Gregory the Great Academy – Marketing Genius

Just arrived in the mail from the monks at Clear Creek Monastery, a free CD and this pitch for Gregory Great the Academy:

I was recently talking to a mother of two SGA graduates.  As her sons transitioned to college, she marveled at their development of character . . . Once, during his first home break from SGA, she asked her oldest son to help her with the laundry.  Without any comment or complaint, her son proceeded to gather up the laundry in the house and clean his own room as well.

Inferior schools talk about college acceptance rates.  Before you put down your tuition deposit, ask the questions that really count.

At CatholicMom.com: Homeschool Planning & Setting Priorities

Homeschool Planning: You Can’t Do Everything in which I talk about the trade-offs my family makes in order to bring our curricular fantasies down to earth, and put together a homeschool curriculum we can actually sort of accomplish, more or less.  Also in which we discover I’m much better about wanting to study Latin than about actually studying it.

Mothers, Teachers, Plans and Purposes

My Hail Mary post at Sarah R.’s place is up.  What I discovered writing it, is that I’d been looking at this question of feminine genius all backward.  Our culture wants us to look at men, and try to guess how women compare.  But just ask Adam — it’s the other way around.  He was adrift until he discovered Eve.  What, after all, is the purpose of tending the garden and taking care of creation, and all the other amazing and wonderful things guys do?  What is the work of Christ, the bridegroom, done in service to His bride, the Church?  He makes her mission possible.  That is, Christ and the Church have a single mission.

BTW I stuck the photo up big, here, so you can see that girl-smile.  It doesn’t quite come across when posted in moderation, the way sensible blog-owners do.

***

I’ve got an article in the new issue of Mater et Magistra.  I haven’t seen the final (edited) version, so I can’t tell you exactly all the parts that made the cut.  [You never know how many words there will be room for, once all the articles for the month are gathered together.  So I submitted my article divided into sub-sections so it would be easy to edit down in chunks.]

But anyhow, it’s pure accountant-frugality meets homeschool-desperation: How do you decide what books to buy?  Don’t panic, I don’t advise anyone to act like I do and buy waaaaaay too many books.  Instead I actually talked with a bunch of much more sensible and practical homeschool moms, and found out what does and does not work in real life, for staying sane and under-budget, and still getting school done.

Let me know what you think when you read it, I’ll happily post your thoughts here.

***

I haven’t figured out how to get my Amazing Catechists feed working quite right, but one day I will.  Meanwhile, I posted about Journals & the Sacrament of Confession this week.  Because a real live human being (who I don’t know personally, and I have no idea when or where or how the incident took place) asked my opinion on this:

Is it appropriate for religion teachers to ask students about their sins?  In my friend’s  religion class, the teacher asked him to write in his journal about one of the sins he would be confessing at his next confession.  What do you think?

No, seriously.  I didn’t make that up.   I can write fiction, but there are limits.  And anyway, I don’t do horror.

3.5 Time Outs: On Tour

Thanks once again to our host Larry D. at Acts of the Apostasy, who pulled the ol’ you-vacationed-where?? trick on me.  Works every time. I’m easy to surprise.

Click and be amazed.

1.

We unplugged for Triduum, and wow:  Peaceful.  But look, the power of scheduling made it look like I was on the internet: In Defense of Pretty Good Schools, at CatholicMom.com. Technically it’s a homeschooling column (because that’s how I tricked Lisa H. into letting me write for her — I said, “Gosh, do you need any homeschooling columnists?”), but actually it’s for everyone.

2.

Remember that whole girl problem I was having before?  That Christian LeBlanc answered so easily, like he always does? I stole his answer, of course.  He’ll probably cringe when he sees what I went and did with it.  My post on the word “Women” goes up at Sarah R.’s blog on Thursday morning.  She says she likes it.  But if you want something really smart, with Doctors of the Church and all that, you’d better just read Jeff Miller’s post about “Among”.  Or for a reflection about intimacy and Old English, you’d want Julie Davis on “Thou”.

But Sarah’s going to be nice to me at least until Friday, because her Catholic Family Fun book tour visits right here at this blog, when I’ll be reviewing her book in seven quick takes, for the other evil overlord who we won’t mention just now.  What you need to know today: It’s good enough I actually bought a copy with my own money to give as a gift to somebody.  Admittedly I buy a lot of books.  But when I acquire a second copy, that’s your hint.

3.

Look, more things for smart people:  Barbara Nicolosi let us post the transcript of her workshop on “Towards a Literature that is Catholic” at CWG.  I think maybe she doesn’t read the Hardy Boys much, because she says things like:

My theory is that the secular world is not anti-Catholic as much as it is anti-bad art.

Me, on the other hand, I’m all about bad art*.  Then again, I’m not real secular.

3.5

In more book tour excitement, this coming Monday I’m reviewing Karina Fabian’s Live and Let Fly, and let me tell you, it is absolutely . . .

 

***

Well, that’s all for today.  It’s Link Day once again, which is not an obligation, just an opportunity.  Because no one likes having their perfectly good link stuck in my inbox with a little star next to it, when it could be down in the combox for everyone to enjoy.  One link per comment so you don’t get accidentally caught in the spam dungeon, where even detective dragons dare not prowl.

And hey, Happy Easter!

*This is not a strictly factual statement.  I’m good with hokey genre fiction as long as the story is fun and entertaining, though I reserve the right to joke about it over a cup of coffee with the boy afterwards.  But even I have my limits.

Theology of the Body For Teens: Middle School Edition

The Catholic Company very kindly sent me a review set of the Theology of the Body for Teens: Middle School Edition bundle. Okay, so I begged for it.  They sent an e-mail out to all the reviewers (they are still accepting new reviewers) asking who wanted it, and I gave it my best me-me-me-meeeeee! and made the cut!  Yay!  And then I told my DRE, who explained how she was busy trying to finagle a copy on loan from another parish.  Because yes, it is that good.

What’s in the packet:

  • A student book.  Eight chapters of substantial, readable lessons.  Upbeat format.  Rock solid teaching.  You will need one of these for each student.
  • A teacher’s guide.  It’s the student book page-by-page, with helpful teaching notes.  Includes some lesson-planning ideas, answer keys of course, additional information about the Theology of the Body, and supplemental material on difficult topics.  If you are teaching this as a class, you need this book.
  • The parent’s guide.  This is a small book (75 pages, pocket-size) that explains what students are learning.  It is more elevated, adult-level content, focused on how to parent middle-schoolers — it is not a re-hash of the student guide at all.
  • The DVD collection.  There is a set of videos for each chapter of lesson, plus additional material on difficult topics, and a show-this-to-the-parents chapter that explains what the course is about.  The videos are fun, held the interest of my small test-audience of adults (me) and kids (mine), and add significantly to the content of the course.  You would want these if you were teaching this as a class.

What does the course cover?

Well, the focus is John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, but it comes down to: How do I live?  What will make me happy?  And what do I do with this body I’m growing into?

Most of this is not about sex.  It’s mostly about virtue, identity, and love.  How do I love and respect myself and others?  How do I build good relationships?  How do I know what God wants me to do?  It’s a serious, useful, substantial set of lessons that really teach how to be the kind of person God wants you to be.

–>I read the student workbook first.  I found it helpful for me, personally.  To the point that in my opinion, parishes would do well to offer the course to both teens and their parents.  As in: I myself, a grown-up, NFP-using, CCD-teaching, cave-dwelling bona fide catholic dweeb lady, found this to be a course that pushed me to grow in my Christian life.

What Age Student?

The books are targeted towards middle-schoolers — grades 6th to 8th.  I may be under-estimating his maturity, but I felt that my own 6th grade boy, who lives a fairly sheltered catholic-homeschool life, and is not one bit interested in girls, he was not ready to fully benefit from the program.  I held onto a copy of the student book for us to use at home, and when my parish offers it next year (please God), I will send him then.  But for girls (who mature earlier), and for boys and girls who are more fully immersed in our sex-saturated culture, this is about on target for as young as 6th grade.

Sex-related topics are taught in a wider context.  First students learn how we use our bodies to communicate, how we must make an effort to grow in virtue and purity, and how we should not use others for our own gratification, within the wider context of regular life.  It is only after these essentials are thoroughly explored, many weeks into the course, that students are shown how they apply specifically to sex.

Sexual topics are dealt with directly but modestly.  If you don’t know what porn is, all you’ll find out is that it is “the display of images for the purpose of arousing lust”.  (Lust is “a vice that causes people to view others as objects for sexual use”).   So this is a step more mature than earlier-grades catechesis, where the details of “impurity” are left entirely to the reader’s imagination.  If your student is not yet ready to learn about the existence of pornography, sexting, and fornication, hold off on this course for now.

Difficult topics are not presented directly to teens.  There are some video segments the instructor can choose to present depending on the maturity of the group, as well as supplemental teaching material in the teacher’s manual.  One teaching technique I found very helpful was a script where a teacher reads a scenario (young people gathering in the alley behind a movie theater), but the actual misbehavior is not specified.  The teacher then asks: What do you think was happening there?  It’s an opening for students to share the kinds of things they know are going on in their community, which the instructor can then address as appropriate.

I’m cheap.  Or poor.  Do I need to buy the whole nine yards?

The materials are made to be used together.  For a knowledgeable parent wanting to teach at home for the minimal investment, purchasing just the student book would provide a substantial lesson for the least cash outlay.  Note however: The other items do add to the overall content of the course. This isn’t a case of the videos just repeating what the book says, or the parent book being a miniature version of the student book.  Each element contributes new and useful material.  If I were teaching this in the classroom, I would want the whole collection, no question about it.  As a parent, I would want my children to view the videos.

Is it Protestant-friendly?

It’s a very Catholic program.  (Don’t let the “Pope John Paul II” thing fool you.)  You’ll hear references to saints, to the sacraments, the Catholic faith.  BUT, keep in mind, this is all just normal healthy human life.  Love, virtue, modesty, chastity — these are for the whole human race.  The message is right on target with what any Christian youth program would want to teach.  So if you are comfortable with Catholic-trappings,  you could work with the whole course as-is, and just explain to your audience that it was made by Catholics.  If not, you may want to get the materials for yourself, and use them to train yourself how to teach these topics to your teens.

Summary:  I give it a ‘buy’ recommend, if you are responsible for teaching a young person how to act like a human being.  Thanks again to our sponsor The Catholic Company, who in no way requires that I like the review items they send, but would like me to remind you that they are a fine source for a Catechism of the Catholic Church or a Catholic Bible.

Kolbe update, week 5

We just started week 5, thought I’d give a little report on how things are going.  Re-cap: This is our first year using Kolbe.  6th and 4th grader are enrolled, and mostly following the plan with a couple substitutions.  2nd grader and kindergartener continue to do the home-grown, relaxed-schooling thing.

Overall Impression: Very happy with the decision.  On a day like today (evil dictator felled by an evil-er cold), wow it is SO MUCH BETTER having the plans ready-to-go.  Oh I know, it is so easy to make your own course plans.  Oh, I know, it only takes a few minutes to type them up each week.  But wow, being able to growl at a child and say, “Where are you in your homework?” is even easier.

–> Without ready-made, day-by-day plans, two big kids would definitely still be on the relaxed-schooling plan, which I really love for the little guys, but is not the ideal choice for our older kids.  Way too many disruptions in the school year so far (exhibit A: evil dictator with evil cold), no way I could have held together a formal curriculum if it relied 100% on my willpower alone.

Some comments on specific subjects:

Latin: Mr. Boy is doing the first year of New Missal Latin.  I like it pretty well.  Like the kolbe-published supplemental resources.  Will say this: In my opinion, the teaching parent needs to either have a smattering of Latin under the belt, or be ready to learn-along.  Having already done the intro to classical Latin in previous years, these first few weeks have been largely review for Boy & myself, and yes that is very nice.  Now is not my time to be learning a new language.  No really.  Sometimes it is not that time.

(Remind me also I have some other comments on this particular Latin program and the pro’s and con’s.  For a post another day.)

Grammar:  No shock here, I’m one of ten people in the known universe who actually likes Voyages in English.  So far, no difficulties.  Definitely if you haven’t diagrammed sentences before, you want the intro to diagramming booklet as a supplement.

Composition: I failed to observe that there is a separate composition book for 6th grade in addition to the vocabulary and grammar books.  Kolbe plans call for one assignment a week from that book.  I’d already maxed out the book budget.  So I typed up 36 composition assignments for the Boy, and stuck those in his plan book.  Conveniently, 6th graders do not use the composition portion of VOE, so I borrowed from there.

Spelling / Vocabulary:  The kids hate this.  Lot of work.  I keep reminding them that a good PSAT / SAT score is worth cold hard cash.    They get that.  We’ve used Spelling Power in the past, and have good results with using that study method for studying the words missed on the pre-test.   The whole amount of Kolbe-assigned words is a lot, though.  And we’ve had a couple weeks with enough disruptions that I couldn’t keep up my end on this one through the whole week.  We just move on to the next week, rather than piling up.

Word Study:  Oh, yeah, and word study.  Gee these children get a LOT of language arts.  They tell me this one is easy (MCP Plaid).  It is also good for them.  Happy there.  Decided this was one workbook the kids could write their answers in, would be a royal pain to have to do the assignments on a separate page.

Geography:  Lovin’ the geography books.  Short, easy assignments, genuinely useful map skills.  Makes me happy.

Religion: Of course I like it (Faith & Life), I was already using it anyway.  This is the other activity book I let the kids write in.  Pretty happy with the addition of the St. J’s Balt. Catechisms as well, serious retro power going on there.  My DRE also likes the program.    She’s experimenting with one section of F&L for 8th grade CCD this year.  (Rest of us are using our same Loyola Press books from previous years.  Which are fine.  But I’d still make my kids do F&L at home.)

Science:  Not a demanding program, which works for me.  We skip the Monday “investigation” every week, so far there hasn’t been one worth the hassle.  Also, I have the workbooks but the course plans don’t call for them, and both kids have decided we are happier not doing them.  I’m good with having them do just the textbook reading and review questions, and they can unschool any other science they desire. I like that balance.  [Recall: Two real microscopes in my living room.  Engineer at the dinner table every night.  Unschooling science is a viable option.]

Literature:  Um, where are the study questions? Apparently they are in some other place than the course plans.  I guess a Kolbe booklet I was supposed to buy?   For the uninitiated: You acquire the book you are studying — White Fang and Misty of Chincoteague to start, for us — and then the course plans give you chapter reading assignments and a weekly short essay to write, book report at the end.  And those plans also mention these “study questions” and “vocabulary” and stuff.  But they aren’t in the plans.    And no, I can’t be bothered to go look back at the Kolbe catalog, nor to post a question on the Kolbe forums.  Because, um, my magic pen of you-don’t-have-to-do-this works great!  I just cross out assignments!  We love it!

–> As a result: I let the girl take her final exam open-book and open-dictionary (Misty only takes 5 weeks), since it would be requiring her to have memorized study questions she’d never seen.  Flipped around the final week course plans to have her do the exam first and write the book report second.

Math: Not using Saxon.  Nothing against it.  We’re just still happy with Math-U-See, didn’t see a reason to switch when that was already working. 

History: Recall everyone’s doing Rome this year, which would ordinarily be the 5th grade course.  Very happy both with using the program as written for Mr. Boy, and subbing in History Pockets for the first two quarters for the girl.  Not much else to say.  The Kolbe-recommended course is very good.  And one of my children really needed to meet Ancient Rome in a perkier manner.

[But yes, I had to pick up a library book on the Aztecs, because HP fails to mention the, er, human sacrifice, those amazing wonderful ancient Aztecs were practicing during the European renaissance.  Yeah, I’m a western culture snob.  Facts are facts.  I vote for the no-live-beating-human-hearts-in-the-hands-of-the-priest every time.  Give me self-flagellating, slightly sore-backed penitents over flayed-alive sacrificial victims any day.]

Funny story though: We’re planning to go see our local Roman legion when they gather not so far from us in November.  Except the girls only want to go if they get to dress up.  So a certain growing 4th grader is going to be let loose with some discount linen between now and then.  Luckily the rest of us already own passable garb that still fits.

Higher Ed

Darwin writes here about how everyone’s getting a college degree these days, and the economic consequences.  I was going to leave a comment, but I finally just decided to hit the ‘like’ button and be done with it.

Mr. Magundi laments the consequences of collegization for communities, but offers a hopeful solution:

We have raised the price of higher education to the point where it may simply be ruinous even for comfortably well-off families. And so we may end up abandoning the university system as we’ve built it up, in favor of a system where we stay home for most of our higher education, perhaps in community colleges, or in some similar institution we haven’t thought of yet. Educated people might get in the habit of thinking of the place where they grew up as home. And in spite of the disadvantages to Harvard and Cornell, I think that might be a very good thing.”

Am I the only one horrified that you can’t get a decent catholic college education without taking out a mortgage on your life?  Though I think charities such as Mater Ecclesiae Fund have their hearts (and wallets) in the right place, I find it frankly predatory that catholic colleges will load students up with such levels of debt to begin with.

Yes, I meant that.

***

Meanwhile, Public Discourse is running this essay.  The gist: the political science education offered in the Ivy League in the 1990’s let ideology get in the way of reliable scholarship — to the detriment of the State Department today.  Well, funny about that.  Because those of us getting our int’l poly-sci degrees from Backwater State U, we were studying under some of these guys.  Taking courses like “Islam, Politics and Revolution”.

–> And happily for the State Department, some our grads found their way to Washington.  So not all is lost.  Most of us local-U grads grow up to be, well, locals.  But we let loose a tithe of our debt-free adventurers, to go assist our better-indoctrinated educated brethren up north.

So if our government should get something right, you know who to thank.

Just kidding.  Sort of.

Writing today — Good Friday — is nerve-wracking.  It cannot be done well.  It is the day we remember we are small and weak and mostly useless, and that if God Himself were to come and take us by the hand, we’d probably still screw it up.  (And, happily: God knows this, and will come do it anyway.  Lamb slain since the foundation of the world.  It is His nature, to pour himself out for us.)

But anyway I want to point today to the battle in front of us.  Darwin gave us a snippet yesterday, and if you read the combox at either of his blogs, you get the picture.  You already knew about it, of course.  If you are catholic and you can fog a mirror, you know that our church is a giant jumble of bickering and snippiness.

It is a battlefield.  Our Church.

When the Lord of the Rings movies came out, I found it curious to learn that Peter Jackson’s specialty was horror movies.  Then I thought: Yes, of course.  War is always horror.*  

And so, our church is festooned with all the horrors of battle — the injured, the angry, the bitter, the violent, the sadistic.  And all the wonders: self-sacrifice, obedience, heroism, love unto death.  Jesus has promised the gates of Hell shall not prevail against us.  The implication is that those gates shall certainly give it their best in trying.

It is thus not surprising, that having so thoroughly torn apart American families, having so successfully pitted parents against their children, even to the point of murder, having made every virtue the object of social scorn, and every sin the object the great praise, Satan should now set his sights on our Catholic schools.  It is not enough for him, to attack our parish schools where he will.  He must incite us to civil war, pitting catholic families against the schools and, where he is able, catholic schools against families.

This is nonsense.

Refuse.

Refuse.

Do not be the infantry and the cavalry taking shots at one another.  Fight the real enemy.

***

I wish you a very good Friday.

And if, like me, you are perhaps not so successful at being good, then may it at least be a very grateful Friday.

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*A similar case:  Mel Gibson and The Passion.  A most violent day.  Who else could render it so clearly, except someone who specialized in bringing violence to the theaters and living rooms of the world?  God can use anyone.  Anyone at all.