The Ireland of Our Ancestors: A Collection of Discovery Activities

by Maryanne Patterson

What better way to begin the study of history or enhance your current history program than to study our ancestors. The Ireland of Our Ancestors packet contains a wealth of information and activities that could be used with a variety of ages too! Within the download are various sections and all the necessary craft materials and instruction sheets together, with each in its own envelope, so everything is literally right there and ready to go. For each section, there is a summary of the main points you may want to cover with your children, with several online references for further study. (All ages, 43 pages, PDF

Download contains the following sections:
• Alphabet and Language• Apparitions of Mary (with stories)• Agriculture & Economy• Blessings, Prayers and Proverbs• Calligraphy and Penmanship Practice• Currency• Flags of Ireland; • History• Maps• Music• Patron Saint and Other Saints• National Landmarks and Other Attractions• Recipes• Crafts (Celtic Cross Christmas Ornaments, St. Bridget’s Cross, Claddagh Friendship Note Cards, and an Emerald Isle Plastic Canvas Needle Craft).

Click here to obtain a copy: The Ireland of Our Ancestors 

Family of God: A Study of History Through Genealogy for Catholic Homeschooling Families

by Maryanne Patterson

When Family of God arrived, I knew it was something really special just from the title alone. The author has put together an outstanding resource from which all families would benefit in their study of history. The greatest feature of this program is that children are able to connect to history on a very personal basis in a way that makes it more meaningful and memorable to them. Families are given an increased appreciation for the past—and the real people, including their own family members, who lived in the past—in such a way that their perspective on the present and the future is changed for the better. All ages from little ones to adults are able to participate in individual or whole-family projects which benefit each member, no matter the children’s ages or ability levels. Faith and family are truly the centerpieces of this unique history program.

What is probably the best thing about Family of God is how it brings to light the importance of praying for the Holy Souls, and to especially pray for the souls of the departed in our own families. That is why this book comes with its own prayer companion.

In the author’s own words, “I believe the direct aims of this study are as follows:

  • To give children a chance to connect with history on a personal basis in a way that makes it more meaningful and memorable to them
  • To give families a chance to participate in a whole family project that is fun and which benefits each member, no matter the age or ability level
  • To increase in families an appreciation for the past-and the people who lived in the past – in such a way that their perspective on both the present and the future is changed for the better
  • To plant seeds of love in the hearts of families for all the holy souls in purgatory, especially the souls of their ancestors, so that there will be a greater outpouring of prayers on their behalf as God wishes.”

Family of God is flexible, economical (just download and go), and easy-to-use, this year-long unit study is well-organized with a 32 week suggested lesson plan chock full of resources, hands-on projects, and most importantly, tons of photographed examples from the author’s own family study for your reference.

I especially loved the idea of developing a questionnaire with your kids involvement that they then ask their grandparents and/or relatives of their grandparents generation. These questions then can be mailed to the relatives or done as a phone interview. Then they can be collected and shared with the extended family. This comes as an additional kits if you want to sample just a portion of the program, in  the Family of God: Grandparent Interview Activity Kit eBook.

Other ideas from Family of God include a Family Coat of Arms, the Family History Scrapbook, the Family Mobile, and the Family History Timeline, finding out when your relatives celebrated sacraments, searching to find is there were any in religious life or perhaps family Blesseds or saints, finding out the occupations of your relatives, mapping out where all your relatives moved to when they came to America (if they were Irish you there is the  the The Ireland of Our Ancestors: A Collection of Discovery Activities eBook) and tons more. Any part of this program you do together then becomes keepsakes of their year of study. Even if your family completes only one week’s worth of ideas you will have given them a gift of a lifetime!

Great care has been taken to provide a strong framework of helpful support and guidance while, at the same time, you are able to create your own individualized family masterpiece of history study, beginning with your family’s countries of origin and continuing through the generations to the present day. Important events and significant people in both World and US history are covered, but from a customized perspective so that your study of history connects to your own family’s past. This is what makes it so much more enjoyable and memorable for everyone, including you as teacher! (All ages, 171 pages, PDF)

Click here to obtain a copy: Family of God

History Worth Remembering Timeline Figures™

Teaching history to children today is imperative.  After all history often repeats itself and we learn important and essential truths from our past. Giving them the perspective of what happened when is critical.  Laying the foundation by making a timeline each year gives you a framework,  perspective.  However, for years we had searched high and low for timeline figures that included a balanced Catholic perspective on history, where the contributions of Catholics throughout time are fairly represented in the context of other events. No creature existed, so we embarked on our own venture . With the aid of balanced resources, we worked for many years as a family pooling together our collective interests and talents to create a set of historical timeline figures.  In fact we made six complete sets and a FREE set of printed lines with dates to make this vital element to any history curriculum possible and EASY!

We named the History Worth Remembering Timeline Figures™ as  I recalled so long ago an article written by Laura Berquist that spoke of 3286the importance of studying history and incorporating timelines with your study.  You can begin as a family making one altogether and make one day a week “Timeline Day”.  Some families have found it helpful to have each child make their own and build on it each year as they study through the major time periods of civilization.

The figures now come in a digital version, to make it affordable for families, buy it once and print up as you need them when you need them as often as you need them for your entire family.  They can be printed on sticky back paper so your child can color them, cut them out and place them in appropriate places on their very own personal timelines. We recommend using durable and sturdy blank books.  either in a landscape or portrait orientation.  Using colored pencils give it a personal touch and work easily for even your little guys.

HWR spread

They can also be placed on index cards or laminated to be used for a history trivia game or on a large bulletin board in your family school room showing the complete span of history. One family told us the kids made colored borders for each figure, each color highlighting those that are saints in the Catholic Church, another color for places, another for events, etc. You too will find many uses for these timeline figures on your own, especially as you let your children guide the way!

HWR Timeline Art

Click here to see Samples of ALL SIX sets:


History Portfolios

2390By Barbara Shurkin

Each Homeschool Journey History Portfolio encourages study and plenty of creativity while providing a compact way of organizing and showcasing a student’s own written research projects and reports, colorful drawings, photographs, clippings, downloaded images… anything that can fit between the pages! Use it as a stand alone curriculum using living books, or alongside your current history program. Each book is designed for individual use and will become a unique record of the student’s journey through history… a keepsake and a “book to treasure!” The History Portfolio Classic editions are designed for your middle school to high school students while the Junior version for your younger set, which is especially nice to families who want to study the same time period together. The body of the Portfolio is divided into chapters of commonly studied historical time periods, cultures and civilizations (see Chapter Titles below). The Table of Contents provides a thorough reference index to work with, indicating topics covering: works of literature, important people, works of art and architecture, important places and events, plus advances in science and technology.

Samples from Ancient History:

Samples from Medieval History:

The attractively formatted Portfolios contain an entirely unique system of “image boxes” and “text boxes” that support and showcase the student’s work, whether hand or type written reports, graphs, diagrams, hand drawn images, photographs, or images accessed from the Internet. Also includes black-line maps of the regions being studied. And a sturdy timeline comes bound in each History Portfolio ready to be removed and easily assembled (we suggest using our History Worth Remembering Timeline Figures…see p. ) The assembled timeline measures approximately 11” x 47” and is printed on heavy card stock. In the Teacher’s Guide you will find something specific to put into each and every image box and text box. In many cases, there is provided multiple, grade appropriate suggestions for each box. Whether you use the Guide as-is, coloring, cutting, and pasting the images into the Portfolio, or simply you use it as a springboard and source of ideas. The Full color maps are a great add-on!

samples from the JUNIOR edition:

The Ancient Timeline is divided into continents, and further into separate strands for each culture spanning the time between 5000 B.C. and 600 A.D. The dates provided cover the time from about 3500 B.C. (Sumerians) to 476 A.D. (Fall of Rome).  The JUNIOR edition includes a Teacher’s Guide. 

The Medieval timeline is divided into sections, allowing a separate strand for each culture or empire. Dates begin at The Birth of Christ and continue to 1500 A.D. The JUNIOR edition includes a Teacher’s Guide.

Living History

“Living history” is infectious and constitutes a deep level of understanding.  For our family, history is a family adventure, we immerse ourselves in a variety of time periods, even to point of having joined a local Fife and Drum Corps, attending
local Civil War balls in period costumes, visiting historical sites and attending electronic field trips on the web. Our family library is well stocked with great historical fiction for a wide variety of ages and time periods. When my husband and I are enthusiastic about history it becomes contagious to our children.


It is definitely worth reading Mortimer Alder’s How to Read a Book, especially his section on history. This book will give you excellent, practical ways to teach reading for deeper understanding. In doing so, the student develops the habit of asking questions and seeking the answers, which fosters a love of learning and a deeper knowledge base. This is essential if one wants to eventually be able to speak or write about what they are studying, in addition to being  excellent preparation for college work too!  Deciding on which historical fiction books to use can be tricky, we hope our suggestions on this on-line review site will help, since we are very selective and carefully read each book we review. New books are added daily, so visit often.

glass-29648_640Here are a few things we look for: What is the author’s agenda? Is it fair and balanced? Does it have a rich bibliography? Is it age appropriate? Does it include primary sources?

A natural place to improve our writing skills is in the area of history. For those of us not secure in our own ability to teach writing to our children, an excellent resource is Teaching, Writing, Structure and Style and the corresponding History Based Writing Lessons Source Material books (both published by IEW). This program has given us a solid foundation in teaching our children how to,  begin outlines, form topic sentences, and organize their ideas in a variety of writing styles, from creative writing to persuasive essays.


Use a good, reliable, Catholic textbook as your framework for the time period you are studying, like From Sea to Shining Sea and Light to the Nations. Round out the study with age-appropriate, well-written, historical fiction or primary sources. Then add on hands-on projects like the ones in the easy to use History Pockets series and History Portfolios. Timelines are important element in giving perspective and overview of the time period you are studying.  We worked hard to create our History Worth Remembering Timeline Figures , where the contributions of Catholics throughout time are highlighted.

By following a plan as outlined here, your family will see clearly God’s Divine Providence throughout history while having a ton of fun and knowing that real, sustained skills are being mastered.



The Witch of Blackbird Pond

1385_The Witch of Blackbird Pond

by Elizabeth George Speare 

The setting is the Colony of Connecticut in 1687 amid the political and religious conflicts of that day. When sixteen-year-old Kit Tyler unexpectedly arrives at her aunt and uncle’s doorstep, she is unprepared for the new world which awaits her.  Raised by her grandfather in Barbados, she doesn’t understand the conflict between those loyal to the king and those who defend the Connecticut Charter.  She is constantly astounding her aunt, uncle, and cousins with her dress, behavior, ideas and her ignorance of religious intolerance and the rigidity of the Puritan community. Feeling unwanted and alone Kit’s only comfort is her secret friendship with the widow, Hannah Tupper, who has been expelled from Massachusetts because she is a Quaker and suspected of being a witch. A fascinating tale that transports you to Puritan New England, rich in details and characterization.  It weaves in the idea that worlds open up, even for the most unlikely, when they are taught to read.