Devon Wattam Ink Slingers Spiritual Growth

Home Is Where the Church Is

We are moving…again. This is my husband’s and my third cross-country move in six years as a married couple, fourth if you count me moving in once we were married, and our first with kids. As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in temporary military housing on a base in the Keys as we wait for our new house to be ready in a few weeks. After being on the road for a month, taking our time to visit with friends and family along the way, it feels good to be at our final destination, and a beautiful one at that. But I’d be lying if I said I love the transition from one “home” to the next. 

Having to find new grocery stores and doctors’ offices, favorite breakfast spots and parks, making new friends and play groups is not something I particularly enjoy, especially with the memory of all the familiar places, faces, and routines still fresh in my brain from our last home. 

The transition process is exciting, but disorienting; necessary, but isolating. And each time we experience it, I spend a lot of time doing some inward reflection. Where does my stability come from? Where can I find peace when all things familiar are suddenly gone? Where is HOME? 

The answer is always the same. Home is where the Church is.

We went to Mass at our new parish the first Sunday after we moved here and I was taken aback by the hodgepodge of people who filled the charming basilica. Tourists and locals, children and elderly, people of all different ethnicities and social status—the church was completely packed. It was uplifting to witness a full melting pot of people from so many different walks of life joining together to sing and worship in humble adoration for an hour. 

I was reminded of James Joyce who wrote that Catholicism means “here comes everybody!” It was obvious that the church was home to all of us, even those who had never been there before. 

Eventually, my family and I will replace all of our old steadfast staples with new ones. I’ll get to know the hairdresser here as much as my last one, our new neighbors will fill the void that our previous ones left behind, and comfortable routines will be established. In a year’s time, we’ll feel as content here as we did in any of the other locations we’ve lived in the past. 

Time has a funny way of making the foreign become the familiar, but the truth is familiarity isn’t what brings us peace. Only Christ can do that.

When I’m lonely or tired, homesick or overwhelmed by so many changes, I know exactly where to go to find consolation: the Church. There Christ will be waiting for me in the tabernacle, just as He was in California and Virginia and everywhere else before those places. 

Our last stop before we got into Florida was to the Gulf Coast to visit family. On our last day there, we had breakfast at a diner. I met two older gentlemen there who asked where we were headed. “Key West!?” they said. “Well, y’all have a good time, but don’t forget where home is.” 

Trust me, I won’t.


Confession Decorating a Catholic Home Domestic Church Ink Slingers Michelle Sacraments Spiritual Growth

Remodeling Our Hearts for Christ

remodeling our hearts for Christ

We have lived in our home for 18 years now. In those 18 years we have put a lot of wear and tear on it. To be honest, it wasn’t a quality built home in the first place so things were very lacking to begin with; but over the years our family has been hard on this house. Of course, since we homeschool, we are here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our house is unlike others that perhaps are empty throughout the day because everyone is at school and work. No, our house is full of life all the time.

Over the years we have tried to keep up with repairs as we could. As a one income family, and a cop’s salary at that, there have been times that we haven’t been able to make the repairs that truly need to be made. It’s not been that we haven’t wanted to; oh, we’ve wanted to! But because our income is limited so is our ability to fix everything that needs to be fixed at the time it needs it most. Still, we try our best.

Recently we decided that this year would be “renovation” year. We decided we wanted to fix the things that never get to be fixed and yet so desperately need it. As the months have ticked by (doesn’t the year just slip away faster than we anticipate?), a few things have been done here and there, but not in the way we had originally hoped. I decided that July would be the month that things finally get done.

We are so overwhelmed (and tired) sometimes at the everyday things that need to be done that we needed motivation to get started. It helped that we decided to throw a couple of parties in the near future- Anna, who is turning 12, is having her first ever birthday party. It’s a slumber party so her friends will be staying overnight here (something that rarely happens at our house!). We are also having Savannah’s graduation party next month as well. We will have her grandmother and great aunt and uncle coming from out of town to celebrate. While the party isn’t going to be here, they will definitely be coming here. Surely we need to get our house ready to have company, right? Who wants to invite special guests to their home when it is run down and in desperate need of repairs?

paintingAnd so, we started. We started fixing the dings and the holes the boys have put in the walls. We fixed light switches and outlets. We are painting the walls and fixing ceilings. We started with the things that we had money for right now and that would give the most “bang for our buck”. We plan to fix the front steps, paint the garage doors, put on new screens (again), fix the back deck, and have our septic lines repaired. Those will come slower as they cost more money, but we have a timetable to get them done. Several kids need new beds so there is that as well. There are so many other things we need to do, but really, it’s like eating an elephant… we have to do it one bite at a time.

As I was up on a ladder today painting away, I began thinking about the repairs we were making. Sure, we want our home to be livable and homey for ourselves and our children, but we also want it to be a place where friends and family feel comfortable too; where they want to come and visit. I know that those who truly love us look past all those imperfections, but I want my home to be nice, to be clean, and to be a place of love and comfort. I want all who enter in my home to know that they are welcome and wanted and that I took the time and care to prepare a place where they can feel this way.

As I stood there, a thought took hold that I couldn’t shake.

While I am trying to make my home a place of refuge for my family and all those who cross our threshold, am I neglecting to make my heart a home and place of refuge for Christ? If so, what can I do to change that? How can I renovate my heart so that it is the perfect dwelling for Him?

If we are to truly call ourselves Christians we must make a place for Christ to dwell within our hearts. We have to clear the clutter, throw away the “junk”, and make our hearts into a home that is worthy of such a special guest.

It’s easy to prepare for the company that will visit us shortly, but how do we prepare for Christ to make His home inside our hearts?

As Catholics we are blessed to have the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I know that there are many who believe that confessing our sins to God on our own is all we need to do to be forgiven. Of course we absolutely can and should do this! But there is something about going to Confession that just helps us to clear away the sin and the “junk” that we’ve built up in our hearts. We use the tools we receive in the Sacrament to help us to remodel our hearts so that Christ feels welcome to dwell within it.

paintingAs I painted today I thought about what a great gift it was to have my older children there to help me (the little ones not so much!) Sure, I could do it on my own, but to have them there to help me not only made the job go by faster but it was done more thoroughly as well. I was tired and missed a few places; they helped point out where I missed. They could see with fresh eyes what my tired ones couldn’t see. When I needed help they could hand me the right instruments to make the painting go faster and ultimately better. When I was tired and ready to quit, they cheered me on. They helped me go further than I thought I could go. I accomplished so much more because of their help.

Reconciliation is like this as well. The priest is there to give advice, to point out what we could be doing different, to help equip us with the right tools to overcome our sins, and to help us know that we have been forgiven. He can see what we may be missing… what our tired minds and souls are forgetting. He can point us to places we need to do more and he can cheer us on when he sees us conquering the sins that seem to dominate our lives. We can accomplish more through the Sacrament of Reconciliation than we can when we try to prepare our hearts on our own.

Remodeling our hearts so that Christ can dwell within is not easy. It requires us to take a long, hard look at how we are living our lives, how we are treating others, and to ask ourselves if we truly wish to allow Christ to live in us and shine through us. It means making changes in how we think, what we say, and what we do. It means leaving behind our selfish thoughts and deeds and instead allowing Christ to be at the center of all we say and do. It means ridding our hearts of sin and all the emptiness that sin brings.

As Catholics we are blessed to have the Sacrament of Reconciliation to help us with the remodeling that needs to take place. Through it we receive Christ’s grace, love, and forgiveness. We are reconciled to God and to one another.

It takes a tremendous amount of humility to go to Reconciliation to ask for forgiveness and to ask for help in overcoming our sinful nature. But when we humble ourselves in this manner we begin the process of remodeling our hearts into a dwelling place fit for a King. We tell God that He is welcome within us and that our hearts are ready to become His home.


Domestic Church Homeschool Ink Slingers Janalin

Janalin’s Homeschool Day in the Life

Janalin's Homeschool Day in the Life

We have been homeschooling for four years now and some of my favorite blog posts related to home education are the “How to” or “Day in the Life of” types.  When we first started homeschooling I was actively researching how to put together a learning space, finding the right curriculum, and just plain *how* to get everything done in one day along with household chores, feeding everyone, and keeping my own sanity in check.  Posts just like these are what gave me a jumping off point to find our routine and how we not just survive, but thrive, being at home together all day long. 

Monday, May 9, 2015

7am:  The alarm goes off.  I shuffle down the hall to wake our 8 year old daughter to get dressed for Mass.  Normally I like to get up before the kids but I’m just not quite there yet with a three month old baby.  After dressing, our daughter has a quick breakfast, brushes her teeth, and fixes her hair in plenty of time for her grandma to pick her up for 8am Mass. 

8am:  I wake the boys and we have breakfast in the dining room.  We are still at the table when big sister returns home from Mass.  She washes up and joins us  for our morning time.  Morning time is something we had been doing a casual version of without knowing it was really a “thing.”  I encourage you to look up Morning time and especially the Morning Basket that Jennifer posts about at her blog

9:15am: Our morning routine always happens before we start seat work.  Each child (and myself) have a short checklist of what we need to do around the house in order to keep it running smoothly.  For me that entails making my bed, checking dinner plans and ingredients, unloading the dishwasher, and starting the first load of laundry of the day.  Our daughter is 8 and she makes her bed, straightens her room, does a Fly Lady cleaning of the kids’ bathroom, throws the bath towels down, and feeds the fish.  Our sons (ages 4.5 and 2) make their bed and straighten their room.

9:30am:  We take sister to the Catholic elementary school where she participates in PE and music.  The crew and I head back home (we are lucky to live only a few blocks away) and I turn on a Wild Kratts for the boys to watch while I shower and put my ‘real clothes’ on for the day.

10:30am: We pick sister up from school and head home again and start on seat work.   With independent work we usually try to get our math done first.  We stick to 15-20 minute lessons so I usually circle a good variety of problems on her worksheets with the idea if she can show mastery that she does not have to do them all as busy work.  But today we have a very light lesson load as our only official lessons left of third grade are spelling. 

11am: Normally we would have more lessons during this time but today was free time since she has completed all of her scheduled work other than the spelling.  She took the time to read in her room while I get the second load of laundry in and read some picture books to the boys. 

12pm: The boys head out with grandma to the oil fields to take lunch to Daddy.  This is an errand I LOVE to do but Mondays have a new special tradition of a mama/daughter (plus baby) lunch date.  Today she chose to eat at Subway and we had a nice UN-interrupted chat.  I cherish this new scheduled time with her and I know she does too!

1pm:  We head back to the school for an unusual afternoon choir practice in the church as the student prepare for their spring concert.  I sat in the back pew and listened to the beautiful voices of the children.  It was a welcome time for me to sit in the house of the Lord and quiet my heart.  It makes me look forward to getting back into the routine of Adoration and weekday Mass this summer.

2pm: Back at home we rest after a busier than normal day and put the littles down for a nap.  I am always  sure to take this time for my sake as well as for the older kids.  This quiet time is for studies of personal interest or rest.  I take my time to sew, craft, or tackle a larger project that I can’t get done otherwise.

4pm: After a snack we do our housekeeping chore of the day, fold and put away the laundry, and get the house ready for daddy to come home.  This habit is crucial to keeping all the papers, crafts, and school projects from overtaking our home.  It also is a way that we can show respect for the man that works so hard so that we can be home together.

5pm: The kids go outside to play in the backyard and I start dinner. 

6pm: Daddy is home and we run to the door to welcome him in.  He heads to the shower to get cleaned up and the kids and I get the table set for dinner. 

6:30pm: We have dinner together.  It’s our favorite time of the day other than days that we get to take lunch to Daddy and eat in a Kansas prairie grass field 😉

7:30pm:  Dinner is over and we clean up the table, sweep the floor, and do the dishes.  I like to have either our 8 or 4.5 year old help me while the others play with Daddy.

8pm: Baths are running and all four kiddos get clean and fresh for bed.  I like to play different types of Catholic music while they are in the tub.  This one was the one they heard tonight.

8:30pm: Prayers and Bedtime!  (This step sounds easy here but we are perfecting it as we go.)  I usually end up in our bedroom at this point and try to take a few minutes in prayer and reading my book for the Catholic Families Book Club

Now, for a tour of what homeschooling looks like in our home!

Janalin's Homeschool Day in the Life

Here is our “school room” … aka… the dining room.  Mother’s Day was yesterday so we are enjoying the leftover tulips on the table.  I highly recommend blending your school into your home and not having a traditional room for academics.  I found that in order for me to get everything done that I need to do, learning must happen at the same time as my work around the house.  The kitchen is pretty much central command for me so schooling at our breakfast table or the dining table is a natural fit. 

You can see the glass front bookcase cabinet on the left side of the doorway.  We use this cabinet to hold our school books, supplies, puzzles, games, etc.  Basically everything but the art supplies (they are in the kitchen buffet you will see shortly.)  My apologies for a photo that shows my end of the year mess.  We will be emptying the shelves shortly and preparing for next year over the summer with a cabinet re-fresh.  Last fall the cabinet was housing a good portion of the books we own.  Over the course of this past school year I have actively been searching used book sales and purchasing fantastic resource books and all the classic literature which has drastically increased the size of our home library.  The future use of this cabinet will have a shelf for each child with their current school books.  I also plan to use any extra space as a curiosity cabinet where we can keep a rotating display of interesting scientific/nature items for observation. 

The chalkboard to the right is where we do board work.  I also change things up with quotes, verses, and messages throughout the year.  The board itself is a simple DIY project that you can do at home… it is just an oversized frame from Hobby Lobby with a melamine board (painted with chalkboard paint) that has been cut to fit inside of it.

Janalin's Homeschool Day in the Life

In the kitchen we have a breakfast table that I use for “strewing.”  Strewing is putting out an object of interest that the child(ren) might be interested in.  Today we have books set out library style while finishing up an immersion study on the Titanic.  We have a model yet to make and then we will visit the Titanic museum on our next trip to Branson this summer.  We all have become Titanic scholars, Daddy included, doing some of our studies in bed watching DVDs on the laptop after the little ones are asleep.  Don’t underestimate the value of learning with your husband/grandparents/neighbors or the time of day.  Our daughter loved those late night ‘movies’ and they will always be a memory that we all hold near to our hearts.

Just outside the window is an area we hope to use for nature study next winter.  This fall we will be planting bushes, shrubs, and flowers in order to (hopefully) attract some winter nature studies from our window.  We have quite a bit of research to do this summer on what animals we want to attract and what we need to plant to get them here.

Janalin's Homeschool Day in the Life

Also in the kitchen, to the left of the breakfast table, is a buffet that we use for our creative supplies.  As you can see it also holds our fish tank and I have baskets for storage below.  I am a big proponent of art supplies being accessible so we have jars of creative tools set out for the kids to use whenever they like.  The paper, the collapsible table easels, and miscellaneous supplies are inside the drawers.  Underneath the cabinet I have some IKEA baskets and under those are puzzles.  One basket holds manipulatives, another Duplos, and the last one is filled with assorted wooden blocks.  The blue fabric bin is a small toy box of sorts to hold random toys that I find lying around.  Also in the kitchen on the back side of the island I have one cabinet that I keep locked and it has PlayDough and a large assortment of Lincoln Logs.  We get those out only with Mama’s permission!  😉  Over the course of next year I hope to make up my own set of busy boxes similar to what Lacy does because I know that schooling two will necessitate more toddler activities. 

Over the summer I will be working on a huge renovation of what used to be our guest room and is in the process of becoming our library/craft room.  I have found that we want to keep many of the books that we read and reference… they become friends, no?… and we need a space where we can work on large projects without having to clean up daily for dinner.  If you are interested in the mess I’m getting myself into you can follow along on my blog.

Lastly, I wanted to leave you with some resources to read and look into if you are new to homeschooling.  First of all one of my favorite resources is Catholic Homeschooling 101 by Ink Slinger Erika at her blog Raising (and Teaching) Little Saints.  I found to best identify with the gentle Charlotte Mason way of teaching and use a modified version of the Catholic curriculum put together by Michele Quigley called Mater Amabilis

I hope that this gave those of you that commented (Hi Renee!  Hi Katie!) about starting your trial year some food for thought.  Please comment below if you have any other questions and I will be sure to answer them the best I can or send you to the right place.  The days aren’t always easy but they are so very worth it in the end.  I will never ever regret one minute spent with these precious gift He gave us!

PS-  My next homeschooling post is schduled for August 12th. 

Let me know what you would like me to write about! 






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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.



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Oh Martha!

marthaToday is the feast day of St. Martha. Most of us know her from the Bible story of Mary and Martha. Jesus came to visit and while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, Martha hurried around trying to make things perfect for her guest. When she asked Jesus to say something to her sister about the lack of help Mary was providing, Jesus said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Luke 10: 41-42

This Bible story has always bothered me. You see, I am a Martha. I worry and stew over what needs to be done, what needs to be fixed, and what is lacking within our house. I grew up in a house that was always clean. Company could drop by without notice and my mother would not be embarrassed over the way our house looked. When things broke they were fixed immediately or replaced. There wasn’t dirty handprints on the windows, dust on the fans, milk spilled on the floor, toys everywhere, or something growing in the corner of the bathroom. No, our house was immaculate. I was raised that what people saw when they first walked in your door was how they would think of you forever. Given the fact that we have 13 people living in the space that is probably more suited for about 5 people, well, my house doesn’t resemble the house I grew up in at all.

It wasn’t until recently that I began to understand this story. Maybe it is my age. Maybe it’s the internet that allows me to get a glimpse into so many others’ houses to see that they live a lot like us. Or maybe it’s God working on my heart, but recently I have begun to not only feel but believe that all that stuff isn’t so important. Yes, it’s important that our houses are clean and that if company stops by they aren’t completely disgusted, but if the walls need to be painted or the kids have tracked mud up the steps once again, well, that’s ok. Those who are coming over are not coming to judge my house but to see us and spend time with us. I can’t tell you that I don’t worry at all, I do! But I can see how my reluctance to have people see our messes has cost us time with those who truly love us and want to spend time with us. That makes me sad.

handprint 1I think the most important part of my recent change of heart is this- my house is not just a house. It is a home. It is filled with lots of little people who make big messes. It is filled with lots of big people who make messes. It is filled with toys, clothes, school books, pets, flowers picked fresh from the yard, muddy footprints leading up the steps, handprints on the walls, mirrors, windows, and everything else. But it is also filled with love and laughter. Joy overflows from every opening in our home. There is light. There is happiness. There is God living among us in my home. People come to see these things when they come over. They don’t notice the mud as much as they notice the laughter. They don’t see the toys like they see the happiness shining in our children’s eyes. They don’t care about the handprints on the windows when beautiful dandelions are sitting in the prettiest vase we have on top of the mantle. No, none of those things that upset me so much matter as much as the love that emanates in our home.

It is hard to shake the need to be a Martha. I think many of us are hardwired to take care of the needs of others and to want things to be perfect. But those of us who are Marthas need to take a lesson from the Marys of the world. They are the ones who don’t miss a second of what is truly important. They are living in the moment, absorbing all the sights and sounds of what is happening around them. They are making memories and cherishing them. They are living and loving to the fullest. Yes, we Marthas can learn a thing or two from Mary.

This week when one of my best friends comes to see us I plan to not worry so much about making sure everything is perfect. I will make things comfortable for her but I plan to enjoy her company and not worry about the walls that need to be painted or the couch that practically swallows visitors whole. I’m not going to obsess over the things that I know she doesn’t even care about and that she won’t even notice. No, those things will not be on my radar this visit. This time I plan to be in the moment and love my friend with all my being.

Happy Saint Martha’s day! I pray that all of my fellow Marthas will have a very beautiful day today. Take a day off and enjoy those around you. Take in every moment and make memories without worrying about what needs to be done. It’s what Christ would want you to do.

a true friend