Monthly Archives: September 2011

Children as blessings and how not to starve the elderly to death.

One morning at Mass I admitted to a friend that I was pregnant with what would prove to be my sixth child. She gave me a hug and at that moment another friend came over and we both told her. She put her arms around me and said, “Well, if you are good at something, you may as well keep doing it.” I think that was the loveliest thing anyone has said to me about the fact we have dared to go beyond the culturally acceptable number of children of 1.4.

The fact is we have had children in the teeth of the massive propaganda campaign against the lives of children. We are told they are eating up the planet’s meagre resources which should be preserved for the Al Gore’s of this planet. We are told that disabled children must be killed before they get the chance to be born. The Malthus myth is alive and well and heavily pushed by the media and it’s darlings.

Then there are the frequent children cost far too much so don’t have too many articles. They are often based on the assumption that there will be a huge chunk of a family’s income spent on “child care”.  This in turn must be a reflection of the isolation of so many families, so that there is no one but a paid stranger to help with the children. Families are broken up and scattered and each person looks after themselves.

When talking to a fellow Home ed mum last night, she told me how surprised she had been at Think Tank to see so many large families. Some mothers, she told me, had even more children than me! lol. She is expecting her fourth and I know this hasn’t been joyful news to some.

I told her that one of the joys of HE for me had been that with six children I was just one of the crowd. Home educators over all do seem to have more children, or if they only have one or two they soon end up borrowing some more from somewhere, either as helping a family or fostering. My friend wondered if we home ed partly because we just like our children.

My friend discussed her sadness of so many mums complaining to her about having to be with their children through the six weeks Summer holidays. One mother I met said quite clearly in front of her child that she didn’t think it was right for schools to expect families to cope over six weeks!!

Bare these astonishing attitudes by adults in mind when I tell you the next demographic doomalist projection is we will have too many old people – which they are calling the grey tsunami.

As the answer to “too many children” has been contraception and abortion and a call for infanticide (Singer’s view which is increasingly mainstream) what will be the remedy for “too many old people”?

It’s not a leap to see that many elderly will fall under the increasing calls of “obligation to die”, prettily wrapped in a right to die rhetoric at the moment and the misuse of the words dignity and mercy.

This may seem to have little to do with home education per sey but the near the surface of every call to ban home education throughout the world, to stamp out the inherent rights of parents and children to the freedom and obligation of education is based primarily on hatred of Christian doctrines on life. I don’t think I have heard or read a single arguement against home education that doesn’t warn against “fundamentalist Christians” keeping their children away from the secular (a)moral doctrine. Even here in the UK, where as far as I can tell there is a sizable non-Christian non-deist group, the “fundamentalist” label gets bandied about.

Recently I have heard that more protestant communities are turning away from contraception and abortion, having seen the devestating effect it has had on their communities. They are beginning to see that following Scripture means being completely pro-life in marriage as well as “politics”. I would be interested to know if many of these families and pastors putting aside contraception and letting God back into their marriage are or will home educate. Especially in America where many school options are very expensive, more children will probably lead to more homeschooling.

Turning away from the culture of death means embracing the culture of life, which logically, it seems to me, means welcoming, not just whatever children God sends, but whatever elderly or disabled relatives He might send as well.

When families take back and embrace the culture of life, we can avoid the pit that yawns in front of us from the utilitarian secularists (pushed by the BBC of course) and no one needs to be killedd.

Thank God for oldest brother.

I think it’s s%d’s Law that the minute I get the letter from the doctor telling me to book the flu jab appointment, that I go down with the wobbly -shakies, which I am assuming makes it all too late.  I am reading Robert Hugh Benson’s Life of St. Teresa of Avila who suffered some serious ill-health and was very holy about it all. I am working on it…really I am.

Anyway I was in the horrible “I’ve promised the kids a trip to Think Tank” moment, when dear old Josh agreed to take them without me. They had a great time and met up with lots of other home ed families. As it’s Think Tank’s 10th Birthday they all got in for the princely sum of 10 pence. Very good.

The Montessori stuff arrived yesterday via friends who had added my order onto theirs and so when the children got back there was some fun with the sand tray, which I have poured a layer of split lentils into. It works just as well and saved me a trip to the shed to battle with the bag of sand.

I remember reading how one morning Dr. Montessori was late for her class and walked in to find the children had simply helped themselves to whatever they needed and were working away independently. Interestingly Avila simply sat down at the table and began making letter shapes in the lentils and then trying out different patterns without me suggesting anything to her. She then showed Heleyna some letters to practice. When I came to do some of the letters with her, she used what I had written in the lentils to copy by going over them. She does have some unique ways of forming some letters at the moment, so I am hoping we can correct this using the tray.

We’ve also broken out some more craft stuff so the girls have had a go at weaving and Ronan and I are learning the fine art of loom knitting (French knitting as it was called in my day).

What’s the problem with Young Earth Creationists?

David Attenborough, the darling of the BBC is the latest person I have come across who is demanding that creationism must not be taught in schools.

Apparently he means young earth creationism.

I am not quite sure which schools he has come across where YEC gets so much as a look in among the banalities of the National Curriculum, so where’s the problem? I assume he is terrified that a Free School might be set up in which YEC gets taught. Well, I suppose that’s possible. But frankly when you look at the appalling quality of science in schools, perhaps there is a massively bigger problem dear ol’Dave could be getting in a fuss about.

The thing that I am becoming more interested in is, why are so many people getting into such a state over those who are YEC believers? What are these people doing that is so awful? I have even seen some pretty nasty and pompous comments from Home Educators over YECs and I am at a loss to see why they are so up in arms over such a small and harmless group of people.

But it has occurred to me, that it could be people like me who are the real cause of fear and consternation from those on the Anti-YEC side. You see I have found a lot of science books to be just dreadful. Badly written, full of grossly unscientific assumptions and often just plain outdated. So, I confess I have bought and used a couple of well written, solid science books from Apologia – and they are YEC book producers. So, how can I say they are better written than some other science books I’ve had the misfortune to own? Well, the botany book is really well set out, has plenty of experiments and  studies for the children to do and frankly doesn’t have much YECiness to it. The astronomy book had more YEC science in it, but the author was very clear about her view and put forward just as clearly what mainstream scientists have to say on the matter. She then does something far more respectful of learners than David Attenborough – she leaves us to do further study and make up our own minds.

Obviously the underbelly of the beast is scienstism that newish superstition that tries to insist that only material science can show us anything. It’s a narrow and assumption laden view and because it is anything but scientific – and certainly does not come out of what real science should – the search for truth no matter where that truth might lead.

I wonder if the behaviour of these pseudo-scientists who are more wrapped up in the importance of their own opinions, careers and massive financial rewards is actually causing people to look more towards the YEC scientists? Are more people becoming YECs because of the very obvious corruption and dishonesty within so much “mainstream” and (worse still) “popular” science?

Attenborough himself is guilty of selective evidence delivery himself as Ian Maxwell so easily and expertly fisked. I think there is a much more pressing problem with science in both our schools and the media and that is so much of it isn’t science. It’s politics and opinion – nothing to do with science at all.

Lets get the huge log out of the eye of mainstream science before trying to go after that spec in the yec.

Quick Chesterton Quote

When you take away the supernatural, all you have left is the unnatural.

From Heretics.


You learn something new every day.

We’re more or less back into the swing of things with home education now. We’ve done some work with magnets. It happens that the children have a little wooden train set that works with magnets and to my surprise, quite strong magnets. They had great fun with repulsion pushing one carriage across the table with the other not touching it. Then it was time to make patterns with iron filings from Ronan’s little science kit.

We also made some copper sulphate crystals and we are attempting to grow sugar crystals on cotton. However I think I chose the wrong time of year for the evaporation. The house is too cold LOL!

Meanwhile we seem to have a house full of conkers and quite a few acorns. Ronan and his friend M discussed the fact that people have eaten them, so it has been suggested that we cook some and see. I know they need a lot of cooking to get the tannin out of them, but if we can get a few together I’m willing to let them at least cook them and see.

But conkers? What can we do with them? Well, there’s the obvious game and making autumn decorations with them, painting them, making them into spiders and other creatures with added pipe cleaners and googly eyes. But I wondered if they had any other uses.

So I googled. And I discovered that during the First and Second World Wars children in Britain were paid to gather conkers for the munitions factories as they made good explosive stuff – cordite. The first game of conkers was recorded in 1848, so there you go, you really can learn something new every day.

My Amazon store and Baldwin Project deal

I have made an Amazon store, which I suppose is anything but distributist of me, but then I suppose you could say it’s a bit like a corner store in cyber space.

Go and have a look at LIVING BOOKS, NO TWADDLE (Hopefully) To be honest I am not expecting to make much money from this, but as I am setting it out as a sort o curriculum I hope some one will find it useful. I’m still updating it so keep an eye on it.

I am presently setting up a separate blog with curriculum details that will include freebies and other stuff. It’s not ready to launch, and as things are busy right now, probably wont be for a while – but I’ll let you know when it’s done.

Meanwhile, if you want to spend your hard earned cash usefully, there is this lovely offer at the Baldwin Project where you get 200+ ebooks for under $100.


What is forgiveness? final ramblings.

One of the aspects of forgiveness which I think cannot be truly about forgiveness is the “forgive and forget” bit. I am quite sure, thanks to my appalling memory these days in fibro-fog that I really have forgiven and forgotten and forgotten I’ve forgiven, but there are some things done to a person that they simply cannot forget. I think the “forget” side of forgiveness is not that we no longer remember what was done, or not done, but that we do not allow ourselves to dwell on it and become angry and resentful about it all over again.

Again this goes back to forgiveness being an act of the will and not a mere feeling or emotion. In fact the will has to fight those emotions quite hard at times.

But there’s another aspect of forgiveness that to be honest, I hadn’t thought of. Dr Ray Guarendi talked about how some people consider themselves forgiving when they forgive the other person magnanimously for something that doesn’t even need forgiving. I must admit I don’t think I have come across this, but I assume it happens. I assume its those kind of people who forgive you for not getting out of your hospital bed to give them a lift to the pub or something like that.

I think most people who struggle with forgiveness do so because what they must forgive is genuinely serious.

One other aspect of this, and it’s something Dr. Guarendi has talking about now and again, and that’s the fact that so few people say sorry any more. The general view is the victim of that other person’s horrible behaviour should simply carry on as though it never happened and the perpetrator should make an apology or attempt to make it right, but then I guess, that’s just something else we have to forgive.

As a mother though, I am trying to teach the children to say sorry. It’s one of those things that they resist doing. Not when they are little, but as they get older. What’s at the root of that I wonder? Bloomin’ concupiscence who needs it?

Home Education the not-so-gentle beat yourself up art of learning.

I hate September. I think I have hated September ever since I started to home educate and what’s worse it’s my own silly fault that I hate September.

There are plenty of articles out there that explain how not to home educate, and what might lead to burn out, misery and abject failure, but I have managed to avoid most of those pitfalls and dug a new one, all of my own.

It’s the beat-myself-up approach. It’s based on a very silly version of keeping up with the Joneses. I look at all the events available, all the places we could go and all the stuff I could be taking the children to, and see all those home educating families going out and doing them all, and realise that we have neither the budget nor my health to allow it to happen. And then I start thinking I am letting the children down and I’m doing it all wrong and they are stereotype home educated children, sitting at the table with workbooks. It’s the stuff of home ed nightmares.

Just as I start the battle of beat-myself-up we get under way and I had forgotten some of the problems we faced at the end of last term and hit them again as we restart. I am also faced with new challenges as Heleyna does not learn the way the other two did and they didn’t learn like each other. I’m having to learn to be as flexible as Elastigirl. And like Mrs Incredible I have children with completely different talents and stumbling blocks.

Ronan is my classical cum Charlotte Mason child, while Avila is more Mason to Montessori and Heleyna is very hands on in a Montessori way.

September lurched along as we rearranged the daily rhythm of the family to take the lessons on board. We rearranged the rooms to make space for books, flashcard games and who knows what else.

Beavers Cubs and Ballet are under way again and we spent Wednesday at the MAC park with loads of home educating families for the “Not Back To School” picnic. It was a great day and the children played, talked and gathered a humongous amount of conkers. One lad suggested he might make conker stew! Hopefully his mum will curb that experiment.

A friend’s fiance was really kind and took us home before going back for his own family.

Tonight three of my 6 are off to Scout camp for the weekend.

So in actual fact they are going places, meeting up with friends and doing stuff. It’s just that there are so many events to choose from and so many of the mums I know go to loads of them, that I started to think I was doing it all wrong. There is a sort of pride in HE circles among the mums who are never at home and I fell for it, thinking that because we are at home a lot, that I was failing the children.

I have talked with a  HE friend and got my head in better order. My children don’t need to be doing every single home ed event. They are doing enough and having a tight budget and being limited in mobility and health is not a real problem. They are happy and learning and that’s what matters.

It’s interesting though. I would never even think of looking at the neighbours cars or clothes or expensive stuff and wish I could have that. While I have had kitchen envy occasionally and do have powered wheelchair envy (that’s truly sad isn’t it lol) it’s the area of what I would spend time and money on over education that gets me in the silly place. It’s also very annoying that something so small can immediately tip me back to the pit of “I’ll never get it right.” I suppose I never will get it perfectly right, but I know (on a sane day) that I am giving the children the best I can with all the graces at my disposal.

Our Lady of Sorrows (Are Catholics just miserable or what?)

In our sugar laden, glitzy, pink and sparkly approach to life, the solemnity of Our Lady of Sorrows could seem a bit dark and miserable. What’s with Catholics and their love of a woman they go around displaying with seven swords piercing her heart? It’s not “nice” and the most important part of comfortable life is to have everything “nice.”

But Our Lady of Sorrows is a bright light in a difficult world. She suffered through her deep love of her Son and at the hands of other people, and one time when Jesus hid Himself for her and Joseph. She took her suffering and carried it without complaint and without rancour towards those who had inflicted the pain on her.

Her seven sorrows are:

Simeon’s prophecy that a sword would pierce her heart. She knew that in giving her Fiat to the angel, she was taking on a task that would involve great suffering.

The flight into Egypt – when Herod killed the innocents at Bethlehem and the little Holy Family fled to Egypt to live as refugees until Herod died.

The Loss of Christ in the Temple: Jesus remains in the Temple and Mary and Joseph spend three awful days seeking Him until they find Him in His Father’s house. This mystery has a depth to it in that many saints have found themselves seeking Him, sometimes for a long time. Also I think it is significant that they seem to have been outside of Jerusalem before they turned back to the Holy City and the Temple to find Him.

Mary meets Jesus as He carries His cross. This is one of the stations of the cross of course. In Gibson’s movie, this moment is deeply profound, where she remembers running to her little boy as He trips and falls and here He is falling under the weight of the cross, of our sins, not hers, for she never committed any. She is the only person in history who added nothing to the weight of the cross, but whose sorrow and strength lifted the weight at little.

She then stands at the foot of the Cross with St. John and her sisters.

Jesus is taken down by Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea and John and His dead body is laid in the arms of His mother. The Pieta is probably one of the most famous images we have.

Finally she walks with those who having gently wrapped her beloved Son in a shroud, take Him to Joseph’s tomb to be laid to rest.

Whatever we suffer, she understands, like a good mother and will support us, turning to her Beloved Son and asking for His graces for us. No one could possibly have loved Christ as much as she did, so we can hardly imagine her suffering. But she gave her Fiat and stuck with it, and now she’s sticking with us.

What is forgiveness? Out of virtue.

Rita, very astutely pointed out in the comments box of my last post that really forgiveness cannot be taught or learned in isolation from the virtuous life. We should be learning to live the seven virtues and in so doing we will come to understand what forgiveness is and how it is woven into life. I think she is right to say that chances are the separation of forgiveness out of the foundation of the virtuous life has lent towards the confusion over what it is and how it works. That certainly made a light go on in my dull brain.

It seems very much to grow out of charity and from there temperance and fortitude and in for many examples, courage too.

I thought I would start by looking at how Jesus forgave during His Passion.

The Church in her wisdom has given us a whole library load of names of those she knows are in heaven. The list of saints, Blesseds and Venerables are long indeed and there’s plenty of those who may likely be declared so as time goes on. She has never named anyone as being in hell. On those names she remains silent.

There is only one person in history that I am aware of where we could say there is a high possibility they ended up in hell, and that’s Judas and the suspicion is based on Jesus’ stark words “It would be better for that man had he never been born.”  But even then we are not told definitely that Judas is damned. He is, however put to us as the image of a man who despaired rather than repented and is juxtaposed against Peter who denied Christ and repented in deep sorrow. Jesus forgives Peter and he then goes on to get the Church under way.

From the cross Jesus asks His Father to forgive the men who were crucifying Him because, He pointed out, “they know not what they do.”  They cannot in justice be condemned for doing something for which they had no intention of evil. They thought, presumably, they were executing a criminal and in doing it in such a horrible way were offering punishment, justice and a warning to others, all for the common good.  It’s difficult to imagine they didn’t have some idea that what they were doing in some aspects was utterly evil, but we don’t know.

Then Jesus has a man on either side of him. St. Dismas repents and asks for forgiveness. Jesus gives His promise that Dismas would that day be with Him in Paradise. Gesmes doesn’t get any such promise. He hasn’t repented and so there is no evidence that he is going to make it to Paradise (although again, we can’t be sure as we don’t know his exact situation at death).

From this it might be assumed that Jesus only forgives those who are sorry. But is this true? We are told He died to save Mankind, and although the shedding of blood for the many (pro multis) implies that plenty of other people are not going to receive God’s forgiveness. Is this because God is a big meanie or that Calvin was right after all and there are the elect and the rest?

The answer seems to be that God offers the gift of His forgiveness for every single human being, and all we have to do is turn around (repent) and receive it.

Jesus gave the apostles the authority to bind and loose. “Those sins you forgive are forgiven,” He said, “And those sins you retain are retained.” So we see priests and bishops can retain - not forgive sins. The time this might happen would be if the person goes to Confession and says some sin he has no intention of doing anything about, which is not the same as habitual sin the person is working hard against of course.

So, down to the ordinary person like me. Can I say, I don’t need to forgive everyone because look at Jesus He hasn’t? Er, no. He has forgiven everyone, just everyone hasn’t accepted forgiveness. In accepting forgiveness we accept healing.

So does this mean I have to tell everyone I have forgiven, just as the priest in Confession does, or can I forgive someone without them ever having to know I have forgiven them?  I think all forgiveness is essentially between me and God, so if He is forgiving me, then I have to actually receive the forgiveness and He does this through the Sacrament of Confession which has the added wonderfulness of grace to help with healing and avoiding the sin in the future. But I can’t give grace so when I forgive I might not have to tell anyone other than God? Is forgiveness is as much for my sake as the other person? In fact if the other person doesn’t even know they are forgiven, then it’s all for my sake.

In practical terms what am I to do then, if this forgiveness is going to happen? As Shana said in the previous post, we really are not expected to stay in contact with people who have seriously abused us, aren’t sorry, will continue to do so and may very likely do so to our children. There is nothing in forgiveness about putting yourself and children in the way of other people’s malice. In fact surely by removing the temptation to malice you are doing them a service.

Should we always tell the other person they are forgiven? Shana wrote to her relatives to say so. I think that is probably a good thing to do in many cases. In my personal case, I did once but never again.

The forgiveness is letting go of anger, resentment and on a very basic level knowing that you really do not want to see them damned. It might often mean letting go of any hope of justice this side of death and handing it over to God completely. That is not a feeling. It’s a terrible spiritual battle and requires a massive act of the will.  It is not a short process, for most of us, and can sometimes be a repeated exercise. Just when you think you have forgiven them, that old nightmare comes back and you wake up with all the old feelings and have to start again.

Clare, rightly points out that it is easier to forgive others when we realise how much we have had to be forgiven, and this goes back to Rita’s point about forgiveness stemming from the virtuous life.

I do wonder though, if this has a limitation. It does seem easier to forgive the things we are also guilty of, or at least could imagine getting up to on a bad day. The big wall gets hit when someone does something so truly horrible we can’t get our head around it. Or even just amazingly selfish and neglectful.

I think it is much harder to forgive something we truly don’t understand, than to forgive something, even horrible, that we “get” in some way. I did work with a counsellor for a while trying to work out the “why” of what had been done to me, before I could get on with the process of forgiving. However, there were no answers to that question so I had to do the forgiving without ever getting to understand how someone could do that.

Interestingly, once I had really made the act of will of forgiveness, which was a bit like climbing a sheer rock face with a thin rope in a blizzard: thank God for God and His grace – then some of the extraneous problems such as nightmares actually stopped. Brilliant! Is that the same for everyone I wonder?

I don’t remember feeling anything other than relief that the spiritual battle was over (for now) and a bit of trepidation that I might have to ever fight it again. So I didn’t “feel” I had forgiven anyone. It was, very much an act of the will, with the heart being dragged along I think. Thankfully, despite the odd moment, I never have had to fight it like that again, and like Shana I did get some good advice when I needed it, thanks to Providence. I really do recognise that there is no way I could have done this alone. God had to be there, or I would still be angry, resentful and worse I am sure.

So, I think on this first point, Rita is right. We need the grace for the virtuous life, which doesn’t mean being without sin before we can forgive (thankfully) but does mean that in charity and temperance we don’t dwell on or actually try to commit revenge and we truly do not want the person to end up in hell.

Just in case you struggle with not hoping they end up in the fire, read some of the saints on hell. St. John Bosco’s visits there and St. Teresa of Avila should give you a good sense of just how much you don’t want to hope anyone ends up there.  This is where Clare’s excellent point that judgement is God’s comes in. When Jesus said don’t judge, this is what He was talking about. If we start deciding who we think should be in hell, chances are we’ll end up there ourselves, for after all, what could be worse than wishing eternal damnation on someone else?

But is there more to forgiveness that hoping and praying the person who has done the evil doesn’t end up in hell?

What is forgiveness anyway?

I know, I know, I’ve asked this question before. I’ve considered it and listened to what people have to say on it, and I am still a bit lost as to what it is exactly. When Jesus told Peter to forgive his brother seventy times seven, I get that he meant just keep forgiving, but I don’t get what it is Peter is supposed to “do” or even “feel” or “will” as he keeps on forgiving that brother over and over again.

Now there’s eight of us living in this house, and Al and I have been married for 23+ years, and as neither of us are impeccable, there’s been some forgiving to do. So, somewhere in there, I must know how to do it, because I have done it. My guess is, without going over the details of who did what to whom, that the reason forgiveness happened was because we were sorry. Chances are that with perhaps some rare exceptions, we didn’t mean it and the other person knew we didn’t and so forgiveness is given and received and life goes on. All that seems easy enough to me. I am guessing you don’t really need to be a Christian to get your head and heart around that. I might be wrong and I suppose that all forgiveness is found from God’s grace, but I don’t think most people would bear a grudge over a forgotten book of stamps or whatever.

It’s the big stuff I wonder about. The OT reading this morning was a strong admonition against taking revenge, and that makes sense, but that leaves the question of revenge versus justice and of course defense. It is the anniversary of the horrific 9/11 attacks right now. I am sure that day has images scorched onto the memories of most of us, leaving us specific people to pray for even if we don’t know their names. There must be many untold stories of families who have learned to forgive the people who did this to them. But again I am left wondering what form this forgiveness takes.

I had come to the probably inaccurate conclusion that forgiveness means not taking revenge, putting aside the thoughts of anger that might lead to wanting revenge and not wishing damnation on the other person. I have also come to the conclusion over all that it is a lot easier to forgive people who are sorry, or who do horrible things in a non-malicious way.

Jesus offers forgiveness to all, but as the new translation says He shed His Precious Blood for “many” which seems to imply there are plenty of people who don’t want to be forgiven. Hell is a choice after all.

Still, how to forgive…it’s a biggie.

Are we supposed to keep in contact with people no matter how often they abuse us? Is going back for more part of the seventy times seven Jesus spoke of?

Does forgiveness mean not asking for justice, and what is the difference between justice and revenge?

How do you forgive someone who isn’t sorry, but with whom you must have contact anyway?

Is it unforgiving to break contact with a person who has abused you?

Does forgiving mean forgetting = and how does that work?

Does God forgive everyone, and if so, what’s hell for?

What is the process of forgiveness? Does it happen in a flash or words, or does it take time?

I think I might have a go at these questions on the blog - and who knows maybe there’ll be a lesson set out of it.

Mums need help and should not feel guilty for it. Some responses.

There were a couple of responses on the mums need help blog that I thought were pretty worrying. One woman, who presumably is in a comfortable, financially secure situation, with all the help she needs and no seriously ill person to mess things up, insisted that mothers should never have to work because a sensible woman would not marry a man until he could show his ability to provide adequately for a family. Now, I think I get where this view comes from. A man should be working and have a living wage before he can marry However we now live in a situation in the UK and increasingly in the USA  I believe, where having a wage that can support  family is very difficult indeed. Having any job at all is getting harder and harder. Many of the dads I know who have been providing the single income for their families are either now out of work, or facing impending unemployment. One comment on the blog pointed out that her husband had become disabled at work and now she was the bread winner. These things happen.

Continue reading

Mum’s need help – and shouldn’t feel guilty for needed it.

This blog post by Jennifer Fulwiler , which I read ages ago and am only just getting my act together to blog on, says, with much better grammar, something I’ve been saying for a looooong time.  In the comments thread someone else says something I’ve been saying for just as long – that until very recently mothers with young families had that help and didn’t have to feel guilty. It was pure coincidence that I saw a report from the UK a couple of days later, that said stay at home mothers are more depressed than those who go out to work and the reason – according to this report – was that SAHMs are left all day with little children and no adult company. In other words they have no support of any kind.  I also wondered how many of these depressed stay at home mums had husbands who worked such long hours they were essentially single mums, and how many had no dad in the home at all – but it didn’t say.

The comments on Jennifer Fulwiler’s blog post show some of the problems all of us mums at home face. First of all, far too many mothers have no immediate family support. The days when families lived and grew together are long gone. Most adult children live quite some distance from their parents and so the old-fashioned support of a mother to her daughter when the babies start coming, just isn’t there for many. On top of that is the very real problem that far too many couples beginning family life have come from abusive and chaotic childhoods where even if mum did live round the corner, you wouldn’t want her near you or your children.

The other big problem that is newer, is that many SAHM find she is the only mother at home with her own children. All the other mothers are out at work and the children out at nurseries or child minders. For some of my friends this means that working mums think they are the fall back child care. This can happen even when the family are in crisis – but the neighbour wants her kids picked up from school anyway.

It was picked up on that in the past, before the end of the Second World War at any rate, even fairly poor families could afford a servant to help with housework and child care. In fact I have been reading the story of Ven Anna Maria Taigi and I was surprised to see that even though they were dirt poor, they still had a servant. Even people like us, who are not on the bottom of the financial heap can’t afford regular help these days.

One way I think that overcomes some of the problems, apart from shunting aside the guilt for needing help, is to form communities that will work together. In the UK I don’t think home educators are that good at mutual support over all, but if you can form a little group of mums and children who will share lessons, and help each other out in emergencies, it can take a lot of stress out of life and make the business of being at home with the children less lonely and frustrating.

A cultural shift in attitudes towards mothers who dare to care for their own children might help too, but in the meantime, we mums need to stick together.

Home educators, even in this country, seem to have more children on average than other families. I think as the children grow older and having been at home together, learning together and forming closer family relationships, that as they reach adulthood, they will more naturally look out for one another. I certainly hope so. I want my children to support one another through the rest of their lives, to be the good uncles and aunts to their nephews and nieces, and be close enough to us that we can be proper grandparents (God willing).

If you don’t have family, then you need to make an alternative family. Close friendships in HE can make that work.

There are a couple of items that came up in the comments of Jennifer’s blog that I want to return to. They seem to reflect a certain cultural understanding that seems to me directly opposed to a Christian worldview and I was a bit shocked to see them written ostensibly by Catholics.

Home Education impromptu learning.

One of the things I love about HE is the way the children will just do stuff, all by themselves to learn a skill.

We had an impromptu displacement lesson a few days ago when Ronan noticed that the more veg I added to a soup the fuller the pot got and asked how that happened. This lead to a large bowl of water and a number of toys and a measuring tape. Fun for ages, eureka!

Today a friend brought over a replacement stair gate. Our old one is done in and the little ones have all worked out how to bypass it. She, her son and Ronan spent ages working out how to get it to fit and using spanners and measuring tape to get things under way.

it needs some extra bits but after they had worked out what we needed Ronan and his friend went off with the measuring tape and set about measuring all sorts of things. No adults required.

One day Dr. Maria Montessori was a little late coming to her class. When she arrived the children had already collected the things they needed and were setting about their work without adults to tell them what to do. It was a eureka moment for her too.

Home Education: free science lessons and more

Kalei has posted my little lesson on Dr. Alois Alzheimer which I recommend for older home edders. It is a “little” lesson which is a small insight into a very large subject. I would like to find the time to delve into it further, but with term just starting I can’t promise anything right now.

When doing my research for this lesson I found someone wrote that the doctor was “sentimental” about his Catholic faith. Looking at the man’s life however, I think he was faithful not sentimental about his faith. It must have been the faith of Alzheimer and his fellow Catholic doctor as they worked so hard to turn around the whole system of how patients with mental illness were treated. I had not realised until reading up on Alois Alzheimer that he was a leading light in the humane treatment of those with mental illness.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the lesson. Some of the discussion questions are hard, but I know home educated youngsters like a challenge.

My other recent science lesson is about Fr. P Angelo Secchi SJ an amazingly energetic astronomer, and general genius. Kalei has posted this with a short poem study on Belloc’s Ballade of Our Lady of Czestochowa, which I came across in Divine Office one day. Lovely poem.

For those of you who use Kalei’s blog I recommend THE PRINTABLES SITEMAP page. There’s a treasure trove of freebies there.

New Translation slurring and slipping but went well really.

We started the new translation of the Mass yesterday. I managed to actually be there this week! There were some slurring and slipping but I think most of us got the hang of at least some of it. Fortunately, our family had been instructed while at Mass in Scotland. So, it wasn’t a complete shock to the system.

The readings were about the spiritual work of mercy, correcting the sinner. Of course that is totally unacceptable these days even, or especially, among Christians. Thanks to the truly yukky misuse of that word “judgemental” no one dares help anyone out of a nasty situation these days. But the reading makes it very horribly clear that if someone dies in their sin and we knew about it and did nothing to try and help them, we will have to answer for it when our time comes.

We are answerable not just for what we say, but for what we don’t say; not only what we do, but for what we fail to do. I hope timing isn’t going to be a big one for God. I have been late on these matters more than once, faffing about trying to find the right words. Perhaps I should stop worrying and just trust God will help me speak the truth in love, without me having to plan it all.

Book Review: Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, by Anthony Esolen

Just before we get down to term and begin the more formal learning, I finished reading Anthony Esolen’s book  Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child that Esolen writes on are:

1. Begin by rearing children almost exclusively indoors. He then goes on to show how his own childhood was spent exploring and discovering the wonders of his local world. How this taught him and inspired him so that he could wonder at the world. Some reviewers have noted this and believed it needed a good Editor to snip away at these passages. Having finished the book now, I disagree. The whole point of his apparent rambling is because he was allowed to ramble and in so doing learned to live. Those of us who follow Charlotte Mason’s philosophy know that nature study and exploration are core to her appoach in helping children learn.

2.Never allow children to organise their own worlds or exploration of that which is interesting or challenging. Living in a culture that schedules, timetables and controls every waking moment of a child’s life, this is easy to do. Simply allowing children to do their own thing occasionally, pick up a book and sit and read it; actually get bored even, has become anathema these days. Esolen again shows his own childhood was quite different and that he was allowed to collect rocks, peer into holes, stare at bugs and that he grew to love learning in that way. Not many children I know love learning.

It’s all part of what Dr. Ray Guarendi so aptly calls the Do-do-go-go-get-get culture. It seems to me to be at the root of parents being horrified at the prospect of having their own children around them all summer. They seem to think that the children must be timetabled and expensively entertained at all times, and if not then they must be put in front of the TV or video game for hours on end.

3. Don’t risk allowing children to explore machines or encounter those who know how to use them. This is easy to do if you drown them in ‘elf’n’safety paperwork. They’ll never get to use a cooker much less muck about with a bike engine if you follow all those rules. I am afraid with Ronan’s love of cooking and the fact that their dad is often in the shed messing about with tools, we are failing miserably in this area. Ronan even borrowed a hammer and built a wooden aeroplane last week, with nails and everything! Oh no!!

4. Replace fairy tales with clichés and fads. I was astonished at the very narrow education so many of the people I taught at University had been subjected to. They knew nothing about the traditional fairy stories or even Winnie the Pooh. Now you might say, well you don’t need to know Sleeping Beauty to do a degree, but the lack of foundational knowledge had made them so very narrow in thought, and quite frankly in maturity. It did make me wonder what children’s stories they did read or had read to them. Esolen points out that the traditional tales, often full of frightening imagy, not only helps form imagination, but offers heroes who must love against the odds or face fiercesome beasts with courage and a small sword. Children’s books that offer political fads and banality are bound to deaden both imaginarion and virtue – and there are so many such books to choose from, only they are all the same.

5. Denigrate or discard the heroic or patriotic. Children need heroes. If you want to destroy their imagination and soul then make sure they don’t have real heroes to emulate. Make them like that astonishingly damaged teenager on Jamie Oliver’s Nightmare School who wanted to be like Katy Price. I have failed in this already as my children loved the story of Beowulf and already have some horribly traditional fairy stories told to them thanks to the Andrew Lang books. Worse still they are presently reading along with Under the Grape Vine, C.S.Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Ah well, I am sure I can fish out a Philip Pullman to crush them.

6. Cut down all heroes to size. Don’t allow hero worship unless it’s of the shallow bling wearing kind. Undermine as many aspects of kindness, courage and perseverance as possible. Make the good look weak and those who have a Christian faith must be mocked or made to look bad. Then you can push this message over and over. Easy enough with TV and other media. (And it worked so well for Hitler and Stalin).

7. Reduce all talk of love to narcissism and sex. Instill the mantras of “do it if it feels good for you” “don’t force your morality onto me” “Do it if you have a condom” and then before you know it the unholy trinity of me-myself-and-I will be the basis of life.

8. Level all distinctions between man and woman. Or as some have put this spay and geld. Boys in particular, Esolen says, must be restrained from manliness at all costs. Girls should not be feminine in any way.

9.  Distract the child with the shallow and unreal. – plenty of substandard TV and pseudo-educational stuff should help this process, as well as hours of gaming. OR take them to the library and let them get those teen novels that will help tick 7, 8,9 and 10 all in one go. If that’s not enough teen magazines can help. In fact start them early. While looking for books for Heleyna I came across a whole pile of shiny, sticker stuffed books to teach a girl how to primp and fuss and be a massive consumer of make up, high heals and anything pointless.

10 Deny the transcendent – Christians are so very good at this. Unfortunately for Catholics with the New Mass and stricter observance of the GIRM the transcendent has a real danger of breaking through. But you could always invest in that book I was told about where it was proposed that churches should all become mini monocultures about the people who went there and with almost nothing at all about God. There are plenty of those places so they are easy to find.

The book is written in the form of paradoxical intent, (obviously) and other reviewers have noted the Screwtape nature of the book. so the answers to the horror of dumbed down, inert children is in the warnings of things to avoid in order to destroy their imagination as well as the things to do to ensure the destruction. He packs the book with plenty of wonderful authors and ideas for truly inspiring children and allowing them to grow as good people.

This excellent book echoes the same unheard message that has been written and spoken since the Enlightenment darkened our culture. From Mason and Montessori, through Chesterton, Belloc and more recently Gatto and now Esolen, – and of course from Popes Leo XIII to Benedict XVI -we have been warned that our children’s lives are being flattened to the point where they are men without chests. We have been warned that deconstructing the family with collapse society and all the time the NOISE continues so no one hears the message.

There is a great deal of excellent literature pointed to within the book, and a good bibliography at the back. I was saddened to see a father review the book with a one star because he hadn’t read the books Esolen suggests and did not understand the way the book was written. Now, I am a great believer that a writer should avoid silly big words where a plain one will do and that if he can’t say something plain and clear chances are he hasn’t understood the subject himself, but Esolen is writing for the ordinary person, who has just a modicum of imagination left.

Professor Esolen wrote this article as he was writing his book.

Here is an article from Classical Teacher at Memoria Press.