Wednesday, September 22

Homeschooling History

My girls are both using Catholic Heritage Curricula this year, and I really like their history programs. Each are writing summaries of the things they are learning about, and they are both researching in the library and in our nifty new encyclopedia set. (I bought the 2000 edition of the World Book Encyclopedia, minus a couple of books, for $5 at our local branch.) Between the World Book and Maureen Wittmann's resource, I'm doing well in getting books for them to read.
In the first quarter of fourth grade, Little Girl is researching our home state of Virginia. Each week she writes a little more about the state. So far, she's done three essays on the things she's learned. I have helped a bit with structure, and this week I helped a bit with sorting out the precious little (and slightly confusing) information we could find about early missionaries in Virginia. But by and large, she has written these essays on her own. She's occasionally asked for help in creating a decent sentence out of her new knowledge, and I have, naturally, made some corrections. These are all normal for her age. (Any notes within their essays, I have included as smaller text in italics.)

Here are her three essays that she's done so far on Virginia:

I. Virginia

The first people that lived in Virginia lived here in the fifteen-thousand BC, they lived here till the beginning of the sexteen-hundreds. At least, that's what the scientists say, they actually could have lived here longer, or shorter. By about 1200 BC the woodland culture began. Now, a chief or head-man would lead a village. ARound that time they learned to dig up clay from the wet riverbank to make what archaeologists call woodland pottery. Later on, people from England came to Virginia and made a settlement called Jamestown.

In his early tweties, John Smith traveled all over the middle east and Europe. He sailed across the Atliantic Ocean and ended upin Virginia. He named the town he found Jamestown. When more people, later on, lived in Jamestown, there was more farming done. But, the farmers did not do the sowing, the watering, the weeding, or any other important gardening things. They had slaves that did the work for them instead of doing the work themselves. The people that lived in Virginia had slaves for a long time, until Abraham Lincoln made a new law that made slavery illegal. Virginia has a nickname, like other states, and Virginia's nickname is "The Old Dominion." It was made a state in 1776, and the state flower is the Dogwood. The state tree is the flowering dogwood.

(You can see here that I didn't do a lot of correcting and adjusting. I wanted her to feel good about finishing her first really big research project. We talked about ways to improve it the next time, but I mostly left this one alone.)

II. Virginia Part II (How Virginia Became a State)

Before Virginia became a state, the British ruled the thirteen colonies. A group of people gathered together and discussed independence because they did not like being ruled by a king. Some of the people were Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams. The committee wanted someone to write a Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson was the one instructed to write it. He began his work on June 11th 1776. After finishing his final draft, the other people in the committee edited it and gave it to congress on June 28th. On July 2nd, congress voted for independence before releasing it to the public on July 4th, or, Independence Day.

In 1882, John Adams wrote a letter to Timothy Pickering that, at the beginning, read:
"You inquire why so young a man as Jefferson was placed at the head of the committee for preparing a declaration of independence? I answer: It was the frankfort advice to place Virginia at the head of everything."

III. Taking a Look at Virginia's Early Missionaries (You see here that her title has even improved! I didn't even mention this to her, but she might have picked it up from my lessons with her sister.)

In 1526, Dominican friar Antonio de Montesinos said mass near the future Jamestown. Friar Antonio also brought back Indians to Spain. One of the Indians was later baptized as Don Luis de Velasco. Later, in 1570, Don Luis de Velasco helped two priest and their companions on a mission to Axacon. The priests were named Fr. Segura and Fr. Luis de Quiro. Their trip was not just them but seven other Jesuits and three Indian boys. That means there were thirteen all together on the mission. The priests and their companions landed and fortunately got a warm welcome. They later built a log chapel and started a mission with the help of Don Luis. Unfortunately, Don Luis betrayed them and helped the nearby Indians kill everyone in the mission but one Indian boy. After that, missions stopped until Virginia became a colony. Maryland was a colony at the same time as Virginia, but it was especially for Catholics. People in Maryland supported new missions in Virginia, because it wasn't a good place for Catholics until 1786, when Thomas Jefferson wrote a statues allowing Catholics to be free in worship. Many years later, on July eleventh, 1820, Pope Pius VII created the Richmond Diocese.

(I admit that I think I corrected, while typing, a couple of spelling errors. I think she wrote "compainions" and "fortunally" in there. But she did spell out the numbers as I typed them!)

The next set of writing she'll do is about the states Catholic shrines and/or missions. Might be interesting since our parish itself was a mission parish at one point! In fact, because Catholics comprise such a small part of the population in Virginia, this is actually still considered mission territory! What will also be nice is that in October we'll be at the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

Big Girl has a different task this year. Though she, too, is studying American history, hers is much more in depth - as it should be for a seventh grader! Every week she has a new set of topics to research, and she writes not only a summary of the topic, but she also writes shorter essays on sub-topics that relate to the main one!

Her first week was about Indians in North America. She read in Christ and the Americas about the Aztecs and wanted to learn more about them. Here are her three essays from the first week of history:

The Aztecs

The Aztecs were an interesting culture. They had different habits than we do now. The women stayed home and cleaned, while the men gathered the crops, or worked in the fields. Women's clothes were a sleeveless blouse, with a skirt, while men wore only a loincloth & a tilma.

In battle, the Aztecs fought to capture, not to kill. While fighting Aztecs would only midly wound their enemy, then take them as prisoners. Later, they would sacrifice the prisoners.

As for religion, the Aztecs were very gory, because they would cut the heart out of a living man, then throw the body in a ditch. There were many Aztec gods, mostly gods of harvest & of plants. They made sacrifices almost every day.

Mostly, the Aztecs ate tortillas with vegetables. However, they also ate mean, and drand chocolate drinks. They also raised dogs & turkeys for food.

So, the Aztecs were different, but not all in a bad way. To them, we would be weird, too. After the Spanish Conquest, the Aztecs died out. However, we know they were an interesting race, and that they were brave & strong.

The Aztec Gods

The Aztecs thought highly of their gods. There were sacrifices almost every day. Over 100 people died each sacrifice. This cut down the population greatly. The Aztecs thought if they didn't sacrifice, the sun wouldn't rise the next day. There were many gods, many of which had to do with nature. The gods were worshipped until Cortez arrived. The Aztecs built HUGE stone monuments to the gods the size of cathedrals! Once a sacrifice took place for 4 days and 4 nights! 80,000 men died that night. The priests would cut out a victim's hear, place the heart in a statue of a god's mouth, and throw the body in a ditch.

Hernando Cortes

Hernando Cortes was sailing to mexico. When he got there, he found the Aztec Civilization. The emperor, Montezuma II, feared he was a god, &, having had a bad treatment in the past, came back to avenge himself. The year was 1519. Cortes had actually come for wealth and riches. Though he arrived on Good Friday, he was battling the Aztecs by the end of the year. The Aztecs, after they found out he wasn't a god, were angered because he wouldn't leave.

The first battle raged, then both sides, Spaniards and Aztecs backed away. The fights continued for over a year, until the Spaniards prevailed. But it still took a lot to win. Cortes even took Montezuma II hostage for a time. Later, however, Montezuma II died of battle wounds. So in Tenochtitlan, future Mexico City, the Spaniards defeated the Aztecs. He ended the brutal sacrifices. And, he is now remembered throughout history.

The second week brought us to the Vikings: first explorers of the New World. Notice how she has gotten the hang of grabbing your attention with a title and the opening lines.

Let's Go A-Viking!

Vikings were not like Haagar the Horrible. Nor were they like the Minnesota Vikings. Many of the presumptions we have about Vikings are incorrect. First of all, they did not have horns on their helmets. And, though barbaric at times, the Vikings had a softer side: family life.

The Vikings usually had arranged marriages, but women had more rights than women of other cultures at the time. They had a right to money, land, and could divorce their husband whenever they wanted.

The main occupation of a Viking was farming. They grew barley, oats, rye, fruits and vegetables. They raised cattle, goats, pigs, sheep, and were even fishermen!

For recreation, they liked rowing, swimming, skiing, wrestling, and horse races.

The Vikings liked poetry, so that's why we have sagas. They also painted and crafted boats.

As for religion, Vikings were polytheists, but there were 3 main gods: Odin, king of the gods; Freya, goddess of agriculture; and Thor, god of war. The Vikings also had Valhalla, life after death, where you could fight all day and feast all night. Later, Lief Ericsson led them to start to convert to Christianity.

Vikings came from many places. They came from Sweden Denmark, and Norway. They Swedes invaded Western Russia, Eastern Belarus, and Eastern Ukraine. The Danish invaded France, the Netherlands, and parts of England. The Norwegians invaded England, Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man, and Lindisfarne. The Vikings also helped unify France and England.

The Vikings first used Latitude and Longitude, and also discovered Greenland and Vinland, now called North America.

In spite of what popular culture says, Vikings were not all about fighting. They cared about family and harvest too. People think all they did was pillage and burn villages, but the Vikings also wrote poetry, painted, and made ships, which they considered art. Even today, we use their invention, Latitude and Longitude.

Leif Ericsson

Leif Ericsson was a Viking. He was the son of Eric the Red, who found Greenland. Leif was born around the year 980, in Iceland. Around 985, Leif's family sailed to Greenland. Around 999, Leif went back to Iceland, then to Norway, where he became a Christian. Leif then traveled around his father's tribe, preaching Christianity. In the year 1000, Leif sailed to a land that another had seen while sailing around. When he got there, he built a house for each of his men, a shed for their ships, and cut logs to bring back to Greenland where wood was scarce. On the way back, he rescued 15 men, who, in thanks, gave Leif their cargo which made Leif rich.

Eric the Red

Eric the Red was the Viking who found Greenland. When he was 10, his father was outlawed for manslaughter. Eric moved with his father to Iceland from Norway. After his father died, Eric killed several people & was exiled for 3 years. He then found Greenland, & persuaded others to come to this new land with him. His son Leif, in later years, found Vinland. Eric, after a fall off his horse, feared bad luch & stayed in Greenland until his death around 1000.

This week's topic is being spread out. Since our family is taking a trip and we'll have two short weeks, I split her work between those two weeks. Our topic this week and next is the Spanish exploration of the New World, as well as saints like Blessed Juniperro Serra. Here is her essay on the book she read about Ponce de Leon:

Ponce de Leon: The Man Who Found Florida

The year was 1513. Juan Ponce de Leon was on the deck of his ship when he heard a shout. "Tierra!" a sailor cried. "Land!" Juan looked and saw a thing, black line on the horizon.

Now, before you read more, here's some information on Ponce de Leon. He was a Spanish knight who fought the Moors. he went with Columbus on his 2nd journey to the New World. There, he fought Indians. Later, he went back and found a peninsula which he named la Florida, or the Land of Flowers.

Juan decided to tell King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel of this new land. After he told the king and queen, he went to Hispanola, where he was attacked by Indians. Wounded in battle, he retreated, but later died of his wounds. Juan inspired many others to explore Florida, including Panfilo de Narvaez and Hernando de Soto.

Juan Ponce de Leon will always be known as the man who found Florida.


You can see a definite progression here, I think. I'm so proud of how well both girls' writing is going, and I'm proud of how well they are dealing with all the research and reading that their history program is demanding this year!

I'll do my best to post more of their writing throughout the year.


Wordless Wednesday: Tiny Dancer

Okay, so she's not very tiny any more. But she's my Little Girl. I took these portraits of her in her ballet costume from last school year. The recital was in May.

Tuesday, September 21

Something to be Proud of

I've been asked a couple of times about why I insist on a Catholic curriculum, especially when it comes to history and science. Not often, but I was thinking about this recently.

The biggest reason I've stuck with Catholic-based history and science is because I want my girls to be proud of their Catholic heritage.

When I was in school - and it was public school - there was little discussion of the Catholic Church. But the few things that my history classes taught me about my Church in history included that we were the aggressors in the Crusades, Luther was heroic for standing up to a Church that sold indulgences (and let you buy your dead relatives out of Hell - I don't recall if Purgatory was mentioned), and the Catholic Church persecuted scientists like Galileo and Copernicus (and that the Church was and is, in general, anti-science).

When I started educating my girls, I wanted to have a Catholic perspective in education. I wanted them to have a Catholic school at home, basically. And it was then, reading their elementary school textbooks from Seton, that I learned the truth about many things I thought I knew from my public school history classes.

The Crusades were less about attacking Muslims than they were about helping pilgrims make safe journeys to and from the Holy Lands. And, incidentally, the Holy Lands were Catholic places before Mohammed came along and started terrorizing people. (Yes, I used that word. I mean it. Conversion by the sword has never been a part of Catholicism, but it is called for specifically in the Koran.)

Luther disregarded doctrines within the Catholic Church that he didn't like much, and his separation was not heroic. It tore the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church in half. The separation of the Orthodox Church was bad enough. But Luther was a monk! He broke his vows and lead people away from the Church. Indulgences were never sold (not by decree or permission from the Church, anyway; if it happened, it was done by rogue priests who were abusing their positions and vocations). And an indulgence isn't about "getting someone out of Hell." That's impossible. And purgatory is about as misunderstood as indulgences are. (For a good explanation of indulgences, I recommend Catholic Answers' site. Most Catholics couldn't explain them to you, which is why, when I mentioned to my father this tidbit of information, he couldn't explain why the description in my textbooks were wrong. So I offer two links: the first is a primer on indulgences, and the other debunks some of the myths about this ancient - and current! - practice of granting indulgences. Trust me, it's worth the read to have a better understanding of the idea.)

And the most surprising thing I've learned is that not only has the Church not persecuted scientists, but She's had quite a few in her own clergy! (Here is an excellent summary on Galileo, the ignorants' favorite example.) I didn't know until quite recently that Gregor Mendel was an Augustinian priest!

But my girls know these things. They're learning them as we learn about the famous people who make up our Western Civilization's history. They're learning that the first religious ceremony in what would become the United States was a Catholic Mass. They're learning that Florida, Mexico, South America, and the western areas of the United States were explored by Catholic nations and had countless missions dotting the wild frontier. They're learning that there were brave priests and sisters and brothers and nuns who came to this country to serve others and set up schools (long before the government was in the business of education) and offer hospital care and feed the poor.

What they're learning is what I did not learn until I was an adult.

To be Catholic is to have something to be proud of. Our Catholic heritage is rich. It's full of amazing people and wonderful discoveries and moving tales of charity and love and forgiveness. (Read some of the stories about the French Jesuits who were tortured by the Indians and begged to be sent back to be missionaries so they could save souls. Read about those who came after them and became martyrs, not because they were cruel or slave-masters, but because they would not abandon their Lord. And then read about the conversions that were made possible by tireless religious who risked their lives to share the Good News with those who had never heard it before!)

So what I am giving my children - what they gain from studying science and our history from a Catholic perspective - is something to be proud of. They'll hold their heads up when they say they're Catholic because they will have learned the truth:

The Catholic Church has done some pretty wonderful things. It's like a well-kept secret, but I'm determined to let that secret out!

Friday, September 3

Seven Quickies: Back to Homeschool Edition

I'm actually writing my Seven Quick Takes ahead of time! Mark the calendar! Prepare for the apocalypse! Hide your women and children!

(Oh, thanks to Jen, our lovely hostess!)

So let's get started!


We sort of started school this week. I want to start Monday (yeah, I know it's Labor Day), but the library is closed ... because it's Labor Day! Sheesh! So since Big Girl has research to complete to be able to write her history papers for the week, we started looking things over this week. And so we've started easing into school, starting yesterday. We've been to the library, and we'll go again tomorrow afternoon, plus we pulled out the Math-U-See books to start brushing up on where we left off.


Do you know that I resisted using Math-U-See because of the spelling? It's annoying. Great program, but I hate the stupid spelling. Please use proper spelling and grammar!


Both Big Girl and Little Girl have a lot of research for history. Big Girl has a new topic every week, and Little Girl will be researching our home state of Virginia for the first quarter of school. Should be interesting. To add to the CHC history curriculum, I bought The Book of Time from Sonlight. I think they are the NEATEST books! Basically, it's a blank timeline in a spiral binder. As you get closer to modern times, you get fewer years per page. Big Girl is going to be transferring in her dates from last year's history, and Little Girl will be starting her book this year. Wish I'd seen them earlier! Poor Big Girl ... she's got a few hundred dates plastered all over the walls of our spare bedroom!!


I want those dates down, too! I want to create a wall of the Church. I found the idea in A Year with God. The wall with the pictures and holy cards will be divided between the Church Militant (those of us on earth), the Church Suffering (those souls in Purgatory), and the Church Triumphant (those souls in Heaven who enjoy the Beatific Vision). At the head of the Church Militant, right at the top, will be a picture of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. Pictures of bishops and cardinals will be below that, then pictures of priests we know (hey, Father K!), and then our friends and family. The Church Suffering will include our friends and family who have died, as well as more famous people (like Pope John Paul II and G. K. Chesterton). The Church Triumphant will have holy cards and pictures of those Saints and Blesseds the Church has declared to be in Heaven.

Note for non-Catholics: Catholics do not believe that Saints and Blesseds are in Heaven because the Church says they are; we believe the Church declares they are in Heaven when there is miraculous evidence - or, sometimes, when someone has been declared a martyr. In short, things are not true because the Church says it. The Church says it because it is true.

For more information on Purgatory and Sainthood, please see this list of articles on Mary and the Saints, as well as the information here and here on Purgatory. For more from Catholic Answers on Purgatory, you can see this search result. More can be found on all things Catholic at New Advent's excellent online Catholic Encyclopedia. I like Catholic Answers for the concise explanations that are apologetic in nature and a little more accessible to those who are just looking for some good information. They get into some depth, but you can't beat the Catholic Encyclopedia for really super-duper, in-depth, cross-referenced information on anything and anyone having to do with the Church and Church history.


Our schedule is totally insane! I've got (at least through October) two days each of dance and soccer, plus Mass during the week. Plus all the normal insanity. I have a feeling I'm going to be using my crock pot a LOT this coming year. And maybe forever more. I wrote out my menu plan for September, though, which takes a load of pressure off me. I found that when I keep a menu, my grocery budget stays within my limits. When I stray from it or forget to write one for too long, I get to 5:45 and start thinking, "I'm hungry. Kids are hungry. Husband is hungry. What will we eat!?" And I did one new thing. I started a separate calendar for the dinner menu and put it on my iMac's calendar. Then I published it through MobileMe so it'll show up on my iPod (and future iPhone), as well as on the other family members' calendars. As long as they subscribe. I hope they do, so they stop asking me what's for dinner. (It's not like it was a secret. I keep the menu on the refrigerator, for cryin' out loud!)


How about a little movie?

I don't know about you, but I feel better!


I have a special intention. Could you please keep it in mind when you pray? Don't worry. God knows.


Have a blessed weekend, and enjoy Monday's day off. Unless you're not off. Then, sorry. I've been there. Come to think of it, I'm *still* there!

Wednesday, September 1

You're Not Helping, Google!

So I posted just a few minutes ago how I'm looking for a study guide for Humane Vitae and the second page of search results looks like this:

I'm guessing there's not much out there.

Humanae Vitae

I'm planning on reading Humanae Vitae with my seventh-grader this year in conjunction with her quarter-long study of St. Gianna Molla. I, myself, only read the encyclical a couple of years ago, and I'm trying to work through some Theology of the Body materials, as well. So in light of that, I'm looking for a study guide on HV that I can use with a 12 year old.

In my searchings, I found a guide by Priests for Life, which looks good but probably would be way more than I need with my daughter. Then I saw this article at the bottom of the first page of search items on Google.

Basically, it's an ultra-Traditionalist (probably a St. Pius X) priest who is discussing how while Humanae Vitae certainly did come to the right conclusion, it's bad for couples and the Church. What really cracked me up is that he could NOT get away from the Mass in the Ordinary Form (which was originally called "Novus Ordo" because it was a new form of the Mass). I found it kind of amusing (and sad) that all things lead back to the Mass. All the ills of the Church can be traced back to Mass in the venacular! No one can be seriously prayerful at such a Mass! Priests have no dignity of vocation any more! (I'd like to see my very-holy pastor's reaction to that!)

Please remember breakaway Catholics in your prayers. They need Mother Church, and Mother Church, naturally, wishes for them all to come home. Just like she wishes for all Christians to come home.

Wordless Wednesday: One, Two, Three ... JUMP!

From a recent swimming party at our home. Notice that girl on the far right...she totally faked everyone out!

Who are your heros?


Blog Widget by LinkWithin