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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Book Review, Homeschooling

Poetry & Books

Poetry

Some of you may be wondering what the children have been memorizing as of late?

Every winter there are a few poems that I like to go back to, for I think it is better to repeat poems and truly have them interiorized, rather than to continually introduce new material.

So recently my little children ages 5 and 7 just finished up Robert Louis Stevenson’s Wintertime, which can be found in his A Child’s Garden of Verses.  (This is a book that you must own, by the way, for all the poems in it are gems.)  Now the little children are memorizing Robert Frost’s Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.  I can’t help liking this poem too because it’s one of the few poems I remember memorizing as a child.

The twins, age 10, have recently revisited the The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred Lord Tennyson because my husband wanted to learn it.  It also happens to be one of their all-time favorites anyway, so they were more than happy to, “Forward, the Light Brigade!  Charge for the guns!”  Now, however, they’ve moved onto the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, which is Psalm 43 [42].

My Eldest has been working on the Prologue to St. John’s Gospel for her homeschool coop.  She also has another poem for her online Writing and Rhetoric class, but I haven’t seen it, so I can’t tell you what it is at the moment.

Books: Read Alouds and Lunchtime with Audible

Our last two read alouds were excellent.  In fact, you should own them too.  The first was Mary Fabyan Windeatt’s The Children of Fatima.

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This true story blows me away every time I read it.  I mean, 70,000 people witnessed the Miracle of the Sun.  70,000!  And there are real newspaper photos from it.  Just google it.

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Like this one.

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Or this one.

This book is just inspiring too.  If those little children can sacrifice the way they did, then I need to step it up.

The second book we just read was also very good, but too short!  I didn’t want it to end.  It was Elizabeth Coatsworth’s Jock’s Island.  And if you can get the version illustrated by Lilian Obligado, you’ll love it even more.  The pictures are lovely.

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Check out these lovely illustrations.

On Audible we just finished listening to Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes.  This book was entertaining, but a little sad because someone steals the children’s puppy and mistreats him.  However, it ends well.

Currently we’re listening to The Moffats, also by Eleanor Estes because the children can’t get enough of her right now.

And what about me?

I recently read Suzanne Wolfe’s The Confessions of X, which is a historical fiction account of St. Augustine’s concubine.  I was a little worried going in that it would be full of immorality, but that wasn’t the case.  I found the book entertaining, but lacking in something.  Depth, maybe?  I can’t analyze it at the moment because I have three children begging for breakfast, so maybe I’ll come back to it later.

Now I’m reading Robert Hugh Benson’s By What Authority?  It is gripping.  I love it.

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These are the other books on my list.

Call Me Catholic, Homeschooling

Bishop Kagan: 4 Weaknesses of Homeschooling. Most Popular Serious Post of 2018

As promised, here is my Most Popular Serious Post of 2018.  According to my stats, this post really made the rounds.  I hope Bishop Kagan had a chance to look at it too.

Bishop Kagan: 4 Weaknesses of Homeschooling

Bishop David D. Kagan’s Latest Pastoral Letter

Bp. Kagan of the Bismarck Diocese has issued a Pastoral Letter on Catholic Education, which can be found on the diocesan website.  (Click HERE for it.)

I was asked if I might offer my thoughts on his letter, which is divided into a Preface, Introduction, Parts 1,2, & 3, and a Conclusion.  I will comment, but am limiting myself to Part 1, as this is the section most of you are interested in.

If you haven’t read the entire letter yet, it would be helpful to do so first.

TeachThemPastoralLetter

Part One: Catholic ‘Home Schooling’

The first six paragraphs of Part One speak of the historicity of the homeschool movement in the Bismarck Diocese.  There is nothing shocking here.  In fact, he has some kind and truthful things to say about it all.

The last 4 paragraphs, however, get a little interesting, as Bp. Kagan details what he perceives as 4 weaknesses of homeschooling.

Bp. Kagan: 4 Weaknesses of Homeschooling

1. Bp. Kagan begins with, “First, given the excellence of our own Catholic schools the real necessity for Catholic families to home school in my judgment is not as necessary as it may have been years ago.”

In other words, he thinks that years ago, one may have had a good reason to homeschool, based on the condition of Catholic schools at that time, but now, however, Catholic schools are better.  So, it’s not “as” necessary, in his opinion.

What’s really going here, in any case, is that some people truly don’t understand why one might choose to homeschool, and so sometimes it’s assumed that homeschoolers are against Catholic, diocesan schools.  But all the homeschoolers I know are actually glad that these schools exist.  For they do provide an important mission in the daily life of the Church.  They are a good thing after all.  We want them to succeed.

However, most of us have discerned as parents that homeschooling is the best option for our particular families, for a multitude of reasons.  Maybe we have a child with a learning disorder.  Maybe we enjoy traveling and the flexibility homeschooling provides.  Maybe we think it is important for our families to be together.

Personally for our family, and among other reasons, it primarily comes down to our philosophy of education.  We are attempting a traditional, classical approach to education, which is just not an option here in this diocese.  And we have access to excellent curriculums and online classes.

For example, I’ve often spoken of Classical Academic Press, which we’ve found to exemplify this philosophy.  If anyone is curious about what we’re attempting to do, click HERE for a short philosophy of classical education and how it differs from what is typically available in diocesan schools.

If you want more, I’d suggest reading Stratford Caldecott’s Beauty in the Word: Rethinking the Foundations of Education and Beauty for Truth’s Sake: On the Re-enchantment of Education.

2.  Bp. Kagan goes on with his weaknesses to say, “Second, there is a real advantage for children at an early age to see and learn from other Catholic adults and children their own age what they have already seen and learned from their parents.”

In this second point, he argues that it is necessary for children to be around other people’s children and parents in order to learn properly and be well-rounded.

There are two ways to look at this.  One, Bp. Kagan could be promoting the whole “anti-social” argument that most homeschoolers face all the time, which says that because our children learn at home, we’re necessarily socially awkward.

This just isn’t true, however, and studies would prove otherwise.  For statistics and a great article on homeschooling and socialization from the Washington Times, click HERE.

Secondly, and if you read his statement closely, most homeschoolers would actually agree with Bp. Kagan here.  It’s just that he’s probably unaware of all the activities that many of us are involved in.  For example, many families are in rosary groups, wherein entire families gather together to pray the rosary weekly and then have fellowship.  Many of us are involved in PE programs.  Many homeschool families gather together to do projects, sports, music, whatever.

The point is, most of us don’t sit at home with our doors locked, shaking in fear lest our children interact with other children or adults.  Rather, we enjoy being around other Catholic families and in fact make it a priority.

3.  His third weakness states, “…the more Catholic families desire that faithful and robust Catholic education for their children and make use of our Catholic schools, the stronger the Catholic culture of our schools and parishes become.”

In other words, Bp. Kagan wants our children in the Catholic schools because then the schools would be stronger.  I’ve heard this argument many times, and maybe we ought to just consider it a compliment.  He must think we’d have something positive to offer the schools after all.

I would point out, however, that our children would not be who they are without the formation they have had at home.

As far as parishes go, all the homeschool families I know are very active in varying parish ministries.  In fact, I can’t think of a single homeschool family that isn’t involved in their parish life.

4.  Bp. Kagan concludes his discussion of “home school weaknesses” with a note on other people’s perception of us.  He says, “Often enough I have heard from other Catholic parents and even some priests that families who home school do so because they think our Catholic schools are not Catholic enough when it comes to the teaching of religion…I do not know how widespread this perception may be but it does not serve well those who have chosen homeschooling for their children.”

It would seem that he’s accusing us of being guilty of how other people perceive us.  But I’m not sure we can help what others may or may not think of us, especially if they are unwilling to dialogue with us.

I can’t help it if people want to assume I’m a Catholic school detractor.  I can only say, I’m not.

Conclusion

In the end, maybe we ought to invite Bp. Kagan to come have a look at our “schools?”  This might help shed some light on the modern homeschool movement.  In particular, it might be helpful if he understands that most of us are not rejecting Catholic, diocesan schools, but rather are choosing another form of an authentically Catholic education.

An Open Invitation to Bishop Kagan

Bp. Kagan, we first of all thank you for your dedication to our diocese.  Please know that you are always in our prayers, and our family welcomes you to visit our home and our school any time.