Tagged homeschooling

What Nino Read, February 2016

Zita the Spacegirl
Legends of Zita the Spacegirl
The Return of Zita the Spacegirl
Little Catechism on the Eucharist
Hurricane and Tornado
Childcraft World and Space
The Hardy Boys Detective Handbook
Saint Martin de Porres
Star Wars The Yoda Chronicles
Airplanes and Flying Machines
The Rain Forest
Best Ever Paper Planes that Really Fly
Scientific Progress Goes Boink
My First Body Book
Pablo Picasso: Breaking All the Rules
Abigail Adams: Girl of Colonial Days
If You Lived at the Time of the Great San Francisco Earthquake
Gandhi by Demi
A Weekend with Wendell
The Moffats
Space Station: Accident on Mir
Who Were the Vikings?
George Washington Illustrated Lives
The New Junior Classics 2 Stories of Wonder and Magic
The World’s Best Fairy Tales Volumes 1 & 2
The Penderwicks
The Boxcar Children The Camp-Out Mystery
The 13 Clocks
Hopscotch, Hangman, Hot Potato, & Hahaha
The Secret of Shadow Ranch
Once Upon a Time Saints
Things I Can Make
Tomie de Paola’s Book of Bible Stories
The Great Juggling Kit
The Naughtiest Girl Is A Monitor
Charles Dickens: The Man Who Had Great Expectations
Days of the Knights: A Tale of Castles and Battles
Poppy and Rye
Scientific Progress Goes ‘Boink’
The Kingfisher First Encyclopedia
Great Cars
Peter Claver, Patron Saint of Slaves
The Ultimate Lego Book
A Gift of Gracias

What Nino Read, January 2016


The Time Traveller Book of Rome and Romans
Fun with Hieroglyphs
Davy Crockett (COFA)
Time/Life Millennium
St. Augustine and his Search for Faith
Martha Washington (COFA)
George Washington (COFA)
Stephen Biesty’s Cross-Sections: Castle
The Reader’s Digest Children’s Atlas of the World
Teddy Roosevelt (COFA)
Knights and Castles
Paul Revere (COFA)
Alexander Graham Bell: An Inventive Life
Albert Einstein: A Life of Genius
The Story of the USS Arizona
Secrets of the Mummies
New Catholic Children’s Bible
The Holy Twins
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Money: A Rich History

Sacramental Preparation:
Little Catechism on the Eucharist

Singapore Math 2A
Singapore Math 1B


DK Eyewitness Astronomy
Tops Lentil Science
The Egg
Topps Primary Lentil Science

Nancy’s Mysterious Letter
The Cozy Book
The Phantom Tollbooth
Cam Jansen and the Wedding Cake Mystery
The Ghost at Skeleton Rock
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Legends of Zita the Spacegirl
Zita the Spacegirl
The Moffats
Romeo and Juliet (Bruce Coville)
The Secret Garden

Chess for Kids
The Kingfisher First Encyclopedia
101 Secrets a Good Dad Knows
Large Print Word Hunt
The Pocket Dangerous Book for Boys
Spider October 2015
Spider November/December 2015
Extreme Machines
Scientific Progress Goes “Boink”

Homeschooling First Grade Science (A Sample Curriculum)


Posting this for my friend Madora who asked for a bit of guidance on how to homeschool Science with a first grader without the use of a textbook.

Prior to fifth grade and often even beyond, I rarely use a textbook. I find that living books very much fit our homeschooling lifestyle and personalities, so I will almost always reach for one whether I’m reading aloud to the kids or letting them read themselves.

This list of living books (plus other materials) isn’t meant to be comprehensive or match a specific state’s rubrics. At 6 years old, my first grader is still very much a sponge (thank God), so there isn’t much that he does NOT want to learn about, and I simply take cues from his interests, which I observe just from day-to-day interaction. Almost anything can trigger questions, so I do my best to pay attention to those and encourage further questioning and exploration.

In no particular order, these are my 6-year-old’s current favorites:

Microscope and slides
Seeds, any kind but bean seeds are great because they’re easy to grow, and grow quickly (almost instant gratification)
Paper, water, food coloring for random experimentation
Playdough – always nice to have colorful ones, but not necessary; whenever I make bread I give him a piece and it occupies him for at least a couple of hours if not more.
Recently he came home with some flubber from Trail Life.
Paper Airplanes
KidsGardening: A Kids’ Guide to Messing Around in the Dirt
Star Wars Yoda Chronicles (I don’t know that Star Wars = science, but hey, it counts as science around here)
Books by Gallimard Jeunesse, especially Dinosaurs and Airplanes
Mission to the Moon: (Book and DVD)
Star Wars Blueprints: The Ultimate Collection
Boys Life Magazines (you can usually find this at your local library)
Universe (DK Eyewitness Books)
The New Way Things Work
National Geographic Readers: Volcanoes!
Dk Eyewitness Hurricane & Tornado
Oh, Yuck! The Encyclopedia Of Everything Nasty

At this age, he’s very curious about body processes and functions, so jumping up and down on the couch or on the floor, or down from the tree, using the bathroom, turning cartwheels, are all opportunities for me to engage and answer questions or point things out about anatomy and the way our bodies work.

When it gets a wee bit warmer we’ll head out to the fossil park not far from here. There’s a good list of fossil park locations on Wikipedia, but anywhere where kids can hold a small trowel and do some digging is great.

It goes without saying that play outside is essential. If you live near the beach, a nature park, a zoo, a botanical garden, a space museum — take advantage of these resources. But even if you don’t live near any of those, just get outside and observe trees, leaves, bugs, grass, the sky, birds, the sun and stars, etc. The list is endless, because God’s creation is endless.

A couple of sentences I love to use when interacting with my child:

“I don’t know that one, should we look it up?” Usually the answer is an excited YES, and usually there’s already some book in the house that provides basic information to satisfy his curiosity. If not, we ask dad, or a sibling, or one of mom’s online friends. There’s always Google though caution needs to be exercised when you do a search with a little one beside you.

“Why don’t you try it and see what happens/tell me what you find out?” with some brief guidance on where and when to conduct the experimentation — the tub, outside in the yard, at the sink. If you forget to provide that guidance, don’t lose your head later if it happens on your couch or bed.

Every once in a while, we go on the Pinterest board that I put together for him, and check out some new things we haven’t tried.

There really are not enough hours in the day to answer all his questions, so I don’t worry at all that he might not be learning enough. If he ever stopped asking them, THEN I’ll worry.

I hope this gives you a good starting point so you can put together your own first grade science curriculum. Or, if you would rather have something already put together for you, a favorite of homeschoolers is Noeo Science, which we tried one year and liked.

And in case you need it, I’ve got more science ideas in my previous post, How I Didn’t Teach Science. There are also ideas in the comments section from friendly folks.

How I Didn’t Teach Science

A close friend and fairly new homeschooling mom recently asked, “How do you teach science?”

I told her the truth. “I don’t.”

There was a time, years ago, when I would have been embarrassed to say that, because I would have interpreted my own answer as an admittance of deficiency: “I’m not the homeschooling mom I’m supposed to be.” Those words were petrifying to me then. The future was still a big question mark, and I was afraid that the reply that would be staring me in the face would be F-A-I-L-U-R-E.

I still fear failure, but I’ve also gained gobs of trust — in my kids’ natural thirst for learning, in the experience of moms who were there before me, and yes, even in myself as a mom and teacher. It goes without saying, I trust in God’s plans. And so far His plans have worked out for us!

Science is not my strong suit at all. I can explain basic stuff like water boiling or the sun rising or caterpillars turning into butterflies, but please do not ask me to balance equations or explain or demonstrate physics principles. Forget it. Regardless, our 23-year-old still graduated cum laude in Culinology, so she knows her chemistry, and another child is going into engineering. So it’s probably safe to say now that I didn’t damage them all that much. It is now a trust thing. 😀

How does this TRUST translate into the practical — the day-to-day? What did I actually DO?

1. I bought them books. A science encyclopedia, and then lots of picture books. We read and read and read. When the kids got older, I relied a lot on my friend MacBeth’s recommendations.

2. I did try a few experiments, but since they were mostly failures, I gave up. I didn’t stop them from experimenting though, even the silliest things that they made up. They did kinda like and tried some of Janice Van Cleave’s experiments. There’s this funny video we recorded 8 years ago, where I had the boys experimenting with some soda bottles plus I don’t remember what else. It was supposed to work a certain way, but it didn’t. It was a complete flop. I’d post it here just to prove that I’m a science klutz, but no idea where it is now. Suffice to say, whatever science prowess they have did not come from their mother.

3. I bought them toys: Lego, wooden unit blocks, K’nex, Erector sets, to keep their hands and minds busy. Some had lesson plans and even DVDs included, but uhm, I never used them though I promised myself I would. (Lazy, lazy, lazy.)

4. I let them watch videos: Magic School Bus even though I couldn’t stand that show, National Geographic, Kratt’s Creatures (now Wild Kratts), Discovery Channel, etc.

5. I took them outside, sometimes with field guides. We looked at birds and flowers and bugs and rocks and trees. We dug for fossils a couple of times. Every once in a while I took them to the science center or aquarium to assuage guilt. I encouraged nature journaling but it didn’t take, probably because I personally wasn’t enthused about it, though I still want to be!! Maybe when I’m old and gray and they’re homeschooling my grand kids, I can be a better example.

6. I taught them to cook. Kitchen science is the only science I know by heart. Cleaning squid was one of our most memorable lessons, and that student is now a chef and got As in her chemistry classes, so something must have worked, somehow.

7. I let them hang out a lot with Dad, since Dad’s an engineer. I figured they would learn stuff, because GENES. Maybe at least one kid did, since he will be studying how to become an electromechanical engineer in the fall.

8. I took them to the zoo. I suppose they learned stuff there too, though mostly they wanted to ride the train. :/

9. I bought a microscope and slides, science kits, binoculars, magnifying glasses, tools with which to observe.

10. I hung out with science people online, like MacBeth, and Kris; and others who loved to talk about science. I figured I could learn to be a better science teacher by just associating with them. Every now and then they’d post something sciencey on FB or at the forum, and I’d send the link to my kids. 😀

Sorry. I wish I could offer more profound/valuable advice, but like I warned my friend, I’m not a science person!! 😀 And THIS (so far) worked for us. So I hope this helps her, and you.

What Nino Read (November 2015 Update)


Religion, History, Geography:

The Reader’s Digest Children’s Atlas of the World
On the Mayflower
If You Lived at the Time of the American Revolution
Favorite Norse Myths
Thomas A. Edison (COFA)
Abner Doubleday (COFA)
If You Lived at the Time of the Great San Francisco Earthquake
New Catholic Children’s Bible
The Great Wall of China
The Story of the Pony Express
The Revolutionary John Adams
The Story of the Statue of Liberty
Once Upon a Time Saints
The Monk Who Grew Prayer


The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma
The Moffats
26 Fairmount Avenue
The Story of Ferdinand
The Haunted Showboat
Flat Stanley
A Weekend with Wendell

Singapore Math 2A (Whoops! I did it again! Meant to get 1B and made a mistake >.< But he loves doing this book and isn't stumbling much 😛 ) Science:
Eyewitness Science: Light


The Ultimate Lego Book


Trail Life USA Trailman’s Handbook
It’s Off to Camp, Charlie Brown

– follows along at Mass using Magnifikid, about 75% of the time.
– can lead a decade of the Rosary
– always prompts me to pray at night before bed — his favorite “Angel of God” (besides the family Rosary which he joins in sometimes, sometimes not) plus Goodnight to Jesus, Mary and Joseph and his guardian angel.
– has questions about divorce 🙁
– I made the mistake of getting Book 2A of Singapore Math instead of 1B, but he really loves doing it and can do simple multiplication now, and has even asked that I prepare drills for him (he asked me to put a bunch of subtraction and addition problems he can solve, and I told him those were called “drills”)
– writes very well, but still need to practice lowercase letters as he keeps using uppercase for everything
– has written 700+ words so far for NaNoWriMo
– wants to go bowling for his 7th birthday, but just with family, no friends
– can cut his own nails
– crown popped out day after Halloween and had to see dentist to put it back on
– is quite diligent about brushing and flossing and washing his hands
– participates well when we do our family journaling
– still loves jokes and makes up his own, some really morbid ones 😛
– asked to have and bring his own journal to Mass, copying me (although, I take notes at homily, and he draws whatever, usually Father)
– wants to study ukulele
– asked for a Kiwi Crate re-subscription, so I signed him up again. he loves crafty stuff.

What Nino Read, October 2015


Curriculum “after the fact”

What Nino read the past couple of months or so. He’ll be 7 in December, so I guess this is around first grade?

Right now our 13-year-old does a combo of unschooling/homeschooling/co-op schooling, so whenever I’m “on duty” at the co-op, I take the little one with me and that’s our more formal schooling day of the week. So “real” schooling takes place about once a week. The rest of the week, he just reads and does whatever he wants to do throughout the day. It’s mostly books, as evidenced by the long list — and I keep track by listing what he’s read every month or so, just to kinda make sure that all subjects are “covered” in some way. Mainly what he does is take stuff out of the bookshelves, and at the end of the day we pile them up around the bookshelves, until I can’t stand it anymore and have to put them all back on the shelves. THAT’S when I make these posts and document what he’s read.

I do have a box of the “curriculum” I designed for him before the beginning of the year. That’s where I get the books/materials that we use on our official school day each week.

Besides books, he plays outside, and alternates painting, drawing, sketching, play dough, Lego, math manipulatives, board games, and just talking talking talking about the thousand different things that he wonders about on a daily basis, etc. He gets one show a day, usually an educational one, though he’s allowed one 30-minute game a week (usually on my phone or Lego Batman on the XBox), and one non-educational show, like today, when he watched Lego Chima. There are evenings he gets to watch Studio C with older siblings and Dad — with monitoring/censoring done by the older viewers. I’m not too fond of him being exposed to more adult humor, but I figure with siblings and Dad around the bonding is more important than zero exposure to secular culture.

Yesterday, he wanted to learn sewing since I was hemming the hubby’s pants.

Last night he said he wanted to learn cursive, so I need to make up some practice sheets for him for tomorrow.

Today he decided to make fingerprints using paper, graphite pencils, and scotch tape. He’s been fingerprinting all of us.

And since he’s read a variety of biographies and historical events, time to make a Book of Centuries.

Learning happens. 🙂

Religion/Character Education
Little Acts of Grace
Saint Francis by Brian Wildsmith
Brother Sun, Sister Moon by Margaret Mayo
– four prayers memorized so far
– also enjoying Magnifikid subscription

Mad Libs (he’s learning pronouns and nouns and verbs and adverbs and adjectives!!)

The Phantom Tollbooth
The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
The Enchanted Castle
parts of Taggerung
Spider subscription (joined the drawing contest for “really cool school bus”)

After working for several days on the first half (2/3?) of Singapore Math 1 last year sometime, he took 3-4 more days to finish the rest of the book, a couple of weeks ago. So now he’s ready for the next book. This is the type of relaxed Math I love!!
asked me about square root last month so I showed him using tiles
verbal math happening almost every single day with questions on dates, equivalences, money, time, weight, height, etc.
still reads Big Sis’ Life of Fred books when she leaves it lying around.

DK Eyewitness Hurricane and Tornado
DK Eyewitness Space (3 Books in 1 + Workbook + Poster) – he LOVES the workbook and just started doing them one evening and wouldn’t stop!
DK Readers Space Station
The Rain Forest by Gallimard Jeunesse and Rene Mettler
Best Ever Paper Planes that really fly
DK Eyewitness Readers Extreme Machines
The Camera by Gallimard Jeunesse et al.
(eclipse watching)
(informal experiments: paper mache, airplane making)

Molly Pitcher, Young Patriot
Lou Gehrig
Buffalo Bill
The Story of the Spirit of St. Louis
Wilbur and Orville Wright
The Story of the Mayflower Compact
George Washington (Heroes of America)
The Story of Valley Forge
The Story of the Statue of Liberty
Snowflake Bentley
Davy Crockett
Abigail Adams
John Fitzgerald Kennedy
The Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt
Revolution News by Christopher Maynard
Albert Einstein: A Life of Genius
The Story of the USS Arizona
Fun with Hieroglyphs

The Story of Presidential Elections

George Gershwin by Mike Venezia

Pablo Picasso: Breaking All the Rules
I Spy: Mystery

Chess for Kids by Michael Basman
Chess for Children

Field Trips since September:
– Dayton Art Institute
– Cincinnati Museum Center
– Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum
– iSpace
– The Atheneaum, for Vespers
– Fossil hunting with Dad last month

also learning to bike
Trail Life weekly activities continue
lots of exploring using scissors, paper, glue
still writes mostly in ALL CAPS
listening to Redwall audiobooks
trying to write in Gallifreyan
learned AMPERSAND yesterday and thinks it’s so cool — and asked me if & could be used in place of “AND” and “END” in spelling words
loves playing with soap in the bath
loves playing basketball and soccer with dad
doesn’t know if he wants birthday party in December or not
wants a new Sonic Screwdriver

Need to get focused on piano lessons.

Help! We’re having a baby! How do I homeschool the toddler/older child(ren)?


[I wrote this post a year ago because a friend who was new to homeschooling AND was expecting a baby wanted to know how she could possibly homeschool when the demands on her time potentially could be endless. Reposting it for another friend who’s due with her fourth child soon and slightly panicking.]

The key thing to remember when you have a baby is to SET PRIORITIES.

#1 Priority: The Baby. Which means, YOU, the mom. You need to be getting sleep (with the understanding that moms don’t get a lot, but get as much as you can). Things that can help:

– Is dad going to be able to take off work? If he is, take advantage of that, and GET SLEEP. Cleaning the house, etc., can wait. Dad will need sleep too. Napping with baby on his chest? Awesome. That’s why all our kids are close to dad.

– If laundry needs doing, one load a day. Have older child help with sorting/folding. Good activity to do when baby’s napping.

#2 Priority: Food. Before baby is born, prepare freezer meals, at least a couple of weeks’ worth, so that all dad or older child(ren) will have to do is heat up food. Don’t stress it though. If you have to resort to freezer-to-microwave meals from the store, or Chinese, or fast food, or pizza delivery, that’s okay. You’re not going to keel over and die from fast food (not right away anyway [wink]).

#3 Priority: Homeschooling. I put this here because I know that’s your biggest worry, but I wanted to illustrate that it really should be last after the above are taken care of. Because homeschooling is LIFE. Our children will learn far more from LIVING life with a new baby than from any other formal lesson they’ll have about reading or math or science.

  • Children will learn that sometimes you just need to go with the flow. A baby, esp. the first few weeks of life, dictates the schedule. Build the rest of your day around the baby. When the baby naps, go nap with the older kids too. At the very least cuddle on the couch and read favorite books. Or older child reads to toddler. Work out things so you all have DOWN TIME or QUIET TIME once or twice a day. Put on some classical music or an audiobook for the older child to listen to. THIS WILL BE YOUR LITERATURE AND MUSIC LESSON.
  • There will be many areas of concern, but I want to address the 3 basics — food, clothing, shelter. Past the first couple of weeks, when life starts to normalize a bit more, get older child to help you cook. Simple meals only, or assembly type food items. THIS WILL BE YOUR READING, MATH AND SCIENCE LESSON. Learning to follow a recipe is an important life skill and it will carry on to other skills. Loading a dishwasher is also a lesson in Math/Geometry. Math worksheets (Singapore Math make them really colorful and fun) are great if you just want to make sure she’s practicing her computation skills.
  • Sorting clothes can be a lesson for the toddler. THIS IS A MATH SKILL. Sort clothes into piles (Dad, Mom, Big Sis, Me, Baby), Big Sis or mom folds.
  • Turn cleaning into a game. Sing songs and/or set a timer. “Let’s see how much clutter we can put away in five minutes!! Go!”
  • Live the liturgical year. Morning prayer, grace at meals, night prayer. Read a saint’s bio a day, talk about that saint’s life, what he/she did to become a saint. There’s your RELIGION LESSON.
  • Encourage your older child to keep a journal. This will take care of WRITING AND NARRATION SKILLS. If a child is not particularly fond of HANDwriting, require only a few sentences (depending on age and maturity). The rest can be done via computer, either the child keyboarding herself/himself, or record audio/video narrations.
  • STOP worrying about the AMOUNT of learning that’s going on, or covering a certain number of chapters per week. Much of learning isn’t measurable anyway. Just make sure you surround them with TRUE, GOOD, BEAUTIFUL. Strew good books around, on a variety of subjects. The child will pick up those books because THEY’RE ACCESSIBLE. Hang fine artwork around the house, even if it’s just postcards. OR, set up your screensaver to rotate artwork. You can do Matisse for a week, Monet for the next, etc.
  • Get out as much as you can, every day, even if it’s just 15 minutes a day. You’ll need fresh air and sun, and exercise. While you’re out, take note of things like the sky, trees around you, rocks, etc. RELIGION AND SCIENCE LESSON right there. If/when you can go out to a park or a nature trail, take a field guide or two with you, a magnifying glass, binoculars, so you can identify trees, leaves, birds, etc. Bring a small bag for adding a bit to a child’s rock or leaf collection, and a small journal plus pencils so they can document what they see/observe.
  • Grocery shopping = MATH LESSON. Also HEALTH — Why do we buy this item vs. that. Why this vegetable/fruit is good for you. Where do we get protein and why do we need it? etc.
  • If you can, WEAR BABY. This will do wonders in keeping him/her happy and you being able to do stuff around the house and making yourself available to the other kids.
  • The baby becomes the lesson! Borrow children’s books from the library on human development. One book I would recommend — Angel in the Waters by Regina Doman. (I can list more recommendations if you like.) Great time to talk about biology. TOB!
  • Let older child help out as much as he/she can. This will help dissipate any feelings of envy and give her a wonderful sense of accomplishment.
  • Do make sure that when Dad’s home and taking care of baby, that toddler and older child get LOTS of hug time, better if individually. What we’ve also done in the past is sometimes have Mom, older child and baby in the family bed, and dad and toddler in another bed. (These are just suggestions; I will not further address co-sleeping because every family is different.)
  • What’s most daunting, I think for most moms with toddlers, is keeping the toddler occupied. Rotate toys/manipulatives to keep them interesting. Duplo, wooden blocks, pattern blocks, large puzzles, playdough (make or buy these before baby comes), finger paints (outside so you don’t have to worry about cleanup), etc. If summer, a sandbox + diff. size cups, and water box outside will keep toddler occupied for hours. Even just a plastic container with a lid will do, you don’t have to get a real sandbox. Also, GOOD VIDEOS (i.e., Veggie Tales or educational ones) — don’t worry about having to resort to these if you need your nap. It’s not going to be forever!
  • Educational videos for the older child/children too ARE OKAY. There are so many available, you won’t run out! So it’s not ideal. So what? You’re also teaching FLEXIBILITY.
  • More than anything, just RELAX. When our kids see us taking life one day at a time, not majoring in the minors, not stressing over the petty things, THAT’S a valuable lesson. It teaches them how to trust and live in God’s grace and His perfect time. You can do this, Sis!!

College and Hypersexualized Kids (Rethinking College 1)


We send our kids to college because we want them to become positive contributors to society. To do that, they need to reach a certain level of maturity in the different areas of their lives, sexuality being only one of them. But in many colleges and universities today, sexuality issues seem to outweigh everything else. The imbalance adversely affects the campus milieu, making these places less conducive to learning and growth, and I’ve started to question their value in producing healthy, well-adjusted young adults.

In a university where most everything is sexualized, much of the vocabulary needed to define unacceptable sexual behavior is lost, and what remains are the umbrella terms “rape” and “rape culture“.

Rape is a heinous crime, but while each act of rape is ultimately the rapist’s responsibility, we cannot just look away and pretend we didn’t help build the culture where it occurs. Surveying the landscape and seeing all these damaged souls, one can’t help but wonder if college is still the best avenue to prepare for life and career.

One college has had to put up a safe room to protect students, a solution that would be largely unnecessary were college students unscathed from past sexual experiences.

The time to teach our kids self-preservation is while they’re little, not after they’ve played Russian roulette with their mental, emotional, and physical health. The stories of casual sex + alcohol in college are becoming all too ubiquitous, yet still we shrug our shoulders and say, “Kids will be kids.” Our society continues to operate on the assumption that young people’s health is simply about being “disease- and pregnancy-free”. But such an assumption leaves young people vulnerable, and once the damage is done, no sanitized, “bias-free” language can possibly protect them. Trauma will be processed by the brain, with or without triggers.

The hypersexualization of children led us here. This isn’t solely a religious concern. We conservatives are often derided for espousing morality, modesty and chastity, but it’s clear that teaching the opposite has negatively impacted our youth’s mental and emotional health. When dating, courtship, and marriage were tethered to morality, consent contracts would have been seen as ridiculous and unnecessary, because injudicious sexual behavior simply wasn’t the norm.

Here lies the difference between ideology and truth: Truth prepares and protects. Ideology leaves one unprepared and unprotected.

When we talk about human sexuality, we often end up in arguments centering on contraceptive use or access to abortion, when the essential word in that phrase is HUMAN. Compartmentalizing lessons on sex and seeing our sexuality as something that can be encapsulated within the “safety” message, takes away our focus on what’s key. Until we are able to see the truth about human sexuality, we will forever be stuck addressing symptoms of ill health, and pretending that our young adults are perfectly fine, despite evidence to the contrary.

Increasingly I’m thinking that perhaps it’s time to quit university/college. Call it exercising the Benedict Option if you like. It’s not that different from the decision to opt out and homeschool when our children were younger. We have found, to our great delight, that we are indeed capable of educating our children at home, and grow adults who are fully in touch with what it means to be human. Finding alternative options for college/university could be the next logical step if we want to build and strengthen life and coping skills beyond the college experience.

More next time.

Related reading:
The Coddling of the American Mind
The Neglected Heart: The Emotional Dangers of Premature Sexual Involvement
Unprotected, by Dr. Miriam Grossman
The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality

What the 6-year-old is Reading Now


A friend with little ones asked me about reading recommendations for her 6-7 year olds, so I thought I’d give her a list of what our 6.5-year-old is reading right now. Hope this helps, J!

Life of Fred Decimals and Percents – his big sister’s book, but he’s reading it for fun.

Get Into Gear, Stilton!

Clare and Francis
Catholic Children’s Treasure Box, Books 4, 3, 9, and 2

Viking Raiders (Usborne Time Traveler) – a long-time favorite, I think he rereads this every few weeks

The Mysterious Benedict Society – something that escaped me. I didn’t mean to let him read it at this age, but one of the older kids left it lying around….

Alexander Graham Bell: An Inventive Life

The Magic School Bus on the Ocean Floor

Thomas Edison: Young Inventor (Childhood of Famous Americans)

DK Readers: Secrets of the Mummies

Reader’s Digest ~ How Science Works

Abner Doubleday: Boy Baseball Pioneer (Young Patriots series)

The Tale of Despereaux

Where Do Sharks Cross Mountain Peaks?

Cam Jansen and the Ghostly Mystery – probably should not have bought this (bought this at a resale shop and I thought, eh, a quick read for him for when he’s bored) — now he’s asking me about ghosts. ack.

The Pocket Dangerous Book for Boys – one of his birthday gifts; he rereads this every couple of weeks or so.

Great Illustrated Classics: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – a bit twaddly version of the original, but it will do for now

A Weekend with Wendell

The Story of a Bad Boy – recommended by big sis because she loved it. I haven’t had time to read it aloud to him as we still have several read alouds we’re working on, but he’s slowly making his way through it and said I could read it aloud to him, if/when I catch up.

The Story of the Spar-Spangled Banner

The Lady of Guadalupe – a Tomie de Paola classic

Our Homeschooling Story, Part 2, and Favorite Sources


Part 1 is here.

And so our journey began anew.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I found an awesome online support group: Catholic Charlotte Mason (aka CCM — they still exist, if you would like to join).  I also had the local support group plus several other online ones, but CCM became my lifeline.  Every single question I had on homeschooling philosophies, materials, parenting, motherhood, Catholicism, etc. was answered there. There is/was so much collective wisdom that I wish I could bottle up and hand on to my kids when they have their own.

The group switched to forum format in 2005, which you’ll find here. Although there were people who stayed at the YahooGroup or did both, and both the forum and group have continued to grow since then. At the forum, we are about 2500 strong globally, so you’ll meet all kinds of lovely Catholic homeschooling moms from all over, and you can ask just about any homeschooling question you need answered (among other things).  We love to help!  I’m there as “stefoodie” and I help moderate the “Our Lady’s Loom, Larder and Laundry Board“.

One of the founders, Elizabeth Foss, wrote the book Real Learning. It contains much of the advice you’ll find at CCM or the 4Real Forums, plus stories, booklists, and practical tips on how to homeschool Catholic Charlotte Mason-style.

Vatican Documents and Papal Encyclicals that helped solidify our family and homeschooling philosophy:

After that first year of our eldest being enrolled at Angelicum and me absorbing and learning everything I could from “the moms”, we started designing our own curriculum.   I’ve listed my favorite homeschooling resources here.

Needs organizing, but I also have some of my kids’ curricula/booklists linked at my old blog.

More of our favorite resources through the years, by subject:




We’ve used just about every Math curriculum there is, so I don’t really have a favorite.  Whichever one works for the kids is the one we go with.


Latin and Greek:


This is one area we haven’t been really successful with. Our kids struggle with Tagalog even though it’s my husband and my first language, because we just weren’t consistent through the years. Our latest attempt is to read Tagalog books aloud at dinner time, one paragraph per person, until they get the pronunciation right. I don’t know if it will stick or how successful it will be in terms of them learning grammar at the same time. In the past we’ve used Rosetta Stone for Spanish and French, but while that was fun none of the lessons stuck, because there was no consistent practice. The most effective method we found was immersion/travel, like when we stayed in Italy for a bit for husband’s work and the kids picked up the language quickly.


  • Daily exposure to classical music
  • For years we used the “The Story of” series: this is the Beethoven CD, but these days we play from old CDS we’ve collected or Spotify or YouTube.

  • Musical instrument of choice and/or choir – I’ve taught the kids basic piano, and most of them know guitar (self-taught)
  • Voice lessons, participation in choir
  • Our music plan which we were following for a while

Physical Education

Various things through the years. Individual sports/lessons: Martial Arts, Ballet, Gymnastics, Swimming.


  • Artistic Pursuits – used by all of the kids – obviously we love this program
  • Local art classes
  • Trips to Art Museums
  • a list of some of my yearly plan, which we’ve followed off and on through the years


A peek into our shelves.

More than the nitty-gritty, though, of curricula and booklists and lesson plans and daily schedules, what I’ve received from these moms are priceless gifts of their time, experience, advice, and (most importantly) prayer, because you’ll find that as you begin/continue your homeschooling journey, PRAYER is the number one thing that will sustain you.  There will be difficult days, some when you will feel burned out and totally spent, and there are days you’ll want to throw up your hands and say, ENOUGH!  Public school will be so much better than this!  (That’s a lie. Don’t you believe it.)

I have been mentored by some of the “best” (for want of a better word) homeschoolers out there, and I cannot possibly share every single thing I’ve learned from them.  In Part 1 I said “You don’t need a homeschooling group to homeschool your child.”  That is true.  You need God, your spouse, yourself, and your children.  BUT I believe you need a homeschooling group (and I highly recommend CCM and/or the 4Real Forum Moms) to homeschool YOURSELF.  No man is an island and I wouldn’t be the homeschooler I am today if not for these moms.  I’m a better child of God, wife, mother, homeschooler, Catholic, because of them.

We’ve been homeschooling a total of 16+ years now. We have one child successfully graduated from college and working as a chef/sommelier. The next child is 19 and in his second year. He just completed a summer internship of 13 weeks doing engineering work. The next one is 16, a senior in high school, though he’ll be taking some college courses starting this fall at the local community college. So far, no regrets, and if we had to do it all over again, we’d have homeschooled from the beginning. I hope that tells you something about our experience.

Our Homeschooling Story, Part 1

Homeschooling in 2001
Homeschooling in 2001

[Reposting from something I wrote in 2013.]

This blog post is being written in response to a request from our dear friends E&C, who are embarking on a new journey to homeschool their children.  I thought it was an opportune time to answer their questions on beginning homeschooling by telling our own homeschooling story.

We were first introduced to the concept of homeschooling via a business venture that we were involved in.  We attended a conference and one of the speakers was a multi-millionaire couple who had homeschooled their kids.  The kids were all grown and had successful businesses of their own.  We got out of that business years ago, but thank God every day that we stumbled upon the homeschooling lifestyle because of it. Some of the things we learned:

Lesson #1.  A formal education isn’t a prerequisite for success in life.

At the time our child was enrolled at a delightful preschool run by our alma mater. WUNS utilized the Reggio-Emilia approach and we saw that our child really flourished in that environment.  At the time, Reggio-Emilia wasn’t as widespread as it is today.

Lesson #2.  A child flourishes when he/she is allowed to explore personal interests and when we don’t put limits on his/her learning.  The project approach is an excellent way for children to learn, although it’s only one of many.

After preschool we looked for a kindergarten school that offered a similar program, but the only one we found was unaffordable to us.  After our oldest child graduated from preschool, we were “forced” to put her in parochial school because that’s what we could afford and what was convenient.  We pulled her out after a month, for various reasons, mostly academic.  After the Reggio experience, their program just wasn’t good enough.

Lesson #3.  Educators need to pay attention to a child’s learning style, capacity, current skillset. There is no such thing as one-program-fits-all when it comes to learning. 

All this time I had been researching about homeschooling more.  The very first homeschooling book I read was the Colfaxes’ Homeschooling for Excellence — this family homeschooled their boys, three of whom eventually made it to Harvard.  I also read several homeschooling classics from the library:

Lesson #4.  There is nothing to be afraid of.  There are many who have paved the way before you, with great results.  Trust their experience and example, and trust your instincts as a parent.

I culled information from several secular and Catholic homeschooling groups on America Online and put together my first curriculum that way.  We joined a local Catholic homeschooling group, but it just wasn’t a good fit for us at the time so we quit going after the first couple of meetings.

Lesson #5.  You don’t need a homeschooling group to homeschool your child.  (I say this because I’ve heard people say, “But I don’t know anyone around me who homeschools.” Don’t let that be a hindrance. This is clarified farther in Part 2.)

At the time, we were still very much of the persuasion that all we needed to find was a good school district to live in and our worries could be put to rest.  So when we moved to Texas in 1998 for my husband’s job, and we found out that the school district was considered exemplary, we went ahead and put her in public school.

Just ten months after moving to Texas, his company decided to merge with another, and we were to be moved to Minnesota, which we didn’t want to do.  So the hubby interviewed with several companies, and one worked out — which meant a move to Ohio.  The move put us in a great, multi-awarded school district once again, so we put our daughter again in public school.

I kept up with both homeschooling and public schooling trends, and from time to time would wonder whether we should go back to homeschooling.  In the interim, the Columbine shooting happened.  We were also beginning to question certain elements of the public school system.  Our daughter was part of the gifted program, but every now and then a niggle of doubt would cross my mind if this was indeed the best fit for her.  I felt as a mom that it was both challenging and not challenging enough for my child.  On the one hand, she got to do things that the “regular” students didn’t, but there still seemed to be limits to what she could accomplish and many of the rewards associated with the program struck me as forced and artificial.

Lesson #6.  External rewards usually aren’t the best way to motivate children to learn.

We moved to Pennsylvania on assignment in 2001, and decided that since our daughter would have moved to a new school anyway, going back to homeschooling wasn’t going to be that much of an adjustment for her.  Boy, were we wrong about that!

I had continued to do research into homeschooling through the years, but still thought myself unprepared to design our own curriculum for 5th grade.  Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well-Trained Mind was published in 1999 and I had read it cover to cover, but it overwhelmed me more than anything.  We were also expecting our fourth child, and along with the move and two children ages 5 and under, it was all just too much for me.  We decided to enroll her at Angelicum for the year, just to see how it will go.

What followed next — our first year back homeschooling — we will always remember as “The Nightmare Year”.  She had been used to the public school schedule and demanded that we “do school at home”, i.e., a set time for each subject, lunch time, snack time, play time, etc.  Learning that homeschooling was a LIFESTYLE and not a PROGRAM was difficult for her and for me.  Between cooking and cleaning and changing diapers and grocery shopping and laundry, we had to figure out how learning was going to happen.  It helped that by that time I had found an awesome online support group and shortly after, a local one.

#Lesson 7.  Homeschooling is a lifestyle, not a program.  It is woven in the every day, in family, in faith.  It is not limited by place or season.

Part 2 is here.

(How) Can I (Catholic) Homeschool for Free?


A friend who likes to plan early asks: Can I homeschool for free?

Quick answer: Yes.

Since so many homeschooling resources are now available online, you could get away with little more than pen, paper, a computer, a printer, and an Internet connection. BUT, unless you’re thinking of becoming a 100% unschooler (I’ve met only one person like that in 15+ years), then you will have to spend some time figuring out your curriculum for the year, which materials you’ll be printing out, which digital resources you’ll be using online, and some sort of schedule or lesson plan. I’d also recommend that the discerning Catholic parent keep an eye out for anti-Catholic bias, so you can at least discuss these things with your child if necessary. I also am a book lover, so I’m not in favor at all of doing away completely with books in the home and/or doing all schoolwork on the computer. Find the balance that works for you and your family.

I’ve gathered some links to get you started. There are thousands more on the Internet, but some of these are my favorites, some come highly recommended by fellow Catholic homeschoolers.

The basics for Catholics:

The Holy Bible
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
Saint Nook
Printable Liturgical Calendar from Michele Quigley
Liturgical Year from Catholic Culture
Catholic Encyclopedia

Other good Catholic sources:

First Eucharist — really good resource, I have a hard copy of the book and we use it for Sacramental preparation
Eucharistic Miracles
Waltzing Matilda’s Coloring Pages
Domestic Church
Free Catholic Children’s Audio Books
Free Catholic Books
Our Catholic Homeschool
Catholic Handwriting Books
Free Vintage Catholic Textbooks and Readers

General Websites, secular, covering a wide range of subjects:

Open Culture
Khan Academy
The American Library Association’s Great Websites for Kids

International Children’s Digital Library
The Baldwin Online Children’s Literature Project
Children’s Books Online
Project Gutenberg

Numeracy, from BBC
YouCubed, from Stanford University
Kids Math Games Online
Free Math Worksheet Printables from KidZone
Mathematics Enhancement Programme

e-Learning for Kids
Neo K-12
Knowledge Adventure
Science Printables from Education.com
Printables from Scholastic.com

History and Geography

We like timelines for studying history, which you can do either on a wall, a lapbook, a notebook, or download Michele Quigley’s Book of Centuries.

We do history and geography here mostly through literature, so I recommend Alicia Van Hecke’s excellent list Reading Your Way Through History, which has been a go-to resource for us almost since we returned to homeschooling in 2001.

Mary at the 4Real Homeschooling forums put together this excellent Picture Book List for History that you’ll want to check out.

Eyewitness to History
History World
History Learning Site
Look for time lapse maps on YouTube, like this one.

Piano Nanny
Classics for Kids
Harmony Fine Arts


Web Gallery of Art
National Gallery of Art
Art Coloring Pages
Google Art Project
Jerry’s Artarama


Open Culture
Worksheets from Education.com

Buying low-cost books

Other ways to get freebies or low-cost homeschooling materials are via book swaps or co-ops, so try to find a local homeschooling group; they’ll probably have other resources they can share with you.

Cathswap on YahooGroups remains the largest online Catholic swap group, at 7000+ members worldwide. In our early years of homeschooling I bought a lot of books through there. Do be careful if you’re buying internationally because besides the increased cost due to shipping, shipments are also harder to track and complaints/returns more difficult to manage. Facebook version here

Start collecting used books early. You can print out the following curricula and booklists or save them on your phone, for when you’re shopping used bookstores and book sales.

St. Thomas School from Jean and Maria Rioux
Angelicum Academy
Catholic Heritage Curricula
Ambleside Online (secular, but has lots of Catholic- /Christian-friendly options)
Mater Amabilis – the Catholic version of Ambleside Online
Kolbe Academy – click on each grade for booklists
Free Resources from Our Catholic Homeschool
The 4Real Learning Booklist from Elizabeth Foss
Catholic Mosaic Booklist — this is the booklist for Cay Gibson’s excellent book Catholic Mosaic

Free Resources, Middle School to College:

Other Resources, Secular:

Homeschool Freebie of the Day
Free Unit Studies
Free Lapbooks at HomeschoolShare
Homeschool for Free and Frugal
Free Homeschool Deals
Easy Peasy All In One Homeschool
Donna Young

If you need help with purchasing books, you might want to check out:
Book Samaritan

Lastly, check out my Homeschooling Pinterest Board for other ideas and freebies.

Click on Page 2 for places to buy used books in the Philippines.

If you’ve got other favorites, please tell me about them in the comments!!

Shepherding Our Domestic Church


Continuing my series over at Fathers for Good. This week, I talk about parenting.

Through homeschooling we’ve embraced a lifestyle that allows us to spend time with our children. Since we don’t operate on “quality time” mentality, we don’t have to cram “the perfect” into a few choice moments – time together can be spontaneous and organic even when there’s stress involved.

As the kids grew up, we developed our own disciplining style and found a good balance between rewards for good behavior, and punishment via curtailing of privileges. Heart-to-heart talks are priceless life-savers for us. Because we try hard to be in tune with the Holy Spirit, we are able to identify when we are beset with spiritual attacks and other distractions from our mission. We often remind each other to go back to the basics: kindness, silence, Eucharistic adoration, Confession, Mass.

Anthony Esolen’s Life Under Compulsion


This is my favorite time of year: it’s curriculum planning time! And Anthony Esolen’s new book came just in time as my 9th-grader-to-be and I discuss what we’re doing for Fall 2015. She’ll be joining a homeschooling co-op for the first time and picking her own courses, and I’m adding Life Under Compulsion to the mix.

I don’t know if Mr. Esolen expected his book to be used this way, but it will serve nicely as our “spine”. We could go on a hundred rabbit trails just with this one book, so it’s enough for a year or two of high school. There are lessons here in history, religion, civics, psychology and sociology, and of course language and literature. Just about the only thing we’ll need to add is math.

We started homeschooling because we wanted our children to have a real childhood. We wanted them to dream and play and sing, to think and to imagine, to see beauty where others don’t. We wanted them to get inspired by the past, to live fully in the present, and to make sound plans for their future. We wanted them to ponder a world beyond this world. In our 15th year of homeschooling, I do suffer every now and then from burnout, and this book reminded me of why we set out on this journey in the first place, and why we want to continue. Like Charlotte Mason’s books, this book is about education, yes, but more importantly it’s about life.

Anthony Esolen blesses us with his unclouded thinking and writing. He makes me look at situations, stories, including alarming current events, from angles I may not have considered before, minus the hysterics I often see even in serious cultural commentary. When you read this book, and I highly recommend it, you might find that almost every sentence gives you pause. I found myself noting down a lot, mostly things I want to discuss with my kids, and things they’ll need to discuss with their future kids.

Life Under Compulsion covers more ground than any psychology textbook I used in college. Mr. Esolen talks about the different compulsions society is out to convince us we live under, for which temporary quick-fixes are usually prescribed. Government and media talk about our youth’s most pressing problems incessantly, to the point that many of us have become numb and deaf, but seldom, if ever, do they address the roots of unrest and disease. The message our youth are sent even before they’re out of high school is that they can’t be trusted, and that it’s foolish to expect them to shoot for high standards of moral behavior. On top of that, our society creates so much noise and confusion, that this message dominates others, and anything to the contrary is deemed unacceptable and unhelpful.

The book gives us a glimpse of what freedom used to look like. It’s also a call to silence, to the sanctuary… like the bells up in the church tower when Liturgy is about to start. It makes us conscious of ultimate ends. There’s much that’s worthy of meditation here.

It talks about the unity that we find in prayer. At the same time, it also made want to weep for the greatness that was once America, and for the greatness that I often see hidden deep within men’s souls but that lie dormant, buried by years of brokenness.

Around p. 183, I was looking for the happy ending, somewhat similar to how I felt when I was reading Bonhoeffer. In that sense, Life Under Compulsion is not a satisfying read. It doesn’t promise that things will get easier, or that things will change back to the way they were. But it is not without hope, because redemption comes at the last, and Mr. Esolen reminds us to embrace the freedom that has already been won for us, at so great a price.

Life Under Compulsion: Ten Ways to Destroy the Humanity of Your Child comes out tomorrow. Buy it!!