Monthly Archives: September 2012

Book Review, Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy.

I have just finished The Cross, the last of the Kristen Lavransdatter trilogy by the award winning author Sigrid Undset. I think the kudos for a beautifully rendered translation goes to Tina Nunnally.  When I blogged about books that are true and therefore speak to us in harmony with natural law,  I was still reading Unset. She shows a profound grasp of human life, love and struggle. She writes from the viewpoint and soul of Kristen as a child, young girl in love, wife and mother of seven sons and mistress of a great house to her old age and the final realisation of her life and struggle, brought about by a sudden opportunity to make an astonishing act of mercy.

Undset’s deep understanding of human nature and the consequences of choices and actions make all the characters of the book very real and believable.

Kristen’s relationship with her saintly father Lavrans and the more difficult relationship with her mother is drawn sympathetically while avoiding  saccharine and vinegar in her description of Kristin’s parents.

Undset’s deep knowledge of history also shines in this story. There are no glaring historical errors to irritate the reader. In fact, there are some details that ring so true that they left me saying “Ah so that’s it!”

While the story is placed in fourteenth century Norway, it has a timeless quality to it, most probably because of the depth of the characters and the fact that human nature has changed little, if at all. I love the complexity of Kristin’s life, love and faith. She commits some truly awful sins, and has to wrestle with her conscience, pride and guilt over them.

Life is way too short to spend reading what Miss Charlotte would call “twaddle” and too short indeed to read trash, so why not make every moment count by reading something good for the heart, mind and soul. This trilogy is it.

A more eloquent review is here: Under Her Heart: Motherhood in Kristen Lavransdatter.

This set of books will be read again (I hope) by me.


Flexischooling Conference

Just saw this on the lists. I know a few families over the years who have attempted flexi-schooling but have had a less than positive reaction from heads of schools. This looks like a very good step forward.

National Flexischooling Conference:

 Flexible Futures – Progressive Education’.

 2nd November 2012, Britannia Hotel, Coventry.

Please do recirculate to colleagues, friends and through your own professional and interest networks
Flexible Futures – Progressive Education
It’s full steam ahead for the next phase of bringing flexischooling to
the wider educational and public audience. Our own CPE-PEN
Flexischooling Learning Exchange was very well attended and terrific

Alison Sauer (Sauer Consultancy) has been so energetic over the last
year in all areas of support, advocacy and promotion for flexischooling.
The culmination is an important National Flexischooling Conference
developed by Alison. At CPE-PEN
we wholeheartedly endorse Alison’s work and this conference. CPE-PEN
Chair – Peter Humphreys will be speaking and their will be a bookstall
from Educational Heretics Press
. CPE-PEN will also be launching a Flexischooling Guidance Document a
Flexi-Mark and a National Flexischool Network registration scheme.

We hope as many of you as possible can join us.
A National Flexischooling Conference: ‘Flexible Futures – Progressive Education’.
Speakers include head teachers from three schools offering flexischooling, Dr Paul Kelly, Graham Stuart MP, and many more.
There will be ample opportunity for networking, especially if you decide
to come to the conference dinner on the evening before the main event.

Book by Monday 8th October to secure your place.

Details and booking forms

or contact directly on 01282 854719

What is flexischooling?
Flexischooling is an arrangement between the parent/s and the school,
whereby the child attends school part-time and is otherwise home
educated. Flexischooling is a legal option providing it is agreed by the
headteacher. It does not affect attendance figures as absences are
essentially authorised and can be registered as ‘educated off site.’

Who benefits?

Flexischooling allows children the ‘best of both worlds’ – the freedom
to explore and learn outside the confines of a rigid timetable while
enjoying the facilities and social benefits of attending a school. A
number of schools have been able to serve their community more
successfully by offering flexischooling. Importantly for headteachers,
schools can claim full funding for students who are flexischooled.

What are the challenges?
Accommodating flexischooled children into a full-time curriculum can
present some logistical challenges. However, there are numerous success
stories of schools that have developed a workable programme. Delegates
will learn much more about the solutions available and leave with the
tools to develop their own.
Delegates will also get the chance to listen to and debate with people
who have direct experience of flexischooling. These include some of the
key policy makers who are helping to drive flexischooling forward.
Negotiations are ongoing with the government to formally recognise
flexischooling as a viable alternative to traditional learning.
Delegates will, therefore, be at the forefront of this very exciting
development in progressive education.

Please do recirculate to colleagues, friends and through your own professional and interest networks
It is key to get awareness and dialogue with mainstream and in Alison’s
latest mailshot to mainstream headteachers additionally emphasises
advantages for ‘special needs’ and ‘gifted’ learners.

Children with SEN, and in particular those on the autistic spectrum,
often have serious difficulty or may even be unable to attend mainstream
school on a full time basis. Those who are gifted may also be better
served by a part time place at school giving them time to flourish in
their particular talent.

Flexischooling is one simple option offering the best of mainstream
schooling whilst accommodating such a child’s need for a different
approach, all with the aim of developing a child’s abilities to their
fullest potential whilst minimising the impact on school routine.

a.. It is Legal

b.. Recognised

c.. Funded

d.. Does not adversely affect attendance statistics

e.. Looked upon with approval at inspection

f.. Can be used long term, short term or for reintegration

Arrangements for flexischooling can be made on a case by case basis,
without requiring approval from the LA and are at the school’s
We look forward to seeing you at our conference.
Kindest regards Alison Sauer
SC Education

Unto the third and fourth generation; what are we doing to our children and grandchildren?

In the UK now something like 1 in 10 children are dx with a mental illness of some kind. The problem for what is labeled generation Y, is so great some have suggested it has reached beyond crisis to a state of emergency. The figures are pretty stark even if you take into consideration the shocking over dx and overuse of prescription medication for children.  These are the children of my generation. Those of us born in the early to mid sixties are the first of Generation X coming after the baby boomers, who are now in their late 60s and 70s.

There’s a separate but linked issue with the dx of ADHD and ADD which I might look at later but not in this post.

This confessional article on the way love was ditched in the search for so-called free love in the ’60s, tries to shine a spotlight on why love was ditched. Jermann writes;

My generation made a mess of love. We lost its very meaning to an emotionally appealing ersatz replacement based on a self-congratulatory “I’m okay, you’re okay” mentality, even as the growing debris of dying human relationships proved otherwise.  We have left our children so deep in the muck that they no longer see a sky blue but accept a dull overcast gray as the normal light of day

The comments expand on the article pointing out that it wasn’t just the hippies seeking “free love” who turned away from real love, plenty of otherwise descent respectable folk did the same. I have been surrounded by so many people of about my age who were either abused, neglected or basically ignored by their parents.  Even in families that on the surface looked in tact and functioning I have heard stories of confusion, distant relationships and deep loneliness from the now adult children.

Most of these people (myself included) never saw a baby, and so when we had our own. we were left to struggle and work out by ourselves how to deal with having children of our own.  For so many of my generation the only guide was “I wont do it like my parents.” But as my generation have bought into the idea that what adults want is way more important than what children need, the lovelessness goes on.

Adults have been so stunted they have no idea how to maintain loving relationships with one another, and can’t face the demands of dependant children. Even otherwise good parents will allow their children to behave in self destructive ways simply because they don’t know how to stop them.

There has to be a solution as we face the curse of the grandparents visiting the third and even fourth generation. And there is.

In the cultural desert, hard working and genuinely loving people have set up little oasis of hope. One comment under the article is from a man who teaches Bl. Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body to teens. He says they are enthusiastically taking it up. They know they have to shun the sexual example having suffered the results themselves.

The knowledge and willingness of couple,s of many Christian couples – not just Catholics – to embrace an open to life marriage, using NFP when serious reasons require it, is spreading like wild fire.

More and more women in particular are sick of the damage to health, particularly breast cancer, to marriage and the water supply done by contraception and they are turning back to natural methods that respect women’s bodies and the family unit.

There’s a growing number of mothers who are practicing what has been termed “attachment parenting”. Now, the pendulum can, and always does, swing too far the other way. The media doesn’t help. I have rarely seen a TV programme about normal attachment parenting, it’s always the extreme end, with as weird as possible families.

Ignoring the mainstream media, (something I highly recommend), there are plenty of stories out there of families who are finding a better life by conforming to the natural law and especially in treating women as wives and mothers with the respect due their human dignity and role.

Don’t touch the light switch!

It was around 6ish this morning (I think) when Josh knocked on the door and announced that water was pouring through the kitchen ceiling, down the lightswitch and down the walls.

So Al had the task of getting the flood stopped and the leak fixed before he went to work. I’ve never seen a man enjoy himself so much!

Josh was quick thinking and had put a large crate under the leak and it was rapidly filling with greenish water (must be copper pipes).

The light switch was still dripping water even this evening so the children are barred from touching it.

Al went off to Wicks at half eight, which was a special treat as he usually only gets to go there at weekends and holidays. He loves shopping there, the way those shopaholic women like department stores. Fortunately for us, Al’s love of Wicks does us more good as a family than if he was into department stores.

Long before mid morning he had fixed the leak and the watcher had stopped pouring through the kitchen ceiling. It was Alex who had the pleasure of bursting the great blister in the ceiling paper to release its burden of green water.

There’s a lot of drying out to be done and I am not so sure my child height measuring graffiti is accurate now the paper has slipped, but all is well, and no one has been electricuted.

Montessori moments.

The way Dr. Montessori approaches geometry and spacial awareness with children fascinates me.

The basic tower whether you have the pink one or the natural one like ours, is nowhere near as simple as I had thought it would be.

The reason I decided to go down the Montessori route was because Heleyna showed such a strong kinesthetic learning style. Since the first lot of items have arrived however, it has become clear that it isn’t just Heleyna who needs to learn with some hands on work. All three of the younger ones are using the equipment and Ronan has found it useful when working through Life of Fred Honey.

There are a number of exercises with the Pink Tower and eventually I want to get the brown stair for the extensions.  The adult should begin with presenting the item to the child and demonstrating a way to use it. I have done this by making the exercises as pink squares on paper (pink squares from Helpful Garden). I found copying the exercises quite difficult at times (FMS causes vis/spacial problems anyway).

Heleyna is slowly learning to see the patterns and repeat them with the blocks. In this she is building her visual spacial awareness and learning some subtle things about size, before we start measuring the cubes.

She also built the tower with the hollow parts outward and blew up and down listening to the change in sound from small to large cubes. She also loves the smell of the wood, so this is a truly multisensory piece of equipment.

That leaves me with another question; how much Montessori stuff should I be making and how much do I need to buy?

You see, the equipment really does have a multi-sensory element to them, and back in the day I worked with children with shortened life expectancy and with children with autism, the place of multisensory objects was very important.

If I make everything out of paper, or even play-doh, what will  the children lose out on?

I think the balance is in buying some stuff, making some stuff and using other stuff to be similar. It’s a balance between cost in money, cost in time (and my meagre energy levels) and cost in educational experience for the children.

I made the hexagon pieces for Heleyna. Basically a large hexagon and then the triangle pieces that make the hexagon.

The real thing is demonstrated HERE.
With the paper/card version Heleyna was able to make the shapes and understood the words triangle, equilateral triangle or as we called it “EEEK a lateral triangle!” It’s a memory aid, honest.

She made the rhombus and trapezium and used the correct words.

Then she took the attribute blocks we usually use for her Critical Thinking work and used the equilateral triangles there to make a hexagon and to compare sizes of triangle.

Life and finding real answers; death and self service.

As the next 40 Days for Life approaches I’ve been thinking about how the culture of Life can change so many things. The record of 40 Days for Life is really impressive. Prayer, fasting, counselling and care have saved many babies from the industry and saved their parents the follow on horror that comes for so many after abortion. In America 24 abortion mills have closed. 40 Days has produced some astonishing conversions along the way. Abby Johnson is perhaps one of the most well known but she is one of many abortion workers who have turned away and are now shining a light on the utter vileness of what goes on in the industry. I think Dr. Bernard Nathanson must be praying very hard for us all still here.

All that is wonderful, but I think more fruit will come from this stance on Life. Once we start to show our horrible culture the importance of life, of every human life, no matter how small or how broken, a whole lot of things will change and they will change in science and medicine.

Once we accept that every human being is a person with inherent rights and dignity we will stop looking at ways to kill off those too young and those too sick and those too old, and we’ll find ways to care for, heal and save lives.

Money will go into funding real research to find answers for those who are suffering so much. Embryonic stem cell research will be shelved and the much more productive and promising research with umbilical and adult stem cells will reap the benefit making therapies happen much sooner.

Instead of pulling back from research into Alzheimer’s, drug companies will put more effort into finding ways to help those patients because each life is precious.

No one will be telling those of us with ME that Ampligen or Rituxin is too expensive, because all the money we spend on killing people will be there to give people life.

There will be no more letters from insurance companies telling people in Oregon that their treatment wont be paid for, but if they take the assisted suicide route that will be. It will not happen because the “obligation to die” dressed up as “right” to die rhetoric will be seen for what it is.

Instead of looking for new screening techniques to dx Downs Syndrome and get as many of those children killed off as possible (one spokesperson apparently talked about eradicating Downs, not through treatment but by killing the babies), there will be research into how to best treat and care for people with Downs. No more stories of parents being told their child must wait for heart surgery because the child should never have been born.

Once we stop deciding that some people aren’t people and other people aren’t worthy people, we’ll all be better people.

Books that are true and true books.

What is a true story? It isn’t just a story about something that happened. A true story should be more than that; deeper and more solid. Truth isn’t simply a set of facts, it includes what those facts mean and how they relate to natural law.

As persons we are made to resonate with the natural law. In some ways our observance of the laws of nature are like a shadow, a type, of how we observe natural law. The most common metaphorical example of this is to say that a person who decides he wants to break the law of gravity and jumps off a building, will demonstrate the law of gravity, rather than break it. The law of gravity will break him. As it is with the laws of nature, so it is with natural law. When we decide we can break the natural law, to do as we want, we so often demonstrate it, in how it breaks us.

We don’t need to have studied philosophy or read the Summa to understand the basics of natural law. The law is written on our hearts (CCC 1954+), that i,s we can know it through reason and I suppose we could even argue we know it instinctively.

That’s not to say we all automatically know the whole Truth and the complete moral law;  no, that we have to seek in order to find. We are promised that should we seek it, we will find it. The Church has always taught that we must follow our conscience and that we are obliged to form that conscience. As parents we are the primary educators of our children, so we are to help them form their consciences.

Stories can help us do that.

Some stories stick with us. The great old fairy stories that the Grimm brothers have made famous, are steeped in old pagan memories but also in basic human truths. We see that beauty is in itself something of goodness, and that it is more than skin deep (Beauty and the Beast). We see sacrifice, love, courage, honour played out against, fear, envy, hatred and murderous intent, without being preached at in any way.

A true story is much more than a factual story.  True stories resonate with us, because we want truth really. The reason that Tolkien’s books remain so popular are because they have that truth. The little men show courage and strength that speaks to us in a way that even Gandalf’s great battle with evil and consequent “whiteness” doesn’t.

I can’t help believing that Tolkien and Lewis will be read long after Rowling and the agenda driven Pullman are forgotten.

One of the most popular kinds of books and TV programmes are based around murder. So many people have read of Sherlock Holmes, Poirot and Miss Marple,  the wonderful Peter Wimsey, Dr. Thorndyke and the ever beloved Fr. Brown. Some the attraction is undoubtedly in the “who dunnit” solve the puzzle, following the clues, but the root of the enjoyment comes from the moral certainty that murder is wrong, no matter how much the victim may have seemed to deserve it. Murder stories have almost the same sense as the traditional fairy stories were good and evil are clearly seen, even when the characters are flawed and complicated, like real people.

I am aware that there have been attempts by writers (for TV mainly I think) to turn the natural law on it’s head and have stories that make out murder to be fine, but I not aware they have been popular. That’s a sign of hope, that even in our post-Christian, post-traditonal-pagan (bring back old paganism!) culture we haven’t completely lost touch with ourselves.

Curricula and books for Kindergarten (Year 1 UK)

Some of the books I want to read with Heleyna this coming academic year are:

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

Fin M’Coul  Geography: Ireland

Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland Geography and Faith: Ireland

The Lady of Guadalupe Faith, History, Geography: South America – Mexico

Clown of God Faith and Golden Legend

The Holy Twins Faith, Geography (Italy) and history (end of Rome)

The Story About Ping Geography: China

Old Befana Faith, Golden Legend – traditions and Geography: Italy.

Grandfather’s Journey Geography and culture; Japan and America.

Brother Jerome and the Angels in the Bakery  Just a lovely book

The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane illumination, ink making, art.

Brother William’s Year

Mozart music I want to collect this series of books with CDs as we go along.

Frog and Toad will make it’s regular appearance.

Alfie and Annie Rose stories and other stuff by Shirley Hughs.

Religion:  Faith & Life: Our Heavenly Father

Maths: We are using Math U See Primer with the manipulatives. Hands on works better for Heleyna.

Mathematical Reasoning A

Hands On Thinking Skills with the manipulatives – attribute blocks.

I’ve just spent a lot of the bank’s money on equipment from Absorbent Minds. If you live in the UK I think this is the cheapest place to get Montessori equipment. Of course our lovely Government who keep talking about the importance of education have slapped 20% VAT on all items – because they really don’t want children educated that much. Watch out for P&P, but other than that it’s great.

Draw Write Now Bk 1 – Heleyna’s hand-eye coordination is pretty good and she shows some talent in drawing. I think I might introduce this book to her as the year goes on. (Their website is here)

Montessori equipment and Montessori-like equipment for reading and maths. Also for visual spacial development, thinking skills and geometry.

A wedding.

I was going to wait until the ring situation was sorted,  but good news shouldn’t have to wait. Alex is engaged to Anna! He has designed her engagement ring and the first stage of the making process is done. I’ll post on that properly when the ring is finished and Anna has the chance to wear it. She’s being very patient, as the process is taking quite a while.

We had a lovely day with Anna’s family om Sunday. Alex is marrying into a lovely family, and poor Anna is marrying into ours and worse still, she is getting me as her mother-in-law!

There is a lot to organise and sort out. It will be a wedding on a shoestring budget but they have some great ideas for making it work with as little flash as possible. Anna is a gifted seamstress and will be making her own dress. That’s pretty impressive. Meanwhile Alex is making a pile of origami swallows; it seems to be very therapeutic for him.

Our PP is away but he is back this weekend so hopefully they will have a date booked by then. They have decided to get married in our church rather than Anna’s for the sake of space and the hall, where they will have their reception.

They are also looking for somewhere to live. Sadly the first place they found, which would be ideal, has fallen through. They are still looking.

I’ll post more when we know more – and I am looking forward to showing you all the ring Alex has designed.

In Loving Memory and future hope.

I’d like to thank Jody Smith for giving me permission to re-produce her lovely article about her friend Lynda who died recently having struggled with CFS/ME and other autoimmune diseases.

Please pray for the soul of Lynda and all the other people who have died of this disease. May I especially ask for prayers for a lady in her 40s who was found dead at home a couple of months ago. The daft newspaper report said medics were baffled by her sudden death as she was healthy, though she had a dx of Cfs! Please also pray for the families and friends who will miss them.

Please take the few minutes it will take to read this. I think it’s a story that needs to be heard.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: The Thief Steals Another Friend
By Jody Smith Created 09/13/2012 – 17:44


My friend just died. Lynda suffered from a number of autoimmune conditions, not the least of which was Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. CFS descended upon her two decades ago, after she was exposed to someone with a bad virus. They got better, and their life went on. Lynda didn’t recover, and her life did not. She lived with her two cats Oliver and Lilly.

She was fortunate to have some assistance in her home from personal support workers — many who are chronically ill don’t have any help — and Meals on Wheels. She was unfortunate in that all her old friendships had fallen away over the years and, unlike many of us chronics, she had no virtual life online. Lynda had a computer and used to know how to use it, but the cognitive thief CFS had stolen her ability to use a computer years ago.

She had a doctor who did not “believe in” Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. This despite the fact that he stood by and watched her deteriorate over many years. He reinforced her fear that it was all in her head. Though he would not treat her condition, he also would not refer her to specialists who might have done her some good.

Other general practitioners would not take her on as a patient because she had so much wrong with her. Something wrong with this picture? Lynda was a prisoner of her frail body and her faltering mental capacities, trapped within her home. One of her personal support workers had contacted me through my website, where I talked about my experience with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. When she told me that Lynda couldn’t use her computer, I knew from my own past isolation that this is a brutal loneliness. For that reason, I did something that I never do. I phoned Lynda. Phone conversations tend to exhaust me but I needed to do it, remembering what it’s like to be so helpless and needing someone to respond. We never actually met but we spoke often on the phone over the last year and a half. It was a blessing for me to get to know her. It was a heartbreak to know that there was so little I could do for. We talked about our lives, our thoughts, our feelings. We told each other stupid jokes, and laughed like loons. I had thought Lynda was getting just a bit healthier in the last few months. We talked about having her come to visit. She was only a four hour drive away from me, but it might as well have been the other side of the world. I can’t travel that far, and certainly neither could she. But talking about that future visit was something to put some hope into. And we did. And then she disappeared. She had talked several times about believing she didn’t have much time left, and really she didn’t want to be around much longer. Life was full of grief for Lynda. I could only hope that it was just her supreme discouragement talking. But a few weeks ago, I called her number and nobody answered. I called often, and the sense of foreboding grew with each unanswered call. I emailed someone who might know what was happening — I hoped maybe it was yet another hospital stay, or perhaps she was feeling better and was just out when I phoned. I received an email that confirmed the worst. Lynda had passed away.

We would never talk on the phone again, never have her over for a backyard barbecue. She would never rest in my spare room. Lynda was afraid that she would die and nobody would notice. I’m doing what I can to make sure that doesn’t happen. I know that life was a heavy burden for her, and had been for years without let-up. I know that she had been wishing to die and now the pain and isolation was over for her. I’m trying to accept that. But mostly I feel bad for me. Because my friend is gone. Visit Jody’s website and blog at http://www.ncubator.caand

(originally published here) I have bolded the bold parts.

There are so many more stories like this one about Lynda. A young man aged 21 died in the same month. It’s well past time for a genuine response from medics on this. Thank God for the number of researchers and medics who are willing to do the work, often at risk to their careers, to find an answer for us.

At last the FDA are recognising the seriousness of this disease and even recognising that it is life-threatening.

Feast of the Seven Sorrows of Our Blessed Mother.

The Seven Sorrows (this painting has a slight variation)

1. The prophecy of Simeon that a sword would piece her soul.

2. The flight to Egypt

3. Losing of Christ in the Temple.

4. Meeting of her Beloved Son as He carried His cross.

5. Standing at the foot of the cross.

6. Christ is taken down from the cross and laid in her arms.

7. She sees her Son laid in the tomb.

(The variation puts the nailing to the cross in and removes the laying in the tomb).

The Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows.

Lift High the Cross

It’s the feast of the Exultation of the Cross.

It’s amazing to see through Scripture the types of the cross. At the beginning there is the Tree of Life in the Garden. The Tree of Life has stayed in the human pysche since the Fall to such a degree that most cultures have a tree of life myth of some sort.

Adam was supposed to take his bride and cling to the tree of life when Satan came, but he ate the other fruit instead.

In the desert the people of Israel sinned, putting God to the test and were punished with the poison of snake bites. To heal them Moses obeyed the command to make a bronze serpent and put on a stick so that all the people could look on it and be healed.

Finally the prophecies are fulfilled when Christ makes the cross the Tree of Life and He if lifted up with all our sins, like the bronze serpent, so that when we look on Him in His tortured body, we know we can be saved.

From Divine Office today:

Hail, O cross, consecrated by the Body of Christ, whose limbs, like precious jewels adorn your wooden timbers. Through you the world is redeemed by the blood of the Lord.

Montessori free resources, lessons, cards, books and more.

As I embark on the great Montessori Experiment with my all too willing children I have searched for the information I need. A friend has already assured me that mixing a Montessori approach with a Charlotte Mason one works well. The more I read of Maria Montessori, the more I see how she and Charlotte Mason were on the same page. It’s a shame they never met, as I am sure they would have understood one another even with the language barrier. The very foundation of both their philosophies was the child as person.

Getting Started with Montessori – links of interest and usefulness

Cultivating Dharma – the most amazing array of free lessons and resources you can imagine. Thank God for people willing to do this sort of work and provide it for those of us embarking on the steep learning curve of a new approach to our children’s education.

Free Montessori Resources – a site that does what it says. There’s a lot here too. I haven’t explored it all yet.

Moteacho offers a range of albums that cover ages from 3 to 9 – just right for me. I love the story work offered from Dr. Montessori’s son Mario; God who has no hands.

The Great Lessons from Barabra Dubinsky look like quite a find too.

Now for your kindle or other reader: Beginning with books by Dr. Maria Montessori herself: NB: free books from Internet Archive are not often formatted and therefore you’ll get more weird and wonderful typos. Some books are better than others.

Dr. Montessori’s own handbook

Spontaneous Activity in Education

The Advanced Montessori Method

The Absorbent Mind

The Montessori Elementary Material

The Erdkinder and Functions of the University

Peace and Education

Books by other authors about Montessori and her methods.

A Montessori Mother (1913). The account of an American mother who went to Rome and met Dr Montessori and visited the Casa Bambini.

Montessori Children.

The Montessori System examined

A Guide to the Montessori Method.

Got a bit of money left over after buying the equipment? Or perhaps the overdraft isn’t close enough to the wire?

Montessori on a Shoestring offers good ideas for home made resources for younger children.

I would love to get Montessori; the Science Behind the Genius at some point.

This book Montessori Learning in the 21st Century is one I’d like to borrow and read, should our library ever have such books.

My free Montessori resources curtesy of Kalei at That ResourceSite.

While I’m here, I would like to draw your attention to the eStore at That ResourceSite where the DVD set is now for sale. I know that both Kalei and her husband has put a huge amount of work and dedication into this package. It’s well worth you having a look at it.

my little freebies;

Montessori pink, blue and green boxes and train template

Montessori grammar shapes

Math rods (red and blue) 1oo square, inch squares and tower templates. These are a good stop-gap while you’re saving up for the real deal. I am not that convinced they are good enough a full time replacements – but you can give them a go.

100s Board

The Sun, it’s parts, state and gases involved

Random freebies:

Science Jim videos

Study Jams

Not a bad little collection I’m sure there’ll be more.

Home Education; Montessori pink tower exercises (with the natural tower).

I bought the natural tower rather than the pink tower. Heleyna is 5 and so she already has the skills in building from largest to smallest in the tower and we have used other objects in her early years so that she can differentiate between heavy and light, big and small and so on.

She did build the tower first and used the correct words such as “biggest” and “smallest” and “cube”.  She then spent some time with the two 1 cm² cubes. She has already done some measuring in 2 dimensions so understands length and breadth. With the cubes I am starting to teach her the third dimension (and I suppose I will do some work on the 4th dimension with Ronan and Avila).

After she had built the tower upright, she set about making the “houses” as we called them from smallest to largest with the cubes lying along the floor. There are two ways for her to build this. First of all she built it with each cube centred and then rebuilt it with one straight edge and the front “stepped” inwards. Using the 1 cm² cube she measured the gap seeing that each cube was 1 cm wider than the next.

The Helpful Garden has free downloads including some cut’n’paste pink tower sheets.

Here are some great photo’s of pink tower and brown stair extension exercises. I don’t have a brown stair at this point.

There are patterns that can be tried out too. Language words are “biggest” and “smallest” and beginning ordinal numbers “first”, “second” etc.

Mixing sizes and angles for different patterns work well. There are places around the net with ideas for different patterns. Heleyna built the tower with the blocks set to a corner so there was a 1cm rim around two sides of each block that the 1 cm block can step down.

Heleyna was particularly pleased with her spiral shape.

The next exercise was to have Heleyna build the blocks into patterns from the pink-square patterns I had made.

This was much harder to do. It involves visual spacial as well as hand eye coordination. She did pretty well.

Avila came to join us after she had finished some of her work and she had a go with the blocks too. I have to admit it would not have occurred to me to offer the exercises to Avila as I assumed she would not be interested – but she did some of them just for fun.

Some of you may remember that Avila struggled to learn to read. She showed a lot of dyslexic tendencies; letter reversals, using any letter in a word to work it out, reading from the wrong direction, not seeing word patterns and so on. There was a lot for her to overcome. She is now a fluent reader and her writing rarely shows letter reversals. In maths however she still reads numbers in a higgley way and reverses order and shape of her numbers.

With the cubes she found copying the patters from the pink square sheets very difficult to do. She did self correct, as Dr. Montessori would like, but she needed feedback on whether her correction was correct – which it often wasn’t. I can’t help wondering if this is a dyslexic thing. Visual perception problems in dyslexia is still hotly contended. As with many areas of interest the research is patchy and sometimes not very well done. But that’s immaterial to Avila. I think I will encourage her to use the cubes and do the extension exercises once I have a brown stair.

My health – trying to make a plan, but facing a wall.

It would be fair to say that the first week of term was really, really hard.

I crashed on Monday because I found myself doing loads extra to make up for what I hadn’t done after the holiday because I was ill again.

Then I found some safe=pace in the mid-week but yesterday I was struggling with everything, shivering uncontrollable and feeling horrible.

So. I need to do something.

I’ve come across a lot of people on the forums of Phoenix who have managed to arrest the downward trend of their illness. Some people have even manage to improve and I have been offered stories of those who have gone into remission.

So far I’ve hit a wall every time my lovely GP has referred me to some kind of “specialist”. While my heart problems are getting worse the results of my tests have vanished. There is no record I even had the ultrasound. I knew this would happen.

The cardio dx costochondritis even though I have no symptoms of it. I have chest pain that radiates into my arms, back, neck and jaw, not localised. Worse still the bloomin’eejit dx it by pressing on the fibro trigger points and asking if it hurt. Of course it hurt!

Meanwhile I was referred to a lung specialist. I waited well over 7 months and then had 3 minutes with him. He didn’t bother to ask much. I had a test and guess what? He wrote over a month after the test saying “you have asthma and you’re overweight.” REALLY? Perhaps if I could walk and wasn’t up to the eyeballs in steroids…and as for the asthma I’ve known about that since I was knee-high!

I had to cancel the next appointment for tests because I was back on antibiotics and steroids. I haven’t even had an acknowledgement,  let alone a rebooking.

I can’t even have the correct bloods done on the NHS.

So, basically I am on my own.

I have been warned by fellow sufferers who know first hand what can happen, that if I don’t find a way to ditch a lot of activities I could end up bed bound. Scary prospect.

There is a POTS/dysautonomia specialist locally but I can’t face asking for a referral. Anyway, so far it’s all gone to the wall.

I have an appt at the epilepsy clinic in October and I can easily predict (no crystal ball required) that there will be no help there either. It’s really frustrating and made worse by the fact that there could be treatment if the doctors could just be bothered (or able) to spend more than a couple of minutes with the patient!

Bottom line then? I have NO IDEA what to do, and my circumstances mean I don’t know what to stop doing either.

I know there are people out there, sicker by far than I am, and who receive no medical care at all as they are too sick to go in search of it.  I know I should be grateful for  GP who at least has tried to help, but honestly, there is no excuse for the shoddy care the NHS offers. There was even an all party parliamentary document issued around 2009 demanding better care – and nothing has changed.

Loads to offer up though :))

Happy Birthday Blessed Mother.

It’s the feast of Our Lady’s birthday today. We are so blessed that Jesus gave us His mother to be our mother too.

I was listening to Catholic Answers (archive  27th August 2012 Dr. Tim Gray). He was explaining some things about the two Temples.

You probably remember that the first Tabernacle of the Lord was the tent structure Moses put up under the instruction of God. It was movable as Israel travelled through the desert. At the heart of the Tabernacle was the Ark of the Covenant with it’s two great angels bowing over the Mercy Seat. Inside it’s gold lined interior sat the stone tablets of the Law, some manna (the bread from heaven) and the rod of Aaron’s priesthood.

Once Israel was settled in the Promised Land God asked that Solomon the son of David build Him the first Temple. It was a huge and magnificent building in the city of Jerusalem. We often see that Jerusalem was a symbolic “bride” as Israel was the bride of Adonai (Beloved husband).

Israel’s sin divorced her from God as Israel broke their side of the Covenant. God in His mercy sent prophets to warn the people and the prophets were killed. So the inevitable consequences occured and Israel was taken from the Promised Land.

At last the tribes of Judah and Benjiman returned and the Second Temple was built. It was not as grand as the first but it allowed the people to serve God faithfully.

Then there is the tradition that Jeremiah hid the Ark of the Covenant in the mountains somewhere.

Finally in about the year 18 BC Herod began the enormous building project of the new Temple in Jerusalem. It was so huge that all the pilgrims from the diaspora could stand within it’s walls. There was even a court for the gentiles (although it was misused and Jesus had to clear out the market that had been set up there).

Jesus calls Himself the temple when He says “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”

The new Ark is His mother. She held Him, the Bread of Heaven, the High Priest of the new Covenant within her womb and within her arms. She is the sign that women are part of the New Covenant. Girl babies are baptised as well as boy babies. Paul says baptism has replaced circumcision which had only been for 8 day old boys or boys and men who converted later.

Jesus is the king, son of David of the New Israel and the new Gebirah (queen mother) of Israel is Mary.

All are welcome now, Jew and gentile, rich or poor and no matter how sick, disabled or developed, we are all children of Mary.  We don’t have to pass an exam to be children of the new Covenant. We just have to accept the Sacraments that are offered us. Thank God for that.

Isn’t it time to send them to school? No, it isn’t.

I have started this week of term so slowly, you could barely notice.

By Monday afternoon I had already lost my voice and felt pretty fed up. I’m back to my normal now and I think I will do ok tomorrow when we attempt a full-on day of learning.

I have to confess as that term came to a grinding end in July (and I ended up being shipped off in an ambulance – medics in green, not white coats mind you), I was at a pretty low point. In fact I think I was burned out. The fact that I was threatened with another hospital admission in August added to the sense that I had about had it.

So the question was raised, from others, but it was in my head, “Isn’t it time to send them to school?”

No one has said it outright, thankfully. But the hints have been there, and as the thought was also in my head, I suppose I was more aware of the hints.

Burnout is the beastie that haunts most home ed families at some point or another. I know there are probably those genuine super-mums out there who always manage to keep on top of things and have never reached “crash and burn” state, but I don’t know them 🙂

With the extra challenges that have faced us all this Summer I did have to seriously consider what was best for the children.

In the end, after consideration and discussion with other HE mums I am of the opinion that I have to continue to HE the children. It’s not just best for them, as I make sure their education suits their needs and abilities (which the National Curriculum simply doesn’t do) but that my health requires that I be able to adjust the day to ensure I can function. The fact is I would be unable to sort out all the stuff for a morning and get the kids to school and then pick them up and deal with all the evening homework.

As it stands I can work at my pace in the mornings, adjusting to bad days by simply starting the lessons a little later or leaving the heavier stuff until the afternoon.

Some mornings I can be on top of the pain before 8am but other days I’m not on top of it until mid morning, or on a bad day, not at all.  Even with the different problems the diseases throw at me, I can usually get the work and learning done with all three of the younger ones. The reason I can do this is they are slowly learning to be independent learners.

Obviously Heleyna requires more time from me, but she’s 5, so the work isn’t too challenging and I can usually manage it no matter what my head, eyes or other body bits are doing.

I am not being heroic by continuing to home educate through this. I am simply being practical.  It actually does work for us and although I have been warned by those in the know that I have to slow down or face some serious problems in the future, I think I can only organise that slowing down if I continue to home educate.

What about having seizures in front of the children? I honestly don’t know the answer to this. I do know a seriously couragous mother who has faced this and she, her husband and children are working together with it. I hope we can do the same. Even if they went to school they could easily face this prospect. I think being calm and honest with them is the best way to deal with it. They know it happens – and they know it might happen in front of them (it already has); and they know where to go for help.

I am not underplaying it, but I’m not making a crisis where there doesn’t have to be one. So long as they know what to do, who to go to and that it’s ok, then they will be fine. It’s just another symptom for us all to deal with.

In the end, what matters if that we function as well as possible as a family and that the children get the very best education they can be given. So far, that’s what we are managing.

A couple of resources for any of you facing chronic illness or other family mountains to climb:

See I Told Me So – I got this ebook free during one of those offer weeks. It tells the stories of homeschooling families who kept going through some pretty full-on crisises. (is that a word?)

Homeschooling  with Chronic Health Issues – some first hand short statements from mothers who have done it. Includes a mum with FM and ME/Cfs.

Home education; first day of term; slowly does it.

Ouch! Term has begun and I haven’t!

The children had a go with the colour mixing kit and made some good colours for painting with.

I heard Ronan and Avila read and did some movable letter work with Heleyna.

Then I got to grips with more Montessori prep (which I should have done before but couldn’t quite muster the energy).

As it was the children went and tidied their room – Ronan’s idea! And then did their own reading.

My voice has already gone, and I’ve only been off the antibiotics a couple of days. It’s very, VERY frustrating!

I’ve been warned by people in the know, that I have to seriously work out a way to slow down and do less or I could end up in trouble. So, I am planning to slowly build up into term, and then have one day a week when I do nothing at all. Let’s see if I can have the discipline to do nothing.

Although I spent a lot of time deciding whether to buy Montessori materials I am glad I did. The children have helped themselves to the equipment and have been using it together really well. Hopefully this will mean that even when I don’t do so much, they will still be learning.

Heleyna painted the rest of her movable letters in the red and blue Montessori letter colours and we painted Y and y in purple as it acts like a vowel sometimes.

Ronan and Avila are reading through the Roman Mysteries and loving them. They are also both big fans of Michael Morpurgo books.

Free Montessori printables from around the net


Montessori For Everyone

Montessori Materials Items in purple are free. Items in blue are for sale.

Montessori Printshop has a page of freebies

lesson ideas at Montessori Album

The Helpful Garden

PHANU in Australia there is a real hope for ME/CFS and even FM sufferers.

ME/CFS research around the world is pretty spotty. The US and the UK are long-time hubs, with Canada coming on in the last few years.  Outside of the Nijs/DeMeirleir work in the Netherlands/Belgium, you can scratch out most of Europe.  South of the equator, the picture is bleak until you get to Australia: things are definitely happening “Down Under”.

The full articles are HERE and HERE – talking about Rituximab and bio-markers

I was particularly interested to see that there will be some research into how pregnancy works in ME/Cfs.

I think Dr.Marshall-Gradisnuk was not as concrete about the hope for another Rituximab trial but at least the question is on the table. Thankfully there are other Rituximab trials continuing in America and the Netherlands. I am beginning to think that Rituximab may be our first port of call, rather than Ampilgen, if for no other reason than it’s a bit cheaper.

Even if Ampligen is approved by the FDA in America I can’t see NICE accepting it here. Stamping on the egos of the Wessley school to allow such a treatment would probably preclude it, and anyway, the NHS would never agree to pay for it.

But at least wealthier patients may have the hope of a full remission if they can pay for these drugs. In Canada the Ampligen trial has to be paid for by the patient. (How that works for the placebo I don’t know – if they survive the trial do they get their money back?)

It’s good to see some hope at any rate.

If you are interested in watching the progress of a patient taking part in a Rituximab trial THIS BLOG gives her experience as it is happening.