Monthly Archives: December 2007

Sidebar re-ordering

 Relaxing By The Fire I have spent a bit of time sorting out the sidebar to make it easier to use and have added a lot of new resources including online books for both early reading and older readers

I do use online books a lot-they are free and space saving. My poor husband has been saying we have “too many books” (which is surely an oxymoron) and so this is a way to have EVEN MORE books without creaking shelves Smile .

I use INTERNET ARCHIVE a lot. I have downloaded a lot of Chesterton and Belloc. You can download a free DJVU programme that allows you to read the books that have been scanned into the archive.

I am also using the Fantastic Fiction website to check out the Lord Peter Wimsey books of Dorothy L Sayers and the Fr. Koesler Mysteries by William X Kienzle. These will be for Iona.

For Ronan apart from the poems of A.A. Milne from “Now We Are Six” and “For The Very Young” I am going to read Hillaire Belloc’s “The Bad Child’s Book of Beasts”

I’ve added a whole load of other things I’ll be using with the children or have used. I am thinking of leaning more towards personal reading for Iona. I never have liked the bittiness and spoon fed feel to worksheets-and anyway she found that boring. Working through what Charlotte calls ‘living books’ gives us plenty to discuss and look up.

I will continue to read Robert Hugh Benson’s ‘Come Rack, Come Rope’ and then we’ll choose something else-maybe something lighter.

Anyway have a good look at the side bar and I will (try to) update it on a regular basis. And if anyone has good links you think I should add let me know.

St Stephen’s Day

I have written about TODAY HERE. ststep.gif Josh and Alex are both members of the Guild of St Stephen, that is they are altar boys. Each year on this day they renew their promises.

The Guild of St Stephen is an International Organisation of Altar Servers founded in England in 1904 by Father Hamilton McDonald when he formed a Society of Altar Servers at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in London. In 1905, Pope Pius X gave his approbation to the Canonical establishment of the Guild at Westminster Cathedral and in 1906, the Sacred Congregation of Rites made the Guild an Archconfraternity prima primaria enabling all the parish branches to be linked with it. The Guild spread, and in 1934, Pope Pius XI enabled all Guilds of Altar Servers throughout the British Commonwealth to be affiliated with the Archconfraternity at Westminster.

The Guild Promise: “I offer myself to God Almighty, to Blessed Mary ever Virgin and to our Holy Patron, St Stephen, and I promise to do my best to serve reverently, intelligently and regularly, having the glory of God and my own eternal salvation as my object”.

The Guild medal is made of latten, an alloy of copper and zinc, and has in the centre the Greek letters XP, – Chi Rho- the initial letters of the Greek “Χριςτός“, i.e. “Christ”, and around the edge the Latin motto, Cui servíre regnare est (“He who serves shall reign”). At the top of the medal is a crown and at the bottom the palms of martyrdom. It is worn on a red cord around the neck.

Next year the boys will have earned their silver medals.


Birmingham city council was notorious for the year it tried to remove Christmas and give us the meaningless ‘Wintervel’ and I know other councils have tried to Winterfest, Snowfest and generally infest us with anything daft.

On Christmas morning Avila began the day by throwing up. Not wanting to do anything by halves she was well away by mid morning and Ronan had joined her. Iona therefore, decided to go with a modern approach and named the day “Pukefest”.

Fortunately no one else has gone down with it and Ronan is better already. Avila is more fragile and taking longer, but she is okay.

Vigil Mass

 Manger We went to the children’s vigil Mass on Christmas Eve. The lights are switched off and the servers process in, the younger ones carrying lanterns and the youngest carries the baby Jesus on a velvet cushion. (This year his head was firmly on his shoulders. We had a bit of a wobbly head incident a couple of years ago).

  Once Jesus was safely laid in his manger between the kneeling statues of Mary and Joseph, Father liberally applied the holy water-thus it rained in Bethlehem. As Mass started more and more candles were quietly lit around the sanctuary until at last as the Gospel acclamation was finished the lights went on. I love these parts of the Mass, the ones that incorporate all our senses sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. We bow, kneel (if we can) and move our whole selves in prayer. I always remember Scott Hahn talking about how he came to understand that we are supposed to worship God with our whole selves-body and soul. I found this use of all the senses in worship; light and colour, incense, food, song, the fabric of the church-was very important in helping those with learning disabilities, particularly autism and its related disorders, come to know God. But we all benefit from beauty in worship, and it certainly helps when teaching young children of any ability.

All the children had received a little gift of chocolate just at the end of Mass. I think one of the congregation works for Cadbury’s and donates this every year. It’s an awful LOT of chocolate as every child gets one at each Mass.After Mass Ronan went up to the nativity scene and gave Jesus the birthday card he had made for Him. My friend told me when her son was little (he’s 18 now) she used to attend a different church and all the children would give Jesus a birthday card like that so that the crib scene was surrounded.

After tea the little ones put out a plate with a mince pie, carrot and drink for Santa and Rudolph. Then they went dutifully to bed-while Santa’s elves wrapped the last pressies and stuffed stockings


Happy Christmas


Busy week and Last Homeschool group

It’s been a busy week despite the fact it is supposed to be the end of term. Iona has really just continued to work as she has Maths and a special story to finish for her auntie Kathryn.  I had a hospital appoitment on Monday afternoon so Heleyna got to be admired by nurses -something I think she rather enjoys. Crawling Baby 

We had a lot to do yesterday and then it was the last homeschool group of the year today, last Sign Language group and for the older ones the last scouts meeting. The children had a great time playing freely for a while at homeschool group and then those who are part of the Sign Language group demonstrated their skills with a signed rendition of ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’. It was lovely to see them do this so well and everyone clapped them at the end.

We had a good Signing session this afternoon including another practice of ‘The Fisherman and His Wife’. This simple repetitive story works well for learning the signs. It’s also good for using expression in Sign as the sea gets rougher and wilder as the story goes on.

Got the gasman tomorrow (sigh) and we’ll try to get to Mass and Confession-at least for those not at work. Al says he will take me out tomorrow Chinese Restaurant – though Josh has an audition for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I did actually give him a singing lesson t’other day—it was an interesting experience!


Man came to fix the gas fire in the back room! WHOOPIE! We have heat!.

SCIENCE for Little Ones Alex found the whole set of the Usborne Pocket Science booklets which had been kept in his room. Our auntie Margo had given them to us and they are ideal for homeschooling. I think Roni is a little young for them yet. They are aimed at 7yr olds, but we can do some introductory work on some of them next term.  We will probably start with ‘How Do Bees Make Honey?’ which Usborne have usefully added QUICK LINKS for further research. You’ll see they link to a lot of other stuff including downloadable and printable manuscript paper.

PIANO & MUSIC: Charlotte recomends Mrs Curwen’s book ‘The Child Pianist’ and I have found ‘The Teacher’s Guide’ to the Curwen Method HERE. This is yet another book that recomends starting a child at the age of 7 rather than earlier. Ronan is interested though and enjoys playing simple one handed tunes such as “Twinkle Twinkle” and “Silent Night”.  Unfortunately I can’t find the actual piano book.

Iona has had her last Maths lesson this afternoon and is already well on her way through the Higher IGCSE book. Her tutor sees no problem with her being able to sit the exam in the Summer.


by James Martin
from James Martin’s Christmas Feasts

I said I would have a go at this alternative recipe and let you know. It makes a huge loaf and I feel the dough is a bit too sticky so it spreads more than I would like in the oven. It doesn’t hold it’s shape the way a bread recipe does. Nevertheless it taste’s delicious and was ideal as an constantly being interrupted kind of recipe-so I recommend it to breastfeeding and otherwise lots of people to deal with mothers.

I did change some of the ingredients. I used bio yogurt because that’s what we had and I used cinnamon and Mixed Spice (sometimes called Christmas Spice) and I quickly soaked the fruit in a little orange juice rather than adding rum.

I must admit I don’t like grams-I’m a pounds’n’ounces kinda girl and I like the American cup measurement which is simple and sensible. If it’s any help it is about 2 and bit cups of flour-just over 1lb.

So give it a go.
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 40 minutes
500g plain white flour, sifted
2 pinches Salt
125g unsalted butter, softened
15ml Baking powder
200g unrefined caster sugar
a few drops vanilla extract
a few drops almond extract
30ml dark rum
1 large lemon, finely grated zest
1 tsp cardamon seeds
10ml ground mixed spice
50g suet
125g currants
125g raisins
125g almonds
40g chopped mixed candied peel
250g Crème fraîche, or thick greek-style yogurt
2 large Eggs, beaten
250g natural-colour marzipan
To finish
25g melted butter
icing sugar, sifted
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Grease a baking sheet.

2. Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl and rub in the butter. Add the baking powder, sugar, vanilla and almond extracts, rum, lemon zest, mixed spice, suet, dried fruits, almonds and peel and mix well. Stir in the crème fraîche and eggs to form a nice firm dough.

3. Put on a floured surface and gently roll out with a rolling pin to form an oblong about 30 x 45cm and 2cm thick. Form the marzipan into a sausage shape the length of the dough. Fold the top of the dough over the marzipan, and seal well. Fold under the ends.

4. Place on the baking sheet and bake for about 35-40 minutes, or until well risen and golden brown. The cake will spread slightly – don’t worry this is quite normal.

5. Once cooked, remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack with a piece of foil underneath. Brush liberally with melted butter and dust with plenty of icing sugar. Leave to cool.

Final bits towards Christmas

I’ve been writing Christmas cards-and I’ve run out. Now, like the good homeschooling mum I am I had bought a whole load of cards from Aid to the Church In Need and a load of card making stuff to make our own. BUT we simply have not had time to make cards-so here I am with not enough and time is running out. I will have to print something off the computer in a very slack manner! Need to send some e-cards as well.

We are getting the cooking and final bits prep done though. I made stollen and Iona made biscuits for the final term homeschool group tomorrow.

I will post the stollen recipe. It’s a new one for me using a kind of scone recipe rather than the traditional bread one. I saw it on James Martin Christmas Feasts the other night and thought it would be quicker- a between baby needing me- kind of recipe. Anyway, I’ll let y’all know how it turns out and post the recipe-which like all recipes I altared a bit.

It is the time of the beautiful O Antiphons. Ebeth has put a great post up on her blog Hearts At Home  about this and I also recommend Catholic Culture, which is linked from Ebeth’s blog.

Ronan has been enthusiastically reading his Oxford Reading Tree books to me today-he hasn’t noticed I finished term on Friday Happy . He has also enjoyed writing up the key words on the whiteboard. (Charlotte Mason talks a lot about children practicing their writing on a slate. The whiteboard is surely the modern equivalent).

Sorry-too tired today. I’ll write something coherant another time Sleepy 

Christmas Song Book

I’ve just added The Chistmas Song Book to my resources list. It gives the words and the music to many of the great Christmas carols including O Come All Ye Faithful which I’ve been after.

Thanks to Victoria at Solidarity for this link.

It goes well with THIS LIST of carols with their words from Ambuleside Online which includes Stille Nact and Veni Veni Emmanuel-the English and music of which are available at the Christmas Song Book site.

Here are the words to Adeste Fideles which are missing from both sites.

Adeste, fideles, laeti triumphantes;
Venite, venite in Bethlehem.
Natum videte Regem angelorum.


Venite adoremus, venite adoremus,
Venite adoremus, Dominum.

Deum de Deo, lumen de lumine,
Parturit virgo mater,
Deum verum, genitum, non factum.


En grege relicto, humiles ad cunas
Vocati pastores approperant:
Et nos ovanti gradu festinemus.


Stella duce, Magi Christum adorantes,
Aurum, thus, et myrrham dant munera.
Jesu infanti corda praebeamus.


Aeterni Parrentis splendorem aeternum
Velatum sub carne videbimus,
Deum infantem, pannis involutem.


Pro nobis egenum et foeno cubantem
Piis foveamus amplexibus;
Sic nos amantem quis non redamaret?


Under Her Starry Mantle

I’ve added THIS to my post on Our Lady of Guadalupe. Thank you to Anne

Iona’s learning

Iona is nearly 14 (she will be on the 4th Jan) and so is UK yr 9 USA and Ambleside yr 8.

She has studied children’s fairy stories with emphasis on Oscar Wilde and the Brother’s Grimm. As part of this we looked at the roots of storytelling and how stories express culture and identity. We used some of the resources available from Amblesideonline

Her science projects have continued with some work on blood spatter analysis in forensics and more work on her project on poisonous plants. She is also working through a basic science module we got from the USA. It is of a much higher standard than the GCSE syllabus I had started her on. KS3 science is almost pointless.

She has been working on a large project on the Spanish Armada.

We are using THIS site for her to play word games to assist with her spelling problems. I am also going to be asking her to do some of the Oxford Reading Tree books with Ronan as he learns to read. I am hoping that she will become more familiar with the basic words such as ‘they’, ‘there’, ‘said’ and so on that she still finds difficult to spell. Interestingly I recently came across an article written by a woman who herself is very dyslexic and she said she made up a lot of memory tools to help her spell where word pattern recognition escapes her. Iona has been doing much the same thing to help her spelling. It is something we are going to increase and work on over the next year.

She reads a lot. It has been a very important part of her home education that she has had time to read, books, articles, recipes, and so on. I have encouraged her to read good literature but she also likes easier books such as those by Eion Colfer. Both Iona and Alex are Artemis Fowl fans.

She is still reading Winston Graham Poldark novels and I would quite like her to read “Marnie” if I can get hold of a copy. I think I will do a post on recommended well researched novels that will give teens a good grasp of history-and hopefully a love for it too. I studied the industrial revolution at school for O’level and was bored stiff by it all. I hardly remember a thing I was taught, but when I read the Poldark books I was fascinated by it all, seeing how and why things were invented and their use; steam pumps for the mines; coal as the real black gold of it’s day and how politics and war effected industry.

I’ll add more to this later….

Reasons to Homeschool

Homeschooling can be hard work and I am sure I am not the only one who occasionally wishes she was sending her children to school. But there are so many reasons I am glad I homeschool.

On the negative side there is the national curriculum, which here in the UK is appalling in standard. Mac at Mulier Fortis has written her response to the latest Government plan. Knowing she was a science teacher I asked her before what she thought of the content of the present GCSE and she didn’t mince her words. I had begun to teach Iona (13) the beginning of the course to give her a head start-but I was astonished at the poor standard and even obvious mistakes-theories presented as facts and the low level of actual science in the workbooks.

Alex sat the International GCSE which is exam only and far more science than faff and fad. I had phoned the universities before embarking on IGCSE’s because I had never heard of them before I began homeschooling and was told they preferred them. They are generally considered higher quality and of course being exam only (some of them) cheat proof.  When Mac wrote THIS post a commentator recommended IGCSEs.

The children expected to listen to the twaddle they are being fed are truanting in massive numbers. They can hardly be afraid of missing anything can they? Mac points out that all the fun bits of science have been removed and the recycling and tree hugging is bulking up the worksheets.

But it isn’t only science that has suffered. English has been feminised to the point where even girls get bored. Where are the books for boys to read? Where are the books that have something other than misery and depression in them? The IGCSE offered Pride and Prejudice and The Importance of Being Ernest as well as Julius Caesar- well written and interesting and the last two actually had some interest for my son. He loved The Importance of Being Ernest.

Another good reason to homeschool is that my children will not only have time to read-something not done in school-but will be able to read well written and good books (no Pullman here) that actually increase their literacy and vocabulary.

To make matters worse in schools, even primary schools, the sex education agenda is being pushed very aggressively.  They are insisting that children need even more explicit information as though this will help in any way. There is NO EVIDENCE that sex ed is reducing teen prenancy rates or disease rates. I’ll write more on this as it is very important and will have a knock on effect on homeschooling families.

Still who cares? So long as schools can reduce their carbon emissions by 2016!!

I am SO grateful I can homeschool my children.

You can download the whole PLAN if you want to.

Maths for Kindegarten

Ronan is 4 so he is Reception Yr in the UK, Yr 0 for AmbulsideOnline and just pre-kindagarten in USA.

I have found this RAINFOREST MATHS site which he has taken to really well. It has plenty of things to do and covers all the areas he needs; numbers, shapes, addition, subtraction, measurement, volume and so on.

We have finished term today-although Iona has some outstanding bits to finish off.

I am hoping to get some curriculum planning done this afternoon and put up on the blog as I go.

Our Lady of Guadalupe


This is not the feast day that most UK Catholic families take much note of, but as she is patron of the unborn she is very important to those of us who have lost babies, and struggled through difficult pregnancies.

I have THIS book which is lovely, but Ronan used to be scared of because he didn’t like pop-up books. (It may be something to do with being blind in one eye and how that effects 3D vision) I recommend it though.

As it has been a very busy day I have not done any work with the children on this subject. The older ones know what happened in Mexico in 1531 and the massive number of converts that resulted. I will do this with the younger ones as they get older.

For those of you more on the ball this year I can only suggest a Mexican food night. Who doesn’t love tortillas? I could also suggest the traditional fold out tilma in which the children make a card that opens out and little paper roses fall out (held with cotton or string) revealing the image.

As it is Advent and coming up to Christmas you could make Poinsettias or just find out about how they grow in Mexico.

The older children are fascinated by the in depth meaning of the image and the science that has been used to look at it. As we have been looking at icon art and the level of meanings in so many of the grand master’s religious works this goes well alongside that.


Anne from Under Her Starry Mantle has THIS wonderful overview of the mantle and it’s stars.

Beautiful illustrations and simple story HERE.

Catholic Cultureand I love the painting they use on this page.

THIS is a useful overview of the image and the meanings of all the symbols

The science bit

Ronan’s first skills

Ronan is 4yrs old; he’ll be 5 in Feb. Charlotte Mason would not have considered him ready for formal education until he is at least 6 or 7. Her view is that of most European countries and in the USA where children are not legally obliged to attend school until aged 6. Interestingly while here in the UK we send our children to school aged 4 literacy levels are dropping. A recent report says the UK has slid down the global literacy list. SEE HERE for BBC report.

I am taking Miss Mason’s advice and taking care of the foundational skills he needs for learning before embarking on a formal timetable.  He is learning a lot about self care, and can dress himself, use a knife and fork, clean his teeth, get his own breakfast with supervision and is learning to tidy up after himself. This might not seem like ‘education’ or ‘school’ but these skills are needed if he is going to lead an independent life.

So many children do not have these skills-and I have seen this first hand when I worked in a primary school- that the schools are having to implement lessons in how to sit at a table and use a knife and fork. We spent a lot of time before and after PE having to help children as old as 5 dress themselves.

Next on my list of foundational skills is the all important habit of attention or listening. We are building this habit through story time and instructions for cooking. It is part of his learning road safety and lessons in groups.

I am also working on the all important narrationwhich I think is a corner stone of the CM approach. Ronan can tell some basic stories in his own words such as the Gingerbread Man. But just as importantly he is beginning to be able to tell his day to his dad as we sit for our evening meal.  The family meal was another of the important things in a child’s life that Charlotte Mason wrote about.

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception

  advent-murillo-conception.jpgToday is the feast of the Immaculate Conception. This teaching of the Church begins in St Luke’s Gospel when the Angel Gabriel greets Our Lady with the words “Hail, full of Grace”. (kecharitomene.) “Grace” Scripture scholars tell us is the accurate translation, rather than ‘highly favoured’ and my children’s school days hymn with the “highly flavoured lady” is apocraphalGoofy

I have explained this to my children in this way. When God told Moses to make the Ark of the Covenant it was so that He would reside there with the manna, the rod and the Law. He is to reside within the midst of His people. But God cannot be where anything is impure or unclean so the Ark is lined in purest gold.

So God was not to reside within a sinful woman. Just as He made Eve full of Grace so He made Mary full of Grace, allowing her to be conceived without the hole that is Original Sin. This is not to say that Mary could not sin. She could have chosen to do so, but unlike Eve she did not. She did have the advantage of no concupiscence too of course.

Big resource from Catholic Culture on this, and THIS from CERC

The only thing I would say as a homeschooler is I make sure the children understand this is not about how Jesus was conceived but about MARY’s conception, which was normal in every other way. SS Anne and Joachim were her parents and she is fully human.

I know some of you will be thinking “Well, duh!” but we live in confusing times and I have heard some protestant people insist we Catholics worship Mary.

Must run-Avila’s party is about to start.

Happy Birthday Avila

dscf3210.jpgAvila had her 3rd birthday yesterday. We’re having a little party for her today. She had a lovely day playing and opened her pressies. She went to Nursery in the morning and came back proudly displaying her ‘Happy Birthday’ sticker. Her godmother came to see her and spend a bit of time.

Now-party preps…

Happy St Nicholas’ Day

gift-giver-pc-wmaster.jpg It’s the feast of good old St Nick today-patron saint of children, sailers and so much more. All homeschooling parent’s need to know about the St Nicholas Center. It is a thorough site covering stories, legends, activities and just about anything you ever wanted to know about St Nicholas and how he became Santa Claus/Fr. Christmas.

We will print up a couple of the activity sheets for the little ones today and I also liked this idea. 

santa-change2-sm2.jpg Buy those chocolate Santa’s ad add the mitre and crook and hey-presto you have a more authentic Santa!

We won’t be buying them-but we will make some chocolate coins for the little ones this afternoon.

The Story of St Nicholas

Nicholas was born in Myrna in modern day Turkey to wealthy parents. He was baptised and brought up in the Faith surrounded by his pagan neighbours. It is interesting to wonder what learning Nicholas would have had in the faith at that time. The Church had already been racked-particularly in the East with various heresies and She had faced these while at the same time suffering a huge amount of persecution from nearly all the Emperors of Rome since Nero.  There was no canon of Scripture so it is likely that Nicholas would have studied the Septuagint (the main Old Testament source) as well as the Gospels, (Mathew, Mark, Luke, John) and some of the letters of St Paul. He may have read the Shepherd of Hermes and had doubts about the Revelation of St John. It would not be until the year of the saint’s death in 349 AD that the canon of the Bible was set.

When he was sixteen a terrible fever came to the city and many people died including his parents. Nicholas found himself the heir to a large estate at a very early age.

Nicholas used his position and wealth to help the poor in his city and soon felt called to live as a hermit. From there he was ordained a priest. He was still very young and wanted more than anything to live the quiet contemplative life of a hermit-but God had another idea.

The bishop of Myra died and As the bishops gathered to elect another man for the role God spoke to one of them in a dream saying that whomsoever should be first to enter the Church in the morning should be the one elected bishop.

Nicholas was in the habit of getting up at dawn and going to church, so he was the first to enter. There was some consternation among the bishops that they should choose a man so young, but Nicholas had already gained the love and respect of the people of Myra and they were overjoyed to have him as their new bishop.

One of the most famous acts of kindness from Bishop Nicholas was the case of the poor man with three daughters. The father of these girls was finding it difficult to feed his family and had no money put away to ensure his daughter’s dowry’s so they could marry. Finding his situation desperate the man decided he must sell his daughters. This was fairly common practice in those days (and is a practice that remains today in some places). The future for these girls was bleak indeed as they faced slavery and worse as their future.

News of the plight of this family reached Nicholas and he set out at night coming close to the man’s house. There his daughters had washed their stockings and hung them out of the window to dry. It was, as far as they knew, their last night of freedom. Nicholas dropped a bag of gold coins into the stocking of each daughter.

As it happened he was seen and news of his kindly deed spread throughout the city. The father and girls were extremely grateful.

Another time Nicholas saved some sailers from a terrible storm, he saved babies and children from cruelty and murder. He was famous for his help of his city during a time of famine. The people were starving and had run out of grain. A ship came into the harbour, bound for Constantinople and packed with grain. The people begged the captain to let them have some sacks of grain, but he refused explaining he was sorry for them but the grain was weighed and he would be arrested if any of it was missing at it’s final destination.

Then Nicholas promised that if the Captain allowed some of the sacks to remain in Myrna that God would see to it that all would be well for him. Believing the words of this holy man the Captain allowed some sacks of grain to be left at Myrna.

When he arrived with the rest of his shipment in Constantinople it was duly weighed-and not an ounce was missing. Meanwhile the people of Myna ate well that year and had enough grain for planting the harvest for the next year.

Then Diocletian and Galerian became emperors of Rome. Galerian in particular hated the Church and persecuted Her cruelly. Soon he had persuaded Diocletian to do the same. Priests, Deacons, Bishops and many lay people were arrested and the prisons were so packed there was no room for murderers and thieves. Many saints were made at that time among them St George.

Nicholas was arrested and spent the next ten years in prison. He was often threatened with death but it seems those in authority were afraid to actually kill him because even the pagans loved him and recognised him as a holy man. So they left him to die in prison.

At last both Galerian and Diocletian were killed and Constantine became Emperor. He too was a pagan, but he had received a vision through which he had conquered his enemies. The vision was either the cross or the Chi Rho-accounts vary. This event did not convert Constantine but his mother St Helen was Christian by this point and she probably influenced her son as he promulgated the Edict of Milan in 313 AD.

At last the Church was out from under the shadow of persecution and Nicholas was freed from prison. He returned home to Myra and continued as Bishop there.

But in Alexandria in Egypt a bishop called Arius had decided he had a better idea about God and the Incarnation than the Tradition faith and began to deny the true Divinity of Christ, saying He was the first created being and other things that were theologically odd-ball. Things got unpleasant pretty quickly and Constantine asked the pope to get it sorted.

In 325AD the bishops were called to Council and Nicholas packed his bag and set off to join his brother bishops in Nicaea. Constantine attended at least some of the council. There is no evidence that St Helen did but it would be nice to think she was there.

The Pope Sylvester I was too old to go so sent Hosius and another priest to speak for him.

One of the legends of St Nicholas attests that he got so angry at the arrogant pontificating of Arius that he got up and punched him, and spent a night in prison stripped of his priestly robes. Christ and Our Lady apparently returned his robes to him so he was fully vestmented when he was released the next morning-much to the surprise of those there.

The Council put together the Creed -the one we still say to this day-but sadly even as the bishops returned home Arius refused to be silenced even by the Church and St Jerome comments that after the Council the people awoke and groaned to find themselves Arian. It is interesting to note that while so many bishops turned to Arius, that it was the people who remained orthodox and supported St Athanasius who stood most strongly for the Truth.

Nicholas remained a good bishop and eventually died on Dec 6th 343AD. He was acclaimed a saint pretty quickly, especially as miracles happened almost immediately upon his death, including his body exuding ‘manna’.

A lovely day

After telling the children the story of St Nick and letting them colour in pictures we set off for Mass. Bob, our neighbour was walking by and asked where we were going. I told him we were going to Mass to celebrate St Nicholas Day. He then asked Ronan who St Nicholas was. Now bare in mind this was the main homeschool topic of the morning; Ronan said “I don’t know.”

When I prompted him that St Nicholas was Fr Christmas he said ‘Yes’ in that- of course, but I thought you knew that-voice. Sigh.

After Mass Josh took the smalls home and Iona and I went to get some bits’n’pieces.

We made St Nick chocolate coins this afternoon and the children had them after tea.

Iona had her Maths lesson and is doing remarkably well. Nigel, her tutor tells me she’s flying through the GCSE Higher Maths book-should be able to sit the IGCSE in the Summer-2yrs early.

Heleyna wants me-will post this now

Homeschool Group & busy Wednesdays

bc_slowcooker_300.jpgWednesday’s are such busy days that I don’t think we would get to eat at a reasonable time in the evening if it wasn’t for my trusty slow cooker. I am sure some great poet somewhere will have written an ‘Ode to the Slow Cooker’ but it isn’t me.

In the morning between the usual jobs and getting the children ready to go out, Iona packs the homeschool group bag with rug and toys for Heleyna and I get the slow cooker under way. Today I made Chicken Tikka Masala. Doesn’t that make me sound good? Ahem…confession time –

RECIPE for the fastest Chicken Tikka Masala in the West.

One packet of baby new potatos tipped into the cooker.

One onion peeled and chopped and flung in too.

Chop up some carrots and beans and in they go.

Fling in enough chicken pieces to feed a family of 8 plus extra in case anyone turns up who needs feeding. (This can happen here so I always like to be able to have enough food available to feed unexpected guests-It is not wasted. If there is any left Alistair takes it to work for lunch the next day and if there is any left after that Josh eats it for lunch the next day too).

One tin of cheap chopped tomatoes poured in and then a jar of Masala sauce poured in.

Add a bit of hot water to the nearly empty jar-swirl it a bit and pour it over. Mix it in a bit. Put on the lid set the cooker to low and rush off to homeschool group.

Just as a matter of interest this meal costs £11.13 to make and gives 5 adult size meals two small ones, baby food and enough for 1 or 2 more adult meals; so average cost is around £1.23 to £1.39 per head.

That might be boring info-but it is the sort of thing some of us single-income homeschooling mums have to think about.

Homeschool Group

It was science week today. Sally had organised activities around materials. The children moved in small groups around the tables to complete various activities such as using materials to build a tower with enough strength to hold an apple on the top. Another group picked out materials such as wood, metal, textiles etc and put a design for a boat down on paper. My table had worksheets to differentiate between different materials such as wood, plastic, glass, textile and so on.

We finished and cleared up so the hall was ready for the ladies who have a group after us.

Sign Language

Ruth and Nicki came back here with their children for Sign Language. I told them the story of the Fisherman and His Wife and they began to sign along with me. Then we practiced our signed carols.

‘Silent Night’ does look very elegant in Sign Language I think.

After the lesson the children went off to play and after Nicki had left Ruth and I planned next week’s book session for homeschool group which will be on Beatrix Potter. We were surprised at how little material is available online for us to use-but we have cobbled together some ideas ready for next week.

Iona and Alex have gone ice skating wit


Therese has tagged me for this meme.

First of all, the “rules”….Here’s what you do:~Each person starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves and post these guidelines. ~At the end of the post, choose 8 people to be tagged and list their names.~Don’t forget to leave a comment telling them that they are tagged and to read your blog. Have fun!

1. I love komodo-dragon.gifKomodo dragons. Aren’t they magnificent? Okay so they have disgusting eating habits and a foul mouth-but look at them. They are so elegant really. No, really they are.

2.Every Christmas the children get me a set of battery powered lights for my wheelchair scooter  Tangled Lights I love it- a bit of fun.

3. I have an MP3 player packed full of Catholic Answers, Teresa Tommeo and Dr Ray Guarendi which I listen to as I do the housework. (I am a great Dr Ray fan).4. I have a ‘Brain Book’ in which I keep all the notes and stuff I need to remember because I have a brain like a seive. I am famous for the amount of things I can forget.

5. I love chocolate especially Green and Black’s with ginger. Chocolate Valentine 

6. I leave half drunk cups of tea all over the house which drives the kids mad because I never drink a complete cup. Last Mother’s Day the older three decorated mugs for me and Josh wrote on his “You’re a waste of tea bag, but I love you.” LOL!

7. Like Therese I have made some wonderful friends online and enjoy their virtual company and chat.

8.I play the piano -badly. Now the children think I play it okay, but they are either very kind of quite deaf.

Now-who shall I tag for this? I’ll be back with that one….

Sleepless nights and homeschool day.

Feeling a bit jaded today as Heleyna has been have some bad nights thanks to this awful cough she has and doesn’t seem to be getting over as fast as I’d hoped. Then last night Avila woke up shouting and ran down the landing bellowing “MUM! MU_U_UUU_MMY!”

I jumped out of bed and soon had a sobbing 2yr old in my arms. She said the road was scary-so I realised she had just had a bad dream. She went on to explain that (horror or horrors) there was no ketchup and the dinosaur ate all the chocolate in the shop and it was scary(more sobs and howls).

Yep, no ketchup and dinosaurs eating chocolate are indeed scary.

She woke up this morning and when we were all gathered for rosary Avila wanted to explain her fear of chocolate eating dinosaurs and the terrible lack of ketchup to Alex and Iona before we prayed. They were suitably confused but sympathetic and so rosary was prayed and although I was a bit dopey from lack of sleep I don’t think we offered it up for ketchup, chocolate or dinosaurs…

Avila went to nursery and so I had some time with Ronan while Heleyna was reasonably settled. Charlotte recommends short lessons with very young children – no more than 10minutes at a time. I have found this works well. It keeps his attention and I have found that if I leave him alone for a while afterwards he can relate what he has learned.

We did the next couple of lessons in the Linney Latin using the free pronounciation download from his site. We are using the ecclesiastical pronunciations. Iona is learning this despite her professed disinterest

I read The Little Red Hen with him, and encouraged him to phonetically spell the smaller words such as ‘pig’, ‘dog’, ‘cat’ etc.

Ronan then got his reading book from the Oxford Reading Tree He read Monkey Tricks a Band 2Red book. I have recently found THIS site which may be useful support as he gets older. I am not sure what Charlotte would make of the Oxford Reading Tree series, but they are phonetically based and most homeschoolers who have used them seem happy with them. So far both Ronan and Avila enjoy the stories and feel they are getting to know the characters.

We made Avila a pink birthday cake (add a little grenadine syrup and a splash of cranberry juice to a Madeira sponge recipe)

Iona has worked on her maths; some more of her Matt Talbot story and we have looked at the next bit of her science module on volumes which happily has considered with the same thing in maths.

I am now reading Come Rack, Come Rope by Hugh Benson to her as a parallel to her Spanish Armada project. Her personal reading is still the Poldark Novels byWinston Graham.

Obviously we will NOT be reading the Pullman books. Iona has read the CS Lewis Narnia books and Alex read the Out of the Silent Planet/Perelandra/Hideous Strength trilogy.

There was some time for animal husbandry- that is Iona cleaned out and put fresh bedding down for Basil her guinea pig.

We made Turkish Delight-which I hope will work out well as we have friends who can’t each chocolate and I am thinking this will make a lovely choc-free Christmas gift. Iona then went on to do her chocolate moulds which are really beautiful. I am a little envious that the needs of toddlers and babies mean I don’t get the chance this year.

We didn’t go out today and we didn’t do any more to the Jesse Tree-but I hope to tomorrow. I haven’t done any Bible story yet today-perhaps this evening after tea…

Come let us go up to the mountain of the LORD…

518.jpg It is the First Sunday of Advent and to borrow from Ebeth I wish you all a happy New Liturgical Year as we begin year A, St Matthew’s Gospel.

The ‘already but not yet’ awaiting the Emmanuel begins here in a rather surprising way. The readings are calling us to go up to the mountain of LORD where He will be manifest. It is not to see the poor baby in the manger however, but the judge who will bring peace so that nation will not make war any more (Is 2:1-5) but will be safe within the walls of Jerusalem where the thrones are set and there is peace within those ramparts-which presumably keep out the darkness and the evil one. (Ps 122). It is time to get ready for the fight; wake up and put on the armour of Christ-peace is won not simply given-it is won through battling sins (Rom 13:11-14) It is time to be ready for the Son of Man is coming (Mtt 24).

So with this battle cry we enter the season of Advent.

advent-001.jpg Our Advent Crown.

Ronan lit the first candle on the crown at church today and when we got home and I had finished cooking dinner, Alex lit the first candle on our advent crown. As you will see from the photo our Advent crown is…large and liturgical. It happened like this:

Every year Iona and I scramble around looking for reasonable candles and ‘stuff’ with which to make an Advent crown for the middle of the dining table. The candles are always the wrong colour and the small ones burn down all wrong and we have had the odd moment of table top bonfires as the candle burn down into the ‘stuff’ that has decorated the plate they are bluetacked to. This year we said enough is enough we need the proper colours to teach the proper meanings for the little ones.

Well, the only places I could think who would sell the appropriately coloured candle sets for Advent were liturgical suppliers and so I dutifully surfed until I found one.

I was pleased to quickly find a set of candles that suited our purpose and there was a stand to go with them. The site provided the size in cm and I thought that looked reasonable. I am an inches person myself so cm are pretty meaningless.

The parcel arrived and we were somewhat surprised by its size! We have a church sized set! Ah well, it might be a little exuberant for a mere domestic church, but as the dining table is made from church benches it does have a certain serendipity about it.

The children and I went out and gathered some greenery, holly and fur and some other leaves that should last a while. Iona has decorated the crown-the holly symbolises the crown of thorns.