Thursday, March 27, 2014

homeschooling: 7 things I've learned lately

1. Last Saturday, my Catholic homeschool email list/park day organized a homeschool support day. It really was a full-blown conference. There were 4 speakers and 40 parents. This was the first year we did this. I volunteered my big girls to babysit for the day because only babes in arms could attend. They babysat 7 extra children. The topics of the talks were: Why & How to start and stay homeschooling, Daily Schedule & Organization, Homeschooling the Sensitive/Difficult Child, More on Methods, How to Have Fun, and The Classical Homeschooler....& Did I mention that the keynote speaker was Laura Berquist? I was inspired and learned/remembered...
2. I have got to start the day strong. I think this is hard for a lot of homeschooling parents. We don't want to stifle joy and creativity. How can you tell your lovely children to stop playing nicely together and hit the books? The big girls have no problem getting down to business, so it really is the barely 7 year old 1st grade boy that can be a challenge. I've been writing some sentences (the night before) on the whiteboard. He copies these sentences and draws a picture during breakfast, so he is starting his school day at about 7:30. This has worked well; I use high-interest words that emphasize the past days' work. It might seem silly- or tiring- to start schoolwork at 7:30, but dad gets to see Boy's work before he leaves for the day.

3. We have got to start the day with formal prayer, preferably before dad goes to work. We pray a short morning prayer and light some candles. We are praying for specific person every day in addition to our typical intentions. I want to start singing a hymn every morning, teaching the children a new one every week. 

4.I have got to simplify. These are our out-of-the-house activities right now (it isn't always this bad, but it is always pretty bad) (not including dad's extras after work at the hospital): 
Monday- college ballet & choir, high school school meeting & testing (girl 14) tae kwan do (boy) teach college class (me) 
Tuesday- guitar (girl 13) Merry Wives of Windsor musical (girl 14, girl 13, boy with me as class parent) teach college class (me)
Wednesdaycollege ballet & choir, high school testing (girl 14) Lego engineering (boy) Presanctified Liturgy (all)  teach college class (me)  
ThursdayLego engineering (boy) Guitar (girl 13) College speech class (girl 14) teach college class (me) 
Friday- tap class (girl 4 and boy) Tae kwan do (boy) Shakespeare combat (boy) high school testing if needed (girl 14) 3 hour ballet/jazz (girl 14, girl 13)
Saturday- tae kwan do (boy), church Sunday- church  
I think that is everything...
5. You really never know what is going on with someone unless they are open about it. In the past two weeks, I've learned that two friendly acquaintances have been suffering from depression. I have known them for years, but I guess I really didn't know them. One friend confessed her depression on her new depression/crafting blog. She has been really open about it, inviting real life friends to read her writing. The other woman with depression talked about her struggles at the end of the homeschooling support day that my group had. She just started to talk about it. She said that her depression would manifest itself as anger, but her husband didn't take her depression seriously. She went to confession to an Opus Dei priest, and he asked her if she had ever used medication. She said, "no, my husband doesn't believe in it." So, the priest compassionately told her to tell her husband that he said she should see a doctor. The husband relented from his stubbornness, she is on medication and doing well. It was a great thing that she did, being open about her problems. I suspect that some other moms will have the courage to get information on depression because of her talk.

6. Listening to these 2 moms, I was praising God that I don't have depression. I have other struggles, and right now, we are dealing with some very depressing stuff going on, but I am able to get out of bed, do my work and then smile at the end of the day. 

7.  During the conference, it was clear: we all love our children, feel called to be active in all aspects of their lives, and see the value in using alternative educational methods for our children. I might wonder if I should try a more classical approach with my children...but how can I bypass Romanian and Spanish for Latin and Greek? We are all making different daily choices with how to educate our children. Personally, I am grateful for the support of the homeschool charter school we use, but many people do not want to give up their freedom. And yes, if my children are mandated to take standardized tests, we are losing freedom even if I chose the curriculum and method and delivery system. We are a small minority even if it seems like all Catholics are homeschooling (nope- we are in the minority) and we are loud and proud, so it is wonderful to have this group of committed home educators.

Simcha Fisher inspired search term 'poetry'

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fear not

Thursday, March 20, 2014

7 Quick Takes, randomly yours...

1. Big girls are singing "Just you wait, 'enry 'iggins" from My Fair Lady while playing a geography board game with dad. I am blogging. The little ones are sleeping. We live a wild life. My girls are convinced that Eliza Dolittle would have done better with Fred than Henry Higgins. 

2. Have you ever watched 'Horrible Histories'- irreverent, but with a British accent that makes everything so much more elegant! 
3.  Please pray for the Lewis family who lost two daughters- Olivia and Emma- in a car accident this week. Their father is a professor at Wyoming Catholic College. I don't know them, but their story is heavy on my heart.

4. Brilliant lifehack from my brother-in-law...use a coffee filter as a plate/napkin for those small snacks for the kids- some apple slices, a few crackers. If you use unbleached filters, you can throw it in the compost pile!

5. Boy at Lego class on Thursday morning the first week of the Great Fast- he doesn't always get a bath! We had planned a Pre-Sanctified Liturgy for Wednesday (Byzantines start Lent on Clean Monday two days earlier), but the schedule got mixed up and a visiting Roman-rite priest celebrated a Mass and distributed ashes. It was packed! Why is it that more people will come for ashes than will come even for Easter?....
6. A reader asked- "What is the problem with Eastern Catholics 'borrowing' from the West? As a Latin-rite Catholic, I like to borrow some spiritual practices from the East...."
As you can see from the photo above, we also 'blend' our spiritual practices quite a bit, but we try to make our Byzantine rite the 'first stop' in our spiritual journey. Why? Well, I can already see my children being influenced by the majority culture in some ways. Let's take language. Their Romanian is not very good and neither is mine. Why? Well, we live in the United States. Most of the people we know are bi-lingual, so it is easier for them to speak in their accented English than for them to decipher our accented Romanian. Their father is working a lot and also in the habit of speaking English most of the time to them. Plus, English is just easier- at least when it comes to grammar.
I can see the same thing happening with the Byzantine rite. It is more difficult to be Byzantine than Roman-rite. An Akathist to Mary takes double the time that a rosary takes to pray. The culture-at-large knows little to nothing about Eastern Catholics, so we don't get even a little corporate nod like McDonald's fish-on-Fridays sale. We are much, much smaller, so it can just be next-to-impossible to find a Byzantine parish to attend! Or, if you have a parish less than an hour away, it will probably have only one Divine Liturgy on Sundays. You don't have the choice of the 6:30 AM or the 'last chance Mass' at 7 PM.
And then, there is our history. We are in a golden age of understanding between rites, I believe. This was not always the case. The Eastern rites' traditions were suppressed in the United States. So, we tend to get a little squirrely when someone suggests- just put your kid in the (Roman-rite) Catholic school! Just say a rosary! Bless us O Lord! Where's your scapular? Is that a Muslim prayer-thing on your wrist? It's Friday! Let's go out for fish sandwiches! Roman-rite spiritual practices are holy, just as Byzantine ones are, but there is only so much time in the day. If we take up Western practices, we probably will abandon our Eastern ones.
image: fox news

pretty happy funny real: food, flowers, & Shakespeare

pretty- after a 6:30 AM Mass, dew still sparkling on the flowers
happy- an old photo from St valentine's Day. The big girls always make us a balcony dinner because I teach evenings. Now that it is Lent, my mouth is watering looking at the cheese and meat plate!
funny- My parents visited us to see the big girls in Two Gentlemen of Verona and husband and I in the adult class playing some scenes from Much Ado About Nothing. My mother treated the girls to a blended drink with some coffee in the big (14 & 13) girls' drink! This is the same mom who cried when she saw my older sister drink some coffee when she was 18 years old! Times have changed, haven't they? (yes- baby girl has a sometimes lazy eye...advice?)
real- Boy has been taking some Lego 'engineering' classes courtesy of our public charter homeschooling program. He was very excited to show his friends and teacher the William Shakespeare Lego mini-fig (I know all the lingo now) he received from his grandparents for his 7th birthday. One of the parents, watching Boy's enthusiasm for Shakespeare, said "he is an interesting boy." What does that mean? I don't want to dampen his love for atypical activities or his natural exuberance. Somehow, I am raising very social, empathetic, creative and extroverted children. I felt bad that Boy is already weird- even among homeschoolers.   

Friday, March 14, 2014

m-ai întrebat: Byzantines & 'offering it up'

A reader asks: "I liked the article you posted about offering things up.  I have never come across Eastern Catholic or Orthodox using that language. I understand the Roman teaching and have taught my children to think of Christ's suffering and unite their pain to His and pray for someone in need. Or I tell them to think of Christ's suffering and be grateful and bear things with patience. But I have avoided telling them to offer things up, I guess I always wondered how it fits in our Eastern spirituality. Can you help me out with this or point me to a similar Eastern thought or practice? Maybe it's been a silly thing for me to even with about?!"
I asked my husband for help on this one. I am always hesitant to make declarations of 'this is how 100% of Byzantine Catholics worship" because I am a mom not a theologian and historian & I am Romanian Byzantine Catholic. Much of which might be a forced 'Latinization' for a Slavic jurisdiction will be just a natural inclination towards the Latin because we are a Latin people. For example, in Romania, you will find the stations of the cross in an Orthodox church. 

In any case, there are many examples of Eastern Christians 'offering up' our sufferings as a sacrifice to God and an offering for the good of another soul. In the Divine Liturgy, the priest prays the 51st Psalm ("O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you have no delight in sacrifice;if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise") while incensing the church; the people are praying the great doxology. This means, for me, that their entire Divine Liturgy is an 'offering up.' 

Perhaps we should encourage and tell our children that prayerful behavior at the Liturgy is a sacrifice of a contrite heart to God. And as it is an Eastern practice to pray unceasingly (as with the 'Jesus Prayer'), doesn't it follow that we should try to extend what we do in the Divine Liturgy to our daily lives? If the priest- and the people- is offering a sacrifice in the Divine Liturgy, shouldn't we extend that sacrifice and 'offering up' during the rest of the day? 

During the Great Fast, we celebrate the Pre-sanctified Liturgy on weekdays. One of the most frequent responses is "Let my prayer rise like incense before you, and the lifting of my hands as an evening sacrifice." It is clear that we are 'offering up' our sacrifice to God. 

I think that our beautiful and reverent Liturgies can actually be detrimental to personal and family prayer. After a two hour Liturgy (maybe standing the entire time), a person might feel that they are 'done' for awhile. This might be why we Eastern Christians do not have a version of that blue Pieta prayer book. But we are not 'done.' 

We should learn our holy traditions and practice them as well as we can, but this should not stop us from personal devotions. We should not abandon liturgy-based prayers such as the Akathist to the Theotokos, but this does not mean that a rosary cannot be beneficial to us as well. We Eastern Christians have a different way of seeing things, but this does not mean that the other way is invalid. For unity to be a possibility, our traditions should be practiced by us Byzantines and respected by the West just as we should do the same for their traditions. 

There will be some 'cross-over' for both East and West. The Pre-sanctified Liturgy is a great example of this cross-over; a long, mystic, very Eastern Liturgy written by the future Pope of Rome, Gregory the Great

so dear reader, please continue 'offering up' your sacrifices to God- and keep my family and I in your prayers as you are in mine!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

where I am from: a simple poem

I am from licorice toffees, violet mints, Turkish delight
I am from rallies against nuclear weapons, a prayer circle remembering John Lennon, a life chain.

I am from the aloe vera, the eucalyptus, the Scotch broom, the blackberry, the dogwood, the primrose,  the poppy, the palm

I am from reading the same book again and playing a play and giving to new immigrants from Howie, Howard and Hattie.

I am from loud singing and sitting in the front row.

From "it will be in the last place you look for it," "if you have nothing to do, don't do it here," and "offer it up."

I'm from California & England & Czech & Germany & Romania, enjoying tacos, trifles, cabbage, garlic, greens

I'm from the flute player, the advocate, the mother, the searcher, the sock-monkey-maker, the sometime quilter & crocheter, the sensitive extrovert, the Californian

I'm from the surfer, the warehouse man-turned historian, the activist, the father, the woodworker, the talkative introvert, the New Yorker

From the green jello salad with cottage cheese and grated carrots, the wheelchair, the smile, the singing voice

From the blackberry pie, from Little House (the book, not the series), from ragdolls made before cancer took her

From the Anglophile, from his movies that crop up on television in far places, dubbing him into Slovak 

From a Japanese garden, from the diabetes that limited him to one glass of wine, from his mild distaste of the Church and possible return

I am from the Quakers- singing "Animal Crackers," from the Episcopalians- not quite singing a solo in children's choir, from the Catholics- singing "On Eagle's Wings," then "Salve Regina," then "O, Maicuta Sfanta."

I am from heaven- as everyone is.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

not about Lent: 7 secular love songs I love

It is the first Friday of the Great Lent, and I feel like everyone in the Catholic and spiritually-inclined blogosphere has it covered. Click on my labels 'lent' or 'fasting' to your right if you are curious about what I have written in the past. I don't really feel inspired to post yet another lentil soup recipe on the blog. I probably will post recipes soon. But not today.
I could get all spiritual about the songs above. Didn't Chesterton say “The most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children.” The first few songs reflect that theme. And what about the prostitution undertones of the last two songs? Well, have you read Ezekiel? So, 'Roxanne' and 'Come What May' are totally spiritual, symbolizing God's love for us, His beloved, yet sinful people!....no?....maybe?...probably not, I just like these songs. Have an awesome Lent!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

SHOCKING Byzantine Catholic Secrets!

Did I get your attention? Did you know...
The Great Fast starts at sundown Sunday before 'Ash Wedenesday' for Byzantine Catholics. So yes- while the majority of the Christian world is enjoying their Mardi Gras, we are deep into the thick of things. We start two days early so that Annunciation and the Saturday of Lazarus (day before Palm Sunday) are not calculated into the Fast.

Sunday Liturgies are even longer during the Great Fast. Depending on your priest, you won't know what is holding him up. He is just really slow during Lent. No- he is praying the Divine Liturgy of St Basil instead of the usual St John Chrysostom.This Divine Liturgy has longer silent prayers. Some priests might decide to pray them aloud or the cantor might extend the singing with the people. The Divine Liturgy of St Basil prepares the people for the weekdays' 'Presanctified Liturgy.'

Weekday masses are long during Lent. This Liturgy is called "presanctified,' so the priest already has consecrated the bread and the Body of Christ has been reserved. The Presanctified Liturgy is a long communion service that we use only during the Great Fast. Only a priest (and perhaps a deacon....I need to check on this...) can celebrate this Liturgy.

Byzantines sing Alleluia during Lent. Don't be shocked if you happen to visit. Any Sunday is a day that celebrates the Resurrection. This means that we don't have to fast as strictly and that we will sing as usual.

Different believers fast from food in different ways. Monks and nuns will most likely fast from all animal products during the season, but people in the world will fast to differing degrees.  Depending on the Eparchy, the 'bare minimum' would be to fast from meat every Wednesday and Friday during the season. Most Byzantines see that as a beginning, and many Byzantines do that during ordinary time. Lay people are encouraged to discuss the issue with their priest. And of course, any small child, pregnant or nursing woman and a person with specific medical needs do not need to fast. 

My family fasts from meat every day except Sunday and uses no animal products on Wednesdays and Fridays during fasting seasons. I gauge my children and will give them meat at lunchtime if they need it. We have soy no more than twice a week because of potential health side effects.

Byzantines can get a little proud about their fasting exploits. And any pride drives away the graces received through fasting. I know a few mixed Orthodox/Roman Catholic marriages where the Orthodox spouse makes a point of how liberal the fasting guidelines for the Catholics are and insists that the small children eat vegan during every fasting season- even on Sundays. Charity should rule everything.

Remember Eastern Christians- we don't start the Great Fast with ashes on our foreheads; we start with 'forgiveness vespers'- all should be done with humility and love for Christ crucified and risen! We are reminded to wash our faces and not let people know we are fasting. If we are guests in someone's home, we should not turn up our noses at any food- like an old calendar Christian  loudly refusing to eat something with cheese on what was Christmas for us.

and yes- this is a re-post from 2011- my first lent post. lick on the 'lent' or 'fasting' labels below for more posts on the subject...
a bonus shocker for any time of the year
The priest uses leavened bread and cuts the center (the 'lamb') for consecration during the Divine Liturgy. The sides that are blessed but not consecrated (so it does NOT become the Body of Christ) are  cut into strips and placed to the side and then offered at the end of Liturgy. Any person can come up to kiss the cross, be anointed with holy oil (depending on the feast day), and take a piece of blessed bread.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Byzantine Catholics & Orthodox Christians begin Great Lent on Clean Monday

image from The Catholic Dormitory
O Lord and Master of my life, give me not the spirit of sloth, meddling, lust for power and idle talk.
But grant unto me, Thy servant, a spirit of chastity (integrity), humility, patience and love.
Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see mine own faults and not to judge my brother. For blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen.
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