Monthly Archives: August 2012

Home educating for secondary (high) school

A friend of mine has set up a blog to help Catholic  home educating families navigate the world of exams and other challenges for older children and young adults entering the world of work and/or university.

I think the information on exams will probably be of use to any UK  HE family.

It’s new – take a look here

Other families may be interested in the Seton Highschool Diploma which is accredited (requirements for Diploma here)

I know one family who has done well with the St. Thomas Aquinas Academy Diploma and a friend of mine has just signed up her oldest. She is impressed by their flexible approach, allowing British history instead of American and there are other areas where the curricula is flexible.  I do know that the exams can be taken this side of the pond which is good.

Catholic Heritage Curricula has recently set up a Highschool level course that is no accredited. While they make a good case for not needing accreditation, I would say that at least at this time children in the UK will be disadvantaged without an accredited HighSchool Diploma or other tick box qualifications.

I would love a group of veteran home educators to get a solid curriculum together in this country and maybe get it accredited by some genuinely good educational institution (Open Uni maybe).

The Open University has a youth access system now. Iona has done very well with these. They are pro home educated children because they have found they are better at the self discipline and independent thinking required for distance learning.

While officially they take young people from age 16 I do know of a family with a 15 year old who has successfully signed up.

Getting Crafty

As a home educating mother, I have been ashamed of myself for my lack of crafty skills. I am a textile terror with neither skills in sewing, nor knitting. What kind of home educator is like that?

It was time to do something about it.

I knew I was utterly useless with a pair of needles and pretty darn useless with a little sewing needle these days. The days of embroidery were well behind me.

So, I decided to try something different. I got hold of a set of knitting looms and had a go at knitting that way. There’s no counting stitches to remember and it doesn’t require much co-ordination.

Ronan had a go and was pretty successful with it.

I have learned a couple of basic stitches, knit, e-wrap and how to cable. All of that has been easy and I think I’ll be able to pass that on to the children.

I’ve knitted Heleyna a dress for Winter and I want to have a go at other things.

The next thing I’ve invested in is a peg loom. It is so easy to use that all three children have had a go and found it fine. I’ve made Heleyna a rug for her to do some learning work on.

The loom is easy, light and doesn’t cause any pain at all! I think a lot of people with disabilities that effect hands and fingers would find this a good skill to learn.

I’ll try and do more posts as I get the hang of this.

Then there’s crochet. I would like to learn that too. Thankfully This site has free lessons on how to crochet, which I hope to make use of.

Let’s see how this works out.

Reading to the children. Audio verses real person.

One of the important “rules” for getting children interested in reading is not only for them to see the adults in their life reading, but to being read to. From personal observation I would say reading to a child has the same interactive, relational type effect as talking with them for language acquisition and then learning.

Now that I am back on steroids and antibiotics I have a voice. So last night, for the first time in ages I read the children too stories (Fin M’Coul and The Squire and the Scroll in case you wondered). I realised that we need to do this more often if possible. I haven’t read a complete story to them (let alone two) for so long.  I realised last night that even though I sit with them most often when they are listening to audio stories, because the audio is just to replace my voice, that it still isn’t the same as having me do the reading. There is definitely something extra in the interaction when it’s my voice as well as presence.

I can’t help thinking of all that research into why hearing children in Deaf families learn Sign Language but not oral language even though their parents expose them to TV and radio to help this. The reason is that language is acquired and then learned though interactive, close relationships. Children require a close one to one time for language acquisition and very small group time for listening and being part of a story time. Machine’s simply can’t replace this, no matter how good the audio quality.

I need to make more effort to read to them when I have a voice. It can be frustrating when my voice fades out half way through a story, but maybe we can have an arrangement where either Roni or Avila take over if that happens.

I am not up to date on what research or studies have to say about the importance of reading to children, but I assume from a common sense point of view that it is very important for reading and language and even attachment.

So, I must do more of it whenever I can.

Fibromyalgia/ME/POTs and OI with hypertension, seizures etc. and things that help coping.

Before term starts I just wanted to write a couple of how-to-cope posts with these diseases.

Living in the UK, my chances of any in depth tests and medical help are so low as to be vanishing. After facing lots of misinformation, dishonesty and bold face lies from medics the first coping strategy I recommend is READ THE RESEARCH.

Ignorance is not bliss and even though most doctors can’t stand patients who know anything about their own illness, you need to know because they don’t. Be warned; you must use your information with caution. First of all, there’s some astonishingly shoddy pieces of research out there, so be careful what you follow. I’m sorry to say, it’s a minefield out there. A lot of research is not aimed at trying to find answers that will help sick people, it’s …well, frankly it’s difficult to tell what some of it’s for at all.

I have found Phoenix Rising a useful place to get not only the research but some good analysis of it too. It’s not the only place for good research articles but it’s easy to find a lot on one place.

Let’s take a look at some of the symptoms and handling them.


For many, if not most of us with fibromyalgia and/or ME this is one of the worst symptoms and the most difficult to manage. For me at least it’s been worse than the fatigue and a massive contributing factor to fatigue. There are some good meds out there, but each person is different and there is a certain amount of trial and error. Many people with ME in particular have sensitivities to drugs so read the more unusual

I am using Amitriptyline. There’s now some evidence that this works better for those of us with Fibro based pain as it has a good effect on mast cell disorders and there’s some evidence that FM might be a mast cell disorder.

I also recommend gloves and splints used for arthritis. Even an elastic bandage has been useful for me.

Things like those microwave lavender bags can help with mild pain – but to be honest I don’t think many of us with FM/ME based pain get the mild sort.

Often the pain will dictate what you can do. I have a sort of routine for getting out of bed where I wait until I can get my feet on the floor and then slowly put weight on them, then push up through knees and so on. There’s no point me saying “take your time” as your body wont allow you to anything else.

Pain can be a terribly difficult thing to get on top of. Many of us have used a chiropractor and/or an osteopath. Sadly the NHS doesn’t offer good pain management.

A lot of people have dark glasses for eye pain – mine are transission lenses which while more expensive has saved me money on drugs!

Ear plugs help for sound sensitivity.


This affects us in different ways. Most people with POTS and OI will have tachycardia and hypotension. But there’s a significant number of us whose blood pressure pumps the other way; hypertension.

My system for coping with this is I sit for a lot of activities. Now, it would be better tachycardia wise if I lay down – but it’s not so good for my breathing or practical with the children. If you can lie down to get your pulse to something nearer normal, then do it.

For standing stuff. I take my pulse as I feel it getting higher. Once it’s over 130 I sit down. If I leave it to reach 140-145 I get too nauseous and pre-synocope and that’s just unpleasant. I can usually sit for a few minutes and my pulse will drop to 120 and then I can carry on. Cooking takes longer and I have to do it earlier in the day – mid afternoon for me, to make sure I can actually do it.

You will probably find a best time of day too. For some it’s the morning and some even manage to cook at a normal evening time.

I cook less fussy to prepare food these days – oven baked or slow cooker.

Shower – choose a time of day you can cope. I think a chair or seat in shower is a good idea if you can get one. We haven’t reached that point yet. I do make sure I have been sat down a while first. So far this has worked.


These are a fairly new symptom for me so I’m not up on all the coping strategies. However I am learning. First, listen to your body. I get an aura and other warning signs. When I had the first ones and had a paramedic called she warned me not to fight them as it makes them worse. I discovered yesterday that this is very true.

Mine are apparently caused by low grade fever and infection. (Hence I’m back on antibios and steroids). I haven’t quite worked out what to do yet, but I think the fact that I have good idea what causes them means I need to get all infections treated asap. In the past I would wait until the infection was really obvious. Can’t be doing that now.

I have another appt with the GP on Thursday and we’re going to discuss stuff. She doesn’t think Gaberpentin or Pregabalin would help as it’s not “epilepsy” it’s a seizure disorder caused by infection and fever. However a couple of folks from Phoenix have recommended an on hand dose of Klonopin. I will ask about it and let you know.

My daughter is complaining that the house is cold as I keep opening doors and windows so that I can’t get too hot! LOL.

This piece of research is all I’ve found on bactierial infection and seizures

Frankly if I’m going to have these diseases and a blog I may as well try and write something of some use. Hope it is of some use to someone sometime.

Atos “doctors” could be struck off?

The Guardian are running a story saying that up to 12 medics could be struck off for misconduct because of the dishonest and cruel way they are working for Atos.

Our Government have paid a great deal of money to this French organisation which treats disabled and seriously ill people to such astoundingly undignified and dishonest assessments in order to remove benefits. Story after story of people being deemed “fit for work” who were on transplant lists or so disabled they couldn’t be asked to work. This story in the Telegraph follows the story of man deemed fit for work after a gruelling assessment – who died a few weeks later.

Having read personal stories on the lists of the astonishingly bad attitude and behaviour of Atos, including having no disabled access to assessment centres so a lady in a wheelchair was taken to the cargo lift by a porter!

Despite the outcry, patently fake assessments and serious injustices perpetrated against sick and disabled people, the Government have given them another 3 year contract!

I remember the days when Maggie Thatcher removed benefits from the long term sick leaving them in serious debt and with no homes. She filled the prisons instead silly woman Didn’t save the country doing that did she?

I haven’t heard from Atos yet – but I don’t doubt my time will come and I am sure they will treat me the same and remove my DLA. God will have to come up with a miracle. So far, He hasn’t let me down.

It worries me that we are a country that has so little care for those who are vulnerable that not only is there no willingness to provide a descent health service, but we are all sitting back and allowing another attack on the sick and disabled.

An American mother visits Maria Montessori

In 1913 an American mother published her experiences after visiting Italy and the little school that was established and run by Dr. Maria Montessori. I am only part way through the book A Montessori Mother but it’s proving an interesting read.

One of the first things that strikes me about what Mrs Canfield writes is her clear contrast between what she has seen in American schools and what happens in Dr. Montessori’s Casa Bambini place. Compulsory education had only been in operation in the USA and UK since around 1870 with some adjustments up to the beginning of the 20th century, but it is clear there were some serious problems with it’s approach from the beginning.

There were great and successful educational ideas already from Montessori, Charlotte Mason and others, and yet Dewey and his mates somehow got all the power. Gatto’s theory that this was a system to produce minimally educated factory workers, not genuinely educated adults looks more and more likely to be true.

Maria Montessori opened her schools in the slums of Rome.  The children learn to be independent, helpful and self possessed from an early age. This is the kind of education that would lift them from life in the slums.

I was told how an appeal to open a Montessori nursery in an area of Birmingham known for being not much different from the old slums was turned down on the grounds it wouldn’t be suitable for “those kinds of children.”

I am particularly taken by the role of the adults in the classroom.  They are not “teaching” the children. They are on hand to assist when needed but they don’t force anything. The children work for as long as they like on an activity. I noticed that while Mrs Canfield is there, she doesn’t mention any bells to stop learning and go and play. The door is open to the garden or outside play area, and the children can come and go safely.

I would love to know what Miss Mason would have thought. She must have known about the Montessori approach. There are many similarities especially in the way children are treated with such deep respect, recognised as persons with inherent dignity.

Even in books written as long ago as this we see the first concerns that children are not being given an education according to their needs. The industrialist view of schools was to churn out basically skilled factory workers. Reformers and realists like Mason in England and Montessori in Rome were roundly ignored and we are now faced with children-are-commodities.

I recommend the book. The kindle edition is pretty low on typo’s and it’s free.

Wrestling with angels

When we pray for all those people whose names are on the sick list at church, what are we asking for? Usually, I guess, we are asking God to heal them. Sometimes we ask God to give them the grace to bear the load patiently and even less often we might ask God to help them make a good death. But what we really want is for them all to be well again.

I go through what feels like a wrestling match over my health on far too regular a basis. Going on holiday usually triggers a major wrestling in prayer event. For some reason it wasn’t as intense this year – not so much guilt – but there was still plenty of wrestling with angels (who are all black belts in prayer).

Going on holiday is usually the worst time because it brings back so many memories of when I was well. All that walking and running around on the beach with the children. I remember being able to really pack a lot into a day and not having to face a crash a couple of days later. Then, instead of being grateful that I am on holiday, I get worried about what I can’t do any more, and start being irritating by apologising for what I can’t do.

Then I nag God for a cure again. I know the answer is “no” so I hedge a bit and ask for a full remission, just for the holiday. Then I just say I’ll go with it and offer it up and then I feel guilty for being ill and not praying hard enough to be cured and the cycle begins again. It can be exhausting…for eveyone.

My husband who is way more sensible about all this, has simply asked that as God is allowing me to get worse, that He helps us all adjust and cope with each stage. Simple. He explained this to me as he cheefully shoved my wheelchair up hill.

During my wrestle with angels this holiday, it occurred to me that I was being a bit hypocritical. I spend a lot of time writing about family life and how Christian families in particular should  be taking care of one another and so on. I sing the praises of those families who do take care of one another and make sacrifices for the sick, elderly or very young in their midst. I read saints stories and see how for many of them (Catherine Laboure springs to mind) caring for sick family members was part of the process to their sainthood.

But you see whenever I wrote or read about this sort of thing I had it in mind that I would be the one doing the caring. I would cook, clean, visit and tick the works of mercy boxes. But instead I have to do something way harder than that – I have to allow others to care for me.  Ouch! As this disease progresses I face needing more help, and having to accept this patiently.

Another thought came to me while I was wrestling with the angel on this. When I look at how the disease progresses I am usually horrified and frankly, scared silly. And yet as it does process I cope with each new event fine. I never for a moment thought I would be able to handle having seizures. I sure as heck hated having them, but I’m no longer terrified at the thought that this will probably happen again.

So God is listening to my husband! 🙂

Of course, when I really look, I see that the saints weren’t just caring people, they were able to be cared for graciously when they were ill. They put up with being bed bound, with hospital admissions and often with hideous forms of disease, which thankfully, we see a lot less of these days. They were always grateful somehow, even in the midst of sickness and hopeless medical interventions. They are  our role models. So it’s time I stopped wrestling with angels and said thank you.


The Rite by Matt Baglio. Book review (and some thoughts)

Matt Baglio follows the training and formation of American priest Fr. Gary Thomas who has been sent to Rome to learn the art of exorcism. It comes across as a very straight forward non-sensationalist account of the events and in that, some reviewers have been disappointed. For me this was rather refreshing. The subject matter is difficult enough and must be very difficult for those who suffer from oppression or possession and those who know and love them.

Fr. Gary begins his training with no interpreter and struggling to find his feet in the college and with senior exorcists when he had so little Italian. Any Catholic who has been part of the Church and her workings will smile at the usual chaos. Apparently there’s a bumper sticker which says “I hate organised religion” to which the only reply must be “so be a Catholic.”

ehem. I digress

Finally, Fr. Gary gets to apprentice with a very hard working priest, who has much God given stamina and who is the local exorcist with just enough English to communicate and Fr. Gary picks up just enough Italian that they can work in some middle pigeon ground.

The book is somewhat let down by its skirting over some aspects of possession, such as the different types and differences between hauntings, oppression and possession. He also says far too little on how people get into this pickle in the first place although the usual suspects are mentioned; dabbling in the occult and getting into superstitious practices.

He does mention curses, but doesn’t go unto detail about how these work and how they might fit into God’s permissive will.

Baglio describes some of the mental illnesses that must be assessed first before a consideration of possession can take place. This is a good solid overview but again is let down by Baglio’s own obvious lack of knowledge of psychiatry. He talks about somatisation as though this can be a valid diagnoses. There is no scientific or medical evidence that somatisation or as some call it conversion disorder actually exists. It falls under the same shadowy made-up dx as Munchausen and borderline personality disorder. There’s not real evidence for any of these labels. I think when trying to seek the truth about a person who presents with serious health problems it is important to seek the truth, about what is happening. Sadly I was left wondering how many people with spiritual problems were left with pseudo-diagnosis to palm them off.

After observing some exorcisms Fr. Gary recalls his own lack of personal experience of serious pain until he fell off a mountain and was severely injured. He remembered that it was the depression that came as a result of his injuries that was far more painful that the physical pain he felt. This reminiscence came shortly after the heart rending exorcism of a nun called Sr. Janica.

If you ever thought exoricism was just about being scary and weird and that you would never feel deep sorrow for a possessed person, her short story of longstanding suffering will change your mind.

In Fr Gary’s on painful experience he remembers how the Sacraments of the Sick and healing Masses helped him so much. This is something I truly wish the Church in the UK and elsewhere would take seriously. Far too many sick people are left without the healing ministry of the Church because it is simply not made available to us. It is hardly surprising in those situations that so many Catholics and other Christians turn to more dodgy ministries that in themselves have lead some people to require an exorsist when there is so little at parish level.

There are a number of questions that must be asked, and answered, which I think the book skips over too lightly. Why does God allow a person to be cursed so that they end up with some form of demonic possession having done nothing themselves to invite it?  I assume there’s some answer along the same lines as why God allows innocent people to be harmed or even killed by evil people.

The other question I had was on why some exorcisms took so long and why some people couldn’t be healed at all?

Overall the book is a good insight into one man’s training and how exorcists can and do work. It’s clear on many points and approaches it all very sensibly.Not all my questions were answered, but it was a good solid introduction to the subject.

The Dormition/Assumption is a promise for our future.

It’s the solemnity of the Assumption today.

She is the first of all the people God has created to receive her resurrected body, and as such she is a sign and promise to the rest of us that we too will arise and receive a renewed body. The separation of body and soul is a product of death not Life.

The question of whether Our Blessed Mother died before she was Assumed remains unanswered. However,  it seems from the tradition of the Church (both East and West) that she did die first. Her tomb was in Ephesus, although the sarcophagus has apparently been moved to Gethsemane now.

Some people have suggested that she didn’t need to die as neither Enoch not Elijah died. However, I think the story of the two prophets who will return to herald the Second Coming is a bit different. The prophecies about these two returning say they will die as martyrs then and be raised again three days later.

As Christ died, who was without sin, so it is fitting that His mother, sharing in all He does should also die first. In the East they have called this “falling asleep” which is a beautiful way of saying she wasn’t claimed by death but was then given the gift of full resurrection by her Son and taken to heaven.

Christ spoke against the Sadducees who denied the possibility of the Resurrection, but they didn’t listen (apparently). In His treatment of Our Blessed Mother, He offers a proof of the Resurrection that awaits us all.  I think there are even Christians who deny the possibility, so this is a good reminder.

If you want a better explanation of the Assumption – watch Dr Scott Hahn.

The Kolbe legacy.

Shakespeare had Mark Anthony say that the evil men do lives after them, while the good is often interred with their bones.  But the reality is that the good men do lives after them too.

The story of how a Polish Franciscan priest Fr. Maximilian Kolbe gave his life in Auschwitz in place of another man who had a wife and children to consider is well known.  Franciszek Gajowniczek whose life was saved, went on to tell thank God and the priest for his life, and was present at the canonisation of Fr. Maximilian.

It wasn’t just one man’s life this priest had saved however. His monastery had hidden something like 2000 Jewish people (after Pope Pius XII had asked this of all the Church – and the Holy Father himself saved around 800,000 Jewish lives).

I learned today, thanks to my knowledgable friend Shana, that St. Maximilian had built a monastery in Japan during his missionary days there. He built it on the “wrong” side of a mountain just outside Nagasaki. Even though the Japanese builders warned him that he had chosen the wrong side, he insisted on it.

When the bomb was dropped some years later the Franciscans were shielded by the mountain and survived. There was a Church and monastic house in the middle of Hiroshima as well which despite being right in the middle of the bomb site remained untouched and all the priests survived.

St. Maximilian did much work in Japan and Poland.  His love of the Blessed Mother helped him shine.

The legacy of his work and love does live after him.

St Maximilian Kolbe ora pro nobis.



The collapse of the Greek economy has strengthened families.

As we would have no internet while on holiday I had downloaded some podcasts to listen to while I made picnics and cleaned the kitchen. One of them was an interview with a man who was well versed in what is happening in Greek politics and economy. He painted a pretty desperate picture as the wealth has almost vanished and more and more people are barely making ends meet. The elderly can’t be cared for by Government systems any more and the health care coverage is seriously compromised by the lack of Government funds.

But in this otherwise bleak picture this observer noted that there are signs that Greek culture is making a come back. Families are pulling together and pooling resources. Elderly parents are living with their adult  children and extended families are living and sharing together. From this he sees some hope for the future of the country.

Families wont have as much “stuff” any more. They will be poorer, and there seems no end in sight for that situation at the moment, but many Greek people are rising to the occasion. They are taking back the rights and responsibilities they had too willingly handed over to bureaucrats and are trying to build things from the family and local community up.

I wonder how things will look once the financial situation improves (presuming it does). Will there be more subsidiarity and less Government for Greece? Could other countries move the same way? Or have our cultures been so broken for so long that we couldn’t do as Greece is doing? Are we too busy, too wrapped up in our own tiny worlds to see what’s beyond the immediate? I hope not. God can make straight with crooked lines, and the history of the Jewish people shows a people who gather together and call on His Name when economic and political matters look likely to crush them. We must surely do the same.

Here we are again.

We are back from 2 weeks of rest and sunshine. Yes, we had sun most of the time. Amazing!

Ronan had a sort of right of passage in that he walked the causeway between Lindisfarne and Beal for the first time.  It took them about an hour and 20 minutes.

Met up with friends in Wales and saw kith’n’kin in Edinburgh.

There were sand castles and adventures for the children.

It’s good to be back. Lots of washing and unpacking to do and catching up with everyone again.