Just-for-fun reading from Suzie Andres!

paradise coverFrom the back cover: Have you ever kept a New Year’s Resolution? Elizabeth Benning hasn’t, but she’s determined that this will be her year. Like Elizabeth Bennet before her, Liz Benning doesn’t work, lives at home, and takes pride in her resourcefulness, but when she resolves on a yearlong project to be happier, it looks like her ambition has outrun her abilities…Enter a love interest more conniving than Wickham, a blonde cold enough to freeze out Caroline Bingley, and Elizabeth’s paradise project is heading for disaster. She’s never been so unhappy, but if she can discover which hero is straight out of her beloved Jane Austen, she might yet take the prize for happiest ever after.

Review: Classically Catholic Memory

We were so excited to bring both Classically Catholic Memory and Catholic School House to the Atlanta Catholic Homeschool Conference this past April. We were able to see the materials of both of these fine programs. And, it is nice to have truly Catholic options instead of “Catholicizing” other programs.

Both programs are set up to either use them as materials for an individual family or for use in a co-op setting. Both programs include Religion, Latin, Science, Geography, Language Arts (poetry memorization) and History. Catholic School House can actually be used as your primary curriculum at least in elementary by using the included supplements. You would need to add a math and phonics section and of course great books to read.

I will focus on Classically Catholic in this article because ultimately it is the program I chose to purchase for a variety of reasons. I already use a curriculum, Mother of Divine Grace so I really needed a supplement, not another entire curriculum. And, a local friend shared with me how she used the program in her home with her family.

As I said, I use MODG for my curriculum, but I have found that as my older children got older and entered high school, that I had less time to do all the memory work required for the little ones. Things like math facts, Baltimore Catechism questions, poetry and geography memorization just weren’t happening. Additionally, we never were successful implementing timelines. I have nine children that range in age from 17 down to 2. This upcoming school year, we will have 8 officially in school. So, I implemented family school several years ago to address these deficits.

The problem I encountered was one of planning … I didn’t. So, each day I kind of winged it. Ultimately, it would fizzle out; no memory work would be accomplished. So, in steps Classically Catholic Memory.

From the website:

Religion:  Each year provides various Catechism questions and answers and passages from Scripture.

Latin:  Each year provides various prayers and hymns.

History:  History sentences from one of four time periods:

  • Alpha Year:  Creation through the Birth of Christ (Ancients)
  • Beta Year:  The Time of Christ through 1500 (Middle Ages)
  • Gamma Year:  1500 through 1800 (Early Modern Times)
  • Delta Year:  1800 through Modern Times (Later Modern Times)

Science:  Science questions and answers from one of four science topics:

  • Alpha Year:  Life Science:  Animal Life
  • Beta Year:  Earth Science and Astronomy
  • Gamma Year:  Chemistry and Physics
  • Delta Year:  Life Science:  Human Anatomy and Physiology and Plant Life

Math:  Skip counting (every year)

  • Alpha and Gamma Years: Geometric Formulas
  • Beta and Delta Years: Conversion Formulas

Timeline:  The same timeline is learned every year.

Geography:  Countries, some capital cities, and physical geography of either one or two continents per year.

  • Alpha Year:  Asia and Australia
  • Beta Year:  Europe
  • Gamma Year:  North America
  • Delta Year:  Africa and South America

Great Words I and II:  Every year provides material that includes poems, historical documents, and speeches.

As you can see, a great amount of material is covered in a systematic manner. The only thing I will probably add is more Baltimore Catechism questions. But this is easily addressed. I plan to copy the questions out I want them to cover, divide them up over 4 years, and paste them onto each of the planner pages.

In particular, I am very pleased with the breadth of the geography and history timelines. I only have Alpha year at this time, but in week 10, they study China and will map Beijing, Kunlun Mountains, the Yangtze River and Gobi Desert among other things. The timeline will cover St. Thomas Aquinas, Marco Polo and Kublai Khan, The Plague in Europe, St. Joan of Arc and St. Catherine of Siena (additional items are covered). Finally, we will be able to work on our timeline as a family.

Latin includes the memorization of various prayers including the Table Blessing, O Come Emmanuel and the Hail Mary. It is not that it is particularly innovative in itself, but that it is included in a package – so no fumbling around for additional resources. Nor are there labor intensive organizational skills required.

Math includes working on the skip counting tables – yes, in a methodical manner. One of the shortcomings of homeschoolers that I have seen mentioned in various places is memorizing math facts. Additionally in this year, various geometric formulas are memorized.

The poetry sections, called Great Words, has two levels. I plan on using this section last so I can have the elementary age children learn the level 1 materials, and the middle and high school students learn the level II materials. Level II includes an excerpt from “Give me liberty, or give me death!” by Patrick Henry.

Finally, a section to not be missed – The Subject Summary at the end of the book. Yes, she in a few pages gives you the summaries for each area by week. So, in a glance you can see what materials are covered in 18 weeks in religion or the timelines. If you wanted to flesh this out even more, you could easily use this to plan for additional books to be read, art projects and music.

One final note, the science section is very well done. Not only is memory work assigned each week, for example memorizing the classification system, but detailed instruction is given in the Teaching Notes section. Generally 2 pages of instructions are included. Activities include for level II  dissection of a perch (note you would need to get a dissection guide). Each week, five different levels of activities are included.

For me, hands on science slips. So, I do hope this will allow me to do more hands on projects this year. She also includes in the back animal cards that you may print and cut apart. But, she does suggest purchasing them. A number of additional items for purchase are suggested. You definitely do not have to purchase them, but information is included. Such items are Micro Mounts that include a cricket, locust, beetle and crab.

In closing, I will update this entry later in the year after using the materials. I am quite optimistic that this will be the puzzle piece I have been looking for.

To order, please actually visit Ingatius Press.




Catholic ABC’s – A Hands-On Preschool Curriculum

I have stumbled upon another resource for preschoolers – from the wonderful blog of CatholicIcing, she has put together a 26 lesson preschool book called “Catholic Abc’s – A Hands-on preschool curriculum”.

Catholic ABC's


I am excited to see another resource for families who have preschool students. The reviews seem to be positive. I am intrigued by the idea of not having to gather lots of materials to make it work. Best of all it is liturgically based and contains over 25 templates, coloring pages,  and more.


Free Midwinter Virtual Conference

Thanks to Homeschool Connections (your source for great online classes taught by excellent, faithful Catholics), you can look forward to a

FREE Midwinter Virtual Conference

Webinars begin on January 17th – I can’t wait to hear Nancy Brown bring Chesterton into a discussion finding levity in homeschooling.

We are facing our burnout seasons – make plans to head off the winter doldrums and ruts we are in.

How music made a great day!

I received “Making Music Praying Twice” this past summer. Since we were not in school, I did a simple review of the product – a first impressions. I had planned on beginning the program at the start of the school year not realizing just how intense the first month of schooling two ninth graders with Mother of Divine Grace would be. I have made it through nearly six weeks of school and decided on impulse to bring out the program today. I did not read the manual in depth; I did not gather any musical instruments or scarves or do any other preparation. I decided simply that since we were most of the way through the week I would follow the suggested Ordinary Fall week one schedule and this is how the time went.

As a note, the developer gives many different options of how to use the program:

  • a generic, fill-in-the-blank schedule if you are planning on doing the program daily
  • a generic a weekly schedule for a once a week music program
  • suggestions if you plan to use the program in an unstructured manner
  • blank lessons plans if you want to plan out a semester or year
  • 8 weeks of daily lesson plans that feature all the songs and activities for the season
  • 4 weeks of weekly lesson plans that feature all the songs and activities for the season.

So, you have the freedom to use the program as best suites your personality and your family needs. I chose to start with the first week  of the Ordinary Time (OT) Fall Weekly plan, again featuring all the songs and activities included for the fall. (She has the same type of schedules set up for Advent/Christmas/Epiphany,Ordinary Time – Winter, Lent, and Easter/Pentecost for an entire school year’s worth of music).

The first week had the following schedule:

  1. Good Day
  2. prayer – Father I Adore You
  3. sit and sing – The Blacksmith
  4. sit and spin – creative substitutions – Sissy in the Barn
  5. spoken rhyme – Humpty Dumpty
  6. Rhythm Patterns
  7. shaky egg activity – Hamaba
  8. free instrument time – Sing and Play
  9. scarf dancing – My Bonnie
  10. Tonal Patterns
  11. dancing with streamers – Looby Loo
  12. dance activity – Moroccan Melody
  13. Tonal Patterns
  14. prayer – Our Father
  15. God Bless

First impression-the printed material is very nicely bound books and the CD audios are clear and the vocals are beautifully done with both children’s voices and adults, male and female. Next impression-beautifully Catholic-I will explain more in detail.

So, as I said I did no preparation; therefore, I did not know how to implement the Rhythm Patterns nor the Tonal patterns, so I skipped them (I was pressed for time and trying to take advantage of a momentary surge of energy I was experiencing :-) Also, I had no musical instruments, rattles or shaky eggs, nor did I have scarves. But, it all worked out.

I popped the OT Fall CD in, and the first song on the CD corresponded to the first song, Good Day. My children’s eyes lit up as we used their names in the song. The song (and all the rest) were long enough for my children to catch onto the melody and even sing or hum along.

Next, we started on Father I Adore You which happened to be track 2. Again, there were enough stanzas that we could catch the melody and sing along. The music was beautiful and they even in later stanzas had the song in the round.

Now the pace picks up again and we moved on to The Blacksmith. My youngest followed my hand gestures as we hammered and tapped and clip clopped in rhythm to the music. Following this was the substitution song – Sissy in the Barn. This was a bit more difficult for me to follow. One stanza was written out with the notes and words. Then below that were a number of pictures; a man, a woman, a pig, a cow, a boy and a girl. The song used those pictures to substitute to make new verses. You could sing over them and make up your own as I realized later.

Humpty Dumpty was a rousing success. My learning challenged five year old heard the spoken rhyme enough times to catch on. And, we used hand and body motions to go along with the somewhat dramatic presentation (fell off the waaaaaaalllllllllll).

As I said, I skipped the rhythm pattern and even now, I am not sure exactly where it is explained or what CD I should use. I also skipped the free instrument time. But we did go through Hamaba that was based on a Gambian folk song. Next we sang My Bonnie. Although we did not have scarves to use, the children enjoyed swaying in time with the music. Looby Loo was a fun, full body experience that everyone enjoyed participating in (put your right hand in, shake it all about, etc.) The last song before finishing up was Moroccan Melody. The instrumentals and vocals were ethnic including perhaps a sitar and drums and finger cymbals (I am sorry but I am unfamiliar with the names of the instruments).

Finally, we came to the end. Our Father was sang without instrumentals in a very clear, beautiful female voice. It was sang again in almost a polyphonic chant perhaps.

The last song was a nice wrap up and in the style of the first song – “God Bless” where you substituted your family’s names.

Other songs on this particular CD included the Magnificat sung by a female singer with no instrumentals. As I listen, my nearly three year old is signing along, at least the melody. Holy God We Praise Thy Name is a male vocalist accompanied by a classical guitarist.

So, after one day, I am absolutely thrilled. I love, love, love the Catholic content and the following of the liturgical year. I love the ethnic music and exposure to different tonalities and instruments. I love the well laid out plans (although, I do intent on using the daily plans for the rest of the year).

Complaints / suggestions? Hmmm, none – I would suggest that you write the track numbers on the song books that accompany each season as the CD has no track names. And, I will have to search out the huge teacher’s manual for how to do the rhythm and tonal exercises, but I am comfortable leaving out this feature entirely.

Downside? Finding time for the little ones – but after one day, I see how much they enjoyed this, and my intent this year was to be more proactive in finding activities for the little ones. And, cost is a downside – yes, it is nearly $100. But, this is a non-consumable product and the quality of the printed material and the CD’s is top-notch.

I hope and will suggest to the developers that they try to attend some Catholic homeschool conferences so others can see this in action. This could even be a great vendor talk to offer.

I plan on updating this post as I move through the additional seasons.

Update: We begin again for the new year. The young kids are very enthusiastic about the music. I also shared this with a friend that has a large family with young children and she was very excited about it.

Daily Grammar Practice – Review

We have used a number of different grammar resources including Rod and Staff, Seton and most recently Easy Grammar. All do an excellent job of teaching grammar, but my children still do very poorly on end of year assessments. In looking at what all these programs had in common, I discovered that all of them presented one topic in depth and taught it very well but when the topic was completed, they moved on to another topic and there was little review.

I stumbled upon Daily Grammar Practice at a homeschool conference last May. It is not a complete grammar program. It was developed I believe originally to be used in a school setting where the teacher planned to instruct on grammar topics. If you are not strong on grammar or diagramming, you will definitely need another resource. I have found that Warriner’s English 3rd course to have enough information to explain the topics in depth.

So, what does DGP do differently? It uses one sentence a week. On the first day, you identify how each word is used in a sentence – noun, verb, adjective, preposition, adverb, conjuction, etc. If your child does not know what a preposition is, then you as a parent need to teach the concept (using another resource). On Tuesdays, they identify the function of the word – subject, object of a preposition, intransitive verb past tense. On Wednesday’s, you identify clauses and sentence types (declarative, exclamatory, and if te sentence is simple, compound or complex). For older grades, not only do you identify a dependent clause, but how it is used – adverbial or adjectival. On Thursday’s you punctuate the sentence. Finally on Friday’s you diagram the sentence. Again, I have found the Warriner’s English to be a good reference for all of these more advanced topics.

As I stated, you still need to teach grammar, but all the topics are reviewed every week going deeper as you progress. I have found my children need this approach and I am pleased to have found a grammar resource that uses that method. I believe Analytical Grammar uses somewhat the same approach.

Look for an update to this review at the end of the year when we go through year end assessments. But, I can already see progress.

Online Spelling Resources

Just a quick note and 2 links – I am finishing up my Homeschool Tracker lesson plans and added a link for them. They are using Worldly Wise for both vocabulary and spelling. Worldy Wise 3000 offers some very nice resources for both students and teachers. For the students, each lesson has a section where the vocabulary word is pronounced and the student is asked to repeat it. Then, the definition is orally provided. Finally, a sentence is spoken and then the child determines if the word was used correctly. Additionally there are games available for each lesson including Hangman and a crossword puzzle.

My additional link for those not using Worldly Wise, is a site called Spelling City. This free resource allows you to create an account if you wish to save the spelling lists you create. Then, you type the words into the list and your student can then listen to the word being pronounced and spelled and a definition is offered. After the student has studied the words, he can then take a test for that lesson. The student clicks the Say It button and the word is spoken. If necessary, the student can also click Sentence to hear it used in a sentence. A space is provided for the student then to type the word in.

One caveat is that some words may not yet be added to the dictionary. You would need to find an alternate way to teach those to your students.

One additional resource that is not free but has been mentioned as a good resource is Spelling Time.

Making Music Praying Twice

I am not ready to write a complete review of the program – but I was so excited to see the materials that I had to briefly mention it. As you plan out your next school year, I wanted you to know about this program. We have never been able to do a Kindermusic program for the little ones. The older children are involved in a wonderful orchestra program and play the strings – 2 on violin, 1 on viola and 1 on cello (yes, I have a string quartet!). But, my little ones have always been left out of the music plans.

Now, Making Music Praying Twice has a solution. The program consists of 5 seasonal CD’s, 5 coordinating songbooks, and a Teacher’s Manual. I believe this could be a well spent $96 – it is not consumable and can be used from year to year. I am quite sure Kindermusic program are much more pricey – so this is a one time purchase that can be used by all your children – so do not immediately be turned off by the price.

The developer of the program gives you the option of daily lesson plans (about 15-20 minutes each day), or a 45 minute once a week lesson plan. Songs include a lovely assortment from religious – Magnificat, Holy God We Praise Your Name, Dona Nobis Pacem, classic children’s songs – Kookaburra, Old King Cole, My Bonnie to traditional songs like Battle Hymn of the Republic, classical music like Ode to Joy and many ethnic songs from various parts of the world.

Each song is discussed in the Teacher’s Manual – how to use the song formally including using various instruments, movements to go with the music, streamers. There are also suggestions for using the songs informally (changing the words, singing with babies). This is followed by a section on Milestones to Observe and then Cross References.

I plan on implementing this is the fall on a daily basis to have an activity that is geared to all my little ones since they often get left out of the school activities. Many songs take no prep time at all, others have suggestions for instruments to use like drums, others teach some finger play motions, another song incorporates sign language, others use props like streamers.

I love the Catholic content that is scattered throughout the program.

Please look for more updates as I delve more into the program. One suggestion for Dona Nobis Pacem is to incorporate it into your morning prayers – what a lovely way for all of us – youngest to oldest – to start the day.


Shakespeare – Ideas for Homeschoolers


I do not believe I am in some kind of tiny minority. I went to public school and we read and suffered through Romeo and Juliet and Julius Caesar. I was somewhat traumatized by the effort and did my best to avoid all things Shakespeare.

Fast forward some number of years with children in middle school, and I am confronted again with Shakespeare … and the dilemma … how do I introduce them to Shakespeare … and not further perpetuate the trauma?

Margot Davidson, from materetmagistra magazine offers a solution-in fact many solutions. The Spring 2009 edition is filled to the brim with all things Shakespeare. From a meaty, yet accessible article about Shakespeare, to resources, to a cornucopia of ideas, to a pull out section and book list review, you cannot fail to find something that will fit your family, from the youngest members to the oldest… And, it is not too late! I am inspired; included in the issue is a detailed description of “How to Host a Shakespeare Read-Aloud”.

I am not sure when Margot will make the issue available for individual purchase, but you can contact her through the website.