Unschooling Resource # One

“What are the resources you use in your unschooling?” 

I get this question. People love to know the ins and the outs ( the hot and the cold)….So I thought I would write some posts, every now and then, about what we actually use in our unschool, our Homeschool, now, this very minute.

Let me tell you (again) about cookbooks.

Cookbooks  a resource in the Homeschool?

Yes, right now, these are what we use the most.

Saints At the Dinner Table, Jamie Oliver’s Thirty Minute Meals and Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess. 

We celebrate the liturgical year. We read about and research the saint of the day. We sometimes get into the history of that time, and the history of the Church. We might read some more. We might look at geography. We might talk about virtues and say some extra prayers. 

And we cook. I mean, we have to eat anyway, so why not cook something fitting for the feast.

Saint At the Dinner Table has whole menus planned, information about the saint and why the menu was chosen and also discussion questions or a prayer. Like the prayer of Pope Pius XIi to St Joseph.

I usually simply choose some foods to cook, not the whole menu. Forgiving Trifle for St Josephine Bakhita….the recipe is very forgiving, as was the saint. 

Or I look in Jamie’s speedy recipe book for culturally related recipes..the speed suits my lifestyle. Fiery Noodles for the Korean martyrs.

Or I read Nigella’s gloriously warming, homey baking book for recipes to suit the feast…or the “special day”, as in pies for Pi Day …and yummy bread for St Zita.

Wanting to unschool? You could start with the liturgical year and some good cookbooks. Cook, pray, learn. 


Tradition and living experience

In the Second Letter to the Thessalonians, St. Paul writes: “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter” (2:15)


In the home, little traditions, like praying the Angelus at meal times. Or having a special dinner and table  centerpiece  for birthdays. Or sharing hot cross buns and Easter eggs on Easter Sunday morning.

In our liturgy, our prayer, holding fast to what has gone before us, those traditions. Praying and meditating on the rosary, as generations before have done. Praying at mass in the Extraordinary Form, participating in the Divine Office, praying the psalms, with the community  of saints through the ages

Just as traditions in the home bind us together as a family and with friends , build relationships and memories, make our family life vibrant, so traditions in the Church help us form relationship with Our Lord, with the community of believers past and present. These traditions helps us express and build a vibrant faith, a vibrant relationship with Christ and His Church.

To quote Bishop Kaiilstos Ware, on Orthodox spirituality, but making a point that stands true for us in the West,..”…I wish particularly to underline this need for living experience. To many in the twentieth century….the Orthodox Church seems chiefly remarkable for it’s air of antiquity and conservatism….For the Orthodox themselves, however, loyalty to Tradition means not primarily the acceptance of formulae or customs from past generations,  but rather the ever-new, personal and direct experience of the Holy Spirit in the present, here and now.” ( The Orthodox Way)

Loyalty to Tradition within our present, leading us to direct experience of Christ, through the prayers of the ages and through the sacraments .

Tradition forming our living experience. 

And that is why, in many respects, I am traditional in my worship. 


Hermione Granger on retreat?

So what does will your retreat schedule look like? ..asked my non Catholic friend.

Here is a day.

7.30 am Divine Office of Matins and Lauds
8.00.     Breakfast
9.15.     Conference then Offices of Prime and Terce
10.45.    Mass in the Extraordinary Form
12.30 pm Lunch
4.30.      Confession
5.00.      Sermon and Divine Offices of Sext and None then the Angelus
6.00.      Dinner
7.15.      Vespers, Holy Hour, private prayer, confession, Benediction
8.45.      Compline

And we observe the rule of silence. 

“Wisdom enters through love, silence, and mortification . It is great wisdom to know how to be silent and to look at neither the remarks, nor the deeds, nor the lives of others,” St John of the Cross

Time to pray, rest, walk, read, think, reflect, connect and write. Because it is in writing that I think and reflect.

And we are praying through and working through some of the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola.

Yes, even me, the  “late” retreatant.

“Each one must probe the depths of his heart to feel what it is that prevents him from finding God in peace – that is from going straight to Him and cleaving wholly to Him.” The spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius…The Three Classes of Man.

And I am resisting the urge to bring my To Do List Mentality to this retreat. Because  it is so easy for me to plan my time and my prayer and my walk/exercise and my spiritual journaling and my good resolutions, and write them in my book, and cross off what I have “achieved”… When what I really want to do is listen to Our Lord. That interior mortification.

High achiever, list oriented, organized Hermione Granger twin meets God. On His terms. Not hers.


Should mothers go on retreat?

I posed this question on Facebook, in a whirlwind of trying-to-get-to-a-retreat myself.

A retreat, a silent retreat, a time away for prayer, for reflection, for adoration of Our Lord. Time to be, simply be. With God. Mindfully. Fully present. To pray, think, write.

But, oh the many, many things a mother must organize, before she even begins the hour drive to the retreat centre. Cars, errands, appointments, phone calls, bills, work, extra work, work meetings, teach Catechism, listen to a friend, work emails, listen to a son read his religion paper, the one he wrote for Homeschool study today, talk about  uni assignments and times, chauffeur, sort who is taking Anny to music and who is doing junk mail delivery and who will be home when and will the homeschool son be alone and who needs what car and what about laundry and meals and Kumon and OOSH and ready cash and objections and did you pay the car rego and the rent before you left for the retreat and make sure you pray for this intention, okay?

Those little details in a mother’s life.

Should mothers go on retreat, with all the work needed just, simply,  for two days away?

Reflecting tonight after vespers and compline, feeling some of that tension  and tiredness releasing, being in the quiet presence of Our Lord (Be still, and know that I am God)…I thought…yes.

There are contradictions and mysteries in a mother’s life, in a woman’s life.

God, Himself, is one of those mysteries .

As the author writes in one of my ” retreat reading books”….(“The Orthodox Way”)… God cannot be grasped by the mind.If he could be grasped, he would not be God. (Evagarius of Pontas). Metanoia, the Greek word for repentance, means, literally, change of mind . In approaching God, we are to change our mind,  stripping ourselves of all our habitual ways of thinking. We are to be converted not only in our will but in our intellect. We need to reverse our interior perspective, to stand the pyramid on it’s head.

And that is why mothers should go on retreat. No matter how difficult it is to actually get there.


Dress for the occasion

I may be judgmental but I just think the clothes should be suitable for the occasion.

This is coming from a homeschooling mum who loves short-ish skirts and casual clothes and knee high funky socks and bright coloured stockings!

But you know, very short shorts and low cut strappy tops worn to mass just don’t do it for me.

You dress for the occasion.

And thus, when I went to the RCIA Rite of Election in a cathedral, did I wear my short skirt and gold flat sandals, as RCIA Coordinator in my parish and as a sponsor for one of the catechumens?

No, I wore a safe black skirt and wedge heels.

The friar with me wore his habit. Of course. ( And thanks be to God for the orthodoxy of these friars. My family is blessed by their example )

So, tell me, why is it that a few priests stood up for their parishes, and for the elect, wearing not clerical dress, not even the white shirt and black trousers worn by many Australian clerics, but in checked shirts, khaki or cream trousers, sandals?

The priests in clerical dress were noticeable by their dress. We knew they were priests before their names were called.

And the others? If I know enough, as a laywoman , to dress appropriately for liturgy in the cathedral, how come these priests do not?

Don’t give me that line about clothes not making the man. If clothes don’t make the man, the vocation, then why not just wear some form of clerical dress… No time wasted in deciding what to wear, thoughts given to other areas not clothing, and let people know who you are… A priest, before God, at a solemn occasion.

Harangue me if you like for being judgmental but commonsense tells it like it is…. Don’t wear your Paris Hilton lookalike party dress to mass…If you are a priest or religious at least wear clerical dress or habit for solemn occasions in the Church.

Dress appropriately for the occasion.


The virtues of vinegar

I am a guest blogger at the Australian Catholic Families blog. I am a guest blogger…on vinegar ..and on adult women altar servers. The text ? As follows. But please also visit the blog and check out their articles.

The virtues of vinegar

As the good housewife that I am, I am planning a series of cleaning posts. You know, posts about house cleaning and not about liturgy. Or other deep subjects. Because that’s what good housewives do, don’t they?

Clean and make coffee.

This first post describes the virtues of vinegar. A non toxic cleaner…so it can be used for a myriad of purposes. I find it helps clean windows and mirrors and even one”s mind via cleaning and scrubbing, when one is lamenting the state of the liturgy in our Church. Wonderful writings from our Holy Father on the importance of liturgy…yet, the practice of public liturgy loses some of it’s shine in the grass roots, in the field, in some of our parishes.We need to scrub away our lamentations.

But back to vinegar.Any good housewife knows that it is cheap, non harmful, effective as a cleaner. Any good housewife knows that when cleaning, one should look at the effects of cleaning….use the least intrusive method, follow the instructions carefully, to avoid possible fallout. Would that liturgy always be treated with the same respect….discourage obtrusive extraneous activities and words being added to the liturgy, follow the rubrics carefully, think about the fallout from possible actions (adult women servers may be allowed but their use and encouragement is not compulsory, you know ..what message does it send, to the women, to young men, about vocations to the priesthood? About serving being a privilege and not a right? Do we placate one group temporarily, for the general ill of the Church? What are the ultimate fruits of this action?).

But back to vinegar. Used judiciously in cleaning. To clean and not think Too Much. Because what can a laywoman do, when she feels like weeping at the some of the Liturgical anomalies ? Attend mass only in the Extraordinady Form? Discuss ad infinitum?

Concentrate on her vocation as. wife and mother ? (Yes!)

Ignore that part of her mind that cares deeply about the Church and Her liturgy?


Ah, the virtues of vinegar.

Note on adult women altar servers…..Congregation for Divine Worship
Letter on Altar Servers July 27, 2001

“With respect to whether the practice of women serving at the altar would truly be of pastoral advantage in the local pastoral situation, it is perhaps helpful to recall that the non-ordained faithful do not have a right to service at the altar, rather they are capable of being admitted to such service by the Sacred Pastors (cf. Circular Letter to the Presidents of Episcopal Conferences, March 15, 1994, no. 4, cf. also can 228, §1, Interdicasterial Instruction Esslesiae de mysterio, August 15, 1997, no. 4, see Notitiae 34 [1998] 9-42). Therefore, in the event that Your Excellency found it opportune to authorize service of women at the altar, it would remain important to explain clearly to the faithful the nature of this innovation, lest confusion might be introduced, thereby hampering the development of priestly vocations.”