Category Archives: Homeschooling

Boys in Trouble

Once an a while I get are real treat. I get to discipline boys. This is double the fun since I only have daughters.

One of the things many homeschoolers do is co-op classes. We all go to each others homes and have classes for things we teach rather well. For example, I teach a Latin class. It’s a great way to let the kids get together, not have to teach every subject, and it gives the kids an opportunity to not listen to mean hairy dad all the time.

There are very few homeschooling fathers in our group, so when one of the ladies has trouble with one of her boys, instead of wringing his neck and burying him in the back yard, they will take my girls out for a fun day, and leave the boy with me.

This is awesome. What could be more fun than disciplining boys that are not your own?

A while back I got a call from a distraught mother who’s son was just being a dang pest. She offered my kids a trip to the cheese factory in exchange for some time with her son. He was just being outright disrespectful, and for some reason unknown to me, these boys just think I’m some kind of great guy. Boys aren’t all that bright you see. (Trust me, I was an idiot. Heck, I still am.)

Man, this is better than Christmas. My kids get to go on a field trip, and I have a personal slave for a few hours. Sometimes I wish these boys would be more trouble, as I have plenty of work around the house that needs to get done!

So she drops off her boy, and we start having the talk. The best part is, he has no idea why he’s here. So he’s thinking, “Sweet! I get to spend the day with Dance! Maybe we will burn stuff or build a rocket or set off explosives!” (I used to be a scoutmaster, so these kind of events are not uncommon) So after mom leaves, I get to have the talk about respecting your mother.

The face he made was priceless. He totally realized he was in for it. What had looked like a bright summer’s day had fallen into the deepest, darkest abyss. “Oh no, I’m in trouble, and there is no escape!” I’m just loving it.

After about thirty minutes squirming under the flames, I do the worst thing¬†imaginable. Now you might think I made him clean up after the dog outside, but no, that wouldn’t do it. This boy is high strung, so an active activity simply isn’t going to really hone in on the problem. No, this one needs some sensory deprivation.

So I go out to the shed, and get the prettiest old pink desk with flowers on it that my kids had in kindergarten, and I push it up to a large white wall. Then I give him 500 sentences.

I will not disrespect my mother.
I will not disrespect my mother.
I will not disrespect my mother.

He brings me his first sheet, and I light it on fire. “Sorry buddy, but your handwriting just wasn’t good enough on that one, try again.

I will not disrespect my mother.
I will not disrespect my mother.
I will not disrespect my mother.

You know, he hasn’t been back in a very long time? I hear that all they have to do is threaten to take him to my house, and he shapes right up.

I still keep that pink desk though, just in case.

Salve Magister!

Every Friday, my entire morning is flat out booked up. There is no point scheduling anything before 1:00, because there is no chance I can make it.

Friday, is Latin day.

We have a group of homeschoolers that all converge on my house at around 9:30, and from that moment until the last one leaves, my house turns into a tornado. I have no idea who is there, my dog is so confused she can’t figure out if she should play or growl, my cats go into hiding, and my normally silent home is penetrated with the squeals and screams that only a flock of seagulls could outdo. It’s my own little, carefully scheduled dose of insanity.

Why does this flock of prepubescent monkeys invade my home? Why of course they are all excited about their weekly Latin class.

Okay, maybe I am overdoing it when I say they are excited. They love the getting together part, but when they hear my big manly voice resound through the halls with the five minute warning, I listen for the clapping and joy, but I usually just get groaning that would make Eeyore blush.

I love my Latin class. They are truly the best group of kids you could ever get into the same room. They are bright, funny, sweet, heck, I like them so much that I wouldn’t mind if they stayed till 1:15.

I love teaching Latin, because to me Latin is of extreme importance, and it was a gift that I was not given in school. Whenever I speak of the importance of Latin, I always get two replies, usually from the same mouth. “Wow, that’s awesome! I bet your girls are so smart” and “Why would you want them to study a dead language?”

So first, yes, my girls are smart, but not because they study Latin. In my opinion, every child can learn Latin, after all, they seemed to do alright with English.

The more important question though, is why. So I want to share a little secret with you. I’m gonna tell you why. I bet you think you know, but I’m guessing you don’t. You might be thinking it’s because I’m way too Catholic, and I think they should be able to pray the Latin Mass. Nope. That’s not it at all. “Well, it’s the language of the Church right? That must be why.” You couldn’t be further from the truth. “Um, then it’s because they will be able to pick up other languages so easily!” Sorry, wrong yet again. “So they can read all the great philosophers and scientists in the tongue they wrote in?” Sigh, you don’t give up do you? “Um, well, cause some of the English technical, legal, and scientific words are Latin?” What? Oh, why actually, you are very close.

I teach Latin, because most of English is made of Latin. All the reasons above are good ones, and any two or three would make me think about it, but the real reason is, that by studying Latin, you are studying English.

This comes as a shock to most people. The truth is, about 85% of the English language is actually Latin. Think way way back to grammar school. (By the way, did you know it’s called grammar school because that was when you used to learn the Latin grammar? Bet you didn’t know that!) Do you remember those early readers with those great stories like, “See Jane run! She Runs Fast. She can catch a ball!”? That’s where you learned all there is to know about English grammar. You learned that to make a word plural, you add an “s”. You learned the difference between “he runs”, and “he ran”. This was really important stuff.

That is all great for English words, but it just didn’t prepare you for bacterium, and bacteria. For the Latin student, this is obvious. Not only that, bbut nearly all our words are built out of Latin. For example, in this paragraph I used many Latin words, but I’ll point out “prepare”. “Pre” means before, “parare” means to jump, so literally it means, “before jumping”. That word suddenly makes more sense doesn’t it?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Latin scholar, so if you are and you decide to write me a letter in Latin, you’ll find it will take me a very long time to get back to you. In truth, I’m usually only a few lessons ahead of my students! (Just don’t let them know that, okay?)

One more reason to learn Latin, it just sounds cool! 

Dominus vobiscum!

The Sound of Music

Right now I am being blessed. If you walked into my house at this moment, you might not think it is so, but I assure you it is true. You see, my daughters are performing their mandatory half hour of musical jubilation. I am completely aware they do not feel jubilant about it, and to be honest, it’s not exactly, well, musical to my ears either. My piano playing daughter is playing at about twice the speed needed, over and over again, and my budding violinist doesn’t really have great pitch yet, and I cannot help but recall the sound of two cats fighting.

I will say this, they are oh so much better than last year, the bleeding in my ears has finally stopped.

It is a blessing. I think of all those who get to miss these real moments just because they are not altogether pleasant. They are my daughters, and though their music dulls my taste for any sound whatsoever, I am so thankful for hearing them.

I have two points, one about homeschooling from a father’s perspective, and one about music.

We live in a culture absolutely saturated with sound. Every advertisement, movie, ride in the car, ride in the elevator or walk in a department store is done with an accompanying soundtrack. Our children can’t hear us over their ipods, and we can’t even go for a jog without ours. So much noise. The worst part is, it is all of such good quality.

Good music is a bad thing you say? What do you mean by that Dance?

Well, good music is not a bad thing, but so much of it gives us a totally incorrect view of music in general. Let me put it this way, what do you think it takes to become a country, opera or rock star? You have to be good, really darn good. In fact you really have to be in the top .01% of mankind to be good enough to reach that kind of success. So all we ever listen to is the very cream of the crop whenever we listen to music. Guess what? Nothing you can do will ever match that. A hundred years ago you would go to the local dance hall, and hear good folks in your community play some music, and it was good, and you loved it. It was a treat to hear music at all. The fact that everything wasn’t perfect didn’t hurt your expectations in any way.

Now however, one of the main complaints I hear about at Mass is the choir is terrible. Actually, they usually aren’t, but your ear is way to dang good. If you were surrounded by the top .01% of speakers every day, you would never open your mouth because you would feel like a fool, like you weren’t good enough. I think the fact that someone is willing to sing and play at all in our modern age speaks volumes for their courage.

Next time you hear some good live music, just say thank you, that was wonderful, and I love your selections. Keep the bad opinions to yourself, chances are, they don’t deserve it.

Now for homeschooling.

I realize that homeschooling is not for everyone, and would never advocate that it is. For me though, the greatest blessing is not moral, but personal. I just love my kids so very much, that I can’t imagine a day without their lives flying around me like acrobats in a circus. They drive me crazy, they play badly, they sing at the top of their lungs the same line in a song over and over again, and they laugh like angels playing the harp. I treasure it all. I would hate to give even a moment of it up for a kings ransom. The fact that I only have had to pay for that honor by owning old beat up cars and living in a cheap small house seems like a great bargain.

Not to mention the fact that I get to show them how serious their faith is on a daily basis with daily Mass and prayer built into our life. That is worth more than a kings ransom, that, is what my soul was made for.