Plutarch via The Charlotte Mason Plenary and Why It’s My Preferred Guide

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A few months ago I introduced you to  A Charlotte Mason Plenary and I told you about their lovely annotated version of Charlotte Mason’s Volume 1.  You, of course, took my advice and headed over there and are now walking around with Volume 1 under your belt, right?  Not to worry if you didn’t…you’ll be able to pick up a copy of their annotated volume from their website soon.  Or you can jump in on the Plenary Session for Volume 6 beginning later this summer.

In my original post about the Plenary, I also voiced my excitement over all the projects they have in the works.  Just today I saw the announcement that they’ve now released their first artist study on Vermeer.  But that’s not what’s got me excited!  I’m excited to announce that they have just released one of my now favorite CM help guides.  It is their first Plutarch guide (with another soon to follow).  This first Plutarch guide covers the Life of Publicola.

I hear the wheels grinding in your head.  You’re frantically searching your memory base for Plutarch, wondering which class you learned about him in during your schooling.  (You’re wishing this blog post was annotated like The Plenary did with Volume 1, aren’t you?)

There’s a good chance you’re coming up short in your memory bank because Plutarch isn’t someone studied regularly these days.  While Plutarch used to be considered a source which fell into “everybody’s reading” (everyone from Shakepeare to Lincoln read his works), you’ll now find his works are favored by (and sometimes only known by!) scholars and academia…and also by Charlotte Mason educators.  The study of Plutarch was scheduled into CM’s schools beginning in Form 2A (our 5th grade) and that is where most of us following CM begin our Plutarch study.

So who exactly was Plutarch?

Plutarch was a Greek biographer who is famous for writing about the lives of the ancient Greeks and Romans.  His most famous work was entitled Parallel Lives of Greeks and Romans (now known simply as Plutarch’s Lives) and it contrasted the life of one Greek with the life of one Roman.  Typically his biographies were written about statesmen, generals and public figures such as Alexander the Great and Marc Antony.   If you were to read all of his Lives, you’d find yourself well versed in the basic history of all of Greece and Rome up until Plutarch’s life (despite the fact that his book was written as a biography not a history).

So why should we include Plutarch in our studies?

Charlotte Mason was all about introducing our children to the people of history and giving our students the chance to witness character formation.  Plutarch allows that.  Plutarch wrote his Lives to include both a character’s strengths as well as his weaknesses.  Plutarch doesn’t spell it out for us…he chronicles the lives of these famous men and then allows us, as readers, to make our own character assessments.  We see how the small decisions shape the future and form our character because it is often from the tiny details of life that our character emerges.  “…a man’s most brilliant actions prove nothing as to his true character, while some trifling incident, some casual remark or jest, will throw more light upon what manner of man he was than the bloodiest battle, the greatest array or armies, or the most important siege.” (from Life of Alexander)  So essentially, Plutarch is a character guide, a training in moral development.

So why a guide?  And more specifically, why the CM Plenary guide?

Charlotte Mason encouraged us as educators not to get between the child and the book.  We are meant to prepare the lessons for our children and discuss with them after their narration, but we are not meant to limit what our children learn by making connections for them or pointing out every moral moment in a story.  That’s all fine and dandy when my kids are reading something a bit less, um, difficult.  But when it comes to Plutarch, I’m a fresh slate.  I didn’t study Plutarch in school and I never read any of his works until Joseph began Plutarch this past year.  And let me tell you, (regardless of which translation you choose!) Plutarch is a bit difficult to navigate as a newcomer.  A guide is just lovely.  Not for my students so much… but FOR ME.  I am ashamed to admit it (although I know I am not alone in saying this) but without a guide, I probably would have quit Plutarch in the beginning…I just don’t have the background or the experience or even the practice of reading works like this to guide a conversation with my child.  I needed help so I could succeed!

Enter the CM Plenary’s Plutarch Study Guide.  Help at its finest.  {Insert a sigh of relief here}

**Please note, we did one round of Publicola using Anne White’s guide which was nice, but then we went through Publicola’s life again using the Plenary guide and Joseph and I both agreed that the Plenary’s guide is definitely our preferred guide!  My goal here isn’t to compare and contrast…rather, I’d like to explain why I’m a Plenary Plutarch customer from here on out**

The Plenary has included all kinds of useful tools…from vocabulary definitions to discussion questions to annotated notes.  I appreciate that the vocabulary, notes and discussion questions are all in a sidebar, alongside the Plutarch text…no flipping back and forth to look up words or find side notes.  At the beginning of the guide, there’s a Who’s Who page…very convenient for reference.  The guide includes pronunciations of some of the names which is super handy so I don’t either a) butcher the name or b) have to grab my phone to look up the pronunciation. And the discussion questions proved to be discussion worthy; they didn’t simply ask for information recall, but rather gave Joseph and I thoughts to ponder and discuss.  There’s also an appendix with relevant information included.

The first lesson in the guide does an incredible job of giving us background information on Publicola, something we definitely lacked using the other guide.  There was quite a bit going on that Plutarch assumed his reader knew (which naturally, I did not).  The Plenary’s introduction lesson was vital in helping Joseph and I understand and appreciate Publicola’s story.

The Plenary has also offered an incredible wealth of information on their Publicola help page which Joseph likes to browse through in his free time…some of the links they’ve included have really given us some insight into life during Publicola’s time giving us a more complete picture and while they certainly don’t replace the lesson (we don’t even use our lesson time to browse through the links), they definitely augment what we read during our lesson.

One thing that sets the Plenary’s guide apart from most other Plutarch helps is that they chose to use the translation by George Long and Aubrey Stewart.  This may not seem like a big deal to those of us who barely know Plutarch to begin with, but it is important in our studies.  Long and Stewart translated it directly from Greek whereas the popular North translation was first translated into French by Amyot and then later North translated it into English so it’s a translation of a translation.  Personally, I always like a first translation…it keeps what I’m reading closer to the original.  North is a popular translation because Shakespeare himself used North’s translation in some of his plays.  The Plenary plans to annotate the passages and quotes Shakespeare used with North’s translation so you won’t lose out on Shakespeare’s references.

There’s a reason I personally really like Long and Stewart’s translation over North’s.  It’s easier.  Yep, I said it.  We went through Publicola using Anne White’s guide first (she uses mostly North’s translation with a little of Dryden’s translation) and there was a lot of me reading and then retelling it to Joseph to give him a clear picture.  He was getting lost in the language and he wasn’t retaining nearly as much as I would have liked between lessons.  With Long and Stewart’s translation, I can read it to him directly from the text, and while it’s challenging and complex, Joseph gets it and he retains it.  I find North’s translation more difficult to read than Shakespeare (and that’s saying something, right?!)…I relied heavily on Anne White’s guide and her summaries to explain what I was reading; with the Plenary’s guide, they are literally guiding me to get the most out of the text.  Anne White even had to include “introductions” to each lesson where she recapped the last lesson…those summaries were important in helping Joseph and I journey through the text…we don’t need an introduction or a recap of the last lesson with the Plenary’s guide because Joseph understands the text so much more and he’s able to recap on his own.  While I value reading complex language and challenging texts, I’d much rather read and understand a different translation than choose a translation that we spend our time struggling with and gain nothing from.

Another thing that The Plenary’s guide offers that Joseph and I loved was the Epilogue.  For Publicola, they wove Publicola into American History by connecting the Federalist Papers and the pen name Alexander Hamilton used to Publicola.  I just can’t tell you anymore because the history is fascinating and you absolutely must read the epilogue yourself.  It was a satisfying ending to our study on our first Plutarch life.

And finally, I haven’t seen them in person yet but it looks like they’re going to release a picture study to go with the Publicola study soon.  (Hang on, I’ve got to go add that to my wish list for the fall.)  **edited to update: the picture study is out and is every bit as awesome as the guide…we used it to enrich our Publicola studies last year and this year we snagged the Pericles guide and artist study and it, too, is AMAZING!**

All that being said, I’m surprised you’re still here and not over there checking it out.

Here’s hoping your Plutarch studies are character building and full of virtue training and that you allow yourself the gift of The Plenary’s guide…you’ll be glad they’re holding your hand as you venture forth.

 

A Charlotte Mason Plenary: Why It’s Totally Worth Checking Out

So if you’ve ever sat down to read Charlotte Mason*’s original writings, you may have quickly set it back down and chosen a digested version of her thoughts instead.  Her writing can be tough to read…especially for those of us that didn’t grow up in Victorian England.

*a note to the reader: Charlotte Mason was a British educator at the turn of the twentieth century.  She believed that education was “an atmosphere, a discipline and a life.”   She believed that children are born persons and each has a right to a wide and liberal education.  Her philosophy and methods have made a huge impact on the homeschooling community. *

I first heard of Charlotte Mason about ten years ago.  Joseph was still a wee little thing and I used those endless hours of baby napping to read any and everything I could about homeschooling.  Toward the beginning of my quest, I stumbled over a name I had never heard…Charlotte Mason.  Philosophy of Education courses were a requirement for my masters so I felt well-versed in famous education philosophers, yet her name did not ring any bells.  Her name popped up more and more often and I finally decided I had enough of second hand references, I needed to read her works myself.

I ordered her first volume, Home Education, and sat down with a pencil in my hand and began to read.  I didn’t make it far.  I got to the second page (which was no easy task as her writing requires one to be well-versed in reading classical literature which was a bit of a foreign language to me back then) and she stumped me by tossing out the name Pestalozzi and, it seemed by her manner of writing, that it was assumed I knew Pestalozzi.  I did not.  I stumbled on catching the gist of what she was saying but losing so much in the language and the references.  I made it to page 3 and now she referred to Herbert Spencer.  Again I was puzzled.  And now I was getting annoyed.  It was frustrating to have to stop every few paragraphs…this was pre-googling days so I just barreled on rather than looking up the references, hoping that the references weren’t important.  Add to that the fact that her writing was difficult for this untrained mind to read and I finally gave up.  I went back to reading predigested versions: Karen Andreola, Catherine Levison, Susan Schaeffer Macauley, Elizabeth Foss.

Years passed and I still loved what I knew about Charlotte Mason and her philosophy and methods.  I employed her methods as often as I could but I knew I wasn’t doing her justice as I was still applying predigested principles to my homeschool.  I tried a few more times to pick up her volume 1, but each time I ended up discouraged.  I needed support and an interpreter!

Last year I found support.  I joined a local Charlotte Mason mom’s group run by a lovely CM user named Rachel Lebowitz.  The group was working its way through Brandy Vencel’s Start Here and reading directly from Volume 6: A Philosophy of Education.  I was thrilled.  And I was overwhelmed.  But I refused to give up.  I bought a copy of her volume in modern language and read that alongside the original.  (In addition to that, I should add that I started working my way very slowly through a few classics each year a few years ago so my tolerance and understanding for more difficult writing had improved since my first attempt at reading CM’s works.)  Eventually, I was able to toss the modern language version and I could read her works directly (plus the accountability of having a group reading with me was so helpful!) but I still found myself annoyed that I had to stop so often to look up her references…I wished for an annotated version of her work!

Now that I have actually worked my way through two of CM’s original volumes, I cannot tell you how vital reading her original works are in properly applying the philosophy and understanding the basis for her methods.  I’m all about any company that strives to lead the reader on a journey that works through her original works.  Predigested blogs and books have their place but they should never replace CM’s original works.  I know her works are daunting.  Accountability and support are vital for any mom attempting to read her works!

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Enter A Charlotte Mason Plenary.  There are quite a few companies out there today republishing CM’s original works and tons of bloggers and educators that write about and help out with applying CM’s methods so why out of all of them would I recommend A Charlotte Mason Plenary?  Because, dear readers, they offer online sessions to help guide you in reading CM’s original works and they guide their sessions using an annotated version of CM’s original works. And, included in the price for a session, you get access to a Facebook group where you can ask questions and get real-time support as you begin implementing Charlotte Mason’s beautiful philosophy and methods.

An online support group to help readers navigate the (often) difficult journey of reading her original words is an amazing opportunity especially for those of you who don’t have access to a local CM group (as I know many moms in other cities lack and have lamented over) .  That annotated version, in my opinion, is worth its weight in gold.   The annotated version comes as a PDF delivered right to your inbox and is included in the membership fee for joining the online support session.  Their version is a complete unabridged text that has been completely annotated and referenced with explanatory notes and I’m telling you, those notes are worth the price of admission!

The folks at A CM Plenary are offering what I wished I had access to 10 years ago.  Support, annotation, explanation, discussion. No predigestion over there.  No abridged versions.  Just CM in all her wise, original words.

The word plenary means “a meeting to be attended by all participants” and so with that word in the title, I gather that this is meant to be meeting place for all, religion, ethnicity, socioeconomic status aside.  I’m good with that.  As a Catholic CM user, I sometimes find myself a bit of a minority in an otherwise strongly Protestant following.  I like that in a group that considers itself open to all, we can get down to the business of applying her philosophy and methods without getting sidetracked with a conversation about some minute detail of religious disagreement.  Of course, CM taught from a very devout Anglican viewpoint, so while the discussion of God as a guide to educating our children cannot be avoided, I feel that when it’s done without a specific religious slant, it offers each of us an opportunity to apply CM’s thoughts to our own beliefs.  And as a CM follower, I believe CM would have wanted her works accessible to all who came to the table.  After all, that’s what she proposed in education…that a liberal and wide feast should be offered to ALL students regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion or socioeconomic status so the word plenary seems a perfectly fitting and well-thought out word choice.

As for the ladies behind the Plenary, I can personally attest to their vast depth of knowledge on both CM’s original works as well as her programmes (including books she used and her timetables).  Rachel Lebowitz and Ruk Martin are the two women making all the magic over at the Plenary and while you may not have their phone numbers programmed in your cell phone, joining a Plenary session will be almost as good as they will offer real-time support to answer questions and provide guidance.  Seriously, that’s like having a well-versed CM friend right next door.  Trust me, when you finally read CM’s original works and you’re ready to dive in fully to her methods, there’s nothing better than having a friend close by to ask questions to.   When I finally read CM’s words and gained a deeper understanding of her principles and methods, I had tons of questions…all questions that my local CM group leader and now co-owner of A CM Plenary, Rachel Lebowitz, was able to answer.  It was lovely having her so accessible so I could ask a question and she quickly responded…it made applying CM in my home so much easier.  Real-time support through A CM Plenary offers you the same opportunity!  And these ladies know their stuff.  They have spent a collective 20 years diving deep into CM’s work and they use her methods and philosophy in their own home schools and local CM co-ops with beautiful success.

I’m signed up for the January 2018 Plenary session which will guide participants through Volume 1 over a 12 week period.  I cannot tell you what the online sessions are like as they haven’t begun, but I can tell you that I am loving that annotated version of the volume!  It’s so handy.  Now I can sit down, book in hand, without a phone to look up references and JUST READ.  On the couch, with a cup of tea.  Or on the beach with some lemonade.  Or in the car on the way to my parents.  I don’t need extra resources or gadgets to gain insight into CM’s comments…Rachel and Ruk have done that for me with all of those annotations.  Convenient and lovely, I tell you.  I am looking forward to a community of fellow educators all reading and studying CM’s words together…I imagine I will gain much insight and knowledge through others’ thoughts, questions and discussion which of course leaves me eager to begin, knowing my little domestic school will profit from my participation.

Also, a cool little tidbit and something different about their annotated version is that they have taken the questions from the Appendix in the original volume and put those questions at the end of each chapter where they belong.  Charlotte Mason actually started her career as an educator by lecturing to mothers and those lectures are what we read today all collected in her volume 1, Home Education.  As the lectures were meant as an educational course for mothers to school their own children, she included questions (in the Appendix) to help guide her blossoming educators.  I like that A CM Plenary has put those with each chapter rather than leaving them in the Appendix…a strategic little move, in my opinion, as they help you digest and understand the section you just finished reading.  (Truth be told: I never used those questions when I read Home Education the first time…I like that having them after each chapter is forcing me to reflect upon them.)

The only downside I should warn you of is that since the annotated version is a PDF version, it does require printing or, alternatively, you could read it on an e-reader.  As CM had a lot to say, if you like to hold a book in hand, that could conceivably annoy you if you don’t like to print long things out.  But as Rachel and Ruk have divided the volume into 6 parts (to follow CM’s original division), to be released separately over the course of the Plenary session, it may not be as overwhelming as you imagine.  Personally I like the idea of printing each section as we go so that I don’t find myself bogged down with the entirety of the volume…little chunks at a time trick my mind into thinking this is doable (which I promise…reading CM’s original works is not only doable but it is incredibly rewarding and enriching). **updated to edit: There is now a PRINT VERSION available and absolutely worth the price!!**

I am excited to watch over the next few months as A Charlotte Mason Plenary hits the ground and begins running.  Looking over their lovely website leaves me anxious to follow their progress.  They’ve got lots of good and beautiful things in the works including Plenary sessions on Volume 6 and CM’s 20 Principles in addition to sessions on Plutarch, Shakespeare and the Handbook of Nature Study (what average mom couldn’t use a little hand holding with some of those formidable topics?!)  Their website has lots of “coming soon” links and pages so I’ll be delighted to see those come to fruition.

Hope to see you in the January Plenary Session!

*I was given a free copy and admission to session 1 for an honest review of A Charlotte Mason Plenary.

Day of the Dead

I love All Souls Day.

Well the truth is, I love everything about All Hallows Tide.  But of the entire celebration, All Souls Day is my favorite.  I love that All Souls Day is the culmination of the entire feast with All Hallows Eve and All Saints Day preceding it.  And for the record, I’m not a morbid, death obsessed soul either. 

A few years ago, I wrestled over my internal conflict of secular versus sacred celebration in a blog when it comes to Halloween and I gave a tid-bit of history on All Hallows Tide…

Halloween or All Hallows’ Eve is the night before All Saints Day (“Hallow” meaning “holy” or in this case, “saint”).  As Meredith Gould points out in The Catholic Home, “Although Halloween has been secularized since the nineteenth century, Catholics have a long history of observing evening vigil before the Feast of All Saints.”  All Hallows’ Eve marks the beginning of the triduum of All Hallows Tide, which is the time when the church remembers the dead…saints, martyrs, and all the faithfully departed.  Many of the traditions (trick-or-treating, included!) stem from ancient traditions, some rooted in Christianity, some rooted in paganism.  For an excellent read, refer to Mary Reed Newland’s The Year and Our Children or read an excerpt from her book by heading over to CatholicCulture.org.  The issue isn’t so much that Christianity and Halloween are in opposition to one anther, the issue is more one of education and understanding what the focus of All Hallows Eve should be and then making that connection for our children.

As you can see from that blog post, we really like to celebrate all three days of the triduum.  Then this year happened and our October was a busy month filled with extra-curricular commitments, our annual nature challenge and a family trip to Big Bend.  All of those events kind of crowded out our usual pagan preparations.

We did visit the pumpkin patch but of all the pumpkins we brought home, only one of those pumpkins ended up getting carved.  Our costumes were thrown together at the last minute and our normally huge pile of pagan Halloween books were mostly left unread.

For a moment when I woke up on October 31st, I was rather sad, thinking I had let the entire celebration pass us by.

But then I regained my vision. The celebration had not passed us by!  It was only just beginning.

I love All Hallows Tide because it’s a huge celebration of life.  Yep, life.  It’s often described as solemn as we are reminded of death and it’s been twisted into secular scariness with ghouls and skeletons and monsters, but that’s not what it’s about.  I maintain the idea that it’s really about life.  Because we remember and celebrate all of those who have passed before us…into new life.

See as a Christian, I can do that.  I can celebrate death because it’s the beginning of a promise.  The beginning of eternity.  I reflected on the beautiful mystery of death awhile back and I am still in love with the idea that sometimes my prayer here on Earth is a powerful thing for a soul who has been caught in Purgatory.

As a Catholic we believe that when we die many of us will spend time in Purgatory.  Purgatory is defined as a “purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven,” which is experienced by those “who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified” (CCC 1030). It notes that “this final purification of the elect . . . is entirely different from the punishment of the damned” (CCC 1031).

The idea of praying for the souls who haven’t made it to Heaven (because clearly those in Heaven do not need our humble prayers!) or haven’t been condemned to Hell (our prayers cannot save those that have been damned) comes from the 2nd Book of Maccabees 12:38-46.

Expiation for the Dead.  Judas rallied his army and went to the city of Adullam. As the seventh day was approaching, they purified themselves according to custom and kept the sabbath there. On the following day, since the task had now become urgent, Judas and his companions went to gather up the bodies of the fallen and bury them with their kindred in their ancestral tombs. But under the tunic of each of the dead they found amulets sacred to the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. So it was clear to all that this was why these men had fallen. They all therefore praised the ways of the Lord, the just judge who brings to light the things that are hidden. Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out. The noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen.  He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection in mind;  for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead.  But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin. (emphasis mine)

So there’s Judas with his army of soldiers and they go out to collect the dead who have fallen so they can bury them.  And they realize that those soldiers who had died were wearing amulets taken from pagan temples.  And so Judas asks his soldiers to pray for the souls of the dead and he takes up a collection for a sacrifice.  And the statement is made, “for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead.”  And then it is said that Judas made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin. “Freed from this sin”?  But they’re dead…surely they’ve already been judged and are either on their way to Heaven or Hell.  Unless, of course, there’s a third option.

Jesus himself refers to the idea that something beyond this life exists (aside from the obvious Heaven and Hell) when He says in Matthew 12:32, “And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” (emphasis mine)  “Either in this age or in the age to come?”  If a man is seeking forgiveness, he wouldn’t be doing it in Heaven (as those who enter the gate must be purified) and clearly he wouldn’t be seeking forgiveness in Hell as he’s condemned for all eternity and he’s beyond saving.  So where is “this age to come” that Jesus refers to?  There must be a third option…some type of Purgatory.  (If you’re still unconvinced about Purgatory, read this or this or this.)

So the question now becomes, how do the souls get released from Purgatory?   As Catholics we are taught that the souls in Purgatory cannot pray for themselves.  They rely on our prayers.  Our prayers here on Earth have the power to expedite the time souls spend in Purgatory.  If that’s true, that’s powerful.  And if it’s not true, well then there’s no harm done if I spend every day of my life here on Earth praying for the souls of the deceased.  I have faith, though.  Faith that my prayers do help those souls.  Faith that someday when I’m stewing in Purgatory, undergoing a major purification process, someone here will remember me and pray for my soul to be released.  At least I hope someone remembers me.

And that is why I love All Souls Day.  It’s a day to celebrate all the souls who are departed.  To pray for them.  To recall each and every one of our loved ones who have passed before us and to spend time in prayer for their souls.  To attend Mass, the highest form of prayer, in remembrance of their souls.  To visit the grave sites and to pray for so many of them by name.  To believe that my prayer might just be what releases that precious soul into the beautiful, purified Heaven.  I like that thought.

This year we celebrated All Hallows Eve with pagan traditions.  We dressed up, trick-or-treated and even tested out the idea that a Halloween fairy exists (according to my kids she does…they left out most of their candy for the fairy and in return, the fairy visited and left them each one toy).

Then we celebrated All Saints Day with a Litany of the Saints and stories about some of our favorite saints.  We basked in the glorious thought that we have an entire army of friends already in Heaven praying for our souls and our Heaven bound journeys.  And as a part of our rich Catholic faith, we attend Mass on All Saints Day as it is considered a holy day of obligation…that’s how much importance the Church places on those folks who have made it to Heaven…we are “obligated” to attend Mass in their honor.  (Personally, I love envisioning that entire army of saints in Heaven ready to pray on my behalf if I BUT ASK.)

And then All Souls Day arrived.  We visited the cemetery and prayed for as many souls as we could.  Then, inspired by our recent visit to Terlingua (a West Texas town that is big on celebrating All Hallows Tide as a Day of the Dead celebration), we embraced our close proximity to the Mexican and Latin American influence and celebrated the day with some Day of the Dead traditions…face painting, decorating skulls, and making an ofrenda (an altar).  We made a “cemetery dessert” and ate empanadas for dinner.  And all the while, we prayed.  For the souls of the dearly departed…the saints, the sinners and those in-between.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

 

 

 

 

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The beautiful mystery of death

There is nowhere else on earth, aside from a cemetery, where death rests so peacefully alongside life.April 2016 010_1_1 April 2016 012_2_1 April 2016 013_3_1 April 2016 014_4_1 April 2016 015_5_1

Maybe it’s harder to see in some cemeteries.  I imagine there are some spooky ones out there (or maybe that’s a Hollywood depiction of death and cemeteries…I personally have never found myself lost in a cemetery in the middle of the night, but I think with a wide enough imagination that could be a bit less peaceful) and I’m sure there are plenty of unkempt cemeteries, but even then there is a clear “juxtaposition of so much life and death all in the same place,” as Kerry Weber describes her visit to a cemetery in her book Mercy in the City, “I expect a kind of somber dreariness to the place, but pink budding trees are before me, and two rabbits are hopping across a fresh, green lawn.” It’s a bit of irony, isn’t it?  That the dead rest surrounded by so much life.April 2016 018_6_1 April 2016 019_7_1 April 2016 021_8_1 April 2016 022_9_1 April 2016 025_1_1

I like visiting the cemetery.  I find peace amongst the dead that often alludes me when I am amongst the living.  It just feels so peaceful.  And it’s not just because its inhabitants are peacefully resting.  It really is decidedly peaceful.  There’s an unspoken agreement here.  To just accept things as they are.  These people have already had their stories written in stone.  There’s no going back.  No changing things.  No regretting mistakes.  No wondering what the future holds.  No worry, no strife.  That, in itself, is a celebration of peace.April 2016 026_2_1 April 2016 027_3_1 April 2016 028_4_1 April 2016 029_5_1 April 2016 030_6_1

Or it could be that it’s just the physical quiet that makes it peaceful.  Or maybe it’s a spiritual sense that makes it peaceful.  Maybe it’s the acceptance that death is a certainty for each of us and it’s out of our control.  We simply have to live and accept our fate.  I don’t really know what it is.  I just know it’s peaceful.  And that feeling of peace when I wander from gravestone to gravestone is nothing like the feeling that settles in my soul when I contemplate death.April 2016 031_7_1 April 2016 033_8_1 April 2016 036_9_1 April 2016 037_1_1 April 2016 038_2_1

I tend to view death as an overwhelming thought, wondering what will happen to those I leave behind.  Knowing life will go on, but wondering if I will have left a deep enough mark.  I contemplate the physicality of it…will it hurt?  Will it be quick?  Will I teeter on the edge of consciousness, not understanding the process?  I also consider the spirituality of it.  How will I be judged?  Did I do enough, say enough, love enough, forgive enough, pray enough?  Will I be welcomed at the banquet of Heaven?   I know it’s a matter of faith, but it’s also a matter of being human.  The need to question and contemplate.  The need to understand.April 2016 039_3_1 April 2016 040_4_1 April 2016 041_5_1 April 2016 042_6_1 April 2016 043_7_1

But see, that’s where I’m wrong.  Death isn’t meant to be understood.  And it isn’t about me or what I leave behind.  It’s a mystery.  A great unknown.  The only thing we know about it is that God wills it and therefore, we must accept it.  Death isn’t what’s meant to be contemplated…it’s the living that’s meant to be.  Because in contemplating the living, we find peace in accepting the dying.  April 2016 044_8_1 April 2016 045_9_1 April 2016 046_10_1 April 2016 048_1_1 April 2016 049_2_1

As adults, we grasp the finality of death but sometimes lose sight of the spiritual freedom it entails.  Children, on the other hand, as in all things they do, grasp it without trying to understand it.  They accept it.  They embrace it for exactly what we have taught them to believe it is…the beginning of eternity.April 2016 050_3_1 April 2016 052_4_1 April 2016 053_5_1 April 2016 054_6_1 April 2016 055_7_1

I am Catholic, however, I do not profess to be a perfect Catholic, maybe not even a good Catholic.  But I try.  And I believe.  I trust and hope in eternal life.  It makes me wonder how depressing it must be to a nonbeliever.  How incredibly pointless this life must seem.  I find peace in my faith.  I am grateful to believe in something greater than myself.  To have hope in a life beyond this one.April 2016 056_8_1 April 2016 057_1_1 April 2016 058_9_1 April 2016 059_1_1 April 2016 059_10_1

The Church, while focusing on the living and teaching those of us here how to live to achieve eternal life, never forgets those that have gone on before us.  It is first mentioned in Maccabees, when Judas calls his soldiers to pray for the souls of the soldiers who had died wearing amulets taken from pagan temples.  April 2016 060_1_1 April 2016 067_2_1 April 2016 069_3_1 April 2016 070_2_1 April 2016 071_3_1

Remembering the dead is a prevalent practice today in the Church.  One of the Corporal Works of Mercy in the Catholic Church is to bury the dead.  It is a recurrent theme throughout the Bible, beginning most notably with Abraham purchasing a field in which to bury his wife.  A bit impractical for those of us today who are confined by city ordinances and laws about burial grounds and hard to practice for those of us who are not grave diggers.  We do not even follow early Christian traditions (at least in America), as cultural norms do not allow for us to prepare the body for burial with spices and oils. While we cannot physically be tasked with actually burying the dead, the Church does ask that when we lose a loved one, we follow Church protocol for burying the body on sacred ground.  We can attend wakes and funerals and we can pray rosaries for the souls of those we have lost.  But also, as with all the works of mercy, it is about showing compassion and mercy for our fellow man and treating everyone we encounter, dead or alive, with the respect and dignity due simply to the fact that we are each created in God’s image.April 2016 071_4_1 April 2016 072_4_1 April 2016 073_5_1 April 2016 074_1_1 April 2016 074_6_1

A more practical work of mercy for most of us is one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy in which the Church calls us to pray for the dead.  This I can easily do.  And it makes me feel like I’m doing something with regards to death.  Perhaps I’m saving a soul from Purgatory.  Perhaps my simple prayer, offered for the soul of the grave I pass in the cemetery, helps free that soul from the clutches of the devil.April 2016 075_7_1 April 2016 076_8_1

Or maybe it’s not even about the spirituality.  Maybe, again, it’s about showing respect for those around us, simply by reflecting on a life lived.  I pass a gravestone and I let the deceased’s name settle on my tongue, imagining that they, too, lived a life probably much like mine.  A life of monotony, with bits of excitement thrown in occasionally.  A life marked by joy and happiness, grief and sorrow, hope and regrets.  We’re all really so much the same.  Our stories differ, but the themes behind our stories are all the same.  Each of us is just passing the time until we accept our fate to die.  For those of us who believe in Jesus, we can accept that fate a little more easily, as we are promised an eternal life.       April 2016 077_5_1 April 2016 078_6_1I may not be able to bury the dead and I may not be able to understand the great mystery of death, but I can visit the cemetery and pray for the souls of the bodies buried there.  I want to imagine that someday, someone will do the same for my soul when my body is buried beneath the ground. I delight in taking my children along with me.  I don’t want them to fear death.  I want them embrace it as the ultimate goal and destination of a dedicated Christian.  I want them to pray and wonder and contemplate.   I want them to walk amidst the gravestones, reflecting on the lives lived, the stories untold, the hope of these souls living in eternal bliss.  I want the peace of the cemetery to consume them.  So that when death is at their door, they embrace it with open arms.

 

Holy Week (mostly in pictures)

You’ll see many pictures here, mostly because it’s easier to show you than to try to explain.  Each of the major events (Palm Sunday, the washing of the feet, the Last Supper, the Way of the Cross, etc) are acted out in some way.  There are a few options that we typically use: our Betty Lukens feltboard, our Worship Woodworks pieces, our Jesse Box, or our peg dolls (or some combination of those things!).

Aside from the activities mentioned here, we also use the following DVDs to enhance our Holy Week: The Miracle Maker: The Story of Jesus; The Easter Story; Greatest Heroes and Legends of the Bible: The Last Supper, Crucifixion, and Resurrection.

Our Easter Book Basket is full, too, of course!

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Palm Sunday: Jesus arrives in Jerusalem

Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday.  We usually re-enact the Palm Sunday procession, sometimes with ourselves as the characters; sometimes with peg dolls or other figures.  This year we also built Jerusalem and began our Holy Week in Handprints book.

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Holy Thursday:  Jesus washes His disciples’ feet and celebrates the Last Supper; the Garden of Gethsemane and the Betrayal of Judas

On Holy Thursday, we take turns washing each others’ feet just as Jesus did for His disciples.  In past years, we’ve prepared unleavened bread (this year, since we were gluten free, we substituted with corn tortillas!).  We continued with our handprints for our Holy Week book.  We finished Holy Thursday with our Lenten meal (which lends itself so nicely to chicken tacos).  This year Joseph wrote out all the labels for the meal and the Bible verses which accompanied each food.  It made it very easy to sit down for dinner and as we filled our plates, someone read each Bible verse and explained the significance of the food.  I did not capture all of the details here, but for the most part, for this meal we stick to Alice’s suggestions for her 1st Lenten meal.

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Good Friday:  Jesus is condemned; The Way of the Cross; The Crucifixion

We typically pray the Stations of the Cross using either our Stations of the Cross eggs or our three part cards.  This year we did a few notebooking pages (here you’ll see both Thursday and Friday’s completed pages) and worked on our Holy Week in Handprints book.  Our Stations of the Cross meal (designed by Joseph, inspired by Alice at Cottage Blessings…we even use some of her suggestions from her 2nd Lenten meal here) completes our day and with it, we’re able to focus on all the events that happened along the way of the cross.  (We’re missing a few dinner photos here…we serve grapes along with the king’s crown for the 1st station to represent the purple robe; we serve french fries as the 2nd station to represent the beams of wood for the cross; on the 5th station, we serve fish to represent Simon of Cyrene, who was on his way into town, most likely to see his goods (perhaps fish?) when he was called upon by the soldiers to help Jesus carry his cross).

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Holy Saturday:

We usually begin our Holy Saturday with a recap of the week’s events, beginning with Palm Sunday.  We use this day as a day of preparation for the excitement of tomorrow.  We dye and decorate eggs, prepare the lamb cake (but don’t decorate it yet!), and this year, we continued our handprints book.

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Easter Sunday:  The Resurrection

Alleluia!  Christ has risen!  Today is a day for celebration!  Church is followed by a big breakfast (this year breakfast was at Grandma Nury’s with an egg hunt there).  At home, we read the Gospel together, decorate the lamb cake, hunt for eggs (confetti eggs, birdseed eggs, and our resurrection eggs), pack away Lent and decorate for Easter, and crack open our Resurrection eggs (these same eggs are used year after year).  This year we also finished our handprint books and opened Easter baskets from Granny and Pappy.

Since Easter lasts for an entire season in the Church (Easter lasts 50 days until Pentecost Sunday!), if we don’t finish everything on this day, we happily spread it out over the next few days.  In a few days, we’ll borrow Alice’s idea to have an Easter Tea to celebrate, through food, the events of the Easter season.

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Horse Unit Study

Billy and Blaze.  Three boys.  Do I really need to say more?  You can imagine.  There’s Billy, wishing he had a horse.  And then, he gets one for his birthday.  It was bound to plant an idea in someone’s mind.  And it did.  William is positive he’s going to get a horse for his birthday.  I am positive he is not.  So in lieu of a real horse, we’re going to spend the next 6 weeks on a horse unit study…I know, I know…a horse unit study?  Really?  Doesn’t really compare to the glamour of a real horse.  Well, let me repeat…there will be no real horse for this kid.  But at the end of the six weeks, when William’s birthday arrives, there will be the surprise of horse riding lessons!  So I figure the next 6 weeks Horse Unit Study will not only beef up our science (we finished our chemistry book and we’re just continuing with experiments throughout the year), but it will also prepare the boys for an exciting spring treat.

So here’s the plan (3 days a week for 6 weeks):

We’re using Amanda Bennett’s Horse Unit Study as a guide.  We’ll use her copywork and vocabulary lists as well as her research points.  They’ll keep all their horse related work together, which I had planned to bind at the end of the study, but today I found these adorable spiral notebooks at Walmart (okay, I realize the cow notebook is totally not related, but there was only one horse notebook and sweet Joseph said, “That’s okay, this one will work for me!”)

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Research will be done with the following nonfiction books:  Kingfisher Illustrated Horse and Pony Encyclopedia; Horses; Album of Horses; National Geographic Ponies; Usborne Horses and Ponies; H is for Horse; I Wonder Why Horses Wear Shoes.

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Every day, each child will be required to choose a book from the fiction basket (lots of Billy and Blaze adventures; Cowgirl Kate stories; A Perfect Pony; A Horse Named Seabiscuit; Five O’Clock Charlie; Wild Horses of Sweetbriar; James Herriot Treasury)  At the end of the week, they’ll be required to choose a book from the week to do a narration and illustration.

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We’ll also be listening, as a family, to two audio read-alouds…Misty of Chincoteague and Black Stallion (this picture shows Black Beauty on my Kindle because the book and audio were free for the Kindle, but I plan to use an audible credit for Black Stallion once we finish Misty.)  After each read-aloud, we have the movies to watch.

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In addition to our reading, we’ve got lots of horse puzzles, a horse card game, Horse Crazy activities and some art lessons on drawing horses.  And like I said, horseback riding lessons to finish it all up.  So if you’ve got a horse question, give us 6 weeks and then surely someone around here will be able to answer you.

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Daybook

Outside my window…it’s cold and wet, again but the boys have donned their coats and are out there regardless.

I am reflecting on…Joseph’s sweet comment last weekend when Trammie (my parents’ neighbor) came over.  She was showing them how to do cartwheels and back flips.  As she was leaving, William said, “Check out my cartwheel!” and then he did a perfect cartwheel.  Trammie responded, “Great job!  Now you just have to work on your back flips.”  Joseph said, “And I just need to work on my courage…being that high off the ground scares me!”

From the learning rooms…our horse unit study has begun!  Lots of talk around here about breeds and horses in history.

From the kitchen…the Whole30 has begun!  Lots of veggies around here!

I am wearing…black pants, a gray long sleeve Gap t-shirt, and these awesome slipper boots that Mom gave me.  Nice and cozy.

I am creating…a list for curriculum ideas for next year.

I am laughing…about our visit to the petting area at the Snake Farm.  Those were some seriously aggressive (or maybe just really hungry?!) petting zoo animals.  Before we even made it through the gate, the llama grabbed Andrew’s entire bag (bag and all) and went off to devour it, a goat tried to snatch the bag out of my purse, and two goats made it through the entrance gate (Uncle Dustin had to herd them back into the petting area).  Even once we were in, a sheep grabbed Joseph’s bag (as you can see in the picture where he’s running from the sheep!)  It was pretty entertaining!

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I am going…to try my hand at making bone broth soon.  There’s a whole bag of bones in the freezer just waiting for me.

I am readingThe Little Oratory.

I am remembering…our trip to the Snake Farm for Alex’s birthday.  Everyone enjoyed it…especially the birthday boy!  He’s such an expert on all animals…it was like having our own personal tour guide!

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I am hearing…Joseph’s voice on the Sparkup as Andrew listens (seriously, for a pre-reader, this thing is awesome!  You can record ANY book on it…we’ve filled our Sparkup with lots of our favorites, all read by us!).

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Around the house…you know, laundry, cooking, cleaning, playing, reading.  All the usual.

One of my favorite things…filing taxes…not the whole process, just the completed product.

A few plans for the rest of the week:  Joseph wants to start sewing again…Mario characters.  This should be interesting.

Here are some pictures I thought worth sharing…from our trip to Pioneer Farms (these donkeys were much nicer to feed!)

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Don’t forget to visit Peggy’s blog for more daybooks!

The Second and Third Six Weeks

Wow, I thought I was long overdue when I wrote my first six weeks post…if that was overdue, I’m not sure what word to use to describe the timeliness of this post!  We just finished our third six weeks (so that portion of this post is on time!).  Here are the highights of both the 2nd and 3rd six weeks (this won’t make for highly entertaining reading…plus I apparently ditched the camera for school-related things during all that time!)

Geography studies: 2nd 6 weeks: We covered Russia, the UK, France, Italy, Greece and Germany.  3rd 6 weeks: We covered the Netherlands, Spain, Canada, and the United States.

Chemistry:  We continued our Chemistry studies supplemented with lots of fun experiments.  We read Marie Curie’s Search for Radium.  The boys each made their own periodic table pillowcase…apparently sleeping on the periodic table is worth “experimenting” with!

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American History:  2nd 6 weeks: We covered the Pilgrims (just in time for Thanksgiving, of course!).  3rd 6 weeks: We covered early colony life, Daniel Boone and began a novel study of The Courage of Sarah Noble.

World History:  2nd 6 weeks: We finished up our Early Church and early saint studies and began to move into the Byzantine Empire (using Pandia Press…which you’ll see in just a moment that we didn’t stick with for long!)  3rd 6 weeks: After a King Arthur lapbook (lovingly prepared for Joseph by Auntie Leslie!), we switched programs (again) to Simply Charlotte Mason’s Medieval studies…ahh, love this.  Simple, straightforward and filled with real books.  Perfect fit for us.  And all are engaged in their learning.

Wee Folk Art: 2nd 6 weeks: We focused on harvest time…lots of apples, pumpkins and of course, with fall, leaves!  3rd 6 weeks: We started Winter Wonderland…lots of snow stories and nonfiction about winter and groundhog stories.  Not quite as engaging as our first trimester, but we’re enjoying the reading (and wishing we could visit some snow!)

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Other highlights:  We added back in our Catechesis of the Good Shepherd lessons (didn’t realize how much we missed this, until we started back!)  We are continuing our Shakespeare studies, Hoffman Academy lessons (supplemented with Alan Jemison lessons…they’re finally reading music!), and Nature Study lessons using Simply Charlotte Mason’s Nature Study book.  We switched over to Memoria Press’ picture study cards and are alternating our art lessons between Lindsey Volin and See the Light DVDs.

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In between our 2nd and 3rd six weeks, we took the month of December for our Advent plans (we always spend the month of December doing school a little differently…we still do our Grammar and Math plans but we spend the remainder of our days soaking up the liturgy of the Advent season…lots of focus on feast days and preparing our hearts for the birth of Christ).  This year we spent Advent studying Christmas Around the World.  All the usual feast day celebrations took place (St. Lucy’s day with our annual tour of the lights; St. Nicholas’ day with card and cookie making; The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, with Grandma Nury’s help to make flan) along with preparation for Christmas (our Jesse Tree, the O Antiphon house, plus the gift making, cookie baking, present wrapping) during this time.  This was our first year using the O Antiphon house, which added an extra depth to those dark days right before Christmas.

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For a list of our daily activities including Faith lessons, Math, and language arts, you can glance back at the 2014-2015 plans.

The First Six Weeks

This post is LONG overdue.  I meant to write it during our Fall break, back in early October.  But that week was overtaken by rearranging rooms.  We bought bunk beds for the boys, moved their room into the schoolroom, moved the schoolroom to the guest suite outside, and moved the guest room to the boys’ old room.  Lots of books to move, lots of decorating to do, lots of things to organize.  After lugging what felt like the thousandth pile of books through the house, outside, and to the new school room, I actually considered becoming a minimalist with books.  Really.  For one brief moment, I imagined myself getting rid of all our books.  No worries, once the books were moved, I laughed at my moment of insanity.  But seriously…I do not want to do any book rearranging again anytime soon.  Or even ever.

Now for the highlights of our first six weeks…

Our first day of school, August 18th.  Joseph: 7 years old; William: 5 years old; Andrew: 3 years old; Katelyn: 1 year old

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Geography studies: We covered China, South Korea, Japan, India, Israel and Thailand.

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Chemistry:  We began our Chemistry studies supplemented with lots of fun experiments…pretty sure these boys know more about the elements, the periodic table and chemical reactions than I knew after taking Chemistry in high school.

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American History:  We covered the early explorers including the Vikings, Columbus, Vespucci, Magellan, and a few other early settlers.  Then we moved on to John Smith and Pocahontas (which we covered last year and I was amazed at how many details Joseph remembered!)

World History:  We continued our Ancient History studies, covering the Early Church, the Age of the Apostles, and the Seeds of the Kingdom.  Lots of saint studies, lots of stories of martyrdom, and lots of church history.

Wee Folk Art: This has been a fun supplement to our days!  We covered vegetable gardens, dairy, tractors, the bakery, wool and yarn, and apples.  After studying vegetables, we visited the grocery store and did a vegetable scavenger hunt; for dairy, we visited the Cheesecake Factory; after tractors, we visited the John Deere Tractor store; we baked bread, made homemade butter, spun yarn (or at least we attempted to using a drop spindle), learned how to knit using a french knitter, and tried needle felting.  We made quilt squares with our hand prints and did a ton of reading.

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Fine Arts Fridays:  We began our Shakespeare studies (which have been a HUGE hit!), continued with our Lindsey Volin art lessons and Spot the Differences, listened to Vivaldi, practiced piano and did our Hoffman Academy lessons, and began our Nature Study lessons using Simply Charlotte Mason’s Nature Study book.

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Memory Work:  We’ve been doing an awesome job keeping up with our memory work, reviewing each day.  The timeline song has been a lot of fun and I’m shocked at how many mental pegs these kids are making.

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For a list of our daily activities including Faith lessons, Math, and language arts, you can glance back at the 2014-2015 plans.

All Hallows Tide

Sometimes I feel a little torn when it comes to celebrating holy days that are saturated with pagan traditions.  On one hand, I grew up celebrating most of the holidays with the traditional cultural traditions and I want my kids to experience that…I have lovely, happy memories of holidays as a child; on the other hand, I want my kids to have the opportunity to live in a faith infused environment…I want them surrounded by what is good and holy and beautiful and to be immersed in traditions that are rich in their Catholic heritage.  So often times, rather than choose between the two, I end up doing a whole lot of merging.  Halloween is no different.

A quick little history lesson…Halloween or All Hallows’ Eve is the night before All Saints Day (“Hallow” meaning…you guessed it, “holy” or in this case, “saint”).  As Meredith Gould points out in The Catholic Home, “Although Halloween has been secularized since the nineteenth century, Catholics have a long history of observing evening vigil before the Feast of All Saints.”  All Hallows’ Eve marks the beginning of the triduum of All Hallows Tide, which is the time when the church remembers the dead…saints, martyrs, and all the faithfully departed.  Many of the traditions (trick-or-treating, included!) stem from ancient traditions, some rooted in Christianity, some rooted in paganism.  For an excellent read, refer to Mary Reed Newland’s The Year and Our Children or read an excerpt from her book by heading over to CatholicCulture.org.  The issue isn’t so much that Christianity and Halloween are in opposition to one anther, the issue is more one of education and understanding what the focus of All Hallows Eve should be and then making that connection for our children.

That being said, we, over here, are not immune to the cultural influences of Halloween.  On the contrary, there are some things I just like to do with the kids (much to the chagrin, I am sure, of many fellow Catholics).  In the days preceding Halloween, we do quite a bit of cultural Halloweeny (is that a word?!) things…we make jack-o-lantern collages, paint ghosts, decorate the house to look a little spooky, listen to Wee Sing Halloween, read lots of silly and scary Halloween stories, spend some time at the pumpkin patch and corn maze and of course, use an evening to watch The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.  Sometimes I explain the connection and sometimes we just bask in the moment.

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The day of Halloween arrives bright and early (or in this year’s case, dark and early as a huge thunderstorm rolled in and woke all the little critters) and we begin by reading Father Philip Tells a Ghost Story and Moonlight Miracle.  The rest of the day is spent carving jack-o-lanterns and eagerly awaiting Halloween night when we can join all the other little ghosts and goblins as we go door-to-door trick-or-treating.

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Our Halloween costumes are usually secular (although we try to veer from anything extremely scary or devilish)…from super heroes to knights to strawberries.  Halloween night arrives and we don our costumes, grab our jack-o-lantern buckets and we’re off.

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We come home, buckets filled to the brim with candy, eat a piece (or two) and head to bed.  But here is where our Halloween differs from the majority of all those tuckered out little trick-or-treaters.  We go to bed with the anticipation of what’s to come…we know that we have only just begun our All Hallows Tide celebration.  Tomorrow we will celebrate All Saints Day.

All Saints Day is a joyful celebration around here!  We usually begin with Mass and then we come home to celebrate.  Some years our celebration has been as simple as saint stories (including a reading of I Sing a Song of the Saints of God) and some coloring, other years our celebration has been a bit more elaborate.  Most years involve getting all the saint dolls out and singing a liturgy of the saints.

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This year we decided to expand our celebration and throw an All Saints Day party.  The kids each chose and dressed up as a saint.  Joseph was Saint George, William was Saint William, and Andrew chose Saint Patrick (although I noticed that halfway through the party Joseph and Andrew had traded costumes).  The supplies were bought, the games were prepared and the guests arrived.

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There were Saint Guessing Jars…

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Pin the Shamrock on Saint Patrick…

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Works of Mercy stations…

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Saint Anthony’s Treasure Box…

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Saint Isidore’s Potato Sack Races…

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Saint George’s Sword Fighting…

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Saint Peter’s Keys to Heaven…

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Queen of All Saints Ring Toss…

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After the party, we worked on making our own saint dolls and had some afternoon saint treats (St. Isidore’s Pumpkin Swirl Bread (Pepperidge Farm special edition bread), St. Francis Tonsure Treats (chocolate frosted doughnuts) and St. Cecelia’s Musical Keys (sugar wafers lined up as the white piano keys with mini hershey bars as the black keys).  And we may have had a little more saintly costume fun!

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Tomorrow our celebration will continue with All Souls Day.  The atmosphere shifts a little as we approach All Souls Day with a little more of a somber attitude, remembering those we have loved and lost and praying for their dearly departed souls to make their way to Heaven.  All Souls Day is always accompanied by reading The Spirit of Tio Fernando and a visit to the cemetery.  Our cemetery has statues for the Stations of the Cross, so we usually pray our way past those.

Our All Hallows Tide celebration is complete.  I judge our celebration’s success based on one factor alone…do my children approach death as a celebration?   Do they realize that there is no need to fear death itself, but rather to embrace it as a part of our Christian journey?  If the answer is yes, we have succeeded.  This year’s celebration?  A success indeed.