Monday, September 28, 2009

SpellQuizzer Review

I'm going to switch gears here for a bit and actually do a post about a homeschooling topic :) One of the cool things about having your own website is that occasionally people ask you to review their product or book for them. Recently I was contacted by a gentleman who developed a spelling software package called SpellQuizzer. I decided I'd be game and give it a try.

This software was developed to help any student with his/her vocabulary or spelling lists. It automates the "practice" portion of the weekly spelling list. Here's what happened:

I was emailed the link to download the software and didn't have any problems with it at all. Next, I got to plug in my microphone and have some fun. Mr. 9 yo and Ms 10 yo are my two students who are currently doing weekly spelling lists, so I sat down with their lists and very easily entered in all of their words.

For each word you type in you have the option of recording the word and a sentence or definition to go with it. If you don't have a microphone, you can type in a hint for each word that the child would read. You can also choose to randomize the list playback when the student gets tested on it.

After I entered the words and recorded them, I went and took the test to see how it worked. The program simply repeated my recorded words, with the sentences, for me to type into the computer. If I got all the words right, I heard a cheering crowd. Any words I got wrong, I had the option of being tested on again. In case you're wondering, the fact that my two kids aren't great typists hasn't hindered their progress at all.

So, what do we think? Overall, I'd say we are all pleased with this program. It is very easy to use, hasn't error-ed out at all, and is fun. The kids like it and use it a lot (it sure beats trying to bribe one of their siblings into testing them on their spelling words!). Since they've been using it, they have been doing better on their tests.

Even though you may be a homeschooler, there are many benefits to using this program. There are ways that you can share your spelling lists with other homeschoolers as well as download already made spelling lists, some of which look pretty handy.

One benefit I thought of after we started using it was that you can go back and randomly test the kids on earlier spelling lists. It will be interesting to see how many of the words the kids can spell a few weeks after their test!

The only drawback I found may be the price. However, since you can use it with as many lists/kids as you want, it will definitely be available for multiple years and children. I guess if you break it down that way, it isn't a bad deal.

I give this product a thumbs up. I'll be putting up a permanent page for it on my website and will link to it as soon as it is available.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Simplicity and Love

While reading the book "I Believe in Love", I also happened to start another book about the same time that, surprisingly, is quite complimentary. The title of this book is "Keep it Simple: The busy Catholic's guide to growing closer to God" by Emmanuel de Gibergues. While this book is not written in French, it does get a little deep at times. Kind of funny when it is all about simplicity.

Actually, the book is not at all about what I thought it would be about. I was thinking along the lines of cutting things out of your schedule, organizing your life, etc.

What it is really about is how to grow in holiness by becoming simple. You know, having the faith of a child. At times I'm finding this book to be a bit deep and hard to understand (thus showing me my lack of simplicity, I suppose) while at other times it is very easy to grasp (which gives me hope). I am just thoroughly amazed at how well these two books go together. (BTW, there are links for both on the side bar a little farther down :).

Since school has started again, we have reinstated our silent reading time right after lunch. I'll usually start my 1/2 hour with the "Simple" book and then move over to the "Love" book. Today I got sidetracked by laundry, so I only got to read from the "Simple" book, but what I read was worth repeating.

This section was on how being attentive to the presence of God at all times during our day is so important. Here's a great quote from St. Teresa of Avila:

"All sins are committed because we do not think of God as really present, but imagine Him as very far away."

The author continues with this:

"If we said to ourselves, 'God is here, and I am outraging Him. God loads me with favors, and I am overwhelming Him with contempt. God died for me, and I am crucifying Him once more,' then truly love would fill our hearts - an all-powerful, infinite love wherein to find strength to rise triumphant over all difficulties."

Quite a powerful image, isn't it?

Add this to the list of books you'll want to read!

NOTE: While the road to holiness is apparently paved with simplicity, I'm finding that it is anything but simple to accomplish! Thank God for His love and mercy!


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Of carrots and parachute pants


In a weird kind of way, this reminds me of a pair of orange parachute pants my now-husband/then boyfriend had back in our 80's college days :) Don't believe me, check out this link (and I know he didn't pay $146 for them, either!)


Have a great weekend and


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Thoughts on Love

It started back in July when I was on retreat. I walked into my meeting with Father and the first thing he said was, "Write this down: You must serve everyone with the love of Jesus." I should have walked out right then. This is NO small order, is it???

Out of obedience, I wrote it down. "Sure," I thought, "no problem". It seems to me, however, that God really meant for me to take notice of this statement. Ever since then I have been coming across this same message. I've heard it at Mass, I've read it in our formation group presentations, I've read about it on other people's blogs! I am starting to take notice.

A number of years ago I bought a book on the recommendation of some speaker at a homeschooling conference. The book, by Father Jean C. J. D'Elbee, is entitled "I Believe in Love. A Personal Retreat Based on the Teaching of St. Therese of Lisieux". When I tried to read it then, it truly was written in French. In the years that it has been sitting on my shelf, someone has come and translated it for me. It is a truly beautiful and profound book!

As I read and study this subject, I seem to be able to grasp it on a certain level. I can understand that, truly, it all comes down to Love - love of Jesus and love of neighbor. I understand the concept - I just have a huge problem putting it into practice.

I told my husband the other night that what I really need is a "How To" guide, kind of like "The Idiot's Guide to Loving Like Jesus". What I need is to have a situation described and then a response that tells me exactly how I am supposed to respond with the Love of Christ.

For example, if one should happen to get a nasty email sent to oneself from someone, I am sure that the proper loving response is not to breath fire and sit fuming at the computer typing an equally nasty response. But, what does it mean exactly to respond with the love of Christ in this example? Does it mean that I can brood about it for awhile and then say "It's okay, I'm over it and I still love that person". Am I allowed to brood for any time? Or am I immediately supposed to turn my sorrowing heart over to Jesus and beg Him to give me the grace of forgiveness? HMMM, I think it's the last one, however I have yet to be able to come close to accomplishing it.

I was going to come here earlier in the afternoon, but Ms. 10 yo suggested that we watch the movie, "Therese". (Coincidence? I think not :) I decided I should stay and watch it with them. What a beautiful example we have in St. Therese. What a gift God has given us. Through her intercession and her example (and a whole lot of grace), maybe I, too, can learn to love and serve others with the love of Christ!

Over time I'd like to pop in and share some of the nuggets I'm getting from this book. I'm only on page 50 and already I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in this topic.

Here's one for you to meditate on until I return:

"Love is the uniting of our will to the will of God. It is abandoning ourselves totally into His hands, as a habitual disposition, even if we feel nothing."


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Blessings and Fun

What a weekend! Friday night Mr 9 yo served his first Mass with the Miles Christi priests at our monthly Evening of Recollection. What a blessing it was to see him up there. He did a great job and I blew it...I didn't have my camera!

Saturday night we went to a Civil War Reenactment and attended the ball. Most of the kids were in full Civil War dress and had a great time dancing. Yes, the girls even danced with young (and old) men they didn't know! Mr. 4 yo was out there, with his two right-footed, different sized rubber boots on, dancing with older women and having the time of his life. He participated in one group dance where you had to switch partners. I wasn't sure how he'd be when he got to a girl he didn't know, but he did great and everyone enjoyed dancing with him.

This time I had my camera but it was too dark out to take any pictures (although I was tempted to use it when Ms 17 yo was dancing with that CONFEDERATE soldier!) I have to admit, I felt a bit like Mrs. Bennett from Pride and Prejudice sitting on the sidelines watching all my girls dance! A fun time was had by all. We just love these Civil War Reenactments. In all seriousness, do they do them in the South???


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Humor, Courtesy of Ms. 6 yo

Here is a wee bit of humor to start your weekend!

On Thursday, I had to take Ms 6 yo and three other 5-6 yo girls to a tea party. As we walked up the long, gravel driveway (all the girls dressed so daintily in their party dresses, hats, jewelry and nice shoes), Ms 6 yo stumbled. After we all ascertained that she was okay, she said, "Well, that's what happens when you wear heals!"

To which one of the other little girls replied, "That's why my dad doesn't like heals!"

Of course, you know what's coming from Ms 6 yo: "Well, he's a boy, he can't wear heals!"

Youngsters are so literal, aren't they? Needless to say Ms 17 yo and I got a very good laugh out of that one! Hope it made you smile, too. Have a good weekend.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Knights of the Holy Eucharist Part II


When last we met I was treating you all to an article about the Knights of the Holy Eucharist from Hanceville, AL. (In the picture above, they're the five young men who are kneeling). I find it very interesting and exciting that six of the ten Knights were homeschooled. Speaking of homeschooling, we were just about to find out what they had to say about it......

What do these young consecrated men see as the benefits of home education? Freedom to study at one’s own pace; protection from many bad influences; a daily faith-filled atmosphere; Catholicism instilled throughout the curriculum; the focus on God and the things of God; the foundation for being open to a consecrated vocation; the fostering of strong family bonds.

Brother Michael was very involved in Scouting; an Eagle Scout, he was also a member of the Order of the Arrow and received the Vigil Honor. He commented, “Homeschooling really taught me common sense. It focuses on the complete development of the human person, not just on academics.” “Homeschooling instilled in me a desire to learn,” explained Br. Gregory. “It taught me how to be able to pursue knowledge, to know how to find the answer, to overcome obstacles. I could learn at my own pace—cover more ground—and our school schedule could be adapted to our dad’s work schedule. Homeschooling gave me more introduction to consecrated life: homeschooled friends joining religious communities opened the window to various communities and how religious life ‘takes place’.”

“Homeschooling helped me to be a better self-learner, which is important for college,” Br. Francesco affirmed. “Being part of our local Catholic homeschool group—composed of families who were really living the Faith—was very beneficial. Homeschooling made me more interested in the Faith and all things Catholic. It took me out of the worldly scene and prepared me to think about life from a religious standpoint, to be open to a vocation.”

What would the Knights like to say to homeschooling families? “Keep the Holy Eucharist at the center of your life,” Brother Juan advises. Try to make a daily or at least weekly Hour Holy before or after school. Remember that everything flows from the Eucharist. Help your children set their own goals and be goal-oriented; help them establish and maintain a goal-oriented character in understanding the Faith and in intimacy with Our Lord and Our Lady. Keep praying and fighting the good fight.” Brother David emphasizes that it is “very important to be disciplined about home education.”

Brother Philip counsels, “Keep homeschooling, focusing a lot on your children’s religious education. Focus on your ultimate goal, rather than just education for the sake of education. Also, have an appropriate setup for study so as to keep it orderly.” His brother, Brother Laurence, adds, “Make sure you try to get to daily Mass. Remember that, after God and the things of Heaven, the family is the most important part of home education.”

Another excellent point is made by Brother Gregory: “With homeschooling, you, the parents, have the ability to determine what your children learn and with whom they interact. To our benefit or detriment, we learn through our senses, so you can keep your children from having certain experiences they shouldn’t have. You can help keep your children open to God’s grace.”

“I know homeschooling may not always be the easiest route,” Brother Michael says with understanding, “but the sacrifices it entails are some of the sacrifices the world needs these days. It’s not only academics that the parents teach, but the Catholic Faith; it can’t be separated from everyday schoolwork—they need to go together.”

Perhaps many other homeschooled students or graduates are also, even unknowingly, in training as pages and squires before becoming Knights of the Holy Eucharist. The Knights would appreciate all readers’ prayers as they seek to fulfill the mission God has given them. And, of course, they will pray for you, too!

Brother Francesco sums it all up well: “Stay close to Christ. Catholic homeschooling is all about staying close to Our Lord.”

(For more information, visit the Knights’ website, www.knightsoftheholyeucharist.com. They can be reached by email at knightsinfo@gmail.com; by phone at 205-795-5720, or by postal mail at 3222 CR 548, Hanceville, AL 35077. The Knights accept eligible young men between the ages of 17 and 21.)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Knights of the Holy Eucharist

After we returned home from our vacation in July from the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, AL, I received a submission to my website whose timing I found most interesting. It seems that a young lady who is helping to promote the Knights of the Holy Eucharist down in Hanceville "happened" upon my website, introduced the Knights to me and asked if I would be willing to help promote them on my site.

"Did I meet you last week?" I asked her? No, it seems that we were never introduced, but I remember seeing her and her family down there, so we both got a kick out of the "coincidence". So now, two months later, I'm finally getting around to running the article she and her sister wrote about the Knights. It is kind of lengthy for a blog, so I think I'll run it in two parts, along with some pictures she sent. I do plan on putting up a permanent page on my website, just haven't found the time yet!

Hope you enjoy the article and feel free to pass the info along to any young men who you think might be interested. It is an awesome place!

Catholic Homeschooling: Training for Six Knights of the Holy Eucharist

by Maureen McEneany with Paula McEneany

Like the Eternal Word Television Network, the Knights of the Holy Eucharist community was the inspiration of Mother Angelica. In the summer of 1998, with the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament under construction, Mother decided to start a men’s community dedicated to the permanent needs of the Shrine.

Consecrated to Our Lady and loyal to the Holy Father, the Knights of the Holy Eucharist seek to follow Christ through a communal life dedicated to His service. The primary focus of this service is the fostering of reverent devotion to Our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament and the assistance and protection of the Poor Clare Nuns of Perpetual Adoration. It is the Knights' privilege to serve the Shrine and Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in various capacities. These include assisting pilgrims; serving Masses and Holy Hours; providing transportation for guests and hospitality for visiting clergy, brothers, and seminarians; and maintaining the buildings and the grounds.

The Knights make public commitments but take private vows. They don’t follow a Franciscan rule, but they do have a Franciscan spirituality. Brother David, the Brother Guardian (superior), commented, “Mother Angelica’s spirituality—Franciscan spirituality in a nutshell—is to follow the Gospels with perfect joy.”

Since June 29, 2007, the community has been a branch of the Heralds of the Gospel, an international Association of Pontifical Right, whose mission is evangelization. The Heralds strive to live the command “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” both interiorly and exteriorly, as a reflection of God’s perfection. Headquartered in Brazil, but now in 72 countries, the Heralds are made up of consecrated men (3,000); consecrated women (2,000); and Companions—people living in the world (25,000). “We became a branch of the Heralds primarily because joining them was a continuation of our charism. The Heralds strive to include in their spirituality the ‘best’ of what’s found in all the Church-approved spiritualities, e.g., Benedictine, Franciscan, Dominican,” reflected Brother David. Becoming affiliated with the Heralds has allowed the Knights to tap into the vast experience and wisdom of the Heralds, especially of the founder, Msgr. João Clá Dias, the Heralds’ General President.

Six of the ten Knights were educated at home: Brother Laurence, Brother Philip, Brother Juan, Brother Francesco, Brother Gregory, and Brother Michael. Recently I spoke with them about their life, education, and vocations.

In 2007, Brothers Michael and Francesco began their studies at Holy Apostles College and Seminary, Cromwell, Connecticut, to be followed the next year by Brother Gregory (and Brother Fidelis). All of these have made honor-roll grades. This fall, the four have been joined by Brothers Laurence and Juan. It is the Knights’ intention to open a young men’s academy near the Shrine. The Knight-priests will teach at the academy and assist with the needs of both the Shrine and the Diocese of Birmingham.

Brothers Philip and Laurence, besides being brothers in the community, are also blood brothers. Brother Laurence discovered the community through Brother Philip, who had joined several years previously. Brother Philip’s attraction to the community was gradual; he slowly realized he had a calling.

Brother Gregory found the Knights through friends in his Catholic homeschool group who joined Mother Angelica’s nuns. The Knights’ consecrated life and their fidelity to the Church drew him.

Within the community, the Knights have varied duties. (For example, Brother Philip has been designing the Knights’ new chapel, which is currently under construction.) To all of them, I think, could be applied the label “jack of all trades”!

What do these young consecrated men see as the benefits of home education?

To be continued.............


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My Re-evaluation Time

Well, here it is, September 1st, the day I set to re-evaluate my blogging life. It has been an interesting 1 1/2 months. I have accomplished A LOT! I have been set free! I have exercised! I have spent time in my house, with my children, actually getting things done! I have really not missed blogging at all!

I finally came to realize that the computer world got a hold of me and what was going on was something akin to an addiction. I didn't recognize it (or at least I wouldn't allow myself to recognize it) until I was away from it. In retrospect, it is kind of scary to realize the power that "a computer" can wield over a person.

Essentially what was happening to me was that I was spending more and more of my day in front of the computer and less and less of my day involved with my family. It started out with just posting. Then it became reading more and more blogs. Then I started to read all the e-newsletters that I would get in my inbox. Then I began to click on links within the newsletters and read those articles. AAAHHH. No wonder I wasn't accomplishing anything!

I could also feel myself having to fight a physical force of laziness. It felt like I was fighting off someone sitting on me in order to get up and do the things I knew I had to do - like cook and clean. Scary stuff. All stuff I wouldn't allow myself to admit to while I was in the middle of it.

So, you wonder, why am I telling all of this? Because I have read many other women's blogs who say that they are struggling with all of the things they need to do in their lives and I am wondering if they are suffering from the same problem as I was? Maybe this will be food for thought for someone? It certainly made me sit back and rethink the whole blogging thing.

So, you wonder again, what does this mean for my blog? I'm not 100% sure. The blog itself wasn't bad, it was my inability to control it. I think it will remain, as long as I can put it in its proper place. I will continue to visit here, although on a much more infrequent basis. If you see me back here every day again, drop me a note and ask me to step back and make sure I have things in their proper order! I think blogs have a place in the world, but for a mother of a large, homeschooling family, I don't think it should be an everyday thing. Thanks for listening. I hope this helps someone else!