The Catholic Story

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How it frustrates me that every single Catholic catechism I have ever looked at is so insanely boring and textbook-ish, either that or it seems like a great reference until you realize it’s a form of mild Pelagianism intended to be memorized “by heart.” (Mind you, I have no issue with memorizing things. It’s crucial to learning to memorize things. But I don’t want my kids memorizing very subtly wrong things- things just “right” enough to leave them mildly confused for life. On the other side of the coin many catechisms have practically nothing relevant to teach at all besides “God loves you. Be nice.” There has to be a way to teach our kids using materials that will inspire and interest, that even tell a story- but without too many photographs of clear-skinned children gazing at candles with serious expressions on their faces.

I wish I could write a catechism. It would be fun,  a labour of love,  to try to put the faith into words that I know work for my own kids. It would be great to answer all those questions that they have about the little things that seem to make no sense when they are presented without nuance or real-life analogy and application. There could be sweet pictures. My kids need lots of analogies in order to understand things. They need their faith presented in real language they can understand. I wish I was a writer.






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What’s a Rasmus?

Do you ever need to rant about something that you really love? Today I need to rant a bit about something I deeply love: classical education.

Sometimes my kids get a bit confused. They don’t quite understand certain things that seem obvious to other kids, and they try to do things the hard way. It can actually be kind of entertaining.

For example,  being young and thus short, my son often can’t reach things that are up too high for him. So he sticks all those Crayola markers, the ones that are attachable, together into a big, long wobbly stick- with which he then tries to somehow “get” the stuff that’s up high. It is funny to watch. He will try and try with that marker stick, yelling things like: “Dang, I really gotta get a robotic arm!” while jumping up and down frantically, trying to reach the coveted item. Eventually he will give up in frustration and walk away, mumbling whatever it is that kids who don’t swear say under their breath. Sometimes, one of us will rescue him, but usually it is way more fun to watch.  This is what makes me a bad mother. Other mothers, good mothers,  would get down to eye level, hands on both his shoulders, and whilst looking deeply and earnestly into his eyes, say something like: “Sweetheart, you need to tell Mom what it is that you need, so that I can help you. Use your words.” Instead, I just crack up laughing.

This brings me to the title of this post. We are not just homeschoolers, but classical home-schoolers. Don’t get me wrong, I am a strong believer in the value of this very traditional old-school type of education. All you need to do to become convinced that people in the past had very worthy ideas about schooling, is to take a serious look at the state of the education system in North America. Still, sometimes, classical education can go a little bit too far, and end up trying to teach very adult concepts to very young children, in what appears to be an effort to produce academic prodigies. Which is another thing that makes me laugh, because it reminds me of my son with the giant marker stick, trying to reach something that is up way too high for him.

It means that we sometimes come across strange things in our days, things that make us feel really dumb. One day I was trying to teach my daughter a lesson on figures of speech and figures of description. I was flipping around in my Classical Composition teacher guide, trying to find out what the heck “metalepsis” is supposed to be, and why I should be trying to teach such a concept to my ten-year old, when I came across the following passage: “From Chapter XXI of On Copia of Words and Ideas by Erasmus, method of varying by metalepsis: metalepsis is communicating an idea by a gradual process of logical consequence and may be considered a category of synecdoche.” I read this aloud, (in my snobbiest voice because I like being silly) to my 10 year-old daughter. Her reply? “What’s a rasmus, Mommy?”

I think classical educators for all their excellent intentions and lofty ideals, ought to be a bit more careful when constructing and teaching curricula. It seems really important to make sure the stuff is appropriate and reasonable for the age level the materials are intended for.  Or at least, they should make it clear what level of depth is attainable for particular age groups. Otherwise they can end up with a bunch of kids who feel frustrated because they can’t reach the stuff that is up way too high for them.

And now, I will step down off my weird little irrelevant soapbox. Goodbye.