Friday, May 30, 2008

Take Five for Father's Day

If you're looking for a Father's Day present, I've got a great idea for you. Mike Aquilina's newest book is perfect: Take 5: On the Job Meditations With St. Ignatius.

It's filled with meditations that can be easily read throughout the workday. Take a short break at lunch and discover what St. Ignatius has to say about office politics or stress or goal setting or many other office-related topics. It's the perfect office companion for Dad!

I got one for Rob but it got packed away somewhere. Hopefully, it'll show up before Father's Day!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Home Based Speech Therapy

A question came up this weekend after my God's Wildflowers talk about parents administering speech therapy in homeschool setting. I knew I had seen something about this on the Internet but couldn't remember where. Well, now that I'm home, I've found an old email that addressed the issue. I hope the person who asked the question reads my blog:

I have four children that have had speech delays and around 4 years old I used a home based speech therapy program called Straight Talk: A Parent's Guide for Correcting Childhood Mispronounciations, which is the first book and Straight Talk: A Parent's Guide to Language Development, the second book, from Marisa Lapish and Tom and Sherry Bushnell, published by the National Challenged Homeschoolers Associated Network. Here is the website that I bought it from: It really worked for us and was easy for me to use.

Another Catholic Homeschool Family Business

If interested in some nice Catholic and pro-life car magnets (and Grateful to be Catholic T-shirts), visit Catholic Impressions.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

And So It Begins

Moving day is just four days away and the tears have begun. I called my neighbor to borrow her lawn mower and went she brought it over, she gave me a hug and the flood of tears began. Two middle-aged women -- need I say more.

Later, Super Boy climbed up on my lap all weepy, "I don't want to move Mommy."
"Don't you like the new house."
"I love the new house.
"What's wrong then?"
"I'll miss all our friends."
"They'll still come to see us. Don't worry."
"But the B's will be an hour away."
"The B's will still come see us."

Tomorrow is my last Teen Wednesday. I get weepy every time I think about it. I'm leaving the teens in good hands as a couple of moms have stepped up to the plate to take my place, but I'm going to miss leading them every week. I love those kids.

I'll be taking a box of Kleenex with me.

Mosaic candle Holders

The vendor sitting next to me at the conference this weekend was Lady Bug Creations. The owner is a wonderful Catholic homeschooling mom. She was there with her husband and children. I love seeing families working together at these conferences.

She gets a lot of her stained glass from church renovations and makes them into beautiful mosaic candle holders. I bought two to put in my new house. It was so hard to decide on just two as there were so many wonderful choices. I love the idea of having something from Church in my house.

If you go to the Lady Bug Creation website you can order them online (and help support a nice homeschool family). They also sell cord rosaries.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Relax, You Can Do It

I rushed through my Relax, You Can Do It speech as my audience, all new and wanna-be homeschoolers, had a lot of questions. I felt it more improtant to address what was on their minds at that moment. So, here is the whole, planned speech to read:

Some years ago I was preparing to leave for my first speaking engagement. My son Buster, just 4 at the time, was hovering about obviously with something on his mind. I stopped packing, sat on the bed, took him onto my lap, and asked what was going on. He looked up at me with his big saucer eyes and said, "I don't want you to go. I want you to stay here with me." I explained, "Buster, it's really important for me to go to this conference. I have an opportunity to help a lot of people. There will be a thousand people there and I'm going to tell them how much I love homeschooling."

He was seemingly satisfied with this explanation as he jumped off my lap and went off to play. However, it must have stayed on his mind, as he came back a little while later to exclaim, "Mommy, I love homeschooling too! I never want to go to real school!"

Ever since then, my children are fond of say that they go to fake school.

Yet, my children do in fact go to real school. Their classroom is in our home instead of a school building, and their teacher is their own mother instead of certified teacher, and their principal is their own dad instead of an administrator, but it is still a real school. It is a place where learning thrives and little children grow not only in knowledge but also in love for the world that God created for them.

Studies have consistently showed over the years that the race, income, and education, of a child’s parents has a huge impact on how well they do in public schools. However, recent studies show that this is not the case in homeschools. Children in homeschools consistently score well on standardized tests no matter their parent’s race, income, or education. The child whose parent is a high school graduate does nearly as well as the child whose parent is a PhD.

The study doesn’t tell us the reason for this phenomenon. I think it’s because no one loves your child more than you. You’re not going to let your child fail. You’re not going to let him slip through the cracks. And there’s no hiding in the back of the classroom hoping the teacher doesn’t call on you.

All the teachers I know are loving, caring people. But still they aren’t my child’s parent and don’t care for him the way that I do. I’m going to do everything in my power to help him succeed.

The most important criteria in being a successful homeschool is the burning desire to take your child’s education into your own hands. Not a college education, not a lot of money, not outstanding organizational skills. THE BURNING DESIRE.

If you prayerfully look for God’s will in making this decision, take it before the Blessed Sacrament, and heed that will, you CAN overcome most any obstacle.

Take my oldest child who was severely dyslexic. It took three years of slow and steady work. There were days when I was tired and worried that we weren’t going to make it, but we got through it. I wasn’t going to let my child fail. It was hard but we did it. Perhaps if I knew going into homeschooling that I was going to have such trials thrown at me, I would’ve said, “No way Jose!” But when the reality of dyslexia was staring me in the face, I rolled up my sleeves, looked for outside help and did what I had to do. Today this child is nearing 18-years old and you can’t get his nose out of a book.

If I can do it, so can you!

In fact, I once had a neighbor come to me with the announcement that she had made the decision to homeschool. I asked her what brought her to this decision and she said, “I figured if you could do it, anyone could do it!”

You know, she was right. I don’t have a teacher’s certificate. I’m not wealthy, able to buy whatever curriculum catches my fancy or high outside tutors. I’m a regular, everyday, mom. No more, no less. Yet, I am very ably educating seven children.

If I can do it, so can you.

Dyslexia isn’t the only learning disability found in my house; we’ve also dealt with speech impediments, ADHD, and Asperger’s Syndrome. But we weren’t hit with all these things at once. As they came up one by one, my husband and I sought help and counsel and we got through it.

Sometimes the obstacles we run into are found in ourselves, the parent. I have an autoimmune disease that goes in and out of remission. About 10 years ago, I found myself in the middle of a particularly bad exacerbation. I was unable to drive, I couldn’t even walk two houses down the road without having to turn around and come home. Trust me, the subject of packing the kids off to school crossed my mind.

But then how would I get them there. I couldn’t drive. How would I work PTA and bingo? I was too exhausted. And when would the kids have time for household chores? I found that instead it was easier to keep homeschooling. Though I found myself homeschooling from the sofa, or even from bed. And at the end of that school year, the children still did well on their standardized tests.

Maybe you have a problem pregnancy, which entails complete bed rest. You can still cuddle with the kids and read real books. You can answer questions about assignments from the bed. The children will learn quickly to be self-directed learners and to help Mom more with chores.

The one thing that I felt bad about during that particular exacerbation was not being able to drive the kids to all of their outside activities. But God is good and sent the help that I needed. I belong to a great Catholic homeschooling support group and had been active in the group for some years when I was hit with this exacerbation. All my friends came to my rescue. Not only did they bring meals to me, but they also volunteered to take my kids to club meetings and other activities.

It’s important for you to build up a good support system within your homeschooling community. We need one another.

If I can homeschool, so can you!

One struggle in my early years of homeschooling was finding my husband’s complete support. His life’s work has been educational reform so he always supported homeschooling in theory, but when it came time to really do it, he struggled with it. He supported my decision to homeschool, but he worried. Worried that we would end up with uneducated children who could never go to college.

We got into this ritual where every summer where he would question whether or not we were doing the right thing. After all, we were having babies every other year, which meant that I was always pregnant or had a newborn to care for. How in the world could someone educate her children under such circumstances? So, off to the open houses we would go, checking out this Catholic school and that. Then fall would come and I would get right back to doing what I knew God was calling me to do – homeschooling.

I grew tired of this routine after about six years and finally one day I threw up my hands and said, “Fine, if you want to send them to school, go for it. I submit to you. But you’ll have to be the one to drive them three times a day, work Bingo, go to PTA meetings, bake cookies, and make sure that their homework is done.” You should’ve seen the look on his face. He sputtered out, “Does it mean that much to you?” I only wrote a book about it! After that we never attended another open house.

That is until my oldest child was about to enter high school. This time it was my turn to question whether homeschooling was right for us. You see, my teen son was one of those kids who had to be constantly reminded to get his work done. Plus, I was struggling at that time with my then-five-year old who has Asperger Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism. I was feeling overwhelmed and unsure if I could teach high school while dealing with a high-need 5-year old.

So, I took teen son and the two of us went off to the Catholic high school open house. I have to say that I was quite impressed at first. The course selection was quite impressive with Greek and Latin, as well as some great history classes. Then we met the chaplain who I happen to know and is an awesome priest. I loved that fact that he meets every week with any boys who have expressed an interest in the priesthood. Since my son was discerning a religious vocation this really appealed to me. I met with the principal along with another mom and he answered all my concerns quite ably. Then as my friend and I walked to the library to check out the religious curriculum, we ran into the English teacher. I asked her what books she required the freshmen to read and gave me a list filled with such dark titles as Catcher and the Rye. My enthusiasm began to wane. It was restored when the librarian brought the Junior and Senior religious texts and books to me. All great orthodox stuff. But then she brought the Freshman and Sophomore books. They were trash. I won’t even go into with you all, but trust me it was garbage. Just then, I looked over to the magazine shelf and saw, prominently displayed, just where the students walk into the library, a copy of Ebony magazine. On the cover was pop star Beyonce barely dressed. That’s when it hit me: the reason I homeschool. My goal isn’t just academics, but formation of the soul. Heaven, not Harvard as they say. I went to meet up with my son who was in the gym talking to the guys on the hockey team. He was smiling and I could see that he really fit in with the guys. How could I compete with an ice hockey team?

That night, I took my son out to dinner. Just the two of us. I asked him, point blank, “What do you want to do.” He answered, “I want to keep homeschooling.” It wasn’t the answer I expected. With a sigh of relief, I asked next, “What do you want to do when you graduate from college?” “I want to be a priest and a writer.” “Christian, can I give you what you need to accomplish that goal? "Can homeschooling give you what you need to realize that dream?” “Yeah, for sure.” I told him that if we were going to make this work that he had to become a self-directed learner. I couldn’t be on his case all the time about getting assignments done when I had other children to tend to, especially his Asperger brother. He agreed, and I made it perfectly clear that if he fell back into old habits it would be off to “Real” school with him.

The great part about this story is that he kept his word and homeschooling high school has been a joy. I’m not kidding. I started something in our homeschooling community called Teen Wednesdays. It consists of a writers club on first Wed., which is for teens who really love to write. On 2nd and 4th Wed. we have Socrates Café, which is a philosopher’s club, and on 3rd Wed. is a readers club. These Wednesdays are heavily attended and my teens have gotten a lot out of the experience.

When I had a guest facilitator for Socrates Café a few weeks ago, I told the kids that he was thinking of homeschooling his own children and had a few questions for them. One of his first questions was, “Who is your primary teacher?” The teens all exclaimed at once, “ME!” This took the gentleman back and asked, “Not your moms?” They went on e to explain, “Yeah our moms teach us to read and guide us when we’re little, but in high school we’re responsible for our education.”

This is what homeschooling is all about – creating self directed learners.

If I can do it, so can you.

And WHAT ABOUT SOCIALIZATION? Isn’t that the big question? When I first began homeschooling I must have been asked that question every other day. I remember one Sunday after Mass when someone asked me, “What about socialization?” I was tired of answering the question and so turned to her and exclaimed, “YES, that’s exactly why I homeschool! Socialization! How insightful of you to see that!” You should have seen the look on her face! She turned and walked away in silence.

It was then that I realized that I had been approaching the socialization topic all wrong. I didn’t need to explain how I toted my kids all over the city in the family mini-van to loads of social activities in order for them to be properly socialized.

THE MORAL CHILD IS THE SOCIALIZED CHILD! By teaching my children the ten commandments I am teaching them how to socialize with their fellow man. By teaching them to love God, His church, and the world that he created, I am preparing them to go out and face that world.

We hear a lot about diversity and tolerance in the public square today. By teaching my children the Golden Rule, I am teaching them to love their neighbor no matter their race or creed.

And if you need some scientific proof that homeschooled children are indeed well-socialized, you need to look no further than a study done at MSU, Michigan State University, a public university. The professor who performed the study is not particularly friendly toward homeschoolers, yet he found that homeschooled children are indeed good citizens and have no problem fitting into society. He interviewed homeschool grads and found that they are far more active in their local communities than their public school peers. They also vote at a higher rate. They marry at about the same rate. The one big difference between homeschooled grads and public schooled grads was that the homeschool grads had a zero-rate of accepting public assistance.

You’re now convinced that you can homeschool, but how do you do it? How do you get started? First, I would get to know some like-minded homeschoolers. If you’re in a rural area and don’t have anyone close by, you can find support online. Simply go to
Yahoo Groups on the Internet and plug in Catholic homeschooling. Or go to my website, Catholic Homeschooling, and there will be a few links to email groups.

The important thing is to get to know some other Catholic homeschoolers who can help you through their own experience. More important, is not to become overwhelmed by all the things that you see veterans doing. They’ve been homeschooling a long time and are doing things that will seem out of reach to you. Just remember, that they were once in your shoes and didn’t get to where they are overnight.

Read some homeschooling books. Of course, I recommend The Catholic Homeschool Companion, but there are also several others such as Laura Berquist’s Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum and Elizabeth Foss’ Real Learning. Check with your library, you’ll be surprised how many titles they have available. And if they don’t have the titles that you really want, then fill out a request form and ask the library to purchase them. Gosh, my library even purchased The Catholic Homeschool Companion. Whenever I check the card catalog it’s always checked out with at least one hold on it. So, get your library tax dollars working for you.

One book that may be helpful to you is Cathy Duffy’s book, 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum. Now, this is not a Catholic book so you’re not going to get much advice on Catholic curriculum. However, Cathy has a quiz in there that will help you figure out what style of homeschooling will best fit your family dynamic. Should you use a home study school or design your own? Should you use unit studies or strictly textbooks and workbooks? Cathy also has some good stuff in her book about learning styles and how to figure out your child’s own learning style. Again, I borrowed my copy from the library.

You can also feed your reading habit with a Catholic homeschooling magazine. There is
mater et magistra magazine. And if you get Latin Mass they have a very nice homeschooling insert.

The most important tool you have is prayer. Relax, let go, and let God

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Midnight Dancers

I'm such a fan girl. Teen Daughters and I got to hang out with Regina Doman and her family this weekend and it was wonderful. I failed to get a picture of us together, so I guess I'm not a very good fan girl. Anyway, I was able to control myself and I didn't fawn over her . . . too much. She is an absolutely lovely person. I so enjoyed breaking bread with her and just soaking in her presence. The girls loved her too. Regina, hearing that they love fabric and all things sewing, introduced them to Liberty of London Fabrics. As soon as we got back to my sister's house late last night, the girls were checking out fabrics on E-Bay.

Also very cool was that we got a copy of Regina's brand new book, The Midnight Dancers: A Fairy Tale Retold. Yes, I know the release date isn't until June 1st, but all the cool people got a special preview edition. Well, everyone who attended the Joliet conference that is. Regina had a few printed up with a special inscription inside the front cover to commemorate the conference and the book's launch. Very cool! (Yes, I know, I say "cool" way too much.)

The funny thing is that the three of us were fighting over the book throughout the course of the conference. I only managed a few chapters, Teen Daughter Two managed about the same, and Teen Daughter One, now known as the Book Hog, finished the whole thing. She says it's really good. I'll let you know as soon as I pry it from TD2's hands.

If you're not familiar with Regina's Fairy Tale Retold series, it's really cool. (There I go again overusing "cool.") She takes a Grimm's fairy tale and places it in a modern setting. This particular book is based on The Twelve Dancing Princesses.

Discount Deal Continues

I've been getting a few inquiries this weekend about the bulk deal I offered recently for For the Love of Literature. If you're wondering too, the deal is still on. In fact, it's on indefinitely. Even if you place your order after the big move. So, if you want to take orders for your support group, don't feel pressured to have it done pronto. Email me for details.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Chicago, Chicago!

I survived Chicago traffic and made it to my sister's house a-okay in Highland Park (Fort Sheridan). I prayed for you all as I drove. Oh, gotta run, they're calling me for dinner. Hope to see some of you at the conference tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Does Homeschooling Really Work

When I first began homeschooling, there were a lot of concerned friends and family. How could I teach my own child?

I set out to prove them all wrong. I'd have the children reading by 4 and reciting Shakespeare by 6.

It didn't work out that way. My oldest child was severely dyslexic. New concerns arose. How could I ever teach a special needs child without the appropriate special education degree?

He was also a reserved child. What about socialization? Surely he needed to surrounded by 25 to 30 of his age-appropriate peers to come out of his shell.

He hated to write. Despised it. How would he ever make it in college?

He had to be reminded constantly to get his work done. He wasn't exactly a self-directed learner. Who was I to think that I could motivate him without the appropriate teacher's certificate?

Well, at 10 he took off reading. At 13, he decided he loved to write after all. High school came and he suddenly took an interest in school work. Self-directed learner is now an understatement. Though he's always been a quiet, reserved person, he has many loyal friends.

And, now at 18, he'll be going off to Franciscan University in Steubenville in the fall, where he is 1 of 40 students accepted in the Honor's Program. He even managed a small academic scholarship.
Ummm, maybe homeschooling works after all.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Relax, I Can Do It

I was preparing earlier today for my talks in Joliet. Teen Daughter One asked, "What talks are you giving?" I told her I was giving the special needs and the newbie talks. Stressing a little, I said, "I know the Wildflower talk like the back of my hand, but I've only given the Relax, You Can Do It talk once!" TD1 then replied, "Oh Mom, relax, you can do it!" Too funny.

She also told me, "I wish you were giving the For the Love of Literature talk; it's my favorite." I was really moved that she actually hears my talks! What a great kid.

I Saw Prince Caspian

I went to see Prince Caspian on opening day along with all seven kids and about 30 of their homeschool friends. I enjoyed it, but was also disappointed. With all the craziness of moving, preparing for the Joliet conference, and everyday life, I don't have time to write a proper review. Instead, go see MacBeth's Opinion on Prince Caspian (here and here). She pretty much sums up my feelings.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Saint Jude: A Friend in Hard Times

Since St. Jude came through when I prayed for his intercession on the house, I'd like to tell you about my very favorite St. Jude book: Saint Jude: A Friend in Hard Times. Here's an article I wrote number of years ago on how a twelve-year-old, homeschooled boy came to write and publish Saint Jude:

St. Jude: A Friend in Hard Times, recently released by Pauline Books and Media, is a gem. Illustrator Keith Neely’s artwork is beautiful enough to turn this children’s book into a coffee table book. However, you wouldn’t want to leave it on your table for too long, as it is a terrific read. The historical information is interesting and the storytelling engaging. I don’t think that there is an historical account so easily accessible for children anywhere. Additionally, author Michael Aquilina III was able to bring St. Jude to life for my family. I want the saints to be real for my children, not just pictures on prayer cards, and this book accomplishes that end very well.

The amazing thing about all this is that Michael wrote St. Jude: A Friend in Need when he was just twelve-years old. It all started when Michael, at the ripe old age of seven, became fascinated with computers and read their manuals just for fun. One day, Michael had a computer problem that he could not fix himself. Nor could he find a solution in his beloved computer manuals. So he prayed for St. Jude’s help. In no time, the computer problem was resolved and Michael found a new friend in St. Jude, patron of desperate causes.

Michael then decided that family friend, and Catholic author, Scott Hahn needed to write a book about St. Jude and he kept his desire no secret. Whenever Michael would visit the Hahn home, he made a point to tell Dr. Hahn “You should write a book about St. Jude.” Dr. Hahn, open to the Holy Spirit working through a child, considered the idea but was already committed to several other book projects. Finally, he told Michael, “I think that God has placed that wish on your heart so that you might write the book.”

It wasn’t long after that Michael’s grandmother suffered a stroke. Michael and his father stayed with her for a week to help out. With a simple reminder from his father of Dr. Hahn’s words, Michael began writing his book during this out-of-town visit. In just one week he wrote the bulk of St. Jude, with the occasional writing tip from his father, Catholic author Mike Aquilina.

Now, not every child has a prominent author for a father or has the opportunity to hang out in the homes of other prominent authors. However, it was not these things that led to Michael’s writing of St. Jude. I submit that Michael has been able to achieve the extraordinary because he has parents who support and nourish his interests, from his fascination with computers to his love for St. Jude. Most importantly, he has parents who live the Church’s teaching of parents as primary educators.

“The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute.” (CCC 2221)

As home educators, the Aquilinas have taken on the academic instruction of their six children firsthand. Most parents do not choose homeschooling, but that does not mean that they don’t have a significant influence on their children’s academic success. A parent’s attitude toward education can spell either academic success or failure, and creating an atmosphere of learning in the home can make all the difference in the world. The Aquilinas do this in ways that can be imitated by any parent. They let their children see them reading all of the time. They make time to read to their children. If you don’t like to read aloud, turn the tables and ask your child to read to you. In this way, you not only encourage learning, but also spend quality time with one another building bonds that will not easily break.

Also let your child see you write. Of course Michael sees his father writing all of the time as that is Mike’s fulltime job, but he also sees his mother Terri writing letters to friends, letters to the editor, and journal entries. In this way, the Aquilina children think that this is what people do and therefore they do it themselves. Writing skills can blossom when practiced outside of the classroom and applied to everyday activities. In order to achieve academic success, children need good writing skills. It is not enough to read, children need to be able to communicate the knowledge that they have accumulated onto the written page, especially if college is desired in their future. So write and write often.

One area that most of us do not think about is the worth of doing research. Let your children see you research a lot. Before you write that letter to the editor get on the Internet or go to the library to make sure that you have your facts straight. If the Aquilinas have a child ask a question that they cannot respond to honestly, they search for the answer. Pulling down your Bible, Catechism, or encyclopedia from your bookshelf will speak volumes to your child.

In preparing his book for publication, Michael had to do a lot of research. On more than one occasion, Michael’s editor at Pauline, Sr. Patricia Edward, had to ask Michael to give some background in Catholic doctrine, for example, on the intercession of the saints. Pauline also had scholars review the book who suggested that Michael be clearer in other areas. He had to point out where historians disagree on certain details of St. Jude’s life story. Had Michael’s parents not set a good example for him in doing their own research, Michael may not have been able to complete his book satisfactorily.

Just as children need to learn to communicate through writing, they need to learn to articulate their book knowledge through the spoken word. The Aquilinas suggest making many friends to cultivate the art of conversation. Invite your pastor, coworkers, and other interesting people to your dinner table. Go deep in conversation with your guests and include the children. Pray to your guardian angel and the guardian angels of your friends, and ask them to help guide your conversations and your correspondence. Let your conversations meander and don’t be afraid of silent moments.

Michael Aquilina III is very comfortable in the company of adults. I once saw him at a Catholic education conference where his father was a speaker. As his father answered questions, Michael was engaging in a conversation with several academics from a Catholic university and he did not look out of place at all. This has a lot to do with the fact that Michael and his siblings are always welcomed to listen in on their parent’s conversations.

If the children interject more than their parents desire, you would never know it. To sit in the Aquilina living room is to be surrounded by lively conversation with everyone participating. Children are never talked down to or asked to shush.

The art of conversation and the development of the intellect are also encouraged by the fact that the Aquilinas limit television viewing almost to the point of extinction. Yes, there are good programs on television, but even good television can be abused. It is much easier to encourage reading, writing, researching, and conversation, if your home is void of television noise. Besides, too much television makes for passive children with high needs for sensory stimulation and that is the death of the intellect.

Education in the faith by the parents should begin in the child’s earliest years. This already happens when family members help one another to grow in faith by the witness of a Christian life in keeping with the Gospel. (CCC 2226)

While it is important to “teach” our children religion, most of what they learn is through modeling. We can sing the praises of Mother Church all day long, but if we ourselves do not truly love God and His Church then we cannot expect our children to love them.

When Terri Aquilina prays her rosary, her children naturally join her. When she attends Mass, goes to confession, prays before meals, her children want to participate with her. If parents show an interest in something then children, particularly young children, will also show an interest. Conversely, children will not find value in things that parents don’t care to do themselves.

Now as children grow older and they begin to question their religion, parents need to be prepared with answers. Prayerfully, your children are receiving a good education in religion through their parish school, CCD, or homeschool program, but that is not enough. Children, teens in particular, are sure to eventually ask: Why do we have to attend CCD? Or go to Mass? Or pray the family rosary? They need to hear from their parents why these things are important to them as Catholics.

Parents should initiate their children at an early age into the mysteries of the faith of which they are the “first heralds” for their children. (CCC 2225)

Don’t be afraid to be a herald of the Faith to your children. Speak of God not only on Sunday, but everyday. In a society where we have separation of church and state, we sometimes forget that it is okay to speak of God in normal conversation. Sometimes we even forget that it is okay to have a religious opinion in the public square. You can be a herald of the Faith simply by voicing your opinion as a Catholic when neighbor or family member makes a statement that is contrary to your beliefs. Doing this, in a charitable manner of course, will teach your children the importance of faith matters.

For example, the Aquilina children know intrinsically the Church’s stance on human life. This is because they have a mother who will not hesitate to picket the local Planned Parenthood office or write a letter to the editor. They have a father who will not hesitate to speak up when the topic comes up in conversation with a friend. It is in this way that the children absorb Church teaching in a very natural way.

When I asked Michael, now fourteen-years old, if he found himself adopting his parent’s values, he answered quite simple, “Usually.” Yes, children have free will and they are sure to develop their own opinions and values, but the foundation upon which those values are built largely depends on the involvement, or lack of involvement, of parents.

Children in turn contribute to the growth in holiness of their parents. (CCC 2227)

Michael has always enjoyed hanging around his father’s home office. Once, when Michael was about eight-years old, his father Mike was working as a newspaper reporter and he was interviewing a rather famous sociologist of religion who was an agnostic. The man told Mike, in the course of the interview, that he would very much like to have faith, but he couldn’t quite bring himself there. Michael was sitting in the room, reading. After Mike got off the phone, he asked Michael to pray for the man’s conversion. Michael asked if the man prayed for faith. His father told him that he didn’t know and as a journalist he didn’t think it was his place to ask that question. Michael told him it was his Christian obligation to do so. So Mike contacted the man again. If we parents do our best to take on the role of primary educator, we will find ourselves in turn learning from our children, and sometimes in ways that we never imagined.

Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children. By knowing how to acknowledge their own failings to their children, parents will be better able to guide and correct them. (CCC 2223)

As parents we all fail, sometimes daily. The Aquilinas are no exception; Mike and Terri are the first to admit that. It is an incredible responsibility to raise godly children, but we have a saint in our midst to help us when things seem hopeless. In his epistle, the second to last book in the Bible, St. Jude reminds us that we should persevere in harsh and difficult situations. Do not hesitate to seek St. Jude’s intercession. He sat with our Lord at the Last Supper, he performed miracles in the name of Jesus, he spread the Faith throughout the world as one of the first Christian missionaries, and he wants to help us persevere in our God-given roles as parents.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraphs 2221 to 2231) expresses in beautiful terms the teaching of parents as primary educators of their children. It tells us that we are responsible for the formation of our children’s souls in addition to their intellect. It is through the application of this teaching that the biographer of St. Jude was nurtured.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Decorating with Books

I'm at the library checking out books on decorating. Rob and I have rented the same house for the past 14 years and our landlord likes white walls and beige carpets. Now that I own my own home, I'm going to have fun! I'm planning some bright, bold colors!

Anyhoo, I just had to stop at the computer and tell you about this one cool book I found: Decorating with Books.

Here I've been beating myself up because I can't part with my thousands of books. I have six large bookshelves in my living room alone. Then there are the bookshelves in the basement, in the kid's rooms, in Rob's office. Gosh, I've got books stashed in the master bathroom!

I did try to purge my shelves. I managed to sell 30 books on CathSwap and I did give quite a few to St. Vincent dePaul, but it hardly made a dent.

But, now, I need not feel guilty any longer. I can decorate with my books!

Meet Me in Joliet

If you live in driving distance of Joliet, IL, come see me at the Illinois Catholic Homeschool Conference and Vendor Fair, May 23 and 24, 2008. I'll have a vendor table so I'll be available both days to chat with visitors. I'll also be giving two talks: Educating God's Wildflowers (homeschooling special needs children) and Relax, You Can Do It (for new and wanna-be homeschoolers).

I hope that the gas prices won't keep too many people away. These conferences are just too important to miss. Even as a seasoned homeschooler, I get a ton out of going to Catholic homeschooling conferences. Gee, just being under the same roof with hundreds of like-minded folks is enough to energize me for the next year. And, even with gas at $4 a gallon, I save money. There are always good deals, no shipping costs, and I get to see curricula up close and personal before spending my hard earned money on it.

Though I'm in the midst of moving my home, I'm really excited about Joliet. I just love going to homeschooling conferences, period. It's a great opportunity to meet Catholic homeschoolers from all over the country. It's also an opportunity to give back to the community that has given so much to me. The icing on the cake is that I'll spend a few days visitng with my sister Chrissy in Chicago, who sadly is moving back to California in June.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Learning Curve: Living in the Country

Living in the country is going to be a whole new experience for me. No longer will my ability to parallel park a 12-seater van on a dime be a necessity. No longer will I need to carry extra change for parking meters. I'm learning about all kinds of new things like septic tanks, boilers, wells, water softners, etc. Did you know that if you have a septic tank and your electricity goes out you can't flush the toilet? We'll be getting a generator before winter gets here!

Catholic Clubs for Kids

One of the things my children will miss when we move away from Lansing is their Little Flower and Blue Knight Clubs. (Thank you Julie for organizing the clubs!)

If you participate in these clubs, or want to learn more, Ecce Homo Press has started a couple of official blogs to help you along:
Little Flowers Girls Club
Blue Knights Boys Club

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Please Buy My Books

Moving day has been set. May 31st and June 1st we make the trek with all of our worldly belongings to our new home in our new city.

I really, really do not want to move 400 books. I'd rather ship them from my front porch to your mailbox. So, I'm offering a bulk deal to you and your friends. (Of course, you are welcomed to buy individual books by clicking on the button(s) in the sidebar. Note that I don't plan on raising the postage cost until after I move, even though the post office has raised their prices.)

If you would like to take orders for my new Catholic homeschooling book For the Love of Literature on behalf of your homeschool support group and friends, I'll give you a nice deal. If you order ten or more books it's only $11.50 per copy of For the Love of Literature, all autographed, plus $1.00 per book for Priority Shipping (to a single address). I can take PayPal, including credit cards, or checks.

If you'd like to substitute The Catholic Homeschool Companion to make up your 10 or more books, I can offer those for a 10% discount at $22.50 per autographed book. Again, only $1.00 per book for Priority Shipping.

For the person taking the order, I'll add a FREE copy of the audio CD Catholic Homeschooling 101.

Email me HERE to make arrangements.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Twain on Good Books

The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.
-- Mark Twain

Breastfeeding Makes You Smart

Sitting on the couch with the newspaper, my brother-in-law read aloud, "A new study provides some of the best evidence to date that breast-feeding can make children smarter, an international team of researchers said. Children whose mothers breast-fed them longer and did not mix in baby formula scored higher on intelligence tests, the researchers in Canada and Belarus reported."

Then he looked up and exclaimed, in a bit of a smart-alecky tone, "Yeah Maureen and Rob's kids have got to be freakin' geniuses!"

Hey, I wean them before they get to kindergarten!

Of course I didn't tell him that the reason they're so smart is because they're sucking my brain cells out through my breast milk. Which explains my lack of brain function these days.

Help for Coordinating Volunteers

My friend Lisa forwarded this information from a friend to me. I'm not sure of the original author, but it looks like a neat service:
As stay at home moms we are constantly finding ourselves involved in helps ministries. That is God's plan for His family. I just read about two websites that can help organize these ministries. They provide free tools for coordinators to set up calendars for meals and other services and then give the password for just that calendar to the people involved so they can sign up, change dates, get directions, be reminded, get updates, etc. What a blessing to make this invaluable service easier and more organized. Check them out.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Prayers for a Special Intention

This is my 1001st post to this blog. If you'd like to send a gift to celebrate this milestone, please send the gift of prayer.

I have a special intention that really needs praying over today. I don't want to go into details right now, but will tell you that it has to do with Teen Son, his future vocation, and college.

Will fill you in on the particulars at a much later date. Right now there are bureaucrats and paperwork to deal with, all while some serious discernment takes place.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

We Have Shingles

One would think that if you homeschool, your children are less likely to get sick. After all, they wouldn't be surrounded by 25 to 30 germ-carrying children each school day. In fact, my oldest son was a lot healthier when I pulled him out of daycare and I became a SAHM all those years ago.

Yet, this has been a killer year for us, sickness wise. We had the killer flu, strep throat, scarlatina, and now Princess Rose has shingles. If you're not familiar with shingles, it shows up when someone who has already had chicken pox has been exposed to the virus again. It's usually associated with older people whose immune systems have weakened, but it can show up in children. In fact, I got it when I was 16. It's painful and takes at least a few weeks to clear up.

And, just because we don't have enough sickness, Teen Daughter 2 woke up with a sore throat this morning. Even though she finished her second round of antibiotics for strep throat a couple of days ago. I guess we'll have to go into the doctor for yet another culture.

I think next school year we'll stay in the house and hibernate. Who needs outside socialization anyway? They've got brothers and sisters to play with.

The Truth of It

Found this quote via Regina Doman:
"A good novel tells the truth about the hero; but a bad novel tells the truth about the author."
-- G.K. Chesterton

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Lunch in the Outdoors

I had lunch on the front porch of my new country house, under the dogwood tree. It was so lovely, I don't think I shall ever eat inside again.

AOL Gone Wacky

There is something odd going on with my AOL email account. I'm not getting any email from my Yahoo Groups. Plus, I've got a friend who tells me that her emails to me have been bouncing back to her.

The really weird thing is that not all my emails are going out. For example, I've tried twice to send an email to the Catholic Charlotte Mason Yahoo Group, but neither was received by CCM. They show up in my "sent box" yet they were never received.

So, if anyone out there is having trouble reaching me via email, try this email address.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Mater et Magistra

There is a new Catholic Homeschooling magazine in town. Mater Et Magistra is taking over for the former Heart and Mind magazine.

It'll be published by the highly reliable press Hillside Education, owned by Margot Davidson. I am so looking forward to reading my first issue. Go check it out: Mater Et Magistra Magazine.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Bats in Our Belfry

It looks like we may have bats living in the attic of the new house. We were out there yesterday and saw a bat, in the middle of the day, flying around one of the ponds. Rob and the kids observed it go into a hole under the eaves of the house.

My friend Sheila was there, helping me plan wallpaper removal and paint colors. She told me the story of her uncle who had hundreds of bats living in his attic. Creepy!

Then I mentioned the bats to another friend and she related a story similar to Sheila's! Way too creepy!

Now, at first, Rob was excited to see a bat. After all, they eat lots of insects. With a creek, 2 ponds, and some marshy area, I'm sure the insects will be killer this summer. But, the bats will need to find a new home. I'm not too keen on sharing my house with them.

Fortunately, it's a fairly easy problem to solve. You cover the hole(s) into the house with wire mesh, taping it with duct tape on three sides. The bats are able to get out through the side without the tape, but cannot get back in.

And, being the wacko environmentalist types we are, we'll put some bat houses around the property so that the little bats have a place to go.

Being homeschoolers, we'll have to turn this into a bat unit study!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

The Mystery Continues

We found a box of Russian chocolate hidden back in a kitchen cabinet as we cleaned the new house yesterday.

Obviously, a Russian immigrant mother who kept her chocolate hidden from the kids lived there.

(Though, I always get caught when I try to stash chocolate. The children can be asleep for hours and still hear the paper tearing three rooms away. I try to hide it, but they smell it on my breath and then beg to share. Someday they'll grow up, move away, and I'll have all the chocolate to myself.)

Friday, May 02, 2008

Blog Worth

My blog is worth $35,566.02.
How much is your blog worth?

Wow! Anybody want to buy a blog? I'll let you have it for only $32,000. And here I was, worried about how I was going to get my kid into college!

Hat tip: Lapaz Farm Learning

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Groucho Marx: Reading Fanatic

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.
-- Groucho Marx

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.
-- Groucho Marx

The Mystery of the House History

Our new house is a mystery. It was built in 1968 and it's been vacant for almost 2 years. That's about all we know of it's history. However, clues are beginning to present themselves:
  • There are no less than 6 phone lines going into the house.
  • The inspector said that he's never seen a house so wired for electricity. It has more wires than mansions he's inspected.
  • We found Russian toothpaste and Hanukkah candles.

Then there is this piece of artwork when you walk in the front door (above). Could it be another clue? Is it a map of some sort?

Could the house have once been owned by Russian Jews with bad taste running a phone bank smuggling dissidents out of the old Soviet Union?