Monday, March 18, 2013

Argentina & Pope Francis Homeschool Ideas

I've been combing through my bookmarks, scanning my bookshelves/CD collection, and searching my memory bank to make a list of all my Argentinian study resources. If I have them all in one place, I am more likely to get through them and I want to share them with you in case you are looking to learn more about Argentina now as well. {And yes, I know it's not like Pope Francis the Humble to be promoting a study of his home country. But I am doing it because I know it makes a Pope seem more real to my kids when we study about their upbringing and country of origin. That's how my kids learned so much about Poland & Bavaria.}

Getting to know Pope Francis
For my youngest, I plan to start with a coloring sheet for the new Pope Francis that I found on Vee's paperdali blog. Vee is a super-busy graphic designer who took a break to create this beautiful coloring sheet for all of us. It's available for free as a download from her site. Please visit her blog and leave her a comment thanking her for all of her hard work.  paperdali blog - Pope Francis coloring sheet

Argentinian Foods/Tea Ideas
I already re-posted an Alfajor cookie recipe that Sweetpea made last year at her Young Chefs Academy cooking camp. Jessica posted the Alfajor recipe with a nice write-up over at Catholic Cuisine. She has already added more Argentine-inspired recipes as well. Check out her blog for more:

If you're looking to try your hand at making Argentine empanadas - which are to die for by the way - you can find many recipes on-line. I will write up and post my Mom's recipe at another time. I make them from memory now so I have to sit and think about it for a bit. My Mom always made her own homemade dough since when she emigrated back in 1964 the dough was not available. {She still makes her dough homemade, she's stubborn that way.} The dough is the hardest part and takes the longest to do, and because of that Mom's empanadas were, at best, a once or twice a year treat. 

They have always been my favorite food, much to my chagrin when school projects would ask for "my favorite food" and everyone else in class wrote down pizza or macaroni and cheese, and there was Tricia with "empanadas" - a food no one had even heard of back in the 1970s, let alone actually eaten. Now at least people have heard of them and in some areas you can find them pre-made. A warning, if they have really bizarre ingredients in them or are spicy, they are NOT Argentinian. Argentinians do not eat spicy food. The "spicy" version of empanadas includes black pepper, that's about it. Traditionally, they are made with ground beef and olives and raisins. There are a few variations, and some modern interpretations like an empanada caprese or a ham and cheese version. But nothing too 'fusion cuisine.' 

I use prepared dough since I can find it locally. I use the La Saltena brand empanada dough circles (which is the same brand my family in Argentina uses if they're using pre-made dough) at a local Mexican market in Mountain View. If you live in an urban area like New York, Miami, Los Angeles, San Jose, etc., with a sizable Hispanic population, you may want to check their freezer cases for the dough. I've never seen an Argentinian market here in the states because there are not enough immigrants to support one, but I have seen Argentinian ingredients inside Mexican markets in San Jose, CA and inside Cuban markets in Miami, FL.

Before I found the dough locally, I used to order them from When my cousin Matias was living with us for a few months back in 2003, he found this on-line company and used to order familiar homey foods to have mailed to my house. They carry specialty ingredients like Argentine mate, empanada dough circles, dulce de batata, mate gourds, and bombillas. I've used them many times, and the quality has been very good. The shipping, however, is VERY expensive because you have to choose expedited shipping since it is perishable obviously. I used to just order a lot at one time and keep the dough in the freezer to keep the unit cost down. The dough keeps in the freezer for quite some time, and it's nice to make a batch of 24 empanadas for my children in about 90 minutes. And they love making them too!

General Intro to Argentina 
Here is a lovely short video with an overview and panoramic photos of Argentine wildlife with traditional music playing in the background. Short and simple, my kids enjoyed this one:

I found this very thorough Unit study with many ideas for studying Argentina over at

This blog journal about a family's nearly 3 year long "field trip" on bikes from Alaska to Argentina along the Pan American highway is the most adventurous homeschooling thing I have ever heard of. They are a secular homeschooling family that travels by bicycle - learning along the way. One day I want to read their entire blog. They sound really cool. Cooler than I'll ever be and doing things I'll never be able to do. But I am glad they have shared their journey to Argentina so I can live vicariously through them.

I think we will "row" a picture book I already own titled "On the Pampas." It is a picture book about a young girl's visit to her grandparents ranch in Argentina. I bought the book a few years ago before we took the kids to visit Argentina and their Great-Uncle's ranch, but we never rowed the book or followed any rabbit trails about Argentina. Now that they are older, I am sure they will get more out of it. 
I was delighted to find several projects already on the Homeschool share site to help with an FIAR look at the book.

Argentinian Music

While I was growing up in New Jersey, my Mom used to listen to a lot of Traditional Argentine Folkloric Music. I could not find a CD version, but this youtube clip of Jaime Torres playing the Charango evokes the memories of all those long afternoons of my Mom in our apartment in North Bergen prepping dinner while my brother and I played on the living room floor. My kids will love the stories of my childhood more than the music, probably, but it is pretty to listen to. My youngest, the music buff, who just took an Exploratory Intro to Musical Instruments this quarter may want to read about the Charango, you never know. Jaime Torres playing the Charango is here:

My parents were already living in the US when Mercedes Sosa's more political folk music became popular in Argentina. But I discovered her recently and I like her sound so this youtube clip will do as an intro. She's had a bit of a resurgence in popularity since she died just a few years ago, so it should be easy to find CDs of her music.
{She is especially popular with liberal Argentinians in the John Lennon stage of their lives, you know, approximately 18 to 24 years old and they know the answers to all the world's problems and you old conservatives are just too old and mean to figure out the way to peace and harmony.} Mercedes Sosa's voice is still beautiful, and if you don't speak Spanish fluently, the politics will float by you unnoticed.

Oh, and my favorite Argentinian CD - the Misa Criolla! 
I believe this was performed for Pope Paul VI in the late 1960s and I will likely start bawling if Pope Francis has it played during a Mass he celebrates. I'm just giving you fair warning.

After Vatican II, when Mass music was allowed to be performed in the vernacular, this gorgeous Mass in an Argentine folkloric musical style was composed by Ariel Ramirez, became well known, and was heard round the world. My parents had the Los Fronterizos LP for at least 40 years until they lost it in a recent move I think.

When my parents were married in the US in 1964, an LP of the Misa Criolla is what my Abuela Yolanda sent to the minister who married them as a thank you gift. My Mom used to play this in the afternoons often as well, even though she was a non-practicing protestant at the time. It's just beautiful music, beautifully done. I have just ordered myself a new copy because I haven't been able to find mine since we moved. I see that on Amazon they only have a few left in stock, but I suspect they will get more shortly as a result of Pope Francis's election. The reviews of the original recording by Los Fronterizos are rather glowing, and I would give it 5 stars myself. 

This is what Wikipedia has to say about Misa Criolla 

The Washington Post described Misa Criolla as "a stunning artistic achievement, [that] combined Spanish text with indigenous instruments and rhythms". It led to album sales numbering in the millions internationally...The Misa, a mass for either male or female soloists, chorus and orchestra, is based on folk genres such as chacarera, carnavalito and estilo pampeano, with Andean influences and instruments. It is also one of the first masses to be celebrated in a modern language following the lifting on their ban by the Second Vatican Council. Ramírez wrote the piece in 1963–1964 and it was recorded in 1964 by Philips Records, directed by Ramírez himself with Los Fronterizos as featured performers. It was not publicly performed until 1967 in Düsseldorf, Germany, during a European tour which eventually brought Ariel Ramírez before Pope Paul VI. His Mass for peace and justice (1981) is quite famous.Equally famous are the recordings with the solo voices of George Dalaras (1989), José Carreras (1990), and Mercedes Sosa (1999). Plácido Domingo recorded the Kyrie (the first movement of the Misa) with Dominic Milleron guitar (2003).

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Next I am working on a list of Argentine inventions and businesses that my kids probably don't know were by or connected to Argentina in someway(the Bic pen, TOMS slip-on shoes, the introduction of Dulce de Leche into the US market, and the use of fingerprints in police forensics among others) and a study of notable Catholic Argentinians from the Virgin of Lujan on down(there has never been a Catholic Saint but there is a Blessed who is working his way up and I bet you didn't know there was already an Argentinian Jesuit working in a high-ranking job at the Vatican before Pope Francis came to town?)

I'll also have to find the pictures of the kids visiting the Cathedral Basilica built in honor of the Virgen of Lujan. I was already planning to celebrate her special day on May 8th, so now we have even more reason to do so.They were so young that they don't remember our visit to the Basilica, so pictures will help.

The thing I remember most about visiting the city of Lujan is having lunch at a nearby convent where during the lunch all the nuns come out of the kitchen, spread themselves throughout the restaurant, and all start singing Ave Maria. I've never experienced anything else like it. I've been there twice, once while single and once with my husband and two older kids, and both times I was bawling so hard by the end of the singing that I could barely breathe or see through all my tears and could not finish my lunch. It was achingly beautiful. I hope to go back some day with all four children. If you ever go, there's a very nice children's zoo near Lujan now, so it's a great day trip for families visiting Buenos Aires.

That's all for today, I've so many other ideas rolling around in my head. I hope the Pope lives a good long time, because he's got a lot of church re-building work to do, and I've got a lot of ideas to work through. 

God Bless you!

Disclosure of Material Connection: The link to the Misa Criolla CD in the post above is an “Amazon affiliate link.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission and be able to buy more picture books for my children.  Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and that I believe have value to other homeschooling mothers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

1 comment:

  1. Hey Tricia,
    I loooooove the Misa Criolla! We used to listen to it at my grand-parents' at every Christmas (I think I've told you before that my grandpa was half Argentinian). It was the music we played at his funeral. So now it makes me cry ;-) On one of the last trip my grand-parents took to Argentina, I asked them to bring me back a copy that I now keep in the car. I'll think about you when I listen to it now :)


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