Friday, June 29, 2007

I'm a Proud Mother of National Champions!!!

The day after I arrived in South Dakota, my old laptop bit the dust. I've been dying to write about the shoot and post pictures, but alas I couldn't. Right now I'm writing from the public library in Deadwood and only have a few minutes.

I promise to gush about the trip upon my return Sunday night or Monday morning. In the meantime, I must share that all the Michigan kids did great! Our muzzleloading team (of which Teen Son and Teen Daughter One are members) placed fifth for their event on Tuesday, third on Thursday, and fourth overall.

Teen Son blew everyone away with his silver medal win as an individual on Tuesday, ninth place on Wed. (the whole team suffered that day due to a rule change that we were not informed about in advance), and a GOLD medal for his performance on Thursday!!! I don't know where he placed overall as there was a scoring glitch -- we'll be informed later -- but we assume it'll be fourth or fifth place.

I'm so proud of the kids. It's been an outstanding experience for all of us! I've got to run . . .

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Taking Off for SD

Last night was the final shooting practice before we head to the national competition. It was a great practice. The coach made sure it was fun and light. He had the kids shooting balloons and playing cards.

We leave in the morning at 4:30. Please keep us in prayer, not only for safe travel, but that the kids will give glory to God in competition.

I'm taking a laptop with me, but I'm doubtful I'll be able to blog much.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Ultimate Homeschool Curricula?

My friend Yvonne is moving to Peru and she asks:

What resources have you found that are winners in your homes? I'm trying to slim down my huge stacks of books in anticipation of our move. Fortunately, I'll be able to download most classical literature (speed is my only real concern). And we'll have Internet access for some historical and science studies. But still, there is something about having books and materials to actually hold, use and explore.

So, in each area:

Language Arts
History (both US and world)
Religion (Bible, catechism, saints, etc.)
Fine Arts
Dramatic Arts, Photography, Hobbies, etc.

... and anything else you have found your family comes back to again, and again. My kids' academic level is now only middle and high school age ranges.

I'm thinking more along the lines of items that aren't grade specific as much as useful for the long term. This will help me make some decisions about any "can't live without, can't get in Peru" supplies. The ultimate goal is to perhaps get the most bang for the mass and weight.

Please leave your suggestions for Yvonne in the combox.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

PSNV: The Mystery of Harry Potter

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 Mystery of Harry Potter: A Catholic Family Guide
Author: Nancy Carpentier Brown
Publisher: Our Sunday Visitor
Date Published: June 18, 2007
ISBN: 1592763987
Price: Softcover 12.95
As a fan of Harry Potter, and a Catholic Christian, I have often lamented the time wasted on paranoid analyses of J.K. Rowling's great work of Christian (yes, I said Christian) fantasy from believers who ought to know better. Now comes a fine appreciation of Rowling's achievement from a first rate writer, believer, and (to top it off) Chestertonian Catholic. Thanks, Nancy Brown, for doing justice to the greatest Christian fantasy epic of our generation. - Mark P. Shea, Senior Content Editor,

Nancy Carpentier Brown has done us all, especially parents, a great service. The Mystery of Harry Potter: A Catholic Family Guide is an informative and original assessment of the Harry
Potter books, examining why they are not only great literature, but great Christian literature as well. Harry Potter should be on every Catholic family's bookshelf, right alongside Nancy's book. -Sean P. Dailey, editor-in-chief of Gilbert Magazine.

Nancy Carpentier Brown has done a great service to Catholic parents, and to Catholic readers of fiction in general: Cutting through the hype and controversy surrounding the Harry Potter series, she provides her own confidently Christian interpretation of the story. In truly Chestertonian fashion, she turns upside down the strident criticisms of those whose opposition to real-life witchcraft and sorcery prevents them from seeing anything good in the books. Her clearheaded analysis of the fundamentally moral, religious, and even Christian character of the narrative is very convincing. Her voice deserves to be heard. -Fr. Pierre Ingram, CC, S.T.L.

At last a book by a devout Catholic mom about Harry Potter! Nancy Brown puts to rest the objections raised by Catholics who have not read Joanne Rowling's wonderful books and raises concerns for prudent Christian parents to consider. This is a must for every Catholic parish library and RCIA teacher! –John Granger, author, Finding God in Harry Potter

The Mystery of Harry Potter is a great resource to enlighten Catholic parents and educators that JK Rowling is on the side of the angels. -Robert TrexlerEditor, CSL: The Bulletin of the New York C.S. Lewis Society

The Mystery of Harry Potter: A Catholic Family Guide by Nancy Brown is fantastic! Whether you hate, love or are unsure about Harry you have got to put this book on your reading list. Mrs. Brown wrote it in a way I would have never dreamed. She ties J. K. Rowling's story of Harry Potter to G. K. Chesterton's Battle of Lepanto. Only a Chestertonian like Nancy could pull it off so beautifully. -Maureen Wittmann

(Note to librarians: Amazon has the wrong release date at their website - it is available now)

20% Off at Adoremus Books

In Kansas City, the owner of Adoremus Books gave me a 20% off coupon for orders placed online. He also said I could share it with you and the world. So, if you need to order books, films, music, homeschooling stuff, or what have you, head over there and enjoy a discount on your entire order.

After you put everything in your shopping cart, you'll head to the checkout. During that process, you'll be asked for a discount code. Enter KANKS67 and it'll give you the 20% off at that time.

Adoremus carries over 6,000 titles, so there is a good chance you'll find what you need. Plus, they offer free shipping on orders over $25! Hey, that's as good as amazon, plus you get to support a nice Catholic family business!!!

This offer expires July 9, 2007. Feel free to share with all your friends, email loops, the blogosphere, etc.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Teen Lit Help

Another cool blog for you all to check out when I'm out of town next week: Teen Literacy Tips, a new blog from Nick Senger of Literary Compass. He's looking for lots of input as well sharing his own wisdom.

Homeschooling Community

One of the many things I love about homeschooling is simply being a part of the homeschool community.

Rob had a friend years ago who was a public school superintendent. Later, this gentleman left his job to start a company that helps parents with their special needs children. In the process he found himself working with homeschoolers.

When I went to him seeking some help with one of my own children, he shared this with me (I paraphrase):
You know Maureen, I've really come to appreciate homeschoolers. When I was in the public schools and I would go to parent meetings and hear comments like, "My Billy is so smart" and "Suzy is the most popular girl in her class" and "Jimmy is the best football player on the team." It was all about them.

When I go to homeschooling meetings, I hear, "Oh, you're having trouble with reading? I know just the program to help you!" and "Do you have any good ideas for field trips?" and "Don't get discouraged, you can do it!" It is all about building up one another.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Homeschooling Asperger Kids

Someone left a message in the combox last week about my experience homeschooling a child with Asperger syndrome. If you're not familiar with Asperger, it is a high functioning form of autism.

The last time I visited St. Louis, my sister Eileen really insisted I need to write on this topic. She brought it up several times to drive home her point. You see, she's seen such great progress in my son Sparky that she believes my experience will help others. And, quite honestly, that has been the center of my writing - to share my personal experience in an effort to help others in similar situations.

However, Sparky is only nine and we still have so long to go in this journey. This is why I haven't written on the topic before. But Eileen made some very good points to me that I didn't recognize myself. I see and live with Sparky everyday. The changes I see are so gradual and I also see there is so far to go yet. The changes Eileen sees are three to six months apart and are drastic. She is totally blown away by Sparky's progress.

And then I get the message in the combox. So, for now, until I can write more in-depth, I will share the part of my God's Wildflowers speech about Sparky and Asperger Syndrome:

My husband and I first noticed something when he was about 20 months old. We brought it up to a couple of doctors we were seeing for other issues, but they blew it off. After all, he had already had a lot of intrusive medical procedures performed at his young age. This would surely create some backsliding in his development and in his behavior. He seemed autistic to me, though mildly so, but I trusted the doctors’ assessment. Plus, his seemingly autistic behavior came and went. I was told that an autistic child would always display autistic behavior – it didn’t come and go.

Then God sent a messenger, so to speak. I was putting together The Catholic Homeschool Companion, which is a compilation of essays written by a variety of homeschoolers. One of the authors wrote about her son with Asperger Syndrome. I still didn’t get it after reading her essay, because you know the doctors told me that my son didn’t have autism. However, in the process of editing this essay, I went to the library and borrowed a book the author recommended, Asperger Syndrome and Difficult Moments. I didn’t want a book recommendation in The Companion that I hadn’t read myself. Well, I sat down to read Asperger Syndrome and Difficult Moments on the couch next to my husband, and I was only a few pages into it when I began to cry. I turned to my husband and said, “This book is about Sparky!” I couldn’t believe it.

I went to our family doctor and he confirmed my suspicion that my son has Asperger syndrome. I began to read everything that I could find on the subject and talking to other parents of Asperger kids. This was really helpful. But the most helpful thing was a seminar I attended for school personnel and parents on autism and Asperger. My husband works at a charter school and made arrangements for me attend. The teachers brought videos of their Asperger students to share. These kids seemed so lonely it broke my heart. They sat alone in the farthest corner or in the doorway or at a table by themselves.

The teachers and counselors I met were wonderfully loving people. They really cared about these kids, but there was little the teachers and counselors could do for them. Several teachers told me my son was lucky to be homeschooled because no matter how much help these kids get from their teachers, there is little that can be done about the torment they receive at the hands of their peers. Kids can be terribly cruel and in an environment where there are 25 kids to every adult, a kid who is perceived as weird isn’t going to get a break.

In my home, my son is loved unconditionally. I admit that there are days when he brings us to our knees. But then, maybe being brought to prayer isn’t an entirely bad thing. He requires a lot of attention, but as parents we do what we have to do.

Probably the best advice I’ve gotten so far is the importance of humor. This child is prone to meltdowns. If things don’t go his way he can’t deal with it. He is a creature of habit. When a day doesn’t go as planned, or when something doesn’t happened that was promised, he will completely lose it. Once he is into a meltdown, all you can do is wait it out. The key is to stop it before it gets out of hand.

I’ve learned over the years how to recognize a meltdown is coming. To head it off, I take a deep breath and say something funny. For example, I’ll say to him, “Sparky, no laughing! We don’t allow no stinkin laughing in this house.” And pretty soon his scowl will begin to soften. Then I’ll go on, “If you even think of smiling, you’ll be in huge trouble. I mean HUGE trouble Buddy.” By now he’s laughing out loud and I’m still going on, “You better stop that laughing or I’ll give you something to laugh about Mister.” Then I grab him up and give him a big hug. By now, he’s forgotten that just seconds ago his whole entire life was in a shamble because we couldn’t go to the baseball game on account of rain.

Also, I can’t discipline this child like the other children. Just raising my voice will upset him and any words spoken in the process will be completely lost. I need to keep calm and get him focused. I need to make sure discipline is swift so he makes the connection between his transgression and the punishment. Usually a time-out, putting a toy in time-out, or a chore. If the transgression is against a sibling, I usually have to give him some instruction on showing compassion. He doesn’t seem to understand that his actions can hurt other human beings. We’re still working on this and probably will be for a while yet.

As for homeschooling, he is very bright and is light years ahead. However, reading is another story. It's different from his dyslexic siblings, it is more like he just wasn’t ready. Then suddenly, just last summer he started to show readiness. I used Orton-Gillingham with him this year, along with his younger sister, and he took off quickly. He's now a pretty fluent reader.

Advice for New Homeschoolers

The conference in Kansas City was great! I got to hang out with a couple of dear friends as well as meet so many new and interesting people. Thank you to everyone who welcomed me! (A special thank you to Rosie.)

One thing I learned while there, was that I need to completely rewrite my Relax, You Can Homeschool Too speech. From the questions I got, I realized what new homeschoolers really need is specific information on how to get started and not so much info on the whys of homeschooling or generalities.

When I first started homechooling, there where few to no choices. We just winged it as we went along. (And, our kids are turning out okay!)

Today, parents are completely overwhelmed with all the choices. Home study school or design-your-own? Charlotte Mason, classical, Montessori, unit studies, or literature based? Saxon, Math-U-See, MCP, Fred, or ABeka? Unschooling, relaxed, eclectic, or work-study? Should I supplement with online classes, tutors, co-op classes, or community college? And that is only the very beginning.

New homeschooling parents come to conferences with an idea of what they want to do, hoping to refine that idea as well as purchase the materials they will need for the year. But, what often happens is that they walk into that vendor hall and see a whole slew of new options they have not yet considered and begin to question their original choices for their homeschool. Then, they either overbuy or throw up their hands in frustration.

Perhaps this week, before I leave for South Dakota, we all can talk this over. What advice would you give someone just starting out? And, we have to consider the two different kinds of new homeschooling families - those who are pulling older children out of school and those who are starting at the very beginning.

I have my own ideas on this and will try to mesh them out over the next three days, but I really value the opinions and experiences of my readers, so I'd like to hear from you too in the combox.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


I have much to do yet to prepare for the KC trip. And then, shortly after my return, I'm off to SD with the 4-H shooting team. So, blogging will be pretty light for the next three weeks or so.

If you find yourself in need of a blog fix, check out the blog roll in the sidebar (you'll need to scroll down about halfway or so). There's some great links there.

And here's a cool blog I haven't added to the blogroll yet: Ambrose-a-rama. It's written by an American (Pittsburgh) Catholic living in China. China has a special place in our hearts here -- but I'll write about that another day.

Prayers offered up to St. Christopher for safe travel are welcomed.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Catholic Author and Publisher Recommends The Companion

"This book is awesome, a real treasure trove of information about homeschooling. It will surely give confidence to any parents who are considering homeschooling their children. Wittmann and Mackson are to be commended for the work they've done."
-- Matthew Pinto, Author, Did Adam & Eve Have Belly Buttons?

To order The Catholic Homeschool Companion, click HERE.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Kansas City Here I Come

I'll be heading to Kansas City on Friday. In fact, I'll be leaving in the early hours as my plane takes off around 7 am.

If you're anywheres near KC, make sure to check out the Catholic homeschooling conference. My sister may come all the way from St. Louis! It's sure to be an awesome conference with some great speakers and vendors.

I'm looking forward to meeting some old email friends and hope to meet some new friends too! Thanks to Maria for putting me up for the night!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Q & A: The Lit Book

I've been getting questions via email and in the comments about the new lit book, so I figured I should bring the questions out here for everyone's reading ease.

What age group is the book written for?
This is a book written for homeschooling parents to help them teach their children from preschool to high school. It is filled with literary suggestions for all ages, including adult. After all, if we parents are to teach our children, we need to first teach ourselves.

Is this the expanded version of your booklet, Literature Isn't Just for Reading?
Yes it is. I put together Literature Isn't Just for Reading: Teaching Core Subjects through Real Books to accompany my conference talk by the same name. A one-hour talk just wasn't enough. From the comments and questions I received after each talk, it was evident homeschoolers needed more. They needed a resource they could hold in their hands and take home with them.

The original booklet was 5 by 8 and had 80 pages. It was nothing more than a glorified reading list, yet I found it was a real help to parents.

The new book is 6 by 9 and 300 pages. It's still a glorified reading list, but it's a pretty cool glorified reading list ... I think. It does have short chapters on such things as using your library, classical education, unit studies, Charlotte Mason, etc., but the bulk of the book the reading list (I call them literary guides in the book). There are about 950 books listed, each with a short description, with an age recommendation, and sorted by school subject.

Who is the publisher?
First, a little back story if you don't mind. I gave the booklet to my friends Mike and Terri Aquilina and they loved it, encouraging me to expand it and get a publisher. (BTW - Mike wrote a beautiful foreword to the new book.) I sent it to several big publishers and got turned down flat.

Then an angel sent Joan Stromberg to me. Joan, on more than one occasion, had a vending table next to mine at Catholic homeschooling conferences. She saw what a great resource this booklet was and asked me to send a book proposal to her. At first, I told her no. Her publishing house, Ecce Homo Press, is a small business and I was ready for the big time. (Oh, how God must laugh at me.)

At first, I thought that I could expand the focus of the book to include school teachers. I interviewed several principals, teachers, and librarians from Catholic schools. I put the book a year behind schedule doing this. I struggled and struggled, but I just couldn't do it. What we homeschoolers do is so different from what they do. Teachers would benefit from such a book, but it would have to be written completely different.

So, I realized I needed to get back to my roots. Joan is the ultimate homeschool publisher and the perfect person to publish this book. I humbled myself, went to her, and asked her to be my publisher. And, I must tell you, I am so glad I did. She is pure joy to work with.

When is the book due out and can it be pre-ordered?
The publisher will be done with editing and formatting by month's end. It will then go to the printer, which can take up to a couple of months. It should be ready by the start of school. (Let's all pray for that!)

It is not ready for preorder yet. When I have a definite publication date, I will make sure to let you all know how you can preorder.

Are those your kids on the cover?
I got this question with The Companion too. Nope, my kids have yet to grace a book cover, though I put their picture inside my little Renaissance puzzle book I'm currently updating. The children on the lit book cover belong to Joan. It's a beautiful picture - I absolutely love it!

Now I want to know how you find time to write books, homeschool and the other "mother" duties that must be accomplished daily? WOW, women like you impress me ... I can't even keep the dust bunnies under control.
Please don't be impressed. You can ask my husband and friends (Linda, feel free to pipe in); they can tell you I'm not Superwoman. I'm terribly lax when it comes to housekeeping and those dust bunnies are beyond out of control. I have children who help me a great deal. It also helps if you're an insomniac. Besides, writing is part of my homeschooling. The kids are not only my guinea pigs, but help me with it all.

Addendum: Joan put the cover on a webpage so you can see the true colors. Click HERE.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Cover Art

I'm so excited! Here is the preliminary artwork for the new book cover. What do you think?

BTW - It should be on it's way to the printer by month's end. The publisher is nearly done with editing and formatting.

Addendum: Ooh, it came out really green on the blog. It's not the green in real life.

Friday, June 08, 2007

PopeStNick5: Top Ten

Top-Ten Suggestions for Making Purchasing Suggestions to Your Library

· The form you need to fill out may be called a variety of things: patron request, item request, suggest a purchase, or something similar.

· Making suggestions online is often easier than filling out a form in person. To find your library’s website visit

· Give as much information about the book as you can: title, author, publisher, date published, ISBN number, and a link to a review of the book.

· Sometimes it’s more effective to ask a main library instead of a suburban or branch library.

· You’ll have a better chance of a purchase at a big library than a small one, which needs to get rid of books to save room.

· Titles published in the past year are more likely to be purchased. Librarians want their purchases to have a long shelf life and so are weary of older books.

· If you do suggest an older title, make sure to comment it’s a “classic” and will be checked out for years to come.

· Don’t give up if you feel your suggestions are ignored. Book orders are made when funds are available, so it may take a few months before you see the fruits of your efforts.

· Tell all of your like-minded friends to make purchasing suggestions too. Some libraries wait until they have two or three requests of the same book before ordering.Once the library purchases the books you suggest, check them out so the librarian will continue to order similar titles.

Number Eleven: Join the Pope St. Nicholas V Yahoo Group today!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

PopeStNick5: The Resilient Church

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 Resilient Church: The Glory, the Shame, and the Hope for Tomorrow
Author: Mike Aquilina
Publisher: Word Among Us Press
Date Published: May 2007
ISBN: 1593251041
Price: $11.95 Paperback
Comments: A collection of historical sketches on the Catholic Church.
Endorsements at Mike's blog and a review from his Grail Code co-author.
From the publisher:
Beginning with the earliest martyrs and ending with the twentieth century, The Resilient Church offers a fascinating look at the trials and triumphs of the Catholic Church over the past two thousand years. Fast-paced sketches of critical periods in church history give readers perspective on the challenges faced by the church today. Short selections in each chapter highlight some of the great heroes who influenced the course of history.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Literature by African Countries

I've got the African reading list up at the Love2Learn blog. Check it out and leave a comment.

Thank You

The 4-H kids met their fundraising goal! Thank you all who donated. Thank you especially to those of you who have kept them in prayer. (Keep the prayers coming - competition is only a few weeks away!)

I'd like to publicly acknowledge our large corporate donors:

Distinguished Expert
Dowding Industries
Michigan CAT
Safari Club Lansing Chapter

Capital City Rifle Club
Ingham Sharpshooters 4-H
Pheasants Forever

Eaton Rapids Conservation Club
Hornady Manufacturing
Onondaga 4-H Club
Thompson / Center Arms
Total Firearms Inc.
VFW Post 6986

Bellairs Romneys
Capital City 4-H Club

Monday, June 04, 2007

Literature Lists by Geography

The Love2Learn Board is putting together all kinds of cool reading lists by geographical area. You all know how much I LOVE reading lists, so I can't help but join in on the fun!

Check out these reading lists in progress:
Across America: State-By-State
South and Central America

This is a collaborative effort, so please go and add your ideas to the comments. Corrections, additions, and comments are all welcomed! Alicia will put the final lists up on the Love2Learn website. (Which, btw, is currently being completely revamped and improved and should be available soon!)

I'm working on a reading list for Africa which I hope to post in the next day or two at the Love2Learn blog.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Mystery of Harry Potter: A Catholic Family Guide

Lots of exciting stuff going on over at Nancy Brown's blog. The release of her Harry Potter book got moved up a couple of months and is now due out in just two weeks! Check out her blog to get caught up on all the hoopla! You can also check out her plog for updates.

Don't you just love the cover! I can't wait to hold the real deal in my hands!

It's an Unschooling Carnival!

I love a good blog carnival! If you'd like to see what the unschoolers are up to, get some cotton candy and head over to Unschooling Voices #9.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Homeschooled Kid Wins the Spelling Bee

Yet another homeschooler wins the Scripp's National Spelling Bee, even though math and music are his first loves.

Opening Doors for Ladies

I've really been impressed with Rob's chivalrous act of always opening my car door for me recently.

Then I realized the lock on his car door is broken and he has to open mine first to get in.