Ink Slingers It Worked For Me Misty Parenting Vocations

It Worked for Us: Zone Cleaning for Teens

Our downstairs bathroom before zone cleaning.
Our downstairs bathroom before zone cleaning. (I took this to jokingly guilt my husband while he was on a mini-vacation.)

I’ll never forget the day an old friend told me she still cleans her 14-year-old daughter’s room, does her laundry, and even makes her lunches for school. She related this to me in the midst of a conversation lamenting that her daughter was a “spoiled, disrespectful brat” (her words) who takes her mother’s sacrifices for granted. She marveled that my school-aged children seemed more competent than her teenager.

I’ve noticed that many modern parents have the idea that their children will magically transform from helpless, dependent infants to self-sufficient adults at age 18 with no guidance from them. But realistically, our children need to be trained in self-discipline from the beginning and gradually given more and more responsibility for themselves and the household as they get older.

Our rule is: If they can toddle, they can contribute to keeping our home orderly. Even two-year-olds can pick up toys, hand you silverware out of the dishwasher, and carry their clothes to their drawers. By the time they’re adolescents, then, most kids should have mastered more complex, individual chores such as loading the dishwasher and cleaning a load of laundry from start to finish. Teens should know how to take care of pets and keep their rooms decent. (Not perfect, but decent–at least most of the time.) They should be intimately familiar with the family vacuum cleaner and mop. 

But there’s one more transition period that many parents forget about and that’s moving from individual tasks to cleaning whole areas. Because as every mom knows, cleaning a home efficiently and well isn’t just about what and how you clean, but in what order you clean things, too. You don’t sweep floors and THEN wipe down counters, for instance. You don’t clean out the sink and THEN load the dishwasher. Keeping up on laundry requires at least a load a day, with prompt swapping out of the loads between washer and dryer. And there’s no point to even doing laundry if it’s just going to sit in the baskets all week to wrinkle (eventually ending up back in the dirty clothes bin because half the basket has been strewn on the floor as family members rifle through the basket for clean items…ask me how I know this).

Our three oldest kids are 11, 12, and 14–prime ages to start being responsible not just for a handful of tasks, but for a whole zone of the house. I broke our home down into four main zones: 1) Living room and dining room, 2) Kitchen, 3) Laundry room/pets, and 4) Bathrooms/hallways/stairs. For one whole week, each child is responsible for one zone and then they switch. (I take the remaining zone.) The first day they were responsible for the zone, I sat down with them and had them read the detailed cleaning list I’d prepared for each area (click on the link to see our list):

  1. Living room and dining room
  2. Kitchen
  3. Laundry room/pets
  4. Bathrooms/hallways/stairs

 I explained why the order is important and how following the order would help them do a better job and get the job done faster. In addition to their daily tasks, they have one additional task that’s to be done each day, such as vacuuming the stairs or buffing the stainless steel fridge. This ensures that certain tasks get done at least once a week. It takes about 45 minutes each day to complete their zone cleaning.

Our downstairs bathroom today. (And no, I did NOT clean it ahead of time–this is zone cleaning, baby!)

The advantages of switching to zone cleaning for the kids was apparent right away. With three kids each doing a handful of different chores each day, it was getting to be a nightmare for me to keep up with whether their chores were completed. (No doubt they took advantage of that to get out of a chore here and there, too.) And half the time, I couldn’t remember WHO was responsible and didn’t feel like wrangling with them, so it didn’t get done. Now, it just takes a cursory view to know whether someone has done their zone for the day.

The kids also have become very territorial about their assigned areas. I no longer have to yell at anyone to pick their clothes up off the bathroom floor after their shower because the child in charge of the bathrooms that week will do it for me. My children also take obvious pride in being able to point to an entire room that they’ve cleaned, too; there’s an ownership that simply wasn’t there when they were just responsible for the dishwasher or taking out the trash.

Overall, the house stays tidier. And there’s less bickering over chores; I’m no longer dealing with complaints that “I had to empty the dishwasher twice yesterday after the party!” or “It’s not my day to take out the trash!” The expectations are crystal clear now.  

Of course, it’s not a perfect system. They are still kids and that means they do their best to slack; I have to prompt and follow up each day to ensure they’re getting their work done. They still forget what it was like to have a sibling trash their zone after it was just cleaned and throw their crap everywhere from time to time. The process of teaching them to clean up after themselves (ostensibly to be considerate of the person responsible for that room)…well, that’s still a work in progress. 

But aren’t we all? 

Ink Slingers It Worked For Me Misty Motherhood Parenting Vocations

Three Cool Tools for Getting Kids to Do Their Chores

I knew when we had three kids in three years that we were going to have to get them involved in the household upkeep as soon as possible. So for about five years, I stifled my OCD tendencies, and trained them in how to unload the dishwasher, do laundry, and generally just clean up after themselves.

And while they were young, the only incentive they needed was the verbal praise I lavished on them. Then they got older and Mom’s appreciation just wasn’t enough to make them want to put away the silverware AGAIN. The squabbling began, too, as they started to keep mental score of who did what, when, and for how long. Clearly, we had to find a more systematic way to motivate the kids to do their share for the family.

Over the years, I’ve tried lots of chore systems. LOTS. And only a few have lasted more than a week or two. The ones that had staying power are listed below. I hope you find these as helpful as our family did!


ChoresThis is a system in which each child has their daily chores listed on cards that are then kept on their own pegboard. You decide which chores are to be done in the morning, afternoon, evening, and bedtime, and then color-code the cards according to the time of day they’re to be done. This is a great system for kids who can’t yet read, because each card has pictures in addition to words. The kids move the chores to the second peg as they’re completed and the completion of chores earns them tickets that are good for TV time, computer time, snacks, etc. In addition to the daily chores, kids can earn a big reward such as “Date with Mom/Dad” for every 10 days they complete all daily chores. You can give special tickets for good behavior you witness and the program also has additional materials to help you run constructive family meetings.

We started using this program with our kids when they were 3, 7, 9, and 10. I especially appreciated that the kids could basically consult their own “schedule,” since I included cards for personal hygiene and schoolwork, too. I liked that the chores were in time blocks, instead of rigidly scheduled at a certain hour; I’d tried another daily scheduling program, but it just made me feel guilty when we were constantly four hours behind schedule. If we were out of the house one day for errands and appointments, we just skipped that time block and went to the next that day. No guilt!

Pros–The program is highly visual, so it’s easy for both kids and parents to gauge progress through the chores. The chore cards can be customized; you get dozens of preprinted cards, as well as blank ones that you can make for your child’s specific tasks, such as piano practice or Bible reading.

Cons–The program is a little pricey: $45 for the basic kit for one child, with additional cards and peg boards available for purchase for $25. If you accidentally mount the peg boards near a door or high-traffic area, you can find yourself picking up the cards time and again as they’re blown or knocked onto the floor. Older kids (generally ages 11 and older) may start to find the program a little too simple.

For more information, visit The Accountable Kids website at


ChoreMonster_logo-b0236e4d28f442e884082497764aa8c2 (1)We now have five kids and this chore program is our kids’ current favorite. It’s a very simple, web-based program that you customize entirely for each child, for each day. The format is simple–they log into the website (or pull up the app), see their chores for the day, do them, and then confirm when they complete the chores. Mom gets to approve the chores before they get points added to their bank. Each chore is assigned a point value and kids can earn prizes as they accumulate points. You can add in chores without due dates, too, if you have a big, special chore that comes up every once in a while, like cleaning out the car or raking leaves. And you can give “just because” points when a child is helpful without being asked.

A cute little add-on is that doing chores gets you a spin on “The Wheel,” which mostly gives you dumb little electronic garbage like “dirty underwear,” but occasionally you get a new electronic monster for your collection. My son has made his sisters insane by accumulating a whopping 17 cool monsters, while his three sisters only have a handful each. We access the site through my smartphone, the laptop, and tablets.

Pros–The program is FREE; you’re just subject to a little advertising when it’s time to set up the kids’ awards. It’s customizable by child, by day, and by chore–I have three older kids who rotate the regular chores every few days so that no one gets bored doing the same chores each day. The awards are chosen by the kids; you can include a mix of small awards that can be earned every few days (I use candy, special snacks, and all-natural sodas), as well as bigger prizes to be earned long-term (my daughter is working toward a used desktop computer). And because it’s entirely web-based, you don’t have to be at home to remind the kids they need to read their Bible that afternoon while running errands or brush their teeth that night in the hotel room. I personally love that there’s no paper clutter associated with the chores anymore, which was always an issue when I used Accountable Kids and daily chore lists.

Cons–We have four kids that use the program and it can be tough having everyone vying for the electronics to see their chore list and check them off throughout the day. I also had trouble making sure the chores were evenly divided; our three oldest each empty the dishwasher twice a week, for instance, and I had to create a paper chart to make sure I covered everything for the week. You may have that one child (you know the one) who becomes obsessive over accumulating points and earning awards. There’s a lot of potty humor, too, which may bother some parents. And if you have a lot of kids, you have to be prepared to put out a little cash to buy the awards. Very young children (3-5) will probably need help to log in and get their chores done, but that’s probably the case with any chore system.

For more information, visit the Chore Monster website at


Time with MomOkay, so this one isn’t actually a chore system, but is more like something that will provide the foundation for good behavior, that will make it easier to motivate your kids to do their chores. I call it a “relationship builder” for mom and kids. The premise is simple: every day, your children get to pick an activity that they do with you, one on one. When I had three kids, each child got 20 minutes of time with me; a friend with five young children gave each child 15 minutes. The child is guaranteed the time with you; he can’t lose it for bad behavior or earn it by good behavior. (I find that the worse the child’s behavior, the more both of us need time to reconnect.) All children get their time or none of them do. On days when you have visitors or are out of the house for errands, you skip Time with Mom. Ideally,you should be able to give the kids their time with you at least 4 days a week.

You start by creating a board with each child’s picture on it, with hooks attached beneath the picture (see graphic). Then you create cards for each activity you can do together, with a hole punched at the top. The child picks an activity each morning, places the card beneath his picture, and then gets to do that activity with you–and just with you, not with you and siblings–when it’s his turn. The kids can help you design the activity cards, too and there’s no limit to the different things you can do together. I found that my kids especially loved dancing with me and talking on the phone (I’d call them on the landline from my cell phone).

Pros–Kids LOVE LOVE LOVE this. Even older children. Particularly in larger families, kids really crave that individualized attention and this is a way to ensure they’re getting it. You will reap serious relationship dividends out of this program, as your kids naturally become more willing to cooperate because they feel closer to you emotionally. The fact that time with you is something they’re entitled to is a powerful, unspoken message to kids; far too many children get the idea that they have to earn their parents’ love and this teaches that it’s their natural right as our children.

Cons–Parents will get very tired of it after about the second week. It will become like exercising–you will wish you didn’t have to do it, but you will always be glad you did once it’s over. If you have more than two children, it can be challenging to ensure you get everyone in each day; I found that setting a timer for every 3 hours helped me avoid it being bedtime and still having to give someone his time with me. You may have to deal with setting firm boundaries, as your other kids may test whether you REALLY mean that it’s only going to be the two of you. And if you have little ones, you must make sure they’re safely engaged before you do something with just one child. It also can be tougher to do if you work outside the home, but it can be adapted to do just on weekends or one or two days per week.

Faith Formation Ink Slingers Marriage Martina Vocations

19 Shockingly Simple Ways to Live Your Crazy Catholic Life


I know it, you know it.

Our lives are filled with “busy.” My definition of busy varies from others. I know at times I look at what friends and family are doing and I think to myself


Recently, I was asked that very question – how do you do it? – by three different people in three different ways in one week. I’m shocked and dumbfounded that I have fooled people into thinking I have my life in order humbled that people think I have it all together. How DO I do it? And what exactly is it that I’m doing? I’m pretty sure whatever I’m doing looks way better on paper than it does in action! Appearances can definitely be deceiving. Just ask my kids what they think I do all day and I’m sure you’d get an earful of the real deal at La Casita.

As a wife and mom to six kidlets who homeschools, blogs, runs and manages said blog, a small business owner, and a person who can be found putzing about church on any given day attending a meeting, or Mass, or photographing the grounds, my life is a perpetual boxing match between organization and chaos. I detest chaos, but I also get a good case of the “lazies” – I suppose one motivates and keeps the other in check. Once a huge slob, I was forced to take on more organization, not because I like it or am good at it, necessarily, but because it contributes to my ability to function. I spend a lot of time in prayer, but after that I attempt to employ some shockingly simple ways to live my crazy life while retaining some semblance of sanity and structure. This is not a perfect list that is perfectly tackled each day! But, with any goal, it is unchanging, even if I fail when I fail. I hope to be some inspiration for the organizationally challenged – it might help knowing I am not naturally inclined towards being organized. In fact, my natural default is to sit on the sofa and watch t.v., and eat bon bons, naturally, but at some point when you decide to ask God to place certain things on your heart and for a change in attitude, you have to be prepared when that message comes through!!

PRAY. When my life is off the rails, the first question I ask is “how is my prayer life?” It seems so simple and yet it is a common component of our lives that is all-too-easy to overlook when determining where our spiritual pitfalls are. I heard a FAB-U-LOUS homily recently by Father Brian McMaster. He zeroed in on prayer being the core of all we do. Without prayer, we tend to lose our spiritual alignment, and fast! I notice a HUGE correlation between my prayer life and what I get done on any given day. This isn’t to say my days are without problems, but prayer always helps center me in such a way that I can respond to whatever happens with more patience and charity. I find my focus is in the right direction and I am resting in His plan because I spent time talking to our Father. Each day, I spend time in prayer before I get out of bed each morning. I have six kiddos, so timing is important. I find that my energy toward prayer is very different than at the end of the day {at the end of the day, it just feels like something that has to be crossed off the to-do list}. Father Uche said once that if you love someone, you want to spend time with them, just like those of us who are married should feel toward our spouse. Make prayer…God your number one.

*BEAR* MINIMUM. I came up with this phrase recently. Bear minimum should be at most a handful of things that you absolutely must get done each day to feel some level of accomplishment, otherwise the result is a GROWLY momma, which leads to cranky kids and hubby, hence the title bear and not bare minimum.  This will vary from person to person, and even from day to day or month to month. My current top three are 1) prayer {preferably before I get out of bed}, 2) make up my bed. This is my one chore that even if I get absolutely nothing else done for the day, if I haven’t made up my bed – the day is a total and complete WASTE, and 3) getting my daily chores done. Years ago, I brought FlyLady into our home and eventually created my own daily schedule of daily chores. I highly recommend checking out her website for inspiration to determine your bear minimum.

A typical lazy homeschool morning.
A typical lazy homeschool morning.

CHORES. Is there anyone who actually likes doing chores?? I hate chores with a capital H ::shaking fist at dirty toilets and Mt. Washmore, piles of unsorted mail, floor that needs to be swept for the eleventy billionTH time!:: but, there has always been something so ridiculously satisfying about cleaning the house that leaves me feeling a sense of accomplishment. Through the years I have contemplated and almost begged for someone to come in and help clean our house, but pride and…well, lack of funds pretty well dictated that I would need to get over my cleaning hatred and get the family on board with helping. Our mornings are usually very lazy – we start school around 10:30 a.m. when the little man goes down for his nap. We spend his awake time doing our daily chores, cleaning and straightening, breakfast, and then crack the whip once he goes down for his Zzzz’s.


DRINK COFFEE. Need I say more?

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 5.38.52 PM

SPEND MORE TIME WITH JESUS. Though I spend most of the day in some sort of prayer – usually in some kind of casual where are you {in these chores} God, it’s me, Martina? type conversation – I invite you to find out how and when God is speaking to you and embrace that and make it part of your daily conversation with Him. It could be conversational prayer, attending daily Mass, going to Adoration, etc.

The day I forgot to take him to his class, I was on a momma high from this event: PROUD momma moment! Jonathan moved up to gold cross today, something typically reserved for 10th graders. He tells me he is the youngest to receive it - he's in 7th grade. At our parish, servers advance as they gain experience, starting with a wooden cross, then moving up to silver cross in middle school and gold cross in high school. The college-aged men wear a blue and red St. Benedict cross.
The day I forgot to take him to his class, I was on a momma high from this event: PROUD momma moment! Jonathan moved up to gold cross today, something typically reserved for 10th graders. He tells me he is the youngest to receive it – he’s in 7th grade. At our parish, servers advance as they gain experience, starting with a wooden cross, then moving up to silver cross in middle school and gold cross in high school. The college-aged men wear a blue and red St. Benedict cross.

CALENDAR*. Whether it’s paper or electronic, storing your important events and activities, yours, hubby’s and the kidlets can be a HUGE time saver. Case in point: One day early in the year, I forgot to put a timer on my phone calendar to remind me to, oh…I dunno…take my middle schooler to his faith formation classes. A couple of hours after it ended, I had my ‘AHA!!!’ moment. I’ll never forget the smug look on the tweenager’s face. Never again, friends. That bad boy is locked in my calendar now – the appointment being the bad boy, not my son. 😉

*Can I interest you in purchasing my downloadable and printable Catholic planner?

PLAN YOUR TIME EFFICIENTLY. For the Kreitzer home, this meant moving to an almost strict diet of no morning appointments after a year of doing just that. Year two of homeschooling I was gone in excess of three times each week in the morning for my own doctor appointments, and I liked to meet with friends for lunch and plan my pastoral council prep meetings with the priests, and anyone else on staff I needed to talk with in the morning. It just got to be too much and the result was that those interruptions of schedule were severely disrupting the flow of not only the homeschool day, but also basic tasks and mundane chores suffered to the point of low to no productivity. And that led to grouchy momma and grouchy kiddos and grouchy hubby. ::see bear minimum::

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 5.22.36 PMLISTS. In the same vein as my bear minimum, writing a list helps me focus on what needs to get done for the day or week. I don’t know about anyone else, but when I have a ton of stuff floating around in my head, things tend to feel chaotic. Writing it down sort of puts an anchor on it and helps me gain perspective on what is on my “immediate” list and what can wait. Consider writing a list as a way to de-stressify {is that even a word?} your life.

MAKE YOUR YES MEAN YES. And your no mean no. When I commit to a project, activity, etc., whether for my kiddos, myself, my family, or me and my husband, I make sure I am in it for the long haul. During my three years serving on our parish pastoral council, and two of that serving as the chairperson, it came with a time price tag. I became very good at saying no to things I couldn’t do because, just after my obligation to my primary vocation, I opted to make my role as chairperson the top priority {that included being present for all meetings during my entire term, planning the agendas and retreats, assisting and making my help available for our priests as needed}. Everything else had to come second. That’s not to say I didn’t participate in other activities, but rather I gave priority to being on the council and all else fell in line, after.  I quickly learned firsthand how to apply that approach to everyday situations. Pray and discern before you give your answer so that you can be confident that you are either committed or are confident that now is not the right time. Avoid the temptation to do too much.

FAMILY FIRST. This seems like a no-brainer, but when considering your yes and no on a project, ask yourself will this activity or project help or hurt the family dynamic? At my parish, there is ALWAYS something going on – the sign of a very healthy and vibrant parish! But too much, even of a good thing, can have disastrous consequences on the home front. I work really hard {or try, at least} at not being too involved in activities at church because it’s important for our family to be together, first. What keeps me focused is knowing that my husband and children each have their own activities. We start by nurturing the domestic church and then ripple out into parish activities. Pray, spend time together as a family and God will bless how you spend the rest of your time. 🙂

EAT TOGETHER. In the spirit of family firstno matter how busy you are or think you are, make time to eat together. We have been guilty of not employing this simple tip for many years and moving to a much smaller home sort of forced the issue. We eat almost all of our meals together now and the bonding time is unrivaled. Are you too busy to eat together? Pick one meal each week in which everyone must be present for dinner, no exceptions – dads included. Once this small change to the family dynamic occurs, you’ll start to see how much more you’ll want to eat together.

GO ON DATE NIGHTS. In or out of the home, make it a point to connect with your spouse…often. My husband and I have a standing date night. We usually eat in, but occasionally go out. We treat ourselves to a nice dinner, and I pick up some wine for my hubby or occasionally get a mini-Keg because that’s what he likes. He usually washes the dishes – because that’s what I like. 😉 It’s not always about getting dressed up and going out, but spending time together and connect, unwind…and usually fall asleep because the kids have been banished errm, lovingly redirected to their bedrooms. Click here for some date night ideas.

Cute kidlet strikes again!
Cute kidlet strikes again!

ENJOY BEING AT HOME. As a homebody and introvert, this now comes easy for me. Even if you are an on-the-go extrovert who LOVES being away from home, it’s nice to be able to relax when you are home. I used to love leaving the house to do almost anything away from it because I found the amount of work involved with being home to be too…suffocating. I always felt very anxious at home because the state of my physical and internal prayer life was not in right order. Once I prayed for guidance on how to handle my anxiety about it all, I discovered that my own attitude was largely at fault for my lack of enjoyment at home. My home is not picture perfect – and it never will be with a constant stream of babies and toddlers {cute ones, mind you!} drawing all over my walls, but I am learning to just be at home and know that if I bless my children and home with my time, time I spend elsewhere will be blessed as well.

That's one way to bond with your kiddo!
That’s one way to bond with your kiddo!

BLESS YOUR CHILDREN WITH…YOU. Be with your kids. Sometimes the best gift you can give them is just being in their presence. Consider how contemplative prayer works and apply that with the time you spend with your children. Kids don’t always want or need to talk to be with you. Sometimes just being with them, holding them, hugging and kissing them is all you need to strengthen that bond. You know what brings me back to this? Hearing my kids talk about how busy I am with this project or that meeting. Even though my activities are always faith related, their sweet little voices remind me to strive for balance, to be at home more than I am other places, whether physical or mental.

REST. Get a good night’s rest. As I write this, I am coming off multiple nights of not following this simple advice. You’d be surprised at how much of my daily problems could be solved by a nice, homemade meal and a good night’s rest!


If you have a face, and sister has a marker, you *will* be drawn on.
If you have a face, and sister has a marker, you *will* be drawn on.

LAUGHSeriously, don’t take the Faith so seriously that you lose your ability to relate to others. Laugh with others and be kind. I find that a great deal of my time talking about the Faith does require me to take such a serious tone that I literally have to laugh in order to balance things out. So, laugh. Smile at others. Disarm them with your charm. Throw in a hug, too, if the three-foot bubble doesn’t apply.

BE KIND TO YOURSELF. You didn’t get things done on your to-do list today. Today’s accomplishments consisted of getting out of bed and maybe brushing your teeth before you went to bed. You might have slapped deodorant on…one armpit. That’s ok, mijos! When you can’t get to your usual list of things to do, adapt to meet the demands of the day and forget the rest. Which leads me to my next point…

MATTHEW 6:34Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.



What are some things YOU do to tame your crazy life? Share in the comments, please!

::Instagram pictures pulled from my personal account – find me and join the fun with me @MartinaCatholicSistas::

Domestic Church Erika D Fatherhood Homeschool Marriage Motherhood Parenting Series Vocations

10 Steps to Start {Catholic} Homeschooling

Recently, in a Catholic Homeschool group on Facebook, a mom commented about her doubts regarding homeschooling. My dear friend and blogger over at Totus Tuus Family, Allison, replied one of the sweetest and most perfect replies, she said,

“”If God leads you to it, He will lead you through it. I had MANY of those same doubts. I read lots of homeschool and Catholic homeschool books looking for those who had conquered the obstacles I perceived and that combined with prayer fortified me. Am I perfect at it? No, no one is…no education is perfect. Let God work on your fears, it sounds like He IS working on your heart.”

This got me thinking about my own homeschooling journey which is only four years young. How did I get here and what helped me stick with it? Then I wondered how many other moms out there on the fence about homeschooling and have not because of fear or lack of knowledge. Is this you? Have you ever thought about homeschooling your children? Ever wonder what it is all about? So you are considering homeschooling and wonder – what do I do next? Here is an easy 10 step approach to commence Catholic Homeschooling:

Step 1: Pray. Ask the Lord to help you and your husband discern if He is calling your family to the life changing decision to home educate. (note: praying about it might not ease that unsure feeling but it will help you realize if you even want to go to step two). You might want to go to Adoration, go to daily Mass, do a Novena as a family, and pray often until you clearly hear what the Lord wants of you.

Step 2: Why Homeschool? Make a list of the pros and cons of homeschooling your family. Ask yourself questions like: Why do I want to homeschool? Do you like the choices you have available in the public, private, or Catholic schools in your area? If public schooling is not an option, can you afford the other two options (Catholic schools have scholarships if you cannot afford it, please look into those). What do you want your children to accomplish through their education? How long will you homeschool? What grades do you want to homeschool? (some families homeschool K-12, others just K-8, others just high school). Also, talk to your children (if they are old enough) about homeschooling, they may have some questions that you would want to ease them with. Don’t shy away from taking children homeward bound from regular schooling environments.

Step 3: Philosophy Statement. Take the answers to step two and write a mission statement for your family. State the reasons why you are homeschooling and how you want to accomplish this. Home educating is more than a full time job; it is a life-altering decision. When the schooling gets tough, this mission statement (which I also suggest you print and place in the room you will be homeschooling) will help you recall why you took on this beautiful journey. This statement should be written by both you and your husband (even if you are the main educator), and will help you stay focused on the ultimate goals for your family. Here are some examples of Homeschooling Mission Statements.

What Mary Kay Clark says about this: “An important first step is to write out a Statement of Philosophy, to make it clear to yourself, your spouse, and your children what you hope to accomplish. Why is a Home School necessary? What are your purposes? What are the values you intend to impart to your children? Your Statement of Philosophy should be in positive terms however, and not simply reflect your objections to something in the local schools. It is vital that you and your spouse agree on the Statement and, if you enroll in a Home Study School, their Statement of Philosophy should agree with yours. Your statement could prove vitally important as evidence to local authorities of your “religious convictions” and “sincerity of belief.””


Step 4: Research Laws. Find out what the laws and legislation say about homeschooling in your state are. Every state has different requirements from what the educator needs to have to what each child is required to do to what age you are legally bound to start. The Home School Legal Defense Association is a great source for finding these laws for home educating in your particular state. If your child has already been schooling, what do you need to do to register your school with the local district/state and unenroll him from his current school?

Step 5: Read. There are many wonderful books about homeschooling out there and particular to Catholic Homeschooling. The main ones that come to mind are these: Catholic Home Schooling: A Handbook for Parents by Mary Kay Clark (of Seton Homeschool), Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum by Laura Berquist (of Mother of Divine Grace), Homeward Bound: A Useful Guide to Catholic Home Schooling by Kimberly Hahn (yes, Scott Hahn’s lovely wife), Catholic Homeschool Companion by Maureen Whitman and Rachel Mackson, and A Haystack Full of Needles by Alice Gunther.

Step 6: Curriculum Approaches. You will need to decide which curriculum approach you want to take with your family. This depends on many factors including, but not limited to: the size of your family, the ages of your children, and what your budget is (but please don’t let money stop you!), your child(ren)’s style of learning, and your teaching style. Ask yourself, do you want to enroll your child(ren) in a program or do you want to keep grades and records on your own? Do you want to write your own lesson plans or do you want to buy them already done? Also, refer back to your mission statement to make decisions on curriculum approaches. Are you going all Catholic books, some Catholic books, all secular? You might want to also order catalogs from the different Catholic homeschooling providers to get an idea of what they are all about, what books they provide, etc. You can join Catholic Book Swap on Facebook or CathSwap on Yahoo Groups to ask questions about books and curriculum as well.

Step 7: Set Measurable Goals. Make sure you go child by child and set goals for each child. These goals should include the common core subjects in addition to extracurricular goals. Also consider the abilities of your child(ren) when setting these goals. Ask yourself: What do you want your child to learn and how will you track their progress? What are the state’s or district requirements of each child at their grade level? Make sure you divide the list into short-term and long-term goals. Please note that these are to guide you and not suppress you; they will help pave the road to a successful homeschooling experience. They may change in time but at the heart of it they should also mimic your school’s Mission Statement. Your goals should include: Cognitive Goals, Spiritual Goals, Social Goals, and Physical Goals. Goals should be written, challenging, measurable and specific, tied to a deadline (per quarter or semester), and not to conflict with each other. Having goals helps keep the children and teacher focused, motivated, and on track. Reaching goals will give you a sense of accomplishment. Not reaching goals gives you specific insight on what subjects need more attention and review.

Step 8: Homeschool Conferences. If you can, attend a local homeschool conference. Local conferences are a great way to connect with others in your area that are also contemplating or those that are “experts” at this. Also, a great way to learn more about what home educating is really about (vs. what society thinks). Going to a conference? Use my Conference Survival Kit found on my personal blog. I find homeschool conferences revitalizing! The speakers are often experts in the field of homeschooling. If you can make it out to the Immaculate Heart of Mary National Conference sponsored by Seton Homeschool out in D.C., please do! Last year was the first year I attended. I got to meet many of the wonderful women that have taught me so much in the past years about homeschooling via their blogs or online. I also got to spend time learning more about our beautiful Catholic Faith and even to go to Confession, it’s like a mini-retreat of sorts! Plus, you get to go out to lunch and dinner with like-minded friends! Watch their video.

Step 9: Local Support Groups. Look for a local associations that will support your mission and curriculum style. You can learn so much from local homeschoolers! Look for Catholic groups in your area that will help you keep a familiar and similar vision for your school. Some of these groups have email lists on Yahoo Groups, you can start asking questions there. Some groups require you join their group before inviting you to their Yahoo mail list. Catholic Homeschool Support has a great search engine to find a support group in your area. If your group has a Co-Op, consider contacted them and asking if you can visit for a couple of hours or a day so you can see what they do. Co-Ops can be a great way to have encouragement the first years homeschooling. Sometimes local groups are not available, thanks to technology, we have online support groups available. On Facebook there is a Catholic Homeschool Moms group you can ask to join. In that group of over 600 moms, you can post questions and ask for advise whenever needed. Some of the Yahoo Groups are also online only such as Catholic Homeschooling. Find those available to you. You can also search Catholic Homeschooling Blogs for suggestions and advice. Just be careful not to overwhelm yourself with looking at ALL that others are doing!!!

Step 10: Get Organized. If you read through my list, you noticed I kept saying homeschooling is a life-altering journey; well it is. Homeschooling is not a schooling choice alone. Many people have used A Mother’s Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot to organize their homes and make the children managers of their homes along with mom. Personally, I love Laura Dominick’s book A Plan for Joy in the Home. Both books take you step by step on how to create a schedule for chores and schooling. You will love it!

Now, It is my hopes that after 15 years in the classroom and four years homeschooling, this little list will help others who are contemplating home educating their children. Will this be an easy task, you ask? NO. Anything good and fulfilling is not easy in life. Is it possible to homeschool? Absolutely, do not fear! My very wise friend, Nola, puts it best:

“Personally, I think anyone can make it [homeschooling] work. We are our children’s best teachers. No one starts out thinking it will be easy, or they’ll be “good” at it. It comes down to priorities and goals. And experience. I think if a parent thinks homeschooling is superior to away school then the only thing standing in their way is fear. Fear can be overcome!…The only thing you need is prayer. I struggle all the time with whether I should be doing this (and she’s only 6!!!). But those fears and doubts are not from God. No more than the fears and doubts in marriage, in parenting, in anything that is good. Pray for clarity and peace. He is always there for us.”




On a side note, some of the contributors of Catholic Sistas are already homeschooling and often we give each other support in this area of our lives. We have now created a team that will be presenting different topics on Catholic Home Educating. In our first series on Catholic Homeschooling we will cover different topics regarding this complex yet fulfilling decision for your family. Join us in this journey of Catholic Homeschooling 101 where we will cover the following tips, tricks, and ideas! I’ll be talking about:

  • About Goals
  • About Learning
  • About Life
  • About Growing Up
  • About Fun
  • About Sleep
  • About Letting Go
  • About Love
  • About Procrastination
  • About Time Management
  • About Work
  • and more…
7 Quick Takes Getting to Know the Ink Slingers Ink Slingers Kerri Martina

7 Quick Takes Friday, no. 2

Welcome to another Quick Takes post!! Last time we polled all the Ink Slingers to make up one post, this time we are interviewing just one Ink Slinger, our faithful foundress and whip wielder, Martina. Martina is the brains behind Catholic Sistas so it only made sense to interview her first. She’s a Texan without much of a Texas accent (which is a big deal, I’m told, considering she grew up in East Texas), a mother to six kidlets, and loves her Snickers candy bars (out of the freezer, of course). Continue reading to learn seven more fun and interesting things about our ringleader.

In case you had questions about the size of Texas …


Are you a cradle Catholic who never strayed, a cradle Catholic and a revert, or a convert?

I’m a cradle Catholic. I wouldn’t say I never strayed, but I definitely went through a time where I was incredibly lazy, apathetic, and ignorant of the Faith. As I learned more about the Faith over the past decade, I came to realize that many others had similar experiences to mine. It was because of some orthodox women in an online Catholic group who upheld Church teaching in all discussions {and being unpopular in the process} that I began to learn what the Church taught. This is what fueled my desire to start the blog. I want to do what they did for us by sharing the Faith in a loving, yet firm and unapologetic way. I understand the grip that ignorance and apathy can take on any of us, at any time.


What is your favorite household chore?

I’ve always loved to vacuum – even as a kid. There’s something about seeing those vacuum lines in the carpet! However, we just moved into a new house that has almost all tile and hardwood floors. The only carpet is in our tiny closets, one bedroom and the game room. Somehow, it’s not the same vacuuming area rugs!


What is a random fact about you most people don’t know?

Before I graduated high school, I had photographed our governor, been to Texas Stadium to photograph a football game and was asked to be on the NBC show Name Your Adventure hosted by Mario Lopez to do photography. I would have been on the show if it wasn’t the same weekend as my graduation!


How did you meet your husband?

Martina and her Hubby

You kids these days, you have NO idea how easy you have it in terms of meeting your future spouse online! Back in MY day, I had to scour chat rooms using dialup services like AOL. There was no Ave Maria Singles or Catholic Match online! We had to find each other using good old fashioned grit and determination…and instant messages. We had to fight the negative stereotypes of meeting people online. I may or may not have been known to avoid the question “where did you meet?” by simply saying “in college” which was also technically true.

What? Doesn’t everyone go to McD’s on their wedding day? Let’s overlook the spaghetti straps on the dress and instead focus on the fact that it was 115 degrees days before the wedding.


What volunteer activities are you involved in?

The newest kidlet

I’m involved in quite a bit in my parish community, but I’ve been slowing my activities down recently. We just moved closer to our parish and we also welcomed our youngest little guy on June 16. Currently, I am in my third year of serving for our parish Pastoral Council, and my second year as the chairperson. I have been helping with the Catholic Speaker Series program at my church that brought in Matthew Kelly in January and Father Rocky from Relevant Radio in April. I had a blast working on those speaking projects as part of the event planning and I hope to get back into that ministry as time permits! I helped plan and put into place our current Adult Faith Formation program, which is actually a huge inspiration for the blog when it comes to sharing testimonies and catechesis. Lastly, I blog for and sit on the executive board of directors for Austin Catholic New Media.


What is your favorite prayer?

At first, I wasn’t sure I had a favorite prayer. I love so many. In the middle of the night when I can’t sleep, it’s Hail Mary and/or the St. Michael prayer. After communion, I pray Anima Christi. I love the prayers from the Divine Mercy Chaplet and I love Hail Holy Queen. Even obscure prayers have a special place such as a short prayer we insert after the Fatima prayer in the rosary that goes “All for the Sacred and Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, all for the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, all in union with St. Joseph.”


if I had to choose a favorite, I think I would have to say it has easily become the

Abandonment Prayer

by Brother Charles de Foucald.

I abandon myself into your hands;

do with me what you will.

Whatever you may do, I thank you:

I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures — I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul;

I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,

for I love you Lord, and so need to give myself,

to surrender myself into your hands, without reserve,

and with boundless confidence,

for you are my Father. Amen.


What most makes you smile?

My kids and their goofy ways. They are always so huggy and lovey with each other – we hear “I love you” a LOT in our house and it always makes me smile.

For more Quick Takes, visit Martina’s friend Jen Fulwiler over at Conversion Diary.