June 2008

    Sale the other day on cheese wrapped in wax.  Children saved the wax (who could resist), Mr. Boy was the leader in candle-making.  Rolled out his portion of wax, put a length of cotton yarn in the center, closed up the wax around it.  Candle is obviously not very hard — doesn’t require a candlestick holder because you can smush the wax into the surface on which it rests to make a broad, flat, very stable and sticky base.  And they work!

    A variety of incidents have SuperHusband and I thinking about homeschooling lately.  A realization we had last night was just how much homeschooling lends itself to what I (borrowing the word) refer to as intellectual ‘conversation’ — the working of the brain to choose, to interact, to reflect, to create, and so forth.   This is true even when we are doing the same sorts of activities that are done in traditional schools.  

    I think about something like watching a movie (educational or not — both occur in schools, mine and the public ones), which is an activity we think of as ‘passive’.  When Mr. Boy watches an educational program, he runs in and out of the room, reporting to me all the interesting facts.  Not something a child in a classroom can do without causing a disruption.  If there’s a show on, my kids have the choice to watch it or not — they can, and often do, choose to get up and go something else, either in the same room or elsewhere.  I try to imagine a classroom where the teacher has put on a film at the end of the day (something edifying and supportive of the curriculum, but not strictly necessary) and a student gets up and says, "I’m going out for a nature walk now," or even "Can I go down the hall to the art room and work on my drawing instead?"

    It is a very rare institutional school (public or private) that can give this type of autonomy to the students (Montessori as I have read about it — no personal experience — comes to mind, and the Albany Free School is another, if I have the name correct on the latter.).  I’m finding that all this deciding is good for the kids.  They come up with all kinds of ideas, like the cheesewax candles, and they actually get to try their ideas and learn from that experience — from both the intellectual process and the physical process.    It is starting to show, and we are very happy with it.


    In other news, I accidentally joined the Legion of Mary a few weeks ago, as an auxillary member.  A eucharistic miracle of sorts.  So far it seems to be sticking, though getting me to actually say the rosary every day (as opposed to thinking what a good idea it would be for me to do so) is miraculous in itself.  I do not exaggerate here; those who know me best will vouch for my complete incompetence in these sorts of feats.  Last night, for example, I managed to finally remember to pray only by a weird series of events that had me finishing the last lines at 11:59.

    I am not very good at this, either.  I seem to be always have a set of dreaded mysteries.  At first it was the sorrowful mysteries, because I just wasn’t feeling penitential and *did not* want to dwell on sorrowful thoughts.  Today I found I’d gotten rather sick of the joyful mysteries — too cheerful happy happy for me, who was thinking not about the mystery of the Finding of Jesus, but rather the mystery of the Losing of Jesus.  And then in an effort to focus my thoughts (always wandering, always, always) I thought I’d gaze at the little images next to each mystery.  Which led me to noticing that in my particular prayer booklet, Mary is wearing the same pink and blue outfit for some twelve years or so, Annunciation through Finding.  No fading or stains, either.   More and more I understand why evangelicals go in for loud music with waving-of-hands and live band up front  as a primary form of worship — kind of drowns out some of the distractions.

    Anyhow, that’s the news at the castle. 



A few years ago, someone on the delphi NFP discussion forum posted a thread about the "rules around your house".  Participants posted lists of their house rules.  Mine included "No sitting on the baby’s head". 

Now need to add a rule, this one inspired by the same child who gave us that other rule, though the incident involves a different baby:

No tying things to the baby.

Funny thing is, rules like this are almost always needed on days when everything is going well.  If the two children involved hadn’t been getting along so well today, there never would have been any getting of babies to submit to the tying-on.

Took a field trip to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary last week – highly recommended.  Lovely area, very helpful educational signs, and the boardwalk trail takes you through a variety of landscapes.  The boardwalk is very stroller (and wheelchair, it seemed to me) accessible — so much so that there is a fleet of umbrella strollers and wheelchairs available to borrow (no additional charge) if you have someone along who isn’t up to the walk.   The visitors’ center has an interesting educational ‘film’, once you get use to the unusual format.  

Can’t recommend it enough.  Take a look at the link for photos.


Also made a side trip to Ave Maria town for lunch afterwards — we hadn’t realized it was so close, until we saw the sign and decided to investigate.    Interesting place.  From a distance the church looks rather like a silo turned on its side, or perhaps some kind of massive manufacturing plant.  Up close though, it evokes the feeling of a European cathedral.  Say, what Frank Lloyd Wright might have designed if he’d been taller and more catholic.

photo of Ave Maria oratory

All controversies about the community aside, the oratory deserves an award for silence.   Very prayerful.   The kind of atmosphere which makes any church more beautiful.

    So the other week we to a demonstration for homeschoolers put on by the local SCA group.  It’s a possibility that we will even succumb to become SCA’er ourself: friendly people, fellow history nuts, a handful of other homeschoolers and people with kids our kids age, and activities that the whole family would find interesting.  Kind of neat to find an activity that everyone in the family can go and participate in at the same time.

    But here’s the point of my post: So I went to the SCA event.  Which caused me to go to the SCA website.  Whch caused me to suddenly take a detour in my goofing-off hours to learn Old French.   As I mentioned to friends the other day, *it seemed like the right thing to do at the time*. 

    Meanwhile an internet acquaintance laments that her husband wants her (a stay-at-home mom to young children) to take up some intellectually stimulating, "improving" hobbies.  Learn Latin, read theology, things like that.  I want to tell him, "Noooo!  Don’t do it! No no no!!!!"  If you have a perfectly good housewife, do not, repeat do not, ruin it all by getting her started compulsively learning ancient languages and entering into Great Discourses.  Dinner will never be on time again, and you will be very, very sorry.

    On the other hand, last year this time my obscure language of sudden-obsession was Latin.  And I am pleased to report that I have actually made progress.  My course of study consisted of 1) Checking out all the Latin books at our public library, skimming through most of them and even doing a couple lessons,  in a manic learn-Latin orgy.  2) Listening to part of a very dry free-bin-rescue tape on classical Latin pronunciation.  3) Detouring into a brief study Occitan, which I quickly fought off.  4) Coming to my senses.  Probably only cost us a couple weeks of productivity.

    Since then, though, I have made a point of reading the Latin bits in my Daily Roman Missal, when I go to read the day’s mass readings.  Unless very tired, I read the Latin first, then check the English underneath second.   And I realized this morning that lately I haven’t much needed to really read the English.  Very exciting.   Not going to be counted in the ranks of the great scholars any year soon, but it’s nice to be getting somewhere.