An Old Fashioned Summer
Striving for Excellence in the Home School

Sherry Foster
REMNANT COLUMNIST, Idaho

 

“Whosoever, therefore, will be the friend of this world,  becometh an enemy of God.”   James IV:4

(www.RemnantNewspaper.com) Remember the old fashioned, home centered summer? A summer of picnics and ‘visiting’, homemade everything, back yard tent sleeping, veggie gardens, never ending board games, running though the sprinklers, makeshift nets for volleyball, badminton and ping pong, building go-carts from scraps, bonfires, s’mores, laying on the lawn staring up at the clouds, reading for hours, outdoor kitchens, picking berries, hide-and-go-seek, tree houses and forts, hiding between the clotheslines, sitting outside at night talking, and a hundred other wholesome memory building experiences.

When affluence, materialism and consumerism made its homerun slide into our modern lives the old fashioned summer was replaced almost overnight by a never ending kaleidoscope of flashy, cheap thrills in the form of fast food, amusement parks, movies, mall cruising, latté grabbing, and silly excitement seeking. All of these diversions (or rather perversions) are very tempting, especially because we are so mobile and frazzled; and we seem to have so much spending cash. The old fashioned summer is now reserved to the poor and blessed are they!

Temptations in summertime are many and although it requires grist to form virtues, rubbing against the coarseness of today’s summer world we find more than enough grist in the form of temptations in the areas of modesty, gluttony, sloth and otherwise dangerous occasions of sin to either weaken a virtue, or hopefully, help it develop a strong impenetrable skin. God allows us to be tempted in order to help us to rely on Him, and to practice real virtue by strengthening our self mastery and our humility.

During the summer, educating your children by example involves forming life long recreational habits by establishing wholesome family traditions for summer and leisure time. Children love routine and they cherish traditions (have you ever tried to change a traditional holiday meal after serving the same one for many years?) and they will almost certainly pass on to their families the summer time habits they learned while growing up.

This time of year the world attempts to corrupt us in two overarching areas; the first is by encouraging immodesty which causes sin, repels others from Christ and His Church and degrades us. The other area is by tempting us with ever-changing ‘new and exciting’ worldly activities which attempt to take our focus off of our Lord’s life by replacing His feasts days. Chasing after worldly summer attractions also turns our attention and care away from family life by encouraging each member to go their own way – this pulls the family home apart making it easier for our enemy to divide and conquer us.

The following ideas for replacing the world’s values and shallow amusements with rich and ancient Traditional Catholic devotions and wholesome activities, include a variety of books to use as references, however, you can adapt many of these suggestions to the books, music and recipes you already have.

Immodesty

God’s good wisdom in giving us skin which burns is to help us moderate our exposure (in more ways than one!) to the sun. In the good old fashioned summer days, it was unthinkable for a mother or grandmother to allow children to stay out in the sun past the very early morning, especially with much of their body exposed. Care was taken to offer indoor afternoon amusements or snacks and shaded outdoor play areas. (Remember the ever moving sprinkler that stayed in the shade?) The world on the other hand tries to reassure us with its consumerist answer to every health scare it drums up by enticing us to use products – instead of virtues like moderation – to cure ills that, in fact, the products may cause. Sunscreen is a good example of this strategy to keep us looking to the world for answers to problems it creates. (The sunscreen mentality actually encourages immodesty because it assumes you are going to expose your skin in the first place.)

This past year news reports have revealed that the much touted sunscreens block only the sunburn - not the cancer causing rays they implied that they block; and many contain dangerous chemicals. Of course, now the industry says it is going to add more chemicals to block the cancer causing rays, although they say they have no way of knowing if they’ll work until ‘we see the outcome in another twenty years or so’. In the meantime, skin cancer rates are very high in America, apparently due to using sunscreens which encourage overexposure to the sun’s harmful rays by overriding God’s sunburn warning system. In addition, sunscreens introduce carcinogens into the body through the skin. The industry’s answer to this exposé: more sunscreen more often. The medical field’s answer is what our grandmothers taught us years ago: limit sun exposure, especially for young children, cover up, slowly build up a light protective tan – in short, dress modestly and exercise moderation.

The topic of proper attire in general (including modesty) has been almost exhausted by traditional priests, religious and teachers, and no one seems to be listening or caring – or both. It’s not possible within the scope of this article to even begin to introduce this subject, except to point to a recently written book that covers the topic very well for women and girls. If you realize the importance of raising the bar for your own and your girls’ attire, then Dressing With Dignity, by Colleen Hammond, TAN Books, is a highly recommended and sure guide for helping you work towards the Christian ideal.

The old fashioned custom of having children ‘model’ their clothing for the parents the night before an outing, especially Holy Mass, can help prevent last minute ‘surprises’ and it offers continual teaching opportunities for teaching your children family dressing values.

Celebrating Feast Days 

At one point during the Middle Ages when the Faith seemed to permeate almost every fiber of life, the celebration of feast days became somewhat out of control and had to be curtailed by the Pope at the time in order to ensure that work would get done. Today we have the opposite problem – many Catholics have established traditions of celebrating most American holidays, but only one or two of the major Catholic feast days. In order to restore all things in Christ and keep our families together in the faith, we must take back the practice of fully celebrating our feasts. The Faith itself is passed down with traditions, so we need to reeducate ourselves and our families on the significance of these feast days and other devotions of the Church.

One observance we can easily revive is the blessing of various items and activities throughout the year especially during the spring and summer months. This is a beautiful and holy way for the entire family to begin to put more emphasis on home life and family possessions. There are blessings for the planting of seeds, growing vines, animals, crops, and more. On certain days there are special blessings; an example is the feast of the Finding of the True Cross which includes blessing crosses and then placing them in orchards, gardens and fields. Before planting a garden, use the blessing for tiny sprouting seeds; or a blessing for your animals’ feed.

These blessings, which can include a procession or meal, strongly impress your children with the sanctity of home and the importance of family property needing God’s continual blessing. Fortunately, most of these blessings (and when to perform them), along with traditional feast day prayers and other devotions specifically for rural families is included in a new reprint (and a huge blessing to traditional Catholic families!) of The Rural Life Prayerbook, 1956, originally published by The National Catholic Rural Life Conference, and available from the  Society for the Preservation of Catholic Culture, P.O. Box 84, Wrightstown, Wisconsin, 54180, for $16.00 U.S. postage paid, or $19.00 elsewhere.

Look ahead each month to find just one ‘new to you’ feast day that your family would like to start its own tradition of celebrating. (Angelus Press and TAN books have traditional calendars.) Research the traditional foods for that day (adjust them if you need to), decorate the table or home shrine accordingly (the young women in the family should be in charge of these activities with the Mother’s help), plan for live music, a procession (around your yard if need be) or a skit of the saint’s life or a short reading. These celebrations, shared with neighbors, parish or other friends will help secure the needed detachment from worldly and materialistic activities and they may work towards evangelizing your neighbors and non practicing relatives. Daughters can contact older Catholic relatives for recipes and traditions they remember from their childhood.

Here are  a few selections for gradually adding to your library of traditional cooking and celebration references: Cooking With the Saints, Ernst Schuegraf, Ignatius Press; Cooking for Christ, Florence Berger, National Catholic Rural Life Conference;  Customs & Traditions of the Catholic Family, Neumann Press; Around the Year with the Trapp Family, Maria Von Trapp, out of print; The Year With Our Children, Sophia Press, and My Nameday Come For Dessert, out of print, Mary Reed Newland; The Holyday Book, Neumann Press, Religious Customs in the Home, TAN Books, Fr. Weiser.

Games and Hobbies

The excitement of making even small changes to your yard or house in order to accommodate summer activities gives the children a sense of ‘home base’ being ‘the place to be’. You can designate a summer name for your home like ‘Camp Run A Muck’, ‘Camp St. Michael’, ‘Camp Blue Sky’, ‘Holy Family Camp’, or whatever name your family decides, then spend the first few days of summer preparing your house and property for summer activities. Set up outside tables, tents and play spots in shady areas of your yard. If you have room, put up badminton and volleyball nets, or set up bocce ball, or a ping pong table. Keep a table ready for board games, cards and puzzles. Although written for children, a very useful book for all ages wanting to learn old, new and easy card games, and also ‘Grown Up Games’ like Rummy and an ‘Easy Lesson in Contract Bridge’ is 50 Card Games For Children, 1946, Masterpiece Classics, Neumann Press. Card playing helps sharpen memory, arithmetic and social skills.

For several years many of the families in our old neighborhood set up backyard camps complete with tents (and flashlights), fire pits and BBQs. Most of the neighborhood children slept in tents outside at night (until about midnight when the younger ones would come crawling into the house). The tents also provided shaded play ‘houses’ during the daytime.

Teens may like to have their friends over for night time bonfires once in a while so they can talk, eat, pray the rosary and sing. A mixed group of teens needs direct personal supervision by an adult at all times.

Each child could be encouraged to develop a hobby suited to his age and interest.

Music and Drama

Listening to classical music written for children is a relaxing ‘hot afternoon’ inside activity. Some old fashioned favorites are Peter and the Wolf, by Sergei Prokofiev, Carnival of the Animals, by Camille Saint-Saens, and The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, by Benjamin Britten.  There are several different recordings of each of these; the NAXOS label CD (#8.550499; 2002) includes all three. Peter and the Wolf is narrated and makes a fun story for the children to act out.

For several years we took part in a casual summer time children’s talent show with children of all ages. With parental guidance the children rehearsed scenes from books (Little Women, Little House on the Prairie, etc.), made up their own skits, sang, recited poetry, danced, played instruments and practiced Christmas hymns together.  By summer’s end they needed just a couple more practices before performing at nursing homes, the local parish, and for their family during the Christmas season – all before the busy school year started. Keep the nursing home performances short and select performances from ‘classic’ poetry, music and stories that seniors will recognize. Make sure they’re not too loud, busy or confusing. In fact, we found that speaking slowly when saying lines helped the elderly to better follow the action.

For Shakespearean skits or read alouds excerpts can be easily adapted from Tales From Shakespeare, by Charles and Mary Lamb.

We Sing and Harmonize, We Sing and Chant, and others reprinted from the 1950’s We Sing and Praise Music Series for Catholic Schools from Seton Press include short musical plays (perfect lengths for family productions), hymns, and many old standards, plus folk music from around the world.

Very inspiring music CDs for budding musicians to learn by ear and for sing-alongs are the The Original Trapp Family Singers, Christmas with the Trapp Family Singers, Folk Music of Many Lands, and  At Home with the Trapp Family Singers – all original Von Trapp family music available from Emmanuel Books. You might also like to read aloud The Story of the Von Trapp Family Singers over the summer.

Neumann Press has a few beautifully illustrated vintage music book reprints for summer sing-alongs.

Our Lady of Victory School carries a wide selection of CD music for families, including the Beck Family series, Bobby Horton’s Civil War music (addictive!), Celtic Dance, Irish folk, Catholic hymns and Gregorian chant; and a variety of musical instruments (recorders, penny whistles, etc.)

Opera

The following are child safe versions; however, parents should preview any opera or theatre materials before they are given to children as some operas (or versions) are not suitable for families.

Stories of Favorite Operas, 1954, 1964; More Stories of Favorite Operas, 1965; Clyde Robert Bulla, Thomas Y. Crowell Company, out of print, but available online. Written in story form with lively dialogue and action, but short enough for family read-alouds and for performances.

The Metropolitan Opera Guild, Inc., Authorized Editions, Grosset & Dunlap, 1938 -1939, out of print.  Titles include Aida, Carmen, and four books in Wagner’s ‘Ring of the Nibelung’. These are beautifully illustrated and very well written and they include some musical notation.  Anyone of these could be adapted into a summer play or mini opera. The make lively read alouds!

Pavarotti’s Opera Made Easy, My Favorite Opera for Children, London, 1994, Decca. For listening; the Behind the Scenes booklet gives a brief explanation of each piece. Great wake up music!

Reading

A highly recommended summer read aloud program is reading Bible history. Depending upon the average age of your children, and keeping the selection more to the lower than the higher ages you can choose from any of the TAN Books titles, including Bible History, Johnson, Hannan and Sr. M. Dominica, 6th grade and up; Child’s Bible History, Knecht, 3rd – 6th Grade; Bible History, Schuster, 5th grade and up; A Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture, Knecht, 7th grade – Adult (the best for teenagers and adults, and for gift giving). Read one story at a time followed by time for discussions/questions (keep a catechism nearby like My Catholic Faith, which is good for all ages – Angelus Press carries this).  Let younger children see the pictures and act out the story if they like – more talent show material! Older children will want to discuss how the scripture reading applies to current life issues, for example; the crisis in the Church, fallen away family members, worldly traditional Catholics, and so on.  A Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture is very helpful for these discussions – examples just pop out of the text!

For the developing imagination, it’s crucial that each child continue reading Catholic and classic literature on his own during the summer. Time after dinner can be set aside for children to give oral book reviews and dramatic readings – you may discover some talent show potential!

Neumann Press carries an extensive line of reprinted Catholic classic children’s read aloud books and saints’ lives, as well as the American Cardinal Readers, and Angel Food and Catholic Stories books.

Our Lady of Victory School carries a wide selection of self published hard back vintage Catholic books good for summer reading – our local teenage girls enjoy Grisly Grisell and Mary was Her Life; the boys like Flame of White (Pope St. Pius X).

Seton Press has reprinted nineteen of the Faith and Freedom Readers, from the 1940’s - 1950’s, most with color illustrations, and filled with many types of read aloud stories which could be made into family performances.

Ignatius Press carries the indispensable Vision series of saints’ lives and the Bethlehem Books novels for youth.

It may take us many ‘old fashioned’ summers to reestablish wholesome and honored family traditions of recreation; but starting with this summer by adding a few feast days and blessings we can continue our conversion to Christ through our everyday family life.

Please send your suggestions and questions to the Remnant Editor at Editor@RemnantNewspaper.com.

We’ll pray for you, please pray for us!

End Notes

The following list contains sources for the books listed above except for those which can only be obtained from secular retailers.

Angelus Press, 800-966-7337, www.angeluspress.org

Emmanuel Books, 800-871-5598, www.emmanuelbooks.com

Neumann Press, 1-800-746-2521, www.neumannpress.com

Our Lady of Victory School, 208-773-7265, www.olvs.org

Ignatius Press, 800-651-1531, www.ignatius.com

National Catholic Rural Life Conference, 515-270-2634 (only for Cooking for Christ reprint)

Seton Press, 540-636-9996, www.setonbooks.com

TAN Books, 800-437-5876, www.tanbooks.com