3 Tips to Overcome the End of Year Struggle

The struggle is REAL.

Do you ever feel as though you are not doing enough for your homeschooled kiddos?

Or you are not sure if what you are currently doing is the right thing? 

Do you ask yourself, “Am I ruining my kids for life?  Am I setting them up for failure?”

This time of year, which I call “the struggle is real” is rife with second guessing, dwelling on what never got done this year or what still needs to be done. Couple that with summer vacation and end of the school year fast approaching  and you have a recipe for disappointment and overwhelm.

homeschool mom struggle

Dear homeschool mom, this would happen to me every single year, both in the early days as well as my veteran homeschool days.

Why?

We all take our role as “Parent as Primary Teacher” very seriously.

We constantly give ourselves a non-stop performance review in our heads.  In other words, we let this really critical boss tell us we are not doing enough, that we could be doing more and that the kids would be better off in a different situation.

YES, even when our hearts are saying homeschooling is the best education for our precious kiddos!

Here are three tips I use to get that pesky, finger-pointing boss out of my head and begin to follow my heart!

Love always wins.

Jesus the source of LOVE. Replace that critical self-made boss immediately with the image of our Lord Jesus.  Visualize Him, and most importantly stop whatever you are doing and be present in His Love. If you can, go to Adoration, even for a quick visit. It literally changes everything.

I could not always get to daily Mass or Adoration when my children were little, so I made a spiritual communion, a desire in my heart to be one with Him.  Vinny Flynn in his book 7 Secrets of the Eucharist , in his last chapter, talks so beautifully about this tremendous gift, spiritual communion, Jesus is always available!

Make a List.

Writing things down always brings clarity. Period, end of sentence.  I know that it is so tempting to just let those self-defeating thoughts roll around in your head. Better yet it is super tempting to call a friend and complain. 

Now don’t get me wrong, it is a good thing to vent your frustrations to get the struggle out of your head. BUT writing down all those thoughts truly helps to put clarity into the big picture.

If you think you did not do enough this year, write down what you think you can reasonably finish in these last few weeks. It instantly makes you get outside your head and feeling productive. Forget the past, it is done and over with. Just move forward. Make a list.

Plan a celebration.

You are amazing and serve your family with your whole heart and soul. Please remember that!!

There is no doubt that even though you may feel your homeschooling came up short, there is without a doubt some wins!  Did one of your kids learn to read? Was there a sacrament received by one of your children this year? Did you learn more about one of your children’s interests/strengths?

Celebrate the good stuff that happened this year. There is sooooo much more to homeschooling than accomplishing the academic achievements.  It truly is about forming the people in our care in an environment of love and truth.  That is something to really celebrate!

Now it’s your turn, what do you do at the end of school year to finish up on the upswing?

Please comment and share, I’d love to hear your suggestions!

One Thousand Gifts and Easter Joy

Having a thankful heart. 

I recently picked up Ann Voskamp’s best selling book, One Thousand Gifts.  I was familiar with it in that I had often read quotes from it in the Magnificat daily meditations. They were always profound, on target, so naturally I was curious. 

There is another connection I have to that book’s author, Ann Voskamp. I found out that she wrote a geography book, published by Knowledge Quest whose owner is Terri Johnson.  I have long admired and worked with Terri and have come to know her as a soul sister with a generous heart and immense clarity.  Neither one of these women are Catholic but they live out, in clear definition, their Christian beliefs both in their writing and lives.  Both have six children, home school and both write about their lives and homeschooling products. I had to make time for this book.

Yes, the book is a best seller.

As a book store owner, I often feel skeptical with best sellers, knowing full well that only a few, the chosen few, get marketing dollars and publicity to raise it to the top, like cream in a bottle of milk.  Someday I will research this one, how it rose to the top. 

It definitely stands out from the usual big sellers, its overtly Christian. It is told in the first person, is very introspective and full of Scripture passages, not the usual making of a best seller. Yet it is, and yet passages found their way into my Catholic realm of spirituality, into my meditative reflections for Easter!

I must admit that when I first picked up Ann’s book, I began it with an expectation of being lifted, transformed, touched and moved by her inspirations.  However, the book begins with a bit of strangeness, dreams and flashbacks that conjure up a tragic accident of a little girl, her sister. I was taken aback and closed the book.  I let it sit for three weeks. Since I had borrowed it from the library, I renewed it to avoid forgetting to bring it back during the Easter Triduum holy days.

Then I found myself celebrating a rather quiet Easter Sunday at home.  We had gone to the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, our grandson was just born so they did not travel to us and my brother’s family canceled at the last minute. Therefore, I had plenty of time to make dinner, go for a walk and relax with a book.

I picked up One Thousand Gifts. 

This time, I opened the book in the middle, remembering the disturbing opening passages, and I began reading.  I read pages of deep reflection, full of emotion written in a free form style that encouraged me to read more.  So, I ventured back to the beginning of the book, thinking maybe I had put it down too quickly, maybe it wasn’t too hard to read. 

Wrong! It was hard! 

The memories Ann shares of her baby sister’s death are haunting and tragic. Yes! And yet, I realized that this stark vulnerability she shared was actually a gift. We are invited to enter into her pain, and through it receive ultimate personal growth.

I had just experienced the gift of the first Eucharist (thanksgiving) at Holy Thursday’s Mass of the Last Supper, cried my way through the Passion and Death of Jesus at the local Via Crucis on Good Friday. Then waited with eagerness towards the Easter Vigil to emerge from darkness into LIGHT!

Easter Joy! Alleluia!

Through tragedy springs hope, through pain and suffering we grow!  We are reborn with a thankful heart!

God was ever present for Ann in her daily life but Ann failed to notice, failed to give any thankfulness for the awesomeness of the simplicity of it all.  Her life, one of a farmer’s wife, is simple, yet profound.  It is dictated by the whims of nature and life in its purest form.  It is a seed bed, ripe for planting and ripe for growing. She knows this firsthand and showed me through her writings that life can be taken away in an instant, just like the life of her sister. 

Anne started a list.  A list, of one thousand gifts, and in that process her transformation began. The result became a book to share and remind me that Eucharist, thankfulness, is a precious gift Jesus gave to us for our pilgrim journey of life.

We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song!

Easter is a reality, a victory over the darkness of sin.  It is HOPE and LIFE! May I remember that, may I have a thankful heart. 

How are you moved by Easter JOY??

Please share and comment….

Catholic Kids, Easter and Holy Week

Did you wear pink or rose colored clothing to Mass for Laetare Sunday?

I did!

Okay, I have to confess, it was totally by accident, haha! When the kids were little, I was much more on top of the liturgical colors and the upcoming liturgical seasons.

Why?

Well, because I made it part of my curriculum. Just like we teach our children the seasons of the year, as a Catholic mom, I taught the Liturgical seasons. These seasons guided the rhythm of our daily lives including what I taught. Not only that, but I have seven kiddos and there are just so many hours in the day to get in everything!

Incorporating lessons pertaining to our liturgical seasons and faith make it possible to involve everyone in the family!

BUT, it was hard to find meaningful and faithful items each year…

That’s why I put together my favorite, family-tested ideas into packets around the Catholic seasons and feast days and used them as our school work.

I absolutely love the build up of Holy Week as we journey towards Easter.

Holy Week

To share this love, I want to firstly foster a sense of reverence for this most Holy Season. and do so together, family style.  Hands-on projects, such as the Jonah Project, Resurrection eggs, and Pascal Candle do just that. They connect Scripture, God’s Word, with physical activities the kids create. We dive into the story of Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection as they unfold throughout Holy Week. We add another lesson each day!

I promise to write soon about the benefits of making mini-books, which is such a powerful method of creating sustained learning!

But I will tell you that my kiddos benefitted greatly from making mini-books! So I made them templates to use for Easter and Holy Week. For example, we made mini-books to learn what are the real symbols and true colors of Easter. If it involved some writing, I had the older siblings help spell words for the younger guys. Sometimes they just made them together. My little ones practiced handwriting skills making these mini-books. My older ones used beautiful Easter notebook pages for journaling and taking notes during the week.

The art of letter writing and handwriting!

I didn’t get around to sending Christmas cards this year! How about you?

I found if I added Easter Cards as our school work this week, it was actually easier than during do so in the Christmas season. It brought back the art of letter writing to my kids. I made printable cards with blank inside for my kids to write personalized messages. I also made some with lines, to make it easier for the little ones. This definitely counts as handwriting practice!

It is always such a delight to see the Easter cards we made each year, not to mention the awesome THANK-YOU’s from our neighbors, friends, and family! Easter cards remind our loved ones of the awesomeness of Christ’s victory over Death, especially those family members who have fallen away from the faith, or need a gentle reminder that you are praying for them!

A few days ago I bought the same Easter Egg dye kit we use every year. I also picked up bags of grass, the paper version, as we have a dog who eats everything, haha! But as always, it is virtually impossible for me to find beautiful faith-filled Easter stickers to decorate our dyed Easter eggs.

So I made Easter sticker sheets too, featuring the real symbols and true colors of Easter (see them in the group photo above). I researched the symbolism and made up info sheets for reference. The kiddos use them to learn, take notes, or add to a mini-book!

With Holy Week and Easter just around the corner, I better start printing up these activities for this year, as I do every year! Better make two sets, to share some of these traditions with my grandchildren!

Visit my Easter Pinterest Board I put together with a bunch of ideas too!

My hope is that I can also save you some mom prep time and inspire you to add these type of activities in lieu of your regular schooling.

It truly is my all-time favorite time of the year! Do take time as a family to contemplate this most glorious season!

Please share, comment your favorite Easter traditions, and “count it as school.”

Discipline: Where does it come from?

What we do is never about us…

I was praying the joyful mysteries at Adoration. As I prayed, I was struck by the fourth Joyful Mystery, which is the Presentation in the Temple…and the fruit of this mystery, which is obedience!

Santa Maria della Salute (Venice) – Presentazione della virgine al tempio di Luca Giordano 1674

Earlier that day, I had received an email from a homeschool mom asking for advice about disciplining her children, having them listen to her, helping siblings to get along with each other, and dealing with family anger issues. 

In other words, she really asked about obedience!

However, why does obedience have such a nasty taste in our mouths?

Your kids taste it when you ask them to do their school work or chores, without complaint.  You taste it when you have to make dinner or plan a curriculum, or deal with siblings fighting, for the umpteenth time today!

But why does obedience have such a nasty taste when it is so closely tied to LOVE?

We all want and crave the good feeling of getting along and peace in our homes!

Furthermore, we are all wired for connectivity, and as such God placed us in families. 

On purpose, He placed us with the exact people in our unique family.  Without that beautiful desire to love each other, to want to get along, we would not know dying to self. He knew that suffering comes from love and we poor creatures have a really hard time making that connection. 

Back to that meditation…and the question:

Why is obedience the fruit of the mystery, the Presentation of the Lord?

Looking closely at Scripture, we see that it was out of obedience that Mary and Joseph brought baby Jesus to the Temple. It is the fulfillment from the prophet Malachi.

“Now I am sending my messenger— he will prepare the way before me; And the lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple; The messenger of the covenant whom you desire—see, he is coming! says the LORD of hosts”. Malachi 3:1

Similarly, in St. John Paul II’s REDEMPTORIS MATER, which is about the Blessed Mother and the life of the Church, he describes how the entire passages of Jesus’s announcement and birth, through to the presentation, is the story of Mary’s “obedience of faith.”

Simeon’s words seem like a second Annunciation to Mary, for they tell her of the actual historical situation in which the Son is to accomplish his mission, namely, in misunderstanding and sorrow. While this announcement on the one hand confirms her faith in the accomplishment of the divine promises of salvation, on the other hand it also reveals to her that she will have to live her obedience of faith in suffering, at the side of the suffering Savior, and that her motherhood will be mysterious and sorrowful.” 

I find that super hard to read and much harder to live!!

However, God gives us the answer!

Your family is the haven of peace and obedience He created. Let us begin to think of our homes as the domestic church God gifted us with and in it dwells LOVE, the author of LOVE, and the Mother He gave us to guide us.

Finally, St. John Paul II goes on… “The Mother of that Son, therefore, mindful of what has been told her at the Annunciation and in subsequent events, bears within herself the radical “newness” of faith: the beginning of the New Covenant. This is the beginning of the Gospel, the joyful Good News.”

Of course, we all want peace in our homes, and dare I say even in our homeschools. 

We desire obedience from our kids.  We set boundaries and hand out a family rulebook, BUT we need to do this only through LOVE and continually asking ourselves:

“What kind of obedience am I asking of myself and children?”

If it is to be an obedience of faith, like Mary’s, then expect to walk side by side in suffering.  Misunderstanding and suffering does exist in families.  We all want to do what we want, when we want! Yet, we all know, all too well, that for the good of others we love, we cannot get what we want, when we want it. Period.

Does this mean, there are no practical tips for gaining obedience?  Should we just suffer and give up? Absolutely not! 

When my kids were very little, we surrounded them with love and as such surrounded them with the love of Christ.  He is the center of our home and sits at our table for all our meals, guides our speech towards each other. We offered our day through petition at the beginning of each day by reading the gospel of the day, singing a hymn of praise and offered contrition and thanksgiving in each night’s prayers.  We immersed ourselves in the lives of the saints and lived the liturgical year. 

Were we perfect in our desire to live this Christocentric life?  Heck no! 

I lost it with my kids, slammed doors (broke that habit – thank God), and fought with my husband.  However, we had TIME…yes, TIME to work all these things out because we homeschooled our children.  We had to live with each other on a daily basis for many hours, learn from each other, and get along for the sake of the family!

The peace beyond all understanding.

There is no magic pill or miracle tip that will make it all better.

Yes, you should expect kindness.  Yes, you should expect immediate obedience (no counting to 3 please, it just delays obedience). Remember to be patient, as we are all a work in progress.  Be gentle with yourself, if you are often not patient or kind with family members. Sometimes it is best to remove yourself from the room, take a deep, long breath, and pray!

Recently at confession, our pastor said a lovely thing to me, “Leave the past to God’s mercy, and do not worry about the future, as it has not happened yet. Be present in the moment and give it to serving and loving Jesus in your family.”

Great reminder, right?

Here is another gem, a favorite verse that helps me refocus…

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, shall guard your heart and mind through Jesus Christ.” Philippians 4:6-7

Thank you homeschool mom! You share your heart with your family each and every day, giving that LOVE of Christ to the precious ones in your care. Keep Jesus close because He will take your crooked lines and make them straight!

May God bless your family abundantly! With love ❤️ Paola

Now it’s your turn. Comment below to share with us your thoughts on obedience!

Got a friend or fellow homeschool mom who can use encouragement, who would feel loved and supported by this message? Please share this post!

Top 3 Tips: Homeschooling when sickness hits!

I bet you can relate to this scene!

You are nursing full time to the sick kiddos in your home, so you get derailed from teaching the kids not sick. Then when the sick ones get better, the healthy ones get sick! This can go on for several weeks, one sick kiddo at a time!

Then you get sick.

What can a homeschool mom do?

You could just be sick and skip school, right?

“Plug-in” the kids with a few documentaries and viola it counts as a school day, right? BUT you have already missed so much time with them…

Or you could do these TOP 3 easy things that actually still get school work done while you are in survival mode.

Over the past 25 years homeschooling my seven kiddos, there were plenty of times that I actually never got sick, call it mom-immunity!! But there were also plenty of times that I too got whatever was running through my family!

I do not live near any of my close relatives and most family is about two hours away. I had to learn early on how to manage without much help!

They say necessity is the mother of invention and I truly believe that! More importantly, I do believe that God’s grace is sufficient. All too often I was way too hard on myself and expected way too much!

Having mom or the family sick brings with it amble opportunities to really focus on the overall important things of life.

Tip #1: Mandatory Quiet time

This tip is especially helpful when you have kiddos all under the age of 8. During this time of my life, I would gather every, single one of us in my bedroom and close the door. Heck, I got my cold from them so we would just plop on my bed in one, giant, sick bundle.

My family LOVES to color and this really was a salvation. I would always keep on hand imaginative, coloring books such as the ones from Dover Publications. This publisher is a fantastic resource because of the enormous wealth of coloring book choices with excellent and informative illustrations. To make it count as homeschooling, I chose coloring books correlated with our current school work in history, science or literature! The company offers free samples, you can just download now. They often have free shipping too. My best bets are the history coloring books, or the nature coloring books, something for everyone at different ages!

Tip #2: Reading aloud

Having sickness in the house, whether it is just the kiddos or includes mom, is the perfect opportunity to have read aloud time take over most of the homeschooling day. Count your sickness as a blessing to get you started in one of the most profound experiences in your child’s development, reading to you or listening to others read aloud! There are so many benefits to reading aloud, from the practical, such as language development, knowledge gained and shared, literacy skills, brain development to the spiritual and so much more!

I did a post: How to Make Read Aloud Time Work, with helpful tips and book recommendations. Read together from the couch or bed! Pick important stories too, that infuse virtues into your homeschool! Love this quote…

“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”

GK Chesterton

I have plenty of book reviews here on the BLOG. And I keep adding more weekly! These are book reviews culled from my 25 years of homeschooling and running our family business choosing the best books!

Tip #3: Play with Games and Toys

Yes, I did say play with games and toys and I mean for it to count as a homeschool day! However, not just any games or toys. I do not mean computer games. There are plenty of them, and free ones too BUT when you are sick or the kids are sick, it is so easy to lose track of time. Even if you set a timer for the kids to limit computer time, survival mode is not the time to monitor their computer usage. The result of which would only cause you to spend time trying to undo the damage of brain fatigue with crabby kids!

kids with tangram

It is really important to have on hand games and toys that actually teach important skills, such as spatial relationships, math skills, reasoning, color, matching, sequencing, timelines, communications, creativity, etc. Do you see where I am going with this? No babysitting by using TV and the computer!

Here is a handy list of my best games and toys that count for homeschooling:

  • Tangrams or Pattern Blocks- spatial relations, color recognition, patterning
  • Lacing and Tracing Cards – fine motor skills
  • Puppets – ones they make from a kit or animal and fairy tale figures (for storytelling)
  • Beading and laces – for patterns, colors, sequencing
  • Double-sided Geoboards – basic geometry of squares, rectangles, triangles, polygons and symmetry
  • Puzzles – letter recognition, spatial relations
  • Scrabble or Hangman – spelling practice
  • Two-sided counters – practice math facts

BONUS Tip – for your older kiddos

Chances are the older kiddos can manage most of their assigned work themselves for a few days, with no great loss. They most certainly should be able to read all assigned work. They can write down all their questions, or jot the pages from their workbooks that gave them trouble while you were down and out. I often found that without relying on my constant presence they could do a heck more than they realize. All too often they know how to do just the minimum which includes asking mom for the answers. Here is their chance to stretch themselves and you.

Give the big kiddos the chance to shine and be the family hero by asking them to teach their younger sibling a subject, be it math or spelling or something they love and excel in. Teaching younger siblings reinforces already learned concepts and skills with the added benefit that the repetition reinforces and strengthens it.

Be gentle with yourself! Rest, and get better homeschool mom!

What are your survival mode tips? Please comment below! The best tips come from those of us in the trenches!!!

St. Patrick’s Day – It’s not about Leprechauns, it’s about Prayer!

Irish_clover B

Come to find out, thanks to my mom’s steady and relentless genealogy research, there were many Irish grandmas on my husband’s side of the family.

Who knew, with such a Slovakian name as Ciskanik, there would be Dooleys, Fitzgeralds, and English relatives who married Irish women!

So this Italian girl resolved to find out all about  St. Patrick to infuse Irish history into our family homeschool. In my quest, however, I was dismayed at how far from the real story our culture had strayed, especially in our St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.  

St. Patrick was amazing, he was all about prayer! 

I became overwhelmed at the sheer number of prayers attributed to this holy man, not only ones he wrote, but also many that were inspired by him.  

Prayer is central to our relationship with God. 

It is a comfort to me to know that even when St. Patrick strayed and forgot his early faith formation, when the real moment of truth came in his life, he turned to prayer.  

I really think that this was okay by God. We usually forget Him, but when we really need Him, we begin our conversation of prayer.  St. Patrick must have learned how to be quiet and listen to God too!  He most definitely had a two way conversation with God! He heard Him, obeyed Him, and prayed for the many souls he longed to send to Christ! Just read his “Confessio.” We made a Family Read Aloud Version in our St. Patrick’s Religion Lessons and Craft Packet. 

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An oldie but a goody. Watch as “Veggietales” explains the life and teachings of St. Patrick and how he used the power of prayer to bring the people of Ireland out of paganism and into relationship with the one true God!

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St. Patrick’s Prayers

How many of these prayers have you heard or prayed?

We are going to learn a new one this Saint Patrick’s Day and in the process grow closer to God. We are going to dig deeper into our Irish heritage, learn about the Hedge schools, learn about the colors and the symbolism attributed to the Irish and make Irish Soda Bread!

How are you going to spend St. Patrick’s Day? Please comment below, so I can add more Irish heritage and traditions into my family!!

♣♣♣

saint-patrick-14

PRAYER TO CHRIST CRUCIFIED
Keep us in peace, O Christ our God,
under the protection of Thy holy and venerable Cross:
save us from enemies visible and invisible
and account us worthy to glorify Thee with thanksgiving,
together with the Father,
and the Holy Ghost,
now and ever and world without end.
Amen.
[THE LITURGY OF THE ARMENIANS]

Have Faith Love Will Find You
Dear God, Committed love is a sacred treasure I long to find the one who is mine.
I trust you will grant my desires for love – to love of myself, and to find love with my true soul mate.
I trust you will bring this to me gently and sweetly, in a way that is completely right for me and my true love.
I give thanks for your presence, your guidance and your love. And so it is.

High Cross

Prayer to St. Patrick, Patron of Ireland
Dear St. Patrick,
in your humility you called yourself a sinner,
but you became a most successful missionary
and prompted countless pagans
to follow the Saviour.
Many of their descendents in turn
spread the Good News in numerous foreign lands.
Through your powerful intercession with God,
obtain the missionaries we need
to continue the work you began.
Amen.

Prayer about St. Patrick
God our Father,
you sent Saint Patrick to preach your glory to the people of Ireland.
By the help of his prayers,
may all Christians proclaim your love to all men.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Thanks for St. Patrick
O God, Who didst vouchsafe to send Thy Confessor and Bishop, Blessed Patrick, to preach Thy glory to the nations, grant, through his merits and intercession, that what Thou dost command us to do, we may, by Thy mercy, be enabled to perform. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

Saint_Patrick

Prayer for the Faithful by Saint Patrick
May the Strength of God guide us.
May the Power of God preserve us.
May the Wisdom of God instruct us.
May the Hand of God protect us.
May the Way of God direct us.
May the Shield of God defend us.
May the Angels of God guard us.
– Against the snares of the evil one.
May Christ be with us!
May Christ be before us!
May Christ be in us,
Christ be over all!
May Thy Grace, Lord,
Always be ours,
This day, O Lord, and forevermore. Amen.

An Irish prayer
As I arise today,
may the strength of God pilot me,
the power of God uphold me,
the wisdom of God guide me.
May the eye of God look before me,
the ear of God hear me,
the word of God speak for me.
May the hand of God protect me,
the way of God lie before me,
the shield of God defend me,
the host of God save me.
May Christ shield me today.
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit,
Christ when I stand,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me. Amen

saint-patrick-20

St. Patrick’s Breastplate (ca. 389-461 AD.)
I bind unto myself today the power of God to hold and lead, His eye to watch, His might to stay, His ear to hearken to my need: the wisdom of my God to teach, His hand to guide, His shield to ward; the Word of God to give me speech, His heavenly host to be my guard.
Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me,
Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort me and restore me, Christ beneath me,
Christ above me, Christ in the hearts of all that love me,
Christ in the mouth of friend and stranger.
I bind unto myself the Name, the strong Name of the Trinity, by invocation of the same, the Three in One, and One in Three, of Whom all nature hath creation; Eternal Father, Spirit, Word: praise to the Lord of my salvation, salvation is of Christ the Lord. Amen.
I bind myself to God’s power to guide me, God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to teach me, God’s Eye to watch over me, God’s Ear to hear me, God’s way to lie before me, God’s shield to shelter me, God’s host to secure me…Against the snares of demons, against the seductions of vices, against the lusts of nature, against everyone who meditates injury to me, whether far or near, few or many.
source: http://www.catholic.org/prayers

Lenten Reading Program

Wow!  It always seems that Lent arrives just when I need it most! 

We are now in our second semester and here, in Delaware, the temperature is hovering in forties with brilliant sunshine!  

It always happens that I feel so dry right about now; I feel overwhelmed. Then, by the grace of God, in comes the season of Lent.  God is so good to us. He gave us an entire season to ready our hearts for the most glorious of all times: Easter, Jesus’ Resurrection.

Being the great bibliophile that I am, my knee jerk reaction to preparation is to line up a reading program!

The following is my humble attempt to offer some suggestions to help you and your family ready their hearts this Lent.

One of my favorite sources for ideas is the fabulous book, Around the Year with the Von Trapp Family by Maria Augusta von Trapp. A dear customer lovingly gave me a copy over ten years ago when it was long out of print and I treasure it.  Now it’s back in print!

Maria offers this in her book: A Lenten Reading Program for yourself and the children. 

This idea is echoed in the booklet Celebrating the Faith in the Home – The Forty Days of Lent, by Teresa Zepeda and Laurie Gill. Sadly, this is out of print. But I have an old copy so I share marvelous ideas gleaned from this book along with other out of print treasures. I also add ideas from my own family (or domestic church).

“Divide our reading into three parts: something for the mind, something for the heart, something for the soul.”

Maria Augusta Trapp

Something for the MIND:

Something about Church History, or the sacraments, ethics, dogma, scholarly life of Jesus, or encyclicals.

This category is easy to fit into your daily school time as part of your religion class. Just pick any books from your religion curriculum or read a chapter each day of Lent from one of the following books:

For Children:

Angel Food for Boys and Girls by  Fr. Gerald T. Brennan

St. Patrick’s Summer A Children’s Adventure Catechism byMarigold Hunt

St. Joseph Picture Books Series by Father Lovasik (Catholic Book Publishing)

For Teens and Adults

Pick a favorite Pope and read several of his encyclicals (just go to www.vativan.va)

The Revolution Against Christendom by Warren Carroll, or any of his other titles

Ten Dates Every Catholic Should Know by Diane Moczar

What Jesus Saw From the Cross by A. G. Sertillanges

Something for the HEART:

I truly believe the saints call us! Pick out two or three favorite family saints from any saint collection you have handy at home and read a chapter each night! These saints then can be your family patron saints for the liturgical year.

For Children:

Vision Books – Wonderful series of Saint Stories written by well-know and beloved authors

Encounter the Saints Series by the Daughters of St. Paul

Twenty Tales of Irish Saints by Alice Curtayne

For Teens and Adults:

St. Gianna Molla by Pietro Molla (Yes, written by her husband, lovely!)

Edmund Campion: A Life by Evelyn Waugh

Any of the Louis de Wohl titles, my favorite one is about Catherine of Sienna titled Lay Siege to Heaven.

Something for the SOUL:

This requires spiritual reading of a high order from works of the saints or saintly writers, prayer books, religious poetry, or picture books of the life of our Lord.

For Children:

My Path to Heaven by Caryll Houselander ( This is actually an mini retreat for kids!)

Speak Lord I am Listening By Christine Haapala

Program for Achieving Character Education– Faith is the best way to teach virtuous behavior

Follow Me (Stations of the Cross meditations with companion Saints that exemplify the virtues portrayed along the via delarosa)

For Teens and Adults:

The Story of a Soul :The Autobiography of the Little Flower

The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis

Handbook of Prayers: Student Edition compiled by James Socias

…and specifically for Lenten meals, try:

Twelve Months of Monastery Soups by Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette

A Continual Feast: A Cookbook to Celebrate the Joys of Family &Faith throughout the Christian Year by Evelyn Vitz

What will you be reading this Lenten season? Please leave a comment!

Catholic kids and the REAL St. Valentine

Image of St. Valentine

Necessity is truly the mother of invention!

Here is my story!

In an attempt to spice things up a bit in our family homeschooling I was planning on doing all things St. Valentine! So off to the library I went. Only to find that practically EVERYTHING I found was about the cute (sometimes creepy looking) cupids with love arrows, hearts, flowers, chocolate BUT nothing about the real saint!

Just to paint the picture , here is a small sampling of titles you will find if you do a library or book search: Hugs and kisses for the Grouchy Ladybug by famed author Eric Carle, Groggle Monster’s Valentine (yes, that is a real book recommended on a popular teacher website), Valentine’s Day Jokes for Kids, The Secret Life of Squirrels – a Love Story, Little Ant’s Valentine, do I need to go on???

Needless to say I was dismayed and horrified at the same time!!

Who is the saint that causes us to be wild about hearts ♥, the color red and send friends and family messages of love every February 14?

The secular world is CLUELESS.

So I made it my mission to learn the real story behind this Catholic feast day!

Step 1:

I began our little evangelization journey/project towards reclaiming the REAL St. Valentine from the jaws of the secular world by first learning several prayers attributed to the saint, to ask him to intercede for our family and friends.

Step 2:

Next I went back to the library and scoured the shelves and on-line catalog, I took out a bunch of books that looked promising and eventually found a few good books to use for our nightly read aloud time. There are not many I would recommend but these definitely passed the mustard! Each one added different facts and historic details.

  • The Story of Valentine’s Day by Clyde Robert Bulla
  • Saint Valentine by Robert Sabuda
  • Saint Valentine by Ann Tompert
  • Hearts, Cupids and Red Roses by Edna Barth

Step 3:

The next thing you knew I was immersing myself in the transition from the pagan rituals and the symbolism of the symbols and colors surrounding this feast day! Naturally that then brought me to the history of the feast day and story of how a Pope helped to Christianize this day, his name is Pope Gelasius. So cool right?

In true form it was the Catholic Church elevating a pagan feast day and its symbols by celebrating the feast day of an early martyr of the Church, St. Valentine. 

Thus became our family tradition, to make cards that included sacred and beautiful images of the real St. Valentine, the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary! We use Scripture verses that speak of REAL love.

Step 4:

I designed it to counts as school work, by adding notebooking sheets for our narrations, mini-book templates of various shapes and designs to have the kids write about all they learned from the history I had written for them on several reference sheets. We also added the mini-books to lapbooks too!

Handwriting practice lessons for the week included Scripture verses I had collected with God’s unending love for His children! Coloring sheets of St. Valentine, were super handy for my little ones during nightly rosary or quiet time.

And I also had holy cards designed so we could print/color and share. This collection has something for everyone in the family!

My talented daughters helped me put all of this together in a 50 page printable packet ! It is well loved by family and friends who use it year after year, as their family tradition and more importantly as an evangelization tool to tell the REAL story of St. Valentine.

For that we are grateful!

Leave a comment on your family’s journey towards evangelizing the culture by reclaiming the saints!!

You too can invite a family you know from your homeschool community or from your parish and make beautiful St. Valentine Cards or postcards to exchange or bring to neighbors! Immerse yourselves in all thing St. Valentine!

How to Make Read Aloud Time Work

Are you too tired, too busy, or too distracted to make time to read aloud? 

You’ve spent all day as teacher, chef, housekeeper, peacemaker, chauffeur, you name it—

There are countless benefits to family read aloud sessions that go well beyond the educational, and these benefits outweigh all your reasons for skipping it! 

Infographic on benefits to reading aloud
Image Source:Read Aloud 15 MINUTES

In addition to creating priceless family memories, these read aloud moments also give mom the chance to revisit her favorite childhood books or read the ones you missed the first time around.  It is also a fantastic way to wind down your household after a hectic day.

Even once your children begin reading proficiently on their own, family read aloud time still offers wonderful opportunities for the whole family to gather together and simply enjoy each other with great literature.

Need help to begin or keep it up?

If you find that the time you designate for family reading aloud always slips by, here is a helpful hint:

Set a timer for your desired reading time. 

I found that 15- 20 minutes before “lights out” is ample time to read a chapter or two.  It wasn’t until I placed this desire in my heart that this time became a reality. Once I did, I was amazed how quickly read aloud time became our regular nightly routine.  In fact, it was considered a harsh punishment by my kids to skip bedtime read aloud time! They grew to LOVE this special time each and every year, even through the teen years!

Don’t know what books to read, for each age?

Here are my all time favorite booklists! I kept a copy of each ready in hand when I went to the library or requested books on-line. Once you get familiar with favorite authors you can pick up great book bargains at the local thrift store or library book sale. My library keeps a section of used books for sale and I often find great hardcover copies of treasured family favorites.

Catholic booklists
  • A Mother’s List of Books by Theresa Fagan – My all time FAVORITE, listed by age with annotations too!
  • For the Love of Literature by Maureen Wittmann – great chapter on reading aloud with tons of book recommendations.
  • The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease – great tips and great list especially for reading aloud to children!
  • Program for Achieving Character Education by Monica Speach – Wonderful literature suggestions listed by age and coordinated to the virtues and much more!
  • A Landscape with Dragons by Michael O’Brien- back of book has a great list.
  • Let the Authors Speak by Carolyn Hatcher (plenty of used copies- worth finding if you love history).
  • Books That Build Character: A Guide to Teaching Your Child Moral Values Through Stories by William Kilpatrick – virtue based categories and also by age.
  • Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt – classic with beloved books especially for the younger crowd.
  • Books Children Love by Elizabeth Wilson – her lists contains books by topic, great to coordinate with your children’s interests, all by age!

Get everyone involved!

A wonderful tip to get every member of the family interested and involved in read aloud time is to let each person take turns choosing the books. 

Additionally, designate specific nights so each child may take his/her turn in reading aloud.  This gives your children an opportunity to practice reading plus it helps them to become effective public speakers. 

Hearing books read aloud also fosters better writing skills.  According to Andrew Pudewa of the Institute for Excellence in Writing, to become a better writer, you need to draw upon the foundations of the patterns within language. 

What better way to strengthen that foundation than by reading aloud, where the nuances and characteristics of language come alive. Reading aloud forces the reader to slow the pace and really process the information, processing the whole picture. 

Once children become accomplished readers, many tend to skim or scan through pages of a book as they read silently.  They miss so much, but if they read aloud, the content is displayed as complete rather than choppy fragments.  Our older boys were really struggling with reading Shakespeare’s plays. This is until they decided to read it aloud to one another.  They were astonished at how quickly and clearly they could grasp the concepts and summarize the content simply by hearing it out loud!

And that goes for just about any really good story! Language patterns, dialogue, plot points and characterizations are best understood when you read aloud as you are forced to speak every single word the author wrote in the sequence they wrote it! You will be teaching your kids the beginnings of reading for a deeper understanding!

What are your favorite read aloud time books? Share them in the comments below!

Ready, Set, Go, Homeschool Mom!

I love this saying as it evokes a clear image for me!  It is the image of a runner at the starting line of a race. They have been preparing for months to run this race.  The runner is eager to begin and give their very best effort to run the race.

catholic homeschool mom

In my mind, I can see that this runner is different. She does not run for personal gain but for a higher reward.  This reward is priceless. This reward is satisfying on such a deep level that the runner draws strength, her energy and perseverance from the mere thought of obtaining it.

What does this have to do with homeschooling?

I see the runner as a mom who homeschools her children.

I work best visualizing images, making movies in my head of the life I want to lead. Being fed on a steady diet of old fashioned black and white movies from the 30’s and 40’s, I was drawn to the messages told in a story. There was always the hero and his journey towards some good for himself or humanity. I find that the best books I cherish have strong hero stories!

It is no wonder that I was drawn to the ultimate story, the very best hero tale, when I was invited back home to the faith of my birth. This story is the one our Lord has told through His Word and through his Apostles and Saints, handed down through the ages.

This ultimate story is the center of my family’s homeschool journey.  It is the energy my family drawns upon to direct each day. 

It is all that matters in the end. 

Catholic Homeschool mom

A little while ago I wrote a guide called, Get Ready. This handy little guide I developed as a starting point for anyone who wants to begin their family journey towards an authentic and doable Catholic homeschool.  In it, I introduced the PRRR method, (a silly acronym, I know). Firstly you start with Prayer, then you go through the next steps of Read, Research, and Reflect. In addition, there are helpful suggestions and worksheets to guide you through this EASY process.

“Get Set, Go!”

Above all, what I learned after 25 years of homeschooling and consulting, is that you “Set” your life first, then layer in school. I know that seems unfamiliar and maybe even confusing at first, but think about it for a minute. The only way to find balance, to have enough time for all your roles, as wife, mom, and teacher is to SET LIFE and fit in school.

To do otherwise is a certain recipe for overwhelm.

Consider this…would you buy a car without thinking of who is going to drive it and be a passenger in it?  Would you make dinner by never looking at the ingredients you are adding to the dinner, let alone open the fridge?

In other words, when you choose to homeschool, to do something extraordinary, you have the opportunity to personalize and tailor the education of each and every child in your family.

However, can you possibly teach so many different levels with so many different personalities and learning styles?

It is possible! I have personally witnessed many, many families do this. Ordinary people with an extraordinary desire to challenge the status quo of education. You have already begun, when you decided to take on the primary role of educator.

How? You are a parent.

catholic homeschool mom

Two powerful passages come to mind that speak volumes:

Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. (CCC 2223)

The home is the natural environment for initiating a human being into solidarity and communal responsibilities. Parents should teach children to avoid the compromising and degrading influences which threaten human societies. (CCC 2224)

Relax, over the next few weeks I will be introducing practical techniques that help you SET YOUR LIFE.

So, go ahead and spend time first in getting to know what is in your fridge BEFORE you make dinner….spend time this week getting to really know your kids interests and talents.

Comment below what you “found in your fridge”…