Saturday, February 04, 2012

Europe and the Faith "Sine auctoritate nulla vita"

Continuing with my reading plan for the year, I decided to read Hilaire Belloc's "short" essay Europe and the Faith (available free for Kindle) - being a modern American, my version of a short essay is much shorter than this one, which I guess is close to 200 pages.  One downside of reading on a Kindle is that you don't know how many pages you have read - but I will admit that I like the percentage of the way through feature.

This essay was one of the suggested readings for the first time period of EPIC - Mustard Seed (along with Quo Vadis, and several other books that I don't have and weren't available free on Kindle.)  Belloc makes some very good points throughout the essay about the history of Europe being taught in a false way in order to fit a Protestant narrative. 

Belloc begins with the question: What was the Roman Empire?   It was united, a civilization with one mode of life for all in its boundaries.  Outside of the Empire were barbarians, but they were not a threat to the Empire, and many wanted to become part of the Empire - traded with the Empire, accepted its coins, took bits of its language into their own.  Even when there were civil wars, with multiple emperors ruling - or no emperor at all, the power, office and system of the Empire were all one.

Next, he asks: What was the Church in the Roman Empire?  The Catholic Church was "a clearly delineated body corporate based on  numerous exact doctrines, extremely jealous of its unity and of its precise definitions, and filled, as was no other body of men at that time, with passionate conviction."  It was not an opinion, fashion, philosophy, theory or habit.  The Church caught and preserved the Empire as it declined.  The Empire declined because of the increasing numbers of "barbarians" hired as soldiers, weakened central power giving way to local power by rich landowners, and the rise of the Catholic Church in the whole society.

Further, he asks: What was the "fall" of the Roman Empire?  The changes in the Empire came from within, rather than from outside forces.  It failed to keep the local government subordinate to the Imperial government.  Taxation and central bureaucracy weakened, and localities  had more independence. Much of this came from the changes in the Roman army - once an army of citizens, then it became an army comprised of slaves willing to take on military service for the benefits it would provide them and poorer freed men, then the army was made up in large parts of tribes who entered into the empire under the condition that they serve as soldiers.  Eventually, the local government would fall into the command of the local forces of the Roman Army, which were often "barbarian" because of the recruitment strategy of the Army.  The Church remained an important force throughout the Empire, even as the power became more localized.

Belloc also discusses the history of Britain (in particular), and the dark and middle ages, which I am having a hard time simplifying into a blog post!  I'll just say that there is a lot of interesting information presented in this essay about those topics.

He also asks, What was the Reformation?   The true causes were spiritual, and thus hidden, so a historian can only answer the question "what was it?" not "why was it?" Because of the faster rate of change, the Church was not able to absorb and regulate new things quickly enough.  One very important note is this: "No one in the Reformation dreamt a divided Christendom to be possible."  Those people challenging the way things were done desired to affect the universal Church and change it - they sprang up from everywhere due to a universal uneasiness of a universal society.

Finally, he discusses why Britain's split from the Church happened, and how it affected the Reformation - In Britain in particular, the economic power of a small group of wealthy men had grown "greater than was healthy for the community."  Britain had many markets and ports, so new messages were frequent.  Finally, England had the most exaggerated awe and devotion to the monarch in all of Europe.  Henry VIII wanted to put pressure on the Church in order to get what he desired - the dissolution of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon - but he did not  mean to break permanently from the unity of Christendom.  When he suppressed the monasteries, it was not to destroy (which did happen) but to enrich the crown.  Belloc argues that "England did not lose the Faith in 1550-1620 because she was Protestant then.  Rather, she is Protestant now because she then lost the Faith." 

Of course, Belloc gives many great historical details to support his points, and there is no way for me to get across all of his ideas.  This was a challenging read for me - it took a lot longer than I anticipated because I could only read it when I was able to concentrate on it fully - not something I get to do all that often around here.  I would recommend this if you are really into Church history, but it is not light reading.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Welcome to the Daisy Flower Garden - a Journey Review

Well, today I thought I should blog about something, and since yesterday was our Girl Scout day and my Daisies pretty much finished up the "Welcome to the Daisy Flower Garden" Journey, I thought I'd write out some thoughts about the Journey, and some supplemental ideas we have used, or are planning to use.

A few comments about our troop - we have a multilevel troop and we have two leaders.  We have a couple of parents who help out from time to time, but aren't full-time leaders.  The girls meet every other week.  One week will be Daisies and Juniors, the next will be Brownies and Cadettes. I lead Daisies (because Charlotte is a Daisy) and Brownies (because Eva is a Brownie).  Later on, I will do a review on the Brownie Journey WOW! (Wonders of Water).

I originally planned out the year so that we would take the whole year to do the Daisy Flower Garden Journey - but it looks like we will finish early.  I have a general philosophy that girls in K-1 enjoy doing crafts, so I have added a lot of crafts to the journey.

Thoughts on the books - we ordered the Leader's Guide which came with one student book. I don't think the student books are worth it at the Daisy level.  Most of the girls are early readers, and most of the activities are "Draw...", so it could easily be done with blank paper instead (although, we haven't done any of them.)  The story line is long, and not appealing to my girls, but I went ahead and read it aloud to my girls anyway.  I feel that it could have been shorter, more fun, and taught more about the Girl Scout Law.  The leaders guide is so-so.  We enjoyed the games in the book, and I like having suggestions as a leader, so that I don't have to come up with everything from scratch.  That being said, there is a lot in the leader's guide that I didn't find useful.

I really did not enjoy the mini-garden project.  I have a distinctly brown thumb, and most of my Daisy parents confessed that they aren't too great with plants, either.  Instead of planting basil and lettuce I found some seed kits on clearance at Hobby Lobby.  I bought two rainbow plant kits, and two geranium kits.  Each girl paired up (we had 8 girls at the beginning of the year) and they got to plant the seeds in the kits.  The kits then when home with me. Of the four, three sprouted.  I then begged Daisy parents to take them.  One family kept them for a majority of the time. I had cut off the bottom of a cereal box and bag to use as a container for transporting the plants.  This week, the plants ended up back in my care.  One had died, one is almost dead, but one rainbow plant is looking pretty strong, so I think we will transplant it soon.  Hopefully I can find someone for the Daisies to give the plant to - I am thinking of asking the nursing home if they would like it.  The plants didn't come to every meeting, and we didn't water them very often as a troop.

So, for the nitty gritty details, here is how our meetings have gone:
Snack (we meet right after school, and the girls are always STARVING!)
Circle with juniors to talk about what is going on, go over motto, promise, law, girl scout sign, etc.
Attendance (with stickers - one girl takes attendance based on KAPER chart)
Read a chapter of the story (not very popular - I picked out extra picture books to read if the girls liked the story time, but I think they will be relieved to not have it anymore.)
Do a craft project (KAPER chart has craft helper and craft cleanup)
Play a game (KAPER chart has "game girl" who gets to lead the game or pick the game.)
Sing a song (KAPER chart has "song starter" - the girls LOVE to sing the "Baby Bumblebee" song - we do bringing home/squashing up/throwing up/mopping up, then end)
Meet for friendship circle/squeeze - sometimes with Juniors, sometimes alone (friendship squeeze is on the KAPER chart, too)
Girls collect their crafts and head home ("kaper keeper" moves the girls names on the KAPER chart)

I decided to plan on a flower craft for each flower in the Daisy flower garden - I've gone off track a few times this year when I didn't have the right supplies (we asked for parent donations, but have gotten none so far - so I've used what I had available).  This is the girls' favorite part of meetings and they can keep them around for reminders of the parts of the law.

We have done:
Paper Plate Bee Craft - we used markers instead of paint!  This was just for fun because the bee showed up in the story before any of the flowers.
Foam Flower Daisy Craft - I precut all the petals, and we taped a reminder of the promise to the stem.
Finger Print Lupines on regular paper printed with a reminder about Lupe the lupine reminding us to be honest and fair - no instructions, but I got the idea from this image.
Sunny the Sunflower Craft - we colored the stems, used yellow tissue paper for the petals, and used a bag of hubby's sunflower seeds for the centers.  We wrote "Friendly and helpful" on the back.
Z is for Zinnias Craft - we made these out of  dark green construction paper (I forgot to get spring green) and I preprinted stems on white paper with a reminder about Zinni the zinnia reminding us to be considerate and caring.
Origami Tulip Craft - we did the flowers only from this site, and mounted them on paper with green construction paper stems, then we wrote "courageous and strong" on them.  I have plenty of origami paper lying around, but I had originally planned on doing a different craft, which I'll link to, in case you have more finger paint than origami paper lying around!
Handprint Tulips Craft

Crafts I have planned (but could always change, if I forget to pick up supplies!):
Tissue Paper Marigolds -  I will probably make paper tags to tape to the flowers that say "Mari the marigold reminds us about being "responsible for what I say and do."
Coffee Filter Flower Craft - for Gloria, the morning glory - I'll probably make tags similar to above for "respect myself and others."
Muffin Flower Craft - for Gerri the  geranium, I probably won't use the template, I'll just give the kids green construction paper to cut a stem and leaves out of, and maybe brown construction paper to cut a pot out of. (or I may precut, and I might do two crafts per week!).  Of course, we'll probably write on the mounting paper "Respect authority."
Spring Stained Glass Craft - there are three different options for how to do this one, and I'm not sure which one to choose, though I lean towards the contact paper and tissue paper scraps version right now.  This will be for Clover, because it is hard to find a clover craft.  We will make sure to write on the craft "Use resources wisely" - although I have to admit, using crayon shavings might be what happens, since it seems like a "use resources wisely" kinda thing...
Tissue Paper Flower Rose Craft - I'm hoping the first tissue paper flowers go okay, or I'll have to rethink this - but I've done these roses for our All Saints Festival at church before, so I think it will work.  This will get a tag that says :Rosie the rose reminds us to "make the world a better place."
Foam Violet Flowers Craft - I may have to do some pre-cutting for these, as we had a little foam disaster when making our KAPER chart Daisies out of foam, and I probably won't use the hot glue.  But these looked cute, and would need a tag "Vi the violet reminds us to be "a sister to every Girl Scout."

After we have gone through all the flowers (and earned all the Daisy petals for the girls who don't already have them) I am planning on doing a "Garden Party" where the girls spend the first half of the meeting setting up, decorating and making food. Then in the second half, their special guests arrive, they eat the food and drinks, the girls tell them about the law - and get the Daisy Flower Garden patches.

So, overall my opinion on the Daisy Flower Garden Journey - it was a nice jumping off point.  I think the emphasis on books is a bit much for K-1 girls who have been in school all day (my homeschooled girls don't mind the reading as much!) and the garden was a little too much for me as a volunteer.  That being said, I think I will probably order another journey for next year as a jumping off point.  I'd like to do the animal one, but I think I'll have my Daisies that aren't bridging up vote at the end of the year (although, it may just be Charlotte who isn't bridging, I've got to check with the other homeschooled girl!)