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13 Years of {Catholic} Homeschooling ~ 13 Simply Great Ideas

Thirteen Years of {Catholic} Homeschooling ~ Thirteen Simply Great Ideas

My firstborn graduated from a high school course of study accepted by the state of Alaska and is now attending college (paid for by the state because of good test numbers!).  Thirteen years of homeschooling now and I feel properly disposed to present some great ideas.  In no particular order they are:

1One hour a day “alone with your thoughts.”  Not a nap.  Never call it a nap.  This sounds a little fruity, I know, but the real reason is for me to get reacquainted with my thoughts, changing this . . .

into this . . .

2. Family newspaper.  Two or three times a year, we hunker down and assign articles to every child for the Howelling Herald, printed on that longer-sized paper.  We do recurring features such as Outdoor Odysseys (excursions around), Family Accomplishments  (from black belts to potty training), History page (reprinted assigned paragraphs), and Classifieds (from lost cufflinks to cheap plastic crap for sale).  Smaller people just color stuff, which I scan and add right in, along with witty commentary.

3. Cheap ziplocs, tape, bandaids, and paper clips as toys.  Dump onto the floor and watch them get all MacGyver on you.  Amazing creations.

4. A time line made of 3×5 cards stuck to the top of the wall where a wallpaper border would be.  Helps to consecutively organize discombobulated reading selections and also helps to place into perspective things like an 8 year old’s obsessesion with ancient Greece and an 11 year old’s love of Scottish fairy tales.  I point to the section of the wall where it fits; they draw another 3×5 card with a minotaur or a fairy ring ~ bingo!  School.

5. Lots of reading and lots of legos makes an excellent curriculum.  Corresponds nicely with:

6. Pair up older children with a younger sibling for a half hour blessing (I call it a spiritual word because it guilts the big kids.).  This means that young teens can play forts and legos without embarrassment and little kids get to hang out with cool teens.

7. If there are male children, you can create an entire curriculum around battles. Choose 6-ish important battles to read about.  Read all about the country/ies and the reasons (social studies).  Recognize and dig into a relatable science topic.  Then write about it, play-act it, draw pictures of it (language arts).  An easy example is Gettysburg.  It’s fun to recreate the battlefield in your yard or living room with small soldiers.  There are strategy books for older kids and picture story books for younger kids.  Watch it , if they are old enough.  Science is battlefield medicine, which is pretty gruesome, which means they’ll love it.  Actually, my daughter did, too.

8. An IV in a kid’s arm that needs to be flushed and run through with antibiotics is great science.  If you don’t have someone with cystic fibrosis in your family, sorry.

9. Pet care = science.  But only if you make the children do the care and then draw pictures of things like the creepy rash on the dog’s belly.  Extra points if they mix up tea tree oil and warm water and bathe it.  If you make them write about it all, you’ve got language arts; if you make them do graphs of information like weight and amount of food and exercise, you’ve got math.

10. Boxed curricula works just fine and may be exactly right for whatever season you’re in.  So does unschooling.  


11. Elizabeth Foss’ book Enough said.

13 Reasons to Homeschool

12.  My shelf.  The red basket squares hold, from left to right, science equipment, math manipulatives, and art supplies, with books on the bottom corresponding orderly.  I love my shelf.

And my 13th great idea ~

13.  We stuck with it.  With all the stress and wondering and trouble and comparisons, we did it; for there is also fun and learning and companionship and education.

What ideas have worked in your homeschool? What would you add to this list?

Check out our Homeschool, Homeschool Curriculums, and Homeschool Resources boards on Pinterest, too!

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{Catholic} Homeschooling Series: Looking Back


looking back

The ecclesiastical year is over, and a new year has begun.  With this, I thought it a good idea to do a recap of this series which started off just a couple of years ago.


2014-2015 change represents the new year 2014 three-dimensional rendering

  1. 10 WAYS TO FIND JOY IN OUR {CATHOLIC} HOMESCHOOL: It was the third week of Advent. My shoes were uncomfortable, my skirt did not fit right, my veil kept falling off and even the cushion on the kneeler beneath me felt bumpy. I looked up and shot my two sons one of those disapproving look and looked up at my husband and frowned. Tears swelled up in my eyes so I shut them quickly and created a dam for them with my eyelids. First tear rolled down. It was useless, I was sad. My thoughts raced. I opened my prayer book and something feel from it, a paper? a book mark?  And there it was, the answer to my frustration but I couldn’t really see, so I left it on the tile floor and closed my eyes to pray, “Dear Lord, what is wrong with me? Why am always so upset, bothered and angry? Why is it that my children do not listen? Why do they hate school so much?” My mind raced. I was going to THAT place again and Communion was coming up…I was feeling so sorry for myself, again. How did I lose my joy?
  2. SAINT PHILOMENA, HELP! BOOK REVIEW & GIVEAWAY; Saint Philomena, HELP! is a lovely book written by homeschooling mother of six and Catholic author, Christine Henderson. Mrs. Henderson brings her stories alive and teaches the faith along the way.  She has a vast experience working with children as she has been home educating her own for the past fourteen years.  This is the first volume in a series entitled, A Sister Marie Story.  In this story Sister Marie has her worked cut out for her as she works in the least preferred area of her town, the poor area.  Here she strives to help the residents improve their daily lives in temporal as well as spiritual matters.
  3. THE ONE ROOM SCHOOLHOUSE APPROACH: CATHOLIC SCHOOLHOUSE: It is that time of year where everyone is figuring out what to use next school year.  Social Media is swamped with questions and suggestions from other home educating mothers with the “what worked,” “what did not work,” and the simple, “what do you think of this?” conversations.  Curriculum selection among home educators can be confusing and difficult since we cannot walk into a room and flip through the texts or programs ourselves.  We rely on what experiences other mothers have had with their children in their home schools, which is fine but be sure you ask TONS of questions and keep your individual children in mind.
  4. OUR CATHOLIC HOMESCHOOL CURRICULUM 2015-2016: One of the best feelings for a homeschooling parent is to know EXACTLY what you will be using early on in the Summer before the new school year comes.  As we begin out seventh year homeschooling, I can finally say I feel like I have it all together and LOVE everything we are using.  So here is our Catholic Homeschooling Curriculum for the 2015-2016 school year.
  5. HERO MOTHERS IN {CATHOLIC} HOME EDUCATIONAre you a hero mother? I bet you are. This week we completed our ninth week of school.  A small victory for anyone who teaches, but especially us home educators who not only wear the hat of teacher to our children, but also that of home maker, chef, school psychologist, curriculum coordinator, school nurse, among many other tasks.  Let’s face it our job as home educators, is not an easy one.  Let’s be frank about this.  Something someone said in a homeschooling forum, struck a cord with me….she said, “I wish someone would have not just painted a pretty picture of homeschooling before we started, I wish someone would have been frank and told me just how HARD it would be!”
  6. {CATHOLIC} HOMESCHOOLING THROUGH HIGH SCHOOL: One of the scariest tasks I have had to endure is homeschooling our oldest child through high school.  He is currently a Senior and it is only early November and boy have we had a busy year!


  1. BACK TO BASICS IN {CATHOLIC} HOMESCHOOLING: This article comes to you almost exactly on the anniversary of when we first introduced this series on {Catholic} Homeschooling.  As we recap the year I would like to take a step back and share some basics which we have brushed upon in the other articles but are worthy of compiling and giving a focus to in this article. In the Letter to the Ephesians 4:1-6, the Lord tells us, through Saint Paul, “I therefore, a prisoner in the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation in which you are called, with all humility and mildness, with patience, supporting one another in charity.  Careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  One body and one Spirit; as you are called in one hope of your calling.  One Lord, one faith, one baptism.  One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all.”  
  2. CREATING A MONASTERY IN YOUR {CATHOLIC} HOMESCHOOL IN 10 STEPS:  When I was in college, I prayed and discerned a vocation to become a sister or a nun.  I was enthralled by the Carmelite Sisters of the Sacred Heart; of which I had had the honor of I wanted to be just like Saint Therese but God was calling me to be more like Blessed Zelie, her mother working with and for at a Catholic School in Florida.  Fortunately for me, I was assigned to work with Sister Maria Kolbe whom not only directed me and taught me her ways as a model teacher but, more importantly, she showed me the joy in following Our Lord Jesus in all we do.  I wanted that joy she had SO BAD!  But after years of praying, God told me He had other plans for me.  Years later, I married a man whom also discerned at vocation to the priesthood (to the FRATERNITY OF SAINT PETER), we met, fell in love, got married and five children and ten years later, here I am homeschooling.  I could not help but wonder what life would have been IF God had called me to become a Carmelite…you know, after all, the grass is always greener on the other side.
  3. 10 STEPS TO TEACH WRITING IN YOUR {CATHOLIC} HOMESCHOOL: Teaching writing in ten steps you say?  Why yes there is a method to the madness on how to teach young writers!
  4. {CATHOLIC} HOMESCHOOLING FAQ Submit your questions for us!  (There is still time to get this going…we have had questions asked via email).
  5. A FOOLPROOF {CATHOLIC} HOMESCHOOL DAY: When we first moved to Pennsylvania, I had the opportunity to attend a local homeschool “Mom’s Day Out.” One of the speakers was Mrs. Mary Ellen Barrett, who blogs over at TALES FROM THE BONNY BLUE HOUSE, which gave us this lovely list of how to survive your homeschool day.  Since she shared it with us moms, I have called it the foolproof plan for our {Catholic} Homeschool day! Seriously, I’ve have had a chance to institute it with my lovely {but very headstrong} five little blessings and guess what?  IT WORKS!  And since it works {and I struggled so long to find something like this} I had to share it.  So here it goes; of course, some days this plan won’t work because illnesses happen, babies are born, etc., etc., but under somewhat normal conditions, this plan really does work:
  6. WHEN THE WEATHER TURNS NICE, IT IS GUT CHECK-TIME FOR THE {CATHOLIC} HOMESCHOOL: So what exactly do I mean when I say, “When the Weather Turns Nice, It is Gut Check-Time for the {Catholic} Homeschool?” When the weathers turns bad, it is easy to hunker down and do school.  When the weather turns nice, the children want to play and it turns into gut check time where you have to adjust your schedule and persevere in finishing out your core schoolwork. Well, see I live in Pennsylvania, and this past winter was out of control.  I know, I know, it comes with living in PA but it was just too much.  At its first arrival we were so excited!  It was so pretty so sparkly, but then it just kept on coming,  unannounced and never leaving, it was like that relative that just shows up and never leaves…well just take a look for your self:
  7. {CATHOLIC} HOME EDUCATING JOURNEYS FROM AROUND THE WORLD, PART 1: This is a new series, entitled {Catholic} Homeschooling Journeys from Around the World where I have asked several mothers who are now {Catholic} Home Educators, “How did you end up a home educator?”  This is a series of homeschooling journeys to help encourage others who might still be on the fence about homeschooling.  With the rise of Common Core, the opposition to this movement known as CATHOLIC IS OUR CORE, and lack of morality in the public sector, there has been an increase in home education in the past two years.
  8. JOURNAL WRITING IN YOUR {CATHOLIC} HOMESCHOOL: Are you having trouble getting your children to write stories or writing in general in your {Catholic} homeschool? Why not introduce journaling into your day? It is really a simple addition to your day which won’t add much more time and the rewards from it are priceless!  Morning transitions from breakfast to school time are a snap this year since I instituted morning journal time for my children in grades K, 1, 3, and 4. It has become part of our routine and schedule as well, making it a breeze to clear off the table and get excited about starting the school day and writing!
  9. VIRTUES PROGRAM REVIEW & GIVEAWAY FOR THE {CATHOLIC} HOME & SCHOOL: This is not your normal homeschooling article as this program can be used by any Catholic parent, a Catholic Virtues Program integrating the beautiful Holy Rosary into it!
  10. TEN LITURGICAL ACTIVITIES FOR ADVENTThis article would actually apply for any Catholic family, not just home educators as it deals with liturgical activities for Advent.   Today in the United States of America we celebrate Thanksgiving.  As I thought and thought about what I could possibly write about without boring you (and really, who is online on Thanksgiving?), I thought the one thing I am most thankful for is being Roman Catholic. With that came to mind the thought that we are beginning a brand new Liturgical Year!  This time of year is SO BUSY and our lives seem to go on overdrive.  It is rather exhausting at times and reminds me of when we used to do “vacations” to theme parks- wake up, go, go, go, crazy, repeat.


  1. 201310 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 atTOTUS 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.”
  2. GOAL SETTING IN {CATHOLIC} HOMESCHOOLING: Before setting your goals for your homeschool take a moment first to make a list of why you want to this. Once your list is completed, circle or highlight all of the most important or positive points from your list. Think of this list as writing your own defense ahead of time against naysayers. This way, if someone questions you about your decision, you now have a list in your head of well thought out reasons as to why you are now homeschooling. This list should be composed by you and your spouse so that you both are on the same page from the start. If your children are older, you may also want to include their reasons as well. Including the children from the onset also helps them explain why you have chosen this as a family. It will equip them with reasons should anyone ask them (believe it or not even strangers will ask them). So what should be in your educational philosophy statement? You should ask yourself the following two questions:
  3. RAISING HEAVEN-BOUND CHILDREN: DUMB SAINTS INSTEAD OF BRILLIANT SINNERS: That’s right, I would rather raise a dumb saint than a brilliant sinner.  Why?  Because I am raising my children to be heaven-bound.  Obviously there were many great saints who were brilliant, and intelligence and holiness are not mutually exclusive. As parents we should certainly help our children strive for excellence in education. However, the salvation of their immortal souls should be our PRIMARY aim.  I will do whatever is in my power (through God’s grace, of course), to be certain that my children will thrive in this secular world.  So how?  How is it possible to raise children to be heaven-bound you ask?
  4. HOMESCHOOLING METHODS 101:  If you have been following our series, I first wrote about the 10 Steps to Start Catholic Homeschooling and then on Goal Setting in the Catholic Homeschool, now we are going to discuss the different homeschooling methods available to you.  So you’ve decided to Homeschool, you looked up the laws in your state, you contacted the local organization and even want to join a homeschool co-op.  Now what?  Well, now you need to decide what method you will use in your homeschool.  First, I would like you to learn a little bit about yourself as a teacher and a former student. As you read through these available methods, please keep in mind four things:
  5. THE {CATHOLIC} HOMESCHOOLING SOCIALIZATION MYTH: A couple of years ago, in my local newspaper, there was a nice article about a HOMESCHOOLINGfamily with five children. They quoted the home schooled children and the author spoke statistics…when I saw it laying on my kitchen table, I thought wow how exciting and went on, with much enthusiasm, to read the article. Later on I checked my e-mail and saw lots of messages from local HOME SCHOOLERS who were outraged by the comments being left on-line regarding the article. I skimmed through those messages (a bunch had already been blocked by the paper) and noticed the one prevailing topic: SOCIALIZATION. Generalizations about any group of people is common among humans.  So this was not a shocker.  But when I read comments from other who have never walked in the shoes of a homeschooling family it made me think that they believe that we keep our kids in a closet (without windows) and don’t allow them to go out and be “socialized”.
  6. LEARNING STYLES IN THE {CATHOLIC} HOMESCHOOL: My husband is incredibly smart.  He goes to visit someone once and two years later he knows exactly how to get there without directions.  He can also capture what someone tells him the first time he hears it.  Is your husband like this?  Are you?  I am not.  I have to look at the map, write down turn-by-turn directions and actually drive there myself to remember.  What is the difference between him and I?  He is an auditory learner and I am a visual learner.  Some people learn best by just listening to someone talk about information others prefer to read about the concept to learn it, others, like myself, need a little more, we need to read, listen and also watch.  These are what are known in the education field as learning styles.
  7. HOLY WEEK: HELPING OUR CHILDREN WALK WITH JESUS: Holy Week is around the corner. Do you feel like your children are ready for Holy Week? Are they ready to walk with Jesus? A couple of years ago, I had been stirring because I felt like my children were not really ready for Holy Week and the Crucifixion and, of course, Easter! Yes, we’ve been doing things all during Lent but I felt like now, they needed something more. One night I woke up in the middle of the night and the Holy Spirit gave me an idea! I say He gave me the idea because it was so perfect and brilliant that it could only be from God. So the next day, I put this together for our classroom! I am so proud of our children because they were so into our lesson as we talked about the days of the week and our Holy Week Journey to Easter Sunday! I really enjoyed making this and also loved its simplicity! What I wanted to accomplish with this was a visual of what Jesus, our Lord, went through during Holy Week. I wanted to help them walk with Jesus.
  8. GETTING OVER THE FREE-RANGE CHICKEN SYNDROME, ORDER IN {CATHOLIC} HOMESCHOOLING: For me, homeschooling was about pride for a long time. We were going to do everything differently from schooled children, every day, and all the time. There was no way I was going to teach my children like school systems teach or keep such a tight schedule. We will school in our pajamas and we will wake up when our body is ready to wake up! We will go on field trips at least once a week! We will do arts and crafts every day! Free range chickens vs. those chickens in those super crowded, mega sized coups. We are free range chickens!!! At least we were… until I realized that we are not.
  9. {CATHOLIC} HOMESCHOOLING MULTIPLE AGES IN A LARGE & BUSY FAMILY:  It’s daunting to think about schooling many children, all different age ranges, in a busy house. It takes a bit of creative thinking but it can be done. Each summer before the year starts, I start praying about our schedule, and I ask my husband to pray about it too. I have some tips and tricks I have used over the years to have smooth sailing days when homeschooling a large family:
  10. TEACHING RELIGION IN THE {CATHOLIC} HOMESCHOOL: Quite often I am asked about how I deal with teaching religion in our homeschool. My thoughts on this have evolved over our 15+ years of homeschooling, mainly because I have evolved over that same time. When we first began homeschooling I was still in the learning phase of my faith; although I guess a more accurate term would be the “re-learning” phase because supposedly I had learned about my faith during my 10 years in CCD. What a joy it was to go through religion books with my oldest children when they were first starting out and learn right along with them. I think back in those early days we used almost every religion program out there: SETONFAITH AND LIFE, Image of God, The BALTIMORE CATECHISM.
  11. TEACHING READING IN YOUR {CATHOLIC} HOMESCHOOL: If you are teaching reading to your little one or have a child who is having trouble reading, then it is vital that they become proficient in sight words. Sight words are about 87% of all the words that children read in their trade books. Words like “the” “in”, “a”, “it”, and “is” are all part of this very important list.  These words are phonetically irregular words, meaning you cannot use phonics to decode them so they must be learned by sight.  Knowing sight words is one of the basic building blocks when learning how to read and one that should not be ignored.
  12. 10 STEPS TO SELECTING A {CATHOLIC} HOMESCHOOL CURRICULUM: Selecting a curriculum can be a truly overwhelming task each year for homeschooling mothers.  So many times I have said to myself, “if I could see that book, I’d know if I want it!”  Right?  Then you hop online look through blogs of perfect homes, with perfect mom teachers, that have the perfect school rooms, and then there is Pinterest…then you are headed to Confession, jealousy is a lousy sin.  No seriously, is it not just frustrating?   How do these women just *KNOW* that’s the right Math book?  Why did it not work for *MY* child?  Well, here’s why:  There IS NOT one set curriculum that is perfect for everyone.  There I said it.  
  13. TEACHING THE LOVE OF WRITING IN {CATHOLIC} HOMESCHOOLING: Writing has always been a priority in our Catholic Homeschool from when we first started, I’ve always provided our children with papers and writing utensils of all kinds.  I have basically been very informal about it.  Always making sure that the children from the moment they can grasp a spoon that they are given ample opportunities to explore with writing.  Yes, I do start them out very early.  It is a very natural approach to teaching the love of writing to my children, even if at the beginning the writing utensils spends most of its life drowned in drool.  At first, this is a messy task but eventually my children learn that putting marker, pen, chalk, crayon, or colored pencil to paper, chalk board, dry erase board, notebook, or construction paper means we write letters and then words which together turn into sentences which eventually will make paragraphs with wonderful stories.  Equally important is matching these words with pictures, beautiful colorful ones and even simple pencil drawn ones.  We are constantly writing and my children don’t even notice that I am sneaking in some very important future writing skills in to them from early on.



Domestic Church Homeschool Raising Saints

Hero Mothers in {Catholic} Home Education

Are you a hero mother? I bet you are.

This week we completed our ninth week of school.  A small victory for anyone who teaches, but especially us home educators who not only wear the hat of teacher to our children, but also that of home maker, chef, school psychologist, curriculum coordinator, school nurse, among many other tasks.  Let’s face it our job as home educators, is not an easy one.  Let’s be frank about this.  Something someone said in a homeschooling forum, struck a cord with me….she said, “I wish someone would have not just painted a pretty picture of homeschooling before we started, I wish someone would have been frank and told me just how HARD it would be!”  This is an honest comment, though I think that anyone who would sit and foresee what this journey would entail before beginning would possibly not realize how difficult it would be was also not being realistic.  Of course, all the beautiful blogs with perfect still pictures of children reading and painting, or playing an instrument do not help, BUT also, we cannot simple believe that that is how their home life is 100% of the time.  Why? Well because we are fallen humans and children are children.

I must confess, I feel like a failure to my children (MANY, MANY, MANY, did I say many, yet?) Many times!  I have even taken these failures to the Confessional many times.  The last two times, my spiritual director said two things that have stuck with me, although I did not realize it until yesterday when I wrote a help plea in a traditional mother’s group I belong to.  First, he said to me, “well that is why we call them children right?  Your job is to patiently (ahem!) guide them to do what is right, teach them what is wrong, and this may take many times, even fifty times if you must.”  Easier said than done right? But think about this, he is right even if the words are hard to to swallow.  The next month he asked me this, “since the last time you were here, how many times do you think you were impatient with your children, would 200 times be an exaggeration?”  Tearfully, I answered, “not an exaggeration at all, probably 100% accurate.” Then he said, “well for the 200 times you were impatient, would you say you were at least 400 times patient with them but they would not listen?” GAH! Yes!  So true….I had not even thought about this.  He then said, “God wants you to focus on the good you are doing for your children, the sacrifices you are making for being home with them and not be so hard on yourself, you failed, you found your faults, pick yourself back up and move on! Forgive yourself!”  WHOA!  Did it stab me in the heart? Of course.  Did it sink in?  For about three hours later.  What happened the next week (this week) is an example of what a bad job I am at forgiving myself.

Yesterday morning, I woke up and everything that could have gone wrong went wrong.  We had to get school done BEFORE the doctor’s appointment, which took six months wait to get, so I could not miss it or cancel it.  My children were exceptionally pushing all my buttons and I sat on the couch, with a white flag, grabbed my iPad and begged friends in a forum for advise.  I was typing and thinking to myself, “they are going to think I’m such a failure, I pride myself in being such a homeschooler extraordinaire, and cheerleading anyone into homeschooling, and living a good, holy Catholic life, but here I am begging for suggestions for my four out of five unruly children.” BUT guess what happened?  TOTALLY THE OPPOSITE!  

I got responses like, “Oh honey I am so glad to read this, I’m not alone.” To, “Oh this too shall pass when my children were smaller I thought it was the end of the world and now they are such great adults!” To, “Story of my life!”  From women I too thought had the perfect home life with still pictures of beautiful children sitting around the kitchen table, cooperating and smiling as they complete their math problems.  BUT, they were there telling me that was just a “Facebook Lie” and that they too struggle.  WHAT?  Then this happened, I came across a meme that had been floating around, I had read and thought, “wow, what love this mother had for her child!” Never associating that mother to myself.  Her child, as an adult, called his mother, “his hero who believed in him.”  I am not even sure if this is true or not, I did not take the time to check Snopes or anything because it did not matter.  Why? I have met in the past eight years of home education, the most dedicated mothers, mothers with and without college degrees, mothers of special needs children, mothers of children whose school system failed them, mothers of children who were unruly, yet they stuck by their child until that child reached his or her best potential.  Who was this mother who was called a hero?  The mother of the genius, Thomas Alva Edison, here is the meme:

Edison story


This was a mother that not only believed in her child but also in herself.  What do we see today?  We only know the story of her genius child, her story (true or not) has not been told.  Did she doubt herself capable to teaching her child?  Most probably. Was she worried of being a bad mother? Quite possibly. Did she give up?  No.

I write the following advice for myself, if it rings true to you, wonderful, if not, pass it along it might help another mother in need:

  1. Find the courage to be honest with yourself.
  2. Forgive yourself, keep your chin up and tomorrow is another day.
  3. Ask for prayers, they sustain us.  
  4. On social media? Use it to be real and help one another.
  5. Go to Confession often.
  6. Stay close to the sacraments.
  7. Keep on praying with your children.
  8. Keep on praying FOR your children. Turn to their guardian angel OFTEN.
  9. Talk to your children about your concerns, why would their actions make the home disorderly.  Would God be proud? Put it one them to think about this.
  10. Make sure you have friends you can always turn to, be honest, and they will support and not judge you.

You are that hero mother.  You can do it!

Domestic Church Erika D Homeschool Ink Slingers Raising Saints

Journal Writing in your {Catholic} Homeschool

JournalingAre you having trouble getting your children to write stories or writing in general in your {Catholic} homeschool? Why not introduce journaling into your day? It is really a simple addition to your day which won’t add much more time and the rewards from it are priceless!

Morning transitions from breakfast to school time are a snap this year since I instituted morning journal time for my children in grades K, 1, 3, and 4. It has become part of our routine and schedule as well, making it a breeze to clear off the table and get excited about starting the school day and writing!

Not only does journaling encourage a great transition into our school day but it also instills a love for writing, for staying on topic, and also a good way to get ideas organized on paper without the stress of their work being formally graded. For the younger children they get to draw and begin labeling pictures, they also dictate the words   they would like to write. Sometimes I write it for them other times, I write it in highlighter or lighter marker so they can trace the words and in turn practice handwriting! The older children get a chance to practice putting sentences together and spelling words as best they can. I do not formally check for spelling errors (no red marks in their journals) but do guide them to spell words as best they can.

Another reason to do journaling each morning is to allow them time to draw a picture to go with their words.  This is important because it helps your child match picture with text which is an important reading strategy.  So them writing then drawing pictures to go with their writing helps them develop this important reading skill.  I have a child who does the opposite because he is a visual learner, he first draws a picture then he writes about it in detail because the more detail in their pictures the more they have to write about.  This was a child who hated writing so allowing him to draw first has helped him write better and learn to love writing.  This is why I really love using Mead’s Primary Journals since they have space at the top to draw a picture and at the bottom for writing.  In hindsight, for my fourth grader I should have gotten a journal with more lines and less drawing space but that is on the plans for next year.  This is what it looks like:

mead primary journal
Mead Primary Journal cover


This is what the journal looks like on the inside.
This is what the journal looks like on the inside.


Journal prompts might be easier than you think. The key is to keep it simple. The neat thing is to see the younger children develop their prompt into something simple and the older children take it a step further and make it more complex. Be smart about prompts and use the material your children are working from in other subjects! Is it a feast day? Why not incorporate it into your journal prompt? A lot of days I als do what I call free journaling, which means the children can write about any subject they like. They love free journals days and get very creative! Shhhh! Don’t tell them they are leaning about history, math, science and religion while journaling…and you might even pick up some prompt ideas from free journal days, your children might surprise you.

Journal prompts are not necessary but they do help.  Your prompt can be open ended or it can ask a question. I have taught my children to borrow from the words on the prompt.  This helps them stay on topic and also builds their vocabulary as I try to use bigger words in the prompt.  For example, if the prompt is: “What is something amazing you did this summer?”  Their entry would be, “Something amazing I did this summer was….”   Here is a list of thirty-one FREE journal prompts to help you get started, that is a whole month’s worth of prompts!:

1)  What is something amazing you did this summer?

2) What is your one favorite subject in school?

3) In your free time, what do you like to do?

4) What is your favorite song and why do you like it?

5) Today is the feast of Saint Michael, what do you like about him?

6) I woke up one morning to the sound of _____, I felt _____ because…..

7) I went to the museum one time and suddenly…….

8) My favorite thing we did this weekend was….

9) I love Fall because…..

10) Helping around the house is important because….

11) My father/mother is _____ because…..

12) I love learning about All Saints!  My favorite saint is ____________ because….

13) If I were President, I would….

14) I am afraid of ________ because…..

15) There is a dinosaur living in my closet….

16) If I was invisible I would…..

17) I am really good at….

18) Sharing with others is important because….

19) When Our Lord Jesus walked on earth, He….

20) My favorite room in my house is…..(why?)

21) When I grow up I want to be…….

22) I love my grandmother/grandfather because…..

23) Father _____ is a really ______ priest because……

24) Something that makes me really happy is…..

25) My favorite song is _____________ because…..

26) My favorite hobby is ____________ because…..

27) Where would you love to go to next Summer? why?

28) If I won $1,000, I would use it to buy……

29) If I could fly like a bird, I would go to…..

30) Write a letter to your mom/dad.

31) If there were no televisions, internet or video games, what would you do with your time?

These I just wrote off the top of my head.  At first prompts were not so easy for me but once I got into it, I could come up with a long list of prompts.  Here is my son who is six writing to the prompt, “I was in a museum looking at a _____ when suddenly….”

I walked into a museum and suddenly....
I walked into a museum and suddenly….


This next example is one I worked with my four year old, yes he is four and loving school (unschoolers don’t lynch me, lol).  We were working on this as a journal entry and it turned into a fun writing assignment.  The prompt was, “If my bed were a _____, and I were an ______ in it, I would ________ into __________ like _____________.”  This came from a fun poem we read the day before.  I wrote some of the words and the ones underlined he traced my words which I wrote in a highlighter.  here is what it looked like in the end.

If my bed was a


In summary, there are at least five reasons, if not more, as to why daily journaling is beneficial in your {Catholic} homeschool:

1) it is a great way to transition into school.

2) gets the children’s creative juices flowing.

3) it allows them a calm activity first thing in the morning.

4) it helps them practice their spelling.

5) it allows them to practice writing and handwriting.


Do you already do journals in your {Catholic} Homeschool?  What are some of the prompts you use?  What do you like about it?



Homeschool Raising Saints

10 Steps to Teach Writing in Your {Catholic} Homeschool

Teaching writing in ten steps you say?  Why yes there is a method to the madness on how to teach young writers!

  1.  Do not be afraid to let kids spell phonetically!:
    Often referred to as “inventive spelling”, young writers often benefit from STARTING OUT to write with the sounds they hear.  Sometimes we might think that if they spell words incorrectly to begin with, that affirms poor spelling.  The KEY is in requiring correct spelling as young writers learn new spelling rules (as in long vowel patterns with a silent –e at the end or medial vowel pairs).  Just because we begin with inventive spelling, does not mean your child has to stay there.  Close monitoring and reinforcement of new spelling rules that you introduce (either with your reading or spelling programs) should be reinforced in your writing routine as well.   Please note:  Learning to spell high frequency words correctly (the, this, it, is, there, their, my, etc…) is the exception to this approach.
  2. Have a plan!:
    It is never too early to get kids planning their writing.  I have seen several approaches to teaching planning a paragraph by working backwards (reading a passage, taking main points and re-writing in your own words from said passage).  I have never tried this approach, but I do believe that writing success comes from ownership and starting YOUNG (end of kindergarten and first grade for a simple paragraph).  If children own their writing, they often tend to enjoy writing and become successful writers in a short period of time.  Young writers benefit from a visual based plan such as a web.  Although other graphic organizers can be used, webs have proven to be the quickest and most utilized for my own children and past students.   Where to start?  With the youngest of writers it’s a good idea to have them be the leader (ask them about something that interests them).  Reports or factual writing are often easier to produce, at first.  So an example would be “Taking care of a pet”; “At the zoo”; “Ice Cream” etc…  If you are not sure how to begin, please use the pictures below to assist you.  Encourage your child to give different facts or statements about the main idea (which is written in the center of the web).  As they give you a comment or fact, guide them in writing the main idea of that statement (in one or two words) as their FIRST IDEA.  Continue until 4 or 5 total ideas are completed.  Then as you begin the writing part, they can use their web to form their sentences using each idea as one sentence.
    writing 3
  3. It is never too early for STRUCTURE!:
    Do not think your child is too young for structure.  Teach them early how to write a title (with Capital letters where appropriate), how to indent before beginning the paragraph, and how to complete each idea (sentence) with a period and then check off the idea from the web (they can’t check off the idea, until the sentence is complete and has a punctuation or in kid friendly terms an ending mark).  Along with that structure, make sure you use correct vocabulary to identify what you want them to do (indent, topic sentence, detail).
  4. Give yourself and the children time.:
    This will not happen overnight. There are lots of “growing pains” in teaching your child how to write independently.  Start small and don’t think you are hindering them by guiding them (A LOT) in the beginning.  There are those days when we have to re-read their sentences to them and say “Okay, what goes next?” or “Are you sure that sentence is finished?”  It might seem like lots of work and some days it might seem like too much trouble from what you’re getting out of it.  Give it some time… it will get better and soon enough you will have an independent writer to which you can give a passage and say “Okay, now write a summary of what you read”.
  5. Practice makes perfect!: 
    As with all activities, we progress and become successful when we practice often.  We can’t expect a child to get better at writing if they aren’t doing it often.  For young writers, writing a paragraph or two a week MINIMUM is going to help them.  Remember, at first you will need to guide them tremendously (even to the point where it seems like you’re doing most of the work- without holding the pencil yourself).  To be honest, it might be a good idea to model a simple paragraph to your child explaining step by step what it is you are doing or “thinking aloud” to show the procedure of thinking it through and getting it down on paper.   Scaffolding is the best way to approach writing instruction (you let go of the reins little by little).
  6.  Start small and build up.:
    What if your child is not ready for a paragraph?  For some children, writing will be a huge struggle.  If you start from Kindergarten with clear expectations, that attitude will often dissipate.  In Kindergarten, some of the most important skills for a child when it comes to writing is becoming familiar with sight words and using them appropriately; sounding out simple cvc (consonant-vowel-consonant) words like cat, dog, pig, etc…; learning that letter formation is important (some letters are tall letters, some are short, and some go “under water”);  all sentences begin with a capital letter and end with a punctuation mark (ending mark); and some words and special names have a capital letter too like the word I (and their own name too).  To help your child with sentence structure, a simple and effective strategy is color-coding writing pages to help them gauge where tall letters begin, where short letters begin and what “under water” means.  Use predictable writing to help get off on a good start.  Predictable writing will allow your child to refer to the first sentence he or she wrote and become fluent spellers for high frequency words (try to concentrate on only 1 or 2 new high frequency words at a time).  They can use a Popsicle stick to separate words (although their pointer finger works just as well).  The following idea was found on Pinterest (and there are tons more for tracking and letter formation):writing 1
  7. Use writing for struggling readers:
    In many cases writing can help struggling readers.  If your child struggles in reading, you can turn to writing to help with fluency.  Writing predictable sentences will promote fluency as well as the use of rhyming words.  Some writing activities to build word families can help your child with writing AND reading.  Building all the words in any given word family (-at, -op, -ug, -et, etc…) can help kids learn to decode quickly and remember how to spell them in their writing compositions.
  8. Keep expectations reasonable.:
    At what age should my child be able to INDEPENDENTLY write a sentence? Plan a paragraph?  Plan and write a paragraph?  Spell correctly? These are all good and appropriate questions, some that homeschooling parents second-guess themselves about.  Remember starting early and building from there will get kids going and all that matters after that is progress, progress, progress.  There may be
    some children that are ready to write 5 paragraph essays in 3rd grade or maybe not until 6th grade.  The KEY is getting started as early as you can.  Here are SOME general guidelines of what I personally expect from my kids (granted they still work on perfecting them in older grades). Here’s a good set of goals:

    • INDEPENDENT SENTENCE (Kindergarten)
    • GUIDED PLANNING AND PARAGRAPH WRITING (End of Kindergarten/First Grade)
    • INDEPENDENT PLANNING AND PARAGRAPH WRITING with predictable sentences (First Grade)
    • INDEPENDENT PLANNING AND PARAGRAPH WRITING with varying ideas and sentence structure (Second & Third Grade).
    • MULTIPLE PARAGRAPH WRITING w/PLANNING (Late Second grade/Third Grade) From 3rd grade on, it is about perfecting paragraphs and making them more sophisticated (larger vocabulary and eloquence)
    • ESSAY WRITING w/planning (Varies in age and maturity- recommended start with guidance in 4th/5th grade)
  9. Assign Topics to get the mind going.:
    You might be thinking, “well when do I start assigning topics”?  I’d start as soon as your child has become comfortable writing semi-independently (that is planning and writing a paragraph using the plan).  This may vary from child to child (even within the same family).  Sometimes writing can become unbearable if you assign a topic too often.  The goal is getting your child to say “Can I write a paragraph about _______?”  For some kids, that just will not happen.  Every child is different.  Writing may never be enjoyable, but it’s a necessary skill for your child.  So, if we can at least make writing somewhat comfortable and familiar for them from an early age, they will be successful even if it is not their favorite subjects.  If you have a child who DETESTS writing, perhaps giving them more reign of the topics might be more suitable (but hold them to it and ensure they plan and write to their ability).
  10. Incorporate the Faith to writing: 
    For many homeschooling families, the faith is the basis for their whole curriculum.  Some families might have a specific Religious Curriculum they prefer and some create their own.  In any case, if you have a weekly theme for your religious instruction, you can incorporate the writing instruction into your religion lessons.  In our family, we use the Faith and Life series (which I love).  The program works with one chapter a week.  Each week, our children read their chapter and we discuss it and attribute or connect it to similar stories in the Bible or the teachings of the Church.  Our children then are required to write a paragraph summarizing the chapter (for the older children, they may have to choose a specific theme within the chapter to write about).  Connecting writing with our rich Catholic Faith can make it more substantial and understandable to our children when they write about it.  It strengthens the faith and often the concepts and teaching take root.  When this becomes routine, they eventually do not ask for help; they read and write (which is helpful when you have multiple children to homeschool) and from their writing you can really determine if they “get it”.

Here are some samples from my children:


First Grade Sample Writing
First Grade Writing Sample


Third Grade Sample Writing
Third Grade Writing Sample



Fourth Grade Writing Sample
Fourth Grade Writing Sample



***  This article was submitted and written by Kristi V. for Catholic Sistas’  Raising Little Saints Homeschooling Series ***