Thursday, March 29, 2007

Copyright Infringement and Homeschooling

This week's homeschool column, To Photocopy or Not to Photocopy, is up at Catholic Exchange.
"Oh my, you've got the new Lyrical Science tapes. I'd love to have those myself!" I said to my friend.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Vatican Board Game

My friend Tammy asks:

Has anyone ever heard of or played The Vatican. I was thinking of getting it for my hubby for his birthday, but wasn’t sure if it was . . . poorly done.

Can anyone help her out?

Starting Them Out Young

I could not resist sharing this picture. This is Super Boy (who'll be 5 in just a few weeks) shooting a BB gun for the first time. Teen Son is helping him. Way too cute.

Last night was the Family Fun Shoot for our 4-H shooting club. We invite all the other 4-H clubs in the county to come join us for an evening. We offer archery, BB's, air rifle,and some simple games like darts, rubber band guns, and this funny air contraption thingy that blows down pop bottles. It's a great way to share shooting sports to other 4-H'ers.

The kids all had a great time. At the end of the evening was an award ceremony and, of course, the Wittmanns did well. In fact, Buster got first place in his age group (9 to 11). If that boy ever actually put in some decent practice time, he'd be an Olympic shooter!

Super Boy didn't hit a single target so no trophies where in his grasp, but he did get a participation ribbon. As soon as we walked in the door, he ran to Rob exclaiming, "Daddy, Daddy, look I won an award! I'm a shooter!" I think he's hooked.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Her First Shotgun

Some mothers cherish the day they take their daughters out for their first manicure or to buy their first prom dress.

This week I took Teen Daughter One out to buy her first shotgun.

I'm not sure if I'm suppose to cherish this moment or not.

(She's shooting a muzzle loader in this picture, hence all the smoke.)

Friday, March 23, 2007

Sparky and His Pet Rat

After meticulously editing his essay and seeking his father's advice on capitalization, Sparky has asked that I post his literary creation on the blog so that the rest of the world may benefit from his words (I have changed the names to protect the innocent):

Sparky's New Rat
By Sparky

Sparky asked his dad for a new rat. Dad said yes. Sparky named his rat Sandy.

Sandy loves her ball. One day Sandy got out of her ball. Dad and Sparky looked everywhere. They looked under the couch. But then Sandy popped out of one of the cushions and then they grabbed Sandy by her tail and put her back in her cage.

The End

Thursday, March 22, 2007

South Dakota Here We Come

Both Teen Son and Teen Daughter One made the Michigan 4-H shooting sports team and are going to the national competition!!!
When I learned this news yesterday, I was so excited and happy for them. This morning I woke up and the reality hit me. I have to do some major fundraising between now and June, and somehow get these kids to South Dakota for competition. And, along the way, there will be LOTS of practice and LOTS of costly ammo. What was I thinking when I encouraged these kids to go for the gold? Why can't I have normal underachieving children?
Okay, enough whining. Something has to give here. Teen Son and Teen Daughter One are working like crazy preparing for the state Science Olympiad competition which falls on the same day as my speaking engagement in Milwaukee. If they win that and go to the Science Olympiad national competition, it's the same day as my speaking engagement in Dayton. And then the national 4-H shoot is just a couple of weeks after my speaking gig in Kansas City. Between my travel and their achievements, it's too much. I think next year, speaking engagements will have to go.

The Overpopulation Myth

This week's column is up over at Catholic Exhange. It's a reprint from Earth Day 5 years ago, originally appearing in Our Sunday Visitor. April 22nd, Earth Day, is right around the corner, so start preparing now!
She looked up from the literature and into the eyes of the gentleman manning the table and said, "We must be your worst nightmare." Shocked, the man said nothing as my friend strolled away. Then suddenly she heard him calling after her. He was running toward her, waving his literature frantically, yelling, "Wait, wait! It's not too late to stop!"

The friend mentioned in the story is Kim over at Starry Sky Ranch.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

What Would Chesterton Say About Harry?

I just finished proofreading Nancy Brown's new book on Harry Potter. I have got to tell you all that it is FANTASTIC! It won't be out until after the last HP book is released, so perhaps I shouldn't be getting you all excited about it yet, but I can't help myself. You've got to put this book on your summer to-buy list, whether you hate, love or are unsure about Harry.

I'm so proud of Nancy. She wrote it in a way that I would've never dreamed. She ties J. K. Rowling's story of Harry Potter to G. K. Chesterton's Battle of Lepanto. Very cool! No one but a Chestertonian like Nancy could pull that one off.

The Sacrifice of Going Meatless

I've come to the conclusion that giving up meat for Lent is not so much a sacrifice of the taste buds or stomach, but of the hands and wrists. If I want to cook a slab of meat for dinner, I season it, put it in a roaster, and slide it into the oven. So easy.

When cooking vegetarian, you chop, chop, and chop some more. I've been chopping so many fresh fruits and veggies that I had to pull my wrist braces out of the medicine cabinet. Yet, it's been worth it. Rob has lost 20 lbs. and looks great. I've dropped 10 and feel healthier.

I think starting Lent with the fast and moving to the meatless diet has been beneficial both spiritually and physically. If we had moved directly from our old diet (which was spiralling downward, health wise) to a meatless diet it wouldn't have been as easy on our taste buds. But, after fasting for 10 days, all I craved was fresh fruits and vegetables. Really!

In fact, on Friday I had to take Sparky for his checkup at UofM Hospital in Ann Arbor. It's about a 2 1/2 hour round trip, if traffic is decent. I always take Sparky to McDonald's for a treat afterward. I decided to treat myself too. It was Friday, and Fridays in Lent call for fried fish, right? I so looked forward to that McDonald's fish fillet and my taste buds were watering. Well, I got to tell you, it was awful! After three weeks of eating only home-cooked vegetarian (with the exception of one baked fish dish) the McDonald's sandwich tasted like grilled grease. Ick. Next time, I'll get the salad!

So, I guess the trick is to make sure we keep eating healthy and not ease ourselves back into bad habits. Oh, trust me, I plan on eating the occasional meat dish once Lent is over. Besides, I've still got a quarter of a cow in my freezer. However, it's practically organic with no steroids or hormones, raised by our friends Linda and Chuck. It not only tastes way better than grocery store meat, but is way healthier.

Yet, I suspect that Rob and I won't quite be the carnivores we were before. We'd like to keep vegetarian 3 or 4 days a week.

Monday, March 19, 2007


Rob and I saw Breach this weekend. It was a bit of a surreal experience because I kind of knew the Hanssens in a third party kind of way. You see, when this spy scandel broke out I was in a small women's Bible study and the leader of our group was very close to the Hanssens. They were in the DC Opus Dei together and their kids went to college together. In fact, the older children were pretty tight friends.

I watched firsthand how this man's evil transgressions tore apart those close to him. I heard how his children were devasted and the toll it took on his precious wife.

Yes, I know Hanssen's betrayal put our country and her cititzens at great risk. People were murdered because of his activities. But, somehow, that is news. It's not really real, is it? When you read it in the paper, but don't know the participants, it's almost like it takes place in another world. It's too easy to forget about such things - most Americans don't want to be bothered by bad news.

When Rob and I left that movie theater, we were numb. The evil that man did, for perhaps no other reason than a thrill, is beyond words. And it was ever more real because we saw how it affected people who loved him in real life.

I'm not sure how much longer Breach will be in theaters. I assume not much longer as the cinema was pretty empty when we went Saturday. But, if it's still showing in your town, I recommend seeing it. It's been the hot topic all over the blogosphere if you want to read more: here, and here, and here.

UPDATE: I sent this website to Rob this morning which tells what parts of the movie were made up. I found Rob's comments interesting and would like to share them with you here (as you can see, he is far superior to me in intellect):

As I have slept on the movie, and read this website, I am starting to believe that Billy Ray intended, albeit pretty subtly, to lead viewers to link Hanssen's orthodox Catholicism at least to his mental instability, which from this you can either infer or not was part and parcel of his treason. I believe he intended to link it to his treason, again very subtly. Granted, much of the portrayal is true and it was only a snapshot of his life pretty much at that exact time, but that might be part of his strategy, i.e., to not allow other potential "influences" to get much play. I think the insertion of the fictional homophobic piece tips you off to Ray's real views of orthodox Catholicism, though perhaps in his study of Hanssen he found some specific evidence to conclude that he was personally "homophobic." I am intrigued to read and/or watch more of O'Neill's perspective, particularly to find out if Hanssen was as uptight, cynical, and condescending (particularly to non-Catholics) as the movie portrays.

My read on his "reason" for the treason remains that he became bitterly anti-government from a lifetime of bureaucratic mistreatment, which caused him to act out because he didn't separate himself from it before the treason began. This bitterness over-rode his ideological disapproval of the Soviets ("lost the Cold War because of their atheism") though he may have had some bizarre attraction to Russian society, particularly their anti-libertinism (such as banning pornography). It is quite intriguing (and very much not out of the realm of possibility) that he could have been blackmailed by Soviet agents as his wife believes, perhaps for some sexual impropriety. Given his study of Russian language/culture and his extensive work in Russian counterintelligence for the bureau, it's very possible he could have come into contact with Russian spies pretty early on in his tenure. This theory (blackmail, possibly sexual in nature) would tie well to his background, that he would need to cover it up so he was an easy target. It might explain why he never left the FBI despite becoming so cynical about bureaucracy. It might also explain why he didn't get that much money for the secrets. I don't believe O'Neill's opinion that he did it for the money.

Two things to keep in mind. Russia is a very depressing country and culture, as their social statistics attest to and as a Russian history prof at UMSL used to teach (according to a friend, who said he committed suicide some years ago). If Hanssen did have some psychological issues (perhaps depression) feeding into his anti-government views, it might explain some attraction for an intellectual to Russian society, which means he could have done it without blackmail. Secondly, Hanssen is in his mid-60s, so he grew up almost completely in the pre-Vatican II church. It is entirely possible that, as a strict orthodox Catholic adult from youth, he was embittered by the whole Vatican II experience, which I think was probably hardest on people exactly his age, who were fully adults when it hit but still quite young and not as inculturated by age to adapt easily. It would be interesting to know more about his college experience, probably very conservative, ending just before the radical 60s started happening around 1966-67. If I had the time, it would be worth reading some of the biographies that have been done on him since the arrest.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Judge Goes After Homeschool Mom

Please pray for this homeschooling mom.

New Jersey Judge Orders Penal Charges Against Mom for Home-Schooling

If you're a judge and you don't like the law, just make new law from the bench.

More on the Library Thing

A really, really easy way to get books on your Library Thing is to visit the Library Things of like-minded friends. You can just click on the green plus sign and the book will automatically copy to your account. I just gave it a try over at Alicia's Library Thing and it worked beautifully.

Also, everyone is raving about the bar code scanner and so I absoluetly must have one. This will help get books into my Library Thing quickly and as well as help me keep track of what I've lent out. But, first I need to sell a book to pay for it!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Campaign for The Companion

For all of you taking advantage of Library Thing, make sure you've included The Catholic Homeschool Companion and given it a rating. If The Companion gets at least ten ratings of 5 stars, it'll receive special status at Library Thing. Cool.
UPDATE: It seems there is a bit of a glitch. As of a week or more ago, there is no author name when uploading The Catholic Homeschool Companion. As a result, when you want to see who else has The Companion in their library, it doesn't show all of the members. To correct this, add "Maureen Wittmann" (2 t's, 2 n's, no h) to the author box. Hopefully, that'll fix the problem.

CE: We Are What We Read

The new Catholic Exchange column is up. However, I can't give you the link because Blogger is still on the fritz. I'll put the link in the comments.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Library Thing

Some time ago, Alicia over at Love2Learn suggested I give Library Thing a try. She raved and raved about it, but I just couldn't see the point. Finally, I signed up and now I'm hooked. It is a very cool service.

Here's how it works. You set up an account (the easiest set up on the entire Internet!) and then start cataloging books. The free service allows you to catalog up to 200 books. To catalog any more on one account, you need to buy a membership. It's $10 for one year or $25 for a lifetime membership. You can also set up several free accounts (one for yourself, one for the kids, etc.).

But, why, oh why, would you want to catalog your books? For one thing, it's fun! There are places for comments, ratings, catagorizing, reviews, etc. You can sort your list by title, author, rating, or just about anyway you would like. (I just love lists!)

You can even see which members share your books. For example, I clicked on The Catholic Homeschool Companion and found that Alicia has it in her library.

Note: If you like, you can set up your account to be private so other people can't peek. My Library Thing is public so you can see a sampling in the sidebar of this blog. I also have a Library Thing set up at The Thrifty Homeschool blog and the teenagers have one set up over at Unrecognized Talent. It's too fun to share!

On a practical note, Library Thing is an user-friendly system to keep track of your inventory. I don't know how many times I've purchased a book I already owned. Also, if I loan out a book to a friend, I could make a note to myself on Library Thing in the book's comment section. Additionally, you can search Library Thing on your cell phone, so if you're at the book store you can check to see if a particular title is already in your personal library.

One more example of Library Thing's practical application. Our Science Olympiad team has put together a nice library of science books for team members to borrow. However, keeping track of books and knowing which ones are best for what events was difficult at best. We're in the process right now of getting the Science Olympiad library cataloged on Library Thing. We use the comments section to track the location of the book, the review section to indicate how to use the book in preparing for competition, the tag section to show what event the book is for, and the rating section to show it's usefulness. It's an almost perfect system.

I only have 60 books cataloged to date, so I have a long way to go yet. But I'll get to it eventually.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

PopeStNick5: Good Discipline Great Teens

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.

Publisher: Servant Publications
Date Published: Feb. 28, 2007
ISBN: 0867168358
Price: 13.99 Softcover

Comments: Dr. Ray Guarendi is a clinical psychologist, author, public speaker and radio host. His radio shows "The Doctor Is In" can be heard weekdays. Dr. Ray has been a regular guest on national radio and television, including Oprah, Joan Rivers, 700 Club, Gordon Elliot, and CBS This Morning.
Note: Dr. Ray is scheduled to speak at the Dayton, OH Catholic homeschooling conference (Preregister as there is limited seating.). I highly recommend his talks! If you can't make the trip to Ohio, you can purchase his DVD's at Ninevah's Crossing. (You can even see a close up of me holding a baby, Princess Rose, in the opening credits of the You're a Better Parent Than You Think DVD.)

Monday, March 12, 2007

Homeschooling and Dyslexia

In response to my recent Catholic Exchange column on dyslexia, I received the following email. The sender gave her permission to reprint here:

Dear Maureen,

I have a nine year old daughter who is the fifth of my six children whom are all homeschooled. She is dyslexic, with a written expression disorder and has dysgraphia. We have based most of our curriculum on Seton Home study materials. I was told my daughter will not learn well from a workbook. She did learn to read last year with the Lindemood Bell program It is an excellent program but way to expensive for us to continue. I need to find material that I can give to her to work with on her own at her own pace. She is an eager learner but gets frustrated with me when I try to instruct her. I want to homeschool but don't know how to!? Any suggestions you can offer to me is greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Very frustrated but a willing heart,

Here is my response to the writer. (Note: I'm not a special needs expert, just a mom sharing personal experience.)

I'm not sure that a dyslexic child could work on her own. My son didn't take off reading until he was ten, after two years of intensive one-on-one, multi-sensory, reading lessons with me. We only spent 20 or so minutes a day as that is as long as I could keep his attention. But we did it every day consistently (including through the summer).

I'm not sure either how you could do it inexpensively. I'm the queen of thrift and I'm also the queen of 'here's a book kids, go learn!' But, with a learning disability that's a difficult approach at best.

I'm not familiar with Seton's structure, but I do understand that they do have good learning disability counseling. And I hear the Lindendwood Bell program is good.

I took a class from someone trained by the Orton Gillingham Society. It cost about $200 for the class and materials. More money than I had to spare, but you do what you have to do.

They are right in saying that dyslexic kids can't learn from workbooks, however, you can supplement with workbooks. I found the MCP phonics workbooks to be horribly useless with my dyslexic children (I also have a daughter who struggled). What I recommend is the Explode the Code workbooks for supplemental material.

It's also good to have lots of very simple readers for practice. You want to keep them simple as you don't want to discourage her. Bob Books are great and you may find them at the library. Also good are the Little Stories for Little Folks from Catholic Heritage Curricula and Little Angel Readers from Stone Tablet Press. We even made our own homemade readers. Plus, the library will have other readers.

If you really can't afford these materials, your last option is looking into services provided by your local public school.

The most important thing to do is to read aloud to your child!!! Since you have older children, get them involved. They can read aloud, give instruction, listen to her read, etc.

I hope this is helpful.

If you have any additional advice for the letter writer, please leave a comment. It's always good to hear from more than one source.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Muskrat on Fridays

Muskrat love: A Lenten Friday delight for some Michiganders

O joy. How lucky I am to live in Michigan!

(Thanks Mike for sending this article to me.)

Catholic Exchange Needs You

Would you like to do some good this Lent? Go HERE to find one way you can make a difference.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Great Book Sale

From Mike Aquilina's blog:

Loyola Press, publisher of my book The Grail Code: Quest for the Real Presence is offering a Lent-long 30% discount not only on my title, but on lots of other good stuff as well, including the Loyola Classics series, which I’ve often blogged upon, and two books by one of my favorite human beings, David Scott: The Catholic Passion: Rediscovering the Power and Beauty of the Faith and A Revolution of Love: The Meaning of Mother Teresa. Also check out the titles by Bob Lockwood, Liz Kelly and Matthew Lickona. Gosh, it’s all so good. Talk about temptation!The discount is good for one-time use only and not valid on textbook or curriculum orders. The offer expires at the end of the Easter season, May 27, 2007.

TO GET THE DISCOUNT, make sure to enter the promotional code 2261. Now … keep reading your way to the fullness of Easter.

Loyola has a lot of great titles and I've really been wanting to collect the books in the Loyola Classics series. This is the perfect time. Ooh, and I've been wanting the David Scott titles too. Thanks Mike for the heads up! (PS I already own The Grail Code - very cool book!)

CE: Homeschooling with a Chronic Illness

This week's column is up over at Catholic Exchange: Carrying Our Crosses: Homeschooling with a Chronic Illness.

My husband, bless his heart, kept telling me that I had too much on my plate and had to take a few things off. Being the dutiful wife, I took off dishes and gave them to him. I took off housework and gave my children more responsibility, as well as hiring a housekeeper for four hours a week. The one thing I refused to take off of my plate was homeschooling.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Flu and Testing

Sorry I haven't been blogging the past few days. I've got a touch of the flu and so feeling a little under the weather.

Also, we're testing this week. I got the CAT/5 achievement tests from Kolbe Academy to check on the kids' progress. It's a pretty nice deal - even if you're not enrolled in Kolbe, you can still get the tests through them. I think Seton offers a similar service.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Catholic Book on HP

Nancy Brown is writing a new book and she even has a contract! And I get to help with proofreading. Very exciting! Make sure to head over to her blog and tell her "Congrats!"

Friday, March 02, 2007

Catholic Mom Column: Educators' Discounts

The March Homeschool Companion column is up over at Catholic Mom. This month's column: Educators' Discounts.
Many years ago while purchasing supplies for a homeschooling potluck at a paper store, I happened to mention the purpose of my purchase to the sales clerk. She exclaimed, “You’re eligible for a 20% discount!”

Thursday, March 01, 2007

PopeStNick5 Success Story

I rcvd. the following email today:

Dear Maureen,

I just did my periodic check of books I have requested my library system buy. My library now has the Dawn Eden book. It purchased 5 copies; all are currently checked out or being held for someone. I am the only person on the request list. My library system did own the Josh Harris when you posted about it. I did check that out.

-- Sharon

This is why I run the Pope Saint Nicholas V email list (join today!), as well as post the library suggestions here on the blog. How awesome is it that Thrill of the Chaste is not only in libraries, but being checked out by the masses!
Go to your library website now and make a purchase request. Click on the PopeStNick5 label below if you need some ideas.

CE: Mass Control

This week's column is up over at Catholic Exchange.

As the parents of seven children, my husband and I have worked hard over the years at keeping our little ones under control during Sunday Mass.