Monthly Archives: April 2008

St Catherine Of Siena

Solemnity of St Catherine of Siena today. Catholic Culture have a useful little overview about her HERE, and another one HERE. She was a contemporary of St Theresa of Avila and my own beloved St Bridget of Sweden. These great women who seemed so small in the great scheme of things-just nuns, were instrumental in the renewal of the Church at a point in Her history when things looked quite bleak at times. The Pope was in Avignon instead of Rome and politics were getting the better of things. Catherine worked incredibly hard and wrote copious amounts of letters, visited the pope more than once and finally managed to get him to return to Rome. She tried to stop the silly power grabbing and infighting in the cities of Europe and get those who should be serving the Lord to see the threat of Islam. She wanted a crusade to protect Spain.

She wrote to St Katrin of Sweden, Bridget’s daughter who after being widowed had joined her mother’s order, and asked her to try and see Queen Joanna of Naples to stop her from playing bad political games. However Katrin refused to go. There was a terrible history between the rather nasty queen and Katrin’s brother Karl who had been involved with the married queen. His mother Bridget had ended up with her son dieing in her arms.

Saints don’t have sugary lives and Catherine faced very difficult times, including the horror of plague. She saw the underbelly of the political world in all its corruption. De Wohl tells of her rushing from a room when meeting with some noble woman because the stench of the woman’s sin overwhelmed her. Being able to read souls with such accuracy has it’s downside!

She received the stigmata as paintings show, but de Wohl mentions she had begged God to keep them invisible and He did for some time.

I recommend LAY SEIGE TO HEAVEN by Louis de Wohl. It’s suitable I think as medium-heavy reading for  teens. Iona and I read it together last year.


Books for Iona

Iona is finishing off her essays on Oscar Wilde’s “The Pciture of Dorian Gray”. We have used Spark Notes and Cliff Notes as well as other resources for this study.

I have now set her the task of reading my old copy of Nigel Tranter’s historical novel Macbeth. 

He has written a lot of novels around the history of Scotland. I read quite a few years ago. I would not say they are easy reading, but he has done a lot of research and I think gives a good overview of what is really known about the King.

After half term we will study Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

If you click on the links you will see I have been buying the cheap green cover copies of these books for homeschool. They do very well.

We will compare the play with the history as well as just looking at the play.

Meanwhile I have also ordered her a couple of books by Regina Doman. I think she is a lovely writer. Have any of you seen her lovely book Angel in the Water? READ IT HERE. If Iona likes the two books I have ordered, I’ll order more.

Beowulf, Our English Ulysses

In ‘Parents and Children’  Charlotte Mason refers to the Tale of Beowulf as “Our English Ulysses”.

She does admit that he was not exactly English but he comes from our English Heritage.

A children’s version of the story from the BALDWIN PROJECT is HERE. There’s a somewhat more indepth version HERE.

Charlotte’s notes:

Beowulf is prudent and patient-

The first half of the poem concerns “Beowulf’s great deeds against the monster Grendal and his dam” (mother) the second, fifty years later concerns “Beowulf’s conquest of the fire-drake and his death and burial”.

…We may fairly claim the poem as English, that it is in our own tongue and in our country alone that it is preserved. The hero  Beowulf comes of brave and noble parents and mildness and more than mortal daring meet in him. When he comes to Hrothgar to conquer Grendel, it is of his wise counsel as much as of his strength that we hear. The queen begs him to be friendly in council to her sons, saying to him, ‘Thou holdest thy faith with patience and thy might with prudence of mind. Thou shalt be a comfort to thy people and a help to heroes.’ None, it is said, could order matters more wisely than he. When he is dying he looks back on his life, and that which he thinks of the most is not his great war deeds, but his patience, his prudence, his power of holding his own well and of avoiding new enmities.

‘Have Patience of thy Woes.’––’Each of us must await the close of life,’ says he; ‘let him who can, gain honour before he die. That is best for a warrior when he is dead. But do thou throughout this day have patience of thy woes; I look for that from thee.’ Such the philosophy of this hero, legendary or otherwise, of some early century after Christ, before His religion had found its way among those northern tribes.

‘I Swore no False Oaths.’––Gentle, like Nelson, he had Nelson’s iron resolution. What he undertook to do he went through without a thought, save of getting to the end of it. Fear is wholly unknown to him, and he seems, like Nelson, to have inspired his captains with his own courage. ‘I swore no false oaths,’ he said when dying; so also he kept his honour in faithfulness to his lord. On foot, alone, in front, while life lasted, he was his king’s defence. He kept it in equal faithfulness when his lord was dead, and that to his own loss, for when the kingdom was offered to him he refused, and trained Heardreg, the king’s son, to war and learning, guarded him kindly with honour, and avenged him when he was slain. He kept it in generosity, for he gave away all the gifts that he received; in courtesy, for he gave even to those who had been rude to him; and he is always gentle and grave with women. Above all, he kept it in war, for these things are said of him: ‘so shall a man do when he thinks to gain praise that shall never end, and cares not for his life in battle.’ ‘Let us have fame or death,’ he cries, and when Wiglaf comes to help him against the dragon, and Beowulf is wrapped in the flame, Wiglaf recalls to him the aim of his whole life:––

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Papa was in America

He came, he saw, he conquered hearts and now I hope he is getting some rest! Wow! I haven’t caught up on the frenetic activity of that 81yr old Pope yet!

There is a good overview of the impact and the utter silliness of the MSM HERE from IGNATIUS INSIGHT.  Josh likes to have O’Reilly from Fox on in the mornings sometimes. Now he is supposed to be a Catholic and yet there is was complaining that the Pope had said the bishops need to keep ‘illegal immigrant families together’. He had some priest on who was standing up for the care of illegal immigrants. Okay, very interesting but for the fact the Holy Father NEVER mentioned illegal immigrants. He told the bishops to take care of immigrants; nothing about illegal entrance, Mexico or the border at all!

Papa said so much we need to respond to-why make up stuff he didn’t say to respond to?

Papa did say a lot about families. He told the bishops to take good care of families and told the Catholic University people that children have a right to authentic Catholic education! Whoo-hoo!

It would seem from what Papa says and writes that he sees and understands that families are the core of society. Destroy families-destroy peace.

Papa seemed to be having a good time talking to the young people at St Joseph’s seminary. he was interrupted a few times with outbreaks of “We love you!” from the crowd.

He met with some of those who have had to survive sexual abuse from priests.

He visited Ground Zero and put up a Paschal Candle!

I loved his visit to the Synagogue, where his white skull cap blended with the sea of white yarmulkes the men were wearing for Passover.

He was obviously very welcome there. There were some places where you could see he was relaxed and happy, and other places-most notably in the UN meeting-where he seemed like one man against the world.

Now it is all over and the Holy Father has gone home I wonder what America will do. I wonder what we in the UK will do. We can’t say we didn’t hear him. He spoke very clearly. Okay, so the media managed to get a lot of it wrong despite the fact he spoke live on camera and the transcript of his speeches are readily available-but we know where to go to hear his real words.  He really did come and tell us Christ is our Hope.

Now then…

Papa in America

Pope Benedict XVI has been in the USA since April 15th. He had his 81st birthday there in the 16th and has been speaking to the world in clear unambiguous terms about CHRIST OUR HOPE.

You can get the MEDIA COVERAGE on EWTN– which I have been trying to find time to watch. You can get his speeches-and they are well worth reading:

At the Whitehouse he talked about the history of America and talked particularly about the nature of freedomand how to protect it. This is the speech I chose to discuss with Iona as a homeschool moment. We chose this speech in the light of a message of freedom preached at Greenbelt one year. They ran the Sunday service around the word ‘freedom’ but the whole time we were wondering what kind of freedom? Christ was notable in this service by His absence.  The message was about tolerance and doing whatever you want and expecting God to get with the programme. Interestingly the Holy Father spoke directly against this ‘freedom’ and warned that a nation that fell for it could loose it’s very soul.

American Papist does a great job of covering the events.

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Josh is 19 Today

Josh is 19 today. He has had a great day opening his presents and then this afternoon we sat together and watched some of one of them. Iona bought him the DVD of ‘Muppet Treasure Island’ which is a great laugh; but we watched ‘Shaun the Sheep’ the DVD series Alex bought for him.

With three kids down with tonsillitis at the moment (Iona has it quite badly, Alex not too bad and Heleyna would be much better I am sure if she didn’t shriek about it! Anyway, paracetamol, calpol and throat lozzies all round)- we all gathered on the sofa for a Shaun moment. HEHEHEHE.

Iona and I have been busy putting together a Babylon 5 station cake for Josh. Oh the things we do for our children! It’s part ‘normal’ and part gluten free (for Avila) and we are icing it in sections and painting it. Fortunately he is out with his friends tonight so we wont be needing it finished until tomorrow. If it IS finished tomorrow I will be very surprised.

 Avila’s gluten free diet

I am awaiting another paediatrician appointment at the Children’s Hospital. Although the letter has been chased up the doctor has been away so there has been a delay in getting appointments out. Hopefully we’ll hear soon.

Meanwhile I have just been fed up with seeing Avils unwell and have decided to do something myself. I’ve taken gluten out of her diet. It might not work, but I just want to see what happens. After all it seems pretty sensible to suggest she may have a food intolerance of some sort.  She’s been gluten free completely for a week now. I think  we are seeing improvement; but I am cautious.

She walked to church on Sunday-all the way. She’s never had the energy to do that. She does SEEM better-but it’s early days.

Josh can sing and dance!

On Saturday afternoon we all went to the Crescent Theatre to see Josh in ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’.  It was a lovely afternoon out. Ronan and Avila were so impressed at seeing their biggest brother on stage-and I was pretty impressed he could sing AND DANCE! Anyone who knows Josh will know this is an astonishing skill he has learned.

Heleyna was well behaved. I must admit I was a bit worried about taking her to the theatre but she was fine. Everyone really enjoyed the show. It’s a lovely musical and I was always a great fan of the old Howard Keel film.

Heleyna is 1.

Heleyna had her first birthday yesterday. She’s a big bonny happy baby who is nearly walking. Here’s a picture of her on the day of her birth.

I had been admitted a few days before as things were a bit dodgy. Now I have to admit I was not convinced when the docs insisted I be admitted and said they could get me to theatre and have her born in 20minutes if things really kicked off.  I had a section booked for the 17th and thought that would do.

However on the morning of the 13th Heleynawent into distress with a hear rate at 200bpm- off the chart most of the time. A doctor came in and said enough of that get her to theatre and suddenly I was on the move. I have NEVER seen a group of people move SO fast!

Alistair had just phoned me saying he was off to B&Q for shelf fittings and he would see me a little later. A friend managed to contact the shop and he was asked to come to the hospital. No he didn’t get a years free shelf fittings.

Heleyna was fine-just a temporary heart murmur- and now she is a bonny lass. You would never know the scary things she did that day!

Seamless education ;)

On Friday Ronan and I were working together. He wanted to look at his Usborne book of the Universe so we went over some of the things we had done before. He also had his Atlas there. We began by talking about how God made the Universe and then how our galaxy is one of many in the universe and it is called the Milky Way. From there we looked out our solar system; the earth and moon and then we looked at the Atlas and what country we live in and then we decided to make a map of our road. We marked out our house, the Deli where Alex works and then extended the map to include the nursery where Avila goes three mornings a week. By that time it was just time to go and collect her so off he went with Iona and his map.

They didn’t get lost lol!

Seven brides for Seven Brothers

Josh is in a production of SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS at the Crescent Theatre. Opening night was last night. This is him in his costume as a suiter for one of the girls. He says he is the one who ‘doesn’t get the girl’. AH!

He’s really enjoying this time and having the opportunity to take part in a real theatre production has been wonderful.

He’s off for a visit to the USA soon—I’ll post about that soon.


Homeschool group and Sign Language

Homeschool group this morning whch was Science Week. I think everyone was there this morning. Shariska arrived with her new baby -a lovely young man. We have two new mums joining us too. Julie came before Easter and Catherine came with her two children today. I think Ronan will be good friends with her little boy Oliver as they went around together quietly.

We sorted out rules for the way the children need to behave in the sessions.

Sign Language back here afterwards. Both the new mums are interested in joining. I would love for that to happen, but that would be four extra children (well 3 and a baby due any day now) and two extra mums. I usually have about 17kids here with their mums already. Not sure…

Further to my ‘WEIRD FAMILIES’ post; talked to Katen today and mentioned this problem. She said she had similar problems as a foster parent when she had to pull her children out of school. Social Workers said it would course problems. However when two very diffciult children were placed with her they joined in with all the afterschool homeschool activities and really enjoyed themselves. They both did so well their school work massively improved! SAys it all really.

Term starts

Term started yesterday.  Avila found the sudden change in routine very difficult indeed. She doesn’t feel too great at the moment and that combined with the new term routine caused mighty explosions and lots of time out and eventually Black Out. Even her toys were bagged up!

She is still tetchy today but her behaviour has improved mightily so she’s back on privilages. She went to nursery this morning and enjoyed herself.

Meanwhile Ronan has got back into his work enthusiastically and I am pleased that this time his reading has remained steady and he hasn’t slipped back from the holidays.

He’s more enthusiatic than I am in fact. I always find the first few days back after the hols really hard to adjust too-so I have sympathy with Avila!

Yesterday Ronan and Avila worked together on a short project about snowflakes. It snowed here on Sunday (how very seasonal!) and we are supposed to get more snow tomorrow so I thought we could learn about it. They made cut out flakes and decorated them with glitter glues and bits from the craft cupboard and then we printed up some beautiful photos of real flakes I found on the net and they made a snowflake curtain for the dining room door; long peices of cotton with snowflakes stuck to them.

When Al got home and we had conversation around the dinner table (Iona ended up cooking as I was clearing up the project)- Ronan explained very accurately to his dad all about snowflake formation.

Iona has got back into her work very well. We did quite a bit on the business plan for the Old Fasioned Sweetshop: one of the ideas we had while thinking about stock was about selling something worthwhile. We are looking at MYSTIC MONK COFFEE and BOGO WINES AND CHOCOLATES. So we would have stock alongside our sweets that was truly ethical!

Spent quite some time with The Picture of Dorian Gray today. It’s a short but deep book. Iona’s friends have expressed some envy that she gets to study this while they get ‘Skellig’ (yawn).

Casting stones at ‘weird’ families

As I mentioned in my previous post we visited friends near Cardiff for the day. They have friends who also homeschool. I met them once. They have adopted a lovely little girl and are trying to adopt another child at the moment. However despite being good enough to adopt the first time around they are having difficulties this time. Why? Because they homeschool. The social worker, rather oddly said she was concerned that the mother did not want to be apart from her child, wanting to keep her too close. The child is 4 yrs old.

In light of this they are concerned about allowing them a sibling for their daughter. This of course flies in the face of good research based practice. I have been told the research shows that adopted children who are homeschooled actually do much better than their schooled counterparts. I haven’t seen this research, but I assume this is true as research in general on homeschooling shows that those children are better educated and socialised than school children on average.. I was told about the adoption research by another homeschooling mum who is also facing huge problems adopting in the face of social worker antipathy to home education.

There are huge gaps in the training and understanding of social workers working with children and families. Thinking that people are strange because they practice their Christian faith is a hurdle many families have had to get through; but being Catholic (so weird) and a homeschooler (beyond strnage!) is enough to ensure someone I know has been turned down for two children recently. This at a time when there are supposed to be a great shortage of parents willing to adopt.

It’s sad.

Busy week of fun

It’s been a busy week and a lovely one. We woke this morning to sunshine and…snow! Ronan got dressed quickly so he could go outside and stomp about in it. Avila doesn’t feel so good today so she wouldn’t go out.

On Wednesday we spent the day just outside Cardiff with friends. They have two really lovely children Jaki and Maddie who get on really well with Ronan and Avila. They are able to play for hours and hours without having a row!They play together so well-it’s so relaxing.

We got back very late- which meant little sleep as Heleyna was not impressed with her routine being put out like that.

Next couple of days went by quickly as Al dug a ditch and laid a cable with Josh’s help; Alex was at work and then Josh had rehersals for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and life was just busy.

The ‘Altarnative Economy’ was kicked up a gear when a lady from church arrived with bags of baby clothes. Iona and I spent an afternoon sorting them out so that friends who have just had-are about to have-and the Crisis Pregnancy Centre get bags. There was also some lovely things for Heleyna.

Term starts again tomorrow and Al goes back to work.

An afternoon with Sr Kath

As Alistair has this week off we are making the most of going places and getting to see people.

Yesterday we had a lovely trip out to Kenilworth Castle. We had the first picnic of the year! The day was warm and sunny enough to let Heleyna out on the grass and she had a wonderful time chasing after the others. Avila was “scared” of the steps up the high places but found her courage when daddy came to hold her hand. So off she went.

Today we went to visit Sr Kath who has been like a mother to me since I was about 15yrs old. She is honoury grandma to the children. She has been very much a part of their lives and was there for us when Ronan was born and I was so ill.

You can here all about her and the convent HERE. The sisters in the photo are (from L to R) Sr Alphonsus, Sr Barbara, Sr Kath -there in the middle, Sr Mary and Sr Helen. They are wonderful ladies and if you want to visit them they will make you very welcome.

Sr Kath took the three little ones to the chapel where they said a prayer. Heleyna had a long cuddle.

We had a lovely time.