Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Homeschooling Science Webinar Tonight

Tonight is the night for Kris Corriera's Science at Home webinar. Join us tonight for a fun evening of live experiments and chatting.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Catholic Radio on Catholic Homeschooling

If you happen to read this before 9:25 AM Eastern and you enjoy Catholic radio, make sure to listen for Walter (my partner in crime at Homeschool Connections). Just go to Guadalupe Radio and then click on Listen and then click on North Texas. Make sure you go a few minutes early so you have time to get it all going.

How fun for Walter!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Save $30 Plus on High School

For those of you not on the Homeschool Connections email list, I thought you'd like to know that there is a $30 off coupon available to you, your friends, and your homeschool support group. It's only good until July 1, 2009, so you'll want to act fast. Here is the coupon code: mh22lw

In fact, there is a MacBeth class starting on Monday. It's only $60 for the class. With the coupon that makes it only $30. I guarantee you won't find a deal like this ever again -- a 4-week, Catholic Shakespeare course with a college professor who's taught at both Franciscan and Ava Maria!

Here's what the kids said about Dr. Russell's summer course (on Beowulf) that just ended:
"Thank you Dr. Russell!!!! I can't wait until next Monday for the MacBeth class!!!!"

"Dr. Russell had very interesting and insightful comments. I enjoyed the class very much."

"Excellent explanations and insights."

"I appreciate literature so much more now."
The students love these classes. So much so, that the students of the American government class started a Facebook fanpage for their instructor, Ed Rivet.

Here is a list of upcoming courses plus free webinars. (More fall classes to be scheduled within the week -- Theology, Anatomy, and Literature.)

Oh, one more thing. If you register early for fall classes you get a very nice discount.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Last Mass

Last January we learned that our former parish of 14 years would close on June 21, 2009. Even though we had already moved away 6 months earlier, we were heartbroken. The children especially took it hard. They truly mourned. Well, this last Sunday the day came when our mourning would take a very real form in the last celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at Holy Cross Church.

The final Mass before the closing of a Catholic church is not like your everyday Mass. You do not simply go to church, grab a donut and head home.

The Church in it's infinite wisdom truly brings closure to the parishioners and as sad as it is, it is a beautiful Mass.

First, the bishop is to celebrate the final Mass. Bishop Boyea con-celebrated our final Mass with our pastor, Fr. Maurice. Also there were pastors from years past, the pastor of the new parish, pastors of other closeby churches, the provincial of the OFM's (it was a Franciscan parish), and the OFM vocation director.

At the end of the Mass, the bishop, priests, and servers moved about the church, praying before all of the holy places -- the baptismal font, the confessionals, the Stations of the Cross, the holy images, etc. Blessed objects (holy water, holy oils, processional cross, etc.) were given to parishioners to be carried to the new parish.

After the final blessing, the altar was stripped. This was an extremely emotional point for me. One by one, we processed up to the altar and kissed it. I cannot begin to describe the emotions that run through you in giving the altar that last reverence. All I could think about was how many times the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass was offered over the past 85 years at the altar. After kissing the altar each person walked outside to the front of the church. Because we processed one by one, you felt so alone at that moment. (The picture above is of my 9-year-old daughter after she kissed the altar and walked toward the back of the church.) But then you were greeted and embraced by the hundreds of parishioners waiting for you outside.

Once everyone had reverenced the altar and moved outdoors, the bishop, priests, servers, and those carrying the holy objects, also came outside. The doors were all opened wide at that point. But then, after more prayer and blessings, they were slammed shut and the bishop declared, "Holy Cross Church is officially closed." The loud gasps at that proclamation were almost overwhelming. The doors were tied with purple cloth.

Then began the procession to the new parish, St. Mary's Cathedral. Bishop Boyea and Father Maurice were in the lead car with the Blessed Sacrament with the rest of us following. At the cathedral the Blessed Sacrament was reverently placed into the tabernacle and the holy objects put into place. Words were spoken, blessings given, and many tears shed.

With death comes new life. After winter comes the spring. I am praying for all my brothers and sisters from Holy Cross that they will find new life at St. Mary's Cathedral.

Pictures from the Lansing State Journal (including the one above)
Article from the LSJ

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Win Free Stuff!!!

Lisa Hendey of CatholicMom.com wrote to me this morning:
I am working on a special project today at CatholicMom.com - we are hosting a "Blog Tour" for a great product called The Meal Box from Loyola Press. It's a terrific product, a box of 54 cards designed to prompt great family conversations around the dinner table. Today at the blog, I am hosting the authors for a daylong visit. The idea is that our readers will leave comments and questions for Tom and Bret - facilitating an online conversation. I hope you can join in the fun - please stop by the site at http://new.catholicmom.com/2009/06/22/special-event-today-catholicmomcom-hosts-the-meal-box/ and chime in with a comment of your own. Everyone who posts a comment will be entered to win a copy of The Meal Box!
Looks cool. Tell all your friends!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Homeschool Online Classes: Fall 2009

If you all have been wondering where I've been, I've been busy scheduling fall courses for Homeschool Connections.

If you're busy planning your fall schedule then make sure to check out what HC has to offer so far:

Philosophy 101
Fundementals of Economics with Catholic Emphasis
Democracy, Government & Citizenship

These are sure to be great classes for your high school students. The philosophy class is taught by the chair of the philosophy department at Benedictine! Another Benedictine prof. will be teaching the economics class -- I so love that he'll be bringing papal enyclicals into the classroom! And then there is Ed -- our democracy teacher. Ed was so popular with his students last semester that they started a fan page on Facebook for him!

Still yet to be scheduled are courses on anatomy & physiology and . . . well, I'll surprise you.

Oh, one more thing, make sure to register right away to take advantage of the huge discount for early registration.

You can keep up to date on free webinars and course offerings at the Homeschool Connections blog. The newly redesigned webpage should be up within a month.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Catholic Homeschooling Conference: Pennsylvania

There are just so many great Catholic homeschooling conferences that it boggles the mind. I wish I could get to them all.

The Family Centered Learning Conference is one that is sure to be great. Two of my favorite people will be speaking there -- Rachel Watkins and MacBeth Derham. Rachel is just so much fun and MacBeth is nothing short of way-too cool! Of course, both wrote for The Catholic Homeschool Companion (only the coolest homeschoolers wrote for The Companion).

If you've ever wanted to visit beautiful Lancaster County, PA then get your camper packed up and ready to go for July 25, 2009.

And, to make it totally the coolest, it's cheap and there's a potluck picnic the night before.

So head over to Family Centered Learning right now get yourself registered!

(Special thank you to Michele Quigley for making this conference happen every year!)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Girls in Shooting Sports

My oldest daughters made the front page (above the fold no less) of our local newspaper today. I can't begin to express how proud I am of them. When the reporter visited our home, the girls were professional and answered each question with grace.

The article is about their upcoming national 4-H shooting invitational. You may recall my oldest son took first place in muzzleloader two years ago. Laura is aiming for Christian's title while Mary is shooting for first place in .22. To accomplish that, they've been practicing at various ranges 4 days a week.

The reporter did a nice job on the story, especially depicting the girls' personalities and their love of the sport. However, there are a couple of clarifications to be made. First, Mary and Laura are the only girls on the Michigan team, but there will be other girls from other states at the national invitational.

Another clarification is the reporter's use of the word "weapons." A hand can be a weapon. A box cutter, as we know all too well from 9-11, can be used as a weapon. However, we do not regularly refer to our hands or box cutters as weapons.

In 4-H, we use firearms or shooting sports equipment. We do not use weapons. Team members shoot at targets, never people. As in Boy Scouts, 4-H does not allow paintball or airsoft because those are games that include the shooting of humans. Team members also never shoot at targets that mimic the human shape.

It would be correct to refer to firearms as weapons in police work where one is dealing with criminals who do use them to cause harm and death. However, it is completely inappropriate in this case.

On a similar note, I once heard a judge say, "I've never had a 4-H kid brought up before me."

If you'd like to make a donation to Mary and Laura's shooting sports team email Ingham Sharpshooters Club for more information.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Time is running out. You need to get over to Homeschool Connections and register for summer school. Today would be good.

The Catholic Shakespeare: MacBeth with Henry Russell, Ph.D
The Space Trilogy and C. S. Lewis with Robert Gotcher, Ph.D
Catholic Living for Young People with Robert Gotcher, Ph.D.
Writing for College Preparatory with Robert Gotcher, Ph.D.
Short Stories by J. R. R. Tolkien with Robert Gotcher, Ph.D.
The Mass Explained for Young People with Robert Gotcher, Ph.D.

The classes are pretty reasonably priced but if, during these tough economic times, you can't afford it but your kids would greatly benefit then please email me privately. I have some partial scholarships set aside for those in need.

We Have Chicks!

We went to the feed store and picked out chicks. The kids loved, loved it. We came home with 12 which included 2 Buff Orpingtons, 3 New Hampshire Reds, and 7 Red Stars.

Right now they're in Rubbermaid tub under a heat lamp in the basement but they'll outgrow that pretty fast. When they're a few weeks old we'll probably move them to a pen outside. We can't put them in the coop with the grown hens until they're 6 or 8 weeks old or they'll be pecked to death. I think we're going to rig up some chicken wire to separate the coop into two rooms to keep the grown hens and chicks apart.

And then, in about 5 months, we'll have loads and loads of eggs.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Our First Chickens

Our friends the Parkers gave us a couple of chickens from their flock so we're already getting eggs. I knew we were officially country folk when I came around the corner of our long driveway and had to come to a stop as the chickens were taking their time walking up the drive. The children have of course already named them: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and Golden Nettlebrand.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Summer of the Coops

A week ago today, four families converged upon my home to build a chicken coop for my family. It was an awesome day with lots of fellowship, good food, a little play, and a lot of hard work.

As the summer progresses, we will visit the homes of each of these families to help them build their own coops. We call it the Chicken Coop Co-op. I look forward to returning the favor for my friends. I'm also looking forward to lots of farm fresh eggs!

Homeschooling Multiples with Littles

Today we have a guest blogger, my friend Maria Rioux. Maria is responding to a question below about teaching multiple children with littles.

I'm really short on time ... I've written on this before, so I cheated and cut and pasted. I hope you find it helpful. :)
God bless, Maria

You can always love more, but there will always be only 24 hours to a single day. You have to be a good steward of your time. Take full advantage of your time. I read to the children while they eat breakfast and we often listen to a book on tape or the life of some composer during lunch or when we're in the car. Dinner time is especially good for discussions, but so are walks.

When possible, combine things. One thing that combines easily is vocabulary, creative writing, and penmanship. We use new vocabulary words or spelling words to write a story. These can be a whole lot of fun. One child once got rid of 4 words, using them appropriately, in a single sentence. Another child was writing his vocabulary story. One of his words was "azure" meaning "clear blue". His story went: "Out of the azure ..."

Children around the same age can study some things together. They can drill math facts, whatever someone is memorizing (poetry, articles of Faith, corporal works of mercy....), and read historical retellings. I let them ask each other questions but only ones the questioner could answer as well. They earn little candies or pennies this way...and lose them when they get it wrong.

Simplify your life. Organize all aspects of it so that minimal attention is required for those areas that are practically necessary but not objectively speaking all that noble. It takes us about 45 minutes to completely clean our home. Everything has a place and we don't waste time looking for stuff when we want to use it. Decluttering and general cleanliness is liberating as well as practically and spiritually profitable. It gives us time to devote to better things. It's tempting sometimes to hang on to things in case you will use them, but it isn't always all that spiritually healthy. (Exceptions to every rule granted....That's what makes a rule legit, right?) If you haven't used it in 6 months and it isn't seasonal, you probably don't need it. Find it a happy home and you won't have to dust it.

Teach cheerful obedience, perseverance, and submission to the will of God. If necessary, use words.

Develop in your children the habits necessary for them to think on their own. I'm not saying we want to reduce education to this, but it is a good and necessary part.

Teach polite and considerate behavior to all within reason. If the baby is nursing and you don't plan to wean for at least a year or two, this just got a whole lot easier. A baby back pack that's well padded is a biiiig help if you kinda think you might have been a mountaineer in an earlier life....and you don't mind if someone eats your hair or drools down your neck while they nap. Put a little towel around the back of your neck before you start and you'll look athletic and take care of that little unpleasantness at the same time.(G) If the baby goes for baby swings, get an electric one. That way when he really is tired and you've got him all cleaned up, fed, and drowsy, you can gently put him in there and you won't have to wind it up again with that incredibly loooooud mechanism which invariably wakes him up again. If all else fails, you can bring in a stroller and have an older child wheel the baby around to some soothing music until he falls asleep or, if you live in a safe area or have a big yard, someone responsible can take a 20 minute break to stroll the baby outside. That often helps them get to sleep. Babies who are fed and not sleepy are generally in a pretty good mood. Ours liked to be held ... most of the time .... and entertained a little, but it didn't take much to entertain them. When children are very little I tend to keep them with me (1-1 1/2) They usually play quite contentedly at my feet or in the area as long as I'm mildly appreciative.

I have a basket of toys that are for during school time only. This keeps them interesting and special. Water generally adds to the fun so I set up a chair in front of the bathroom or kitchen sink and give the little guy the box of alligators, dinosaurs, whatever, to play with. He's nearby so I can watch him/listen for trouble, he knows the rules (no dumping water on the floor), and he's happy. I also have the little one join in whenever they can. For example, when we're playing an educational board game, he gets to roll the dice for everyone. When we're reading aloud, he listens with the rest of us (though he toddles around and does goofy stuff as well. This is probably a little drastic, but I let the little guys draw on my ankles and feet when we're having a read aloud. If you attack with soap right afterwards and don't let them use very dark colors, it washes off quite easily and satisfactorily. Our little guys liked to be part of things and would scribble happily with a pencil or color a favorite animal picture at the table with the others...for about 15 minutes. Every 15 minutes counts.

When we built our family room we decided to put a swing in there. Since Jean and I did the building, we knew what the joists would support. I wouldn't want an older child to swing on it, but anyone 10 and under can easily have fun regardless of the weather. When Adrienne was on chemo and could not be out in the sun, it gave her something fun and but not too taxing to do. Will loves it. He twists himself up and them lifts his legs off the floor and spins. It's not hard to put a swing up.

Sometimes I'll have older siblings play/read to the toddler. I stagger who plays with the baby so that no one has the job for more than 20 minutes. One side benefit of this is that all the children have developed close relationships with their siblings and each is both comfortable and competent to care for others. It fosters a kind of loving service and forgetfulness of self which is all to the good and hard enough to cultivate. Children are gifts in so many ways and bring out the best in each of us.

Someone always has some independent reading to do around here. Since our toddlers always looooved the shower/bath (and I have yet to meet one who doesn't) you fill the bath, make bubbles, get toys and plop him in there. Then you get the other child to sit with him in the bathroom while you work on whatever with whomever while the 2 year old plays and the older child watches out for him. I can always get a good 1/2 an hour of work in this way. After a bath, young children look like very sweet wrinkly raisins.

When things get rough and we have to work we pull out the secret weapon: Fluff. She doesn't sound impressive, but she gets the job done. Fluff is one of our outside cats that'd rather be an inside cat. She's very gentle and rarely scratches, though Will may drive her to desperate measures one of these days. If Fluff has lost her appeal, we have people take Will outside to play, again in shifts.

Sometimes we put on a video for Will. We almost never watch network TV, but we've got scads of videos. I like to put on the Animal Alphabet. It's a nature show with an animal for every letter and a song (and it really helps teach phonics). Any nature show will do, though. The library has wonderful ones. There's this really fun one called "Walking With Dinosaurs" (which also serves as fodder for our "How do they know that?!?" cannon) and it has a companion one about a little Allosaurus that grows up. He's called Big Al. I never imagined that I would have to comfort children distressed over the trials in the life of a computer-generated dinosaur. Then's there's the Magic Schoolbus, DK Animal Adventures, and all kinds of nature videos set to classical music. If that's all you did all day, it would obviously be a bad thing, but, used prudently, I see this as a good thing and a blessing to a very busy mom.

Computer games ... There are good ones and bad ones. If your child is having fun and learning worthy things while punching a keyboard, there's no need to feel bad about that. Just because Laura Ingalls never learned that way and had to lug around a slate everywhere doesn't mean that's what's best. There are wonderful and thoughtful computer games for math drills, reading practice, spelling...anything under the sun. The issue for me would be how much time do we spend on the computer and what do we spend that time working on? Around here it's a treat, reinforcing what we are working on in more concrete and personal ways.

We follow a schedule in terms of when we rise, eat, do schoolwork, and clean up pretty closely, though there are days when we pitch it completely, sleep in a bit, and wing it. We designed our own curriculum (a mix of Classical and CM methods) and have made it available online at no cost. If you'd like the link, write me and I'll send it to you along with a short description of how we implement it. We follow our syllabi pretty closely, though some things are not as necessary as others and these get the boot whenever we're over-loaded. These two things...ordering the day and having an academic plan for the year .... keep us feeling peaceful and also keep us honest. If we're behind, we know it.

Our homeschooling works best when I'm right there, not distracted by some other thing that needs doing, or worse, that I'd prefer to be doing, and when I do not allow myself to be duped into thinking that throwing in a quick load of laundry or something will help keep us on track over-all. I really need every minute in order to do justice to each child, and an interruption means someone will get shortchanged. Our kids love their school day when I work with them, and work both happily and hard with minimal encouragement. When I am not as available ... someone's math takes longer than expected, or Will needs a snuggle and a story, or the dog got into trouble, or the plumbing is a problem and I have to work on that ... little ones have a hard time maintaining focus and motivating themselves. They tend to daydream or grow disheartened by what seems like a lot of work at the moment. While I am not an integral part of every lesson, I am the support ... the reason, in part, why every child tackles whatever with gusto. I give them confidence, even when confidence isn't completely justified. If it is, in fact, beyond them, they know I am there to help. If I am not there, for whatever reason, even things which would require minimal gusto suddenly become overwhelming. Knowing that, my absence better be based upon a good and necessary reason.

Taking even 15 minutes to look over everyone's list for the day before we start helps me mentally prepare for the leaping from subject to subject, grade level to grade level, to come, which otherwise sometimes leaves me feeling frazzled and scattered. I have a hard time switching between math and art, with a quick question on catechism thrown in now and again or a dash to the potty with someone who thinks he _might_ make it. Though we try to structure the day so that everyone is working on the same sorts of things at the same time, no one ever does so at the same pace, so it isn't long before I'm juggling four different subject areas at the same time. That is tiring. It might be less tiring if I were an expert in each of these areas, but that is not the case.

I limit interruptions, but that's only workable with older children. Fat chance the toddler can do this or even should, though he can sit quietly on my lap for a minute while I finish up whatever. Children just beginning their schooling need loads of encouragement and I'm more lenient with them on interruptions as well. We work on it slowly, stressing charity. As excited as we are to see your beautiful "B", it'll have to wait just a second while so and so and I finish this problem. For older children (7 and up) I will look over your whatever, but only when it is done. I do appreciate the beauty of your work, but I do not want to see it by degrees, while I'm trying to teach your sister math....How do you like to learn math? You have to work on your own and then bring it to me when done ... not before...unless you have a question.

When a child gets out of line...lazes off or behaves inappropriately (this generally takes the form of not working well with your sibling on some joint project or daydreaming out the window while you're suppose to be focused on "X") I ask whether or not they'd do this if they attended a brick and mortar school. No. It would be embarrassing. It's never even a question. This annoys me. If it's that obvious, how come I have to suffer it? Do I know enough not to make okra for dinner?!!!? There's a parallel there, but it won't be apparent to okra lovers. Persons who love okra are the exception. No one knows what to do with them.

More than anything, our efforts must be joint ones. We are all here to accomplish God's will, not to be tyrannical. A young child should have enough trust in the judgement of his parents to support the decisions they make for his well-being. It wouldn't hurt to explain why we do what we do, but it shouldn't be necessary. Unquestioning, cheerful obedience is so undervalued in our society. It's as if to
require this is to attack the human dignity of another. It would be helpful to go through some biblical accounts of unquestioning obedience and how pleasing it is to God. I also like the story told by Liz Elliot of a missionary family out in Africa. The little 5 year old is playing under a tree. His father comes out on the porch and tells his little boy to come to him. The little guy does. When he gets away from the tree, the father runs up, grabs him tight and runs back to the house. They look back and see a poisonous snake hanging down in the branches above where the boy had been playing. The father took the opportunity to explain the value of unquestioning obedience. The boy did not say, "Just a sec ... I'm almost done with the castle wall...." , "Why? What do you want?" or anything like that, and it probably saved his life. (To be honest, our children would have died, unless I was holding out an ice cream.) Children, even after the age of reason, aren't all that reasonable nor that objective. In addition, they have almost no experience. If you're working at persuasion here, you've already lost a significant amount of your rightful authority. We teach our children about trust when we require them to do what they do not fully understand or appreciate. Isn't that what God asks of us throughout our lives? I have several very strong opinions about what would be the best plan for my life right now, but I know better than to hold on to them. I realize that this is not God's plan for me, and His plan is good. It's definitely way better than anything I could dream up, regardless of how unlikely that seems to me when I'm being emotional about things. It's when you start relaxing and enjoying yourselves that things really begin to click. It is such a privilege to have the opportunity to wonder along with our children, and to delight in them (I don't think I'll ever appreciate the gift of children as I should, but homeschooling sure gives you opportunities!). Homeschooling can be daunting. It's a big job. It's a job for which you are particularly well-qualified as no one knows your children better nor cares for them more.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Catholic Homeschool Conference: NY, NJ, CT

Hey! Do you live in New Jersey? Perhaps Connecticut? What about New York? Well, if you live in any of these three states, have I got some news for you! The first ever Sacred Heart Home School Conference is coming your way on June 20th!

The conference is sponsored by HEART. What is HEART? It stands for Homeschoolers Educational Alliance of Roman Catholics in the Tri-State Area. Wow, that's a mouthful.

Help HEART get the word out and tell all your friends in the tri-state area (NY, CT, & NJ) about the Sacred Heart conference at St. John the Evangelist parish in Orange, NJ. Archbishop John Meyers will be celebrating the closing Mass. They're really excited in New York about that!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Review: Angels of God

Today we have a guest blogger. David Mills reviews Mike Aqulina's Angels of God:

By Mike Aquilina
Servant Books, 2009
(123 pages, $12.99, paperback)

A lot of people like angels these days, especially sweet girly ones. They like them, one suspects, because they are spiritual beings who aren’t God. God tells you to do things, angels do things for you and they look cute on t-shirts and coffee mugs.

Mike Aquilina’s new book, Angels of God, explains why angels are good news for us, though they may not be the kind of good news we want. The job of the guardian angel, for example, is “to get his charge to judgment, prepared as well as possible,” and that preparation may really hurt.

But accepting the angels’ aid and following their example will make us happier in this life and bring us to heaven. And so, Aquilina notes, “Our fellowship with them is not an ornament on our religion; it’s a life skill.”

Angels of God begins by describing the angels of the Bible and how the Church has drawn out the biblical teaching in its understanding of the orders of angels and the work of guardian angels, and of the angels’ place in the Mass. It then describes the three angels whose names we know — Michael, Gabriel, and Rafael — before discussing briefly the right response to the fallen angels. It closes with instruction on how we should “walk in the company of angels.” The book includes a short appendix of prayers to and poems about the angels.

Aquilina, a prolific author who lives in the diocese and is often seen on EWTN, gives an exceptionally clear and accessible introduction to the subject, but that is not all. He shows us that the world is a much happier place when you remember the angels, not least the one looking over your shoulder, and it is a safer place when you remember the fallen angels who wish you harm. The study of the angels is a very practical doctrine.

How is it practical? Let me give just two examples. First, it helps us better understand the Bible. Many of us tend to blank out all the times the angels are included — and they are included a lot — as if they were merely decorative. But they’re not.

For example, how many of us have shot through “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” with no thought at all about who is it doing God’s will in heaven? With at most the vague thought that we are asking that things be better here on earth?

Actually thinking of all the hosts of angels serving God in perfect love and freedom, each doing his part, like a vast chorus (angels do sing a lot), gives us an inspiring vision of what the Church should be and how each of us should be living before the Lord. It changes the way you say that prayer. At least it did for me.

And there’s more. Playing off the mistake that “heaven” refers to outer space and not “the realm of the spirits,” Aquilina notes that “We’re praying not that we might be more predictable, like planet and asteroids, but that we might be as morally sure and true as the angels are.” Thinking about the angels gives us a more precise idea of what we’re asking for.

Second, knowing about the fallen angels and their powers helps us understand the necessity of the Catholic life. Aquilina doesn’t spend much time on “spiritual warfare,” pointing out that too great an interest in the demonic is just as dangerous as ignorance.

The danger isn’t primarily the dramatic demonic possession so loved by movie-makers. “Possession is most effective (I believe) as a distraction,” he writes. While people are worrying about being possessed, and paying too much attention to the fallen angels in general, “we’re neglecting the drab, ordinary temptations we face at home and at work. We give in to laziness, rudeness, impatience, lying, and passive lust. And then the enemy has his foot in the door.”

The Catholic’s response is simple: First, “Avoid occasions of sin.” This includes the occult. The boy on whom The Exorcist was based opened himself to the demonic through a Ouija board.

Second, remember that “Satan recoils from anything holy,” like making the sign of the Cross, using holy water, receiving Communion, reading Scripture, praying earnestly (“even if it’s only the childish rhyming prayers you remember from when you were young”), and confessing your sins.

Angels of God introduces the subject very well, but that is not its only value. By showing us how the angels serve God, and especially how some of them serve God by serving us, it encourages us to serve Him better, because we know we have friends in high places.

David Mills’ Discovering Mary: Answers to Questions About the Mother of God will be published in August. He and his family live in Pennsylvania.

This review originally appeared in the Pittsburgh Catholic.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Homeschooling Multiple Grade Levels

Dear readers, I received the following email today:
Hello Maureen,
I am a fellow Catholic homeschooler and fan of yours. I was hoping you could help with a solution I am looking for. We have 6 children ages 10, 9, 7, 6, 3, and 1. Next fall I will be teaching 4, possibly 5, grades as my 3 year old seems ready to learn reading and basic preschool. Most of my children are above average students. I do have a son in the 1st grade next year that seems to have a different learning style but that is for another letter. Here is my question ... I am looking for material that I can use to teach all of the kids at the same time. Mostly in history, science, religion, and I am open to others as well. I feel like I have just been getting by the last few years with the material I have been using. I would like to add another depth to the education my children are receiving from me. We have been using CHC for the last 2 years and I do like many of their products but I need something more.
Thank you for your time,

Can you help me help her. It's always good to get ideas from a variety of homeschool moms. I'll add my two cents in the comments but first I want to give you all the opportunity to chime in with advice and experience.