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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 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?



Domestic Church Homeschool Raising Saints

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.

As we started day two of this, our fifth homeschooling year, I am able to see how much this has helped my children be comfortable with writing.  This year I am formalizing our writing a little more as my eldest little is in the third grade.  I do realize when I was a school teacher children in the first and second grade were composing paragraphs, which is fine but I wanted to try a different approach.  In my way of teaching I wanted the children always exposed to writing and drawing.  As a Reading Specialist I thought it would be a great way to help children with reading comprehension in the future.  I have noticed that when I read to my children they are constantly examining the pictures on the page as I read the lovely little stories they have been exposed to.  This, in turn, helps them create images in their minds as they are reading to better understand and remember what was read.  It is a known fact that children who write before they read become better readers than those who do not.  So, to me, providing so much writing so early is a win-win situation.  (This does not mean I am not providing reading opportunities either, reading to my children is equally important for both reading and writing.)

When I taught in the schools, whether public or private, I always started my day or class period with a journal.  This always helped students settle in to the day or class and also was a way to get them thinking about what we were going to learn or had been learning.  So today, while my children where doing their morning journals I decided to take pictures and show you what they are doing.  Mind you, it is the second day of school for us so I am giving them A LOT of support until they get back to the swing of things. I will break it down by age group so you can see what they are up to.  I do not have children in some stages so I have asked Martina if I could use some of the art work her beautiful children have done (and she has shared on Facebook).

Stage 1:  Random Scribbling

This is the period when young children are just figuring out that their movements result in the lines and scribbles they see on the page.  These scribbles are usually the result of large movements from the shoulder, with the crayon or marker held in the child’s fist (think of the caveman grip).  They do no have the pincer grasp down too well though probably they can be encouraged by giving them cereal or little objects to pick up and eat. At this stage children love the way the crayon feels, the smell of the paint, the squishiness of the play-dough.  Child makes random contact with the paper and exhibits little muscular control.  This is the beginning level at which your child scribbles.  You may not be able to tell what the picture is about, but it’s important to praise your child’s beginning drawing.  Some children do not enjoy this stage early on and need more time to be accustomed to the sensations of play-dough or even finger paint.  The key is to constantly expose them to it until it becomes familiar.

What to Teach: Encourage continued exploration of making marks with crayons and chalk. Allow time and materials for gross-motor and fine-motor development in various ways throughout the day.

Their writing looks something like this:

What seems like random scribbling is actually the beginning stages of writing. It is important to positively praise children at this early stage.

Stage 2:  Controlled Scribbling

You have probably seen your little toddler make repeated circles and lines and lots of curves.  This is because they are developing better control over the muscles in their hands and fingers, their scribbles begin to change and become more controlled.  Toddlers may make repeated marks on the page such as open circles, diagonal, curved, horizontal or vertical lines.  Over time, children make the transition to holding the crayon or marker between their thumb and pointer finger.  Pretend writing is produced as child scribbles across paper in a linear fashion. At this stage they begin to demonstrate an increase in muscular control.


What to Teach: Recognize the value of child’s writing. Show how to secure paper with the other hand.  Also expose them to blocks, puzzles, and self-care tasks allow development of the arms, hands, and wrists.

This is what this stage may begin to look like:

One of my favorite stages of writing. Details begin to appear and this drawing of a person looks more like Mr. Potato Head but is actually demonstrating very well developed writing skills because of the details the child is putting into the picture.


Yes she wrote it on the wall but here is a prime example of this stage of controlled scribbling, if you look closely you will see some defined people (circle, eyes, sticks for legs).

Stage 3:  Lines and Patterns/Mock Writing

Writing includes letter-like forms, often arranged in groups and word-like strings. Mock letters may include characteristics of familiar letters but may be misshapen, combined, reversed, or inverted.  Often they look more like shapes than letters but are beginning to look more like letters than not.  Children often write for a purpose, and a distinction is made between drawing and writing.

What to Teach: At this stage, letter recognition is important. Also make sure you are teaching basic writing strokes and directions. Demonstrate a good writing grip of their pencil, crayons, or markers.  A bad habit is harder to break than to teach a good habit from the start. Working on an easel, stringing beads, and doing simple crafts continue to develop fine motor skills.  Dot markers are also great to use at this stage as it increases hand and eye coordination.


This stage the child does more precise scribbling and some resemblance of letters and numbers begin to appear. The child is able to trace more and is able to produce more defined pictures.

Stage 4:  Pictures of Objects or People

At this stage the child is able to draw things and already understand that writing is made up of lines, curves, and repeated patterns.  He tries to imitate this in his writing and while they are not actual letters yet, I can already see components of letters in his drawings.  He does lots of curves, circles, dots, and lines.  At this stage I ask him what he drew and he tells me and I write it for him as well.  This comes AFTER he has already done his “masterpiece.”  Sometimes children are between stages because he isn’t clearly planning out what he is about to draw or write, it just happens and then he tells me what he did.  Once he is able to plan out what he is going to do, then he is closer to the fourth stage of writing.  This is what his journal looked like when the topic was, “What do you want to learn this year?”  At this level, he begins to draw a somewhat recognizable picture and may tell about it.  He or she may also imitate writing.

At this stage, the child’s pictures and writing becomes more defined. Here the child dictated what his favorite activity this summer was. I wrote the words for him and he traced them and drew a picture that perfectly matched the words.

Stage 5: Writing Letters

Children name and write recognizable letters, although letters are frequently reversed. (Keep an eye on this as sometimes this is a sign of other issues.)  They write their names or the names of other family members, and other words that have personal meaning. These writers show an awareness that letters match sounds. Your child may now be printing his or her own name or an occasional known word and may be writing strings of letter like forms or a series of random letters.  Sometimes he or she may attempt to read the message back, but you probably can’t read it.  Although some children are able to recognize some basic sight words.

What to Teach: Demonstrate letter formation to avoid self-created and inefficient methods such as writing from bottom to top. Grouping letters that share common strokes will help develop correct motor patterns for writing letters. Prevent bad habits by continuing to encourage a good writing grip.

Here the child begins to draw very detailed pictures and backgrounds begin to appear. Then the child also begins to use invented spelling of words, also known as phonetic spelling. But you can see how writing is starting to develop very well. Here the child’s sentence says, “The girl had a soda.”

Stage 6: Writing Words

Using invented spelling, children group letters to write many words. Mature writing grip has developed. Children write letters, including lowercase letters, more smoothly and automatically. Dominant writing hand and use of
helper hand are well-developed. At this level, your child begins to use some letters to match sounds, often using one beginning letter to write a word.  He or she usually writes from left to right but may reverse some letters.  Now your child writes most words using beginning and ending consonant sounds and spells some frequently used words correctly.  He or she may begin to add vowel sounds, but they are often not the correct ones.  At this level, your child may begin to leave spaces between words.  It’s getting easier to read your child’s writing.

What to Teach: Assess that children have internalized correct, efficient motor pattern to write each letter. Monitor writing grip. Writing practice should be multi-sensory and include materials such as play dough,
Touch and Trace Letter Cards.  Allow for many opportunities for writing and encourage labeling of pictures drawn.


At this stage, writing is much easier for the child. She can copy from the board and turn a question into a statement/answer. The picture is much more detailed and probably matched the actual color and look of what she wore that day.


This stage is similar to the child at age 7. This child has an easy time with drawing but putting words and letters down are harder for him. To support his learning, and because he is older than his sister. He dictated the sentence and I wrote it in highlighter. He traced the words (which look more like his handwriting than mine) and then draw a very elaborate picture.


So, what do you do to instill the love for writing in your {Catholic} Homeschool?  I would love to hear other ways or methods others use.  We can learn to much for one another.


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How to Write a Blog Post

I’ll probably never write a book, or at least I don’t think I have one in me right now, but I’ve spent years writing scientific papers and reports, and although I don’t do that any more it probably has affected my approach to writing blog posts and webmag articles.

I’ve spent the last (nearly) two years working with (getting close to) 200 writers who are gracious enough to share writing with the websites I’ve helped run, Catholic Stand, Ignitum Today, and Catholic Lane. I’ve worked hard at my own writing, with some success and much growth. I’ve learned from people along the way.

Taken all together, I’ve been able to study how to get a reader’s attention, so here are some writing suggestions for anyone new to the blog world.

First the expected, but necessary, tips:

1) Write what you are passionate about. I know that is obvious, but I’ve got to say it. If you try to write about issues and objects that don’t interest you, it will come across as flat and forced. If you write about what you know and love and care about, your passion will fuel your finger-tapping pen. [1]

2) Use good grammar. Take the time to review what you learned in high school and apply the basics. Know where commas go. I love Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips and Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog. Who couldn’t use a good review of the lost art of diagramming sentences? Make sure subject and verb agree. Be consistent with tenses. “Everyone got their plates fixed and Dan will find a table.” Just barf already. [2]

3) Do not overuse punctuation. For most of your writing, use commas to break up thoughts, and use ellipses, dashes, hyphens, semicolons, and colons rarely. Nothing shouts  — unpolished like a bunch of … symbols and (no-idea-what-I’m-doing) remarks that say this: Help me! You don’t need to color up your sentences like that; it is … distracting if overused. It jars the reader. Instead of becoming captivated by your writing, the reader tries to figure out what dramatic point you were making with those symbols. Use them like spices, for flavor. ALL CAPS are like habañero, they burn. And please, only one space between sentences. Here’s why. [3]

4) Break paragraphs up. In the blog world, people jump around fast. Walls of text make your thoughts seem too surmountable. There’s a place for fuller paragraphs, but in general a blog post is not the place for it. If your post is an in depth treatment of a subject and leans more to the academic side, it is probably okay, but you risk losing a reader if you ask for too much attention, at least in the beginning of the post. Be conversant. When you first meet up with someone, do you talk for ten minutes straight without stopping? No, you introduce, give some space, pull her into a dialogue. [4]

Now here are a few other things I’ve learned:

5) Make yourself say the idea of your post out loud, and say it in Twitter form, i.e. 140 characters or less. So many great ideas in posts get muddled because they are cast in with two or three (or a hundred) other ideas. Focus on a single point to make, begin with it, drive it through to the end. Nail it. If you have other points tangent to the main point, save them for follow up posts. Keep it cogent. This post could include tips for using images, but that’s a whole ‘nother topic.

6) Before you write a word, form the idea in your mind. Fill out your thoughts, explore the objections St. Thomas style, even for informal writing. Think of what someone who doesn’t agree with you would say, and address it systematically. This will transform your post from a ramble to a thoughtful reflection. While you are thinking of your post idea, go ahead and submarine all the tangent currents you think of. Your writing will be compelling if you are only touching the waves, but riding on the ocean that causes them.

7) Do your research. It doesn’t matter if your post is just your opinion, use the internet and research other opinions too. The only time you don’t need research is when you are doing a fun post all about your life, friends, or family, but for anything that involves commentary outside your inner circle, look it up and see what you find. If you begin with, “I’m no expert, but…” then people will tune out. Strive to write with authority. [5]

8) Most of the time a 1,000 word limit is best (this post is). 1,200 is pushing it. 1,500 is fine if you are on a roll, but 2,000 puts you at risk for loosing readers unless your writing is really good. But hey, don’t be afraid to try it once in a while. Don’t limit yourself, but 1,000 word posts are generally the ones that get read to the end. Plus, forcing yourself to cut words forces you to polish your writing. 400 word posts are hard, try it.

9) Your title is 80% of getting clicks, if not 19% more. Imagine your title as a Tweet. Is it going to get someone’s attention? Poetic titles may not be best because if it’s not immediately clear what your post is about, people may not click on it. Save the poetic titles for when you are more established and people will click on anything you write just because they know it’s you. Long titles work, but personally I like shorter (but not too short) titles better. It makes it easier for someone to link to you.

10) Read your post out loud. Trust me, nothing will expose awkward structure or confusing words and typos like speaking the words yourself. It is the best way to proofread your own work.

In short, paint with words. Having a command of the technical aspects will allow you to create art with your ideas. Next time maybe I’ll address images, how to get a discussion going, or how to build traffic. Any interest? Any more tips?

Who Taught Me?

[1] Tito Edwards, Founder of Ignitum Today and Catholic Stand

[2] John Darrouzet, for the diagramming book, Columnist at Catholic Stand

[3] Mary Kochan, Editor-at-Large and Katherine Andes, SEO Consultant, Catholic Lane

[4] J. R. Baldwin, Managing Editor, Ignitum Today

[5] J. R. Baldwin, Managing Editor, Ignitum Today

7 Quick Takes Adrienne Getting to Know the Ink Slingers Ink Slingers Kerri Testimonials

7 Quick Takes Friday, no. 10

We are once again bringing you a short interview with one of our ink slingers for this week’s 7 Quick Takes. We hope you enjoy learning a bit more about our Sista Adrienne. She shares a little of her faith journey, her new homeschooling experience, and whether or not this Texas girl puts beans in her chili (I’m not telling, you have to keep reading to find out).


Are you a cradle Catholic who never strayed, a poorly catechized Catholic and/or lukewarm Catholic who came to understand the faith later in life, a revert, or a convert?

I was baptized as a newborn and received all of my sacraments in a timely manner. My parents made sure we never missed mass, even while on vacation. I went to CCD classes and was in the youth group at my parish. I gained a loyalty to the Catholic faith, though all I could tell you was that God loved me. I married in the church, to a non-Catholic Christian. I had and still have no doubt the Lord led us together, despite our faith differences.

It was after the birth of our first child that I finally felt compelled to figure out what divided myself and my husband. I had to learn what the Reformation was. I had heard all of the typical charges against Catholicism (it’s unbiblical!, they worship Mary!, they trust in the saints for salvation instead of Jesus alone!, they try to earn their salvation!, purgatory isn’t in the Bible!, the Lord’s supper is just a symbol, as is baptism! It’s a cult!), and honestly, I didn’t know what the Church taught about these things, nor did I know what the anti-Catholics’ position was against these.

I had a lot to learn.

I could have just listened to the Evangelicals and trusted them to teach me about Catholicism. But, oh. I would have been at such a loss! Thankfully, I was stubborn enough to learn first instead of leave first.

Through countless hours over many years, I became catechized in the Catholic faith, and I came to understand the opposition. I grew through stages, “All that really matters is that you’re a good person,” to “All that matters is that you love Jesus, denominations are all equal,” to finally “Christ gives Himself to us every day in the Eucharist, through the institution He established such that we could proclaim his death until He comes again.”


What is your favorite prayer?

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray. And do thou, o prince of the heavenly host, by the divine power of God, cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who roam throughout the world, seeking the ruin of souls.

This is my favorite prayer because I get to call on God’s favorite warrior to defend myself, my family and our world. While God doesn’t need a warrior in St. Michael, He chose to make a warrior in him. I am so thankful I am nurtured by a faith tradition that tells me the Church is bigger than the people here on Earth, and that the saints in Heaven are my fellow Christians to call upon, made possible by their perfect union with the Omniscient and Omnipresent One and Holy God and my being baptized into the Body of Christ.


What inspires you when you write?

I feel inspired to write when I have something to explain. I write for who I was those years ago, not knowing squat about squat and needing a springboard for learning my faith.


What kinds of books do you most enjoy to read?

I enjoy reading the Bible, the writings of the Early Church Fathers and Catholic apologetics books. The more I learn, the more I want to learn. I also love re-reading materials I have read in the past because I always understand something new that went over my head previously.


If you homeschool, what is your favorite part of homeschooling and what is your greatest challenge?

We just started homeschooling this year. My favorite part is incorporating the faith in so much of my children’s education. Religion is about truth. Truth isn’t to be an extracurricular activity, it should be the curriculum. So, while reading, writing, ‘rithmatic are important in education, I believe knowing the truth about our souls, about God, and about the afterlife are the most important, since the afterlife is infinite and involves our Creator and our souls.
The greatest challenge is keeping the preschooler occupied.


Do you put beans in your chili or not?



What do you find most attractive about your husband?

His loyalty is most attractive, coupled closely with his discipline. When he learns a new hobby he practices it incessantly and develops in a month’s time what takes others a year. He has concentration like no one I know (praying the kids get that one!). He works hard, but isn’t a work-a-holic. He has a great balance of work and play in life.

For more Quick Takes, please go visit Jen at Conversion Diary and let her know we sent you.