Monthly Archives: February 2012

Home Education: Lent reading and soul scrubbing; and a Freebie

Lent is under way and we are plunging into the Lent term.

They will be listening to Glory Stories, which they love. I want Ronan to have a good saint book to read beside his Tom’s Midnight Garden. I think I’m going to get him to read Saint Ignatius and the Company of Jesus.

Avila will be reading some of the St Joseph books - we have a pile of them. (Some are better written than others)

There are also good LENTERN RESOURCES at That Resource Site. You might also like my new resource for the older ones and maybe even for you. THE SEVEN LAST WORDS. I am afraid it was a bit of a struggle to write, so please forgive me if there are bits in it that are a bit – how shall I put this? – fibro foggy. Perhaps you can offer up any irritation it gives you :)

Heleyna is still working through My First Bible Stories and she too will have some St Joseph Picture book stories and perhaps Amy Steedman stories such as In God’s Garden.


I am reading A Song For Nagasaki by Paul Glynn. It is the story of Dr Takashi Nagai, his journey from Shinto, through atheism to the Catholic faith, via Pascal and the beauty of Japanese poetry. But it is also the story of a man who risked so much and suffered so much to help the victims of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki at the end of the Second World War.

You can get a good overview of the amazing life of Dr Nagai from Fr. Serephim HERE and HERE.

What did the devil know?

Today’s Mass readings, for the first Sunday of Lent tell us how God made a new Covenant with Noah – a family Covenant, telling, Noah that He will establish His plan with Noah’s descendants and that there will never again be a world wide flood to destroy all mankind (and other stuff).

Then the Gospel is a quick rather taciturn explanation from Mark that Jesus went into the desert, fasted for forty days, got tempted by the devil and John was arrested.

How do these readings fit?

I wonder if we should look at this from Satan’s view point. We are told from the rabbinic tradition that on the Second Day of creation God made the angels and gave them their test. What was the test? Well, many saints and theologians believe the test was that God showed them all His plan for salvation. He showed them Christ Incarnate and His fully human and not divine mother and said, “She will be your Queen and you must serve her.” This coupled with the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity was more than Lucifer the light bearer, brightest of all the angels could take. He refused with those dark and echoing through history words “I will not serve!” (Non Serviam). With that he lost every bit of light and grace he had been given and was – with the determined help of St. Michael – thrust into hell with a third of the angels. Hell would never have needed to exist if this had not happened. Lucifer was not longer a light bearer but the Satan, the adversary, the accuser of the blessed.

Satan had one plan, to stop God’s plan. He aimed his venom at the Woman int he garden, lest she be blessed among all women. But his victory came with defeat. Then he must have worked all out to ensure that mankind turned more to him and walked further from God. Again he got a victory but as God washed it all away it was a short-lived one.

God renews the Covenant with Noah, which must have infuriated Satan and so Mankind get s a fresh start. Ham blows it in such an obscene way that the resulting son is cursed and Satan must have thought his luck was in.

Satan is of course very clever (though I have a theory he lacks imagination as evil is always so samey and banal) but he doesn’t know everything.

When Jesus started His public ministry did Satan know who He was? Or did He wonder about it and decide to go and see for himself? Not only did this Jesus not fall for any of the temptations He simply sent Satan away and Satan just had to go.

It seems pretty certain that after that not only did Satan know who Jesus was, but the rest of the devils did too and Jesus had to silence a few of them in His ministries of exorcism.

But Satan still had Herod on his side and it wasn’t long before John the Baptist was arrested.  But unfortunately for hell and it’s minions, every evil act done only helped God’s plan to evolve – as He makes straight with crooked lines.

Happy Birthday Ronan

Ronan was 9 yesterday. We went out for the day but the place we had hoped to go to was closed. So we had a picnic in a park and ran through the rain to get back to the car.

In light of the non-happening of his day out, we went for a Balti in the evening. Ronan declared, as he tucked into a chicken tikka masala, that he was glad the other place was shut as now he was having a lovely time. He had handled the earlier disappointment with great maturity – as a 9 year old gentleman should.

He is now the proud owner of a camera, which has a better spec than mine!

Happy Birthday Ronan.

Back to the dust

It’s Lent and purple is a lovely colour. I’m giving up the usual so that I don’t forget what I’ve decided to do.  We went to Mass yesterday and received the ashes to remind us that we are both body and soul, material and spiritual and that the body will return to the earth from which it came. But we are not dualists. We do not profess a soul trapped in a body as though the body is merely a material overcoat to the soul. And we do not swing off the other way that the body is merely an animated machine. We are one person body, mind and soul.

From the very beginning the Church has used materials – the stuff of life – to remind us and teach us that God made the world and it is good.

The sacramentals of the Church are part of the God’s story for us. We receive the burned palms as ash on our heads as a sign that we recognise that we are sinners and we know that leads to the death. Then at the beginning of Holy Week we have the palms in our hand reminding us that those who called Jesus king one day, called for His crucifixion only a few days later – and we are like them.

As Avila has been looking at the sacramentals as part of her RE, I’ve picked up more of an interest in them. I’ve always had a bit of an interest as my MA dissertation was focused on how children with special needs, especially developmental delay, can access the Sacraments. When I worked with children with serious disorders including autism, that meant they had little or no spoken language, a multisensory approach was vitally important. In fact the Children’s Hospice I worked in had a multisensory room.

The Church in both her Latin and Eastern Rites is beautifully set up so that all people, no matter how much language or learning they have can be fed and nurtured. We have icons, windows, statues, the shape and colour of the Church. The liturgical colours to mark the year, the candles, tabernacle and incense to see, touch and smell and of course the Blessed Sacrament to taste and see that the Lord is good. We have water and oils and then we use our bodies in prayer. Those whose body works stand before God, sit and listen and kneel in adoration. We genuflect and bow before God and of course we make the Sign of the Cross on our own bodies. At the Gospel we make another Sign of the Cross; making a cross on our foreheads, lips and chest silently praying that we will think, speak and love the Gospel.

We give something up for Lent because our bodies are just as important in our relationship with God as our minds and souls. In giving up chocolate or alcohol or whatever we choose to do without, we are not saying those things are bad (chocolate is soooo good) but we are saying that God is better.  We give up a little of the good for more of the best.

flat on a pancake day. Beginning Lent with offering up LOL.

Saw the GP this morning. He is a good man and very sensible, but it seems I have more hoops to jump through.

The ECG showed minor changes but nothing to get fussed about and the ultra sound isn’t even through yet. The chest x-ray was clear. No answers there then. The Doc is referring me to a lung specialist next. He’s changed my inhalers and I have to go back in 4 weeks to see how that helps and have to go back in three weeks for (more) bloods. Perhaps the heart ultra sound results will be in by then too.

I don’t think I’m wheezing that badly but I am very breathless at the slightest moving around. Although today was a good day, in all honesty I am beginning to realise that what I call “good” is actually not all that good – it’s just better than when I have a chest infection (which come about every 6 to 8 weeks so I’m due one in a fortnight lol).

He talked about ME. I don’t have a dx of ME as yet, although  ‘tween you and me I’ve suspected I had ME as well as FM for some time. I just didn’t want to have that dx. I told the GP as much and he promised I wouldn’t be told it’ “all in your head.” He actually understands and even accepts that ME (and frankly probably FM) are rooted in a virus. I told him I had seen it linked with Epstein Barr and HHV-6. Unfortunately I also know, from reading into this finally, that heart problems are common but difficult to spot. The NHS just isn’t set up for a disease like this.  (Readings Osler’s Web is quite an eye opener- showing why it is that those of us with these horrible chronic diseases get left to it; politics overcoming medicine. Hippocrates must be spinning.) I also have to admit that I’ve seen how ME can go with people and it quite frankly scares me.

The sad fact is, in all the time I’ve been ill no one has looked for a virus. I don’t even have blood count results on my notes.  I have a feeling, that along with others with FM and ME I don’t tick the right boxes and so must be left like this, even though I am fortunate enough to have a good GP. Of course so many of my results have gone walkabout that who knows what I have and haven’t been tested for over all those blood tests.

I am truly fed up of it all. No answers and more doctors and hospitals ahead. So I’ll being doing Lent with gusto. I’m sure it’s good for me in some way, right now can’t quite see how though.

I’ve got new wheels

I have a powerchair. It’s like my old shove-it chair in style but it has a good solid battery pack under it and a little control panel. I’m hiring it for the time being – these things are shockingly expensive – but I hope it will allow me to do things I have more or less had to stop doing because I can’t manage the shove-it any more and can’t walk very far at all any more.

So this is to be the new-me. I’m going to be out there, doin’stuff and taking the children places.

I’m not quite as cool as Prof X in his chair, although Alex likes riding up and down calling everyone Magnus and explaining why we can’t go to war. LOL

But this could be freedom.

Home Education Reading Week

It would be half term this week, but as Al is not off until next week I have decided to make this a reading week. I am reading to them from the two Seton History books The Catholic Faith Comes to the Americas (we have an older version) and Our Catholic Legacy. It has proved depressingly difficult to get honestly written history books for the children, so I have decided to use Catholic books to balance and correct some dishonesty, editorial silence and just plain wrong stuff in other history books.

Ronan (grade 3/ year 4) is reading Macbeth from the boxed Shakespeare Stories set we have.His next book with be Tom’s Midnight Garden  , so I’ve made a special Ronan folder on my Kindle.(I am beginning to think I should have bought him a Kindle for his upcoming birthday – but oh well, Christmas …) For his self reading he has just finished The Wizard of Oz and has decided to read Five Children and It which I read to them some time ago. Yes, he has been borrowing my Kindle rather a lot.

Avila (Gr 1/yr 2) is reading Things Will Never Be the Same from T. dePaola’s 26 Fairmount Ave series. For self reading she has been going through some of the picture books and has been reading a little book of Oscar Wilde’s stories for children which I got from a second hand books shop last summer.

If you have a Kindle or your child has a Kindle you might be interested in the Gutenberg Children’s Bookshelf.

Read together Stories From Winnie the Pooh which is the real stories not the awful disneyfied ones.

And me? Well I am reading Have His Carcass by the wonderful Dorothy L. Sayers. I have been lent How Children Fail by John Holt, which is a short, fairly interesting book of Holt’s observations in schools at the end of the ’50s and beginning of the ’60s. I am also slowly but surely reading the absolutely brilliant expose book Osler’s Web by Hillary Johnson. This book is well worth reading and has opened my eyes to why it is I am always hitting walls when it comes to getting answers or care for the fibromyalgia; the politics and vested interest wrapped in egos is the reason.

home education free lesson pack; Council of Nicaea and Creed

What with the new translation of the Mass with the new translation of the Creed, I thought I’d make a little lesson to go with it all. So I wrote one about the historical context and events of the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD.

Kalei has put it up on her blog and she has been working away revamping the main website, so go and take a look.

Now, I must admit there may be typos in the lesson as I’ve been rather foggy lately. Please forgive them if they are there.

I have also updated the lesson pack on the Via Dolorosa. Some of the text boxes had blacked out so I took out all the colour and this time they should work. Let me or Kalei know if there are further problems with it.

If you want to…on lepers and outcasts, and Lourdes

I was fourteen or thereabouts when I went on a weekend pilgrimage with all night vigil to Lourdes. I remember the grotto and it’s astonishing sense of silence despite the desnsity of the crowds, and I remember the town and it’s astonishingly tacky plastic stuff. But once you had navigated the smelly river and the glow in the dark rosaries, the Basilica and grotto were real holy places where the still small voice could be heard.

If you have never read Robert Hugh Benson’s book on his stay there, I highly recommend it.

Lourdes had a special meaning for me as my grandfather had lived five extra years having taken the waters. He had throat cancer and had been told he wouldn’t make six months. If he had only lived that long I would never have known him. As it was he lived another five years, which, given the state of his cancer and the level of cancer care back then is a pretty neat miracle. I took St. Bernadette as my Confirmation name in gratitude.

I was told that grandad had considered becoming Catholic but had been afraid of the idea of going to Confession. It was a shame.

Today the first reading didn’t seem to have much to do with Liturgy, holiness and prayer. It was the medical requirements for quarentien away from the people of Israel, should someone find themselves infected with leprosy. The rules were that the person with leprosy was to remove themselves to live outside the camp, so as not to spread the awful disease. But there was hope, even the, for anyone cleansed of the disease was to present themselves to the priests to be declared clean.

On a practicle and historical note the leper hospices of England run by the monastories, effectively quarenteened lepers so that the disease was almost eradicated here. I think some of the good work was undone when a certain proflicage king of the Tudar family had all the hospitals closed down and handed over to his mates.

Anyway, back to the readings. In the Gospel a leper approaches Jesus as says the rather heartrending words, “If you want to, you can make me clean.” To which Jesus replies, “Of course I want to!”

Of course the main thrust of all this leprosy talk isn’t so much that it’s about the disease but about being made an outcast from a community. In fact Jesus becomes outcast, in that He can no longer walk in the town thanks to the healed man telling everyone Jesus healed his leprosy.

It’s understandable that when we hear Jesus healed this man because of course He wanted to, that we say “If you want to, you can make me clean too.”

Only you see, there were plenty of lepers and outcasts who never were made clean physically and there are plenty of sick and outcasts today for whom the answer is, “Take up your cross and follow Me,” And He goes out of the town and is alone.

Physical healing isn’t going to happen for everyone – but we can hope that if we approach Him in sorrow we can get the spiritual cleanliness we need; although we will have to go and show the priest in Confession. :) (see how the new fulfils the old and doesn’t negate it?)


Leonardo exhibition – what a genius.

Yesterday we went to see the Leonardo exhibition at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. There were ten drawings that the Queen has released to do a tour as part of her Diamond Jubilee celebrations. They are amazing little drawings. He liked to draw small and detailed and even his writing is tiny.

The overall favourite with us all was the head study for a painting about Leda the Swan maiden. But Ronan also liked the strange flaying chain cannon like thing that Leonardo had designed to be pulled by a horse. I’m not sure how practice it would be, but perhaps we can have a go at building something like it in Lego.

After that we had a look at some of the other paintings in the gallery and saw some of the Staffordshire horde of gold. The craft and skill involved in making some of those gold pieces is astonishing, especially when you consider the technology available to craftsmen in Saxon times.

Unfortunately that was all I could manage so we had to come home by lunchtime – even so the children had a good time, and learned something new.

Today we had a PhD student over who is studying home education. I think the work she is doing is very important. She has no children at the moment and so she has no axe to grind over education and can approach the subject dispassionately. It’s fascinating talking with her as her experience with HE is much broader than mine as she has travelled even in Europe to see the different approaches and situations of home educators.

I must admit I also love being able to talk for ages with someone who is equally fascinated by the whole subject of home education and education in general. And of course it’s an opportunity to drink copeous amounts of tea.

Should our children be happy, or blessed?

I came across this article in Crisis starting from the news that a Scottish mother has rejected the “my children must be happy” mantra that has apparently taken hold in Britain. Partly it seems this happiness hype is a reaction to the UNICEF finding that Brit kids are the most miserable in the wealthy world, and the Government have scraped together one and a half million to find out why.  The article says that some bloke has come up with a new word for happiness – flourishing. But as Plato liked to use flourising and happiness together in his Republic perhaps it’s not so much a new word as an old one with the dust blown off. But the Greeks were as accurate about happiness and love as the Inuit are about snow. They had a number of words where we only seem to have one.

One of the words that Plato used was “hedonism” and this, I think, is the happiness of Britain. Or rather, it’s what Brits think is happiness. We are not grateful for a nice house where the roof and widows fit well and keep out the cold, and having enough good quality food to eat and clean water and clothes. We are not grateful because the bar has moved to include lots of stuff, stuff of gadgets and stuff of fancy clothing and stuff of food that isn’t basic and stuff of holidays in expensice places for as long as possible and stuff…you get the picture. It is why so many parents, including some home ed ones, face the “But everyone else has it!” protest from their older children. This is usually coupled with the “But everyone else is allowed to!” protest.

I like the idea of my children being happy, but I think they will only find happiness and contentment if they are grateful. If they recognise that everything they have is a blessing, a gift and that they should be saying thank you.

Gratitude is taught in the everyday prayer life of many families. The most obvious time being Grace Before Meals and Night Prayers with dad in our house.

I don’t like the translation of Scripture we use at Mass- and I am hoping with the New Translation we might get a new translation of the Scriptures too. It’s the Sermon on the Mount  where Jesus preaches the Beatitudes. In our Mass these have become the Happitudes. It grates.

Happy are those that mourn? Hardly. The whole business of grief is very painful and the last thing you feel is happy. You could be blessed though, with the grace to grieve and love and let go. Blessed and Happy seem to me to be two completely different words.

I am blessed, very blessed in fact, in that God gives me the grace and strength to get through each day with this illness. It does not make me happy. Being in pain and unable to breathe well and so on isn’t going to make me happy – but I am content and I am blessed.

When it comes to the children I think it is way more important that they are blessed and joyful (in the Lord) than that they are happy.  The best way for our children to be blessed is by loving them. Love, going back to the good ol’Greeks comes in different flavours and the flavour we are called to give to our children and others is agape – that is passion, a pouring out of ourselves for the other.

When it comes right down to it the reason so many British kids claim to be unhappy, despite all the stuff they have, is because they are not loved. Not because they don’t feel loved – but because they aren’t loved. A parent who is never there and buys loads of stuff to try and make up for it is never going to have a “happy” child. And in Britain most parents are hardly ever there. In fact the whole two income culture is no entrenched that mothers on maternity leave or who try to stay home and budget accordingly often get so isolated as no one else is home, and the local children groups have no mothers there, that they end up going back to work just to be like everyone else.

British culture has never really put children’s genuine welbeing first. Victorian Britain had an astonishingly shameful attitude to children who were either seen and not heard or cheap to slave labour. Under the work of people like Dickens and Wilberforce things slowly changed. Charlotte Mason stepped up to the plate as the 20th century loomed and she spoke and wrote for children, reminding mothers in Bradford not to abandon their children to nursery staff. She spoke and wrote against the creeping view that children should be institutionalised before the age of 7.

And today Broke Britain is pouring money we don’t have into studies we don’t need to tell us what we ought to already know – children need to be at home with mum and dad until they are older – around the age of 7 perhaps – and that a stable loving family home is good for them.


Heart scan and what the children did and the possibility of a new wheelchair.

This is a bit of a mixed bag entry. I had a hospital appointment first thing this morning, so I got ready and set out the children’s work. I didn’t set out any rules for what I wanted done. The taxi arrived and Alex came with me, putting the shove-it wheelchair in the boot and then being good enough to shove me through the hospital which he thought looked much like and airline terminus, complete with WHSmith and Costa Coffee.

Thanks to ten years of illness and Avila’s frequent hospital admissions I have learned to really hate hospitals. But in all fairness the new QE is quite good – for a hospital. We signed in with a bit of help at a computer and then were moved through two colour coded waiting areas. I was seen by the radiographer bang on time and she was polite and caring. She couldn’t get all the lovely pictures of the things my heart gets up to, so she got a bit of help. I was asked to lie on my left side for the scan and as the screen was behind me I couldn’t see all the bits of my heart like last time. It seems they make a sort of portfolio of the ultra sound pictures and measurements and add a few sound bits to go with it. She commented on my tachycardia and and I worked out from their med-speak when there were two that my heart murmur didn’t show up. Interestingly one radiographer said that they often don’t unless the patient is a bit dehydrated. If they are “loaded with fluid” then it can hide the murmur. Interesting I thought. So my fat ankles and fingers might be hiding the ol’ heart murmur. lol.

Unfortunately lying on my left side makes breathing difficult and when the scan was finished I had to get dressed which made me even more breathless. What with that and her worry about how breathless I was, I didn’t ask her what happens next, so I don’t know.

We got a taxi home and as I walked into the house I found three little people busily doing their work. What is more, Ronan had managed all his maths without help! And he did it correctly! Perhaps I should go to hospital more often….er no, perhaps not.

They all got on with the rest of the work and I was even able to join in with some Songschool Latin songs.

Then I received a phone call from a wheelchair man. I had contacted a company a couple of weeks ago asking about hiring a powerchair. Anyway, the rep is heading my way next week, so I am hoping to have a power chair to play with soon. This could make home ed trips and other days out easier. The chair can be left handed and have extras that I might be needing in the near future.

Now then, no more snow!

Audio stories for children

I am still finding reading aloud a bit challenging so the children are listening to more audio stories.

Light Up Your Brain has a few good’uns as does Story Nory, but the place the children seem to like best at the moment is Readings from Under the Grapevine at Ancient Faith Radio. You may remember that Dr Chrissie Hart had read the Narnia books, which are still available. She has a good reading voice and there’s the added joy of not having to check the stories are suitable.

I wish EWTN did something similar.

Books Should Be Free has a lot of Librivox recordings but you’ll need to listen a bit first. Some are really well read and some are just awful – poor sound quality and grating voices.  You will find some gems there though.

And of course there’s always Strega Nona

And perhaps this little story might be added. Tikki Tikki Tembo – a folktale from China


Sit back with a beer and let Jesus do it?

There have been so many attacks on the Church from both inside and outside that many people commenting will sigh and say something along the lines of “Thank God Jesus promised that the gates of hell would not prevail.”

But I read something yesterday that I think comes at this from a different angle. The writer said that too many Catholics are sitting back and being lazy because they think as Jesus promised the gates of hell would not prevail that they didn’t need to do anything. The writer quite correctly pointed out that the idea of the gates of hell meant the Church was on the offensive and battering down those gates. Here on earth we are supposed to be the Church Militant going off to fight those principalities and powers St Paul was on about. We are not supposed to sit back with a beer and let Jesus do it.

I remember hearing someone (vaguely remember it might have been Dr Scott Hahn) saying that while Jesus told Peter the gates of hell or rather hades would not prevail against the Church, He never said that no local churches would be lost. After all the seven churches John mentions in his book of Revelation are all gone I believe. St. Paul was giving the Corinthians a strong talking to in his letters pretty early on. Those warnings from Paul and the promise from Christ that he would “vomit out” the luke warm Laodiceans are warnings for us too.

So I had better get my act together asap.

Home Education habit training – listening.

Ah it’s lovely to go back to a bit of Charlotte Mason approach. Today we had another family join us and we spent some time making lapbooks about Australian animals, particularly the platypus (proof it seems to me that God has a silly sense of humour). I have 30 days free trial for Sylvan Dell Publishing so we used the story Kersplatypus with the teachers and creative minds pdf resources to make the lapbooks. (I’ll do a proper review of Sylvan Dell soon).

We have an inflatable globe and the children found Australia and the equator and tropics. We discussed the seasons there compared to here and then we got out some of the Ozzie animals Heleyna got for Christmas which included a platypus and a wallaby but no Kangaroo. The lack thereof prompted her to ask me the other day whether kangaroos actually exist. You see she told me “I go and look for nature most days and I never see one.” I explained that they live in Australia and while there are wallabies at the local nature centre there are no kangaroos. She then asked if we could go to Australia that day to see some real kangaroos. She’s 4 – geography and scale are not yet her fortè.

The children had a great time and learned something (I hope). They all sat around while I read the story with the computer attached to the TV so they could all see the lovely illustrations and follow along as I read.

Making the lapbooks needed some instruction so the children had to listen to what they were told either by me or one of the others who had already done part of the book.

As Avila had practiced her keyboard skills with the others gathered around her “Listening” became a bit of a theme for the day.

J came up with the idea that we help teach the habit of listening in the children by having a little talent show where each child does something they are good at, such as Roni’s little magic show.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin...

I remember watching an episode of the Duggars (some number and counting) in which Michelle Duggar had the older children playing their instruments and she made the younger ones sit quietly and listen. This is a great habit training approach in which the younger children are taught to sit still and listen to someone else for a while and to have respect for their siblings and other people. The emphasis on read alouds in Charlotte Mason is also a great way to teach children to listen.  Apart from the books I read them there are a great number of audio stories free online.

There’s quite a lot of the “old fashioned” homeschool books out there in which teaching children manners is part of the health side of the curriculum. Miss Mason believed that training in good habits was the foundation of a good education. A child who cannot sit still, watch and listen isn’t going to learn very much.

I have spoken to more than one school teacher who tell me they do not believe in the dx of Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder, or just ADD – or if they grudgingly accept it might exist, insist it is far far rarer than they are being led to believe. Children are simply never taught any manners. They are not around adults enough to learn to sit and listen. Few have a bedtime story or sit at a table with their parents for meals and most have been institutionalised from a very early age.

Human nature is of course fallen- a bit like a shopping trolley it wants to steer off in the wrong direction and needs someone to help steer it straight. The role, right and duty of parents is to steer the child straight until they can do it themselves. We mustn’t lose sight of how human nature works.