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Madonna of the Lilies Catholic Homeschool Seal of Approval

MadonnaoftheLiliesSOA

 

We at Catholic Sistas are excited to unveil the launch of the Madonna of the Lilies Catholic Homeschool Seal of Approval!

Over the years, I have participated in many online discussions of schooling options, watched many moms share their perspective of curriculum and how it worked {or didn’t} for her kiddos and family. One thing I loved was the personal feedback these moms gave, sharing product pros and cons and how the family adapted to these products.

As we currently ease into our sixth year of homeschooling, I am pleased to announce that Catholic Sistas has created an internal system for approving products and curriculum we feel would be a welcome addition in your home. I have assembled a team of nine evaluators who bring in a combined total of OVER 80 years of homeschool experience. Because Catholic Sistas already writes reviews of Catholic books and movies, Catholic homeschool products and curricula seemed to be a natural progression.

WHAT IS THE SEAL DESIGNED TO DO?

The new seal of approval system is set up within the body of a review. Catholic companies will contact our homeschool team of reviewers via email {Homeschool@CatholicSistas.com} and let us know if they’d like a straight review or if they’d like us to evaluate the product for the seal of approval. With the template we’ve created, home educators will be able to scan the review with relative ease and find the information they need, such as pros and cons, price point, usability, features, and rating. This takes a good chunk out of the guesswork prior to making a purchase, which families will appreciate.

Products with the seal of approval – the seal can be found at the bottom of the review – simply means that a homeschool reviewer has taken all of the product’s information into account (content, price point, features, pros and cons), verified the content adheres to the Magisterium of the Church, and presented it to our entire team, who then collectively approved the product as worthy of our seal. The varied homeschool backgrounds of our team members will ensure that both company and consumer can be assured that our approval system is thorough and fair.

WHAT SPECIFIC PRODUCTS ARE ELIGIBLE FOR THE SEAL OF APPROVAL?

Because there is already a system in place for Catholic books through the Catholic Writer’s Guild, Catholic Sistas’ Madonna of the Lilies Catholic Homeschool Seal of Approval will focus specifically on two things: Catholic products and Catholic curriculum.

WHAT IF A PRODUCT DOESN’T RECEIVE THE SEAL?

Occasionally there will be times when a product or curriculum is reviewed and does not receive the seal. In those cases, we simply won’t offer a review of the company’s products on our site. Our goal isn’t to publicly skewer Catholic companies, many of which are run by faithful families like our own; we’re sensitive to the fact that this is often these families’ livelihood. Our goal is to showcase products that DO meet our high criteria, so that families can confidently purchase from those companies.

If we have sufficient concerns about a product to withhold our seal, we’ll be contacting the company to 1) share our concerns, and 2) offer reviewer feedback on improvement, including an external panel of Catholic homeschool moms/educators to help the company create the best possible product for the Catholic market. Companies will always have the opportunity to resubmit their product after making changes.

We want to maintain positive relationships with Catholic companies, but our priority is to showcase excellence in Catholic homeschool products and curricula. Catholic Sistas will NEVER publicly share that a company’s product failed to receive the seal.


COMPANIES: if you are seeking to submit your product or curriculum for review, please visit our Review My Product page to start the process.

HOME EDUCATORS: What products are you interested in seeing reviewed? Please leave a comment below to help us cater to your current buying needs.

 

 

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Brace Yourselves, You’ve Chosen to Homeschool…Again

This upcoming school year marks our fourth attempt to homeschool. Over the years, I have shared not only the family discernment of homeschooling, but also a homeschool reflection after year one, including going all-in on organizing a dedicated homeschool spot in our old home. Since the end of the second school year came with a brand spankin’ new bebe and a less than brand spankin’ new house, but still new to us, I completely missed the opportunity for reflection.

Rest assured, I won’t let this missed opportunity happen again, friends.

And, it’s not because I think my family is all that important when it comes to big decisions and family events.

In case you don’t like to click links, let me break down the previous years of homeschooling for you.

YEAR ONE REVIEW – 2010-11

  1. Too many subjects. One kiddo had nine subjects – why??
  2. Did the kids finish all of their work? Mostly…AKA yes in homeschool lingo.
  3. Did I try to run away from home throughout the year? Yes, but that’s ok and I’m told it’s quite normal behavior, especially after 4 p.m. AKA the witching hour.
  4. Did the kids break public school habits? Mostly. They still try to strangle their siblings’ throats, but I’m also told this is normal behavior, even within homeschooled families…the urge to strangle will lessen over time, they say.
  5. Is husband still on board with homeschooling? Dunno…since year one was breaking public school habits, most of the homeschool day resembled the after-school homework insanity making it difficult to discern this was the right move for our family. See above #3 again.
  6. Overall success? Do I want to go back into the lion’s den of homeschooling? Yes. Yes, it was hard, but worth the many sacrifices as we learned to be around each other more.
  7. Pat self on back. Hunker down for year two.

Advice for self: try not to have a baby at the beginning of the school year.

YEAR TWO REVIEW – 2011-12

  1. TOTAL. COMPLETE. CHAOS.
  2. Got pregnant at the beginning of the school year.
  3. Started a new multi-contributor blog. Maybe you’ve heard of it? 😉
  4. Hid under nearest rock for most of the first and second trimester.
  5. Minimal formal schooling, lots of real world experiences involving cooking meals, cleaning, and bringing Mom popsicles.
  6. Unexpected putting home up for sale while buying another home.
  7. April: upheaval – LOTS of upheaval. Still very very pregnant.
  8. Moved in May, had baby in June.
  9. Resolve to do better in year three.

Advice for self: seriously did not follow advice from year one review.

New bebe will still be a newborn when year three starts.

YEAR THREE REVIEW – 2012-13

  1. New bebe and new house dictated school year.

    The all things homeschool closet.
  2. Organized closet space specifically for most homeschool materials. Committed to organizing even if I wasn’t good at it. Prayed Lord, help me be more organized.
  3. Went with core subjects, reading, math, and grammar to start and added as the year went on to get my feet under me.
  4. Realized that being extremely deficient in vitamin D contributed to my inability to tackle projects and get through the day.
  5. Start to see structure emerge throughout the year and cautiously test waters with multi-grade instruction.
  6. One kiddo finished school early, and late in the summer for another kiddo. I’ll take this as a success.
  7. The Kreitzer family is officially committed to homeschooling now. ::stifle screams of NOOOOOO::

 

 

So, what advice can I give you now that I have been schooling for three academic years, covering

high school,

middle school,

elementary,

and preschool?

Not much.

But I’m going to, anyway, in the spirit of hopefully appeasing your anxiety.

  • Your family is unique. Your choices will reflect that uniqueness. It’s hard not to look to others and, on some weird non-material Keeping Up With The Joneses thing, not to want to be like our friends. There is a difference between looking to others to inspire us to be better at what we do and looking to others with the idea that our own life is somehow less if we aren’t like The Joneses. God gave us the path that we lead for a reason – be confident that His plan for you and your family will look different than almost everyone else.
  • Pace yourself. No, seriously. I have heard countless tales of well-intentioned mommas and dads who start homeschooling the moment their children are old enough to learn. If you’re in this for the long haul, then going easy in the beginning can be a real life saver. Don’t overwhelm yourself with curriculums and over schedule your family. Start with the essentials and add activities gradually, if at all. If you’re lazy like me, you’ll wait until they’re in second grade to formally school – I kid, somewhat. 😉
  • Make a list of goals. This can be anything from getting up before your kids – if you are so inclined, family Scripture time in the morning or evening, cooking projects, park days, science experiments, field trips, extracurriculars, etc. Even if you can’t fit all of them into your schedule, having a running list will help you focus on what you can incorporate at a later point during the school year – or even next year.
  • Thorough research not necessary. Some think you have to do solid research in order to start homeschooling, and for those folks that may well be true. I was one who took an entire year to discern. I also have friends who homeschool who have degrees in education who allowed me to pick their brains like a starved zombie in my quest for knowledge. Allowing ample time to discern was what I ultimately needed to make sure the best decision was being made, but that’s not always the case for everyone. I know that some decide to homeschool on a whim and it works out for them.
  • You don’t need to be smart to homeschool. I am a living example of this. I put homeschooling on the same plane as learning the Faith alongside my kiddos. I committed to learning the Faith more seriously as my oldest two were learning. I learned {and still do learn} something new each day. What you need most is the resolve to put that ego on the shelf and commit to learning. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned about English by sitting with my son and going over lessons together.
  • Ignore the naysayers. This one is tough, especially if opinions come from people who you rely on for support. It’ll happen at some point or another. Someone is going to give you their unsolicited opinion on the matter. You and your spouse need to be united in this decision so that you can back each other up when the conversations come up that undermine your family decisions. Worst case scenario? Put on your I look like I’m listening eyes and go to your happy place.
  • Nurture yourself through community. Community is so very important and crucial to formation of our children. Groups, and especially homeschool ones that focus primarily on support are going to be very nurturing. I see this in action in online groups I own and participate in. I like and encourage members to put aside their idea of “right” vs. “wrong” when it comes to the grey issues of the Faith and focus on using the word friend when talking to each other. It’s harder to “right fight” when you are more invested in the friendship. Once you have friendship and respect in lockstep, you can weather conversations that might normally derail into the abyss of controversy.
  • Don’t suffer in silence. Sometimes life will take its toll and even the most seasoned homeschool momma will fall into spells of doubting her capability, maybe having children who are special needs and require more than you feel you can handle, or even falling into depression. Though we can find solace in knowing that suffering has purpose, it sure doesn’t feel like it at the time! There is nothing wrong with seeking out help when needed, or breaking through the fog of depression by talking with others. Silence can magnify the problem, sometimes making things feel worse than they are. If you find that you are struggling with something, pick a trusted friend, priest, or therapist and start the road to healing.

For some more great suggestions, I am going to send you over to Jen’s blog post on a few things she needs to remember this school year. Enjoy!