Meg’s Courses, 11th Grade, 2016-2017

History and Literature: Roman Roads Media “Greeks” (Literature and history)
A full year French Revolution history and literature unit of my own design

Latin: Henle II (Memoria Press)
Greek: First Form (Memoria Press)

Math: Precalculus (Teaching Textbooks)

Religion: History of the Church (Didache)

Science: Exploring Creation with Marine Biology

Literature is included in both history courses, English grammar is covered in Latin, and writing assignments are regularly scheduled in both the history courses and the religion course, so we don’t have a separate English class.

My Boy

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He’s fifteen. He’s already man-sized, and he’s got a lot of growing left to do. He’s strong. He says, “Can I carry that for you?” I say, “It’s heavy…” He says, “Nothing is heavy for me.”

He loves his little siblings, and he’s a good friend to his older sisters. He spends hours watching his fish swim. He spends many more hours building things out of Legos. He’s really good at it. He likes Amtgard, and I remember that, when he was a wee thing and we’d sword fight with wooden spoons in the kitchen, he never backed down. He still never backs down.

He always enjoys the meals I make for him. He’s less picky than his father, so lots of times, I cook for his pleasure instead. A girl likes to be appreciated. :-)

He’s really smart, and very well read, especially about wars, weapons and armor, castles, and medieval Japan. He’s handsome and chivalrous, too.

And I’m honored that I get to be his mother, to play my small part in helping him become what he is meant to be. What a gift he is.

Apple Picking

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We haven’t been to an orchard since 2003.

Most of my poor children can not remember ever going apple picking.

Ever.

I had an excuse when we lived in Georgia; apples don’t really grow there, so we really couldn’t go. But we’ve been here for eight years. The orchard isn’t far away at all. And we still hadn’t gone. The reason? Oh, I don’t know. Too many have-to-dos crowding out the want-to-dos, but I am becoming increasingly aware of the fleetingness of this life we live together. It isn’t going to last. These children are growing, and they’re going to fly before I’m ready for it, and I don’t want to have put off miniature golf or hayrides to the pumpkin patch. Or apple picking.

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This farm was a little more efficient that others we’ve been to in the long ago past. We were in and out of the orchard in something like 20 minutes, and they charged an extra fee to visit their playground area, so we went elsewhere to eat our lunch.

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We picnicked on the lawn of a pretty little church, Our Lady of the Annunciation, and then went inside to say hello to Jesus.

After that, a bathroom break at a favorite antique store, and now we’re home again. Next up: apple pie! Of course. :-)

How Silly of Me

A blue September morn.

A blue September morn.

Yesterday, I got word at the last minute that there was a free event that afternoon at the art museum. “I wish we weren’t doing chickens, today,” I mentioned to Delaney early in the morning. “Otherwise, I’d totally be there.”

She looked at me with raised eyebrows. “You know you can do both, right? You’ll be done with the chickens by lunchtime, and then you can go to the museum.”

Well. That’s a rather shocking suggestion, don’t you think? Two major events in one day?

We did finish the chickens by lunch, and so I bravely buckled up the stressed out babies and drove them into Louisville. And I’m glad I did. It was fun! Well, mostly. At a couple of the art stations, the staff deliberately ignored us, and that was pretty obnoxious.

We hopped on an elevator to go downstairs to the art lab. We admired the pinkness of the elevator, and we chatted about what we were going to do down there, and about how lovely the day was, and how angry the performing poet we’d just seen outside. I was starting to think that the elevator ride was taking an unusually long time, but before I had fully formed the thought, Penelope asked, “Um, should I push one of these buttons?”

“I thought this was taking a while!” Brenna said, as we all burst into laughter.

I’m just going to chalk that one up to exhaustion. Mr. Henry has suddenly decided to wake four or five times a night, and since he’s been sleeping straight through since he was born, this is an unusual development. I don’t have the stamina I used to, and I can seldom get him and Evie both napping at the same time, so we’ll just have to ride this one out! I’m sure I’m in good company, though. Here’s to all the mamas up in the middle of the night to feed and change the babies!

It wasn’t THAT windy…

We were minding our own business, eating a lunch of tuna salad sandwiches and enjoying the breeze on our almost finished patio. Suddenly, we heard a noise, like a cracking or a falling.
“I hope that wasn’t the beehive,” said I.
“More likely it was the tent,” said he.
“You’re both wrong,” said Meg, returning from a scouting mission. “It’s a tree.”

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“At first, I thought it was a bush,” she said. “But I didn’t remember having a bush there.”

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“Half of the tree came down.”
“And you can see the heartwood!” Penelope added.
“It’s rotten,” I said. “No wonder it fell.”
“There was a crack,” Jon added sagely, “and the water has been slowly seeping in.”

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We’re all in shock, as you can see, but grateful that no one was playing nearby.
And that the chickens in their crate were on the other side.

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It was a Bradford pear, enormous, and well known for instability.
In a place like ours, which receives so much interesting weather, it’s a wonder it has stood this long.
Its neighbor was once struck by lightening.

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It barely missed squashing this tomato. It’s our first one.
@brandibruner and her Mittleider Method have nothing on us.

Henry’s Baptism

First, I have to tell you that Henry LOVES his bath.  It’s a big love – a big, splashy love.  He stretches out in that water, head cradled in my hand, and he kicks, and he flails, and he sometimes looks quite earnest, and other times overjoyed.  But he’s happy – always happy – in the tub.  Which is why I never skip or skimp on his bath even if it’s been a long day.  He just loves it that much.

So, naturally, when Father poured the water over his head, slowly, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Henry laughed.

I was thinking about that last night as I washed him up from his sweaty, spit-uppy day.  And so, as I shampooed his sweet little head, I smiled at him and said, “I bathe you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”  And he laughed!  “Oh, yes,” I went on, “you are baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” He laughed again!  He wasn’t even paying attention to the water now, just the words.  “And Father claimed you for Christ,” I said.  “Isn’t that amazing?  You belong to Jesus!” And he laughed!

Then his tubmate piped up, “I belong to Jesus, too.”

“Yes, you do,” I said, ” and so do I.  We all three belong to Jesus.  We’re all brothers and sisters in Christ!”  And he laughed!

I like to think there might be a priestly vocation in his future.

But even if there isn’t, he really enjoyed his Baptism day.

Parents and Godparents and our good priest with four-month-old, newly Christened Henry.

Parents and Godparents and our good priest with four-month-old, newly Christened Henry. Photo credit goes to Megan.

I think it is a most beautiful to have Confirmed brothers and sisters willing to take on the responsibility of Godparenthood for their little siblings.

I think it is a most beautiful thing to have Confirmed brothers and sisters willing to take on the responsibility of Godparenthood for their little siblings.  Delaney and Jonathan stepped up for Henry.

The French Revolution: A Book List for High School (or Adults)

My vision of our high school curriculum is a kind of smorgasbord of half year studies that my scholars can choose from according to their interests and tastes.  It’ll take me almost forever to pull such a thing together, but eventually, someone will have the benefit of lots of options, and I will have the benefit of not so much work.  Theoretically.

I do not personally know very much about the French Revolution at all, but it was a pivotal event, not just for the people of France, but for the entire Western world.  These are the books I’ve chosen, with some options.  Note: I’m an extremely good Book Chooser, regardless of my knowledge of the subject, in case you doubt my selections.  Meg will be my Course Tester this year, and we’ll tweak it a bit when we’re done, because there will be more books than we’ll have time for, and it’s possible that one may not add enough to the fight to stay on the list for the next student.  We will update as we go!

Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution by Simon Schama seems to be the one book on the French Revolution that all others aspire to outdo. I’d originally suggested a different and shorter title, but when it arrived, I realized it did not compare with Citizens for readability. So, even though it is nearly 900 pages long, this is my preferred text for complete coverage of the Revolution.

The Terror: The Merciless War For Freedom In Revolutionary France by David Andress also covers the whole of the Revolution, but with the focus on the Year of Terror.

 

Optional: Lafayette by Harlow Giles Unger. Lafayette was a hero of our American Revolution, after which he returned home to his native France to play an active role in the Revolution there, too. He was welcomed as a hero, but before long, he, too, was targeted by the Public Safety Committee.

 

The Twelve Who Ruled: The Year of Terror in the French Revolution by R. R. Palmer is a classic biography of the twelve men of the Public Safety Committee that orchestrated the Terror, including Robespierre.

 

Optional, but highly recommended: Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution by Ruth Scurr is a more in-depth biography of the most famous architect of the Reign of Terror, and perhaps a bit more sympathetic than history often chooses to be. It’s very important to me that my children see the humanity behind historical events. We are all flawed, and it’s easy to villianize someone after the fact, but very difficult to know what you would do if you were in his or her shoes.

Optional, but highly recommended: The Lost King of France by Deborah Cadbury looks like a very Anastasia type of tale, but might be more sympathetic to the plight of the monarchy than the others. I really like to present my students with as many points of view as possible. I like to think it helps to train them in the virtues of compassion and right judgement. Nothing is ever black and white.

Song at the Scaffold by Gertrude Von Le Fort is a fictionalized account of the sixteen Carmelite nuns executed during the Terror. It is the only specifically Catholic book I can find on the Revolution, but it’s a moving tale.  Because the Revolution was also so violently anti-Church, I think it’s an important aspect, and I wish there was more available material.

Optional: Marie Antoinette by Kathryn Lasky is a children’s novel from the Royal Diaries series, but not everything has to be hard, does it?

 

 

The Rise of Napoleon Bonaparte and The Reign of Napoleon Bonaparte, both by Robert Asprey. These two could be optional, but Napoleon was definitely a product of the Revolution, if perhaps not its most desired outcome. Plus, he’s pretty cool and hard to fit in anywhere if we don’t get to him here. :-) I really enjoyed Waterloo by Bernard Cornwall, too.

Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke was written before the worst of the Revolution and is not enthusiastic.The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine is a response to Burke’s piece, and a defense of the Revolution.  I intend for these two to be read last and for the student’s final essay to be a response to either or both Burke and Paine.

Other essays could include portraits of key players, Catholic responses to the actions of major figures or to the Revolution in general. We haven’t actually been through this course yet, so I’ll update with ideas that present themselves as we talk our way through this unit.

I wanted to include a literature component, which would likely round this out into a full year, two credit course. I have a few texts selected that would work great, but the literature of the period was so depraved that I don’t think anybody should read it, certainly not an impressionable young person. If you are what you read, and these were the most popular novels of the period, it’s no wonder the Revolution devolved as it did. Relevant or not, however, I can’t subject my children to that. The other option is to use the few decent texts available or to cover literature about the Revolution. I’d go with the second option, I think.  I don’t have a book list prepared for this section yet, so if you’re interested, check this post again in a few days!

Henry, Four Months Old

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I just adore this child.  Especially those legs!  Those arms!  He is so chunky, so sturdy, and he has the most gorgeous skin.  Most of us are pretty fair, but Rosie and Henry have this gorgeous Mediterranean skin, smooth and deep, and did I mention gorgeous?  He’s round about 20 lbs already. (!) He’s very much wanting to taste our meals, so I share anything that’s tastable, like mashed potatoes and ice cream.  He usually sleeps pretty well, but he’s so big that I wake him up between 2 and 3AM to feed him, just to keep my milk supply up for him.  Lately, though, he’s been waking two or three times per night, and sleeping a lot during the day.  I suspect another growth spurt is imminent. (!) He has a most lovely personality, much milder than Miss Evie, which is good, because two Evies in a row would be crazy!  One Evie is more than enough for anybody.  But if you can follow an Evie up with a Henry, you’re doing okay.

A couple of weeks ago, I had both of these babies lined up on the floor for tandem diaper changes.  (Evie’s taking a potty break.)  “Look at me!” I said to Davey. “I’m 44 years old!  What were we thinking?”  But here’s the reality.  These people – these children, this man – are my road to Heaven.  They are the ones who inspire me to be more than I am.  They open me up to a bigger and more meaningful life than I would ever have found on my own.

So, twenty years into my motherhood, I still change lots of diapers.  I still cut food into tiny pieces or mush it in a blender.  I still wake multiple times in the middle of the night to check on small people.  I still think of outings in terms of stroller-friendliness.  I’m still limited, bound by the needs of children who depend on me for their most basic needs.

And twenty years into my motherhood, I still need to learn over and over again about sacrificial love.  I still need to learn to die to self, to not mind another diaper change, to work cheerfully with only one free arm, to patiently rise from my bed to nurse by the light of a digital clock, to listen to another story, to toilet train another child, to commit to educating just one more.  It’s hard, and in some ways, it’s getting harder.

But then, those sweet faces smile at me, pudgy arms wrap themselves around my neck, and I melt into a puddle of contentment.

What the heck.  Sleep is for sissies anyway.

Fine Arts in the Homeschool

We planned to start school this year on the fifteenth, but I haven’t got all the lessons planned out yet, so that is definitely not going to work.  I’m making progress, but it’s slow, partly because I’m thinking as I’m planning about why and what and how we should be learning.

Let’s take art, for instance.  I’ve got two homeschool high school graduates now, but I’ve only really realized the value of art in the curriculum in the past year.  I know!  I’m crazy!  Or maybe I’m not.  Maybe it’s a general trend, even among homeschoolers, to undervalue the fine arts.

Allow me to think out loud here for a while?

Last year, I put a special emphasis on making art.  Not as much as I could have, but we made more art – together and independently – than we ever have before.  We had a Refrigerator Art Gallery and a constantly rotating collection.  We were looking at each others’ work, admiring what was beautiful, moving, interesting, unique, but also offering suggestions and critiques. (Kindly!  Because it’s very brave to put your work out there for all the world to see.)  The consequence of this is that we all grew in skill and expressiveness, but also in the way we see the world around us.  We are looking at things more like artists, at the details and the light and why it makes us feel a certain way.  I have loved watching that unfold, and it’s something I very much want to continue with and expand upon.

I used to consider art as one of those “beautiful extras” – fine if you have time for it, but not necessary.  I put Latin in that category, too.  But after the first year of studying Latin, I noticed that the children seemed to be thinking more clearly, more analytically.  They were more intelligent for just that little bit of Latin.  Even if there were no other benefits to learning this “dead” language, Latin will forever more have a permanent place in our curriculum.  But over this past year, I could see that art had a similar and complimentary effect on the children.  If Latin sort of fine tunes their brains, art expands them.  All kinds of art: music and literature, painting and theatre.  Latin and the arts are not beautiful extras; they are, or should be, the core.

If I were to consider the most important things for the children to study, I would start with those: Latin and art (and music).  Then I would add literature and writing, and finally, history and math.  Science wouldn’t even make the cut.  (We have and use religion texts, too, but I see more value (obviously) in our living relationship with God and Church and in our working out together how to practice the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy than in the texts.  The texts’ primary value, for me, is in opening up discussions. Which is something else I need to think through!)

But back to art.  This year, I plan to continue and expand upon the work we did last year, and I also want to add in music studies.  We’ll be using the SQUILT curriculum to get us started, and we’ll plan to see at least one orchestral performance.   Children are more than capable of sitting quietly (so as not to disturb other patrons) and enjoying a theatre or orchestra experience without any special accommodations needing to be made.  I mention this because the Louisville Orchestra has special, abbreviated performances for children and doesn’t recommend their regular shows for those under 12.  Regular performances only last about 70 minutes, though, just about as long as a Mass, and, I suspect, they’re more entertaining.  I would not expect to have any trouble with my children at a full-length performance of any kind for as long as two hours.

I want the children to learn to read music, too, and I’d like them to play an instrument, but I think piano would be as far as we could go.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful, though, if we could all play something different?

There was a time in my childhood that my mom, God bless her, regularly took my Girl Scout troop to see Broadway plays in New York City.  I saw quite a few, and remember the experience vividly.  Professional plays are a bit expensive for a family our size, but we have summer Shakespeare in the Park, and the high school productions are quite good.  We’ll make it a point to see those, too, so the children get a feel for the theatrical, as well.

I’m just kind of working out our priorities here, because there is never enough time, and I don’t want to drop a thing that’s actually very important in favor or something that’s less important but more culturally acceptable.

Art matters, in ways I never realized before.

What do you think?  Do you make art at home?  Have you noticed any particular effects on your family?  How would you prioritize the academic subjects?

How I Use Social Media

“My Facebook is more like Dramabook today,” she said.  As she told me about her friends’ angst, I remembered a younger me, a different time, when every cause on the web seemed like something that ought to be taken up.  But older me has learned that (a) nobody really cares what I think about any particular issue anyway, and (b) these arguments do nothing to further my vocation to motherhood, to raising and educating these children for the glory of God.

I’ve learned – and keep learning – that I can’t change the hearts on the other side of my computer screen, but I can influence the ones around my table.

There was a time not so very long ago when there was a vibrant community of Catholic “mommy bloggers” on the web.  Most of us are quiet now, except on Facebook, and I always think that’s such a shame, for we still have so much to offer one another.  And actually, most of us are quiet on Facebook, too; it’s not a good forum for communicating deep thoughts, and when we make an attempt, we are bombarded with a barrage of hateful, hurtful comments.

We’ve become so accustomed, as a society, to communicating via screens, and we forget too easily that there is an actual person on the other side of that screen, a person already wounded by this soulless world.  We let careless words fly, heedless that they cut like daggers.  We read too much meaning into the most innocuous of posts, tearing down instead of building up.

Another glorious sunrise.

Another glorious sunrise.

It’s a harsh world, and it takes some effort to keep all that drama and angst from defining your day.  It takes vigilance to avoid becoming part of the problem.

Sometimes, for some people, the answer is to walk away, at least for a time, but so many of us have found community through social media where none exists locally.  And for the more transient among us, it allows us to keep up with the friendships we’ve acquired in our travels and the extended family we’ve left behind.  It’s a shame to give up all the good to protect against the bad if it isn’t absolutely necessary, and I find that some basic ground rules are effective for me.

  1. Don’t be afraid to delete comments.  I consider my spaces on the web an extension of my home, and if you speak to me or my guests in a way that would be inappropriate in my living room, I just delete.  I don’t explain myself or offer any warnings.  The comment just disappears.  I don’t mind disagreement and discussion, but I expect visitors to always honor the person they are speaking to.
  2. You don’t have to be friends with everyone.  It’s not a contest to see who can get the most friends, likes and follows, even though it can feel like it sometimes.  Unfriending or unfollowing the people who routinely make me feel uncomfortable, discouraged or angry keeps my feed angst-free.  Mostly.
  3. Find the forum that works best for you.  I love my blog, but I also post often throughout the day to Instagram.  It’s a friendlier place than Facebook, and the photos and captions are collected automatically into Chatbooks, which they print and mail to me each month.  The whole family adores these little books, so my posts are mostly memory-keeping.  I seldom post directly to Facebook, choosing instead to share selected Instagrams that I think my mom would like.  Or Marla, being the archetype of Friends Who Aren’t On Instagram.
  4. Be the light you’re looking for.  Whatever you wish you were seeing in your feed, be that for other people.  There’s a difference between needing prayers or encouragement on a bad day and constantly complaining about every little thing that happens.  There’s a difference between sharing a concern or thought that invites discussion and telling your friends why they absolutely must support your point of view.  I try to come from a place of love, understanding and gratitude.  I don’t always succeed, but that’s the goal.  I don’t want to be bitter or hard-hearted, not in real life, and not on the internet.
  5. Watch your time.  There’s a whole beautiful world out there, full of intriguing, wonderful people.  There’s one standing at my knee right now, two years old and singing the ABC song as I type.  I don’t want that screen to come between me and the people I’m supposed to be loving.  I don’t want that to be the thing they remember most about me.  That means that I really can’t have Facebook on my iPod.  It’s too tempting to spend too much time there, and it’s a shallow, shallow place.  Better to keep a book handy for those forced down times (like nursing the baby) which are my trigger.
  6. Leave a comment. The whole point of social media is to be… social.  We need to talk to each other, not just “like” and run.  Share a helpful experience.  Offer praise.  Commiserate.  Encourage.  Laugh.  But go ahead and speak.  That’s why we’re here.

How about you?  What is your favorite social media and how do you keep it from dragging you down?  Do you worry about likes and follows?  Do you want to give it all up? What are your favorite pizza toppings?

I can't believe God does this every day.

I can’t believe God does this every day.