Monday, March 13, 2017

First Son's Birthday Post: Thirteen Years Old

First Son turned thirteen last December so I'm only three months late getting this post written.

All First Son wanted for his birthday was an afternoon of video games with his friends, so he invited a handful of boys and developed a method for scheduling the limited Wii remotes. We served pizza, chicken nuggets, french fries, chocolate chip cookie bars, and various candies. Amazingly we still had some food left; I don't think the rest of the boys eat quite as much as First Son.

His most amusing birthday gift was from a friend who found a ceramic sweet potato candy dish at a thrift store. (First Son and his friend have a weird "potato" thing.) He filled it with candy, wrapped it in aluminum foil and told him it was a baked potato. Without unwrapping the foil, First Son cheered and started to put it in the kitchen for later. His friend had to laughingly tell him he should actually open it.

First Son must love this t-shirt. He wore it for his birthday party (also his actual birthday) and his baptismal anniversary.

For his baptismal anniversary, First Son really wanted a dinner of the 8 Polish Foods of Christmas. Kansas Dad took on the challenge and received a round of applause from all the children for his efforts!

First Son likes to eat everything. One day a week, our parish hosts dinner for the middle school and high school kids. We feed him before he goes, he eats his meal, and then he usually finishes someone else's meal or has seconds (or both!). He especially likes potatoes (of course), ham and potato chowder, pierogi, and chicken enchiladas. He likes raw celery, too. We have friends who bring celery just for him and their younger daughter laughs and jumps up and down because she's so excited to share it with him.

We have a lot of pictures of First Son making funny faces.

His favorite movies - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (the only two Harry Potter movies he's seen), The Return of the Jedi  (the original VHS version), The Force Awakens, Guardians of the Galaxy, and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (the only Narnia movie we've seen).

His favorite books - Far Side comics, the Chronicles of Prydain, the Harry Potter books, and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

favorite games - Munchkin (some language may be offensive), Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze, chess, Star Wars Trivial PursuitKing of Tokyo (the new version seems to be just as good and less expensive)

He also received a Kindle Fire for Christmas that he loves.

Recently, First Son began collecting Pokemon cards and building his own decks to play with friends. Kansas Dad was hoping to avoid the Pokemon craze, but it is fun to watch him and his friends poring over cards and battling each other with their decks. It seems like one of the less dangerous ways teenagers could spend their time.

He doesn't really like lessons in general, but he often enjoyed his science experiment days. This picture is from one of his favorites. He set alcohol on fire.

favorite lessons -  math, independent reading, logic (Mind Benders puzzle books)

I let the kids try out for the homeschool play this year and First Son earned the role of the Mayor in The Pied Piper, the role with the most lines. He's done very well memorizing the lines and making them funny when they are supposed to be funny. He's still working on his stage presence, but we have a little more time before the play.

He's still taking taekwondo classes. He's a blue belt red strip. (He probably could have tested for his red belt before now but we've been busy the past few belt testing weekends.) He went to his first tournament last fall and earned two first place trophies - one for his form and one in sparring.

Every Sunday, First Son volunteers in the parish nursery so parents of little ones can attend our adult education class (taught by Kansas Dad and a few other men of the parish). He loves his time in the nursery and delights the children with his silly antics.

Sometime between Thanksgiving and New Year's, First Son grew taller than me.

Sometime between New Year's and the first week of February (when we were in Illinois for my grandmother's 90th birthday party), he grew taller than Kansas Dad.

We recently bought him new shoes. Size 11.

First Son isn't afraid to follow Kansas Dad on any trail. He doesn't complain, doesn't waver, just puts one foot in front of the other all the way to the top.

First Son is growing into a fine young man. We know he's a teenager, but we're glad he still likes to be with us.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

January and February 2017 Book Reports

Between the Forest and the Hills by Ann Lawrence is set in a Roman British town at the time of the Empire's collapse. We listened to this in the van along with Kansas Dad and it was a particularly good choice for the whole family to enjoy: witty dialogue, easy humor from the squawking raven, brave and wise characters, all set in an interesting historical period. This book is one of the many wonderful books of historical fiction available from Bethlehem Books. (purchased audio book at Audible)

The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff is another novel of historical fiction set near the end of the Roman Empire's presence in Britain. This is one of First Son's books for volume 2 of Connecting with History (seventh grade). It's a tale of daring and mystery when the son of a missing Roman soldier ventures north of the wall to discover the fate of the missing Legion and recover (if possible) their Eagle. It's a good book for a middle school boy to read and contemplate the meaning of loyalty, friendship, slavery, and civilization. I haven't seen the movie, but according to the review at Common Sense Media, it's not as good as the book. (library copy)

Virginia's General by Albert Marrin is a biography of Robert E. Lee and an examination of the Civil War from the Confederate standpoint, though not always favorable to the Confederacy. First Son read this book for his American History. The chapters are well-written, but long, so First Son struggled a bit to read them. Originally he was assigned two chapters a day, but I decreased it to one a day. I appreciated greater insight into the Confederate side of the war and a favorable presentation of Lee, a distinguished man worthy of respect. (library copy)

The Innocence of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton - link to my post. (free Kindle version)

Oh, Ranger! True Stories from our National Parks edited by Mark J. Saferstein is a collection of short essays by National Park Service rangers covering just about every aspect of life as a ranger. It's a great peek at life in national parks from historical sites to the wilderness of Alaska, but I found the writing varied in quality. The photography, however, is amazing throughout. (purchased used on Amazon)

The Chronicles of Prydain (5 volumes) by Lloyd Alexander - link to my post. (library copies, though I have since acquired three from other members at

Letters from Rifka by Karen Hesse is, I think, recommended in our Connecting with History curriculum even thought it's not available at their store. It's a series of letters written by a young Russian Jew who barely escapes with her family on a daring attempt to join her older brothers in the United States in 1919. It's a good historical fiction book to read alongside a study of immigration through Ellis Island. (library copy)

Transforming Your Life through the Eucharist by John A. Kane - link to my post. (purchased from the publisher, Sophia Institute Press)

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough  - link to my post. (borrowed from my dad)

The Road from Home: The Story of an Armenian Girl by David Kherdian is a fictionalized memoir of a young girl's experience of the genocide of Armenian Christians by the Turkish government and military during World War I. Mostly, the girl experiences the genocide in disease-ridden camps but there are scenes of terrible deaths and great fear, so it's not a book for young readers. I hadn't read of these events before and I think the book could be a good addition to a study of World War I to show that genocides are not the product only of Nazi Germany. It's a good book, too, to begin or continue discussions of harboring refugees from war-torn and unsafe lands. I hesitate, however, to recommend it whole-heartedly and share it with my children because I worry they will conflate the actions of Turkey in 1915 with Muslims in today's world. There's no doubt there are Muslim terrorists, but there are also Muslims in our own city who seem to be kind and generous people. With the news what it is today, I would probably wait a bit longer to share this book. (library copy)

Saint Herman of Alaska is a booklet published to celebrate the canonization of St. Herman by the Orthodox Church in America. It shows a glimpse of life for the brave missionaries of Russia who journeyed to Alaska to spread the Orthodox faith. You can read the first half of the book at the OCA website. The second half is the liturgical services, some of which you can hear on the site. There is an incident reported in the book of a martyr for the faith, someone who traveled down to California and was allegedly tortured and murdered by Jesuits. I can't say it's not true, but it's certainly not how the Jesuits behave today. (copy picked up at used book sale)

The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis is a short clear evangelical response to the problem of pain - that there is pain and evil in a world created by an omniscient omnipotent God. There's nothing I can say about the book that hasn't already been better written by another. I was glad to read it because it is so often referenced by others. (Kansas Dad's copy)

Books in Progress (and date started)
The italic print: Links to Amazon are affiliate links. As an affiliate with Amazon, I receive a small commission if you follow one of my links, add something to your cart, and complete the purchase (in that order). I like to use the little I earn on the blog to purchase birthday and Christmas gifts (usually books). Thanks!

Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks - another affiliate link.

Any links to RC History and are affiliate links.

Other links (like those to Bethlehem Books) are not affiliate links.

These reports are my honest opinions.

Monday, March 6, 2017

First Daughter's Birthday Post: Ten (and a Half)

First Daughter turned ten last September, which makes this birthday post more of a half-birthday post; she's nearly ten and a half!

For her birthday, she wanted to go ice skating. So she and seven of her friends went ice skating for two hours. Then, because the weather was fantastic, we went to a park for some chocolate angel food cake (soy free, nut free, dairy free, for her friends). High winds kept blowing out her candles, but the girls enjoyed the cake and then (shockingly) run up and down the hill for a while before we headed home.

We celebrated her baptismal anniversary a few days late because we were in Illinois for my cousin's wedding. Sadly, we dropped a bowl that night. I later stepped on a piece of the glass and while hobbling around on my sore foot injured it. Eventually I needed physical therapy, but I'm better now.

Rocky Mountain National Park
First Daughter is intrepid. She loves to hike and climb along with First Son and Kansas Dad, never to be outdone. For her birthday, we gave her a pogo stick. For Christmas, she received taekwondo sparring gear from her grandparents (she's a green belt) and stilts from us and her other grandparents. She's currently saving for in-line skates because she's outgrown her roller skates (the source of her broken arm the summer she was nine, but let's not talk about that).

In addition to taekwondo, First Daughter played soccer last fall and this spring. She and Second Daughter can be on the same team. They travel a bit, but not too far. First Daughter likes to play goalie. She's quick and cheerful on the field.

She's been a bit disappointed that both taekwondo tournaments were at the same time as soccer games. However, she probably won't play soccer this coming fall and we'll get her to that tournament.

Her cooking skills are improving greatly. Kansas Dad is teaching her "breakfast." So far, she's mastered bacon, fried eggs, and scrambled eggs. (She can also make coffee for her dad and tea for her mom.) She's still working on sausage (which we have less often) and pancakes. She's still great at making a batch of muffins, various breads, and cakes. She often makes quick things for lunch and loves to help make dinner (when she's not off at taekwondo or soccer). She makes popcorn, too.

Really, First Daughter is by far the most helpful of our children. She's at a helpful age, but her personality is also one of generosity and cheerfulness that make asking her for assistance almost too easy. Sometimes I remind myself to ask the older brother instead, but even then she may stop what she's doing and bounce into the kitchen demanding the honor of the extra chore.

sneaky girl added her initial to the bread she baked for us
Many of her favorite foods are the same as last year: Kansas Dad's chocolate peanut butter layer cake, chicken enchiladas, chicken noodle soup, yogurt, fruit, and dumplings.

Her favorite games are Agricola, Settlers of Catan, Star Wars Monopoly, Taboo, and Labyrinth. She bought a Kindle Fire with her birthday money and loves it, too.

More than anything, she loves to read. If you can't find her, she's snuggled up somewhere with a pile of books. She still reads the Little House on the Prairie books and the Harry Potter books over and over again. She's just started reading the Anne of Green Gables series and Little Women. She reads anything and everything, though. I have a whole shelf of books from Bethlehem Books and Hillside Education which she'll peruse and read multiple times. She recently read the Mitchells series in a single day, when she was feeling too sick to do her lessons. Unlike some other children, she's as excited or more excited to read a book after I've read it aloud.

First Daughter has become quite the accomplished sewer. She is the house seamstress, repairing all seams and reattaching buttons, even on Kansas Dad's work clothes. She made some lovely sewn ornaments at Christmas, too.
First Daughter as Rey (Second Daughter as Hedwig)
She's also ingenious in gathering random pieces from around the house and the dress-up bin. She cobbled together a bunch of things for her Rey costume at Halloween including an old broomstick covered in black masking tape (one roll has lasted through years of costume uses), toy motorcycle goggles (Second Son's), an old work bag of mine covered in a brown pillowcase (black and brown pillowcases from the thrift store are versatile costume items), a baby doll wrap, and a ragged brown tunic we received at a Jedi birthday party about five years ago that still gets regular use for all sorts of imaginary adventures.

heart dissection
Her favorite school subjects are math (specifically geometry), history, and geography. She loves coloring in the maps for the Holling books. Of all the children, she's the most likely to start her lessons promptly, work her way through them diligently, and finish them every single day. She does get frustrated when things aren't easy for her, but I do think she's getting better about asking for help. Her "worst" school fault is failing to stop at the assigned page. I've lost count of the number of times she's admitted to finishing a book in a single day that was going to be assigned over weeks and weeks.

Her favorite saints are St. Therese of Liseux, St. Bernadette, St. Maria Goretti, and St. Joan of Arc. She dressed as St. Maria Goretti for All Saints last year. Again, she pulled together all she needed from our costume bin except for the lilies and the palms. We picked those up at a floral sale at Hobby Lobby.

Her favorite songs are The Lord of the Dance, Whatsoever You Do to the Least of My People, and Matchmaker, Matchmaker. She loves to sing at Children's Adoration, especially in the Easter and Christmas seasons when they sing all those joyous songs. She often chooses to sing the Hail Mary in Latin for her evening prayer.

Recently, First Daughter volunteered as a mother's helper at a neighbor's house. She goes about once a week for a few hours to do whatever is most helpful. She loves her time there (with five children from 7 down to 2 months) and is learning a lot about babies and toddlers and preschoolers and cleaning and cooking.

This time has been a blessing for First Daughter and (I hope) for the family she visits each week. I wish someone had done something like this for me and I highly recommend sharing your preteens (girls, especially) with mothers of young children.

Someday we will look back and remember our chattering giggling bouncing ten-year-old First Daughter with nostalgia. May she remain as joyful as she is now!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Gentlemen of the Air: The Wright Brothers

by David McCullough

This is an enjoyable biography of the Wright brothers filled with quotes from letters, diaries, and articles. If you ever wanted to study the lives of men who humbly but diligently changed the world through dedication, perseverance, careful experimentation and documentation, and courage to face physical danger, read about the Wright brothers!
Their nephew Milton, who as a boy was often hanging about the brothers, would one day write, "History was being made in their bicycle shop and in their home, but the making was so obscured by the commonplace that I did not recognize it until many years later."
I enjoyed reading about the first published report on the Wright brothers and their success in aeronautics. Amos Root visited them and, with their permission, wrote a lovely account he published in his journal, Gleanings in Bee Culture. Isn't that wonderful? Apparently, he sent a copy to Scientific American and gave permission for it to be freely reprinted, but they declined.
On July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong, another American born and raised in southwestern Ohio, stepped onto the moon, he carried with him, in tribute to the Wright brothers, a small swatch of the muslin from a wing of their 1903 Flyer.
And now it's back at the Smithsonian.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Title Says it All: Transforming your Life through the Eucharist

by John A. Kane

I purchased this book directly from the publisher years ago, probably when it was one of their $5 books. Languishing on my bookshelf, I finally noticed it when considering Second Daughter's First Communion year. I like the idea of reading a book on the Eucharist myself during the preparation year, though I think I have only succeeded once in three attempts. Either it was worth the wait to find this particular book, or I missed out on a tremendous opportunity for a growth in faith (probably the latter).
How much, therefore, depends on our preparation! For although we receive Christ fully, He unfolds His life according to the measure of our cooperation. Unlimited are the possibilities of the eucharistic indwelling, but our resultant spiritual development is slow, because the reception of the fullness of grace in Holy Communion demands our full accord with the Savior's eternal yearning to be one with us.
Kane's book was like a revelation, guiding me through a deeper understanding of the Eucharist in adoration, at Mass, and in reception.
Thus restraining His communication, thus concealing His unimaginable beauty, He makes our reception of Him silent, peaceful, gentle, and restful. Advance as we may in holiness, however, we shall never unravel the mystery of this amazing union.
The author contends we will continue to contemplate with wonder the miracle of Christ's real presence in the Eucharist.
Inseparable union with man was the goal of the Incarnation and is the reason for Christ's life in the tabernacle. On the altar, He watches over us with love unquenchable.
It's all too easy to take communion at Mass as a matter of course, distracted by our children, who's missing from Mass, or an itchy sweater. The statements in this book helped me focus, not just by berating myself to pay attention but by pointing my thoughts to particular ideas and showing me how to beg Christ to ready my soul for the great miracle of taking communion.
Although Christ dwells in us with His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, in order that His life may develop, may permeate our souls, and may direct our thoughts, words, and actions, the sacramental life must have circumstances favorable for its development, just as the plant needs sun and rain to grow to maturity. Without such circumstances and conditions suited to its growth, that life will never enrich us with its heavenly store; it will abide in us with the mere possibility of its infinite power, and we will be unconscious, not only of its greatness, but of its very existence.
We are not to despair, however, when we do not discern progress in our spiritual life, when we feel the Eucharist is not effecting change within us, or developing our relationship with Christ.
Holiness is most beautiful in the midst of the most uneventful. Few are called to do the extraordinary for God. All are called to be faithful in that which is least...
The minute care by which we restrain our looks, words, and actions; the vigilant supervision that compels us to check the effusions of our nature; the unobtrusive acts of self-suppression--these apparent trifles perfect the soul by completing in it the likeness of God. 
This would be a perfect book to read during time of Adoration with frequent breaks to pray and sit quietly in the presence of the Lord. For those who are recent converts to the Catholic faith, it can elucidate the theology of the Eucharist.
As He transfigures us with His grace, we, too, must elevate and ennoble all who come within the sphere of our influence.
It may also be an excellent book for someone who is not Catholic but wants to better understand what Catholics really believe about the Eucharist and how the theology of transubstantiation supports a rich faith, with the understanding that it is directed to Catholics.

I wish I had read this book years ago and I hope to make time to read it again in future years. I cannot recommend it highly enough to anyone interested in learning more about the Eucharist, how to approach the Eucharist at Mass, and how to purposefully devote the reception of the Eucharist to growth in the life of Christ.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Action, Adventure, and a Growth in Virtue: The Chronicles of Prydain

by Lloyd Alexander

I started this series on the recommendation of a friend before handing them over to First Son, who was 12. He finished the series before I did and wouldn't let me stop insisting the fifth book was the best.

The books follow the adventures of Taran, an assistant pig keeper, in a land of magic and mystery based loosely on Welsh myths. He's a child at the beginning of the first book, The Book of Three, and eager to be off in the world fighting battles. Over the course of the novels, he matures, learning to treasure skills and relationships.

Throughout the books are sprinkled bits of wisdom. For example, in the second book, The Black Cauldron, Taran journeys with Adaon, who becomes a friend and mentor to young Taran.
"There is much to be known," said Adaon, "and above all much to be loved, be it the turn of the seasons or the shape of a river pebble. Indeed, the more we find to love, the more we add to the measure of our hearts."
And later:
Adaon smiled gravely. "Is there not glory enough in living the day given to us? You should know there is adventure in simply being among those we love and the things we love, and beauty, too.
In the fourth book, Taran WandererTaran goes in search of his family, being an orphan. The book is a series of encounters with figures representing different strengths and weaknesses as well as Taran's explorations of various occupations. He finds some at which he excels but does not enjoy and some he enjoys but at which he does not excel.
The potter shook his head. "Not so. Craftsmanship isn't like water in an earthen pot, to be taken out by the dipperful until it's empty. No, the more drawn out the more remains. The heart renews itself, Wanderer, and skill grows all the better for it."
When he finds a man who claims to be his father, he suffers his own unhappiness in order to remain on the land to work it. I think that's the most interesting part of the book. He struggles with his own desire to abandon the man and learns too late what it might have taken for him to sacrifice himself lovingly for a "man of courage and good heart."

The final book, The High King, brings Taran to the end of his youth. A greater crisis than ever before wracks the land. He and those loyal to Goodness and Truth must battle for the survival of mankind against the greatest odds. Along the way, Taran struggles to discern what is right, encountering false arguments from those who choose otherwise.
Math raised his head. "Is there worse evil?" he said in a low voice, his eyes never leaving Pryderi's. "Is there worse evil than that which goes in the mask of good?"
These books provide examples of courage, redemption, forgiveness, and sacrifice. I always appreciate books in which characters grow in maturity and wisdom, showing one path of such growth for our children. These do that wonderfully.
Taran nodded. "So be it," he said. "Long ago I yearned to be a hero without knowing, in truth, what a hero was. Now, perhaps, I understand it a little better. A grower of turnips or a shaper of clay, a Commot farmer or a king--every man is a hero if he strives more for others than for himself alone. Once," he added, "you told me that the seeking counts more than the finding. So, too, must the striving count more than the gain."
My friend who recommended the books wanted her son to recognize the similarities between this series and The Lord of the Rings, of which there are many. The last book draws on the end of that trilogy almost explicitly. I think they could be a good preparation, an introduction to the great battle between good and evil, without quite the same level of darkness and despair as The Lord of the Rings. They're also quite a bit easier to read. My son flew through these books though he floundered a few chapters into The Fellowship of the Ring. I am comfortable with my ten year old daughter reading them as well.
"Evil conquered?" said Gwydion. "You have learned much, but learn this last and hardest of lessons. You have conquered only the enchantments of evil. That was the easiest of your tasks, only a beginning, not an ending. Do you believe evil itself to be so quickly overcome? Not so long as men still hate and slay each other, when green and anger goad them. Against these even a flaming sword cannot prevail, but only that portion of good in all men's hearts whose flame can never be quenched."

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

December 2016 Book Report

Three Short Novels by Wendell Berry - link to my post (purchased used at a library book sale)

Simon Brute and the Western Adventure by Elizabeth Bartelme is recommended by Connecting with History for American History. After consulting with the publisher (Hillside Education is just wonderful), I decided to read it aloud to the whole family and enjoyed it right along with them. It's a delightful novel of historical fiction based on the life of Simon Brute, a French priest who travels to the colonies to be a missionary to the Native Americans, though he spends most of his life teaching and as a bishop. He is a humble and dedicated man who loved and served God and His people. (copy purchased from Sacred Heart Books and Gifts)

Chaplain in Gray: Father Abram Ryan by H. J. Heagney is recommended by Connecting with History for American History at the time of the Civil War. It is only recently published (a reprint of a previously out of print book) by Hillside Education. It follows the adventures of a Confederate priest who became famous for his poetry. I appreciated reading a story aloud to the family that helped to alleviate the tendency to view all Confederates as perpetually in the wrong. It doesn't really explain why someone who didn't own slaves would fight for slavery (Rifles for Watie did that rather well, for older readers) but it did engender compassion for the people of the Confederacy. (copy purchased from Sacred Heart Books and Gifts; it's not on the site yet but she'll order it for you if you ask)

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson is a classic I had never read. The Audible version was well-read and enjoyable, though the story itself is even darker than I had expected. (free Kindle version and audio book purchased at a discount)

Classics of Russian Literature with Professor Irwin Weil from The Great Courses (purchased from Audible) covers the classics of Russian literature in 36 lectures. It has inspired me to fill in the substantial gaps in my own reading. The professor seemed knowledgeable and was entertaining. I loved listening to him quote in Russian. (purchased from Audible)

Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakeable Peace by Sarah Mackenzie is a very short book, easy and accessible for the harassed homeschooling mom. I don't think it covered anything I hadn't already seen or read (being a slightly experienced homeschooling mom at this point), but it was pleasant listening to the author's chatty voice. It's also useful to have a reminder of what's really important and encouragement to ensure our days are centered around a life of faith together first while also managing the more traditional academic educational stuff. This would be an excellent book for a young homeschooling mother with little ones who is feeling a little overwhelmed. (purchased Audible book)

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy - link to my post. (from a member at

Books in Progress (and date started)

The italic print: Links to Amazon are affiliate links. As an affiliate with Amazon, I receive a small commission if you follow one of my links, add something to your cart, and complete the purchase (in that order). I like to use the little I earn on the blog to purchase birthday and Christmas gifts (usually books). Thanks!

Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks - another affiliate link.

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Other links (like those to Bethlehem Books) are not affiliate links.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Keeping a Book of Centuries

First Daughter's Book of Centuries
Each week, I record what the children finished during the week and prepare for the next. I try to read anything anyone is going to narrate to me, if I haven't read it in a previous year. Mainly, I read First Son's readings, with a few for First Daughter. As I read, I keep my Book of Centuries near-by and add to it any events that catch my eye.

The children are asked to add three entries a week. I used to check each day to see what they were adding, but as I expanded the entries in my own book week after week, I realized the process itself and the satisfaction of seeing the centuries fill with events was rewarding. I trust they are beginning to sense the same thing so while I list in on their schedule of lessons, I do not require them to show me what they have entered each day.

There are always lots of questions about Books of Centuries - how to keep them, what's on them, what the pictures should be, what kind of book to purchase or create. I thought I'd just write a little on the basics in an attempt to encourage any Charlotte Mason homeschooling moms out there to begin by keeping their own book. Even as an adult, I can begin to see a richer tapestry of history forming as I make entries of events in multiple countries at the same time.

The children draw many more pictures than I do, as you can see from the above picture. The bottom book is mine, with lots of writing on the date links and only a few small lightly sketched pictures on the right.

Here's a closer look at some of First Son's Book of Centuries artwork. I'm not sure what all of these pictures are, but he knows.

Entries in the Book of Centuries take only a few minutes, but over the years, the book grows to encompass everything a child (or teacher!) has encountered.

There are lots of books available now for those in the homeschooling world who want to keep a Book of Centuries. We have a few different ones ourselves. I would encourage you to look for something sophisticated enough that a child may choose to take it along to college. The idea is to have one book to which a person can add throughout his or her life. This isn't a school book for one year or for a child, but one for a lifetime of learning. For the same reason, I would encourage a hardcover book.

Monday, February 6, 2017

A Beautiful Book of Prayer for Children

Pray Always: A Catholic Child's First Prayer Book compiled by Conor Gallagher, from Saint Benedict Press

This is a beautiful hardcover prayer book, perfect as a First Communion gift for a boy or a girl. It is a little expensive, but it's the kind of book a child could carry for many years as it is well-bound and printed. Second Daughter was blessed to receive this book as a gift.

The book includes any basic prayer a child might want like the Our Father, the Apostle's Creed, the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel (a particular favorite at our house), and instructions on how to pray the Rosary. An examination of conscience precedes the Act of Contrition. A couple of pages encourage children to find times of prayer within their daily activities.

A second on Praying with the Saints talks about why we ask saints to pray for us. It's followed by thirteen saints with illustrations, short descriptions, and a prayer for each one.

The book ends with the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Divine Praises.

The italic print: Links to Amazon are affiliate links. As an affiliate with Amazon, I receive a small commission if you follow one of my links, add something to your cart, and complete the purchase (in that order). Every little bit helps - thanks!

This book may be less expensive from the publisher or from Sacred Heart Books and Gifts. Neither of these are affiliate links, but they are both places I have shopped and been pleased with the prices and the service.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Short Stories of Murder and Mayhem: The Innocence of Father Brown

The Innocence of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton

I read this book with a book club. It's the first book of Father Brown stories and includes twelve short stories. We read four stories for each of three meetings.

I enjoyed these stories, and much of the writing was wonderful. The very first sentence of "The Blue Cross" reads:
Between the silver ribbon of morning and the green glittering ribbon of sea, the boat touched Harwich and let loose a swarm of folk like flies, among whom the man we must follow was by no means conspicuous--nor wished to be.
A few of the stories didn't make much sense, given what we know now after a few decades of crime television shows. In more than one, it seems like Father Brown figures out the mystery, but allows the murderer to go free. In at least one, he claims he will keep the secret but encourages the murderer to turn himself in, but it's not always clear the guilty party does so. Perhaps the debate within a guilty conscience is part of the consideration of the stories.

The final story in particular seemed to allow a guilty party, one guilty of leading an army to its death to cover his own misdoings, to remain unsullied in public opinion. The mystery unveiled seemed contrived compared to the events described and the person's character as he was remembered and described. It seemed unlikely to us that someone who be so misconstrued but it was another time.

There are bits and pieces within the stories that encourage the reader to consider more than just the events within the plot. In "The Sins of Prince Saradine," Father Brown considers justice.
"I mean that we here are on the wrong side of the tapestry," answered Father Brown. "The things that happen here do not seem to mean anything; they mean something somewhere else. Somewhere else retribution will come on the real offender. Here it often seems to fall on the wrong person." 
So, fun to read. Perhaps not the best choice for our book club, which was much more interested in chatting for a few hours a month than actually discussing anything. Though I hear that's pretty often true so perhaps it doesn't matter what book we choose.