets a math facts sheet and then works on her typing skills.  None of these things require my assistance, which is good, because I’m usually nursing a baby and drinking my coffee.

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Here’s the cursive handwriting book my 4th graders are using.  It’s got lovely photos.  It’s Seton.

Morning Time is that time during breakfast when I read the Mass readings aloud and then we recite our poetry.  I’ve said it before, but I like doing these two things at the breakfast table because the children are more likely to listen as food is in their mouths.  Right now we’re working on Paul Revere’s Ride.  We do it every summer, leading up to the 4th of July, when we’re feeling very patriotic.

Piano also never ends in the summer.  We keep right on with lessons.  The four older children must play through each of their songs at least 3 times after breakfast.  I tried once making them play for a certain amount of time, say twenty minutes a day, but found we were terrible at keeping track of time.  But for whatever reason, playing a song three times was easier to do.  (And I find that the ones who like playing piano will continue to play on.)

Mid-Morning Prayer Time happens sometime in the morning when I call everyone together, and we sing a hymn and offer a prayer for our intentions.

All of these things are further detailed in my Day in the Life Series, which you can find on my sidebar under “tags,” if you’re curious.

The only other thing that I’m consciously doing for school in the summer is grammar with my three boys.  We are using Classical Academic Press’s Well-Ordered Language series.  This takes about twenty minutes, then we’re done for the day.  I don’t have anything “scheduled” for the afternoons.  After all, one must have time to splash around in a kiddie pool and climb trees.

Any questions?  Just ask.

Homeschooling

A Weekend Get-Away at UST

After the recent stress of trying to sell our home, my husband and I thought a little weekend get-away would be the ticket.  Now I’d like to say that this “get-away” involved fine dining and elegant lodgings, but that would be a lie.  Being the practical parents that we are, we “got away” to attend the annual Minnesota Catholic Homeschool Conference being held at University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN.

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This is my husband.  He’s excited to be driving with only me and the baby in the vehicle.  A quiet ride, really.

So, we loaded up everything: suitcase for our things, empty suitcase to fill with books from the conference, pack-n-play for the nursing baby, stroller, diapers, wipes, extra blankies, baby clothes, pacifiers…

On the six and half hour drive to St. Paul, we listened to Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell on Audible.  (If you need a good book, I strongly recommend it.)  We also drank a lot of coffee.  It was a great, uneventful drive.  I even closed my eyes a time or two, as there were no loud children in the back, only a sleeping baby.

Homeschool Conference at University of St. Thomas

As the conference was two days long, we stayed on campus in the dorms for the first night.  This was convenient for two reasons:  1. If the baby was crabby, one of us could take her back to the room for a nap.  2.  If one of us was crabby, we could take ourselves back to the room for a nap.

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Here I am with a friend, waiting for the doors to open.  I’m on the right and in my homeschooling uniform: jean skirt.  My husband was disappointed that it didn’t reach my ankles.  Ha!

The first day I bought a lot of used books.  The most exciting thing I found was my eldest daughter’s Saxon Math Curriculum for $20.  (Normally it’s around $100.)

Then I attended a blogger workshop where I met Sterling Jaquith, Jennifer Macintosh from Wildflowers and Marbles, and Kirby – all great bloggers.  In this workshop I learned:

  1. Instagram is very important if you’d like to grow your readership.  (I don’t even know what instagram is.)
  2. One should never type anything that would embarrass one’s children when they’re older.  (A good piece of advice.  Mea culpa.)
  3. And one should always back up your site in the event that it crashes, and it will.  (Yikes.  I better get my Web Master on that one.)

We didn’t attend any other talks the first night because we had to meet some good friends in South St. Paul and drink wine.

But the next day we did attend Dr. Ray Guarendi’s talks.  He’s hilarious.  Do yourself a favor and read all of his books and listen to him on the radio.  At one point, when Dr. Ray was telling about his son trying to cover up urine on his Sunday shirt by pulling up his pants over the spot, I thought the bleachers were going to collapse, as my husband was laughing so hard and shaking everyone around him.  I guess the story hit really close to home, as the saying goes.

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My children love Dr. Ray’s wonderful ideas for discipline, especially Black Out…

Later in the morning I made my way to the RC History table and purchased my books from Sonia for next year.  Sonia, by the way, is the brains behind this excellent program.

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Sonia.  Smart, smart woman.  I thought that if I took a photo with her, it might rub off on me.

Finally, it was time for lunch.  We met a couple of good friends at the Groveland Tap in St. Paul and had a good time catching up and laughing.  I also learned about sour beer.  Who knew such a thing existed?  And that it can be pink?  My goodness this was an educational weekend.

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Which drink is mine?
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This is my good friend.  She likes “sour” beer.

Well, after filling up the empty suitcase with lots of books, we departed from the conference and headed to St. Cloud for the night.

Why did we drive to St. Cloud?

  1. I’ve never been there.
  2. It would get us a little closer to home, for a shorter drive the next day.
  3. There was a Traditional Latin Mass being celebrated at St. John Cantius.

And that was that.  In all, it was a fun little get-away.

 

Homeschooling

Poetry Explained

I had a few worthy questions about poetry the other day, so I thought I’d do a little explaining.  But remember, this is just what works for our family.  Your family may look a lot differently than mine and thereby have different needs and desires.

Question #1:  How do you choose your poems?

I choose poems that I like, and you should too.  I think this is really important.  Your children will sniff it out immediately if you think a poem is dull or lame.  And you’ll hate teaching it.

For example, if all your friends’ kids are memorizing Shakespeare, but you don’t understand Shakespeare, and it makes you break out in hives just thinking about reading all that “foreign” language, then don’t do Shakespeare!  Quit stressing yourself out and pick something you do like and understand.

If you’ve never done poetry before, I recommend getting a book of Robert Louis Stevenson’s poetry.  He’s just plain fun, and I love reciting Autumn Fires while raking and burning leaves in the fall. And all my children love belting out The Swing while pumping their little legs back and forth on swings.

Question #2:  How do you teach a poem?

We always do our reciting at the breakfast table.  Usually I read the poem first and then let everyone else have a shot at it.  For the first couple of days, though, I have the children repeat after me, but they catch on quickly.  If you have five children memorizing the same poem, it really doesn’t take that long before everyone has it memorized.  Think about it.  That’s six times of hearing the same thing every morning.

We keep at it until the poem is well memorized or I’m sick of it.  Sometimes we work on a poem for a few weeks, sometimes for two months.

Question #3:  Are you always memorizing new poetry?

Yes and no.  There are certain poems that we always return to because they’re family favorites.  I already mentioned Autumn Fires.  We do this poem every fall because it’s what we’re living.  We’re really raking leaves and burning them.  And every winter we revisit Stevenson’s Wintertime and Robert Frost’s Stopping by the Woods on Snowy Evening.  In the spring, we always do Gerard Manley Hopkins, which I mentioned in a previous post.  The summer always brings us around to a more patriotic theme with Paul Revere’s Ride and the Declaration of Independence, which of course, is not actually poetry.

But again, throughout the year, we do whatever strikes me.  We also memorize passages of Scripture too.  (Now there’s an endless supply of good stuff!)

I also keep a running list of the poems that we’ve memorized over the years.  It’s fun to see what the children have done, but then also it’s good to review our favorite ones from time-to-time.

I hope that clears a few things up.  Just ask, if you have any more questions.

Homeschooling

Poetry with Hopkins & the Declaration of Independence

We’re done with “school.”  We’ve been done for awhile because we started the year extra early, like in July, because I wanted to be coasting when the baby came, which was in February.  (Click HERE for the post on her birth.  Whoa, what a story.)

But even though we’re finished with the big stuff – Math, Latin, Grammar, Writing – we’re not really done.  We never are.  I always liked to have something for the children to do otherwise they get bored.  And start fighting.

Poetry

Poetry is the one thing that never goes away.  We’re always memorizing something because it’s fun.  And it’s not hard, as we always do it at breakfast, and we all do the same piece.

Every spring we do Gerard Manley Hopkins.  He was an Anglican, but was received into the Catholic Church by none other than John Henry Newman in 1866.  Hopkins then became a Jesuit priest and spent the rest of his life teaching and writing poetry.  (He was a terrible teacher, by the way, but excellent at writing the most beautiful poetry.)

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Hopkins.  The Father of Sprung Rhythm.

We just finished up with Hopkins’ God’s Grandeur, Pied Beauty, and Spring.  If you haven’t already done so, do yourself a favor and read them.  In fact, print them off, go stand outside in the warm sunshine and recite Pied Beauty aloud to any birds who might be listening.

Declaration of Independence

Now, however, we’re gearing up for summer and the 4th of July, when we revisit our patriotic poetry.  We’ll do Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Paul Revere’s Ride and the Declaration of Independence.  (Not the whole Declaration of Independence, just the first paragraph and a half of the second.)

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This short compilation has all the U.S. founding documents and a few important speeches that I hope to get to someday, like the Gettysburg Address.

If anyone is interested, I’ll write more about the rest of our Summer School later.

 

Homeschooling

Duck Day! 2018 Edition

The Ducks Are Flying Back

It’s just plain reassuring that someone wants to live in North Dakota, as all the birds and ducks are flying back.

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Look closely.  Two Canada Geese.  The geese are always the first to fly back.  I guess they’re faster than the ducks.

Last year in April, the children and I drove around and identified different ducks and water birds.  Because we had so much fun doing that and listening to Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, we decided to do it again.  We call it our Duck Day.  Man, it’s great to be homeschooled and out in wild.

This year we saw mallards, shovelers, coots, and hooded mergansers.

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See the shovelers?  I don’t either.  That’s because they flew away before I could take the photo.  But, if you look closely, you can see the blue heron we scared away on the left.

We also saw swarms of black birds.  They reminded me of a Laura Ingalls Wilder book – the one wherein Pa’s corn is decimated by black clouds of these things.  Farmers up here also lament them, as they greatly diminish fields of sunflowers.

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This particular flock stopped all the traffic on the highway, which was just me.

For fun, I’ll post last year’s duck day results too because I have a lovely rant about Prokofiev.  See below.

Duck Day! 2017 Edition

A week or so ago, when the weather was terrible, I had had enough of school.  So that day was Duck Day.  Duck Day consisted of me driving around the county and drinking coffee, while the children identified local ducks – mostly mallards, blue-winged teals, shovelers, coots, and wood ducks.

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Wood Duck.  Not my photo, however.  This is by Richard Bartz, Munich.

To top that excitement off, we listened to Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf from Maestro’s Classics because in it, a wolf eats a duck.  (That’s the best part of the story, by the way.)

Maestro’s Classics: Peter and the Wolf

Are you familiar with Maestro’s Classics for children?  While I’ve not listened to them all, I do enjoy them.  In addition to teaching a few elements of music theory and history, they help develop an ear for instruments.

To get to my point, however, I must summarize Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf for those of you unfamiliar with it.

It kicks off with Peter sneaking outside his garden walls to explore the prohibited meadow.  His grandfather, however, catches him, scolds him, and drags him back and locks the garden door because there are mean, nasty wolves out there.  Well, impetuous Peter just climbs the wall and hops on a tree branch, only to look down upon the meadow and see a big, bad wolf!  But Peter is prepared, for he lets down his rope and catches the wolf, much to the chagrin of the coming hunters who had intended to shoot it.  Peter is then rewarded with a great procession for his efforts, wherein he leads his wolf through the streets to a zoo, where the wolf is allowed to live.

And now for a little rant.

Well, this ending ticked me right off.  They rewarded Peter for his disobedience?  I’d have him fall off the tree branch and be eaten by the big, bad wolf.  Then, I’d have the hunters shoot the damn wolf.*

This ending got me thinking, I bet Prokofiev is an atheist.  Only an atheist would get the story that messed up.  And yes, sure enough, he was.

But even though is doesn’t end rightly, I still like this musical production for the reasons I stated above.  And my children got it anyway.  I asked my little 4-year-old what Peter’s consequence should have been for disobeying his grandfather, and she said, “He should be sent to bed for two days without lunch.”

*Yes, I said shoot the damn wolf.  Everyone knows that from time immemorial a wolf symbolizes evil.  And evil is to be damned, not put away in a zoo.

 

Homeschooling, Life is Worth Living

A Day in the Life of a Crazy Fool: Part 7

For those of you who are excited about the Birth Story for Baby #7, you’ll just have to wait a bit!  It’ll come soon enough.

In the meantime, if you’ve missed any parts of this series and would like to read them, look to the sidebar under “Tags,” and click on “A Day in the Life Series.”

So today we pick up with what happens after dinner.

6pm Dinner Cleanup

When everyone is finished eating, my husband leads us in a brief After Dinner Prayer, which goes as follows:

We give thee thanks for all thy benefits, Almighty God, who lives and reigns forever.  And may the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.  Amen.
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Here we are, almost done.

Then chaos generally ensues, as everyone clears his place at the table.  Ideally, my obedient little children would immediately place their plate, cup, and silverware in the dishwasher and begin their next cleanup task:  The Eldest washes, Child #2 dries, Child #3 sweeps the dining room and kitchen, Child #4 straightens up the back entryway, Child #5 throws the dirty napkins in the hamper, and Child #6 plays quietly on the couch with a doll.   And this whole process would take ten minutes.

Ha!  This whole process takes anywhere from half an hour to an hour because the children are so busy gabbing and laughing and wrestling and giggling.  You’d think they were all under the age of 12.  (Well, I guess they are.)

And during this loud, chaotic time, I generally hide in the laundry room and fold the last load of laundry for the day.  My husband, blessed saint that he is, corrects the Eldest’s math, which she must fix after washing the dishes, if she has any mistakes.

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This does not look like fun to me.

If time allows, my husband and I will sometimes enjoy an after dinner drink.  In the warmer months we amble on outside and sit on the deck.

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This is the deck.  There is no way I’m ambling out here any time soon.  Looks like we’ll amble on over to the couch instead!

When the children are finished with their after dinner chores, they usually have time to mess around for a bit until the next part of our evening, which is the Rosary.  Next time we’ll pick up with this and hopefully finish up the series.

Stay tuned for Part 8!

Homeschooling, Life is Worth Living

A Day in the Life of a Crazy Fool: Part 6

Here we are, back to “A Day in the Life of Crazy Fool: Part 6.” If you missed the earlier parts to this series and would like to read them, look at my sidebar under Tags, and click on “A Day in the Life Series.”

It’s Around 4pm

As the afternoon closes, I’m generally cooking dinner and finishing things up.  My husband arrives home around 5pm, and I like the house to be ready for him.  I once read somewhere – I think in a Kimberly Hahn book – that if a wife truly loves her husband as Christ, the least thing she could do, would be to greet him when he comes home, at the door.  In other words, one must walk over to the door and actually greet him, as you would Christ.

And Now For a Little Harangue

I’ll pause here for a moment.  When I read that a few years ago, I was absolutely struck and convicted.  For I had been in the habit of not acknowledging my husband – of just continuing whatever I was doing, as if he didn’t matter.

Well, he does matter.  I married him after all, and he ought to come before the children and the household chores and all the rest.  I can put down the cooking spoon or the baby and walk over to the door, even if I don’t happen to like him at the moment because he was ten minutes late.  So what?  He is the head of our household, and sometimes, it’s just not about my feelings.

And it’s not always perfect either.  Our home is not some Norman Rockwell painting.  Yes, babies are sometimes crying and boys are wrestling and girls are whining.  Whatever.  My husband still ought to come first, and I ought to greet him.

Sometimes this moment can be really fun, by the way.  Sometimes I like to surprise him with a martini in hand.  I can tell you, when I do something special like that, our evenings are always more fun.  For life is worth living, as the Venerable Fulton Sheen reminds us.

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Actually, these aren’t martinis.  The one on the left is a Rob Roy; the one one the right is a Brandy Alexander.

So, any of you wives out there, if you don’t already, I want to strongly encourage you to greet your husbands when they arrive home.  (Or, if you happen to be a stay-at-home husband, greet your wife when she comes home.)

5:15pm: Dinner Time

After I’ve greeted my husband, we sit down for dinner together as a family.  Fortunately, our schedule allows for this to happen almost every single night.  If it’s at all possible, I encourage all of you to do the same.  No technology allowed at the table, either.

We also prefer to eat dinner a little more formally than the other meals.  For example, the children attempt to set the table set properly.  You know, with forks on top of a cloth napkin on the left and spoons and knives on the right, etc.  And no, this is not always done well, depending on which child is setting…  We do have six messy children under the age of 12.  But I’ve noticed that manners improve when form improves.

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This is how the table looks every night.  Then the children sidle on over, and it gets messed up.

Also, if there is a salad to be served, I generally have that on the plates prior to the Table Prayer, so that we’re not passing around multiple dishes.  After the Table Prayer, we sit down and eat the said salad.  When everyone is finished with the salad, my husband commences dishing out the main entree.  Again, we have the same format, when everyone is finished, and if there happens to be something for dessert, it will be served then, and we enjoy it together.  The point is, we attempt to take our time.

By the way, we also strive to uphold two other rules:

  1. No talking with your mouth full.  (I’m especially bad at this one.)
  2. No using your fingers.  Ever.  Learn to use your knife to get that food on your fork.  (Unless it’s pizza or some other finger food being served.)

Lest this sounds too idyllic, let me remind you, that generally I have a baby or a toddler (or both) crying or throwing food or creating whatever mayhem they might.  Well, I’ve just made up my mind not to be deterred.  Table manners are worthwhile attempting.

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This one has absolutely no table manners.  But she sure is cute.

Homeschooling

A Day in the Life of a Crazy Fool: Part 5

And we’re back to “A Day in the Life of a Crazy Fool.”  If you missed the previous 4 parts and would like to catch up, look on my sidebar under “tags,” and click on “A Day in the Life Series.”

Part 5

Quiet Time, which I mentioned in Part 4, usually ends at around 1pm, as the children begin sneaking upstairs to see what I’m doing.  And so then, we begin the next part of our day.

1pm Outdoor Recess

As the four middle children have usually completed any necessary “book” work earlier, they now have a choice.  They may remain downstairs building their lego castles or reading their books, or they may venture back outside.  Most of the time, they scramble outside because my husband built them an ice skating rink.

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When I took this photo, it was 19 degrees, with a windchill of 4.  They’re crazy.

 

This is the first year we’ve ever attempted building an ice skating rink, and honestly, I don’t know how we survived without one.  It has supplied hours and hours of fun.  And only one minor accident–Child #3 whacked his head on the ice, resulting in a large bump, which turned into one giant, yellow-brownish bruise.  Nothing serious, just a wound to brag about.

1pm is also Afternoon School

So, while the middle children skip and slide around outside and Child #6 naps, the Eldest gets a little one-on-one time with Mom.  We work on grammar and writing.  And of course, we use Classical Academic Press’s Well-Ordered Language series and their Writing and Rhetoric series, as you can see in the photo below.

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She likes Well-Ordered Language the best, because, “it doesn’t take me as long to finish!”  Naturally.

I usually need to sit with her for about twenty minutes, and then I move on to a few domestic tasks while she completes her work.  For example, I generally switch out and fold laundry and begin any prep work for supper.

I like to keep our afternoons light and flexible, however, because this is when I schedule activities and appointments.  For example, on Tuesdays, the older children attend choir practice.  On Thursdays, they have piano lessons.  Sometimes we attend PE sessions with a larger group of homeschoolers.  Sometimes we invite other families over to visit.

4pm Getting Ready for Supper

The end of the afternoon requires more work dedicated to supper, of course.  (Eating.  It’s just a never-ending task!)  All the children help with setting the table, and sometimes the older ones do some chopping or other minor prep work.

And that’s all for today!  See you next time.

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Bishop Kagan: 4 Weaknesses of Homeschooling

 

Bishop David D. Kagan’s Latest Pastoral Letter

Bp. Kagan of the Bismarck Diocese has issued a Pastoral Letter on Catholic Education, which can be found on the diocesan website.  (Click HERE for it.)

I was asked if I might offer my thoughts on his letter, which is divided into a Preface, Introduction, Parts 1,2, & 3, and a Conclusion.  I will comment, but am limiting myself to Part 1, as this is the section most of you are interested in.

If you haven’t read the entire letter yet, it would be helpful to do so first.

TeachThemPastoralLetter

Part One: Catholic ‘Home Schooling’

The first six paragraphs of Part One speak of the historicity of the homeschool movement in the Bismarck Diocese.  There is nothing shocking here.  In fact, he has some kind and truthful things to say about it all.

The last 4 paragraphs, however, get a little interesting, as Bp. Kagan details what he perceives as 4 weaknesses of homeschooling.

Bp. Kagan: 4 Weaknesses of Homeschooling

1. Bp. Kagan begins with, “First, given the excellence of our own Catholic schools the real necessity for Catholic families to home school in my judgment is not as necessary as it may have been years ago.”

In other words, he thinks that years ago, one may have had a good reason to homeschool, based on the condition of Catholic schools at that time, but now, however, Catholic schools are better.  So, it’s not “as” necessary, in his opinion.

What’s really going here, in any case, is that some people truly don’t understand why one might choose to homeschool, and so sometimes it’s assumed that homeschoolers are against Catholic, diocesan schools.  But all the homeschoolers I know are actually glad that these schools exist.  For they do provide an important mission in the daily life of the Church.  They are a good thing after all.  We want them to succeed.

However, most of us have discerned as parents that homeschooling is the best option for our particular families, for a multitude of reasons.  Maybe we have a child with a learning disorder.  Maybe we enjoy traveling and the flexibility homeschooling provides.  Maybe we think it is important for our families to be together.

Personally for our family, and among other reasons, it primarily comes down to our philosophy of education.  We are attempting a traditional, classical approach to education, which is just not an option here in this diocese.  And we have access to excellent curriculums and online classes.

For example, I’ve often spoken of Classical Academic Press, which we’ve found to exemplify this philosophy.  If anyone is curious about what we’re attempting to do, click HERE for a short philosophy of classical education and how it differs from what is typically available in diocesan schools.

If you want more, I’d suggest reading Stratford Caldecott’s Beauty in the Word: Rethinking the Foundations of Education and Beauty for Truth’s Sake: On the Re-enchantment of Education.

2.  Bp. Kagan goes on with his weaknesses to say, “Second, there is a real advantage for children at an early age to see and learn from other Catholic adults and children their own age what they have already seen and learned from their parents.”

In this second point, he argues that it is necessary for children to be around other people’s children and parents in order to learn properly and be well-rounded.

There are two ways to look at this.  One, Bp. Kagan could be promoting the whole “anti-social” argument that most homeschoolers face all the time, which says that because our children learn at home, we’re necessarily socially awkward.

This just isn’t true, however, and studies would prove otherwise.  For statistics and a great article on homeschooling and socialization from the Washington Times, click HERE.

Secondly, and if you read his statement closely, most homeschoolers would actually agree with Bp. Kagan here.  It’s just that he’s probably unaware of all the activities that many of us are involved in.  For example, many families are in rosary groups, wherein entire families gather together to pray the rosary weekly and then have fellowship.  Many of us are involved in PE programs.  Many homeschool families gather together to do projects, sports, music, whatever.

The point is, most of us don’t sit at home with our doors locked, shaking in fear lest our children interact with other children or adults.  Rather, we enjoy being around other Catholic families and in fact make it a priority.

3.  His third weakness states, “…the more Catholic families desire that faithful and robust Catholic education for their children and make use of our Catholic schools, the stronger the Catholic culture of our schools and parishes become.”

In other words, Bp. Kagan wants our children in the Catholic schools because then the schools would be stronger.  I’ve heard this argument many times, and maybe we ought to just consider it a compliment.  He must think we’d have something positive to offer the schools after all.

I would point out, however, that our children would not be who they are without the formation they have had at home.

As far as parishes go, all the homeschool families I know are very active in varying parish ministries.  In fact, I can’t think of a single homeschool family that isn’t involved in their parish life.

4.  Bp. Kagan concludes his discussion of “home school weaknesses” with a note on other people’s perception of us.  He says, “Often enough I have heard from other Catholic parents and even some priests that families who home school do so because they think our Catholic schools are not Catholic enough when it comes to the teaching of religion…I do not know how widespread this perception may be but it does not serve well those who have chosen homeschooling for their children.”

It would seem that he’s accusing us of being guilty of how other people perceive us.  But I’m not sure we can help what others may or may not think of us, especially if they are unwilling to dialogue with us.

I can’t help it if people want to assume I’m a Catholic school detractor.  I can only say, I’m not.

Conclusion

In the end, maybe we ought to invite Bp. Kagan to come have a look at our “schools?”  This might help shed some light on the modern homeschool movement.  In particular, it might be helpful if he understands that most of us are not rejecting Catholic, diocesan schools, but rather are choosing another form of an authentically Catholic education.

An Open Invitation to Bishop Kagan

Bp. Kagan, we first of all thank you for your dedication to our diocese.  Please know that you are always in our prayers, and our family welcomes you to visit our home and our school any time.