One of the many things I love about homeschooling is how much I learn as I prepare and teach the various subjects to the boys. I find it amazing that I graduated from high school with a high grade point average, but came away knowing so little in the subject of history. Now, I'm not placing any blame on the public school system; I think I just didn't apply myself to the courses. I memorized what information would be on the tests, usually scored well, then let the information flow right back out the other ear. History at that time didn't mean very much to me, unfortunately. Now, more than a couple of decades later, I'm teaching history to my boys and I'm finding myself curious and interested, perhaps for the first time in my life. I now have the interest that makes all the facts and information found on those dreaded Trivial Pursuit history questions, stick!
In the boys' studies we've covered various eras from the nomads in Mesopotamia to the Greeks, Roman History, Bible History, and now we've jumped forward to the early explorers, leading into our main focus this year in early American History. Our main text is From Sea to Shining Sea . It is an interesting read-aloud, and it is an excellent springboard from which to jump to more in-depth study, if desired, of the major historical figures as we encounter them. Another thing I like about this text is that it emphasizes the Catholic roots of our nation and, therefore, details the lives of people who in many cases I have never heard of, given my secular history education.
One such man we've studied in recent weeks is Father Juan de Padilla. Fr. Padilla accompanied Spanish Conquistador Francisco Vásquez de Coronado as he explored much of what is now the southwest United States in 1541-42. Fr. Padilla's love for the Indian tribes he encountered and evangelized caused him to stay behind when Coronado returned to Mexico. He journeyed into what is now Kansas, offered the first documented Mass within US boundaries near Ft. Dodge, KS, in 1541, and it was in Kansas that he was martyred, becoming the United States' Protomartyr.
Last night at dinner our boys were talking about what they had learned lately in history. They were able to tell their dad about Fr. Padilla's life, and that he was the first martyr in what is now the US. My husband had not heard of him either, but wondered about his martyrdom in Kansas. Is there a shrine somewhere to this Franciscan priest? We didn't know, and that was as far as the discussion went, until in today's mail we received the answer!
We are on the mailing list of a Catholic newsletter, Regina Coeli Report. As I opened the latest issue today, how very surprised was I to read the following title of one of the articles: Trek to the Padilla Cross: The Santa Fe Pilgrimage. The article was about a group of 53 Catholic men and boys who this past summer had gone on an annual pilgrimage to the Padilla Cross, just west of Lyons, KS. How convenient to have our questions about this holy priest and the shrine dedicated to him answered so quickly!
The history of our nation is rich, indeed, and it is sprinkled with the blood of many Catholic priests and religious as they gave their lives to convert the native Indian tribes that occupied this land 500 years ago. For my own information (not as part of my boys' studies) I am reading another book on this subject: Discovering A Lost Heritage: The Catholic Origins of America by Adam S. Miller. Mr. Miller provides an in-depth look at America's Catholic heritage and how, unfortunately, it has been left out of the history texts in our schools today. What an interesting read.
And so, having studied the Spanish Franciscan priests, we will be moving north and to the French explorers and the Jesuits and their efforts to spread the gospel in America. I am blessed, indeed, that through homeschooling I have a second opportunity to learn the history of our nation and world, with the appreciation and desire that I didn't have during my own school years. And it is my hope that I will be able to impart to my boys a hunger to know their roots in a way that will stick with them beyond their schoolroom days.
Our family likes pizza. We have it 1-2 times per month I guess, and while St. Louis does boast some pretty good local pizza joints, one of our favorite pizzas is still the national chain, Pizza Hut.
This time of year, besides our preference for their pizza, we have another incentive to head there once a month: the boys are participating in the Pizza Hut Book-It program for homeschoolers. It's a simple program wherein the kids are motivated to read a specified number of pages or books in order to earn a certificate for a Personal Pan Pizza with the topping of their choice. One certificate can be earned per month from October '10 through March '11. The boys being pretty willing readers anyway, I'd bet we'll be heading out for pizza each month.
And since that is so, I just have to say the Pizza Hut in south county is one my husband and I particularly enjoy and even recommend. But you ask, isn't a Pizza Hut a Pizza Hut?? Yes and no. The food? Yes. This particular location? No. Here's what we like a lot about it:
No crayons for the kids. No coloring books. No video games. No music. No televisions. You read that right! There are no distractions whatever to a family coming in, sitting down and having pizza and talking together about their day. We did this tonight. We listened to our kids tell us about their day at homeschool co-op including the musical they're in ('Annie Jr.'). We talked of other things, including some of the pictures on the restaurant walls of St. Louis sports figures and venues of decades past. It was a very pleasant and relaxing time out, and the pizza was good, as it always is.
I don't know about you, but my idea of a nice family dinner out is decidely NOT in playing tic-tac-toe or box-in-my-initials (or whatever the silly game is called) with my son while we wait for our food. It is also not in adding a chunk o' change to the bill by allowing the boys to spend a few minutes in the video den. I don't care to have to scream at my husband across the table in order for him to hear me over the music (even if they're playing stuff we like), and I can't stand how my kids are positively glued to the nearest TV set as they eat, no matter the program content.
Since we do eat out occasionally, we will undoubtedly encounter and endure some or all of the above again; it just seems like it goes with restaurant territory anymore. I just don't happen to think kids need to be entertained while they sit with Mom and Dad and wait for their food, eat their food, or patiently wait for the bill to be taken care of. But then, I don't like Happy Meals either. As I tell my boys, "You oughta be happy you're getting a meal", and that's how I feel at sit-down restaurants too.
Suffice it to say, though, the south county Pizza Hut does things right, in our estimation, and I thought some of you out there might like to be let in on the secret. And hey, they've included homeschoolers in their reading-incentive program and I think that's pretty awesome!