Category Archives: Home schooling

Raising Gentlemen the World Needs

I lifted my head out of a book and spied my young son headed for my bedroom. It was still time for schoolwork, so I was curious about his plans. A moment later, before I’d had the chance to interrogate him, he reappeared with our pellet gun in hand.

“There’s a hawk in the yard,” he said. “It’s circling the chickens.” And with that he headed to the back door, slipped on his sneakers, and exited with the weapon in his grasp.

As I watched him go, I felt a sense of pride in my boy. Yes, he was interrupting his school lessons, but there was something profoundly valuable that was unfolding in that moment. My young son had identified a genuine threat and he’d immediately made the decision to combat the enemy. Indeed, it is precisely because of lessons like this that I continue to be a staunch advocate for homeschooling.

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parenting children

Good Parenting Doesn’t Always Result in Good Outcomes

A debate is raging on social media because of the comments made by a Catholic writer. The writer, who is a mother, came from a family of 9 and in her comment she stated that all of her sibling and she are practicing Catholics. She then went on to outline what her parents did which led to the outcome of having 9 adult children who are still practicing their faith.

The raging debate seems to be focused mostly on the second paragraph of her comment. That’s where she begins by outlining a few of the things that her parents didn’t do. And she is right, you don’t have to check a bunch of boxes in order to form your children properly in the faith.

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Shielding Your Family Against Home School Envy

Do you ever compare yourself, your parenting, your kids, your husband or your house? Do you scan your girlfriend’s living room with those cute matching throw pillows and that neatly arranged pile of books on her dust-free coffee table and wish that you could just see the surface of your coffee table which is currently hidden under stray Legos, 15 overdue library books and a couple of sippy cups that may or may not be in the process of fermentation?

Or maybe you’re avoiding that family from church, whose kids are always impeccably dressed and well behaved because you’re not sure with your kids brushed their teeth this morning, let along brushing their hair.

And there’s that mom you know is going to ask what your son is doing after graduation just after she finishing telling you about her child’s full scholarship.

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Do you ever compare yourself, your parenting, your kids, your husband or your house? Do you scan your girlfriend’s living room with those cute matching throw pillows and that neatly arranged pile of books on her dust-free coffee table and wish that you could just see the surface of your coffee table which is currently hidden under stray Legos, 15 overdue library books and a couple of sippy cups that may or may not be in the process of fermentation?

Or maybe you’re avoiding that family from church, whose kids are always impeccably dressed and well behaved because you’re not sure with your kids brushed their teeth this morning, let along brushing their hair.

And there’s that mom you know is going to ask what your son is doing after graduation just after she finishing telling you about her child’s full scholarship.

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life skills

Teach Your Children How to Work, Part 2

In my last podcast I talked about how my perspective on today’s workforce has changed since we purchased a restaurant 3 years ago. It changed, but not for the better.

I covered the history of work and how men used to form at least part of their identity from the work that they did. Thomas Baker was a baker. James Carpenter built things from wood. I also mentioned that work was once viewed as necessary for survival. Laura Ingalls Wilder understood that in order to survive through the long winter in the Big Woods, they’d need to grow and store their own food, amass a stockpile of dry wood for the fireplace and maintain their livestock. Children in previous decades shared in the responsibility of work at home and they often watched work in action.

I explained how the stay-at-home worker, computers and cell-phone are changing the face of work, such that children may no longer understand the difference between work and play.

Now let’s consider some more factors in the equation and come up with a few concrete antidotes that insure we are better teaching our children how to work.

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how to homeschool

How Do You Do It? Why God Made Me Home School

How do you do it? That’s the question you’re sure to be asked when you tell someone new that you home school your children. Be it the curious customer standing behind you in the grocery store line or cousin Ed at the family reunion, someone, or better yet someones, are going to want to know if you are actually sane enough to make such a choice and they’ll test your mental stability by asking for an explanation.

And, if one of your home schooled kids is in close proximity, the inquisitor will also quiz little Johnny on his ABC capabilities and his grasp of the American system of democracy. Be ready. Continue reading

There’s No Room for Envy in a Grateful Heart

The house was buzzing with the usual school morning routines. There was foot traffic up and down the stairs and hallway, dishes being banged and stacked, and water pouring through the faucets. The dog was rubbing against every available leg and a rooster was crowing in the distance as the clock clicked passed 8:30.


In an attempt to corral my students to their assigned seats around the table, I grabbed my wooden beads and began that familiar recitation of the rosary. Like the Pied Piper’s entrancing tune, my rhythmic words drew my children forth one by one.

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Picturing Parties, Peacocks & the Perfect Beach Day

Just another week in Brelinskyville I say. And by that I mean: traveling to celebrate our first graduate, hosting 86 of the world’s most awesome party guests, a stray peacock, field tripping to the beach and an extra blessing to count.

1. I’ve already gushed HERE over my very first home school graduate, but now I’ve actually got the pictures to document the achievement. We opted to enroll our high schoolers in Seton Home Study, so my son was eligible to participate in a graduation ceremony in VA. What a thrill to be among 100+ other graduates (from all over the country and one who came all the way from the Philippines) and those were just the graduates who chose to attend the event. 

I can’t say enough about how well Seton met our needs as a family and prepared my son for his future as an intelligent adult and a Catholic capable of defending his beliefs. Quite frankly, while I knew I would stay the course throughout my son’s high school education, I was somewhat intimidated and overwhelmed at the prospect of having to calculate his credits, double-check his requirements and create his transcript. Enter Seton where they do all of that and more. Four years and three high schoolers later, I am satisfied that we made the right choice and the tuition is worth every penny.

Class of 2014

Jude’s First Holy Communion
Sebastian’s Confirmation

2. When we throw a party, we like to really throw a party! Years ago we decided to host big, all-inclusive, family-sized shin-digs. When the oldest two were little I did the kids’ only, themed birthday parties (think Veggie Tale donuts, pirate treasure hunts and paper mache pinatas) complete with preplanned games and a gift unwrapping break. However, as the size of our brood increased that plan seemed less than ideal and honestly kind of un-fun for the adults and siblings. I mean hosting 8 birthday soirees would book up our whole summer and fall (since our bdays span from March to September). So the big bash idea sprang up and we’ve been sticking with it ever since. Now the kids entertain one another (no need for me to orchestrate games) and no one is left out since there is a least one (or six) somebodies your age to hang with. Moms and dads are then free to enjoy the company of other adults since the kiddos are so busy together. Of course, being southerners and all potluck is the way to go. This cuts down on expense and allows friends to share something rather than feeling obliged to bring gifts.  

This go around we and 76 of our friends and family spent the afternoon together celebrating this year’s sacraments and milestones (with a confirmation, communion and graduation in one spring there was oh so much to celebrate).

Kevin (named in honor of the bird from UP)

3.  Okay, so normal people might happen across a stray kitty or puppy, right? But here in B-ville we find ourselves adopted by a stray peacock! No, really, a peacock literally flew into our field of fowl and he’s decided (against our best efforts to discourage him) to make this home. Occasionally, he perches on our high roof, but most of the time he sits near the hens that he is trying so very hard to impress. Quite comical, when the hens walk passed he fans out his tail feathers and shakes them ever so purposefully whilst turning slowly so as to remain within 

the hen’s line of sight. The chickens (like innocent, college girls in a frat house) don’t quite understand his oh-so-subtle flirtations (or they’re just not interested in inter-species romance). If the girls here aren’t diggin’ him, I guess he’s decided the food makes up for it. Anyone got any peacock tips?

Mr. B and the sea

4. How is it that a whole year has slipped by since I carried my big bellied self to the beach? Well, it has and it was high time to soak in some RR on the coast of NC. A more perfect beach day we couldn’t have prayed for (okay well the freezing cold water may have been a deterent for some of us but as you can see from the pics the kids numbed up fast enough to enjoy the chilly waters) as the temperature was warm but not sweat-worthy, the life guards were on duty, the parking lot was nearly empty and the sky maintained its Carolina blue.

We barely even bothered with the radio as the soothing sounds of the waves were enough to captivate our attention. God also graced us with just enough wind to lift our kite, but not so much as to require us to wrap up in towels for comfort. The coast takes a bit of navigating for our crew since we live a few hours from it, but as always the day trip gave us that little timeout we all needed.

5. Putting this post together, I have to admit my shame in adding this last thought. Just across the way from our favorite beach spot is the Bodie Island lighthouse, so this trip we decided to check it out (not sure why we hadn’t in the past). Happy to have arrived an hour before its closing, we filed out of the van and began snapping pictures. A tour guide was about to usher in a new group and she advised that we’d need to purchase tickets inside to join the next grouping. Unfortunately, once inside we realized the pricing was too far outside of our tight budget, so we had to settle for looking at the curator’s picture book of the lighthouse interior. 

Glad for the portrait view, I was internally bemoaning. Our budget is more often than not tight, but I hate saying no again and again. I wanted to say, “Yes. We’ll take ten tickets!” I wanted my kids to race up the spiral staircase, to peer out from the top, to imprint a lasting memory, but thoughtful planning dictated that we needed to forgo this expense as our traveling is not yet complete for the summer. 

How silly I feel now for my ingratitude as I detail the abundance of blessings that have been poured forth these last few weeks. So what that we missed the spiral stairs in that black and white structure we’ve witnessed sacraments, welcomed loved ones, met new friends, experienced unfamiliar settings and stored up an ample cache of mental souvenirs. 

Once again, this domestic church I call home succeeds in raising my eyes upward.

Home schooling 101, Stuff In Our School Cabinet

our generally organized school closet
We’ve opted to keep our home schooling supplies in a relatively small space, so as not to turn our home into a school house alone. Early on, my husband expressed his concerns that our house should be a comfortable place to live and entertain and not just a warehouse for kids’ toys and books. I tend to agree with him. Additionally, as the primary teacher in the house, I like the feeling of “being done” (with at least one job) for the day which means all textbooks, cubicles, pencils and school boxes get put away (out of sight).

However, being that space is limited and our students range from kindergarten to seniors, I’ve had to come up with simple and creative ways to recycle, reuse and store materials that will be needed by younger siblings.
Budget is also a factor when it comes to operating our home school, so I try to avoid buying more than we need and I want to make more expensive supplies last as long as possible.
Here are a few tricks and tips I’ve discovered or come up with along the way:
1. Plastic bags. I love plastic bags and it is a rarity that we don’t put them to multiple tasks before finally relinquishing any to the trash bin. The gallon sized kind that zip closed are a must-have item (the ones labeled for freezer use are the most sturdy). I use them to store softcover textbooks because the bag protects them when they are being pushed in and pulled out from the bookshelf.
My fifth grader isn’t the most gentle when it comes to putting her math book away and the book she is currently using has already served her four older siblings so it may not last beyond her. To increase the odds of its survival through the year, I am having her return the book to its plastic bag before plopping it back into her school box for the night. This way the pages won’t get roughed up when she stuffs her pencil box, etc. on top of it. 
Plastic bags are great for preschool activity holders. I had my preschooler’s box filled with several bags. One contained a pair of scissors and a stack of card stock sheets to cut (I had drawn lines with thick black marker on the card stock which he was supposed to cut along).
***a little note of warning, don’t allow toddlers or infants to have access to plastic bags and make sure preschoolers don’t have bags in their school boxeswhich are big enough to fit over their heads.
2. Plastic page protectors.These are fabulous for protecting notes, sample copies, and chore lists. My daughter, who just started studying algebra, has been diligently taking notes on the formulas she’ll need to memorize. I had her slip the notes into a page protector sheet so they will last her throughout the course. My third grader is keeping the sample guide for cursive letters in his.

Going back to my preschoolers, I housed matching shapes and matching letters (upper and lower case) games in plastic page protectors.
Last year I was introduced to a wonderful new grammar program which seemed to be the answer I’d been looking for to improve my children’s understanding of grammar concepts. After hearing the creators describe their methodology, I was sold on their product, then I saw the price tag. Wanting to use the program with multiple students, I had to figure out how to make the worksheets work for us without violating the copyrights. As it turns out, I was able to slip a plastic sheet over the individual page and have my child write directly on it with a dry erase marker. I then corrected the work and we used a piece of felt to wipe the page clean for the next child to use.
Similarly, we use these pages to hold chore lists because chores can be checked off with dry erase markers and then the sheet can be wiped clean with felt or a napkin at the end of the day.
3. Plastic linen bags. After purchasing a couple of single curtain panels, I wondered how I could recycle the sturdy, plastic, zippered bags they came in. They became pencil bags, of course. Better than boxes, they are light weight and can easily be squished into tight spaces.
4. Plastic tubs. I don’t know what we did before these came along, but big, medium or small plastic tubs hold it all. We each have our own school tub (plastic containers designated for our school stuff). Additionally, I use smaller ones to organize the various supplies in the school closet (the thinking is that my tidy children will actually put items into the neatly marked containers each and every time- I can dream can’t I?). Generally, I label the boxes by subject, so the math box contains rulers, addition flash cards, compasses, cardboard clocks. etc.

5. Plain file folders. I always keep a box of these in our supply cabinet. Whenever we are planning a trip or preparing for a sacrament I use one of these to keep all the necessary paperwork, directions, notes together in one place.
Instead of purchasing pricier tab divider sheets for separating subjects in binders, I cut a folder in half and use a hole puncher to create two less expensive divider pages. 

A few months ago, I made a learning tool out of wood and nails for my son and I cut file folders into strips for the changeable parts to be matched. You can read more about that project HERE.
Maybe that’s part of the reason why I like home schooling so much, it provides me the opportunity to be creative (whether out of want or necessity). And along the way, my children are learning how to be good stewards of the resources God has given us.

My First Home School Graduate

To-do list:

wash laundry

scrub toilets

wipe counters

make bed

graduate son

mop floors

pay bills
Hey wait, did you catch that? I just ED off an item on my to-do list FOR-EV-A! Unlike the laundry which will never be finished or the crumb piles that will only reappear five minutes after I’ve cleaned them up, my son will never again require me to re-home school him (okay I will probably have to remind him of his manners and to pick up his wet towels, but that’s a different kinda schoolin’). That’s right, I’m doing the happy dance now that my numero uno son has completed his last assignment, making him a high school graduate.

It seems like just yesterday that little Pierce, in his adorable mushroom cut, was seated across the kitchen table with #2 pencil in hand. “Ssss, snake, ssss…what letter says ssss?” I was asking. Number families were neatly chalked on the hand-painted, wall blackboard and card stock Rembrandts covered the fridge. From ABC’s and 123’s to algebra and biology, I watched him stretch and grow in stature and wisdom throughout these last thirteen years.
This was the child that taught me to correct in blue ink (to his young perfectionist mind red pen was like the matador’s cape). He was the gifted artist who scrapped beautiful pictures if the proportions weren’t to his liking. The first (not the last) to reduce me to tears during our first reading lessons, he went on to devour books as a teen (no, not literally, he only bit board books as a toddler). My son #1 has music in his heart, so he taught himself to play the organ and then the piano. While he may not have ever been the quickest player on the soccer field, he easily ascended the ranks in Civil Air Patrol.
Our home schooling years are like postcards in my memory.
Okay, some of those postcards might be stamped from LaLaLand when I recall my yellow, school bus daydreams. Those are home school mom fantasies wherein you place your beloved, hard-headed learner on the magic yellow bus and then float back into the house to commence leisurely eating your secret cookies right in the middle of your tidy living room (as opposed to stuffing one in your mouth while hiding behind a cabinet door hoping no one will sniff you out). Then you watch some mindless talk show on the fingerprint-less TV screen and talk uninterrupted on the phone for a whole hour.
Yeah, I admit it, I even threatened to send him to “school” a time or two figuring he’d return home ever grateful for my sacrificial time and attention. In my estimation, he would return home (after a 7am to 4pm day, heavily laden with a ten pound backpack stuffed full of homework) uttering words of thanksgiving for his former home schooling routine and begging to be home again in the pleasant company of his siblings.
I had those days occasionally, but all in all our years together at the school table were a great blessing. Every milestone achieved, every lesson learned, every concept internalized, I was lucky enough to witness. And for all of the education he received, I learned right along with him. Indeed my rusty algebra was renewed and I can diagram sentences again, but even more importantly I was schooled in patience, compassion, perseverance, honesty, integrity, forgiveness and charity.
Home schooling is about providing kids the tools to become life-long learners, who know how and where to find answers to their questions and solutions to their problems. In the beginning, people asked me how I would make sure my son didn’t miss anything. When high school drew close that “anything” became how could I teach him subjects that I was lacking in. Staying the course in my vocation, I discovered the reply to that inquiry just about the time they stopped asking. He wasn’t constrained by me anymore than Einstein was constrained by his mother.
So today I am reaching around to give myself a well-earned pat on the back. Looking at my handsome, intelligent, artistic son who serves on the altar, holds down a part-time job, leads in his CAP squadron, delights his baby brother and fills our home with melodies, I know we succeeded at forming a whole person capable of extraordinary things.
That’s one goal down and just 7 more (kids) to go.

Home Schooling 101: Easter Egg Inspirations

Years ago we initiated the annual hunt in Brelinskyville on Easter morning. Under cover of darkness a 5’4″ bunny distributes brightly colored plastic eggs beneath bushes and daffodils beds, in outdoor work boots and under porch stairs. Come morning’s light our eager basket-toting scavengers set out to collect their treasures.

The eggs have always contained sweet treats and sometimes a bit of shiny silver coins, but at one point in time I decided they needed something more. That’s when I began to include a scriptural verse, inspirational note or saintly quotation inside. My kids like to call them “fortune eggs” since the notes come on thin strips of folded paper.

A fun and simple way to evangelize, we’ve include these notes in eggs that we donate to community egg hunts and we make up small baskets with a few goodies for our neighbors and include a few “fortune eggs.” One year my boys decided to keep the notes in a bowl after Easter so they could pick out one each evening to read aloud. Some of the quotes need to be explained to little ones, but that’s a great way to begin a deeper conversation.
If you’d like to add a little extra surprise to your eggs this year, feel free to copy and print what I have come up with for this year.
God is so good and merciful, that to obtain Heaven it is sufficient to ask it of Him form our hearts.
-St. Benedict Joseph Labre
Patient endurance is the perfection of charity. -St. Ambrose
God is good.
God is love.
Jesus loves you.
There is no such thing as bad weather. All weather is good because it is God’s. -St. Teresa Avila
The saints were so completely dead to themselves that they cared very little whether others agreed with them or not. – St. John Vianney
Jesus, I trust in You.
The world would have peace if the men of politic would only follow the Gospels.
-St. Brigitta of Sweden 
Maintain a spirit of peace and you’ll save a thousand souls. -St. Seraphim of Sarov
The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweths them that trust in him.
-Nahum 1:7
Whenever anything disagreeable or displeasing happens to you, remember Christ crucified and be silent. -St. John of the Cross
Never rebuke while you are still indignant about a fault committed- wait until the next day, or even longer. And then calmly, and with purer intention, make your reprimand. You will gain more by a friendly word than by a three hour quarrel. -St. Jose Escriva
If God causes you to suffer much, it is a sign that He has great designs for you, and that He certainly intends to make you a saint. -St. Ignatius of Loyola
Thank the good God for having visited you through suffering; if we knew the value of suffering, we would ask for it. -Blessed Brother Andre
I need nothing but God, and to lose myself in the heart of God. -St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.
-Psalm 27:14
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful and enkindle in us the fire of your love.
Every child is a gift from God.
Love of man leads to the love of God. -Indian Proverb
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and rely not on thine own understanding. -Proverbs 3:5
Other books were given for our information, the Bible was given for our transformation. -Anonymous
He who labors as he prays lifts his heart to God with his hands. -Bernard of Clairvaux
Fretting springs from a determination to get our own way. -Oswald Chambers
Happy the man whose words issue from the Holy Spirit and not from himself. -St. Anthony of Padua
Disorder in society is the result of disorder in the family. -St. Angela Merici
Never utter in your neighbor’s absence what you would not say in their presence.
-St. Mary Magdalene dei Pazzi
Christ make my soul beautiful with the jewels of grace and virtue. I belong to Him whom the angels serve. -St. Anges
When you seek truth you seek God whether you know it or not. -Edith Stein
As sailors are guided by a star to the port, so are Christians guided to Heaven by Mary.
-St. Thomas Aquinas
Be not anxious about what you have, but about what you are. -St. Gregory the Great
Do something good for someone you like least, today. – St. Anthony of Padua
Let us love God, but with the strength of our arms, in the sweat of our brow. -St. Vincent de Paul
Remember that nothing is small in the eyes of God. Do all that you do with love.
-St. Therese of Lisieux
Love Him totally who gave Himself totally for your love. -St. Clare of Assisi
At the end of our life, we shall be judged by love. -St. John of the Cross
True charity means returning good for evil-always. -St. Mary Mazzarello
Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society. -St. Francis of Assisi
Make up your mind to become a saint. -St. Mary Mazzarello
You cannot be a half a saint. You must be a whole saint or no saint at all. -St. Therese of Lisieux
Laugh and play and dash about as much as you like, only be careful not to say or do anything that would be displeasing to God. – St. Mary Mazzarello
The gate of Heaven is very low; only the humble can enter it. -St. Elizabeth Seton
The whole science of the saints consists in knowing and following the will of God.
-St. Isidore of Seville
God loves obedience better than sacrifice. -Blessed Jan Van Ruysbroeck
Hate the sin, love the sinner. -St. Augustine
No one heals himself by wounding another. -St. Ambrose
No one is really happy merely because he has what he wants, but only if he wants things he ought to want. -St. Augustine
The soul of one who loves God always swims in joy, always keeps holiday, and is always in the mood for singing. -St. John of the Cross
It is such a joy when I awaken to salute God by singing. -Blessed Teresa of the Andes
In everything ask yourself what the Master would have done, and do that. -Ven. Charles de Foucauld
Never make a decision without stopping to consider the matter in the presence of God. -St. Jose Escriva