Wednesday, December 17, 2014

NEW Free eBook for Catholic Homeschool Families

Yes, there's a new Catholic homeschool book in town. Though, really, it would be great for any family with school-age children. I've always said "We're all homeschoolers, no matter where our children get their academics." After all, where did your children learn to walk and talk? To respect you and to love Jesus? Umm, at home, right?! And, to be honest folks, if you're not engaged in your child's education, they won't be as successful as they could be in school. Conversely, if education is important to you, if your children see you reading, if you and your children explore and question the world together, and if your children witness your joy when you learn something new, by golly, they will be successful in school -- no matter where that school is located.

Now that I've gotten that off my mind, I want to tell you about this new book. It's something that is very close to my heart. It's something that started in a little coffee shop in Howell, MI when I was brainstorming with my dear friend Erin Brown Conroy (also master writing instructor at Homeschool Connections). I was feeling frustrated that more students weren't taking philosophy and logic courses. Courses, that I personally feel are vitally important to a child's education.

That's when Erin said, "What about a book called something like Why Should I Learn This?" So, I said, "Sure! Let's do it!" So we did. That brings me to today. To this big announcement ... two years later. Why Should I Learn This: A Guide for Homeschool Parents and Students has been released and is currently available at Homeschool Connections eBook.

Eventually, we'll put the book to print. However, today, it's a free eBook. It's currently available as a PDF that you can download to your hard drive or read online. Next month, we'll make it available for Kindle. We're also looking into other formats for you.

You may be asking, "That's nice, but what exactly is the book about and why should I take time to read it?"

Why Should I Learn This is a compilation of essays written by a wide variety of authors, much like my previous books A Catholic Homeschool Treasury and The Catholic Homeschool Companion. It includes great authors such as Joseph Pearce, Mike Aquilina, Carol Reynolds, Mary Ellen Barrett, Gray Michuta, Monica Ashour, and so, so many more.

The book demonstrates the importance of a variety of subjects. For example, if your child were to say to you, "Mom, algebra is stupid. I don't see how it'll help me in life." you could read the chapter Why Should I Learn Algebra together. If you and your spouse are debating whether or not formal logic should have a place in your homeschool, you could read Why Should I Learn Formal Logic and see what Dr. Robert Gotcher has to say on the subject.

Why Should I Learn This also has a chapter on educational approaches (pedagogy). If you've been hearing about Charlotte Mason education or classical education, and you want to know more, you can open that chapter and get the scoop.

You don't have to take my word for it. Here are the reviews that have already started coming in:
“Here’s the answer to many of the Why’s you (or your children) have asked about education. Whether you homeschool or not, this book is a treasury of well-crafted answers that will leave you with answers and, amazingly, even entertained!” —Sarah Reinhard, author and blogger, SnoringScholar.com and CatholicMom.com 
“Every homeschooling parent has faced the question: “Why are we doing this?” Whether it’s asked by a grumpy child or simply a feeling that lingers in the air at the end of a frustrating day, it’s inevitable that sometimes you (or your children) will wonder if what you’re learning really matters. That’s why this book is such a great resource: With beautiful writing about the relevance of each subject, Why Should I Learn This will rekindle the passion for education—not just for your students, but for you, too.” —Jennifer Fulwiler, author and blogger, ConversionDiary.com 
Why Should I Learn This is a reminder that education is not merely a stepping stone into the work force, but a good in and of itself. Education is an important facet of encouraging our children to flourish as human beings made in the image of God. I found myself nodding along as the contributors articulate what makes the subjects I love so valuable. They also challenge me to look at the subjects I’ve never been inclined to with new appreciation. Why Should I Learn This will inspire you to dive into learning right along with your children.” —Haley Stewart, author and blogger, CarrotsForMichaelmas.com 
So, head on over to Homeschool Connections eBook and get your copy today while it's free.

Let us know what you think in the comments. We're already planning a sequel, so don't hesitate to tell us what we missed. And, finally, humbly, we know there are a couple of typos in the PDF. The great thing is that we'll be able to fix them before the next edition.

Praying you have an amazing 2015 and that Why Should I Learn This helps you and your children in a special way.

Monday, August 05, 2013

FREE Catholic Homeschool eBook: Limited Time Offer!!!

To celebrate Homeschool Connections' Back-to-Homeschool eConference, we're giving away my eBook A Catholic Homeschool Treasury. It was originally published by Ignatius Press many years ago. Today it is available to you digitally with an updated appendices.

Though offered as a Kindle book, you don't need to own a Kindle to read it. Amazon offers its Kindle software for free download. You can read eBooks on your computer, smartphone, or handheld device.

A Catholic Homeschool Treasury is free today through Friday, August 10, 2013. After August 10th, it'll be available for only $0.99.

So, pick up the book then go register for the eConference and get rejuvenated for the upcoming school year!!!

Friday, August 02, 2013

FREE eConference for Back to Homeschooling

Homeschool Connections Announces Free Webinars!!!

Homeschool Connections, in addition to offering amazing and affordable online courses for Catholic homeschooling families, offers free webinars to help parents in their vocation.

Next week begins their Back-to-Homeschool series. They'll be focusing on Special Needs this year, but I think there may be something there for everyone. Check out all the choices below.

Tell all your friends!!!

Simply click on the webinar title to register.

All webinars take place at 8:00 PM Eastern Time (7:00 Central; 6:00 Mountain; 5:00 Pacific)

Monday, August 5, 2013
Myths and Solutions for ADD/ADHD
Presented by Katie Moran

Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Homeschooling a Seriously Ill Child
Presented by Joan Stromberg

Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Back-to-School Special: Jump Start Your Homeschool with a Slam Bang Success; Practical Tips & Helpful Resources
Presented by Beth Yank

Thursday, August 8, 2013
Complete Mastery Reading: Successfully Teach your Struggling Child to Read
Presented by Erin Brown Conroy

Monday, August 12, 2013
More than Just Survival: Balancing and Enjoying Life while Homeschooling through Challenges
Presented by Erin Brown Conroy

Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Homeschooling From the Couch - Chronic Illness Means Adaptation, Not Quitting!
Presented by Rachel Watkins

Thursday, August 15, 2013
Homeschooling with Dyslexia: Triumphs and Struggles
Presented by Rita Munn

If you can't make it to the live talks, it's not a problem. Everything is recorded. HSC will post links to the recorded webinars at their website and also at the blog after the eConference is complete.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Win a Free Year of Catholic Online Classes


How would you like to have Unlimited Access to 125-plus Catholic courses? For your entire family? Middle school, high school, adult! Theology, philosophy, logic, history, Latin, Spanish, German, math, science, more! Supplement your homeschool, private school, public school, or create a whole homeschool curriculum around it.

If this all sounds amazing to you, here's your chance to win twelve months of Homeschool Connections' Unlimited Access service, worth $330!!! These are recorded, independent-learning courses to be taken on your own time, at your own pace.

Even if you don't win, it's a completely affordable service for Catholic families. It's only $1 to try it out for 7 days (make sure it's a good fit for your family!) and then it's only $30 per month after that (for just as long or short you need it!)

Homeschool Connections also offers live, interactive classes as well as the Catholic History Video Project and free webinars for parents. Learn more here: www.homeschoolconnections.com.

Now for the contest ...

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can enter every day for more chances. Good luck and God bless you!!!


Monday, June 10, 2013

Recipe: Risotto with Italian Sausage and Cream

I just had a pig butchered for me at the local organic farm. So tonight, instead of the usual Risotto Primavera, I'll be making Risotto with Italian sausage and cream. Vegan Husband will have to have a salad (!).

(I'll take a picture tonight and add it to this post at that time.)

If you've never had risotto, you've got to try it! It's a classic Italian recipe and a favorite at my house.

Risotto is a rice dish made with Arborio (or more simply, medium grain rice). It is a more time-consuming recipe than other rice dishes. Instead of just dumping the water and rice into a pot and forgetting about it for 20 to 40 minutes, you gradually add broth as it's absorbed by the rice. Even though you do have to watch it closely for 20 plus minutes, it is very easy to make and the you end up with a nice creamy dish. It is versatile and you can easily substitute ingredients, but you always use Parmesan cheese.

Ingredients
1 lb. bulk Italian sausage (or sausages with casing removed), either sweet or hot depending upon your preference
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 chopped onion
1/2 tablespoon fresh chopped basil (Or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups arborio (medium grain) rice
3 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth or stock
½ cup cream
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Directions
Cook sausage over medium-high heat, breaking into small pieces, approximately 4 minutes, until completely browned.
Drain and set aside.
Bring the 3 1/2 cups of broth to a simmer on the stove top and keep hot.
Melt butter in a pan (I use the same pan as I cooked the sausage in.)
Add garlic, onion, basil, salt, and pepper.
Cook over medium heat, stirring, approximately 3 minutes, until the onions are softened.
Add rice and mix well.
Add 1 cup of the hot broth and bring to a low boil.
Stay with the rice and stir occasionally.
After the rice absorbs the broth, add ½ cup of hot broth.
Keep repeating until all 3 cups of broth is absorbed and your rice is nicely cooked and creamy.
Stir in the cream and heat it through.
Add the Parmesan cheese and parsley.
Give a quick stir and serve hot.

A few notes
Don't use brown rice as it takes to long to absorb the liquid and will spell disaster.
If you want to lower the fat, replace the cream with more broth or 1/2 cup wine.
This would be good with roasted red peppers or your favorite veggies.
You could skip the parsley if you don't have it. You could also substitute oregano for the basil.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Living the Country Life and Water Filtration

One negative since we've moved to the country is that our well water is less than good. Far less than good. We had the water tested when we had the house inspected and were told that it's drinkable, but looking at my orange tub I don't agree. So, we drink bottled water.

I've been thinking about buying a Berkey system. My girlfriend Lynette raves about hers and my kids swear that her water is delicious. I've never heard water described as delicious. Yet I hesitate. Mainly because we use a softener and the Berkey apparently doesn't like salt. We could fill it from the outside hose, but what a pain.

So, I continue to debate, especially since we're about to start a kitchen remodel (demo guys are coming today!). In the meantime, there's a contest: Free Berkey Giveaway. I'd love to win and then the debate will be over.

However, on the off chance that I lose, I'd love any words of wisdom on drinkable water or your experience with the Berkey.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Public Library vs. Amazon Prime

I was all pumped when I found out that my library now lends out Kindle books for free. The problem is that apparently everyone else is pumped too. I've yet to actually borrow a book as every book I've attempted to borrow has a good number of holds before me (or it's not available at all on the Kindle format yet).

I'd be happy just reading the classics which can be downloaded free but I'm in the midst of my research for 100 Books for Kids Who Love to Read. I've got to weed through the modern fare and find some gems for teens. I finally found (and paid for!) a solution last night.

Amazon has a service called Amazon Prime (click to read about it). For $79 a year you get a number of perks including:
  • Online movie viewing (their selection isn't any worse than Netflix online streaming and about the same price).
  • Free 2-day shipping on any amazon.com purchase with no $$ minimum.
  • Kindle book rental
They have a 30-day free trial so I signed up last night try it out. I borrowed The Hunger Games. I'm already a quarter done with it and can't wait to see if all the hype is true. I'll let you know.

Meanwhile, I'm writing a review of My Antonia (free on Kindle) in between Christmas preparations. I hope to have it posted for you soon.

PS I'm sure as time goes on, my library will obtain more e-books and I'll be able to go back to borrowing on the taxpayers's dime again. For now, this is a good solution.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Regina Doman Kindle Books On Sale

I LOVE Regina Doman and her Fairy Tale novels for teens. Click on the Kindle for an awesome deal ...

Sunday, December 04, 2011

What Are Your Favorite Teen Reads?

We've talked numerous times on this blog about fav books for boys, for littles, for tweens, and so on. However, we really have not touched too deeply on reads for older teens.

Sixteen-, seventeen-, and eighteen-year olds are in a whole different ballpark. They've entered that rhetoric phase. They're thinking more deeply, asking thoughtful questions, and looking at how their own lives integrate with the world at large. They're also able to handle more mature subjects. We, as parents, have given them the tools to discern the good from the bad and so leave more room for their discretion.

I think that most of us (mothers of older teens) have given up on pre-reading ALL of their book choices. There are only so many hours in the day after all. Yet, we have not given up on guiding their choices and helping find the good stuff when we can.

My request to you Dear Reader is to tell me in the comments some of your favorite books for older teens. I'd love to hear from teens and young adults as well as moms. What do you love and why?

My goal here is twofold. One this is a great forum to help one another. I love that we can learn from each other. Two, I'm in the depths of reading high school level books for my upcoming nonfiction book, 100 Books for Kids Who Love to Read (working title).

Did I tell you that I'm actually doing three different books? Well, my publisher asked for one book for grade school children, one for middle school, and one for high school. I think it's a great idea. I'm starting with the high school book. The really fun part is that my 18-year-old daughter has agreed to be my co-author.

So, please give me some ideas on books to include. And give all the other readers here some ideas for their trips to the library and bookstore.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Review: The Great and Terrible Quest

The Great and Terrible Quest by Margaret Lovett [Avyx]

Grade Level: 6th grade and up
Genre: Medieval Fantasy (I just made that up. Not sure if there really is such a genre or subgenre. But, hey, it sounds good to me.)

This was an absolute joy to read. Oh, I had a few quibbles but then I always do. I found myself confused at some points about who was talking. This is something that could have easily been fixed by an editor changing "he said" to "Trad said". Considering that's my biggest quibble, we're good to go here.

I did read a review at Amazon that complained the book was anti-Church. I disagree. I would have preferred a more Catholic Christian ethos to the story but I don't think it was "anti-Church". Yes, there are bad priests in the book but there is also the good and kind archbishop. We all know this is reality. There are good and bad people in all walks of life. And, in this particular story, it is a very dark time in the kingdom. The land is in the hands of evil lords. Times like that bring out the worst in people.

Yet, the worst of times can also bring out the best in people. Hence our heroes of the story. The protagonist, a ten-year-old orphaned boy left in the care of his cruel and despicable grandfather, has a heart of gold. In spite of his personal difficulties, the boy is generous and kind to anyone in need, even though it means serious hardship for him.

We also meet a mysterious man who has been terribly wounded and near death. He appears to be a knight on a quest, but his memory has been robbed by a physical trauma. Yet, as he heals, he works to overcome this trial so that he may complete his knightly quest (though he does not quite know what it is). He is obviously a man of valor as well as tenacity.

There is one more hero to mention, the juggler. I think if I had to pick a favorite, it would be the juggler. He's a wimp ... at first. He is scared out of his wits. Again, these are dark and fearful times. The boy and the knight need the juggler's help but it could easily mean death for the man. Without giving too much of the plot away, I'll just say that the juggler turns his back on the two ... at first. But in the end, he does the right thing and he does it well.

The best heroes are not necessarily the ones with little to no fear, nor are they the ones filled with bravado. Sometimes the best heroes are the ones who are scared to death and yet still step up to the plate and go beyond what is ever expected of them. They're the ones I personally gravitate toward.

Overall, I found this story to be fun and enjoyable. I was barely able to put it down until I could get to the last page. First, because there is an intriguing mystery to solve (who is the knight and what is his quest) and who doesn't love a good mystery. Second, it is always fulfilling to read a story with strong characters who are good examples for our own lives. I believe that such fantasy stories help give us strength to do the right thing, right here in the real world.

Questions to Ask Yourself as You Read:
What makes a hero?
Is the Church treated fairly?
Do I have what it takes to do the right thing even in the darkest of times?
Is it good for future leaders to have experienced hard times? To have lived amongst the poor?
What is it that drives the knight?
How is the juggler living out Scripture?

Other Books by This Author (both are long out of print):

If You Like This Book You May Also Like:
Otto of the Silver Hand by Howard Pyle (available FREE on Kindle)
Beorn the Proud by Madeleine Polland
Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray

*Note: When you click on the hyperlinked book titles, you will be taken to the book on Amazon to learn more about it. If you choose to purchase books through Amazon after clicking on the link, I do receive a percentage which is applied to my future book purchases. This helps me purchase more books to review. However, I encourage you to use your public library as much as you can.

Picture Book Review: Chickens to the Rescue


Chickens to the Rescue, by John Himmelman [Henry Holt and Company]

Grade Level: Preschool
Pages: 32

This is just a plain fun book. I mean, come on, when aren't crazy chickens fun?

Chickens to the Rescue is for the very young and the very young at heart. The illustrations are colorful and will most certainly make you smile.

I won't give away the intricate plot (that's a little picture book sarcasm) other than to say that the chickens save the farm day after day from the crazy mayhem of the family. Well, except for Sunday. Sunday is a day for rest even for super hero chickens.

Make sure to put Chickens to the Rescue on your list for the next trip to the public library. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Awesome Deal Picture Perfect Childhood


In celebration of Picture Book Month Cay Gibson's A Picture Perfect Childhood is offered on e-book for only $1.99 until the end of November. This is an awesome deal. The e-book format is PDF so you can read it on the computer or your e-reader.

I already own the print version but for $1.99 I can't resist putting it on my Kindle. How nice to be able to have it easily available in my purse for library visits.

Buy it today and celebrate childhood with your favorite snuggle-bug by clicking here: A Picture Perfect Childhood.

Thank you Cay for this wonderful gift to us book lovers!

Monday, November 14, 2011

100 Books for Kids Who Love to Read

I put my last book project up on the shelf when I got involved in Homeschool Connections. I'm still deeply involved in the daily running of HSConnections and working like crazy on it, but I have been feeling a strong tug to get back to work on 100 Books for Kids Who Love to Read. I've set aside time each week to work solely on the book.

I've also neglected this blog since taking on HSConnections. This book project should pump a little bit of life back into the blog. I'll use this forum to work out ideas, post book reviews, and get your opinion now and then.

In the meantime, please pray for me and this project.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Review: Belisarius: The First Shall Be Last

I truly enjoy discovering new authors and new books. I just finished reading Belisarius: The First Shall Be Last by Paolo A. Belzoni (Kindle version). Belisarius is published by the small, yet wonderful, Catholic press Arx Publishing.

In a nutshell, I loved it. This is a great one to read yourself, especially if you like historical fiction. You can also give it to just about any high school student. You could give it to a middle school student as well but please know ahead of time that there are graphic war scenes and it does touch on the fact that some characters, well, lack character. That is to say some of the males are womanizers and some of the females have a past.

However, a book written with only perfect characters is worthless. How do we learn from their mistakes if they don't make them? How do we learn that we too can be heroes if the book's hero is too far beyond our grasp?

Belisarius does possess great humility and piety with just a few stumbles. However, he is not without trials. He rises up from a simple farm boy to a great general in the Roman army. He meets failure on the battle field but perseveres and learns from his mistakes. He is met with temptation, yet stands strong. He is a model for us and for our children that with tenacity, hard work and dedication combined with strong Catholic principles you can achieve greatness for the Kingdom.

In addition to being a good, uplifting story, Belisarius can be tied into your history studies. The story begins in 504 AD as the Roman Empire is struggling with the Barbarians on one front and the Persians attacking on another. We follow Belisarius from childhood to manhood and we see how he changes history through his skill and dedication. He is considered by historians to be one of "The Last of the Romans".

We're studying the Middle Ages this upcoming school year. We'll begin in September with the 6th Century. We plan to read a large variety of historical fiction to accompany our studies and Belisarius: The First Shall Be Last is, fittingly enough by it's title, first on the reading list.

I did have one quibble and it wasn't even about the story. The cover of the book is quite lovely but to me it says, "This is a book for younger children." In my opinion, this is a book for high school to adult. Other than that, and a few minor editing errors, I truly loved this book. It's a story worth reading. Now, if it was available on audio that would be really sweet!

Note that this is the first in a series of two books so you don't get a nice clean ending. I hope to get to Belisarius--Book II: Glory of the Romans soon. Very soon.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

A Catholic Homeschool Treasury

I am very happy to announce that my original book with Rachel Mackson, A Catholic Homeschool Treasury: Nurturing Children's Love for Learning is back in print. This time as an e-book. I kept the original body of the book intact but the appendices have been brought up to date.

This is a nice little book, especially for the new homeschooler or homeschoolers of younger children. It's a gem for only $2.99. I hope you'll check it out and tell others about it too.

Currently, it's available from Amazon for their Kindle. I hope to add other formats in the future.