Managing Homeschool Life

Making it work

Homeschooling is a serious undertaking and many people wonder how it can work on a practical level - particularly for people on tight budgets and those with large families. Although not all of these books specifically address homeschooling, they have some very useful and practical ideas for running a household more effectively, especially in the areas of organization, finances, time management, and family life.

Catholic Woman's Daily Planner

Author(s): 
Michele Quigley
Copyright: 
2008
Publisher: 
Family-Centered Press
Binding: 
Spiralbound
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

"It is the business of the wise man to order." Aristotle, Metaphysics.

We are given this day. What will we do with it? If we're faithful, we will work to give every minute of it back to God: to make our life a prayer. That's one reason why it belongs to the wise man to order his life, and that's also a good reason to use the Catholic Woman's Daily Planner from Family-Centered Press.

The Planner begins with a listing of prayers, reminding me to offer my day to God and to pray for the grace I'm definitely going to need to do that. There's a portion for recording spiritual reflections, so that I can put that great quote of St. Therese's right where I know I can find it quickly when I need some encouragement. There's a portion for listing friends and their contact information, reminding me of the family of God that heartens me along my way and making it easy for me to connect with them. There's a menu planning portion to help me make certain I have what I need for the week's meals. This is especially useful to me because, though man does not live on bread alone, he definitely needs to eat and children seem to need to do so all day long. But the portion which benefits me most is the daily breakdown of the liturgical year.

The Church has structured our liturgical life so that, every single year, we live the life of Christ. The Catholic who is aware of the liturgical year is necessarily aware of Christ. This planner makes me more aware. Before I had a planner, I always knew it was Monday or Tuesday, but I didn't always get the date right unless I had to write a check. I sometimes missed celebrating feast days, or offering mass on the anniversary of a friend or relative's death simply because I was confused about the date. Now I not only know the day and date, I know it's the feast of St. Lawrence, that I should say the Glorious Mysteries of the rosary today, and what the readings and Psalms at mass will be. If I can't make it to mass, I can at least participate in a unified manner: joining my voice to that of the Body of Christ at Mass, while reflecting on the same readings and prayers. I see at one glance the feast days for the whole week, which gives me time to plan for upcoming feasts so that we can celebrate them fully. When we do that, we live the life of Christ more fully and more faithfully.

I am aiming to make our Faith such a part of everyday life that our expressions of love for God are as natural and common as our expressions of love for the family He has blessed us with. But my life is busy and even the dog clamors for a little more attention. When I consider the best approach to ordering my life, I remember that we are a melding of body and soul. We learn through our senses. This planner gives me a concrete framework which helps me focus on the highest things while juggling all the necessary ones.

Additional Details provided by Mary-Eileen Swart:

The planner has a two-page monthly spread with big spaces to write on for each day. Following that, there are two-pages, lined, for each week of the month, allowing for many more details to be filled per day. The planner also includes extra sections at the front for prayer intentions, faith journey jottings, recipes, favorite websites, and other such items, and a set of tabs to make it easy to find a particular month or section.

The planners are very customizable. You can purchase an optional set of menu-planner pages that include tear-off shopping lists, or a 36-week set of lesson planning pages. Depending on availability, you can usually order planners in two different sizes, and either spiral bound or hole punched to insert in your own binder.

For the past few years, Family-Centered Press has also offered a slightly different version of the Catholic Woman's Planner designed for homeschool moms. The months run from August of the current year through July of the next, which makes it ideal for organizing an entire school year's worth of activities and lessons. This version is usually available for ordering by April.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Additional notes: 

Available from Family-Centered Press - www.family-centered.com

Review Date: 
1-8-2008
Reviewed by: 
Maria Rioux

Dinner's in the Freezer: More Mary, Less Martha

Author(s): 
Jill Bond
Review: 

Jill Bond is a big name in Christian Homeschooling circles. Her success in homeschooling her own children and at the same time being active in her community and among homeschoolers at large owes a great deal to the ideas which she outlines in this book. The book, subtitled A Home Management System, is primarily about a concept called "mega-cooking", i.e. cooking in larger quantities and freezing portions for later use. There are many advantages to this, especially in the areas of saving time (it doesn't take much longer to cook a double or triple batch) and money (take advantage of bulk pricing and be less dependent on convenience foods). I also like a lot of the underlying philosophy and appreciate the encouraging words and Mrs. Bond's poignant reminders of the dignity and importance of motherhood. To a certain extent, however, we found the recipes incompatible with our family's likings (for example, we don't use Velveeta).

Review Date: 
1999
Reviewed by: 
Alicia Van Hecke

Garden of Virtues: Planting Seeds of Goodness

Book cover: 'Garden of Virtues: Planting Seeds of Goodness'
Author(s): 
C. Keffler
R. Donnelli
Copyright: 
2000
Publisher: 
Thomas More Publishing
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
208 pages
Review: 

This is a friendly and lovely little book on practicing the virtues in the midst of family life. Although it is clear that at least one of the authors is Catholic, the book is written on a very practical level and in such a way that it would be appealing to any family attempting to live a peaceful and virtuous life (particularly in the midst of raising children).

The book is intended to be used by the family as a whole, perhaps sharing a new chapter at the dinner table each week. Each chapter (three to four pages long) covers one virtue. A simple definition of the virtue is given, along with ideas for fostering the virtue, avoiding its opposite and a good, related family rule to apply. The chapters include simple ideas and stories which illustrate the importance of the virtue and its true meaning. There are fifty-two virtues in all - one for each week of the year. Virtues covered range from Audacity (they even quote St. Thomas Aquinas in defense of considering audacity a virtue - very impressive!) to Wisdom and other important virtues (listed alphabetically) in between.

The book is very charming, with full-color garden-themed illustrations on every page (in a style reminiscent of Mary Engelbreit). This is a nice supplement to the more theology-oriented studies of virtue to remind children (and their parents) about the basics of living a moral life.

Review Date: 
2-3-01
Reviewed by: 
Alicia Van Hecke

Miserly Meals -- Healthy, Tasty Recipes Under 75¢ Per Serving

Book cover: 'Miserly Meals'
Author(s): 
Jonni McCoy
Copyright: 
2002
Publisher: 
Bethany House
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
255 pages
Review: 

The author of the popular Miserly Moms, a guide for frugal family living, has done it again! Jonni McCoy has written a stand-alone but complementary book that helps families to enjoy well-prepared, nutritious meals while keeping their grocery expenditures under control. Most homeschooling families live on one income, and we need all the help that we can get in controlling our expenses; this cookbook can help us to do just that.

Each of the more than 200 recipes includes a full nutritional analysis, a cost-per-serving analysis, a "Kitchen Tip", and both preparation and cooking time estimates. Recipe categories include a full range of choices from Appetizers to Vegetarian Main Dishes to Slow Cooking to Desserts and Snacks. The recipes are easy to follow, instruction and ingredient lists are clear, and no special ingredients, appliances, or techniques are required. Why not serve Boston Chicken with Oven-Roasted Vegetables for $1.25 per person tonight? Or consider Ultra Chocolate Muffins with Raspberry Butter for $0.17 each in the morning? You can invite your dearest friend over for Lemon Cheesecake and Russian Tea for just $0.54 per serving. What possibilities!

Most people think that frugal meals must be high in carbohydrates and fat and low in protein, but that is not the case with the wonderful recipes in this book. My own family has several dietary restrictions, and there are numerous recipes that are tasty, nutritious, AND meet our needs. This new cookbook may be just what you need to bring some excitement back to family meals and meal preparation time. At the same time, you will be able to keep your food budget under control, leaving a little more to put into your book budget!

Additional notes: 

This book was donated for review by Bethany House

Review Date: 
11-5-03
Reviewed by: 
Susan Kalis

Saintly Solutions to Life's Common Problems

Book cover: 'Saintly Solutions to Life's Common Problems'
Author(s): 
Fr. Joseph Esper
ISBN: 
1 928 832 377
Copyright: 
2001
Publisher: 
Sophia Institute Press
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
379 pages
Review: 

For more than twenty years, Fr. Esper has been a priest as well as an author, conference speaker, and authority on the lives of the saints. He has written this book to serve as a guide to perfecting our own weaknesses through the examples and experiences of the Communion of the Saints. This book isn't intended to be read straight through from cover to cover, but rather to be picked up and studied in short segments, so it is especially appealing to a busy, homeschooling family.

With more than forty different problems addressed, there is sure to be help for whatever is troubling. Just a few of the chapter topics are anxiety, criticism, distraction during prayer, gloominess, irreligious children, marital problems, old age, tardiness, and unpopularity. Each chapter begins with a meditation of several pages describing a particular saint (or saints) who had experience with the problem, with many valuable quotations and passages of encouragement. Following this is the "For Further Reflection" section with additional quotations, the invaluable "Something You Might Try" section with specific, detailed suggestions, "Further Reading" section with recommended sources from Sacred Scripture, Spiritual Classics, and Contemporary Works, and finally a Prayer.

The advice in this book is straight to the point and will be helpful throughout life. Most of the topics discussed apply as well to our teenaged children as to our elderly parents, and with Fr. Esper's recommendation to work on only one fault at a time, it could take a lifetime. Each reading and re-reading of the chapters in this book can help us along the path to Heaven.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
11-8-03
Reviewed by: 
Susan Kalis

Sidetracked Home Executives

Book cover: 'Sidetracked Home Executives'
Author(s): 
Pam Young
Peggy Jones
Copyright: 
2001
Publisher: 
Warner Books
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
165 pages
Review: 

Pam Young and Peggy Jones were the original "slob sisters" and "SHE"s (Sidetracked Home Executives). Their homes were disorganized, untidy, and definitely not conducive to peace and joy -- until they found a way up and out of the chaos. To share their discovery with other SHEs, they wrote this now-classic book.

The book has two great strengths: Its authors write from their personal experience, which makes it easy for anyone else who is not "B.O." (Born Organized) to relate, and it is written with delightful humor. It is so engaging and motivating that, while reading it, you'll find yourself restraining an impulse to tidy a room or scrub a floor. Or maybe you shouldn't restrain yourself. In any event, the book will make you want what they have: a clean, organized, happy home.

To climb out of the chaos in their homes, Pam and Peggy realized that they needed a new set of habits. They devised a system of index cards, described in the book, with chores to be done daily, weekly, monthly, and semi-annually. They also describe index cards you can set up for your children, at ages 3, 5, 7, and 8, with suggestions for additional chores to add as they grow.

While nothing in this book is directed specifically at homeschoolers, there is nothing that couldn't work just as well in a homeschool family as any other. The ideas for children's file cards would be especially helpful in a homeschooling family.

This edition (2001) also suggests alternatives to the file card system. You could use your own PC to set up checklists, or, as the authors suggest on their website (www.shesintouch.com), you could turn to Marla Ciley at www.flylady.net for no-nonsense instruction in building new, more orderly habits. Marla read Pam and Peggy's book some years ago as she sought a way out of her chaos, then took their ideas (with permission) and ran with them on the web.

But no matter which system you think you might prefer, pick up this book if you are looking for an enjoyable and motivational introduction to the art of getting organized.

Additional notes: 

Copyrights 1977/2001

revised and updated edition; original edition: 1977

Review Date: 
11-15-2004
Reviewed by: 
Mary-Eileen Swart

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Author(s): 
Stephen Covey
Review: 

Having a healthy skepticism of "self-help" books caused me to be lacking in enthusiasm when this book was recommended to me by my older brother. He had been studying it with some friends at work and had high praise for its content. I think I would never have picked it up except that I happened to be at my brother's house while he and my mom read a chapter aloud. Wow. It wasn't anything like what I had expected and turned out to be quite good. I believe that this book has helped me to deal with and understand others better, focus my energy more on helpful and productive things and overcome some of the frustrations I've experienced as a mother of small children. I used to scoff at the idea of "writing down goals" and such. After I read the book, I purchased a planner - a binder which includes a detailed calendar, address book, check register, and room for other important information. Using the planner and the ideas from Mr. Covey's book really helped me get the ball rolling on my plans and ideas for homeschooling.

Review Date: 
1999
Reviewed by: 
Alicia Van Hecke

The Tightwad Gazzette

Book cover: 'The Tightwad Gazzette'
Author(s): 
Amy Dacyczyn
Review: 

This book is available in either three individual volumes or a newer paperback compilation. The books are collections of individual Tightwad Gazzettes, a newsletter filled with thoughts and ideas about saving money, getting out of debt, living on one income, etc. Some of the ideas seem a little extreme, but Mrs. Daczycyn explains that she has had people in very desperate situations call her for advice. She feels that it's worthwhile to include all of these ideas as they may be helpful to some. Most of the ideas, however, are very creative way of stretching a dollar and will be helpful to many. Also, the ideas are indexed so that you can easily go back to the recipe for homemade playdough or her statistics on the money/time saving comparisons of owning a dishwasher or washing by hand. She does have ethical lines she won't cross just for the sake of saving money, but most homeschoolers won't agree with EVERYTHING she says - she feels that public schools and network television are GREAT deals. You may be surprised to discover that the books are rather engaging. One of my sisters-in-law even described them as "addictive."

Review Date: 
1999
Reviewed by: 
Alicia Van Hecke

Final thought

"If your day is hemmed with prayer it is less likely to unravel."