Baltimore Catechism Flashcards

For anyone wanting to memorise the Baltimore Catechism.

First, install Anki – a nifty little open source program available for Windows, Mac, Linux, iPhone, Android, FreeBSD and even Nintendo DS.

Next start up the program and go to File > Download > Shared Decks. Type Catechism in the search box and that should bring up “Baltimore Catechism”. Install that one and you are ready to go!

Anki defaults to introducing 20 new cards each day, but you can change this to 2 or 3 or whatever you’re more comfortable with. It aims to review each card just before you’re likely to forget it. It’s called a Spaced Repetition Learning System. You can read more about the theory in this Wikipedia article.

Baltimore Catechism No. 2The Baltimore Catechism No2 deck has 421 questions. You might be doing it bit by bit in another program such as the Classic Catechism course from CLAA. The cards are tagged by lesson and question number, so you can select which question numbers you wish to work on. Otherwise it just ploughs through from beginning to end.

The deck was made from the Project Gutenberg text of the Baltimore Catechism No 2 – etext #14552. The imprimatur is from 1885 but the fasting rules have been updated in accordance with the 1977 edition.

The text was converted using Vim with much reference to Vim Regular Expressions 101. It only took a few hours but if you find it useful, feel free to drop me a line. If you feel inclined to make a donation, consider Aid to the Church in Need or the Anki project itself.

UPDATE: ankiweb.net deletes accounts that haven’t been active, so I think the actual deck I made has been deleted, but this time I checked (July 2016) there’s a Baltimore Catechism No 3 available. Here’s my update with deck at Brandt Lab.

CLAA one year on

The days are long, but the years are short – that about sums it up. The Classical Liberal Arts Academy has been very helpful here. Reading the Family Forum has been a regular wealth of new ideas and food for thought.

The boys are all learning, but all very differently. They are all very capable of amusing themselves with drawing, making paper models, as well as just plain running around like, well, like boys. Getting coursework done takes effort, but you see the benefits, not only in the content they are learning, but the very process of learning. Each new lesson they start again – reading, memorising, doing exercises – and slowly what seemed impossible becomes manageable. Then when a younger brother is struggling with an earlier lesson they can see the process from the outside. Hopefully as this repeats they’ll get the message and be able to tackle these lessons more independently.

And it helps me too. Stability is important for getting anything done – whatever you do. Music is important to me and this perseverance is the thing I have really lacked – you’ve all heard the cop out “I can’t sing/play/dance” – you can, you just need a whole lot of practice. A good teacher helps too. Does anyone know of a good organ teacher in the Blue Mountains/Western Sydney?

With CLAA, I’m on the second last lesson of the Praeceptor course, the three older sons have 4 courses each and the youngest has 3. We’re still in the core courses, but with all these “enrichment courses” available hopefully we’ll be able to take up some of them too. All in good time.

Classical Liberal Arts Academy

The Classical Liberal Arts Academy was started in 2008 by a classical academic turned teacher with a young family of his own. It claims to be the only school providing a real classical liberal arts education. It is definitely unique.

For those not familiar with the concept of liberal arts, here’s a brief run-down. There’s the Trivium and the Quadrivium. The Trivium is a bit like English and the Quadrivium is a bit like Maths. The Trivium goes Grammar then Dialectic then Rhetoric. The Quadrivium goes Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, Astronomy. You might see these terms decorating various centres of learning (like the Great Hall at USyd).

So what are the differences?

Their pre-readers’ course teaches Latin before English.

The first lesson in Arithmetic contains no numerical puzzles but bids the student memorise a catechism beginning with “What is Mathematics? Mathematics is the study of Quantity.” The catechism unfolds a categorisation of quantity that is just begging to be drawn on a white board with big curly braces like Alice Nelson and all the Doc Woodbury afficionados did in the Thomistic Sydney Underground.

The Grammar course plunges into John’s Gospel. The website contains sample translations written by the hand of a five and a seven year old.

There is no grade by age. A student starts at the beginning and works through at his own pace (I’ll use the male pronoun since I have all boys and anyway, we’re discussing a plan of learning centuries old, we can afford to be a little antiquated here). A teenager might work quite fast, while a five year old do the same lesson at a more relaxed pace. Each lesson has an online examination. Written work can be faxed or emailed to CLAA or signed off by a parent. There are no prescribed terms or school year’s to work to.

There is a lively discussion forum for parents to get advice. Mr William Michael, the director, encourages debate. He has strong opinions backed up by strong arguments. Although one may flinch at first by his forthright words, his reasoning is very sound.

Readers might be aware of John Taylor Gatto’s books on the problems inherent in modern educational theories. Although not a Catholic, he shows how the protestant reformation introduced a whole slew of rather evil doctrines into the world. Calvin, Darwin, John Dewey, Francis Bacon are the names I can spout without remembering the details. Mr Gatto’s answer points towards Unschooling – just forget the whole idea of controlling children and do real things together. Mr Michael has an even more radical idea – look at what they were teaching before the reformation. How can we do that? The books are still around! Ratio Studiorum is a Jesuit book from 1599. That’s what CLAA is using.

There are more courses being planned. Enrichment courses include World Chronology, Classical Vocab and Art and Music History. The Music course is being developed with help from the Ward Method. See Musica Sacra for more info on why that is an amazing thing. Gregorian Chant takes centre stage by the sounds of it.

If this was open courseware I’d be into it in a flash. But CLAA asks for commitment – and money. How much is this worth to me? Could I spend the money better? There are lots of local apostolates who could use that sort of support. Will my boys be significantly worse off if they never read Cicero in Latin? Wouldn’t it be wiser to finish cladding the house first?

Of course, as a difficult person I am wondering if I can do this myself. The Ward Method books are all online. Aristotle, Euclid, Cicero and the Baltimore Catechism are all public domain by now. There’s Ratio Studiorum mentioned earlier. Finding Saint John’s Gospel in Latin, Greek and English is not hard. I have little Latin and less Greek, but I’m still ahead of my children. Whatever little I can manage may still give them a good standing in finding out more themselves. Or would I put them off completely.

It does sound like a lot of work though. Learning from experts is a whole lot less frustrating than trying to nut things out for yourself. Reading Garrigou-Lagrange is slow work. Hearing one of the great disciples of Doc Woodbury explain it is joyful clarity. Doc Woodbury in turn studied under Garrigou Lagrange. I wonder who Mr Michael of CLAA learned from.

It looks like there will be a whole lot of disciples of Mr William Michael in the future. According to the website over 800 students have enrolled since they opened. Only time will tell.

Children’s Catholic history on the cheap

Protestants are so lucky! There is so much traditional protestant homeschooling material available. Much of it free to download. Browse Project Gutenberg and you will find a wealth of children’s bible stories and moral tales from a nineteenth century Church of England perspective. There is Ambleside Online providing a whole Charlotte Mason inspired curriculum for both English and US history all based on books available for free. Mater Amabilis is the Catholic equivalent, but they rely on bought books. You just can’t get the same range of books for every occasion for the Catholic view of history for free.

This morning I was delighted to find that things are changing. RC History has a chronological list of saints taken from a popular book of saints by the Daughters of Saint Paul. Using this list you can turn the devotional book into a Catholic supplement to world history. You can read the chapters online at the J Club. Amazingly they also have chapters out of their longer lives of the saints. Maybe not as convenient as a Project Gutenberg book which you can download and read offline, but its good stuff – favourable reviews on Love 2 Learn – and it’s Free!

For more on teaching Catholic history for homeschoolers you can join
The History Place at Yahoo Groups.

Now on a patriotic note. What about Catholic history from an Australian perspective? The Mater Amabilis mailing list has an article on Australian books in its Files section.

Also, a lady from Victoria has been making copies of A Pictorial History of the Catholic Church in Australia, something like a 3 part comic book for use in schools around the 1950s. It is out of print and she makes copies at cost, but she is not on the internet. She uses the old-fashioned Telephone. Here are some excerpts from her catalogue from September 2009.

  • Great Australians – $4
  • Explorers Australian – $5
  • Stories of Early Days – $6
  • A Saddle for Bontharambo. Australian Pioneers. A family leaves Sydney to live in North Victoria – $12
  • Happy Grammar (old) story form – $2
  • Pioneer Priests – $4
  • Catholic History Readers, 6 books – $30
  • Pictorial History, 3 books – $30
  • Then and there. Aust. – $3
  • God loves me, for small children, by Mons. Batchelor. – $2
  • Colouring books: Hail Mary – $3; Sacred Heart -$2; Stations of the Cross – $3.50; Child goes to Mass – $1
  • Short History of the Catholic Church, 30 chapters, crossword with each and answer keys, By Fr. Batchelor. Old books. Fr. Batchelor’s work is about 30 years old – $7
  • Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (Latin Mass) a study course with answer keys. – $10
  • We live for God, 3 year program, 30 booklets, by Fr. Batchelor – $30
  • Blessed Eucharist Crossword with answer keys – $3
  • The Texas Bishop of Krishnagar: the story of Fr. Morrow, author of My Jesus and I – $2

Phone number available on request. Prices do not include postage. I have only seen the Pictorial History. I may have seen the Great Australians booklet. The one I saw featured Charles Kingsford Smith, Henry Lawson and Blessed (soon to be Saint) Mary Mackillop.

For an online copy of A Pictorial History of the Catholic Church in Australia see Under Her Starry Mantle. There a homeschooling mother has scanned in each page.

For older readers and parents the works of G K Chesterton and Hillaire Belloc are out of copyright and available through Project Gutenberg and the Internet Archive. More recent works such as Eamon Duffy’s Stripping of the Altars may be available through your local library. There is an amazing wealth of research supporting the Catholic view of history, but unfortunately it is taking its time filtering down to the popular myths that surface in children’s histories.

So the plan is to keep finding good biographies of saints match these with a little digging in our local library. Homeschooling on the cheap!

Edith Nesbit

Nesbit is one of my favourite children’s authors. She is also well represented on Project Gutenberg – a huge bonus. Five Children and It has been a fun read-aloud, though the chapters are on the long side. Her book of adventures in Grammar-Land looks excellent, though I have only read the online sample and it doesn’t appear to be on Project Gutenberg.

The reservations with her work really kicked in while reading her book The Story of the Amulet, the sequel to the sequel of Five Children and It. The Amulet goes rather too far in the direction of spiritualism and includes a flash forward in time to a socialist utopia. To cap it off the ending is rather creepy. The Psammead series, as the three books are known, remains a great work, but I’d leave The Story of the Amulet out if reading them aloud to children.

Her entry in the Wikipedia says she was a co-founder of the Fabian society. Her socialist background makes all the more sense with her book The Railway Children where the father is under arrest for something to do with the “beautiful” writing of the Russian gentleman the children find at the station.

Handout for a first lesson on Church Latin

One day I might be organised enough to think of handouts before I give a lesson. On the other hand it seems easier to keep attention without paper flapping about so ideally I would have some printouts for parents to pick up after the lesson if they are interested.

February class notes with

  1. the Sign of the Cross in Latin and English
  2. Parce Domine for Lent
  3. Ave Maria the round and the whole text in Latin and English

The lesson was enjoyable, if chaotic. A learning experience for everyone. Teaching mixed ages of homeschoolers is a special skill. Next installment in March.