Monthly Archives: July 2013

Book review: A Postcard from the Volcano by Lucy Beckett

imagesHoliday reading time and I’ve just finished A Postcard from the Volcano by Lucy Beckett. It tells the story of a young Prussian Count Max von Hofmannswaldau as he grows up and reaches adulthood through two world wars. Max makes friends with a Polish aristocrat and the story is woven around their different paths towards truth and the wholesale madness that takes over Germany as the country slides with ever increasing speed into the horror of Nazism.

Beckett’s knowledge of history is deep and profound. She has been criticized by some reviewers for using her characters to explain the history and philosophy that ended Prussia and brought poor Germany to such a terrible place. But I liked the way the characters argued with each other over what had happened and how the wise Classical Tutor kept his boys thinking right up to the point where all minds were closed and made Nazi.

Rather alarmingly there are far too many parallels with today’s media and Government approach. New laws in America in particular (as well as less obvious laws here in the UK) are very similar to those that came out in Germany before the Second World War in which people could be arrested and detained without trial or hope of justice.  As Pro-life and pro-family people around the First World are targeted by police today, so pro-life and pro-Jewish people were targeted then.

The history of the world wars is a vital part of our human history in that it really can teach us and warn us. It is with sadness that so much of what Beckett writes in her rich truthfully historical novel is still happening and repeating today.

Some of the men are offered scientific research posts in which they are to prove the Aryan race is superior and the Jews are less human. Just as today scientists are rewarded for “science” that helps the Government and Insurance industry wash it’s hands of sick people, so it was then.

Three wise men hold Max’s life together as he negotiates the pitfalls of growing up and learning love. His tutor at home Dr. Mendel is wise but too saddened and perhaps too influenced by the pagan Roman culture he teaches. Max’s grandfather Dr. Meyer who builds a harpsichord showing that in good music there is still hope and in Bach there is still a soul for Germany.

I am sure I read or heard once that someone had said that the music of Bach was a proof for the existence of God. Bach does shine gently throughout the story, an old portrait of the great musician and composer being a sort of presence in Max’s life, along with the violin that Max plays.

Finally there is the very wise Dr Fischer who is the tutor at the Gymnasium Max attends.

Breslau is a city full of a mix of people, Jews, Germans from all over old Prussia, Austrians and Poles and more. It could have been a wonderful cultural sharing space for music and art and learning.  The people are like people everywhere, good, bad, saintly and evil.

One thing that interested me was the realization (I hadn’t known this) that the economy of Germany was already on the mend when Hitler came to power. The people didn’t need to blame the Jews or the Poles or the Catholics. They were on the way up already. But something was already “rotten in the state of Denmark” as Max’s friend Zapolski who plays Hamlet while they are at University notes.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a backdrop to the thought that runs through the book. Playing the role has a profound effect on the Nietzsche loving Zapolski for Shakespeare’s worldview is diametrically different from Neitzsche’s.

While there’s a lot in the book that points to how a good culture based on fine thought like Goethe, Shakespeare, Alfred Lord Tennyson and of course the wonderful Bach can steer a person around the banality of evil, there’s some points that are missing in the story.

Beckett talks about the beliefs of the local parish priest, one a true Christian, another a Nationalist and anti-Semite, but she never mentions the Vatican Document Mit Brennender Sorge (With Burning Zeal) which was and is the only Vatican document to be written and promulgated in German. All documents are usually made in Latin and then translated. This document was given out on Passion Sunday (Mar 14th) 1937 and spoke strongly and clearly against the rise in Hitler’s National Socialism. I think it’s a strange thing to leave out when she was clear about the Concordat, which of course Hitler signed but reneged on. I personally don’t have an issue with the Concordat that some people have. The Holy Father saw what was coming, he’d warned the Bavarian people against voting for Hitler and in very large part they didn’t. He was trying to save his people as best he could. That seems a good thing to me.

Becket traces the culture of evil that in some ways made Hitler inevitable from Nietzsche through social Darwinism, runaway materialism and all this built on fear and loss for Germany. Luther is condemned but Darwin let off the hook somewhat.  I am not sure what I make of that.

If you want to get to understand how those wars came about, reading this book straight after the Head of the House of Coombe and Robin is a really good way to learn. They are very different books, written with a different style but they both show facets of the culture and thought that made the 20th century into such a century of slaughter.

I wish we would learn. But we don’t.

On the buses. Adventures in Disability.

Whenever we go out, especially somewhere new my dh calls it “an adventure in disability” because we have to find the most accessible route. Back home I don’t use public transport much. I haven’t been on a bus even with crutches because my balance is seriously off and in a wheelchair – I just can’t face it. Even using the local train service can be difficult. Officially I am supposed to give the train service 48  hrs notice if I want the ramp. I don’t know why.

P1030056But here in Edinburgh it isn’t at all wise to try and take a car into town. So we use the buses. But it’s not a nightmare at all.

The buses have a ramp that slides out and then there’s a place I can park on the bus. Easy.

I think I would still need someone pretty strong to help though as getting in and out of the space requires a lift and turn as it’s 180° in a small space. But the drivers are all sensible and don’t hurtle at bus stops, which makes it easier for the children and me.

Thanks to the buses being very regular they tend not to be over  crowded even now, at the height of the season, and that makes it all the safer and easier.

I seriously recommend taking a bus up the Mound if you are wanting to get to the high end of the town. It’s bloomin’ steep and quite frankly even if you can get to the top, coming down is downright scary. The bus avoids all that and it also means you can avoid the torture of cobbled streets under your wheels. No cobbles is bliss!

The National Museum of Scotland has very good toilets for crips. The doors aren’t too heavy and there’s plenty of space to maneuver the wheelchair. The bars are sturdy and don’t rock as you try to grasp them.

The crip toilet is also the baby changing area and I know some disabled people disapprove of that but it doesn’t usually bother me. In the museum the room was big enough to cope with the changing table and me in the chair without me bashing on the folded table.

So, good adventure in disability.

Blog rest

I don’t think I’ll be do much blogging for a couple of weeks. Might not be doing any at all.

But I will be back.

You have been warned.

A question of the DRM vs open source and the cost of curriculum.

070409_uncivilized_drm_ufoAs a raving Distributist I love the idea of an alternative economy. I love how many bloggers and websites offer free resources and information and we can all share it and give back our own, also for free. Our family have benefited hugely from freebies available around the net and from things fellow home edders and others have given us. And in our turn we (hopefully) have benefited others in what we can offer as freebies (such as my lessons on ThatResourceSite and all the freebies Kalei provides there) and lend and hand down to friends.

I still spend a lot of money on copyrighted material though. A lot of the curriculum I buy comes as copyrighted whether in hardcopy or ebook (mobi or pdf). I don’t have an objection to copyright, but there is a growing concern about the nature of DRM coded ebooks.

Even though I prefer, when possible to buy my ebooks direct from the seller ( Ignatius Press, Bethlehem, Sophia Press etc) there are times when it’s either easier or I don’t know the alternative so I buy from Amazon.

All ebooks from Amazon are DRM encoded. This, essentially means I don’t own the books I have paid for. I only lease them. A lot of people are questioning the ethics of this and more and more people are trying to source ebooks from DRM free providers.  Others have found ways to hack the DRM and remove it. While this is not legal (as far as I can tell) it’s considered ethical on the grounds that the DRM itself is the unethical item.

As my children’s Kindle’s are registered to me and I can share books on up to five kindles on my account, it hasn’t been a big issue so far. But while I can lend out hardcopy books to fellow home edders – I can’t lend out ebooks unless they are either a) free or b) DRM free.

Having had to pay shocking amounts of tax on imported curriculum recently (which again in grossly unethical for educational material, which used to be tax exempt) I have emailed some providers asking if they could make more material available as Pdf or other ebook format to bypass the tax man.

I am already able to source ebooks from Critical Thinking Company and have bought ebooks from EvanMoor

One provider is up for this, no problem, (Classical Academic Press are working towards this and already on the way)but another one was more skeptical being concerned that pdf downloads would lead to less sales and less money for the writers, (even though, thankfully they have a couple of items for download)Personally I think this is a mistake. I am sure more homeschooling and home educating families would be willing to buy curriculum if it was more cost effective and this would lead to a rise in sales, not a loss of income. I have pointed out the dearth of quality curriculum over this side of the pond, so that many of us face having to import from America. I really think American homeschool providers could do a great trade in pdf and DRM free ebooks.

Open Source Economics is moving on quickly and showing great results already. I can’t help thinking it is a little like a modern, internet savvy approach to the old cooperatives.

I think a return to guilds wouldn’t go amiss either. In some ways the smaller business can undercut the shark-like giants by offering something the rest of us want and can’t get either at all or at least ethically.

By the end of August I will be spending a scary amount of money on curriculum and resources. I can justify a lot of the expense in that it will be well used by all three children and I can pass it on to fellow home ed families or even sell some stuff on.

But if I go down the road of DRM ebooks and etexts I am faced with not even owning what I’ve paid for, let alone being able to use it for years and then pass it on or sell it on. So, while the initial price might look better, I’m still loosing a lot of cash.

It seems a shame that so much homeschool stuff is stuck in DRM- particularly the Christian stuff. How many Christians are pirates really?

End of term. Little garden party for the children.

Iona and her friends organised a garden party at her friend’s house. They have one every Summer and then a dinner party here in the Winter for Christmas and the Christmas tide birthdays.

Well, little Miss Heleyna was somewhat put out that these events went on and she was not invited to them. “Aha!” she cried, “When I’m a grown up girl I will have a garden party and not invite you!”

TRADITIONAL-SCHOOL-MILK-BOTTLE-CRATE-MILKSHAKE_1Feeling a touch chagrined on behalf of her youngest sister, and being in possession of some very neat mini milk bottles and some left over paper straws Iona decided that an end of term garden party for the children was in order.

So today the washing line was hung with bunting and the garden table loaded with finger sandwiches, crisps, homemade sausage rolls and many other goodies. There was pink milk and chocolate milk with proper paper straws.

All followed up with ice cream.

A lovely day.

I’ve looked at the photos but I wont upload them as I haven’t talked to the other mums about permission. Must do that.

A question of pain and it’s treatment.

Pain is a major symptom of all sorts of medical conditions. It’s the body’s number one alarm system to tell you something is wrong. Those who have the very rare disorder of congenital anesthesia live dangerous lives as they have no warning system. So, in some ways pain can be good.

But for a lot of people pain can be bad. It can be so bad it kills. That’s how people get tortured to death. The pain is so bad, it kills them. Research shows that people who have chronic pain are not only at a higher risk of suicide, but a much higher risk of heart failure leading to death.

So, you would think that something as common and often very serious as pain would have proper medical procedures associated with it, wouldn’t you?

But for so many people pain is the last thing a doctor knows anything about, how to treat, and often refuses to believe the patient’s description of the pain. This in turn leads to the, frankly stupid, opening paragraphs of studies into pain showing fMRI and blood chemistry changes of “Imagine that! The patients weren’t lying! Shock and amazement as science discovers that patients really are in a lot of pain!”

Recently a woman was left to die when a qualified nurse decided that despite the terrible pain she was in, she didn’t require an ambulance. This is one of a deluge of stories of patients left in severe pain, sometimes to die of it, because medical and nursing staff don’t think pain meds are important enough to bother with. Or they are wrapped in the myth that patients requesting pain meds are junkies. (And that’s before you consider that a person with an addiction needs more than dismissal as well!)

There have been some tragic deaths when people, having no proper pain management from their doctor will end up accidentally overdosing on over the counter drugs as they desperately try to get some relief.

Are doctors really so dim, so incapable of listening and making observations that they need to see very expensive (not available on the NHS as far as I’ve seen) High Spec fMRIs and SPECT scans before they will help a person get on top of their pain?

It was the great Dr. Osler who pointed out that as medics relied too much on machines that the standards of medicine would decline. I don’t think, even in his nightmares he envisaged a computer deciding whether a woman in so much pain it was going to kill her, should be refused an ambulance.

A return to basic compassion and a genuine recognition of the devastation that pain can cause is urgently required. Whatever happened to common sense and common human decency?

Back to the steroids, or not?

I was given a script for Prednisolone to keep by for those sudden onset emergencies. The idea was to help prevent my rather inconvenient (to me, the kids and the doc) sudden requirement to turn up at the GP for the nebuliser and   the inevitable script for yet more Prednisolone. The heat hasn’t helped my breathing. My lungs are having a hissy fit and while my dear ol heart and BP seem fairly stable (whoo-hoo) (for now – I am nothing if not a realist) my lungs are squeaking wheezing and waking me up at night demanding air. They are showing signs (again) of being too idle to bother to breathe unless I’m awake to help them. Honestly, you can’t get the organs these days!

The Big Pillow is back on the bed. This works a bit like calling in dad – the Big Gun- when teenage boys got a bit too big for their already over-sized boots and dad needs a word. So the Big Pillow keeps me more-or-less upright at night so I can breathe and then if I slip my lungs are quick enough to wake me up demanding better posture and more air.

Originally the pillow was a breastfeeding and baby nest thing so it’s big, and firmish. I recommend them for you fellow lung-lubbers.

Now, I hate taking steroids and up until recently I have also loved the little things. You see, while I am acutely aware of the nasty side effects and the long term nasties in particular thanks to a looooong history of taking steroids orally, intramuscular and IV I also am aware that they work like a minor miracle; not just on my breathing but on pain and that bone grinding feeling that goes with it.

As most of the side effects are part of my “normal” illness anyway I haven’t noticed much other than the weight gain and the moon face. I can spot a fellow steroidy by that face.

So, back to the question at hand. I have the Pred in my drug box. I am struggling to breathe and I have two reasons to take them. First – it might help avoid a doctors appt or an emergency doc appt. and second, we’re off on holidays soon and I don’t want to spend the hols doing a magical mystery tour of Scotland’s NHS provision. It won’t be good for the family.

My dh says everyone will take it in their stride if I need to sample the NHS up north. And I’m sure he’s right. But we are off with 5 of the children and a girlfriend. I would rather steer clear of stethoscopes and hissing masks.

Is that a good reason to take the Prednisolone? Because I’m a bit (ok, quite a bit) worried about wrecking the hols for everyone?

Who knew that taking drugs could be a moral or ethical question?

Having written all that my lungs have made the decision for me – back on the Pred.

On a side note, the Respiratory Doc has spotted that some of my breathing problems are not just asthma. He is a bit concerned that I’ve been on almost daily high doses of steroids for months and months and wants to separate out the asthma – that needs steroids and the other stuff that might need something else.

While there’s definitely the Lump in my throat around my voice box thing at the moment I am pretty sure it’s asthma.

Home education: Avoiding both Twaddle and poison.

Charlotte Mason warned us parents against the “diluted twaddle that is commonly thrust upon children...” because she, quite rightly, saw it as an insult to their intelligence.

P1020263I confess without guilt that I do censor what my children consume, whether it’s food, books, media or clothes. They have neither TV nor computer in their rooms and they don’t have a phone. The 10 and 8 year olds have Kindle’s and I decide what goes on them.

A child centred education means offering what’s best for the child, not merely allowing them to consume whatever they like.

So far this approach hasn’t been a problem. It’s been remarkably easy to keep out the twaddle, let alone the really poisonous stuff aimed at children. But they are young yet and I know from previous experience it can get much harder when they are in their teens.

I think it’s actually a little easier to ensure they get access to good stuff these days than it used to be. Either that, or I am better at finding it. In a strange way I think the internet – that thing most dreaded by so many parents – is a very useful tool for offering information that I would never have had access to when the oldest three were little.

Home educating the children has also made things a lot easier. Home ed kids tend to be more innocent over all, and less worldly. They aren’t usually as steeped in the culture. That’s not to say some aren’t and that we can all let our guard down. While our little home ed world may be safe enough, the culture is still very toxic.

I did think that as I policed what the children had, I would have battles of will with them – like when you try to make a toddler eat something that might be good for them and all they want is crisps and electric green sweets. However this just hasn’t happened (yet). I do have a massive advantage in that their older siblings are good at policing things too. Alex is the video games master; so they have Minecraft and some oldies like Mariocart. Just in case you are saying “Hang on a minute, are you saying that have an x-box?” And then you may be thinking “Well, she’s not as on the ball as she pretends.”

Yes, they have an xbox which is inherited from their older brother. The games they have are also inherited from him. I don’t object to computer or games console games; I merely object to the children having access to media that is bad for them. They all use a computer and sometimes this includes “play time” rather than just educational stuff.  This is part of their allotted “free screen” time and they don’t get to play for hours. In fact they get an hour unless there’s something else going on and then they get none. They get plenty of outdoors time and play traditional games like Snakes and Ladders and Chess.

On learning from websites and the studies on computer access and brain development – well, it’s a shambles. I think it’s fair to say that many of the studies done are as bad, if not worse, than those done for ME/Cfs. There’s rarely a separation between long hours on Grand Theft Auto and the watching and playing the lessons on the Khan Academy.

It’s actually pretty easy to make sure they don’t watch “bad” TV or play games they shouldn’t because the media is in the house – in the living room.

I don’t make a big deal of what equipment we use for learning, or entertainment. I simply police it all. The children then (hopefully) get into the habit of using the stuff wisely. I have been interested to see that having a Kindle each has not stopped the older two from reading hardcopy books. Part of this may be because we use hardcopy and computer for lessons.

More and more books are available for children that are well written and free thanks to the public domain resources. That’s not to say that all “old” books are wonderful and new ones are awful. Again, we have a mix and some old books are pretty awful, just as some newer ones.

They love the books from Bethlehem and thanks to forums, blogs and even the dreaded Facebook, I’ve had good tips for books from Amazon or elsewhere.

I try to tread a path between the “hate your siblings” and “parents are stupid” on the one side and the moral sledgehammer, complete with so much sugar I could raid Josh’s insulin stash on the other.

I don’t force books on the children, if they really don’t like them. We have given up on a couple of books because they just didn’t suit the kids. They weren’t bad books and they are obviously well loved by other families but just not mine.

I don’t allow them to ditch a book just because it’s a little bit hard to read. They need to stretch themselves sometimes. This should bare good fruit later when they are willing and able to choose good media for themselves.

It’s been harder with films to keep out the rot. However I think we’ve managed it pretty well. There are some really lovely family films that don’t offer gore, violence or sex and do offer genuine relationships and a good story.

Steven Graydanus 60 sec reviews are useful.

I blame the Catholics.

Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ

St. Jerome

There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.”

Ven. Fulton Sheen

It’s been known for a very long time that Catholic Schools are not producing Catholic adults. In fact the very opposite. Concerns have been raised over and over again, and no action is taken.  Parents who don’t know their faith cannot pass it on to their children and if they think their children will get the faith in school, they are wrong.

A few things have happened recently that has brought home to me that Catholics are often the problem. Let’s take marriage for example.  Some gay people think Catholics are anti gay marriage because Catholics are anti gay people. They can point to the sudden resistance to gay marriage where before this, the shocking breakdown of marriage, the use of contraception and even abortion among Catholics has barely raised an eyebrow. Catholics are no better than anyone else when it comes to sexual morality, divorce and anti-children behaviour. It does seem quite late for the outcry over what is called “gay marriage.”

Recently, I’ve had two conversations with someone who does take their faith seriously and knows it reasonably well. I was told that she feels isolated at times even among fellow Catholics because she practices and understands her Faith and even some of her friends who attend Mass, simply have no clue and want to follow the culture rather than the Church.

I have also been told that when a few Catholics were faced with a question from a protestant about why Catholic baptise babies that not one person there could answer the question!

Invincible ignorance is ignorance that can’t be avoided – but I really don’t believe all that many Catholics are genuinely invincibly ignorant; they simply can’t be bothered to find out.

St Peter gave us a strict command:

In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to anyone to asks for a reason for the hope that you have. Do this with gentleness and respect.

1 Peter 3:15

If we are going to obey this command then we are obliged to know the answer to the questions we might be asked.

I don’t really blame those young’uns who, having been through years of Catholic school and in at least one case, a (pseudo) Catholic  University don’t even know why we baptise babies. I don’t blame the questioner, who despite belonging to a “Bible alone” church hasn’t enough knowledge of Scripture to see where whole families are baptised and no knowledge of the history of the Church to see babies were baptised throughout. The only time in the early Church infant baptism was questioned was on whether to wait for the child to be 8 days old, in continuity with the Old Covenant law on circumcision; receiving the answer that as “baptism now saves you,” (1 Pet 3:21) that a baby shouldn’t have to wait. Remember infant death was much more common back then.

Catholics in the west are heading towards a third generation of Catholics who haven’t a clue about Christ, His Church, Scripture or even basic morality.  They walk around soaking up the culture and unaware or even uncaring that the most important person in their lives – God – is practically a stranger to them.

I constantly hear a call for the laity to take up the battle. But a laity going into battle with no generals or officers and totally unarmed are going to be spiritually slaughtered. Starving sheep cannot become shepherds.

Thankfully there are some good things happening, mostly coming from America, but some from Australia too. There are good catechetical and Scriptural materials on the market and free radio and podcasts to help us learn our history and faith.

Mother Angelica who surely will be canonised very quickly when her time to go home comes, set up the Eternal Word Television Network and from her work a global network of TV and radio in at least three languages (I’m aware of English, Spanish and German) goes out. Now, I know many people are concerned by the quality of some of the TV work and I have to agree, but some of the radio affiliations are excellent.

ICCThere is also the amazing work done by The Institute of Catholic Culture. They offer all the events free online as video or audio and you can literally learn the Faith, it’s history, Scripture, ethics and morality. It’s all done for parish level most lectures are of a fantastic standard.

Catholic Answers has an excellent  question and answer format where anyone can phone in with a question. They have programs especially aimed at non-Catholics, atheists and others.

The Coming Home Network has freebies including Deep In Scripture.

Like many people I have a wall of Hahn, but there’s free audio too. Dr Hahn also offers Scripture Study for free Buy his books! They aren’t difficult to understand and if God is the most important person for eternity then a few dollars/quid on books by Dr Scott Hahn is an investment – so long as you read them.

There is so much out there now – thank God for American universities like Franciscan Steubenville and Ave Maria and Christendom etc.

Ignorance is not bliss and it needn’t be that way.

Book Review: Shadows and Images by Meriol Trevor.

shadows-images-novel-meriol-trevor-paperback-cover-artI get the sense that Meriol Trevor is making a come back and I am glad she is. Many, if not all, of her books were out of print but thanks to some good American publishers they are making it back into both print and ebook format.

Shadows and Images is a gentle novel based around the fictional characters of Clem and Augustine and their families; while the over riding character is the very real John Henry Cardinal Newman of the Birmingham Oratory (now Blessed). Trevor’s knowledge of the life and times of Newman is deep and broad so although the book is “historical fiction” it’s very factual historical fiction.

Trevor touches on the industrialism of the Midlands, particularly around Birmingham and the Black Country; Bilston even gets a mention! There is the underlying issue of bad practice and unjust wages for the workers. But she spends a little more time on the surge of anti-Catholic feeling since Emancipation, including some of the violence.

She doesn’t mention this, but here’s a bit of my history to add. I was baptised in one of the first Catholic Churches to be built and opened after Emancipation was finally granted in 1829. SS Mary and John’s in Wolverhampton was opened in 1850, but just beforehand as the Church was completed a baptist minister from somewhere else (nowhere near Wolverhampton – can’t remember where) gathered a load of people to cause a riot against the church. Their attempt failed, partly because local protestants wouldn’t support him (good for them).

The church was opened on 1st May 1855 by Newman’s friend Cardinal Wiseman (who was pretty saintly himself). Wiseman is in Trevors book and his work during the dreadful cholera outbreak is noted.

Clem follows her friend Newman through his conversion, his difficulties over the Idea of a University, his uncomfortable relationships with Ward and Manning and the bizarre trial and attack on him by Charles Kingsley.

I found Kinglsey’s slander sad, especially in light of the good he had done to raise the issue of child labour.  Surely a good Christian should not have stooped to telling great big porkies about a fellow Christian, or anyone. But Newman took it in style and quietly forgave.

Trevor brings her story to an end as the elderly Clem continues her friendship with the even older Newman and those who worked with him such as the great Cardinal Ullathorne. She sees the end of an era that brought some little light to England before the great darkness of the First World War descended.

The children have read and loved Meriol Trevors Letzenstein Chronicles; The Crystal SnowstormFollowing the Phoenix, Angel and Dragon and The Rose Crown

Four Popes and an Encyclical

Papa-and-Pop-PopWell, it’s all happening in the Church at the moment! Pope Francis has published the encyclical Lumen Fidei which was begun by Papa Beni and then the two men worked together on it. You can download it as a pdf; look top right corner. Then using Calibre a free ebook converter and ebook manager thingy, you can make the encyclical suitable for your ereader and load it on.

Then the Vatican has announced that both Pope John XXIII and Bl. Pope John Paul II are to be canonised together. They are waiving the requirement for a second miracle from Pope John XXIII. The second miracle from Bl. Pope John Paul II has happened but details havent’ been released and meanwhile the MSM over here are saying the first miracle is dodgy.  I would really like the spokesperson for the Vatican to make some clear statements on all this.

The Anchoress has a good overview including the consecration to St. Michael.

I have to admit I’m a bit foggy about what’s happening here. I don’t know why the second miracle requirement has been waived or why the second miracle attributed to the prayers of Bl. Pope John Paul II hasn’t been released properly and what is going on about the rumours of the first miracle not standing up to scrutiny. Knowing how extra-cautious the Church is about miracles and how even a hint that it could have happened through other means will mean it isn’t ratified as official, I am confused about what’s going on.  The Vatican press office does have a reputation for muddled announcements so it could be that.

Anyway, hopefully some clarity will be arrive over the next few days.

Heleyna is keeping silkworms.

P1020705For her birthday i n April Heleyna got “nature!” as she calls it. Part of her nature presents was a silkworm rearing kit. Sadly, thanks to the lovely cold start to summer the first lot of tiny worms died. Insectlore answered my email and sent us more eggs straight away. Very impressive, so I recommend them.

P1020721The second lot began hatching on the 8th May and now we have 16 lovely worms of various sizes. The two biggest are named Rhubarb and Rupert. Then there’s a Russell and a Bernard, but I don’t know which ones. The rest are not yet named. In order to keep this lot alive through the cold where’s-the-summer days I’ve lent them my lavender heatable velvet cushion. So they sit in style and can be kept around 20 to 23° C and be happy.

The kit comes with mulberry mash to feed the little darlings with. There’s a plastic tub and some mesh for them to climb on as well as tweezers for adding food and very gently lifting them up if you can’t manage with your fingers.  So long as you keep them warm they seem to do fine. They are easy to clean out. I recommend a paintbrush (size 6 or 8) for carefully moving them when they are little and for brushing the pooh out.

They are slow growing, thanks to how cold it’s been this Summer, but that just makes them last longer. Heleyna loves them but Iona thinks they are disgusting. I am rather fond of them.

P1020873 P1020876They should make it to about 7.5cm and then start their silky cocoons. As moths they are flightless, so they wont be scattered around your house and garden.

We will be making a lapbook about them.

We’re running out of food for them now. The food is a mash made from Mulberry leaves and Insect Lore sent enough to see the worms through but because we’re on a second batch and the weather hasn’t been good enough for them, we’re nearly at the end. I emailed Insect Lore about buying some more. Again they got back to me straight away and are sending more food out, at no extra charge.

I know a lot of people think the live animal kits seem a little expensive, but the aftercare from them is very good and they obviously do care about what happens to the wee beasties, which is good and sign they have respect even for them.

Lung Specialist appt.

images (1)Off we went to the Three Toilet Seats on the Hill, otherwise, more properly known as the QE. I saw The Respiratory Consultant who is a Colonel in Her Majesty’s Forces. I must admit to giving myself the “talk” before we went. The “talk” consists of quiet practicing in being able to stand up for myself and cope with rude, ignorant doctors who give a very good impression of having either never been to med school or to have slept through it, while contracting a serious case of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. So, I was ready.

He was very nice, polite, sensible, knowledgeable and respectful! It’s not just the Prof who is good at his job!

The Colonel allowed me to explain what had been happening and because he was listening he was able to spot some of the things I thought might be happening. He accepted my claim that some of the breathing problems are orthostatic, in that I am more breathless when upright – but not wheezing. He wasn’t fazed by IST and Dysautonomia.

I tried to explain the difference between the “obviously it’s asthma” stuff and the “what is that?” stuff. He picked up on it straight away and talked about the sounds made when the voice box isn’t allowing air through! He described the sounds and problem and that was spot on.

I’m to go back for more tests. At the QE I’ll have tests to look at chest muscle function. That’s interesting as it would touch on ME. I still want to ditch the dx of ME because of the politics around it, but if it is shown that my muscles are part of my breathing problems that plays into the biomedical evidence for ME. We’ll see what happens. He also wants to see what my diaphragm is up to. If it isn’t working properly that too ticks a bloomin’ ME box.

Meanwhile I am to be referred to a voice and speech specialist at East.  Let’s see what she makes of my voice, swallowing and talking problems. The Colonel obviously thinks she’s a good’un so I think I might allow myself some hope there.

My previous tests showed asthma and something else, not yet definable. But today my SATS were 99! I’ve NEVER had them that good before! It’s interesting to see that when I feel better that the easily testable things like SATS, BP and HR also look reasonable or even good. It should mean I can measure fairly easily when it’s going badly and when it’s going better. Whether this will make life easier with doctors I don’t know – but, God in His mercy seems to be allowing me to see some real doctors at last.

So, more tests, awaiting voice and speech appt and I’m to see the Prof and Lupus Rheumi next month. I do hope all this is leading to some answers. I feel like I moved forward knowing I have a form of Dysautonomia. I want to remind the Prof about the hyperadrenergic tests and then we’ll see.

I know there’s no cure, but I can’t help a little hope that I could function better than this.

home education: Curriculum planning for grade 1 (year 2)(age 6 to 7)

P1010150I use the Summer term to step the children up towards the next grade of work. I’m planning what I hope to do with Heleyna over the next year and will be planning and prepping through the hols. This is an overview of what I hope to be using – not everything and subject to change; but a general overview.

I haven’t added into this list all the Montessori lessons I hope to do with her. I will blog them as we go along. I do have a friend who has planned her entire homeschooling year for both her children!! As I am not as awesome I just haven’t.


We are still working through Reading Eggs and I will be using the Grade 1 reading and maths from more.starfall. (need to pay)

She is back on the Oxford Reading Tree books we have on long term loan from a friend and I’m adding in some Oxford Owl (free)books now and then.

Language Arts

She’s working through Draw Write Now Vol 1 and will move onto Vol 2 and so on, as we have the box set as well as the Starfall downloads (free) and the occasional worksheet I make for her. I hope to step her up to the Seton English 1, but she is still struggling with reading so I don’t want to overwhelm her or put her off. She is making progress; pushing her to work at “grade” might hold her back, rather than help her.


For maths she’s working with Montessori bead material and number placement while we have adapted some of the Math U See Primer work to the Montessori approach. She’s also working through MCP Math level B. Now don’t have a dicky fit about that – she just happens to be very good at maths so she’s on a book that is stretching her a little. It’s well designed to move slowly through the concepts so she is getting them well.  She loves Complete the Picture Math Grade 1. I might buy her the ebook Half and Half Animals as well, as I think it will help with the dyslexic tendencies.


We are reading a good children’s Bible together and working through Our Heavenly Father from Faith and Life series. and Religion 1 Seton. I’ll also continue her Bible stories.

I’ve got some lovely Amy Steedman books on my Kindle from Yesterday’s Classics 

Our Island Saints


She’s starting Song School Latin which she loves and I do a little from Getting Started With Latin with her too. It’s also good revision for Roni and Avila.

She is joining in with Song School Spanish  and I am using a little Getting Started in Spanish with her too. With the other two she’s enjoying SALSA Spanish (free) and of course the freebies on Headventureland.(free)


We are using Behold and See Science 1 as a base for science but with lots of Montessori stuff alongside it. I think we’ll go down the lapbooking and notebooking route more often as the year goes on. Some free LAPBOOKS HERE

Read alouds: (These are still a bit of an issue for me as I just don’t have a voice very often these days) I do want to read Pagoo with her; or get Ronan to read it to her and we’ll do some lapbook/notebook work.

I also have some other nature books to read with her.


Children’s Music Adventure keyboard lessons and introduction to composers.

artist lapbooks

Greatest Artists

History and Geography

Montessori resources for Geography.

History Pockets Ancient Civilisations

Our Lady’s Dowry and Our Island Story (which I am not that fussed about) and/or Cambridge Historical Reader.

Rivers and Oceans by Barbara Taylor (I don’t know how easy it is to get)

General list if resources:

Study Jams for science and maths

Possibly Tigtag but certainly not for nearly £100. I’ll see if they do a home ed deal.

free lapbook resources

Starfall downloads and More.starfall(1st Grade curriculum)

Oxford owl and ORT reading books

Draw Write Now

MCP Maths B, Mathematical Reasoning B and Draw maths 1

Seton: religion 1 and (possibly) English 1

Behold and See with Montessori printables etc. for science. Nature study. This, make your own constellations activity looks worth doing. And THIS ONE

Listening time.(free)

The Velveteen Rabbit


Aesop’s Fables  to go with Aesop Lit Pockets from Evan Moor

Story Nory

Classics for Kids– greatradio/podcast of music from classical composers with a story about their life and times.