September 2008

The book came.  Woohoo!  It looks readable.  Fun.  Appropriate for junior readers like myself.  As Mr. Boy observes, “It is thinner than the other book [Jesus of Nazareth]“.  Exactly the kind of book I really really love.  I’ll try to get the review up for the 3rd Friday of October over at Riparians, because it is very appropriate reading going into All Saints.  Falls well enough into the ‘history’ category on that blog.


Our project for the next 5th Wednesday (end of October): I want to add a category in the sidebar for reputable catholic vendors.  Please post your recommendations in the comments box of this thread.  Include who you are, and a review of the vendor.  Limit yourself to vendors with whom you have completed at least one business transaction.  Also fair game are businesses you can vouch for based on other personal experience, ie “I worked with this guy for ten years before he opened his shop.”

I’ll keep this post stuck to the top for now.  Thanks for your help.

What we’ve been doing for the past month or so:

We started school August 19th, and so far, so good. I upped the level of planning and structure this year, and it seems to be helping immensely with keeping us on track.

Aria* and the Bun are taking dance again, from our same fabulous teacher we’ve been lucky to get the last two years. (If you live near us and are looking for really good teaching at a low homeschool-discount price, let me know.) Please don’t ask me why my very young children are taking dance lessons. Okay I’ll tell you: they enjoy it, it is very inexpensive (did I mention the homeschool discount?), and we have a carpool. Most weeks I actually get the three big kids out of the house for two hours (Mr. Boy goes to play with the older brother of one of the dancers), with no driving on my part. Means I have to race through school with Mr. Boy to get him done by 10 am, but we can do that.

Two big kids have been doing lots of hiking and camping**, now that the lovely fall camping season is upon us. Which is of course good for them (and the SuperHusband who takes them), and lightens my load by subbing out formal lessons for field trips.

I had not intended to keep blogging about the mystery ailment, but then I hadn’t intended to keeping having one to blog about. For those who have a need to know, it’s still here and still mysterious, though much less of either than it was a year ago.  And while I have certainly developed that special old-person’s skill and passion for describing health complaints at length, I won’t do so here. Today. Count your blessings.

Better news, I suppose: We got a cat. Or rather, he got us. ‘Sunflower’, so named by Aria, who continues to refer to him as ‘her’, despite the vet’s insistence that he is indeed a male of the species. Lovely guy, very affectionate, good with kids (except at the vet’s office), knows his way around living with people. Has already gone and taken off his collar, and I cannot for the life of me find it.

Just go ahead and add that to the very long list of things I cannot find. Housekeeping has been suffering a bit lately. I did clean off my desk this week. It is just gorgeous – a big cherry credenza salvaged from a corporate downsizing giveaway. Now what to do with the even dozen containers (some larger, some smaller) of things that were heretofore serving as desk camouflage. I guess that leads us into what is . . .

Up for the coming month or so:

In addition, of course, to my constant promise to finally clean the house and keep it that way . . .

More hiking and camping. ‘Tis the season. SuperHusband is planning a light backpacking trip for two big kids, and a longer, harder trip for just Mr. Boy. We’ll try to get in at least one whole-family camping trip as well. The preschoolers love going camping, though certain parents find taking them to be a tad taxing. We’ll see.

Continuing to try out the SCA. Have a local event coming up in November, and maybe one a little farther afield this weekend. So far so good, and there is another family with kids our age also joining the local group. (I give it 98% odds they’re catholic even, between the medals on mom’s necklace and her spontaneously tossing out Latin prayers when the topic of medieval religion came up.  The SCA, fyi, is a fervently secular group. Just as well.) We’re having fun for the moment, and we’ll see for the future.

Speaking of Latin, that is the one course we are just getting started with right now. I put it off for the first month of school, for the twofold reason that I wanted to start with a light course load while we got the hang of the rhythm of the school day, and because I hadn’t yet gone to the library to fetch our book. We’re using the Oxford Latin Course, which gets some good reviews and some very poor ones, if you search around the internet. I have a suspicion as to why, but I’ll wait until we’ve used the book long enough before I post my own review. No notion as to when that will be – I hadn’t intended to do Latin this year, but Mr. Boy voted for it. Now he’s balking, on account of his mother insisting he still study French too. (He has a boring French book. He was hoping to get out of it.  For the $0.50 I paid for it, I am *very happy* with the boring book. Which is, I should observe, boring in an entirely age-appropriate, peppy, kid-friendly manner.)

–> We aren’t committed, curriculum-wise, to doing anything beyond a 3rd-grade-type ‘intro to Latin’. So depending on how things go, we might sail through the book this year (there are those monster stories to motivate), or maybe it’ll be sometime in middle school before we actually become serious Latin scholars.

That’s all the news I can think of for now. If anything else blog-worthy comes to mind over the next week, I’ll post it.

*Remember ‘Aria’ is the new name for the eldest daughter, known at the old location as ‘LP’. She put in a for name change, I went with it. She has a real talent for making up names. My favorite so far is Sally Cabbage. Nobody steal it, one of these days I’m going to write a story featuring that character.

**We use the term ‘camping’ loosely here. No backpacking trips yet this season, so all camping is being done by our ’68 Airstream. Called a ‘camper’ because it camps so we don’t have to.


Hey and by the way, FYI: It appears that my setting in wordpress is for a different time zone than my own.  Such that sometimes when I write a post later in the evening, it gets dated for the next morning.  It’s like a special way of making sure no one loses track of my amazing procrastinating powers, even when I don’t personally choose to exercise them.

[Cross-posted means I copied and pasted this straight from my other blog.  Since I thought it might be of interest to readers of both.  To get to the part that truly interests you, scroll down to the bit about the coupon code for free shipping at the Catholic Company.  But if you already read it at Riparians, it says *exactly the same thing* here.  So go read something else now.]

The good news is, I got accepted at the Catholic Company to be one of their reviewers. Yay! I love reviewing books.

More good news: They are still accepting reviewers.  That could be you.  Learn more at:

The bad news is, when I went to pick out my first book, I *thought* I was clicking on ‘product information’ when I saw a title called The Fathers.  Because I was thinking that of the choices available, the new teen novel sounded about my speed (I have teenaged godchildren.  I have to keep up with this stuff).  But I wanted to just take a look at this other interesting title before I made a final decision.  But I accidentally  made the final decision then and there.

Which means good news: I’m supposed to be getting a free copy of the holy father’s new book. (Oh yeah, *that* book about the Apolostic Fathers.   Oops.)

Bad news of course being that I am now required to *read the whole book*.  In order to review it.  Ack!  This is work!  I meant to do something fun!  By which I meant, something easy!

The good news is, it should be good for me.  Truth is, I did want to get the book.  I just couldn’t justify buying it until I finished Jesus of Nazareth, which is still sitting in my living room waiting for me to finish it.  Not dusty, I might add, because several other neglected books were sitting on top of it.

Not sure which blog I will put the review on yet.  We’ll see.

Good news for you: The Catholic Company ( ) is offering a free shipping coupon.  Here is the note for the announcement e-mail:

On a much happier note, we have a special offer this week for your blog readers.  We are offering free shipping from now until Midnight Sunday…on any size order.

If you think that this is something your readers would be interested in knowing about, then please spread the word.

1. Simply place an order. You can place this order through our website, by phone, by fax, or by mail.

2. Use this coupon code: BLOG

If you order online you will type in the coupon code during checkout. Simply type BLOG in the coupon code box located at the bottom of the payment page.

If you order by phone simply tell the coupon code BLOG to your customer service agent.

If you order by mail or fax simply include the coupon code BLOG on your order form.

*Terms and conditions: This offer cannot be combined with any other offers. Applies to U.S. delivery addresses only. Applies to standard shipping only. Cannot be used on orders already placed or on backorders. Offer expires at 12:00 midnight, Eastern Time on Sunday, September 28, 2008.

By the way, I am all about supporting your local catholic bookstore, if you have one.  So nobody go neglecting a real live starving bookstore owner on account of free shipping at an internet company.  (Even if they do send me a free book that will make me have to pay attention and think for a change.)  After all, your local shop doesn’t charge shipping ever, if you just go pick it up yourself.  But if you are an unlucky soul who *needs* to order online, there’s your coupon.

An internet friend is worried that she’s made a horrible mistake by homeschooling.  She has one child who forgets to turn in his homework, one who rushes through assignments with no regard for whether her answers are correct, and a third who says the work is simply too difficult, and in that last case, there’s a chance the child might be right.  None of these  situations, of course, are unique to homeschooling.   Still, it just plain hurts when you feel like a complete failure, whether you are at fault or not.

Enter St. Joseph of Cupertino.  His unhappy childhood came to a close this way:

When the time came for him to try and earn his own living, Joseph was bound apprentice to a shoemaker, which trade he applied himself to for some time, but without any success.  When he was seventeen he presented himself to be received amongst the Conventual Franciscans, but they refused to have him.  Then he went to the Capuchins, and they took him as a lay-brother; but after eight months he was dismissed as unequal to the duties of the the order: his clumsiness and preoccupation made him an apparently impossible subjects, for he dropped piles of plates and dishes on the refectory floor, forgot to do things he was told, and could not be trusted even to make up the kitchen fire . . .

Eventually his mother used family connections to get him in as a servant in another order, where he finally came into his own, and his superiors determined he should be ordained.   His education still went badly.  Butler’s Lives observes, “Try as he would, the extent of human accomplishements was to read badly and to write worse.”  He only managed to pass the examinations for the diaconate and the priesthood by sheer luck.  Eventually the saint found his calling as a mystic, which only got him into trouble for doing that *too well* — running afoul of the inquisition (not for any particular fault, other than an excess of levitation and other stupendous feats).   Oops.

Here’s my point for today: As Catholics, our end goal isn’t academic success.  It isn’t career success.  It is holiness.  Over and over again we see apparent failure in the examples of the saints.  And this is hard.  We want to do well.  We want to be confident that we have taken the gifts God has given us and used them to the full.  Homeschooling is one way we try to do that.  When we don’t get the academic results we were hoping for, we feel like we must be on the track.

Not necessarily so.   I don’t know that any parents *wants* to be in league with St. Joseph of Cupertino — give me a houseful of Anselms and Augustines, please.  (Well, maybe not that either — St. Monica sure went through the wringer as a mother, too.)  But if that’s what God sends us, we aren’t alone.  St. Joseph of Cupertino, pray for us!

Ahh, you knew it would happen.  Your post for yesterday is *nearly* finished.  Had a few unplanned interuptions, and some just plain poor time management.  I’ll have it up today, just as soon as I get my house cleaned up, unless something really crazy happens.

Meantime, a word from the Holy Father:

I say “prepare yourselves,” because real love does not happen suddenly. Beyond sentiment, love is made of responsibility, constancy and a sense of duty. One learns all of this through the prolonged practice of the Christian virtues of trust, purity, abandonment to Providence and prayer.

Address to Youth, 7 September 2008
As posted at A Beggar for Love.
Have a good day, see you this afternoon.  (And yes, if you follow my other blog, disaster has struck there as well.  I have *lost* the book that  a) I was supposed to review for tomorrow and b) must go back to the library today.  One chapter shy of the finish, no less.  Good news is, I have an alternate book to review if I must, and the library does give a grace day before fines kick in.   Let’s just say that organizational skills are not at an all-time high here at the castle.

So Mr. Boy’s first literature assignment this year (3rd grade) is The Tripods Attack! (John McNichol, 2008 Sophia Institute Press). This is not a third grade book – the stated target audience is ‘teens to adults’ — and it is not my usual type of school reading, I who have fantasies of our school being something along the lines of Charlotte Mason Meets Maria Montessorri And They Decide to Go Classical.

[Okay, so *maybe* Maria would let us read Tripods. Except, would she really have it lying around on her open shelves in her cheerful prepared learning environments? But Charlotte — I think not. And Mrs. Berquist and Mrs. Bauer, who do not read this blog, are most likely to use this admission of mine as a reason to keep on with not reading this blog. As if they didn’t have enough reasons already.]

Anyway, here’s the method we used in selecting this particular book:

  1. I heard about the book coming out this spring, via discussion at the Catholic Writer’s Guild. I was intrigued.
  2. I read, or rather, skimmed, the Curt Jester’s review. More interest generated.
  3. I saw the book at my local catholic bookstore. Oooh, book lust.
  4. I resisted.
  5. Mr. Boy recieved a $15 gift certificate for same catholic bookstore, as a first communion present.
  6. After several false starts, we *finally* managed to both a) get to the bookstore and b) bring the gift certificate with us.
  7. I told Mr. Boy that if he picked out something *I* wanted, too, I’d cover the cost over and above the gift certificate amount.
  8. We decided we wanted to get a new Footprints of God DVD. (There are still several titles missing from our collection – we add one about every birthday or Christmas.)
  9. Bookstore did not have in stock any of the FOG titles we needed.
  10. I told Mr. Boy to look around the store to see if there was something else he wanted. I did, I really did. I did not, repeat, did not, point him directly to the book that *I* wanted.
  11. Mr. Boy, after an appropriately long search, reported that he could not find anything else he wanted.
  12. I told him that if he went in with me to buy Tripods, I’d buy him an FOG when the store re-stocked. No pressure here, but I did observe that he would probably really like the book when he got a little older.
  13. Mr. Boy agreed. We got the book. Woohoo!
  14. I read the book. It was a lot of fun, though kinda gross at points – aliens from outerspace – ick. I had to skim the slimiest parts.
  15. We started up our school year, despite my not being fully ready. I did not have a literature selection picked out. This did not seem like a good reason to skip studying literature.
  16. Week one: Had Mr. Boy finish the book he was already reading (Lily Quench – gift from a relative, I haven’t read it, sorry, can’t review. If my child is warped for life by reading an uncensored book, blame Uncle B.)
  17. Week two: Still no literature selection. What would Charlotte and Maria say?

  18. Meanwhile, Mr. Boy finishes Lily and picks up Tripods, which is laying around the living room with 400 other titles waiting to find a permanent home.  (Did I mention that I really was not ready to start school? But then, I’m never really all that ready.)

  19. I quiz Mr. Boy. He likes the book. He understands what he is reading. Yes, he’s just fine with doing this book for school.

  20. Problem solved. Tripods it is.

Now, lest you think I am a slacker mother who lets her child read sci-fi – from untested authors! Not Asimov! Not Lewis! — and calls it ‘school’, let me tell you how my sneaky homeschooling mind works. If you didn’t follow the links and find this out already, know that Tripods stars a young GK Chesterton living in an alternate history – he’s an orphan from America working in a factory – and Father Brown as borrowed from the mysteries. So I developed a scheme whereby I will use Tripods to introduce the original Father Brown, and then Father Brown to introduce the real GK Chesterton. All the while comparing and contrasting and developing critical thinking skills, etc etc etc.

If not this year, one of these years – C&M might always catch up with me and make me pull down Little House on the Prairie and Charlotte’s Web instead, especially since the follow-on works in my scheme really are a little more adult-y than my 8-year-old might be ready to appreciate.

Meantime I finally got the boy re-interested in writing by assigning projects such “describe what you think the aliens will look like when they get out of the tripods.” So, a win-win: GK quotes at the head of each chapter, hero who is inspired by the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, stinky alien guts spattering everywhere. Not such a bad way to develop the skill of reading something a little harder than comfortable.

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