Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ask Sr. Mary Martha

I've just got to add this blog to my blogroll -- Ask Sr. Mary Martha. If you haven't seen it yet, then head right on over now. I mean this very moment. She's hip and happening, and so Catholic. You'll see what I mean when you get there. Be prepared to laugh.

EBay Tips

I'm bidding on some Teaching Company titles over at ebay and so emailed my friend Tammy (the queen of ebay) for some tips:

-- don’t bid on something where the rating is less than 98%;
-- if it is lower than 100%, read the negative feedback;
-- if you can, bid at the last minute (literally – set a timer and bid when there is less than one minute left);
-- as far as Teaching Company items, you might want to check with Michele, Lorri, me (so we are not bidding against each other – hahahaha).

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Mary's Books

When you go to a lot of homeschooling conferences across the country like me, you get to know a lot of the vendors. You see them everywhere you go and soon you develop friendships. And they're all such interesting people -- making their living by serving fellow Catholic homeschoolers. There's Tom at Adoremus Books, Michele from Family-Centered Press, Fran of Illuminated Ink and Mary from Mary's Books (named for the Blessed Mother not the owner).

If you've been to a homeschool conference, you just may have met Mary. She's the one with tons and tons of used books. A virtual goldmine. A huge temptation for those of us with book-addiction issues.

Recently, Mary has taken on the task of bringing back to print books of old. She is currently working on a series of saint biographies -- In The Footsteps of Saints. Make sure to check them out. And if you see Mary at the homeschool conference tell her I say, "Hey."

Monday, July 28, 2008

Library Thing Campaign for LOL

For all of you taking advantage of Library Thing, make sure you've included For the Love of Literature and given it a rating.
If LOL gets at least ten ratings of 5 stars, it'll receive special status at Library Thing.

Catholic Homeschooling Reviews

Have you been to the Love2Learn website lately? They completely revamped it to make it easier for you to find what you need. It's THE place to go for book and textbook reviews, whether you're a homeschooler or not. The reviewers always use their Catholic lens in writing their reviews. You'll also find all kinds of links and information on Catholic homeschooling. Go check it out:

Love2Learn: Favorite Resources for Catholic Homeschoolers and others who "love to learn"

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Not Just for Confession

Years ago I went searching online for an examination of conscience written just for teenagers. Never found one. So, I had my kid and a couple of his friends write one:

Urgent Prayer Request

Please offer up a prayer request for a special intention. I'm sorry I can't give you any details, but God knows the details. It's a desperate situation, so please ask St. Jude for his intercession. Thank you!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Baby Announcement!

Join me in congratulating Joan Stromberg and her family on their newest addition!

Party in Heaven

Super Boy saying his evening prayers:

"Dear God please help Grandma Wittmann have a really, really fun time in heaven."

I imagine she's having a blast!

Saying Goodbye

Teen Daughter One left at 5:30 this morning to travel to an international shooting sports competition in Pennsylvania. This is a biggie. The pressure is on. Not just for her, but for me. She'll be gone for eight days and I'm not with her. Don't worry though, I'm holding up okay. So far.

As for the kids:

TD1, "Bye Rose, I'll miss you!"

Princess Rose, hugging TD1 with all her might, "Oh Patty, I shall miss you horribly. I love you, I love you, I love! I miss you already. How will I get through the week! I love you with all my heart!

TD1, "Bye Sparky, I'll miss you!"

Sparky, as he walked away, "Yeah, whatever. See ya."

Friday, July 25, 2008

Cool Bread Making Videos

You'll also find more YouTube videos at The Thrifty Homeschooler. I've been blogging on bread making and plan to continue the series, with tips and recipes, for a couple more weeks. Head on over if you'd like to see a clip on easy bread making as well as a recipe or two.

And let me know if you're familiar with any other YouTube clips I should check out and share with readers.

Cool Science Videos

Still having fun with online videos. Go see at Unity of Truth.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Swimming with Otters

Last night, Rob and the kids were swimming in the pond and a river otter swam right past Princess Rose. You should have seen all the kids running up to the house to tell me. They were so excited.

They've actually seen an otter before -- in our creek at the old city house. But this was different. It wasn't a distant sighting, but a close encounter.
I uploaded the picture so you could see what the kids saw. However, I didn't take it and it's not our otter. I found it via Google Images. Here's the photo credit. Click on the picture to learn more about otters at Wikipedia.

As a side note, I still haven't found the cord to the camera. I've found 8,000 other cords, many of which I have no idea what they belong to, but not the one to charge my camera and upload pictures to the computer. So, I buckled and ordered a new one.

FYI, if you own a Kodak Share digital camera and go to four different stores you won't find a replacement cord. You'll be told it's only available directly from Kodak. Sigh. I did find it at for $10 cheaper than It should be here any day and I can start sharing real life pictures from the Wittmann adventures.

Just Beyond the Backdoor

Speaking of MacBeth, she's working on a book, Just Beyond the Backdoor. It'll be about, yes you guessed it, nature studies. I can't wait until it comes out!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Regional Field Guides

I went to the MSU Extension office this week and picked up a bunch of Michigan field guides. If you're going to be doing nature studies, it's good to supply the kids with regional field guides. As my friend and naturalist MacBeth says, "That's really your best bet. This way, what you see is most likely to be easy to find in the guide."
When you go for walks take a field guide or two with you. Then when the kids spot a really neat butterfly or bird or frog, you can identify it. It makes the nature walk all the more exciting and it'll remind the kids to open their eyes and observe what is around them.

Where in the World is Matt

Okay, I know you've all probably already seen this video, but I just got high speed internet and can watch YouTube videos with ease for the first time and I'm having too much fun with it. Besides, I get the warm fuzzies everytime I watch this.

Now if I can just find where the world map is still packed so I can turn this into a school project!

H/T: MacBeth

How I'll be Furnishing My New House

Books are not made for furniture, but there is nothing else that so beautifully furnishes a house. -- Henry Ward Beecher, abolitionist (1813 - 1887)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Environmental and Outdoor Education

Our new home is a Charlotte Mason enthusiast's dream. Our 2008/2009 school studies will be heavy on nature studies. This week I've begun laying out my plan for the year.

One place I turned for help was 4-H. They have a lot of resources available for education in the out of doors. For example, I found an 80-page guide titled The Walk: Taking Your Youth Outdoors for Environmental Stewardship and Learning. After clicking on the hyperlink, scroll down to find it. You can print it off on your home computer for free. You can three-hole punch the paper or get fancy and comb bind it. If you live in Michigan it's very possible your 4-H office offers the bound book for free, so it'd be worth a phone call to save on printing costs.

Also helpful were these study sheets to be used in wildlife identification. These I printed off on three-hole punch paper for the kids to put in their nature notebooks.
Tree Study Sheets
Wildflower Study Sheets
Rock and Mineral Study Sheets

I hope to share more with you as we move forward with this study.

ADDENDUM: The Walk is not available free from the extension office after all. It's a $14 book. So, it is cheaper to download and print.

Monday, July 21, 2008

ArkFest 08

How my teens and their friends spent their Saturday. Way too much fun!

Sly Sighting

Sitting at my computer, sipping tea in the wee hours this morning, a fox strode by my window. What an absolutely beautiful and graceful animal.

The kids and their friends have sighted foxes before, but this was my first.

I so don't miss living in the city. This place is just way too cool.

I didn't take this picture, but this is what it looked like walking in front of my pond. Photo credit. Though this is a fall picture. Our fox's coat didn't appear so full.

Getting Ready for the School Year

Willa has been posting on organization and planning. She has lots of forms to share. She also makes a great point about striving for perfection and settling for Plan B. Go check it out.

I also have a few planning forms at the Catholic homeschooling website. Click on downloads.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Conservative Diet

Recently a friend's husband branded Rob and me liberals. Why? Because Rob is a vegetarian, I like to drink free trade tea, we recycle, we compost, I wear Birkenstocks. But I maintained that we are true conservatives. We conserve. Though at a personal level and not through government coercion.

Interestingly, The American Conservative, Pat Buchanan's magazine, supports my assertion: Food for Thought.

Similar articles in the same issue:
Table Talk
Burning Dinner

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Man Who Counted

I recently received the following email from a reader:
Hi, I bought your book, The Catholic Homeschool Companion, at a homeschool conference. My question is about the article titled “Using Saxon Math Effectively” found on pages 17-26. In your article, you refer readers to many math literature books. Trusting a fellow Catholic, I just assumed the referenced books would be of Catholic standards or at least with nothing contrary to our faith in them. So it was with great shock and disappointment that when I requested the book, “The Man Who Counted: A Collection of Mathematical Adventures” by Malba Tahan from our local library and found such non-Catholic material on the very first page in the very first sentence. The first sentence of this book states and I quote, “In the name of Allah, the All-Merciful!” This is not Catholic nor is it something that I would expect to find any Catholic writer to refer readers to be helpful in their homeschooling. And it certainly isn’t something I want to read to my children and instill in their minds. I was just wondering what your reasoning was for including this particular book as acceptable material and will I find any more books referred to throughout your book that are unacceptable to the Catholic faith?

I responded privately to the writer, but I would also like to address this publicly as I assume that others will have similar concerns.

First, I respect the writer's opinion and I appreciate that she wrote to me to get my side of the story. I do think she makes a very good point. I disagree that The Man Who Counted is contrary to our faith, but I should have been more clear in the book's description about the references to Allah and Islam and I should have given a stronger warning.

Note that I also recommend The Man Who Counted in For the Love of Literature and it remains one of my very favorite pieces of math literature.

I first discovered The Man Who Counted on MacBeth Derham's website. MacBeth is a wonderfully dedicated Catholic homeschooler. I've also seen the book reviewed positively on a host of Catholic homeschooling blogs and websites, as well as Heart and Mind Magazine.

Being a math geek, I fell in love with it. The number puzzles presented in real life situations is a great way to get kids excited about math. Even the non math geeks will love it! So much better than dry textbooks.

Mathematics, by its very nature as a universal language, is a discipline that has benefited from the insights of many cultures, especially the Arabic cultures. While we should not promote other faiths, we can surely take the good work of people from other faiths. We can find the good, the true, and the beautiful. Have we not done that with math all along? Our very numbers are Arabic; Roman numerals are terribly cumbersome. Then there are all of the advanced mathematical endeavors they pursued. Algebra is an Arabic word. We've even been able to learn from the Mayans in the area of mathematics.

The Man Who Counted is a book about numbers. That a Muslim recognizes the beauty of mathematics is not antithetical to our faith, but a testament to God who created the universe. All men of intellect see the beauty of His creation in mathematics, whether they recognize Him or not.

Interestingly enough, the author of The Man Who Counted is a good Catholic man from Brazil. In the original book (written in Portuguese) the last chapter tells of the protagonist finding Christian Truth. This was left out of the English (British) version, which is no less than a mortal sin in the profession of scholarly translation as well as a mortal sin period imo.

Also interesting is the fact that Arab speaking Christians refer to God as Allah.

These are all things I point out to my children when reading The Man Who Counted. I see this book as historical fiction as well as a math book. And then there is the whole apologetics angle -- teaching about Islam and Christian Truth.
As homeschoolers, all subjects can be interdisciplinary. There is not line between "math time" and "social studies time."

The opening phrase can be skipped. I sometimes use the black marker method and black out offensive phrases. This is why I recommend parents pre-reading their children's books. Even good orthodox Catholics can disagree on what makes a good book.

One final note, it would be impossible to give my children a solid education if I only used books by Catholics, completely free of error. It would mean leaving out Dickens and Lewis. It would mean skipping Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece. The important thing to me is to present these books to my children baptized in the Catholic Faith -- giving them Church teaching on issues that come up as we read. Issues they will be faced with when they go out into the real world.

Tattling on the Tattler

Princess Rose, "Mommy, Mommy! Sparky tattled on me! He's a tattle tale!"

Thursday, July 17, 2008

TG Magazine

My daughters subscribe to True Girl and love it, so this email peeked my interest:

Hi Maureen,

TG! magazine is a Catholic magazine for teen girls (12-18). We have articles on faith, life and fashion, including: Rosary reflection, Saint Stories, Ask Father, Make It Your Own (MIYO), and more.

I am just getting ready to launch my inaugural issue in August and could
use all the help I can get in promoting it. You can reply to: and check out our website (still under construction)

Thank you & God Bless!
Heather Gaffney
Editor-in-Chief, TG! magazine

I promise to share more as time goes on. In the meantime, go check it out!

Ten Foot Towers

Well, I'm finally up and running. There now stand a ten-foot tower on my roof so that I may enjoy high-speed internet. After 14 years of dial-up, I'm ecstatic. Though Rob was worried about it blowing off in a bad storm and I worried about it getting struck by lightening. Last night was the test. We had a terrible thunder storm and the tower stood firm.

Now I just need to think of something interesting to blog about.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Prayers for Joan

Please pray for my very dear friend Joan Stromberg whose labor is being induced today, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. This is Joan's 10th baby. Yep, ten. And she's my age. Bless her soul!

If you don't know Joan, she heads up Ecce Homo Press. She is a gift to all of us Catholic homeschoolers.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel pray for Joan, Baby, and all the Strombergs!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Congratulations Michigan

Congratulations to the 4-H muzzleloading team from Michigan. They came in second place this year. Jonathan, Amos, Clayton, and Jacob you did a great job. We're so proud of you! Thank you to the adult coaches and leaders, especially Bruce, Lisa, and Debi.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Still Not Quite on the Internet Highway.

Internet is still spotty here. The internet guy will be coming back for the fourth time later this week. He'll be adding another 5 feet to the tower that now stands on my roof. Apparently if you have those old fashioned things known as trees surrounding your house it can be a problem with wireless sevices.

My Playground Interview

Maureen Wittmann Talks Catholic Homeschooling.
As an experienced homeschooler and author, Maureen Wittmann has a lot to share about the joys and challenges of being a homeschooling parent. This interview comes live from the playground, and talks about the advances in homeschooling as well as the challenges facing homeschoolers today. Maureen also shares about her excellent reference books for children who love to read.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sacramental Marriage

Marriage is a sacrament. It's the one sacrament we administer ourselves. Not the priest or deacon, but the couple.

Do we honor our marriages in the same way we honor the other sacraments? Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, etc.?

Do we give our spouses the same kind of love and respect we give to the Eucharist?

Something to think about today.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Homeschooling and Spiritual Warfare

Last week I had an interview with Catholic Spotlight. I was asked what is the greatest challenge facing Catholic homeschoolers. As soon as I hung up, I thought, "Spiritual warfare! I should have said spiritual warfare!"

It does seem lately that an awful lot of Catholic homeschooling families are under attack. Serious attack. Medical issues, addiction, financial problems, death.

We're doing God's work and that makes the evil one less than happy.

Let's all devote time each day to pray especially hard for our fellow homeschoolers.

Boys Love Scary Books

Sparky continues to lobby for a place for American Chillers.

"Mom, what's the name of the book you're writing?"
"The working title is 100 Books for Kids Who Love to Read."
"And you're including American Chillers. Right."
"Why not?"
"Because they're not exactly great literature. "
"But they're scary."
"They're not even good literature."
"But they're scary."
"I don't think they're any good."
"But boys will love them. They're scary."

Let this be a lesson to all of you. Make sure you double check what your children are checking out at the library. Even if your 18-year-old son calls you on the cell phone from home to tell you he can't find the keys to the car to get to work and you realize that you have them in your purse and you need to rush the kids out of the library so he doesn't get fired. Your youngins may come home with over ten American Chillers titles.

I guess I better start searching out decent literature that's also scary. Poe may be a bit too much for a 10-year old. Any suggestions?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Best Canned Tomato Sauce

If you're into canning, here is my very favorite recipe for homemade tomato sauce. It comes from my friend Lori, who comes from Italy. You can't beat a real Italian recipe. I'm looking forward to tomato harvest season!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Discount Code for Adoremus Books

Adoremus Books is offering a discount for online orders. Use Discount Code AOB88 for 10% off entire order and FREE shipping. This code is good till 9/1/2008.

For the Love of Literature is their current featured book at the website. I've had the opportunity to meet the owners of Adoremus at a number of homeschooling conferences and they run a great business. Their customer service is top-notch. They sell loads of homeschoooling curriculum in addition to their Catholic line of books.

Super Boy Redeems Himself

Super Boy: "Rose, do you ever think about heaven?"
Princess Rose: "Sometimes."
SB: "I think about it aaaaall the time. I think it'll be the most wonderful place. It'll be like feeling all the love of everyone we know. Only all at once."

Motherhood can also be a deeply profound experience.

Yikes, the Questions Little Boys Ask

As we were visiting with some new neighborhood friends, Super Boy came up to me, lifted up my arm and asked, "Mommy, do you have hairy armpits like Daddy?"

Yes, motherhood is a humbling experience.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Getting on the Internet Highway Via Satellite

My friend Lorrie says, "It wouldn't be so bad that you moved so far away if you'd just blog regularly. How am I supposed to peer into your life if you're only blogging every so often. When are you getting internet?"

Well Lorrie and any other regular readers, the internet guy is coming out on Monday to put up the satellite. I should hopefully be up and running by late afternoon. And if everything goes as claimed, it'll be at lightening speed.

I hope I find the cord to my digital camera by then as I've got all kinds of pictures I'd like to share with you all. It's in a box around here somewhere.

Update: Still no internet. There is a glitch. We may have to go with DSL. And still no power cord for the camera. I'd like to record the transformation the house is going through, but the cord is hiding somewhere in a box. St. Anthony help!