Friday, November 22, 2013

Taking a Break

I'm going to take a break from blogging for a while. It's not that I don't have time to write, I'm also taking a break from reading other blogs which takes up a lot of time but also provides inspiration for my own blog.

We're coming to the end of the church year, the close of the Year of Faith, the end of my theology studies, my scripture teaching, my mentoring and the end of the school year (Peter finishes 4th Dec) which also makes this a good time to stop.

I plan to spend the next four years (starting late Feb) doing a Bachelor of Primary Education either at Notre Dame University Sydney or Australian Catholic University.

Many thanks to everyone who has read my blog and particularly to those who have commented.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Everything my children learned they learned from video games!

Persistence - if at first you can't get to the next level try, try again.

French - we bought Pokemon Silver and Gold in France assuming you would be able to play the games in English. You couldn't, but they soon got used to it.

Patience - it took Peter four weeks of patient gaming to free Princess Zelda.

Plan ahead - they've learned to make sure their Nintendos are charged before we go out.

Saving your money - they know when new games are due out and they start saving for them.

Research - if they get stuck on a game they research what to do next on Youtube, look for websites with walkthroughs, or ask one of their friends.

Social skills - having been banned from a few Minecraft servers they've learned not to offend other users.

Making new friends - they've struck up conversations with children in restaurants and on public transport all over the world. Like being able to talk sport, Pokemon is an international language.

Dealing with bullies - they've met those mean kids on Minecraft (griefers) who destroy whatever you build or kill you and then steal your stuff.

Leadership - they've been given admin rights on Minecraft servers and allowed to ban or un-ban other players.

Consequences - they've learned that if you don't play by the rules on Duelling Network you get banned, sometimes for a day and sometimes for a week. They don't like this!

Problem solving - Professor Layton is great.

Taking care of pets - I still remember how upset John was when he logged onto Club Penguin and found that all twelve of his Puffles had run away because he hadn't fed them!

Mum is awesome - I complained to Club Penguin (regarding the above) and they gave him enough virtual coins to buy some more.

Recycling - once you've completed a game you can set it to a harder level and play it again.

Look after your possessions - the first time John left the house with his Nintendo DS he came back without the wallet of cartridges. He lost 8 games, valued at about $50 each.

IT Skills - downloading new packs and maps for Minecraft is quite difficult, but they've figured it out.

Reading - Peter learned the alphabet (at 3) using a Leapfrog Leapster game called Letters on the Loose.

History - Adventure Quest taught the boys about medieval weaponry.

Cheating is dull - we bought Action Replay cartridges that give you unlimited lives etc on games. The boys soon stopped using them when they realised that if the game was too easy it became boring.

Cooperation - a typical Wii Lego Star Wars conversation - "You be R2D2 and I'll be Yoda and we'll take out Darth Vadar".

Delegation - John gets Peter to train his Pokemon for him.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Should children be reading the Bible?

A quick history.

Martin Luther was very keen to give the Bible to the people, he thought that anyone could read it and understand it and that the Bible didn't require interpretation. The Catholic church on the other hand has always stressed that truth lies in both scripture and tradition. Tradition being those truths (such as the Nicene Creed) passed on by the Church, via the apostles and the bishops through the centuries.

Bible scholarship wasn't encouraged amongst Catholics until 1943 when Pope Pius XII issued the encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu. It was after Vatican II (and its constitution on divine revelation Dei Verbum) that Catholic school children started to be given copies of the Bible. Before the council most Catholic schools used books like Schuster's Bible History. These books gave you the story of the Bible without the exact words. They also cut short some of the boring bits (like Leviticus) and left out the x-rated scenes.

The problem.

It seems to me that although school children now have copies of the Bible they tend to use them like a dictionary or encyclopedia i e. they look up passages but don't follow the stories in any particular order. Children might study Noah's ark, or the Good Samaritan, but if you asked them whether Moses comes after Noah or before, or during what part of Jesus' ministry does he tell the story of the Good Samaritan, they wouldn't know. Part of the problem is that the Bible isn't an easy read, another issue is the structure of the curriculum itself.

When I look at the text books used in Catholic schools in Sydney I want to tear out the chapters and rearrange them in a sensible order.  The books are based around the liturgical calendar. Because the school year begins in February we start the year with Jesus' death and end with him being born.  Everything else is slotted in between the chapters on Lent, Easter, Advent and Christmas. This means that the story of Moses as a baby is studied in Kindergarten and Moses and the exodus in Year Two.

The effect of all this jumping around is that the great heroes and stories of the Bible are lost and children are left confused. I would have preferred for my children to have worked through something like the Lion's Children Bible from start to finish (maybe over 3 or 4 school years) or perhaps have studied a single Gospel during a school year using the actual text.

Friday, November 1, 2013

When should children drink coffee?

I was surrounded by high school girls ordering soy lattes this morning as I enjoyed a pot of tea at one of the many local coffee shops. My gut feeling is that my children shouldn't be drinking coffee until they've left school.

Peter (11) has now got to the stage where he wants to know why I wasn't happy that he came home from his stepbrother's house wanting to make himself an English Breakfast tea (like he'd been drinking all weekend), and why he can't go for a cappuccino with Allan. My younger stepson, from about 13 onwards, would often do the cappuccino thing with Allan, a ritual that involved coffee and a man to man chat about life.

I suppose it's the caffeine that bothers me, particularly with Peter having ADHD. I know you can get decaf coffee and fruit teas but they just encourage children to progress onto the hard stuff!  I'm the same with coke. When asked why they're not allowed to drink it my usual reply is "I'd rather they smoked!"

I did a bit of internet research and one mum argues that coffee works like Ritalin and her son focuses much better when he starts the day with one. So maybe the caffeine argument isn't going to cut it. There is the fact that the drinks are hot. I have visions of Peter making himself a coffee (John doesn't like to try new food or drinks so he's not a worry) and scalding himself. There's also the cost, those girls this morning must be going through $20 a week. But I guess I just see coffee and tea as grown up drinks, and the time that you drink them as grown up time, and I'm not ready to treat the boys as grown ups just yet.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Hymn book dedications

I pinched this post from the private blog my mum, my sister and I write. We started the blog about 18 months after my Dad died and use it as a sort of family album. The post below was written by my twin sister Lisa. I thought the hymn books were such a good idea I'd share it. Perhaps it's something that lots of churches do in the UK but here in Sydney hymn books are a thing of the past, the words to hymns are usually on a overhead screen.

We have just got new Hymn Books at the church. They get back some of the cost by asking people for £5 to put in a dedication. They put them out at the back of the church so that people can check their entry before they go into general circulation. I told Tasmin (16) that I put the exact dates because then people who are bored during Mass will find themselves working out how old he was when he died or maybe they will get the book and realise it's his birthday or the anniversary of his death and might say a prayer.

We had a leaving Mass for the Youth coordinator last Saturday and the children all got up on the altar at the end and sang  'Our God is a great big God' (with actions). OK there was a bit of bribery involved, but I managed to get Teagan (12) to race down and join the kids on the altar. When Teagan went, 4 others girls from her class followed her. And then we managed to get Tasmin up there as well! It was great - when am I ever likely to see them doing that again?!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Marking a loss

It's been a month now since the miscarriage and I find myself on the one hand trying to move forward and on the other trying not to just carry on as if nothing happened.

It occurred to me a couple of weeks ago that I need some way to mark the loss.  Another mum who lost a baby at the same stage about the same time, but in a different way (there was no heart beat), had a funeral. That wasn't possible in our case so I settled on the idea of a ring.

The baby was due in April so I thought I'd get a ring with the birthstone for April, which turned out to be diamond. Today I found the ring (I pick it up next Wednesday). I love the flower shape as it seems to symbolise life and the beading around the diamonds looks to me like a cluster of tears around the stone in the middle.

It feels a bit like giving in to consumerism (solving your problems by buying something), but looking on the internet it also seems to be the gut instinct of many other women in my situation.

Friday, October 11, 2013

How did Vatican II affect the Catholic church in Australia?

I mentioned to someone that I had to write an assignment on the impact of Vatican II on the Church in Australia and their immediate response was "everyone stopped going!" I must admit I thought they were right but having done a bit of research apparently they're not. It seems that the exodus from the church began in the late 1950s (Vatican II went from 1962-1965) after a big increase in churchgoing after the war, Vatican II created a lot of enthusiasm and probably slowed the decline.

The main effects on the church were:

Ecumenism - it became OK for Catholics to attend Anglican weddings, funerals and other services. Catholics weren't treated with as much suspicion by other Christians.

Lay (non clergy) involvement in parishes - men could be readers, parish councils were started, Bible study group and liturgical committees sprang up.

Changes to the liturgy - Mass was said in English not Latin, Prayers of the Faithful were added, hymn singing was encouraged.

A drop in vocations and lots of nuns and priests leaving - there doesn't seem to be any one reason for this, but it obviously reached some sort of tipping point where it was no longer shocking for people to leave religious life and therefore many did. It was a time of great change both in the church and in the world (the swinging 60s). Some priests and religious (nuns and monks) thought the changes in the church were happening too fast while others were frustrated that they were happening too slowly.

Catholic schools got lay teachers rather than religious -  this was partly down to Vatican II and partly due to other factors. Vatican II encouraged religious orders to return to their original charism which was often not teaching, it also led to large numbers of religious leaving their orders. The large number of children during the baby boom years put pressure on all schools. Public funding for Catholic Schools was reintroduced in the 70s (ninety years after it was withdrawn) which meant schools could afford to employee lay teacher and no longer needed to rely on religious as a cheap labour force.

I was a bit disappointed not to find some simple reason why so many priests and nuns gave up their vocations, though I did find out that many of them ended up back in teaching or working for the Catholic Education Office. I guess it's like asking why so many people get divorced. Each case is unique and in each case there are often multiple reasons. If I had to give one reason it would be dissatisfaction with the church i.e. there was some aspects of their way of life that they wanted to see change that didn't, or wanted to stay the same and it didn't. If you're happily married you don't get divorced and a priest or nun who is happy is unlikely to leave.