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 amazon.com 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 dignityofwoman@aol.com. 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

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Prayer Request

My cousin Laura passes on this prayer request on behalf of her friends. Please pray for 2-year-old Libby who has leukemia. This little girl is the youngest of 5 children. The family is so strong in their faith but this kind of thing can't help but take it's toll on all of them. Libby is in and out of the hospital, can’t walk any more. A bone marrow trnasplant is a possibility. Let's all of us raise this precious child and her family up in prayer.

St. Gerard, who, like our Savior, Jesus Christ, loved the little children so tenderly and by your prayers freed many from disease and even death, listen to us who are pleading for Libby. We thank God for the great gift of Libby and ask Him to restore this child to health. This favor, we beg of you through your love for all children and mothers. Amen.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

PopeStNick5: The Authentic Catholic Woman

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 Authentic Catholic Woman
Author: Genevieve Kineke, foreword by Christopher West
Publisher: Servant Publications
Date Published: June 2006
ISBN: 0867167688
Price: $13.99, paperback
Comments: The author has a blog: Feminine Genius

You'll find a review at Catholic Exchange.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Harry Potter Documentary

I borrowed a video from the library last week: Discovering the Real World of Harry Potter. Talk about the secular world getting HP all wrong. It was a total waste of time to watch. It approached HP from the point of view that sends good Christian folks running for the hills when they hear the words, Harry Potter.

What I'd love to see is a video about the Harry Potter series from a Catholic point of view. It would have interviews with Amy Welborn, Regina Domain, Mark Shea, and most definitely Nancy Brown.

It could present all Catholic viewpoints and include the concerns of Steve Wood, Michael O'Brien, and Toni Collins.

I'd love to hear from Catholic teens who read the books and their take on whether the books promote Christianity or Wicca, or neither. It's possible that they're just plain enjoyable reads.

And maybe John Granger could be squeezed in there. He's not Catholic, but he has some great insights into the Christian symbolism found in the books.

It would be a perfect project to begin work on now with the last HP book coming out in 2007.

Any filmmakers out there?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Is it Maureen Whitman? Wittman? Whatman?

People have a hard time spelling my last name. Once, when Rob was quoted in our local newspaper, our last name was spelled three different ways in one article, Whitman, Witmann, Whittman.

The original cover art for A Catholic Homeschool Treasury had my name spelled wrong: Maureen Wittman. Fortunately, it was caught in time.

Here's how you remember the spelling: it's the opposite of Walt's last name. No h, 2 t's, and 2 n's. Wittmann.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Beautiful Homeschooled Kids

The kids are participating in the Science Olympiad this year. Last week we had a meeting at a local coffee shop, following Socrates Cafe, to work out all the particulars. We must have had at least 30 kids there.

Part way through the meeting, I had to excuse myself from the table to talk to a homeschool dad about some business. On my way out, a stranger stopped me to ask who all these kids were. I told her that they were the Homeschool Science Olympiad Team, made up of middle school and high school students. She told me, with excitement in her voice, "I just had to ask. I've never seen such beautiful kids before."

If this all sounds familiar, it should. I had a very similar experience, at a different coffee house, some time ago. There must be something to this homeschool/beautiful kid thing.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Catholic Homeschooling Carnival, Month One

The first ever Catholic Homeschooling Blog Carnival is up and running. Go check it out at the Love2Learn blog.

Please leave comments and let the bloggers know what you think. It's so helpful, and encouraging, to read your comments!

If you'd like to contribute to next month's carnival then go here. The more, the merrier. If you don't blog yourself, but come across a great blog post, you can submit the link yourself. Just let the blogger know.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Blessing of the Rats

Being in a Franciscan parish, we had the blessing of the animals this last Sunday. It's an event that we attend every year and this year was no different.

Teen Daughter didn't want to go as she was afraid of being embarrassed, with good reason. But she was a good sport and went anyway.

When we arrived a few minutes early there were already about ten of our fellow parishioners there. All with dogs.

We pulled up in our blood-red, full-sized van, children poring out of every door, each with a different pet in tow. Rabbits, mice, hamsters, rats. Some in carrying cages, some in plastic balls, and others simply in hand.

As we approached the blessing area, one of the elderly parishioners exclaimed, "Oh my God, they have rats!" She and her puppy moved quickly away from us. In fact, about half of the parishioners shied away from us. I don't think that these folks will ever look at the Wittmann family the same again. We've gone from the nice big family to the kooks with rats.

It probably wouldn't have been so bad, except that the boys removed their rats from their carrying cages and let them crawl all over their shirts. I would've scolded them, but it was Rob, the Rat King, who put them up to it.

The rats and other wee animals were sprinkled with holy water and blessed by Father. I can't say that their new holy state has warmed my heart to the rodents -- I still keep a safe distance from them. But it made the children happy.

Well, except for Teen Daughter, who, along with her rabbit, was terribly embarrassed.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Happy Feast of St. Francis

Today is the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi.

As a child I was taught by Franciscan nuns, from K to 7th grade.

When Rob and I lived up north we lived in a small (50 families) Franciscan parish.

Here in Lansing, we've lived in a Franciscan parish for more than 12 years.

I think St. Francis is trying to tell me something.

To truly celebrate Francis' feast, send a St. Francis greeting card at Catholic Greetings.
To learn about St. Francis, see a bio at Catholic Online or an article at Catholic Encyclopedia.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Colleges Love Us

In the news today:

Colleges Coveting Home-Schooled Students

Thanks Linda for sending the link.