Homeschooling

Making the Most of Meal Times

Multitasking isn’t generally considered a good thing, but I can’t help it. I’m a homeschooling mother. Therefore, I love multitasking, especially if it involves learning.

Now, from the title of this post, you may have thought I was going to wax poetical on the importance of sitting together as a family at meal times in order to strengthen family bonds or some such thing. But you already know that.

No, today, I’m going to show you how I combine meal times with School. This is the best kind of multitasking I can think of–eating and learning.

Breakfast

Yes, we eat breakfast together. We eat every meal together. If we didn’t, then my kitchen would be a perpetual mess with kids in and out all day long. Eating together is practical because then every child has a Clean-Up Chore, and I’m not, therefore, slaving away all day.

But I digress.

While the children chew away at their peanut butter toast in the mornings, I commence Religion Class. Over the last few years, we’ve been making our way through the Bible, reading it in its entirety–a paragraph or two in the Old Testament and another in the New Testament. Sometimes I’ll read a whole chapter. It just depends on the content, the attention spans of the children, and how cold I want my toast to be at the end of it all.

After I read, we talk about it a bit. I keep Jeff Cavins’ The Great Adventure Bible Timeline up on the wall for reference. (Once upon a decade ago, I was a high school Old Testament teacher. Did you know that?)

The best part about doing Religion Class at breakfast is that the children are actually quiet, due to the food in their mouths, which is an especially great way to occupy the little ones, who are not always interested.

Lunch

We always eat lunch with an audio book. I started doing this years ago because my brain was so fried by lunchtime that I needed a break–a break from answering a thousand and one questions from the children about everything under the sun.

My solution? Play an interesting audio book, like, say the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, and play it loudly. This way, I can mentally check out and just serve the food and eat myself.

It’s rather peaceful. And we’ve listened to a score of good books over the years.

Dinner

Dinnertime coincides with more Religion Class, but this time, it’s Dad’s turn. While his food turns cold and stiff, he reads the Saint of the Day from Butler’s Lives of the Saints. This book was originally published in the 1750s and is based on the Traditional Calendar, which we love. The other great thing about this book is that the entries are not too long, which allows for plenty of discussion about the topic at hand and everybody’s day, etc.

Dinner last night. Taco Soup, with the Littlest One protesting under the table.

Happy Ember Days!

Homeschooling

Question: How to Homeschool a Preschooler?

I received a timely request from a reader the other day. She asked a sensible question, which ran as follows:

With the new school year approaching, I would love your input on beginner homeschooling with a preschooler. How did you structure your day when you first started, and what did you focus on during those first years as a homeschool mom?  What should I do for Morning Time? What is Morning Time? Do you have any other tips to keep me sane and joyful?

I’ll give my best to answer this question by breaking it down into sections.

What did you focus on during your first years of homeschooling?

I started homeschooling when my eldest was about 5 years old. I also had twin 3-year-olds, and a baby. Now this sounds busy, and it was, but it was worth it.

Here was my “crew” about a year after we started in 2012.

Our “homeschooling” day consisted of reading a lot of books. When I was tired, I played audio books. We also went on daily walks and met other moms at the park.

Even in colder weather, we always tried to get outside for my sanity.

While we did do “seat work,” it wasn’t much…a math workbook, a phonics book, and a book where The Eldest could trace letters. I can’t remember much else.

I do remember stressing out because I thought she was supposed to be a whiz at math facts–adding and subtracting single digits with the snap of a finger. I bought flash cards and wrung my hands because she wasn’t very quick. If I could do it again, I’d cut that part out. Of course math facts are important, but not to the point of tears.

The focus of those first years was just to enjoy reading and being outdoors and learning to help around the house.

What we didn’t do was technology. In other words, very little screen time was ever allowed.

How did you structure your day when you first started homeschooling?

Since the beginning of our marriage, my husband and I have always begun the day with prayer. This has evolved over the years, as to what and how we prayed, but we’ve always done it. For how can one be a decent wife, mother, and teacher without Jesus? Not possible.

So, prayer first. Then, I just followed the natural rhythm of the day. After breakfast and clean-up, I liked to do “school” right off the bat for the simple reason that we could be done for the day.

Then I remember daily walks around the neighborhood. Then lunch. Then naps. And oh! Blessed Day if the younger children fell asleep at the same time, and I could nap too.

Afternoons were always a bit difficult, however, if there wasn’t anything to do. At times, I felt lonely. I suspected I called my mom a lot, just to chat with an adult.

What else did we do?

I took all the children everywhere, just to get out of the house…Target, the grocery store, more neighborhood walks, a friend’s house…I learned how to cook, experimenting with different recipes and ingredients. I eventually learned a little bit about gardening.

We read more books.

What is Morning Time?

Cindy Rollins coined the term “Morning Time,” I believe. It’s just a time when Mom and all the children gather together for prayer and school for a short while. It varies from household to household.

We’ve always started Morning Time with a short prayer, followed by whatever song I want to learn. Right now, it’s Ave Maris Stella, a traditional Vespers hymn. When the children were all little, I seem to remember learning other favorite hymns and also the different parts of the Traditional Latin Mass, like Credo III or something.

After prayer, the children recite whatever poem they are memorizing. Today it’s Shakespeare’s Sonnet 27 for the older children and “O Wind” by Robert Louis Stevenson for the younger ones. Years ago, when I started, we did a lot of Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes.

In the beginning of my homeschool career, that was likely all for Morning Time. Now, however, we’ve added our Latin vocabulary and any other school songs we may be working on for grammar, writing and rhetoric, or geography.

What should I do for Morning Time?

You should do whatever you’d like all the children to learn together. I would of course recommend poetry. And then, think about what you would like to learn. That’s how I choose most of our material, especially the poetry, songs, and Bible verses that we’ve memorized over the years.

I’ve found that if I’m interested in the material, the children will be too, and if I’m not, they’re not.

Ultimately, you can do whatever suits your fancy! And, feel free to return to family favorites. I’ve written about this before. There are certain poems that we always recite at particular times of the year every year.

Other tips for maintaining sanity and joy?

Yes, read A Mother’s Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot. She lays everything out beautifully, getting First Things first.

In particular, I like her recommendation of getting out of the house by yourself from time to time. I generally spend a few hours away every Saturday. It’s restorative for me.

There are other things that help with sanity and joy too. I am thinking of a weekly Adoration hour, just for you. Then also, be sure to go to confession at least once a month. We all need it.

Lastly, if you aren’t already, pray a rosary together as a family, daily. If that seems overwhelming, just start somewhere, maybe a decade or two. The point is to start now and work towards the whole as soon as you can.

The beginning of the Second Homeschool Year and pregnant with Number 5!

Does this help? Let me know if I need to be more specific in any area. Also, if anyone else has anything to add, be sure to comment below. I tend to forget things.

P.S. If you’d like another book recommendation…read Michael O’Brien’s Landscape with Dragons. Not only does he lay out great guidelines for what makes a book good, but there’s also a book list in the back that I found helpful for children.

Homeschooling

Summer School 2021

The beginning of summer is always a little busy with establishing the gardens, but this year seems exceptionally so due to travel. As you know, we’ve only just returned from North Dakota and next week, we’ll be on the road again, visiting a few traditional religious orders–the Benedictines of Mary in Missouri and the monks at Clear Creek Abbey in Oklahoma.

So, where does Summer School fit into our busy schedule?

Summer School occupies all those other hot, lazy days at home. In fact, I don’t know what I’d do with the children if they didn’t have a little school to fill their time. No, Summer School is absolutely necessary and yet fun, too.

In order to determine what each child will do for the summer, I just look back at the previous academic year and see if something was missing. As mentioned above, I try to keep it light and fun.

Although sometimes it can’t be helped if a particular child is behind in a particular subject. For example, Paul and his brother are still catching up on Math from missing so many days during the last two years for Paul’s 15 or so surgeries. Consequently, they haven’t stopped their Saxon Math, which still begins at 7am with Dad and will continue through the summer. If all goes well, they’ll be completely caught up by August.

During the school year, Mid-Morning Prayer Time is normally when we review Latin vocabulary and practice our memory work. This summer, however, the children will not have any Latin to review, but will continue memorizing poetry and/or Bible verses. Currently, the older ones are memorizing Matthew 6:25-7:12. (“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life…”) The younger children are working on Robert Louis Stevenson’s “My Shadow.”

During Mid-Morning Prayer Time, we are also perusing Emily Kiser’s Picture Study Portfolios. These are packets that contain fun short stories of famous artists with pictures of their works to look at. We love them and always display them for a time on our windowsills.

This week we studied the Italian Medieval artist, Giotto.

All the older children are also doing a little geography, or Map Work. We just finished the countries in South America and are currently working on Europe. In order to help with this, we listen to the Catholic Schoolhouse CDs to familiarize them, especially the younger children, with the names of the countries.

Working on a map of Europe.

And for individual work…

The Eldest is off the hook, as she is working her first ever job babysitting a little boy this summer. When she is around, she’s generally baking food for the rest of us to enjoy.

The Twins, in addition to Math, are finishing up a Writing and Rhetoric book from Classical Academic Press.

The Next Boy Down is learning to type.

And the three Little Girls? Hmmm…they’re just along for the ride.

Happy Summer!

Homeschooling

Memory Work

Most of you know that we’re a homeschooling family, and from time to time I like to review what we’re doing for memory work, which consists mostly of poetry. As some of you may be new to this, I’ll answer a few questions first.

Question #1:  How do you choose your memory work?

We memorize those poems, public addresses, Bible verses, or other literary works that we like. It’s as simple as that, but I think it’s an important point.  Your children will sniff it out immediately if they think you think a poem is dull or lame.  And you’ll hate teaching it. So don’t choose memory work that you don’t like.

For example, if all your friends’ kids are memorizing Shakespeare, but you don’t understand Shakespeare, and it makes you break out in hives just thinking about reading all that “foreign” language, then don’t do Shakespeare!  Quit stressing yourself out and pick something you do enjoy and understand.

Furthermore, If you’ve never memorized anything with your family at all, ever, don’t panic, but do begin somewhere. It’s worth it. We cannot truly own something until we’ve interiorized it, or memorized it. If you really don’t know where to begin, crack open your Bible to the book of Psalms and pick one. Go for Psalm 23 if you’re completely lost. There are obvious reasons why everyone used to have that thing memorized.

Or, if you want a book of poetry for your small children, but don’t know where to start, buy Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses.  He’s just plain fun, and we love reciting Where Go the Boats and Foreign Lands this time of year. Or belting out The Swing while pushing those little sweeties back and forth on swings.

Question #2:  How do you teach a poem?

For a number of years, we always did our reciting at the breakfast table.  Usually I’d begin by reading the poem first and then let everyone else have a shot at it.  If you have five children memorizing the same poem, it really doesn’t take that long before everyone has it memorized.  Think about it.  That’s six times of hearing the same thing every morning.

A few years ago, however, we began reading the Bible at breakfast, so now our poetry has become a part of “Morning Time.” This is a half hour slot in the mid-morning when everyone comes together to review Latin vocabulary, pray, and recite.

Question #3:  Are you always memorizing new poetry?

Yes and no.  There are certain poems that we always return to because they’re family favorites.  For example, every Fall the little ones recite Autumn Fires because it’s what we’re living.  We’re really raking leaves and burning them.  And every winter we revisit Stevenson’s Wintertime and Robert Frost’s Stopping by the Woods on Snowy Evening.  In the spring, we return to the great Catholic priest, Gerard Manley Hopkins, which I mentioned in a previous post.  The summer always brings us around to a more patriotic theme with Paul Revere’s Ride and the Declaration of Independence.

But again, throughout the year, we do whatever strikes me or the children.

I also keep a running list of the poems that we’ve memorized over the years.  It’s fun to see what the children have done, and it’s good to review our favorite ones from time to time. I don’t have a problem with repeating again and again our favorites.

Question #4: What are you memorizing now?

Three Must Haves: Gerard Manley Hopkins, Shakespeare, and Stevenson

At this very moment, the boys are memorizing and loving Shakespeare’s St. Crispin’s Day Speech. It’s from his play, Henry V. In this selection, King Henry V is encouraging his English soldiers to fight valiantly against the French, on the feast day of St. Crispin. In spite of terrible odds, they do win.

One of my little girls is reciting Hopkins’ Pied Beauty, and the other little girls are enjoying Stevenson’s Foreign Lands.

The Eldest is required to recite at her school, but she isn’t home at the moment, so I don’t know what she’s working on. (Although I think it might be some Edgar Allan Poe.)

I hope that clears a few things up.  Just ask, if you have any more questions.

Lastly…The Well Read Poem

For those of you who might want more, I came across a lovely podcast that features one poem a week, read and explained by Mr. Thomas Banks. I’m greatly enjoying it.

Homeschooling

What Are the Children Reciting Now?

The children are always memorizing poetry or Scripture, but we take our time with it. In fact, we may spend an entire month on one piece, reciting it daily. The hope is that these beautiful pieces will become a part of them–lodged deep within their souls.

Right now, the older children at home are memorizing the “Canticle of the Three Young Men” from the book of Daniel in the Old Testament. It’s one of my favorites, especially the line, “Ice and snow, bless the Lord.” As I detest ice and only appreciate snow–from about December 24th through December 31st–it’s a good reminder that these things are ordained by God and therefore good. (May it please the Lord to remind me of this come February.)

The Eldest, who attends a classical school, is memorizing two pieces: “A Christmas Hymn” by Richard Wilbur for her Literature class and the “Judica Me,” or Psalm 42, for her Latin class.

My other son, who also attends this classical school, just finished memorizing “The Flag Goes By” by Henry Holcomb Bennet.

And how about the Little Girls?

As they love Robert Louis Stevenson so much, they’ve been reciting “The Swing” for weeks on end. Oh, and a few nursery rhymes.

What’s coming up for December?

While every year is a bit different, we do tend to return to a few of our favorites this time of year: “A Visit From St. Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore, “Prologue to St. John’s Gospel,” “Stopping By the Woods on Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost, and “Wintertime” by Robert Louis Stevenson.

I love the size of this little book. His last name seems appropriate for the season too…

How about you? I’d love to hear what you’re working on.

Homeschooling

Holding Onto What Matters: The Making of a New Schedule

School officially begins for our family next week.

Not that we ever really quit doing school, but that we will be transitioning from Summer School to, well, School.  This just means that instead of Tea Parties, Badminton Binging, and Grimm’s Fairy Tales, it’ll be Art & Tea Time, Badminton Sessions, and more Grimm’s Fairy Tales.  (And other great books!)

And Math and Latin and Writing, Grammar, Poetry…

Each year tends to be a bit different, though, as the children continue to grow and require more academic attention from me.  Naturally, we reassess each year to see what needs to be done for their education without sacrificing the Culture of our Home, which is a beautiful thing.

We never want to be so busy as to not put First Things First.

This means that Jesus needs to remain King of our Home, and we need to spend time with Him.  Lauds in the wee hours of the morning amidst flickering candlelight must never go away.  Dinners in the evenings should find us together listening to the stories of the saints.  The prayers of the rosary should rise like incense before our icons.  Finally, the children should fall asleep with Dad’s blessing on their foreheads every night.  These are the things that matter the most.

All else–school work, extracurricular activities, household matters–comes Next.

This year our family will be making a great change as the three older children will no longer be homeschooled, but will attend a small, private school.  The remaining four children will still be homeschooled–well, the youngest can hardly be expected to do anything “educationally” constructive, except by ways of playing dolls and dress-up, which I suppose is an education in itself and not to be laughed at.

But this will be a great change for us, and one in which we’ll want to be careful not to suddenly become too busy.  Brick and Mortar Schools have a tendency to do this, as there are a plethora of activities, clubs, and sports that one can be involved in, even in this Modern Feardemic.  (At least here anyway.)

This is why our family has decided, for this year anyway, that one activity per kid is enough.  For example, the Eldest is taking piano and organ lessons.  She doesn’t get to do Running Club or be in the Singing Schola, even though those are good things.  It’s just too much running around for us.

The boys* all belong to Troops of St. George, wherein they go camping and learn about the great outdoors, and this is enough for them.

Sometimes less is more.  For it is easier to remain in the arms of Jesus with less baggage–less stuff–tearing one away.

A New Schedule

For those of you who are interested, I’ll post our new schedule below.  Sometimes it’s helpful to see how other large families are organizing their day, if only to give one an idea or two.

Remember that all families are unique and different, though.  This is just what works for us.  You’ll see that I’ve given specific times, but that doesn’t mean I walk around with a whistle and a clapper.  No, these are just general times.  If you have any questions, be sure to ask.

May God bless your 2020 Academic Year!

2020 Academic Year

6:00–6:25am:  Mom Computer Work

6:25-6:50am:  Lauds with all 4 Big Kids

6:50-7:20am:  Mom Shower, Laundry In, T Piano Practice, J Math with Dad, Older 3 eat Breakfast and Pack Lunches

7:20-7:30am:  Dad & Older 3 Depart for Providence Academy, Little Girls Dressed & Set Table

7:30-8:30am:  Mom Makes Breakfast, Bible Reading & Poetry

8:30-9:00am:  Mom Cleanup, J Piano, T Math

9:00-9:30am:  Midmorning Prayer & Latin

9:30-11:00am:  J Grammar, T & G Set Table, Switch-out Laundry

11:00-11:30am:  Lunch with Audible, Cleanup: J Wash, T Dry, Mom Sweep

11:30-12:00pm:  Mom Read Aloud (History)

12:00-1:00pm:  Quiet Time: Mom Prayer, Nap, & Tea

1:00-3:00pm:  T Phonics & Spelling, J Writing & Rhetoric, Art & Tea Time with Drawing & Cursive

3:00-3:45pm:  Pickup Older Children

3:45-5:00pm:  Dinner Prep, Mom Goes For a Run

5:00-5:15pm:  Greet Husband

5:15-6:45pm:  Dinner & Cleanup: M Wash, M Dry, P Sweep, J Garage Detail, Mom Laundry

6:45-7:30pm:  Free Time

7:30-7:50pm:  Rosary

7:50-8:00pm:  Children PJS, Teeth, Prayers, & Blessings from Dad

8:00-8:30pm:  Compline, M Piano Practice

8:30-10:00pm:  Mom & Dad Be Together

 

 

*The boys also serve the Traditional Latin Mass, which technically is an activity too.  So, perhaps we’re violating our Rule of One?
Homeschooling

Summer School!

As The Eldest wraps up her online courses from both Scholé and Queen of Heaven Academy and the other children finish their school books, my mind naturally turns to Summer School and Summer Schedules.

Not that we’ll be doing anything fun like Baseball or Chess Club…no.  Just more school and garden-weeding.  Well, it’s not as bad as that, we’ll do chores too.  (You know I’m being a little waggish, right?)

In any case, since I have a couple of friends who are passing ideas back and forth, I thought I’d share what our average summer day will look like.  You might find something helpful in it.  You might not.  We’re all different!

At the end of the schedule, I’ll type out specifically what the children will be doing for “school” this summer, if you’re curious.

Summer Schedule

6:00-6:25am:  Mom Computer Work

6:25-6:50am:  Lauds with Husband and 4 Older Children. (We use THIS.)

6:50-7:40am:  Shower, Laundry In, Dress Little Girls, Twins do Saxon Math with Husband, Eldest Piano

7:40-8:15am:  Eldest Makes Breakfast for Everyone, Mom Reads Bible Aloud.  (We currently use RSV Catholic Edition, but I want to switch to Douay-Rheims.)  Poetry Recitations

8:15-9:15am:  Piano for Other Children, Mom Cleans up Breakfast

9:15-9:30am:  Midmorning Prayer

9:30-10:00am:  Twins Grammar

10:00-11:00am:  Free Time, Lunch Prep, Laundry, Kids Set Table

11:00-11:30am:  Lunch with Audible

11:30-12:00pm:  Mom Reads Aloud, Kids Clean up Kitchen

12:30-1:30pm:  Quiet Time, Mom Naps & Requires a Cup of Tea or Coffee

1:30-2:00pm:  Twins Writing & Rhetoric

2:00-3:00pm:  Free Time, Kids Better Find Something to Do or They Get Chores, Mom Walks or Jogs

3:00-4:00pm:  “Art and Tea Time,” Children do Cursive or Calligraphy, Drawing, and Listen to Audible while Little Girls Run Chaotically Around

4:00-5:00pm:  Dinner Prep, Mom Contemplates if Happy Hour is Warranted

5:00pm:  Greet Husband with a Smile

5:15pm:  Dinner and Bulter’s Lives of the Saints

6:00pm:  Children Clean Up, Mom Laundry, Dad House or Outdoor Projects

7:10pm:  Rosary

8:00pm:  Little Girls to Bed, Big Kids Banished to the Basement, Mom & Dad pray Compline

8:30pm:  Mom & Dad Be Together

10:00pm:  Bedtime

So, What Exactly Are the Children Doing?

The Eldest will be taking two online summer classes from Scholé Academy, which she chose–a Brit Lit class and a Latin Novella Reading Club.  Truly, these will be fun for her.  It won’t be work, as she loves reading.

The 11-year-old twins will do more school than usual, however, because of all the school Paul missed due to his 11 surgeries this last year.  They will not like this, but that’s too bad.  They’ll be moving right into the next Saxon Math book in a week or so.  They will also be marching straight into the next Writing & Rhetoric and Well-Ordered Language books from Classical Academic Press.

All the other children will pretty much get off scot-free.  (Do you know that that phrase refers to a medieval tax that people tried to avoid paying?  Fascinating.)

If you have any questions about our schedule, be sure to ask.

Lastly…

Need a good homily to listen to?  This one knocks my socks right off.  We had the children listen to it too.  We’re praying for the protection of this priest.  He’s a warrior, the likes of whom we haven’t seen in awhile.  May the Holy Angels protect him!

Homeschooling, Most Popular Posts, Motherhood & Parenting

10 Things I Wish I Knew 8 Years Ago

Well here we go again – the start of another school year.

For those of you interested in homeschooling, today I’ve updated my List of 10 in honor of another year of teaching.  For the original, see HERE.

Homeschooling: Hard, But Rewarding

Now I’ve been homeschooling for about 8 years, and this has been the hardest job I’ve ever had.  It’s certainly harder than when I taught sophomores at a high school.  Or the time I shelved books in a library.  Or the time I cleaned toilets at a state park.  Or, well, you get the idea.

And I hate to break it to those of you just beginning, but it does get harder.  For example, eight years ago, I only had a kindergartner.  Now I’ve got a 7th-grader, two 5th-graders, a 3rd-grader, and a 1st-grader.  (Not to mention a 3-year-old and a tornado-wrecking-toddler.)  But the good news is, it’s all worth it.

The following is a list of things that I’ve found helpful to remember over these last 8 years.

IMG_1639.jpg

10 Things I Wish I Knew 8 Years Ago

  1.  Get up before the children do.

Yep, you just need to do it.  You’d never stroll into your old job at the office without being ready for it.  I mean, praying, showering, putting on “real” clothes…  If you can do this, your day is set.

Now that said, there are seasons when this is not possible.  For example, the three-month-old baby screamed all night and Susie puked and Timmy wet the bed.

But just because I think this one is really important, I’ll give you Jennifer Fulwiler’s thoughts too:

“It’s not always possible, but if you can make a habit of getting up an hour before everyone else in the house, it will change your life. (I say this as the biggest non-morning-person in the universe. There are vampires who enjoy watching the sun rise more than I do.)”**

**Click HERE for Fulwiler’s complete list of things she’s learned while parenting.  She’s hilarious.

  1.  It is a bad idea to compare yourself to others.

I’ll repeat that: it’s a bad idea to compare yourself to others.

For example, I will never be a crafty mother.  I detest finger-painting, gingerbread-house-making, and sticker charts.  If my children can’t do the project on their own, forget about it.  Now I know some of you are very talented in these artistic areas.  This is a good thing, and I’m genuinely glad for your family.  I’ve decided not to worry about my creative disabilities, however, and it’s freeing.

IMG_1655.jpg
This is the extent of my “craftiness.”  The children may draw whatever they want.  Then they can hang it on the Art Wall themselves.  My Art Wall, which adorns a hallway, consists of a white board with a few clothespins stuck on it.

But it goes beyond not worrying about my lack of creativity.  I’ve also got to not worry about all that awesome curricula that other mothers are using and I’m not.  So what if my kids don’t have a Book of Centuries?  Or don’t have official Science books?  I’m ok with that because we’re working on things that we’ve decided are important for our family.

All families will look differently.  And that’s a good thing.

  1.  Quit worrying about your children not learning anything.

This one’s absurd.  Anyone remember Andrew Pudewa relating his experience in a “public prison,” by which he meant a public school?  How he would get so bored, he’d see how hard he could bite himself?  Then, when he’d get sick of that, he’d see how long he could hold his breath.  (I actually remember doing that one in public school too.)  The point is, our children are learning.  And in the very least, they shouldn’t have to resort to arm-biting and breath-holding.

  1.  Make a “Rule” or schedule for your days and stick to it.

This is really freeing–almost as much as not comparing yourself to others.   With my Rule, my priorities are set, and I know what I’m supposed to be doing at all times during the day.  If you’re looking for more about this, I recommend Holly Pierlot’s A Mother’s Rule of Life.  She’s really intense, but insightful.

RuleOfLife.jpg
This is my 3rd or 4th copy, as I keep giving them away.

  1.  Just because one child seems born to learn quickly, don’t think they all will.

I had a child who sat down and read the Old Testament for fun, at the age of five.  I can tell you, it was a piece of cake teaching that one to read.  But with the next two children I spent at least three years in purgatory, just sitting on my couch, praying to Jesus to give me the patience to not rip the book out of the kid’s hand, chuck it across the room, and storm out myself.  (May it please God to not test my patience any further with slow readers, for I may not make it.  Amen.)

  1.  Outsource those terrible subjects you hate.

I hate math.  And guess what?  When I attempt to teach math, my loathing for the subject comes out, no matter how hard I try to hide it.  But my husband loves math, so a few years ago, he took it over.  (I will love him forever for it.)

In our household, math starts at 7am.  Yep, before breakfast, and it still goes well.  If there’s a subject you despise, think creatively.  Maybe switch a subject with another homeschool mom?  Or, budget for and hire a tutor?  Enroll in an online program?  (We’ve got one enrolled online this year too, and it’s awesome.)

  1.  Eat breakfast like a prison camp.

In our house, everybody eats breakfast at the same time; everybody eats the same thing; everybody cleans up their spot together.  We eat peanut butter toast every single morning.  We’ve done it for years.  There’s never any complaining about it because they know what to expect.

And I never have to worry about meal planning for breakfast.  On the weekend, there is a reprieve.  Saturday is oatmeal.  Sunday is cold cereal, which is their favorite.  You can imagine their excitement when my parents give them orange juice, as a present.

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I keep the bread and PB right above the toaster, as it’s The Eldest’s job to make all 13 slices of toast every morning.

  1.  Learn to say no.

Do you want to destroy your family life?  Then frantically run from event to event, never eat a meal together, and never pray together.

As a culture, we are far too busy.  Little Sally does not need to participate in gymnastics and tee-ball while playing on the soccer team and taking violin, piano, and voice lessons.  This is ridiculous.  Pick one.

And let your children experience a childhood of climbing trees with their siblings, reading a book on the grass, eating dinner as a family, and receiving Dad’s blessing at night.  This other Chosen Busyness is Satan’s great attempt to divide families.  And it’s crept right into Catholic and home schools.

  1.  Are you going crazy?

From time to time, I have to put myself in time-out.  I mostly prefer to hide in the laundry room with a glass of wine, but there isn’t anywhere comfortable to sit, so sometimes I sneak out to the garage and grab lawn chair.  What do you do to get away?

Furthermore, I recommend instituting quiet time every afternoon.  And if possible, take a few Saturdays off a month, and go on a monthly date with your husband.  Life is too short to do otherwise.

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This oughtta look classy in the cupholder of my camping chair in the garage.

  1.  Lastly, and most importantly, begin each day with prayer.

This goes along with #1.  Get up before the children and pray.  You need it.  In fact, not only should you have a regular time for prayer every day, but you should also consider a weekly Adoration hour.  Shoot, it might be the only quiet hour of your week.  (It is of mine.)  So, get after it!

Jesus should always come first.

 

If you’ve found this post helpful, send it to someone else who might appreciate it.

Anyone have other thoughts or ideas?  I’d enjoy hearing about them.

Homeschooling

Is Classical Academic Press “Catholic?”

Nope.  It’s not.  Bummer, no?

I am bringing this question up because the other day I received the following enquiry:

Have you found Classical Academic Press to be Catholic based?  I am planning on letting my daughter join the Schole Academy online and I just wanted to make sure that Classical Academic Press didn’t have anything anti-Catholic.

As this isn’t the first time I’ve answered questions about CAP, I thought I’d post a few thoughts.  No, Classical Academic Press is not strictly Catholic.  However, our family has been very happy with 99% of the content and 100% of the online class discussion.

We’ve been using their Writing & Rhetoric, Grammar, and Latin materials for about 5 years now, and our daughter will be entering her second year of Scholé Academy this fall.

We are, though, moving her towards Queen of Heaven Academy this year too.  (She’ll be taking Writing & Rhetoric and Latin from Scholé and Algebra and Religion from QOH). Because we homeschool 5 children, I need her to be enrolled full-time, and I don’t want to worry about the Catholicity in any classes.  So in two years, she’ll likely be all Queen of Heaven.  All the younger children will continue in their CAP courses with me.

Clear as mud?

The short of it is, we do really like Classical Academic Press.  I can only think of one chapter in a previous Writing & Rhetoric book that spoke too charmingly of Queen Elizabeth.  (Book 4, Cheia & Proverb).  Blech.  I wasn’t worried about it, though, because we talk so much about these things.  In fact, I just pulled out my Hilaire Belloc Characters of the Reformation,* and we discussed his chapter on Queen Elizabeth together.

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Love this book.

The only other questionable thing I can recall from CAP is that their Latin B Reader features famous people and events during the Middle Ages.  Obviously Catholics and Protestants are going to understand this time period very differently, but CAP’s paragraph summaries are so benign and uncontroversial that I didn’t have a problem with them.

I hope that’s helpful.

 

 

*If you don’t own this book, you’re missing out.  Sheed and Ward first published it in 1936, then Tan in 1992.  It’s great for referencing those infamous heretics.
Call Me Catholic, Homeschooling

Homeschooling With the Faith: An Essay by the Eldest

As many of you know, I’ve been gone for the last 7 days, attending medical appointments for our son.  We are still not done with this process, but hopefully soon we’ll have some answers.

So today, I offer a little essay written by the Eldest, our 12-year-old.  The other day she wrote an essay for a competition in our homeschool coop.  She worked very hard on it, so I thought I’d share what she wrote for fun.

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Here she is, diligently working on her dreaded math.

Without further ado…

Homeschooling With the Faith: An Essay by The Eldest

My family homeschools, so homeschooling is living the Faith every moment of everyday.  The Faith is not a subject to be pulled out and then put away. The Faith penetrates everything we do. Here are three glimpses of how my family tries to walk with Jesus throughout the day.

Our family begins each day with prayer.  At 6:40 a.m. my alarm goes off, and I tiptoe upstairs to our living room.  My parents are already up and they have been praying for a half hour in the light from our gas fireplace and votive candles.  I find a blanket and attempt to start my day with God. Pretty soon my brothers also come straggling upstairs and pack themselves like sardines on the loveseat to read saint books.  After prayer, I go to face the bane of my existence–math.

At supper, my father reads the saint of the day from Father Alban Butlers’ Lives of the Saints or in Lent he reads the Stational Church for the day.  Every night my father makes the sacrifice of watching his family eat their food while he reads and endures interruptions.  My family listens and then we talk about the lessons from the saint’s life. This is part of our instruction in the Faith.

At the end of the day our family comes together for the rosary.  Everyone drops what they are doing and comes running or walking.  All of us take a rosary from the rosary hooks and kneel or sit in front of our picture of Mary.  Well, actually the baby generally tries to eat a rosary, which despite diligent practice has never quite come off perfectly.  After praying the Rosary, my siblings and I go to bed with Dad’s blessing.  And that is the end of our homeschool day!

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She thought it was too early in the morning to smile, but I got her to!

Homeschooling

The Homeschool Room

In our old home, we didn’t have a homeschool room.  Rather, I was very creative about where I placed our homeschool materials–on shelves in the living room, in kitchen cabinets, or in bedroom closets…anywhere.

And the children worked just about anywhere too.  In fact, we even had a card table set up in the basement storage room where The Eldest preferred to do her math, as it was a quiet spot.  One does get creative with limited amounts of space.

Thankfully, however, our current home has 5 bedrooms: one for my husband and me, one for the baby, one for the 3 girls, one for the 3 boys, and one for homeschooling.  Deo Gratias.

The Homeschool Room

Now, we’re trying to educate our children classically.  Just what does that mean?  If you’ve got twenty minutes, I strongly encourage you to listen to Andrew Kern’s podcast, The Top 5 Ideals That Any Classical School Should Employ.  It’s awesome.  And I mean, awesome, as in awe-inspiring.

But…

How does that relate to my homeschool room?

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In order to educate all these children, I need a space that is neat, simple, and beautiful, if possible.

Neat?  Most days.  Although it does happen that the boys will take out their circuits and leave them all over the room, and the Two-Year-Old will decide to shred an entire notebook to pieces.

Simple?  Sigh.  I operate a school.  Therefore, I must have some supplies, but these need not be in overabundance.  For example, do I really need those nifty magnetic shapes that everybody else has?  Nope.  (Although I secretly think they’re the coolest thing ever.)  Or how about a bucket full of markers?  Definitely not.

The third one?  Beauty?  I’m always harping on beauty, because it matters!  After all, Ratzinger once said, it’s martyrs and the arts that will evangelize the world, not all your committees and words.  Shoot, I came back into the Church through studying Church architecture, painting, and sculpture.*  One can only stare at Brunelleschi, Fra Angelico, and Wislawa Kwiatkowska for so long until one begins to ask questions.

In any case, today I’ll show you what works for us.

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In our homeschool room, you’ll see a table and chairs, where The Eldest prefers to do her school work because she can shut the door.  The other children like to carry their work out to the kitchen to be near me.

On the walls in here you’ll see a picture of B16 (our affectionate name for Pope Benedict XVI), two maps, a history timeline, the alphabet, and numbers.  These are all practical things, but I’ve also tried to place them proportionally on the walls.  (Proportion is so important that St. Thomas Aquinas names it as one of the three elements of beauty.)

The other side of the room features our computer work space and bookshelves.

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These are mostly our school history, science, and religion books.  Our other literature books are in a different room.

Lastly, we have the closet, which is a blessing.  No longer must I run from room-to-room in order to gather my daily supplies.  They’re all just here.

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And here’s a look at the inside of both sides:

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This side features the children’s completed work trays, cubbies, my answer keys on one of the upper shelves, and a few games on top.

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This side has the children’s puzzles with DVDs on the top shelf and a few art supplies on the lower shelf.

In a previous post I went into detail about educational supplies or “toys” HERE.

And that, my friends, completes the tour of our Homeschool Room.  But I’ll leave you with three things that I’m continually working on:

  1. It’s better to have less.
  2. How I organize my space matters, because beauty matters.
  3. And, less is really better.  (Except for books.)
*This is why ugly churches and bad art are a sin.  They convert no one.
Homeschooling

Homeschoolin’ It Like a Spartan

Now I grew up in the public school system, and I only knew one family that homeschooled.  And let me tell you, they were weird.  Yes, they were the epitome of homeschooling weirdness.  You know the type, they dressed funny and kept to themselves on a farm.

So naturally I assumed that all homeschooling families were weird, until I went to graduate school.  It was there, in my very first class on philosophy, that I sat next to a man who was witty and smart and didn’t dress like a ninny.  I was shocked to learn that he was homeschooled, all through high school no less.

A few years later I found myself married and settled in a strange, new city.  I didn’t know anyone, and I was lonely.  But a kind, homeschool mom of 7 invited me over to her home.  In fact, she’d let me come over to her home any time to just hang out, and I was so thankful.  Later, she invited my husband and I to join their weekly rosary group, which we did.

It was at this time that we started rethinking homeschoolers.   For here was a group of six families, all homeschoolers, that found time to pray together every week.  They took the faith seriously.  They were all active in their parishes.  Their children were kind to my children.  They themselves were fun to be around and have discussions with.  It was a true oasis–a monastery in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.

It wasn’t long, and we were hooked, and as you know, we homeschool.

And Now For a Rant

Yeah, we homeschool.  We homeschool like Greek Spartans.  Except that instead of training our boys to become hardened warriors for the State, we train them to become masculine warriors for Christ.  Instead of instructing our girls to become tenacious women, we instruct them to become virtuous heroines for our King.

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There’s an old Spartan saying that goes like this, “Come back with your shield or on it.”  This meant that you better be victorious in that battle or don’t bother coming back.  I appreciate this maxim.  Certainly it’s brutal, but I’m tired of mediocrity, and I’m tired of settling for less.

Let me give you an example.  13 years ago, when my husband and I first moved out to western North Dakota, we walked into the local Cathedral and were astounded.  I naively didn’t realize that cathedrals could be built so ugly.  I had just spent 6 years studying art history and traveling all around Italy and Greece and had never seen anything so…boxy, so bare, so disordered, so…ugly.  I looked at the stained glass windows.  I couldn’t figure out what they meant.  I looked for the tabernacle.  It was nowhere to be seen.

Seriously.

The worst part is, I felt bad.  Everyone around me, including the priests, were trying to tell me that it was beautiful.  I even had one priest give me a booklet on the stained glass windows, which attempted to explained them.  He insisted that I read it.

And I tried.  Honestly, I tried.  But let’s get real and call a spade a spade.  That building is ugly, and the whole point of stained glass windows is to tell a story to the illiterate, and those windows fail.

Which leads me to homeschooling.  I’m tired of apologizing for homeschooling.  Look, all around me I see Mass attendance declining and Catholic schools closing.  But guess what isn’t declining or closing?  Catholic homeschools.  We’re on the rise.  In fact, our Catholic coop is so big that we have waiting lists to get in.  And most of our families are young families.  And they’re having babies.

You want to know the advantages of homeschooling?

  1. We don’t give a damn about sports.  Yes, they’re good, and yes, we like playing them, but get real.  I’m tired of all the emphasis on sports.
  2. We’re serious about our academics.  I have a 6-year-old that can tell you all 46 books of the Old Testament.  My 8-year-old can recite The Charge of the Light Brigade.  My 10-year-olds can decline nouns in Latin.  My 12-year-old can write a 2 page essay on whatever.  Yes, there are schools out there that get it too, but so do we.
  3. Christ comes first, and we mean it.  We’re not just paying lip service here.  It’s all about Him.  We begin our day with Him, we attempt to walk all day with Him, and we end our day with Him.  Prayer permeates everything we do.
  4. Our children have to help out.  Of course homeschooling isn’t perfect.  In fact, I’m still trying to figure out a way to take Sick Days.  And I’d really like to get myself a Lunch Lady and a Janitor.  I guess the children will just have to help out and grow in virtue.
  5. We get thrown under the bus all the time, and it forces us to be sharp.  Shoot, even our bishop throws us under the bus!  (Click HERE for that one.)  How many times have I heard, “If you would just send us your kids to our school, it would be so much better.”  Yes, it would be, and thank you for the compliment, but there’s a reason why our children would improve the atmosphere.  It’s because they’ve been taught at home.

Now I wish I didn’t have to say this, but I know some of you will misunderstand me, so I’ll say it anyway.  I am glad that diocesan, Catholic schools exist.  They are a good thing.  I’m just tired of pretending that homeschooling isn’t a good thing too.

To all you homeschoolers out there, take heart!  Keep homeschoolin’ it like a Spartan.  Or better yet, as Dr. Taylor Marshall says, “Be the Maccabee.”  And if you don’t know what that means, go read both books of Maccabees.  Or, if you’re pressed for time, just read my favorite, 2 Maccabees 7.