Life right now

Ah, fall.

I hoped to spend it reading philosophy, sipping hot chocolate, and musing over the meaning of life (or how to spin the Pope’s latest words into something Catholic).

However, like any other homeschooling grade 12 student, I had a lot of other things with which I filled my schedule.

A little rest and relaxation is important though, so I did pick up A Midsummer Night’s Dream in my spare time. Yes, I read Shakespeare for fun. My voice teacher also lent me a short book called William Shakespeare’s Star Wars:  Verily, a New Hope by Ian Doescher.  It basically tells the story of Star Wars IV (or I, of original trilogy) in the style of Shakespeare. Quite amusing it is.

I wish I could say I’ve picked up a load of piano pieces for fun, but right now I need to focus on learning exam pieces for June. My latest piece is J.S. Bach’s Prelude & Fugue in B flat major. I thought the Prelude would be difficult, but it’s all wrist rotation in the right hand. Bazinga. Still getting started on the Fugue. Only 3 voices in it; lucky break.

Until next time, God bless!

End of the Homeschool year

We are done. So very done.

Well, maybe its just me, but I think we’ve done enough organised book-work for the 2014-2015 school year. 😉

The kids all worked hard and pulled together in a couple of difficult situations throughout this year. They have all matured in their own special ways, and all of them have learned something. Here is a re-cap:

 

THE FOOTBALL PLAYER

Dad taught him how to weld this year, and the two of them are rebuilding a car from a Model A frame that Dad bought before us kids were born. The football player is also working on beginning algebra and English vocabulary expansion via reading. He finished spring season football two weeks ago, and after a few weeks of camp, he is playing during the regular season starting in late August.

THE TWEEN HIPPY-DIPLOMAT

Math, phonics, music, and science were non-issues for her this year. However, she started the school year doing grade 3 spelling, and she is twelve. (Disclaimer: if anyone is wanting to use this as a case against homeschooling, first go and test any publicly schooled twelve-year-old’s spelling.) We have been focusing on that as our main point. Over the past few years, Mom and I wanted her to read more, and in turn, improve her spelling. In January, she read White Fang by Jack London. That did it for her! There was enough action and use of adjectives to draw her into the story and keep her excited. She went on to read the Silver Chief books and Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series. Her spelling is coming along, and she can keep working on it over the summer.

THE TYPE-A INTROVERT

The industrious, little Cinderella of the family continues to struggle with math and reading. Last summer, she and The Debater did the 100 Days of Reading challenge (Mom’s idea). It meant that for 100 days, each kid would read aloud to Mom, Dad, The Football Player, or myself. If they completed the challenge, each of them would get twenty dollars. It went well, and their reading improved steadily! After a hiatus though, she forgot a few sight words, and has difficulty shaping her sentences at all. She works at it, but it doesn’t come to her as easily as it does to The Debater. She is starting to understand more of the missing number problems in math, her piano skills are coming along, and reading–well, it will come. . .

THE DEBATER

This kid could argue any person to the point of insanity. He is a math and music wizard, and like the tween, has discovered a love of reading (Lego idea books especially). He started the year in grade 1 spelling and phonics, and grade 2 math. He is now doing grade 2 spelling and grade 3 phonics and math. His struggle? Listening to directions! 😛

THE PRINCESS

The youngest child in the family is only preschool age, so this year she mostly played with Barbie and her Lego set. She is starting to draw figures that make some sense. Last September I looked over her shoulder once and said, “What’s this you’re drawing? Oh, of course its a kitty, how silly of me!” She is drawing pictures of her siblings and making Lego figures of everyone in the family. Over the summer I’ll be teaching her the alphabet and counting to 30 or so.

 

As for myself, I am still working on algebra (blech), music history, and an English course. Over the school year I took a Latin course, and it was awesome! I can hardly wait to return to it in the fall. After a few weeks of summer camp, I will be organising the kids’ school books for one final year of teaching before I leave for university in fall 2016. I am continuing to practice piano over the summer, and I have a list of over a dozen grade 9/10 pieces which I would like to tackle. For now, the garden needs weeding, the kids still need supper, laundry still needs to be folded, the kitchen needs to be cleaned, and the world still burns. Am I discouraged? Nope. Its all part of working towards sainthood and growing in love, for God and neighbor!

A Better Lent Than Last Year

Over at The Catholic Gentleman, Mr. Guzman has a post on 7 Ways To Have A Good Lent. Check it out, cause it is solid awesomeness. Also on that page is a link for a worksheet, which can help you make … Continue reading

Belated Christmas greetings. Also, music.

As I write this, it is practically my favorite sort of December weather outside: fifteen degrees below zero (Celsius), fluffy snowflakes falling, frosty trees, and just a little breeze giving a “nip” to the air. This is one of those wonderful wintery days that brings classic Christmas card images to mind. The kids and I will probably go sledding this afternoon, but for now I have piano to practice.

 

Ah yes, I am a pianist. This is a detail I haven’t spoken much about on the blog. I started piano (under duress) when I was five years old, and I changed teachers a number of times. I am currently playing Grade 9 repertoire (Royal Conservatory). Music is one of the things that gives me a reason to get up in the morning. Even listening to it can leaving me feeling refreshed, in awe, or with a new outlook on life in general. The latest piece I am working on is Mozart’s 1782 Fantasia in D Minor. Exciting, really. To God be all the glory. 🙂

Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
    praise him with the harp and lyre,
 praise him with timbrel and dancing,
    praise him with the strings and pipe,
 praise him with the clash of cymbals,
    praise him with resounding cymbals.

 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.     Psalm 150:3-6, NIV

What I wish I had said

I spent a good part of my summer at camp. By “a good part”, I mean six weeks. First there was Camp St. Louis, then Captivenia, then more Camp St. Louis, then Ignite to finish things off. It was a great summer. I met wonderful people and got to counsel a lot of great kids. They always make me reflect a little on my own life, too. In the younger kids I see the innocence of faith and the simple, pure love that Christ wants all of us to have. In the older kids, those in their early teens, I see that same struggle that I felt not so many years ago; that struggle for power within them. “Will I serve God or not? What is my choice?”

Many of these kids come from Catholic homes and no doubt, they hear it in church or at school: the Church has called for a New Evangelization. Of course, they don’t know exactly what this means, or how to carry it out. There is the evangelization that must take place outside of the Church, but there is also the evangelizing within the Church that must take place. The point that I want to focus on the most is the first one: showing those in the secular world the light and beauty of the Catholic faith.

The best way of doing this is by example. If you practice virtue and live as the best Christian you can, people will notice and take interest in your religion. You must practice your faith to the fullest! Become a living saint! That is how you draw people to Christ.

Now, I doubt that saying that would inspire them. More likely, they would run screaming in the other direction. So thank God I didn’t give them that lecture. But I wish I had said something to them, now that we’re after the fact; something along these lines: when you are among others who know you are a Catholic, you become for them a representative of the Catholic Church. There is a little food for thought. When an artist goes to paint someone’s portrait, he wants his representation of that person to be as true to life as possible. Likewise, we should try to represent the Catholic Church (or even further, to represent Christ Himself) to them.

Powerful Love

I was at Adoration a few nights ago and I was reflecting on something that happened when I was eleven or twelve. At that time my mom was expecting her sixth baby and she was having a few health problems, so of course, our whole family started praying for her and the unborn baby. Her health problems became a bit more serious and I got really angry at God. First I thought He didn’t care about our family and He was just ignoring our requests, but over time I became more angry and quit believing in Him. I ended up getting very depressed. I kept the hurt inside of me and put on a happy face when I had to, but when I was alone I cried everyday and wanted to die. When my baby sister was born about four months later, I felt that maybe there was hope. All glory be to Him who knew that my conversion would have to be based in the intellect! I found my little sister to be truly miraculous. Anyone who has seen a newborn baby has likely marveled at the tiny fingers and toes, and this was true for me as well. Deep down I knew that something so small and perfect had to have been created; it could not have happened randomly or by mistake. In this way my belief in God was restored. God moved my soul in many little ways that summer until finally, about a year after I originally denied Him, I committed my life to serving Him alone.

Anyways, as I was reflecting on this a few nights ago I realised something. Jesus KNEW that I would deny Him when He offered up His Body and Blood at the Last Supper and on Calvary, yet He suffered it anyways. I was absolutely blown away by this thought. Love like this is powerful and basically impossible to comprehend! Just thought I would share this little thought with everyone….God bless!

This one is about chickens. Yes, chickens.

A bit of back-story first: a few weeks ago we moved our laying hens into their movable summer coop, which we tow ahead every few days. It allows them more fresh grass to eat than they would get at their winter coop. Around the summer coop we set up an electric fence which keeps the coyotes at bay. In a nearby pen, we also keep several llamas and alpacas. Due to their hatred of anything dog-like, they will chase coyotes away as well. However, we had a small problem with our chickens this year.

Chickens are creatures of habit, and shortly after we moved them out of the winter coop, three or four hens decided they wanted to go back. So they hopped over the electric fence and started on their way. We had already closed up the winter coop by that time, so they ended up living on whatever they could find around the barnyard. Now for the interesting part.

As I was heading out on my walk today I heard one of these chickens making a good deal of noise in the llama and alpaca pen. I walked a little closer to the fence so that I could find out what the matter was. I saw a coyote running away with a chicken in his mouth, and a llama chasing him. Once the coyote saw me climbing over the fence, he dropped the chicken and ran off with a little clump of feathers in his mouth. Sadly, the damage had already been done and the chicken was dead.

So what did I see in all this that made me want to tell you about it? Permit me to use a little analogy scenario. Say the summer coop, guarded by the electric fence, are the Catholic Church and Her teachings. The chicken is a soul and the winter coop is its former way of life; that is, before making its home in the Church. The llama is this soul’s guardian angel and the coyote is the devil (hey, its just an analogy!). When a soul ignores the Church’s teachings and hops over them as though they are only optional, it’s aim (though seemingly unintentional) is to go back to it’s old way of life. The soul can try to make do and live the best it can, but nonetheless, outside the Church it is far more weak and vulnerable. It’s guardian angel can only protect it from so much before the devil claims it for himself.

The chicken’s story had a rough ending: it is dead and nothing can bring it back. But for Catholics who have left the Church there is still a chance; they can still come home and make peace with God. Please, if you are a Catholic who has been away from the Church for a long time, know that God still loves you and wants you to belong to His son’s one flock. God bless you!

“Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.”
Joel 2:13, NIV