Bleg – Which Collegiate Dictionary?

Anybody have a collegiate dictionary you particularly like?  I’m thinking of getting the boy his own for Christmas.  I cringe every time he gets near mine.  (Though the packing-tape reinforced spine should hold up, I keep telling myself.)  Also he keeps complaining he wants to know the meaning of words less than 50 years old.

What use a Classics Degree?

Darwin answers the question:

This isn’t because a degree in the humanities is “useless”. I believe that learning Greek, Latin, history and philosophy was very useful to me. But it was useful to me in the sense that a liberal art is meant to be useful — in allowing one to think like a “free man”. It is not useful in the sense of providing instant and easy employment. I think that it would be helpful if colleges and departments were a little more honest about this. It would also be very, very helpful if people took it into account before blithely borrowing large amounts of money. (And if people were less blithe about borrowing so much money in order to fund college degrees, perhaps the absurd rate of tuition increase would slow down. You may be assured that one of the things allowing universities to make off like bandits is that people have the illusion that having a degree, any degree, is an automatic ticket to a “good job”.)

He also confirms that Rush Limbaugh is not a classicist.  Apparently people were confused on that point.


Meanwhile, Archbishop Chaput demonstrates how to use such an education.  From his “On Being Human in an Age of Unbelief”:

That leads to my fourth and final point. The pro-life movement needs to be understood and respected for what it is: part of a much larger, consistent, and morally worthy vision of the dignity of the human person. You don’t need to be Christian or even religious to be “pro-life.” Common sense alone is enough to make a reasonable person uneasy about what actually happens in an abortion. The natural reaction, the sane and healthy response, is repugnance.

The whole thing is excellent, and eminently readable.  Print it out and read it on paper, because it merits sitting down and giving it your full attention.  Great essay to discuss with your high school or college student.


Mater et Magistra – Renewal Time

Mater et Magistra magazine reminds you to renew (if now is your time to do so).  Click here, it’s easy.  And though the print edition is lovely, it will still be a great little publication even if it goes all-digital.  Support your small catholic homeschooling press today.

Other People’s School Photos.

Catching up on my goofing off this morning.  Thought these photos of an MK mini-school in Haiti were pretty interesting.  For people who like to look at pictures of school stuff, anyway.   Sort of in between homeschooling and regular school — I guess maybe falls closest to the more formal homeschool co-ops and homeschool academies here in the US?  Or a very small charter school or private school?

Anyway, I like it.

the child who is determined to hate Kolbe

Yesterday after I dropped the kids off for Grandma time, a little voice told me to visit the other crack dealer Educational Wonderland.  Sure enough, they had cool little wipe-off books of math facts games and drills for the little guys (yes, I gave my daughter math books for her birthday — she was thrilled), and these:

So today I was thumbing through the new history books, and a certain rising 4th grader comes along and picks one up. “Oh.  Those are the terrible KOLBE books.”  Disgust.  Horror.  How could your mother do this to you?!

“No, darling.  Those are the books I got for you to do instead of the Kolbe book.”

“Oooh!”  Picks up book again.  Actually looks at it.  “Hey, this looks fun!”

Yes dear.  After enough years of living with you, I begin to have a clue, thank you.

–>  I found this year that I really like having all four kids on the same subject.  Not necessarily the same books, just the same general topic.  So for the coming year, I signed up both big kids for Kolbe’s Ancient Rome study, which the boy has already started reading for fun, and the girl is determined to hate, on account of it being called Famous Men of Rome.

Emphasis on Men.  She is not interested in Men.  Plus it is Kolbe, and we all know that Kolbe is Evil.  Even though we have never ever tried it, and plus it looks eerily like what we already study.  But it is to be hated.

Anyhow the plan is for the boy to whiz through the set plan, which he will complain is too easy and plus he already read the book this summer and why does he have to do the dumb workbook, blah blah blah, and look, here’s an Osprey book, let’s read that instead, yes dear on your free time you may.  (And he will.)

The craft-loving 4th grader I’m going to let do the Pockets books first.  Q1 she gets to be the teacher and take the littles through Ancient Civilizations.  That’s only 7 pockets, so 7 weeks, and the last two weeks of the quarter she’ll do some timeline work and then write me a report, which will bring up the grade-level to more her age.  Q2, littles will work through some other ancient Rome / Greece items with me, and my Kolbe-hating darling will do the Ancient Rome Pockets book, which will fill the quarter.

Q3 & Q4 she will finally have to buckle down and be serious, and do Q1 &2 of Famous Men per the Kolbe course plans.  Which should be easier having had the intro in the fall.  If she wants she can read the rest of the book in her free time.  Yes, I will totally let a 4th grader master only half of the history of the Roman Empire.  She’ll see it again one day.  Plus she’ll have the motivation of trying to get a higher score on the test than her brother did.  Which will definitely motivate her.

Went ahead and wrote up next year’s plans for the littles, who are still on the library-book method (not Kolbe — I do too much subbing out at that age, we’d only go crazy).  For science, sticking to my ‘everyone studies the same thing’ approach, I went through the 4th grade science course plans from Kolbe, and assigned the littles to study each week whatever topic the 4th grader will be covering.  So that will be a double bonus, in that they can sit in on her science experiments, and she’ll have a bunch of easy library books sitting around that cover the same thing she is learning in her horrible no-good very bad science book.  (That I think she will like.)

–> If I weren’t worried about the good of various eternal souls, and plus having told the whole internet that lying is wrong, I’d just tell her it wasn’t the Kolbe book, and then she’d love it for sure.

[Mr. Boy will be happy to do science all on his own.  I didn’t try to rope him into the coordinating thing for that.]

So we’ll see how that goes.  I’m hopeful.


I’m off tomorrow for ten days of Momcation, visiting the nieces who have the good sense to go to school.  Assuming my abandoned children don’t hack into the blog to show the world their atrocious grade-level spelling, expect blog silence here.  If you are desperate for goofing off in my absence, you can check my side bar links and tell me which ones have gone bad — I found one already, and no I haven’t fixed it yet.

Otherwise, enjoy the quiet.  That’s what I’ll be doing.  And have a blessed Memorial Day.

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.

my life.

Prelude: How to get the people to eat lunch.

It’s one o’clock.  The little people have lost momentum and scattered to various activities that are neither school nor chores.  They seem unaware of the checklist.

“Okay, everyone, it’s one o’clock.  Let’s do a clean up.”

“But I haven’t had lunch yet!”

Three more people surface, suddenly starving.

“Okay.  Eat lunch and then we’re cleaning.”


Part 2: Purgatory.

I’m making my own lunch. (Well, I had breakfast at 11.  Did I say I was organized?  No I did not.)  Female child squeals “Ow!” in the eating area.  I look over to see what Mr. Usually Guilty is doing this time.

He’s just standing there.  And there is no female child in sight.

I look under the table.  Sure enough, eldest daughter is hidden among the chairs.  Other two girls are down the hall.  “What are you doing under there?” I ask.  Still trying to find out what her brother has done this time.

“We’re hiding from the bomb!”

Ah.  The bomb.  That would be the microwave.  Every time it beeps, it’s a bomb going off.  You have to run down the hall to be safe.  Don’t ask me how this one started.  I have no idea.

Microwave beeps.

“Ahh!  The bomb!  You’re dead mom!  You and Mr. Boy are dead!”

Death looks eerily like my kitchen.  Well, the boy is right here with me. “I’m afraid we’ve died and gone to Purgatory.”


Things homeschoolers do. So the Kolbe lady calls me today, because she’s packing up the books I ordered, and everything is single copies except for two copies of the student workbook for Famous Men of Rome.

“Well, both kids are going to do Roman history next year, so I got them both a workbook.”

“Okay.  Well I saw you also got the Greek history . . .”

“Umm.  That was just because my history-nut child wanted to look at it for fun.”

A little more back-and-forth, confirming order is correct.  Friendly lady tells me books will be shipping out this afternoon, should arrive late next week.

I have to tell you: It felt very weird yesterday, buying textbooks.  For one, they’re expensive!  I’m not used to having to by that exact book.  I usually just get the one that someone’s selling real cheap and it looks pretty good.  And then: A whole year (or more) of school in just one book? You mean I won’t have to go to the library? That’s the point, of course.

New experience for me.  I guess it’s the way people feel about sending their child to kindergarten.You know it’s the right thing for right now, and you hope it will work out, and it’s exciting, but it’s . . .  so much.


Children are dispersing again.  They seem to have forgotten that whole “clean-up” thing we talked about forty-five minutes ago.  Better strap on my dictator powers and see what we can do.

Wake up! Hey, Wake up!

That’s what my then two-year-old used to shout at his baby sister in the next seat when we arrived at our destination.  The parents were not amused.

These two articles might not amuse you, either.  But if you need to be really grumpy, these’ll do it.

–> I’m continuing with the regular-life-requires-my-attention-theme, so outsourcing my invective to ‘things that showed up in my inbox’.

From Christian LeBlanc, interesting link to an essay on contraception and the fall of the west.

The West lasted from AD 732, when Charles Martel defeated the Muslims at Tours, until 1960, where it fell without a battle. In 1960, the birth control pill became widely available. Many think of it as heaven, sexual nirvana, the route to self-expression, wish fulfillment, and liberation for millions of women. I think of it as Auschwitz in a bottle. It was and is genocide, as, using it, the women of my generation happily traded off 1,200 years of unparalleled growth, wealth, security, stability, scientific and ethical progress for a second BMW in the garage.

I’m not persuaded of author’s provocative conclusion (“Islam is the only way”), but the irony is there.  In the 19th century the French quit reproducing — yes, before effective contraception became widely available — and by the late 20th were wringing their hands over the cultural impact of all the muslims they’d imported to do the labor of the children they’d never had.  Germany has followed suit, and the US isn’t far behind.

(Though, luckily for our culture, we are importing truckloads of macho catholics with their awesome mariachi masses.  Maybe God does love us more?  Kidding.  Really.  The French have Brie — if that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.  But yes, I do like a rousing Spanish mass now and again.  Perks up the excessively-somber soul.   And as much as I am moved by the beauty and devotion of faithful muslims at worship, no, I can’t slip down to the corner mosque for a mini-revival.)

Anyhow, key point of link for me is this:  You can’t refuse to bear children, then get all shocked and horrified at the presence of the people you imported to do the work of the offspring you never had.  You want someone t0 mow your lawn and do your dishes?  Either rear yourself a pair of middle-schoolers, or hire someone else’s.

[Teenagers everywhere are now saying aha!  You really did raise me to be a slave! The mother points out that she does a thing or two for her own children that she doesn’t do for the random low-wage stranger.  Indeed, here may lie a bit of the problem: rather than a steady flow of youngsters who do the grunt work for a decade and then move on to greater work, we attempt to create a society divided between perpetual overlords and perpetual economic-teenagers.  And then are shocked, just shocked, when the daring, hard-working, self-sacrificing immigrants turn out to be just like our own children — ready to move up in the world after a spell.]


Your other link is this article from the HSLDA, from Swedish parents who moved to Finland in order to homeschool.  I will use this as my cue to get off the internet educate a few fresh faces of my own.


PS, castle news: We got a new roof.  Looks a lot like the old one, only much, much younger.






c.a.i.t.u. & other castle news

CAITU: Coolest Author In The Universe.

[Be French.  Speak in Acronyms. It’s good for your brain.]

I’ve lately determined that the CAITU is John McNichols.  Who totally took care of my beleaguered boy after my complaining post the other week.  And that’s not the first time he’s proven his credentials, though I will not embarrass him with too many tales of his kindness to internet strangers.

(And FYI, no I’m not an old friend of his brother-in-law’s cousin’s law school roommate’s favorite veterinarian.  I have no stock in Sophia Press. I get no commission on the sales of Tripods Attack, which you should read, because it is fun and because it is what we need more of — enjoyable catholic fiction.)

So that’s how you become the CAITU.  AND you write a steampunk alternative history alien-attack G.K. Chesterton catholic thriller, AND you take care of the fans with Strom Thurmondesqe responsiveness.

Nominations for SCAITU are still open.  I think maybe the alien thing isn’t strictly required.  But it helps.


Other Castle News:

Thinking of going with Kolbe next year. For the two big kids.  Am open to opinions if anyone wants to share.  (Have already mined the brains of a couple trusted internet friends who are long time happy Kolbe families.)  The reason is this:  My kids really like checklists.  Love ’em.  Mr. Boy just wants to get his assignments, get them done, and be free.  Aria likes forms so much she begged the SuperHusband to buy her a blank receipt book she saw at the hardware store.  (I consoled her by printing off a handful of 1040-EZ’s to play with.  She’s thrilled.)

We were planning to switch to a more formal curriculum with one of the major catholic curriculum providers come high school.  Mr. Boy will be hitting middle school, so time to make the transition and learn the expectations, so he isn’t blown out of the water in 9th grade.  Kolbe has a decent no-nonsense high school curriculum* of the kind that has gotten students into college for the past three generations or so.  AND, they issue checklists.  Which would free me up from writing my own.

So that’s what we’re thinking about.

Despite being a little out of rhythm this week, due to relatives visiting over the weekend, school is going pretty well this month. Which is noteworthy any time you combine “homeschooling” with “january”.  What we’ve been doing is after breakfast and a morning clean-up, kids work independently on checklist items.  (For the two littles, that’s just a box of activities they can choose from at will.)  Then I call each kid in for an individual class, youngest to oldest.  Then group class for penmanship, french and science.  Then big kids get work assignments for the afternoon, and littles are free.  When we stick to this, it runs pretty smoothly, and everyone is happy.

January is Science Fair Month. We took a break from Zoo Pass Science Class to work through A Drop of Water, and this week kids are now pausing that to conduct science experiments.  Mr. Boy wants to know if acorns pop like popcorn.  Aria asks whether hard boiled eggs truly are easier to peel if you plunge them into ice water after cooking.  And the Bun is attempting to freeze bubbles.  Results to be revealed to the admiring real-life public on the 29th.

Deskavation Sucessful. Found it.  Wood!  Then lost it again.  And I’ll have you know my miraculously-given organizational system is still working, even with intermittent clutter-flooding.  But here’s what, and sit down before you read this: The girls room is clean.  Consistently clean. Three girls ages 4, 6 & 8, in a 12×12 room that is also used for storage. As the SuperHusband said before we tackled the place, we have 1950’s living space, 1990’s lifestyle.  (And I would add: 1930’s personality.)

We cleared out the excess junk, designated and labled places for everything, including certain spots labeled “empty” so no one tries to pile stuff there. Then we developed  a successful inspection method.  We go through the room, and check each drawer and shelf, and toss anything that doesn’t belong there into the middle of the floor.  I look on the label to remember.  It is so much easier to ask “Are all the things in this space the ones on the label?” than it is to try to negotiate a generic sort of fuzzy standard of cleanliness.

The foot is great. Not exactly normal, but highly highly functional.  In the category of attending pro-life marches, visiting museums, grocery shopping, cleaning out the house, all that stuff.  It’ll do.

That’s the highlights of castle news.  Upcoming on the blog:

  • Usury part 3, of course.

And should I start a deskavation series? Because here’s the thing: Most organizational tips are written by people who are already organized.  So they say ridiculous things like “throw out your catalogs as soon as they arrive”, or “write all event dates in your calendar the moment you learn of them, then throw the original away”.  Ha!  You make it sound so easy.

But I’m thinking that just like there people who can’t magically keep their bank accounts balanced just by “spending less”, but need little tricks like cash envelopes to make it work, there are people like me who need painfully obvious baby-step methods to keep the house running smoothly.  And we’re discovering some of these things. So I thought maybe that might be helpful.  Or else entertaining, in a voyeuristic reality-show kind of way.



*Yes, I know that this whole “classical” education label thing is about as accurate a historical replica as a Red Ryder wagon is to a horse and carriage.  That’s fine.  I’m not running a seminary here.  We are the trade-and-merchant class, our children are signed up for a nice practical education that will get them into engineering school.  And ask my pastor about roofs, sound boards, and programmable thermostats — you could do worse than a business or engineering degree if you have a calling to become a parish priest. But for those who really do want the same type of education as Thomas Aquinas (whose grandfather was not a plumber), this guy is doing his best to re-create just that.