Saturday, December 30, 2006

Prayer for the feast of St. Thomas a Becket

Taken from the Roman Missal. Feast Day December 29. ( I know we are late. Better late than never! )

O God, for the sake of whose Church the glorious Bishop Thomas fell by the sword of ungodly men: grant, we beseech Thee, that all who implore his aid, may obtain the good fruit of his petition. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who livest and reignest with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, forever and ever. Amen.

From "The Times Book of Saints" ~ " Thomas excommunicated several bishops who had coronated young Henry II without respect to his rights as archbishop of Canterbury. For Henry II that was the last straw. 'Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?'he shouted angrily. Feeling commissioned by the king. four knights went to Canterbury to kill Thomas. "

Although Thomas Becket had not always lived like a saint, he died like one. David Hugh Farmer

To celebrate the Christmas season, this afternoon we are singing carols around the tree and saying a few prayers. Thomas is making Christmas cookies -
Coconut Macaroons from the Catholic Culture site - in honour of St Thomas a Becket.

We'll eat these after the movies - we are going to the late afternoon showing of Night at the Museum.

Friday, December 29, 2006


The majority of my workouts are kickboxing.

This is not to say that I don't do other workouts or workouts with weights - I do.

But kickboxing - mostly Taebo and Turbo Jam - is the mainstay of my fitness routine. And, hey, they have weight training routines, too!

You can imagine my joy at receiving two Taebo Live workouts for Christmas. These workouts have so much energy, so much fun, great music. They are OOP but I am trying to collect them secondhand - and found two on Amazon sellers to go under the Christmas tree.

So the last few days these have been my workouts. And Turbo Jam Punch Kick Jam today.

I love the endorphin rush. I feel high while kicking and punching and doing floorwork to "My Sherona." Killer ab work seems easier when singing along with Berlin's " On the Metro." Or keeping on going, yelling and singing, to burning butt work with "Boogie Fever" or "Momma Said Knock You Out."

Taebo in particular has all the three components of fitness - cardio work, strength or resistance training and flexibility.

Last Christmas I received the book "The Taebo Way" as a present - it is also OOP but we got it secondhand.

On the way in the mail is another OOP fitness book - FIRM for Life - I love the old FIRM Classics and Crosstrainer workouts. Want to read the book. Sometimes older is better.

I also have all the old Jane Fonda workout books. :-)
But today at Borders, I bought a new book on fitness - in keeping with my kickboxing passion.

Gleason's Gym Total Body Boxing Workout for Women.

It looks like fun - and has a great quote from actress Hilary Swank.

Swank trained at Gleason's Gym for the film Million Dollar Baby.

She told "Sports Illustrated" - I see many parallels between boxing and life. You have to stay in the moment, or you get hit. You have to let everything go...and you have to stay humble.

Just the same abilities that we homeschooling mothers often want to develop - living in the moment, letting go, being humble...

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Night at the Museum

We want to see the new movie - Night at the Museum.
It is based on a children's book - I wonder if I can purchase a copy?

There is a junior novelization available - see here.
I think Dymocks will probably stock this copy...

The Holy Innocents.

Today's feast is the feast of the
Holy Innocents.

These are the children mentioned in St. Matthew, ii, 16-18:

Herod perceiving that he was deluded by the wise men, was exceeding angry; and sending killed all the men children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremias the prophet, saying: A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and great mourning; Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

Our Franciscan parish is having a Mass today for the Holy Innocents, with Bishop Fisher from the Archdiocese of Sydney in attendance.

We are very blessed with regard to our parish and priests.

According to A Continual Feast, it was customary in Europe of old to serve "baby food", typically gruel or cereal, to the youngest person in the family or monastery or convent.

I wonder if Anthony would like me to buy him some baby food!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

December 26.

The Feast of St Stephen and also Boxing Day.

We read about the tradition that the boxes placed in churches where parishioners deposited coins for the poor, were opened and the contents distributed on December 26 .
We sang Good King Wenceslas.

Tomorrow is the Feast of St John.

We will be having glasses of wine ( non alcoholic or otherwise ), decorated with lolly snakes.


Legend has it that the Emporer Domitian attempted to kill St John - by ordering him to drink a cup of poisoned wine. St John took and blessed the cup, and the poison slithered away in the form of a snake.

Merry Christmas to all!

A few Christmas snippets.
Two presents ~ Gerry gave me the gift of enrolment in the Franciscan Mission Association ~ sharing in the prayers and sacrifices of the Conventual Franciscan Friars, being remembered in their Masses.
And I gave Gerry the book Advent and Christmas Wisdom from Pope John Paul II. Thanks, Cindy, for the recommendation. :-)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Embracing Christmas.

An article, with quotes from Pope Benedict XVI ( then Cardinal Ratzinger).

Christmas, Sacred and Secular

"The hectic commercialism is repugnant to us,” wrote Cardinal Ratzinger, “.... And yet, underneath it all, does it not originate in the notion of giving and thus the inner urgency of love, with its compulsion to share, to give of oneself to the other? And does not the notion of giving transport us directly into the core of the mystery that is Christmas?”

Thursday, December 21, 2006

It began as a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day...

Have you read the book
Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day?

Well, today started like that. It has a happy ending, however.

My mum has had breast cancer. I have mammograms every year just in case.

Well, today there were suspicious areas during the mammogram. I needed an extra ultrasound. I needed extra tests on top of this.

While waiting for the tests, I felt extremely mortal.

The results became available while I was at work. My kind doctor and even more kind husband relayed the results to me, at work, as soon as possible.

Suspicious areas benign.


This good news, coupled with Reconciliation tonight, and then healthy low fat Subway take away for dinner ( no guilt!), made my terrible, horrible no good morning fade.

This evening is spectatcular. :-)
Deo Gratias.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I am a grump.

A grinch.

My Advent work has been to work on being nice always when speaking to my children.

I am failing . Terribly. Horribly.

I don't know what is wrong with me, but the more I try to speak well, even in trying situations, the more I fail.

I can relate to St Paul, on doing not what I ought but what I don't want .

Horrible morning this morning, getting ready for the pool and Group Learning end of year party.

I have apologized and the day was good but my manner of speaking irks me.

During the final session of the Advent programme tonight, Br. mentioned that God gives us all the graces we need, through the Sacraments and especially in the Eucharist.

Well, duh, I know that but, duh, I don't remember it all the time.


I need Reconciliation - thank heaven tomorrow is the Second Rite of Reconciliation at our church, before Christmas.

I may be failing my Advent work but, hey, I am not failing life. I have the Sacraments and God's grace.

Hope your Advent is blessed and joyous. :-)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Our cooking/crafts for today.

Workouts accountability.

Monday - Turbo Jam Fatblaster; Turbo Jam Ab Jam.

Tuesday - today - Turbo Jam Cardio Part Remix and perhaps Ab Jam ( running late with workouts as we went to 7.00 a.m. Mass and then breakfast out as a family. I ate low fat!).

Probably something with weights tomorrow - I've seen myself in my new swimsuit. Whew! Need weight training.

Eating - okay. So-so. The only downside of being a Kumon Education Supervisor is that all the students keep on giving me foodie presents. :-)

Monday, December 18, 2006

Our books.

Three of the finished books.
In order, top to bottom ~
Alexander: A Book of Essays ( three essays on topics dear to Alexander's heart. Mostly music . :-) )
Anthony: The World of Amlyka ( a short history of an imaginary, fantasy country)
Thomas: The Not So Naked Chef ( a chatty cookbook, inspired by Jamie Oliver).

Fr's homily yesterday, ...

...on Gaudete Sunday .

One of the things Fr. mentioned was ~

God is in the extraordinary.

God is in the ordinary.

I like the thought.

I am worrying about some medical tests this week and need, instead, to remember God .

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A few of our favourite things..

Thomas and I baked a St Lucy crown ( braided bread), belatedly, for the feast of St Lucy.

We decorated our windows with Christmas pics.

This week, we have been renewing our acquaintance with carols ~ singing in the car, at the dinner table, around the house.

Listening to our Christmas CDs.

I spent part of yesterday and today on shopping for Christmas - presents, food, drink. I love shopping and I love choosing gifts for others!

Our family went to see the film The Nativity. I know this has been a controversial film for some, but we really enjoyed it. I will buy it on DVD to add to our Advent/Christmas movie drawer.

The scene with the Magi adoring the Christ Child will stay with me .Touching.

We attended the Christmas Spectacular at the church of several of our homeschool friends ~ our friends' daughters were dancing in the show, a stylized version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. The girls did a fantastic job .

A funny ( or not so funny) Advent happening...Anthony lit the Advent wreath candles before dinner to night. As he lit the rose candle for Gaudete Sunday, big flames arose. He set fire to the wreath!

Its okay - we salvaged the wreath - and laughed and laughed. We had a visitor for dinner, a girl my teens are friendly with, and she laughed, too. In shock??

More favourite Advent-y Christmas-y things?

Our older sons arrive on Friday and Nick has sent me a message - have some frozen Margaritas ready. :-) We are making some Christmas goodies, too, for nibbles.

Tuesday will be the day to put together our Gingerbread House and I will try my hand at baking a Christmas cake. Uh-oh.

On Christmas Day, we are having friends over and in early January, more friends from interstate.

Don't you love this time of year?

On, and workout wise - FIRM Volme 1, Taebo BASIC Live, Turbo Jam Ab Jam..

Jonathon and Alexander

We are finishing our home made books. Meanwhile, Gerry is covering the books from years past in clear, protective contact. And, naturally, while he is covering we are re-reading and perusing these books.

Jonathon found a book he and Alexander "wrote and illustrated" when they were age 5 and age 2 1/2, respectively.

This is the pic from the blurb - see, Jonathon was taller than Alexander! Once upon a time...

Friday, December 15, 2006


Workout: FIRM Classic Volume 1 ( again - hey, if you're on a good thing...)

Activity: Iceskating with other homeschoolers, music lessons for T and Anny, work for J and A, Kumon prep for me, youth group Xmas party for the teens.

Food: Last night I ate chocolate ( hits self over head). Today on target and the scales show a 200g loss since last week. Celebrate small miracles!

Advent activity: Scripture reading, Xmas list making.

Reading: well, I am reading C.S. Lewis On Faith; Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum ; The Daughter of Time ; Throw Away Your Scales ( on fitness and dieting).

Kids? J - Witness to Hope; A - Crossing the Threshold of Hope ; T - St Louis de Montfort ; Anny - God's Secret Warrior.

Gerry? The Screwtape Letters.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

An Advent thought

From Miracles by C. S. Lewis.

" The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation."

A nice thought to remember during the busyness of Advent and Christmas and end of year activities and during the summer season.
Remember the miracle. :-)

Today's workout...

The FIRM Classic - Volume 1. I have this one on DVD - it is a bit cheesy, from the 80s, but a very effective areobic and weight training workout.
I didn't have time for the full 60 minutes today - homeschool teen group party on this a.m. - but I did about 45 minutes, maybe 50 minutes with the abs section.
Thanks Kristina for reminding me about this workout!
My eating has been okay to day, too - so far within calorie limits. :-)
How about you?

Our dinner table.

Last night, we all sat down to dinner together. At home. To a home cooked meal. Early, to fit in attendance at our parish's Advent programme.

We lit the candles on our Advent wreath.

We read the next slip of paper on our Advent calendar - St Lucy; sing carols.

Thomas and Anthony chose a carol each for us to sing.

Then followed discussion.

How was everyone doing with their Advent reading? We shared the highlights to date of our reading - two of us are reading some of C. S. Lewis . We discussed some of his books, his life, his friendship with Tolkien, his marriage. His description of Christianity in the book Mere Christianity.

Our discussion moved onto Advent and penance. How were we doing with our Advent work, working on our behaviour?

A couple of us have blown it and took heart in the fact that Advent is not yet over and we still have time to work on our areas of concern.

I was one of these. I am resolving not to raise my voice wth my children during Advent. As my boys pointed out last night, my version of raising my voice is probably the normal way that many mothers speak all the tme - the boys hardly consider it a raised voice at all.

But I do. When I am stressed or busy I do speak sterner and in a harsher voice. It is this I want to stop.

Rejoice! Advent is not over and neither are our good works!

Our final discussion was on boy/girl relationships. This was meant specifically for the teens, due to recent issues. However, it was important for the younger ones to also be included in the discussion - they will have to face similar issues one day. How do we approach our relationships as Catholics? What about physical issues and avoiding temptation? Why? What are the principles involved?

Wow, all this while eating.

Multi tasking indeed.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

My workout today.

Holding myself accountable - I really need to work out hard every day, to counter all this holiday eating.

I did Taebo - Billy's Blaster Ball workout.

And had a blast with the stability ball and the 3kg dumbells.

I'll try to commit to posting my workouts and to watching my eating, over the festive season. All right?

Want to join in?

Santa Clause 3

We took the kids to see this movie last night.

We've seen both Santa Clause 1 and 2 - and 1 is still my favourite. I love Tim Allen in that role.

Santa Clause 3 was fun - not super but definitely a nice family movie.

Especially if you do the whole Father Xmas thing ( we do).

And if you like group hugs. :-)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Our Parish Christmas Carols.

The Friars sang...

And Jonathon and Alexander played guitars in the youth band....

Many great acts and fun with friends and carols.

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Continual Feast

I am already thinking about next year.

Homeschool and Kumon next year. A feast of ideas.

What is our vision?

What has worked in the past?

One year, we followed along the liturgical year using the book A Continual Feast.

Each month, I pulled out the book and read through ideas and recipes for the Saint Days, the ideas for Ordinary Time, Lent, Advent.

I jotted plans.

And we cooked and wrote a lot that year.

Actually, I am thinking of doing that this forthcoming year, again.

Why? Well, the current homeschoolers in this house were very little then - and one wasn't even born. I know the older ones got a lot out of our "Year of Continual Feasting" and I would like to try it again with the younger four boys - esp before Jonathon is off and away with more responsibilities when he turns 18.

I have also ordered a couple of other books that I think will add flavour to our year -

Understanding The Scriptures: A Complete Course On Bible Study (The Didache Series)

100 Activities Based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church: For Grades 1 to 8

My Catholic Advent And Christmas Book

My Catholic Lent and Easter Activity Book: Reproducible Sheets for Home and School

We will be reading the My Story
books for Aussie history - Gerry has been reading these this year and has really enjoyed the series.

And probably do more activities related to movies, from my book Teaching With Movies.

And Alexander wants more Science.

Plus Kumon and whatever the year unfolds...

But first lets journey through Advent, Christmas, summer activities.

And finish our book making projects!

Thomas and Anthony, writing their novels. :-)

We put up our two Xmas trees on the weekend..

Here is the sitting room tree.

Our Advent Wreath

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum

I was tidying bookshelves yesterday and found my copy of this book (DYOCC).

I started reading it here and there. Instead of tidying, of course. :-)

I flicked to the section "The High School Years."

The author, Laura Berquest writes " The high school years present a special challenge for many homeschooling parents. Often the parents I speak to express real trepidation about homeschooling through high school. Since my own experience of homeschooling older students has been rewarding, I want to assure parents that it can be done, and it can be done well. Further, I have found these years to be, in certain way, the most pleasant time I have had with my children."

To be honest, I have a soft spot for the home educating lifestyle in a family with toddlers, preschoolers, children in the early grade.

But I also love to hang out with my teens.

Mrs. Berquest continues:

"High school age students are ready to give themselves to high and noble things. Their growing love of the poetical is a sign of this newly felt response to the good, the pure and the beautiful. We need to appeal to this desire in our students by making available to them objects that are proportionate to their desire. They are capable of nobility, and we should encourage them to pursue it. "

What noble things can we present to our teens? DYOCC discusses art, music, theology, service, literature. I would add movies - we watch our fair share of "rubbish" but find noble ideas, things to discuss, in many films.

Berquest also mentions the need for uninterrupted quiet.

This is something I know we need to work on - allowing clear space in our days and weeks for quiet time and for prayer.


"Since youngsters of this age are still in formation, this period of their life should not be only, or even primarily, concerned with outside activities, however good those activities might be. In terms of both education and prayer life, high school age students need periods of uninterrupted quiet in which they can think and pray.

While it is true that you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink, it is also true that if you lead a thirsty horse to water, he usually will drink. Your child's prayer life is not unlike that. You cannot make your teenage son or daughter contemplative and prayerful, but you can encourage him or her to be so by providing the time for daily Mass or weekly/or monthly holy hours...Think about ways to help your children make the faith their own, both intellectually and by pious practices."

We try to attend Mass as a family - this week it was Tuesday evening for the weekly St Anthony Mass, Friday might for the Immaculate Conception, today for Sunday Mass.

Jonathon, Gerry and I attended the Advent programme on Wednesday - and we discussed the ideas with the rest of the kids.

We try to attend Reconcilation as a family each month.

We prayed the novena for the Immaculate Conception and are now praying together a Christmas novena.

And we are working on our failings , being accountable to one another over this work, during Advent.

( Btw, I failed today, before Mass. :-( . I blew it, in a quiet way.)

However, just being together for prayer and the sacraments has an influence, I think.

Seeing each other work on areas and dust ourselves off and try again is a help.

I hope. :-)

Saturday, December 09, 2006


Last night we attended Mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Mass was beautiful - our family loves the whole incense thing.

And Father gave a very thoughtful homily on Our Lady and on the Immaculate Conception.

Three of our sons and a friend went to youth group ( late) after Mass - and I was a bit sad to see that they were the only kids from youth group who attended Mass. I thought it would have been nice for youth group to attend en masse and then to continue with usual youth group activities or a party.

I went to M.N.O. - ( homeschool) Mother's Night Out. It was the annual Christmas present steal - and a lot of fun! A few friends and I formed alliances to help with our "stealing" of presents.

I also tried a very yummy mini Christmas pudding.

An internet search this morning revealed three different recipes - I think Thomas and Anthony and I will try one of these!

Mini Xmas Puddings
Mini Xmas Fruit Puddings
Xmas Pudding Truffles

Friday, December 08, 2006

My new favourite quote

"Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy! And happy people just don't shoot their husbands!" Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Erudite Limpets.

Last night, inspired by the discussion at our parish Advent programme, we shared thoughts on heaven and earth, hell and purgatory.

We pondered God, perceptions of God and perceptions of the states of heaven or hell.

I was reminded of C.S. Lewis' analogy of "erudite limpets." I read this section a few nights ago, as part of my Advent reading. And shared the story of Lewis' erudite limpets with Gerry and the kids.

The boys were intrigued by the analogy and the discussion.

The "limpet" discussion is from Miracles. Lewis likens our own experience of defining God to that of the erudite limpets in defining Man.

"Why are many people prepared in advance to maintain that, whatever else God may be, He is not the concrete, living, willing, and acting God of Christian theology? I think the reason is as follows.

Let us suppose a mystical limpet, a sage among limpets, who (rapt in vision) catches a glimpse of what Man is like. In reporting it to his disciples, who have some vision themselves (though less than he) he will have to use many negatives. He will have to tell them that Man has no shell, is not attached to a rock, is not surrounded by water. And his disciples, having a little vision of their own to help them, do get some idea of Man. But then there come erudite limpets, limpets who write histories of philosophy and give lectures on comparative religion, and who have never had any vision of their own. What they get out of the prophetic limpet’s words is simply and solely the negatives. From these, uncorrected by any positive insight, they build up a picture of Man as a sort of amorphous jelly (he has no shell) existing nowhere in particular (he is not attached to a rock) and never taking nourishment (there is no water to drift it toward him). And having a traditional reverence for Man they conclude that to be a famished jelly in a dimensionless void is the supreme mode of existence, and reject as crude, materialistic superstition any doctrine which would attribute to Man a definite shape, a structure, and organs. "


Here are Thomas and Anthony at their music recital last Sunday.

Thomas played "The Entertainer" and Anthony 's piece was "Fur Elise".

On the way to the car after the recital, we discovered a rosella on a grevillia bush. What an attractive sight - we couldn't resist a snapshot.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Daughter of Time

by Josephine Tey is one of the ( many) books I am reading this month.

This is a re-read.

I first discovered Tey in high school English class.

Since then , I have read all her novels and re-read several - especially " The Daughter of Time" (1951), my first introduction to the author.

The novel is a mystery novel with a difference. It is engaging. It is a cleverly constructed detective history.

Tey recreates one of history's most infamous crimes - the murder of the princes in the tower by Richard III. Inspector Grant, of London on the 1950s, is on his sick bed and decides to pass time by attempting to solve the historical crime.

An intriguing mystery book, on the search for truth and for honesty in history, with Tey's clever writing and memorable comments.

"There are...far too many words written. Millions and millions of them pouring from the presses every minute. It's a horrible thought...It might be a good thing if all the presses of the world were stopped for a generation. There ought to be a literary moratorium. Some Superman ought to invent a ray that would stop them all simultaneously. "

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

St Nicholas

Today we had a very small meeting of Catholic homeschoolers ( and one ex homeschooler :-) ) at our house. We prayed the Rosary. Fr. organized an Advent Blessing, including the blessing of the Advent wreath. We shared food - and talked away the afternoon while the children played.

Then I had to tidy up and do some work for my Kumon centre.

And tomorrow is the feast of St Nicholas. Our Advent activity calendar states "Make cookies for the feast of St Nicholas."

We are making the cookies from here. But probably not in the shape of the Bishop St Nicholas. :-)

We have made these cookies before on this feast day in previous years, and can vouch for their tastiness.

We will also read, yet again, The Miracle of St Nicholas by Gloria Whelan.

And do some Maths and Kumon English. And my Kumon phone calls. And Homeschool Group Learning. And deliver the local newspaper with Thomas and Anthony. And the Advent programme at church for the we older three. And pray the novena for the Immaculate Conception.

Hopefully, a fruitful feast of St Nicholas.

Monday, December 04, 2006

More unschooling voices.

The latest Unschooling Voices is out - it describes the fun experiments, activities, projects undertaken by unschoolers .

I hope to follow up on some of the links this week...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

1st Sunday of Advent

As Advent unfolds and as Christmas approaches, our life gets busier - plain and simple.

Most days we have two or three or (four) extra things on.

Highlights of this last week include the parish BBQ ( Gerry and the kids and I did some of the work involved), Kumon meetings, Group Learning, several medical appointments, Thomas' birthday with a party in the morning and a dinner in the evening, a flying visit from son Greg, Gerry in Canberra, the Advent programme at our parish, shelving at Kumon on the weekend, an early Christmas party, Thomas and Anthony's piano concert today, a staff meeting today, Advent preparations.

It doesn't slow down this coming week, either.

Dh ~Gerry ~ says that I am known for my tendency to fit a 36 hour day into 12 hours.

This tendency magnifies during Advent and Christmas.

I like to be busy. Truly. I like to both be and do.

However, as the busyness increases, I am aware of my need for peace. Of my family's need for peace.

I am taking time each day for me - my workout time. I am working out harder to make up for all the extra eating occasions that occur at this time!

I also resolve not to give in to the temptation to match my busyness with a corresponding increase in short temperedness with dh and the kids.

I resolve to be peaceful in my interactions with my dh and children. At peace but not necessarily quiet ~ I wouldn't want to shock them!

I resolve to be peaceful in my interior life, to continue with my Advent reading ( C.S. Lewis this year).

And so I am adopting this prayer for Advent:

Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

where there is injury,pardon;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek

to be consoled as to console;

to be understood as to understand;

to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.


We have this prayer on a plaque and today I rescued the plaque from the depths of our hall cupboard. The plaque is going to live in our sitting room during the Advent season.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Homeschooling, Waldorf Education and Teens.

Into High School is a nine page online booklet on homeschooling teens with a Waldorf influence.

I really appreciated some of the author's thoughts - especially :

I have come to believe that it is
more than okay for siblings
to be best friends.

I have come to believe that it is
more than okay for parents
to enjoy their teen-aged children.

My kids really are friends. Yes, they fight and get annoyed with each other. But because they also spend a lot of time together, they share an intimacy - familiar jokes, shared memories and experiences.

An example. Last week, I printed off a discrete maths activity for Thomas and Anny to try. A spider web mapping game, from Mathwire. When I was upstairs getting changed out of workout gear, I heard them laughing and having fun with the game - really getting into it. I smiled.Friends and brothers.

And this smile leads me into my enjoyment of my kids - the boys (and my dh) are some of my coolest friends. We like the same movies. We share books. We laugh and talk - and even when I am in lecture mode , we get along.

Like tonight, when, at our parish Advent programme, I told Jonathon to sit up straight. His posture need remediation. :-) He gave me a wry smile and I passed him a note with a funny comment. We both smiled. We understand each other ( well, most of the time).

The online booklet, "Into High School", shares many other gems.

* It was as important to be spontaneous as it was to be prepared.
* It was essential to remain flexible.
* It was imperative to keep talking.
* It was even more imperative to keep our sense of humor intact.

Why mention only these points? What about curriculum and academics?

Yes these are important, too. I am not one to downgrade academic skills - a passion for learning is one of the things that drove me into homeschooling and unschooling.

Successful learning, however, always starts with relating to the student as a person. I have found this to be of even more importance when learning and living with teens.

Once our relationship is established, and worked on as an ongoing commitment, then comes academics. "Into High School" has suggestions here.

Our own suggestions?

Currently ~ living books; real, whole books by authors passionate about a topic. Some judicious use of textbooks. Religious books. Biographies of saints. Hands on Science and Art. Projects. Community work. Involvement in groups, homeschool or other. Lots of writing. Maths activities. Using the internet and the library. Movies. Open University. Life. Faith.

Living books? For Thomas this week, it is " Ivanhoe" by Sir Walter Scott.
Thomas was reading this book yesterday, while we were at the surgery of his orthopedic surgeon.

The surgeon looked at the book and said "Oh, they are making you read Ivanhoe, are they? I could never get into it at school".

Presumably "they" was a reference to teachers - or, in this case, to Thomas' homeschooling parents.

Thomas looked surprised. No-one is making him read "Ivanhoe."

He said "No, I just like Sir Walter Scott and the whole knights scene."

This is how living books presently work in the education of a thirteen year old boy.

In the news...

"Muslim Turkey welcomes Pope's peace talks." Interesting.

And ~ Old school skaters re-discover skateboards and reduce stress. I have been learning to skate board. I am very bad at it - I think it adds to my stress. But its fun.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

A mother's role.

Each day, I aim to have a small segment of time for prayer and for some spiritual or theology related reading.

When the kids were little, this segment of time was usually just before bed. Now, I sneak in this time first thing in the morning, before working out.

The last few weeks, I have been reading the encyclical Laborem exercens. Pope John Paul II. On work and the dignity of work.

Part of yesterday's reading focused on the role of a mother.

" Experience confirms that there must be a social re-evaluation of the mother's role, of the toil connected with it, and of the need that children have for care, love and affection in order that they may develop into responsible, morally and religiously mature and psychologically stable persons. It will redound to the credit of society to make it possible for a mother-without inhibiting her freedom, without psychological or practical discrimination, and without penalizing her as compared with other women-to devote herself to taking care of her children and educating them in accordance with their needs, which vary with age. Having to abandon these tasks in order to take up paid work outside the home is wrong from the point of view of the good of society and of the family when it contradicts or hinders these primary goals of the mission of a mother.

In this context it should be emphasized that, on a more general level, the whole labour process must be organized and adapted in such a way as to respect the requirements of the person and his or her forms of life, above all life in the home, taking into account the individual's age and sex. It is a fact that in many societies women work in nearly every sector of life. But it is fitting that they should be able to fulfil their tasks in accordance with their own nature, without being discriminated against and without being excluded from jobs for which they are capable, but also without lack of respect for their family aspirations and for their specific role in contributing, together with men, to the good of society. The true advancement of women requires that labour should be structured in such a way that women do not have to pay for their advancement by abandoning what is specific to them and at the expense of the family, in which women as mothers have an irreplaceable role. "

I have placed the last sentence in bold as I think it is something that is often forgotten - even by we women .

The Loveliness of Advent

Jenn will be hosting the next Loveliness Fair ~ The Loveliness of Advent. The Fair will be ready for visitors on November 29 .

This week, we finalized some of our Advent preparations.

You may recall, that at the start of this "school" term, in October, we planned some ideas for the term. These plans included an internet search for more Advent ideas.

I pulled some of the ideas together during the week.

On Thursday, we made an Advent wreath, stealing the ideas from the blog O Night Divine.

Our other Advent wreath was made ten years ago - and the current four children homeschooling were nearly 1, 3, 5, and 7 then. So, it was a craft mostly compiled by the then older three homeschoolers ( now homeschool graduates).

I thought a new Advent wreath was overdue.

We adapted the idea from the blog above and spray painted our wreath, adding greenery and fake poinsettia and small pine cone shaped tea candles.

Here is a simple Advent Wreath paper craft to try.

Our Advent preparations this week also included our Advent calendar. We have two.

Each year, we purchase a Cadbury Co. chocolate Advent calender - very commercial of us, I know, but it is something we've done since our oldest son was a preschooler. He is now in his 20s! We all look forward to the calendar and the chocolate. You can see the Cadbury calendar above.

Then, we also usually make some sort of Advent calendar. Or calendar of Advent ideas.

This year, we are using a cloth calendar that I bought on sale from a Christmas shop at the close of the last Christmas season . Similar to the one in the picture.

Thomas typed and printed a list of activities, which we cut and folded and placed in the appropriate pockets. I added a few sweets to the pockets, here and there.

This is Thomas' list ~

6th Feast of Saint Nicholas make Christmas cookies

13th Feast of Saint Lucy make Saint Lucy’s crown

4th feast of Saint Barbara check the weather

16th Begin Xmas Novena

Make and mail Christmas cards

Do something nice for another family member today

Sing Christmas carols

Sing Christmas carols

Sing Christmas carols

2,3,9,10 cat Christmas photos

Christmas photo

Put up Christmas tree

8th Immaculate conception

Walk or drive to see the Christmas lights

Visit Christmas In the city

Christmas Advent crafts

Christmas Advent crafts

Christmas Advent crafts

Christmas Advent crafts

Read Christmas books

Listen to Christmas music

Read Christmas story from the bible

Make Christmas cake

Do Christmas shopping

Make Christmas food

3rd first Sunday of advent

10th second Sunday in advent

17th third Sunday in advent

24th fourth Sunday in advent

Other years, we have made Advent coloured paper chains and simple home made Advent calendars.

So, what do we plan to do during Advent?

~ Everyone is choosing a spiritual/theological book to read during Advent. The kids typically choose a biography of a saint. I used to read aloud these books to the little ones.
~We will choose our "Advent penances."
~ Each week, we will click on one of the dates of that week on this online Advent activity calendar. We will follow the suggestions for reading, Bible readings, activities and even Christmas movies! It would be awesome to do this daily, but impractical given our schedules. A weekly Advent morning suits us fine.
~We will re-assemble our basket and box of Christmas and Advent books and movies. We have been judiciously collecting these over the years.
~I have already strewed an old Abeka literature text, one with a section of Christmas stories - including Dicken's "A Christmas Carol."
~We were thinking of making cards this year (didn't last year, either) - but got a good deal on religious cards at the piety stall at church. Who can resist?
~ We are planning our Christmas shopping lists - thinking ahead of how to share the joy via gifts and food.
~ We might try our hand at these Christmas tree ornaments from recycled Christmas cards. We might give the holiday biscotti recipe a whirl. It all depends on the time factor.
~ And we are making a gingerbread house - with a kit! Sorry, but this seems so much more positive and likely to succeed than making everything from scratch. Last year, we made mock gingerbread houses, with milk coffee biscuits - see these directions. The directions call for graham crackers. I have no idea what graham crackers are - as I said, we used Aussie/English milk coffee biscuits.
~ I have invited a few other Catholic homeschoolers over during Advent. We will pray the Rosary and Father will give us an Advent Blessing. We plan to follow this with morning tea/lunch.
~ During Advent, we will be finishing off our term activity - homemade books - Alexander is completing his mini book of three essays, Thomas is almost done with writing his cookbook and Anthony has a chapter to go on his world history of an imaginary land. Jonathon will start and complete a small book of some of his artwork or writing from this year.
~ Oh, and some of us will be attending the Advent programme at our parish - starts this Wednesday.

Here's wishing all a Happy and Busy Advent!

"It might be easy to run away to a monastery, away from the commercialization, the hectic hustle, the demanding family responsibilities of Christmas-time. Then we would have a holy Christmas. But we would forget the lesson of the Incarnation, of the enfleshing of God—the lesson that we who are followers of Jesus do not run from the secular; rather we try to transform it. It is our mission to make holy the secular aspects of Christmas just as the early Christians baptized the Christmas tree. And we do this by being holy people—kind, patient, generous, loving, laughing people—no matter how maddening is the Christmas rush…" Fr. Andrew Greeley

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Today at Homeschool Group Learning, the theme was knitting and crochet.

I am not adept at these things ( surprise, surprise!) . I do, however, know a few Waldorf education inspired wool crafts for children.

So, I taught a few young children how to
finger knit. This site also shares a simple story and verses related to finger knitting. And some easy projects.

We graduated to basic knitting with coloured pencils, in lieu of knitting needles. Felt very rustic.

And if you are very adventurous you and the children can even make your own knitting needles.

Thomas and Anthony made poms poms. Wouldn't they look good as Christmas tree ornaments, in the Christmas colours above?

Alexander undertook a project in French knitting. Yes, knitting. I know what you are thinking. :-)

What did we learn while knitting?

Apart from hand eye co-ordination and creativity, we learned to be at peace.

There is something very restful about the rhythmic flow of finger knitting, for example - and about the conversations that flow when adults and children sit together to undertake a simple, quiet craft.

A teacher reflects on knitting with her sixth grade class.

Lessons learned. Personal reflections. Poignant.

A taste - "Last night three of our students and their mother were murdered. Five weeks ago, another sixth grade student was killed by gunfire. We are all in a state of shock. So in art today, I gave the kids the choice between knitting
and doing free drawing as a way to express feelings. Although a few said
they wanted to draw in their sketchbooks, none of them did. They all
knitted. Interesting. I knit when I'm upset or stressed, as a therapeutic
activity. It seems they are making the same choice. We talked about how
knitting could be healing and soothing (once you know what you're doing
). "

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

JP2 and education

From the encyclical Laborem exercens.

"The organization of human life in accordance with the many possibilities of labour should be matched by a suitable system of instruction and education, aimed first of all at developing mature human beings but also aimed at preparing people specifically for assuming to good advantage an appropriate place in the vast and socially differentiated world of work. "

My emphasis above.

But I like the idea.

Crown cake

We have a busy weekend planned - but I hope to find time to make a Crown Cake, in order to celebrate Sunday's Feast of Christ the King.

Christ is King . You can check out the readings for Sunday here.

Maybe we can make the cake on Saturday evening? I know Thomas will want to bake.

One recipe for a Crown Cake.

And this is a Cinnamon Crown cake.

For a more complicated but delicious sounding recipe try here.

We'll probably keep it simple ( you know me). But I think baking and eating are fun ways to remember the Feast of Christ the King.

I'll have to watch my calories, though!

And what if the kids don't want to participate?

Well, tough! ( Oh, dear, I sound mean. But its said with a smile - does that count?)

As I wrote on an email list, recently, there are things in our family life which are non-negotiables. We consider the child, we change and adapt things and change and adapt ourselves but, ultimately, some areas are family concerns. Must dos.

I admit that sometimes my kids don't want to do something - not discuss the movie or do the maths activity or the project. Sometimes this is okay - we'll leave the project.

But, sometimes, no is not an option here - we can tweak things to suit the child but something needs to be done or participated in.

Why? Well, this doesn't sound unschooly but
a) we need some sort of proof of learning for our portfolios for the state

b) I know that often my kids ( one kid in particular) are reluctant about something but, with a gentle push and time, will end up getting into the project/book/whatever. Will like it.

c) Dh and I just think the activity is important .We can see the bigger picture. We try to communciate the bigger picture. Our vision.

Certainly, I have to remember that its not all about me or about my desire to have a super looking home and homeschool with darling looking home school children. :-)

My children are darlings - but each in their own way!

Similarly, as it is not all about me, it is not always all about the kids.

We are a family so we have to consider each other - come for a walk simply because mum asked you to and mum really wants to, watch a movie with younger brothers, participate in a family tradition even if you think its corny - simply For the Family's Sake.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Grab Bags or Lucky Dips.

Meredith has shared her Grab Bag day in homeschooling - a super alternative to checklists in the homeschool.

Cay has shared her simple version of Grab Bag Day, for Advent.

I have been inspired.

Grab Bags remind me of Lucky Dips - you never know what you may receive.

This evening, after Mass and Youth Group supper, I have made a Lucky Dip bag for the week - a busy week for me work wise and so a good week for a Lucky Dip/Grab Bag for Anthony and Thomas.

Some of our Lucky Dip activities -

Do Maths and Kumon

Work on books project

French or Latin


Type a bio of one of the November saints and include a pic.

Music practice

Don’t forget your chores!

Make Advent wreath

What are your goals? Pick one to work towards this week.

Your reading – what are you reading this week?


Cooking – try a new recipe or make an old favourite

Sort through the toy cupboard and toy boxes until you find an old toy or game that seems new. Have a game!

Your Lucky Dip choice…..

I'll let you know how it goes....

Saturday, November 18, 2006


The Tucker Bunch are hosting a sharing of meatless recipes. I think they are calling this Meatless Fridays.

Its not Friday today. And we may eat meat on Friday - or not.

We do, however, often eat vegetarian and I was vegetarian as a younger mum in my 20s.

So, here a couple of our fave meatless recipes.

Impossible Vegetable Quiche

Thomas and Anthony enjoy making this on their cooking nights. Yummy with jacket potatoes or bread rolls and salad.It is called "impossible" since it ( supposedly) makes it own crust.

6 eggs
2 cups low fat milk
1 1/2 cups low fat cheese, grated
1 onion, chopped
1 cup chopped vegetables ( your choice - corn, zucchini, peas, broccoli, mushrooms, tomato, capsicum or a mixture thereof)
1 cup wholemeal self raising flour

Beat everything together. Pour into a quiche dish that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Bake in a moderately hot oven ( 200 degrees Celsius) for 35 - 40 minutes.

You can substitute tinned tuna for some or all of the vegetables - but most of my kids hate tuna!

Cashew Kapow

Potato - 500g or 1 lb, sliced or diced
Peas and/or Beans - 1 cup
Dessicated Coconut - 3 teaspoons
Cashew nuts - 1/2 - 1 cup
Chilli powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Salt to Taste
Pinch turmeric
Chopped garlic and onion to taste
Curry powder - 1/2 - 1 tablespoon

Cut the potatoes, mix them with a pinch of turmeric and salt. Lightly coat a pan with oil or cooking spray, when it is hot put in the potatoes, fry them till golden brown. Then add onion, chilli powder, curry powder, fry them till they turn golden brown, add garlic , salt to taste, peas, beans and mix them well. Saute them for 1 minute then add the cashews and coconut. Add 1/2 cup hot water. Close the lid and cook them till the vegetables are done. Serve with hot brown or basmati rice. Gorgeous!

Unschooling Catholics.

Cindy has done the legwork in setting up a Unschooling Catholics Blogland.
Have a look! Have a read!

Thanks for all the effort, Cindy.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Charlotte Mason and Maths

Last night, I hosted a Charlotte Mason inspired mothers meeting for other homeschool mums. The topic ~of Maths~ was discussed over tea and coffee and nibbles.

Real Learning describes the type of learning inspired by the theories of Anglican educator, Charlotte Mason. Miss Mason ( dec 1923) described education as " an atmosphere, a discipline and a life."

Mason wrote on many topics, including mathematics. Her thoughts centred on the role of reasoning in mathematics and on the application of living ideas and living books to maths - making maths real and living.

And so our discussion unfolded last night.

We shared questions and resources, practices, successes and misgivings.

We remembered how important it is to suit the education to the child.

We re-discovered the importance of no comparisons - between our children and others, between siblings.

Here are some notes that I wrote several years ago, on CM and Maths.

And some more Aussie style maths ideas for the homeschool.

St Margaret of Scotland

Today is her feast day.

Thomas has always liked all things Scottish - he was born of the feast of St Andrew , patron saint of Scotland.

We are reading about St Margaret tonight...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Mathematics activity - timelines

Anthony has been having fun with time activities this week .

The Year 5 Maths Key Learning Area, in the state's syllabus indicator, states
' In Measurement, students measure, estimate and calculate in situations involving time, duration of time and simple rates. They interpret time-lines and complex timetables and schedules relevant to their lives.'

Here are some time and time line activities -
Time activities - sample unit of work

Now, most of these activities are undertaken as part of life - at least, that is how Anthony has come to understand time and schedules and timetables.

One fun activity that he did yesterday, however, was suggested by a Year 5 Maths book. Anthony ( and a visiting homeschool boy) took the idea on board.

Anthony made a mini timeline of his life, selecting photographs from different stages of his life with the help of our homeschool visitor, adding the year and place and state in which he lived at the time.

Anthony's timeline now sits on our fridge - more refrigerator strewing.

Of course, this also fits in the Society and Environment educational stream - Change and Continuity; Social Structures and Systems; Place.

Most importantly, this was a fun, high interest activity, with a lot of discussion about how family members look and about the different places we have lived.

I thought other kids might like this activity, too.