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Home-made School Cabinets (part 2)

Tue, 08/07/2007 - 21:11

Picture One: The inside of DD#1's cabinet (it actually looks a lot messier up close - two of the plastic drawers are open - the design definitely helps to keep the mess down though). This picture is without having her do any straightening - and she is our most organizationally challenged child.

Picture Two: The door of DD #3's cabinet. She's not yet six, but we thought it most efficient to make a bunch of cabinets at once - and she REALLY likes it. Can you tell we were covering up a knot-hole with the big red flower? :) I will try to post my husband's plans for the cabinet soon. contributed by Alicia from Wisconsin

Home-made School Cabinets (some woodworking skills required)

Tue, 08/07/2007 - 21:10

Well, I think I promised pictures months ago of the school cabinets we built for the four oldest this fall. We didn't have them completely done until several weeks into school - they were plain bookshelves the first week, then they we added doors (when we finished decorating them), then we added the plastic drawers and built-in dividers then we added the caster wheels. I really love these cabinets.

Desks never worked for us - my kids actually liked them, but they take up too much floor space, are really ugly and are dangerous because the toddlers love to climb up on them and stand on the desk part.

Anyway, these cabinets help each child have their own space and keep it organized (to some degree at least) and makes them very portable on the main floor of the house. It has really helped keep books, timeline binders, science binders (we're using Mary Daly's materials - but not as much as I'd like so far), etc. neat and organized. By the way, these cabinets were inspired in part by the Learning Styles Quiz we took from Mercy Academy which indicated that a number of our children needed some extra help with keeping their work area organized.

I'm particularly proud of my first decoupage job ever! Can you tell which cabinet belongs to our geography buff? I found the black and white pictures at Target - 4 for 25 cents on the clearance rack! I'm having a lot of trouble with the blogger photo tool (not meant to handle so many photos, I suppose), so I'll put the rest of the pics in a separate post.

Our Geography "Museum"

Tue, 08/07/2007 - 21:08

The only Montessori "learning center" type thing that has worked for us long term so far is a Geography "Museum" we set up on our dining room hutch (we've never owned any china anyway!). The lower part of the hutch is enclosed cabinets (with three hidden drawers) where we keep our mish mash of National Geographic Magazines, Encyclopedias and postcards (buildings, art, etc.)

The main shelf - eye level to most of the kids - has more books and a children's Encyclopedia set discarded from our local library (with a really cool set of elephant book ends) and a set of tiny tile drawers (made in India). There are nine drawers and we keep set of coins from different continents, Saint medals, rocks and other goodies in various drawers. These are very popular with the little ones. They are allowed to take out one drawer at a time and can't take it to the basement or upstairs. It's easy to spot when one gets left out since a whole drawer is missing.

We also have a miniature trunk (with an old-fashioned map motif) with more post card sets, special books of interest displayed on the plate racks and a top shelf with breakable goodies from different parts of the world (mostly gifts from family members who went on trips - an Irish crystal mug, a tea set from Taiwan, etc.) The top of the hutch is a great place for coffee table books that we look at only on occasion. I found a lot of the key pieces to our museum (the elephant book ends, the miniature trunk and the little tile drawers) in Target's "Market Bazaar" section (in fact, the clearance part of it). They really helped the whole thing come together.

My dream is to set up a Science "Museum" some day too. I think it helps to have cabinets on the lower part so the toddlers aren't pulling things out constantly and not to over-clutter (I store some things in rubbermaid tubs in the basement and rotate). My three year old can reach the little drawers, but my 18 month old can't. Not necessarily ideal for Montessori - but more ideal for our house. :) There are always big siblings around to help anyway.

contributed by Alicia from Wisconsin (8/3/05)

Geography Ideas

Tue, 08/07/2007 - 14:39
Continent Boxes: (ala Maria Montessori) - Here is a neat Montessori idea that is easily adapted to a Catholic homeschool environment. Use a clear plastic Rubbermaid tub (approximately shoe box size) for each continent. Find artifacts, coins, Saint cards, and photos of art and architecture from the appropriate continent to fill each box. We started with just a box for Europe. We really enjoyed our little "Treasure Hunt" to see what things we could find from Europe that we already had in our house. We were pretty successful...we found a handful of coins from Portugal (my husband visited Fatima with Fr. Fox in high school), postcards of Churches and other buildings in Fatima and Rome, several holy cards of European Saints, a small pewter statue of St. Patrick, pictures of some famous European Cathedrals (from an old calendar), a bit of sod from Ireland (my husband had requested this when his parents visited Ireland a few years ago), a beautiful old pillbox made in Italy, postcards of several famous paintings and statues from the Louvre in Paris and the Vatican Museums get the idea. My 6 year old daughter really took to this idea. She's very careful about how she treats the pieces and must keep them altogether and put them away when she's finished. We both decided that it would be fun to get a simple map of Europe so that she could sort the artifacts into their appropriate countries. I think we'll try Asia next. See "Montessori Cultural Lessons" from Michael Olaf for more details (Alicia from WI)


How about painless geography lessons?! Stealing the idea from another homeschool mother, I put a huge world map on top of my kitchen table. Then, I bought a sheet of HEAVY GAUGE clear plastic (at your local hardware store), and covered up the map. Tuck the ends up under your table with thick tape (to avoid the spills dripping down the plastic sides). Voila! The kids, mom, dad, and visitors will soon be pouring over the table, looking at the world map. For several weeks, we had a daily list of places to mark on the map (use small amounts of playdough or sticky tack). It became a race, with my three oldest, to find the twenty locations in the quickest time. One week, they tried to stump mom. Great fun, and educational (but don't tell the kids!) (Kathie from Canada )


Create a Little Museum in Your Home: We recently turned our dining room hutch into a mini "museum" by collecting all of our geography books, travel guides, atlases, coins from various parts of the world, postcards (and other interesting things that the children can touch) and organizing them in an appealing and accessible way. One thing I put together is a stack of images of Our Lady from various parts of the world. Since we've been doing a lot of geography study as a family this quarter, we also picked up some inexpensive travel videos (at Sam's Club) and made up lists of the countries of the world (organized by continent) and their capitals for the children to memorize (we offered each of them an extra credit "prize" for accomplishing this). Taking a page out of the 1950 Cheaper by the Dozen movie, we posted these lists near the children's beds and in the bathroom. The children are really enthusiastic about this project and we're really enjoying studying this as a family. (Alicia from WI)


Making more room for home-made maps and charts - There never seems to be enough wallspace for all of our homeschool needs - particularly since bookshelves and bunkbeds take up a great deal of what wall space we have. We came up with an idea that has worked well for us. We took a number of pieces of poster board (card-stock thickness rather than foam board), punched three holes along the tops of them, and put binder rings into the holes on either side. The middle hole is good for hanging this poster book up on a wall. All of this poster space gave us lots of room for our favorite geography projects (like drawing a map of each continent and labeling it with pictures of people, places, bookcovers, etc. related to each country) and we can flip it to the appropriate page and hang it up from there whenever we like. (Alicia from WI)

Grammar Ideas

Tue, 08/07/2007 - 14:38
Nouns: I was introducing my first-grade daughter to the concept of nouns (she already understood the concept of verbs) and the following idea seemed to do the trick. I explained that a noun is a word for a person, place or thing. I had her draw ten pictures whose names would be nouns. She proceeded to start drawing a town (thinking primarily of places at first I think). We talked a little as she went along and she added a person and a car. Finally I asked her the zinger question, "Is there anything you can draw which would not be a noun?" The light of understanding came over her as she realized that everything she had drawn - trees, grass, sky, etc. all fit under the category of noun. Ah, success! (Now don't forget that there are some nouns that can't be drawn - abstract nouns like 'truth', 'justice' and 'virtue'). (Alicia from WI)


Sentences: This idea helped my first grader better understand what a sentence is, as well as give her a little practice in capitalization and punctuation. I wrote several sets of two simple sentences (appropriate to her reading level) with no capitalization or punctuation. For example: "the girl walked to the store she saw an apple". My daughter circled the letters which should be capitalized and filled in the appropriate punctuation. This of course requires a certain amount of explanation and supervision, but I think the exercise was very helpful in understanding the concept since she already had a logical sense of the structure from her basic experiences of language. (Alicia from WI)

High School Options

Tue, 08/07/2007 - 14:33
We began homeschooling because my mother, a former public high school teacher, gave us a set of Sing, Spell, Read, and Write books when my oldest daughter was 5. We hadn’t thought much about school at that point. We visited friends who homeschooled, and were impressed with their 7 year old daughter’s ability to read the Bible, even pronouncing all the Old Testament Hebrew names correctly. My wife was certified by the state to teach first through third grade, and we agreed in the beginning we would take homeschooling one year at a time, always evaluating at the end of each year whether to continue. When my oldest daughter turned 14, and high school loomed ahead, we took serious stock of what to do, knowing that our choice would affect our daughter’s future, and the ability to go to college. We prayed, worried, and agonized. We looked into all the private Christian schools in the area, examining curriculum, cost, and weighing the inconvenience of having to transport a child to school daily – we live out in the country on a mini-farm, seven miles from the nearest town. The curriculum at most of the Christian schools was not that different from the public school, and in many cases, was inferior.

The Christian schools cost about $5k per year on average, with the good ones costing $7,000 to $12,000, and being up to an hour’s drive away.

My wife is an excellent elementary school teacher, and handles with aplomb and patience the foibles and needs of teaching four children through the elementary and middle school years, with only the usual difficulties. But she isn’t able to teach high school math, chemistry, physics, and foreign language. It would be impossible with her work with the other children to stay even one lesson ahead in that many subjects. And I just don’t usually have time to teach more than one or two subjects regularly, due to the demands of my job. So what could we possibly do? I decided my daughter deserved the opportunity to help make the decision herself. She couldn’t make an informed decision without data, and never having been in a public school classroom, wouldn’t have the faintest idea what that was about. We arranged with the local high school for her to “shadow” another girl through her school day, and find out what going to public school would be like.

My daughter experienced first-hand the peer group nonsense that many teens go through, as the girl she was supposed to shadow ignored her and talked to her friends. The school requires all ninth graders to take a health class. As my daughter sat through this class, the teacher began explaining how homosexuality was a valid alternative lifestyle, and not a disease or in any way “bad”. It was all my daughter could do to keep from raising her hand and presenting the Biblical view of homosexuality, together with AIDS statistics. Needless to say, after her day at the school, we felt renewed purpose in finding a homeschool solution. We had tried A Beka Academy* when our second child was born, but found that the video school was set up as a classroom, with the usual busy work and disadvantages of a classroom. However, we just couldn’t find much else at the time, and so enrolled our daughter in Abeka video school for 9th grade.

It was an adjustment for her, with the work coming in higher volumes than she was used to. The highly structured approach was an adjustment for my wife as well – but it allowed my daughter to have daily instruction from a Christian perspective by qualified teachers, and to function more or less independently. We followed this with 10th grade, and then my daughter decided to attend community college for her last two years of high school. She just got her SAT scores back, and with these and two years at the community college, she’s quite likely to be accepted at a four year school, most likely Oregon State.

We’ve embarked on homeschooling our second daughter, Rebecca, through high school, this time using Bob Jones Homesat*, which affords some greater flexibility and a better math and science curriculum. There are so many choices available now for doing high school at home, secular and Christian. Many Universities, like University of Nebraska, University of Pennsylvania, Oregon State, and others are offering online classes for high schoolers, most fully accredited, and some offering full diploma programs. The number of Christian curriculums that go through high school has exploded.

In short, I offer encouragement to those whose children are about to enter high school – you CAN homeschool successfully, and it is not a barrier to entering college. (Michael from OR)

Note from the Webmaster: We welcome submissions from all homeschoolers and very much appreciate Michael's ideas and encouragement. I would like to caution, however, that A Beka and Bob Jones University Press both have some materials with bias against the Catholic Church. Bob Jones has an especially strong slant and has dozens of articles against Catholicism on its website. Further information on some of these issues can be found here:

Thoughts on College Transcripts for Homeschoolers

Tue, 08/07/2007 - 14:32
I have a daughter who is in college and majoring in Chemical Engineering and my other daughter is graduating next month from our homeschool. Both have been accepted into Honors programs at their colleges. In fact, my oldest was pursued aggressively by many colleges and was awarded an ROTC scholarship which she ended up turning down. I am not saying this to boast but, instead, am just qualifying myself before I put my '2-cents' in....LOL

The one thing that I discovered in the college application process is that universities no longer 'raise an eyebrow' to homeschoolers' transcripts. Homeschooled children have an excellent reputation in the college arena. We have sent both of our daughters to the local university (University of Colorado) their senior year of high school as a transition to college. Because we decided at the last minute to try and get our daughter into summer school (the summer before her senior year of high school) I threw together a transcript......taking courses from junior high.......putting down co-op courses..........satellite courses.........anything and everything on the transcript. I had put little numbers next to these courses with the intention of explaining the types of courses at the bottom of the transcript. In my haste, I hit enter one too many times and did not realize that the 'explanations' shifted down to the next page. The university accepted my daughter immediately but I received a telephone call from their Office of Admissions...........I was TERRIFIED to return the call. When I did so, I spoke to the Head of Admissions and he just wanted to find out what the footnote numbers were about. He JUST wanted to clarify that they were not transfer credits from the community college. We ended up having a long chat and he told me that they really are not concerned what a homeschooler puts on a transcript....they look only at the SAT/ACT scores and they also look to see if the student has taken college prep courses. He told me that the homeschoolers blow them away and he wished he knew what homeschoolers were teaching their kids! They did not care that my daughter was 16.

My oldest daughter has had so many similar conversations with professors who have told her that their top students are homeschooled. two cents......don't sweat the transcript! A classical education will prepare them for college. We have found that the university courses (especially English) are EASY compared with what we, as homeschool parents, make them do at home.

contributed by Rebecca from Colorado

Homeschool Graduation Ceremony

Tue, 08/07/2007 - 14:30
After homeschooling for thirteen years, my daughter is the first homeschool graduate in our family. I wanted to recognize this great accomplishment, and decided to plan our own family graduation. We live in a small town in northern Ontario where Catholic homeschoolers are few and far between, so we knew we were on our own. I talked to my parish priest, and he was glad to let us use the church basement for the event. My daughter and I designed simple invitations, and printed them (on card stock) on our printer. I designed a grade 12 graduation diploma (on the computer), and matted and framed it. I also included some cute graduation accessories that I glued on the mat (easily available at the scrap-booking section at Walmart).

Our church has a regular Thursday night Mass, so we chose a Thursday evening, to fit in with Father's schedule. My daughter will be doing the readings, and my sons and their two homeschooled friends will be the altar servers. Father agreed to let us write the prayers of petition for the Mass. After the Mass, our friends and family will gather for desserts and refreshments. I have asked two friends to make a 'toast' to Kaitlin, and for her father to say a few words. My son, Noah, has been working on a power point presentation for the event, featuring his sister and her accomplishments. It also includes some homeschooling memories over the years.

I wanted a simple tribute to my daughter, but one that also recognized the role that God and the Church has played in our lives. It is also an opportunity for me to thank the people that have been so supportive to my family, and our homeschooling endeavours, over the years.

contributed by Kathie from Ontario, Canada

Using a Program in High School

Tue, 08/07/2007 - 14:27
I’m writing this in hopes of giving a “frazzled mom of teens” an option other than the local highschool. It is between the parents and God where their children attend school but when I felt called to Homeschool high school and it wasn’t going well, this option turned out to be such a blessing, I wanted to share.

I always love putting together my curriculum for the year. It is so much fun to pick and choose and BUY new books. Over the years I believe I did fairly well! Then, when my oldest entered high school age I began to feel overwhelmed. It wasn’t just highschool. It was many things, personal as well as normal family life with a large number of children. Many friends struggling with the same things put their teens in school, which was fine, but my son didn’t want to go to the local high school and I wanted to teach him.

So for the first time I considered using one of the schools Like St. Thomas Aquinas Academy, Mother of Divine Grace, Seton…thankfully the list grows year by year and I can’t mention them all…but ask around and you will find them on the internet!

At first I was nervous, so much money, paperwork, time and they would see my flaws in teaching! Not to mention, I would be truly accountable to someone…Yuck! But after prayer and talking with my son we decided to sign up with a school. I won’t tell you which one as the school needs to fit the family and my choice may not be a good fit for you!

This has turned out to be such a blessing! We did indeed find some holes in our learning and teaching but now we could fix them! It did cost more and there is more paperwork, but the savings in TIME and STRESS is significant. I don’t have to go looking for books, there is someone else who knows my children and can give suggestions, the “school” I am with allows me the final say in curriculum so I can always use what I feel is best. The paper work is the minimum of what needs to be done yet it is complete. I don’t have to read the prep for college after Homeschool books and wonder if I’m saving the right thing, calling the class the right thing, etc.

Not only that, my son is thrilled. He likes knowing someone else is helping me evaluate his work and that his thoughts and feelings count too!

So if you are feeling a little frazzled and wondering what to do able the high school years or your child is feeling a little wary of your abilities, prayerfully consider the Catholic schools offering to help you. They can be a help!

Keeping Those History Books Organized

Tue, 08/07/2007 - 14:26
Since we have so many books of historical fiction, biography and other living books, I write the year that the story took place (date of death for a biography or other appropriate date as I see fit - e.g. 1492 for a book about Columbus) on the book's spine. This allows us to easily identify where to fit the book into our curriculum, and offers a simple way to keep our bookshelves in order. (Anonymous)

Timeline Ideas

Tue, 08/07/2007 - 14:24
The following ideas are by no means uniquely mine, but bear repeating because they work! Creating a history timeline and Book of the Centuries have been two of our family's most valuable history activities. We've seen timelines of all sorts -- in binders and on poster, straight lines and curves -- ours currently runs like a wallpaper border around our kitchen. Likewise, the possibilities are endless for just what to attach. We use holy cards and pictures and are planning to add book covers (scanned and reduced, the idea coming from a wonderful friend) to help the children visualize where their reading fits into the broader picture of history. As a family project, such a timeline just can't be beat. It's very inexpensive, yet offers visual support to everything we do. It has also helped me and my husband to connect all the little pieces of history that we were taught in school.

Our Book of the Centuries is a binder with page divisions marking 50 year increments. Just how to divide your book will depend on the age of your child(ren) and how specific you want to be. We've chosen to make a separate binder for each of our children, though we know some families who've made one binder for all the children to share. Our pages include narrations about famous scientists, saints, explorers, etc. Pictures and maps can be inserted as well. Again, as with the timeline, each new addition forges more connections among what is being learned.

For us, these are both works in progress. They span many "school years" and don't get set aside for the summer. They give us, as home educators, a sense of continuity, and help make our study of history a continuing quest.

contributed by Mary from Wisconsin

No Wall Space for your Timeline, No Problem

Tue, 08/07/2007 - 14:22
Save your walls for book shelves and put your timeline on foam board. It works great! Get two large pieces of foam board from an art supply store (one 48 x 60 and 40 x 60). Cut the 40 x 60 into two pieces (20 x 60) and tape them with cloth tape to the edges of the larger center board. Thus it became a tri-fold display, much like the science project display boards, but much larger. The light weight foam board stands very well, moves easily by folding up the outer boards over the center board to be put out of the way when not in use. I discovered this wonderful use of foam board when I needed to display my Timeline for conventions. I had people wanting to buy the foam board display.

Contributed by Marcia Neill
author of Catholic World History Timeline and Guide

Fun with Latin

Tue, 08/07/2007 - 14:03
I belong to homeschool co-op with four other families in which I teach Latin to the older students. One fun project we did toward the end of the year was make a Latin calendar. I used the calendar templates from A Year With God: Volume One (Catholic Heritage Curricula) and blanked out the names of the months, and the days of the week. I printed these sheets out on cardstock and the students filled in the Latin names of the month and days of the week. They used Roman Numerals to fill in the dates. The fun (and tricky) part was when we started adding birthdays, feast days and holidays in Latin. The students enjoyed coloring in the beautiful decorations from the templates and making nice covers. You can have the calendars spiral bound at your local copy shop. (Alicia from WI)


One assignment that proved to be challenging and interesting, particularly when we came across a chapter that didn't have a lot of translation, was to have the students write up sentences (English or Latin) for their fellow students to translate. This really made them think, review their vocabulary words carefully. The final results were usually both educational and entertaining as silly sentences were encouraged and the students were very attentive to their own (and their fellow students') mistakes. This would also work in families for older (or more advanced) students to write up sentences for their younger siblings. (Alicia from WI)


We use Latin for Beginners by Angela Wilkes in 5th grade as our formal introduction to the language (after spending 2 yrs with "English from the Roots Up"). LfB is published by the Usborne folks -- lots of pictures, lots of captions, with a total Latin vocabulary of about 350 words and a brief look at the first few declensions and conjugations at the end.

The vocabulary is everyday sort of stuff -- family members, days of the week, counting and colors, giving directions and placing an order for dinner. So part of how we use the book is to label rooms of the house, furniture, pictures of foods and pets, and so forth, to give the students a hands-on and visual approach to the language. Other lessons include scheduling their day in Latin, labeling the family pictures with name, age, and relationship to the student, and so forth. Three of our children have used this book so far, and they thoroughly enjoy doing their lessons on post-it notes and putting them up around the house! (Sue R.)


Latin Treasure Hunt: Keep an eye and ear out for Latin words or phrases that are used regularly in 21st century America! For the co-op high school Latin class that I teach, I gave them a list of Latin words and phrases (like emeritus and bona fide) to keep track of over the summer. (You can find an extensive list with meanings and pronunciations in Amo, Amas, Amat and more by Eugene Ehrlich). I will be awarding a prize to the student who records the most entries (you have to very specific about the rules though!). I think this is an excellent way to make Latin more relevant to students. (Alicia from WI)

Learning to Read

Tue, 08/07/2007 - 14:00
When my son was four he wanted to learn to read and was beginning to slowly work his way through the Bob Books, but was reluctant to work on many pre-reading skills. He hardly every drew or colored. When I bought him some coloring books he kept them in a nice stack and liked to look through them, but didn't want to start coloring them. I think he might have been worried about messing up the books or not drawing very well. This went on for a year or a year and half and I was getting concerned about his small motor skills keeping up with his interest in reading. As I began to see his interest in writing grow (just simple things like his name) it became evident that writing was very difficult for him. I finally picked up an plastic sheet of alphabet stencils at the local teacher's store. The sheets were 8 1/2" x 11". One sheet had upper case letters and one lower case. Matthew fell in love with these stencils and was so proud of how nice his letters looked when he wrote things with the stencils. It really helped him gain confidence and fine-motor-skill practice. It wasn't long before he started drawing and coloring too! (Alicia from WI)


It's amazing how different each child is. With my first two children, a lot of their beginning phonics was done by studying phonogram flash cards when they were first learning to read. My third child, however, had absolutely no interest in this. All she wanted to do was write words on the chalkboards. One of the beauties of homeschooling is its flexibility and I was able to turn this toward my goals by having her write out a set of words each day with a common phonogram and have her practice making the sound of that phonogram (this also provided her examples of where that particular phonogram could be found. (Anonymous)

Negotiating Read-Alouds

Tue, 08/07/2007 - 13:57
I think reading stories aloud is one of the very most important things you can do for your children, ever. That said, it's not always an easy thing, and I don't just mean "getting around to it," but simply negotiating between the different children (particularly the littles) to cooperate, listen and not make so much of an unearthly racket that you have to shout yourself hoarse just to be heard.

Now, I have to admit that Ria has always loved a read-aloud. When she was quite small, she would sit through chapter books such as the Little House books like no other child I've ever seen. (This doesn't by any means indicate that she was an angelic child - she was also the only one of my children that seemed to resent - at least for a while - the arrival of a younger sibling). But when Gus came along, things got a little trickier. When he got to be about 2 years old or so, there was nothing that would get him more noisy and upset than when I tried to sit down and read a story aloud to Ria. He would babble and complain like anything and it seemed there wasn't a whole lot I could do. I was pretty stubborn too and wouldn't let him win the day, I'd at least finish reading the chapter I was on, even if I had to be quite loud and deliberate about it. At that time he wasn't very interested even in picture books for some reason - probably had gotten fed up with all the chapter books I read to Ria.

One day, though, I found just the right book for him at the right time. It was Angus and the Ducks by Marjorie Flack. We had found a lovely old hardcover copy at our library book sale and he loved it immediately. The language is simple, but charming. He loved the dog and the duck noises were very funny. It's interesting how certain books have become major milestones for us in our child-raising. This one we will always appreciate because it's the book that helped Gus start to like books.

Anyway, negotiating read-alouds has been an often complex part of our lives. Usually we divide and conquer. The baby and/or the toddler hang(s) out with one parent while the other reads something interesting enough to engage the 3 or 4 year old on up. Our current four-year-old can get pretty tricky herself sometimes. It's been especially tricky this week since John was out of town. One night I read aloud to everyone in the master bedroom quite loudly while our toddler ran in circles around the room singing at the top of his lungs. Tonight he went to bed early, so "negotiations" looked very simple, until Kate declared that she didn't want Francie on the Run, and that it was her turn to pick (which was funny because the "turns" the kids have set up don't usually include the night-time read-aloud). Well, I just happened to have a stash of picture books I wanted to read still sitting on the mantle from the library. I ran downstairs and grabbed three of them, brought them back up and handed them to Kate. The biggest smile appeared on her face as she carefully lay the three choices side by side on her lap. It was as if she had received the greatest gift ever - to pick the story! She looked at me with a face filled with awe and asked, "Do they all have words?"

Negotiations continue as usual, but these little moments are such a joy - to see your children appreciate the gift of a story and to blessedly find just the right book at just the right time to help your children start to become the people you hope they will someday be.

cross-posted from Studeo

Introducing Children to Chesterton

Tue, 08/07/2007 - 02:58
"Introducing Children to G.K. Chesterton" by Nancy Carpentier Brown
Reprinted with Permission from the Catholic Home Educator, Winter 2003, Vol. 10, No. 1 pgs. 11-14

“Daybreak is a never-ending glory; getting out of bed is a never-ending nuisance.”

So said the great English writer, G.K. Chesterton. As soon as I read this, I knew I liked Chesterton, and after reading some of his work, I wished I could be his friend.

Chesterton was born in 1874 and died in 1936. He left behind 100 books, 200 short stories, five plays, the Father Brown mysteries, five novels, and over 4000 columns from the newspapers he wrote for. His writings are enjoying a revival today because of their importance to our current times. Chesterton stood for truth, family, virtues, home, chivalry, honesty and importantly, defended the Catholic Church.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton loved children, and the feeling was mutual. Chesterton retained a child-like quality all his life. He was interested in all subjects, saw each day as a new miracle, and kept a sense of wonder and awe for the world and its Creator. Children have the same sense of awe and wonder, because for them, the whole world is new. When a child sees his first butterfly, he is amazed. Chesterton identified with a child’s ability to look at life as ever new, he loved stories about triumph, valor, glorious battles where the victors were always on the side of right and good. He was witty and quickly gained the confidence of his young friends. He played with them, he listened to them, and he loved them.

So, what can you do if you’d like to introduce your younger children to Chesterton? I found that although Chesterton played with children, wrote stories, plays, poems and songs, and even put on puppet plays for children, most of his writing for children was private correspondence, remaining unpublished to this day. So what can we do?

I would suggest a few possibilities. First of all, we should be reading G.K. Chesterton ourselves, as home schooling parents. Chesterton’s defense of home, motherhood, education in the home and the value of children should be required reading for us. For helpful suggestions on a reading plan, see the American Chesterton Society’s web site, or request their catalog. The aim of the American Chesterton Society is to promote and encourage a revival of Chesterton’s work in the home, the school, and the university. The Chesterton Society has a tremendously helpful website, with many interesting articles. Next, begin to talk about Chesterton at home with your children. Tell them about the Chesterton book you are currently reading, and why you find it enjoyable. Read them quotes you find amusing, and see if they understand the joke. If your children have entered the age where they like mysteries, tell them about Chesterton’s Father Brown mysteries. For a child’s introduction to Father Brown, I would suggest the audiotape, by Jim Weiss, called Mystery! Mystery! There are three mystery stories on the tape, one of which is The Blue Cross, by Chesterton. It is done very well. (See below.)

A movie was made long ago of the same story about the valuable cross. The movie was called The Detective and is in glorious black and white. There is no violence, no morally objectionable scenes, and the bad guy ends up converting in the end! In the movie, Alec Guinness plays Father Brown. Many of you will have heard the now-famous story about Mr. Guinness’ conversion, due to his wearing the priestly costume when this story was filmed. My 6 and 10 year olds enjoyed this movie with me. The video of this film can be found at your libraries or video rental facilities, at your local Catholic bookstore, or through Ignatius Press.

Once, while visiting a major Catholic University’s bookstore, I looked in vain for any book written by G.K. Chesterton. The clerk, who searched the computer inventory for me, informed me that not one of Chesterton’s books was available at that bookstore. I found that sad. So I was glad to find Chesterton’s name in the Kolbe curriculum, the teens are introduced to Chesterton in the 12th grade, when they will read Orthodoxy.

The novels of Chesterton are, in my opinion, for the older teen and adults only. They are difficult to understand and need a more mature mind to appreciate the depth and mystery of the stories. However, I have introduced my children to A Man Called Thursday, by telling them about the funny names, and briefly outlining the story for them.

The essays of G.K. Chesterton are also for the older teen. His conversion to the Catholic Church and other Catholic defense essays, such as “Why I am Catholic,” “The Well and the Shallows,” etc., are excellent reading materials for the older teen/adult. For the younger child, you may just want to tell them that Chesterton became a Catholic when he was 48.

If your child is in that phase where he is enamored with the idea of having a club or group of some sort, it is the perfect time to tell him about Chesterton’s Junior Debate Club. Chesterton and about ten other friends formed the club to exercise their minds and try out new ideas. Their club branched out and they eventually had a library, a naturalists’ club, a chess club and a magazine to publish their own works. Children can relate to the desire to form a group and perhaps they will be inspired to form their own Junior Debate Club.

Children are also interested to know that Chesterton loved St. Francis of Assisi, and chose him as his Confirmation patron saint. Chesterton’s love of St. Francis began when he was very young, and his parents read him a book about the life of St. Francis. The love he had for the saint was life-long. It is encouraging as a parent, too, to hear a story like this. We never know what book we’ve read to our children that may have a long-lasting effect on their life. But we should keep in mind that it should be a good book that we do read to them!

So even though G. K. Chesterton doesn’t have books specifically written for children, I would strongly recommend introducing your children to him now, while they are young. As they grow, add more of his work. If they do come to know and love Chesterton when they are young, they will certainly want to read his books as they mature. Reading Chesterton and his clear thinking, his love of truth and the Catholic faith is encouraging to adults as well as to older teens. Many people have never read Chesterton and to them, may I say, it’s time to begin! Chesterton’s writing is funny, encouraging, and truthful. You will find yourself saying, “Yes! That’s exactly what I was thinking!”

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it’s been found difficult, and left untried.”

“If there were no God, there would be no atheists.”

“The only defensible war is a war of defense.”

“Angels fly because they take themselves lightly.”

“The truth is the modern world has had a mental breakdown.”

“I actually prefer weddings to divorces, and babies to Birth Control.”

“They talk of free love, when they mean something quite different, better defined as free lust."

“They insist on talking about Birth Control when they mean less birth and no control.”

“To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.”

“Break the conventions: keep the commandments.”

American Chesterton Society
4117 Pebblebrook Cir.
inneapolis, MN 55437

Excellent source for books, videos, audio tapes of Chesterton’s books, Chesterton gift items, etc.

Ignatius Press
P.O. Box 1339
Ft. Collins, CO 80522

Ignatius publishes a number of books by and about Chesterton, including anthologies of his writing, audio and video tapes, and a new book by Dale Ahlquist, G.K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense.

Gilbert! magazine
3050 Gap Knob Road
New Hope, KY 40053
(800) 343-2425

Their web site also includes Chesterton T-shirts and other items.

Jim Weiss, Storyteller tapes
Greathall Productions, Inc.
P.O. Box 5061
Charlottesville, VA 22905

Dramatizations of Father Brown stories.

Nancy Brown writes from Antioch, Illinois. She has been homeschooling her two daughters for 8 years. She blogs at Flying Stars

Math Fun

Tue, 08/07/2007 - 02:53
Macaroni Math: My small children really enjoy playing with a few handfuls of dried macaroni noodles. We sit on the floor and each start with the same number of noodles. Then I create little "word problems" by having the children hand a certain amount to a different person and figure out how many are left. You can also have an extra pile in the middle from which the children can take a certain number to add to their pile, etc. (Anonymous)


Hundreds Chart with Dice: You can make a simple hundreds chart on a 10x10 graph and number the boxes from one to one hundred. This is a good visual chart (especially around the kindergarten age) when children are beginning to connect the concept of numbers with written numbers. My children have all enjoyed rolling a dice and moving an object along the hundreds chart as a little counting game. (Anonymous)


Learning fractions and decimals with real money: Children often enjoy learning about simple fractions (1/2, 1/4 etc.) and decimals by playing with real coins. They can set up piles of different coins that are equal to each other, practice counting by 5s and 10s with nickels and dimes, and lots more. (Anonymous)


Math in the Morning: Try doing math while cuddling in bed in the morning - no paper, no blackboard, but just through images in your minds. (Lory from WI)

How to Make Geoboards

Tue, 08/07/2007 - 02:52
Geoboards are not really expensive to buy, but I've found that the children are more interested in things that they have had a hand in making.

1. We had some extra boards around that were a foot wide, so we used those, cutting them into squares that were also a foot tall.

2. With a little sanding, the boards were smoothed. We could have stained, sealed, or painted them, but we didn't.

3. We used a ruler and marked off the board with 10 little "x"-es. Begin in 1-1/2 inches from the side edge, then mark a spot every inch. It will cover 9 inches (beginning at 1-1/2 and ending at 10-1/2), but uses10 marks with a 1-1/2 inch border all around.

4. Repeat the above going down, and filling in across so that you have 100 "x"-es.

5. Pound a small nail in at each "x", having 100 nails total.

6. Use rubber bands of various lengths to make geometrical designs.

************** We did the same sort of thing as above, but used a circular shape instead of a square. You will need a compass with a protractor measure to draw the outer edge of the circle and to mark off increments around it that are evenly spaced. It is a little more difficult when making one with a circle, but it is fun to show how a triangle or a square can fit inside a circle.

contributed by Susan Kalis

Math Silliness and Smarts

Tue, 08/07/2007 - 02:50
Terri (2nd grade) was supposed to do 2 pages of Math the other day before - I forget what else - watching a movie or something. She brought me her Math book when she was through (simple addition problems of three or four one-digit numbers) and I saw a page filled with numbers that looked way too big. It almost looked like she had just scribbled some numbers down to make it look like it was done. My mind was all too ready to jump to this conclusion when I happened to notice an interesting pattern Here are a few examples. See if you see what I saw (G)...






Once I figured out what she had done, I recognized that her addition was almost flawless (she got one of the big numbers - which she was obviously doing in her head - off by one), she simply didn't understand how the problems were set-up.

So for:


she was adding 23 + 7

and for


she was adding 512 + 6

I never cease to be amazed (and often inspired) by the way children think.

And she did get to watch the movie. :)

Mom learned an important lesson and is thinking of handling Math a little differently in the future.

contributed by Alicia from Wisconsin

Homemade Summer Reading Program

Tue, 08/07/2007 - 02:49
In our house we have a summer reading program like many libraries and bookstores. But unlike those programs, in our family Mommy (with some help from the kids) makes up the reading list. For us, this has not only been a great time to encourage reading, but also to introduce new authors and genres that the children wouldn't necessarily pick on their own (particularly when they get into a rut of reading one author or series over and over again). In addition, our prizes, which my children are very enthusiastic about, are generally audio books or other good books that I like them to have anyway. They have such a sense of accomplishment and pride of ownership from earning these prizes.

contributed by Alicia from Wisconsin