Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The First Three Days

Well we're three days into our new school year and so far I am pleased with how things have been working out.  Our schedule seems to be working well.  Being the first week the kids are finishing each subject early but I keep telling them it probably won't be that way for long once they start getting into the meat of each subject.

We're making a concerted effort to make it to daily Mass...every day.  We have two options close to home, one at 8:15 and one at 8:30, so we're doing three days at the 8:30 and two at the 8:15.  It always amazes me how much difference going that 15 minutes later can make!

Not long ago we all got to talking about the Pledge of Allegiance.  Ms 13 yo suggested that we add that into our morning routine, too.  Now, upon arriving home from Mass, we gather around a small flag, say the Pledge and then add in a Memorare for a successful school day.

I've also decided on a personal level that I am only going to worry about one school day at a time.  During the rosary I would typically pray for our school year, but really, if tomorrow is a bomb, I know I'm not worried about what comes after it.  I therefore have decided just to pray that the next day is a good school day.

The only other thing we've changed this year, and I am sure that it won't last very long, is that some of the younger kids go out and stand at the end of the driveway and I bring the van around (we have a nice length driveway for this) and pick them up on our way out in the morning.  If I remember, I pull up to the front door (because we park our cars around the back of the house) and drop them off and they wait for us to open the door to come in to school.  I'm sure that once the weather turns inclement they will readily give up this fun time!

I hope your school year is off to a good start.  Remember, take one day at a time and be thankful for the day that has been given to you.  I know this is hard if it has been a bad or chaotic day, but still we should give thanks to God for all He gives us because He knows what is best for us (trust me, this is a reminder for me if for no one else!).

God Bless!

Wordless Wednesday

The boys and trail mix edition!

God Bless!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Embracing The Technology God Has Given Us

I received this book for Mother's Day and very excitedly jumped in.  There are some wonderful essays in this book.  As I was reading I kept thinking that I should be writing some of the gems down, but of course I didn't.  It seemed that in each essay I could grasp on to one awesome idea that I wanted to remember.  Of course now I cannot remember any of them, so I hope to still go back and read them and this time write them down!

I worked my way steadily through the book until I got to the last essay by Barbara Nicolosi entitled "Plugging In and Embracing Discipleship in the Twenty-First Century".  I read the first page, put the book down and then didn't pick it up again until this weekend because it just didn't seem like something I would be interested in.  This weekend, however, I decided I was finally going to finish the book so I could put it away.

I am so glad I did!  That essay was wonderful, as there were quite a few gems contained in these last few pages.  Barbara talks about how we need to embrace the technology we have been given instead of running away from it.  She says, "This is not a time to morph into some kind of perverse blend of Catholic Amishness.  It may seem easier, but it isn't holier." 

So many times we are tempted to run away from all that is out there in our world...television, movies, the internet.  "Run away!" our friends tell us, lest you lose your soul.  What we need to do is become discerning and wise and, as the late Blessed Pope John Paul II said,

"Do not be afraid of new technologies!  These rank "among the marvelous things" (Vatican II, Inter Mirifica) which God has placed at our disposal to discover, to use and to make known the truth, also the truth about our dignity and about our destiny as his children, heirs of his eternal Kingdom."
We must be grounded in our knowledge and love for Christ and His church, and then we must go forth and use what God has put in at our disposal to change the world (or at least our small part of it) for the better.  We can use technology to bring beauty and hope to a world that is mired in sin and despair.  If we walk away from it, our lives might be simpler, but will be doing what we have been called to do? 

Barbara concluded with the statement, "We're not just supposed to be out there in the culture.  We are supposed to be important in the culture."  Participating in the arts and on-line are two important ways that we can do this.  

What a great note to end this wonderful collection of essays on!  I would highly recommend reading this book!

God Bless!

Friday, August 24, 2012

7 Quick Takes August 24, 2012

--- 1 ---

Earlier this week I posted about planning our day for this school year.  I am very excited that I got it done and actually got it put up on my website (with a bit of help from my web savvy hubby :)  If you'd like to see our current school year schedule, you can go here!
--- 2 ---

One more short promo take and then we'll get down to business... There is only one more week (if you're reading this on the 24th, of course) of the free shipping offer on my book "A Plan for Joy in the Home".  Why not be organized this school year?  If you're interested, you can get your copy here.
--- 3 ---

Ok, on to other things.  Through a few turns of events as well as Divine Inspiration, my husband and I have decided that we will not be signing anyone up for weekly activities through the end of this year.  We've all been run into the ground and we need some time to focus on school and recoup from the busy summer we've had.  The idea here, besides the recouping thing, is that we will have some more time, and more energy, to do things we want to do instead of things we "have" to do (ie things we've committed to and/or paid for!)  Hopefully this means some field trips and some good ole hospitality.

--- 4 ---

That type of thinking was the inspiration for me agreeing to take the kids on a one hour + drive to a shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe to join our homeschool group on their fifth annual trip.  Apparently I was not the only one inspired to join this year as there were many first timers besides our family; the biggest crowd yet, I was told!  Our homeschool group name is Our Lady of Guadalupe so the group has been pilgrim-aging here for the past four years and now I can see why.  It was a very nice and peaceful place.  Thus the last few takes will involve pictures of this wonderufl shrine!

--- 5 ---

Here is an overview shot of the shrine.  You'll notice Our Lady and St. Juan Diego in the upper right, an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the back center, an interesting, yet striking cross in the background (I didn't find out what it all meant, unfortunately) and a wonderful image of the Sacred Heart in the foreground.  What you can't see are the hundreds and hundreds of bouquets of flowers that have been brought here by the faithful to be laid at Our Lady's feet.  It truly was amazing.

--- 6 ---

 Around the other side is a grotto with the risen Lord.  This area was also amazing in that there are a ton of candles and artifacts that have been put here.  Pictures, letters, rosaries, baby sweaters...just an unbelievable amount of things placed here at the feet of Our Lord.  You could just feel the devotion of all the people who brought the items.

--- 7 ---

 There was also a chapel that had pictures of many of the Mexican martyrs.  Above the altar was this crucifix.  We were wondering why the corpus is black but were unable to find out the answer.  Anyone know???

All in all it was a wonderful way to kick off our school year which officially begins on the 27th.  Have a wonderful weekend!

God Bless! 

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Life of Fred Advanced Algebra

I have to admit that when my daughter got to this book, I really didn't remember that much about advanced algebra.  When she had a question it took me a bit of back-up reading to help her figure out the answer.

Despite that, this is another great book in the Fred series.  Math is getting serious here for both the parent and the student.  If you as a parent don't have a strong math background you might be intimidated by the content of this book.  The nice thing, though, is that there are 5 chapters that review beginning algebra concepts so those really help to refresh your student's (and your own) memory.

Some of the new concepts taught in this book include:
  • ratio, proportion and variation
  • radical equations
  • exponential equations
  • the laws of logs
  • graphing
  • conics
  • functions
  • and permutations and combinations 
Life of Fred Advanced Algebra also comes with a home companion book which I think is an essential purchase. This book takes the main book and breaks it down into 101 lessons, with lots of extra problems to help the student learn the concept.  

If you have a student who is good at math and looking to advance, this is a great next step in the right direction.  You can check out more about this book here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Reading out Loud

I was observing my 7 year old son sitting in adoration last night flipping through books and looking at the pictures.  He had a whole stack of them, most of which are classic children's picture books.  Two things hit me right then.

1.  He should know all of those stories.  He is a slow reader at this point so he can't read them himself, but he should still know those stories because he's heard them over and over again.  Somehow, in the midst of life getting crazy and him being at the "end of the line", he hasn't heard them over and over again.  Some of them he might not have heard at all.  Wow, that hit me like a ton of bricks.  When did we let our reading out loud time go?  At what point did our lives get so busy that we stopped opening up those favorite books and snuggling up with our littlest ones to read together?  I honestly can't remember.  That made me sad.

2.  Then I started thinking about how Mr 7 yo is struggling to read.  It was a shock to me last year that he still didn't even really know his letters!  I began to wonder if #1 is somehow related to #2.  None of the other kids had a hard time learning to read.  Even my other son, who was a tad bit slower than the girls, had started reading by this point.  I wonder...does the lack of being read to have anything to do with his being slower to pick this all up?  I know that some kids are just slower and all that, but I have to wonder if it has had an effect?  

So, being as I was in adoration at the time, I decided to take this train of thought as a nudge to get back into the habit, at least a few times a week, of pulling those books out and reading out loud to him.  Knowing my children, I'm sure he won't be the only one that pulls up a seat to join me.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Peek at this Week

It's the third week of August...most public and private school kids are heading back to the classroom this week, if they haven't already.  In our house this week, Ms 16 yo will be heading into her senior year in high school. When she hit eight grade I couldn't think of any classes for her to take that wouldn't be redundant so we started her on her high school curriculum.  

This past June we sat down and agreed about what it would take for her to finish school this year.  When her books came in last week, she sat down and planned out the year and is ready to go tomorrow.  Man, I love when my  students become self-sufficient!

Now that I have two graduates and one self-sufficient high schooler, that leaves me with the four youngest children to teach.  Last year, and I can't believe I'm admitting this, we didn't have a schedule. Well, at least not a printed one.  I had it in my head and followed it that way but the problem was that no one else could see it so they didn't know what the time limits were.

This year I'm going back to the "certain classes at certain times" schedule and if they aren't done with that work when it's time to move on, they'll have to finish it up on their own time.  I think this will help all of us to stay on track.  I have a lot of projects to complete for my businesses so I'll need everyone else to finish up school in a timely fashion.

To that end, I just went to my website and printed out the worksheets that I use in my book and am going to sit down this week and figure out what our schedule is going to be.  I plan on posting it as soon as it is done because sometimes it helps other people to see examples. 

I'm looking forward to some of the subjects we're going to tackle this year and the kids are, too.  It always amazes me how excited they get over their school books when they first come in and how fast that excitement fades when they have to face them day after day.  

What about you?  Are you ready to start school?  Do you use a schedule?  I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas, and if for some reason you can't leave a comment here (because people often tell me that they can't and I have no idea why!!), then feel free to leave a comment on my facebook page.


Friday, August 17, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday August 17, 2012

 --- 1 ---
7 Quick Takes - where you get subjected to a bunch of pictures of our vacation last week!  The first part was a "stay-cation" where we did some fun things around our area.  One day we went down to one of Chicago's excellent museums, the Museum of Science and Industry.  We got a membership there for Christmas and were excited because we got my husband got to come along with us.  If you ever get a chance to visit museums in Chicago, you should take advantage of it. 

--- 2 ---
We spent a lot of time in the weather section of the museum playing with vortexes (wow, is that a word?) know...where lies and falsehoods are exposed...anyhow here are some cool pictures of the kids.

--- 3 ---

Here's Ms 16 yo playing River Song...for you Dr. Who fans out there.

--- 4 ---

We then moved on to Michigan where some family members have a house on a lake.  The girls made me take this picture because they were all jealous of how nicely Ms 13 yo's hair blew in the wind.  Anyhow, the irony of this part of the trip is that we spent two weeks this summer sweating profusely without our air conditioning and now that we had access to a lake and boat, the weather on the first day and a half was cold and rainy.  Fortunately the next two days were sunny.
--- 5 ---
One night we went out for a boat ride and the sky was so cool looking.  The sun was setting and the clouds were moving in and it created this awesome skyline.  I couldn't wait to get up closer to the houses to take some pictures because the lighting was a photographers dream, but then my battery died.  I couldn't believe that I hadn't checked it before we left.

--- 6 ---

Here's a picture of Mr 12 yo while he was up on skis for the first time.  It lasted all of about 2 seconds but he is the first child of ours to get up so we were ecstatic!!!

--- 7 ---

The neighbors had this really cool mat that floated on the water and it stayed up no matter how many people you put on it.  They all had a great time trying to walk on it and knock each other off.  The nice thing was that it was very easy to get back up on.  Overall it was a great week and now we are back to the reality of school looming right around the corner.  Have a great weekend!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Life of Fred Beginning Algebra

This was the book that started it all for us.  We had been using another algebra book that I just wasn't happy with because I didn't feel like it covered enough algebra topics.  I went to a homeschooling conference and heard the author, Stan Schmidt, give a talk about what math should be like and I was sold.

Much to the horror of my eldest daughter, I came home with the Beginning Algebra book and presented it to her as her next math book.  "You mean I have to do algebra over again?"  she asked.  "Yes," I replied, "but this time you'll actually learn it.

After I explained the concept of Fred to the kids, they all wanted to get their hands on the book to read the story and see what it was all about.  My daughter dove into the book and finished it before the end of the school year.  Ever since then this has been our "go-to" algebra book.

Beginning Algebra is the first book to come with a Home Companion.  This is definitely worth getting as it breaks down the main book into 188 lessons.  Not only does it give the day-to-day break down, it also gives additional problems for the student to work on.  

Life of Fred Beginning Algebra covers:

numbers and sets, integers, equations, solving for unknowns, exponents, motion and mixture, factoring (everyone's favorite!), fractions, square roots, quadratic equations, functions and slope and inequalities and absolute value.

All of this is covered in a day in the life of Fred, a five year old math professor at KITTENS University in Kansas.  His tone is very conversational, which makes learning the math a lot more enjoyable.  For example we learn about linear equations in the context of Fred helping a chaplain write a sermon about ten young girls waiting at night to meet an important dignitary :)  

I have been very please with this set of algebra books as I believe it to be a  very thorough coverage of beginning algebra.  If you would like to read more about Fred or to order any of the Fred books, you can go to my website.  


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

From the Roman Missal Preface of the Assumption:

"Today the virgin Mother of God is taken up into heaven to be the beginning and the pattern of the Church in its perfection, and a sign of hope and comfort for your people on their pilgrim way."
We are a pilgrim people, always searching along that path towards Heaven, and we need hope and comfort.  Thank you Lord, for your most holy Mother.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Walking Away

I came across something on Facebook last night that said:
"Give yourself permission to immediately walk away from anything that gives you bad vibes.  There is no need to explain or make sense of it.  Just trust what you feel."  Sonia Choquette
I find in my own life that I really don't have much of a problem walking away from something that gives me bad vibes.  My immediate reaction to that type of situation is to run in the opposite direction.  Most times I really can't even explain it, I just know that I need to leave.

What I do find that I have a problem with is immediately walking away from good things.  That might sound odd at first, but I'm sure you can relate. 

How many emails, phone calls and personal invitations do you get to join this group or that activity or help at this event, etc.?  There are so many good things to do out there that a person could go mad. Some of these opportunities are ones that I know my family should do - they are the easy ones to discern.

Other times, like earlier this week, I find myself committing to something that really is a good opportunity for one or all of my children or our whole family, but yet deep down I know I should probably be walking away.  Unfortunately I have a hard time saying no.  

Here's how it usually plays out:  I commit to the activity.  I immediately begin having concerns about how we are going to either afford it or make the time to get to it.  These concerns are temporarily buried as I think of all the positive things that will come out of this activity.  Then I am immediately overwhelmed with anxiety about how this is all going to work out.  

My husband, of course, can very easily tell me to just go back to the person or group, apologize and tell them we can't do it.  I, on the other hand, feel immensely guilty for backing out and feel the need to explain and justify myself until the other person passes out.

Why do I get myself into this position in the first place?  Because I like to do things!  I like for my kids to be involved in things.  I like to be around people.  So my knee jerk reaction is to say yes to everything and then go home and realize that it really isn't feasible.  Oh to be able to hold my tongue and think about it awhile before I commit!  Oh to not feel guilty for saying no to really good things!  Save me Lord from myself :)


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Monday, August 6, 2012

Thoughts on Homeschooling Your First Child

A mom of a two year old asked on my CHR facebook page whether or not other people felt apprehensive when they began homeschooling.  This is a very common feeling when someone is thinking of beginning the somewhat daunting task of educating your children.

I remember that when we decided to homeschool our oldest daughter she was just approaching kindergarten.  I don't remember being apprehensive then; that came later on when I added more students and realized the enormity of the situation.  When we first started I'd say I was exuberant and ready to teach her everything there was to learn.

It wasn't until I was homeschooling a few kids that I realized the kindergartner didn't have to know all of the things I thought they should know.  I realized with time and experience that these first couple years should be spent getting the kids excited about learning the basics instead of trying to pound "school" into their heads.  

Upon realizing this, that is when the apprehensiveness showed up.  What had I done wrong?  How could I go forward differently with the older kids and how could I change things for the newer students?  This eventually led us down a much more relaxed atmosphere in our homeschool.  Relaxed in the sense that I now realize that kids learn differently and at much different rates; that you can't expect them all to read marvelously at a young age - or even an older age; that they will all learn what needs to be learned when they are ready to learn it.

So my advice to moms with young children is this:  Spend time with your kids when they are younger, 3 - 6 or so, doing fun types of learning.  Learn letters and numbers and reading and science by doing activities, taking field trips and reading lots of good books together.  Let your child let you know when they are ready to read...they might be 4 or they might be 8.  Trying to force someone to learn to read when they are just not ready is the same as trying to potty train a toddler that just doesn't get it.  You both end up frustrated and nothing gets accomplished.

Try not to be apprehensive, either!  You have 12 years to get it right and believe me it won't take that long to figure it all out.  Be flexible and open and willing to change things if they just aren't working.  If you can do that, then this monumental task we call homeschooling will be just fine.  It might be hard and there will be days when you think you've had it, but just take a step back and PRAY hard and God will guide you through it!


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Rain, Glorious Rain!

 It finally rained here on Saturday.  It rained for almost an hour straight, which has been unheard of around these parts this summer.  It was such a beautiful sight that the kids had to go out and celebrate.  Of course, we had planned to spend the afternoon at the beach, but that's okay, we'll take the rain instead.

Friday, August 3, 2012

7 Quick Takes August 3, 2012

--- 1 ---
This week has been busy, busy, busy around here!  Six of my children (and myself in the photographer's role) have been participating in Catholic Kids Camp which is a four day event that three young ladies we know have put together every year for the past five years.  It's like VBS, but super-sized.  When these sisters do things, they do them over the top!  It has been a great time.


--- 2 ---
Every day there's a craft, songs, a skit


a mystery activity, , games, lessons and tons of fun.  


--- 3 ---

 The theme this year is traveling to Jerusalem through the mysteries of the rosary.  Each day there is a themed snack.  Guess which set of mysteries this snack belongs to?


--- 4 ---
We did go to Chick-fil-A on Wednesday evening, too.  We got there around 7:15 and got our food around 9:00.  Some of us opted to stand in line and others went to the car to try the drive-thru.  The drive-thru won out, while our place in line looked like it might have at least another hour wait.  We all jumped in the van, got our food and sat in an adjacent parking lot to finally eat.

--- 5 ---
Here is what the crowd looked like while we were there. 

  -- 6 ---

It was a neat experience.  A ton of happy people waiting in line to get some food.  At one point a worker from the store came out and brought food to a family that had a severely handicapped daughter so that they didn't have to wait in the heat.  Big cheers for that one.  Then a U-Haul pulled up to deliver more supplies.  People from the crowd formed a line to get the items from the truck to the restaurant.  More cheers from the crowd.  It is just neat to spend time with complete strangers in such a joyful and peaceful atmosphere.

--- 7 ---

 I've had a great response so far to my free shipping offer on my book "A Plan for Joy in the Home".  Check out this post for all the details.  Have a great weekend!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Plan for Joy Free Shipping Announcement

It's August, the month where, for most of us, summer comes to an end (even though it feels as if it just started) and school time begins.  It's time to plan and order and ORGANIZE!  Organize your books, your school room, your supplies and your DAY!


For that reason I'm announcing FREE SHIPPING on my book "A Plan for Joy in the Home" for the entire month of August.  It's not too late to get organized before the school year begins.  Take some time now to plan out your day and avoid the frustration and aggravation from the get-go.

I'd like to point out that my book is not just a book that tells you that you SHOULD organize your already know that!  What I do in "A Plan for Joy" is show you HOW to organize your life.  We walk through the entire process and by the time you finish, you've got a pretty good idea of how your day should run.  Realize I said, should...there are never any guarantees that it will always go that way.

To find out more and to take advantage of this offer, just go to the website,, look around and place your order.  Please feel free to share this with other homeschoolers you know who need help bringing some order to their day.

Please...Pin It!, Facebook it, Twitter it!  Help share the love.  Thanks.