Friday, December 30, 2011

A word for 2012

We do not put our faith in empty phrases, we are not carried off by sudden impulses of the heart, we are not seduced by plausible and eloquent speech, - but we do not refuse belief to words spoken by divine power. ( from the Treatisr of St Hipppolytus )

Words. Not empty words. But  words for the year.

Each year I choose a word, a theme, for the year. Something to which I aspire..

I write it in my diary.

I try to live life on purpose.

And many times I fail...

The last two years a group of us have met, between Christmas Day and New Years Eve, to share our year. To share our laughter. Our jokes. Our stresses. Our shallow words in jest...the not so serious fun themes...and our serious words and thoughts for the year.

Mine for 2012?


Not boring calm.

Not even serenity .

But an inner calm.

These words are not like resolutions, often far fetched, often with action plans. They are words pure and simple. Little guides or prompts.

What will prompt you this coming year?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

But how will they live in the real world?

Wednesday in the last week of Advent.

Faith on our Unschooling Catholics list, asks...what are you strewing?

Strewing orthodontist appointments, lists of things I need help with around the house because of my work commitments, and stress.

Got to stop strewing stress.

And smile.

This is what  I like about unschooling, though.

It's real life. Stress and all. And we strew learning, real life learning, learning in the affective realm, even when we are not intentionally strewing. 

You know that question we all get. "But how will your kids be prepared for the real world?"

This is the real world, dear. They live in my life,  and I live in theirs, and the kids see into almost every nook and cranny of my life. 

And my life is very Real World. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sleeping for a week!

"I'm not so far gone that I can't grasp there has to be more to life than forging pastries at midnight. And tiredness. Deep-sea diver tiredness, voyage to the bottom of fatigue tiredness.." ..from "I Don't Know How She Does It" by Allison Pearson.

I think mothers all know this type of tiredness.

And homeschooling mothers perhaps more so.

And working mothers.

And homeschooling working mothers...

What keeps us going?


And prayer.

And a prayerful vision of our role and meaning in life.

To know, love and serve God. In our vocations as women...

"The intrinsic value of woman consists essentially in exceptional receptivity for God's work in the soul, and this value comes to unalloyed development if we abandon ourselves confidently and unresistingly to this work." .. From Woman by St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

I attended a retreat for women today.

And the result? I felt like I had slept for a week. Refreshed.

Me. She who lives in an almost constant state of tiredness.

The Sisters of Life spoke of living the freedom of the feminine heart.

In the words of Sister Mariae Agnus Dei... Receptivity, sensitivity, generosity.

Freedom for and not freedom from.

"If you are what you should be, then you will set the world on fire." St Catherine of Sienna.

Not striving to meet someone else's standards , not forging pies at midnight, not forging anything, really, but living true to our vocation and our dignity.

This is what keeps us going. We give and we receive. We receive and we give.

We love because we are loved.

And we mother as we were mothered, as we wish we were mothered, as Our Lady mothers us.

"Everywhere the need exists for maternal sympathy and help, and thus we are able to recapitulate in the one word motherliness that which we have developed as the characteristic value of woman. Only, the motherliness must be that which does not remain within the narrow circle of blood relations or of personal friends; but in accordance with the model of the Mother of Mercy, it must have its root in universal divine love for all who are there, belabored and burdened."... Woman by St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Ecclesiastical Alzheimer's

Ecclesiastical Alzheimer's.

You know what I'm talking about.

Those people, yes clergy included, who deride the "Church of the past" .

As if there were two Churches..pre and post Vatican II.

As if there was no discussion by the Holy Father on the hermeneutic of continuity...or do these people even read Church documents?

As if everything was bad in the past...priest not facing the people? Gasp! No participation! People left Holy Mass as soon as they could after Holy Communjon as it was all meaningless to them. To quote some comments recently made in my presence. By those who should know better.

Yeah, right.

It seems these people have suffered a memory loss. Or a comprehension loss. They forget about the strong faith of laity in our past, praying with the priest, all facing Our Lord and not each other. They forget about Catholic sodalities and the active participation of the laity in Holy Mass, in the life of the Church, in bringing Catholic, Christian thought to the world.

They look at the Church through self fashioned glasses..fashioned by their own ideas of church, by historicism and not history itself or education or reading with the mind of the Church.

The cure for ecclesiastical Alzheimer's?

Might I suggest reading...reading about liturgy...starting with The Spirit of the Liturgy by our Holy Father, then Cardinal Ratzinger..

The Christian faith can never be separated from the soil of sacred events, from the choice made by God, who wanted to speak to us, to become man, to die and rise again, in a particular place and at a particular time. “Always” can only come from “once for all”. The Church does not pray in some kind of mythical omnitemporality. She cannot forsake her roots. She recognizes the true utterance of God precisely in the concreteness of its history, in time and place: to these God ties us, and by these we are all tied together. The diachronic aspect, praying with the Fathers and the apostles, is part of what we mean by rite, but it also in­cludes a local aspect, extending from Jerusalem to Antioch, Rome, Alexandria, and Constantinople. Rites are not, therefore, just the products of inculturation, how­ever much they may have incorporated elements from different cultures. They are forms of the apostolic Tradition and of its unfolding in the great places of the Tradition.  [The Spirit of the Liturgy, (SF, CA: Ignatius, 2000), p. 164]


After my Jillian (and Jackie!) challenge in November...and my green skirt now looser around my seemed to me a good idea to continue themed workout challenges for awhile.

This month, I am doing FIRM workouts.

A bit Stepford wife-ish of me.

And this week I am using the FIRM Ignite series...two twenty minute workouts on one DVD. High impact. High intensity. Cardio and weights. And yes I can go heavier than I do on 30 Day Shred in general and Ripped in 30.

They also have more of a fun woo hoo factor...the group feel, the we are in this together no drill sergeant thing.

They are low in ab work..just some standing abs tucked into the very short cool down. So on my less busy days I am adding in abs. Or doing longer FIRMs on those days...

And why not check out Jez's FIRM Challenge blog?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Twenty-four Days Before Christmas

"Everybody in the Austin family is excited on the first day of December because every day for twenty-four days they will do something special to prepare for the twenty-fifth day, Christmas Day, the most joyful day in the whole year."

And so begins The Twenty-four Days Before Christmas by Madeleine L'engle.

I read an old copy of this book as child ( it was published in 1964) and the memories of Mother and her Advent preparations, her Advent activities, stayed with me.

When I became a mother myself, I had a vision for Advent already in mind. Preparing as a family for Christmas. Making and pulling out an Advent calendar. Making cookies. Assembling a crèche or nativity scene. Crafts. Cooking. Carols. Books. Music.

And prayers and masses and movies,  in a modern Catholic family twist.

There is a danger, however, that Advent can become yet another time of busy-ness. Of being task oriented. Of endless to do lists.

"Advent, John could tell you, is the name for the four weeks of preparation and thought that lead up to Christmas day."

Preparation and thought. Not necessarily frantic activity and compulsion to do everything that Mrs Austin, Mother in the book, does.

"The kitchen is a big wandery room that turns corners and as kinds of unexpected nooks and crannies. In the dining room end a fire is crackling merrily, and the smell of applewood mingles with the smell of pancakes and maple syrup, and hot chocolate with marshmallows."

In our current house, our kitchen opens onto our dining area, it is light and symmetrical. The teens woke this morning to freshly made pikelets, tea in my variety of cute and fanciful teapots and our basket of Advent books. We lit the first candle in the Advent wreath.

So, yes, I do the Mrs Austin-ish Advent things. Well, some of them. Well, my own version.

But ultimately I know that Advent preparation and thought and prayer should be interior as well as exterior...Holy Mass, the Novena for the Immaculate Conception, the sacrament of penance, the rosary.

Being faithful.

Even if we don't do all the Advent activities, the crafts, the cooking, the books...

We prepare and think and pray.

We find that star, the Light of Christ, in our faithfulness . In His Love.

"One star is brighter and more sparkling than any of the others. 'The Christmas star,' Vicky whispers. Its light seems to shine right down into her heart."

Saturday, November 19, 2011


"Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit...And [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching." Catechism of the Catholic Church 81.

"What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place." Pope Benedict XVI, Letter to the Bishops that accompanied the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum

This is an example of our understanding, as Catholics, of Tradition.

Now contrast this with a parish reflection on the parable of the employer, the three servants, the talents. " This (parable) is a criticism of religious tradition. ...In our Church today, there are people who do not want to change anything, who want to go back to the old way of doing things. The want to bury the Spirit of God in the napkin of Tradition."

Mm. I don't think that our Holy Father would agree. We are to hold sacred that which earlier generations held as sacred. This is not a refusal to change at whim but an obedience to the Church, who has authority to change discipline but who has also respect for our heritage.

We do not bury talents in Tradition..we follow the Church, we respect what has gone before us, we build our talents, our faith, in obedience to Church teaching. Not in obedience to a subjective spirit of the law. An obedience to to the Church, to Tradition, and with a prayerful respect of those little traditions, too.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What do unschoolers do?

We have lived in very small houses and still live in suburbia.

What do we do with our days? What did we do when all the sons were young?

Well.... We have always done a lot of park visits, library visits, putting posters in libraries and notes in homeschool newsletters for other homeschoolers to meet us at these visits.

We have done and still do regular ice skating arena sessions with other homeschoolers and lunch at the park or even Macdonalds together ( free rein on the equipment!).

Cleaning up every few hours hasn't been a bad thing for us. We have just put some things aside or in a box to resume after meals ...we still do! Even I have a work basket....or we have used the clean up as a time to change an activity or change direction eg craft in the morning and park visit or DVD or computer in the afternoon.

And asking some friends to join us for the craft or DVD or computer games... Mums chat, littlies make a mess with Lego and toys and biggies enjoy the computer game camaraderie. 

I like to question routines... Life doesn't have to be a certain way, we can change things up to suit us.

For example, meals don't have to be eaten at the table.. We often had picnic meals on the patio or on a blanket on the floor and we could sit together or read a story there.

Or take it to the park.

Or spread the tablecloths on the floor and watch a movie together while eating.

We can have breakfast for dinner .

We can start our day with art as we did one season .

Or start our day with a walk around our suburbs or a walk to the shops or to the park, as we did many times.

We can go to the library and get an armload of books and play at the park on the way and visit new shops and come home and chill out with books and listen to music CDs.

We can go to the video store and come back with a pile of DVDs and games.

We have joined toy libraries and brought home new toys and games.

We have gone to op shops (charity shops and secondhand shops) and brought home interesting cheap stuff to look at and play with and take apart. And cleaned it up in the next peg of cleaning.. Or said hang it, leave the mess and get some pizza for dinner! 

We have rearranged furniture and made rooms look different. I love this. It gives a different feel to a room and especially to a small house!

We have done museums and art galleries very often, again always followed by a play in the park and with or without others .

A beach trip and walk even in winter.

A nature walk in our suburbs and collect finds or take a million photos .

Set up a container garden.. We currently have a mini lemon tree and a mini mandarin tree in pots that we planted two years ago in those same pots in our last house. These bore fruit this year!

We have always done and still do a lot of cooking ( and you get to eat the results!).

Cooking and playing with playdough.

Small pets like fish and birds and a cat.

Visit a pet shop .

Get out dress ups.

Buy foam balls for in house volleyball.. Over the sofa! My kids favourite.

One of those indoor small boouncy trampolines were popular here and the boys still love run inside and outside games with nerf guns.

Or take water pistols to the park. 

They also liked turning the kitchen table or the sofas into cubbies with blankets and pillows and playing there for hours... Eating there too so no cleanup till getting ready for dinner .

Or if we were doing schoolwork do it in mum and dad'snbedroom.. Leaning against or on the bed together, littlies in and out with toys, lie on the bed together and read. Just last week I and four sons sat and lay on the double bed or balanced on the foot and hung out and chatted. 

Go on a bike ride and skateboard ride around the neighborhood.

Go on park crawls and skateboard park crawls.

Visit new shopping centres and new libraries.

Stop to look at landmarks or signs.

Visit historical houses.

Organize these sorts of outings with other homeschoolers. 

Visit other parishes and churches. Pop in for a visit and prayer. Read the history.

These are just a few of the things we did and do, living your average unschooling suburban life.

It's a beautiful life...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Unschooling joy?

Unschooling joy?

Can we unschool and experience joy or contentment, regardless of  our circumstances?

"I speak not as it were for want. For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, to be content therewith." Phillipians 4:11

I decided that part of Unschooling for me would be looking for joy at this moment.

In other words, in spite of stressful things in my life, well... as much as possible, I would treat my mothering as the job or vocation that it is.

You know, when you get dressed and go to work outside the home, regardless of what is happening at home, you put on That Bright Face and smile and are cheerful and work hard...Well, that is what I try to remember at home. It's not my kids' fault things may be problematic so regardless I try to set the tone... Smile, do something nice even if I don't feel like it, be willing to give ourselves a break and have fun, say yes more. Go out even just to the park or to a friends house!

Amazingly, when I do this, especially the saying yes more and being with my kids instead of directing them towards schoolwork, then I feel happier and less stressed. Of course, I have moments when I lose it or when I am utterly exhausted and just curl up on the sofa.. But when I look for joy in the little things, when I say yes more, when I hang out with the kids and with my friends, when I put on a smile and some mascara (!), when I make a chocolate church with the kids even though I am tired ( as we did for the dedication of the Lateran Basilica)... Then I just feel happier and love my life in spite of any problems.

I have learned contentment.

I have to say that my prayer life has been of paramount importance. I pray the morning and evening prayers of the Divine Office and I try to get to daily mass and weekly confession. That gives me peace.

"To converse with You, O King of glory, no third person is needed, You are always ready in the Sacrament of the Altar to give audience to all. All who desire You always find You there, and converse with You face to face." St Teresa of Avila

And I do a workout every day, no matter how short, as those endorphins give me a high!!

We have structure in our day and week, too, just not school structure . Most often structure scheduled around homeschool activities and my work. We do better here with less clutter and more rhythm but that rhythm might be tidy ups pegged to meals and a DVD with dinner most nights for example. Or it could be lie down on the sofa with some Maths and Latin.

These routines pave the way for contentment.

Ultimately, however, contentment and joy are like love...a choice, made in and with His grace.

"The only way to make it in this homeschooling life is to reach for God instead of reaching for happiness. Trying harder to be happy or content will not make you happy and content; trying harder to rest in God and depend upon His grace will. It is a spiritual issue, not a practical one. Contentedness will not come from being more organized, sleeping longer, being a better wife, having a better home, using better materials, having more time to yourself, or whatever you think might help. Contentedness is learned in the process of daily accepting life as God gives it to you, and adjusting your expectations to life’s limitations." Sally Clarkson, Season of A Mother's Heart

Monday, November 07, 2011

I wish unschooling for everyone..

We recently had a discussion on our Unschooling Catholics email list...on that ubiquitious statement, oh so familiar to all homeschoolers with an unschooling bent...Unschooling sounds great but *I* could never do it.

Maybe the speaker couldn't. Or shouldn't.

Or maybe they should and could...if they are willing to step out of their box.

I'm on my seventh teenage unschooler here.. And my thought and experience is that unschooling works with relationship and time.

Time because a child who does not pick up a book at age eight can become a a teen studying liberal arts at university and reading and enjoying philosophy and theology... And yes, I am describing one of my sons! I would strew books that he would never pick up unless they were non fiction full-of-pictures DK and Usborne books. However, we kept reading aloud and listening to books on CD and watching movie versions of books and letting him follow his interests... Which when he was young was all about the outdoors and activity. So I think Unschooling works best over time. 

Time because it takes awhile for "no strings attached" strewing to take... By no strings I mean that I really don't mind if no one takes up my strewing but instead strews their own stuff. And with expectations off, my sons have been more likely to explore new ideas and activities and books.

Relationship because that has been the way Unschooling works in our house. It has enhanced our relationships because we spent time together not doing school but reading aloud, watching movies, drawing, cooking, going to parks and outings and talking. It's this quantity time that is sometimes missing when mums and kids are rushing to do school and then to homeschool activities. And yet this quantity time has been the biggest aid to our learning... so one son, who used to make a big fuss about any sort of formal work when young is the one who is now  at university, writing essays and talking to me about chastity and celibacy and how he doesn't think celibacy would be so hard as your mind, his mind, is on other things.. At the moment Cicero. (!) Now, he was the one who you could have said would not be a poster child for Unschooling, would spend oodles of time on computer games and make a big fuss about chores and really did spend a year or two around age sixteen or so just playing games and hanging out ( and doing chores and serving at mass and helping in the parish). 

Or let me give an example of another son ( did I mention I have seven sons...thus many examples!) who was also a non writer and often a non reader. But who grew, however,  into reading Shakespeare as a teen, who has a degree and now works  in politics, works hard, long hours and yet still finds time to go to mass or confession on weekdays as well. 

Are they perfect? No.

Were they the perfect poster unschooler kids? No.

Were we the perfect unschooler poster family? No, not with our problems, financial problems, moving many many times, mum's health problems and miscarriages, unemployment, extended family crises, months where we did nothing but chores and watch movies and read and cook and eat. And I went through stages of let's try this (  CM or classical or curriculum) but we always came  back to just living and learning.

Where am I going with this?

That I would wish Unschooling for everyone.

That blossoming of self and interests and relationships.

Unschooling tweaked to suit each family but Unschooling where the child and family are more important than is he reading, is he doing maths, can he meet these outcomes? Ad infinitum.

 In my experience, the unschooled children can meet outcomes, over time, with a good relationship ( "darling , for uni you will need more maths and writing so how about we try x and y... "...Easily suggested and more likely to be taken up when relationship in place) and with tweaking to suit each child and family. 

Unschooling has brought me to my knees, to my Faith, to the sacraments , many many times... Heck, I became a Catholic! Me! It's that trust in Our Lord, in the Holy Spirit's workings in my life and in the life of my kids, in the graces of the sacraments. 

So my answer to is Unschooling for everyone is.. It's up to the parent!

Are you prepared to read more, pray more, live with your kids, daily give more of yourself, move out of your comfort zone, educate yourself, give it a good long try, no strings attached!?

For Unschooling requires effort as the vocation of mothering requires effort .. Effort and prayer... It's just that the effort is spent in time with the child and family and not with curriculum and programmes. 

And the rewards are manifold.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Unschooling choice

People wonder what unschooled teens will choose to do, to read, if their time is not structured, if they are not required to "do school".
Will they choose unlimited video games and easy read books and TV?
They may do.
Or like Anthony this week, they may choose to read..and read widely...and talk about reading.
In Anthony's (self directed, self chosen) reading pile this week....

Dante's Divine Comedy (Hell) and Shakespeare's Coriolanus.

Scott O'Dell"s historical novel The King's  Fifth and a French Reader.

The education  of an autodidact.
With mum and brothers and friends around, for discussion.
That quantity time.

Here comes November!

As the October Challenge draws to a close, I have planned and begun my November Challenge. By default.

Jillian Michaels.

Namely, Ripped in 30 and 30 Day Shred. Chosen because the mix of intervals, of cardio and strength and abs usually give me good results in a short amount of time. Healthwise.

Often tough but effective and good to push one self without the exhaustion of hour long pushing.

Those of you who workout will understand.

And I am planning on revisiting some old favourites for the eating part of the challenge.. Old favorite books that is. Secrets of a Former Fat Girl, The Do-able Diet,  The Lazy Girl's Guide to Dieting, Calorie Queens.

What is the common thread in these books? All written by women who used to be overweight. That been there done that thing.

"You don't have to be perfect, you just have to bring it." To quote Jillian from today's workout, workout one of the Ripped in 30  workout DVD.

Good advice!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

That October Challenge!

"I had at last become a true child of the modern world,completely tangled up in petty and useless concerns with myself.." Thomas Merton, in The Seven Storey Mountain.

And so I consider these words as I continue with my October Challenge. I want to be healthier and fitter, and lets face it , look better .... I want it all... Fitness and holiness, without concern for self.

Can the two mesh together?

And is this a dilemma of the modern age?

It has cast a new slant on my October Challenge.

As Merton before me, I could be in danger of .."worrying about a lot of imaginary rules of health, standards of food value...."

My October Challenge is attempting to eat with some balance...not often achieved but those days that I do are glorious. And I note that these days are more often weekends, days that are busy and full but without my crazy work schedules.

My fitness has been that walking/jogging rotation...and I am loving it! I am singing, I am walking and jogging and dancing and I am enjoying not feeling so worn out after a know, when I am often busy and sleep deprived, adding a push myself to my limits workout can be fun..but exhausting. Walking and jogging every day, with a little bit of strength training, makes me feel less tired right now...and it's great to do cardio every day...great fun and good for health and body...and mind ( those prayers while working out). And I can push myself and feel worked out, nicely tired...not I-can't-make-it-up-the-stairs tired.

One more week of the October Challenge to go!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Duty and Love

"Falling in love while I was still a nun complicated things and helped me think about myself in a different way" Mary Johnson, in "An Unquenchable Thirst."

Mary Johnson describes her life as a nun...and her falling in love with someone other than God...and her surprise at this. And yes, this "falling in love" was one of the reasons she left her religious order.

Yet we shouldn't be surprised by falling in love. If we love God, when we feel His Love for us, then we love even more..we love Him more and our capacity for love of others is heightened.

This is not a romantic love but a selfless love. 

Fr James Martin, in his book of his priestly vocation,  In Good Company,  writes of celibacy and chastity...As a Jesuit, he discusses his vows of chastity, poverty, obedience and says " ...even chastity does not preclude one from falling into love..Falling in love and being in love are both gifts from God. Its a question of what you do....A chaste person tries, like Jesus did, to love as many people as possible."

I think the same could be said of those of us in the vocation of marriage...we love our spouses, we love our children and we also love others. First we are loved by God, then we love others. 

It has  taken that awhile to dawn on me...

Where am I going with this? 

A son and I discussed love and duty. How the two are intertwined. We love . Sometimes we act solely out of Love. Sometimes we act because we feel loved, and we feel His Love. And sometimes we act out of duty.

We act regardless of falling in or falling out of love. 

As Fr Martin's a question of what we do. 

"Our Lord has created persons for all states in life, and in all of them we see people who who achieved sanctity by fulfilling their obligations well." St Anthony Mary Claret

There hasn't been a lot of talk lately about duty..we talk instead of love, of doing things out of love. 

I find the two go hand in hand..we live and act out of love and out of duty.

Duty need not be can be a result of love, it can lead to love or to enhancing love. 

Love and duty keep our lives in order..I love and I do what I ought. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us of this positive bent...the 'commandment is expressed in positive terms of duties to be fulfilled.' (2198)

Positive duties. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Quick Succession of Busy Nothings

“Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings.” ~Jane Austen

That's the danger, folks. That we who like-to-do-a-lot can  just  do-too-much and miss out on all the important, prayer..sleep.

Which is one reason I unschool. We don't need another set list of To Dos in our life. We need to connect more, to form relationships with each other, with books, with ideas, with nature, with the world. with self, with God. 

"Education is the Science of Relations'; that is, a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we train him upon physical exercises, nature lore, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books, for we know that our business is not to teach him all about anything, but to help him to make valid as many as may be of––
"Those first-born affinities
That fit our new existence to existing things." Charlotte Mason

So how do we do this? We have  daily, work-at-home rhythms and I am pondering being less busy....

"But how can you stop being busy? It’s a simple change of mindset: you say, I’m not going to be busy anymore. Even if you have little control over your schedule, you can decide that you’ll slow down, and pick the important things to work on, and if necessary, talk to your boss about doing this. If you control your schedule, you can drop all the busywork, and just pick the high-impact tasks. It might seem impossible, but once you decide to put an End to Busy, you have taken the biggest step."

What is our weekly, work at home, unschooling rhythm? Flip over to the Unschooling Catholics blog and read my post there..

"And that is how the weeks go...way too fast...but we work on flow...on doing...and on being...Like the blue willow tea set...cups in a row, beauty, but not perfect...little those little imperfections in our days, our order, our rhythms ...that make the unschooling week"

Dead people as friends...St Teresa of Avila

"The highest perfection consists not in interior favours or in great rapture, but in bringing of our wills so closely into conformity with the will of God that as soon as we realize that He wills anything, we desire it ourselves with all our might."

St Teresa is one of my "mentor" saints. I read her writings, I look to her for inspiration.

She is my friend.

Yes, dead people as my post here.

I think St Teresa may be horrified at parts of who I am, a modern techi-devoted, Singstar and workout devoted,  working and homeschooling, wife and mother...but I like to think we would share the same sense of humour, sense of duty, love for our Faith, love for God.

And so we cooked a Spanish flavoured dinner for St Teresa's feast day, October 12. I shared the recipes in my regular food- for -the -liturgical -year "column" on the Australian Catholic Families blog.

Pope Benedict XVI wrote that St Teresa had a " a profound and articulate spirituality" and reminds us to emulate St Teresa, in  seeking God's friendship every day, in prayer...for time spent in prayer is not time wasted. ( Blog of the MI Australia).

Sunday, October 09, 2011

My Invisible Unschooling

Someone teased me recently about my unschooling. That if Anthony sneezes I would write that in my Homeschool log as Health.

I laughed. It may be a tiny bit true.

Yet my sons, yet Anthony, is educated and has a well rounded education, a liberal arts education, not in spite of having me as a mother and not in spite of all the things I don't do, but because of all that I do.

All those invisible things I do, things that seem effortless and seamless but are done, every day, day in, day out, with a direct philosophy in mind.

A philosophy of unschooling, of children being natural leathers, of emphasizing the tools of learning, of creating a rich learning environment at home and elsewhere, of modelling, of discussion, of strewing, of Love.

The author also introduces the concept of unschooling not as an ideology — some fixed system against which to measure reality — but rather as a habit of observing children carefully and being willing to adapt our approach in light of our observations. In Suzie’s words, “Unschooling makes much more sense when we think of it as a suggestion rather than a mandate. Be with the children. Really look at them. Enjoy spending time together, talking, investigating, reading, playing.”

At the end of Chapter 2, we find a summary of the principles of unschooling. “Let the child learn by his own initiative, in his own way. The basics are not hard, children want to learn them, and they will ask for help when they need it. Learning is easiest and most effective when it is spontaneous and entered into by desire. Our home life will include necessary tasks, obligations, and duties, but learning does not have to be one of them.”

From a review of the book A Little Way of know, that book on Catholic unschooling, the one to which I am a contributor..and a perfect description of what seems to be invisible unschooling.

A Fitness Challenge

Fat and frumpy. Old and ugly.

You know those things we say to ourselves.

It's that self loathing. And for many women it began in their teen years.

For me, it began in my childhood. But that's a whole other story.

As Ajay Rochester says in her 5 Minute Diet Book, starting from a point of self disgust is not helpful.

Instead, we should begin a new fitness venture from a point of being positive... Affirmations if need be. Self control over negative thoughts. Choosing workouts that make us smile.

Lately I have been doing more walking and jogging workouts.Outside. Or inside... Leslie Sansone being som
e of these workouts.

Leslie is bubbly, chatty, positive. I can pray while walking or jogging, otherwise mindless workouts. ....Hail Mary... Contemplation instead of mindlessness...

And if I am walking, jogging, doing upper body strength training in my family room, I can ham it up. Act like a dork. Dance. Sing. Who is to see or care?

Leslie has an October walking and jogging challenge beginning on Monday. To overcome these I-hate-me feelings I am taking the challenge. Setting a plan for x number of kilometres.

And looking at my chaotic eating habits... Yes, my life means I tend to be chaotic in eating. As described in Intuitive Eating..." The Chaotic Unconscious Eater often lives an over scheduled life, too busy, too many things to do. The chaotic eating style is haphazard; whatever's available will be grabbed....nutrition and diet are often important to this person...just not at the critical point of the chaos. Chaotic eaters are so busy putting out fires ( in my case doing all that I need to do and working two jobs and homeschooling and trying to eat what's on hand to save money..) they have difficulty recognizing biological hunger until it's fiercely ravenous. Not surprisingly, the Chaotic Eater often goes long periods of time without eating."

Mmm. Me to a tee.

So my October fitness challenge is to hate myself a little bit less ( son Thomas always says to me, Mum you are worse than my friends, girls my age, about hating your looks and body! ...yep, that's me..), to walk and jog perhaps with Leslie, to structure eating and be more mindful.

I'll report back regularly!

And .....want to join me?

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

What are we cooking today, Mum?

We cook our way through the liturgical year.

I change our dining table centerpiece to reflect the liturgical year.

This week, we have had a statue of St Michael the archangel on the dining table. Our saints book open for the day. The Dhouay Rheims Bible for St Jerome. The Story of a Soul for St Therese of Lisieux. Today a statue of St Francis.

And our ongoing feature for this month, the month of the Holy Rosary, is a statue of Our Lady, some rosary beads and a missal open to the indulgenced prayer to St Joseph for the month of October.

This week, we have made Devil's Food Cake for the Archangels, quiche for St Vincent de Paul, my grandmother's toffee for St Jerome, a strawberries and cream cake for both St Therese and for the guardian angles...and today for St Framcis?

Well, check out my post on the ACF blog.... Cooking for the Feast of St Francis.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Why Ms Keneally is wrong...Love and Responsibility

Kristina Keneally, former premier of New South Wales, a self professing Catholic politician, writes a piece on Why I Support Gay Marriages.

Now, I could refute her article on many terms...Church teaching, dissidence, informed conscience, sacramentality of marriage, importance of marriage laws for the protection of women and of children, fallacious and emotive argument ....I will, however, restrict myself, to one of the many inaccuracies contained in her argument.

"....homosexual acts are preferable to living a life where one can never give expression to one's sexuality."

Oh dear. Herein lies the inaccuracy. That expression of sexuality relies solely on the sexual act itself.

This is a purely a utilitarian point of view of sexuality.

The sexual a natural drive born in all human beings, a
vector of aspiration along which their whole existence develops
e for enjoyment this inner life of the person
and perfects itself from within... If...the sexual urge is understood
as...a drive for enjoyment this inner life of the person
is almost totally negated... The sexual urge in man is a fact
which he must...welcome as a source of natural energy. Pope John Paul II,Love and Responsibility

The sexual urge, our sexuality, is not to be used ..for us or for others. It is a gift from God. It is expressed in our love for others, our natural creative energy, our passions...and not only strictly in a physical sense.

I can be chaste and yet still express my my life, my creativity, my
vocation, my love.

Love between persons...must possess a clear-cut objective
purpose... Man’s capacity for love depends on his willingness
consciously to seek a good together with others... From the
desire for the ‘unlimited’ good of another ‘I’ springs the whole
creative drive of true love. Ibid

Man's creativity is often fueled by love. not by requiring a physical sexual union or by a burying of love nor by a lack of expression of sexuality.

If we limit the expression of our sexuality to the physical act of sex, we miss out on the fullness of our expression of humanity, our passions, we deny whole sections of our sexuality and creativity .....simply in order to reduce human sexuality to a mere physical act.

Even if we never experience the physical act of sexuality, we still experience our sexuality, we still express it, in our love and actions, for the greater good.

The dignity of the person demands control of concupiscence. If
the person does not exercise such control it...allows an
inferior...part of itself to enjoy freedom of action, and indeed
subjects itself to this lesser self... Control of concupiscence has
as its objective not only the perfection of the person who attempts
to achieve it, but also the realization of love in the world of persons. Ibid

This is the danger of this part of Keneally's argument , that one cannot live a full life without expressing one's sexuality via open acts of sexual union, via changing marriage laws to adapt to a person's desires and not for the good of society. Her statement reduces sexual orientation and sexuality to one element alone..the physical sense..and this denies the ultimate good of individuals and of society. This denies love itself. Love which means thinking of another, not having to express sexuality on our own terms, not having to form society to fit my desires, my carnal desires, my concupiscence.

Only the chaste..are capable of true love...
Chastity frees their association...from
that tendency to use a person which
is...incompatible with ‘loving kindness’...
The essence of chastity
consists in quickness to affirm the
value of the person in every situation...
Chastity...does involve a certain
humility of the body. Ibid

We can express our sexuality in our chastity, in affirming the value of ourselves and of others.

Ms Keneally, with her degree in theology, needs to read Love and Responsibility. And the Catechism of the Catholic Church. With logic and reasoning. And prayer and love.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I'm a list maker.

I can't help myself.

Have a problem? Make a list of steps to take to fix up the problem...or at least making it more livable.

Many things to do? Write out that To Do list.

Money problems? Relationship hassles? Diet thoughts? List those solutions.....

Talking about want tos and want to dos with the kids? Grab that paper and pen, that IPad, and list.

Good books? Movies we want to watch? Places we want to visit? List, list, list.

Years ago, I even wrote a list of How To Unschool....People First headed the list. Most necessary as I can be task oriented.

As in this article..How To Be A Good Unschooler...

I think this is is the why behind my list making. I want to be Good. Hermione good.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Transcendent in awe.

One of the feast days this week was that of St John Chrysostom.

Pope Benedict XVI, in 2007, on the anniversary of the saint's death, wrote of St John and the Divine Liturgy.

"St John understood that the Divine Liturgy situated the believer spiritually between his life on earth and the heavenly reality which was promised to him by the Lord.....

These sacred rites, says St John, ?are not only marvelous to behold, but transcendent in awe. There stands the priest ... bringing down the Holy Spirit, and he prays at length ... that grace descending on the sacrifice may thereby enlighten the minds of all and render them more resplendent than silver purified by fire.""

Transcendent. Between heaven and earth. Out of the ordinary experience. Exceptional.

Not lacklustre liturgy.

Not banal trite catechism for children and adults.

But a chance to bridge that gap between the ordinary and the sacred.

To enlighten minds and souls.

In liturgy. And in our teaching.

You could have heard a pin drop in catechism class this week when we talked about the Mass, when we looked at sacred vessels, at crystal cruets, at polished bells. A ripple of a sigh, of awe, at the beauty ...not for the ordinary but for the special, for the celebration of mass, for preparing to receive Jesus in the Eucharist.

The need for sacred, for ritual, for beauty, for intellect, ideas out of the ordinary (transubstantiation,...the children rolled the words on their tongues, nodded as we spoke of the Body and of the Blood).. These needs were all fed, not by simplistic, euphemistic terms, not by garish drawings but by Truth and Beauty.

We build our Catholic identity, in ourselves and in the children, through sacred liturgy and an understanding of the liturgy. All senses are filled. Heart, mind, body, soul. We build a relationship with Our Lord...and this is shared with others. In true education. In true evangelization . In true ecumenism. In true social justice.

Emanating from that awe at transcendence.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sittin' in the sun, unschooling

As I sit in the sun on the front verandah, with youngest son Anthony, drinking tea, having a late lunch, discussing punk rock, Fr Laux's Catholic Apologetics. (I'm really liking this book, says Anthony) and Thoreau, my paperwork by my side, The Help waiting on kindle, an interlude before I go to work, I think.... I am so glad that we have unschooled.

It's that memory snapshot.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Homeschooling Resource Meme

I have been tagged by Leanne.

1.One homeschool book you have enjoyed.... From my earlier Homeschooling years...I used to re-read these regularly...Teach Your Own by John Holt ( one of the first Homeschool books I ever read), Better Than School by Nancy Wallace, For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macauley, The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook by Raymond and Dorothy Moore (originally published as something like Avoiding Homeschool Burnout.)...I do know thats more than one...

2. One book/ resource I wouldn’t be without.....The Internet. Totally. How did I Homeschool before the Internet? And the library.

3. One resource you wish you never purchased
....oh my gosh, probably so many! But one that stands out is the Apologia Science Chemistry book. Dry as dust and none of us, yes even me, could get into it. Not even as a reference or supplement.

4. One resource you enjoyed last year....the Think blog. Most weeks we tried the Science/Thinking skills activites and problems. For awhile anyway. Before life got too busy with other things. It was fun! And I took photos or blogged as documentation.

5. One resource you will be using next year. ...this year? Sandra Dodd's Big Book of Unschooling. I downloaded it onto iBooks and I think it will be good for me, down to my last unschool school aged son, to revisit some unschooling ideas and to talk about them with Anthony and with others. Mum's reading inevitably affects our this house, anyway!

6. One resource you would like to purchase
.... I don't know if there is one! Let me think...probably a learn to speak Portuguese resource, for Anthony and Thomas, in preparation for WYD 2013 in Rio Di Janeiro.

7. One resource you wish existed
.... Not much really, we live and learn and use whatever we find...but maybe, when the boys were younger, a crystal ball to let me know that our relaxed Homeschooling, our unschooling, Would Work! (It has!)

8. One homeschool catalogue you enjoy reading... I used to love the Sonlight catalogue, for book suggestions, though I haven't read it for several years now. I have also loved the FUN books website.

9. One homeschool website you use regularly...none really (blushes). I read blogs on an ad hoc basis, I read our Unschooling Catholics email list, I sometimes read the Unschooling Basics email list, I used to love the old Unschooling dotcom forum and I used to read the 4 Real Learning forum more, when I had more time....

10. Tag other homeschoolers....Lisa, Faith, Cay

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Unschooling quotes..

From yesterday, a very busy day of work and work meetings..."I am so glad I unschool, I wouldn't have time to homeschool..."


Which is not strictly true, unschooling does take time but a very different sort of time. Or management. Or supervision. As in yesterday, when I was out at work and work meeting, unschooling didn't mean leaving Anthony to his own devices. Instead, it meant me encouraging him to go to university with his brothers, take his maths and Physics to work on, hang out at the library and with his brothers and their friends...

From today...looking at the clock and knowing it is almost time for us to leave for my Kumon centre..."Where did the time go??? and no schoolwork!"

At which comment we both laughed..because Anthony has spent time reading his book, the book borrowed from the university library yesterday. "The Greatness That Was Babylon."

Unschooling quotes, out of context, can be misleading....

Tuesday, September 06, 2011


Tired. Bone tired. "Making your way upstairs is too hard" tired.

Prayer, I know some people who need prayer today.

Crunch workout. Belly Butt and Thighs Bootcamp. Bright happy clothes at 6 am help.

Saving moments of grace come in hugs and conversation with some young children at work. "Did you see my Fiji stuff? You can hear the sea in this shell."

In a cup of tea and a shared chocolate bar with Anthony, at the breakfast bar, paying bills, paperwork.

And hanging out at the library with Anthony. Him for research. Me for Kumon work and a Kumon consult.

Inadvertently we dress alike. Blue jeans, purple shirt, black jackets, black converse.

Twins. Arnie Schwartznegger and Danny De Vito.

What interest will Anthony find, for his next unschooling rabbit trail?

Yesterday was writing on the immortality of the soul. A quote from his writing...."We can easily draw the following conclusion: that there is within us a power which we call intellect or reason; a thinking or rational substance which we call the soul. A thinking substance must be a simple spiritual substance. A simple spiritual substance is independent of matter. What is independent of matter can exist apart from matter."

Today? Enjoying the library. The sun through the many glass windows. The sofas and cushions.

And work.

And errands.

And perhaps some reading.

Before more work.

And prayer.

Finding God in all things.

Contemplation in action.

Describing Ignatian spirituality ( James Martin's The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything, some of my Kindle reading)

Yet describing the life of a wife and mother...perpetual action and motion , sprinkled with prayer and contemplation.

"The road is our home."

( Jeronimo Nadal, Jesuit, early companion of St Ignatius of Loyola, )

Sunday, September 04, 2011


"When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die." Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "The Cost of Discipleship."

There are different kinds of dying.

This is, however, the essence of discipleship. And often the essence of our vocations.

It's not always easy to live out our vocations , be they to marriage, parenthood, religious life, priesthood...

But we do it. We live, we follow Christ, and sometimes we die a little bit inside.

Yet we are never alone. We have His graces.

We follow Him, we die and out of what feels like the ashes of our vocation, is borne a strength, a faith.

This is the cost of discipleship.

And the joy.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A mother's heart

A mother teaches. A mother guides. A mother laughs. A mother shares. A mother loves. A mother spends time.

A mother cares . Keeps her children close. And a mother lets go.

When I became a Catholic, I struggled to understand devotion to Our Lady, and to the Rosary.

But time spent praying the rosary, trying to understand the rosary and meditation, pondering each mystery , brought me towards Our Mother. I began to understand motherhood in the light of Our Lady. And her life.

Mary spent her life in motherhood. Motherhood as a vocation. Motherhood as a life.

And her motherhood is universal. She mothers us all.

The more years I mother, mother children and young adults of varying stages, caring for my children and for others, the more I understand that love means letting go. Sometimes even loving from a distance.

I was often, am often, like little Lovejoy in Rumer Godden's " An Episode of Sparrows".....

"'Hail Mary,' prayed Lovejoy between her teeth, 'Mary, make me cocky and independent.'"

Hail Mary, I sometimes pray silently, make me tough, make me strong.

And Mary takes my prayers, just as she took Lovejoy's prayers and she prays to her Son. And just like Lovejoy becomes vulnerable and has to accept care and love, though fiercely independent, so I become vulnerable and less knowing, in love.

I love and let go. I am both strong and weak, tough and soft.

With Mary as my role model, as my guide, my help, my intercessor.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Life with the......

A day in the life of... An answer to those who asked how Unschooling looks for families with teens.

5.44 am Mobile phone alarm beeps. I jump out of bed  to grab the phone and switch off the alarm because  I can't bear the noise and don't want it to wake the family. Then, because it's cold and wet, and because I went to bed at midnight doing work for Kumon, I take my phone back to bed with me for ten minutes. I say a few Hail Marys.

6.05 am Doing a Taebo workout in my room. Time for a half hour workout today... Total Body Blast, kickboxing and light weights. Go Billy Blanks!

6.40 am Getting dressed for work at OOSH. I lay my uniform and jeans and Converse  out the night
before so I don't have to think in the morning. Because I took those ten minutes in bed there is no time now to wash and dry my hair so I put it in pigtails.

6.50 am Leave  for work... Running a bit late.

7.00-9.30 am Work as a co-ordinator at an out of school hours care centre. Set up dominoes and tristar games and pet portraits, chat to children and parents and staff, do paperwork, plan afternoon activities.

While at home, builders arrive to fix the termite damage in our rental home. Jonathon and Alexander in Madrid for WYD (lucky things!) and Greg is home for a week before going to the US for postulancy and novitiate. So Greg, Anthony, Thomas get up, workout, tidy, talk, pray, breakfast, computer, errands

9.40 am Home from work, talk to a Kumon parent on the phone, say hi to builders and sons, check email on my phone. Anthony makes a pot of tea and we try to find a quiet builder free area to talk. Can Anthony's friend come over? Will Greg proofread Anny's report on Sir Robert Menzies? We all talk, look up movies online, go on Facebook, Thomas writes a blogpost.Anthony puts on a load of laundry and we laugh at how much less washing we have with two away.

About that report. A couple of weeks back it came to me that we were inadvertently studying Australian history this year ( see my post on Inadvertent Homeschooling). With trips and outings and books that came our way. So I suggested to Anthony that he write a report on a famous person in Australian history.. And this he finished yesterday.

About that blog post. A long discussion in Melbourne , about writing and commitment and self discipline and a friend's blog, encouraged
Thomas'  blog, Life as a student.

10.10 I go to finally wash that hair, reading a bit of Merton's Seven Storey Mountain  ( that modern spiritual classic) and the beginning of Run Your Butt Off (an introduction to running as a workout and sport) on the way. Anthony and Greg play a video game with Anthony's friend , David. Then David and Anthony play some piano.

10,55 Say goodbye to the builders... They should be finished this weekend and painters in next week! Yay! Kids drop me off to my eye specialist appointment and they head off to the shopping mall. In the waiting room I start to blog, watch the news, read parts of the aforementioned books. This is my rest! Or at least how I look at it... Not boring waiting time!

I look at my To Do list... Is there anything I can do while in the waiting room? I pray the prayer on the holy card I use as a bookmark.

I download some songs on ITunes and field another call from a Kumon parent. While the boys visit the shops and library.

Does it seem like I am filling in time??

I pray for the pilgrims in Madrid.. That plenary indulgence you know!

1.20  pm Finally texting Greg to pick me up... Waited two hours for a six minute consult!

1.49 At the food court for lunch. Lentil beetroot fetta salad! Anthony and his friend play with Bucky Balls, beads with which they make creations. Greg goes to the orthodontist and Thomas to work as an assistant at a nearby Kumon centre. I talk, text, catch up on email. With a skim chai latte!

2.53 pm Rushing to work, late again. Anthony with his friend David at home, playing games and music and reading. Greg will take Anthony to piano lessons at 5pm while I plan indoor activities for the kids at OOSH on this rainy, windy day.

6.05 Walking in the rain, waiting for my lift home from work. Then we leave a car for Thomas at his work, so he can drive to youth group in our parish after work. Home to say hi to dh, home early from work interstate in Canberra. Anthony tells me about music lessons. Builders have finished and gone! I dry my hair and we go to mass in our parish and Anthony then to meet Thomas at youth group.

We talk about St Louis of Anjou, the first Franciscan bishop. And hear from our pilgrims in Spain... It's amazing!

I get to pray the Morning and Evening prayers of the Office before and after mass ( yay! But hangs head in shame re catch up). Then home to pick up dh ... Just we three, Gerry, Greg and I for dinner, some time to chat before Greg goes away.

Where shall we eat?

8.44 At a local Thai restaurant. Thomas and Anny still at youth group. Hearing all about WYD from pilgrims and about studies in the US from Greg.

9.48 Meet T and A at McDonalds for coffee and chat about youth group. Still cold. Pouring rain.

Discuss tomorrow's plans.

Discuss items in the newspaper.

And talk about writing. And blogs. And personal culpability. And mental health problems.

10.48 pm Home . Very , very cold. Anthony does more laundry. I tidy up. We pray and get ready for bed. I make a To Do list for tomorrow, adding the many things I didn't do today.

An early night.. We were going to watch an episode of Numbers (Maths and crime!) but we are oh so tired  after a busy week... So bed and reading for us all ( and blogging for me!)