Homeschooling, 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.

 

Call Me Catholic, Homeschooling

Advent and Nativity Sets

It’s cold outside, and it’s Friday.

So, it’s time to think about Nativity Sets.  Yes, I know Advent isn’t here yet, but some of us prefer to plan ahead for such things, so as to avoid stress and anxiety later.  Plus, I like to scatter the cost of Advent and Christmas over a couple of months, so December’s budget isn’t sky-high.

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And here’s my Nativity Set.  I know the quality of the photo is poor, but I took this a year ago with an old-fashioned camera.  You know, those digital ones that nobody has anymore.

Since most of us are home all day long, this matter of Nativity Sets is important for a couple of reasons.

  1. We are Catholics, and as such, have some sweet liturgical seasons, which ought to be celebrated in style.
  2. This is about our children after all.  What kid doesn’t like to mess around with nativity sets?  Think of it as a hands-on, Montessori-style education.
  3. Lastly, in as much as we can, we ought to make the space around us beautiful.  Hence, if you don’t already have one, buy a good, indestructible Nativity Set.

Now I am biased about nativity sets and strongly prefer Fontanini Nativity Sets mostly because I inherited a beautiful one, complete with a little stable, featuring an electric fire, along with Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.  But here is why Fontanini really is the best:

  1. It’s indestructible.
  2. Your children can chuck these beautifully painted pieces across the room.  Not that my children would do such a thing…
  3. There are myriads upon myriads of sheep, cows, shepherds, angels, and villagers available to play with–er–for purchase.
  4. Did I mention that these pieces don’t break?  (If you have boys, you will automatically know the importance of imperishable and everlasting nativity figures, or anything else for that matter.)

And so naturally one more question arises.  1.)  Which is my favorite nativity figure?

The Drummer Boy of course is my favorite accessory piece.  Everyone knows that a poor little drummer boy drummed on his drum for Jesus and Mary Christmas morning.  Jesus even smiled at him.  I’m pretty sure the drummer boy is in the Bible; in fact there’s a most beautiful song about it.*

Our family purchases a new figure every year, and this year we bought two camels.  I would have bought three camels, because that makes the most sense, but our budget only allows for only two.  We had to order them, however, so there not here yet.

Later next week I hope to have a post on a few more Advent things we do as a family.

 

 

*For your listening pleasure, HERE is one of the best Christmas songs ever.  I think this song is also in the Bible.**  (To those of you who prefer not to listen to music outside of its proper liturgical season, don’t listen to it!)
**Just kidding about the Drummer Boy being in the Bible.  Although if I were some kind of reforming heretic and enjoyed messing with the Bible – you know taking books out that I didn’t like and adding others – I’d for sure insert the Drummer Boy in the Christmas story.  You’d find it in the Gospel according to Kim.
Homeschooling

A New Academic Year & A New Schedule

It’s the start of another school year for us, and I apologize for not getting this out sooner.

This year, however, we have a more complicated schedule as three of our children are being homeschooled (The Eldest, Child #4, and Child #5), two of our children are attending a Catholic Montessori grade school (The Twins), and the other two (Child #6 and the Baby) are just. plain. busy.

So, how do I manage it all?

With a good schedule and a lot of grace.  (And coffee, of course.)

Our New Schedule

Some of you may be curious as to how my day now looks, so I’ll break it down.*  Maybe you’ll glean an idea or two that might work for you.  Maybe not.  All families are different and have different needs, after all.

6:00am

Wake-up!  My husband and I still pray the Morning Office and end with about twenty or so minutes of silent prayer.  The three oldest children set their watch alarms and join us at 6:30 for a few minutes of their own silent prayer.  This time ends at 6:40 when the coffee maker beeps to signal that it’s ready for us, at which point I run for the kitchen and thankfully pour myself a big mug full.

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My lovely coffee pot with my favorite chipped mug.  My mother gave it to me.

6:40am

The older children commence Early Morning School, which consists of math facts, Latin, or handwriting.  The Eldest, however, does Saxon Math with my husband.

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The Twins working on a little Math and Latin this morning.

The only thing different about this time is that the two children attending the Montessori school must practice their piano in the morning, after their school work.  They only put in fifteen minutes each, but this is important because after being confined in school all day, who would want to sit down at a piano when getting home later on?  Not these boys.

While the older children are working on things that do not require my help, I sneak in a few minutes of computer time and then get ready for the day.

7:45am

My husband and The Twins leave.  The rest of us eat breakfast and commence Morning Time.  This looks pretty much the same as it did last winter.  While the children eat breakfast, I read the Mass readings and then we recite our poetry.

Right now The Eldest is back to working on a Shakespearian soliloquy, Hamlet’s “To Be or Not to Be.”  We had started this one earlier in the year, but had to take a break to memorize The Destruction of Sennacherib by Lord Byron for a program she’s involved with called. Catholic Schoolhouse.

Catholic Schoolhouse is a group of students who meet once a week and do some really awesome stuff.  (How’s that for an explanation?)

The little children are working on the Ten Commandments and the 46 books of the Old Testament.  A few years ago I came up with a jingle for it, to the tune of Jingle Bells.  It’s linked it below.  (It’s certainly not professional, as I simply sat down one day and recorded with talking babies and banging toddlers in the background.)  Feel free to use it, if it’s helpful.

 

You’ll notice that the first five books – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy – are missing.  That’s because the children already know them in order, as the law books.  You might also notice that I moved 1 & 2 Maccabees to follow the history books.  I wanted to impress upon the children the 4 kinds of books in the Old Testament: Law, History, Wisdom, and Prophetic.  As a former teacher of the Old Testament, I found it helpful to be able to distinguish between the different kinds of writing.  All the other books are in order, however.

9:00am

After breakfast clean-up and piano, it’s time for Mid-Morning Prayer.  I moved this time up a bit, because it seemed to flow a little better with the baby’s schedule.  Remember, during all this busyness, I’m somehow nursing and caring for a baby and a 2-year-old.

During this time, we’re singing two hymns and learning a new prayer penned by St. Therese.  We finish this time together with a review of all our Latin vocabulary.

9:30am

The Eldest works on her Latin from Classical Academic Press.  Child #4 does Math and Spelling.  Child #5 sits down with me, and we learn to read.

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Who doesn’t love kindergarten?  Lots of coloring and learning of sounds.  I use Seton for phonics and Bob Books for fun.

11:00am

Lunch time!  This year I have to have a longer stretch of time here because The Eldest participates in an online class on writing through Schole Academy twice a week, which happens to be during lunch.  But this class has been wonderful for two reasons:  1.  She loves it, and  2.  I don’t have to do a single thing for writing and rhetoric anymore.

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Here she is, “attending” class, with her headphones on, to block out all the background noise.

During lunch we still listen to audio books from Audible.  Currently we’re enjoying Tan’s The Story of Civilization Volume 1, as we’re studying the Ancient World in history.

And that’s enough for today!

 

 

*Care to see how my day looked last winter?  Click on “A Day in the Life Series” in my tag cloud on the right.

 

Homeschooling

A New Year of Poetry: Bearing My Fardels with a Bodkin

Now that we’re traveling into week 3 of school, I’m just starting to get a rhythm down.  I think in a week or so, I’ll post my new schedule for those of you who are curious.

But onto a specific question, what are we memorizing?

We began the year with Psalm 23, The Good Shepherd.  “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”  That should give you a good look into the state of my life right now.  (Oh the agonies of buying and selling a house.  I wish it upon no one.)

I chose this Psalm to begin the year with because a.) the children already know it, b.) the children really like it, and c.) I think it’s important to start the year off with something easy and familiar.

After two weeks of that, we have moved on, however.  My eldest is now memorizing Hamlet’s famous To Be or Not To Be soliloquy.  It’s probably a little morbid for an 11-year-old, but the language is beautiful.  We had to look up a few words like quietus and bodkin and fardels*, but in all, we’ve really been enjoying it, even if we don’t understand everything Shakespeare is trying to say.  That’ll just have to come later.

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Here’s the first part.  On the next page, it goes on for another 29 lines.  I’m glad Hamlet’s conscience wins out in this speech…

The little children have returned to my favorite piece of poetry for the fall: Robert Louis Stevenson’s Autumn Fires.  It is the cutest little poem.  If you have small children, I recommend this one every single fall.  Rake yourself a big pile of leaves, play in it, then have a big bonfire and belt out Stevenson.  Here’s the ending of that little poem:

Sing a song of seasons!
Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer,
Fires in the fall!

 

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Here are two books you might consider owning.  A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.
*Quietus, bodkin, fardels – death, dagger, burden
Homeschooling

The Story of Civilization

Tan Publishing just released volume 3 of their Story of Civilization series.  Are you familiar with it?  No?  You’re missing out!  Mine just came in the mail a day or two ago.

Click HERE for volume 3 at Tan, The Making of the Modern World.

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Love their pictures.

Top Ten Reasons Why You Should Own All 3 Volumes

  1. This history requires no work from me.  It’s so good, I just put the audio version from Audible* on, and the children fight over who gets to read ahead in the “textbook.”
  2. In this series, the Catholic Church isn’t ignored or misrepresented.  This is a miracle.
  3. The guy in the audio version does voices.  And he’s good at it.
  4. I wish I grew up listening to this history.  (Or reading it.)  My children are spoiled.
  5. In addition to the book with sweet pictures, I buy the Timeline.  I don’t do anything with it, other than tack it on my wall.  The children then reference it when they want.  And I feel proud because I decorated my home.
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The timeline isn’t too big, which makes it manageable.  The pictures correspond to the ones in the book.
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Close-up of the timeline.  Sorry about the quality of this photo.  It’s early in the morning, and my cup of coffee isn’t finished yet.

6.  I have a friend who buys the activity book.  She says, “I love the activity book.”
7.  My husband thinks it’s so great that he listens to it in his car to and from work.
8.  There isn’t any other history book like it.
9.  Did I mention that the Catholic Church isn’t ignored or misrepresented?  Miracle.
10.  The other two volumes are awesome too.  You should own all of them.

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Volumes 1 & 2   (Volume 4 is scheduled to come out next year and will be American History.)
*I would buy the CDs from Tan Publishing, but I’m afraid I’d lose them all.  It’s a far better option for me to own it on Audible.  Although, Audible doesn’t have volume 3 yet.  I’m hoping in the next week or two, however, they will.
Homeschooling

My Hydra-Yucca-Plant: A Tragedy

This summer we’ve been studying biology and botany.  Well, sort of.

You see, I have a yucca plant that won’t die.  In fact, it only multiplies.  So my husband and the children have been experimenting with different Killing Methods.

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Here it is.  Thriving.

Ever since we moved out here, in the country, we’ve had a yucca plant problem.  The previous owners of our place willingly (and stupidly) planted this horrible, indestructible thing.  So the first and second year we just hacked the thing off at the ground, naively hoping it would disappear in the spring.  And it did no such thing.

The third year, my husband got the spade out and violently slashed at the roots and wrenched out big hunks of that deplorable plant.  I was quite hopeful that it would be gone.

Alas.  My hopes were in vain.  The thing only multiplied; thus receiving it’s new name The Hydra.  (You are familiar with Hercules and the Hydra Dragon?  You cut off one head and several more appear.  Unbelievable.)  This Hydra-Yucca-Plant is threatening to take over my whole garden.

Last summer, I gave the 8-year-old twins a tank of extra-strong, undiluted Round-Up and a sprayer.  Their job was to kill it.  Hence, botany as summer school – good idea, right?

Well, the twins failed and through no fault of their own.  It just kept popping up all over the place.

This summer the twins have been giving me reports on It.  “Hey Mom, do you want us to pull Those Plants out?  Or should we get the Round-Up?”  And, “Mom, there’s more of ’em!”    And finally, “Mom, you wouldn’t believe it, but now they’re popping up on the other side of those railroad ties!”

And so, I give up.  This year, the Hydra-Yucca-Plant gets to live.  It’s a tragedy.

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Here it is in another spot.

The picture below is a full-grown yucca plant in the wild, where it belongs.

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This picture was not taken by me.  It was taken by Forest and Kim Starr.

P.S.  This is such an ugly plant.  It belongs only in deserts.  It’s pretty much like a worthless cactus anyway, with it sharp spears.  And ugliness.  No offense to anyone out there who actually likes these indestructible things.  For I suppose they do offer a little green to an otherwise brown landscape.