Thursday, April 29, 2010

Loving the Saints

You know that feeling when everything just suddenly and miraculously falls into place in homeschooling-- when the kids are truly impassioned and learning and excited, and it just seems so easy?

It doesn't happen all the time. I mean, we regularly have a lot of fun and we learn things and we get excited, but once in awhile we experience these truly golden moments where everything clicks and feels perfect. And in those golden moments every fiber of my being knows without a doubt that we're meant to be doing exactly this. There's no self-doubt or worry or any of those creeping voices that gnaw away at the back of my brain. In those moments there is only pure delight.

We experienced one of those moments last week.

Moonshine started on her Saints block and she couldn't be more delighted about it. I remember Sunburst enjoying her Saints block a few years ago, but Moonshine is just over the moon about it. We're using a few different materials this time around-- starting with Tomie dePaola's book Francis: Poor Man of Assisi. I love Tomie dePaola. I love this book, and now, after reading it, I love St. Francis even more.

Moonshine was so moved by his stories that she started drawing them on her own. For fun. With block crayons. One morning last week she delightedly presented me with this picture:

When your child is so moved by a story that they wander off and draw a picture without you, you know you have something special. What's a mom to do? I brought out her new main lesson book and asked her to paste it in. Then we forged ahead. I took a few days to tell the stories from dePaola's book, and it also carried us through St. Clare and Brother Jacopa. Though Jacopa de Settesoli is not a saint, she's my absolute favorite so far! I don't think a tale of St. Francis is complete without her.

We even made up a batch of her famous "cakes" that St. Francis loved so much. They were so simple and delicious that we've made them three times since last week! I omitted the drying time from what is believed to be the original recipe and used unblanched almonds, just to make them easier. We cut ours into squares and put crosses on them. Here's the recipe that Moonshine pasted into her book:

Brother Jacopa's Cakes / Mostaccioli

1/4 c honey
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c ground almonds
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 egg white (or egg replacer)

Mix and knead well. Roll out dough between baking paper, and cut into shapes. Bake at 250 F for 20-30 minutes. Makes 18 small cookies.

Moonshine also announced last week that she "loves drawing with block crayons" and she's "addicted" to drawing with them. Admittedly, they are difficult at times, but her sudden and overflowing love for them just blew me away.

We've moved on from St. Francis to St. Elizabeth of Hungary. I wish I could say that I loved my resource for that story, but I don't. The more I research her online, the more I realize that the story I told Sunburst, though lovely, wasn't exactly accurate. Nor was the version of St. Francis and St. Clare that I told her using the same resource. It really bothers me, but I'm wondering, should I care? If it moves a child's heart, does it matter if the details are messed up?

What do you guys think? Please leave a comment, as I would really love to know.


  1. I think there is a difference between the stories of Saints where there is written documentary proof such as St Francis and other, much older tales where a saint's life has been overlaid on a previous cultural God/Goddess such as St Brigit/Bride. The 7th century stories of cephalaphoric saints in England and France and their relationships with sacred wells and springs speak of much older local deities and a much deeper relationship between the place and local people who found help and support there.

    You know your own children and their ability to understand concepts. I think there is always merit in explaining how stories help us to understand concepts which are very difficult to understand. When someone lived a long time ago, many different people will have different memories and stories about them. Sometimes the stories are shared verbally and sometimes they are written down. Sometimes people will only remember part of a story and will add something from another story in the belief that it all "goes together". Sometimes people will come along and someone in power will decide they don't like parts of the story and take it out or make rules about which bits of a story can be used and which must not be used. This happens even if a person is still alive or has only recently died.

    Perhaps one of the most useful things to follow up a story you are not sure about is to consider "What has this story told us?" "How is this helpful in our lives at this moment". This is not to try and explain a story (if you do that, the story dies), but to feel how a story has touched your life and whether it has been enriched by the story or whether the story is actually not helpful to you and should be allowed to disappear without retention.

  2. Anonymous5:02 PM

    I like Sarah's post. I have to admit that I inadvertently have turned my children (at least ds#1) into cynics. I guess it was due to my having been brain-washed by my Catholic upbringing into viewing clergy folks (from the saints to everyone who is involved in the clergy, popes, priests, nuns, etc) as holier than everyone else, and then to learn, as an adult, that they are just as flawed as anyone (and some even more flawed than the average person) is akin to some people finding out that Santa isn't real and that their parents have lied to them all along.

    But, as I said, I like what Sarah posted, especially the part about how a particular story is helpful to our lives. :)

  3. Oh I just LOVED this post! I am so excited to have found you as perhaps the only grade 2 blogging source of inspiration (where you share lesson plans in detail, etc). So thank you for taking the time to do this! I mentioned your blog in the comments of "The Parenting Passageway" on a post looking for blogs that give inspiration to others. :D

    Anyway, can I ask which book you chose that you didn't like (so I can be wary of it)?

    And Sarah put it very well - so many of the actual stories have been changed or mistranslated, etc. And what really matters is how it speaks to the child's inner growth. To go back and rechanged it might be difficult. Could you weave some of the most accurate parts into a continuing story of it at bedtime with it drastically altering everything? That way it will work its way into her subconscious. Just a thought...but I'm so excited to hear how wonderfully this blog is clicking. I am so excited to explore it with my girls next year! Please do post your recommended books - I so appreciate it!

    Blessings, light, and continued love of learning,

  4. Oops...I mean "without" it drastically altering everything - sorry! :D

  5. Sarah, you make some very good points. Thank you. I suppose if the heart of a story is intact, then it's all good.

    I'm certain that so many of these stories changed through time and experience. What is history anyway, but what people have chosen to record and repeat over time... surely the details can get a little warped along the way, especially with legends.

    Teresa, I think it's the human qualities of the saints that I find so touching. To me it makes their pious choices even more interesting. Like St. Elizabeth-- a princess betrothed and sent away from home at 4yrs, happily married and having kids at 14, widowed and destitute by 20. A life of hardship that would crumble the rest of us... and yet she chose to respond differently.

    Jen, the resource I'm referring to is from Christopherus. The stories are very simple and sweet, and my older daughter enjoyed some of the stories I shared from it a few years ago. My problem is that I started digging deeper and noticed a few differences, some more inconsequential than others. If you're not bothered by details, then it's a good resource.

    I feel like digging deeper helps me to be a better teacher. So maybe I should just go with it?--- Anyway, I'm glad you liked this post. Hearing that people find inspiration in my blog really brings a smile to my face. Thanks so much!

  6. Beautiful work! Man, I sure hope A falls in love with the block crayons one day. I don't think he has ever chosen to use those on his own. He is strictly a Lyra Ferby guy. :-)

    I'll be using the Christopherus resource for Saints and Heroes next year, although perhaps a bit padded up, and with a few more added to it. I also *love* the Tomie de Paola books. Maybe I'll dig deeper when F gets around to 2nd grade. Hopefully I'll be living somewhere where English-language books abound. xo

  7. Cari, I hear you about the resources. There were so many I simply checked out from US library last time around. I miss libraries! You're welcome to borrow books from me once we've finished with them. Seriously. Just let me know.

  8. I have found that I enjoy providing my girls with several different versions of a story and then we discuss our likes/dislikes and why we though the stories were presented differently. We've had great discussions regarding fairy tales AND biblical/historical tales that transcend cultures and times as well as those stories that have been tweaked to reflect the times in which they were written. I think it makes a story more alive and perhaps gives a feeling of ownership when the girls know that they can take a story and make it their own.

    We HAVE talked about checking historical facts, though, and making sure we have a clear picture of what happened - as much as that is possible. It's a great lesson in perspective! Just how many different ways did the blind men "see" the elephant?!

    Thanks for your wonderful thoughts and ideas, Sara!


  9. Thanks, Moxy. You make a good point about perspective. It's definitely something that I need to keep in mind when I'm going through these stories and picking which ones to share with Moonshine. I've noticed that they have to be settled within me for Moonshine to connect with them. She's personally still too young for me to expect her to process them along with me and still connect her heart with the central message. One day she'll get there though... Sunburst certainly has. ;-)


Thank you for taking the time to leave a message. I appreciate your sweet words so much!

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