Thursday, September 28, 2017

Second Daughter is 9!

Months ago, Second Daughter turned 9. Much delayed and belated, here is her birthday post. Most of what I wrote for her eighth birthday is still applicable.

For her birthday breakfast, she requested breakfast burritos rather than a pancake bigger than her head. For dinner, we had refried bean melts (refried beans spread on bread with a sprinkle of colby-jack cheese and toasted in the oven), popcorn, Doritos, brownies and ice cream. At her request, we ate dinner while watching a Marvel superhero movie in the living room.

Instead of a party, she wanted us to take her best friend with us to a local waterpark, then go out for frozen custard. In addition to the frozen custard, she wanted a cookie man, which First Daughter made with chocolate chip cookie dough in our cookie man pan then decorated with candy.

Over the summer, Second Daughter decided Kansas Dad was going to take her camping. She had glorious and grandiose plans for their trip but in the end was satisfied when he took her to a state park for a night and most of the following day.

a picture Second Daughter took

In all our travels, she still claims Rocky Mountain National Park or the Great Sands Dunes as her favorite vacation spots. But she had a good time with Kansas Dad here in Kansas. They had a campfire and went hiking and swimming.

She was determined to master these parallel bars but didn't have quite enough time.

She liked best all the water snakes and the weird rock just sticking out of the middle of the lake.

Her favorite foods - Reese's Pieces, triple layer chocolate peanut butter cake, shrimp

Her favorite games - Uno, dominoes, games with Second Son, Rat-a-Tat-Cat

She's not the best or most focused child when doing chores. During school, too, she gives herself breaks that often extend into hours of something done outside.

She loves being outside and continues to be the most observant of our family when we're hiking or camping despite seeming oblivious and loud.

The picture below is from the Badlands in South Dakota, one of the places we visited this summer.

favorite books - Survivors series by Erin Hunter, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the Boxcar Children series

favorite movies - The Princess BrideThe Night at the OperaBringing Up Baby, and the Harry Potter movies
First day of third grade
Second Daughter started third grade this year. I've given her a lot more independent lessons than First Son did, but she's managing fairly well. Her favorite lessons are maps, birds (continued from last year), and art.

favorite things to do - swim at the waterpark or pool, play in the snow, and not being eaten by bugs in the summer

She celebrated her First Communion last spring and claims Mass isn't so bad now that she can have Communion.

She has more than sixty stuffed animals. We recently imposed a rule that she must get rid of a stuffed animal if she wants to buy a new one. Since the rule was imposed, she's only purchased two more. (Gifts do not require a purge.)

She's been promised a bearded dragon for her birthday but there have been extensive delays due to various circumstances. Hopefully we'll be new pet owners in the next week or so. She's unbelievably excited and I'm nervous. As she always comforts me with her indomitable spirit, "Don't worry, Mom!"

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Mark Crilley's World: Manga Art

by Mark Crilley

As much as they enjoyed The Drawing Lesson, I knew my children would be anxious to see this new book by Mark Crilley.

This book is bursting with illustrations, often a large colored illustration with preliminary sketches on the facing page. Each one is accompanied by clear text that references "traditional" manga artistic styles or techniques and explains how this particular illustration expands or riffs on those ideas.

The chapters organize the work into broad categories: characters, Japan, science fiction, conceptual art, and styleplay. Interspersed with the illustrations are autobiographical sections that describe what Crilley has experienced as a professional artist. There are also challenges here and there for a reader to put the book down and pick up a sketchbook and pencil to experiment him- or herself.

I think this is a great book for anyone interested in cartoons or manga. My kids read through it quickly but have returned to it to examine pictures in more depth. I expected my ten-year-old daughter to be the most interested as she had found a few manga books at stores or libraries and read through them, and she probably spent more time with the book than any of the kids. But I was surprised at how much the eight-year-old was inspired. She spent days after the book arrived drawing page after page of manga style drawings.

Below is a little interview with my ten-year-old daughter after she read through the book.

What did the book inspire you to draw?
I drew lots of babies and cute little characters because it told me how to do that.
What did you learn about manga characters?
I learned that there are many different forms of manga art. Chibi is all about being silly.
What did you learn about art materials?
In the Introduction it said that you should start out with a pencil with a good eraser. The erasers at the back of the pencil are not that good. Then when you have a good drawing you can go over it with pen.
How do you feel about the author?
He seems like a nice guy. I liked the book.
I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review. The opinions above are my own. The links above are not affiliate links, but the book is also available at Amazon (affiliate link).

Monday, September 25, 2017

School Week Highlights: Week 4

What a week for non-book learning!!

1. First Daughter was up and building early one morning with her K'nex sets (Marbles and Wildflowers plans). Apparently she wanted proof she had completed them because she took some pictures on my camera.

2. We went to children's adoration.

3. Second Son had his very first soccer practice! He forgot his glasses but managed pretty well.

4. Kansas Dad had a conference in St. Louis last week. A few days before he went, we decided to take the whole family. (Pure craziness!) So we drove to St. Louis on Wednesday. Usually Kansas Dad prefers to drive, but he downloaded a bunch of papers and midterms to grade and I drove. I missed our exit off the turnpike so we went a longer route and almost missed our exit in Kansas City, but we made it!

5. My parents came down from their home in Illinois to spend less than two full days with us. That was really a treat for our kids - a hotel and grandparents!!

6. On Thursday, my dad drove us all to Illinois to visit the Cahokia Mounts State Historic Site. My brother-in-law (who has a PhD in early American history) recommended it for learning about pre-Columbian Native American culture and people. The interpretive center there is exceptionally well-done. They have recreations of Cahokia homes in a little village you can wander through, to Second Daughter's especial enjoyment.

7. We climbed Monks Mound, the highest one, and admired the arduousness of digging the soil, carrying it up steps, and layering it carefully to build the mound. It was hot and I forgot the water, so the kids were not too happy even once we reached the top. But they survived.

It's hard to tell, but the Arch is in the background. We debated going up in it, but decided to wait until the museum at the base reopens.

8. The kids swam in the hotel pool for about two hours. Hotel pools are magical places to them. This one was shallow enough I didn't have to get in to make sure Second Son didn't drown. Dad and I sat under the umbrella and talked. Kansas Dad got back from his conference early enough to join them, which they loved.

9. We played games with my parents in the evenings and didn't always have the TV on. (There were three televisions in our suite. How crazy is that?)

10. On Friday, we only had a few hours in the morning before Kansas Dad's conference ended. My dad drove us to the St. Louis Science Center. It was easy to drive there and park and our local science museum membership gave us free parking (avoiding the $10 fee, though the museum itself is always free). We couldn't see a planetarium show as it was closed for cleaning, but the rest of the museum was entertainment enough. The kids spent a long time building sails and testing them at one of the better types of "build and test" exhibits I've seen. The materials are durable so they weren't all broken and the test is quick and easy to adjust. All the kids redesigned their sails for great improvement in the time we were there.

They also had kiosks for programming Mars rovers, a bridge that crossed over a six lane highway with radar guns (and lots of neat bridge building and engineering activities), a flight simulator on which all the kids were able successfully land their planes, exhibits on water for Second Son's Rivers and Oceans, and exhibits on mountains and earthquakes that matched Second Daughter's studies.

We usually skip driving through St. Louis between Kansas and my parents in Illinois, but it would be very easy to get off the road, visit this museum for a few hours, then hope back in the van to drive the rest of the way and it would certainly be worth it.

11. We drove home on Friday after Kansas Dad's conference (which also went well). It was a long drive with multiple traffic snarls around accidents and, again, I drove quite a bit including around Kansas City with the sun in my eyes. We got home really late but stopping wasn't an option because...

12. Second Son had his very first soccer game! They were adorable on the field. (I remember when I though the U8 kids were so big when First Son played but now the 8U kids seem so tiny with my youngest on the field!)

Second Son is in orange.
1t3. And...First Son, First Daughter, and Kansas Dad went to a taekwondo tournament. First Daughter received firsts in her form and her sparring. Kansas Dad also won first for sparring. First Son received silver but only after the judges had to decide because he and his opponent were evenly matched even in the sudden death round.

14. Then Kansas Dad and I made it to a fundraising dinner for his university, a lovely dinner outside with some of our favorite people at our table.

We also celebrated First Daughter's birthday, but that will be another about four months at the rate I'm going.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Dust Bowl for History: Years of Dust

by Albert Marrin

This is one of the "further reading" books I selected for First Son for his first term of American History following the Level 4 history program at Mater Amabilis™. He's been reading from this book once a week and will finish it in five weeks. I didn't ask for narrations.

I picked this book from our library after searching for an option on the Dust Bowl. I wanted something with this concentration because we live in Kansas and the causes of the Dust Bowl and dust storms are important to consider as citizens of the Great Plains.

This book provides an excellent explanation of how settlers did not understand the ecology of the Great Plains when they moved in and started farming aggressively and how killing the buffalo was the first act to sabotage the health of the Great Plains. There are quotes throughout from a variety of sources: fictional books, poetry, songwriters, and presidents, to name a few. Wendell Berry is quoted:
We ployed the prairie and never knew what we were doing, because we did not know what we were undoing.
There are lots of pictures, clear descriptions, eyewitness accounts, and a text that draws connections between the actions of farmers and ranchers in the past with the Dust Bowl of the 1930s and how that story is being repeated (or not) into the current day. The final chapter is a little heavy-handed at times, but I wasn't bothered too much because I agree with much of what Marrin wrote.

This is an excellent option for further reading for Level 4, especially for a student who is perhaps not quite as agile a reader or reads well but only reluctantly. As I mentioned, First Son read it in five weeks, but a more interested Level 4 student could easily read it more quickly and have time for other readings.

Week 1
Darkness at Noon and The Great Plains World pp 1-16

Week 2
Conquering the Great Plains and The Coming of the Farmers pp 17-40

Week 3
In Hard Times and Dust Bowl Days pp 41-74

Week 4
Refugees in their own Land and The New Deal pp 75-106

Week 5
Future Dust Bowls pp 107-122

Another good option for a student who reads voraciously, would be The Worst Hard Time by Tim Egan, an excellent book for anyone interested in the Great Plains and the Dust Bowl.

Monday, September 18, 2017

School Week Highlights: Week 3

We started the week with another break, of course!

The kids all stayed overnight with their grandparents while Kansas Dad and I celebrated our anniversary with a quiet dinner and some games in our quiet peaceful house. Did I mention it was quiet?

So we started bookwork late on Monday but...we're here to focus on the positive, the learning that's happening instead of the book-reading that might not be happening!

1. Everyone came home and worked on Monday. We didn't finish everything, of course, but I appreciated the effort.

2. We spent an hour at children's adoration.

3. We took Tuesday afternoon off to celebrate our anniversary (because it's our family's birthday) and treated the kids to a movie at the theater.

4. First Daughter made 2 layers of apple cake. We ate one (yum!) and she shared the other on her first visit to her mother's helper family. She had a lovely time and was kept very busy.

5. We had our first piano lessons this week for First Son, First Daughter, and Second Daughter. Their teacher didn't seem too dismayed at the effects of a lack of regular practice over the summer.

6. First Daughter has been using her K'nex simple machines sets with these Marbles and Wildflowers plans. Sometimes the building takes a bit long and we spread it over multiple days. This week, she brought out her small stuffed animals to enjoy the seesaw.

7. We met my aunt, uncle, and cousin in town for lunch on Thursday, followed by a visit to the Keeper of the Plains and a science museum. More skipping lessons, but we were able to hear how my uncle hiked from the North Rim to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Very important lessons there, I'm sure.

8. Thursday was the Feast of the Triumphant Cross, one of my favorites, and we always make hot cross buns (always since 2010 when I discovered this recipe; we also make them on Easter Sunday). First Daughter made them this year and they were delicious!

9. On Friday...we had school! Real school, with books and everything! First Daughter also made dinner for us - grilled cheese and tomato soup. It sure seems like I depend on that girl a lot! But while she's in the kitchen baking for us, First Son is outside taking care of the chickens for us. The division of labor has more to do with their personal desires and interests than strict gender-typing. First Son can bake; he just doesn't like it. And he did more lessons on Friday while she made dinner.

10. On Saturday, I took the kids on a bit of a drive for a monarch butterfly festival at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center. This is a great little place and the festival was huge!

Painted lady butterflies
There were millions of painted lady butterflies, so all the kids caught some of them, just for practice. The monarchs were few and far between. We saw two, one of which First Son caught!

Sadly, he suffered a mishap and the butterfly escaped before it could be tagged.

Apparently most of the monarchs would be arriving in the days after the festival, but you have to plan festivals in advance and monarchs come when they come. I think we'll give it another try next year and hopefully we'll have our own nets. And long pants. The kids know how to dress for nature study; they just chose to ignore me.

We also visited the Ord's kangaroo rat at the education center. Second Son has been fascinated by them ever since our trip to the Great Sand Dunes years ago. Usually he's sleeping because they're nocturnal but this time he was digging and nibbling, so that was fun.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Delightful Water Cycles: Water Is Water

Second Son and I read about the water cycle in Rivers and Oceans last week. I picked out Water Is Water at the library to read just for fun and it is delightful!

With limited text it follows water through the water cycle, into plants and fruits, and even into people. As the seasons change, a sister and brother play through a year, surrounded by an inviting natural world.

Though it's not integral to the story, a discerning eye will notice they have a black father and a white mother. They are noticeably of color and that only increases the appeal of the story. It's true there are fewer stories of children of color; and I think there are even fewer where the color of the such children is not the focus of the story. They are simply children, swimming, stomping in puddles, throwing snowballs, flying a kite, and picking apples.

A few pages at the end expand on the text to explain evaporation, condensation, precipitation, and other characteristics of water. Second Son and I enjoyed the little pictures showing a snake is 75% water and children are 65% water (by weight).

This is a lovely addition to any study of the water cycle with young children.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

World War I on the Homefront with Eisenhower: At Ease chapter 10

For twentieth century history in eighth grade (Level 4 history program at Mater Amabilis™), First Son is reading a chapter from At Ease: Stories I Tell to Friends by Dwight D. Eisenhower. "Camp Meade, Camp Colt: Training for the Invisible War," chapter X in the book, describes Eisenhower's experiences in creating, organizing, governing, and dismantling a training camp for the newly created Tank Corps during World War I. I chose to include a bit of this book in our studies because Eisenhower is a native Kansan but it's worth the time of non-Kansans as well.

Eisenhower missed out on World War I. The Army assigned him one job after another and he performed them each competently and diligently, so much so they apparently couldn't spare him. He was scheduled to ship overseas in November 1918 but the Armistice came first.
Whenever I had convinced myself that my superiors, through bureaucratic oversights and insistence on tradition, had doomed me to run-of-the-mill assignments, I found no better cure than to blow off steam in private and then settle down to the job at hand.
The style is humorously self-deprecating.
I could see myself, years later, silent at class reunions while others reminisced of battle. For a man who likes to talk as much as I, that would have been intolerable punishment.
This chapter shows what camp life was like, some of the difficulties training camps had, and the prompt actions of camp surgeons which probably saved many lives when influenza appeared in the camp.

Throughout the chapter, Eisenhower names man after man who served faithfully and well, honoring their work and speaking always respectfully. There are a few men who misstepped, but those are not named.

I haven't had time to read the entire book, but from this chapter I think there could be a lot of value in adding it to the Level 4 history study. I think First Son will get away with just this chapter, but when it's First Daughter's turn, I may try to find  away to include it. I've placed this assignment after the second chapter of The Century for Young People in the first term but it would obviously also work while studying World War I.

Monday, September 11, 2017

School Week Highlights: Week 2

The highlights of our second week of school, because we're trying to focus on the positive, the learning that's happening instead of the book-reading that might not be happening...

1. First Daughter had her first band class last week! She's learning the saxophone, because my aunt had one we could use and First Daughter is a good sport about that. I should really have a picture of her with it, She's practiced diligently every day despite her siblings' groans.

2. Second Daughter created a paper dog for a project in her art book (Artistic Pursuits K-3 Book One). She gifted it to Second Son and the proceeded to create a menagerie (and accessories like a Santa hat for the puppy shown below) by cutting up all our construction paper and leaving bits of paper all over the living room floor. They did eventually pick all the mess up.

3. First Daughter had her first meeting with a family from our parish for whom she will be a mother's helper this year. She loves children and helping around the house and I love being able to share her with those who have more children than hands and need a bit of breathing space. They seem like a lovely family and hopefully they will find joy in being together.

4. First Son has his first PSR class. They meet on Wednesday nights, beginning with dinner together. We also have dinner as a family before he goes, so he has "second dinner" there. Sometimes "third dinner," too, if any of his friends isn't particularly hungry. He loves this time with his friends each week.

5. All the children joined me for my dentist visit this week. First Son stayed in the waiting room and focused on some lessons he brought. No cavities for me! Yay! Then we went to the zoo for nature study. First Daughter and Second Daughter are both studying Africa this term, so we visited lions and meerkats and gorillas. We were able to see the lion close-up and both daughters sketched wonderful pictures. (First Son sketched a lion, but he's more interested in finishing than artistic flourishes.)

6. Second Daughter wrote an amazing narration of her catechism reading this week. She's reading The Mass Explained to Children by Maria Montessori because I have a lovely copy I picked up at a library sale. (We used to read Faith and Life but our parish did that with them, so I dropped it. Now they've just started using the new Sophia program but I sold all our books so...not going back.) Second Daughter has no assigned written narrations, but she often decides she prefers to write a narration than wait for me to have a minute to listen to her orally narrate. I have never had a child do this before, but I like it!

It's probably hard to read, so I'll type it here, just as she's written it:
When you go to mas you go inside a bilding. the bilding is called the church. once you are inside the church you will see lots and lots of benches. the benches are called puoes. you walk down a alise and kneel down on one knee and make the sign of the cross. this is called genuflecting and you do it to show respet to God. after you genuflect you go into a puoe. then you kneel down on a cushon. the cushon is called a kneeler. it is there so your knees will not hurt after you kneel becuse God dose not whant you to be uncomfertible. and you look at the alter. the alter is a table at the Front of the church. but it is not a ordinary table it is speshal becuse Jesus is on that table after every mas.
7. First Daughter made a delicious chocolate angel food cake for the Feast of the Nativity of Mary on Friday. (recipe from Marian Devotions in the Domestic Church)

8. We ate the delicious angel food cake as we settled at the park to watch a free outdoor production of Twelfth Night, from which the children have memorized many passages with How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare. We couldn't always hear everything and it's a shame there aren't more men in our area interested in performing Shakespeare (necessitating casting women in important male roles), but live Shakespeare is always a treat. Sir Toby was magnificently played.

9. Not a school highlight, exactly, but Second Son and I went on his outing on Saturday. This was an outing I'd promised we'd do as soon as the play ended...(cough) on April 1st. We had lunch, frozen custard, visited the science museum, saw a movie there (which we never do with all the kids), got something at the snack bar (which we never do), played at the park, and I let him pick a book at the used book store. He focused his energy at the park on the funky monkey bars (set at odd angles) and succeeded! An afternoon well-spent!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Homeschool Review: Maps, Charts and Graphs G

from Modern Curriculum Press

We've been using these maps book since First Son's first year and they continue to be useful and fun for the children.

This is the seventh grade book. The exercises are more complicated than ones in previous books; the maps are smaller and more detailed. First Son didn't complain, but there were times I considered using a magnifying glass!

There are 42 lessons, so First Son did a couple of these a week. They usually took only 10-15 minutes and gave him just a little practice in reading and understanding maps but also deciphering multiple choice questions. Like the previous books in the series, these workbooks are in color, which my children appreciate.

Some of the map topics at this level include:
  • general map skills (directions, scales, keys, grids, etc.)
  • climate maps
  • contour maps
  • elevation maps
  • highway maps and atlases
  • political maps
  • historical maps
  • temperature maps
  • population maps
  • city maps
In addition, the book covers charts and graphs. These are less important to me than the map skills because we cover these in math as well. These topics include:
  • tables
  • circle graphs
  • bar graphs
  • line graphs
  • using a map and graph together
  • time lines
  • diagrams
Finally, there are two lessons on editorial cartoons. Frankly, I never really understood why they put these sorts of things in the mapping workbook, but sometimes they lead to interesting discussions.

It would be nice if these sorts of exercises naturally rose up out of our other studies, but they don't always. These workbooks are an easy way to make sure the kids see these types of maps and questions and they never complain about them.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Being Ever Present: The Shepherd Who Didn't Run

by Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda

Father Stanley Rother was a priest of Oklahoma. Murdered while serving as a missionary in Guatemala, he is a martyr of the Church (and here) who will be beatified in a ceremony in Oklahoma City on September 23, 2017. This news is tremendously exciting for those of us in close proximity to Oklahoma and should be for all the American faithful as he will be the first American diocesan priest to be beatified.

After a little consideration, I decided I should see if there was an adequate book for First Son to read in Level 4 for the Catholic saints and martyrs, as suggested by Mater Amabilis™.

I think it would have been helpful to have a list of pronunciations in the front of the book. Many of the Guatemalan names, places, and words are Spanish, so they are probably familiar enough to Americans. The Mayan words are much more difficult, though they are usually defined in the book and easily "hummed" over.

Rother - row-ther
Okarche - oh-car-che (Father Stanley's hometown in Oklahoma)
Tz’utujil - dz- oot oo hēēl - I found a document that showed this pronunciation; this seems to match what I remember Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul S. Coakley saying when I heard him speak on Father Rother.

The first chapter is really more of an introduction (even though there's a separate introduction), with the narrator appearing not just as a voice, but as an integral character. The story switches focus to Father Rother in the second chapter, one that develops his character by describing how his great-grandparents migrated to Oklahoma and what life was like for them. The author does an excellent job showing how they survived in a difficult land through a difficult time.
This text is not meant to be a comprehensive collection or a definitive presentation on his life, or his death, or his cause for canonization. This book is meant to honor the faith and faithfulness of Stanley Francis Rother -- Padre Apla's -- as brilliant ray of light in the midst of a very dark period in the history of Guatemala and the Americas.
Apla's means Francis, the name Fr. Rother used because it was easier than Stanley in both Spanish and the Mayan dialect. Despite struggling with both Latin and Spanish, Fr. Rother devoted himself to successfully learning Tz-utujil. It doesn't take much of an internet search to discover for yourself how complicated the language is.

Fr. Rother's life as a missionary in Santiago Atitlan began with a group, and their discussions about how to live within the community introduce complications missionaries still face in walking the line between cultures, how much to become like those we evangelize and how to avoid imposing our culture while still teaching what may be new and yet necessary for health and safety as well as the faith.

The book quotes extensively from letters from Fr. Rother to his family and friends in the United States or in other missionary posts. He wrote one year after Easter about the Holy week liturgy at Cerro de Oro, one of the missionary parishes he served. 
The people elected to go back to the top of the Cerro again this year as last and it took 45 minutes to climb. It is the "hill of gold" and has special significance for them and their Mayan background. There are even timeworn stone carvings up there. We vested and just then the sun came up. All turned to the sun and adored it a few moments... (As Father Jude Pansini later explained, the "adoring" of the sun was adoration of the risen Jesus Christ, symbolized by the sun.) We then renewed our baptismal vows by having water poured on the heads of all... Before this, the lake was blessed from our lofty position about 1,000 feet above it.
The surge of support from Oklahoma dwindled over time. After beginning his mission as one of a team of twelve, Fr. Rother eventually found himself alone at Santiago Atitlan. He was undeterred and content.
"This kind of work, I hope, will be given special consideration for length of tenure. Maybe they'll let me retire here," he concluded. "I would stay if all support from Oklahoma were stopped."
Father Boyer was one of many visitors that trickled in and out of the mission over the years. He visited with Archbishop John Quinn in 1975. 
"He didn't go there to do anything. He went there to be there, with the people," Father Boyer emphasized. "And because he was there, other things happened ... like the school, and the clinic, and farming the fields."
The author recounts events leading up to his martyrdom, including some horrible attacks on members of the church as persecution by the government and guerrilla fighters intensified. These are disturbing, of course, but their descriptions are appropriate to the events and not exaggerated or glorified. Writing to his bishop in September 1980, Fr. Stanley showed he understood the dangers he faced.
Given the situation, I am not ready to leave here just yet. There is a chance the Government will back off. If I get a direct threat or am told to leave, then I will go. But if it is my destiny that I should give my life here, then so be it. Like the priest in the neighboring parish said to me, "I like martyrs, but just to read about them." I don't want to desert these people, and that is what will be said, even after all these years. There is still a lot of good that can be done under the circumstances.
He did travel to Oklahoma when he learned his name was on a list of targeted men, but he couldn't stay long. His heart was with his people at Santiago Atitlan.
The shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger. Pray for us that we may be a sign of the love of Christ for our people, that our presence among them will fortify them to endure these sufferings in preparation for the coming of the Kingdom. 
It is almost described as a time during which he said goodbye to those he loved in the States. His sister, who belongs to a convent in Kansas, remembers talking with him during this last visit home. She said, "So, don't go."
Remembering his simple reply, "But I have to," Sister Marita says now, "And that was it. I knew enough about God's working to know that when it's there, you've got to do it."
The scene of Fr. Stanley's martyrdom is described starkly and is a gruesome one. If you are concerned for a gentle or young reader, you can find it on pp. 217-218.

There are quite a few little typographical errors that should have been caught by a copyeditor. To be honest, I worried a book from Our Sunday Visitor would be inadequate as a school book as I feel like their offerings are often inconsistent. This book, however, is excellent.

The author allows Father Stanley to speak for himself often through his letters. She shows restraint in describing the process for his canonization. (At the time it was published, he had not yet been declared a martyr.) Father Stanley's struggle to become a priest, his love for the people of his parish in Guatemala, his determination to learn their language and truly live with them, and his willingness to experience their fear even until death...all these aspects of his life speak to our modern lives. He is truly a Catholic hero.
By constantly striving to deliberately be present to the people in front of him, to the needs in front of him, Father Stanley proclaimed a God who lives and suffers with his people. For Father Stanley, the choice to die for his Tz'utujil was a natural extension of the daily choice he made to live for them, and in communion with them. His death was nothing less than a proclamation of God's love for the poor of Santiago Atitlan.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

August 2017 Book Reports

Stories of Karol: The Unknown Life of John Paul II by Gian Franco Svidercoschi - link to my post (purchased used)

A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf - Woolf says if you want to write a good book, you need peace, quiet, and security; that makes sense. Many of the statements she makes of women writers in her time apply to those who, of any gender or any race, today suffer from a lack of economic resources. (purchased used at a library book sale)

The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge - link to my post (purchased new)

Caryll Houselander: Essential Writings selected and with commentary by Wendy M. Wright - link to my post (interlibrary loan copy)

The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig - This is another possible book listed for further reading in the Level 4 history program at Mater Amabilis™for World War II. Esther was a young child in Poland when she and her parents were forcibly relocated to Siberia. There, they endured hunger, freezing weather, uncertainty, and hard labor. Esther learned Russian and enrolled at an excellent (for Siberia) school, thanks to the patronage of a family friend. As much as she loved her parents, she experiences some trepidation when it is time to return to Poland. This is a lovely story of family and thriving in a harsh environment but there a great shock when they finally learn what has befallen all the family they left behind. This would be an excellent choice for additional reading material. I don't think First Son will bother to read it, but First Daughter certainly will when she's in Level 4. (library copy)

The Shadow of His Wings: The True Story of Fr. Gereon Goldmann by Gereon Goldmann - link to my post (library copy)

If All the Swords in England by Barbara Willard - link to my post (purchased new)

Enemy Brothers by Constance Savery - link to my post (purchased new, probably from the publisher)

D-Day: 24 Hours that Saved the World from the editors of TIME - link to my post (library copy, but I then requested a copy from another member at

Escape from Saigon: How a Vietnam War Orphan Became an American Boy by Andrea Warren - link to my post (library copy)

Skellig by David Almond - I picked up this book while perusing the library's new books shelf. It's an almost lyrical book telling a kind of modern-day fairy tale. A family moves, the baby came early and is sick, and the boy discovers a creature. Is it an angel? He and a nonconforming neighbor girl (who is homeschooled) befriend the creature and nurse him back to health. It certainly doesn't reflect strictly Catholic doctrine on angels, but I wouldn't stop my children from reading it. Apparently, it's a kind of sequel to My Name Is Mina, but I haven't read that one. (library copy)

All the Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg - link to my post (library copy)

Redwall by Brian Jacques is a thrilling tale of a mouse who fulfills his destiny and helps to defend his abbey. The children loved every minute of it. We had to slow the recording down to about 0.85 so we could understand the narrator's accent, but it was worth it. Having multiple readers handling all the characters helped keep them separate for us as we listened. We listened to this in the van when Kansas Dad was with us. There were quite a few humorous parts that appeal to kids and dads. (full-cast production available on Audible)

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). Try Audible - another affiliate link.

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, September 4, 2017

Reading Journal Questions for To Kill a Mockingbird

As I mentioned in a post when I first read To Kill a Mockingbird, I've written some reading journal questions for First Son for the book.

The idea of a reading journal is one we're still figuring out in our homeschool, but I try to distinguish it from a written narration. I never comment on writing style, grammar, or sentence structure for the reading journal entries; they don't even have to be in complete sentences. I'm looking for First Son's thoughts as he reads through a book and themes we may be able to discuss to help him see more than just the plot. I do not write reading journal questions for all of his books; I try to focus just on the ones he might find confusing or upsetting.

Though I don't think I used any of the questions exactly as written, I found Andrew Moore's study guide on this book helpful when thinking about our reading journal.

Week 1: Chapters 1-3
Reading journal - Choose one character and tell us what we know about him or her so far.

Week 2: Chapters 4-6
Reading journal - Describe the Boo Radley game, why you think the children want to play it, and why you think Atticus forbids it.

Week 3: Chapters 7-9
Reading journal - Tell what you know about the upcoming trial. What does Atticus expect? What does he fear?

Week 4: Chapters 10-11
Reading journal - Tell what happened while Jem was reading to Mrs. Dubose and why they were there.

Week 5: Chapters 12-14
Reading journal - Tell what you learn about Calpurnia and what others think of her.

Week 6: Chapters 15-17
Reading journal - Tell about the lynching party and what happens at the jail OR tell what you know about the Ewell home after Bob Ewell's testimony.

Week 7: Chapters 18-20
Reading journal - Describe Mayella's testimony. Compare how you respond as the reader with how you imagine the jury and townspeople responded.

Week 8: Chapters 21-23
Reading journal - Tell about the verdict of the trial and how different characters responded to it.

Week 9: Chapters 24-26
Reading journal - Compare the townspeople's reactions to events outside of their hometown (in Europe and in Africa) with their behavior to "folks right at home."

Week 10: Chapters 27-28
Reading journal - Describe what happened on the way home from the pageant.

Week 11: Chapters 29-31
Reading journal - Tell what you've learned about Boo Radley.

There are only eleven weeks of lessons, so there's time for a final writing assignment or exam at the end, if you do that sort of thing.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

School Week Highlights: Weeks 0 and 1

Our unofficial first day of school was August 21st, when we drove north to Nebraska to see the total solar eclipse (week 0). Everywhere online we read that totality was a completely different experience than a 90% or 95% eclipse. We concur! It was an amazing experience and one we hope the children remember their whole lives.

Then, because we're a little crazy, we continued driving northwest and camped at Badlands National Park for the week. We hiked a little, visited Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, a soddy, and spotted lots of prairie dogs.

We drove west even more to spend a day in the Black Hills (way too short a time). We toured Wind Cave (where the fourth grade pass gets the fourth grader's parents and siblings in free!), spent an insane but well-enjoyed amount of money at Reptile Gardens, and arrived at Mount Rushmore just at dusk. With Badlands and Wind Cave, we're now visited 15 national parks (and lots more monuments, preserves, and historical sites).

Kansas Dad, First Son, and First Daughter successfully hiked the five mile Castle Trail through the Badlands while I took the two younger ones on a couple of easy short hikes.

We arrived home on Friday in time for dinner and giving Kansas Dad just a few hours to finish preparing for his semester.

Then we began our first week of bookwork (week 1). We managed to take first day of school pictures before abandoning our books an hour into the day for dentist appointments for the whole gang.

First Son, 8th grade

First Daughter, 5th grade

Second Daughter, 3rd grade

Second Son, 1st grade

Everyone, kind-of-sort-of ready for school
All four were cavity-free! We met Kansas Dad for lunch and took First Daughter for her weekly allergy shot. We were home in time to do a few book lessons before going to children's adoration at our parish.

Other highlights from the week:

Second Daughter mastered addition on xtramath without any complaints. I switched her to the extended time (6 seconds instead of 3 seconds) and it's decreased her stress over it immeasurably.

First Daughter read through the first two independent reading books (which took First Son weeks) in less than a week. She's on a third I pulled from our shelves late on Friday.

We had our first nature study - a lovely walk by the river. We saw a dead cicada being eaten by ants and owl pellets. First Son drew a decent dead cicada and then charred the exoskeleton with his magnifying glass. Second Daughter caught two different tiny mud-colored frogs. I think I saw a bald eagle.
Second Son by the river we'll visit throughout the year for his Rivers and Oceans study.
First Son started A Girl of the Limberlost and didn't complain about it.

We signed Second Son up for soccer and attended the first meeting.

We celebrated Second Daughter's baptismal anniversary with cheeseburgers (two for each child!), crunchy Cheetos, microwave nachos, and apple crisp sundaes (made by First Daughter!), all as requested by Second Daughter. She also requested (and received) a mouthful of spray whipped cream, which is now apparently a baptismal anniversary tradition.

We went to First Friday Mass with our homeschool group followed by a nice picnic for which Kansas Dad joined us.

Three of the children worked together to complete a collection of Star Wars Infinity figures and First Son organized a display of them at a library in town. We spent a good hour there on Friday setting it up.

There were plenty of "lowlights" but we won't mention those. Moving on to week 2...

Friday, September 1, 2017

Healing after Vietnam: All the Broken Pieces

All the Broken Pieces
a novel in verse by Ann E. Burg

Given up by his mother in Vietnam, Matt is adopted by an American family where he learns to play the piano and baseball. He has the luxury of a relationship with Vietnamese veterans, including the talented man who is teaching him piano, to help him process and heal from his memories of his war-torn homeland. He carries a secret guilt about an accident with his younger brother in Vietnam that threatens to destroy his new life until he can share it with his new parents.

This is an excellent book of war, baseball, and healing, which would be especially attractive to a middle grade or middle school book who loves baseball and likes a page without too many words on it (because it's in verse rather than prose).