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!!!

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”…

Two Truths in 25 Years of Homeschooling

Yup! that is correct only two!

Actually, there are many more! As I look back not only over 2018 but also over these last 25 years of homeschooling my seven children, TWO very profound truths rise to the top!

Numero uno on the list is: If I don’t write it down it will never happen.

Yup! I know that seems so lame and not very profound BUT I tell you it is essential. I realized some time ago that in order for me to truly embrace my days, months, years with intention, I needed to have the important things written down.

I am not talking about being super organized or having a “set in stone” planner for the week or even the day. What I mean is to actually think about and write down my deeply held beliefs!

AND use verbs because they are actionable, like this:

  • Give until it hurts and expect no reward – the only thing I can control are my actions.
  • Pause before speaking, listen to others with patience.
  • Spend time getting to know another soul on this temporary existence to taste tidbits of heaven.
Catholic homeschool mom coaching

Putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard is a deliberate act of intention that creates focus and clarity.

So I created for you a handy little WRITING PROMPT sheet for your YEAR IN REVIEW. Just three SIMPLE prompts to guide you in reflection. It is fashioned after one I received from my trusted coach Marie and I am doing it too! Click on this button to get your copy…

While this can be a great way to review my past year and look ahead for the new year, writing it down is a way to “own” what I do! I find when I take the time to step back and reflect on my kiddos passions and gifts, write down ONE GOAL for each then the result is real lasting success.

You see, this written goal translates to the daily tasks for the child. I become laser focused that their curriculum for the day, month, year all align with this ONE all important GOAL.

And on a very practical level, you know well that even the act of writing down a to-do list or scheduling a visit with friends ONLY actually happens when you write it down!

See it works on so many levels!!!

Okay, now onto SECOND TRUTH, which is the more spiritual and profound truth to share.

I borrow the line from my confirmation saint, St. Therese of the Little Flower:

“Remember that nothing is small in the eyes of God. Do all that you do with love.” – St. Therese

My entire life, as I reflect on it, is truly a miracle set in motion by profound love. You can read MY STORY to learn more details about that journey, but suffice it to say that, God is LOVE, and He loves me very much!

In thanksgiving for this love, I need to remember that everything I do, say or act upon, done with LOVE is my humble gift of love to the Father!

“My grace is enough for you, for My power manifests itself in your weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

What have you learned?

Let me know in the comments below, please share your reflections and insights…

Transformed by “The Hidden Power of Kindness”

Have courage and be kindLast Mother’s Day I received a lovely necklace from my children that had a hand stamped medal with the inscription “have courage and be kind,” the words and theme from the recent Cinderella movie.  The kids know how much kindness means in this world and in our families.  They know how I hold it to be preeminent in all their words and actions. Long ago I was introduced to the prolific writer, Fr. Lawrence Lovask. The same priest who wrote the dear little children’s booklets, St. Joseph Picture Books, that we all know and love, wrote with clarity and a mind to the practical for adults too!

kindness-1Transform yourself — and the world — through kindness! Kindness counts. If you have trouble acting with the consistent kindness our Lord expects, your relationships with God and those you love may be suffering. Probably you just can’t find the time — and can’t ever seem to develop the patience — that you need in order to be consistently kind amid the irritations that afflict you daily. That’s why this book is such a godsend. You’ll learn how to be kinder, even in difficult circumstances.

kindness-boys-on-path

There’s nothing complicated or magical about learning to be kinder; it just takes greater attention to the things that you do and how you do them. The Hidden Power of Kindness shows you how to become more aware of even your most offhand daily actions. You’ll find simple, step-by-step, and spiritually crucial directions for how to overcome the habitual unkindness that creeps — undetected — into the behavior of even the most careful souls. You will grow towards holiness with these beautiful and practical step-by-step instructions for overcoming all forms of unkindness and meanness.

You’ll learn:

Four ways you can become more considerate . . . immediately!

Sympathy: why it’s your spiritual responsibility to show it to others — and five ways you can start doing so.

Three things to do — and three things you must not do — in order to grow kinder quickly.

Four surprising reasons why it’s spiritually dangerous to criticize others.

Three sure-fire remedies to eliminate sinful anger from your life.

Seven ways you can turn to your own spiritual benefit the wrongs that others do to you.

Six ways you can find and root out the hidden envy that may be choking your spirit right now.

And much more to help you grow kinder — and holier!

Also includes a 67-question self-examination you can use to monitor your progress in growing kinder and holier! (.epub, 256 pages, high school+)


“This work cannot fail to influence for the good all who are indirectly or directly touched by it.” – Most Rev. Fabian Bruskewitz, Bishop of Lincoln “This wonderful book increases our insights into the wonders of the message that speaks so powerfully to us: ‘Love is patient, love is kind . . .’ ” – Sr. Mary Rose McGeady, Covenant House

Speaks passionately about the nature of true kindness.” – Publishers Weekly

Fr. Lovasik’s book on kindness clearly shows that kindness is love put into practice, and traces how kindness must begin in our thoughts, be communicated in our words, and reach its fullest expression in our daily actions. This book is made to order for anyone seriously wanting to respond to the present movement of the Holy Spirit to renew the face of the earth for Christ!” – Rev. Andrew Apostoli

Seven Lies About Catholic History

9630480by Diane Moczar

The author takes a close look at seven lies perpetuated by the culture and academia about the Catholic Church. She does not sugar coat any of the situations or deny corruption in the Church when it did, unfortunately, occur. In every age, but especially in our modern day, historians and political powers have distorted the facts about her past to make the Church, and the civilization it fostered, seem corrupt, backward, or simply evil. You will read about how the Inquisition was not a bloodthirsty but a merciful and necessary institution. Galileo’s trial : why moderns invented a myth around it to make science appear incompatible with the Catholic faith (it’s not), The Reformation: why the 16th-century Church was not totally corrupt (as even some Catholics wrongly believe), and more. Here you will find the lessons that every Catholic needs in order to defend and explain, not just apologize for the Church’s rich and complex history. This would be especially great for students preparing to enter a secular college.

Questions for the Thinker Study Guides

By Fran Rutherford

Truly this is an answer to a prayer. Ordinarily I eschew study guides for they tend to limit discussion and understanding by providing ready answers! However, Questions for Thinkers Study Guides are very DIFFERENT simply because of the wonderful idea of listing questions for the student to answer as they read through key classical texts.

Questions for Thinkers Study Guides questions too are different in that they are thought provoking and lead the student to a deeper understanding of these difficult readings. The readings are ones they will encounter for the first time in high school, if they use a classical curriculum and then later explore at an even deeper level at college. Use of each guide  ultimately provides the student with their very own wonderful resource to take with them to college. The written answers also provide the necessary material needed to develop essays and papers on each of the books as well as guiding a student in the process of HOW to ask questions as they read, an important aspect of true understanding!

Vocabulary development, research topics and frequent “Questions for Further Thought” are some of the hallmarks of Fran Rutherford’s Questions for Thinkers Study Guides, and are included throughout. Each study guides contain every question found within the Student Book along with a complete answer key for mom. We encourage you to try at least one of these wonderful individual title study guides. This is a great way to see how remarkable Mrs. Rutherford’s guides are and how invaluable they will be to your student in helping them read for deeper understanding. (High School, .epub)

The available titles are as follows:††Confessions††Early History of Rome††The Aeneid††Anabasis††The Iliad††The Odyssey††The Histories††The Inferno††Purgatorio

Click here to obtain copies: Questions for Thinkers Study Guides

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: