Latin for Dummies. (And 7-year-olds.)

I had a lot of reasons for deciding to homeschool my kids, like I don’t like being told what to do and other people annoy me.

(Also intelligence blah blah blah.)

(Basically other people though. They really bug me.)

But a big part was that I wanted to give my children a classical education that prepared them to be civilized, cultured adults who knew things about a lot of the world and could learn more and discuss things like reasonable people.  I didn’t see a lot of this happening at the schools I had access to, and while there are great options like Aquinas Academy in our area, I was certainly not in a financial position to do those.

And I knew from the beginning that Latin was going to play a huge role in my curriculum. My husband and I have something like eight years of Latin between us, and we both think the fact that the other studied it is adorable.

(Nothing gets me hotter than a properly declined noun.)

I just think there are so many benefits- spiritually as Catholics, culturally as, well, cultured people, and neurologically since it’s totally a foreign language even if it’s dead.

Our daughter is in first grade this year, and the curriculum company we use for most things offers a great early elementary level Latin program. I added it to my cart, broke it up into weekly lesson plans, and got psyched to impart my wisdom on my kid. Ahhh.

And then…it imploded. This program? Is awesome. Really. It is. Check out the Prima Latina program from Seton.

But it is NOT how my seven-year-old currently learns.

It was frustrating to me, since I really wanted this to be a part of our homeschooling. But I didn’t want to squash her love of learning by forcing her to do things she didn’t like when it was clearly not working. But then I’m her teacher so I have to force her to do some things she doesn’t want, so maybe this should be it?

Anyway, by Christmas break, Latin was increasingly getting ignored because I didn’t feel like fighting her to sit down and use a workbook.

I figured we’d have to wait a few years to tackle Latin. I get it, I mean, I was in seventh grade when I started, and my husband was in high school. It wasn’t the end of the world. But I really loved the idea of it being such a part of her life from the beginning. And I knew that other schools (like Aquinas) did it with great success.

So I prayed to the Blessed Mother about it for like two months, and continued ignoring it.

A tiny little idea came to me.

Just teach her the Ave Maria.

I can do that. I’ve taught her literally every other prayer I know. I’ll just teach her the Ave Maria and even if she doesn’t sit down and use the workbook, at least she’ll learn some of the words.

And then I realized- SHE’LL LEARN THE WORDS. Literally, this is how to teach children anything.

(Sometimes I wonder if Mary is sick of my stupidity.)

So I taught her the sign of the cross, and the Ave Maria. And once we did that- amazing things happened.

I realized I could weave Latin through the rest of our school. We recite the prayers together all the time. I sing her the Ave Maria (Gregorian chant version- I do not have a great voice, and it’s the only one that doesn’t make ears bleed when I attempt it.) We practice cursive and handwriting by copying the Latin words.

We even used it as an art class- I write the Latin words and English words on a sheet and the kids cut them out and glue them on to construction paper. I laminate them and put them on a ring and they have a special prayer book to bring with them in the car or to Mass.

There’s no fighting, my kids are learning new things and praying a ton, and even the stuff I was worried about don’t seem to be an issue. I was concerned that they’d just memorize words and never really think about what they mean. But last week my daughter was reading her card and said, “Mulieribus- that means something about women right?”

Heart= warmed.

So that’s the wisdom I’ve picked up from this second year of homeschooling. You can teach your kids things. Hard things. Just make it small and fun and not terrifying. Don’t flip out about it.

And pray. Because Mary will listen to you. Even if you should have been able to figure this out before.

I don’t know these people.

I’m 23. I’m in grad school. I’m not hideously deformed. Most of the time when people in that position talk about, “Oh, man, what a weekend!” they’re usually referring to riotous good times, drunken brawls, major relationship-changing developments, or, you know, things that have something remotely to do with their own lives.

When I say that?

I probably mean the fact that the royal wedding and John Paul II’s beatification happened within forty-eight hours of each other then just as I was planning on getting more than two hours of sleep, bin Laden was killed and the world erupted in strangely-happy-over-someone’s-very-politically-charged-death. And that was that.

I know. It’s sad.

(My life. Not bin Laden’s death.)

Because I was too tired on the actual day(s), my thoughts. (Which I also tweeted, here.)


– I can’t believe I’m watching this.

-I mean, he was supposed to be mine.

– This is ridiculous. I’m better than th…


– Kate’s dress was lovely, but it was also exactly what I’ve been planning on wearing to my wedding since I was like 12. What. I plan ahead.

– So now it’s going to look like I stole it.

– The ceremony was lovely, except I was not cool with the Archbishop of Canterbury constantly making reference to Christ’s union with the Church. For numerous reasons.

a.) I don’t like that phrase. Because it’s creepy.

b.) The Church? Oh, you mean the one you guys left in 1527? That one?

c.) Seriously. It skeeves me out.

– I loved that they were actually into each other.

– I loved that Prince Harry was already like 48% drunk.

– He hooked up with Pippa. Who totally knew what she was doing.

– At one point it got so Disney that I was pretty sure bluebirds were going to start holding up her veil.

– I’m still insanely jealous. But I’m all really into you, Duchess of Cambridge. So I guess we’re okay.


– I was disappointed (though not surprised) that no one seemed to be as excited about this as I was. MSNBC was like, “uh, this is a big deal, I guess…”

– Benedict’s vestments were also lovely, and they did not remind anyone of Grace Kelly. So good call, Holy Father.

– I cried. A lot.

– George Weigel was on MSNBC and I spent four hours fangirling George Weigel. That was…totally normal.

– I heard those readings like eight times this weekend.

– I think that explaining basic parts of the Mass to people up at 4am is pretty silly, MSNBC.

Osama’s death:

I don’t really have a whole lot to say about this. My reaction was:

Okay…going to bed…are you kidding me? Seriously? TONIGHT? It’s been ten years. I guess I should stay awake…*zzz*…NO! Must stay awake…where the hell is Obama….this isn’t going to work out as fantastically as everyone seems to think it will…*zzz*

And finally, just to make it full circle, the Vatican’s statement on Monday morning:

“Faced with the death of a man, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibility of everyone before God and man, and hopes and pledges that every event is not an opportunity for a further growth of hatred, but of peace.”

I think Blessed John Paul II would approve.

(And if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had anything to say about, I would have posted it too!)

JPII, we love you.

For whatever reason (probably the combination of the rhyming and that guy playing guitar with his feet), one of the most enduring memories of my childhood is hearing the crowd chant “JPII, we love you” at World Youth Day in 1995.

I was seven years old, and didn’t really understand why they were chanting; I didn’t understand what World Youth Day was; and I certainly didn’t understand the theology or history of the papacy. But I did know that guy was the pope. And I knew that he was a really good man, and that I loved him.

I never saw him in person. I was supposed to, but things happened and people died and I think my mom felt worse about making us miss him than the fact that our grandmother was gone.

I’ve been Catholic all my life. Really Catholic, not just go-to-Mass-on-Easter-and-mumble-along-with-the-creed Catholic. I was seventeen when he died. The death of the only pope I’d ever known was huge. I went to Mass. I stayed up on Friday, waiting for news. I remember feeling like I was in some sort of weird vigil; I knew it made no difference if some girl in Milwaukee was awake when the pope died, but I wanted to be. When he did die, I cried. I got up at two in the morning to watch his funeral. I had to take the ACT the next morning, but I stayed awake through the whole thing. And two weeks later when the man who had celebrated his Mass of Christian Burial was elected Benedict XVI, I cried about that too.

(In fact, if you go back to my old blog and look at the entries from that week- wow. Why hello there, hyperbole. Are you planning on staying for the summer? Embarrassing. I was a horrible writer in high school.)

I loved him in the simple, childlike way he inspired in most people. I never read any of his writings while he was alive. While I was vaguely aware of his accomplishments and gratified by the outpouring of praise at his death, I didn’t really understand the magnitude of what he’d accomplished.

By happy circumstance, I’ve ended up in an academic field that allows me to study him.

I get it now. I’ve read his encyclicals, his books, his groundbreaking work in interfaith relations. Despite my last name, it’s not a nationalistic thing for me, but rather that same childlike love I felt when I was seven.

The concluding sentence- concluding chapter, really- of my thesis was about him. He wasn’t perfect. Many people disagreed with him, and there was a certain amount of criticism for his papacy that, while in most cases it can be disputed, cannot be ignored.

But, at least for me, nothing can alter the image of an elderly man, weakened by disease and moving clearly only with great personal pain, shuffling to the Wailing Wall and placing a prayer between the stones; a prayer begging forgiveness and understanding, a prayer directed not only at his childhood friends who suffered but at my children who will have to work for a better world.

I never saw him.

But I am going to World Youth Day this summer.

And I’m positive that Blessed John Paul II will see me.