Monday, December 29, 2008

This past year's reading

I went to Willa's blog only to see a link to my own New Year's 2008 To Read list. Wow, I'd forgotten all about that list of books. So I thought it would be interesting to see what books I did actually read. Maybe I can remember the other books not on the list that I also read. My brain is fuzzy right now though and a Muppet Christmas movie is playing loudly . . . .

An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor (Mommy Brain) Nope!
Austenland by somebody???? (Pemberley; Mommy Brain) Nope!
Holiness for Housewives by???? (Can’t remember! Re-reading it off and on over the last couple of weeks) Nope! Or maybe I read bits of it. I tend to take it off the shelf, read a few pages, get inspired and then put it down again.
The Love that Satisfies by Christopher West (started this around Thanksgiving, stalled out about 1/2 through but really want to finish it.) Nope!
The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis (Brit Lit) Yes!
Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (Brit. Lit) Yes!
Mary Barton
by Elizabeth Gaskell (re-read for Brit. Lit – loved this book the first time) Yes!
The Scarlet Pimpernel (recommended by everybody including my friend Carol) Nope!
A Thousand Suns
by the guy who wrote The Kite Runner (gathering dust on bedside table) Nope!
In This House of Brede
by Rumer Godden (just finished An Episode of Sparrows; I want to read all her stuff! I think I actually read this book back when I was a teenager but I only have the haziest memory of it) Nope!
Mariette in Ecstasy
by Ron Hansen (contemporary Catholic novelist; been intrigued by him for a while) Nope!
A Philadelphia Catholic in King Arthur’s Court by Martin de Porres Kennedy (Will got this for Christmas.) Nope!
Letters to a Young Catholic by George Weigel (Willa mentioned this one a while ago) Read parts.
Black as Night by Regina Doman (I love her House Art site. The book looks wonderful; she’s got a whole series of fairy tales retold for young adults.) Yes. This was wonderful!
Quo Vadis
by ????? (A classic I’ve never gotten around to reading.) Nope!
by Shusaku Endo - (I keep seeing this book come up on various Catholic booklists) Nope!
Sophie’s World
- (reading this currently to teens) Only got through 1/2 much to my sorrow.
Tale of Two Cities
by Dickens (Brit Lit) Yes!
The Little White Horse
by Elizabeth Goudge (and other books by Goudge; love her writing; currently reading this aloud to anyone who’ll listen.) Yes! Lovely, lovely story.
Children of Men
by P.D. James (this is my before-bed, current read; I’d like to read other books by her) Yes! Made a great impression on me. Very thought-provoking.
Animal Farm
by George Orwell (Brit Lit.)Yes! Clever book.
The Last Gentleman
by Walker Percy (been curious about him for a while now) Nope!
Georgette Heyer - (want to read more of her work; just finished Royal Escape about Charles II’s escape fromEngland; lovely!) I have become a Heyer fan! I have now read five or six of her novels, several of them more than once!
Small is Beautiful
by E.F. Schumacher (in prep for Economics next year) Nope!
Small is Still Beautiful
by Joseph Pearce (his take on the above book, plus I just want to read all of Pearce’s stuff) Nope!
Introduction to Christianity
by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict VI (this is my current theological read. It is a very clear but very deep and scholarly explanation of the Creed.) I gave up on this. I am now reading his Jesus of Nazareth with other homeschooling moms in my TORCH group.
Language of God
by Collins (audio) - We’ve had this gathering dust for a while. Yes! Listened to this with great admiration. Very illuminating!
Priestblock 25487; A Memoir of Dachau
by Jean Bernard (Will’s) Yes! Extremely interesting.
To The Ends of the Earth
by William Golding (I gave this to Rick for Christmas, with the ulterior motive of reading it myself!) Yes! Loved it! Made me want to try classical schooling again!
Dante’s Divine Comedy
(summer study) Nope!
C.S. Lewis’ Perelanda
series (summer study) - My goal this summer to read Dante’s Divine Comedy, though realistically I might just get through the first book. I’m going to watch a Teaching Co. lecture series on Dante. Then I plan to read C. S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy which is based on the Divine Comedy or so Joseph Pearce says. Nope! Plans moved to this coming summer!
The Scarlet Letter
by Nathaniel Hawthorne (this will be in prep for the American Humanities course I’m planning for teens next year) Yes! It was wonderful! Read a lot of Hawthorne over the summer and really enjoyed him.
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
(ditto) Yes!
The Red Badge of Courage
by Stephen Crane (ditto again!) Nope and I took it out of my reading plans.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
by Mark Twain (a reread for next year’s American Humanities) I'll read this spring 2009 for our American Lit class
My Antonia by Willa Cather (ditto)
Grapes of Wrath
by John Steinbeck (ditto)

I really went on a Georgette Heyer jag. After reading Royal Escape, I read Cotillion, then The Spanish Bride, then Regency Buck (which I have reread an embarrassing number of times as I fell completely in love with Lord Worth), then An Infamous Army, then Friday's Child. I have Frederica sitting on my bedside table waiting for me to finish up two others books. Heyer writes two types of books: historical novels about famous battles or people or lovely, fluffy, Pride and Prejudice type romances. I enjoy them both!

I also remember reading Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe during the summer. It is a long book but a very interesting glimpse into the time period before the Civil War. I also read not too long ago The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith which I found to be delightful.

I am currently just finishing up reading two books: The Motivation Breakthrough by Richard Lavoie and The Water-babies by Charles Kingsley.

For American Lit we read The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass which was fascinating. What a truly admirable man!

With the kids we read Nacar, The White Deer by Elizabeth Borton Trevino. Lovely! We also read The Wonder Book by Nathaniel Hawthorne, D'Auliere's Greek Myths and Black Ships Before Troy by Rosemary Sutcliffe.

Trying to remember other books I read. . . . .I'm the Teacher, You're the Student by Patrick Allitt, Daniel Boone by William O Steele (this is a kid's book and I am quite sure I read this same book as a child, as I read it I remember passages distinctly. I loved the Dan'l Boone show on tv starring Wes Parker!), a book about Blessed Miguel Pro (is he now a saint?).

I have beens slowly reading through Paul Johnson's A History of the American People.

I know there are other books but I can't remember! I probably read at least 30 books or maybe a few more than that, not counting read alouds for the kids.

I think that starting in 2009, on this blog, I'll keep a record of books I read as the year goes along.

Goings On

  • Rick got himself a blu ray dvd player for Christmas so we've been feasting, visually, on that. He got Planet Earth dvd series which absolutely incredible! Astounding beauty! We've watched the first three I think. The kids just kind of wandered in and out while we watched. They are too busy playing with their Christmas gifts. But I'm thinking I'll use this to cover geography/science. Because I am learning amazing new stuff.
  • We went and saw the Nutcracker Suite yesterday. It was very enjoyable. Becky, Sean and Josh seemed to really enjoy it (though Josh said he dozed off at one point!). Will good naturedly went along with it. Hannah left after the first act. She's seen the Nutcracker many times before and was bored. Rick was tired and just wanted to stay home and watch football. But anyway, we were in the front row so Becky had to sit up high in order to actually see the dancers' feet. We got the dry ice or whatever it is they use to make fog, drifting into our faces. It was a local production put on by a ballet school but it was quite good.
  • I've been teaching myself Bach's Menuet in G Major. Of course it is a simplified version for beginners. I'm trying to practice in 15 or 20 minute periods. I've been doing this several time a day for 3 days and I still stumble terribly over where to place my fingers or in my note reading. And I'm only practicing the first page of the Menuet. Haven't even ventured to the next. I must be patient with myself!
  • Sean likes his The Tale of Despereaux in graphic novel form. He's been reading that off and on today. Becky is enjoying her Spy Fox on the Wii. Josh is reading Salamandastron, continuing his reading of the Redwall series.
  • We played one of our new games; Blokus. Rick, Josh, Sean and Becky. We enjoyed it seems like a good game.
  • Becky and Sean have been playing together a lot, making up skits and songs.
  • Today we cleaned up the house a lot in order to host a games meeting. The kids played games; Mousetrap and Blokus, then played outside. Then the girls went up to play in Becky's room and the boys went downstairs to play pool.
  • We moms discussed chapter 1 of Jesus of Nazareth.
  • Rick started a new chapter book for Sean and Becky: Hans Brinker
  • I am finishing up a really interesting but schoolish book on motivation, entitled The Motivation Breakthrough. It was recommended to me by our math tutor. Even though the author is obviously writing for teachers in public schools or parents of kids in public schools, I thought a lot of what he said was very insightful and extremely honest and respectful towards children. I think it will get its own blog post.
  • Becky has been listening to her Glory Story cds and enjoying them.
  • Well, it looks like I'm getting carry out for dinner again. Must do full grocery shopping tomorrow!!!!!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

New Years Resolution

I have been pondering these in my head for the last couple of weeks. I have a love/hate relationship with New Year's Resolutions. I can't seem to help trying to make them but they often overwhelm me because I want to fix everything that is wrong with me(and there is a lot wrong) but of course I can't. So I fail and then get defeatist and gloomy about everything. It is a trap!

But since I can't help making them and to some extent there is an element of fun in making them, I think I'll just go ahead and make them anyway.

1. God first. The basis for everything is putting God first. So that's number one. Ways to do this are: a)read and discuss lots of things about God and his Church. This really feeds me. b)attend Mass more often c) I've gotten out of the habit of going to holy hour, so I'd like try to start that up again. d) continue to try to say the rosary as many mornings a week as I can muster. Will says he wants to do this too so maybe we can support each other in this endeavor.

2. Housekeeping. Work out systems for getting housekeeping done more efficiently around the house. Especially, decluttering, laundry, cooking and tidying up. Teach systems to my children. I feel I have really failed in this regard and with Hannah about ready to fly the nest (or so it seems) I think focusing on organization and neatness is important, just to give her some frame of reference for when she goes out on her own.

3. Eating better. If I do #2 in re cooking, I'll eat better. I do want to try to eat less bread. I think I might have trouble with wheat. When I cut down on bread, I have far less trouble when it comes to IBS. So I want to focus on joyfully preparing meals that are dominated by vegetables and fruit and protein. Also, Sean keeps saying he wants to learn to cook, so I really must incorporate him and the other kids into my cooking time. I keep trying to do this, but it never lasts very long.

4. Physical activity. I need to get up off the couch or my chair here and exercise. I know I'll feel better once I do. So I need to do it. This is always a struggle during the months of January and February especially. But I have many options. I can walk the dog, workout on the treadmill downstairs. We now have Wii fit, I can do my walking dvd. So 4 times a week, I need to do one of these in any combination!

5. Learning. I want to continue to study Latin. I'll be taking the National Latin Exam in either Feb or March. That will mean lots of studying! My poor brain! I also want to practice piano and learn to sight read much better than the clumsy way I do this now! Also, the kids have expressed a desire to study art. I, too, would like to do this and have wonderful resources for this, so I need to figure out how to get this going for us all.

6. Enjoy my blessed life. If I manage to do even a little bit of #1-5, and it is an achievement to accomplish even just a little improvement in each of these areas, I will enjoy the blessed life I am living even more. If I put God first, I will grow in faith and be calmer and more patient because the Holy Spirit will be able to work through me. If I focus on simple housekeeping systems, I will keep at bay the minor and major irritations that so often make me feel defeated and ruin any sense of coziness or serenity I might have. If I eat better my stomach will trouble me less and I will feel better and that too will contribute to feeling calmer and more peaceful. If I am more physically active, I will also feel stronger and have more stamina and think more clearly. And if I fill my life with learning, I will be energized and challenged and feel the fullness and richness of life.

And that will make it a blessed year. So here's to trying over again, keeping things in perspective and never giving up hope of change!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wonderful Christmas!

Well, I have to say that this Christmas has been pretty good! I think not hosting the big family party really kept me from the usual exhaustion I feel on Christmas day. Instead I just feel nice and relaxed! Lots of great gifts were exchanged. Hannah gave me some nicely scently hand soaps. Will gave me a little book, Nuns Having Fun - which is hysterical. Josh gave me a very nice cookbook, Sean gave me a lovely teacup and some cinnamon apple tea and Becky gave me two little wooden bracelets and a handmade card.

Rick took the cake though. He is the best present-giver ever! Not only did he give me the set of knives I've been wanting for ages, he also gave me cute little opera glasses and a Jane Austen calendar. And then to top it all off he completely surprised me by comissioning my friend who paints ikons to paint an original ikon for us. It is gorgeous! It has the Theotokos holding the Christchild but then all around her are characters from the Old and New Testaments. Since each of the kids has an Old Testament name she has all those: Joshua, Elijah, Rebecca, Hannah, Jacob. She also included Moses and Abraham, St. John the Baptist and others too. I have to go look. The funny thing is she was over the other day and talking about how she loves the colors in our living room. I never suspected a thing but she made the colors in the painting to match; all rose and green! I was completely shocked as I never suspected a thing! It is only 70% finished; she didn't get it done quite in time but that's okay. She plans to finish it up soon. It is gorgeous and I will always treasure it, and her friendship and dear, sweet Rick who is quite possibly the best husband in the world!

So this is kind of a selfish post as I'm gloating over the gifts I got! But let me remember the homily that Monsignor Tom gave last night. His message was to live Christmas all year and that means to live life temperately, justly and devoutly. That really reasonated with me. I think that is going to be my motto for the new year; live temperately, justly and devoutly.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Eve of Christmas Eve

Will's band, the Hypotheticals, is practicing in our basement. It is really loud!!!!! In between numbers they lament the fact that the singer couldn't make it. His cousins are visiting for Christmas and he couldn't get out.

Yesterday was Sean's 10th birthday. I think he had a good day. I made him a lemon cake. He had a few friends over. Rick took them to see The Tale of Despereaux then they came back here for pizza, cake and ice cream. He got a lot of books for his birthday: a big collection of Garfield, Diary of a Wimpy Kids (two of that series), a book called Nicholas, which is looks very quaint and charming. He also got a neat pen knife/all in one tool.

My house is clean! The tree looks very nice. I do have to catch up on laundry though. Hmmm. I should be doing that right now. I am very sleepy but I need to start dinner, though I think I have to take the drummer and his drumset home at some point. Probably right in the middle of making dinner.

My head is in a dither, so I can't even think about all the loose ends that need to be tied up tomorrow morning so that all presents are accounted for and wrapped. For one thing the floor is vibrating underneath me. Makes me think of that They Might Be Giants song: Baby, check it out! I've got something to say. Man, it's so loud in here. When they stop the drum machine and I can think again. . . .I'll remember what it was!!!!!!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Chrismanukkah!

We are decorating the house for Christmas and making latkes! Rick, Grandad and Uncle Steve, all Jews, went out and got our Christmas tree. We've had fun putting up our stocking and Christmas Creches. Hannah is making latkes now. Smells wonderful!

My favorite Chrismakkah or Chrismanukkah (or whatever) memory will be Sean regaling granddad with the story of Christmas, the story of old Befana and the story of St. Christopher carrying the Christ child. The versions he told all came from our Advent read aloud, Christmas and the Saints. However, Sean has been acting like it was an ordeal for him to sit and listen to this book, though at times I'd catch him being really attentive, but for some reason he feels a need to put on this act of disdain or disinterest in things. So anytime I would pause while reading he'd suddenly chirp in, "is that it? Are you finished? Can we go??" As if he was just impatiently bearing with me while I read aloud. I found this attitude very exasperating. But there he was today, telling Grandad in detail stories from this book. So Sean-o, caughtya!!! You actually were listening and, nay, I would even say, enjoying, the stories! Hah, hah, hah!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Journal 12/18

  • Unfortunately, Becky and Sean spent the vast portion of the day in front of a video game of one sort or another
  • Sean did read some more of The Last Little Cat. He's already finished The Legend of Spud Murphy by Eoin Colfer!
  • Sean practiced piano a bit too.
  • Becky decided to make stocking for the cats and Tillie the puppy. She found old socks and wrote their names on the socks. She's put them up on the mantle in preparation for Christmas Eve. I guess I better hit a pet store and get some stocking stuffers.
  • Becky helped me make a cereal-box constellation in prep for our co-op tomorrow. I did one side as the little dipper and the other as the big dipper. Looks cool!
  • Rick taught a long Economics class to Josh, Will, Hannah and David. Then Josh went off to read Redwall and play computer games.
  • Will, Hannah, David and I watched Professor Allit lectures on Ralph Waldo Emerson and Frederick Douglass. Very interesting. We discussed Self-reliance. None of us were great Emerson fans.
  • Had to take Hannah for a short voice lesson and to get her libretto for her Christmas solo. Do You Know? I think is the name of the song she's singing.
  • Hannah didn't finish her timeline so I've grounded her from the car so I had to drive her around so much. I didn't get so draconian with Will though.
  • After Hannah's voice lesson we went shopping at the darling toy store in our little town.
  • Came home in time to take Will to his guitar lesson.
  • Got Living Memory book by Andrew Campbell. Looks great.
  • Rick worked all day in the dining room. Usually he works upstairs in our room.
  • Hannah tried to finish her timeline but didn't quite get it done before she had to go to work. Dropped her off and picked up Will.
  • Had a come and get it/leftovers dinner. I got tired of cooking meals that nobody ate!
  • Read the next chapter of Christmas and the Saints. Read about the Feast Day of St. Nicholas in Bari, Italy and about St. Francis of Assisi.
  • Will is working on his timeline. I told him to finish it tonight or else!

Reading cycles

I really like the way first edition of The Latin-Centered Curriculum had delinated days for different topics of read alouds.

For the primary years the different studies are broken down into the following:

Monday - English studies (classic lit read aloud)

Tuesday - Christian Studies (Bible/saints)

Wednesday - Modern Studies (basically geography and American history)

Thursday - Nature Study

Friday - Classical studies (childrens retellings of myths and epics)

In the older grammar school years, English studies turn into the child working through the Progymnastmata.

I had a variation of this system going last spring but we fell away from it and for some reason I could never start it up with any steadiness this fall. So I think for the new year, I will again reinstate a method to our read aloud madness. Here's what I'm contemplating:

Monday - Scripture/saints (I like to start the work week out with this emphasis)

Tuesday - Classical studies (The Wanderings of Odyssesus and The Aeneid for Children)

Wednesday - Modern studies (picture books and short bios of Americans)

Thursday - music history/art history (American masters/American folk music)

Friday - Science and art projects (Human body for science in Jan/Feb; Christian Heritage for art)

I talked to the kids and we decided that since we are not going to co-op anymore on Friday mornings we'd make that our science and art time.

Since I have such trouble finishing books, I'll start one with great enthusiasm only to peter out because I have to read another book for class, I think I'll have my own rotation of reading. I am reminded of my mom's method. She always read non-fiction in the afternoon before she took her nap and fiction in the evening after dinner. So it was E H. Gombrich or Kenneth Clark in the afternoon and Austen, Dickens or Trollope in the evenings. I can't seem to swing this with homeschooling. I just don't have the leisure time. So instead I plan to devote Sunday, Monday and Tuesday to religious reading (Jesus of Nazareth or Chesterton) and Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday to novels or recreational reading(American lit class or other books that grab my fancy). We'll see if this helps.


So I'm trying to work my way through Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay, Self-Reliance. Parts of it I like, mostly because I like the power of his prose, even though a good 25% of it is obscure to me because of his writing style and the many arcane references he makes. I find I don't agree with most of what I think he is trying to say. I think his flaw is he gets a bit of an insight but then uses hyperbole to make his point, going way overboard into the absurd, to drive his particular idea home. He also contradicts himself frequently, but you are so caught up in the laybrinth of his wordiness that you can't quite put your finger on where he went wrong. Of course he is the author of the famous quote, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." Someone quoted that line to me recently (in last couple of years) when I was bemoaning my own lack of consistency. However, I think Emerson must have used it as a defense mechanism. He certainly didn't think he was a 'little mind.' No, he is quite convinced of his own deep wisdom. But he is also very inconsisent, so there ya go!

Here is a simple sentence that I had to read about 5 times and I'm still not sure I understand it: Life only avails, not the having lived.


What is that supposed to mean?

In context I think he is trying to say once you're dead your ideas are tired and carry no weight. That only the present, right now, as you live and breath is of importance. Now I understand he is trying to rally his reader, who supposedly is an unthinking conformist, and wants them to carpe diem, as they say. But to me it is simply ridiculous to have such contempt for past human beings who might share their wisdom with us. In fact I don't see a conflict between listening to the wisemen of the past and seizing the day. The whole thing sounds contrived just to give Emerson a platform to pontificate from.

Like the Romantics were a reaction to the Enlightment and the radical 60's were a reaction to the conservative 50's, I understand that Emerson was a reaction to the Puritans. And perhaps he was the first American to begin to express such a strong counter worldview. That might be his genius. But I don't think his insights aged all that well. So I guess I shouldn't listen to him!!!!

Alas, though, I must finish the last couple of pages of the essay. Also, I am intrigued by the essay entitled, The Over-soul. I think this explains his form of Transcendentalism which I would like to understand better. In Self-Reliance he often refers to God but his philosophy seems so relativistic, I don't know how he reconciles the two. Maybe he doesn't.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Journal 12/16

  • said rosary

  • played piano. Becky has this really simple Christmas songbook. Just at my level of notereading! Anyway, I enjoyed myself. I think I'm going to try to play piano more.

  • Read from Christmas and the Saints - read about St. Patrick and St. Brigid

  • Read a very simple Step into Reading book about Pompeii. We are going into town to see the Pompeii exhibit today.

  • Hannah is not feeling well, need to make an appointment for her.

  • Becky and Sean are still deep into their Ron Stevenson game. Ron Stevenson (you always have to say both names) is their constant companion and does everything with them.

  • Got Becky to practice her piano a little. She is going through a very resistant phase

  • Went to the Pompeii exhibit at National Gallery. Ate lunch in the nice cafeteria. Becky loved the exhibit. They had a children's guide booklet which made it like a scavenger hunt which she enjoyed thoroughly. Josh and Will kind of just quietly looked around. They seemed to enjoy it. Sean was bored and couldn't wait to go home. Something about museums just makes Sean droopy from the minute we enter them. First he was talking about a video game. I tried to get him to read one of the placards. He did ask me what A.D. and B.C. meant. I explained it and immediately he had to tell me a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip that had B.C. meaning Before Calvin. We saw a bust of Homer which of course immediately reminded him of Homer Simpson. I reminded him that we just finished reading Black Ships Before Troy which is a retelling of the Illiad by Homer. We also saw lots of statues and statuettes of gods and goddesses which was cool, since we've been reading so much Greek mythology. There was a nice short movie which we caught most of and it talked about how much Greek culture influenced Roman culture. In spite of everything, I think Sean found the whole exploding volcano/poisonous gas/burning ashes thing pretty cool.

  • After that we shopped in the gallery shop. I got books for the kids which I tried not to let them see (tho Josh picked out his own; one on Escher who he is still fascinated with; I gave him an Escher calendar last Christmas because he was so taken with the artist.) Becky bought everybody a little gift from the store; so her shopping is over with!

  • Took Will to band practice. Now Sean and Becky and playing their Ron Stevenson game and I think Josh is reading more Redwall.

  • Hannah felt better and went out with friends (of course, she's never really too sick to not hang out with friends!) She just called. Her friend's little sister is in a concert tonight so she is going to that. I told her to come home directly after that.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Journal of 12/15

  • managed to say a rosary this a.m.

  • Hannah got her Spanish grade from the comm. college. She got a B. Yeah, I told her she can now go to college if she wants! Oh she also got her SAT scores sent to Steubenville.

  • Josh and Will have been busy with the math tutor this a.m.

  • Sean and Becky played Insanaquarium or some such game on the computer a lot this a.m.

  • We finished Black Ships Before Troy! Hurrah! I had wanted to finish that before Advent started. Poor Troy though. Becky said it wasn't fair that Hector's baby died but Helen got spared and treated like a queen since she caused the terrible fight.

  • Sean practiced piano (he has a jury this afternoon) and read some more of The Last Little Cat. He says he really likes the book.

  • I read to Becky: Hiccup, the Seasick Viking; Treasure Hunt, Arnie the Brave and a part of a pop up book on poisonous creatures, such as scorpions and blue ringed octopus.

  • Josh took Tillie for a walk.

  • Becky and Sean played checkers then started playing a game with a stuffed bear puppet. They have named him Ron Stevenson. This is the name of a character that Becky made up. I am not quite sure exactly who he is but he sometimes appears when the kids are playing. Ron Stevenson currently is a cartoonist who likes to draw pictures of Opus the penguin!

  • Becky, Sean and I watched the movie A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott. Good movie, lots of discussion.

  • Josh has been reading Mossflower all day.

  • Will's been playing his acoustic guitar all day. His electric is in the shop.

  • Hannah went to work. She's working a 6 hour shift today. Won't see her til after closing.

  • Sean had his piano jury. He did very well!

  • I made Potato-cheese soup, chicken salad and now I'm baking some frozen rolls for dinner.

  • Right now all three kids are playing Insanaquarium again. Looks like this game is the new hit.

Interesting article

From the Catholic Unschooling list:

Sunday, December 14, 2008


It is hard to get gifts for Sean since his birthday is so close to Christmas. He turns 10 on Dec. 22nd. So in lieu of gifts, we went to see Leahy, a Canandian Celtic band. They were playing at the George Mason Center for the Performing Arts last night. Everybody went except Will who decided he doesn't like Celtic music because I play it all the time in the car and also at home when I'm trying to clean or wake myself up on a sleepy morning! But all the rest of us went and had a great time. Can I say that I have a high strung and deeply musical child in Sean? At the end he came up to me in tears, (TEARS!) saying, 'That was fantastic!" It was really, really incredible. And he was weepy over how incredible it was!

Leahy is a family of 11 children (all grown now) who grew up on a farm in Ontario. Both parents were musical. The mother is from Cape Breton and the father from Ireland. The kids grew up without television playing music constantly. They all know how to play the piano, the fiddle, the guitar, the drums. They all step dance.

This was their Christmas concert and it was very, very Catholic! The family is Catholic and one of the features of the show were audio clips of the parents being interviewed about how Christmas was celebrated in the Leahy household. Last night, they sang lots of religious carols. They talked about how they'd go to midnight Mass and pretty much partying from Dec. 25th to Jan. 6th. They even sang a song that the choir director at their church wrote that had never been sung outside the church. In fact the choir director had it in his head and had to write it down for the Leahy's so they could sing it properly in concert! It was beautiful! I especially like their beautiful version of the Huron Carol.

Only 8 of the 11 Leahy's are in the band right now. They kind of switch in and out according to what's going on in their lives. Some couldn't make it because they were busy have babies. Nine children were traveling with the show. A fourteen year old girl (I forget her name) came out and sang a wonderful rendition of Go Tell It On the Mountain. Spectacular voice! Later she came out and step danced too. Then they had two little girls, both six, who did some wonderful step dancing too. Very darling.

The music is incredibly energetic and powerful. Sean said that the main fiddler, Donnell's, fiddle was going to catch fire. It is lots of fun. So if you want to listen to great celtic music and support a wonderful Catholic clan, go to and buy their cds!

After the concert, everyone decided that we should go to a Celtic music festival for vacation one day. Wouldn't that be cool? Rick wants to go to Cape Breton. A few years ago we got as far as the very bottom part of Nova Scotia. But we just couldn't drive all the way up to Cape Breton with our limited vacation time and little ones in tow, but ever since then we've wanted to get all the way up there!

Time to run. Hannah is having extra Christmas choir practice and can't teach RE again this Sunday. So I'm substituting again.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday, 12/12 The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today has been fun:

  • Went to co-op where I got to play with the 2 and 3 year olds, Josh, Sean and Becky did ASL, Cultural Studies (Chanukah!) and Astronomy.

  • I taught the Astronomy lesson. The older kids knew more than I did, but I think it went okay.

  • Went to the Our Lady of Guadalupe puppet show where Will, Josh, Sean and Becky all helped out with the show. It was a potluck lunch too. We helped breakdown the set and put it away.

  • Brought home a friend of Josh's and they played pool for a while until the friends dad picked him up. Now we are waiting for another friend of Josh to show up for a playdate (hmmm, they are 13 and 12 so playdate doesn't seem the right word!).

One thing that has really warmed the cockles of my heart this week is seeing Sean read a book on his own! He hasn't done that since he went through the Jigsaw Jones books during the summer. And that was just because we were doing our annual summer reading contest.

So far this year he has read: Pedro's Journal (very reluctantly); Small Wolf (very short); My Father's Dragon (he loved this one); The Man Who Would Not Die (about St. Peter; he complained bitterly at first but then started to like it); now I've assigned The Last Little Cat by the same guy who wrote School on the Wheel, which he likes well enough, I think. But he got a book out of the library by Eoin Colfer called and he really liked it. There are at least 3 in the series. He read it in two days. That is a complete record for him. A first!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Journal 12/11

  • Rick couldn't teach Econ today. He has a court hearing in his pro bono adoption case.

  • Hannah, Will, Josh and David are reading through the Econ chapter on their own

  • Reviewed the Sacrament of Penance with Becky. She has her first Penance on Sat.

  • Read next chapter in Black Ships, The Wooden Horse!

  • Josh worked on his book report

  • Sean really likes the book he got out of the library yesterday. He actually got up and read more of it this a.m. Yippee!

  • Watched History lectures on Eli Whitney, Lewis and Clark and Charles Grandison Finney.

  • Read a little bit about Emerson

  • Slacked off most of the afternoon. Feeling lazy and grumpy now!

  • Took Will to guitar lessons.

  • Becky had fun playing with the neighbors and also coloring in some kit that Sean got for his last birthday I believe. She's been coloring for a couple of hours now. She's watching Arthur which I am finding very irritating!

  • Hannah ran errands and is working tonight.

  • Sean wants to go out to dinner since we are just having leftovers and Hannah and Rick went out last night.

  • I still need to plan my Astronomy lesson for tomorrow. No inspiration whatsoever!

  • I've started reading The Water-Babies by Charles Kingsley. I've heard about it for forever but never read it. It is delightful and full of sly humor.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Another journal 12/10

It's late; 10:10 p.m. But it was a good day so I think I'll recap:

  • got a little bit of schoolish stuff done in the am. Sean: phonics, reading, math, Latin
  • Becky - piano lesson, can't remember if we got anything else done!
  • Hannah got up early to finish studying for Spanish final and then went to take it. Thinks she did alright
  • Will got up and read his Stephen Vincent Benet short story. Don't think he did much else though
  • Josh did a little math homework and started writing his book report on St. Maximilian Kolbe
  • Read the story of St. Helen and Constantine out of the Christmas and the Saints book. Lovely!
  • Read the next chapter in Black Ships Before Troy; Paris died. Very sad.
  • I got in a cooking mood and made beef stew for dinner and then chicken salad for lunch
  • Said a rosary by myself. Mind wandered terribly!
  • Becky unschooled some math. She made a little target for a stray magnetic dart left over from a dartboard we had years ago. She kept adding up points. Then she measured her height. She wants to be 4 ft so she can ride on a 'real' roller coaster, not a kids' one.
  • Becky came with me to Will's and Sean's VT. We took a trip to Starbucks and then back. Dr. Malhotra gave her a little pattern game to play with in the office. I suppose that was more math!
  • Josh spent most of the day reading one of the books in the Artemis Fowl series.
  • We watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the original animated one)
  • Kids went and performed a puppet show about Our Lady of Guadalupe. A very talented homeschooling mom we know made these incredible marionettes. Will operated the Mary marionette, Josh the Bishop. Sean played a conquistador who helped with the sets. And Becky along with the creator's daughter whom she is friend's with, were angels who also helped with the set. It is a really wonderful little production!
  • Afterwards we ran to the library. Josh got the next Artemis Fowl book. I got another book out by the same author Eoin Colfer which seems geared to younger kids. Sean started reading it! Yippee! I hope he sticks with it. Becky got out several Dr. Seuss books.
  • Took Will to CLC. Hannah and Rick went out to dinner. Rick went back to work today for the first time in more than a week! He still is very tired though and feel asleep on the couch and just now woke up and went to bed!

Now I think I'll go off to bed too.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Hertha Pauli

This week seems like a hard week, with Rick being ill. I am not in the spirit of Advent either. We have managed to open our Advent calendar and start our Gospel of John study, but I can't find my Advent wreath and frankly I keep forgetting it is Advent!

But one bright spot has been a book I've been reading aloud to the three youngest children. It is a used book I bought from Keller Books a couple of years ago. It is entitled Christmas and the Saints. Well, it is completely lovely. The kids have been listening spellbound. I am completely charmed. I was curious to learn about the author, Hertha Pauli, whom I 've never heard of before. So I googled and here's what I came up with!

Wickapedia also has entry. The author escaped from Austria with the Nazis on her trail. She came to the U.S. and began a writing career for children. Her brother won the Nobel Prize for Science, Wolfgang Pauli. I had heard of him before!

So I feel like I have stumbled on a little gem here. I'm off to see if I can find other books by her for children. Her best well known one was on the story of Silent Night.

Monday, December 1, 2008


Yesterday morning while at Mass, poor Rick collapsed and I, panicking (though I really think it was the right decision), had the usher call 911. So they took him to the ER and after a few hours determined that he had veritgo. The poor guy was incredibly and violently ill. Awful, awful, awful!

We got home a little before 6:00 p.m. Hannah and all stayed home all day with the younger ones. It was a miserable dreary, cold, wet day. Poor Hannah is having boyfriend trouble and is rather low.

Anyway, everything feels amiss. I don't think either Will or Josh got much of their homework done for the math tutor this a.m. Gotta get them up and going. The grocery shopping and housework didn't get done either. I'm feeling terribly out of sorts this morning. Can I just go back to bed and skip this day? Pretty please?

But Rick did wake up this morning feeling a little better. He was able to sit up and he ate a little bit of a banana and some toast with jelly. I better go check on him. He is so worried because he's supposed to fly to CA on Wed. to go to the meeting that was cancelled because his grandmother died. Now there is this. If he gets a vertigo attack while in CA he'd wind up in the hospital! Plus, if it is the inner ear causing havoc, wouldn't flying on plane be verboten?????

Lord, have mercy!