Monthly Archives: June 2011

New Draft Guidelines for Home Education and it’s monitoring.

I haven’t had chance to read these properly yet, but the DRAFT GUIDELINES (H/T Danae  3dgs freedom)

are out ahead of the Green Paper which we are expecting on SEN provision and HE. What I have read so far actually looks remarkably pro-family, which was not what I expected. I assume Graham Stuart MP (Cons) has had some input here as there is real evidence that some one somewhere has listened and understood.

I am expected the man from the LA next week and I have a lot of questions for him. We’ll see how they are answered.


Ending term for Summer.

We’re winding down the formal lessons over the next  two weeks for the Summer. We’ve all worked very hard and amazingly as I make the next plans we are not behind on anything at the moment!

We’ve done a few experiments with milk and cream making cheese and butter, both of which turned out really well. Iona nicked all the butter to make flapjacks. I have to say that making butter is not a “frugal” thing to do as you need double cream, but it was well worth it for the children’s learning. We plan to make more and flavour them. And more cheese.

I’m winding down this week and then next week will be more informal lessons and book time. I have plans to spend August sorting out Ronan’s lessons to be more independent (the freebies HERE ARE USEFUL).

After the astonishing moment last week when Heleyna, using the wooden movable letters suddenly wrote her full name out without guide lines, I am thinking she might learn better with a more Montessori approach. With careful shopping and perhaps some compromising on materials (using plastic instread of wood or glass and laminated sheets instead of the fancy wooden gramma kits) I think I can give her a good start.

Iona has just has her results from the Open Uni and has passed her module on Forensic Science with some high grades in there. So we will sign her up for the next module for the new term. I think she wants to do the one on cancer and then she will turn 18 and be able to do bigger courses. She is also hoping to get a job – although around here at the moment that is like panning for gold.

If she was going to school Heleyna would be starting in September even though she is only 4. Thankfully she isn’t and can develop properly as her age and tendancies allow.

I am still a bit surprised at how differently all four of the “school age” children learn. Iona has worked hard to overcome her dyslexia and is now working at degree level and doing well. She ditched the special needs approach that school had used and simply went with reading and reading and making sure what she was reading would stretch her memory and comprehension. Gradually – and it was gradual – she overcame a lot of problems about how she saw words and how she wrote them. She expanded her vocabularly and has handled the OU well as a result.

I think the major advantage of home education is that the children have time and space to READ. They read books from beginning to end. We don’t need any of the appalling school system wherein children read a small snippet from a book and then make up the rest from Cliff Notes or some other shortened Exam-hopp-system set up. Iona’s friends actually envy her that she can read books- whole books.

Lots of living books to get through over the Summer and I’ll let y;all know what I have on my Kindle as well.

Corpus Christie – John 6 and St. John Southworth

It’s been a busy feast day time recently. Yesterday I was well enough to get to Mass which celebrated Corpus Christie (moved from Thursday) and today we are chock full of saints; St. Cyril of Alexandre, St. John Southworth and Our Lady of Perpetual Succour – the icon of which is thought to have first been painted by St. Luke. Quite a bit there to think about.

The martyrdom of the English priest John Southworth in 1654 may seem a little late for the dates of the English Martyrs. But we need to remember that the persecution of Catholics did not end with the death of Elizabeth I. While James Stuart became king with Catholic support because he had promised freedom of conscience as soon as his bottom was comfortable upon the throne he renaged. The gunpowder plot was a result and even then some innocents were executed.

The Stuart king Charles I had been less vigorous in persecuting the Catholics, even though fines and the “Catholic tax” was still extorted from Catholic families.

When Cromwell took over after the execution of the King, he renewed the persecution and was responsible for a bloodbath of the Irish.

Southworth was arrested when his cover was blown as he visited the plague victims. Apparently many facing death reverted or converted back to the Old Faith and this infuriated Cromwell who couldn’t even let people die of plague in peace.

After various trials and arrests St. John Southworth was executed at Tyburn and died a martyr of the faith.

Yesterday’s Mass reading was the discourse in John 6 where Jesus announces that we must eat His Body and drink His Blood and as a result of His repeated insistence on this point a whole lot of those who had followed Him, now left.

In preaching on this yesterday Father said he perfectly understood why people were shocked by Jesus’ words. His words are shocking. In fact they are more shocking in both Greek and Aramaic where the word “eat” is more literally translated and gnaw and chomp down on.

We are expected to accept the daily miracle on the altars of Catholic and Orthodox churches around the world, that He who Named Himself the Bread of Life is made present in bread and wine in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.

The crowd around Jesus that day however, had one advantage over the rest of us -well two advantages; first, they had been following Jesus and seen His works and heard His words straight from His mouth and second the day before this discourse He had multiplied the loaves and fishes. He was surely making clear that just as His Father had fed Israel in the desert with quails and manna so He could feed all people with His flesh and blood.

St Paul warns us very clearly that if we receive Holy Communion – the Body of Christ while not in a state of grace, that we are (to use his words) “guilty of the blood.” That was a term meaning murder. We must be careful about this. Really careful.

The Church Fathers all understood that Christ made Himself truly present in the Eucharistic breaking of bread, but it took a while for the theology to be fully formed. Not until the Reformation was the Presence really challenged, although we read stories of individuals not quite getting it.  The miracle of Lanciano has to be the most famous answer God gave to a doubting priest. The Host is still kept in a Monstrance to this day and scientists have determined that the “flesh” that is so much part of the bread is cardiac tissue and the blood is male (AB but apparently all old blood reverts to AB). The priest was convinced.

John 6 is the most important passage of Scripture for me as it held me firm while I was all over the place faith wise.  Christ’s amazing generosity in this self giving act is, astonishing.  It is this gift that meant so many Catholics in England went to their death over including Father Southworth.

The Twelve Steps for moving past addiction.

I wanted to write something deep and meaningful about the twelve steps, but I’m too tired. What I will say is that they are very difficult steps to climb and I think they would prove pretty difficult even for those of us who are not addicted to alcohol or other stuff.

Confabulation and denial are major traits for people with addictions. Their self centredness and learned helplessness can be horribly prinful for those who have to deal with it, and that can be painful in the extreme for the addict to face, write down, confess and try to make amends for.

The NHS is pretty terrible at helping alcoholics and their families. In fact the support is practically non-existant these days, but it seems that this addiction has a much more spiritual and emotional element to it, so perhaps the Church is the place to find that support after all.

Families and friends need to remember something; a dry alcoholic is not cured, is not even sober. A sober person has learned to think clearly, act well towards others and accept reality (no more confabulation). That can take years and years.

The Twelve steps:

1) We admit that we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives have been unmanagable.

2) We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3)We made a decision to turn our lives and will over to God as we understand Him.

4) We make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5)Admitted to ourselves, to God and to another person the exact nature of our wrongs.

6) We are entirely ready to allow God to remove all defects of character.

7) We humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings.

8)Make a list of all persons we have harmed and be ready and willing to make amends to them.

9) Make direct amends whenever possible unless it would injure or harm others.

10) Continue to keep a personal invetory and to admit wrongs promptly.

11) Through prayer and meditation we bring ourselves cloer to God, increasing our understanding of Him, praying for the knowldge of His will and the grace to carry it out.

12) Having reached a spiritual awakening from working through the steps, we are prepared to carry the message to other alcoholics and to use the steps in our everyday affairs.

Home education; teaching about alcohol

Two days ago it was the feast day for the Ven. Matt Talbot, who along with St Monica is the patron of those who have problems with alcohol and alcoholism. He was himself a serious alcoholic who found redemption in his Faith and through that grace of God stopped drinking.

Back in my college teaching days I was booked to teach a whole lot to youngsters about sex and drugs but I never got asked to teach about drinking. This is odd really, when I look around and see that I have hardly met anyone whose life is destroyed by drugs, even in my nursing days (although there were a few certainly) but I have seen sex destroy people and so so many get destroyed by drink.

I still miss a friend who died at the age of 39 and can’t help but remember him telling me twelve years earlier that he didn’t expect to make it to see 4o.

The misuse of alcohol is so pandemic I wonder if any of us have families where no one has a drink problem. When I think about my family and friends I know so many who either are working their way up AA twelve steps or have been doing so.

It’s a disease (and I think I can use that word) that the NHS just doesn’t want to deal with. While huge amounts of money has been pumped into “stop smoking” campaigns complete with glossy pamphlets and expensive therapies, alcoholics can’t even get help with the DTs these days.

Meanwhile even the media has noticed that children are becoming alcoholic at horribly young ages, aided by marketing of kiddy vodka bottles.

The problem we parents have when teaching our children about drinking and how and when and how much, is that although it can destroy lives when misused, it can be fine and even healthy when drunk properly. It’s not like crack or porn where it should be avoided all together.

It’s something that comes up with us home ed mums when we are sitting together with a cuppa. We all know or are related to someone who hasn’t been able to drink properly. For some the problem isn’t just “they drink too much really,” it’s life destroying alcoholism and we are grateful for AA.

We tend to conclude that overall sensible drinking is caught rather than taught and certainly stats would suggest that those who end up drinking to self-abuse levels have lived with people who have done the same. But many of us know or are related to alcoholics who began drinking for other reasons in families where alcohol abuse wasn’t an issue until they did it. So, we conclude, just drinking sensibly ourselves isn’t the answer. For those who have a parent with a drink problem, just drinking sensibly is not an option as alcohol can’t be in the house.

What then are we, as parents, to do, to teach our children?

I’ll come back to this….

Maria Montessori’s Decologue

Maria Montessori and Charlotte Mason are like twin beacons of educational light shining into the darkness of the encroaching ‘Prussian’ approach which would see to the mass institutionalisation and depersonification of children.

Montessori wrote a set of rules to underpin the way staff were to behave and think of children in their care.

1. Never touch a child, unless invited to.  This is not some pc rule about fear of being sued. It is rooted in a recognition that the child is a person with personal space. Montessori didn’t like seeing children manhandled, rather than treated respectfully.

2. Never speak ill of a child whether in his presence or his absence. If only this rule existed in all schools. We’d have less of THIS. Again this doesn’t mean that difficulties cannot be discussed properly, but the horrible habit among some teachers of talking about children in a way that is down right nasty was not to happen.

3. Concentrate on strengthening and assisting the development of what is good in a child to leave less time and space for what is evil. Sadly this view of children is a bit un-pc these days, so children are not helped to understand the difference between right and wrong. The results are not pretty.

4. Be active in preparing the environment. Take meticulous and constant care of it. Help a child establish constructive relations with it.Show the proper place where the means of development are kept and demonstrate their proper use. This is one of those things that I hear more from autonomous home educators than anyone else. They work much harder, I think, than most of us in ensuring their children have an environment that is designed for them to learn in.

5. Be ready to answer the call of a child in need of you, and respond to a child who appeals to you. This rule is diametrically opposed to the spoon feeding approach demanded by the National Curriculum. Like Charlotte Mason, Maria Montessori wanted the learning and discovery abilities of children respected. We are to be there when needed. (Strangely for me and I believe other home ed mothers have this weird problem too – the children do not need you until you go to the toilet and then you hear “Muuuuuum!” It’s one of life’s little mysteries).

6.Respect the child who makes a mistake and can then or later correct himself, but stop firmly and immediately any misuse of the environment, and any action which endangers the child, his development, and others.

7. Respect the child who takes rest or watches others working, or ponders over what he himself has done or will do.Neither call him, nor force him to other activity. This is so important, especially for the child who needs to process quietly what he has learned. A child who is thinking of wondering is not lazy or unproductive. Space to have quiet time is very important, and I have never seen it or heard of it in schools.

8. Help those who are in search of activity and cannot find it.

9. Be untiring in repeating presentations to the child who refused them earlier; in helping the child acquire what is not yet his own,and overcome imperfections. Do this by animating the environment with care, with restraint and silence; with mild words and loving presence. Make your ready presence felt to the child who searches and hide from the child who has found. This rule must surely be based on the assumption of small class sizes. Silence and restraint are barely possible in a loud classroom of 30 children with tables and chairs scraping and screaming on the floors – with the rising noise of children trying to make themselves heard over the impossible noise around them and then of the teacher who must shout above it all to make herself heard. Some researchers discovered that the noise levels in infant classrooms could top 90 decibels.

10. Always treat the child with the best of good manners, and offer him the best you have in yourself and at your disposal. I am sure that those who treat children and adults they are assisting respectfully will receive the same in return.

Remeber Gilbert Keith Chesterton who died 14th June 1936

You may have noticed, if you read this blog quite often, that I have a a great love for G.K.Chesterton and an even greater love for his wife Frances. I have heard there is a what-do-you-call-it for them both to be canonised, and I look forward to the day when we can attend Mass at the church of SS Gilbert and Frances 🙂

There was something endearingly quirky about G.K.Chesterton, that probably required some considerable patience from Frances. His absent mindedness meant that he would often set off to go somewhere and forget where he was going and need some direction from his good wife. She was also in the habit od receiving phone calls from bookshop owners telling her that Mr. Chesterton had wandered off with a book. She would see to it that it was paid for.

G.K.C was famously late for his wedding having stopped off along the way to by a gun in order that he might be armed for the protection of his wife. He never used the weapon but he wanted his wife to know he was there for her, should she need him. Perhaps in reading his non-fiction books we can miss the lovely romantic nature he had, but I do think his Father Brown stories allow it more expression.

You can read this biography from Maisie Ward (ebook) the wife of another great writer Frank Sheed.

Chesterton’s life is a fascinating roller coaster of intellectual experience. He is famous for saying “The devil made me Catholic,” His most famous book Orthodoxy tells of his journey from nihilistic atheism to ‘orthodox belief’. He says he had tried to invent some sort of belief system that was more rational and reasonable than the hole he was in – and discovered that in seeking truth, it was already there. Apparently he wrote orthodoxy before he was received into the Catholic Church, but no one reading it could doubt for a moment that he would end up swimming the Tiber.

Pack your Kindle or MP3 player with Dale Ahlquist’s brilliant series’ The Apostle of Common Sense.

Then grab that kindle or whatever and go on a download spree at Gutenberg – and then try and find time to read all that. If that’s a challenge there are these audio versions, which are well read. Eugenics and other Evils is a book that has a lot to say to us. Sad really when you think how long ago it was written.

I think Chesterton was one of those rare people, a true innocent. He may have had his head in the clouds sometimes but Frances in her gentle patient way kept him grounded. It was a deep pain to them that they were never blessed with children, and perhaps this pain sharpened his understanding of the true value of children, so that he did not understand why the culture treated children so shoddily and wanted rid of them. While the eugenists Marie Stopes and across the pond Margaret Sanger were busy putting an end to babies, the Chestertons looked on the treasury of children and supported the work of Charlotte Mason instead.

Having lived through the absolute horror of the First World War, God was merciful to His loving son and took him Home on the eve of the next war.

Gilbert and Frances ora pro nobis.