Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Last year, someone asked me what I require from the kids.

I was hard pressed to think of anything. I encourage reading. I read aloud. I encourage prayers and spiritual reading during both Lent and Advent. I encourage daily fitness. We all pitch in with chores but no-one is required to help.

Last year, we also tried to journal, in our journalling nook, each week. This fell by the wayside come Xmas and holidays.

I am, noticing, however, that our weeks this year are developing a new flavour.

Emailing a friend about routines made me realise that our current season looks somewhat different to the above.

Right now we have rhythms - well, we always sort these out and fall into a groove each move/each year.

I read aloud to the kids a couple of days a week.
I encourage them to do some exercise every day.
I encourage Anny and Thomas to practise piano a couple of days a week.

We do some written work around twice a week - Maths and Handwriting, LOTE or journal or nature journal or a project - currently a confirmation lapbook. J does his uni course stuff.

We have artwork on the dining room computer from our current artist - February will be Winslow Homer.*

And music around from our current composer - Tchaikovsky.

Bios of both on the refrigerator.

We are involved in several homeschool groups and outings. Part time work. "Extra curricular" lessons.

Each day is a living and learning and praying adventure - low key or high drama .

As today, when our discussion has centred on St John Bosco and on the cardinal virtue of justice.

No doubt these rhythms will morph into new beats as the year progresses.

*Monthly composer and artist ideas are suggested at the 4 real learning discussion forum.

St John Bosco

Today is the feast day of St John Bosco.

Of all the saints, St John Bosco has been my role model, my saintlymentor, as both a parent and an educator.

I have shared these links elsewhere but thought I'd keep them here for reference.

Tired of the policing aspect of parenting? Read St John Bosco for a big, gasping breath of fresh air and for hints of another way.

Saint John Bosco

"Enjoy yourself as much as you like -- if only you keep from sin. "

"My sons, in my long experience very often I had to be convinced of this great truth. It is easier to become angry than to restrain oneself, and to threaten a boy than to persuade him. Yes, indeed, it is more fitting to be persistent in punishing our own impatience and pride than to correct the boys. We must be firm but kind, and be patient with them. See that no one finds you motivated by impetuosity or willfulness.....

Let us regard those boys over whom we have some authority as our own sons. Let us place ourselves in their service. Let us be ashamed to assume an attitude of superiority. Let us not rule over them except for the purpose of serving them better.

This was the method that Jesus used with the apostles. He put up with their ignorance and roughness and even their infidelity. He treated sinners with a kindness and affection that caused some to be shocked, others to be scandalized and still others to hope for God's mercy. And so he bade us to be gentle and humble of heart." from a letter by Saint John Bosco

In 1887 he wrote: "I do not remember to have used formal punishment; and with God's grace I have always obtained, and from apparently hopeless children, not alone what duty exacted, but what my wish simply expressed"



I have been reading a few blogs recently.

Want to share a few quotes.

"Preserve order and order will preserve you"St. Maximilian Kolbe

"Guide their reading. Don't dictate it."

"Too often we beat the love of writing out of our children with Too-Much-Too-Soon Curriculum and the voices never have a chance to develop."

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Lazy summer mornings..

I love summer.It is my "most favourite" season.

I particularly enjoy the summer mornings. The blue sky. The coolness of the morning, before the heat of the day. Exercising, getting chores done, closing the house before the heat arrives.

Having some down time before our day truly arrives, with appointments and outings.

Friday morning was just such a morning.

We had some time before we needed to leave for an errand. By some coincidence, the boys and I ended up in the same room - the sitting room.

On reflection, it was probably not coincidence but the call of the room itself. It has bright colours - one chair is bright red, a sofa is apple green. It is homey. It is cool. It is a comfortable room and has our piano, our keyboard, Alexander's new record player, one of our computers, many books on the wooden chest.

As I sat on the sofa, a natural progression seemed to be to read aloud. Jonathon listened while he finished his computer game ( sound down!).

I read a chapter from Our Life in the Church, a book we are using for Confirmation preparation. Our new Diocese has Confirmation at the same time as First Holy Communion, so three boys from our family will be confirmed this year.

We discussed the different beliefs of many of our friends, and thier different faiths, Christian or non Christian.

There was time to squeeze in a couple of pages from Mao's Last Dancer - and some chatting about life in a communist country. How would it be different to life in our country?

Then it was time to leave for our errands.

I left with a satisfying feeling of contentment with our summer morning.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


"I think you fold it this way."

'No - maybe try it the other way around?"

"Dad, can you help?"

A few minutes later, dh ( Gerry) helped Anthony and I sort out our origami.

We were attempting to make a secrets parcel, to give to J for his birthday.

Last week, I found a book at the library - Step By step Origami. It was in the children's section and has large colour photographs so, ostensibly, should be easy to follow.

Perhaps Anthony and I are manually challenged - it tooks us many folds and some help to complete the shape.

But origami is fun! And what a great learning experience - spatial awareness, shapes, arts, maths, culture as we read about the history of paper and origami in Japan...

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Yet another quote.

Okay, I promise not to bore you all with my favourite quotes, but I am writing my mottoes for the year.

These slogans or mottoes tend to be quotes or sayings symbolizing what it is that I wish to be/do/want from the new year.

They help me focus.

I usually write them in my daytimer/diary, as little reminders.

I often share them with others, children included. It is fascinating to hear their thoughts on my mottoes and to hear of their own possible mottoes.

So, this is another quote, that I am considering -

"Consult not your fears but your hopes and dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what is still possible for you to do." ~Pope John XXIII

Note - Dictionary.com has this to say about mottoes -

mot·to n. pl. mot·toes or mot·tos
A brief statement used to express a principle, goal, or ideal.

A sentence, phrase, or word of appropriate character inscribed on or attached to an object.
A maxim adopted as a guide to one's conduct.
[Italian, word, motto, probably from Vulgar Latin *mttum, word. See motom definitione of mottoes is "

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Maria Montessori

"Supposing I said there was a planet without schools or teachers, study was unknown, and yet the inhabitants – doing nothing but living and walking about – came to know all things ....Well, just this, which seems to fanciful as to be nothing but the invention of a fertile imagination, is a reality. It is the child's way of learning."

Dr. Maria Montessori


January is definitely a time for the new.

The new , many times, means cleaning and sorting, mentally and physically and spiritually.

The physical part took the shape, yesterday, of tidying the art/stationery trolley and re-organizing our journalling nook. Between frequent rests for me.

The journalling nook was set up during last January's "sorting' time. And then the nook was moved to a new place after our move interstate and to a new home last March.

I think tidying and organizing can be part of strewing - strewing ideas and activities for ourselves and our children. Strewing doesn't have to be a physical thing - it can be mental, looking at what we have and where we are, with new eyes. A paradigm shift.

Tidying some of the clutter helps me discover the paradigm shift.

We sort and throw out, make a list of some new supplies to purchase and are encouraged to look again at some art or writing or drawing. Maybe.

Saturday, January 14, 2006


Over lunch, two sons read aloud from a book of comics of Calvin and Hobbes.

We shared laughter.

We shared observations on life, life as a child, families.

Sometimes, comics mirror real life -we laugh and then we ponder.

Check out this comic. Telling.


Thursday, January 12, 2006

One More Thing

Oh, thought I'd share my One Thing for today - again, two things.

1. Read aloud from Our Life in the Church, with those boys who will be confirmed this year. I expect we will get side tracked into many other discussions.
2. Print some information about Manet ( artist) and Mozart ( composer) for the refrigerator door. In this, I have been inspired by the posters at the 4 real discussion boards* - these two have been suggested as the artist and the composer for the month of January.

We already have a print of one of Manet's paintings on the dining room computer, as wallpaper ( The Escape of Rocherfort) and have listened to some of Mozart while I ate breakfast and others read or played video games.

One Thing

I am feeling a bit under the weather, as they say. Tired, I have a sore throat, blood clots in superficial veins, on rest....

So, I am back to my One Thng.

One Thing for each day, to be and do with the children.

I first heard of the One philosophy when I was a young teenager, reading one of those ubiquitous magazines for young women.

The article was called One Bowl and was a dieting article - describing the philosophy of paring back. The ideas was to eat all one's meals out of one small bowl - thus cutting down automatically on portions. And learning to savour meals from the One Bowl.

Since then, I have read about the One philosophy applied to many areas. I have tried to keep to One Thing at many times, when everything else seems like too much.

One Thing can also be applied to housework, to habits, to homeschooling or unschooling.

Julie, from the Bravewriter Blog, describes it eloquently. *

So, what was my One Thing for unschooling yesterday?

Typically me, the One Thing was actually Two Things.

1.Read about the Epiphany Blessing and its traditions and meanings - Catholic Culture was one good source.**
2. Share my writing ideas with the dc - my thought of writing and drawing in our journals, about our holidays with the older three boys. About our dreams and wishes for 2006. Include photos and cut outs from leaflets collected on our visits in the holidays. Paste in snippets of Christmas cards. Pics of goals for the year.

Well, Anthony and I began this writing project. I think we will work on it over the next week or two. The others turned up their noses at the journalling - but jumped at the newspaper clipping I showed them. It was from The Catholic Weekly, on a writing competition for school aged students.

Write up to 1000 words, on a religious theme or topic.

Those interested immediately started brainstorming - current events, passions in the lives as young Christians, what does the CCC have to say about this topic? The closing date is in three weeks and I think the cash prize may be a motivator!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Movies, Music, Letterwriting and Library Books

These all describe parts of our day today.

Jonathon borrowed, from the library , the soundtrack of the Bride and Prejudice movie - we enjoyed the movie and I found I liked a lot of the enrgetic dancing and Indian style of music. So, listening to the soundtrack has been a blast. ( I now want to get the Yoga Booty Ballet Bollywood workout DVD - if only they shipped here!)

Actually, our library trip yesterday was fruitful.

I suggested that we all try to peruse a different section of the library and see what we could find to borrow.

Yes, we all found our true favourites and current passions but we also discovered a few books that we may not have usually come upon -

Ancient Computing by Michael Worlds and Mary Woodes - mathematical thinking
The Best Ever Book of the Wild West
Giants of the Ocean ( whales, dolphins, sharks)
There and Back Again: A Behind the Scenes Look at LOTR by Sean Astin
My Name Escapes Me, by Alec Guinness

These now sit on our camphour wood chest in the sitting room, for reading and looking at and chatting about.

Lying nearby is our copy of The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg. Anthony and I retrieved the book from the Christmas basket, after watching the DVD last night. We love the illustrations in the book. We enjoyed the animation of the film- although Anthony is hard pressed to understand why someone could not believe in Father Christmas!

Today has also been a hot day. I am on rest for medical reasons, the two teens have work at Kumon and the next two have newspaper delivery and folding. Anthony started making his model airplane, the one he recived for Christmas. Thomas emailed his brothers and worked a bit on his novel. Jonathon looked through the Open University handbook, for interesting and suitable courses to study this year. Alexander played and played his guitar.

And we all managed to find some time before lunch, and before my doctor appointment, to write and decorate thank you letters to frieinds and family.

Tonight there is Mass followed by Devotions to St Anthony in our parish and we plan to go - that constitutes rest , doesn't it?

Monday, January 09, 2006

On Mary and On Mothering.

A priest friend loaned me the book "Hail Holy Queen" by Scott Hahn.

I spent several hours today at the doctors, waiting for tests and test results.

This was a perfect time for me to read Scott Hahn's book about Mary, the mother of Jesus.

A good time to reflect on mothering, as we celebrated the Ephiphany yesterday, the coming of the wise men to honour the child Jesus, cared for by his mother.

A good time to reflect on mothering and on the Holy Family of Mary, Joseph and Jesus, as we come to the close of the Christmas season.

A good time to reflect on mothering, as we re-adjust to living life without our older three sons, to livng as a small-ish family of four sons and two parents.

Scott Hahn writes:

"Mothers are the most difficult people to study. They elude our scrutiny. By nature and by definition, they are relational. They can be considered as mothers only in their relationship with their children. That is where they focus their attention, and that is where they would focus ours."

I know that mothering *is all about relationship. I experience this daily.

And this is what I try to share day in, day out - my relationship with God, with my dh, with others, with my sons.

We listened to some Carly Simon in the car today, on our way to the medical appointments. And we got to talking about the lyrics of "You're So Vain."

As Thomas pointed out, if you knew Carly Simon and wondered if the song was about you - would you admit it?

In admitting it, wouldn't you be admitting that the song was true - you *are so vain that you probably think this song is about you!

I talked about how many people felt that this song was about the actor Warren Beatty.

Was he that vain, one son wondered.

Where was his mother, another asked. For surely mothers, of all people, are the one who would point out the fault of vanity?

As Scott Hahn said, mothers are mysterious and relational.


I think there is a sense of synergy involved in unschooling/homeschooling.

Stephen Covey, of the Seven Habits fame, describes synergy as follows -

"Synergy...is the magic that happens when one plus one equals three - or more. And it happens because the relationship between the parts is a part itself. It has such catalytic, dynamic power that it affects how the parts interact with one another. ...

So, synergy deals with the part between the parts. In the family, this part is the quality and nature of the relationship betweebn people. ...

You might even think of this as a third person. The feeling of 'we' in a marriage becomes more than two people; it's the relationship between the two people that creates this 'third person'. And the same is true with parents and children. The other 'person' created by the relationship is the essence of the family culture with its deeply established purpose and principle-centred value system.

In synergy, then, you have not only mutual vulnerability and the creation of shared vision and values, new solutions, and better alternatives, but you also have a sense of mutual accountability to the norms and values built into those creations."

There is a synergy in unschooling that means that we are not just each individual, following our own interests. We are an entity - my current passion will be shared with a child; another child's interest will encourage strewing and this will rub off onto a sibling; the time spent tidying together is also a time for asking questions and thinking about answer.

Duties are not required but are worked out, within the family culture.

The influence of parents is huge.

But so is the influence of other siblings.

I think of the game of Kings that my boys played for years. It started when the older three were aged seven, eight and ten. It was played with another family. Rules and constitutions were written. Societies and governments forged. And active wars were fought!

As younger siblings in both famies were born and then grew, they were added into the game of Kings. The synergy of shared interests and culture. And Kings , in itself, became a separate entity.

All this reflection comes after a depressing farewell to our older sons. They had to return interstate for jobs and university, after a two week holiday with us.

The younger two sobbed . We all felt torn - a part of us is taken.

This happens in families, I know. But what is not often addressed is the effect of older children leaving home, on the lives of the younger children.

There is a hole.

On New Years Eve, we watched the children's movie "Because of Winn Dixie'. Jonathon and I had read the book earlier this year.

And the pathos in the movie spoke volumes to me and gave me the words to share with the younger four children, about the departure of their three older brothers.

"Its like Gloria says, in Because of Winn Dixie. She tells Opal that you can't hold onto those things or people that you love. You have to love them while you have them."

The same applies to family, siblings, children leaving home, the empty nest and the synergy of unschooling.

Love it while you have it. And give it all to God.