Thursday, July 31, 2008

Studying Spain

The new academic year is upon us, and I am working on how we might study Spain this year. We are going to start a "Book of Centuries". I want to look at various versions of two of literatures favorite characters, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. I have a mini collection of Don Quixote books. I lived in Madrid for 5 months during my junior year in college. I loved it so much that I returned to Spain with my best friend from my childhood, Molly. We lived again in Madrid for a year after we had both graduated from college in 1989. I love all the versions of paella and the Spanish rice dish arroz con pollo. Tonight we are going to watch a documentary on St. Ignatius of Loyola. St. Ignatius, pray for us!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Some inspiring links....

I just read this wonderful reflection aptly titled, "On Keeping Hope and Joy While Suffering."

Yesterday I was on Elizabeth Foss's blog and hyperlinked to the website of The Teaching Company, and considered buying some DVD's of lectures of Vanderbilt's Professor of History, Marshall Eakin. Professor Eakin was my professor from 1990-92 and was such a kind, warm and intelligent man. I did not buy the DVD's because I am going to give a series of talks to my kids based on Anne Carroll's book, Christ and the Americas.

We are really in the thick of summer here in north Georgia. We have been reading and watching t.v. shows about the Civil War. I want to learn more about Robert E. Lee.

My husband bought me Joseph Pearce's latest book on the Catholicism of William Shakespeare, which is such a good read.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Horse Camp Blessings and My Motto

Horse Camp: The last weekend in June my husband and children went up to KY to visit our grandparents. I stayed home and cared for the animals and enjoyed some much needed down time. My friend Rach and I found a yummy Cuban restaurant. I slogged through many unread emails. One of which I had briefly looked at, and promptly forgotten, was an "e-flyer" for a friendly horse camp up in Cumming run by a family who we met a couple of years ago in TORCH.

Well, it was a time of blessing! This was the first week in July. Of course, it was difficult for J and JB to return late on Sunday from their weekend visit to KY; and, then, they had to rise early Monday morning to drive with Mom up to camp. (Older daughter stayed the week in KY.) It was even more difficult that Mom had signed them up while they were away and, not in my usual style, I insisted, above their protests, that they give it a try, at least for a day (the camp was to run 4 days). They loved it and wanted to stay longer the first day!

This is my long-winded way of "thinking out loud" about a key balancing act in the learning process. Those of us that God has put in the parental role must, at times, apply pressure. As a Mom, I have tended many physical "boo-boos" over the years, stopped lots of bleeding. We bleed emotionally and spiritually, as well. I could really go off on a tangent about the remedies for incontinence, but suffice to say that lovingly applied pressure is a good. It is necessary.

Homeschooling families have the unique opportunity to test the waters of child-directed learning. As the primary educators, we Catholic parents are truly called to a tight-rope act of sorts. What I mean is that it is often very difficult to balance our committments. To balance them means first to identify them. At the same time, we know down deep not to be too rigid, too "by the book" or else our hearts will fail us. Children are very alert and aware of the hearts of their educators. We must, through daily prayer and devotion, tend our own hearts first. It is my firm belief that guiding our children is a blessing best worked out in partnership with Mother Church. To say that I love to let my children lead me is not to say that I have relinquished my God-given authority. Rather, Christian authority is authoritative, not authoritarian.

What does this mean? It means that Christ Jesus commands us to love one another, as He has loved us. Ideally, families are involved in life-long collaboration. Parents and children are the nucleus of a culture of life. I am sad to report that our American society has let its culture shrivel like a raisin, when it could be juicy and firm, like a ripe grape. I am an optimist and very hopeful about the future of our potentially great, and more importantly, good, country. Our country needs renewal. As Tolkien said something of the sort -- that "the hearts of men had grown cold."

My Motto: Back to this heart, I struggle with being both gentle and firm. In fact, that is the motto of my motherhood, which I chose many years ago -- "gentle, yet firm". I hope one day my children will look back on their youth and see that I fought for it, amidst a culture that was trying very hard to rob them of their innocence. As I gear up for another year of homeschooling, I am trying to walk that tightrope, trying hard to strike a balance between planned activities and a challenging daily routine, and plenty of prayer, rest and downtime. Somewhere on this blog I have mentioned the inspiring book, based on some of philosopher Josef Pieper's lectures. It is called Leisure: the Basis of Culture.

In an overly competitive society obsessed with riches and success, we need to stop and take a deep breath. We need to ask our Savior into our heart and into our homes. Our body is Christ's house. It needs to be fit for His Holiness. Much of what we put on our "to do" list is already done by Christ and the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. It is very tempting to busy ourselves to the point of distraction. Last night, as I was at our parish for hours praying for our renewal movement, I was reminded in a very profound way, that the Holy Spirit must be waited on. We are not to command our Lord. He is Lord of all because He loved us first. I too make the mistake of wanting Him to march to my drumbeat -- oh no! Let us march behind Him.

Lord Jesus, please give us the grace and strength to do the will of the Father. Amen.