Sunday, December 31, 2006

Cathy Duffy Reviews the Companion

Cathy Duffy has a review of The Catholic Homeschool Companion at her website.

I love reading the reviews because everyone has a different take on the book. It's interesting to learn what people like, and dislike, about your book.

And make sure to check out Cathy's other reviews while you're at her website.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Twelve Days of Christmas

The Christmas season lasts until the Epiphany, Jan. 6. So, if you haven't gotten those Christmas cards out yet, it's okay. You still have a week!

We're Home!

Got home very late last night. Rob is already off this morning with the four older kids to Adoration. I reminded them as they walked out the door to give thanks for a blessed Christmas, as well as for all their presents.

And it was a very blessed Christmas. We got to spend time with most of our family. A few couldn't make it in town, but they were there in spirit.

I'd like to thank my sister Eileen for her hospitality. It takes quite the hostess to house a family of nine for a full week and do it with such grace. Whenever we stay with Eileen, which is quite often, we feel as comfortable as we do in our own home.

Thanks also to my sister-in-law Peggy who hosted the Wittmann celebration on Christmas Eve. The food and everything was great!

Thanks to Aunt Kay, who fed the weary travelers as we passed through Indianapolis on the way home. We stopped for a minute to say "hi" and she couldn't let us leave without first treating us to lunch and a lovely visit. If there's one thing you can say about my family it's that they're a hospitable bunch -- they treat you as though Jesus Himself was at the door.

It was a very blessed Christmas indeed, and I look forward to the New Year.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Call for Entries

The Carnival of Homeschooling is celebrating their one-year anniversary next week. How fun! Help them prepare by sending in your favorite blog entry: Carnival of Homeschooling Submissions.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Writing in Books?

If you're a Mortimer Adler fan, particularly of How to Read a Book, you may like this article: How to Mark a Book.

If you resell all your books after you read them once, this isn't the article for you.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Early Christmas Wishes

Spent the morning having family pictures taken. If you'd like to see some, just click here.

We're leaving town for Christmas in the morning, so blogging may be little to nil over the next 10 days.

I'll remember to keep you all in prayer during these joyous days.

May your Christmas be filled with many blessings!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Santa Drives an SUV

Rob took the littles to a Christmas party at church. They had a great time and were breathless with excitement when they got home. Especially Super Boy, our 4-year old. He told me all about how he met and chatted with Santa. But then he added, "Except, he wasn't the real Santa. I saw him get in an SUV and drive away."

We all know the real Santa drives a sleigh!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

March for Life Here We Come!

Anyone else going to the March for Life in January? Would be cool to meet up with some friends while we're there.

Monday, December 18, 2006

PopeStNick5: The Thrill of the Chaste

To read past library recommendations, or to join the email list, visit: Pope Saint Nicholas V.

Check to see if this title is already in your library's catalog. If it is, put a hold on it and check it out. If not, fill out a patron request form right away. This can usually be done online at your library's website.

Title: The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your
Clothes On

Author: Dawn Eden
Publisher: W Publishing
Date Published: December 2006
ISBN: 084991311X
Price: 13.99

YouTube video clip

Alive and Young review

Author's blog

The Thrill of the Chaste Official Website

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Beautiful Christmas Graphics - Free

My friend Dani does awesome work as a computer graphics designer. She has some beautiful Christmas graphics available at her blog. Go check it out!

Tess Arrives

Congratulations to the Fry Family on the birth of Baby Tess! Kim and Tess are doing great after the home birth. Give them a visit at the Starry Sky Ranch to see loads of great pics!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Remember That Time When You and Me . . .

Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of this blog.

In honor of this momentus occasion, I borrowed a meme from Darwin Catholic.

If you read this, if your eyes are passing over this right now, even if we don't speak often, please post a comment with a COMPLETELY MADE UP AND FICTIONAL MEMORY OF YOU AND ME.

It can be anything you want--good or bad--BUT IT HAS TO BE FAKE.

When you're finished, post this paragraph on your blog and be surprised (or mortified) about what people DON'T ACTUALLY remember about you.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Sample Challenge Letters

I'd like to share a letter written to my library regarding It's Perfectly Normal from my friend Mary Jo, aka Mom with a Message. Mary Jo speaks on the topic of human sexuality and her letter reflects her expertise:

Please remove the book "It's Perfectly Normal" from your juvenile shelves! It contains pornographic and sexually mature text and graphics that no child in the latency period should be reading. As the mother of four children and a human sexuality educator, I find it appalling that CADL has this book on its shelves, where innocent children can be introduced to things beyond their years. This book usurps the rights of parents and the privilege that parents have to tell their own children about the beauty of sexuality when the parents deem appropriate. I eagerly await your response and your assurance that this book has been removed from your shelves, and not just put into the adolescent section where teen boys and girls can further their interests in premature sexual activity. This book could lead some to an addiction to pornography, which is downgrading to the human race. I am hoping that CADL acts responsibly to the numerous requests it will get from parents about this abhorrent book. There is NOTHING normal about any book which seeks to rob children of their innocence and that which forces parents to give information to their children out of fear that if they don't, their children will be "molested" by their own public library, which should be a safe place for all.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

What Christmas Movie Are You?

I admit it, I was in love with Peter Brady in the 60's.

Your Christmas is Most Like: A Very Brady Christmas

For you, it's all about sharing times with family.
Even if you all get a bit cheesy at times.

Hat Tip: Minnesota Mom

The Companion for Christmas

If you'd like The Catholic Homeschool Companion in time for Christmas you can still get that order in. I'm going out of town for Christmas, so I can only mail books through the 21st. All books are autographed. If you'd like it personalized, please leave a comment when you place your order.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Perfectly Normal???

Please pray for my friend Linda. She's meeting with the board of her library on Thursday to ask them to remove the book It’s Perfectly Normal, written by Robie Harris and illustrated by Michael Emberley. Linda stumbled upon the book when she was browsing the children's section. Thank goodness it wasn't her child who found it!

The book, if you're not familiar with it, is a sex manual for children. Linda, of course, immediately brought it to the library's attention. The library responded by moving it to the young adult (teen) section. Linda appealed the decision and asked that it be removed completely.

Here are some articles on the book:
Commentary: 'It's Perfectly Normal' to Corrupt Children by Lee Duigon

ChildCare Action Project: Christian Analysis of American Culture

Planned Parenthood: It's Perfectly Normal

I encourage all of you to check your library's card catalog to see if they have this book on its shelves. If so, email them immediately and ask them to remove the book from the library altogether. At the very least, it should moved to the adult section. Then ask all your friends, neighbors, and family to do the same.

If you don't know how to contact your library, check here: LibWeb

Saturday, December 09, 2006

New Catholic Mom Column

If you haven't seen Lisa's website,, give her a visit. She has loads of resources and lots of regular columnists. She just picked up my Thrifty Homeschooler column from Heart and Mind. It's quite the honor.

Lisa will post a new column each month. If you'd like to check it out:

Proud Mom Moment

Thursday was our 4-H shooting sports club's Wild Game Dinner. It's a big event that includes the annual awards. Sparky earned an award for animal identification and Buster earned his Pro-Marksman certificate.

The proudest moment came when Teen Son tied for Shooter of the Year. This award is based on much more than shooting scores. It also includes leadership skills, sportsmanship, and community service.

The picture is of the three oldest kids with one of their 4-H leaders. We are really blessed to have great leaders!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Happy Birthday

Today, Tween Daughter becomes Teen Daughter 2. Yep, I now have 3 teenagers living in my house. I know I should be afraid, very afraid, but I'm not. So far, teenagerdom has been no more difficult than the other stages. Oh sure, the bigger they get, the bigger the potential trouble. We all know teens who have gotten into trouble with cars, dating, or drugs. But so far, through an awful lot of prayer, we've forgone those kinds of trouble.

I imagine that Teen Daughter 2 will be the kind of teen who will make her mother proud. I must admit that she certainly has a mind of her own, but that's a good thing isn't it. She's a beautiful young lady and well grounded. She's helpful around the house, self-motivated in her school work, and a good example to her little sister and brothers.

One of Teen Daughter 2's birthday gifts will be a chastity ring, as it was for Teen Daughter 1 on her 13th birthday. Rob will take her to the Catholic gift store and they'll pick it out together. I think it's an important ritual - one of the things we do to help her along in this new stage of her life.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Update on the Life of Fred

A few months ago I blogged on The Life of Fred math textbooks, and figured it was time for an update.

But first, a refresher. They're written in story form. Lessons are taught through the tale of a genius child by the name of Fred. They’re self-published and far from great literature, but I do know of kids who love them and have learned a great deal from them.

When we attended the Colorado conference this last summer, Teen Daughter fell in love with them and worked in the Beginning Algebra book all the way home to Michigan and through the beginning of the school year.

Now, months later, she's ditched poor Fred for John. John H. Saxon, Jr. that is. Yep, she's back to Saxon. I asked her why, and she told me, "Life of Fred just didn't explain things well enough for me." She is the daughter of a former math geek, so maybe Saxon appeals to her for it's straight forward approach. She's also the daughter of an editor and writer, evident by her next comment, "He also needs an editor. Bad!"

There is another update on these textbooks. There is some innuendo, and fleeting references to drugs and drinking, in the Beginning Algebra text. They went over my head upon my first reading. (I suppose I'm not as worldly as I imagined.)

I have mixed feelings about these references. First, they need to be taken in context. Fred, the boy genius, is fighting bad guys and bad guys sometimes deal in drugs. Also, the author, Dr. Schmidt, is a good Christian man (I've met him personally) who is writing for public school kids as well as homeschooled kids.

On the other hand, is it really a math book's place to make social commentary? Do I really want my kids coming to me asking, "What is strip poker?" or "What is a meth lab?" It's bad enough they're introduced to the evils of the world in so many other places. Can't I at least have a safe harbor in our math studies? But then, my permanent black marker can work wonders.

I'll leave it up to you to decide if Life of Fred: Beginning Algebra is worth your money. If you're thinking about purchasing the text for your homeschool, get a copy in your hands so you can judge for yourself. Either check out a friend's copy, or look at it when you attend your next homeschooling conferences.

Now, here are those references, with page numbers:
23: "After the first evening that they played, the students realized that they had better not play for their usual stakes of quarters. Fred had cleaned them out. If it had been strip poker, Fred would have owned a lot of clothes much too large for himself."

165: "Fred and Jack had finished their Sunday afternoon jog. A couple of hours were enough for their first run together. They passed the other eleven recruits who were in the rec hall into their third hour of watching reruns of "As the Girl Churns" on television."

165: "This truck was carrying grass . . . the lawn kind. Maybe that's why it was operating during the daytime."

167: "The Colonel moved several six-pound bags of white powder from the top of his desk into a desk drawer and came right to the point, "I hear that you know something about math and measurements. Is that true?""

250: "An empty beer can flew out of the window and in several seconds it was quiet again."

272: "Jack rang the bell at the Colonel's mansion and they were greeted by the maid with her breathy voice, "Hi boys!" This use of "boys" seemed strange to Jack since he was 22 years old and she seemed about six years younger than he."

273: "There were chemistry books which surprised the chaplain. They were mostly lab manuals telling how to make certain, possibly illicit, chemicals and how to avoid having the lab explode when dealing with volatile liquids such as ascetone. He remembered that when the maid had brought them to the library they had passed a steel-plated door with "M-Lab" painted on the door. He knew it didn't stand for Methodist Lab."

(Addendum: Yet another update -- Life of Fred 2nd edition removes or changes some of these references.)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Eight Times Seven

Occasionally, when people first discover we homeschool, they take it upon themselves to quiz my children. And when they discover that the children are not complete idiots, they more-than-not show shock and surprise.

Once, many years ago, Rob took the kids to the library where he ran into an acquaintance. Upon learning the children were homeschooled, he set to testing them. Elated at their positive answers, he thought he had come up with a question sure to stump them. He turned to my 8-year-old son and said, "I'm going to give you the hardest multiplication question in the world. If you get it right, I'll give you a dollar!" Taking a dollar from his wallet, he asked, "What's 8 times 7?" Well, before 8-year-old son could utter a sound, our 4-year old jumps up and down exclaiming, "56, it's 56!!!"

The man, absolutely blown away, gives 4-year-old daughter the dollar. (Said son is still mad about being ripped off.) Rob gets home and, beaming from ear to ear, can't tell the story fast enough to me. He didn't realize what a genius his child was. But then she has great genes! Maybe this homeschooling thing works after all!

I then had to burst Rob's bubble and tell him that 8 times 7 was the ONLY math fact 4-year-old daughter knew. If the man had asked her 1 times 1, she probably would've said 2. You see, we had this multiplication cassette tape from Scholastic that we listened to in the car. There was this one song with only the words, "8 times 7 is 56" over and over again. Said daughter sang it all the time.

I wonder if, nine years later, that man is still telling the story to all his friends about the genius homeschooled 4-year old.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Great Grandfather

Ana and Alicia asked to hear the story of my great grandfather's conversion, so I better tell it.

My great grandfather was a Mason, and a high ranking Mason at that. In fact, some years ago we were contacted by the Masons looking for pictures of him, as they were putting together some kind of anniversary thing.

Anyway, my great grandfather was also rabidly anti-Catholic. Or, anti-papist, as he might have stated. But he fell in love with a cute little babe who happened to be Catholic. Infatuated by her, he was able to overlook that horrid flaw and asked her to marry him.

He allowed her to practice her religion, so long as it didn't affect him. She went to Mass every Sunday while he stayed home. She never asked him to convert, but she did pray for his conversion. Each and every day.

For fifty years she prayed. Then, as he lay dying, she called for a priest without telling her husband. The priest showed up and dear old Great Grandfather went into a rage. The story goes that he used some, let us say, less than charitable words that I can't repeat on a family blog.

But then, something happened. A few hours passed and it was clear the end was immanent. Great Grandpa humbled himself and asked Great Grandma to call the priest back.

Just before he died, he was baptized, received his first Communion, and received the Anointing of the Sick.

The power of prayer is great. The hard part is waiting for God's answer. His time is not always our time, is it? I don't know if I could've kept the faith for 50 years. It would've been much easier to give up. If you're praying for someone special, don't give up. These things take time.

Friday, December 01, 2006

December Catholic Homeschool Carnival!

The December edition of the Catholic Homeschool Carnival is up at O Night Divine, and it's awesome!

This month we prepare, together, for Christmas. Be sure to leave Mary Ellen a comment. She's done an awesome job!

If you want to get ahead of the game and submit a blog entry to January's carnival, just go here.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Do You Know Your Grammar?

Whew, as an writer, I'm so glad I passed this quiz! Now, I'll have to give it to the kids!

Your Language Arts Grade: 100%

Way to go! You know not to trust the MS Grammar Check and you know "no" from "know." Now, go forth and spread the good word (or at least, the proper use of apostrophes).

Are You Gooder at Grammar?
Make a Quiz

You know, we could make up our own quizzes too. Wouldn't that be fun? Maybe Mike Aquilina could do Which Early Church Father Are You?; Steve Ray: Have You Walked in the Footprints of God?; Amy Welborn: Do You Know Your B16 Trivia?; Nancy Brown: How Chestertonian Are You?; or Mark Shea: Are You a Torture Proponant? The possibilities are endless! Elizabeth Foss could do Are You a Real Book or Twaddle?; Melissa Wiley: Which Little House Character Are You?; Cay Gibson: What Children's Picture Book Are You?; or Karen Edmisten: What Flavor Coffee Are You? If you've read any of Gregory Popcak's books or visited his website, you know he's the king of quizzes. Maybe Alicia VanHecke would do What Type of Homeschool Curriculum Are You?; or Cathy Duffy: What is Your Homeschool Style?; or Willa, Do You Know Your Latin. Oh gosh, the possibilities are endless!

Okay, everyone get on it!

And feel free to post your quiz ideas in the combox!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Books In the Mail

The mailman has been bringing new books to my house nearly everyday for the past week. I love the mailman!

First I got Mike Aquilina's newly expanded version of The Fathers of the Church. I'd tell you all about it, except teen son took off with it. He's planning on making it his religion course for the school year.

Then I got Steve Ray's newest book Faith for Beginners: Understanding the Creeds. I started reading it last night, it looks really good. I think it would make a great gift for a new convert or confirmation student. (Did you know that Steve is a homeschooler? I had heard rumors, but didn't know for sure until I stumbled onto his homeschool page a few weeks ago. Cool!)

For Rob, the mailman delivered OSV's updated version of Why Catholics Don't give . . . And What Can Be Done About It. Rob is the board president of the Catholic Education Foundation in our diocese and fundraising advice is always welcomed!

Next on Rob's "to read" pile is Masonry Unmasked: An Insider Reveals the Secrets of the Lodge. I may read this one when he's done since I my great-grandfather was a high-ranking Mason. (He converted to Catholicism on him deathbed -- remind to tell you the story sometime. It's a great story.)

For my outdoors enthusiast teens, Sir Mailman brought Hunting for God, Fishing for the Lord: Encountering the Sacred in the great Outdoors by Fr. Joseph Classen. I can't wait to hear the kids' feedback on it.

For me, Fr. Groeschel's latest book was delivered. The Virtue Driven Life is now at the top of my "to read" pile!

For the littles, we got the Catholic Bible for Children, and for the middles, Year of the Black Pony.

God bless the mailman!

Did You Pay Attention in High School?

One of the blessings of homeschooling: You get to relearn all that stuff you learned back when you were in school.

You paid attention during 97% of high school!

85-100% You must be an autodidact, because American high schools don't get scores that high! Good show, old chap!

Do you deserve your high school diploma?
Create a Quiz

Hat tip: A Catholic Mom in Hawaii

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Hershey Kiss Bread

With all of the latest evidence on the medicinal properties of dark chocolate, I've decided to bite the bullet and eat more of it. In fact, last night I made a healthy side dish for my family: Hershey Kiss Bread made with the dark chocolate version of Hershey Kisses.

It was a sacrifice, but a mom does what a mom has to do.

If you'd like to get your family on the road to good health, here's the recipe (from my sister Chrissy):

Hershey Kiss Bread
20 Hershey's Kisses
1/4 c. butter, melted
2 lg. pkg. biscuits (The kind with 10 in a tube. And make it the cheapo brand. The expensive homestyle version will be too big.)
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350.
Mix sugar and cinnamon.
Put one Kiss to one biscuit dough and close the dough around each Kiss. I roll it around in the palm of my hand to help keep it sealed. Dip into melted butter and then roll into the cinnamon mixture. Layer in a greased Bundt pan. Bake for about 25 minutes, until nicely browned.
Let cool as the chocolate centers will be hot.
Chrissy says you can double the recipe with an angel food pan if you give it extra time in the oven.

The kids have fun helping with this dish. (Hint: Make the kids unwrap all those little foils from the Kisses!)

Great dish to take to a family event or for a special meal like Christmas.

What Kind of Reader Are You?

Hat Tip: A Catholic Mom in Hawaii

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

You're probably in the final stages of a Ph.D. or otherwise finding a way to make your living out of reading. You are one of the literati. Other people's grammatical mistakes make you insane.

Dedicated Reader
Literate Good Citizen
Book Snob
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Monday, November 27, 2006

Recovering Catholics?

I have it from a reliable source that the mayor of my city refers to himself as a "recovering Catholic." I find this insulting. As if Catholicism is something so dark and sinister as alcholism or drug addiction.

Apparently, this is the new "in" phrase for ex-Catholics. Perhaps they don't mean it as an insult and I should just let it roll off my back. Or not.

I currently refer to myself as a "practicing Catholic." (Practice makes perfect you know!) Maybe I'll start referring to myself as a "recovering heathen" instead. But then, I don't want to insult practicing heathens.

I Love Verts!

I was having breakfast with some girlfriends recently when one of the moms got on the subject of sacred music. She's an ex-Catholic who recently returned to the Faith. A revert, as opposed to a convert. You couldn't help but get pumped up listening to her - she was so on fire about music and all things Catholic.

It was then that my dear friend Ann exclaimed, "I just love verts!!!"

I couldn't help but crack up. I never heard converts and reverts referred to as "verts." I think Ann has coined a new phrase.

And she's right. I love hearing the conversion stories of new Catholics. They seem to have a fire burining in them. They come to the Church, not because they were born into it, but because they chose it. They know more about the Catholic Church than many cradle Catholics in the pews.

However, I've never really thought too much about reverts. Perhaps, because I'm one of them. Yes, I left the Church for a while and then came back. It's a long story, but in a nutshell: I had a wild, misspent youth. I didn't leave the Catholic Church for Protestantism or any other organized religion. I was, well, quite frankly, a heathen.

I've long envied those of you who have always been in the bosom of Mother Church. Those of you who have always loved Church teaching. Those of you who have always lived Church teaching. Oh, to have few reqrets and know that you have pleased your Lord!

I can't change the past. Only the future. I don't make excuses or justifications for past sins, but I try to learn from them. Hopefully I'm doing a good enough job that people will someday look at me and say, "I just love verts!"

Sunday, November 26, 2006

PopeStNick5: Ten Dates Every Catholic Should Know

To read past library recommendations, or to join the email list, visit: Pope Saint Nicholas V.

Check to see if this title is already in your library's catalog. If it is, put a hold on it and check it out. If not, fill out a patron request form right away. This can usually be done online at your library's website.

Title: Ten Dates Every Catholic Should Know
Author: Diane Moczar
Publisher: Sophia Institute Press
Date Published: Feb., 2006
ISBN: 1933184159
Price: 13.95
Comments: The divine surprises and chastisements that shaped the Church and changed the world.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Moving On

We're officially house hunting.

St. Joseph pray for us!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

KC Catholic Homeschool Conference

If you live anywhere near Kansas City, keep the weekend of June 15th and 16th open. I'll be at their Catholic homeschool conference that weekend. I'll keep you updated on details as they unfold. It would be nice to meet some online friends in real life person!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Calling for All Catholic Homeschool Carnival Submissions

From Love2Learn:

The deadline for submissions to our December carnival, is fast-approaching. Please send in those Advent and Christmas ideas, stories, reviews etc. (prayer requests are also welcome) by November 26th. This carnival will be hosted by O Night Divine: A Blog Devoted to the Celebration of Christmas on December 1st!

Cool Stuff

Cool stuff in the blogoshpere:

Maureen in IL's Mom and Me and Recipes Project

The 47th Weekly Homeschool Blog Carnival

Cool stuff on the Internet:

Library Thing

Library Elf

Monday, November 20, 2006

Looking for Donations: Science Olympiad

A plea from my 3 oldest kids:


We're part of the Science Olympiad team this year. Last year the team won 3rd place in our region!!! Our team name is CSI -- Creative Science Investigators. CSI will be competing in up to 23 different events at each of our competitions.

Our personal events include: Boomilever, Metric Mastery, Health Science, Remote Sensing, Simple Machines, Astronomy, and Forensics.

There's a lot of expense involved and we're looking for donations. Because we're homeschooled, we don't have the funding public school children receive. We need supportive friends and family to help us with the financial needs.

Any amount you could donate would really be appreciated. If you'd like your name to appear on the back of our competition T-shirts, then make a donation of at least $10 before November 29th (larger donors get larger print). If you own a business, this is chance to receive some positive advertisement while supporting future scientists.

There are four levels of sponsorship:
Mendel $10
Newton $25
Pastuer $50
Einstein $100

However, if you want to donate some other amount, that's okay too. There are two ways to send a donation (not tax deductible, sorry). You can mail a check to our coach (please email our mom,, for the name and address). Or, you can pay online through (including credit cards!). The payment would go to If you donate this way, please leave the following in the comments: Name of the student you'd like to sponsor, do you want to be on the T-shirt, and how you'd like your name or business to appear on the T-shirt.

If you want to know more about Science Olympiads the websites are:

More than anything, we ask for your prayers: that we will serve our team well, learn a lot about science, and give glory to God in our school work.

God Bless,
Christian, Mary, and Laura

Friday, November 17, 2006

Mom's Always With You

Teen Daughter asked if she could have a wallet of this picture. She says that way when she goes out alone, she'll be reminded I'm still looking over her shoulder.

I think I'll have one made for each child and keep the pictures pinned to their shirts.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Clothes Shopping with Teen Boys

Shopping for a teen boy who is growing taller faster than wider is a very interesting endeavor, to say the least. It's impossible to find clothes to fit a 6-foot tall teen who only weighs 120. They have Big and Tall Men stores, why not Tall and Skinny Men stores? Is it too much to ask clothiers to make blue jeans with a 29 waist and 36 length? Thank goodness for belts!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Which Do You Like?

Went to the photographer today to have a new press photo done. The old one (seen here) was outdated (1998). Besides, Rob hated it - he calls it my Miss Manner's picture.

You can see the pictures I picked from today's shoot at this website (just click on: View Slideshow). Now, I need to narrow it down to one. Let me know which one you like best.

Oh, I should tell you, the last shot was just for fun. The photographer was kidding me and he caught me scolding him on film. Don't laugh too hard at me.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Carnival of Homeschooling: Autumn Blessings

The newest carnival is up and running. In fact, it's the 46th weekly Carnival of Homeschooling.

So, grab your cotton candy and head on over to Sprittibee's place to check out all the rides. Make sure to dress warm as fall is in the air. Hope to see you there!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Catholic Homeschool Reviews

Have you been to Cathy Duffy's website lately? You know, her children graduated eons ago, and yet she continues to minister to those of us still in the trenches. She is such a blessing. You'll especially want to check out her Catholic homeschooling page - lots of reviews.

The first homeschooling book I ever owned was Cathy's Christian Home Educators' Curriculum Manual: Elementary Grades. Rob gave it to me, a year or two before we even began homeschooling. It was a slim volume in those days, not the thick tome it is today.

Cathy's newest book, 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum, would be really helpful to new homeschoolers who are trying to figure out where to get started, or a veteran in need of a fresh start. It's not like the old days, when I began homeschooling. With so few resources around, there was little choice to make. Now, it's overwhelming with all the curricula available. 100 Top Picks has a test in it that would help a want-to-be homeschooler figure out what style of homeschooling would work best for her family. Cathy then guides the reader to the curriculum that works best for that style - sticking to just the best that's available (in her opinion, of course).

This would be a good title to recommend to your library!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Homeschool Participation in Guinness Record

I find it so cool the way Walden Media has been reaching out to homeschoolers. I received the following from their project support team:

Dear Homeschoolers:

Attached is yesterday's press release announcing the attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the "Most People Reading Aloud Simultaneously in Multiple Locations" using a passage from E.B. White's classic book, "Charlotte's Web." See further information at I would like for all homeschool participants to indicate on their registration form -- "homeschooler." This will enable the influence of homeschooling can be clearly demonstrated to all involved in the attempted world record event including gatekeepers in the press, wducation, and entertainment. This is a tremendous opportunity to showcase the clout of homeschooling and its strong commitment to reading and great books. I would love for you to consider spearheading participation within your spheres of influence. I'm of the opinion that homeschoolers could single-handedly break this record on their own! Vivat domesticus schola!

Your friend in film,

P.S. Please pass this along to all who need to be included in this opportunity.

Yeah, this is a promotion for the upcoming film: Charlotte's Web. It's also a great, and fun, opportunity for us homeschoolers. Make sure to mark your calendar for Dec. 13th (noon EST) and then go here to sign up. Make sure to also read the FAQ's. The deadline to register is Dec. 8th.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

OSV Essay Contest for High School

The following contest is from OSV. Spread the word:

Our Sunday Visitor invites high school students in Catholic schools and homeschools to answer the question:

"How has your Catholic faith helped you live out Matthew 25?"

The Jan. 28, 2007 edition of Our Sunday Visitor will feature an "In Focus" section dedicated to Catholic schools. For this section we invite high school students attending an accredited high school or home school to write a 250-word essay answering the question above.

Our staff will select the three best essays to be published in the Jan. 28 issue. Authors of the published essays will receive a one-year subscription to Our Sunday Visitor, Our Sunday Visitor's Encyclopedia of Church History by Matthew Bunson and When Did We See You, Lord? by Bishop Robert J. Baker/Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R.

Essays must be submitted by Jan. 8, 2007 and can be submitted via mail to Our Sunday Visitor Essay Contest, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750, via fax to (260) 359-9117 or via e-mail to (please type "Essay Contest" in the subject line).

Friday, November 10, 2006

Carnival of Homeschooling: Library Edition

Speaking of libraries, the theme of this week's Homeschool Carnival is libraries. Stop by over at Spunky's place to check it out. Better make sure you have some extra time to surf before heading out though. Spunky has quite the carnival going.

RC History Contest

RC History is having a cool contest (see below). A simple little something you can do to with the kids while practicing writing skills, reviewing history, and having fun!

The First-Ever RC History Contest!

RC History is pleased to announce our first-ever history contest.

Several years ago, our family began a fun and educational project inspired by another homeschooling family.

Using the famous rhyme: "In fourteen hundred ninety two Columbus sailed the ocean blue." we began writing our own history rhymes to help us remember key facts and points from the events we were studying.

Our goal was to construct a rhyming timeline of history that we could continually add to and memorize over the days, weeks and even years!

Unfortunately, due to a series of life circumstances, our project was interrupted and eventually lost in a fire.

But, with your help, we'd like to begin afresh!

Not only do we want to construct a rhyming timeline, we want YOU to contribute your own history rhymes to the project, which we plan to publish, so that everyone who wants to can benefit from the creativity, fun, educational adventure of Rhyming Through History!

If your family would like to enter the contest, please send us an email and we will send you the rules and rewards!

Write to: with the Subject Line: RC History Rhyming Through History Contest

RC History is committed to making history your favorite subject!
Enter today!

UPDATE: Click here for rules and entry form.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

HomeschoolLibraryConnection: A Thomas Jefferson Education

Homeschool Library Connection is a Yahoo Group similar to Pope St. Nicholas V, except that the focus is on general homeschooling books. Nancy Brown is the moderator of the group and does a great job. I suggest giving it a peek. Nancy only sends out 2 or 3 emails per month, so it's not going to take over your mailbox. Here is one of her more recent recommendations:

Check to see if this title is already in your library's catalog. If it is, put a hold on it and check it out. If not, fill out a patron request form right away. This can usually be done online at your library's website.

Title: A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-first Century
Author: Oliver Van DeMille
Publisher: George Wythe College Press
Date Published: January 2006
ISBN: 096712462X
Price: 26.95
Comments: Andrew Pudewa, of the Institute for Excellence in Writing recommends this title. It's also all the rage these days in Classical education circles.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

PopeStNick5: Pope John Paul II

To read past library recommendations, or to join the email list, visit: Pope Saint Nicholas V.

First check to see if this DVD is already in your library's catalog. If it is, put a hold on it and check it out. If not, fill out a patron request form right away. This can usually be done online at your library's website.

Title: Pope John Paul II
Starring: Jon Voight, Ben Gazzara, Christopher Lee
Director: John Kent Harrison
Studio: Luxvide
Date Released: October 16, 2006
Run Time: 180 minutes
Price: 24.95
Comments: Based on the powerful true story.

Addendum: Interview with Jon Voight and another from NCR by Tim Drake.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Prayers Needed Today

There are a lot of important races and ballot issues all over the country today. Please devote an extra rosary or two for this intention, especially for Missouri and South Dakota.

A Prayer for Our National Elections
O God, we acknowledge You today as Lord, not only of individuals, but of nations and governments.

We thank You for the privilege of being able to organize ourselves politically and of knowing that political loyalty does not have to mean disloyalty to You.

We thank You for your Law, which our Founding Fathers acknowledged and recognized as higher than any human law.

We thank You for the opportunity that this election year puts before us: to exercise our solemn duty not only to vote, but also to influence countless others to vote, and to vote with a correctly-formed conscience.

Lord, we pray that your people may be awakened. Let them realize that while politics is not their salvation, their response to You requires that they be politically active.

Awaken your people to know that they are not called to be a sect fleeing the world but rather a community of faith renewing the world.

Awaken them that the same hands lifted up to You in prayer are the hands that pull the lever in the voting booth; that the same eyes that read your Word are the eyes that read the names on the ballot, and that they do not cease to be Christians when they enter the voting booth.

Awaken your people to a commitment to justice, to the sanctity of marriage and the family, to the dignity of each individual human life, and to the truth that human rights begin when human lives begin, and not one moment later.

Lord, we rejoice today that we are citizens of your kingdom.

May that make us all the more committed to being faithful citizens on earth.

We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Libraries and Homeschoolers

This is great news: Children's librarian writing a book on how libraries can serve homeschoolers. Looks like she already has a publisher. Check out the author's blog and leave many comments on what you would like to see in her book. This is an awesome opportunity to get our voices heard.

While you're at it, go check out Nancy Brown's Yahoo Group: Homeschool Library Connection. It's similar to my Pope St. Nicholas V list, only designed for homeschoolers in general.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Are Homeschoolers Prepared for the Real World?

5,000 homeschool grads are surveyed. Are they social misfits, or prepared to face the real world?

Catholic Homeschool Blog Carnival #2

It's a carnival! Grab some treats and enjoy the rides.

Catholic Homeschooling 101

Got my new Family Life Center catalog in the mail yesterday. Lots of great stuff in there. I was excited to see a CD of my interview with Steve Wood. Cool

To check it out, or purchase, click here. Or, you can get the Combo Special.

I think I may buy the Homeschooling through High School CD: Finishing the Final Lap. I can never have too much encouragement in that area!

In case you didn't already know, Steve Wood is a contributor to The Catholic Homeschool Companion. He wrote two great pieces: Twenty-One Things Fathers Can Do for Their Homeschool and Seven Ways Mothers Can Recruit Fathers.

Addendum: I don't know why the graphic of the CD came out lime green. It almost looks like a negative. (Or is it just my computer -- does it look okay on anyone else's computer?) The CD cover is actually quite lovely and looks a lot like the Companion cover.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Breath of Fresh Air

"As a current state legislator, member of the education committee and past member of the appropriations committee for k-12 and higher education funding, I cannot tell you how important it is that we elect John Knowles to the legislature. Education is not just about funding; it is about wise use of resources and wise decisions about education policy. We must keep educational choices in the hands of the parents first, not state government. One of the ways we encourage public education to do their best is by providing parents the options to, at their own expense, educate their children in a private school of their choice, or at home. Some of our best and brightest students are those who have been home educated. It would be unfortunate to have legislators who would work to stifle parental choice in education. Please give your support to John Knowles as he carries out his values centered campaign."

Jack Hoogendyk
State Representative, 61st district.

Friday, November 03, 2006


I received an email from Mark Meadows earlier today. It is not in response to my concerns emailed to him two days ago. Instead, he is responding to a homeschool dad.

It appears the only email Mr. Meadows responded to yesterday was the one sent by this homeschool dad. He didn't respond to the homeschooling mothers. When the dad brought this to Mr. Meadows' attention, he sent the following to the homeschool dad and cc'd us women.

I'll let you draw your own conclusions. I'm tired of addressing this candidate's lack of logic and knowledge.

My responding to you was all about me walking into the office after everyone had left and checking email. Yours was the only unopened one on the issue and staff had told me they copied others and had received some calls. I did not see any need to respond to other emails when you said you had disseminated my response. When I read the report of the interview, I was surprised that my comments had somehow made homeschooling my primary target for legislation. Especially after I thought I had quite clearly targeted people like the Hollands in my comments. I have alot I would like to do as a legislator-- homeschool legislation is not on the list. Someone also sent me the headline. I did not write the headline and I did not write the article. The reporter interviewed me by cellphone as I was going door to door. I thought I was pretty articulate but obviously I wasn't. We all agree that an abuser should not be able to escape scrutiny by deciding to homeschool after being identified. After I am elected I'll sit down with you and other homeschoolers and we'll noodle out a way to address my issue without affecting your rights. I added the email address of anyone I had gotten something from to this response so you might want to check and see if they are on your listserv.

All My Relations,


Update: I emailed MIRS. The reporter stands by her story.

Update #2: To read Candidate Meadows' response to me, click on the comments.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Mark Meadows Responds

I emailed Mark Meadows yesterday regarding the interview with MIRS. I haven't heard back from him, but a homeschool dad did:
Sent: Wednesday, November 1, 2006 6:28:18 PM
Subject: Re: Home School

Actually, when I talked to MIRS I did not propose any new regulation of homeschooling. I suggested that a person who has been already identified in the public school system as an abuser or neglecter of his or her child should not be able to escape or reduce scrutiny by homeschooling his or her child. Homeschooling came up only because the Hollands decided to homeschool Ricky after they had been identified as potential abusers. I think the decision by the Hollands should have been a red flag. I agree with you (and apparently you agree with me) that underfunding and understaffing makes it difficult for FIA to perform the responsibilities placed upon it by state government. I want to require additional home visits under the Holland family circumstances and properly fund that function. My objective has nothing to do with homeschooling; it has everything to do with protecting children.

Thanks for writing.


I don't know where to begin. Mr. Meadows states that homeschooling should've been a red flag. Shouldn't the rope burns on Ricky's wrists, showed to his social worker, been a red flag? Shouldn't the fact that Ricky snuck into a neighbor's house looking for food been a red flag, or the fact that he stole food at school? What about his disclosure that he was handcuffed? Shouldn't his failure to thrive after being placed into the care of the Hollands been a red flag? There were red flags everywhere. They were tossed aside.

Mr. Meadows also states that abusers should not escape state scrutiny by homeschooling. The Hollands did not escape state scrutiny. There were multiple incidents of child abuse reported to the state. The Hollands were scrutinized. And nothing came of it.

Mr. Meadows also states in his email that he did not propose any new homeschooling regulation. Untrue. He wants to put "restrictions on who can homeschool." How is this not homeschooling regulation?

Someone, please enlighten me. How does adding more bureacracy and taking away homeschoolers' freedoms save children's lives?

What it all comes down to is this: A politician using the tragic death of a sweet little boy to further his own political agenda. A tactic that his own state party leader has decried in televised political ads.

If Mr. Meadows position really "has everything to do with protecting children" then he should be calling for a full investigation into why the state not only left Ricky in the Holland home, but why they continued to place children with the Hollands after they had been identified as "potential abusers." Instead, he wants "to revamp and put restrictions on the way home schools operate."

I hope John Knowles gets lots of homeschoolers volunteering to get the vote out this weekend.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

State Rep. Candidate Vows to Restrict Homeschooling

The first bill former East Lansing Mayor Mark MEADOWS would introduce if he wins the 69th District House seat would be to revamp and put restrictions on the way home schools operate.

This is the lead-in paragraph to an article from the MIRS Capitol Capsule, THE paper read by all the Michigan politicos.

The article goes on to say:
Although he doesn't believe the Gov. Jennifer GRANHOLM administration could have done anything else to save Ricky HOLLAND's life, he does think tightening up home schools would prevent further deaths.

For those of you who do not reside in Michigan, Ricky Holland was a seven-year-old boy who died at the hands of his parents. His mother was convicted of first-degree murder this week and his father pleaded to second degree murder. It was a child murder case that couldn't help but break your heart. Little Ricky was failed every step of the way.

It had nothing to do with homeschooling. Ricky was a foster child given up by his biological parents at two-years old. When the state severed their parental rights all together, the Hollands adopted Ricky. Because Ricky was considered a hard-to-place child, i.e. not a baby, the Hollands received financial incentives by the state.

There were problems from the beginning. Ricky told his social worker of being tied to bed and handcuffed. Neighbors and teachers reported child abuse incidents to the state. Toward the end of his life, the little boy was pulled by his parents from psychological visits and from school.

This is where Candidate Meadows gets it all wrong. He says the state couldn't "have done anything else to save Ricky Holland's life." What??? The state was called in, again and again, and did nothing.

The article goes on:
It's not uncommon for parents who have abusive records, like the Hollands, to home school their kids to hide the abuse, Meadows said. There's no restriction on who can home school their kids, so it makes it much easier for families who are abusive to keep the child at home, Meadows said. If the kids aren't in school, it's harder for others, specifically teachers to see the abuse.

But wait a minute, Ricky was in school. Remember, he wasn't pulled out until later. His teachers reported abuse to the state. The state did nothing.

Also important to note is the fact that neighbors reported the Holland's abuse. Also testifying at the murder trial was Ricky's doctor. Little Ricky was a normally developing boy until he entered the care of the Hollands. At that point he began to fail to thrive. They were starving him.

The article still goes on:
By law, teachers are required to file a report when they suspect that a child is being abused. Tightening up home schooling laws would keep kids in the public eye, which might result in more cases of child abuse being reported before it's too late, Meadows said. Meadows said he doesn't know if other states have similar laws, but he wants to give it a try. This might help state workers, who never seem to have enough personnel or money, to stay on top of every case, Meadows argued. "I think a Democratic Legislature would place a higher priority on this," Meadows said about increasing human service funding and passing his home schooling legislation.

Even after Ricky was pulled out of school, he was still in the public eye. He still had social workers assigned to him, he had the family doctor, he had neighbors, and he had extended family.

It is completely absurd that Candidate Meadows seeks to make this a case about homeschooling, while giving the State of Michigan and Governor Granholm a Get Out of Jail Free card.

It just doesn't fly.

To express your concerns to Mark Meadows, visit his website .

Please note that Mark Meadows is predicted to win this election. His opponent, John Knowles is rock solid pro-life, pro-family, and, yes, pro-homeschooling. To donate to Mr. Knowles' campaign and help him get out the vote, visit his website. I already made a donation myself. He takes Paypal and credit cards.

The election is only six days away. A win by Mark Meadows could translate into the loss of freedoms by homeschoolers. Michigan used to be THE most difficult state in which to homeschool. A lot of people worked hard and sacrificed so that people like me could educate my children in the way that I, as their parent, know is best for them. Let's not turn back the clock.

ADDENDUM: The contact page at Mark Meadow's webpage isn't functioning at this time. He can be emailed at

Sophia Institute Titles at a Discount

Aquinas and More Catholic Goods is running a special on Sophia titles: 20% off. Check it out!

They also have a Catholic Homeschool page.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Monday, October 30, 2006

PopeStNick5: To Be a Father

To read past library recommendations, or to join the email list, visit: Pope Saint Nicholas V.

Check to see if this title is already in your library's catalog. If it is, put a hold on it and check it out. If not, fill out a patron request form right away. This can usually be done online at your library's website.

Title: To Be a Father: 200 Promises That Will Transform You, Your Marriage, And Your Family
Author: Stephen Gabriel
Publisher: Spence Publishing Co.
Date Published: Sept. 2006
ISBN: 189062666X
Price: 12.95
Comments: Review by Mike Aquilina

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Sophia Needs Your Help

Sophia Institute Press is in financial trouble and asking for help. Sophia is a nonprofit organization. Their good works include the donation of thousands of books to religious and to prisoners.

Now may be a good time to buy any Sophia titles that are on your wish list. Or, perhaps, get some early Christmas shopping done. You can peruse their online catalog here.

Here are just a few titles of interest to Catholic homeschoolers:

The Catholic Homeschool Companion

Please Don't Drink the Holy Water

A Mother's Rule of Life

Memorize the Faith

Ten Dates Every Catholic Should Know

A Life of Our Lord for Children

The Man Who Never Died

The First Christians

My Path to Heaven

The One Minute Philosopher

St. Patrick's Summer

Angel in the Waters

I've provided links to so that you may read editorial and customer reviews. However, if you would like to give Sophia the most bang out of your purchase, then please order directly from their website.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Cards Rock

Thank you Linda and Chuck for opening up your home to us Card's fans so we could watch the game last night. What great fun. I felt bad for your loss, but I'm confident you'll be seeing the Tigers in the World Series again soon.

Now, for a little sports commentary from Rob:
Wow, what an incredible ride by the Cardinals! How sweet it is to have beaten the Tigers! As improbable a World Series victory as any in history. In fact, the Cards won with the worst regular season record of any team in history. One can say it only shows the parity or mediocrity in baseball now, but it certainly shows how the revised playoff format allows a good team that suffered an inordinate number of regular season injuries a chance to heal in time for the big games. And that the Cardinals did, getting solid performances from Eckstein, Rolen and Edmonds, all of whom had serious injury problems fairly late in the season. But the biggest surprises of them all were (1) how a very young, mostly rookie bullpen rose to the occasion, especially Adam Wainwright who was still rotating through the minors as of July and didn't become the closer until September when Isringhausen's arthritic hip took him out, and (2) Yadier Molina's spectacular hitting, given he batted .216 in the regular season and had only 6 homers. IMHO Yadier deserved the MVP in both the NLCS and the World Series. He's just a totally unpretentious kid with loads of talent, who better to have won the MVP? His game seven, top of the ninth, two-run tie-breaking homer against the Mets stands out as the best memory of the playoffs for the Cardinals, followed of course by Adam Wainwright's game seven, bottom-of-the-ninth, two-outs, bases-loaded no-swing strikeout of Cardinals' killer Carlos Beltran. It doesn't get any better than the Cardinals-Mets 7-game NLCS series, especially that game 7.

Oh well, it goes without saying that the Cards benefitted inordinately in the World Series from shoddy defensive play by the Tigers, but the biggest key for the team was all the post-season experience it has piled up in the last 4-5 years, especially the memory of the 4-0 thumping by the Red Sox in 2004, that really left this team with a maturity level in the World Series far above what Detroit had. Understandable given that Detroit hadn't been in the playoffs in 19 years and was just 3 years removed from a 119-loss season.

In the end, St. Louis can only revel in its 10th World Series, second only to the Yankees. A great baseball tradition continues to be written!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Cardinal Fans in Enemy Territory

Here's a picture taken by Rob's friend Warren at the game Saturday. It's a great picture, even if I don't look my usual ravishingly beautiful self. It was taken before the game started. I like that you can see a couple of the Cardinal players on the field, the Tigers' scoreboard to the left, and the foul post to the right.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

God Bless Jeff Suppan

St. Louis Cardinal's pitcher goes to bat for embryos, along with Jim Caviezal and Patricia Heaton. Pray for this Missouri election. The ramifications of its outcome will be huge.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

We Went to the World Series!

Some weeks ago, Rob's boss in Detroit told us if the Cards ended up in the World Series with the Tigers, he would give us his season tickets to one of the games. He is a man of his word. Thank you Barry!

If you are a Cardinals fan attending a World Series game in Detroit . . .

. . . you will make lots of new friends.
. . . people will yell incredibly stupid stuff at you like, "Pujols is fat" and "McGwire does steroids."
. . . you better wear gloves, thermal socks, long johns, two sweatshirts, a coat, and a rain poncho because it'll be 45 degrees and sleeting.
. . . and you call your dad to tell him that you're at the game, the first thing he'll say to you is, "Do you have warm boots on?"
. . . and you spot another Cards fan, you'll feel compelled to run up and give her big hug!

It's been a decade since I've been to a Cardinals game. I forgot how much I enjoyed them. It is especially fun to attend a Cards game in Detroit when the stakes are high. Incredibly high.

Detroit Catholic Women's Conference

Saturday, I attended the Diocese of Detroit's Annual Women's Conference. I had no plans to attend as I'm just too busy. So busy, I had no choice but to go.

My girlfriends kept asking me to go. A fellow parishioner, whose name I don't even know, asked if I was going. It was in our homeschool newsletter. I received several emails. This conference was in my face, but I denied it. I'm too busy. I don't have time. I can't go.

Then, just 36 hours before the conference started, my friend Mary Jo asked me to go again. I was about to start into my litany of reasons, but before I could say a word, Mary Jo added, "I have a free ticket." Okay God, I get the message. I went to the conference.

In fact, I went along with 17 other women, most from my homeschool group. We caravaned in three minivans. A two-hour drive to Detroit insured lots of girl talk. Even at 6:30 in the morning, there's nothing like girl talk. Especially when it's uninterrupted by littles. After the conference we stopped for dinner at a lovely Italian restaurant for even more girl talk.

In between all the girl talk, was an awesome conference with awesome speakers. Alice Von Hildebrand was an absolute hoot. She never cracked a smile, but the audience was in stitches. She spoke on the supernatural strength that lies in femininity. A serious topic, yes, but sometimes delivery is everything.

Dr. Janet Smith also managed to combine high ideals with humor. She spoke on Humane Vitae. She filled her talk with personal stories that lightened up the heavy subject. It's always a joy to hear Dr. Smith.

Coleen (yes, only one "l") is the originator of the Sex Respect Program, but her talk had nothing to do with sexual abstinence programs. She spoke about getting into the heart of Jesus. She is very inventive - she used a large blowup showing the intricacies of the human heart. She then used biology to explore the spiritual. She taught us to pray intimately, work diligently, suffer courageously, and to love generously. That's how we get into the heart of Jesus.

The high point of the entire day was a talk given by Ellen Salter. My eyes well up just thinking about it. She shared the story of her four-year-old daughter Meghan. Meghan has an undiagnosed medical condition. She is so weak that she requires life support to breathe and a feeding tube to eat. Ellen did not give us a story of sad suffering, but a story of love and hope. Every mention of her little girl's name brought a joyful smile to her face. You have to hear her story. Last I heard, videos will be available of all the conference talks at I highly recommend getting the video of Ellen and sharing it with everyone you know.

There was Confession available throughout the entire conference and the day ended with Eucharistic Adoration and Mass.

And, that is how I spent my Saturday.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Misc. Business

The past three days have been a whirlwind. Saturday, I went to the Catholic Women's Conference in Detroit. Sunday, Rob and I went to the World Series game, also in Detroit. And yesterday was the Lansing Right to Life Banquet with Alan Keyes. I'll post about each event as I can find time over the next day or two.

The Catholic Homeschool Blog Carnival NEEDS YOU! Deadline for submissions is tomorrow. Post them here.

If you live anywhere near Chicago or Milwaukee, check this out.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

It Really Works

Got an email that my public library is ordering Saints Behaving Badly and The Authentic Catholic Woman. Go to your library's website now, and make some requests!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Politics and Baseball

The governor's race in Michigan is too close to call. The outcome may come down to who wins the World Series. For real.

As reported on the radio, Governor Jennifer Granholm's poll numbers went up considerably when the Tigers won the pennant. Apparently, when people feel good, they vote for the incumbent.

Never mind researching the issues and looking at character. What matters is: Do you feel good?

Gov. Granholm is a Catholic, a convert to the faith. This has been cause for scandal, as she is also pro-choice, supporter of embryonic stem cell research, and recipient of Emily's List funds. Her opponent, Dick DeVos, is pro-life and pro-family.

Pro-lifers everywhere need to start praying for the Cardinals' win.

We're Going to the World Series

The St. Louis Cardinals beat the New York Mets tonight, which means we're going to the World Series. The cool thing is the Cards will be playing the Detroit Tigers. Rob and I already have seats for one of the World Series games. We'll get to see our St. Louis team here in Michigan. Life is good.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Thrifty Homeschooler

Over the years, I've watched a number of homeschooling friends put their children in school so Mom can work fulltime outside the home, even though Mom truly feels called to homeschool. Sometimes, this happens due to catastrophic events beyond anyone's control. Other times, it's completely avoidable. Either way, it breaks my heart.

For this reason I gave a talk at the NACHE conference many, many years ago called "The Thrifty Homeschooler." I received such positive feedback on the topic I went on to start a Yahoo Group by the same name and made the commentment to write a regular column. More recently, I started a blog.

I've decided to write a book on the topic of thrift, not just for homeschoolers, but for all families. My plan is twofold: Give practical advice and also delve into the spiritual benefits of thrift. It'll be some months before I lay pen to paper. In the meantime, I plan to immerse myself in reading about the spirituality of poverty. I'll begin, of course, with St. Francis. Please, if you have specific book titles you think I absolutely must read, leave a note for me in the combox.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Thataholics' Anonymous

My friend Mary Jo helped me out today and edited a writing project for me. Knowing I use the word "that" much too often, I was careful to go through the 20-page manuscript and removed all unnecessary "thats." Or, so I thought. Mary Jo deleted 18 more.

I've entered a 12-step program for "that" addiction.

Did you notice I didn't say, "Knowing THAT I use the word" or "Did you notice THAT I didn't say"? I'm getting better. I'm working the program.

The key is to stay clear of other thataholics. I was doing pretty well getting the "thats" out of my writing, having gone cold turkey, but then I read an article in Writers' Digest about how it's all wrong to take out the thats. The author stated that that is a much needed word for clear writing. He urged other writers to get the thats back in their writing.

It was all too tempting, I bellied up next to the author at the "that" bar and went on a nasty binge. It was ugly, but I've managed to pull myself out of the abyss.

I still have a long way to go, but with friends like Mary Jo, I can do it. I can beat the thats!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Rocking Baby Boomers

Last night we went to a Christian rock concert in Plymouth and we had a great time. Rob came straight from work in Detroit and I drove from Lansing with my friends Linda and Chuck.

About 10 minutes into the concert, my falling arches were already getting to me so I slipped off my shoes. Because the music was loud, the floor was shaking, so I got a foot massage as a bonus. It was quite nice.

The music was really pumping and I was tempted to climb up on my seat and dance, but I have arthritis and I couldn't quite make it up there.

Rob still had his business suit on when he met us, but he took off his tie. About half way through the concert, he unbuttoned his jacket. I'm married to a wild man.

The beat was getting to me and I felt the urge to do the bump with Linda, but I suddenly remembered that it isn't the 80's anymore. I'm sure Linda is very happy that I didn't give into my primal urge.

Everyone had their arms up clapping. I joined in for a minute but then my arms got tired. Later, the lead singer got everyone waving their arms high in the air and, having regained my energy, I joined in, but I almost knocked out Linda so I stopped.

At the end, I went to pull out my lighter but then I realized that I haven't owned a lighter in 20 years. Rob got in the groove and held up his cell phone, but it's an older model, kind of like him, and the light was a bit dim.

After the concert we all went out for a nightcap -- hot fudge sundaes at McDonald's.

Yep, we're some rock 'n rollin' boomers!

Biblical Passage and the Trivium

"Whom will he teach knowledge, and to whom will he explain the message? Those who are weaned from the milk, those taken from the breast? For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little."
Isaiah 28: 9-10

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Lost Tools of Learning: Rhetoric Stage

I've updated this article, originally published in 2002:

Living Literature: High School
The Lost Tools of Learning

Reviewed by Maureen Wittmann

In 1947 at Oxford University Dorothy Sayers, an English writer and scholar, stepped up to the lectern and presented her speech, The Lost Tools of Learning. Then in 1977 her speech was published in National Review magazine. Since that time, The Lost Tools of Learning has been republished countless times.

The “lost tools” that Miss Sayers spoke of in her speech were the tools of a classical education. A classical education is based on the Trivium, which is made up of three stages.

The Grammar Stage (ages eight to eleven) builds a foundation by memorizing facts. The Dialectic, sometimes referred to as the Logic Stage (ages twelve to fourteen) develops analytical skills in students. Finally, the Rhetoric Stage (ages fourteen to sixteen) pulls the first two stages together and teaches students the art of articulation

The Trivium is not a modern approach to education, it was developed in the Middle Ages and widely used for centuries. One might even say that the Trivium is biblically supported. In Proverbs 2:6 we read: “For the Lord gives wisdom: From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Knowledge, understanding, and wisdom sound much like grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric. The Trivium recognizes basic human development. It recognizes how God formed our intellect.

Children taught using the classical model have received the lost tools that Miss Sayers speaks of so eloquently in her speech. When students reach high school they have mastered the tools of memorizing facts and of analyzing those facts. Now they are ready to engage in the art of expression and in the science of communication. As Miss Sayers states, “The doors of the storehouse of knowledge should now be thrown open for them to browse about as they will. The things once learned by rote will be seen in new contexts.”

It is during the Rhetoric Stage that teens begin to develop their world view. Self-expression is at its peak. This is not the time to let one’s child go, but to continue helping him flower, guiding him gently. Challenge his thinking skills during this stage and make him defend his intellectual and religious positions.

The Lost Tools of Learning also tells us that “subjects” cannot be divorced from one another. It is especially during the Rhetoric Stage that we as parents and teachers should point out that all subjects are related to one another in some way.

Let us discuss briefly how a parent may apply the lost tools with a teen in the Rhetoric Stage.

High school is the perfect time to teach apologetics. Teach him to use his Bible facts and apply them to reasoned debate. Study the Early Church Fathers, how their leadership formed the way we worship today, and how the books of the Bible were determined.

In A Vote of Thanks to Cyrus, Dorothy Sayers relates that as a child she discovered the Cyrus mentioned in her Bible was the very same Cyrus found in her history text. Teens can recognize that Bible stories are not simply tales to entertain, but in fact history. Talk about Jesus Christ as a historical figure and the impact that Christianity has had in shaping world events.

Also go beyond your textbook and explore primary documents: autobiographies, documents, letters, etc. Give the high school student an opportunity to see how the turns of history occured through first-hand accounts.

Look for the historical and biblical perspectives in studying science. Study the ethical ramifications in scientific research. Relevant topics for today may include stem cell research, fetal tissue transplants, and cloning.

The more advanced math disciplines, such as algebra, geometry, and calculus, can be introduced. Study discoveries in historical perspective by reading biographies of mathematicians. Math studies can be tied into science.

This is the time for students to determine their own style. They can use Elements of Style or Chicago Manual of Style as references in writing. They should learn to prune their arguments and make their point without overdoing it.

Reading can move from narrative stories to challenging debates, critiques, and primary documents.

Latin can now be studied more deeply or dropped to make time for the modern languages.

Read The Lost Tools of Learning. Study more deeply the Trivium and learn about the Quadrivium.

Search out other writings of Dorothy Sayers. She wrote a series of popular detective novels as well as many scholarly pieces.

Go to an online concordance and enter these three words: knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Look up the Scriptures that the concordance returns. How do you think that these words correspond to grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric?

Learning rests upon truth. Ask yourself: “What is truth?” Does the classical model of education lend itself to the discovery of God’s truth?

Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum: A Guide to Catholic Home Education (Ignatius Press) by Laura Berquist

A Catholic Homeschool Treasury: Developing Children’s Love for Learning (out of print) by Rachel Mackson and Maureen Wittmann, eds. Contains an excellent essay that explains Dorothy Sayers’ speech and classical education, written by Rachel Mackson.

The Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (W.W. Norton & Company) by Jesse Wise and Susan Wise Bauer

Heart and Mind magazine has a regular column on classical education written by Laura Berquist.

Mail Order Companies:
Emmanuel Books
Carries The Lost Tools of Learning plus most of the resources recommended in Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum.

Memoria Press
Latin and classical materials.

Trivium Pursuit
Website contains much more than their catalog. Lots of articles and resources for Christian classical education.

Home Study Schools
Angelicum Academy
Online Catholic academy – liberal arts education based on the classic great books of Western civilization.

Kolbe Academy
Classical education – Ignation method.

Mother of Divine Grace
Catholic classical home study founded by Laura Berquist.

Regina Coeli Academy
An online college preparatory program using a Catholic classical curriculum.

Discussion Group
Catholic Classical Education

Classical Christian Homeschooling