I write, speak, invest, network, and question to stimulate fruitful conversation. Let's talk about human flourishing! It begins with freedom. Holy leisure is the key to human being, freedom and generativity. Please join me in the adventure of realizing Christ!
I consider it a mark of intellectual humility to be docile to great teachers. On that score, here are a few who have influenced me, and for each a little hint of what gift I received under his influence.
G.K. Chesterton – The Spherical Man
Fr. Luigi Giussani – The Freedom Coach
Peter Kreeft – The Bubble Net
Fr. James Schall – The Teacher’s Teacher
Stratford Caldecott – The Full Courteous Man
Flannery O’Connor, Dorothy Sayers, Gerard Manley Hopkins – The Poets
St. Elizabeth Seton – Motherheart
St. Elizabeth of the Trinity – The Praise of Glory
St. Pope John Paul – My Marching Orders: The Recapitulation of the Person
Pope Benedict XVI – Go in Beauty
A. G. Sertillanges – The Intellectual Life
Josef Pieper – Sabbath Muse
St. Francis – The Eccentric
St. Thomas Aquinas – The Playground’s Fence
C.S. Lewis – The Myth Fulfilled
J. R. R. Tolkien – The World Weaver
“I can think of no better guide for homeschooling parents …”
Even if very few copies ever sell (think: zero marketing budget), the esteem of Joseph Pearce is satisfaction enough for me. Don’t get me wrong: I do wish copies would sell, too! But I am content to leave promotion in the hands of the Holy Spirit. My fondest hope is that groups of parent educators would get together and discuss a chapter now and then, and that I might be an encouragement to them in their profoundly important work.
Please help me welcome Upschooling into the world of print (cue applause):
Here’s a link to Upschooling on Amazon.
Here are all the goodies from the back cover:
If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly. So says Chesterton. Homeschooling is so worth doing that it’s worth doing badly. It is, however, better to do it better. Charlotte Ostermann shows us how we can do it better. She shows us how to think so far outside the box that we can throw the box away. Even more important, she shows us beauty and how we can show beauty to our children. I can think of no better guide for homeschooling parents than Charlotte Ostermann.
Joseph Pearce, author of Frodo’s Journey, Catholic Literary Giants, and Literature: What Every Catholic Should Know
Charlotte Ostermann, veteran homeschool speaker, provides stimulating ‘teacher in-service training’ for parent educators. Each chapter is a meaty and inspirational seminar meant to challenge and encourage readers in their vocations. Parent, educator, evangelist, communicator, and anyone with an interest in the integral development of the human person will find this a rich resource for continuing education and intellectual growth.
If you missed the packed rooms where these talks were given in person, don’t miss this second chance to engage with the material. The author’s goal is to help you cultivate freedom for yourself and your students. Each workshop stands alone, so you may pick and choose to good effect. Pick one to read with a group if you love a great conversation!
“Charlotte Ostermann is a fine practitioner and excellent theorist of education. Those who read these chapters will find them winsome and wise; they are a source of potential delight and instruction for anyone interested in the nature and purpose of education or in practical strategies for educating one’s children or students well.”
–Benjamin V. Beier, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Education, Hillsdale College
“Charlotte has a way of communicating reality in a succinct yet rich way. Sometimes I remember her talk on flatitudes and floatitudes and it still helps me to have a lens through which I can analyze my choices and behavior on a day-to-day basis. She makes concepts that really are quite sophisticated accessible and exciting, as well as deeply personal and meaningful for my heart. Thank you Charlotte for being a missionary of Truth in today’s context! Anyone, not just home educators, can truly benefit from her work.” Brooklynn S.
“Charlotte’s talk left me with food for thought. It was well structured, thought through and presented.” Anna T.
“Her breadth of preparation and understanding, coupled with her unusually fine speaking skills, have made her a popular speaker for age groups from ages 18 to 80, from a variety of backgrounds.”
– Nancy Yacher, Department of English, University of Kansas
Praise for Souls at Work – An Invitation to Freedom
“Charlotte Ostermann’s Souls at Work is an engaging and beautifully written book that is particularly important for parents and home educators. I have been teaching my children at home for the better part of two decades, yet the ideas proposed about freedom and the life of the soul are new to me and have left me feeling refreshed and inspired.”
– Alice Gunther, author of Haystack Full of Needles
“If you are a teacher, or a homeschooler, or if you simply want to be ‘fully human, truly free,’ you will find what your soul needs in Charlotte’s gentle wisdom.”
– Stratford Caldecott, author of Beauty for Truth’s Sake
Flannery O’Connor says
“The ideal form for unadulterated wisdom is the aphorism.”1
A. G. Sertillanges, in Chapter 1 of The Intellectual Life, concurs:
“The world is in danger for lack of life-giving maxims.”
Well, here we go!
I love aphorisms, so may all my unadulterated wisdom be yours for the taking, or at least some of it I’ve managed to aphor-ize.
“Truth can comprehend error, but error can’t comprehend truth.”
“Don’t be a BB!”
“It’s not a great idea until it’s well-expressed.”
“Unless it moves through you, it doesn’t get to you.”
“Aim to get the child done through the work, not the work done through the child.”
“Your free act is an invitation to freedom for those who receive it.”
“Nothing is wasted in God’s economy.”
“You’re not going around in circles, but growing spirally, like a tree!”
“Christ makes you more truly and fully who you really are.”
“Today, you are more fully realized than ever before.”
“If it isn’t moving, it’s not mercy.”
“Sarcasm is the sound of one who despairs of being heard.”
“Frustration is the constant state of impatient souls.”
“Stop driving and dance!”
“To be free is to wield yourself according to your own desires, and to yield yourself according to God’s.”
“Think great thoughts!”
1Flannery, in a review of Walter F. Kerr’s book Criticism and Censorship, collected in The Presence of Grace (and other reviews by Flannery O’Connor), compiled by Leo Zuber, edited by Carter W. Martin, published by University of Georgia Press, 2008
Are you making full and right use of things?
Your life is filled with objects that aren’t good or bad in themselves. Things ill-used, though, can become problematic for you – causing little ‘knots’ of attachment, blindness, rebellion and disorder in the soul, and thus disposing you to sin. Use of one thing can get disordered when we lean on it too much, or remove it from the context of other things, just as monoculture can be detrimental to the land and as vitamins are less effective than whole foods. Having just come through the salutary corrective of Lenten fasting, you may feel a newness of life, a lightness of soul and, thus be particularly well-disposed to do an interior scan for trouble spots.
To that end, I offer some paired statements – like scales into which you can mentally place some of your things. Notice whether your use of each thing resonates more with Freedom or Bondage. Then take steps to tip the scale toward freedom, untie the knot, change the way you use it. Each statement can apply to a variety of things, but I had these twelve in mind as things I, personally, need to ‘weigh’ regularly: food, alcohol, computer, desserts, friends, TV/movies, air conditioner, car, my imagination, books, and money. One final word on the right use of things: When you misuse, or use things less well, you increase your disposition to sin. When you bless them, they – actual things around you – help dispose you to receive grace! Here it is in the Catechism:
“Among sacramental, blessings (of persons, meals, objects and places) come first.” (CCC 1671) “Sacramentals…prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it. …There is scarcely any proper use of material things which cannot be thus directed toward the sanctification of men and the praise of God.” (CCC 1670)
Now I’ve learned from experience that the first thing that happens when I say, “Hey, the Catechism teaches that we should bless the things we use (CCC 1669: Sacramentals derive from the baptismal priesthood: every baptized person is called to be a “blessing,” and to bless. Hence lay people may preside at certain blessings; the more a blessing concerns ecclesial and sacramental life, the more is its administration reserved to the ordained ministry (bishops, priests, or deacons)” is that I’ll hear cautions about never, ever stepping into the role of a priest (I am NOT going there…the door is closed, Peter has spoken, I love that!) and not to think I’m ‘creating Sacramentals,’ and ‘only a priest can make the Sign of the Cross’. Okay, calm down everybody! The priesthood of all believers “derives from” our High Priest, Jesus Christ. This little possibility that our own little invocation, prayer, utterance that springs from awareness and gratitude and trust in God is not the stuff heretic alerts should be made of.
I don’t advise anyone to go around thinking they have magic powers…only whatever it is Jesus meant when He said we would do greater things than He had yet done. Somehow it resonates with me that those things are going to be greater because they are smaller, like blessing my computer, my garden, my art supplies. He seems to have allowed me in to play at asperging the world while His own Divine Mercy accomplishes the great washing by the blood and water flowing from His side. I have not found a definitive statement about not making the Sign of the Cross, but am willing to be instantly stopped in the practice by my bishop, or priest if it is in any way not the done thing. As I make that Sign over my world, I am praying, “God, please bless this notebook, this book, this stove, this car, this printer, etc…” and am never thinking I have just turned them into official Sacramentals. They do, however, now possess a heightened significance for me that, hopefully, disposes me to receive God’s beautiful grace. As I look around I am reminded to give God glory in profundis, and to be hopeful that my use of each little thing in my sphere will somehow magnify and please Him.
I submit. I place myself in the vast, unyielding, immutable, cold beauty of the structure of the Liturgy. I stand before Him with awe and trembling – with keen awareness of my failure to measure up, to conform, to correspond to the I Am. I am carried to Him by the form, the order, the ritual, the structure of the Celebration, and we are united. The Church, the Mass, the Liturgy has become a mediating structure, an interface between us, a place where we are made one. Each of us, leaving Him, carries wine away in a new wineskin.