Saturday, February 28, 2009

Saturday After Ash Wednesday

Our Lenten bulletin board. Purple strips - Sundays in Lent. Pink for Laetare Sunday. Red for Passion Sunday. Gold for Holy Week ( yeah, I know..). Pics for Feast days, Confirmation anniversary, birthdays, wedding anniversary, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday...

How should we respond to the invitation to conversion that Jesus addresses to us in this time of Lent? How can there be a serious change in our life? First of all, we must open our hearts to the penetrating call that comes to us from the Liturgy. The time of preparation for Easter is a providential gift from the Lord and a precious opportunity to draw closer to himk, turning inward to listen to his promptings deep within. Pope John Paul II Lenten Message 2001. Lent and Easter Wisdom from Pope John Paul II
Concede nobis, Domine, praesidia militiae christianae sanctis inchoare jejuniis: ut contra spiritales nequitias pugnaturi, continentiae muniamur auxiliis. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Grant us, O Lord, to begin with holy fasts our Christian warfare: that, as we do battle with the spirits of evil, we may be protected by the help of self-denial. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
I am thinking about liturgy this Lent. Not sure why but, as I read my St Andrew's Missal, daily this Lent, well, then, I start to think about Mass.
And prayer. And the Faith.
Lex orandi, lex credendi (Latin loosely translated as the law of prayer is the law of belief)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: The Church's faith precedes the faith of the believer who is invited to adhere to it. When the Church celebrates the sacraments, she confesses the faith received from the apostles - whence the ancient saying: lex orandi, lex credendi (or: legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi, according to Prosper of Aquitaine [5th cent.]). The law of prayer is the law of faith: the Church believes as she prays. Liturgy is a constitutive element of the holy and living Tradition.
And I found the below online, from a Foreward to True Development of Liturgy - reflections on the the shape of the liturgy after Vatican II -
Some practices which Sacrosanctum Concilium had never even contemplated were allowed into the Liturgy, like Mass versus populum, Holy Communion in the hand, altogether giving up on the Latin and Gregorian Chant in favour of the vernacular and songs and hymns without much space for God, and extension beyond any reasonable limits of the faculty to concelebrate at Holy Mass. There was also the gross misinterpretation of the principle of “active participation.” Archbishop Ranjith (secretary of the Congregration for Divine Worship)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Thursday After Ash Wednesday

Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem ( Mark 10:33)....Christ also invites the men and women of today to "go up to Jerusalem." He does so with special force during Lent, which is a favourable time to convert and restore full communion with him by sharing intimately in the mystery of his Death and Resurrection. Pope John Paul II Lenten Message 20001, from
Lent and Easter Wisdom from Pope John Paul II
Some of our reflections for Lent. This book, with a basket of possible Lenten activities and alongside our Lenten centrepiece, sits on our dining table. Silent, visual Lenten reminders. And reading. And things-to-do.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

And so this is Christmas

So this is Christmas.
And what have you done ?
Another year over
and a new one just begun.

No, it is not Christmas. But it is Shrove Tuesday. Pancake Day. Fat Tuesday. The day before the start of Lent.

Lent always seems to creep up on me, with its scariness and its joy. We seem to have only just finished Christmastide, to have barely settled into Ordinary Time. And then it is Lent.

Scary. Scary when I sense the rapid passing of time. Scary because I take the time to recollect, to do penance, to challenge - me. This is hard.

Joyful because the extra prayers and spiritual reading and devotions like the Stations of the Cross make me feel closer to God, build my faith.

On and off, all day, I've thought, with a surprised start each time, Oh, yes, this is Lent. Tomorrow. Ash Wednesday. And then the lyrics of John Lennon's song come to my mind.

And so this is Lent..
...and what will I do?...
Another season over...

I made pikelets today for French class and for work meetings . Pikelets = mini pancakes..And we devoured pancakes with ice cream and fruit (and vodka cruisers for adults) after Mass tonight. With a gathering of candles on the table, and Singstar, to celebrate Pancake Day.

We also created a Lenten centrepiece, for our dining table liturgical year strewing. Something I thought of last night, lying awake, not sleeping...A quiet reminder..Unspoken words....A violet circle ( violet - Lent; circle - crown - crown of thorns) with the words mea culpa in silver cardboard ( my fault - sorrow for sins) and our violet Lenten candle in the middle. To be swapped for a rose candle on Laetare Sunday.

May every family and Christian community use well this time of Lent, therefore, in order to cast aside all that distracts the spirit and grow in whatever nourishes the soul, moving it to love of God and neighbor. I am thinking especially of a greater commitment to prayer, lectio divina, recourse to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and active participation in the Eucharist, especially the Holy Sunday Mass. With this interior disposition, let us enter the penitential spirit of Lent. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Causa nostrae laetitiae, accompany and support us in the effort to free our heart from slavery to sin, making it evermore a “living tabernacle of God.” With these wishes, while assuring every believer and ecclesial community of my prayer for a fruitful Lenten journey, I cordially impart to all of you my Apostolic Blessing Pope Benedict's Lenten message

Monday, February 23, 2009

Another unschooling morning

Varnishing chairs..with a visitor

Completing a sample online written driving test..and research on photoperiods for the Journey North Mystery Class...
More Journey North explorations..........journal writing...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Bondi Beach

A visit to Bondi.

On the feast of St Peter Damian. A special saint friend of mine. Because he is the patron saint of insomniacs. St. Peter Damian (+21 Feb. 1072), Bishop and Doctor, Cardinal, was a great reformer. In 1823 he was declared Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XII.

Grant us, we beseech You, Almighty God,eagerly to follow the examples and counsels of blessed Peter the bishop,so that, preferring nothing to Christand always intent upon the service of Your Church,we may be guided through unto the joys of light eternal.

We prayed at a Sung Latin Mass, at St Anne's in Bondi, a votive mass for St Anne. Hey, my middle name is Ann!

A Votive Mass, that is, a Mass for some private devotion or in some special circumstance, may be said, when the occasion is of great private or public importance, on certain week-days on which no Feast is kept (ferias) and on Feasts of simple or semidouble rite. The Church permits the celebration of the Mass of any Saint as a Votive Mass. Of course such Votive Mass can be said only when the rubrics permit.

And we had a very nice lunch at a cafe at Bondi Beach.

Bondi Beach is located in the suburb of Bondi, seven kilometres from the centre of Sydney. Bondi is believed to be an Aboriginal word meaning the sound of breaking waves. There are Aboriginal Rock carvings on the northern end of the beach at Ben Buckler and south of Bondi Beach near McKenzies Beach on the coastal walk.
Bondi Beach is approximately one kilometre long. The width of Bondi Beach averages 50m at the north end, widening out to 100m at the south end. It is the widest beach in the Sydney region.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Strewing art..Blessed Giovanni da Fiesole

A little art rabbit trail.

In Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland the protagonist follows a white rabbit through a tunnel, into an alternate world, learning about the mores of this alternate world....By extension, wandering down a homeschooling, learning rabbit trail would be following something , a topic, an idea, and ending up in a new world, so to speak, where one learns something new and sees something new.....

We follow rabbit trails all the time. Some long and involved. Some for five or ten minutes.

This morning's rabbit trail, after my workout and before breakfast, resulted in strewing art. Art books on the dining table. An art print as background on a computer.

Sweaty and tired after the puke-in-a-bucket workout, I turned the page in our Saints book on the dining table and found out it was the feast day ( February 18) of blessed Giovanno Angelico – the Dominican friar and painter Fra Angelico.

I have always enjoyed the use of colour by this Renaissance artist. So we read a little about Fra Angelico, grabbed some art books and our Faith and Life series to look at prints and we did some internet research..

Blessed Giovanni da Fiesole (Fra Angelico) was commemorated on February 18. Born as Guido di Pietro in 1386 or 1387 in Vicchio, Tuscany. He entered the Dominican Order in 1407 taking the name Brother John of the Angels. Fra Angelico (Angelico meaning 'Angelic' in Italian) was a Dominican friar renowned for his artwork.

The artwork of Fra Angelico continuously shows the goodness of creation, and this is exemplified in his many representations of the Annunciation.

Fra Angelico's greatest complete work was his "Life of Christ," a series of thirty five paintings in Fiesole. They began with the vision of the Prophet Ezechiel and ended with the lovely "Coronation of the Virgin". These pictures hint to us that Brother John of the Angels was a capable theologian and a Scripture scholar.

He was also a devoted son of St Dominic, whom he loved dearly and never tired of painting.Fra Angelico was beatified 3 October 1982 by Pope John Paul II, and in 1984 the Pope declared him patron of Catholic artists.

See more prints and more information at The Artcyclopedia.

Rabbit trails before breakfast..learning that is not planned but happens..with interest and breath.

There is no difference between living and is impossible, and misleading, and harmful to think of them as being separate. John Holt

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Love of Learning

Little children love the world. That is why they are so good at learning about it. For it is love, not tricks and techniques of thought, that lies at the heart of all true learning. Can we bring ourselves to let children learn and grow through that love?
John Holt

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Only women bleed....

..Alice Cooper...

Only women bleed
..but men suffer hormonal disturbances, too, you know.

I can attest to that. I live with males. Have male friends. And have talked at length recently with friends, honest talk, about marriage and men.

Again, there is the assumption that women are hormonal but men are moved more by logic. But the truth is men are as hormonally driven as women. In fact, men have a number of hormonal cycles:
1) Men's testosterone, for instance, varies and goes up and down four or five times an hour.
2) There are daily cycles with testosterone being higher in the morning and lower at night.
3) Men have a monthly hormonal cycle that is unique to each man, but men can actually track their moods and recognize they are related to hormonal changes through the month.
4) We know that there are seasonal cycles with testosterone higher in November and lower in April.
5) We know about hormonal cycles with males during adolescence, but also the years between 40 and 55 have what we call male menopause or andropause.
6) Finally, we know there are hormonal changes in men going through Irritable Male Syndrome, related to stress in a man's life.
"What we've found is that one of the primary symptoms is denial. That is, men think the problem is anywhere other than in themselves."

Irritable Male Syndrome

I do not understand why some people are saying that women and men are exactly the same, and are denying the beautiful differences between men and women. All God's gifts are good, but they are not all the same. As I often say to people who tell me that they would like to serve the poor as I do, "What I can do, you cannot. What you can do, I cannot. But together we can do something beautiful for God." It is just this way with the differences between women and men.

God has created each one of us, every human being, for greater things-- to love and to be loved. But why did God make some of us men and others women? Because a woman's love is one image of the love of God, and a man's love is another image of God's love. Both are created to love, but each in a different way. Woman and man complete each other, and together show forth God's love more fully than either can do it alone. Mother Teresa

Monday, February 16, 2009

Learning From Life and From Books

Books usually play a big part in our unschooling.

I think this just reflects dh and I. We are readers. We read a lot. We read a lot to the kids. From the time they were babies we took them to haunt libraries and to hang out at bookstores with us. We listened to audio books in the car. We bought books.

The boys grew up covered with books.

And so their unschooling involves books. By choice. By strewing. By life.

Jonathon, son number four, was recently accepted into liberal arts college. He had to write an essay as part of his entrance requirement. In his interview on Thursday, the Dean of the College said he really liked Jonathon’s writing style and asked what had he done for English..Now, those on the interview board obviously knew from his application that he had been homeschooled..Jonathon said I read a lot. The Dean asked Jonathon what he had read – Jonathon talked about a lot of authors in general and more specifically about F. Scott Fitzgerald, P. G. Wodehouse, James Thurber..

Jonathon was really into playing and crazes as a kid, dress ups and arts and crafts as a small child, then cowboys, then soldiers, then James Bond, then Star Wars, then art and music and always books. All these books have helped him write.

Right now, Anthony is into Isaac Asimov. And Star Wars roleplaying guides. And The Cricket in Times Square. Reading Cricket this week, lead him into an internet search on New York City.

Thomas is reading Alexander Dumas . While flicking through The Dangerous Book For Boys . Which sent him to another book, one on D-Day, as D-Day is mentioned in the Dangerous book.

Dangerous also had us in fits of laughter today. Thomas shared bits from the section on how to impress girls...Find a heavy object. Surreptiously check you can actually lift it before showing off your prowess to the girl...

Alexander is reading short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Discussing ideas. With me, as I share my thoughts my reading, on Grahame Greene.

Books become part of who we are, how we live, how we learn. I know my childhood was formed by books and movies. Just as our unschooling is being formed by many things, including books and movies.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentines Day

Want to know more about St Valentine?

Read Wiki.

The feast day of Saint Valentine, priest and martyr, was included in the Tridentine Calendar, with the rank of Simple, on February 14. In 1955, Pope Pius XII reduced the celebration to a commemoration within the celebration of the occurring weekday. In 1969, this commemoration was removed from the General Roman Calendar, but Saint Valentine continues to be recognized as a saint, since he is included in the Roman Martyrology, the Catholic Church's official list of saints. The feast day of Saint Valentine also continues to be included in local calendars of places such as Balzan and Malta, where relics of the saint are claimed to be found.

Our Valentines Day customs? From the Catholic Encyclopedia ~

The popular customs associated with Saint Valentine's Day undoubtedly had their origin in a conventional belief generally received in England and France during the Middle Ages, that on 14 February, i.e. half way through the second month of the year, the birds began to pair. Thus in Chaucer's Parliament of Foules we read:

For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne's day
Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.

For this reason the day was looked upon as specially consecrated to lovers and as a proper occasion for writing love letters and sending lovers' tokens. Both the French and English literatures of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries contain allusions to the practice.

We went to a Latin Mass. Anthony made a cake . With Smarties placed in a heart shape on the frosting. I made one of dh's favourite meals - beef curry with vegetables, dhal and pappadums.

I also gave dh a gift. A DVD. Not very romantic, I know, but it is a DVD he has wanted for awhile. Munich. Besides, it was nicely wrapped in a glittery, sparkly, gift bag..

Combining the secular ( the commercialism of a Valentines gift) and the sacred ( Mass)...with learning ( our reading above).

Unschooling Chores

I have been re-energized by some of my recent blog reading.

Reading the blogs of other unschoolers. Thinking about their ideas and lives. Remembering to adopt some similar attitudes and activities in our unschool.

Attitudes and activities towards things like cleaning. Or chores.

Now, we have never been the kind of family that was good with chore charts. I think if you are going to make such things work, you need consistency. And you need to be good at follow up - at making sure chores get done - and at inspection.

I am not good at any of these things. So, we gave away chore charts over ten years ago.

We just work on the everyone pitch in and help out clean.

Many times, this means I do more housework kind of stuff than others. That I am the one who cleans up more. Tidies up other people's messes.

But, I believe this to be a gift. I am given the gift of service. I am given the gift of family. Thank God, that I have a family to care for.

Before you raise your hands in horror, please know that I have feminist leanings...That I am a strong woman...That this attitude of service doesn't mean I am a doormat-slave-slash-servant. I am a servant in a vocational sense, in a serving others with joy sense. And I am free to ask for help, to ask others to do things, to make lists and say who wants to take a job. To ask for co-operation. It is my choice to clean. I could make other choices. Leave the mess. Pay someone to clean.

Many times, too, this everyone pitches in and helps out attitude means that some members of the family do more than others. Those who notice things more? Those who have more of a servant's heart? Those who are less likely to grumble if asked to do something?

I don't feel bad about this..I feel it is just part of life...

And it helps not to think of home maintenance as chores but as creating a home for those who live here and a welcome for those who visit.

I often re-arrange cushions or ornaments or chairs when cleaning; add some flowers; change prints or a centrepiece. Strew something new or different. Or just leave clear spaces for hanging out; reading nooks; music corners; a space for others to put their currently important things.

I feel free, too, to not be hindered by times and typical chore charts. Or cleaning routines. Who says we have to do a whole house at a time? Or one whole room? Or one chore? Or clean in the morning and rest in the afternoon/evening? Or do a whole, fantastic job? Bits and pieces, fits and starts, a wipe down here and a vaccuum there, a small amount every day, a good enough job may be all I have time for.

Suits me.
Step by step.

If I only have fifteen minutes to clean or tidy, I pick my area of most concern and I go. If someone walks by or needs me, I ask them to give me a hand so we can talk together, or I can carry a baby or toddler while cleaning with the other hand as I did when all were little, or I can smile at someone or listen to someone. From the middle of the clean.

It is amazing what can be done in fifteen minutes. Or at ten pm at night, when picking up the house before computer and bed. Or in the extra ten minutes when waiting for something to cook . ( Although be warned - don't get so involved that you forget about cooking and burn something..I speak from experience here!).

Yesterday, I was inspired by this blog post on cleaning in bursts while caring for the family. The pictures on this blog tell more than a thousand words. More than my word-y blog post.

Remembering my cleaning spurts, I started in on the second cutlery drawer in the kitchen - the one with the knives, the ice cream scoop, the wooden spoons, the measuring cups, name it. I tidied that drawer, threw away unwanted stuff ( who needs two boxes of confetti!) and sorted and categorised. In my fashion.

On a roll, I extended my cleaning spurt and cleaned down all the kitchen cupboard doors, went around the house wiping down skirting boards and marks off walls, cleaned the piano keys (hey, they are sparkling white again!) wiped down the kids' bathroom, tidied my bathroom, tidied two of the kids' rooms and ( roughly, organically, not artistically ) sorted their junk, ahem, items of concern, into boxes for them.

Woo hoo! An hour and one half later, this unschooling house looked better. I felt better. And I still had time to talk to dh and the kids, to answer their queries, as I worked.

Unschooling chores by working in service, with a positive attitude, in spurts and with others. Creating a new unschooling landscape. Doing cleaning while being with family..

A two -for- one.
And, as a reminder of that positive attitude, read this...The importance of a positive attitude towards creating a home was even emphasised in the 1800s, by the legendary Mrs. Beeton ~
AS WITH THE COMMANDER OF AN ARMY, or the leader of any enterprise, so is it with the mistress of a house. Her spirit will be seen through the whole establishment; and just in proportion as she performs her duties intelligently and thoroughly, so will her domestics follow in her path. Of all those acquirements, which more particularly belong to the feminine character, there are none which take a higher rank, in our estimation, than such as enter into a knowledge of household duties; for on these are perpetually dependent the happiness, comfort, and well-being of a family. In this opinion we are borne out by the author of “The Vicar of Wakefield,” who says: “The modest virgin, the prudent wife, and the careful matron, are much more serviceable in life than petticoated philosophers, blustering heroines, or virago queens. She who makes her husband and her children happy, who reclaims the one from vice and trains up the other to virtue, is a much greater character than ladies described in romances, whose whole occupation is to murder mankind with shafts from their quiver, or their eyes.”
PURSUING THIS PICTURE, we may add, that to be a good housewife does not necessarily imply an abandonment of proper pleasures or amusing recreation; and we think it the more necessary to express this, as the performance of the duties of a mistress may, to some minds, perhaps seem to be incompatible with the enjoyment of life.....
GOOD TEMPER SHOULD BE CULTIVATED by every mistress, as upon it the welfare of the household may be said to turn; indeed, its influence can hardly be over-estimated, as it has the effect of moulding the characters of those around her, and of acting most beneficially on the happiness of the domestic circle. Every head of a household should strive to be cheerful, and should never fail to show a deep interest in all that appertains to the well-being of those who claim the protection of her roof. Gentleness, not partial and temporary, but universal and regular, should pervade her conduct; for where such a spirit is habitually manifested, it not only delights her children, but makes her domestics attentive and respectful; her visitors are also pleased by it, and their happiness is increased. Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Journey

A Journey North.

Anthony and I ( with the help and added two cents of Thomas and Alexander..) are doing this year's Journey North Mystery Class. A study of sunlight and of the seasons.

Every Monday between February 2 and April 13, 2009, students will record their local sunrise and sunset times on their Data Sheets (see below). Using this information they will calculate daylength (photoperiod) in their hometown. On the same days, students at ten secret Mystery Class locations around the world will also record their own local sunrise and sunset data. Then, on Friday of each week, the data from the secret Mystery Classes will be posted.
On May 1, students will predict where the ten Mystery Classes are hiding! The primary clue: As spring sweeps across the Northern Hemisphere, daylength changes everywhere on earth.

So far, it's been fun! We already have some ideas on the locations of the Mystery Classes... This pic is our downstairs linen cupboard door aka games cupboard door (who has lots of linen anymore?) aka Journey North data display door...Unschooling takes over the it should....

Sunday, February 08, 2009

More on learning through life

On the Unschooling Catholics email list someone asked - why do you unschool?

I unschool for a multitude of reasons.

I think unschooling works best for academics - unschooling encourages kids to follow passions and not to learn just to pass tests.

I think unschooling is better for relationships - we really get to know each other and spend time together and question paradigms and seek joy.

I think unschooling is better for passing on our Faith - we share our faith in our day to day living and we live an open book life with our kids.

I think I unschool because unschooling works!

How does unschooling work?

From Joyfully Rejoycing - How unschooling works..

Schooling works by pouring expertly selected bits of the world into a child. (Or trying to, anyway!)
Unschooling works by the child pulling in what he wants and needs. It works best by noticing what the child is asking for and helping him get it. It works best by running the world through their lives so they know what it's possible to be interested in.

Noticing what a child is interested in. Asking for. Or needs.

This works with adults, too, you know. Young adults. With the men in my life.

One son has been in a bit of a questioning mode. Looking for answers. Looking for structure. He shared his dilemma with me and with one of his brothers. We brainstormed a bit about possible paths to try. About running the world through his life. And I have been praying...Now, many young adults and teens go through this search. This angst. But, from my experience, not that many choose to share this with their mums.

And this is where unschooling has helped. He needs structure. He is unhappy-ish. But he pulls in what he wants and needs from a parental relationship of love and trust.

My sins as a mother are covered by the fact that we have spent years together, years when kids would have been at school and consumed by homework but for us years of hanging out and going places and reading and working together. Unschooling has helped, has worked, in spite of my many failings. My imperfections.

That is why I unschool. And why unschooling works.

That's how unschooling works. Kids build up knowledge about what interests them. They have a vested interest in understanding what interests them.
Unfortunately for new unschooling moms, what interests them usually doesn't look academic. It looks a lot like playing. (Play is how kids are created to learn!) Learning looks like video games and Harry Potter and making videos and reading and watching TV and playing with friends and pretend and chatting on line. It's really only after kids are grown and following their interests into college and jobs that we can see how what they did led to where they got. But the ongoing process doesn't look at all like school.
From the link above.

No, it doesn't look a lot like school. But the learning is still there.

For the mother, too. Unschooling mums learn a lot, alongside their kids.

Academic subjects, yes. I am attempting to learn French with my kids in our little homeschool French class ( the kids are better than I..). We are starting a Latin Breakfast Club fortnightly with some other families, sharing breakfast and Latin learning together.

However, we mothers also learn more than academics. We learn about our kids, our families, our husbands, ourselves.

We include our kids in our own daily life - we live a more open-book life than the norm. This is hard, you don't get to pretend to be better or different. You get to be real, to admit to the shortcomings, to work on habits and attitudes in yourself, to share your joys. To say sorry. To smile.

As we work on that noticing mentioned above, that noticing what a child needs, so we mothers can develop a habit of noticing. Noticing not just what our kids need but what our husbands need. Or noticing our friends and where they are at.

Unschooling makes me face my childhood demons and work on being a better mother, true. But it also makes me work on being a better wife. And a better friend.

A better person.

We may start unschooling for academic reasons. But unschooling affects more than that.

It is truly learning through life. It is our life.

Unschooling isn't just about knowing our kids well and facilitating their interests until they move out. It's a lifestyle for all ages....

Living in a respectful relationship means respecting yourself too. It means really, really looking at day-to-day interactions with your family members and being willing to examine whether everyone is being treated fairly....

It takes time, patience… and even a lot of “tongue biting” because it is not just about what you say, but about what you actively choose not to say....

From The Parenting Pit and Joyfully Rejoycing

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Learning Through Life

From the Sudbury Valley School website, but it describes the way some of us learn in our homeschooling lifestyle.

They'd say, "What did you learn today?" and we'd think, "What did we learn today? What are you talking about?" Because it wasn't as if you went into the library and learned your facts for the day. You had a dozen conversations with people. We weren't learning subject by subject. We were learning in a much more organic manner. You would be doing a lot of different things and you would learn them in little bits and pieces that would start adding up to much bigger pictures.You wouldn't really know where it came from a lot of the time. By thetime you were done learning about something, information was coming from so many different sources, from books and from people you were talking to, and from a long drawn out experience, that you had no idea how you learned it."

The Daily...

The Daily....Daily? Daily B**ch. A friend's Christmas gift to me.

Does that tell you something about me and about how I am preceived by others?

That I am the gentle and receptive person spoken of at our parish Women's Group last Thursday?


Anyway, sharing my calendar because I've opened up to today's date. And the statement for today?

Obviously, I've made a serious vocational error.

A case of (pop) art (and culture) mirroring life?

I hope not!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Don't You Love How Unschooling Works?

There is something WAY COOL about sharing learning together. About unschooling. About how unschooling works.
Unschooling tends to make ( almost) all experiences points of learning, of discussion, of interest, of exploration.

Tonight, at Women's Group in our parish, we talked about Mary, the Immaculate Conception, the role of women . Of gentleness and receptivity, ...I think that is an exact quote.

Upon my arrival home after Women's Group, I found a messy house and dh out with one son at the medical centre ~ Greg had cut his finger on glass and needed to see the doctor.

I cleaned up while watching the US version of Life on Marson TV with the kids. Greg and dh came home.

And then we talked. Talked about Women's Group. About the role of women. About Edith Stein and her writing ( St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross).

An extract had been discussed at Women's Group, an excerpt from the Second Vatican Council. I had pondered its context so the kids and I did some internet research.

...the Second Vatican Council, enumerating in its Pastoral Constitution "Gaudium et Spes" the forms of discrimination touching upon the basic rights of the person which must be overcome and eliminated as being contrary to God's plan, gives first place to discrimination based upon sex. The resulting equality will secure the building up of a world that is not leveled out and uniform but harmonious and unified, if men and women contribute to it their own resources and dynamism, as Pope Paul VI stated.

]In the life of the Church herself, as history shows us, women have played a decisive role and accomplished tasks of outstanding value. One has only to think of the foundresses of the great religious families, such as Saint Clare and Saint Teresa of Avila. The latter, moreover, and Saint Catherine of Siena, have left writings so rich in spiritual doctrine that Pope Paul VI included them among the Doctors of the Church. Nor could one forget the great number of women who have consecrated themselves to the Lord for the exercise of charity or for the missions, and the Christian wives who have had a profound influence on their families, particularly for the passing on of the faith to their children.The Role Of Women In Modern Society And The Church

Learning and talking and researching and unschooling at eleven o'clock at night.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

In a Nutshell

Last year, I was asked to write a chapter for an unschooling book. An unschooling book for Catholics.

Recently, I was asked to provide a bio , a pic and my faith story, to accompany the chapter... My testimony. Conversion story. Whatever you want to call it.

January has been very busy for me, work wise. I do some extra volunteer stuff for Kumon, too, and that has also taken my time. So, I just haven't got around to the bios.

There was a little bit of procrastination going on there, too. I mean, who really wants to write their story and who really wants to read it?

So, today, I bit the bullet. Home at five after meetings for work, having left home at eight-forty-five this morning. I sat down and wrote the conversion story in a nutshell.

And now I'm gonna put it here. On my blog, for a keepsake. For me. I found I do really want to read and remember.

The conversion story? It's boring. It's brief. It's a nutshell, remember. But I think I'd like to save it for when I'm old and grey ( after my next birthday!). On my blog and maybe, later, in one of those bloggy books from Blurb.

ConversionI was brought up kinda atheist ( Kinda atheist? Well, there isn't a God, you know, but if you want to believe you can...that atmosphere...almost like Br Alban, one of the Battlestar Galactica cylons).

I was taken to a Seventh Day Adventist church by my uncle and decided to receive SDA instruction and be baptised aged thirteen. I felt a spiritual need, I had read the King James Bible from cover to cover. I felt a hunger, that was first ignited by visiting a friend's Catholic church, aged six. We went after school, I was visiting her for a playdate and she said to pop into church and pray. It was like forbidden fruit for me, very strange and yet comforting and I resolved never to admit my sin of being-in-a-Catholic-church to my mother...

I eventually gave up SDA church attendance but still had a strong belief in God and in Christianity. I read the Bible. I gobbled up movies like The Nun's Story and The Song of Bernadette. I was touched by a child's faith in Our Lady, after reading Rumer Godden's An Episode of Sarrows in Year Ten English class.

I met my dh at age eighteen at university, married at just turning twenty. Gerry was ( is) Catholic, I agreed to bring up any kids we may have as Catholics. And I decided to attend Mass with my fiancee and then husband and then family each Sunday.

We unschooled our kids, I was happy volunteering and working, I got involved in each parish in which we lived - helping out - family groups - playroups -Majellan meetings -assisting with childrens' liturgy - newsletters...As part of our unschoooling lifestyle, I tried to incorporate some faith actvities into our day - reading from the Book of Proverbs each day - reading saints stories to the kids - reading through sacrament preparation books - praying the Lord's prayer....

Being me, a social person, I set up groups each time we moved. Playgroups. Unschooling groups. Homeschooling groups. Catholic Homeschooling groups, so my kids could share their faith with others...but I still wasn’t interested in converting.

When son number six, Thomas, was born, I read books from a Christian bookstore and from a 1950s Catholic book - Questions About the Catholic Faith. I was hurting and searching. And was not sure if the Catholic Church was right about some doctrine. After yet another miscarriage and questioning doctrine on limbo, an unschooling friend in a brethren church , during one of our relentless discussions on faith and life and women, challenged me to find the one true church.

So started two years of reading history, church history, doctrinal stuff, Catholic books, Protestant books, books by philosophers, the early church fathers. On my own, sharing bits and pieces with my husband... until I eventually was received into the Church January 1995, when pregnant with son number seven, Anthony.

I have to say that I had researched the liturgy in a small way, found the Latin Mass and we had started attending as a family...The Latin Mass was a big clincher for me in sensing the sacred. In satisfying my spiritual searching. In feeding my soul and my mind and my senses.

I eventually received the sacrament of Confirmation, alongside sons number two and three ( Gregory and Nicholas) in the "Old Rite", the Latin Mass, in March 1997.

That is my nutshell.
My biggest stumbling block before finally becoming Catholic? Understanding the role of Our Lady.
The biggest drawcard for me in wanting to become Catholic? The way the Church answered both my intellectual and spiritual needs. Two-for-one. I didn't have to check my mind, my reason, my intellect and my questions in at the front door of the Church. They came with me, while my soul was being fed by prayers and liturgy.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

St Blaise and the Blessing of the Throat

Sounds like a name for a movie or an emo band, doesn't it?

Like My Chemical Romance.

But today is the Feast of St Blaise.

Blaise, who had studied philosophy in his youth, was a doctor in Sebaste in Armenia. He apparently worked with miraculous ability, good-will, piety. When the bishop of the city died, he was chosen to succeed him. His holiness was manifest through many miracles: from all around, people came to him to find cures for their spirit and their body; even wild animals came in herds to receive his blessing. In 316, Agricola, the governor, arrested the bishop. As he was being led to prison, a mother set her only son, choking to death of a fish-bone, at his feet, and the child was cured straight away. Regardless, the governor, unable to make Blaise renounce his faith, beat him with a stick, ripped his flesh with iron combs, and beheaded him...

St Blaise is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.

St Blaise is depicted with crossed candles. These crossed candles (left unlighted for safety reasons!) are used for the blessing of throats on the feast day of St. Blaise, which falls on the day after Candlemas . St Blaise is traditionally believed to intercede in cases of throat illnesses. One blessing is: "Per intercessionem Sancti Blasii liberet te Deus a malo gutteris et a quovis alio malo." (May God at the intercession of Saint Blaise preserve you from throat troubles and every other evil).
We are lucky in our parish. We still have the blessing of throats, the blessing of St Blaise. I have been in other parishes where this blessing is forgotten, is left out of the liturgy. But tonight, we received the blessing and also a homily on the use of sacramentals in the Church.

Sacramentals? The Baltimore Catechism states ~
292. Q. What is a sacramental? A. A sacramental is anything set apart or blessed by the Church to excite good thoughts and to increase devotion, and through thesemovements of the heart to remit venial sin.

Fr. stressed the help we obtain from the use of sacramentals, and the strengthening of the faith that we have, like the faith of the woman in the Bible, the one with the issue of blood, the faith she had in the healing power of Jesus.
Mark 5 25 And there was a woman who had had a flow of blood for twelve years,
26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, "If I touch even his garments, I shall be made well." 29 And immediately the hemorrhage ceased; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease
And this homily, this blessing, followed by the weekly novena to St Anthony of Padua, was part of our mass, our daily liturgy. When my dh talks about moving, I understand his need for change. Change in life. Change in work. But I find it hard to want change in our liturgy, in our parish.

We have reverence in our Masses. Would that be the case elsewhere? Maybe yes, maybe no.

A writer in the magazine AD 2000 delplored the lack of reverence in some parishes. He quoted a Catholic philosopher ~ It once was the case that Catholic children were taught a reverence for the sacraments and the liturgy. This effect was produced by pious devotions, modes of dress and behaviour, stories of heroic devotion and so on. One benefit of these efforts was to prepare children for the idea that amidst the ordinariness of life there are channels of transcendence. It is much easier for a child to believe that God is present on the altar if the setting is physically special, if the demeanour of older children and adults is reverential, and if the priest takes evident care to clean the vessels and consume the residue of the body and blood of Christ ...
"[T]he well-educated Catholic knows that the Mass is not a religious service, a family meal, or a community feast. It is an event in which heaven and earth come together, as mundane time and sacred time are united. In it the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, a Divine Person, is made really present - not reenacted or remembered, but made actually present as a means of sacrifice by which our sins and those of mankind generally are atoned. The Messiah whose voluntary death opened the gates of Heaven is presented to us as the priest speaks the words of consecration.
I find that, amid the very mundane ordinariness of my life, the masses I attend at our parish church, during the week, and on Sundays, are a light. A beacon. A help. I get past the ordinariness, the drama, the crossness, the tiredness, the self-centredness, and am encouraged to be with God. To think of God. To pray. To receive our Lord. To be part of that sacredness.

Does this make look fat?

A perennial question for many women, myself included.

And, yet, for many of us, our varying degress of fatness serve a purpose.

A purpose?

Yes, a purpose that often clouds other issues, that we think is valid but that may be a Trojan horse.

Over at our fitness blog, Lean But Not Mean, we have discussed overweight and sexual identity. Does being overweight protect us from unwanted attention from men?

To be frank, I am not now nor ever was a sex symbol. I am just not the type of woman who attracts that sort of attention.

This doesn't mean that I am not a sexual being, with my own needs or hungers. Simply that others don't perceive me in that way.

And that is okay with me.

However, overweight can serve a purpose - perhaps for some that purpose above. For others it may be a hiding place, a security blanket.

For me, it was a symptom of something else in my life. A body with health problems, that caused my weight to skyrocket. Certainly. But also a symptom of a mind with issues to solve, about being what others wanted and not being me. About shelving things. About a childhood of using food as a panacea. About defying my parent. Changing paradigms.

I think I needed a focus on health , not looks - and to be honest, even with losing weight, I am still no sex object so there are still no unwanted advances. My size didn't protect me from anything, there wasn't anything to protect from.

Instead, my size was a barrier that ended up working against me, it stopped me from truly being who I am. I wasn't as free to move around and experience the joy of things, things like climbing trees , because of my size. Now those things are open for me again. Truly liberating, and not in a looks or sexual sense but in a quality of life sense.....

I try to remember that we are obliged to regard our body as good and to hold it in honour (Catechism of the Catholic Church ).

364 The human body shares in the dignity of "the image of God": it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit:
Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator. For this reason man may not despise his bodily life. Rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honor since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day.

So do I look fat in this? And do I care? Yes. And No.

Monday, February 02, 2009

What did you learn today?

On the Presentation of Our Lord, on Candlemas?

Anthony learned how to mow the lawn, with older brother Alexander's help.